Bikini bodybuilding journey

Here’s a very interesting story as a reporter goes through a training cycle to compete in a figure competition. Wall Street Journal reporter Alyssa Abkowitz took on a more intense project after toning up for her wedding by entering into a fitness competition and discovering the world of bikini bodybuilding. In the video she discusses the process along with her diet and workout routines.

One Quick Chest Workout That Leaves You Crying

The chest is composed of large, powerful muscles, capable of withstanding intense force and trauma. That being said, it usually takes extra focus and effort to significantly wear them out and leave you with that lingering, ever-so-sweet soreness.

Since added work is necessary for peak chest stimulation, workouts are often structured with Arnold-style immensity, from the countless numbers of sets, to the fine-tuning exercises that can go on ad nauseum. All of the aforementioned can mean a serious time commitment in the gym, but what about if you only have a few minutes to tear it up before you have to head out?

The answer is: The Nemen (Nee-men) Special, which can reduce your mighty chest musculature straight down to rubble; all in one exercise.

What you will need: A bench, 45 lb barbell, eight – 10 lb plates (these weights may vary due to individual strength), preferably a partner, and a hearty appetite for suffering.

The exercise resembles that of a lightweight bench press drop set, with maximum repetitions being executed at each weight increment. If done correctly, meaning you attack each interval intensely and are 100% unable to complete a repetition on your own, you will be getting double takes from your fellow gym-goers as they walk by and chuckle at the image of you painfully struggling to rep out with just the bar.

Set 1, Four tens per side: To failure.

A spotter should help you with the last one or two reps, then once the bar is racked, remove the weight with as much speed as possible – time is of the essence!

Set 2, Three tens per side: To failure.

Set 3, Two tens…

Set 4, One ten…

Set 5, Just the bar!

By set 5, you should be working up a sweat, perhaps be slightly winded, and defintiely have a hearty exhaustion permeating your upper body. Although the bar is, well, the bar, the load should be adequate enough to reduce your pecs to a whimpering mess and you should get to the point where you need a spot to rack it.

Congratulations, you now know one of the most time-efficient chest nukes; next time you are lookign to quickly shred your pecs before class/work/a night out, give the Nemen Special a try!

 

 

PAIN TOLERANCE: The Most Underrated Exercise Variable

As yet another year in the new millennium gets underway, it isn’t a secret that scribbled next to ‘Quit smoking’, or ‘Cut back on alcohol intake’, many a resolute soul jotted down earnest promises regarding the acquisition of fitness and health. In other words:

Get ripped.

Get a six-pack.

Pack on ‘x’ amount of lean muscle.

Lose ‘x’ amount of fat.

Complete particular endurance event.

Return to pre-pregnancy body.

Lower blood pressure.

And so on and so forth, et cetera, et cetera.

In fitness terms, an entire year is a long time; definitely sufficient enough to complete a transformation that would make even Voltron blush. However, if the modus operandi is faulty, no amount of time or trendy new exercises and equipment will yield the results you really deserve.

So where do you go for that extra edge? That one X-factor that will separate your killer new routine from the ones that do little more than cause mass boredom and a hopeless staring contest with your anything-but-broken-in running shoes.

What if there was a variable regarding training that most people never considered and ever had the option of seeing listed alongside a workout routine? Not only is this tidbit free to everyone, but also incredibly potent and if learned correctly, can morph any dull exercise into award-winning training and allow an individual to truly succeed with their physical endeavors.

This variable is Pain Tolerance, or, in other words, one’s ability to confront and digest the party platter of discomfort brought about through hard exercise.

Before I go any further, let me clarify that the type of pain in question here is healthy strain derived from proper exercise and NOT joint pain, heart pain, or any other skeletal pain that comes from improper form or poor health and could potentially be dangerous and damaging. Regardless, this distress can take many forms, from a quad-searing burnout on the leg extension to a chest-annihilating giant set on the bench press; even a screaming in the lungs from a personal best at running the mile.

There is a quote that gets tossed around a lot in cycling that simply goes, “To be a cyclist is to be a student of pain.” We may not all be cyclists or even have the slightest inclination to don a skin-tight cycling kit and ride up a few mountains, yet that is the truly great thing about pain tolerance: it applies to everything physical.

Sure, if someone has a great pain tolerance yet goes into the gym and trains like a drunken Richard Simmons, he/she is not going to automatically be on the road to reaching true results, yet when that person does in fact learn to execute their workouts with the precision of science-based routines, it is safe to say they will surpass another doing the same routines due to the fact that they have taught their mind to turn the volume down on that pesky voice in the back of your head screams, “QUIT!”

