Many bodybuilding books presume that the aspiring physique champ will be happily hell-bent on throwing themselves into the hardcore bodybuilding lifestyle and committing everything they have to the cause of building huge slabs of Ramy-Esque muscle by any means necessary. Unfortunately, such hard and fast guidance may only serve to dissuade the otherwise devoted lifter from giving them all and reaping the rewards of what should, in essence, be a healthy lifestyle choice. What Chris Harrison has instead done with his remarkably insightful The Good, the Bad, and the Heavy is to lay out the reality of high-level competitive bodybuilding–how, should we choose to become serious about hitting the gym with a view to achieving an ultra-lean and freakily massive physique, we also run the risk of falling victim to musclebuilding’s darker side. This ‘darker side’, this untethered reality of serious bodybuilding, is uncovered and disseminated to ensure that the decision to compete can be done so with sound information and a realistic understanding of the demands of competitive bodybuilding (not a sugar-coated version of the ‘truth’).
Packed with sound advice on the best ways to safely and effectively build a contest-winning bodybuilding physique without alienating loved ones and risking life and limb, this book gives an honest and oftentimes confronting analysis of ‘what-it-takes’ for those who’ve perhaps found themselves questioning whether the iron game is for them. Among its many insights you’ll learn about:
How bodybuilding can be a catalyst for good: The ways in which an effective eating and training regimen can radically transform the individual from unhealthy and overweight to lean and physically and mentally on the top of his or her game.
The different competitive options available to those who wish to own the stage but may not have the genetics or desire to gamble their health and wellbeing on a mass at-all-costs mentality.
The best ways to maintain perspective in an oftentimes extreme and cutthroat industry: Why the most successful competitors are often those who have learned to separate bodybuilding from other aspects of their life.
How to foster healthy relationships when striving for success in one of the most selfish, time-consuming and demanding of sports.
The foundational elements that lead to long-term bodybuilding progress: Why patience, commitment and an emphasis on hydration, sleep and other such ‘basics’ remain the true keys to a fulfilling and long-lasting bodybuilding career.
How to pick the right people to support your training endeavours: From training coaches to life partners, this book puts front and center the importance of cultivating mutually supportive relationships.
How to avoid common distractions and how to properly manage time to get the most from your commitment to the bodybuilding lifestyle.
The reality of performance-enhancing drugs and how to safely and effectively navigate the dangerous and oftentimes damaging pitfalls of steroid use. Here Harrison provides a detailed framework for how to cycle on and off steroids while mapping out many of the factors a competitor must consider before committing to a steroid regimen.
In the contest prep process–from offseason to pre-and post-contest, an useable and highly detailed blueprint for competition success is provided. This information alone may save both beginner and advanced competitors thousands of dollars, a great deal of time, and much trial and error.
Rather than drawing solely from personal experience, Harrison has enlisted, wherever pertinent, the expertise of individuals with lived experience and informative insights to support his own hard-earned advice. Here, his mother, Karen Harrison, an ER nurse and long-time supporter of Chris’ bodybuilding endeavours, provides her personal take on the dangers of high-level bodybuilding and what she considers being good and bad of a life committed to sculpting the body beautiful. As well, IFBB Pro Alfred Voit and his wife, Shauna Voit, weigh in on how best to maintain a healthy relationship while traversing the travails of the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle. Their advice and insights serve as an invaluable cautionary tale for those who desire to be as committed to their life partner as they are to building a contest-winning physique.
Harrison correctly states that bodybuilding is among the most difficult sports to prepare for and compete in. He further believes that a competitor will only be as good as the people he or she surrounds him or herself with. His major goal, in discussing various aspects of the bodybuilding lifestyle (a 24/7 ‘occupation’ that requires a superhuman degree of focus and commitment to sustain), is to help the dedicated bodybuilder (aspiring and seasoned alike) to understand the truth about the industry into which he or she has installed him or herself. In the process, he details challenges that few other such writers and athletes are willing to touch upon (including how to deal with the “post-show blues” that often make getting back into bodybuilding mode extremely difficult).
Two further such areas are social media and bodybuilding politics.
Though a driver of much growth within the fitness and bodybuilding arenas, social media also presents a challenging conundrum for those committed to capitalizing on their gym efforts. Here Harrison explains how best to establish and balance a social media presence that attracts followers and enhances one’s career trajectory with the common propensity to becoming a slave to the screen. Managing time on social media while cultivating and maintaining a professional online standing is also discussed.
Bodybuilding politics, the bane of many a competitor, is also given an unflinchingly detailed airing. When it comes to placing high, a worthy physique may not always be a competitor’s biggest calling card. In fact, the complete bodybuilding package extends to how well athlete markets him or themselves, behave in a professional manner and shows vulnerability and honesty (particularly onstage and on social media) to those with whom they wish to develop professional and personal relationships. Harrison discusses why these underrated contest-winning factors are important and how to avoid a range of commonly associated problems less politically astute competitors might face.
While he lays out the full reality of bodybuilding, including much of its ugly side, Harrison’s overall message is to never compromise on consistency, dedication, integrity, hard work, and focus when it comes to training, diet, and presenting oneself in a professional manner. By reading this book, you’ll be better positioned to enter the training trenches without making career or potentially life-threatening mistakes along the way. Step-by-step you’ll be guided through the oftentimes murky world of competition physique competition. However, by absorbing and acting upon its insights, you’ll be less likely to become another bodybuilding casualty. Instead, you’ll be rewarded with a formidable physique and the knowledge needed to display it to its fullest.
This is a must read book for anyone thinking abut taking up bodybuilding. Chris is Real.
Seekers of shredded conditioning have traditionally used fasted cardio as an advanced tactic for stubborn body fat removal. Now we can add Fasted Cardio, the supplement, to further peel off the pounds to achieve our best ever shape – all without sacrificing an ounce of muscle. As most lean body hopefuls know only too well, getting body fat into the single digits (and maintaining a lean physique) can be the most difficult part of any body transformation. This is why Magnum Nutraceuticals developed Fasted Cardio to be the most advanced fat-incinerating formula of all time; an all-in-one product that will get you super-shredded and keep you that way.
Rather than packing this newest addition to the burgeoning fat-burner market with a poorly-dosed selection of ingredients of dubious efficacy, Magnum has blended seven of the most effective scientifically proven compounds into what they believe to be the most powerful thermogenic supplement ever devised. Developed to work in conjunction with all forms of training (not just fasted cardio), this product functions, as advertised, by rapidly raising internal core temperature, increasing energy and mental clarity (to boost workout effectiveness), suppressing appetite (to stop those sugary cravings) and, perhaps best of all, enhancing basal metabolism to keep fat burning consistent throughout the day.
Not convinced? Heard it all before? To truly understand what all the hype is about, try Fasted Cardio for yourself and you’ll experience its thermogenic effects within minutes. Almost immediately your workouts will feel easier. Within weeks you’ll be noticeably leaner. Those who have tried this product – bodybuilders and general fitness folk alike – report an immediate rise in core temperature followed by increased mental alertness (with zero jitters), a higher training output, a reduction in appetite, and steady fat loss coinciding with each serving. As a bonus, Fasted Cardio preferentially targets stubborn belly fat to bring that six-pack into full relief – fast!
KEY BENEFITS AND INGREDIENTS
CERIN C8 AND C10 MCT OIL – 4000MG A key component of the popular ketogenic dietary method, MCTs (Medium-Chain Triglycerides, particularly those with fatty chains of 8-10 carbons as featured in Fasted Cardio) are metabolically superior fats designed to be used for energy rather than converted to bodyfat like their long-chain counterparts. Unlike other fats, the MCTs burn fat (especially from around the waistline) through enhanced thermogenesis along with lipogenesis in the liver rather than in the fat cells.6
CHOLINE BITARTRATE – 2000MG Fasted Cardio’s three major benefits – increased fat burning, improved mental clarity, and reduced mental fatigue – can each be experienced through the largely unheralded CHOLINE BITARTRATE. Primarily, CHOLINE BITARTRATE speeds dietary fat through the body and into cells where it is promptly used for energy. It is also a key ingredient in the formation of phosphatidylcholine, a substance that enables proper mental functioning. Not widely known is the fact that this powerful fat-burning ingredient can also be used to enhance aesthetics by reducing inflammation, thus helping to eliminate subcutaneous water retention to promote the crisp and dry appearance that typifies the shredded physique.
INDIAN GOOSEBERRY FRUIT EXTRACT – 250MG As with other key ingredients in Fasted Cardio, INDIAN GOOSEBERRY FRUIT EXTRACT is scientifically proven to enhance fat loss via its powerful lipolytic actions. A natural energy-rejuvenator that also increases muscle protein synthesis and assists with rehydration, this ingredient has been shown to be particularly effective in speeding up the metabolism and driving down total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This makes it effective for cardiovascular health generally along with fat loss specifically.11
CAFFEINE ANHYDROUS (150MG) AND DI-CAFFEINE MALATE (150MG) Fasted Cardio contains two of the most bioavailable and readily absorbable versions of the fitness industry’s most trusted thermogenic compound, CAFFEINE. In doses best known to promote maximum lipolysis, the CAFFEINE in Fasted Cardio rapidly stimulates the central nervous system to optimize blood levels of the hormone epinephrine. Working synergistically with the other ingredients contained in Fasted Cardio, caffeine signals the breakdown and subsequent utilization of stored body fat for energy (via the increase in epinephrine), as well as producing a corresponding 3-11% increase in resting metabolic rate along with enhanced thermogenesis.1, 2, 3, 7, 8 Also renowned for its mentally energizing effects, CAFFEINE boosts workout productivity while enhancing physical output (itself a potent precursor to sustained fat loss).
AFRICAN MANGO SEED EXTRACT – 150MG Adding to Fasted Cardio’s unique listing of beneficial fat loss ingredients is AFRICAN MANGO SEED EXTRACT, a scientifically proven substance that works on a variety of critical metabolic pathways (including PPAR gamma, leptin, adiponectin, and glycerol-3 phosphate dehydrogenase) to significantly reduce body fat, waist size, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, and the formation of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that has been positively associated with excess fat gain.10 As with each of Fasted Cardio’s additionally potent ingredients, full clinical dosage of 150mg of AFRICAN MANGO SEED EXTRACT is included for maximum fat burning impact.
GBBGO (Gamma-Butyrobetaine-Hydrochloride) – 80MG One of a new-breed of ultra-powerful thermogenesis-enhancers, GBBGO acts as a precursor to the potent fat-burning compound L-Carnitine, but with a major difference. Instead of being converted (via the enzyme Gamma-butyrobetaine dioxygenase) to plain old L-Carnitine, GBBGO produces nearly double the supply of readily usable L-Carnitine, a process which fast-tracks lipolysis while significantly increasing body temperature (you’ll sweat like you’ve done an hour of cardio in a sauna).5 This all adds up to rapid and consistent fat loss as you’ve never experienced before.
CAPSIATRA (Dihydrocapsiate) – 18MG Rounding out Fasted Cardio’s formidable lineup of fat-blasting ingredients is CAPSIATRA, a capsinoid compound that has been shown to greatly increase whole-body energy expenditure, adrenosympathetic nervous system activation, and BAT (Brown Adipose Tissue) thermogenesis, resulting in the dissipation of significant amounts of chemical energy through uncoupled respiration and heat production.4, 9 Capsaicin and the capsinoids have a solid reputation for promoting the whole-body thermogenic effect that leads to decreased fat storage. Where the patented CAPSIATRA differs is in its additional potency minus the gastrointestinal side effects of other capsaicin-containing products. Taste
Fasted Cardio comes in Red Candy Blast/Molotov Cocktail, Shock Therapy/Electric Blue Gummy, and Road Rage/Drive-Thru Orange Drink flavors. The Red Candy Blast flavor used for this review had its taste rated at 9.25/10 on the basis of its rich and distinct flavour, and no astringent aftertaste. Overall, it is considered to be a delicious, smooth-tasting formula with no bitterness.
COST $54.99 CDN and $39.99 USD per 40 serve container (4.1g per one-scoop serving) – $1.37 per serving (CDN) or $1.00 (USD)
Note: two-scoop servings are recommended for more advanced athletes/lifters.
Directions: Take one two-scoop serving (8.2g) of Fasted Cardio before cardio or any other form of training.
OVERALL VALUE With its immediate impact on core temperature and mental alertness combined with near-flawless taste, energizing effects, and ability to keep the body in the fat-burning zone via steady metabolic improvements and prolonged thermogenesis, Fasted Cardio could be considered the new King of the fat burning products. Overall, in terms of effectiveness, it does exactly what is claimed on the label, contains a clinically dosed selection of only the very best, scientifically verified ingredients with zero filler substances, and delivers benefits that can be felt and experienced from the very first serving.
1. Belza, A. et al. (2007). Body fat loss achieved by stimulation of thermogenesis by a combination of bioactive food ingredients: a placebo-controlled, double-blind 8-week intervention in obese subjects. Int J Obes (Lond). 31(1):121‐130.
2. Campbell, B. I. et al. (2016). The effects of a fat loss supplement on resting metabolic rate and hemodynamic variables in resistance trained males: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13, 14.
