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Shake Up Your Muscle Building Diet

Building muscle is brutally tough work. Some dudes might even say it’s impossible.

Like most of my clients you probably want a strong, high-performance body that’s ripped, muscular, and by all accounts, capable of handling anything the world throws at you. You already train smart, are dedicated to high-performance training, and you eat a decent diet. Still, you aren’t getting jacked.

It sucks; I’ve been there too.

I missed the boat in my own training for a long time. Suffice to say, I spun my wheels with every training tool, program, and diet imaginable. Before I dive into your diet I have to tell you the truth: No matter what you’re looking to accomplish you must first define it. Define your goal qualitatively and quantitatively.

Qauntitative: I want to build ten pounds of muscle and weight 170 lbs

Qualitative: I want to build confidence to ask Jessica Alba on a date. Good luck by the way.

muscle building diet
photo credit: http://actresspose.blogspot.com/2012/02/pictures-of-jessica-alba.html

The point is, no goal will ever feel complete without an ending in sight. Without a definitive stop point you’ll lose aim of what you really want to accomplish and in turn, fizzle out. Definable paint a vivid picture of what success really means to you. Once you’ve taken this step, the real fun begins–like taking specific actions on a consistent basis to build a new habit and new behavior.

Truth be told, people don’t miss their goals because they don’t care, they miss there goals because they a.) Never define success, and/or b.) Never take small steps to adopt a new behavior.

The number one biggest problem guys trying to build muscle make… 

Is still not eating enough to gain calories. Despite how much you’re eating the hard truth is if you’re not gaining weight you’re still not eating enough. If you’re building a wall it doesn’t matter how many bricklayers you have, if you don’t have enough bricks the wall won’t get built.

Some days you run out of time or room in your stomach. Tough– you’ll have to push through. You either make time to get your goals accomplished or you don’t. If your not willing to make sacrifices and get out of your comfort zone then you’re just being lazy.

in the words of Sweet Brown, we ain’t got time for that. Fast forward to 24 seconds.

I’m not here to harp on you and call you out for a lack of effort. Instead, I’m here to help you carve your path out of hard-gainer hell with this one sure-fire solution– adding one Supershake to your diet each day. Uno. One. One measly protein shake each day will change your body and start a new muscle-building habit.

Not Chalky Weight-Gainers, Just High Performance Nutrition

Health is the first wealth and must be priority. Skip the classic gainers like MEGA-MASS 3000 filled with 90 grams of sugar, heavy metals, and sub-par protein. Instead, opt for high quality whey protein, all natural ingredients, and a high-performance blender for meals on the go.

Nutrient packed, tasty, and convenient these simple shakes will add 500+ calories per day without taking up time or room in your stomach.  These my top four muscle-building protein shakes to support your high performance training and muscle building diet.

These are all Precision Nutrition inspired and Bach Performance tweaked to based on self-experimentation and feedback from Bach Performance Clients. They all taste dank as hell, are filled with high quality ingredients, and will impress all those new dates you’ll be bringing home with your chiseled physique.

P.S. I highly recommend you check out Gourmet Nutrition for dozens of delicious and healthy meal options to support both muscle gain and fat loss.

What you need:

-Blender because well, you need to blend the damn thing

Fruit for flavor, high quality nutrients, and carbohydrates for energy

-Spinach or Greens, you wont even taste it and the added veggies are vital to balance a high-protein diet

Protein to support muscle growth and tissue repair

Topper/Texture adder for additional nutrients and to bring the whole recipe together

Optional: Creatine monohydrate to support high performance training, or a greens supplement to fill nutritional gaps

It’s much easier to make a few shakes at a time, throw your shaker in the fridge, and grab it as you run out the door. Here are my top-four favorite Super shakes to help you pack on the pounds.

High Protein Piña Colada:

This is an awesome post-workout shake, especially when the weather gets warm. This shake is packed with protein and high-performance super foods like coconut, green tea, and pineapple. I’ve found its best to play around with fluid amounts until you determine how thick’n chunky you like your shakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cups ice
  • 50 grams protein (1-2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons of shredded, unsweetened coconut (texture and flavor overload added flavor)
  • 1 cup green tea Or 1 cup water (pick one, one)

Mixed Berry Blast:

The Berry Blast is my go-to when I’m in a rush with 5 a.m. clients. I’ll whip up a batch and fill up two shakers. Generally, I’ll down one as I wake up and throw the other back post-workout. To maximize post workout efficiency and restoration of glycogen stores  drop out the Virgin Unrefined coconut oil to minimize fat intake.

muscle building diet

Ingredients

–       1 cup frozen mixed berries

–       2 scoops vanilla protein

–       2 tablespoons milled flax

–       1 cup spinach

–       1tablespoon raw, unrefined coconut oil

–       1 cup green tea or water (pick one)

Nutty Buddy:

This a high calorie shake with a decent amount of fat. I use this a lower-carb snack option and its best used sparingly. That said, you might roll over and pass out with a smile on your face after downing this nutty beast.

Ingredients

–       2 scoops protein (I prefer vanilla, but chocolate works here too)

–       1 cup spinach

–       2 tablespoons milled flax

–       2 tablespoons peanut butter

–       ¼ cup pecans (cashews also work)

–       1 cup water or Green tea (pick one)

Raspberry Chocolate Goodness:

This shake works best as a post-workout shake, a quick breakfast, or a healthy desert. If you are looking for fat loss keep this decadent treat for a post-workout treat due to the carbohydrate count.

Ingredients

-1 Cup Raspberries (frozen)

-2 Scoops Chocolate Whey Protein

-1.5 Cups Raw Spinach

-1 Cup Coconut Milk

– ½ cup water, ½ cup ice.

Directions: Yes, these are all the Same.

  1. Place all ingredients into the blender in this order. Seriously, this order works best:
  • Ice first
  • Frozen fruit over fresh
  • Throw in veggies- spinachor Onnit powdered greens wont even be tasted but provide a huge influx of awesome phytonutrients for those lacking in the Veggie department.
  • Protein powder—gainz bro. I recommend Bio Trust.
  • Nuts, Seeds, and Toppers I add nuts and seeds to most shakes for flavor, high quality nutrients, and fiber. Nut butters work well, although the name still disturbs me. Nut. Butters. Weird.
  • Liquid—I prefer water or green tea between ½-1 cup. This is highly variable as more liquid means a thinner shake. Play around with your preference.
  1. Blend for 30 seconds or until desired consistency.
  2. Drink and enjoy, a finish with push-ups to increase anabolism and muscle gainzzz by 500% bro. I’m kidding. Seriously. But really, do the push-ups anyways.

How to Implement It:

Building muscle isn’t impossible, you need a clear picture or where you’re going and what success looks like. After that, it’s all about making small changes that have a long lasting impact.

Start by drinking one shake everyday and watch the your shirt sleeves stretch and your our strength to skyrocket. Then, after a few weeks drop by and comment below on your favorite shake and we’ll chat from there.
Yes, building muscle is really that simple.

For You:
Looking for more muscle gaining tips? Join the Bach Performance Community for Free Updates and your Free E-book 101 Tips to Jacked and Shredded here.

Want to expedite the process?

Stop by and fill out a brief Online Training Application for one of my last three Online Personal Training Slots! Hurry though, they will be gone in the next three days!

Other Great Articles and References:

Gourmet Nutrition Cookbook

Busy Mans Carb Cycling

Ultimate Guide for Lean Gains: Carb Cycling

Scrawny to Brawny: Paul Valiuis

High Performance Exercises You Should be Doing: Goblet Squat

Walk into the typical gym and a few things stand out: The bro in a cut off t-shirt, the old dude wearing bikers spandex stretching spread eagle on the mat, and the same cardio queens snappin’ Instagram selfies on the elliptical.

Even more perplexing is the same people doing the same exercises day after day, week after week and not making jack-squat (pun-intended) for progress.

While there are staple movements that make up the best muscle and strength building programs some variety is needed to reduce your chance of injuries and attack your weak points.