Pain is tied into working out at the most basic levels. It truly is a physiological variable, although a more scholarly exercise physiologist or personal trainer may use language that disguises pain with smug terms such as ‘lactic acid buildup’, or ’100% VO2 max’ – AKA, “THIS IS BRUTAL!”

Let’s think about some real life exercise situations. When you walk into the weight room and are looking to start off with some bicep training, you may head over to a weight rack, pick up a barbell, then begin doing focused curls. The muscle fibers in your biceps will soon contract and relax in unison with each exertion and your mind perceives this strain as a form of pain.

It hurts, burns, whatever, the main point is that when attempting many exercises, pain is going to a one of the first and most unruly people knocking at the door of your workout party with one goal – crashing it. One of the main things that sets a successful, results-based exerciser apart from one who flounders aloofly and never loses the weight or gets the strength/muscle, is what he/she does when the pain enters the room.

Are you the type of person who begins the repetitions yet drops the barbell and curses, “Damn, that is really painful, let me grab a lighter weight or cut back a few reps”, or do you confront the pain head on and say, “YEAH? SO WHAT? I’m getting this fitness no matter how much you scream and complain,” and proceed to push pain to the side and break through its limitations?

We’ve all seen shows like the Biggest Loser, where a frustrated trainer watches as client after client easily bails on a particular workout and claims they simply can’t go on. When you see something like that occurring, truly analyze what that person is basically saying: it is clear as day that they are not familiar with the physical pain needed to really make results and this unfamiliarity is too shocking for their system to cope with, causing the mind the give up.

The thing is, that is OK! It doesn’t make them a bad or lazy person, it is just that their previous way of life and absence of physicality has left them with a currently very poor ability to digest the stress and pain tied to hard training and it will take some time before they can speak that language.

It is similar to a situation where a shredded workout guru with the utmost masochistic prowess suddenly makes a resolution to become versed in Russian History, yet on their first lesson with the professor, flounders under the heavy course load and cries out at the amount of focused, relentless studying needed to master the material. It isn’t that they will never be able to give a brilliant oration on Rasputin and the Tsars, it’s just that most human beings need time to adjust to the stresses necessary for seriously excelling above the norm.

So how does one gauge his/her pain tolerance? You probably already have a good concept of this, yet here are two great ways to get a feel for it:

Leg extensions: (Even better if done at the end of leg day). Set the weight to about 50% of your one rep max and begin doing focused, squeezing-at-the-top reps, and continue this until that familiar discomfort starts growing out of your quads and attempting to smack your motivation around.

Preacher curls: Grab a similarly graded weight and begin doing concentrated reps. Preacher curls and leg extensions are great ways to gauge pain tolerance because they are completed in a fixed motion and do not require any real form. For instance, if two people were doing squats, there would be a whole myriad of factors that may throw off the delegation of work to the muscles.

With these exercises, and many others like it, you can easily become familiar with what true physical and mental exercise strain feels like, and acclimating yourself to such an extreme will do wonders for every other motion you attempt to do work with.

There have been countless cases of athletes who, according to high-tech lab tests and pages of results, shouldn’t have outperformed their counterparts yet did so because there is no number or test that can quantify a humans ability to dig deep and really desire something.

“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” -Vince Lombardi.

That’s it for now. Remember, when trying to fulfill your fitness goals this year, try taking a little detour from browsing the newest workouts or equipment and instead focus on being comfortable with the uncomfortable – your workouts will thank you.

The Rowing Machine: King of Cardio Equipment

It is of the utmost importance to any exercise-oriented individual that an adequate amount of cardiovascular exercise is completed regularly. Whether you are a bodybuilder with 22″ arms or simply a lean yoga enthusiast, the rule applies across all levels. Without a properly trained heart and lungs, your body misses out on a whole slew of health benefits and a decreased risk of heart problems; not to mention creating a disproportionate distribution of vitality within your body. Sure, your biceps have veins thicker than a garden hose, but what about what’s on the inside?

A dedicated gym goer may look at his/her six pack and scoff, “Cardio? My aerobic-free training has me leaner than ever and sweating it up on the Stairmaster for an hour isn’t my idea of a worthwhile workout.” OK, valid point, but a high performance vehicle is for nothing if the goods under the hood are garbage. Moreover, if you pack on muscle yet refrain to train your cardiovascular system, your physicality will resemble a hulking Toyota Tundra with the dinky engine of a Honda Civic. Struggling.

