Saturday, July 30, 2011

Best Muscle Building Exercises

One of the mistakes new trainees make is to focus on the wrong exercises.  They spend too much time on isolation movements (cable crossovers, etc) instead of working on basic, compound lifts.  This article from Jason Ferruggia (author of Muscle Gaining Secrets) will give you some helpful tips on exercise selection in the gym:

The Top Ten Weight Training Exercises for Building Muscle
By Jason Ferruggia

1) Deadlift- Not many weight training exercises work as many muscle groups and build muscle as fast as the deadlift. The neck, traps, upper, middle, and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, quads, biceps, forearms, and abs are all utilized in the deadlift. No other exercise is a better test of overall body power. While uninformed people always ask, "how much can you bench," the question they really should ask is, "how much can you deadlift?" A deadlift is the most basic exercise anyone can do. Bending down and picking a weight up off the floor is the one weight training exercise that mimics everyday real life situations. Most people will rarely find themselves on their back needing to push a heavyweight off their chest but everyone has to bend down and pick things up. If you could only do one exercise to build muscle this would be the one to do.

2) Squat- The squat has been known for years as the "king of all muscle building exercises" and for good reason. I'm not talking about sissy boy half squats either; I'm talking about real below parallel, full squats. If you don't at least break parallel it's not a squat. Like deadlifts, squats involve an enormous amount of muscle mass and stimulate the release of anabolic hormones such as testosterone. This is great for building muscle fast. The squat is probably the most revered exercise among serious lifters and the power rack is considered our sacred ground. If you ever want to develop any kind of real lower body strength and build muscle fast, you have no choice but to squat.

3) Chin up- Not many exercises will build muscle in the upper body like chin ups. Known as the upper body squat, chins stimulate nearly every muscle from the traps down to the abdominals. Any exercise that allows you to move your body through space as opposed to moving a weight or fixed implement around you has a much higher degree of neuromuscular activation, and therefore a much greater potential to elicit gains in size and strength. Look at the development of male gymnasts and you will see for yourself what years of chin ups and dips can do for the upper body. If you want to build muscle fast, be sure to include chin ups in your weight training program.

4) Parallel Bar Dip- A close second to chin ups as one of the best upper body exercises for building muscle fast, and for all the same reasons. If you want big arms you had better include dips in your training program. No other weight training exercise will add slabs of muscle to the triceps as effectively as dips. A huge chest and enormous pair of front delts are also a pleasant side effect that comes with regularly performing this outstanding muscle building exercise.

5) Hang Clean & Push Press- A total body muscle building exercise which hits the calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads, lower and upper back, traps, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearms. Although it is, by definition, an Olympic lift, it can be done in more of a strict manner to really target the traps, upper back, and shoulders. When done in this manner, it is not performed solely with the intention of developing explosive speed like most Olympic lifts are performed. Doing the clean and push press in this manner is a form of power bodybuilding and will really blow up the traps and shoulders. If you could only pick one weight training exercise for building muscle, this might be the one. It’s a shame you don’t see this in more bodybuilding programs.

6) Bench Press- This is one of the three powerlifting exercises and along with Military Presses, is the greatest of all pressing movements for building muscle in the upper body. When looking at the effectiveness of an exercise, the questions to be asked are what will allow the lifter to use the most weight and what exercise involves the most muscle mass. The bench press meets both of these prerequisites and besides being incredibly effective as a muscle building exercise, it is one of the best measures of upper body power.

7) Military Press- Also known as the front press, this was once considered the number one measure of upper body power and was the premier muscle building exercise for the upper body. In the old days of strength training most people didn't even do bench presses; every weight training exercise was done standing up. Bench pressing was looked down upon as a show lift and real men only did overhead presses to build muscle. Bench pressing took over with the development of powerlifting and bodybuilding and the military press took a back seat. It is still however, a great measure of upper body power and should be done by anyone interested in building an impressive set of shoulders and building overall muscle mass throughout the upper body. Even though some uninformed doctors will have you believe that overhead pressing can be dangerous, old time strong men argue that there would not be as many shoulder injuries as there are today if the military press had remained the upper body weight training exercise of choice. Equally effective variations of the military press include the push press, push jerk and split jerk.

8) Bent Over Rows- When it comes to building muscle in the upper back and lats, bent over rows are hard to beat. This weight training exercise can be performed many different ways; palms up, palms down, wide grip, close grip, to the abdomen, to the sternum, with an ez bar or with a straight bar. However you do them, nothing will develop thickness in the back like rows will, and anyone who has been involved with bodybuilding for a while will tell you there is nothing more impressive than a well developed back, muscular back.

9) Good Mornings- Although they are a rarely performed weight training exercise by a large majority of bodybuilders, good mornings remain one of the staples of a good size and strength gaining program. Powerlifters seem to be the only ones who know about the muscle building properties of this outstanding exercise. The reason this muscle building exercise is often avoided is that good mornings are brutally hard work. But that hard work brings huge rewards. Good mornings will build muscle fast and pack tons of size on your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. They are also one of the best weight training exercises to help improve your squat and deadlift, which is the main reason they are a mainstay in powerlifting.

10) Pushup- Yes, you read that right, I said pushups are one of the best weight training exercises to build muscle fast. For a beginner pushups are the absolute best muscle building exercise to do for the pecs, delts, and triceps. However, as you make progress and get stronger pushups become too easy and are usually forgotten about. That is a huge mistake. There are several varieties of pushups that can be used by intermediate and advanced lifters such as elevated pushups on pushup handles, dumbbells, or chairs. Pushups can also be done on gymnastic rings hanging from chains and suspended a foot or so above the ground to make them even more challenging. When either of these versions of this awesome muscle building exercise becomes too easy you can have a partner hold weight on your back, use a weighted vest or even drape heavy chains across your back. If you are looking for more variety, Hindu pushups are another great version of this exercise and can sometimes humble even the strongest of men.

