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Never Say Die

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Well, we can't help you live forever. But follow our 18 best-ever health tips, and you might come pretty close.

 

 

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Never Say Die

Close your eyes. No, not literally. I want you to keep reading. But imagine a picture of perfect health. What does it look like? Do you want to see yourself in that picture? If you do, then let our 18 best-ever tips help you get there.

1. Supplement for Your Fitness Goal

If you really want to boost your overall health, supplement for your fitness goal. Training for a marathon? Once you get to mile number eight, you may want to think about endurance supplements and electrolyte chews. Find yourself lagging during your 5th workout of the week? Try energy boosting pre-workout supplements.

Personalize your supplement program to match your goals, and your overall health will benefit.

You're feeling good now, but how will you feel at mile 8?
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Supplements provide the steam
to your 'Little Engine That Could.'


2. Balance Your Meals for a Better Body and Mind

There are a wide variety of healthy foods out there for one reason: so you can eat them all! But achieving a healthy balance is key. Former Mr. Universe and health guru Lee Labrada has a super-easy way of practicing food balance. He calls it The Rule of Thirds.

One third of your plate should be home to a healthy carbohydrate; one third should be a quality source of protein; and the last third goes to vegetables or salad. For example, at dinner you could have a plate of baked sweet potato, a spinach salad, and grilled halibut or chicken!

If you balance every meal, your body will learn to trust that you're feeding it the good stuff. You'll be full of energy, vitality, and promoting the longevity of a healthy body and mind!

3. Sign Up for AAA Nutrition: Anti-Aging, Antioxidant, and Anti-inflammatory Foods

Do you know why you're always told to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables? There's actually science behind that advice, and it has to do with your body's anatomy and physiology.

The human body is put under stress every day. From our cells to our organs to our skin, every piece of the anatomy puzzle ages and deteriorates. Things like free radicals and inflammation may only add to the chances of breaking down and signs of aging.

But there are many foods that can help your body arm itself against the ravages of time and the stress of use. Check out the list of foods and herbs below to see how easy it is to sign up for Triple AAA nutrition every day.

  • Apples-rich in vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids such as quercetin, also high in fiber

     

     

  • Spinach-loaded with Vitamin E, anti-inflammatory compounds, omega-3 fatty acids, and it's also high in B-Vitamins

     

     

  • Sweet Potatoes-high in antioxidants, mainly beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and ascorbic acid

     

     

  • Almonds-rich in Vitamin E, high amounts of unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids

     

     

  • Walnuts-richest source of omega-3 fatty acids among nuts

     

     

  • Turmeric-contains Curcumin, which may provide anti-inflammatory benefits

     

     

  • Ginger-contains the phytochemicals gingerol, shogaol, and zingerone, which may provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits

     

More Great Sources of Antioxidants:
  • Reds
    tomatoes, raspberries, red bell peppers, red grapes, beets and pomegranates

     

     

  • Oranges / Yellows
    cantaloupes, carrots, mangoes, and winter squashes

     

     

  • Greens
    asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, seaweed, green tea

     

     

  • Blues / Purples
    blueberries, blackberries, raisins, eggplants and plums

     

     

  • Browns
    coffee and theobroma cacao otherwise known as cocoa!

     



4. Invest Time in Your Nutrition Plan and Reap the Benefits

There's a famous saying in the fitness industry: "If you don't prepare, be prepared to fail." Cooking your own food takes time. Shopping takes time. If you don't cook, it takes time and money to figure out where you can eat out and still eat healthy, unprocessed foods.

But it takes less time than you might think! Spend a few hours on one of your days off from work or school cooking up your meals for the week, and you can knock it out in one day! Don't be afraid to abuse the convenience of Tupperware, plastic baggies, and insulated lunch boxes.

5. Bring On The Healthy Snacks!

One of the easiest ways to improve your general health is to surround yourself with nutritious and filling snacks. Because everybody snacks, so you might as well make it healthy and make smart lifestyle choices today.

Great healthy snack ideas: home-made trail mix (try almonds, walnuts, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, and cranberries), low-fat cheese with whole grain crackers, Greek yogurt with low-sugar granola, canned tuna, meal replacement protein shakes, hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, fresh fruit or veggies with nut butter (almond or peanut), protein bars

6. Stick with Zero Calorie Drinks

Portion control, natural foods, and balanced meals-don't forget that these nutrition tips apply to drinks too! Avoid the blood sugar rush and subsequent crash that'll leave you cranky, tired, and craving even more sugar by choosing to sip on zero calorie drinks. The most important drink in your life should be water. Hands down. At least 8 glasses of water a day.

Other liquids to help satisfy your thirst should come from unsweetened teas (green tea is a wonderful choice), drip coffee or espresso served black or with a bit of cream, and, of course, protein shakes—delicious, nutritious, and generally low in sugars.

If you need more reasons to avoid slurping a sugar-packed drink, check out the 10 worst drinks that will destroy your nutrition plan.

Avoid the crash and keep hitting the gym long after everyone else has gone home.
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Elephants have to drink 10-12 gallons of H2O a day,
so what are you complaining about?


7. Exercise Is a No-Brainer—But Don't Forget to Train for a Goal!

Of course to maintain your health, you have to exercise. But many people make the mistake of exercising without a goal in mind. Without a goal, you can't have a plan of action. And without a plan, you aren't as likely to stick with a program and see results.

Whether you want to radically transform your body, put on a few pounds of muscle, burn a few pounds of fat, train for a sport, or just "get fit," your goal should be measurable and attainable. Create a timeline for your goal. It could be as simple as, "I want to increase my bench by 10 lbs in a month." Or it could be as dramatic as, "I want to train for and run my first marathon in 6 months."

Given a goal, a timeline, a plan, and a way to measure your success, you'll have no option but to stay active and stay healthy. And you'll have fun while doing it.


8. Strike a Healthy Balance: Cardio and Weight Training

Does the term "cardio-bunny" describe you? Or do you spend all your gym time doing bench and leg press? Maybe you only hit the gym once a week and you're looking to start a workout program. No matter where you fall on this spectrum of gym-goers, you should incorporate both weight training and cardiovascular training into your regimen in order to achieve optimal health.

Weight training will help you build and maintain lean muscle, which will lead to better joint support, healthy metabolism, and a healthy overall body composition.

Cardiovascular training will help you maintain a strong heart and lungs, healthy blood flow, healthy metabolism, and a normal mood.

9. Exercise Form Should Be Your Top Priority

When you hit the weights, are you going through the motions? Or are you lifting to impress the other "bros?" Either way, you may sacrifice form, which means you're also sacrificing results.

Just like pro-footballers have to perform training drills with good form, the rest of us have to lift, run, jump, bend, and stretch with good form. Perfecting your form on any exercise takes mountains of concentration and focus. But it ultimately leads to fewer injuries and faster results.

A great place to check on your form for any exercise is the Bodybuilding.com Exercise Database.

What are you looking for, an injury? Of course not. So keep your mind on your form.
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Ladies, practice perfect-form squats; you'll intimidate
the bros and impress the hotties.


10. Never Be Satisfied With Status-Quo Training

If you're reading this article you probably won't settle for status-quo health. You want exceptional health. To get there, you must reject status-quo training. To keep your body in the best shape, every workout should be a challenge. Don't let your muscles, heart, and lungs adapt to the point where there is no longer progress and/or growth.

And all it takes is slight adjustments. Add weight to your bench press each week. Do an extra set to really burn out. Add high-intensity intervals to your cardio sessions. Keep pushing the intensity and you'll never get bored; you'll never fall off the wagon; and you'll be in the best shape of your life for the rest of your life.

11. Enlarge Your Workout Vocabulary

One easy way to keep your body guessing is to learn how to do new stuff at the gym. It may be new exercises, combinations of exercises, or a new way to do your normal routine. But if you're always enlarging your workout vocabulary, you'll never get bored, which means you'll keep coming back.

Since consistency is 99 percent of the battle for your health, you've got to keep it fun and keep it interesting. Change your routine every 2-4 weeks. Add in something new like a drop set, super set, giant set, circuit training, tabata, cross fit, and more. The options are endless! If you aren't familiar with the terms above, then get ready to learn, baby. You've got a massive online resource that's free and at your fingertips: Training Articles Database.

Repetions are necessary in training, but don't repeat any program until it's dull.
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A hardcore workout with just balls and bands?
Yes, young padawan, much to learn do you have.


12. Be a Joiner

Fad diets come and go; but fitness is forever. Just look at legendary fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 96. In Jack LaLanne's version of utopia, everyone would join up to live a healthy and active lifestyle. By surrounding yourself with people who care about fitness, you'll stay motivated 24/7.

Whether you train with a partner who pushes your boundaries, or you post your lifting stats on an online fitness forum, it's the sense of accountability and community that will keep you pushing for bigger and better things.

Though sometimes you may feel alone when it comes to caring for your own health and wellness, there's an entire nation of people waiting to support your fitness journey. Start by creating a BodySpace account and don't be surprised if you get inspired in less time than it takes to eat a potato chip.



13. Mind the Gaps in Your Nutrition with a Multivitamin-Mineral Supplement

A house is only as strong as the foundation it sits on, and the same goes for nutrition. But your busy life and high activity level may help deplete you of essential vitamins and minerals faster than you can replenish them with food alone.

By adding a multivitamin-mineral supplement to your day, you'll have extra support for optimal health. Nobody eats perfectly all of the time. Well-maybe somebody out there does, but a multivitamin is still a great recommendation to start building your overall health and wellness supplement stack.