So, why rowing; better yet, why the rowing machine? Well, considering rivers that weave through your neighborhood with adequate boat houses are scarce, the rowing machine is the best substitute to mimic the movement and reap the rewards of such activity. Better yet, you never have to worry about bad weather, and even better than that, a great cardio workout can be accomplished in a fraction of the time that one may be looking at when getting on board an elliptical or treadmill.

The majority of people are under the assumption that rowing is an upper body intensive movement. Although there is some truth to that statement, the driving force in a successful rowing motion is derived from the lower body, where the body’s powerful leg muscles are able to sustain prolonged exertions that only they can deliver.

Need more reasons to try the rowing machine? How about the fact that the word impact can’t even be found in the same sentence as rowing machine, unless the word ‘low’ is front of it. Unlike running, which places unnecessary stress and trauma on the knees and ankles,  rowing favors a far more fluid, floating sense of power and work. As your body moves back and forth over the rolling seat, your joints praise you as they are gently coerced into the flexion and extension of various limbs.

Still need more reasons? One of the greatest aspects of the rowing machine is that it is a cardio exercise that trains your whole musculature; not just your lower body, as many machines do. When stepping away on the Stairstepper, one can feel the sole distribution of strain compiling itself on your legs, while the upper body remains slack and in complete boredom. The rowing machine ties the two sides together, with the legs generating the massive power and force for each stroke and transferring it up the body, giving your abs, arms, shoulders, and of course, back, an awesomely toning workout.

If you have located and affirmed the presence of a rowing machine at your local health club, here is a great way to get introduced to the motion:

  1. Adjust the foot stretchers: Each machine is equipped with a platform to strap your feet into, both in socks or with shoes, and it needs to be adjusted so that the strap rests atop where the balls of your feet are, and also so that your bending motion isn’t inhibited by the strap.
  2. Set the fly wheel resistance: 10 is heavy, 1 is light – to put it simply. Personally, I like to warm up in the higher digits (7-10), and then commit to my workouts between 4 and 5, as most university programs suggest.
  3. Set the clock: The rowing machine has a great computer for tracking your workouts, but for now, simply hit ‘Just Row’, or begin pulling on the handle and the clock will start on its own.
  4. Row!

Of course, it isn’t so easy to master the rowing stroke on your first few tries, so keep in mind these pointers:

  • Always begin each stroke with lower leg perpendicular to the ground and your seat as far up as can be achieved. At this point, your should be fully outstretched and grasping the handle.
  • Legs first! When driving, press off with your glutes, quads, and calves and drive your legs down to full extension.
  • Back second! once the legs are down, lean back with a straight back and begin to transfer the speed of the fly wheel to your upper body.
  • Arms in third! Once you have achieved a slight posterior lean with your straight back, pull the handle into your nipple line with by retracting your scapulae and flexing your arms.
  • The ‘finish’, or end of the stroke goes exactly in reverse order: Arms back out, back over, then slowly move back up the slide with the legs, ready for another stroke.

Sample Warm-Up:

20 strokes arms only

20 strokes arms and back only

20 strokes half leg extension

40 strokes full leg extension (full strokes)

Sample workout: 1 x 3000M, 1 x 2000M, 1 x 1000M, 1 X 500M, 1:00 rest in between each.

As you may notice this is a descending pyramid type of workout and it is great because mentally, the workload becomes easier and easier as you pass through each interval.

Select workout, then select Interval Variable, then enter the first distance, followed by the three others; then the rest.

The first 3000M should be done at 60-80% of your VO2 max, with that intensity increasing until the last 500M goes by at an all-out effort.

That’s it for now, I hope you can look into incorporating the rowing machine into your next workout and join the thousands who swear by rowing as the King of cardio.

 

 

Exercising Through The Pain

We’ve all heard,“No pain, no gain”.

But that technique will do you no good if you are suffering from an injury.

Pushing too hard when you’re already hurting can cost you further injury.

However, aches and pains are no excuse to cut out exercise altogether—you just have to be smart about it.

To help you pick a safe—but satisfying—workout when you’re injured, Kimberly Safman, MD, board certified physiatrist at Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Irvine, Calif.,can help you choose the right move for you.