Case in point, the goblet squat.

The goblet squat is a movement most everyone (injuries non-withstanding) should do.  Still, all I see are barbell squats and front squats, often with hips shooting up early, poor depth and varus/valgus issues at the knee. Despite being a natural movement squatting with sound technique has somehow become a lost art.

Despite being a natural movement squatting with sound technique has somehow become a lost art.

Between sedentary jobs and inactive lifestyles, basic movement quality sucks for most folks. Among most exercises what’s supposed to be a squat ends up looking like a quasi-modo twerking with a steel bar on his back.

As you’d imagine, it ain’t pretty. Squats are a great tool, but like anything else, how you use the tool is most important. A hammer is great when hitting a nail, as long as you strike the nail instead of exploding your thumb.

As it is, the goblet squat is my preferred exercise when introducing the squat to new clients and beginners in the weight room. Whether you’re an inexperienced athlete or a desk jockey with the mobility of a screwdriver, the goblet squat is an easy way to teach body awareness and improve your squat.

Here’s A Sample Progression For Your Squat

Start with a bodyweight squat with the arms at shoulder width, progressing to an overhead squat to see how thoracic mobility limitations are playing a role in limiting movement.

At this point, most peoples knees begin shaking, their heels leave the floor, and all hell breaks loose. More than common mobility restrictions like poor dorsiflexion or tight hips my concern lies with the lack of stability during the movement. The fact that so many folks run around playing sports with major instabilities sets off the alarms faster than deadlifts at Planet Fitness.

 

With this in mind, the last thing you want to do is hop under a heavy barbell and squat your face off until your form is rock-solid.  This is where the almighty goblet squat comes into play.

Here’s a quick demo from my YouTube Page, which you should probably subscribe to.

 

Goblet Squats for Muscle Building:

Few exercises stimulate total body muscle growth like squats. Problem is, most people suck at them. Piling volume-on-top of dysfunction is a huge no-no, and squats are a frequent perpetrator. You won’t be able to load goblet squats heavy like barbell squats, but you maintain great form and not snap your spine in half during longer duration sets.

You won’t be able to load goblet squats heavy like barbell squats, but you maintain great form and not snap your spine in half during longer duration sets.

Sound like a win? It is.

Aim for 3-5 sets of 10-20 rep goblet squats. Add pauses, mid-rep holds, and load these bad-boys up 100+ pounds if you’re able. This creates tons of muscular damage and metabolic stress from the accumulation of metabolic by-products from hard-work—setting you up for legs gains.


P.S. Are you ready to build functional strength and muscle without all the aches and pains? To cut through the fluff transform your body download:

Six Week Sheer Strength Plan


Practice Squat Technique:

Those with poor coordination are better candidates for the goblet squat. Since the compact weight is held in front of the athlete it’s much easier to stabilize than a long, unstable barbell. Add in the fact that goblet squats strengthen your anterior core, your upper back (hello better posture) and create muscle building metabolic tension and you have a winner.

Increase anterior core engagement:

I cover this thoroughly when talking about front squats here, and the mechanism responsible for strengthening your core with goblet squats and front squats is largely the same.  Anterior bar placement keeps the torso vertical, preventing the hips from going into an excessive tilt, and requiring greater oblique and rectus abdominus involvement to prevent flexion.
This means your spine stays more vertical, lengthens the lats, reduces shear stress on the spine and requires extra core involvement to keep you vertical. In a nutshell, proper front squats and goblet squats protect your back from shooting a disk across the room and sending you to the ER.

goblet squat, high performance
Photocredit: superiortrainingshc.blogspot.com

 

Vertical Spine position and less shear stress on the spine:

Per the increase in anterior core engagement, the spine stays vertical, lengthens the lats, reduces shear stress on the spine. Altogether, this requires extra core involvement to keep you upright. During de-load periods heavy goblet squats opposed to back squats deload the spine and nervous system.

 Minimal Equipment or Space Needed:

If you’re traveling or don’t have any room to squat because some hair-gelled douche is curling in the squat rack then goblet squats are an awesome substitution to hammer your legs. In all seriousness, exercise doesn’t need to be complicated, it just has to be effective. Find out more on Exercise Minimalism in my three-part series here, here, and here.

Teach upper-back tightness during lower body exercises:

Too many novice lifters don’t realize the importance of keeping the upper back tight because they don’t lift enough weight to get stapled forward. With even moderate weights, the goblet squatter feels his upper back and must retract the shoulders to hold the ideal position. As a bonus, this will keep you from getting the oh so sexy quasi-modo posture.

Teach tightness in the hole without significant loading:

Lots of folks lose lumbar stability in the bottom of the squat, bounce out of the hole, and losing spinal integrity. If you feel yourself rounding forward when you squat or your hips shooting up before your chest, this could be you.

No bueno.

To learn tightness and technique in the bottom of a squat, goblet squats with a pause are perfect. The anterior load forces anterior core engagement and abdominal bracing when the lower back is most prone to injury– the bottom of a squat. Adding a pause allows time to check the alignment of your hips, knees, and ankles to prevent pronation/supination of the foot and valgus/varus stress on your knees.

In other words, adding pauses and slow tempo to reinforce your technique keeps your body from breaking down into potentially injury-causing positions. 

How to Goblet Squat:

Hold a dumbbell (or kettlebell) with both hands underneath the “bell” at chest level, and set your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes pointing slightly outwards

(a). Push your butt back like you’re sitting in a chair and descend until your elbows reach the inside of your knees.

(b). Keeping your heels flat, pressing into the floor, pause at the bottom of the squat, and return to a full standing position. If your heels rise push your hips further back and work on partial ranges of motion until mobility and form improve

(c). Repeat for three to four sets of 8-10 reps.

Here’s a video of my beastly client Raven hitting some goblet squats. Despite the fact that he hits 700lb squats for fun it’s still important to ingrain movement skills to limit potential weaknesses and deficiencies.


 

Goblet Squat Coaching Cues:

Keep your chest tall with your shoulders squeezed down and together.

Brace the trunk like you’re taking a punch rather than arching your lower back.

Sit between your legs and open your hips. Push your knees out while you’re at it.

Descend to your deepest depth without losing lumbar integrity (a.k.a. buttwink. Which is not about the Hamstrings, a must read by Dean Somerset)

Reverse directions, driving your feet evenly into the ground and returning to a tall standing position. Squeeze the glutes at the top, rinse, and repeat.

Sample Goblet Squat Progression:

The bodyweight squat and overhead squat are two tests used for assessments for good reason: they show coordination and movement in a basic movement pattern.

I prefer this progression as it reinforces movement quality in a limited range of motion (ROM) and gradually increases ROM and difficulty as you get stronger.

Bodyweight Squats to Box>Bodyweight Squats with Pause> Goblet Squat to High Box>Goblet Squat to Lower Box>Goblet Squat with Pause>Goblet Squat

From here, you can take your goblet squat to a front squat or back squat with a more refined movement pattern and better total-body stability for pain-free progress.

The Goblet Squat Challenge

Think you’re too advanced to use goblet squats effectively? Ahh, it’s time to be humbled my friend.
As covered in my work on T-Nation, the goblet squat challenge is as follows: ”

When loaded heavy, the goblet squat is a brutal exercise that challenges the strength of your legs, anterior core, and upper back. Add in an iso-hold on the front end and you have a battle for the ages.

The Challenge

  1. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell. Between 40-80 pounds is plenty for seasoned lifters.
  2. Hold it at chest height and descend to the bottom position of the squat. Hold in the bottom position for 15 seconds.
  3. After 15 seconds, stand up to full extension then perform as many full goblet squats as possible, up to 15 reps. If you can bang out more than that, go heavier.

Start with 40 pounds until you complete the full iso-hold plus 15 reps, at which point you increase the weight by 5-10 pound increments in subsequent workouts.”