14. More Omega-3s Please!

You've seen it mentioned in this article already: omega-3 fatty acids. What's so special about them? Number 1: Your body can't make this essential fatty acid; you have to get it through foods (e.g. wild salmon, flax seeds, kiwi fruit, and walnuts).

Number 2: Omega-3 fatty acids help support healthy brain and cardiovascular function, normal hormone levels, and may provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Basically everything major inside of your body can benefit somehow from a healthy intake of omega-3s.

So whether it's daily fish for dinner, a tablespoon of flax seed oil, or a supplement, getting your omega-3s will give you an edge on maintaining great health.



15. Protein Powders to the Rescue

One of the most convenient, time-saving and health-promoting supplements you can invest in is a quality protein powder. From zero-carb powders to meal replacement ready-to-drink shakes, the options are endless. With a bit of exploration, you can find a flavor and consistency that you love that also keeps you healthy!

Before you grab a vending-machine snack or fast-food meal consider these factors: protein supplements can be cheaper per-serving than most snack foods; they'll fill you up better; they won't cause the spike and crash of blood sugar like processed carbs will; and they'll support the growth and development of lean muscle mass.

Need any more convincing? No? I didn't think so.

16. Here Comes the Sun...Doo da Doo doo

Go outside and play! True, we adults normally only think of saying this to children. But it's time to face the music and realize that we need sunlight and fresh air too! Even if the weather is frightful, bundle up and take a stroll. Not only will it boost your mental health, but if you don't see enough of the sun, you may want to consider a vitamin D supplement.

17. Be a Yogi in Training

No, it's the not the bear terrorizing peanut-butter sandwiches in Jellystone Park. Yogi refers to someone who practices yoga. But really, any type of dynamic stretching time is going to greatly benefit your overall health.

Stretching gets pushed to the backburner for many people when they have a specific fitness goal like losing 20 pounds or building bigger pecs. But stretching is an essential part of fitness and should be included in everybody's routine, hands down. Taking care of your connective tissues can also help with injury prevention.

Besides, you can also use stretching time to de-stress, listen to your favorite tunes, and perhaps slip into a short cat nap. What could be better? I'm pretty sure "nothing" is the correct answer.

Anyone feeling stressed? Of course you aren't!
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Yoga pose Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana—Say that 3 times fast!
If you can say it at all.


18. Give Yourself a Well-Deserved Break

Never underestimate the power of R&R. It may sound counter-intuitive, but after all the activity you're going to be doing to stay healthy you've got to make time to rest and relax.

Make time every week to de-stress from life's daily toil. Vary your activities and always strive to get 8 hours of sleep a night. If you push relaxation to the bottom of your to-do list, you'll find your health (the mental and the physical) deteriorating faster than you can spell "Stress-Ball" backwards.

Take a vacation. Visit a beach. Hike a mountain. Do a puzzle. Play with your loved ones. Lie around doing nothing and forget about time.

If you're ever in Rome (or any part of Italy, really) you'll realize why so many people love the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Because Italians have mastered the art of enjoying life. They call it la bella vita, which means the beautiful life. And by following these 18 tips, you'll definitely have earned the right to enjoy it.

top 10 ab-splitting exercises

Top 10 Ab-Splitting Exercises
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Abs. If you build them, they won't come--not if they're covered in flab. Here's how to build and burn at the same time.

 

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Top 10 Ab-Splitting Exercises

Many people think sculpting a six-pack is as complicated as doing Donald Trump's tax return (or hair, for that matter).

Developing abs is difficult. However, it's not complicated. There's a huge difference.

There are really only two questions to be answered: First, how do you develop thick abs? Second, once you have thick abs, how can you get those suckers to actually show themselves?

To answer the first question, you need to do loaded abdominal work. No, we don't mean downing a few Jgerbombs instead of your pre-workout shake. We mean using resistance with ab training, just like you do with your other body-part exercises.

As far as resistance goes, gravity ain't enough, I'm afraid.

To answer the second question, you need to reduce the amount of body fat covering your abs. This you do through cardio and a healthy diet. See, it wasn't so hard now was it?

As far as resistance goes, gravity ain't enough, I'm afraid
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As far as resistance goes, gravity ain't enough, I'm afraid.


Resistance: Anything But Futile

When you train your chest, your back, your arms, your legs, and everything else, for that matter, you use weights to properly develop the muscle targeted, I'm guessing. But when it comes to abs, many people ditch the weights and go crazy doing countless numbers of crunches and the like.

Start doing loaded abdominal work. You'll feel a dramatic difference in the stimulus, I promise you that.

Start doing loaded abdominal work. You'll feel a dramatic difference in the stimulus, I promise you that.
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Start doing loaded abdominal work. You'll feel a dramatic
difference in the stimulus, I promise you that.


Diet: The Missing Link

You'll need to put some real thought and work into your food intake during the next three weeks, but after that, eating clean will become routine.

Well, most days, anyway. An ab friendly diet can come in various forms, but basic rules apply pretty much across the board:

  1. Eat smaller healthy meals and snacks 6 to 8 times a day.

     

     

  2. Focus on a high protein intake.

     

     

  3. Eat LOTS of vegetables (if you think you already eat a lot, eat more).

     

     

  4. Never ever miss breakfast or pre- and post workout meals.

     

     

  5. Stay away from anything containing sugar.

     

     

  6. Don't eat carbs in the evening unless you need to reload after a heavy workout.

     

     

  7. Drink lots of cold water throughout the whole day.

     

     

  8. Incorporate high-intensity interval training into your cardio regimen.

     


You'll need to put some real thought and work into your food intake during the next three weeks, but after that, eating clean will become routine
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You'll need to put some real thought and work into your food intake during the next three weeks, but after that, eating clean will become routine.


Top 10 Ab Exercises

Without further ado, then, my top 10 exercises, listed in no special order:

1: Russian Twists

Loaded Russian twists, performed for 10 reps per side. Hold a weight with both arms for resistance. Twist your torso to the right side until your arms are parallel with the floor.

Move back to the starting position and then move to the opposite side.

Russian Twist
Russian Twist
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Russian Twist
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Russian Twist.


2: Kettlebell Windmills

The kettlebell windmill is a great compound exercise with some much-needed rotation, just like the Russian twist. Clean-and-press the kettlebell overhead while rotating your wrist.

Bend your hip to one side. Slowly lean until can touch the floor with your free hand. The kettlebell should be held over your head at all times.

Reverse the motion and repeat.

Kettlebell Windmill
Kettlebell Windmill
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Kettlebell Windmill
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Kettlebell Windmill.


3: Hanging Leg Raises

The hanging leg raise is another great ab exercise. Hanging from a chinup bar, raise your legs until your legs and torso from a 90-degree angle.

I usually do this exercise with a little twist, rotating my legs side to side. More work, greater reward.

Hanging Leg Raise
Hanging Leg Raise
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Hanging Leg Raise
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Hanging Leg Raise.


4: Gorilla Chin/Crunch

The gorilla chin/crunch is kind of similar to the hanging leg raise but still a bit different--that's why it's another standalone exercise. Here, hang from a chin-up bar with an underhand grip.

Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and pull yourself up while crunching.

Finish the crunch when your nose reaches the same level as the bar.

Gorilla Chin/Crunch
Gorilla Chin/Crunch
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Gorilla Chin/Crunch
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Gorilla Chin/Crunch.


5: Barbell Ab Rollouts

Next up is the barbell ab rollout, which will work your core. Place a barbell, loaded with 5 or 10 pound plates, on the floor in front of you so that you are on your hands and knees (as in a kneeling push-up position).

This will be your starting position. Grip the barbell with both hands shoulder width apart.

Slowly roll the bar forward, stretching your body into a straight position.

After a pause at the stretched position, pull yourself back to the starting position as you breathe out.

Barbell Ab Rollout
Barbell Ab Rollout
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Barbell Ab Rollout
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Barbell Ab Rollout.


6: Cable Crunches

The cable crunch is another classic ab move. Kneel below a high pulley that contains a rope attachment. Grasp cable rope attachment and lower the rope until your hands are placed next to your face.

Flex your hips slightly and allow the weight to hyperextend the lower back. With the hips stationary, flex the waist as you contract the abs so that the elbows travel towards the middle of the thighs.

Exhale as you perform this portion of the movement and hold the contraction for a second.

Slowly return to the starting position as you inhale.

Cable Crunch
Cable Crunch
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Cable Crunch
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Cable Crunch.


7: Side Jackknifes

Side jackknifes will leave your midsection (namely, your obliques) sliced and diced, in a good way.

Lying on your right side and keeping your left leg over your right one, place your right hand in a comfortable spot and clasp your left hand behind your head.

Bring your torso and left leg toward each other as you pull with your obliques.

Squeeze for a moment and return to the starting position. Not tough enough? Strap on some ankle weights!

Side Jackknife
Side Jackknife
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Side Jackknife
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Side Jackknife.


8: The Plank

The plank helps develop overall core strength and stability. Hold yourself up using both elbows in the prone position and hold the position for as long as you possibly can.

Also, incorporate the side plank into your ab routine, which is basically the same as the normal plank, only you lean on one elbow at the time and switch sides to hit both your left and right obliques. Once you've grown accustomed to the exercise, grab a dumbbell to do loaded side planks.

Bring the dumbbell to your hip and then push yourself, along with the dumbbell, up into starting position. Balance the dumbbell on your top hip.

Hold for as long as possible and then switch to the other side. Rinse and repeat.

Side Jackknife
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Plank Hold
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Plank Hold.


9: Exercise Ball Pull-in

The exercise ball pull-in is a great exercise that also requires balance. Place your lower shins on top of an exercise ball and stand in push-up position with your hands shoulder width apart.