3. Dulloo, A.G. et al. (1989). Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 49(1):44‐50.
4. Fenzl, A. et al. (2014). Brown adipose tissue and thermogenesis. Horm Mol Biol Clin Investig. 19(1):25‐37.
5. Fujita, M. et al. (2009). Hepatic uptake of gamma-butyrobetaine, a precursor of carnitine biosynthesis, in rats. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 297(4): G681‐G686.
6. Hill, J.O. et al. (1989). Thermogenesis in humans during overfeeding with medium-chain triglycerides. Metabolism. 1989;38(7):641‐648. (MCTs)
7. Kim, T. W. et al. (2010). Effect of caffeine on the metabolic responses of lipolysis and activated sweat gland density in human during physical activity. Food Science and Biotechnology volume 19, pages1077–1081
8. Koot, P. et al. (1995). Comparison of changes in energy expenditure and body temperatures after caffeine consumption. Ann Nutr Metab. 1995;39(3):135‐142.
9. Lee, T. A. et al. (2010). Effects of dihydrocapsiate on adaptive and diet-induced thermogenesis with a high protein very low calorie diet: a randomized control trial Nutrition & Metabolism volume 7, Article number: 78
10. Ngondi, J.L. et al. (2009). IGOB131, a novel seed extract of the West African plant Irvingia gabonensis, significantly reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight humans in a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled investigation. Lipids Health Dis. 8:7. Published 2009 Mar 2.
11. Upadya, H. (2019). A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, multicenter clinical trial to assess the efficacy and safety of Emblica officinalis extract in patients with dyslipidemia. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 19(1), 27.
Ask any successful athlete how they developed their skills and they are likely to tell you that to be the best at what they do requires the very best use of their training time. In bodybuilding, with so many variables to consider, the athlete must focus upon a wide range of training factors. But attention does fluctuate and, for many, focus is often very difficult to sustain for extended periods of time. Distractions are everywhere. And in gym environments, with so many people congregating in such a confined space, there is much to attract the eye and divert attention. However, the gym is also an excellent training ground in which to develop the laser-like focus needed to optimize workout efficiency and to excel in other training-related areas such as meal planning and goal setting. With massive weights pressing down and poor training form often leading to serious injury – not to mention the requirement for full concentration to ensure maximum muscle fiber stimulation – our training endeavors are both reliant upon and a great opportunity to further refine attentional awareness.
Optimal workout performance hinges on two major prerequisites: selective attention (the ability to ignore distractions while zeroing in on our training goals) and perfect performances bolstered by a high degree of training intensity. The self regulation of attention lets us focus on our explicit training goals while resisting the distractions that are forever threatening to sidetrack our efforts. The result: performance improvements and training intensity increases. By expanding our capacity to attend to what we are doing, by applying mindfulness, we can accelerate our training progress. Strengthening focus does take time, effort, consistency, persistence and patience but it is one of the most important ways to enhance the quality of all that we do. By fully attending to this article, focusing on the content within, and applying its insights you will, over time, become more adept at handling distractions and better able to focus your efforts on all that is meaningful in your life, including the many training factors important for physical progression.
ATTENTION DOES FLUCTUATE AND, FOR MANY, FOCUS IS OFTEN VERY DIFFICULT TO SUSTAIN FOR EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME.
The ability to focus only on the task we are committed to, and nothing else, can significantly heighten performance to ensure that training time is fully maximized. However, unless you are a master of meditation it is often impossible to fully direct your attention on a specific task for any great length of time. For example, in reading the above text you may have found your mind wandering repeatedly. By continuously re-diverting your attention to this article you have now reached the 428-word mark. Unfortunately, because interruptions to cognitive awareness compromise learning and the retention of information, your recall of facts based on what you have so far read will be poorer for such distractibility. The same holds true in the gym. Whenever our attention is diverted mid-set, basic movement patterns may be broken. Repeated often enough, such inattention can result in poor technique and, in turn, sub-optimal results or even injury.
Because the brain learns and remembers best when focus is greatest it is important when learning any skill that we fully concentrate on all of the crucial performance steps needed to master it. By being aware and fully conscious of our gym efforts we become more receptive to mentally crystallizing important movement patterns, biomechanical considerations and the most effective ways to target specific muscle groupings. Thus, when learning the weight training basics, or a new training system, we must direct our attention to all that is necessary to complete each exercise or training method. Then once we have learned the correct form we must continue to focus each time we attempt a certain movement or training protocol.
REPEATED OFTEN ENOUGH, SUCH INATTENTION CAN RESULT IN POOR TECHNIQUE AND, IN TURN, SUB-OPTIMAL RESULTS OR EVEN INJURY.
From the moment you walk into the gym until the final rep has been completed, you must focus, precision-guided missile-like, on the perfect execution and cadence (time under tension) of each rep – but only if you want the best possible results. Otherwise, feel free to talk to others between sets, check your text messages, take selfies to post on Facebook and periodically check how many likes you have received for said selfies. However slight the disruption to our training, such distractions will undoubtedly lessen the amount of intensity we are able to apply. One of the worse times to become sidetracked in the gym is mid-set. With much day-to-day detail swirling around in our heads and much going on in our immediate environment it can be extremely difficult to apply total focus through the duration of one set, much less an entire workout. However, by fully focusing on each set from beginning to end – by feeling the working muscles in action and how fatigued they are becoming, monitoring the way the body is positioned at all rep ranges and angles, and counting each rep while observing our breathing patterns – we increase the degree to which a muscle can contract. In turn, the appropriate area of the brain responsible for controlling a particular movement and contracting a specific muscle is activated. This strengthens neural connectivity, establishes greater efficiency of movement, and, ultimately, enables us to develop larger, stronger muscles. Proper training focus also applies to the specific goals we have for each workout. Personally, I prefer to go by feel. Having reached the upper limits of a certain range, if extra reps are achievable then they will be completed without hesitation. Other trainees may have a specific rep range in mind and will not deviate from this target. To get the most from each set – to ensure overload is optimal and failure is reached on the final rep – proper loading parameters must be in place in both instances. Most importantly, attention must be directed toward targeting a maximum number of muscle fibers. Without the requisite focus, we are more likely to ‘cheat’ the weight up when the going gets hard, thus removing tension from the working muscles and compromising training intensity. Over time, a propensity to become distracted may become habitual. However, by repeatedly applying focus, such attentional awareness can become the foundation upon which great workouts are achieved.
Jennifer Neil and Paul Anthony – David Ford
Aside from leaving the instant messaging device in the locker and forgoing pointless social encounters, there are several ways we can improve focus in the gym. First, before specifically seeking to develop greater focus, determine the time of day your concentration levels are naturally highest. We all learn better when we are mentally at our best – a fresh, alert mind will be more receptive to processing the below-listed insights.
Perhaps surprising to many is how important a relaxed mind is when working to improve focus. Rather than forcing a state of extreme concentration, it is important to keep your mind calm and serene, both in the gym and in other areas which require consistently high levels of awareness. Know in advance exactly what it is you would like to achieve from your workout, be confident in your ability to complete all of your sets in an exacting manner, and accomplish your task with the lowest possible amount of mental tension guiding your actions. By maintaining composure and staying relaxed, the mind is more observant of its surroundings but is less likely to become distracted: we are better able to monitor performance, stay on task, and redirect focus if necessary. Martial arts masters and experts in meditation, for example, are known for cultivating calmness of mind in order to stay focused. Though it may appear to counter all that we have read about channeling maximum training intensity – with images of aggressive, pre-workout fuelled bodybuilders informing us on how best to display the hardcore training mindset – staying mentally relaxed will, in fact, allow us to apply more effort than ever, in a more focused fashion.
All good trainers will make a point of emphasizing the role of correct breathing in promoting workout productivity. By deeply inhaling on the negative phase of a lift and forcefully exhaling when contracting a muscle we may better control the trajectory of a rep while offsetting muscle fatigue. Improper breathing can lead to increased blood pressure and dizziness. Correct breathing, on the other hand, increases oxygen supply to the brain without which concentration and energy levels may soon begin to dissipate. By practicing deep breathing immediately before and during training, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are lessened – which calms and energizes – performance anxiety is reduced, and our ability to focus is instantly increased.
Counting reps is not simply an effective way to determine how much of a set we have left. By numerically tracking our training we are less likely to stop short of complete failure and more likely to focus on the quality of each rep – again, provided proper loading parameters are in place. But everyone counts reps, right? Well yes, but there is a right and a wrong way to do it. One can still become distracted when counting reps. The key to using rep counting to our advantage is to know exactly how many reps we must complete (or a minimum number of reps that must be completed to ensure a productive set based on the amount of weight we are lifting) and to focus only on each rep in turn, where each rep fits into the sequence, and a set’s major performance indicators (degree of target muscle stimulation, exercise technique, and body positioning). With only these variables in mind, we are less likely to become mentally sidetracked and complete focus throughout the entirety of a set can be achieved.
A SURE-FIRE WAY TO DIMINISH TRAINING FOCUS IS TO WORK OUT WITHOUT A CLEAR PLAN.
Have an agenda
A sure-fire way to diminish training focus is to work out without a clear plan. By having a definite goal in mind – as opposed to a vague idea of where we are heading – our determination to do whatever is necessary to inch closer to it is strengthened. Entering the gym with a vivid mental picture of exactly what it is we want to achieve will provide the drive and heightened focus needed to maximize workout efficiency. Apart from our ultimate goals – long-range targets such as 10lbs of additional muscle or first place at our next bodybuilding contest – are our immediate workout objectives: sets, reps, and muscles to be stimulated. For example, by setting a workout goal of curling an extra five pounds for three additional reps we are faced with a challenge that demands our full attention. Losing focus under such conditions may not only result in an inability to achieve our goals but, with an unaccustomed stressor to contend with, we become more susceptible to injury. Training without firm goals and an ardent desire to improve may see the lifter simply going through the motions in a directionless manner due to their periodically becoming distracted and losing focus.
THE GYM IS NOT A PLACE FOR SOCIALISING, BUT A PLACE OF WORK.
Focus to improve
A training session without complete focus is wasteful and, for the serious athlete, counterproductive. Yet so many people seem to routinely train on autopilot, seemingly oblivious to the futility of their efforts. A lack of awareness when working out may lead one to become frequently distracted. Such distractibility lessens training intensity and increases the likelihood of injury. For the truly committed, the gym is not a place for socializing, but a place of work. Such individuals know that training time is a finite resource and that there are only so many hours in the day to build the physique. So they give it their all each and every time. By focusing their efforts they save valuable time and accelerate their results. To improve focus, to make every workout count, it is important to first plan each training session. Determine explicit training goals (both long-term and short) and have these in mind when you enter the gym. Make sure your head is in the right space: leave the stresses and struggles of life behind and focus exclusively on the task of extracting all that you can from each rep of each set. By following the advice outlined above there is nothing to stop you from improving your physique by focusing on your training game, one rep at a time.
A major cause of marital or relationship discord for most couples, aside from financial difficulties, is lack of sexual intimacy. Though it is often assumed that women and men have different sexual needs and, depending upon one’s gender, require more or less sexual intimacy, research has increasingly shown that both sexes are equally ravenous for between-the-sheets action. The key to ensuring that both partners receive adequate sexual stimulation and release, then, is to determine what triggers the urge in each. For men, the mere thought of sexual contact might be enough to get the juices flowing while, for women, a little more creativity in the lead-up to sex may be required.
RESEARCH HAS INCREASINGLY SHOWN THAT BOTH SEXES ARE EQUALLY RAVENOUS FOR BETWEEN THE SHEETS ACTION.
With the busy lives, most people lead, planning for and initiating sexual contact can become yet another burden to be placed in the ‘too hard’ basket. Add to the effort needed to spark romance the fact that many of us are simply too tired to perform and sex becomes less of a priority and more of an obligation; the decreased confidence in our sexual abilities that may accompany our lethargic state will do little to increase our motivation to please our partner. Indeed, to be supportive sexually we must first feel healthy and physically fit (good news for Status Fitness readers); secondly, considering that much of what we do will ultimately influence the way we feel sexually we must prioritize our health and physical and mental wellbeing until our ability and willingness to ‘get in the mood’ becomes a natural part of our lives. In the following article, I will outline ten sex preparation tips that will help you plan properly to increase the amount and quality of sex you receive.
Stanislas de Longeaux and Erika Strimer – David Ford
Our most important sexual organ Most of us assume that when seeking sexual satisfaction it is our sexual organs that dictate the amount of stimulation we receive. Though our respective genitalia will largely determine the quality of our sexual experience, multiple processes must first occur before they can perform as nature intended. Without sufficient hormonal activation (to increase sexual desire and prepare our sex organs for action), neurotransmitter activity (to boost ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine), and energy (from stored nutrients and micronutrient co-factors including antioxidants and B vitamins) there will be no sexual performance, period. To enhance the production of all of the above, optimal nutrition and supplementation is a must. Could our most important sex organ be the stomach?