In my experience, most men should start with 65 pounds and progress from there. Women will do well with 40 as a starting point. Work your way all the way to 100+ if you can and #gobletsquatchallenge and tagging @bachperformance on Instagram.  Here’s a quick demo:

View this post on Instagram

Time for a taste of my own medicine… — Since last weeks post on the #gobletsquatchallenge was shared by @testosteronenation I’ve received at least 40 videos from challengers. — Here’s my round with an 80 lb dumbbell, a 15 second pause, and 16 reps… I had to add one extra for good measure. — Here’s the challenge: When loaded heavy, the goblet squat is a brutal exercise that challenges the strength of your legs, anterior core, and upper back. Add in an iso-hold on the front end and you have a battle for the ages. . The Challenge: . 1. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell. Between 40-80 pounds is plenty for seasoned lifters. . 2. Hold it at chest height and descend to the bottom position of the squat. Hold in the bottom position for 15 seconds. . 3. After 15 seconds, stand up to full extension then perform as many full goblet squats as possible, up to 15 reps. If you can bang out more than that, go heavier. . 4. Start with 40 pounds until you complete the full iso-hold plus 15 reps, at which point you increase the weight by 5-10 pound increments in subsequent workouts. . Form is still the determining factor – if you find you're not hitting full depth or your form falters, lower the poundage and continue working at it. Completing a set with over 65 pounds shows impressive mobility, stability, mental toughness, and endurance. – Eric Bach, @bachperformance — Tag me, @testosteronenation and the #gobletsquatchallenfe in your video. — Ready… go! . . #tnation #gobletsquat #legday #quads #glutes #gluteworkout #kettlebellworkout #bodybuilding #strengthtraining #strengthandconditioning #workoutchallenge

A post shared by Eric Bach (@bachperformance) on

 

Wrap Up

By now you’re well versed in the goblet squat. The goblet squat is a great teaching tool for beginners, a slam dunk for improving your technique, and a deceptive tool for building bigger, stronger legs.

Yea, it’s not ideal for maximum strength and power development, but let’s be real—more trainees would benefit from building sound mechanics of a goblet squat before piling weight on a faulty foundation and getting hurt.

Whether you’re new to squats or can’t squat due to hair-gelled curl in the squat rack guy the goblet squat is a high-performance training tool you should be doing.

A final note before you go…

Are you ready to build functional strength and muscle without all the aches and pains?

Then I Come Bearing Gifts.

To cut through the fluff transform your body download your next workout absolutely free.
Download here: Six Week Sheer Strength Plan

Part 2 Training Essentialism: 4 Tips to Improve Workout Consistency

In our last post we covered a few things. First, we covered the most important parts of your workout, the 80/20 if you will, that give you the most bang for your buck. Training for one goal while ensuring progressive overload in the major movements is key to long-term results. If you haven’t read part one What Every Workout Needs please do so now. 

Moving on– here’s how to workout consistency. Knowing what to do is great, but a plan is 100% useless unless you take actionable steps to get’er done.

The biggest problem affecting your training isn’t exercise selection, sets, reps, weights, or even your motivation. Those are all important, but the problem is more simple than that.

What do you think it is?

….

…..

……

Workout consistency. I don’t mean consistency in the sense that you’re unwilling to put in the time; rather, you gnaw off a bigger chunk than you can chew. Your determination exceeds what your capable of each day. You have a job, school, family obligations,  a million projects and people vying for you attention and time. If it were possible, you’d run on 28-hour days to fit everything in.

Sound familiar?

Training four or five times per week with strength work, mobility, and conditioning is great, but sometimes it’s impossible to do everything. Instead of the perfect plan you need a plan that’s focused on your goal while accounting for the constraints of your life. Small wins accumulate big over time. That’s why the best coaches start grand goals on a small scale–the best path is taking small, progressive victories to get big results.

It’s like a drive in Football, unless you’re the Raiders: Four yards, two yards, five yards, first down. Another first down and then it hits—big play touchdown! Progress is the most effective form of human motivation—to get success need to set yourself up for success with the right play calls.

how to improve workout consistency

Improving Workout Consistency

With the following tips you’ll have everything you need to focus on your goals plus the motivation and attention to reach them. Information is only as good as how you use it. Grab a pen, piece of paper, and customize your goals to the following tips. You’ll set yourself up for huge gains in the gym and eliminate the guilt of missing workouts.

1. Know what you’re capable of Doing Consistently 

If you have kids at home, a job that requires 60 hours per-week, and long work trips planned then a five-day per week body-part split over the next two months isn’t practical. Instead, budget the time that you’ll be able to get to the gym under any circumstance. Move to a total body routine and hit the major muscles in each workout for 2-3 workouts per week. Add in 20 minutes of sprints one day and a walk a few more places. The program isn’t 100% perfect for your goal, but a program performed with focus and intensity consistently will beat the perfect program performed sporadically every time.

Know what you’re cable of doing and execute.

2. Forget about Tomorrow

Being overwhelmed with responsibilities make it difficult to get your training in. Today’s workout becomes, “I’ll do it tomorrow.” There’s always tomorrow and another day. Problem is, the “tomorrow” mindset becomes next week, and suddenly, you haven’t hit the gym in six days. Focus on the now and win the day.

3. Schedule Training like an Appointment

Treat exercise like an obligation as you would a meeting at work and stick to it. The biggest, baddest dudes in your gym make exercise a priority no-matter what. Once you add workouts to your calendar and block time off they become part of your routine. When others come up look at your schedule—are the mandatory?
If not, turn it down or move it to another time.

Your workout is time for you. Sprint, lift heavy steel, throw different implements, and have fun. Building your body is much more powerful than your one-rep max, it’s about the focus, workout consistency, and effort you put forward towards the big picture.

4. Focus During Your Workout

The less frequent your training sessions the more important intensity becomes.
Drink extra coffee.
Boost up your pre-workout.
Blast some Lil Jon and get out of your mind.

I don’t care, do whatever it takes to go balls to the wall when you hit the gym. Going through the motions is for losers—get in and get after it.

 

Wrap Up

You’re busy and determined—that’s a good thing. Don’t let training fall by the wayside; rather, optimize your training with what you’re capable and willing to do.

Know what you’re cable of Doing Consistently.

Stop putting it Off Until Tomorrow.

Schedule it like an Appointment.

Get in and get after it.

With this information you have everything you need to build a leaner, stronger, and more athletic body. Quit majoring in the minors, it’s time to get to maximize your training on your terms.

Recommended Reading:

Training Essentialism: What Every Workout Needs 

 

 

Last Chance To Win some cold hard Cash While Building Muscle

Are you looking to improve workout consistency and Accelerate your Muscle Building?

Join my latest Fitocracy Group Minimalist Mass building.

This isn’t a program just for powerlifting, bodybuilding, or for athletes — it’s a combination of these disciplines to get you the best results in the shortest time possible.

You’ll lift heavy, occasionally chase the pump, and move like an athlete.

Workouts will be brief, intense, and goal oriented, and will pack on the kind of muscle that looks and performs like a muscular athlete.

Join NOW before the group closes for good: on October 27th

photo credit: Runar Eilertsen via photopin cc

photo credit: linda sellers via photopin cc

High Performance Training to Read: 10/31/2014

It’s been a while since I’ve posted “Stuff you should read,” so lets plunge into it. Besides, you’ve got important stuff to do like dressing up for Halloween an eating gobs of sugar-loaded num-nums.

Got that Right. Photocredit: quickmeme.com
Got that Right.
Photocredit: quickmeme.com

First, I want to say Thank you to everyone who shared, liked, and downloaded my brand new Kindle E-Book Eight Weeks to an Explosive Deadlift. I hit two best-sellers list, including the best Health and Fitness ebook. If you haven’t taken a peek yet head to Amazon and get a copy today—not only will you learn how to pick up heavy stuff, you’ll understand why training for speed and power is explosive in building maximal strength.

Eight Weeks to an Explosive Deadlift_Kindle cover-2

I’ve been on a reading-writing lately so I’m chalk-full of awesome ideas. Still, if you have any particular exercises, topics, or randomness you want covered please drop me a message here.