Pull your knees in towards your chest while keeping your back straight.

Straighten your legs by rolling the ball back to get into starting position.

Exercise Ball Pull-In
Exercise Ball Pull-In
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Exercise Ball Pull-In
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Exercise Ball Pull-In.


10: Press Sit-up

Last but not least comes the press sit-up. Lie down on a bench with a barbell resting on your chest. Position your legs so they are secure on the extension of the abdominal bench. This is the starting position.

While inhaling, tighten your abdominals and glutes. Simultaneously curl your torso as you do when performing a sit-up and press the barbell to an overhead position while exhaling.

Lower your upper body back down to the starting position while bringing the barbell back down to your torso.

Press Sit-Up
Press Sit-Up
Enlarge Click Image To Enlarge.
Press Sit-Up
Click Here For A Video Demonstration Of Press Sit-Up.

So now you have my 10 best ab exercises. Which leaves one important question unanswered: What to do with this information? I suggest combining several of these moves into an abs circuit.

Along with being a major timesaver, ab circuits are cardiovascular, which over time will allow you to see those abs being built by these exercises.

Pick five exercises that'll develop all the muscles in the abdominal wall and do 8 to 12 reps of each, one exercise after the other, until the circuit is complete. Then rest and do them all over again.

Build Your Own Sled

Build Your Own Sled

Build Your Own Sled


I love the sled.

You can use it to accomplish a variety of fitness goals and not be bored as hell in the process. Unfortunately, most lifters don't think beyond simple, basic sled-dragging, which really limits their potential for awesomeness, which is like winding up in a hot-tub full of lingerie models and striking up a conversation about sanitation, STD's, and that pesky rash you got from that "lady" in Thailand that just won't go away.

This article will cover some cool options you can perform with the sled, along with a few programs to give you a new appreciation for this kick-ass training tool.


Why the sled

The sled is a great tool for a variety of reasons. Of course, it's good for building GPP (General Physical Preparedness, or work capacity), but it can also burn fat, increase muscle endurance, and even improve your VO2 Max.

Coach Thibs has stated that regularly pulling/pushing a sled can teach the body to store and maintain more muscle, and I agree. But the sled can also be used for rehab exercises if someone has been injured, and for "pre-hab exercises" for those looking to stay injury free.

I've found that many who suffer pain – especially knee pain – say that the sled allows them to work the legs with minimal to no discomfort. That's a huge point in the sled's favor, but the sled makes this type of work fun.

The number one reason why people do anything repeatedly is because it's enjoyable. For me, fun is lifting heavy and hard. I know the "pre-hab, stay healthy so you can keep lifting heavy" stuff has merit, but it bores the snot out of me and I often skip it. Using the sled as a means of incorporating this type of work into my program means I'm much more likely to perform it regularly.


Homemade Sleds

A "sled" is anything from a traditional sled to a Prowler or similar device, even a homemade apparatus. Generally the sled will have a loop of sorts that you insert the towing attachment through (the standard sled towing ropes have loops on either end). You can improvise with a TRX system, cable handles, or just make your own loops by folding the rope over and either knotting it or duct-taping the ends together.

Aspiring handymen can likely come up with even better ideas, but here are some simple guidelines for creating a quick and easy homemade sled.

If you're pulling primarily on concrete/pavement, you'll probably want to use a tire.

  • Go get an old, used tire. A worn down tire with holes is fine. These are usually free at tire stores and a slightly oversized SUV tire works very well.

  • Find some wood that you can lay in the bottom of the tire (it will be on its side when you drag it). The same boards that you can use in a board press also work well here. See pic below.
Build Your Own Sled
  • Buy a large screw eye (a screw with a loop in it) and screw it into the tire. This should be the only hard part of this process. Put a washer and a bolt on the other end so you don't drag the screw eye out over time.

  • Get about 25 to 30 feet of rope, the same kind of rope you'd use for boating. A half-inch thick rope works well. Make sure the screw eye is big enough to thread the rope through.

  • Thread the rope through and pull it halfway. At the end of each side of the rope, loop it over to create the straps that you want – bigger is generally better.
Build Your Own Sled
  • Use a generous amount of duct tape to secure the loop. You may want to use a towel or small pad if you place the straps on your shoulders and pull heavy weights as the rope can dig in.

     

    See the pic below of a cheap homemade tire sled.

     

Build Your Own Sled

If you're pulling primarily on Astroturf, flat grass, or gym carpet, then you can make a very simple sled out of wood.

  • Take one decent-sized board (2-3 feet wide by 2-6 feet long), and attach at least one screw eye to it and follow the same principles as above.

See the two pics below of a homemade wood sled.

Build Your Own Sled

Keep in mind that the surface you pull on and what you're pulling has a huge effect on how difficult the activity is. Generally, pulling on grass or dirt is very tough, gym carpet moderately tough, and pavement/concrete is fairly easy. Pulling something with wheels is obviously easy, something sturdy but smooth is more difficult, and pulling something with friction is hard.

Regarding weight for both types of sleds, just be creative. Actual weights (old, rusty, or imbalanced ones work fine), kettlebells, cinder blocks, stones, your kids, your fat mother-in-law, etc., all work well. You just need some resistance, and the appropriate resistance will vary depending on what you're doing and the surface you're pulling against.


What to do

Depending on the load, the volume, and how it's applied, sled work can be used to develop power, strength, muscle size, or conditioning. I usually break down sled work into upper body or lower body focus, but it can certainly have a whole body effect.

Listed below are a variety of moves you can perform with a brief description of their performance and purpose. I highly suggest you get creative, try different things out, and just go by feel – see what works and what doesn't. Check the videos for a visual guide to performing the specific activity.


Lower Body

Walk forward – Loop the straps around a belt or your shoulders and drag it, walking forward. Makes a great warm-up, good for the posterior chain.

Walk backward – As above, but now drag the sled while walking backward. Focuses more on the hip flexors and quads. Squat down to hit the quads harder. Also makes a good warm-up. Strength levels will be similar to the forward walk.

Lateral movement – Loop the straps around the belt and align them with your side. Step sideways. Works the abductors on the leg closest to the sled. Crouch down to make it more muscular. When returning, face the same direction to work the opposite leg.

Hip flexor, high knee – Loop the straps around your ankles. Walk forward, emphasizing a high knee on each step to hit the hip flexor. Use a light weight, and wear socks if you don't want the strap to rub your ankles raw. Yes, you'll look goofy doing this, but it works.

Hip flexor, leg straight – Loop the straps around your ankles. Walk forward, trying to keep your leg relatively straight with each step, as if you were kicking something. Use a light weight. Again, wear socks if necessary.

Bear crawl drag – Loop the straps around a belt or your shoulders (or use a pulling harness). Start on all fours. Rise up on your toes but keep the hips relatively low. Drive the knees toward the chest as you go. You can use this for many purposes – go heavy and short distances for strength; use a medium weight for short distances quickly for power; or use a light to medium weight and go longer for muscle size and conditioning. For the latter, four 30-yard drags with short rest intervals leave my quads and lungs on fire.

See the following video montage for a demonstration of most of these lower body drills:


Upper Body

Walk forward, arms extended – Hold the straps in your arms, extend them in front of you, and walk forward. Simulates pushing a Prowler but requires more upper body stability.

Walk backward, arms back – Face the sled and row it towards you. Hold your arms in that position and then walk backward. Isometric hold for the lats, biceps, and rear delts among other things.

Walk and press – Face away from the sled, holding the straps. Press the sled with your arms, then walk forward. Press again and repeat.

Walk and fly – Face away from the sled, holding the straps. Perform a dumbbell fly-like motion and bring the arms across the body. Walk forward, fly again, and repeat.

Walk and row – Face the sled and row it to you. Walk backward and repeat.

Walk backward and external rotation – Face the sled with the elbows out to the side, shoulder height, palms down. Externally rotate into the "hands up" position, walk backward, and repeat. Go light until you get used to it.

Walk backward and curl – Face the sled holding the straps, with arms held out towards the sled at about a 45-degree angle. Curl your hands to your shoulders. Walk backward, curl again, and repeat.

Walk backward and front raise – Face the sled holding the straps, arms held out towards the sled at about a 45-degree angle. Perform a front raise and lift your arms above your head. Walk backwards, lifting your arms above your head, and repeat.

Neck isometric hold walks – Use caution with this one. If you're big into neck training it can be a fun twist. Place the strap around your forehead (you may want to use a towel for comfort). Walk with the sled, keeping your neck straight. Walking forward will emphasize the neck flexors (front of the neck); walking backward will emphasize the neck extensors (back of the neck); and walking sideways will emphasis the lateral flexors. Start very light and see how sore you get the next day before adding significant weight.

See the following video montage for a demonstration of most of these upper body drills:


Sample Routines

Itching to give sled dragging a shot? Here's an idea of how I've incorporated sled dragging into my training.

I do the following as a good warm-up:

  • Sled drag walk forward x 30 yards
  • Sled drag walk backward x 30 yards
  • Sled drag lateral walk x 30 yards each way

I started fairly light on these movements and have been going up about 10 pounds a week.

Tuesday Workout

 ExerciseDistanceRepsABear crawl sled drag30 yards4*BSled drag high knee30 yards**CSled drag leg kick30 yards**

Proceed to normal lower body weight training exercises.

Thursday workout

 ExerciseDistanceRepsA1Sled drag bear crawl15 yards3*A2Sled drag walk backward15 yards3*

Proceed to normal lower body weight training exercises.


Sled Negatives


  • As awesome as sled dragging is, it's not a panacea. I doubt it will do much to directly increase your 1RM on any lift. It probably has the most positive effect on the deadlift, but don't expect to just hit the sled for three months and then watch your pulling reach Westside levels.