So there you have it, the best weight training exercises for building muscle fast. All the food and supplements and drugs in the world are worthless if you train like a Nancy boy. Machines and isolation movements are as effective as running on a treadmill when it comes to getting big and strong. Stick with the weight training exercises above; make them a staple in your training, and start saving up for a new wardrobe. Its time to build muscle fast!

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more great muscle building information, please visit Muscle Gaining Secrets.

You can read my review of his program here: Muscle Gaining Secrets Review

Friday, July 22, 2011

Review: Super Hero Workout

Some of you may have heard about John Romaniello's Super Hero Workout.  It looks like this would be a worthwhile investment for intermediate/advanced trainees who want to mix things up a bit.  You can read my full review here: Super Hero Workout Review

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bodybuilding Protein Intake

Open a bodybuilding magazine and you'll run across ads for one of the most popular form of supplement: protein powders.

I do use protein supplements--they are convenient and the taste has come a long way since I first started drinking them (back in the late 80's).

But do we really need that much extra protein?  I've finally found a good resources that deals with this issue in a scientific way.  I'd encourage you to read How Much Protein if you are interested in learning the truth about protein requirements for muscle growth. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

CNS Fatigue

One extremely important aspect of building muscle is understanding the role of the Central Nervous System (CNS). Jason Ferruggia (author of Muscle Gaining Secrets) discusses this in the following article. You'll see how important it is to adjust your training in a way that works with your body.

CNS Fatigue: A Real Concern or Just Another Lame Excuse?
By Jason Ferruggia

The CNS controls everything; if it’s fried your performance is going to suck. So you have to be careful about CNS intensive methods and allowing for proper recovery of the CNS. CNS intensive training methods are the max effort method in which you are lifting extremely heavy weights for a max or near max attempt and the dynamic effort method in which you are lifting light weights very fast. Sprinting and all types of plyos are also CNS intensive activities.

Ideally, you never want to perform two CNS intensive workouts on back to back days. The nervous system needs adequate recovery and although you may not be sore the next day after a CNS intensive workout, that doesn’t mean that you are ready to train.

So if you do a 1 rep max squat on Monday you need to do something like repetition upper body work and/or some light running drills or cardio or whatever on Tuesday. What you don’t want to do is sprint, jump or lift heavy again. You should ideally separate CNS intensive days by 48 hours. Therefore if you have to incorporate sprints into the weekly schedule it is usually best to do them as a double session on your max effort days. So on Monday morning you would run your sprints and then on Monday night you would do your max effort squats. If you are really pressed for time you could do a short sprint workout outside and then walk into the gym for your max squats.

If you are simply training for bodybuilding this is not as important but if you are training for strength/performance this rule needs to be taken under strict consideration.

While CNS recovery is important to consider I should also point out that it has gotten to be a very hot topic recently and I think some people may be taking it too far. Actually, I know they are taking it too far. It’s good to constantly make advances and stay up to date on the latest scientific discoveries and apply them to our training but we never want to get too caught up in this either. If your schedule doesn’t work out perfectly with the structure of CNS intensive days and non CNS intensive days, don’t freak out about it. When we were growing up we didn’t know anything about this and we were all ok. I used to jump, trying to touch the rim at least fifty times per day in high school. And when I finally got there, I continued to jump fifty times per day trying to dunk for the next few years. That was high intensity plyos being done 365 days per year and you know what happened? My vertical went up.

Walter Payton was probably the greatest running back of all time and he famously did hill sprints every single day of every off season. Would he have been better if he skipped a day between? Who knows? But the point I am trying to make is that you have to always be aware of and take into consideration the science, but never be afraid of hard work and breaking the rules when you have to; we don’t live in a perfect world. The guy who works harder than anyone else will always have an advantage over the science geek who worries about and plans his training to the T. It’s like Rocky versus Ivan Drago…

Years ago nobody ever discussed or heard of CNS fatigue or adrenal fatigue and now everybody and their mother is worried about it and is p*ssy footing around like a bunch of school girls. Get over it. If you drink too much coffee and don’t always get ten hours of sleep and get stressed out on occasion and train harder than everyone you know, it aint gonna kill ya. You’ll be fine. I don’t know who is writing this stuff but I keep getting questions about it and now I feel bad that I ever mentioned it in the first place. It just gives the weak another excuse to remain weak.

Yes, CNS and adrenal fatigue are real issues and you should be concerned about avoiding both of them by trying to adhere to the rules I listed above. But the reality is most people just need to learn how to train harder and smarter and stop making excuses.

Besides, rules are made to be broken. Right?

About the Author:

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more great muscle building information, please visit Muscle Gaining Secrets.

You can read my review of his program here: Muscle Gaining Secrets Review.

I also endorse Ferruggia's Programs for intermediate/advanced trainees, like Triple Threat Muscle or Minimalist Training.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pre and Post Workout Nutrition

I've noticed there's more confusion and hype surrounding pre/post workout nutrition than almost any other aspect of training.  Guys obsess over the exact timing and nutrient percentage of what they eat or drink before and after training.  This article by Will Brink (author of Bodybuilding Revealed) will set the record straight. 