The big “three” are great exercises, but bench presses, squats, and deadlifts are not an end all be all. Anatomical considerations and weak points must always be taken into account when analyzing the risk reward of an exercise. If you bottom out your squat and lose lumbar integrity under huge loads your opening the door for a panodoras box of issues. The Four Most Debilitating Exercises on T-Nation by John Rusin was a refreshing view on exercise considerations with your training. I had the ability to talk to John when this article came out and was very impressed by his knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics. I highly recommend checking out John Rusin’s site here.

Besides having a first-name fit for a king 🙂 Eric Cressey is one of the best coahes around. Like most great coaches, Eric is a huge proponent of maximizing effiency in the weight room. Yea, there might be a perfect strategy to get stronger, build muscle, or more athletic, but it won’t work if you only have two hours per week to train or an eight-week off-season. Here are Eric’s 7 Ways to Make your Strength Training Programs more Efficient.

This past week, I hit a huge milestone and had my first article on CNN and Huffington post. I’ve been writing for DailyBurn and they were kind enough to recommend the article to CNN and voila… I was on CNN and Momma Bach was proud. Check out the Seven Best Exercises You’re Not Doing. If you’re struggling with your muscle building workouts or performance in the gym add these to jump-start your training.

Authority Nutrition is chalk full of awesome research based nutrition advice. In 8 Ridiculous Nutrition Myths Debunked some of the most imcompetent nutritional advice is taken to the grave.

 

That’s a wrap for this week. Enjoy your Halloween, as I plan to hand out Epic Bars and dress up like a slice of bacon. Dressing up like a slice of bacon means willing Halloween…right?

Photo on 10-17-14 at 2.48 PM

 

Discover the Fat Loss Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Fat Loss Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Over the past week, I’ve received a number of inquiries regarding intermittent fasting. It was due to my recent blog “My Training Principals” that got a few people interested. Read that here.

I figured it was appropriate to delve more into the world of intermittent fasting and enlighten you guys on what it all entails. I wanted to go a bit deeper on this one…

 

Intermittent Fasting isn’t a diet. You aren’t counting points. You don’t cut food groups from your diet and you don’t need to reference any era (i.e. Paleolithic, or the mythical era during the reign of Morador and Gondor). In the most  simple explanation all you’re doing is eating during a specific time frame throughout the day/week and choosing not to eat during the remaining time.

There are a couple of ways to do this.

The first would be considered the Lean Gains approach (16 hour fast, 8 hour feast) which was pioneered by Martin Berkhan. Simply put, all you do is eat during a specific time period of the day . For example you start eating at noon and finish eating at 8.  That is an 8 hour feastingwindow. The remainder would be a 16 hour fasting window.

Just so we are on the same page you technically already do this, just in reverse. Here’s an example

  • 6:00 am: You wake up
  • EAT ALL DAY
  • 10:00 pm: You go to bed

You were in a feasting window for 16 hours. You fasted (slept) for 8.

(It’s also acceptable to have a 6 hour or even a 4 hour feasting window.)

The second would be the Eat Stop Eat approach by Brad Pilon. He simply suggests that you take 1-2 24 hour periods off from eating throughout the week.

The 24 hour period doesn’t mean you will miss a whole day of eating. If you finish eating at 7 pm on Monday you can eat again on 7 pm Tuesday. This method will give you the benefits of fasting without the need to stop eating for an entire day.

Brad provides you with in-depth research about metabolism and overall general health in his book. I highly recommend you read it.

 

How does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Think of it this way. When you eat food your body spends the next couple of hours processing that food. Due to the fact that it’s immediately available in your blood stream (sugar) your body uses that as energy rather than your fat stores.

If you’re fasting your body doesn’t have any “food” or energy to use so it pulls it from your fat stores rather from the glucose in your blood stream or the glycogen from your muscles and liver.

Here’s a great write up from Steve over at NERD Fitness 

Why does this work?  Our bodies react to energy consumption (eating food) with insulin production.  Essentially, the more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more likely you’ll be to use the food you consume efficiently, which can help lead to weight loss and muscle creation.

Along with that, your body is most sensitive to insulin following a period of fasting

Your glycogen (a starch stored in your muscles and liver that your body can burn as fuel when necessary) is depleted during sleep (fasting), and will be depleted even further during training, which can further increase insulin sensitivity. This means that a meal immediately following your workout will be stored most efficiently: mostly as glycogen for muscle stores, burned as energy immediately to help with the recovery process, with minimal amounts stored as fat. 

Compare this to a regular day (no intermittent fasting).  With insulin sensitivity at normal levels, the carbs and foods consumed will see full glycogen stores, enough glucose in the blood stream, and thus be more likely to get stored as fat.

Not only that, but growth hormone is increased during fasted states (both during sleep and after a period of fasting).  Combine this increased growth hormone secretion, the decrease in insulin production (and thus increase in insulin sensitivity), and you’re essentially priming your body for muscle growth and fat loss with intermittent fasting.

This in a nutshell is why you would IF.

 

Why were we told to eat 5-6 meals a day?

You, your parents, me, Tim Tebow, and even the guys from The Hangover were all told that you must eat 5-6 meals a day or eat every 2-3 hours.

Here are some of the main reasons why we were taught this:

  1. It will keep the body’s metabolism up, thus increasing thermogenesis (fat burning), resulting in weight loss.
  2. Eating 6 small healthy meals a day you will decrease your appetite and hunger. This may help some dieters control hunger and calorie intake.
  3. It helps balance your blood sugar.

Sooo, these all seem to be pretty valid points. Right?

Not so fast my friend

lee-corso1

Let’s Tackle These One by One

#1. Supposedly eating 5-6 meals a day will rev up your body’s metabolism thus creating a fat burning furnace allowing you to lose weight.

Sounds good in theory and I believed this for a very long time. As more time has gone by and more studies have been done it just doesn’t have much validity.

Here’s one study that states that it’s not true and here’s another study that shows no evidence that eating 6 meals a day increases metabolism, thermogenesis or weight loss.

This last study further proves the point.

Simply put, if eating 6 meals a day were to put you in a fat burning zone it would be so minuscule that it really wouldn’t make a difference.

#2.  Eating 6 small meals a day will decrease your appetite and hunger.

Once again it sounds great. From my understanding: If you frequently eat you’ll be fuller throughout the day so the next time you eat you won’t eat as much because you just ate and now you feel full? Is that right?

Here’s a study that shows no hunger suppressing affect.

Hopefully more research is done in regards to hunger and appetite as it’s pretty scarce.

#3. We have been told that it can help balance your blood sugar levels. Now this, my friend, would probably be the biggest, most important one of them all.

The theory is your blood sugar levels spike so eating quality foods frequently will keep them level throughout the day. This in turn would help keep you lean and functioning properly.

Here’s a study discussing your blood glucose during a run after a fed state and a fasted state. And another interesting study showing that blood sugar is maintained during a 48 hour fast.

This study shows that it takes roughly 84 hours of fasting before our glucose levels are adversely affected.

Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean people can’t be lean, look good and feel healthy if they eat 6 meals a day. It’s just stating what you’ve been taught or told might not really be true or there are easier ways in which you don’t have to obsess over packing your meals or spending every 2-3 hours eating.

Why Intermittent Fast?

Well, here are a couple of reasons why you should take a look a this approach

1. It’s easy. You don’t have to worry so much about always eating. You can still pack food and prepare like you normally would but you won’t have to stress about eating every 2-3 hours.

2. There is a high probability that you will lose weight and body fat. These approaches have provided phenomenal results for thousands of people looking to get rid of body fat.