What the sled can do is help keep your ankles, knees, and hips healthy and functioning properly, so you can continue to squat and pull heavy with minimal problems.

  • If you're always supporting the sled in your hands while pushing, it can be stressful on the shoulder joints and might negatively affect them, particularly if you're also benching or overhead pressing regularly. The solution to that is to drag or tow it rather than push it.

  • The sled is good for increasing power when used appropriately, but it likely does little to increase foot speed (stride frequency). Most experts feel you need more specific type of training to do that, such as assisted sprinting.

  • When you go really heavy with the pulling moves, if the strap is attached to a belt it can put considerable pressure on the core. This can lead to bruising you and make it tough to breathe during the exercise. If this affects you, you might want to get a Draft Horse Harness from Ironmind or some similar type of device.

In addition, if you attach your powerlifting belt to the sled and regularly drag heavy weights with it, it's possible the belt might warp over time. Not good.

  • Finally, not all gyms want members dragging sleds inside so it can be inconvenient. Of course, that can also be a good excuse to go outside and get some Vitamin D, or find a real gym that encourages hard work, not discourages it. You could also just forget about this idea entirely and go join Planet Fitness. They have free pizza on Monday nights.


Get Dragging!

In closing, don't get hung up on having exact programming or figuring out precisely where to schedule sled work into your new Eastern Bloc bench press routine. Just pick a surface, distance, sled type, and weight that seems right and go from there. Use the feel test, (not that feel test, pervert) and practice progressive overload. You're bound to make progress.

If you want to stay healthy and improve your work capacity while working on your weak points – and become more of a bad ass – try incorporating the sled into your workout.

All the awesome people are doing it. Why aren't you?

Simple Strength - A Complete Multi-Month Program

Simple Strength

A Complete Multi-Month Program

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Simple Strength: A Complete Multi-Month Program


I don't care who you are - getting strong is cool.

At IFAST, we have a broad mix of clients. We have your typical meatheads (powerlifters, Olympic lifters, etc.), but we also have a random mix of clients who come in to lose fat and/or improve their body composition.

Once they achieved those goals, then what?

After you're lean and mean, what's left to train for? And the funny thing is, they all figured out on their own that the next logical step was to get stronger. Just one example is a 50-year old female who can deadlift her bodyweight 20 times.

If we can all agree that getting stronger is cool, I think you're really going to enjoy this program.


The Basics

Before I give you the program (or more specifically, the template) we need to cover the basics for any strength-focused program.

This should be self-explanatory, but unfortunately, it's not. Your goal over time should be to increase the weight on the bar. There are lots of ways to measure progress, but when it comes to getting stronger, adding more weight to the bar is numero uno.

I can't tell you how many people I've worked with who have NEVER dropped their reps below 8's and can't figure out why they're not stronger.

You don't have to lift singles week in and week out, but successfully dropping your program down into the realm of 5's, and even 3's, should make a profound difference in your maximal strength levels.

Let's be honest – you probably aren't so advanced you need to switch your exercises every month, let alone every week. Muscle confusion may work for bodybuilders, but it's a slow and painful death for strength athletes.

If you want to get stronger, you need to focus on a few basic exercises. You need to give your body time to learn the exercise, so you can actually adapt and GET STRONGER. I know this is basic for many of you, but it needs to be stated time and again.


The Ground Rules

Now that we've given you a primer on strength programs, let's get into some of the details of this specific program.

I'm going to give you a two-month template – this month is an accumulation phase, while the second month will be an intensification phase. One of the first things you'll notice in this program is the use of RPE's, or ratings of perceived exertion. While RPE's have been used for decades, this is a huge step for most intermediate level lifters.

After every set of your main exercise, I want you to subjectively rate how hard that set was. While there are infinite ways to do this, here's the system I use:

After completing a set, you have at least TWO more reps in the tank. In other words if you're doing a set of 5, you could have done 7 reps.

After completing a set, you have at least ONE more rep in the tank. In other words if you're doing a set of 5, you could have done 6 reps.

After completing a set, you could not have completed any more reps. This would be an all-out effort, and hopefully a PR.

Being honest about your RPE's is a huge step. The program below WORKS, but only if you allow it to. If you're constantly over- or under-estimating your target RPE for the day, you aren't going to see optimal progress.

As you'll see, the RPE's will go up over the course of the two programs. The exception is between weeks 1 and 2 of this first phase.

Why the exception, you might ask? If this is your first time using an RPE system, chances are you'll screw it up somehow. It's okay, I did.

The key is to try and figure out what a legitimate 8 feels like on a given day. This will also give you a starting point, weight-wise, going forward.

We also need to discuss the quality of your training. Stop thinking about training failure purely in terms of muscular fatigue. If you're serious about getting stronger, your technique needs to be flawless.

To improve technique, focus on quality training and quality reps. So your RPE of 8 isn't just a reflection of fatigue, but also your technical execution. If technique starts to break down, you're done training that exercise.

The second thing I want to mention is the exercises I've selected. Allow me to be blunt:

Am I being harsh? Maybe.

But it's for a good reason. With the abundance of information these days, I find too many people who over think their training. Many guys are just smart enough to be dangerous when it comes to training.

I've worked with a lot of people and this program will help you get stronger. Now let's get into the program!


The Program – An Overview

Simple Strength: A Complete Multi-Month Program


This program is a blend of many influences – Mike Tuscherer and his Reactive Training System, Pavel Tsatsouline, the Westside method, etc.

I've taken elements of all of these systems and thrown in my own flair. I'm all for getting stronger, but there are certain things that I won't eliminate from my programs, things like dedicated core/torso training, single-leg work, specific training for the upper back, etc.

Below is a table that depicts what you'll be training on each given day. Below that you'll see how each individual training day is periodized over the course of the month, along with acceptable exercise selections.

ExerciseDay 1Day 2Day 3Day 41Squat VariationBench VariationDeadlift VariationLockout Variation2Accessory Posterior ChainRow VariationAccessory Posterior ChainChin-up/Pull-up Variation3Knee FlexionCompound Upper AccessorySupplemental Posterior ChainTriceps Isolation
Biceps Isolation4Single-Leg – Split-StanceFace Pull VariationSingle-Leg – UnsupportedScap Prehab
Cuff Isolation5Anti-ExtensionAnti-Lateral FlexionHip Flexion w/Neutral SpineAnti-Rotation


Day 1 – Monthly Breakdown

ExerciseWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Squat Variation?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 9
?x3 – RPE 92x4 – Light
2x2 – LightAccessory Posterior Chain3x83x83x6-82x5Knee Flexion3x8-103x8-103x82x6-8Single-Leg Split-Stance3x8-103x8-103x82x6-8Anti-Extension3x83x83x103x10

Day 1 Exercise Selections and Training Thoughts

Squatting is essential. If you can't squat appropriately, don't start this program – learn to squat correctly first. I would prefer you to back squat, but if you must, a front squat is acceptable.

If your max squat is less than 2x your bodyweight, use sets of 5. If you're squatting 2x your bodyweight or more, use sets of 3.

Most people's posterior chain is a weak link. RDL's and good mornings will help bring it up to par.

Training the knee flexion component of the hamstrings is critical to being strong out of the hole when squatting or initiating your pull off the floor (especially sumo). Glute-hams are the best option, but the others are still better than leg curls on a machine.

Single-leg training is critical for improving stability. The more stable you are with a narrow base, or on one leg, the more stable you're going to be on two-legs (like squatting and pulling).

Split-stance variations give the added bonus of lengthening the hip flexors and improving external oblique/gluteal function. More glute and hamstring strength equals bigger squats and deads, period.

Much like the posterior chain, the core is often a weak link. Isolative core work will be included after every workout, albeit training a slightly different function. If you want more info on smart core training, or why I train the core in this fashion, go here.

 

Day 2 – Monthly BreakdownSimple Strength: A Complete Multi-Month Program ExerciseWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Bench Variation?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 9
?x3 – RPE 92x4 – Light
2x2 – LightRow Variation5x105x8-105x83x8Compound Upper Accessory3x8-103x8-103x82x6-8Face Pull Variation3x10-123x10-123x8-102x8Anti-Lateral FlexionSee belowSee belowSee belowSee below

Day 2 Exercise Selections and Training Thoughts

There's no better way to get a strong upper body than to incorporate big, compound barbell lifts. I would choose one of the above options if at all possible. If you must use dumbbells for injury-specific reasons, that's fine.

If your max bench is less than 1.5x your bodyweight, use sets of 5. If your max bench is more than 1.5x your bodyweight, use sets of 3.

Your upper body can only display strength if it's stable. Every big bencher knows that beyond just having great technique, you need to have a strong and stable upper back.

A big compound accessory lift will help add some muscle mass to your pressing muscles. We'll transfer this size into strength next month.

This is thrown in to balance out the pressing work and, again, to keep your upper back strong and stable. These not only hit the muscles of the upper back, but the 'cuff as well.

Depending on what type of exercise you choose, your set/rep scheme will change. Here are some ideas:

KB Windmills – 3x5 for all workouts
Offset Waiters Walks or Farmers Carries – 3x50 feet each hand
Suitcase Deads – 3x6-8


Day 3 – Monthly Breakdown

ExerciseWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Deadlift Variation?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 9
?x3 – RPE 92x4 – Light
2x2 – LightAccessory Posterior Chain3x83x83x6-82x5Supplemental Posterior Chain3x8-103x8-103x82x6-8Single-Leg Unsupported3x8-103x8-103x82x6-8Hip Flexion with Neutral Spine3x83x83x103x10

Day 3 Exercise Selections and Training Thoughts

Much like the squat, the deadlift is a staple lower body exercise. You have two options – sumo or conventional.