As well as eating specific libido-boosting foods (such as chocolate and caffeine-containing substances, which may promote endorphin release, provide energy and increase physical endurance, raw oysters, which increase testosterone production and sperm count, and eggs, which balance hormone levels and fight stress), to boost sexual prowess be sure to consume a wide range of healthy nutrients and supplements, apportioned over 5-6 small meals per day.
TO BOOST SEXUAL PROWESS BE SURE TO CONSUME A WIDE RANGE OF HEALTHY NUTRIENTS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Mindset change One major barrier to successful sexual relations is what we consider to be clear cut rules concerning the differing sexual appetites between the sexes. In particular, it is often thought that sexual response, from the perspective of the female sex, involves desire first, then arousal, then orgasm. Because building desire can take much effort and time, men – many of whom are also operating under the misguided assumption that women are less sexually responsive – may fail at the first hurdle. However, it has been shown that, for women, desire can occur at any stage and need not precede arousal. Provided certain conditions are in place and the timing is right, both parties may be fulfilled sexually without first having to cultivate desire. Women, as with men, are, with a little touching in all the right places, equally disposed to becoming immediately aroused. Desire may kick in shortly after to sweeten the deal.
Stanislas de Longeaux and Erika Strimer – David Ford
Communication Whether explicit sweet nothings, stimulating intellectual conversation or a simple discussion about the day’s events: effective communication between the sexes is a must if sexual relations are to be commenced. Good communication makes us feel appreciated and secure in expressing our thoughts which, in turn, heightens our confidence and enhances the way we feel about ourselves. Good communication also builds trust and respect. Given that sex is as much an emotional exchange as it is a physical act, good sexual relations will inevitably follow the positive feelings one has about oneself and one’s partner. Effective communication underpins such feelings and primes us for satisfying sex.
Timing One mistake that is made by both sexes is to mistime the initiation of sex. If one partner has had a particularly stressful day, or has received bad news, this is not the time to request from them sexual contact. Instead, we might choose to comfort our loved one and withhold our gratification; by doing so we foster appreciation and respect which is likely to be remembered whenever the prospect of sex is next raised. Having sex when one party is not fully engaged may also promote in this person a resistance to further sexual activates; indeed, a negative sexual experience repeated often enough (even one in which enthusiasm and motivation to engage is low) may condition one to avoid further such contact. To ensure sex is consistently good, and that both parties benefit from it, a couple may set a ‘sex schedule’ which best fits their existing lifestyle (factoring in spontaneous sex when both parties are willing).
HAVING SEX WHEN ONE PARTY IS NOT FULLY ENGAGED MAY ALSO PROMOTE IN THIS PERSON A RESISTANCE TO FURTHER SEXUAL ACTIVATES
Make eye contact By making eye contact, both during sex and in the course of daily life, we send a powerful signal to our partner: we tell them that all of our attention is on them. Such undivided attention builds a stronger sexual and emotional bond. Through eye contact, trust is established and the closest of connections can be made. Routine sex might be best characterized by a lack of eye contact and disinterest, which is also reflected in the facial expression of one’s partner. Great sex, on the other hand, requires a synchronicity of mind and body for which eye contact serves as a gateway to a well-connected sex life.
Touch By caressing, massaging and stroking our special other we promote the release of oxytocin, a hormone intimately involved in sexual reproduction, bonding, social recognition, and orgasm. Often called the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin, when released through touch, stimulates sexual desire and brings couples closer together. Regular touching between partners may also create sexual tension and a longing for one another. To ensure your next sexual encounter is an explosive one for you and your partner, periodically touch one another in a variety of ways while delaying sex (and thus building desire).
OFTEN CALLED THE ‘LOVE HORMONE’, OXYTOCIN, WHEN RELEASED THROUGH TOUCH, STIMULATES SEXUAL DESIRE AND BRINGS COUPLES CLOSER TOGETHER
Avoid drugs Certain recreational drugs (including cannabis, though illegal, and alcohol) have been used by many as aphrodisiacs to heighten sexual pleasure. But are such substances really as effective as many think they are? As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol may lower sexual performance anxiety and remove inhibitions, but it may also decrease blood circulation, muscular endurance and the emotional connection we have with our partner. Alcohol may also deplete testosterone reserves while larger amounts can promote extreme lethargy and even impotence. Other recreational drugs (both legal and illegal) can be used to promote sensitivity to sexual contact but may also remove any pure enjoyment we may experience in the moment. Great sex is created when both partners are fully attuned to the desires and feelings of the other; when an unbroken emotional connection is able to endure from the first kiss through to orgasm. Drugs, in their various guises, may distort reality to where we are unable to establish and maintain such a connection.
Experiment By acquiring sexual preferences which work time and again we are, for the most part, guaranteed sexual satisfaction. However, the same sex session repeated often enough may eventually cause us to disengage from our lovemaking, both emotionally and physically. To ensure our sex life remains exciting and that our anticipation for any ensuing sexual contact is to be savored we must, from time to time, experiment. Positions other than the missionary, new ways of provoking sexual stimulation, environments separate from the marital bed, sexual aids and literature, and extended foreplay can all be used to heighten the sexual experience. Try planning your next sex session with any, or all, of the above in mind and fireworks are likely to ensue.
Dare to be different Just as experimenting in the bedroom (or whichever environment turns you on most) is a necessary ingredient for a long and successful sex life, so too are the ways we cultivate the desire that is important for building sexual longing and arousal. Rather than mentally mapping out exactly how we expect our sex sessions to unfold or engaging the same pre-sex rituals each time, try something new. Avoid getting into a pattern; rather, be more adventurous. Enjoy a romantic dinner followed by sex at a nearby hotel; travel to distant location; pretend you are on a first date; go horseback riding. Any unique experience in the lead-up to sex may charge the senses, build excitement, and promote a longing in one another that may manifest in an intense sexual encounter. As with any activity, the more routine it becomes, the more boring it often is. By changing your environment and the activities engaged in prior to sex, we change our mindset to one of experimentation. Great sex will inevitably result from here.
AVOID GETTING INTO A PATTERN; RATHER, BE MORE ADVENTUROUS.
An attitude for action Becoming a more positive person who is adept at stress minimization is probably the most important step toward building the desire for and motivation to engage in sexual activities. People who have a positive outlook on life are generally more creative and flexible; such individuals focus on the possible rather than what is assumed impossible. Positive people are also goal oriented: they have decided what they want and determined the means with which to attain it. By combining creativity, flexibility, and an ability to identify goals and how best to achieve them, we become more receptive to exploring our sexuality and fostering healthy sexual relations. People with low self confidence and a pessimistic approach to life tend not to plan, create, and explore. They are too concerned with all that is wrong in their lives, and their downcast demeanor is unlikely to attract positive partners with which to become sexually active.
WHENEVER WE ATTRACT STRESS INTO OUR LIVES, WE ARE SIDETRACKED (AT LEAST MOMENTARILY) FROM ALL THAT IS GOOD.
By becoming more positively focused, we see the good in others and the possibilities inherent in the activities we pursue. We are also better able to minimize life stress. Whenever we attract stress into our lives, we are sidetracked (at least momentarily) from all that is good. Stress (due to the draining effect it can have and the cortisol it releases into our system) also promotes physical weakness. Such distractibility and lethargy may cause us to avoid sex as our thoughts are preoccupied and we simply do not have the energy to perform. By eliminating stress from our lives (through exercise, healthy eating, taking nutritional supplements, and meaningful work, among other activities) and cultivating a positive outlook we are more likely to seek, and attract, sensual experiences.
Great sex, guaranteed By prioritizing elements which promote, and sustain, healthy sexual relationships we can enjoy satisfying sex lives. As humans, we are designed to express our sexuality and without an outlet for doing so may become irritable, frustrated, and unwell; indeed, regular sex boosts our immune system, circulates positive brain chemicals, and promotes an optimal hormone balance, states which also promote the mental, emotional and physical attributes needed to enjoy regular sex. By following the pre-sex tips outlined above it is guaranteed that you will enhance your sex life, and, by association, your health and wellness. It’s time to get busy.
References Basson, R. The Female Sexual Response: A Different Model. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. Volume 26, Issue 1, 2000
Of all components necessary for crafting a lean, muscular physique, nutrition ranks as the most important. It is also the most difficult to address: countless nutritional failures bare testimony to the confusion that continues to mire many fitness devotees in a repetitive cycle of on-again, off-again ‘dieting’. Bodybuilding diets can be rather boring. Consistently consuming the same foods at the same times for months on end can prove mentally and emotionally draining. But provided such plans are developed based on the exact caloric and nutritional needs of the individual, success is usually assured. And this is why those with the dedication and iron will to persevere so often achieve their desired physique on what amounts to a few select nutrient-dense foods eaten at regular intervals over an 8-12 week period (also see Old Skool Mass Building for how a back-to-basics nutritional approach might just be the best plan for all serious trainees). So the first rule of optimum bodybuilding nutrition is to stick with a well-considered plan; we must consistently eat the rights foods at the right times. But is it possible to routinely consume select key nutrients while incorporating a broader selection of foods to satisfy our hunger for variety while, at the same time, providing the raw materials for steady fat loss? Yes – and this article will explain how. Several non-negotiable rules to maximize shredding via proper nutrition will also be given. Now is the time to achieve your leanest physique ever, once and for all. Let’s take a closer look.
CONSISTENTLY CONSUMING THE SAME FOODS AT THE SAME TIMES FOR MONTHS ON END CAN PROVE MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY DRAINING.
Cut the cals
As bodybuilders we have been told over and over that we must consume enough calories to support lean muscle building and aid gradual fat loss. On such advice many arbitrarily include the best nutrient dense foods and never miss a meal. So far so good. However, while eating the same quantity of food every day could fit the view of a consistent nutritional approach we may risk converting some of it to excess fat. Though such foods may exclusively be comprised of clean calories all calories that are not burned – through daily metabolic demands or via strenuous training – are likely to be stored as unwanted weight. So the first rule when eating for fat loss is to consider our daily caloric intake. One need not spend excessive amounts of time drearily weighing each food item before each meal but it is nevertheless important to reduce, and increase, calories in line with our daily activity levels and training goals. Such an approach achieves two major fat-burning aims: less food on non-training days will mean fewer calories left over to be stored as unsightly adipose and any caloric deficit that does not compromise lean muscle gains may encourage our body to deplete its body fat reserves to generate energy.
THE FIRST RULE WHEN EATING FOR FAT LOSS IS TO CONSIDER OUR DAILY CALORIC INTAKE.
The average active 200-pound bodybuilder requires around 3,600 calories a day to meet their metabolic needs (approximately 18 calories per pound of bodyweight per day). By dropping caloric intake to between 14-16 calories per pound of bodyweight per day (2,800 to 3,200 cals daily) on training days, fat loss can be encouraged. On non-training days, 12 calories per pound of bodyweight can be consumed (2,400 daily calories) to further deplete fat stores. Removing excess calories is surprisingly easy. By eliminating all condiments, including butter, dressings, high-fat and sugary sauces, and oils, and by removing skin from chicken and visible fat from red meat, hundreds of calories can be swiftly scythed with a modicum of effort. Needless to say, all junk foods must be relegated to the ‘forbidden food’ zone – forget ‘cheat days’ which often lead to unrestrained gluttony and many excess calories to be burned later: it’s always best to keep any diet plan nutritious and simple, not hit or miss, as the regular incorporation of progress-stifling cheat days so often encourages.
While the regular intake of enough clean water to detoxify our bodies and enhance nutrient assimilation is common knowledge, few bodybuilders achieve an adequate intake of this largely unheralded fat burner. With the many regular feedings they must ‘endure’ many are not wholly motivated to consume 3-4 liters of H20 per day. After all, water is filling and when we are full we are less inclined to eat excessively. The satiating effect of water is but one of its fat burning benefits. Mild dehydration can wreak all kinds of havoc on our fat burning machinery. It can also promote indiscriminant fluid replenishment: sodas, fruit juices and other high calorie substitutes are at such times more likely to be ingested. Problem is, not only are the so-called water substitutes likely to contribute to fat storage, those containing caffeine and excess sugars may also further dehydrate the system. When water starved, the many and varied systems of our bodies cannot do their jobs properly. The metabolic rate is slowed in order to compensate. A sluggish metabolism cannot efficiently burn stored body fat. Water also assists with the circulation of nutrients around the body and the removal of toxins. Optimal nutrient storage encourages greater metabolic efficiency while the elimination of toxins enhances the rate at which stored body fat is burned at rest.
WATER IS FILLING AND WHEN WE ARE FULL WE ARE LESS INCLINED TO EAT EXCESSIVELY. THE SATIATING EFFECT OF WATER IS BUT ONE OF ITS FAT BURNING BENEFITS.
Though no substitute for pure water, both coffee and tea do possess some pretty hefty fat loss benefits of their own. When included in addition to sound nutrition and optimal water intake, teas (especially green) and strong coffee (minus the sugar and cream) can promote metabolic increases, provide antioxidants to improve general health, increase lipolysis (the liberation of fat from fat cells), and stimulate both mentally and physically, thus encouraging greater training intensity to decrease stored body fat.