3. All of these reasons from my previous blog and read this:

  • It increases growth hormone production. Studies have shown it raises growth hormone levels in both men and women.
  • It normalizes your insulin and leptin sensitivity. Insulin and Leptin are hormones that play a crucial role in energy production and fat storage. If both of these are normalized it can regulate your blood sugar levels, which can prevent type two diabetes and potential weight gain.
  • It reduces inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to threats from germs, harmful toxins, environmental pollutants, injury, stress, and other things.
  • It helps with appetite control. Ghrelin is an enzyme produced by stomach lining cells that stimulates your appetite. By fasting ghrelin becomes more stable helping you keep your hunger in check.
  • It can possibly improve gut bacteria. A healthy gut is one of the most important things you can do to improve your immune system so you won’t get sick, or get coughs, colds and flus. You will sleep better, have more energy, have increased mental clarity and concentrate better. A healthy gut can also help you get lean.

Intermittent Fasting Guidelines

  • Do the best you can to avoid calories during a fast. Drink coffee, green tea or water and avoid calorie filled drinks i.e. gatorade, soda, juice during the fasting period
  • BCAA’s can be beneficial during your fasting periods to help with muscle growth and repair.
  • Try and keep your feeding period consistent. If you eat from 12-8 do your best to keep that regular.
  • Be active, don’t sit and think about food. You shouldn’t do this anyways but while fasted keep busy.
  • Cycle your macronutrients. For example, some days you might go higher carbs other days you might go lower carbs. Base it off of your activity during that particular day (more activity more carbs)
  • Don’t binge. When your feasting window is open this doesn’t give you the green light to shove anything and everything down your throat. Eat quality food and eat until you are full.

Where to Start?

This is the million dollar question.

Figure out which works best for you. Some people like the Lean Gain approach because it fit’s there overall lifestyle while others love the simplicity of Eat Stop Eat. Either way figure out a feasting window that will give you an opportunity to eat a few meals. Once you have the schedule set start by making small changes.

Slowly work your feasting window down to an eight hour window and see how your body feels. Everyone is different as some people have a difficult time initially. Others, jump right into it without much of a problem.

Remember this is a lifestyle and something that you can do the rest of your life. You still need to eat clean, exercise often and most importantly get plenty of sleep. If you don’t do these three things then intermittent fasting won’t be effective.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes!

About the Author:

Dave Dreas is a certified personal trainer in Phoenix, AZ. He is the creator of ModestlyRefined.com and co-owner of Arizona Training Lab. As a former All American College basketball player, he spent years in the strength and conditioning world working with collegiate and professional strength coaches. He is currently a MuscleTech Sponsored Athlete and Reebok Ambassador. For more information he can be found at modestlyrefined.com.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE

People who have issues with blood sugar regulation, suffer from hypoglycemia, or have diabetes should speak to a doctor before Intermittent Fasting. Other categories of people that should avoid Intermittent Fasting include those living with chronic stress and those with cortisol dysregulation. If you fit into these categories I highly recommend you check with your doctor or dietitian before adjusting your eating schedule.

Have done IF? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences. Drop by Facebook and tell us about it!

Maximizing Muscle Growth

I was 14 years old, dazed and staring at the spinning blue sky.

I was de-cleated during my first high school Football practice when it hit me—I needed to get bigger, and stronger. At 5’3″ 103lbs I was weaker than a blade of grass; it was easier to run through me than the open field.

Oye, F-that.

maximizing muscle growth

From that moment on I dedicated myself in the weight room, gathering every little nugget of knowledge I could find on building strength, muscle, and athleticism. I became obsessed with maximizing muscle growth and building an athletic body, a passion that extends to helping others today.

Problem is, tons contradictory information makes it tough to know what’s right—bodypart split this, 5,000 snatch superset with reverse 360 box jumps that.

A balanced approach is needed; one that’s reinforced by science and solidified by practice and results rather than misinformation, snake-oil sales techniques, and empty promises.

In my first article of Bodybuilding.com I discuss the keys for maximizing muscle growth with the Mechanisms of Hypertrophy by Brad Schoenfeld and how to apply it to your training. You’ll avoid the “fallacies” and inefficient workout programs in many Bodybuilding magazines to maximize the three most important Mechanicsms of Hypertrophy: Mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscular damage.

MECHANICAL TENSION for Muscle Growth

Mechanical tension is achieved by using a substantial load and performing exercises through a full range of motion for a certain amount of time. The time you spend under tension creates mechanical tension in the muscles; ergo, the more significant the time, the more significant the mechanical tension. But, tension alone won’t signal maximum muscle growth. Tension, in addition to a full range of motion, induces a substantial hypertrophic response. In other words, maximal muscular development comes from a foundation of strength. Greater strength begets greater mechanical tension across all exercises.

METABOLIC STRESS for Muscle Growth

Engorged muscles play an important role in hypertrophy. If you’ve ever experienced a sleeve-splitting pump after the end of an arms workout, you’ve experienced metabolic stress. When you work out hard to achieve a pump, you build up lactate, hydrogen ions, creatine, and other metabolites, but you also prevent blood from escaping. This metabolic stress in the muscle signals adaptation.

MUSCULAR DAMAGE for Muscle Growth

It’s not uncommon to hobble out of bed the day after demolishing a workout that, in turn, demolishes your muscles. This soreness might feel like the end of the world, but it’s also indicative of muscular damage. Luckily, soreness isn’t for naught; that damage to muscle tissue creates a temporary inflammatory response and releases the necessary signals for muscle growth.

Even better, you’ll get an awesome workout plan to get you rolling for the next eight weeks that would previously only be available for my Bach Performance online clients.

If you’re looking to maximize muscle growth then this article is right up your alley—it will get you to your goals faster than you thought possible (granted, your nutrition is up to par).
Drop me a comment on Facebook in the embedded post below, or in the article.

 

 

Continue Reading for Maximal Muscle Growth:

 

Resources:

  1. Baechle, Thomas, and Roger Earle. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning. 3rd. Champaign, Il: Human Kinetics , 2008. 406-407. Print.
  2. Krieger, J. (2010). Single vs. multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: A meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(4), 1150-1159.

Schoenfeld, Brad. “The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24.10 (2010): 2857. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

photo credit: zumito via photopin cc

Five Exercises For Athletic Muscle Building

I get it—You want to build muscle, be shredded, and be athletic. You crave a body that’s both Show AND Go (sorry Eric Cressey: I love the term), with the body and tools of a finely tuned athlete. With that in mind your typical “body-builder” splits, isolation exercises, and high-pump workouts won’t cut it. High volume body-part splits aren’t best for gains– there’s too much focus on individual muscles rather than the body moving as a unified machine.

Instead, you need exercises that require strength, stability, power, speed, and coordination  to build slabs of athletic muscle to your body.

athletic muscle, strength, Clay Matthews Steroids

Photo Credit:elitedaily.com

1.) Sprint:

What sport isn’t better by improved sprint speed?

The truth is very few — speed reigns king in athletics.

Luckily, sprinting has benefits far beyond cross-extensor coordination, power, speed, and strength–it’s great all-around tool and will help you improve shred body fat, improve your condition, and even build muscle.

Here’s Why:Sprinting requires high-velocity muscle contractions to rapidly generate force and propel the body forward. No jogging here, sprints are an all-out, intensive exercise.

Sprints are intense enough to stimulate the release of major anabolic hormones like HgH and testosterone, create muscle-building damage to muscle fibers, and even aid in transitioning slow-twitch fibers to type 2 fast twitch fibers.

Start conservatively with all sprint work consider hiring a coach—sprinting is a skill that must to be taught to optimize performance and decrease injury risk. You wouldn’t try a max-lift your first time in the gym would you?

Sprinting is extremely neurologically demanding—sprinting while fatigued is idiotic and  increases injury risk exponentially.
Like anything else that’s been neglected it’s best to hold back the reigns, do them first in your workout, and start conservative–no-one benefits from a bum hamstring.

As a conditioning tool sprint work trains specific energy support systems (alactic and lactic) that fuel performance in high-intensity, short duration exercise. When beginning proceed with caution– re-introduce speed training with full-recovery and slight hills to prevent injuries.