If your max deadlift is less than 2x your bodyweight, use sets of 5. If your max deadlift is 2x your bodyweight or more, use sets of 3.

More posterior chain work. If you chose RDL's for Day 1, perform a good morning variation on Day 2.

I'll leave some wiggle room here. While you're training hip extension with the RDL's and good mornings, some of you need more glute-specific hip extension work. This could be addressed via kettlebell swings, pull-throughs, etc.

If the knee flexion component is weak, it's never a bad idea to include more glute-hams in your workout.

These are exercises where, at some point in time, only one leg is on the ground. These maximize stability demands. Again, the more stable you are on one leg, the more stable (and strong!) you'll be on two.

These are the most challenging core training exercises. Make sure you're keeping the spine in neutral and only moving through your hips!


Day 4 – Monthly Breakdown

ExerciseWeek 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Lockout Variation?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 8
?x3 – RPE 8?x5 – RPE 9
?x3 – RPE 92x4 – Light
2x2 – LightChin-up/Pull-up Variation4x84x84x6-83x6Triceps Isolation3x8-103x8-103x82x6-8Biceps Isolation3x8-103x8-103x82x6-8Scap Prehab2x82x82x102x10Cuff Isolation2x82x82x102x10Anti-Rotation3x15s.3x15s.3x20s.3x20s.

Day 4 Exercise Selections and Training Thoughts

These will not only get you accustomed to handling heavier weights, but they'll improve your stability as well. Time to get strong!

Same rules apply here as on your primary bench day: If your max bench is less than 1.5x your bodyweight, use sets of 5. If your max bench is more than 1.5x your bodyweight, use sets of 3.

Chin-up/Pull-up variations

While many know the importance of horizontal pulls (rowing), some people still don't understand how critical vertical pulls are. Make sure to go through a full ROM and make your chest touch the bar to get full scapular depression. This will improve upper back stability, and thus, your bench press numbers.

Chances are you're going to throw in some dedicated arm-work if I don't, so here you are. Hopefully this will add a little mass to your upper arms.

Ditto on this one. Plus, if Jim Wendler says to do barbell curls, who am I to question him?

While there's plenty of compound upper back work in the program, I like to sprinkle in a little extra to make sure you're offsetting all the pressing.

Just like you can't have enough work around the upper back, your 'cuff typically can't be strong enough either. Two sets isn't a lot to ask.

One other note: I'll typically do these last four exercise groups (triceps, biceps, scap prehab and 'cuff work) in a giant set. This will not only break the monotony, but get you in and out of the gym faster.

Pick a Pallof press variation of your choosing. This will get you some anti-rotation strength and probably leave you sore (especially if you've never done them before!).


Summary

Simple Strength: A Complete Multi-Month Program


That's it, one month of solid training. To make this a bit more actionable, I want you to write out your training program RIGHT NOW. Think about your weaknesses and choose your assistance exercises accordingly.

Write it all down so there's no guesswork when you get to the gym – just high-quality, focused training.

I'll meet you back here next month with an intensification program that's going to help you hit some serious PR's!

Get Your "Push" Back

Get Your "Push" Back

How to Get Your Push Back


I do a lot of consultations on the telephone. It's still the best way I know to get a sense of what someone is doing and, maybe more important, what they think they're doing.

Writing emails, letters, and articles has lead me to an inescapable conclusion: most trainees understand only about ten percent of what they read. This might explain why a friend of mine did benches and curls on his "leg day."

When I first talk to someone, I ask about their background in training. With a rare exception, the following is their first statement:

"My best bench is..."

After hearing literally dozens of people sum up their training with a bench press number, I began to think that of all the basic human movements – push, pull, hinge, squat, and loaded carry – the last thing you should worry about is the push.

But then, my clientele got more "special."


Big, Banged-Up Bob

I began working with a guy we'll call "Bob." Bob is 6' 8" and weighs 310 pounds. He's only this light in the off-season and will bulk up nicely for his job as an NFL lineman.

He makes a fair amount of money stopping people from hitting quarterbacks, and he's done the job well enough to wear three Super Bowl rings. He has a few issues, of course: he can't straighten out his left arm and his right shoulder is a mess.

He's not the only one. I've been working with several elite athletes the past few years who simply can't "push" as well as a normal person. Because of these people, I've developed a nice little system for bringing the push back to their game.


Enter the Push-Up Plank

How to Get Your Push Back

As always, I start with patterning. In the world of pushes, I think the plank is the base.

Oh, and I also know this: nobody I know thinks they need planks. But I have a little test that I stole from Stuart McGill, the great back expert from Canada:

Not flawed, mind you, wrong!

I use the push-up position plank (PUPP) for most of my work. This is simply a plank performed by holding the top of a push-up, arms extended. A beat-up athlete can almost always still PUPP and you can blend the exercise with other movements fairly easily. It's a great "rest" exercise to make an easy workout harder. I like to mix swings and goblet squats with PUPPs. It's simple: instead of resting between exercises, plank between exercises.

Now, here's the key: it's getting up and down off the ground that will drive the heart rate through the roof, not the actual plank.

I use every plank imaginable. And I work all my athletes quickly into doing wall-assisted handstands, too. Once I accomplish this, I move to the King of Planks: the cartwheel.


The Cartwheel. (Really.)

Yes, I know, no one does cartwheels, but when I first saw Frank Shamrock's training programs and saw his use of cartwheels, I was impressed, so I tried them. It was, oddly, one of the most difficult conditioning workouts of my life! In addition, my shoulders were given a workout that simply shocked me.

It's a rare person who wouldn't gain from more planks in their training. Use them as a focused rest period by mixing them with a big move, or add some cartwheels into your outdoor conditioning. It will shock you, too.

The issue I always deal with is this: there's some belief that the plank, or any patterning exercise, is beginner stuff and not worthy of an "elite." But we're all beginners when it comes to the quality of movement.


Military + Bench = Win

The "grind" family is pretty obvious in the push world: push-ups, bench press, military press and, literally, the list seems endless. I'm a big believer in both military and bench press for nearly every athlete I train. I've been doing both since 1971 and I think I've kept my shoulders reasonably healthy by keeping both in my weekly training quiver.

For most people, the grinding presses are about all that will be needed. I honestly wish I could say more, but there are far better people to speak on the press than me. I'm a big fan of Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 Training and he advocates both presses each week, to I must be in good company.


Symmetry Press Workouts

How to Get Your Push Back


This is the step that most people skip. But anyone who wants to hit or throw at high speeds needs to consider these: symmetry press workouts.

I was first exposed to the one-arm bench press by the late Lane Cannon. We did them in his basement and I discovered that my body is "one piece."

When I recommend them, I always note to keep the free, non-weighted hand "free." Don't grab onto anything; just let the hand stay free. This will demand that your body "lock up" and become solid. The one-arm bench press is one of the greatest ab workouts of your life!

Ethan Reeves filled in the next part of the equation for me: standards. He believes that hoisting 125 pounds for five reps on the one-arm bench press is the "gold standard" for his athletes. I lowered this to 70 pounds for five reps for my high-school boys.

Prepare yourself before you jump up and try this challenge! With anything around 100 pounds, the weight is going to really pull your off-side around and down the bench. You have to counter it by aggressively squeezing everything from your feet up to deal with the weight. It's a full body lift with heavy weights. Remember: keep the off-arm free!

Here's the deal: If you can do 125 pounds with the right and only 70 with the left, you have issues.

Now, I don't know what those issues are, but it's better to deal with them with one-arm work than to do what often happens: add explosiveness to an asymmetrical issue! It's far better to deal with this problem in a systematic approach that includes strengthening the weak side, addressing mobility and flexibility issues, and perhaps even some aggressive rehab work.


The One-Arm Overhead Press

How to Get Your Push Back

Fifteen years ago, it was rare to see anyone one-arm overhead press. With the influence of Pavel and the kettlebell, the lift has returned with a vengeance.

I'm a big fan of this lift, and many of my personal workouts are anchored with one-arm presses. Again, it's easy to see asymmetries here. I'd suggest that most men strive for a half-bodyweight one-arm overhead press and, logically, be able to do it with each hand.

Most people find that their one-arm presses combined are heavier than their two-hand barbell press overhead. It makes some sense as you have two legs and your whole body supporting the single-arm press, and most people don't have four legs and two torsos!

If you have symmetry, by all means move up to the push press or other explosive moves. Someone not long ago asked me why people get bigger when they do push presses. My answer, obviously genius, was simple "'cause you use bigger weights."

There's a truth in that statement that most skinny trainees never grasp. Bigger Faster Stronger has a video of me push pressing 365 for five reps. At that load, you must have a fairly solid foundation underneath the bar.

The push press is simple: With the weight on the chest, the normal position for overhead pressing, dip your legs in a controlled bend. (I used to tell people to do a quarter-squat.) Then, vigorously drive the bar using your whole body into the finished press position.

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It's relatively easy to do, but take your time adding plates. There is an issue with your chin being in the way of the bar as you drive it up, and it takes a bit of practice to learn to pull your chin out of the way. I learned that the hard way.


Beyond the Bench

The press is a favorite for most lifters, but there's still a need to look at the push through the lens of patterning, grinding, and symmetry.

There are few things more rewarding than holding a big lift overhead or nailing a big number in the bench press. Long-term improvement can come from including some work with planks and one-arm presses, in addition to the countless sets of bench presses.

Your shoulders will thank me.

