Posts Tagged ‘muscle’

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We have a little discrepancy between the sexes that is as old as time. No, it has nothing to do with feelings or libido or television preferences. The issue is this: gentlemen tend to focus almost entirely on upper-body development while the ladies like to hammer their lower halves to carve out a well-defined backside and tighten their thighs. Now, while I am all for working out the largest muscle groups on a regular, rigorous basis; it may be time to focus on what’s above the waist, girls. Females possess roughly 2/3 of the maximal upper body strength that men do while having similar expressions of strength within the lower body (in relation to respective muscle cross-sectional area). Balance is vital in the gym and the strength you gain while consistently working your chest, shoulders, back, and arms will translate exceptionally well to the real world, allowing you to conquer all lifting tasks outside gym walls.

So focus on compound, multi-joint exercises like push-ups, dumbbell bench press, shoulder press, and free-weight (barbell or dumbbell) rows to round out your upper-body development. Soon you will be pounding out reps on the pull-up bar just like the huge, burly gentleman next to you and definitely squatting more than his tiny legs could possibly imagine! Happy lifting, girls!

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Alejandro Lopez, CSCS

If you have exhausted every possible option for biceps training, traveling to and fro the usual barbell biceps curl and the preacher curl; it may be time to enlist the Zottman curl. This little gem will elicit greater gains throughout the entire bicep/forearm complex producing noticeable gains in your biceps, your brachialis muscle (a synergist which runs betweenyour biceps and triceps on the outer portion of your arm), and your brachioradialis(which runs along your outer forearm, lying just below the brachialis). The Zottman curl works not only by stressing these muscles due to the grip change at the top of the movement but but also by producing a hold during the top portion as well to facilitate the aforementioned grip change. Here is how to do it:

  1. Hold the dumbbells in each hand at arm’s length close to your sides with the usual supinated grip (palm facing up)
  2. Perform a normal curl by utilizing your elbow flexors to pull the wait to your shoulders in a steady, controlled fashion.
  3. At the topmost point in the movement, flex your biceps forcefully for a count of one and slowly pronate your grip by turning your wrist 180 degrees so your palms are facing downward
  4. With palms facing downward, lower the weight through the eccentric, falling motion, in a controlled manner.
  5. When the weight is at its lowest postion with arms fully extended at your sides, reverse your grip to a normal, palms up grip and begin again for reps.

Happy Lifting!

This exercise can also be performed by beginning with palms facing downward wtih a switch at the top to palms facing upward.

Allow me….

Posted: August 27, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I wanted to take this time and step away from providing the best fitness info on the web (At least I like to think so) and request that you all do something for me. It is very simple and should take no more than a minute out of your day. It will be greatly appreciated and handsomely rewarded.  I would love if you asked me for help. That’s it. Post any question, query, comment, picture, likes, dislikes, anything so that I may do my best to help you or better my site and delivery.

I started this blog for this very reason and I am asking a simply favor: allow me to help. Thank you and happy blogging!

Today I would like to bring you a review for a supplement that I have been using just about every day for about two months now with pretty great results. The supplement is known as Xtend by Scivation and, no, it is not a sexual enhancement medication. It is a sugarless, branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) concoction meant to be consumed during your workout, also known as an intra-workout supplement. The value of this product lies in its ability to deliver those miniscule building-blocks of protein(amino acids) quickly to your muscles to create a positive nitrogen balance (meaning that you are anabolic vs. catabolic) Because the proteins have been broken down even further than good ol’ whey protein, the amino acids are shuttled to tired and working muscles even faster. It is great tasting and sparse on caloric content so it is perfect for during your workout to constantly feed those muscles and keep you jumping and pumping. Additionally, you get a nice assortment of electrolytes and citrulline malate to further enhance your power output.  Here’s what’s in the powder:

*For more information on what each individual ingredient powers visit:

**I have provided the link so the actual manufacturer can supply you with all the info you need on each of the individual ingredients.  Knowing what you put in your body is vital and you should always do your research before you consume anything fitness supplement related. I am also in no way, shape, or form affiliated with Scivation and all images, logos, product names used on this web site are trademarks of the owners.

The blend of BCAA’s in the product is optimal and scientifically verified so you know what you are getting is not under-dosed or over-hyped. Scivation provides everything you need to know right on the label and, most importantly, does not utilize a “proprietary blend” that many other companies implement. You know exactly what you are taking-in, no more no less.

But that’s enough build-up (and I highly recommend you view the company site), time for the nitty and the gritty. As I mentioned, I began using the product about  two months ago to fairly positive results. The taste is great and the mixibility is top-notch so getting it into your system is hardly an effort, but actually quite enjoyable. The flavors range from a slightly tart watermelon to an invigoratingly sour lemon-lime and should tantalize even the most discerning taste buds. So now that we have the most practical out of the way let’s move on to the most vital–benefit to you.