The Truth About Pre and Post Workout Nutrition
--By Will Brink

Pre- and post-workout nutrition is all the rage these days, and for good reason. For some, however, it’s become more than a science—it’s become their religion, or perhaps just a place to focus their OCD-like tendencies. Regardless, people have taken the topic of pre- and post-workout nutrition to a level that is not justified by the research, or at least not confirmed by the research that currently exists.

Readers should realize I may have my membership card to the Bodybuilding Nutrition Guru Society torn up and thrown at me for what I am about to share in this article…

As expected, supplement companies—and self–proclaimed ‘net guru types—have used what does exist for research to convince everyone that that if they don’t take in exactly 98.7 grams of carbohydrates and 37.2 grams of protein within 28 seconds after they leave the gym, their muscles will be attacked by every muscle-hating hormone they possess in their body by second 29; with the prior year of hard work in the gym totally wasted by second 30!

People are fixated on this particular topic like nothing else, and when you throw in the other possible ingredients that can be added to the post-workout drink, such as creatine, glutamine, and many others, it’s taken to the level of psychosis!

Of course supplement companies have come out with their own “techno-functional ultra-repartitioning multi-dimensional”* post-workout drink formulas that are claimed to be the latest breakthrough. Besides the carbs and protein in these formulas, many of the additional compounds are either under dosed (ergo the ‘label decoration’ syndrome), have no particular justification for being in the formula in the first place, or both (ergo, the ‘shot gun’ approach)…but I digress.

Now I have to take at least some blame—or credit—for this predicament, depending on how you want to view it. I have written extensively about the importance of post-workout nutrition in all manner of articles, and give the topic extensive focus in my Bodybuilding Revealed e-book.

Unlike many of the supplement companies and ‘net experts’ out there, however, I never claimed you would shrivel up into Pee Wee Herman in a matter of minutes if you didn’t get your ultra high-tech post-workout drink 29 seconds after your last set of squats. I have always taken a balanced view on the topic, by pointing out that food is still more important in the overall equation of muscle growth.

Thus, what I can say is that research—and common sense—tells us it’s advantageous to get some fast-acting carbs and protein after a hard workout to optimize the time we put in the gym. From there, however, people have relied more on wishful thinking than science for their pre- and post-workout nutrition. People who have poor diets and poorly thought-out training routines, but focus on the latest magic pre- and post-workout elixirs are missing the point. Their approach is like trying to hold up a three-legged stool with one support leg and the other two missing.

General Considerations of Research vs. the “Real World”

As we all know, a great deal of research is performed that—although interesting—has very little “real world” application to bodybuilders and other athletes.

This is because scientists do everything in their power to study their chosen topic in isolation. In other words, they go to great lengths and trouble to control variables that will impact the outcomes of their studies. For example, in a study looking at the effects of a drug or supplement, a placebo group is matched to the “active” group. The scientists want to make sure the effect they get—or don’t get—is due to the drug/supplement and not the placebo effect. Making the study double-blind is another way of attempting to prevent the bias of the scientists from influencing the study.

The point is that, when they attempt to isolate an effect of something being tested, scientists often end up with results that may not always be directly applicable to the “real world” of Joe Schmoe gym goer.

When study designs don’t reflect “real world” conditions, they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Were the study participants fasted? What type of exercise did they perform? What effects did the researchers actually look at and how does that apply to the “real world” or athlete in question? Were the study participants new to the form of exercise being utilized in the study or were they experienced athletes? How many people were in the study? Who do the results apply to: endurance or strength athletes? Both? Neither?!

Those are just a few of the essential questions that have to be asked and answered before you can even begin to draw any useful “real world” conclusions from the studies that come out. Yet this doesn’t stop people and supplement companies from jumping on the latest studies as the last word in nutrition and start making recommendations from them. They also tend to ignore the studies that contradict or fail to replicate the advice they are giving out. Let’s look at some examples…

The Fast vs. Slow Protein Craze..

The use of fasted subjects in nutrition studies illustrates how researchers can end up with results that may not apply well to the real world. As the name implies, the study subjects are a group of people who have not eaten for an extended period of time. In many cases, they haven’t eaten for 8 – 10 hours or more, which of course does not reflect how the average person eats, at let alone how the average athlete eats—especially bodybuilders looking to add muscle mass.

Enter stage right, the “fast vs. slow” protein craze. The study that got this craze rolling was called “Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion” and was responsible for causing a resurgence of interest in casein. The basic premise of this much-touted study was that the speed of absorption of dietary amino acids (from ingested proteins) varies according to the type of dietary protein a person eats.

The researchers wanted to see if the type of protein eaten would affect postprandial (e.g., after a meal) protein synthesis, breakdown, and deposition. To test the hypothesis, they fed casein (CAS) and whey protein (WP) to a group of healthy adults, a single meal of casein (CAS) or whey WP following an overnight fast (10 h). Using this specific study design, they found:

•WP induced a dramatic but short increase of plasma amino acids.
•CAS induced a prolonged plateau of a moderate increase in amino acids (hyperaminoacidemia)
•Whole body protein breakdown was inhibited by 34% after CAS ingestion but not after WP ingestion.
•Postprandial protein synthesis was stimulated by 68% with the WP meal and to a lesser extent (+31%) with the CAS meal.