How to Stay Motivated

How to Stay Motivated

How to Stay Motivated


No matter how driven you are, if you stay in this game long enough, you'll eventually run into a period where you just aren't as motivated to go to war with the iron as you used to be.

This can be the result of outside influences. Perhaps you're working a lot or studying hard in school and the stress is wearing on you. Maybe you're in a relationship with a partner that isn't supportive of your lifting, or you've had to relocate and the training partners in your new gym just don't measure up.

Sometimes the reasons are internal. You're frustrated with your lack of progress and seem to be getting injured constantly. Or maybe training is just starting to seem a little too much like work.

I'm sure when you first hit the weights your enthusiasm and desire were strong. I was no different. As long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be big and strong. I remember as a child seeing some jacked dude and immediately thinking, "That's how I want to look!"

By the time I was nine years old I was training regularly with makeshift weights and doing anything that I thought would help me achieve my goals. I trained hard all year round throughout adolescence and high school, regardless of the sport I was playing.

While in the Marines I'd even train while we were in the field by doing chin-ups from tree branches or push-ups with a loaded pack on my back, and invented many other ways to keep training under less than optimal conditions. When living in the barracks I'd sometimes break into the gym in the middle of the night and train in the dark.

Even when I was going to pharmacy school, working countless hours and raising a family at the same time, my motivation to train and compete never wavered.

Despite being as driven as I was, I eventually reached a place where the hunger suddenly wasn't there. My goals didn't seem as vital as they'd once been. Surprisingly, it happened at the least logical time.

It was just over four years ago when I experienced my first real lack of motivation and what I later realized was essentially psychological burnout. Oddly enough, I was coming off some great finishes and things couldn't have looked better for me. In 2006 I'd won the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic WPO Powerlifting Championships and followed that up in 2007 with a runner-up finish at the same event. I was training in preparation for a prestigious pro-meet with a substantial cash payout and hoping to break the all-time world record total in my weight class.

Yet in spite of all these factors, for the first time in my life I suddenly lost that deep desire to go to war with the iron. Fortunately, I was able to rekindle my desire. Here are the key strategies I used to keep the fires of motivation burning within me.


Focus On Your Goals

How to Stay Motivated


My goals have always driven me. On days I come home from work feeling exhausted and stressed, instead of crawling into bed I think about my goals and how rewarding it will be to achieve them. I know that if I continue to work hard that it's only a matter of time before they're realized.

I thrive on winning, and there's no bigger high for me than celebrating a victory at a big competition or achieving a goal that's been a long time coming. I live for those moments, and I know the only way they're going to happen is if I work harder than everyone else trying to beat me.


Remember Your Critics

Next to my goals, my critics motivate me more than anything. There are few things in life as rewarding as proving a naysayer wrong. I've been told all my life that I'd fail. Early on, many important people in my life, like my coaches, teachers, and my peers would dismiss my aspirations; even my own friends and family members have mocked me at times.

Sometimes I'd hear about it through others or overhear someone else's conversation, but often it was said to my face, as if my dreams were ridiculous and completely impossible. As painful as this was, it stirred a resolve deep within me.

I developed the mentality that if someone told me that I couldn't do something, I was immediately determined to prove them wrong. Even now while I'm training, in between sets I'll think about those that have said that I'd never achieve anything and then visualize doing exactly what they said couldn't be done.


Surround Yourself with Like-minded People

Good training partners are invaluable. I've been fortunate enough to train and compete with some of the strongest guys around and many of these individuals have become my closest friends. We've pushed each other further than we thought possible – at times maybe even a bit too far – but there's no doubt that training with a group of guys like this can increase your odds of success ten-fold.

No matter how bad of a day you may be having, with the right group of guys it's nearly impossible to not give 100% every time you set foot in the gym.

We'd feed off each other's energy and competitiveness, which often led to challenges within the group. Usually it was only for pride or bragging rights, but sometimes money would be thrown down on the gym floor to try to get each other to push even harder, especially when one of us might not have been having our best day.

The key was having guys within the group that not only wanted to succeed themselves, but also wanted the others to succeed just as bad or even more. While none of us ever wanted to lose a challenge, there was never any jealousy or back stabbing. We all supported one another 100% and were elated over each other's success.

If a new guy came into the group and exhibited selfishness or looked for his own success at the expense of another's, he was quickly given the boot, and over the years that happened more than once.

Unfortunately, our lives have lead us to different places and today we're spread all over the country, but we all stay in touch and continue to support and motivate each other.


When All Else Fails – Take a Break

How to Stay Motivated


No matter how bad-ass or hardcore you might think you are, the possibility of burnout still exists. I learned this the hard way. While many top competitive lifters would schedule breaks after big meets, I was always the type of guy that was back in the gym a day or two after a competition, no matter how beat up I felt. I saw any amount of time off as a wasted opportunity for progress.

Yet despite that level of drive, I reached a point after more than two and a half decades of training and over ten years of frequent competitions where I suddenly experienced a lack of motivation. While there were a number of factors in play, I realize that my penchant for pushing myself at a relentless pace led to an inevitable psychological burnout.

I was in the middle of preparing for a big meet when this feeling of apathy began to creep up within me. It started slowly but grew steadily, and soon my training was uninspired and lacked the usual intensity.

Shockingly, my training cycle was still going well, so I decided to compete as planned, but with the lack of desire and focus, I was called high on all three squat attempts and I bombed out of the meet.

The worst part about failing to get a single lift was that afterward it didn't even bother me. Instead of feeling immense disappointment and immediately resolving to do better, I experienced a sense of relief as if a great burden had been lifted from me.

Never having experienced this before, I saw it as a clear indication that it was time to walk away from the sport I'd been passionate about for so long. While my decision was rash and probably extreme given the situation, it seemed perfectly logical to me at the time.

I soon realized that all I really needed was a break. Along with my recent success had come an increased level of expectations and pressure. Without having allowed myself any type of break, it was only a matter of time before I started to feel overwhelmed and my desire faded. As simple as it sounds, it was a revelation for me.

However, it only took three weeks of not setting foot in a gym or picking up a weight. I woke up one morning and my desire for lifting had returned and in spades. I couldn't wait to chalk up my hands and get back under a heavy bar. I immediately threw on my training clothes, strode out to my garage gym, loaded up the bar and picked up right where I'd left off less than a month before.


Back Where I Belong

In April of 2009 at the UPA Nationals I finally broke the all-time total record in the 220-pound class. I opened with a 1003-pound squat, backed it up with personal record 738-pound bench press, and secured the record with a hard-fought 810-pound deadlift for a 2551-pound total.

While my current goals have shifted to bodybuilding, my desire to achieve my dreams remains as strong as ever. Hopefully, using my motivational techniques can help you to reach your goals like they've helped me reach mine.

Got any motivational tips of your own? Post them in the LiveSpill. I look forward to reading them.

Exercise Form Doesn't Matter... At All

Exercise Form Doesn't Matter... At All

Exercise Form Doesn't Matter


This is a hard article to write.

Why? Because it pretty much refutes every training article we've ever posted on the site and writing it may cause people to hurl excrement at me.

But before I don my fire retardant suit and plunge into what's sure to be a Red Adair inferno of an article, let me make one thing clear, perfectly clear.

What I'm about to write is based on experiential evidence. Not ideas, not concepts. I saw it. I lived it.

And I drew my own conclusions.

If you have other explanations for what I experienced, bring it on.

But first a short story, a story that provided the placental wall for my story to latch onto and gestate.

Larry was my training partner for about a year. I was stronger than him on every lift, but Larry never wanted to change the weight. Chalk it up to laziness, ego, or a fetid broth of both.

His form would go to shit and I'd constantly admonish him for it. He'd cheat like hell on every rep, his whole body struggling to move the weight whether it was a bent over row or a curl.

I wouldn't let him get away with it. It was a constant battle.

He made some gains in size and strength, but it wasn't substantial.

We went our separate ways. I started working out alone, but Larry moved to another part of town and started training with Chad, an aspiring heavyweight MMA fighter who outweighed Larry by about 75 pounds.


Larry's Launch

When I recently saw Larry, he was much bigger – much more muscular than he was when he trained with me – and boasted of using weights he never could have dreamed of when he was training with me.

Of course, given his penchant for cheating his ass off, I had to take poundages he bragged about with a grain of salt. Still, he was much bigger; there was no denying that.

At first I was puzzled. Why had Larry made so much progress under the tutelage of someone else?

It was then that it started to make sense to me. I came up with a theory, but to test it, I went through my memory bank.


The Theory from Experience

Exercise Form Doesn't Matter


Some of you know my background. For those that don't, I was a bodybuilding "journalist" for years. I traveled from major contest to major contest in the early 1990's, reporting on bodybuilding events and celebrities for virtually all the newsstand magazines.

In addition to reporting, I interviewed hundreds of competitors and assisted in photo shoots. I also worked out for years in a gym that was considered a mini Mecca for top-level pro and amateur bodybuilders.

In short, I was exposed to a lot of lifters both in and out of the gym.

And I was almost always horrified by the way they trained. Every big or accomplished lifter I ever saw – man or woman – cheated his ass off on exercises. I'm not talking about just a few cheat sets or cheat reps; I'm talking about every f-in' set and rep.

It was ugly.

Whether they were doing triceps pressdowns on the cable machine, curls, pull-ups or pulldowns, they were downright spastic. Range of motion? Negligible. Tempo? Ha! They pumped out reps as they could, using as much momentum and body English as possible.

And they always used "too much" weight, at least 10 to 20 percent more than what would allow them to use "proper" form.

It's almost as if they were playing one of those imagination games you played when you were a kid, "If I can't shoot ten spit wads into the trashcan in the next minute, the world will end."