[Try This: Beginners start with  6 sprints for 30 yards on the first few workouts with a full 90 second recover between reps. recovery, 1-3 minutes should suffice.  ]

2.)Power Clean:

The clean is my favorite exercise for improving power performance due to its explosive triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle in a coordinated, explosive pattern—a movement that simulates the triple extension in jumps and sprints.

There is no sport that isn’t improved through powerful triple extension, coordination, Or  absorbing and transferring. Olympic lifts are a vital training tool for athletic performance.

If you struggle with technique start with the Hackey Pull. This exercise is a powerful expression of full hip extension, the primary driver of cleans and hip extension in sport.

 

As a muscle builder the clean works the following muscles: calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, traps, deltoids, and forearms, as well as the core muscles that come into play to stabilize your spine and transfer power throughout the movement. This makes the clean a better bang for your buck deal than 3:1 Chipotle Burritos and arguably better than any other exercise.

Plus, they look pretty bad-ass.

3.) Bench Press:

Most athletes absolutely love the bench press and for good reason– It’s the ultimate “macho, how much you bench bro’?” exercise . It doesn’t matter if you have a 8-year-old in the gym for the first time or a high school senior Football player; they love the bench and will go all-out in effort.

“Functional” pundits will hate the bench press because of a lack of scapular movement and the fact that lifters are laying down, but few exercises build heaping slabs of muscle on the chest, shoulders, and triceps coupled with explosive strength like the bench press.

Use a shoulder-width grip, rigid wrists, and tuck the elbows at 45 degrees to create a stable environment for the shoulder. Similarly avoid going too narrow, an over ally narrow-grip causes the scapulae to slide into anterior tilt (that’s bad news folks) and potentially aggravate the shoulder. if you’re concerned with shoulders then floor presses  and weighted push-ups are fantastic alternatives. 

A motivated person will work hard; sometimes the trade-off is worth the intensity and work ethic despite its short-comings.

4.) Rotational Medicine Ball Throws:

Sports aren’t played only in the sagittal plane–movement in sport is chaotic and occurs in multiple planes, athletes need to be strong and resilient in all these planes.  Athletes benefit from direct rotational power work because power is vector specific–it must  be developed in a similar movement to transfer to sport.

Medicine ball rotational throws explosively transfer forces between the upper and lower body, developing explosive rotational power with loaded hips. Rotational med ball throws are ideal for throwing a solid 1-2 punch combo at your local tavern athletes that need to punch, swing, throw, and pass to develop explosive rotational power.

Perform throws first in a strength training session for maximal training effect. You’ll improve rotation power and potentiate the nervous system activation for better strength training performance for the rest of the workout.  Do 2-3 Sets of 3-5 reps with 45- 60 seconds between sets.

5.) Bulgarian Split Squat:

You’re probably like me. We hate doing things that expose our weaknesses. We don’t like to struggle, but relish the opportunity to improve.

Bulgarian split squats expose your weaknesses and engage the lateral sub-system- a key region composed of the gluteus medius, adductors, and quadrates lumborum. These killers push your “pain” threshold while limiting spinal compression and shear stress compared to back squats and front squats, making them a viable alternative for athletes with limitations in bilateral squats. For mobility and stability purposes Bulgarian split squats provide a massive stretch to the hip flexors while reinforcing the greater mobility with resistance to develop stability.

Get out of your comfort zone, your limiting factors will expose you in the gym and on the playing field.  Doing the “hard stuff” is the stuff we need to do more of, and few exercises expose weaknesses like Bulgarian Split Squats.

(BONUS) 6.) Planks

“Woah, planks? Isn’t that remedial?”

They are, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Anterior core stability is vital for both performance and injury prevention. Many athletes (and desk-jockeys) spend countless hours in a flexed position with poor abdominal engagement.  This leads to frequent back pain and a lack of trunk integrity during movement activities. Master your planks to improve performance by keeping healthy athletes and improving the transfer of forces between the upper and lower body. Athletes will never express maximum strength, speed, power, and performance without great trunk integrity.

Wrap Up

There’s no point to creating an impressive physique that becomes a walking ball of fail when competition rises. Building muscle is a great thing and will improve your performance as long as mobility,stability,  multi-directional ability, strength (relative and absolute), and speed are maintained or improve. Ditch the bogus gimmicky exercises and master these exercises to build an athletic, muscular body.

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25 for 25:Training Tips to Build Muscle, Strength, and Athleticism-Part 2

I told you I’d be back. I’ve got over a dozen more tips to help you build muscle, strength and athleticism intermingled with lifestyle advice that’s made my life much more enriching and enjoyable.  If you haven’t read part one I strongly suggest you do so here ===> Part 1

If not then here’s the cliff notes version:

  1. Take everything with a grain of salt and find out why
  2. Hip Dominant exercises for bad knees
  3. Play more
  4. Stop training to failure
  5. Put more Pull in your training
  6. Train heavy while dieting
  7. Carb Backloading is awesome
  8. Deload your training for the love of god
  9. Perform mini-workouts
  10. There is no perfect diet
  11. Sacrifices must be made
  12. Read more, learn more
  13. How you train is what you get

14.Bruce Lee is the Man

Take any one of these quotes and live by it. My favorite is “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

bruce lee knows how to build strength, muscle, and athleticism
Photo credit: http://marcus-chai.blogspot.com

 

15. Go Neutral 

Neutral hand position will place a greater amount of work on pushing and pulling muscles without compromising the position the shoulder joint. By dispersing the weight over the entire hand the load is spread evenly through the arm, maintaining forearm and elbow health. In pressing exercises keeping the elbows tucked decrease shoulder joint impingement. A neutral grip is your best choice with the presence of shoulder pain.

16.Stop Being a jerk

This should be a no-brainer but more people than not would rather trash someone or call them out rather than provide a solution. This is disgustingly prevalent in the fitness industry where we preach caring about people and improving lives. The hypocrisy is alarming.  Step up and be a leader, not a prick.

17.Have Free Days

Not all training needs to be recorded, planned, and calculated. It’s important to take time and do the things you enjoy in training. Stop being so  stingy and have some fun. 

(Note: I do this weekly, keeping one day where I don’t keep track and hit my biceps, calfs, lats, or whatever other exercise I’m looking to bring up. It’s made my training much more fun. )

18. High Frequency Training 

High-Frequency training is the best option for beginning lifters, athletes, and those looking to acquire a new movement skill as training movements with a high-frequency rapidly improves motor learning and skill acquisition. In other words, you’ll learn what to do and perfect your technique faster. In you’re a beginner then full body workouts are your premier muscle-building workout for improvements in both size and strength. ====> Learn More About High Frequency Training

 20.Everything has a risk/reward

This has become evident as I train a predominantly athlete population. Too often everything is said in absolutes because it’s influential writing.

“ Box squats are “the best way to do squats for strength or performance.”

You “must do the Olympic lifts to be athletic.”

“maximal strength is the most important quality to train.”

Those are all valid points, but everything has it’s place and everything is a tool.

No-one will have the same form–there are anatomical limb-length differences, injuries and bony junctures that require unique considerations. You just might not be built to do a specific lift, regardless of what the hottest  program on the market says. Consistently trying to jam square pegs into round holes will leave you beaten, broken, and weak.

Sorry, this won't help you unless you're training for the circus
Sorry, this won’t help you unless you’re training for the circus

21.Countdown sets > High Rep Sets

I’m not a huge proponent of high-rep training. In pursuit of reaching the numbers on a workout people sell out on technique and heave weight without care for form or control. In most cases I stick with countdown sets over high rep sets, here’s why:

  • Improved rep quality
  • Increase in total training volume
  • Increased cardiovascular demand
  •  Increased load at set reps

Here’s how to break it up:

  • Instead of 8 Reps per set Countdown 4-3-2-1
  • instead of 10 Reps per set Countdown 5-4-3-2-1
  • Instead of 12 Reps per set Countdown 6-5-4-3-2-1
  • Instead of 15 reps per set 7-6-5-4-3-2-1

22.Stop Multi-tasking

Don’t be the “10 year guy” who despite his hard work, lives the same life with the same body, same frustrations, and exact same goal. It’s probably that guy we all know doing 3 sets of 10 with 135 on the bench press every day.