The basic non-science summary is: the study found that CAS was good at preventing protein breakdown (proteolysis), but was not so good for increasing protein synthesis. WP had basically the opposite effects: it increased protein synthesis but didn’t prevent protein breakdown. The problem is that they were using fasted subjects for a single meal. ***

Keep that in mind as we move along here…
So far so good right? So what can we conclude from this study and how useful are the results? Like so many studies, the results were interesting—and of little use to people in the real world. Do these results hold up under more “real world” conditions where people are eating every few hours and/or mixing the proteins with other macronutrients (i.e., carbs and fats)?
The answer is probably not, which is exactly what the researchers found when they attempted to mimic a more realistic eating pattern of multiple meals and or the addition of other macronutrients. The follow up study was called “The digestion rate of protein is an independent regulating factor of postprandial protein retention.” Four groups of five to six healthy young men received:

• a single meal of slowly digested casein (CAS).
• a single meal of free amino acids mimicking the composition of casein (AA).
• a single meal of rapidly digested whey proteins (WP).
• repeated meals of whey proteins (RPT-WP) mimicking slow digestion rate of casein (i.e., reflecting how people really eat).

So what did they find? In a nut shell, giving people multiple doses of whey—which more closely mimics how people really eat-—had basically the same effects as a single dose of casein, and mixing either with fats and proteins pretty much nullified any big differences between the two proteins.

Even that’s not the end of the story, however, as multiple follow up studies done by the same group and others found these effects could also be different in older versus younger people and male versus female! How messed up is that?! So how much press did these follow up studies get? Little or none, as I recall.

Now, a later study did attempt to examine the actual net amino acid uptake after resistance training with whey vs. casein, and found both proteins had essentially the same effects on net muscle protein synthesis after exercise despite different patterns of blood amino acid responses.

Does that put to rest the issue or debate of one protein vs. the other post-workout? No, as there are yet more conflicting studies out there and my bet is still on whey as the superior post-workout protein, but it’s important to realize the answer is far from established at this time.

Got Milk?

Milk: nature’s original MRP. Despite all the fancy proteins out there all claiming to be the next step in the evolution of proteins that “will blast you past your plateaus in the gym,” good old milk seems to be competing—and winning—against some “high tech” products on the market. We have various studies finding increased protein synthesis and other positive effects when a purified protein supplement (e.g., whey, soy, casein, etc.) ingested right after or before a workout—usually in conjunction with carbohydrates—but what about good old milk, a “real” food?

One recent study found good old milk to be an effective post-workout drink that increased net muscle protein synthesis after resistance training. Yet another recent study compared 2 cups of skim milk as a post workout drink compared to a soy drink and a “sports drink.”

In this study, the milk and soy drinks were matched for basic macronutrient ratios and calories and all three were matched for total calories. 56 male volunteers were split into three groups, with all put on a resistance training program for 12 weeks. The volunteers were then randomly assigned one of the three drinks to consume as a post workout drink and again one hour after the workouts.

Although no major differences were found in strength between the 3 groups, the group getting the milk had the greatest increase in muscle mass (via increases in Type I and II fibers) with researchers concluding

“…chronic postexercise consumption of milk promotes greater hypertrophy during the early stages of resistance training in novice weightlifters when compared with isoenergetic soy or carbohydrate consumption.”

But it gets better: how about our favorite childhood drink, chocolate milk? How about chocolate milk vs. two commercial energy/fluid replacement drinks, such as Gatorade and Endurox R4?

One recent study—albeit a small one—found chocolate milk as effective as Gatorade, and more effective than Endurox, as a recovery drink for trained cyclists between exhaustive bouts of endurance exercise.

Now is this a condemnation of sports drinks and an endorsement for milk/chocolate milk as the last word on post-workout drinks? Not at all: remember those essential questions I mentioned above? You have to look at such a study in context—in other words, at the experimental design and how that applies to the “real world.” The subjects fasted for 10 - 12 h prior to the chocolate milk experiment, and these drinks were the only food these guys had for 14 - 16 hours. The results may have been quite different had they been following their normal eating patterns.

They also measured effects on endurance vs.—say—strength or increased protein synthesis, etc.

So, in the context of this particular study design, look at it this way: chocolate milk has casein (a “slow” protein), and whey (a “fast” protein) as well as calcium, some vitamins and a bunch of carbohydrates—so it makes a pretty good, cheap MRP, if that’s all you are going to get all day long. It’s not a half-bad post-workout drink either. It’s not the best MRP—or post workout drink—I could design, but it’s cheap and easy to find. The reality is that there are some inexpensive foods out there can be used, and most of your old school bodybuilders and strong men used milk as the original post workout drink/MRP.

The study that looked at milk vs. soy and sports drink, was done in novice weight lifters, so that too needs to be taken into consideration. Regardless, milk, in particular chocolate milk, should make a perfectly acceptable and inexpensive post workout drink and people who think it’s too “old school” or not “high tech” enough to be if any use are clearly misinformed and the victim of marketing.

Now the study we need to see that does not exist, of course, is milk or chocolate milk vs. a well thought out post-workout drink of—say—whey and maltodextrin (high GI carb source), in experienced weight lifters who are not fasted—but don’t hold your breath on that one. Studies like that get expensive quickly and also pose practical issues. For example, if you wanted to match the protein content of—say—2 scoops of whey isolate to chocolate milk (so the groups were getting an equivalent amount of protein), the subjects would need to drink a large volume of milk (remember, milk is mostly water).

My hunch is that a correctly designed post-workout drink would be superior to chocolate milk, but it would be nice to see the two compared, no?

The Pre-Workout Drink

The pre-workout drink craze followed the post-workout craze after a study found pre-workout nutrition may be more effective than post-workout nutrition.