And they'd use every trick in the book including lunging, lurching, or grimacing to save Akron, without even thinking about form.

As a lifetime stickler for doing exercises the "right" way, I'd smugly turn my nose up at them.

That's why Larry was bigger and stronger! Chad didn't give a shit about Larry's form or how much weight he was lifting, or rather, attempting to lift. Larry used more weight than he "should" have, cheated his ass off, and grew.

And that seem to be true of every big or accomplished mo-fo I see in the gym today; they're all, almost to a man, using way-more weight than they should, with horrendous form and ranges of motion that are minuscule.

I should quickly say that I've never trained with any of the T NATION authors, so I can't say if it's true of them. I've watched some of them train others, and I must say that they imposed strict form on their athletes and clients.

I have a feeling, though, that many of these clients revert to form (poor) as soon as they're free from their coaches' critical eyes.

Regardless, all the aforementioned experiential evidence has caused me to come up with a bold new theory. Maybe we were all wrong. Maybe form really doesn't matter, unless you're an athlete in some skill sport and you're trying to improve that skill.

Now I'm not talking about strength training, I'm talking strictly hypertrophy. I'm thinking that it might behoove a lifter, at least for a while, to use 10 or 20 percent more weight than he "should" and cheat his ass off on virtually every set, to lurch, lunge, grunt, put English on, do anything and everything it takes to row, curl, extend, press, or pull that heavy weight up, range of motion be damned.

How could this possibly work?

Almost every coach or knowledgeable trainer, when pressed, will tell you that when it comes down to it, it's virtually impossible to fully isolate a muscle. Train your biceps and only your biceps? Pretty much can't be done; other muscles – from your deltoids down to the muscles in your leg – kick in.

Don't believe me? Then why is it easier to do curls standing than it is sitting?


More Weight, More Muscle Gain

Exercise Form Doesn't Matter


So, if we accept that muscles don't operate in isolation, why allow certain muscles – the target muscles – to determine the poundage? You're invariably using less weight so you can do the exercise with proper form, but if the muscles don't work in isolation anyhow, why not use a weight that gives all the muscles involved in the lift a workout?

This additional stimulus could be causing systemic growth!

And what about range of motion? Perhaps resistance is by far the overriding stimulus in growing muscle! The more weight you use, almost regardless of range of motion, the greater the stimulus!

I'm led to believe this might be a practical approach to almost any lift, with the exception of squats and deadlifts and the like, where using 10 to 20% more than you can do while keeping proper form might cause you to blow out your spine, knee(s), or other equally crucial body parts.

Like I said, it defies almost everything that's been written about bodybuilding since the dawn of protein. But I can't deny my observations. My theory, however, deserves some critical scrutiny.

Care to offer some?

1-Week Fit Meal Planner

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Shop once and shape up continuously with 6 days of stress-free, healthy dinners.

 

 

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Your 1-Week Fit Meal Planner

A live-in chef is paradise for the fitness-minded. You have one of those, right?

Riiiiight. Bet the odds of that are the same as hearing Delilah drop an F bomb on your car radio.

Unfortunately, cooking at home is a necessary evil and time-suck for those who want to control their nutrition. You arrive home after a workday, run errands or pick up your kids, escape to the gym--and then what?

You might be tempted to just relax and order a pizza, hit the drive-thru window, or pop frozen lasagna in the oven--none of which is a prescription for six-pack abs.

What you need is a Sunday nutrition game plan that'll last the rest of the week! This easy-to-follow weekly meal plan starts off with a Sunday shopping list and light cooking on Sunday evening. What you'll end up with are five dinners--and enough leftovers for lunches for the rest of the week, stress free!

Look, this is me working out and NOT worrying about what I'm going to eat later.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Look, this is me working out and NOT
worrying about what I'm going to eat later.

The detailed shopping list that follows tells you exactly how much food to buy at the grocery store. Then you'll get detailed recipes that explain how to cook five individual-serving-size dinners. You'll also be able to pack up extra food for lunches during the day.

Spare a couple of hours planning, shopping, and cooking, and you'll actually have time to enjoy the healthy lifestyle you work hard to achieve!

Sunday Shopping List

*What is quinoa? An ancient food staple for people in South America, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-oh-uh) is a seed that, when cooked, becomes creamy, crunchy, and nutty tasting. Quinoa is technically gluten-free; it's not a grain, although it's cooked and eaten like one; and it's not even related to nuts!

Quinoa is actually more closely related to spinach, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens. You can get about 5.5 grams of complete protein (that's right, a full amino-acid profile!) and 3 grams of fiber from 1 cup's worth, cooked.

Essentials for the Pantry or Fridge-Always Have These Items On Hand

With the above ingredients ready to go in the refrigerator, here's a list of easy dinners for the rest of the week.



Sunday Night Meal: Meat Muffins

Sometime on Sunday cook 1 pound of lean ground meat and leave it plain. Cooking a large batch of meat means leftovers, which means less cooking in the evening-a huge time saver! There are so many things you can mix up with ground meat, as you'll see in almost every dinner idea for the week.

With the remaining 2 pounds of ground meat, cook the following "meat muffin" recipe:

Directions:

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.
Spray 2 muffin tins with nonstick spray or oil.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl (using your hands works best).
Cook at 325 degrees for 22 minutes.

This recipe makes about two dozen turkey muffins. They're great to take to work for lunch and can be combined with salad, quinoa, brown rice, or veggies for an easy and healthy dinner.

Three muffins make one serving. Each serving contains 2 grams of carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 30 grams of protein, and 263 calories.




+ Click To Enlarge.
"Please, sir, I want some more."


Monday Night Meal: Quinoa Bowl

Directions:

Mix together and add 1 tbsp soy sauce

One bowl makes 1 serving. Each serving contains 13 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, 53 grams of protein, 461 calories.



Tuesday Night Meal: Meat Muffins

Warm up the meat muffins you baked on Sunday.

Sautee 1 cup of veggies (mushrooms, celery and asparagus in a small amount of soy sauce)

Wednesday Night Meal: Steak and Veggies
Ginger Soy Marinated Flank Steak

 

Directions:

Mix the above ingredients together in a big enough container to fit your steak. Marinade the flank steak for as long as you like. Start the night before or in the morning when you leave for work, or even when arriving home if you plan to eat a bit later. For a great flavor, you want at least a couple hours in the marinade.

To cook the steak, grill or broil it for 8 minutes on one side and 6 minutes on the other side. Adjust the cooking time according to the thickness of the meat and how done you like your steak. A 2-pound flank steak feeds a little over four people in my family. So if you cook for one, you may only need to buy a steak between 1 and 2 pounds. Or if you cook the whole 4-pound steak, you should have plenty of leftovers for easy lunches!



Two pounds of steak can feed four people, so don't hog it all to yourself!
+ Click To Enlarge.
Two pounds of steak can feed four people, so don't hog it all to yourself!


Veggie Salad


4 ounces of flank steak contains 32 grams of protein and 222 calories. Add some of your favorite veggies to your plate (grilled or fresh), and you're ready to eat!

Thursday Night Meal: Omelet/Egg Scramble

This recipe makes one 360-calorie omelet, good for 36 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs (you can boost the carbs and fiber by adding some cooked quinoa instead of just veggies), and healthy fats from the avocado.



Friday Night Meal: Chef Salad

This recipe will yield 31 grams of protein from the turkey, 11 grams of healthy fats from the avocado, and about 400 calories total. There are very few carbs in this meal, making it perfect for low-carb dieters. But if you want to boost your carbs in this meal, add some brown rice or quinoa on the side.



You had me at bell peppers.
+ Click To Enlarge.
You had me at bell peppers.


These are just a few meal ideas but a lot can be done with egg whites, quinoa, veggies and ground meat. Get creative and plan ahead. You can also preplan your lunches by grilling a bunch of chicken or having tuna packets on hand for lunches. The secret is to learn to pair a great source of protein (chicken, tuna, ground turkey, flank steak) with your favorite vegetables. Once you find the combinations that you like, prepare big batches of food that you can throw together for easy lunches and dinners.

If you have a family, finding vegetables and healthy recipes that everyone likes could be challenging. This meal plan makes it easy to follow your personal nutrition needs even if your family has different needs. Even if your family has a different set of nutrition goals from you-strict dieters and pre-contest folks, you know what I'm talking about-spend some time pre-planning, and you can spend time with your family at a stress-free dinner table.

CORE Killer

Absolutely Perfect Abs: 6 Workouts, 13 Moves, 1 Result!
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Just in, a deadly workout is on the loose and hunting for midsections! Your abs may never be the same again.

 

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Core Killer!

Let's face facts: Training abs kind of sucks. You're not going to set any personal lifting records on a Roman chair, and the only way you could possibly get a pump in your midsection is if you accidentally scoop Ajax into your shake instead of creatine.

No one feels butterflies of anticipation in the moments leading up to an ab workout, and unless they call you "The Situation," you're probably not going to be admiring your abs in the gym mirror.

Still, there's no getting around it: You have to train your abdominal region, for reasons both of form and function. A set of "washboard" abs ties together a physique in a way no other body part can, and having a strong core is a surefire safeguard against myriad physical ailments. Think of it as bi-winning!

So, if you're going to be training your abs (and you are) then you might as well make the process as bearable as possible. With a little help (see below) you can even make ab training enjoyable.

If
+ Click To Enlarge.
If "This sucks, this sucks, Jesus, this sucks," is what goes through
your head during an ab workout, then you came to the right place.