The carb dilemma
After having the notion that carbs will significantly destroy fat loss efforts drilled into our heads by many health educators over the last decade or so this primary energy nutrient is making a much needed resurgence. When judiciously consumed, carbs cannot be beaten for ensuring sustained workout energy and for providing essential nutrients including fiber and – when obtained through fruit and vegetables – valuable vitamins and minerals. So we must include enough carbs to reap their many benefits. However, the problem with carbs is that they are easy to eat. While choking down egg whites and chicken breasts gets old pretty fast, many high carb foods are appealingly palatable and can more easily be eaten in mass quantities. But carb intake is a double-edged sword. While an effective bodybuilding diet must contain between 40 to 50 percent ‘good’ carbs, exceeding this amount or eating too many of the wrong types can cause large amounts of the storage hormone insulin to be secreted. Aside from driving up blood sugar levels, which may ultimately leave us feeling lethargic and more likely to cheat on our diets, insulin also restricts the breakdown of fats for fuel and promotes fat storage. Moderating carbohydrate intake is often the first step to encouraging faster fat loss. By consuming no more than two grams per pound of bodyweight per day of slow digesting carbs – oatmeal, sweet potato and brown rice, for example – fat can be successfully countered and we are left with the power to perform.
Fat fighting fiber
One carbohydrate source to be prioritized when striving for the shredded look is fiber. A non-digestible complex carbohydrate, fiber is the F word that all dedicated bodybuilders must become familiar with. Sadly, fiber is associated more with general health improvements than fat loss. Thus bodybuilders not fully cognizant of correlation between sound health and muscle growth are often slow to prioritize its inclusion. However, some studies have shown that fiber can rev up fat burning by as much as 30%.
The parts of plant foods which cannot be digested, fiber comes in two types: soluble (eliminates fat, lowers glucose levels and reduces blood cholesterol) and insoluble (helps with the elimination of foods and prevents constipation). Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries among other foods. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and key foods in which it is contained include brown rice, wholemeal bread, wheat, carrots tomatoes and legumes. Both types are effective in keeping us well-satiated – fiber swells the stomach as it absorbs liquid – and less likely to transgress nutritionally. When we do not get enough fiber our blood sugar is liable to spike. Such rapid surging of sugar may lead to crashing energy levels and intense hunger which, in turn, may lead to overeating and excess fat storage. Moreover, soluble fiber encourages sugars and fats to enter the bloodstream at a slower rate, thereby keeping energy levels steady. Three servings of fruit and vegetables per day will provide the 25g needed for optimal health and weight reduction (bodybuilders may aim for up to 50g per day).
Mix it up
Maintaining a rigid, yet effective, diet is one of life’s more difficult tasks. Just ask any bodybuilder who, despite consuming double the calories of the average guy, feels they have entered starvation mode with weeks remaining until contest day. Achieving killer abs need not strictly revolve around regular servings of flavorless rice, chicken, egg whites, tuna and broccoli. Include chopped apples and cinnamon in your morning oats. Enjoy an egg white omelet with bell peppers, onions and garlic salt 3-4 times a week (even throw in a yolk or two; the added fats will give your testosterone a boost). Make a broccoli and chicken quiche. Whatever adds spice to your nutrition will encourage adherence and lessen the possibility of cheating. The bodybuilding staples, as outlined above, comprise the foundation of the most effective mass building, fat burning nutritional approaches. But other equally nutritious foods can, on occasion, be substituted to break the monotony. Switch salmon for steak; include quinoa as a quality carb source; incorporate a wide range of different fruits and vegetables.
The fast track to dietary failure often begins the moment boredom sets in. After the two-thousandth egg white and brown rice meal the race is on to the nearest fast food establishment to give the taste buds some flavorsome fare to savor. Any bodybuilder who has maintained a strict diet for any length of time will admit to either periodically cheating on it or being sorely tempted by off limits foods and suffering in silence. There is no need to suffer. By being creative in the kitchen and by following delicious recipes you may gradually lose fat while at the same time providing your body with a wider array of beneficial nutrients. The only dietary approach superior to the regular inclusion of the tried and tested bodybuilding staples (eggs, chicken, broccoli etc.) is one which varies how such items are prepared and consumed.
THE FAST TRACK TO DIETARY FAILURE OFTEN BEGINS THE MOMENT BOREDOM SETS IN.
The command to ‘eat more protein’ has become a mass-building mantra that most bodybuilders will have heard countless times. Yes, protein builds muscle. Without enough of the amino-rich nutrient gym efforts are wasted and muscle wastage is more likely to be encountered. While providing four calories per gram (the same number as found in carbs and five fewer than fats) the caloric value of protein is not its major physique-shredding drawcard. Rather, the metabolic costs associated with protein assimilation are what make protein the desired fat burning nutrient. While fat is largely stored as fat – with small amounts of it used for vitamin absorption and the manufacturing of hormones – and carbohydrates are processed as energy – and stored as fat if eaten in excess – protein is used to build most of the tissues of our body, including muscle. Though all nutrients increase our metabolism in some way, protein is a superior metabolic enhancer. First, the body burns more calories digesting and assimilating protein than it does fats and carbs. Second, because protein is largely responsible for building muscle, it keeps the metabolic fires burning longer via the increased growth of metabolically active muscle tissue. At least one gram of clean protein per pound of bodyweight must be consumed daily to ensure damaged muscles are repaired and to encourage optimal metabolic efficiency.
THE COMMAND TO ‘EAT MORE PROTEIN’ HAS BECOME A MASS-BUILDING MANTRA THAT MOST BODYBUILDERS WILL HAVE HEARD COUNTLESS TIMES.
Embracing the grind
Maintaining a diet centered on gradual and effective fat loss can be a grinding affair. Preparing nutritious foods, scheduling meals, consuming the ideal ratio of carbs, proteins and fats in the right quantities, all on a consistent basis, can cause many otherwise diligent trainees to abandon their healthy fare in favor of a large box of Dunkin Donuts. However, by following the rules listed above your nutrition endeavors need not be laid to waste and your waistline will thank you for your focus on nutritional variety. By upping the fiber, increasing water consumption, maintaining sufficient protein levels, staggering caloric intake, manipulating carbs and, most important, transforming your boring diet into a feast to be enjoyed, the process of dieting for fat loss will no longer rule your life and the dreaded hunger pangs will no longer sidetrack your efforts.
Increasing numbers of fitness lifestylers are training hard and experiencing the many benefits of a great-looking physique. Such trainees have found that by crafting lean muscle they can also better resist the ravages of time to slow aging, enjoy better health and get more out of life. Such health improvements also lead to better physical performances, whatever the arena. When the body and mind are in top shape, training, and recovery from training, are greatly enhanced. Indeed, for many people fitness is a package deal. High definition muscularity is, for such lifters, pointless if health and performance are not also improved. However, while developing an asymmetrical and proportionately muscular physique can lead to additional positive health outcomes, superior aesthetics do not always equate to health and performance improvements. It is possible to achieve the look of a supremely gifted running back, for example, but lack the cardiovascular fitness needed to circumnavigate a running track without gasping for air or straining a muscle. Unfortunately, many are those who have the muscle but lack the means to properly express it. Also countless in number are those of the ‘mass at all costs’ brigade, whose lack of muscular balance and overburdened joints may encourage injury and chronic pain. Such ‘athletes’ are as likely to become fatigued simply by walking to the store as they are suited to lifting four plates a side on the squat bar.
WHEN THE BODY AND MIND ARE IN TOP SHAPE, TRAINING, AND RECOVERY FROM TRAINING, IS GREATLY ENHANCED.
There comes a time when we must all define our purpose for lifting. A desire simply to ‘get in shape’ is vague and must be properly articulated before we can achieve the complete fitness package. Properly defined, the complete fitness package denotes a high-performance physique that is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing; a body that can perform a variety of physical tasks for extended periods of time without prematurely tiring or sustaining an injury; whose robust internal health assures, among many other benefits, enhanced immunity as well as the optimal mental functioning. Do these fit your definition of fitness success? Do you wish to have the complete fitness package? To help you achieve superior fitness – both aesthetically and athletically – we have prepared four golden rules that will give you the look, and physical capabilities, to excel in life’s many arenas.
RULE 1: ACHIEVE BALANCE
Here we do not mean the capacity to balance 300lbs on the bench press (though such formidable poundage will surely give you some decent shoulders and pecs). No, the most important prerequisite for athletic performance is balanced muscularity. It just so happens that complete muscular development is also the hallmark of the superior physique. To perform to full capacity there must be no muscular imbalances. Poorly developed spinal erector muscles, for example, may not only limit the amount of weight we can press, curl, squat and deadlift (thus hampering the development of the pecs, shoulders, biceps, legs and back) but also compromise posture and ultimately lead to injury. This is just one muscle group. A relative lack of size and strength in any area will invariably promote injury, limit strength, and detract from the overall aesthetics of one’s physique. Poor hamstring development, as another common example, may force the quads to do overtime at the squat rack thereby increasing the likelihood of a quad tear or, at best, further unequal development from the frontal thigh to the back. Indeed, without sufficient posterior chain development, squatting technique is compromised and excessive strain is placed on other areas, in particular the lower back. One can only lift under such conditions for so long before they are forced to undertake an extended course of physiotherapy. The same holds true for other big lifts such as the deadlift. The abdominals are another often-neglected area. Because many lifters feel their abs receive all the stimulation they need via the heavy basics, specialized ab work is relegated to the pre-contest period (that’s if it’s included at all).
ALSO COUNTLESS IN NUMBER ARE THOSE OF THE ‘MASS AT ALL COSTS’ BRIGADE, WHOSE LACK OF MUSCULAR BALANCE AND OVERBURDENED JOINTS MAY ENCOURAGE INJURY AND CHRONIC PAIN.
The complete development is achieved when all muscles are worked equally. When all muscle groups are in harmonious alignment, we look, feel and perform better. Posture is improved, we walk taller, and we can do more without risking injury. With today’s stringent assessment criteria, those who choose to display a more muscularly well-balanced physique onstage will be justly rewarded. So the first rule for developing the complete fitness package is to get each muscle group as strong and well-developed as possible. Don’t just focus on the showy muscles of the chest, shoulders, lats, arms and quads. Forearms, calves, abs, lower back, rear delts and hamstrings must also regularly be attacked with sufficient intensity.
RULE TWO: TRAIN LIKE AN ATHLETE
To train like an athlete is not to sacrifice muscle. On the contrary, by modifying a workout to include such performance-boosters as ballistic training (plyometrics; controlled explosiveness), post-workout stretching, and sports specific pursuits (like sprinting or boxing), a leaner, more muscular physique can be achieved. Though for pure muscle mass, nothing beats heavy basic compound lifts for lower to moderate reps (typically 6-10), a better performing, healthier and (for many) better looking physique requires an emphasis on variety and volume.
No athlete would forgo flexibility training. Taking a joint through a full range of motion allows one to run faster, jump higher, throw further and perform with greater speed, agility and accuracy. The benefits of proper stretching also allow the lifter to use more weight in a more effective manner. For example, greater quad and hamstring flexibility enables a greater range of motion on the squat and lowers the likelihood of injury (provided flexibility training is done in a separate session; and never directly before hitting the weights). Stretching (done 4-5 times a week, preferably after cardio or weights, with each stretch held for 15-20 seconds) may also promote greater muscle growth by causing the fascial layer surrounding a muscle to expand. It is believed that a fully stretched fascia allows more room for the underlying muscles to grow.
TAKING A JOINT THROUGH A FULL RANGE OF MOTION ALLOWS ONE TO RUN FASTER, JUMP HIGHER, THROW FURTHER AND PERFORM WITH GREATER SPEED, AGILITY AND ACCURACY.
Explosive training is commonly employed by serious athletes to enhance fast twitch muscle fiber recruitment and in turn, speed and power development. Explosive power remains a cornerstone of high-level athletic performance. By exploding on the positive phase of a rep, the muscles are encouraged to generate more force when summoned to perform. The force produced during a ‘drop and catch’ type movement (such as a box jump) exceeds that created during regular weight training. More explosive power is thus created. Olympic lifting and ballistic movements (such as dumbbell punching) where high speed is employed can also build more power and heighten athletic performance. For those seeking the complete fitness package, explosive-type training is a great way to develop speed and power and a leaner more muscular physique. Olympic sprinters have some of the best physical development around. Such athletes combine speed and resistance over short periods to fully stimulate fast twitch muscle development. Fast twitch (or type II) fibers are not only crucial for maximum power and speed but also have the greatest growth potential. You may wish to include an Olympic lift, a plyometrics movement, or 4-5 100-meter sprints (or other such movements) in each of your regular workouts to maximize muscular growth while creating the ultra-defined look of certain elite-level athletes. The key to fast-twitch muscle fiber stimulation (the basis of all good strength/power building programs) is to keep training intensity high and to focus on progressive resistance (increasingly heavier iron).