The study that got this craze going was called “Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise” which found that drinking a mixture of essential amino acids and carbohydrates induced a greater anabolic response (i.e., a net increase in muscle protein balance) when taken right before weight training vs. right after. ****

This study had everyone taking in a pre-workout drink as well as a post-workout drink in an attempt to cover all the bases. It should be noted, however, that—once again—they were using fasted subjects. Think of it like this: you have not eaten in 8-10 or more hours, then you are made to work out on a (very) empty stomach.

Under those particular circumstances, does it not make sense getting something to eat before the workout would be superior to after the workout? We all know hitting the weights on an empty stomach is not an optimal method to preserve—or build—muscle mass. Nor is it reflective of real world eating patterns where the vast majority of people have eaten a full meal at least a few hours before they hit the gym.

After this study, everyone started drinking a protein drink before they hit the gym. Interestingly, however, a recent study done by the same group who did the pre-drink study mentioned above, found whey taken before hitting the gym did not result in an improved net protein balance vs. taking it after the gym.

“Well wait a dang minute Will, now I am really confused!” you are saying angrily to your comp screen! Does this new study show pre-workout nutrition is no more effective than post workout nutrition?

No, and here’s why. It’s an apples vs. oranges study. The first study used free amino acids plus carbohydrates, and the follow up study used whey alone without carbohydrates—which is very odd if they were truly trying to see if free aminos were superior to a whole protein such as whey.

Unfortunately this latter study really didn’t do much to confirm or deny the first study’s findings. And, don’t forget my comments regarding using fasted subjects, which adds yet another wrinkle to all this.

So does that essentially disprove the pre-workout drink vs. the post-workout drink studies? Nope. One recent study did look specifically at the issue of timing and does support the idea that the pre- and post-workout window is the most effective period for ingesting some fast-acting protein and carbs.

This study, titled “Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy,” has gotten a fair amount of attention in the bodybuilding/sports nutrition oriented publications. The researchers examined the effects of a drink of whey, glucose and creatine given to two groups of experienced weight lifters, either morning and evening (M/E) or pre- and post-workout (PP), to see if the actual timing of the drink had an effect on muscle hypertrophy or strength development.

The study found that the group getting the drink PP had an increase in lean body mass and 1RM strength in two of three assessments that were tested. The group getting the drink PP also experienced greater creatine retention and glycogen resynthesis, which means timing of specific nutrients is an important strategy for optimizing the adaptations desired (e.g., increased muscle mass and strength) from your hard work in the gym.

So does this study finally put to rest the issue of pre- vs. post-workout nutrition? No, it did not compare one strategy to the other per se, but did confirm that nutrient timing is an important aspect.

One obvious issue is that this study used a drink that contained creatine throughout, so technically it’s not a pro + carb study, but a pro + carb + creatine study. On the plus side, it was done in experienced weight lifters and they were not fasted, so it does at least represent the metabolic realties of “real world” people looking to get the most of their nutrition. Either way, it supports the idea of taking in the right nutrients both pre- and post-workout, but people should not be under the impression that this issue of timing has been “put to bed,” so to speak, and realize there are still plenty of unanswered questions yet to be explored.

Of course, there are more studies than just the ones mentioned above, so there are plenty of measurements on indicators of recovery from exercise, such as effects on glycogen resynthesis, alterations in hormones, and hormone levels. Nonetheless, I prefer to look at the actual endpoint that really matters at the end of the day: did this person gain muscle mass, strength, or performance by using this product? Without that, everything else—though potentially interesting—is not very important.

Conclusions, and Real World Recommendations.

Now I didn’t write this article to confuse you, but to demonstrate that the optimal strategy for increasing strength and LBM in response to resistance training is not as cut and dried as you are often led to believe. However, it’s also probably simpler than you are led to believe, as the human body is far more adaptable to the types of protein it receives as well as the amounts it receives.

Thus, the people who stress over whether they got 35g of protein and 60g of carbs in their post workout drinks vs. 32g of protein and 70s of carbs in the drink are probably wasting their time, and causing what is known as “paralysis by analysis.” Put more practically, the amount of cortisol you produce from worrying about such minutia probably offsets any gains you might make from one drink vs. another!*****

I also wanted to dispel some of the hype over one protein vs. another, and the fact that expensive pre-made high tech drinks that are all the rage right now are just that: expensive and over hyped.

In the real world, people have used variations of the idea that fast acting proteins and a good dose of simple carbs can improve the effects of resistance training for many years. My good friend, the late Dan Duchaine, used to give people whey mixed in water and Corn Flakes with skim milk as their post workout meal.

One bodybuilder I knew who went onto be a well known IFBB pro, used to have a drink of whey after his workouts and several slices of apple pie at the local Friday’s restaurant next to the gym for his post-workout meal.

Most of your old time strong men and bodybuilders drank quite a lot of milk, and as we have seen from the research, it’s not a half bad post workout drink either.

If people want to buy pre-made carb/protein mixtures with other nutrients added (e.g., creatine, glutamine, various vitamins, etc) out of convenience and don’t care that they can “roll their own” for less money, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Just don’t think there’s anything magical about the pre-made post-workout drinks, no matter what the marketing material or web site says to entice you to purchase it.

Comments of interest:

* = yes, I have seen every one of those words used in the marketing of a product; sadly it's not exaggeration!

** = Brink’s Body Building Revealed

*** = The reason for this is that whey is absorbed rapidly (being a highly soluble protein) and much of it is oxidized while casein forms a “clot” in the gut and is absorbed slowly (being a fairly insoluble protein), thus causing a steady level of amino acids. That’s why they dubbed whey a “fast” protein and casein a “slow” protein.