MIX IT UP

One of the "secrets" to getting great abs is frequency. The abdominal muscles are notoriously dense, and like forearms and calves, can withstand regular punishment. They just recuperate faster than your biceps or quads can.

Ideally then, you'll want to hit your ab muscles no fewer than three times and as many as six times per week. That sounds like a lot of training; a lot of long, tedious, boring training, doesn't it?

No doubt you're already envisioning six days a week performing hundreds of reps of crunches and leg raises.

The truth is, ab training doesn't have to be all that repetitive, and it doesn't have to be that long or even too boring. I've found that you can do long workouts, or you can do frequent workouts, but you can't do long workouts frequently.

Since few have the patience to spend 20 to 30 minutes at a time on abs, a more reasonable option is to train them for shorter periods at more frequent intervals.

Hitting abs three to six days a week demands variety for reasons both physical and mental. From a physical standpoint, targeting different areas of the midsection on consecutive days allows for maximum recuperation of the areas not being targeted.

The mental benefit is obvious: You're not going to grow tired of the routine, and the more that your mind is in the game when you're training, the more your body benefits.


+ Click To Enlarge.
"One hundred twenty-one, one hundred twenty-two,
one hundred twenty... ah crap I lost count!"


SIX-STEP PROGRAM

You don't have to train your abs every single day, but six times a week wouldn't hurt. If you can't stomach the idea of working your midsection that often though, three to four days will suffice.

However many days you decide to train your abs though, you should alternate between A, B and C categories in sequence. Just keep cycling through the three categories, regardless of which of the two workouts in each you decide to use.

The three categories, aka A, B and C, each focus on a different section of your midsection. A primarily targets the upper abs. B stresses the lowers. C concentrates on the sides, the obliques and intercostals.

The idea behind this training system is to blast each of these areas on a separate day, giving the other parts of your midsection a little recuperation time.

Of course, you can't entirely isolate areas of such a large, cohesive group of muscles, but the abs do recuperate more quickly than most other muscle groups. So they can handle some overlapping work.

You can train your abs at any time of the day and in any relation to the rest of your training, but I've always found that ab work makes for a nice transition out of a workout.

The eight minutes or so it takes to compete each of these six routines provides the perfect time let your mind switch off from the punctuated stresses of trying to move heavy weights to the more deliberate and meditative qualities of 25-rep sets.

Snapshot from
+ Click To Enlarge.
"Stairway to Abs" inspired by Led Zeppelin.

Whenever you choose to train your abs though, keep it brief. Aim for just 15 seconds of rest time between sets and move directly from the first exercise to the second, without stopping for water or to catch up with a buddy en route. The workouts should take you no more than 6 or 7 minutes at most.

If you can get them done in 5 minutes, all the better. So long as you're not sacrificing form for the sake of speed, the faster the better.

Ready for the workouts? Good. Rock 'n' roll!

CATEGORY A: Upper Abs

Workout 1:
Exercises
Cable Crunch Cable CrunchCable Crunch
2 sets of 25 reps
Decline Crunch Decline CrunchDecline Crunch
2 sets of 25 reps

Workout 2:
Exercises
Crunches CrunchesCrunches
2 sets of 25 reps
Ab Crunch Machine Ab Crunch MachineAb Crunch Machine
2 sets of 25 reps

    Get A Printable Log Of Category A: Upper Abs.
     print Printable PagePDF PDF Document

    CATEGORY B: Lower Abs

    Workout 1:
    Exercises
    Scissor Kick Scissor KickScissor Kick
    2 sets of 25 reps, each leg
    Reverse Crunch Reverse CrunchReverse Crunch
    2 sets of 25 reps

    Workout 2:
    Exercises
    Flat Bench Lying Leg Raise Flat Bench Lying Leg RaiseFlat Bench Lying Leg Raise
    2 sets of 25 reps
    Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg RaiseHanging Leg Raise
    2 sets of 25 reps

      Get A Printable Log Of Category B: Lower Abs.
       print Printable PagePDF PDF Document

      CATEGORY C: Obliques

      Workout 1:
      Exercises
      Cable Crunch Cable CrunchOne-Arm Cable Crunch
      2 sets of 20 reps
      Seated Barbell Twist Seated Barbell TwistSeated Barbell Twist
      2 sets of 15 reps, each side

      Workout 2:
      Exercises
      Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg RaiseHanging Leg Raise (with a twist)
      2 sets of 10 reps, each side
      Decline Oblique Crunch Decline Oblique CrunchDecline Oblique Crunch
      2 sets of 20 reps

        Get A Printable Log Of Category C: Obliques.
         print Printable PagePDF PDF Document


        Rectus Abdominus


        • Also known as the "six pack," this is one are of the body which, if well developed, will turn eyes your way; but if underdeveloped and covered in adipose tissue, will cause uncomfortable squinting.

           

           

        • The rectus abdominus runs from sternum to pelvis and is responsible for pulling your knees to your torso and rolling your torso forward and down.

           

           

        • When we talk about "upper abs" and "lower abs," we're really talking about the rectus abdominus--just the upper and lower parts of it.

           

        Obliques


        • The obliques are slabs of muscle that run diagonally down the sides of your body, between your rectus abdominus and lats.

           

           

        • The function of the external obliques is to twist the body from side to side and extend and contract the torso laterally.

           

           

        • Obliques play a large role in stabilization of the body during athletic events.

           

           

        • There are both internal and external obliques.

           

        Intercostals


        • These run diagonally across your ribcage - below your pecs and above your external obliques, interlacing with the serratus muscles.

           

           

        • The intercostals assist in deep respiration and coupled with the internal obliques work to expand and contract the ribcage.

           

           

        • There are both internal and external intercostals.

           

        Serratus


        • These are the fingerlike muscles you find running from your lats to the sides of your ribcage and are interwoven with the external intercostals.

           

           

        • The main function of the serratus is to extend the shoulders as far forward as possible.

           

           

        • Contrary to popular belief, you can't train the serratus with crunches. Instead you'd do better to lie back on a bench with a barbell extended as at the top of a bench press and then pushing the bar even higher from the standard top position, lifting your scapula off the bench as much as possible.

           

        <!-- end body -->

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ABS in 15 Minutes

Abs In 15 Minutes A Day
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The key is to use those minutes wisely. Here's how!

 

 

Abs In 15 Minutes A Day

A common misconception is that the secret to great abs is doing thousands of crunches and working them out like crazy each day. Do that and, well, crazy pretty much sums it up.

Having "abs" means taking down your body-fat percentage down to a level that lets them show through! Fat is slathered on top of your abs? No number of situps and crunches will result in definition. Lower your body fat--then your abs to pop when you raise your shirt in the mirror.

So how do you lower your body fat? Along with exercising, you need to start eating clean, or at least cleaner than you do now. I always tell people that my abs really come from what I eat. It wasn't until I started putting the right foods into my body that I began to see great results.

Take care of that part, and the abs come easy with the stimulus we're about to apply. What I'm about to ask you to do might even be less than your current abs load. No worries: If a chiseled, lean stomach is what you are looking for, endless abs work isn't the answer.

What I do now, and what I'm recommending, is training abs 2 to 3 times a week for roughly 15 minutes a pop. I like to keep 2 days between each abs workout, too.

That's it! I break it down like this:

  • Day 1 involves building abdominal muscle by adding weight to your moves. Don't be afraid to go a little heavy because your reps are low. This'll help you build more muscle.

     

     

  • Day 2 is for carving out definition with high reps and no (or little) weight. Taking these sets to failure will shock your abs and help carve out your midsection.

     

     

  • Day 3 involves incorporating light crunches into my active rests.

     

Ready to rock 'n' roll? Time to sculpt your six-pack! Here are your workouts:

Day 1: Weighted Abs Work
Exercises
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg RaiseHanging Leg Raise (weighted)
3 sets of 15 reps
Decline Crunch Decline CrunchDecline Crunch (weighted)
3 sets of 15 reps
Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise Ball CrunchExercise Ball Crunch (weighted)
2 sets of 25 reps
Ab Crunch Machine Ab Crunch MachineAb Crunch Machine
3 heavy sets of 15 reps

Get A Printable Log Of The Weigthed Abs Workout.
 print Printable PagePDF PDF Document

Day 2: Bodyweight Abs Work
Exercises
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg RaiseHanging Leg Raise (weighted)
3 sets of 25 reps or failure
Decline Crunch Decline CrunchDecline Crunch (weighted)
3 sets of 30 reps or failure
Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise Ball CrunchExercise Ball Crunch (light weight)
3 sets of 25 reps
Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise Ball CrunchExercise Ball Crunch (weighted)
1 set to failure

Get A Printable Log Of The Bodyweight Abs Workout.
 print Printable PagePDF PDF Document


Day 3: Active-Rest Sets

I like to incorporate bicycle crunches, full-body crunches, and mountain climbers (flexing that core!) into my active rests for at least one other workout during the week.

I usually pick 2 to 3 exercises and do 25 at a time in between each set.

Active Rest Sample
Hanging Leg Raise Hanging Leg RaiseHanging Leg Raise (weighted)
3 sets of 15 reps
Air Bike Air BikeAir Bike
1 set of 25 reps
Decline Crunch Decline CrunchDecline Crunch (weighted)
3 sets of 15 reps
Crunches CrunchesCrunches
1 set of 25 reps
Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise Ball CrunchExercise Ball Crunch (weighted)
2 sets of 25 reps
Mountain Climbers Mountain ClimbersMountain Climbers
1 set of 25 reps
Ab Crunch Machine Ab Crunch MachineAb Crunch Machine
3 heavy sets of 15 reps

Get A Printable Log Of The Active-Rest Workout.
 print Printable PagePDF PDF Document

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