As with most nutritional supplements of the kind, a build-up period usually needs to pass before any real noticeable benefit can be noted and expounded upon. This supplement is no different. After the first couple of weeks of use during my workouts primarily which ranged from 3-4 times per week, I began to notice that I could last longer while in the gym. I took notice when I didn’t have the supplement on hand one day and was forced to lift unaided. I tired far quicker this time and was forced to cut the workout short. It is no miracle supplement (as none are) but the fact that I could workout longer in itself proves the quality of the powder, at least for me.

Another benefit that is by far of the most import to my current goal of cutting, or shedding the fat pounds,  is the supplement’s uncanny ability to help maintain the muscle I have worked so hard for while costing me a meager 5 or so calories per scoop. So basically, we have a tool here that allows men and women to primarily lose fat while on a reduced calorie diet, by sparing our calorie-burning muscle and only costing us a few, measly calories. This is accomplished when the amino-acids flood the bloodstream and either enter tired muscles for early recovery or are used by the body for energy instead of having to eat up our current muscle. It truly is a god-send for those of us with a bit of  flabby, baggage under the skin.

Another possible use for the supplement is to sip on the mixture throughout one’s day as an anti-catabolic agent (meaning it keeps your body from burning muscle). This is especially beneficial for those on a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Xtend has helped me maintain more of my muscle during this cut than any other before. By utilizing the product intra-workout and throughout the day on my non-workout days when I would cut carbs significantly, I have never been more satisfied with my progress and have been able to shed mainly fat.

Let me be clear though, and I am sure this statement is a rehash you have heard a thousand times for good measure. This product should not replace solid whole foods and will never replace a healthy diet plan and good fitness habits. It is just another weapon in your Fit Arsenal to maximize the hard work you put in.

The value, what you get versus what you pay, is fair and the effects are fantastic. This is by no means a supplement you “need” but one that you should endeavor to use if you seek the best. Post any questions you may have concerning Xtend or any supplement. Thanks for reading!

***note: there is a debate as to how many calories each serving contains, some state around five; others think even less or none at all. Either way, in my opinion, the amount is so minute that you shouldn’t worry.

You enter the gym on National Chest Day (Mondays for just about every resistance training male) and you bolt straight for the lone bench, conspicuously left alone by every pec-fiend around you. It is yours now and you have the plan of all plans. You start with a warm up set of flat-bench barbell chest presses then progressively overload for the next few working sets, reaching for a higher max weight for given reps than last week. You proceed to Incline then Decline with the same idea, rounding out the workout with high rep sets (12-15) of pec-deck or flies. This has been your holy grail of logistic training and you wouldn’t change it for the world. The problem is that you chest, tris, and delts are also stubborn to change and you wonder why o’ why is this happening.

Well the reason is not consistency, because you have demonstrated this to a tremendous degree, but stagnation. Basically, you have been doing the same thing for too long and the progressive overload technique(increasing intensity through higher reps for a given weight or higher weight for a given rep as the weeks progress) which is sound and always a favorite has begun to express itself in diminishing returns. So you may be gaining marginal strength every workout or two but the massive gains in strength and size brought about by your favorite aforementioned technique are just not there anymore. You need a change…..badly!

This is where intensity techniques come into play. From supersets, to dropsets, to negative isometrics and everything in between you have a plethora of methods for busting through that plateau that has plagued you for what seems like a milennia. For the purpose of brevity, let’s focus on supersets.

The concept of supersets is simple; correct execution, difficult. Basically, the goal of super-setting is to string one set directly behind another with little to no rest so as to elicit greater adaptation and growth. So if your focus for the day is chest you can follow a solid set of flat-bench with dips. Two for the price of one. You ramp up intensity and you shorten your time in the gym. Your muscles will work harder and remain under tension for longer. Just make sure you maintain proper form throughout.

The reason a well-executed super-set tends to supercharge your goals is simple. When you get to the point in a set where you cannot move the bar or dumbell even a quarter of an inch higher, you can further tax the muscle by engaging in another set of the same muscle group with a lighter weight or just different motor function (Flat bench which targets whole chest then incline which targets upper-chest and deltoids). This ramps ups intensity, sending signals to your brain demanding a need to release more growth-hormone to compensate for the trashing your muscles received.

Super-sets can be accomplished through a few methods: One muscle group suppersetting (see above), antagonistic (opposite muscle groups like chest then back or biceps then triceps, non-relating muscle groups (like quads then biceps) and Big muscle/small muscle super-sets (Chest then triceps or back then biceps).

All are valid and contribute to different results. One muscle group supersets contribute to intensely straining one muscle group; antagonistic supersets reduce time in gym, allow for heftier gym sessions targetting more than one muscle group; non-relating muscle groups supersets allow you to toss in sets of non-relating muscle groups for weak-point training and higher growth-hormone production (the more groups you train, the more growth hormone is released) ;and Big muscle/small muscle super-sets function similarly to the one-group method.

 There is no shortage of techniques to better your physique and these are just a few. Play the field thoroughly and find what works best for you. But remember, consistency did benefit you before and will continue to do so as long as you never, ever stagnate. Change is good but work hard at your new style until you see those diminishing returns.