**** = Measured as the Phenylalanine disappearance rate - considered an indicator of muscle protein synthesis - via femoral arteriovenous catheterization, as well as muscle biopsies from the vastus lateralis were used to determine phenylalanine concentrations

***** = Credit for that statement/joke has to be given to nutrition writer Lyle McDonald who said something very similar in a post on the news group a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away about a topic I don’t remember….

About the Author - William D. Brink

Will Brink has over 15 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published.Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.

His often ground breaking articles can be found in publications such as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors.

Will was a former high level trainer with a rep for getting Olympic athletes, bodybuilders and fitness stars into shape and has gained a reputation for being a no "BS" industry insider who's not afraid to reveal the lies and hype found in the fat loss , muscle building & supplement industry.

He has been co author of several studies relating to sports nutrition and health found in peer reviewed academic journals, as well as having commentary published in JAMA. William has been invited to lecture on the benefits of weight training and nutrition at conventions and symposiums around the U.S. and Canada, and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and now runs seminars for tactical law enforcement (SWAT).

He is the author, of Bodybuilding Revealed which teaches you how to gain solid muscle mass drug free. You can visit Bodybuilding Revealed to learn more.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"The Punisher": Advanced Workout Technique

Here's an advanced workout idea from Eric Broser, creator of the Alpha Male Advanced Workout program:

The quest to be your best requires pushing yourself harder and farther than you ever thought you could go, both in and out of the gym. It means finding new ways to test your limits and dig deeper into your pool of willpower, strength and courage.

One of the authors of the amazing new Alpha Male Advanced Workouts program described a recent biceps workout that included a new variation of the Punisher. The idea of the Punisher is to do a total of 100 repetitions in as short a time as possible. You can stop intermittently, but only long enough to catch your breath and let the intense pain and deep ache subside a little. The Punisher isn’t about using heavy poundage. You use only about half the training weight you would normally use, and you should try to get at least 40 solid reps in good form before stopping. But they were going to make this a “Punisher Plus” set of standing barbell curls by using a heavier weight, even if the initial rep count before stopping was lower, and incorporating the concept of a “Drop Set” (page 60 of the original Alpha Male Challenge). This new hybrid is an advanced technique designed to take things to a whole new level of punishment … and productivity. But it’s not for the faint of heart.

They set up an Olympic barbell at hip level on the squat rack, did a couple light warm-up sets, and then put a dime (10 pounds), two nickels (5 pounds each), and a collar (to prevent the weights from sliding) on each side. That’s just a bit over 85 pounds – a little more than half of what they’d typically use for working sets of strict standing barbell curls.

Once you begin your Punisher Plus set, you can’t stop for more than a few seconds. You have to continue until the 100 reps are completed. They all knew before starting that this would be a journey of self-discovery deep into the pain zone. It is sets like these that tell you what you’re made of.

Do it like this: Pick up the barbell with a shoulder-width grip and start curling in strict form – no swinging, no leaning back, no momentum. Each repetition should be full, using only your biceps to curl the bar up from a position at your hips to a position just in front of your chin. The tempo must be smooth and controlled on both the raising and lowering segment of each rep, stopping for just a brief instant at the top.

Try to complete 20 consecutive reps, with the last 3 giving your biceps a serious burn. When you pick up the bar a few seconds later to resume curling, your biceps will be on fire after only 5 or 6 more reps. Do 10 reps, put the bar down for a few seconds, and then pick it up again and do 10 more. Your biceps will feel like they are being burned with a blow torch, and you will barely squeeze out the last few reps. That’s when you can quickly pull off a 5 pound plate from each side, grab the bar, and curl another 15 solid reps, passing the halfway mark at 55 reps, with 45 yet to go. Step away from the rack only long enough to gulp down a few lung-fulls of oxygen, grab the bar, and grind out another 10 strict, painful reps. At this point, the rep count becomes a chant. Nothing else on earth matters except pushing on to the next number. Now strip the remaining nickels off the bar, and keep going for another 15 reps, followed by two more sets of 10 strict reps with minimal rest in between. Even the final reps should be strict and controlled, despite the searing pain. Your biceps will feel like they are being engulfed in flames – even your brain will feel like it’s on fire! Your biceps will feel like smoldering ash when you’re done, and will still look and feel pumped for days!!

Eric Broser
The Punisher Plus isn’t necessarily something to do too often. But the take-home message is that there’s more to a workout than 3 sets of 10. Make a serious assessment of your workouts. Are you just going through the motions? If so, you’re wasting precious time and effort. Are you sore after a training session? If you almost never are, you may not be pushing hard enough to force your body to adapt and improve. If you have a workout so brutally intense you feel compelled to share it with others, you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Stop going through the motions. Leave your comfort zone far behind. Dig deep and challenge yourself to do something incredible. Conquering a workout like the one I’ve described will make you feel capable of vanquishing anything. You’ll feel pumped both physically and mentally for days! Try out the Punisher Plus on your next biceps workout, and let me know what you think! And download Alpha Male Advanced Workouts for an incredible new training program that will rock your world!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Muscle Building Secrets

Jason Ferruggia (author of Muscle Gaining Secrets) describes some of the things he's learned after years of trial-and-error.  He addresses issues such as training frequency, session length, the proper cycling of training, etc.  Some have objected to the use of the word "secrets," but I've found that many young trainees are completely clueless in terms of putting together the most effective program. 

Muscle Building Secrets
--Jason Ferruggia

In the quest to unlock the world’s most powerful muscle building secrets I have tried nearly every training system and diet there ever was. Through many years of trial and error I have finally developed a surefire way to build enormous amounts of muscular size and strength rapidly in even the most painfully skinny hardgainer.