RULE THREE: NUTRITIONAL CONSISTENCY
Getting the right nutrients on a consistent basis is what sets apart those who have achieved their physical potential from those who continue to struggle in their gym endeavors. A precise intake of performance nutrients consumed consistently is also one of the most difficult parts of the fitness puzzle to get right. Consuming enough carbohydrates to power through a tough workout, but not so many that fat storage is encouraged, can, in itself, be a perplexing task for many. Add in the exact protein requirements for continued muscle protein synthesis and cellular growth (at least 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day) and essential fat intake for brain function, cardiovascular health and myriad other benefits and you have complex undertaking that requires significant dedication and keen organizational skills. Of all the variables required for health, performance and physical development, nutrition ranks highest. Without a sufficient caloric intake, one’s best intentions and the heart of a world champion will not save a workout from falling flat. Even with the right amount of training energy, full recovery and muscle growth cannot be achieved without a full array of micronutrients and a hefty complement of a superior protein source.
WITHOUT A SUFFICIENT CALORIC INTAKE, ONE’S BEST INTENTIONS AND THE HEART OF A WORLD CHAMPION WILL NOT SAVE A WORKOUT FROM FALLING FLAT.
Fortunately there are available today many different supplements which provide exact ratios of all the key nutrients needed to train hard and often, recover fully and enjoy excellent health. By reading informative publications like this one, you’ll gain a detailed understanding of exactly which nutrients you need and when to include them. You’ll also get the inside word on the latest performance supplements: which are best and why you need them to optimize your physical progress. It is one thing to have learned such key nutritional insights and quite another to apply them consistently. As difficult as it may at first appear, structuring nutrient intake to achieve the complete fitness package does become easier and easier. Proper preparation is essential. Provided your foods and supplements are ready to go there is no excuse for not getting in your 6-7 daily meals. A final important point to remember: make sure you are well nourished with a generous supply of micronutrients. While whole foods and many performance supplements do provide the raw materials for health, performance and growth, without enough of the vitamins, minerals and various assorted co-factors needed to run our cellular machinery and to turn food into fuel, results will be greatly compromised.
RULE FOUR: MONITOR BODY COMPOSITION AND BODYWEIGHT
When trainers talk about body composition it’s usually in regard to muscle to fat ratio. While it’s true that having excess fat and not enough muscle can lead to many health problems (not to mention give one the aesthetic dimensions of a bag of potatoes), total bodyweight in relation to height and bone structure must also be considered when developing the complete fitness package. In other words, when striving for athletic performance, superior yet attainable muscular development and optimal health and wellbeing, bodyweight irrespective of bodyfat percentage can also be a problem if not closely monitored. Playing the size game (the pursuit of excessive muscular bodyweight at all costs) can limit performance: running, jumping and otherwise moving with grace, fluidity and great agility is difficult if not impossible when weighing 250lbs at a height of 5’ 7”. Once again, it comes back to balance. If pure bodybuilding is your objective then pile on the muscle and reap the rewards. However, if you wish to have unlimited energy and unburdened joints then a more realistic and achievable bodyweight target must be pursued. Carrying massive amounts of muscle in relation to height and bone structure may not only place significant stress on the joints and internal organs; such weight also comes at a tremendous metabolic cost. A pound of muscle burns 6.5 calories per hour. In heavily muscled individuals this adds up to a massive metabolic effect each day. This is great for fat burning, so muscle is clearly a good thing for this reason alone. However, the body does not consider muscle in the order of 24” arms and 30” thighs to be essential (and this is partly why building it is so difficult). With more muscle, more calories are expended. This means a great deal more calories are needed to retain existing muscle tissue and to support further growth. Longevity studies have consistently shown that an excessive caloric intake can shorten one’s lifespan.1The body needs a lot of food to build impressive amounts of jaw-dropping muscle. However, the process of extracting energy from food can create significant stress on the body. Such stress, over time, can lead to such diseases as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
WHEN TRAINERS TALK ABOUT BODY COMPOSITION IT’S USUALLY IN REGARD TO MUSCLE TO FAT RATIO.
Aside from the potential performance and health costs associated with greater than normal levels of muscle mass, a massively muscular physique of Olympia proportions simply does not appeal to most people. Massive muscles are only of interest to a small subset of the population. Beyond a hardcore following of iron freaks, most people see such pro level size as a major turn off – the more attainable and healthier-looking Men’s Physique look being what most women tend to go for. The same holds true for women with exaggerated muscularity. Most men find overly massive women not intimidating (as some would like to think) but unsightly. Monitoring bodyweight should of course be done also as a means to reigning in burgeoning bodyfat levels. We all know the dangers of excess adipose. Besides deleterious health consequences such as high blood cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and joint pain, obesity can also sap energy and encourage sedentary lifestyles. Debilitating back pain can result from weakened core musculature combined with an expanding waistline. In conjunction with building balanced muscularity the total fitness package may thus largely be achieved via an emphasis on fat loss and with less of an emphasis on extreme levels of muscle mass.
Training for health and performance
While it might come as a surprise to some, training primarily for health and performance (by adhering to the above-listed criteria) can also produce an appreciable amount of well-proportioned muscle. By putting health and functionality first, the complete fitness package can be achieved. In today’s world of ‘bigger is better’ and supersize everything, many trainees place much of their focus on looking and lifting big. However, by lifting more and packing on the pounds in rapid fashion injury, muscle imbalances and freaky muscle at the expense of health and aesthetics can take us further away from fitness and more towards training obsession and various illnesses. Living a fitness lifestyle means achieving balance: balanced nutrition, a balanced physique and a balanced lifestyle which includes full participation in a range of activities. Because health and fitness is a priority does not mean you can’t build an impressive head-turning physique. You can! But it’ll be one you can use as well as display.
Ever noticed how certain training protocols work wonders for some folks but leave others with more problems than solutions? While long-distance, endurance-focused sessions, for example, may encourage positive training adaptations for one person, the same workload may compromise another’s progress, rendering them worse off than when they began. Though the variables which influence and ultimately determine athletic performance are many and varied, one important physiological determinant can be counted upon to predict the training success which underpins high-level sporting accomplishment: muscle fiber composition. Indeed, the degree to which various training methods can be employed to reveal athletic potential is heavily influenced by the way in which we are able to maximize the recruitment of specific muscle fibers. Where and to what degree various types of muscle fiber are situated on our bodies can greatly influence how we may adapt to a specific training regimen. Furthermore, how these muscles respond to a given training stimulus is often contingent upon their inherent characteristics. Therefore, when planning our training to elicit maximum results we must have a broad understanding of what we are dealing with in the way of the different muscle fiber characteristics and which kinds of fibers are likely to advance, or restrict our individual performance. By training the wrong way for our unique muscle fiber distribution we may negate our gym efforts while failing to achieve our training aims; however, by activating one system over the other we can both increase our chances of overcoming genetic limitations and achieve our training objectives.
FURTHERMORE, HOW THESE MUSCLES RESPOND TO A GIVEN TRAINING STIMULUS IS OFTEN CONTINGENT UPON THEIR INHERENT CHARACTERISTICS
Fast-twitch versus slow-twitch
Most lifters with a modicum of training experience will have heard of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers and may even have a rough understanding of the distinctive qualities of each. What is not so clearly understood is how we may determine what percentage of each we possess and how we might best train to accommodate our unique composition. So what exactly are fast and slow twitch fibers and why might forming an understanding of their complexity be important in the first place? Because we are either fast or slow twitch dominant or, more rarely, possess a balanced combination of both types, it makes sense to know more precisely how we may design our training to target the further development of those that will enable us to achieve sporting success. Moreover, should we be deficient in one type yet aspire to achieve physical excellence in line with the unique functions of those we are short of we can also, through determining our distribution, decide upon which training methods to steer clear of and which to include.
EACH FIBER TYPE DETERMINES HOW OUR MUSCLES USE ENERGY TO POWER PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE
Though our muscle fibers are often thought to comprise two types (Fast Twitch and Slow Twitch) they are actually classified into three categories: Slow Twitch (ST or Type I), Fast Twitch Type IIA (or FT-A), and Fast Twitch Type IIB (or FT-B). Each fiber type determines how our muscles use energy to power physical performance, the kinds of activities an individual may best be suited to, the various ways in which muscles respond to training, how our muscles function, and, of particular relevance for bodybuilders, how large and strong our muscles may ultimately become.
SLOW TWITCH (ST or Type I)
Slow Twitch fiber activation is fully on display whenever we witness an ultra marathon runner pounding away for impossibly long periods of time. Slow Twitch fibers govern all low-impact activities of an aerobic nature that demand minimal force production. Identified by their slow contraction time and high resistance to fatigue, ST fibers are smaller in diameter than their FT counterparts and a smaller motor neuron facilitates the degree of contractility they possess. The larger mitochondrial and capillary density of ST fibers is largely involved in supplying these fibers with large amounts of oxygen and blood to ensure a steady supply of energy over long distances. These fibers’ high concentration of the iron and oxygen-binding protein myoglobin allows ST dominant individuals to work at high levels of exertion for long periods. Low in glycogen and the high-energy substrate creatine phosphate, ST fibers are, instead, saturated with an abundance of triglycerides (stored fats) to provide a more sustained energy output. Finally, ST fibers include a preponderance of enzymes needed to facilitate the oxidative process – by carefully controlling enzyme activity our cells can control what reactions are supposed to take place; the types of reactions catalyzed by enzymes are unlikely to happen spontaneously – and few of those involved in glycolysis (the exclusive domain of the FT fibers).
THE FT FIBERS ARE IN STARK CONTRAST TO THE ST FIBERS, BOTH IN APPEARANCE – WITH FEWER CAPILLARIES AND LESS BLOOD REQUIRED TO CARRY OXYGEN TO THEM THEIR COLORING IS WHITE, WHEREAS ST FIBERS, REQUIRING MUCH OXYGEN, ARE RED – AND FUNCTION.
FAST TWITCH (FT: IIA and IIB)
While FT IIA and IIB fibers are similar in nature, the differences between them warrant their sub-categorization. As a grouping, the FT fibers are in stark contrast to the ST fibers, both in appearance – with fewer capillaries and less blood required to carry oxygen to them their coloring is white, whereas ST fibers, requiring much oxygen, are red – and function. The fast-twitch dominant athlete is not likely to excel in long distance running or activities of an otherwise aerobic nature. Rather, due to their fast contraction time and low resistance to fatigue, FT fibers tend to be more widely distributed in individuals who are better-suited to engaging in explosive activities such as sprinting and Olympic lifting. The quicker contractility of FT fibers can be explained, in part, by the activity of an enzyme called myosin ATPase – it is the role of Myosin ATPase to break down ATP inside the myosin head of a muscle’s contractile proteins. The faster ATP – the energy-source which powers muscular contraction – is liberated, the more rapidly we are supplied with the energy needed to complete short-burst activities. Because FT fibers are larger in diameter and have greater growth capabilities than ST fibers, a larger percentage of FT fibers are preferred by those looking to build more muscle.
FT IIA fibers feature characteristics of both ST and FT fibers, but at the lesser end of the two extremes. Though they are larger in size and have a large motor neuron, FT IIA fibers also contain higher mitochondrial activity and capillary density than do FT IIB fibers. Though high in glycogen and creatine phosphate they also contain triglycerides and moderate myoglobin levels, compounds found abundantly in ST fibers. FT IIA fibers kick in when we attempt activities of a predominantly aerobic nature that require a degree of explosiveness and relatively high force production: an ultra high rep set or a 400 meter race, for example. In contrast, FT IIB fibers are used for short-burst anaerobic activities requiring a high degree of force; pursuits that leave our lungs gasping for breath and our muscles packed to capacity with that metabolic by-product of anaerobic metabolism, lactic acid. Though FT IIB fibers contain an abundance of glycolytic enzymes and much creatine phosphate and glycogen, they are low on oxidative enzymes, triglycerides, capillary density, myoglobin and mitochondria. They are built for speed, not endurance.
Are you FT or ST?
So important has the distinction between FT and ST fibers when considering athletic performance become that many athletes are now regarded as being either FT or ST dominant. A lean and lanky MMA fighter may choose to grind on an opponent for three rounds, gradually sapping the strength from his adversary and turning the bout into a test of endurance. Another fighter, more compact and muscular, may prefer to blitz his opponent with a vicious onslaught of kicks and punches from the opening bell in an attempt to overpower his opponent early and gain the fast finish. This example may be used to illustrate – without attempting rigorous strength testing or, for a more thorough determination, performing a muscle biopsy – the differences between how a fast twitch (the latter) and slow twitch (the former) athlete is likely to perform and how their physical characteristics may differ. In a crude sense we can get a general idea of whether we are faster or slower twitch by the activities we are likely to excel in and how our body responds to various types of training. Packing on muscle fast and exploding up massive training poundages, yet lagging on long distance runs and suffering on the treadmill to nowhere might point to a greater distribution of FT fibers; being less muscular in build and better suited to triathlons than high intensity tri-sets may point to the physicality of one who is ST dominant.