Drop the act and get awesome by narrowing your focus. Here’s How:

1.Multitasking is less efficient. Switching back and forth between tasks zaps focus and takes more time.

2.Multitasking is complicated, leaving you more prone to mistakes and stress.

3.Multitasking makes you GO CRAZY. In this age of information we need to reign in terror and find a calm medium.

the Solution:

Pick a big goal. Following the goal, pick out what small, behaviors you can do each day for two weeks that will help you reach you goal. Once you have mastered and tracked that goal for two weeks, add to it with another behavior.

Main Goal: I want to gain 10 pounds of muscle

Behavior 1: Lift weights 4x per week focusing on squats, deadlifts, bench presses, and chin ups (check off everyday for two weeks)

Behavior 2: Consume a post-workout shake of 50g protein and 100g carbs. (check off everyday for two weeks)

Behavior 3: Get at minimum 6 hours of sleep per night. (check off everyday for two weeks)

Get the point? I work with my clients to add one behavior at a time for 12 week blocks. Taking things step by step, focusing on one goal at a time yields real, practical change no matter the goal.

P.S. Use this ===> Goal Tracking Sheet

23.Take Creatine

Creatine is the safest, most researched, and effective sports performance supplement on the market. In addition, creatine is now being researched as a study and cognitive aid. If you’re looking to increase your work capacity, strength, and power then it should be a supplement staple.

Get more creatine knowledge bombs from a post I did for Tony Gentilcore here: Creatine: Cutting to the Chase 

24.Practice what you preach and find a Mentor

Book and scientific knowledge is very useful, but it won’t make you stronger, shredded, athletic, or a better coach unless you apply what you know. Don’t be an internet hard-ass who critiques everyone, get uncomfortable, learn, and better yourself.

Admittedly I’ve struggled with criticism in the past—until I sought out mentors and coaches to learn from. Train hard, find someone better at it than you, and listen.

25.Do Floor Presses

Don’t get me wrong—I love the bench press, but my body doesn’t always agree. I still barbell press, but my heavy days are more shoulder friendly with the floor press. Plus, you’ll negate leg-drive and get the more pure-upper body strength exercise and develop a ton of deadstop-starting strength.

Get the details in an article I wrote for T-Nation here: Master the Floor Press

26.Travel More

Listen, you come up with every “yeah, but” excuse in the book but they’re all just a  cop-out.  At 25 I already notice how much more difficult it is to travel—commitments at home to my fiancée, my dog, my job, and my Facebook community all make it difficult. Regardless, I still book a trip every couple months because it helps me:

  1. Live life as an adventure
  2. Connect with more people and understand the world
  3.  Gain some damn culture!

You won’t regret leaving your weekends of watching movies on the couch—go explore, learn, and try something new.

Still not convinced? Read this: Travel while you’re young

27. My Mission is to give you the Tools to Take Control

 

Closing Thoughts:

I could keep going but this beastly post is over 2,000 words and nine pages, but at least I have a head-start for the next few years. No doubt this list will change and continue to grow. I have many ways to improve but being a young dude I’m looking forward to the challenges of becoming a better coach, leader, and person.

Hopefully these tips help you take control and get better, too.

In Strength,

Eric

25 for 25:Training Tips to Build Muscle, Strength, and Athleticism-Part 1

Considering I turn 25 at the end of this month I thought it’d be cool to spin off 25 Tips for 25 Years.  Yep—Training Tips to build muscle, strength, and athleticism tossed in with a few bits of randomness to guide your pursuit of a strong, shredded, and athletic body.

Well, That was the plan.  Then I couldn’t stop writing so you’re in for a few bonus tips.

Nuff’ chit-chat, lets get down to business.

 1.Take Everything with a Grain of salt

I used to believe everything said by my peers —whether it was from a popular website or word of mouth from someone in great shape if It was on the web or important enough to share it must be true. Problem is everyone has their biases and is a product of their unique experiences. It’s best determine things for yourself by becoming educated with experience in the gym, under the bar, on the field,  and through science.

Bottom Line: Try to take something from every experience and apply it to make yourself better,  but also ask ” why do they think this, what is there past, and does this necessarily apply to me.” Success speaks, but question everything with an open mind and find out “why”.

2. Focus on Hip Extension Dominant Exercises 

Most people are unable to master the basic “hinge” position and as a result use their lower back for most exercises, stick to potentially dangerous machines, and can’t reach full hip extension.
The result?

Pancake asses, back injuries, and no explosive power.
Tisk, Tisk.

Flip the script and master technique with  exercises like Romanian Deadlifts, trap bar deadlifts, hackey pulls, cleans, and glute-bridges. In addition to growing a glorious set of butt cheeks you’ll be training movements that transfer athletically, resist back injuries, and improve your posture.

3.Play

Luckily I had great parents growing up that taught me you reap what you sow and instilling the value of hard work.  Problem is I have issues relaxing and turning the switch to “off” until recently.
Hard work is great, but being all-work and no play is recipe for burnout and a pretty unhappy life.
Work hard, but  value un- winding and doing things for pure enjoyment.

Take some time to Play

P.S. go do something fun immediately after reading this.

4. Stop Training to Failure

Performing an exercise to failure consistently zaps the central nervous system (CNS) and will leave you exhausted and unable to train hard consistently. There’s a difference between what you feel and what’s creating an actual training stimulus. Keep the burn-outs to a minimum or at least stick to low-risk exercises like bodyweight movements or isolation exercises.

5. Use a 1:2 Push: Pull ratio

I’ve had Cranky and crunchy shoulders for years but I’ve still made pushing the most weight I could a priority.
Why?
That’s a damn good question. It’s probably because XYZ program from (enter your favorite major fitness site) said I need to train a big bench press or I’m a sissy destined to be small, weak, and un-athletic.

Personally, it’s no longer worth blitzing my shoulders to add 5 lbs to my bench, so I overhauled my training with a push-pull ratio of 1:2 and even 1:3 with carefully planned heavy pressing to fill my ego.  The result—Healthier (and bigger) shoulders, better posture, and a thicker yoke. Add in chin-ups whenever you pass the bar, do 100 band-pull a-parts daily, and perform a pulling exercise between every set of pushes.

How To Do Pull-Ups

 

6.Train Heavy When Dieting

Let’s make this clear—doing a significant cut really sucks, but the results are well worth it when you get that six pack or fit back into your “skinny clothes”. Problem is most people blitz themselves with high volume and low loads when in a caloric deficit.

That’s a No, No. Too much volume will be more than you’re able to recover from, zapping your energy and wrecking your hormones. 

Instead, use loads of 85+% of lifts to maintain/improve testosterone production, maintain strength, and preserve muscle mass when in a caloric deficit.

7.Erghh ma Gerd Carb Backloading 

 I’ve spoken ad-naseum on carb cycling and the importance of food choices over other factors, but carb backloading is awesome.

What it is: Eat a diet focused around healthy fats and lean protein for the majority of your day. Then, have large qualities of carbohydrates (if it fits your goals) at night.

By keeping carbs towards the end of the day you’re allowed more freedom to eat socially—large meals at night where you relax and enjoy good company. The increased carbs at night promotes relaxation and serotonin production, helping you sleep like a post-Thanksgiving turkey bender.

8. Take a Damn De-load Week

Like most of you I’ve fallen prey to the thought that more exercise is always better. Problem is if you never back off with a deload  you’re really limiting your performance gains and opening the door for injury.

It’s so important that I wrote an entire post on the deload and how to do it. Click here for the piece I did for Dean Somerset ==> Recovery and Adaptation: The missing piece in Training Program

9.Mini-Workouts

Jump out of your chair and do 20 push-ups and 20 squats. Feel better?
Thought so.