The first thing that needs to be addressed is training session frequency. One look at male gymnasts or Cirque Du Soleil performers will tell you that a higher frequency of training than the typical “once-a-week-per-bodypart” recommendation is in order for rapid muscle growth. Whenever you want to improve something in life you do it frequently. It doesn’t matter if it’s improving your golf swing, learning an instrument or building muscle; you have to do it more than once per week.

The next thing that needs to be looked at is training session length. When you allow your workouts to stretch any longer than 45 minutes, you are actually doing yourself more harm than good. Research has shown that testosterone levels are shot after 45 minutes of training. They actually peak at 27 minutes, so stopping at 30 minutes might even be a better idea. Beyond the 45 minute mark, cortisol production increases dramatically as testosterone levels plummet. Cortisol is the stress hormone and actually eats muscle tissue and increases bodyfat storage.

Another one of the most important muscle building secrets that I have discovered over the years is that it is crucially important to cycle your training. The body eventually adapts to any one set routine after a while. The trick is to switch your routine just before your body starts to adapt to it and your gains come to a halt but not so soon that you don’t allow for significant progress. Switching too often is just as big of a problem as not switching things up often enough. If you constantly switch programs too frequently you will never make steady progress because you will always be confusing your body and you will just end up spinning your wheels.

Some experts argue that overtraining is the biggest problem most drug free lifters face. Others say that undertraining is actually the main problem for those who fall into the hardgainer mindset. The truth is that both camps are right and wrong. You need to push yourself, sometimes to the brink of overtraining, and then adjust things at just the right time and back off for a while. Eventually, if you back off too long, you will enter a state of undertraining. The key is to ramp up your training again before that happens. When you train like this you will never experience plateaus.

Finally, I must point out that no matter how well you cycle and plan your training you will never experience any significant muscle growth if you use the wrong exercises. The most effective exercises are those that allow you to move your body through space (as opposed to just moving your limbs). Those include chin ups, dips, pushups, handstand pushups, inverted rows, squats, single leg squats and deadlifts. Stick with those exercises and their different variations and you will build massive amounts of size and strength.

Now that you have the knowledge it’s time to put these muscle building secrets to work and get your butt to the gym and start growing like a weed.

Good luck and train hard.

About The Author:
Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle fast. He is the head training advisor for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more great muscle building information, please visit Muscle Gaining Secrets.

Note--You can read my review of this program here:
Muscle Gaining Secrets Review

Fasting for Weight Loss: 7 Myths

I've been studying intermittent fasting as a strategy for losing fat while keeping muscle.  One of the best resources I've seen for learning about this is Brad Pilon's Eat Stop Eat program.  Here's one of his articles in which he tackles 7 myths about fasting and weight loss. You may have bought into some of these myths yourself:

7 Myths About Fasting
-Brad Pilon

When people come to the subject of fasting, there's a lot of misinformation and myths surrounding this topic and it can sometimes make it difficult to get to the heart of the matter. Here we're going to take a look at seven of the more long-standing myths that accompany the issue of fasting.

Fasting has been around since time immemorial, and many of the first references to it come from the Bible. They knew even back then the many and varied benefits one can derive from fasting, whether it be for short or longer periods of time. There are many examples from all religions that detail the benefits of fasting from a spiritual perspective, but there are also many other benefits to be realized from a health and wellness standpoint as well. First, let's debunk some myths!

1. Fasting is only a religious activity. 
Not necessarily. Many devoted holistic health practitioners employ some form of fasting into their health regimen, whether it is for cleansing or for weight loss help.

2. You can fast in many ways. 
Partially true, but the spirit of this gets us thinking in the wrong direction. The purpose of a fast isn't to necessarily “fast from chocolate for a day”, but to be part of a well-thought out health plan that emphasizes a total health solution. Many people decide to fast from whatever their latest obsession is, in the hopes that this will somehow help.

3. Juice fasting is a great way to go. 
I would take issue with this. To me this isn't really a fast, just another fad diet trick. The increased amounts of natural sugars can cause spikes in insulin, which in the absence of other foods being ingested can bring on other unwanted side effects.

4. Long-term fasting can rid the body of toxins. 
Not true. Long term fasting can deplete the body of many, many necessary and vital nutrients, and bring on a host of associated problems due to the body's inability to fight off anything. There is a reason people die from long term fasts.

5. Political fasting is a viable way to make a point. 
Doing a prolonged fast for a political cause is one of the worst ways to make a point. Short, one or two day fasts are sufficient, but probably don't have the sensational aspect political believers seek.

6. Fasting is only for medical purposes. 
Not true. While there are valid medical reasons when a fast is recommended, such as before surgery or blood tests, there are other useful benefits of fasting.

7. Fasting is way too hard. 
Again, not true! A one or two day fast can be accomplished with no problem by almost anyone.

Fasting can be a useful tool to aid in a total health plan. Done correctly there are virtually none of the popular “side effects” such as light-headedness or weakness. Make sure to not be derailed by fears and myths and you'll find that fasting can in fact be a great help!

About the Author:

Brad Pilon is a nutrition professional with over eight years experience working in the nutritional supplement industry specializing in clinical research management and new product development. Brad has completed graduate studies in nutritional sciences specializing in the use of short term fasting for weight loss.

His trademarked book Eat Stop Eat has been featured on national television and helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat without sacrificing the foods they love. For more information just visit Eat Stop Eat.

Note:  You can read my review of his program here: Eat Stop Eat Review

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What is "Proprietary Blend?" The Truth

Here's an article from Will Brink (author of Bodybuilding Revealed) regarding the term "proprietary blend." Will has been in the fitness industry a long time and he knows what he's talking about. Read this article and avoid getting fooled by supplement hype.