While invasively plunging the depths of our muscles and snipping a few fibers to be examined under a microscope may prove the most accurate way to directly determine FT/ST muscle fiber composition, most people are in no position to undergo such muscle-biopsy treatment. However, there is an effective, less complicated, method of testing for muscle fiber distribution: the good-old one repetition max (1RM) test. Used to gauge strength in order to determine the amount of weight required to complete certain rep-range protocols, the 1RM test determines the maximum poundage a person can lift once. Say we wish to assess the degree to which fast twitch fibers comprise the leg muscles, in particular the quads and hams (and such testing can only be done with muscle groups not individual muscles). To do this we would take a weight 80% of the 1RM for the squat and complete as many reps as possible. If the legs tire before seven reps we might conclude that they have a greater proportion (more than 50%) of FT fibers; if over 12 reps can be achieved then more than 50% ST fibers are likely to be responsible (less than 12 and more than seven reps suggests an equal number of FT and ST fibers due to excessive lactic acid accumulation, the FT fibers’ inability to go the distance on this occasion is not down to their strength levels. On the other hand, the faster lactate clearance and more consistent energy production of the ST fibers enables the set to be continued in excess of 50% longer than that of the FT fibers. Along with such 1RM percentage testing, we may also closely monitor our own performance both in the gym and when playing sports. The aforementioned traits indicative of a greater degree of explosiveness combined with pronounced power output may suggest more FT fibers are at play; more staying power, but less overall size and strength, may suggest greater ST recruitment.
IN A CRUDE SENSE WE CAN GET A GENERAL IDEA OF WHETHER WE ARE FASTER OR SLOWER TWITCH BY THE ACTIVITIES WE ARE LIKELY TO EXCEL IN AND HOW OUR BODY RESPONDS TO VARIOUS TYPES OF TRAINING.
Training for your fiber type
When training for a specific sport it is imperative to know what methods must be employed to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers responsible for maximizing success. Though certain athletes will genetically be better suited to specific pursuits this does not mean those with fewer of the requisite muscle fibers cannot attain similar levels of achievement with the right training protocols in place. While an athlete with a greater percentage of FT fibers will excel in running short sprint intervals and in lifting maximum weights explosively this is not to say they cannot work to further build and improve the performance of their ST fibers. Thus, for an FT dominant athlete wanting to complete a marathon, for example, more specific long-distance aerobic-style training is in order and less anaerobic work should be performed to maximize the development of the ST fibers while promoting an atrophying of the FT fibers (a kind of selective-hypertrophy effect). In contrast, trainees with more ST fibers need not write off hopes of becoming a champion powerlifter, or bodybuilder. With more heavy, intense training such an athlete may change the composition of their muscles: whereas before they may have had a 70/30 percent distribution of ST to FT fibers this same ratio will remain largely unchanged but, instead, the cross sectional area of the muscle most activated is increased thus bringing the total cross-sectional area of both muscle types to a 50/50 ratio. While the endurance capabilities of the ST fibers will have declined due to their reduced size, the strength capabilities of the FT fibers (though smaller in number) will have increased. Vice versa for the power-oriented athlete who wishes to be a better triathlete.
FT FIBERS CANNOT BE TRANSFORMED INTO ST FIBERS NO MATTER HOW MANY LONG-DISTANCE SESSIONS WE COMPLETE AND ST FIBERS CANNOT TAKE ON THE CHARACTERISTICS OF FT FIBERS REGARDLESS OF HOW BIG AND STRONG OUR MUSCLES BECOME.
Though we cannot change our FT/ST muscle fiber composition we need not be limited by our present distribution. Indeed, even among predominantly FT or ST athletes there is greater disparity in the exact ratio of muscle fibers each possesses; thus, we will never realize our full potential in any sport until we train appropriately for that sport for a decent length of time. That said there can be no inter-conversion of fibers: FT fibers cannot be transformed into ST fibers no matter how many long-distance sessions we complete and ST fibers cannot take on the characteristics of FT fibers regardless of how big and strong our muscles become. What can however occur with the right training is a transformation whereby FTA fibers can adopt some of the strength and power qualities of the FTB fibers and FTB fibers can take on some of the endurance characteristics of FTA fibers. This modification along with the increased cross-sectional area of a specific muscle fiber type is the closest we may come to changing our genetic propensity to excel athletically.
Ingjer, F. Effects of endurance training on muscle fibre ATP-ase activity, capillary supply and mitochondrial content in man. J Physiol. 1979 Sep; 294: 419–432.
Karp, J. Muscle Fiber Types and Training. [Online] www.coachr.org/fiber.htm retrieved on 9.4.15
Pipes, T.,V. (1994). Strength training and fiber types. Scholastic Coach, as referenced in Muscle Fiber Types and Training, by Jason R. Karp, Track Coach #155.
Thayer, R., Collins, J., Noble, E. G., Taylor, A. W., A Decade of Aerobic Endurance Training: Histological Evidence for Fibre Type Transformation. Journal of Sports Medicine & Phys Fitness. 2000 Dec; 40(4).
We all know the type: those who posses that enviable combination of ultra lean, evenly distributed muscle size topped off by the shoulder width of a Herculean God and the miniscule waist of a high performance swimmer, those who have managed the delicate art of combining the muscular attributes needed by all self-respecting bodybuilders with the athletic and aesthetically pleasing shape of world class gymnasts. Let’s face it: when seeking to build a phenomenal physique, most of us would rather emulate that so distinctly and gracefully portrayed by the great ‘50s-‘60s bodybuilding icon, Steve Reeves, or his modern era equivalents Bob Paris (from the ‘80s), and Dexter Jackson, Stan McQuay and Melvin Anthony (of today). So perfectly developed are these men’s physiques that they will forever be enshrined as trendsetters for shape and proportion over extreme size at all costs. So what is the one attribute that characterizes all of these perfect 10s on the bodybuilding symmetry and proportion scale? Other than almost all muscle groups being as close to fully developed as possible and in proper balance to one another, the one area that separates these gentlemen from the unduly rewarded mass monsters is the sharply distinguishable disparity between the width of their shoulders and the smallness of their waists, made all the more apparent by the flaring shape of their lat muscles – wide like the body of a stingray at their uppermost point and fully developed from top to bottom. Yes, they have all displayed the coveted V-Taper so necessary for bodybuilding success. Could this kind of shape have resulted from having been bestowed the right genetics, in which case implying that many of us may never appropriate such a look for our own physique? While hereditary factors will always be important determiners of muscle building success, fortunately anyone can improve their shape with the right tools and methods of attack. Building the perfect V-Taper can be done and doing so will vastly improve the shape and overall look of your physique. Read on to discover exactly how we can maximize our genetic potential to create our own Herculean look.
Train for size and shape
If you analyze a typical power lifter’s physique you will see exactly how not to train for top-of-the-food-chain aesthetics. These athletes’ utilization of the iron and methods for developing power fit their purposes perfectly: they aim to create as much leverage as possible, meaning they need compact mass and require exaggeratedly thick muscular development from head to toe. Along with such overall massiveness, narrow, rounded shoulders, wide waists and tremendous back thickness – with an emphasis on inner and lower back strength and size – are the order of the day for these men. When training for mass the addition of basic movements such as the bench press, squat and dead lift are, as we should all know by now, necessary. However, once sufficient mass has been achieved – and especially if competitive bodybuilding, or simply the acquisition of a great “beach body”, is the aim – then it becomes less of a concern to repeatedly hammer the multi joint compound movements; though it is smart practice to strategically include these in one’s program for size maintenance purposes (bench presses and squats, for example, can be done every second or third workout – isolation exercises such as dumbbell presses and hack squats might provide suitable alternatives at other times when striving to develop greater aesthetics). So the first rule of thumb when seeking to develop an exaggerated V-Taper is to train the body as a whole, while not overemphasizing mass building movements – for some bodybuilders – especially in the off-season – it is not uncommon for them, in a misguided attempt to developed balanced mass, to hit only mass builders at the expense of specific shaping movements; they may eventually build thickness everywhere – including the waist and buttocks – with the additional unfortunate side effect of chest development which overshadows the shoulder width, and thighs which dwarf the calves. Power bodybuilding certainly has its place, but to become visually impressive from a proportion and symmetry standpoint a fair emphasis must be placed upon targeting those areas that draw the eye and focus the attention, namely the big three.
The big three: the shoulders, back and abs.
To become a well-rounded bodybuilder, all muscle groups must be targeted with equal ferocity. The purpose of this article, then, is not to have you neglect certain areas, but, rather, to encourage the prioritization of important body parts and movements to create an even greater degree of visual impressiveness. When training weak areas it is often beneficial to work them first in your training session – often with super sets and other intensity techniques. This serves the purpose of enabling you to tax them when you are at the peak of your training potential, when your energy levels are at their highest. If certain mass building movements are to be included this would, for the purposes of this article, be best done after the exercises that are designed to optimize V-Taper development (a complete program to be featured later in this article will show how to do just that). So what are the best movements for building back and shoulder width and crafting abs of steel, and how do we train these areas for maximum development?
Build boulders for shoulders
In strength athletes and bodybuilders, shoulders tend to come in two varieties: those that are sloping and overpowered by massive traps and an overdeveloped chest and neck (common among power lifters and strongman competitors), and those that are fully developed, wide and perfectly balanced throughout the posterior, medial and frontal areas; clearly it the latter variety that characterizes the aesthetic physique. To build complete shoulders it is important to target equally all three deltoid heads. Any radical size discrepancy between the three will negate the overall shape of one’s V-Taper. In saying this, it is the medial head that forms the bulk of one’s shoulder width and is therefore significant in establishing the inverted-triangle that typifies a V-Taper appearance. Thus, utilize the following movements when working the shoulders but place side laterals first in your routine so as to ensure those side deltoids are targeted with maximum intensity.
RECOMMENDED SHOULDER EXERCISES
-Side laterals: for shoulder width (works the medial deltoid).
-Bent laterals: for rear deltoid development (creates the impression of greater width when the physique is viewed from the side).
-Front raises: for front deltoid development (also helps to push out the side deltoids to create impressive width).
Dumbbell presses: a great mass building movement that places a tremendous emphasis on all three heads without the unnecessary recruitment of extraneous muscle groups. Builds size through isolation.
Shoulder training tips:
-When engaging any lateral or raising movement, really focus on bringing the weight back to the starting position as slowly as possible to maintain tension on the working muscles, while holding the weight for a fraction of a second at the top of the exercise to ensure greater muscular overload.
-With pressing movements do not bounce the weight at the bottom, as this, along with increasing the potential for injury, will remove stress from the deltoid muscles. Try to maintain constant tension through a full range of motion at all times.
Create wings of steel
Probably one of the most under-emphasized body parts due to it being ‘hidden’ when it is trained, which often prevents us from achieving the same degree of ‘feel’ we might from, say, training biceps or chest, the back would have to be one of the most visually important muscle groupings, aesthetically speaking. First, it can be seen from all angles – side, back and front – and it creates the impression of width, size and shape. Without sufficient back development – flaring lat muscles, strong lower erectors and inner thickness – one’s physique would look odd in any pose. The back is also, of course, critical when seeking a pronounced V-Taper. Once again, all parts of the back must be developed equally, but there is a specific area that demands much of our attention: the lat muscles which convey a manta ray or cobra-like shape when viewed – from the front or the back – when standing with the arms slightly outstretched, or when we hit our most impressive back double biceps shot.
Recommended back exercises
-Chin ups: done with a wide, medium or narrow grip the chin up is probably responsible for developing more back width in a vast legion of muscle hungry bodybuilders than any other exercise.
-Dumbbell rows: a variation on the standard mass builder, the barbell row, dumbbell rows, in the experience of many, allow for better specific recruitment of the lat muscles while also helping to establish phenomenal inner back thickness.
-Close grip (or V bar) pull downs: excellent for working the lower lat muscles – to create a greater wedge look – the V bar pull down is an important way to assist full lat development. Secondary stress is placed on the inner back muscles to ensure back detail is maximized.
-Dead lifts: a classic mass builder, the dead lift will work virtually all muscle groups. However, it also works wonders for establishing a great V-Taper when included in every second or third back session. The dead lift builds all areas of the back, with primary stress placed upon the erectors and the upper back/traps. A fully developed back must look both wide and thick.
-Dumbbell pullovers: a great movement for stretching out the lat muscles and building overall size in this area.
Back training tips
-With chin ups and pull downs arch the elbows back until no further movement can be accomplished. This way a full contraction can be achieved. This will lead to complete development of the lat muscles.
-When dead lifting be sure to pull the arms back at the top of the movement to recruit fully the lat muscles. Many people make the mistake of stopping short of full contraction as their main focus is on getting the bar over their knees; unfortunately they keep their shoulders rounded at this point rather than bringing them back to more fully work their entire back region.
Craft razor sharp abs
Wide shoulders and lat muscles would not have the same degree of impact they otherwise would when accentuated with a tiny waistline. The attainment of a small waist is, for the most part, contingent upon good nutrition and the low body fat levels this will achieve. The major criteria for tightening up that mid section, then, is a good diet comprised of around 35 percent high quality proteins, 40 percent complex and fibrous carbohydrates and 25 percent essential fats combined with enough cardiovascular activity to burn fat while preserving valuable muscle mass. Once the waist has been stripped of fat the shape of one’s abs will dictate the training strategy they will use to further shape them. Some people sport naturally thick waists: so long as their abdominal and oblique development is apparent specific abdominal work may be counterproductive; building further size through a midsection that is already wider than it should be could offset V-Taper development. Therefore, assess your waist before targeting it with extra abdominal work (a waist measurement of 31 inches is ideal for a male who stand 5’7” with 33.1 inches being optimal for those measuring 6’ tall). Fortunately most of us have a waistline that compliments, rather than detracts from our overall aesthetics. For these people the following abdominal movements are recommended.