Intersperse bodyweight workouts throughout your day whenever you get the chance: Do Push-ups, pull-ups, squats, or whatever floats your boat. You’ll feel better and accumulate a ton of training volume that adds up big time.

10. Read 1+ Hour/Day

I’m an avid reader, but it wasn’t always that way. Like anything else reading is a skill, you must extract the information you’re consuming and absorb it like a sponge.
You won’t get a better education value than spending $20 on a book every few weeks. There are people much smarter and better at things than you and I; invest your time in critically reading their work and you’ll hone your craft rapidly.

Vary your reading and get a blend—marketing, training, business development, sci-fi, 50 Shades of Kinky Grey it doesn’t matter, read things that challenge your mindset with the intent to learn. If you pick up a few things and disregard the rest of a book it’s perfectly fine.

Here are five of my favorites:

  • The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
  • Seth Godinà anything by him is gold
  • Supertraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky (get your exercise nerd on!)
  • The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
  • Why Zebras don’t  Get Ulcers By Robert M. Sapolsky

11.There is No Perfect Diet

Food choices are the key, not how and when you eat them. Intermittent fasting, carb backloading, six-meals per day, and Atkins are all great, but there is no perfect diet. Find what style of eating best suits your busy lifestyle, and then implement it with high quality food choices and discipline.

Hello Meat Sweats
Hello Meat Sweats

12.Sacrifice

How far you fly depends on how hard you’re willing to work and what sacrifices you will make. Going out to get blitzed on Jager-bombs every weekend might be fun, but it’ll negate your diet and hard-work from the gym.   While you don’t need to completely neglect things you enjoy, step back, and see where you can improve.

13.You get what you train for

If you train like a bodybuilder you might build some solid muscle, but probably won’t be too athletic. Same thing with powerlifting, you’ll get strong, but will it transfer to looking good naked and being a high-performance beast? Nah. You MUST train for what you want. If you’re training is imbalanced your results will be imbalanced. If you don’t jump, run, cut, throw etc. you won’t be athletic, you’ll look like Tarzan and play like Jane.

Closing Thoughts:
“Wait, what? I thought you said 25?” I didn’t forget, but I know you and I can only focus on a blog post for a few minutes. Anymore and I start drawing random animals on the “paint” application and you’ll browse ESPN for the latest arrested athlete.
Anyways, some of those may be old-hat, but i’d implore you take these tips to heart and improve where you find holes in your life and training. Whether it immediately improves your training balance or makes you smarter I’m willing to bet you’ll take your training up a notch.

In Strength,
Eric

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Why You are Weak: 6 Reasons and How to Fix them

Being weak is something I refuse to experience ever again. At 14 years old a whopping 5’3″ 103lbs and playing freshman football. Apparently, 14 was the age when my friends “decided to grow” and I was content being a blonde-haired baby-faced munchkin.

I was sprinting down the field on a kick-off and positioning to make a tackle. I thought, “Why is he sprinting directly at me with the entire field open?” As it turns out I happened to be the path of least resistance. Boom. I got trucked.

I’ve never been a big guy, I stand 5’9″ 180lbs, but never, ever, did I feel as helpless and weak as that moment. Although much of it was a matter of maturation, running through me was easier than running to open space.

I was vulnerable, I was weak, and I provided less resistance than a blade of grass.

I left that practice asking myself “Why are you weak? How can you get better?” From that moment on I refused to ever be weak again. To get strong you must train ferociously, consistently, and intelligently–these six tips are essential to building appreciable levels of strength, providing a great foundation for athletic success and fully functional athletic-muscle.

1.You’re using too many exercises

 Strength doesn’t require 6 different exercises and 18 total sets per muscle group. Spend your spent mastering the basics exercises: squats, rows, pull-ups, presses, deadlifts, cleans, and lunges.
Variety might be the spice of life, but it doesn’t get you strong. Cosmetic benefits may be available with more angles and variety, but that shouldn’t happen every workout. Perform exercises for at least three weeks before changing exercises; otherwise, adaptation won’t have time to occur and you’ll limit your results.

2.You don’t de-load your training

 Without cycling training and using deloads you’ll end up weak, injured, and small.

Why? For adaptation and growth super-compensation must take place.

Super compensation is the body recovering from stress (training) and coming back stronger to handle a greater level of stress. Without backing off super compensation won’t happen, negating your gym efforts. Read more about the adaptation process HERE.
Be smart, train hard with increasing intensity, then take some time off and focus on recovery.

3.You only train with low reps

 I love hittin’ heavy doubles, triples, and singles on lifts, but doing only that will leave your broken body. It’s imperative to include higher rep exercises from 8-20+ reps per set to continue building muscle and strength while preventing imbalances. Exercises like chin-ups, sled work, push-ups, rows, lunges, and unilateral exercises are fantastic options to de-load the joints while challenging the body to grow.

4.You’re not warming up 

Intense exercise without a thorough warm-up is a recipe for injury. The best athletes use the warm-up to prepare mind & body, address weak points, and rev up the nervous system. Focus on dynamic exercises that activate key muscles such used in activity while emphasizing proper positioning and core engagement.

Warm-ups should incorporate active stretching techniques, sport-specific movements, and neural activation exercises. These modalities are performed to mimic the movement-specific demands of the activity, address movement deficiencies, increase core and ligament temperature, stimulate the nervous system, increase stability, and activate proprioceptors (Yauss and Rotchstein, 2011). Match your warm-up to the key movement patterns and muscles that will be trained during your session.

Eric’s recommendation: Do this warm-up every day. 

Your warm-up doesn’t need to be complicated, but it can’t be neglected.

5.)You’re training muscles, not movements

Strength training consistently and achieving progressive overload with basic movement patterns is the best way to develop a strong strength base. The most crippling problem for beginners is isolating each muscle group rather than training compound, multi-joint movements.

You have limited time and energy to dedicate to training and picking the right exercises is imperative to getting results. Biceps curls, lateral shoulder raises, and hamstring curls aren’t bad, but they shouldn’t make up the majority of your program. Isolation exercises only focus on a small part of the body and won’t provide the overload necessary to transform your strength and athleticism.

muscle building workouts, build strength
build muscle, use compound lifts

There are seven human movements patterns, but for the scope of this article I will cover five: Squat, hinge, lunge, push, and pull. The list below has each movement pattern and corresponding exercises to form the base for good programming.

Hinge and extend: deadlift (all variations), good morning, kettlebell swings, power clean

Lunge: lunge, split squat, step back lunge, bulgarian split squat

Push: bench press, push-up, overhead press, jerk, one arm presses

Pull: pull-up, bent-over row, seated row, one arm row

Squat: Front squat, goblet squat, zercher squat, back squat

These exercises require muscles working at multiple joints to perform with coordinative movement, just like  in sport and life.  Majoring in the minors is a sure-fire way to stay small, weak, and injury prone, emphasize the major movement patterns rather than muscles to build impressive strength.

6.You haven’t maximized available Recovery Methods

The strongest athletes understand the importance of recovery. As such they spend significant time using recovery methods like stretching, hot/cold treatments, foam rolling, massage, and other soft-tissue methods to increase flood flow, nutrient delivery and improve tissue quality. Small injuries happen, but attacking recovery with the same intensity you attack the weight prevent these injuries from manifesting into something major.

You can train hard, but that’s not enough. Long-term training requires persistent effort and a smart, well-planned approach to work.

Wrap Up

Strength builds a great foundation for all other qualities, allowing you to train at higher relative intensities, improve power, and build a resilient body. It isn’t overly complicated, but it requires passion, consistent hard-work, and self-discipline over an extended period of time. The work, passion, and discipline are up to you but adhere to these tips you’ll be on your way to building a body that is strong, shredded, and athletic.

P.S.
Want to simplify muscle building with done for you workouts and muscle building meal plans?

Head here.  

Yauss, B. and Rotchstein, A. (2011). The acute and chronic benefits of movement prep for the soccer athlete. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal, 10, 3, 1116.

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