The Shell Game that is the "Proprietary Blend" Nutritional Supplement
By Will Brink

Recently I wrote an article entitled "Terms, Terms, Terms, An Inside look to buying supplements" which can be found on the Gurus and Guests section of my private forum. The article covered many of the misleading marketing terms buyers have to deal with in an attempt to make informed decisions on the supplements they spend their hard earned money on. Some of the more potentially misleading commonly used marketing terms I covered were:

"Clinically proven"
"Doctor recommended"
"All natural"
"Scientifically formulated"
"Research proven"
"Used for thousands of years"

Readers interested in understanding why the above terms can be so misleading, can read my write-up on each of those terms.

In a nut shell, I went onto cover each of these common marketing terms that are used to sell supplements to unwitting consumers and explained each in detail as to what I view as their common misuse within the market place.

However, one term I didn't cover, was "proprietary blend" which in many cases is the most potentially misleading term of them all, though not a term always seen in ads per se, but the side of the bottle.

Thus, why I felt it was a separate topic to be covered at a later date as it does not fit under the classic definition of a commonly used marketing term found in ads. I also decided to cover this term in a separate article as it requires much more space dedicated to it then the other terms needed for reasons that will be apparent shortly.

Proprietary blends are not inherently a negative for the consumer, though they are inherently confusing for the buyer in most cases.

A supplement that lists a "proprietary blend" on the bottle can be there for one of two reasons:

(a) to prevent the competition from knowing exactly what ratios and amounts of each ingredient present in the formula to prevent the competition from copying their formula exactly (commonly referred to as a "knock off") or

(b) to hide the fact the formula contains very little of the active ingredients listed on the bottle in an attempt to fool consumers.

Sadly, the latter use is far more common then the former. They see a long list of seemingly impressive ingredients listed in the "proprietary blend" none of which are there is amounts that will have any effects. This is commonly referred to as "label decoration" by industry insiders. The former use of the term is a legitimate way for a company of a quality formula from having the competition copy or "knock off" their formula and the latter use of the term is to scam people.

So how does the consumer tell the difference?

They can't, or at least they can't without some research and knowledge, which the scam artists know few people have the time and energy to dedicate to finding the answers. Although there are a few tips the consumer can use to decide if a product with a "proprietary blend" is worth trying, no one, not even me, can figure out exactly how much of each ingredient is in the blend or in what ratio of each is contained within the formula, hence why the honest and not-so-honest companies employ "proprietary blends" so often.

Thus, we have something of a conundrum here and conflict between a company making a quality formula attempting to protect that formula from other companies vs. the company simply looking to baffle buyers with BS.

There are at least some basic tips or food for thought here regarding this problem. A formula that contains say 10 ingredients in a "proprietary blend" is by no means defacto superior then one with three ingredients in it. It's the dose that matters. Clearly, it's better to have higher amounts of ingredients that will have some effects vs. a long list of ingredients in doses too low to have any effects.

Some times it helps to look at both what's in the blend and how much of the blend actually exists. As an example, if say the blend is 300mg total and contains ten ingredients, that's only 30mg per ingredient, assuming (and you know what they say about assuming!) that each is found in equal amounts. Clearly, for most compounds out there, 30mg wont do jack sh*&.

On the other hand, if say the blend is 3000mg (3 grams) and contains three or four ingredients, there is at least a better chance that the formula contains enough of each (and remember, we can't tell how much of each is in there as that information is "proprietary") to have some effects you are looking for such as an increase in strength, or a decrease in bodyfat, etc.

Unfortunately, the above examples are so vague as to be close to worthless as it's easy enough to formulate a 3000mg blend where all the ingredients are worthless to begin with or a 300mg blend that contains compounds that only require small doses to have an effect and or can be toxic at higher doses.

For example, the mineral zinc tends to be no more then 30mg in most formulas and no more is needed or recommended. Much of this comes down to the consumer knowing what the various ingredients are and how they work (to decide if they are even worth using in the first place) then deciding if said blend appears to at least contain a dose that would have the desired effects, which just brings us back to my prior comment: most people have neither the time or inclination to research all that info just to decide if they want to use a product and thus the many "proprietary blends" on the market that are no more then a long list of under-dosed ingredients.

Wish I could be of more help giving specific advice to readers of this here article as to what makes a good blend and what constitutes a poorly made blend, but the above advice is the best I can do under the circumstances. Although a "proprietary blend" is not by default a negative to the consumer, it is by all means the poster child for the well-known Latin term Caveat emptor which translates into English as "let the buyer beware".

About the Author - William D. Brink

Will Brink has over 15 years experience as a respected author, columnist and consultant, to the supplement, fitness, bodybuilding, and weight loss industry and has been extensively published.Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and pharmaceutical companies.

His often ground breaking articles can be found in publications such as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women’s World and The Townsend Letter For Doctors.

Will was a former high level trainer with a rep for getting Olympic athletes, bodybuilders and fitness stars into shape and has gained a reputation for being a no "BS" industry insider who's not afraid to reveal the lies and hype found in the fat loss, muscle building & supplement industry.

He has been co author of several studies relating to sports nutrition and health found in peer reviewed academic journals, as well as having commentary published in JAMA. William has been invited to lecture on the benefits of weight training and nutrition at conventions and symposiums around the U.S. and Canada, and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs and now runs seminars for tactical law enforcement (SWAT).

Visit Bodybuilding Revealed to learn about his program to put on muscle.