-Swiss ball crunches: an excellent movement for working the abdominal wall – which forms the desired six-pack – the Swiss ball crunch also allows one to properly isolate the abdominals by removing pressure from the lower back and upper body muscles.
-Hanging leg raises: great for the lower abs, the hanging leg raise helps to create detail that forms the lower area of the wedge so necessary for complete V- Taper development.
-Rope crunches: for adding detail to all areas of the abdominal wall along with the oblique muscles and serratus, the rope crunch – to which weight can be added – reigns supreme. It not only provides sustained pressure on the entire abdominal area but it build mass like no other movement of its kind, without adding size to the sides (where “love handles” often form).
Abdominal training tips
-When performing the crunch (the rope or Swiss ball versions) it is necessary to eliminate any excess upper and lower body movement: focus solely on abdominal recruitment. Whenever additional muscles are employed, stress is removed from the abs (as they are a smaller muscle grouping this is easy to do, thus extreme focus must be maintained at all times).
-Limit rest time between sets. With all other body parts, rest periods can range from one to two minutes depending on the intensity of the set and the size of the muscle group trained (legs, for example, typically require longer rest periods due to the intensity required to train them with full force). With abs I have found it best to limit rest times to no more than 30-45 seconds; this increases intensity and will not unduly overtax the abs and related muscles due to their ability to undergo a higher sustained workload.
12 week program for developing an awe-inspiring V-Taper
Note: this is a specialized program geared specifically toward developing the V-Taper. Mass building movements that work multiple muscle groups will be included every third workout to assist size maintenance.
Satisfying the opposite sex sexually can be a ‘pressing’ concern for many. When two lovers first meet, the desire to be intimate and the sexual passion each provokes in the other may override any lack of bedroom finesse or lovemaking skills either may have. Indeed, sex for most couples is, at least initially, a wonderful experience marked by intense desire and a longing for release and immediate gratification. But the things we enjoy seldom last forever, and the frequency and intensity of our lovemaking and the exhilaration we feel each time we have sex may gradually fade. As sexual relations become routine (as is the case in a majority of long-term relationships), a willingness to ‘engage’ becomes less of a priority. Due to a lack of bedroom communication, the spark that prompted many a passionate embrace slowly begins to diminish (if we do not up-skill our sexual performances, paying particular attention to giving our partner the sex he or she really wants, that is).
DUE TO A LACK OF BEDROOM COMMUNICATION, THE SPARK THAT PROMPTED MANY A PASSIONATE EMBRACE SLOWLY BEGINS TO DIMINISH
Lifting one’s sexual game may not simply require greater frequency, or at least a more intensive version of the same sexual satisfaction one’s partner receives each time they hit the sheets. For most guys, the prospect of achieving sexual release (whenever it happens to occur) is the ‘driving’ motivational force which creates energy commensurate with their need to become sexually fulfilled; for women, passionate sex is still very important but their desire for release must be tempered with more foreplay, touching, and the conditions that enable them to experience a longer and more satisfying encounter. So, what are the right sexual conditions for each sex and how might we achieve what we want sexually while giving our partners the satisfaction they desire? Further, how might the physical attraction we feel for our partners influence our desire to sex them up? To upgrade your sexual performance to ensure both you and your partner maintain an active, satisfying sex life, keep reading.
What a girl (and guys) want Unlike women, who typically enjoy sex when they are mentally, emotionally and physically ready, men are keen to go whenever the urge hits, which is often. Beyond debate is the fact that men think about and desire sex more than women. Anecdotally and according to most prominent sex-health researchers, the majority of men under 60 think about sex at least twice a day, while only a quarter of women report such frequent sexual thoughts. Whereas women, early in a relationship, may initiate sex and desire it as often as their male counterparts, men, on average, display the same pattern at the beginning, during, and even in the late stages of a dwindling liaison. Though many theories have been posited as to why men tend to be more sexually aggressive (they have more testosterone, which stimulates sexual functioning, are biologically ‘programmed’ to seek out multiple partners to procreate, thus passing on their genetic material, and are natural ‘alpha male’ initiators who are expected to take charge sexually), such rationalizing does not help women, who must be ready before they can enjoy the passionate sex that men so often take for granted. Women, it appears, need more fuel to fire the passion that leads to sex.
To keep the passion in their relationship alive, men and women must come to understand how the other thinks about sex, as this will ensure that their performance is adjusted to accommodate the different sexual requirements each has. Because most women consider intimacy, closeness and caring to be a turn-on and a prerequisite to good sex, men must take the time to romance their partners, to connect, talk and establish the right conditions before their own needs can be met. For men, sex is a significant way for them to demonstrate love for their partners; the physical act of lovemaking serves to express their intimate sides, to show they care for the ladies in their lives. Women, with their genetic proclivity to selecting the right mate, prefer to take it slow both when choosing a sexual partner and during the act itself (with conversation, holding, caressing, and extended foreplay sessions preempting their sexual encounters) while men, whose job it is to spread their genetic material far and wide, are eager to get right down to the business end of sex. Each approach is of equal importance for ensuring long-term sexual satisfaction for both sexes.
Taking the time Women, to the eternal frustration of men everywhere, typically take longer to become sufficiently sexually aroused and this can lead to a loss of interest for men, or a perception that they are not working hard enough to prime their partners for satisfying sex. For men who feel this way, take note: women, though equally as passionate about lovemaking and who enjoy sex as much as men do, have a more variable sex drive compared to men, who are thought to have a fixed, biologically determined sexual appetite that is, by comparison, relatively insensitive to context. Women, as a result, are less likely to become spontaneously sexually aroused (compared to men who are more likely to become horny at the drop of a hat). The quality of a woman’s relationship with a potential sexual partner is also an important precursor to the enjoyment she may experience during sex; she must like her man, not just for the way he looks, but for the positive character traits he possesses. On the other hand, men are more likely to fantasize about having sex with strangers, and as long as his lady has a pulse he is good to go. Though sex with their partners is ultimately more satisfying for most men, if this cannot be achieved they will often mentally create enticing scenarios or, less frequently, they may commit adultery. While men tend to require any sex frequently, women require planned, less spontaneous sex less often. The quality of the experience is, for women, more important than the physical act alone. By making a woman feel as though she is important and cared for and through taking the time to romance, communicate with and stimulate their partners via lengthy foreplay (massage, oral sex, teasing, and masturbation) a man’s chances of between the sheets action will be dramatically improved.
THE QUALITY OF THE EXPERIENCE IS, FOR WOMEN, MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE PHYSICAL ACT ALONE.
While the sexual act itself can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour (or longer), it is, for women, the moments leading up to and (in many cases) immediately following sexual release for the male that are most important. A prolonged period of sensuous touch followed by an extended bout of oral sex will have most women ready for action. While men may reach orgasm in as little as 2-5 minutes (with minimal, if any, foreplay), women take much longer. So men must take the time to prepare their partners for sex and to ensure they are adequately stimulated, even after they themselves have achieved orgasm. Men may think of mutually satisfying sex as two sexual acts: the one during which he receives release and the one where his partner achieves her own satisfaction (this may ‘come’ before or after he has experienced his own).
Cutting to the chase So we have learned what men have known all along: that sex with women is often a complex balancing act, a lengthy process involving a confluence of factors, each priming her for sexual release. But what about the men and their need for release? Since it is widely known that most men would rather pull their teeth out with a steak knife than wait an eternity for sexual gratification, how might both sexes reach a compromise that promotes mutual fulfillment? While most men have the control needed to hold out while they please their partners, very few possess the patience required to forego orgasm entirely (as in not getting any sex at all). So the real problem for the man then becomes frequency of sex rather than how long he must wait for his partner to become properly aroused. Thus, his getting what he desires comes with one major caveat: his partner must first be receptive to his advances. A major concern in many long-term relationships is the mutual desire to become sexually active. Even when both parties agree to sex, if one does so reluctantly (just to please the other) both will usually lose out.
Contrary to what men like to think, even the most sexually deprived man will find it hard to enjoy sex if his partner is not fully participating. While a woman who is having an off-day may fake orgasm, a man cannot do this and he may, as a result, experience performance anxiety if he feels his partner is not receptive to his ‘lothario-like’ skills; over time, such a state can, if not addressed, lead to sexual impotence, a catastrophe for mutual long-term sexual satisfaction. If a man feels his partner is not appreciating his performance, he may begin to doubt his abilities and reaching orgasm may eventually become impossible. So the real key to ensuring both sexes experience a rewarding love life is to create the conditions necessary for mutual appreciation and enjoyment of sex. First, if both sexes have busy schedules (extremely common today) then a sex roster can be negotiated which suits both (how many times per week, for how long, and what each partner would like to experience can be discussed and outlined). Second, mutual respect and trust must be apparent throughout all areas of the relationship (remember guys, good sex begins well before you and your partner begin lovemaking and if your lady is not happy in a general sense she may not be inspired to have sex, period). Third, do not complain that your partner takes longer than you to get ready for sex (although we may have to wait longer than we would like, the payoff for us men is well worth what is only really a minor delay, and delayed gratification is a positive way to build sexual tension, which may result in a more powerful orgasm).
So, cutting to the chase to attain immediate sexual fulfillment may not be the best strategy for men, especially when satisfying their partners is likely to promote a better relationship, more frequent sex, and, ultimately, greater mutual satisfaction. And women, understand that your partner has a greater need to experience rapid sexual release, so do not assume he is using you to seek self-gratification. Should he achieve orgasm faster than you, this is not a sign that he is interested in merely his own pleasure. It is just the way he functions on a biological level; he is genetically driven to impregnate, fast. In the end, both sexes should ‘come together’ to reach a compromise wherein both receive sexual pleasure irrespective of however long this may take.
Physical attraction Biological imperatives (which dictate sexual variability and preferences) aside, are men and women seeking sex as influenced by looks as they are by context? Certainly for women, attractiveness is, at first, an important indication of whether a man is suitable sexual material; her maternal instincts, at this point, will inform her as to whether a potential mate is from genetic stock that has a better chance of creating healthy offspring. Thus, muscularity and a healthy appearance influence her decisions on matters sexual. Bottom line: a man who is fit and active, and whose physique reflects this fact, is far and away more likely to get laid by comparison to one who is slovenly in appearance, and who does not take care of his body.
BEING IN SHAPE HELPS US TO PERFORM BETTER WHILE ENCOURAGING OUR LOVERS TO GIVE US MORE OF WHAT WE WANT.
Like women, men also are turned on by looks (a healthy appearance, firm butt, full breasts and nice muscle tone are, for the fitness-minded male, particularly attractive female attributes). Ultimately all good relationships are built on a solid foundation of mutual trust, admiration, respect and loyalty, but let’s be honest: how attracted to our partners we are heavily influences our sexual relations with them. By staying in shape, both sexes become magnets for the wandering eyes of potential sexual partners, or can maintain the passion within their relationships for longer. Further, by being in shape we show that we are committed to taking care of our health and fitness. Not only is such high level conditioning (replete with staying power and muscle endurance) conducive to successful sexual escapades, it often means our attention to detail is refined (and attention to detail is needed to sexually satisfy our partners; we must know which buttons to push and be able to observe what is working sexually, and what is not). Thus, being in shape helps us to perform better while encouraging our lovers to give us more of what we want. Conclusion Wanting sex and achieving it are mutually exclusive in that one may not necessarily lead to the other. To receive satisfying sex we must bring about the conditions necessary to ensure our partners are ready meet us half way. So, it is important that we treat them well to build within them the desire to meet our sexual needs. To do this we must also work hard to satisfy them sexually, too. When both partners are ready for sex and the conditions are right, both may benefit from the exchange. Men: be aware that your partner may take longer to prepare for sex; do not rush the process; cultivate a warm relationship where mutual affection is at all times present. Women: understand that your man has a desire for immediate sexual fulfillment, so understand his urgency to get you into bed. He is following his biological dictates, just as you are.
As the great Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, experiencing a muscle pump is as pleasurable as having sex with a woman and coming. Though Arnold’s thoughts on this matter are debatable, what cannot be denied is that one (pumping iron) can definitely lead to the other (having sex). By getting in shape we create an appearance that attracts the opposite sex and by staying in shape we can get more sex, more often. So, in reviewing all of the above, if you treat your partner well, understand the sexual differences between you and your lover, and work to enhance your health and fitness, you may enjoy a long and successful sex life.
References Baumeister, R.F. (2000). “Gender Differences in Erotic Plasticity: The Female Sex Drive as Socially Flexible and Responsive.” Psychological Bulletin, 126(3), 347-74.