We live busy lives. Busy. There is no way around it and there is only minimal respite. We skimp on certain things to make ends meet and indulge in only the barest of desires…..when time permits. But there is one thing that should never be sacrificed in order to keep responsibility in check and that is your exercise.

I stress this not only because you deserve to look your best, not only because it is good for overall health, but because exercising, even minimally, makes accomplishing everything from mowing the lawn to getting the kids to soccer practice much easier. All this brought to you by endorphins, a stronger, and more lightweight you!

Your body responds to the strenuousness of hard exercise by releasing a little feel-good chemical in the brain known as endorphins. These power-packing neurotransmitters elicit a sense of well-being well after your last set is finished. It allows you to tackle the mundane and the stressful with a little more kick. This is partly why you feel such a strong sense of accomplishment and well-being when you step out of the gym and a huge reason why you keep coming back. I suggest you focus intensely on that feeling and learn to yearn for it everyday. Before you know it, you will be back for another round ready for another dose of natural happiness.

There is no shortage of items to be eaten on any given day especially if fitness is far from your prime goal. From the sausage-engorged pizza pie to the tiny, sweet delicacy that is a cake pop, everything is at your disposable when you care nothing for how you look and feel. But if you have the slightest interest in looking how you were made to look and exhibiting your best form, then these choices should be reserved for your most liberal “cheat day.” There are certain foods primed for consumption for every different phase of one’s day from morning to night, but for the purposes of brevity and focus, let’s stick with post-workout nutrition for this article.

When one exerts himself/herself sufficiently during a workout, the muscles’ level of sugar, or glycogen, is depleted almost to nothingness. The muscles then would like nothing more than to be filled right up again with anything you could throw at ’em so that their functionality and recovery may be optimized. You could have that delicious slice of pizza or that delectable cake ball with lessened impact on fat gain because you are not adding to sugar-filled muscles but to empty muscles. But recovery would just not be at all the same. And after all, recovery, that rebuilding of broken down muscle, is exactly what you want and what you were working for (Even you ladies! the more muscle you have the more fat you burn throughout the day). But which foods exactly should you shuttle to tired muscle fibers?

Well the answer depends on what you want out of the fit lifestyle: muscle-gain or fat-loss. Let’s focus on fat loss for now. With fat loss you want to limit carbohydrates and much as you can or manipulate them for optimal use and limited adipose tissue storage (fat gain.) Your body needs carbs for overall health and a steady metabolism. Any diets that remove them completely or limit them extremely is destined for failure because your metabolism will not keep up and slow to a crawl. Having said this, there are two times of the day where you should consume your bulk of carbs while dieting–the morning and post-workout. Since we are on the topic of post-workout, let’s stick with that.

With the basic macro-nutrients in mind, you need your protein and carbs after your workout but leave fat as far as possible from the line-up. When considering protein, the faster the better. In other words, you want the form of protein that will reach your muscle fibers the fastest and there really is no faster than tried-and-true whey isolate or hydrolysate. About 1-2 scoops or 25-50g should suffice for most individuals. The protein is vital in supplying those much-needed amino acids to build-up those torn down muscles and should not be skimped on by any means. (Side note-you may not know this but protein is the most “active” of the three macros meaning that the body burns more calories digesting it than any other–which is a great thing!)

Your muscles not only need protein but also carbs to rebuild and refill. The best form of carb to consume so as to benefit muscles the most are your fast-acting carbs or your “white” carbs like potatoes, white rice, and even sugar( But the right sugar). These carbs require that your body produce insulin for proper digestion. Insulin is a very powerful biological force and very anabolic, shooting the protein/carb combo directly into those debilitated muscles. This makes for a very potent post-workout concoction. (You may note that insulin tends to elicit fat gain and you would be half right. Under normal circumstances that insulin would carry sugar not mainly to muscles because they are already filled up but to the liver and that is not good. This would almost certainly lead to more fat gain which is the reason why consuming candy tends to be counter-productive to good health.)

I recommend 25-50 grams of quality whey protein isolate and 35-60 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates to fuel your success. The combo should be consumed within 1 hour of finishing your last set or last minute of jogging, but the sooner the better. For my next article I will discuss what best to take in when you want to bulk up or build muscle.

Call me Alejandro. I am a man. I am a man just like the rest of you men with dreams, hopes, fears, loves, and hates. I am a man not sure of what is it to be a man. I am a man with a BA in English and a hard-on in fitness.  I am a man in the throes of becoming. I am a man who reached transcendence three years ago having seen my grotesque excuse for a midsection and unloving , love handles reflected back at me at every mirror, window, and shiny surface and decided that was it. I am a man who underwent a second metamorphoses after the first having found out I would be a father to a beautiful baby boy named, Tyler. I am a man of many passions, desires, and headings. I am a man whose idea of an indulgent binge involves neither drugs or alcohol but cookies and cream. I am a man whose life has been altered in the matter of months. I am a man both complex and simple; both smart and moronic. I am a man who has succeeded and failed, succeded and failed, succeeded and failed. I am a man, a father, and a future husband. I am a man at 22 and not a minute too soon. This is my life.