Sine, R. Sex Drive: How Do Men and Women Compare? WebMD. [Online] http://www.webmd.com/sex/features/sex-drive-how-do-men-women-compare retrieved on 1.7.13
Gaining muscle mass can be an incredibly tricky proposition, one that often becomes harder the longer we persist. Remember when you first began bodybuilding and your skyrocketing progress kept you in the gym training harder, for longer? It seemed that all you needed to do was touch a weight and another inch would ‘magically’ appear on your biceps. Back then, overtraining was for most of us a foreign concept because despite our overly-enthusiastic approach to hitting the iron, the gains kept on coming. But all good things must come to an end and the rapid progress we grew to savor slowly began to diminish. And it is at this stage (usually a year or two into the training process) that many of us quit our efforts outright, not content with simply maintaining when we had grown accustomed to consistently gaining.
Although diminishing returns will continue to plague the most committed lifters, continued results can, and do, occur for those willing to address all aspects of their training regimes. Beginning bodybuilders might make great gains, at least initially, but those who persist over the long term often hold an advantage that can only be secured with the passage of time: knowledge. Smart bodybuilders will always seek a training edge. Those who do not must be content with maintaining only a certain degree of size as steady gains are unlikely to come without a willingness to explore the most effective ways to stay anabolic.
To stay anabolic (whereby our muscles are continually forced to compensate and grow via an anabolic environment conducive to complete recovery and a heightened state of protein synthesis) we must not only train our muscles accordingly, but feed them properly. Though whole food nutrition has served many bodybuilders well as they have layered their physiques in muscle, a growing contingent of lifters has come to realize the importance of targeted supplementation for priming their muscles for long-term gains. At the forefront of these athletes’ training successes are products designed to maximize recovery while maintaining a high level of nitrogen retention (proteins are 16% nitrogen; the extent to which we retain nitrogen indicates the extent to which our muscles hold protein) and muscle protein synthesis and fuelling ongoing mass building.
The most important anabolic supplements include various amino acids and protein formulations. In the following article, I will outline which of these will ensure you stay anabolic so that your muscle gains continue despite the ravages of time.
Proteins Even the most novice iron warrior knows just how important protein is in terms of the muscle rebuilding process. The “at-least-one-gram-per-pound-of-bodyweight” rule for protein consumption is strictly enforced by trainers and in articles the world over. Without enough protein, muscle tissue development, not to mention many of our biological processes, is severely curtailed. While many bodybuilders have for years subsisted on protein-heavy diets, the smart ones have strategically employed a full spectrum of protein powders, each designed to maximize recovery and turbo-charge the muscle protein synthesis process.
With few, if any, impurities and a perfect ratio of muscle-building amino acids and pure proteins, protein products are used by almost all athletes wanting a winning edge. To facilitate anabolism we need enough protein, but to get enough quality proteins through whole foods alone can be futile. With protein supplementation we can supply our muscles with a hefty dose (30g or more) of rapidly absorbed protein before, during, and after training and at times when eating whole foods may not be convenient or desirable. The best protein products keep the muscle-building process ticking over at all times. Below are the two best sources.
Whey With a biological value (BV: a measure of a food protein’s ability to be absorbed into the proteins within our body) of 104 compared to cow’s milk’s 91, whey protein concentrate, compared to all other protein sources, is shown to be more rapidly utilized and assimilated. In fact, the benefits we receive by consuming a whey protein shake directly following training cannot be duplicated by any other food product; this is one reason why it has become near universal for all bodybuilders to follow their workouts with whey.
THE BENEFITS WE RECEIVE BY CONSUMING A WHEY PROTEIN SHAKE DIRECTLY FOLLOWING TRAINING CANNOT BE DUPLICATED BY ANY OTHER FOOD PRODUCT
Containing a full spectrum balance of branched-chain amino acids and all other essential and non essential muscle-building aminos, whey (whether concentrate, isolate, or hydrolyzed) is now recognized as the best bet for rapid bodybuilding results. However, many people are divided on which is best: concentrate, isolate, or hydrolyze. While all whey is worthwhile, isolate and hydrolyze (purer and purest, respectively) have had all lactose and fats removed through an extensive filtration process that renders them higher in protein and more easily absorbed (whereas concentrate contains up to 5% lactose and is 70-85% protein, isolate contains 90-94% protein and no lactose).
Note: It has been shown that ingesting protein and carbohydrate together can raise growth hormone and insulin levels to a greater extent than consuming carbohydrate alone. Thus, incorporating a protein and carbohydrate-based product (a whey/waxy maize combo works well) prior to training is thought to be an excellent anti-catabolic nutritional strategy. Further, by taking this same combo immediately following a workout a greater anabolic hormone profile and faster glycogen re-synthesis will be established and optimal recovery from intensive training can be commenced. Therefore, waxy maize (and other superior forms of supplemental carbohydrate) can also be added to our list of anabolic supplements.
When to take whey: 30g first thing in the morning, one hour before training, and immediately after training.
Casein To stay anabolic we must consume at least 30g of quality protein every 2-3 hours. With whole foods there is no guarantee that all of the protein we take in is properly assimilated, so to achieve the desired 30g may, at best, be hit or miss. This is especially so in the hours before bed when high protein foods (with their natural fat content) are expressly forbidden. Enter casein (particularly in its micellar form). As casein reacts with gastric juices in our stomach it forms a bolus which adopts a unique structure which is resistant to rapid absorption; thus, its anabolic benefits are sustained for longer periods compared to whey (which is rapidly absorbed for immediate uptake by the muscles).
Though casein can be incorporated at any time to promote the prolonged elevation of amino acids in our bloodstream (for longer lasting muscle-building results) it is best taken just before bed to ensure our muscles remain in an anti-catabolic state while we sleep. An added benefit of micellar casein consumption arises from the actions exerted upon it by specific stomach and upper intestine enzymes which fit specific molecular structures within the casein micelles to produce bioactive peptides with desirable properties (three such peptides include casomorphins, which have a calming effect on the brain and cause food to linger longer for maximal absorption, glycomacropeptides, which suppress appetite and enhance the absorption of calcium and zinc, and casein-phospho-peptide, which helps us to build stronger bones).
When to take: 30g immediately before bedtime, and at any other time where a long-lasting protein source is needed (for example, if working for a sustained period without any breaks).
Amino acids As the building blocks of proteins, amino acids (of which there are nine essential, which must be provided through food or supplementation, and 12 non essential, which the body naturally manufactures) are responsible for synthesizing structural proteins, enzymes and some hormones and neurotransmitters. As such, without them we would fail to exist. For muscle building purposes the aminos are critical. We obtain a ready supply of amino acids whenever we consume any protein-based food (food proteins are broken down into aminos, which are subsequently reconstructed into various proteins once assimilated). However, due to the poor quality nutrients many of our foods supply (not to mention their oftentimes toxic nature) we may not receive a favorable return on our nutritional investment. For the bodybuilder who is continually breaking down muscle fibers and depleting his or her reservoir of aminos, nutritional quality, and volume, becomes doubly important. Thus amino acid supplementation is essential for the ongoing rebuilding of new muscle proteins.
After the initial 1-2 year period during which great muscle-building gains flow like water, we inevitably find it increasingly harder to pile on the mass. Even with regular training modifications and a greater focus on whole food nutrition our muscles find overcompensation in the wake of training adaptation difficult. Though training harder and smarter may help, proper supplementation will certainly provide the edge we need to bridge the gap between recovery and further muscle building results. And this is where amino acids play such a critical role. The following is an outline of amino acids that can be obtained in supplement form and which are of particular importance for facilitating the anabolic environment needed for constant muscle-building progress. Anabolic aminos
All amino acids are anabolic to some extent (they help us to build larger and stronger muscles) yet there are certain aminos known for stimulating growth hormone (GH), insulin and glucocorticoids, thus promoting various anabolic processes. In particular, the non essential aminos ornithine and arginine have been used clinically to boost GH release and, for this very purpose, have been incorporated into many bodybuilding supplements. Arginine and the essential amino leucine have also been shown to stimulate insulin release; taking these with a protein supplement may help drive more protein into hungry muscle cells. When to take: take one serving (of either outlined combo) on an empty stomach immediately before training or bedtime.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) As peerless muscle-building aminos, the branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) foster an anabolic environment in several ways. First, rather than being broken down by the liver to fuel biological processes, as many other aminos are, they are shunted through the liver and directly to muscle tissue where they help to commence the rebuilding process. Not only are the BCAAs used to build mass, they can also be used as a muscle fuel source to boost workout intensity through enhanced oxidative metabolism (this is one reason why they are often included with superior pre-workout products).
During the muscle protein synthesis process various amino acids, including the BCAAs, are formed into a sequence (much like a pearl necklace), but the BCAAs, particularly leucine, go further by actually stimulating muscle protein synthesis (key-in-lock fashion). The BCAAs have also been shown to drive down the catabolic stress-hormone cortisol while helping to delay muscle fatigue and increasing the anabolic hormones insulin and growth hormone. As you can see, with sufficient BCAAs swirling around in our systems we become more anabolic.
When to take: one serving 30 minutes before training; one serving 30 minutes after training.
Glutamine An important fuel for white bloods cells, glutamine plays a critical role in facilitating immune system integrity. Thus supplementing with glutamine can help us to recovery faster between workouts and may also offset the likelihood of overtraining following intensive workouts. The most abundant amino acid in our bodies, glutamine, considered conditionally essential (our body manufactures enough of it under normal circumstances but it is needed whenever we encounter unusual stress such as training-induced muscle damage), is produced primarily by muscle tissue (up to 70%).
Assisting a host of functions (BCAA metabolism, glucose formation, immune function, gut barrier formation, water transport and neurotransmission to mention a few), glutamine is, of particular importance for bodybuilders, a key player in muscle protein synthesis. Should the combined usage of glutamine by all of the biological processes it helps to support outweigh its manufacture, we may experience diminished immune function, muscle wastage, and depleted energy levels. Therefore, supplementing with glutamine is an important means to restore glutamine balance among those who not only train hard but live otherwise busy lives. For bodybuilders, glutamine supplementation has become an effective and essential means to enhance anabolism.
When to take: 5g immediately before and after training (resistance or cardio)
Creatine Not a building block of protein, creatine (naturally occurring and derived from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine) is nevertheless a profoundly important amino acid for short-term energy production. Heavily researched and, of all supplements, possessing the greatest ergogenic potential for athletes involved in intense training, creatine not only allows us to work harder (to target more muscle fibers) but can also stimulate the activity of satellite cells (a reserve population of cells that proliferate in response to muscle micro trauma) to make greater muscle hypertrophy possible. When to take: after a loading phase (if you choose to do this), consume a maintenance dose of 5-10g per day, with 5g taken immediately after training.
Conclusion Staying anabolic is no easy task. Just ask the thousands of bodybuilders who, despite their arduous gym sessions and consistency at the dinner table, fail to add appreciable size to their physiques. Yet why is it that while the many experience much pain with little in the way of gain, there are those people who appear to grow by the day, seemingly oblivious to the lack of progress their smaller-sized gym brethren experience? With the obvious exception of performance enhancing drug takers, lifters who gain tend to possess a nutritional edge brought about through the consistent adherence to a quality targeted supplementation plan. To achieve supplement-like results with whole foods is extremely difficult, if not downright impossible. For example, a pound of beef contains 2g of valuable muscle-building creatine, yet a single teaspoon of supplemental creatine provides a full 5g; a large chicken breast provides 30g of lower-BV protein with a fair amount of fat while a small whey protein shake can supply up to 50g of the highest BV proteins available. The choice is yours.
By including the supplements featured in this article you, too, can experience an anabolic awakening of sorts, where muscular progress has no choice but to occur. By saturating your system with pharmaceutical grade products designed to facilitate rapid muscle protein synthesis and optimal growth, a new physique will soon be yours. References Blomstrand, E. Celsing, F., & Newshome E, A. (1988). Changes in plasma concentrations of aromatic and branch-chain amino acids during sustained exercise in man and their possible role in fatigue. Act a Physiologica Scandinavica 133, 115-21
Butterfield, G. (1991). Amino acids and high protein diets. In Lamb D, Williams M(editors), Perspectives in exercise science and sports medicine, Vol.4; Ergogenics, enhancement of performance in exercise and sport (pages 87-122). Indianapolis, Indiana: Brown & Benchmark
Blomstrand, E., & Saltin, B. BCAA intake affects protein metabolism in muscle after but not during exercise in humans. Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism 281(2):E365-374, 2001.
Carlson H. E., Miglietta J. T., & Roginsky M. S. et al (1989). Stimulation of pituitaryhormone secretion by neurotransmitter amino acids in humans. Metabolism 28, 1179-82
Coburn, J. W., et al. Effects of leucine and whey protein supplementation during eight weeks of unilateral resistance training. J Strength Cond Res 2006 May;20(2):284-91.
Carli G. Bonifazi M., & Lodi. L et al (1992). Changes in exercise-induced hormone response to branched chain amino acid administration. European Journal of Applied Physiology 64, 272-7
Kreider R. B. (1999). Dietary supplements and the promotion of muscle growth with resistance training. Sports Medicine 27, 97-110