Strength training is not just for athletes

Are you an athlete looking to enhance your abilities? Would you like to increase your muscular size? Would you like to increase your strength? Would you like to boost your self-esteem? Do you want to lose body-fat? Are you a weekend warrior trying to extend your ability to play sports? Are you a stay at home mom who just wants to look and feel better? Are you a forty something male who wants to feel strong and lose some that spare tire? If you answered yes to any of these, you should be training for strength.

Strength training is not just for powerlifters, bodybuilders or high impact sports. Strength training can benefit everyone. At a minimum you should be strength training to ensure your health and overall wellbeing. And I’m not just talking about today, but for the future as well. As we age we lose muscle. This is an undeniable truth. This facet of aging has several negative outcomes:

Losing muscle will cause a decrease in your basal metabolic rate. Muscle drives the metabolism. The more you have the more calories you burn. Conversely, the more you lose the fewer calories you burn. It doesn’t stop here.

The more muscle one loses the weaker one gets. This is logical because the fewer muscle fibers there are to create motion, the less force you’ll be able to produce.

The weaker one gets as a result of muscle lost, the tighter one gets resulting in a loss of flexibility. And as one loses flexibility, they lose more strength, which also creates a loss of muscle. This loss of flexibility coupled with a loss of strength dramatically increases ones risk for injuries.

Are you starting to see what a vicious cycle this becomes?

So, I think my point that despite your genetics, experience, what you know (or what you think you know) about training, strength training is for you.

Want muscle? STOP the quessing game

People who engage in very repetitive tasks such as long distance running, labor or swimming show very little or no improvement in the size and strength of their muscles. Long distance events are by nature very low in intensity.

Compare a marathon runner to a 100 meter sprinter. Marathon runners who train for very long periods at a very low intensity are emaciated looking having less than normal muscle mass and carry on average 14 ? 16% body fat. Sprinters, on the other hand, who train for short periods at a high level of intensity are very muscular and have half the body fat levels than marathoners. If cardio is the key to getting lean, as many people presume, why do marathoners have a higher body fat than sprinters? The reason is, a specific stimulus is required for a specific outcome.

The specific stimulus needed to stimulate muscle and strength is high intensity training. This is a universal training principle that affects everyone without exception. This is due to the fact that we are anatomically and physiologically the same. If this were not true doctors could not perform surgery and prescribe medicine. Consequently, the stimulus needed to induce biochemical changes that build muscle and strength in humans is the same.

Intensity, when referring to training, is the percentage of physical exertion that one is capable of. Training with one hundred percent intensity is the best way, the only way, to stimulate muscular size and strength in the shortest amount of time. How does one gauge the intensity of their workouts? By taking your working sets to positive or concentric failure.

Taking a set to the point of failure, where you cannot possibly perform another rep despite your maximum effort is one of, and perhaps the most important of several factors in your success. There are many who disagree and advocate high volume training with 60%, 72%, 95%, or whatever percentage of intensity they decide is the best. Some even claim training all out, with one hundred percent intensity is not only unnecessary, but detrimental. Over the years I’ve seen so called strength coach specialists, and personal trainers with 15 letters after their last names, concoct the most ridiculous routines, using almost every percentage, that have yet to show any effectiveness in real world application.

The main problem with these bogus routines is that there are only two accurate measures of intensity. Zero, when you are at rest; and 100%, when you?re training to the point of failure. How do you measure anything less than 100% intensity? If I can do 10 repetitions to complete failure with 100 pounds on the leg extension machine, where do I go for 80% intensity? Do I perform 10 reps with 80 pounds? Or do I use 100 pounds and only perform 8 reps? Is 80% the optimum percentage, or is it 65%? There is no evidence that suggests, let alone proves, anything less than 100% effort is equally or more effective. Are you starting to see the ridiculousness and inaccuracy of such training prescriptions?

Intensity cannot be measured accurately with reps or weight. While performing a set, intensity increases exponentially with each successive rep. Performing the first 5 reps on the leg extension is not equivalent in intensity to performing the last 5 reps. Hence, 5 reps is not the equivalent of 50% intensity.

The only way to train that is completely accurate is with all out intensity to failure. This will give you a concrete view of how you?re performing. If you train with 100% intensity during every workout and you do not progress, you know you are not recovering. There will never be a question whether you are providing a strong enough stimulus for progress. However, if you follow the percentage of intensity or the percentage of max rep principles, how will you know you are training intensely enough to stimulate muscular size and strength? If you plateau, are you training too hard or too long? Do you lower the percentage or raise it? Do you need more rest, or do you need to train at a higher intensity? There is no need for this guessing game.

Your goal is to bring about the largest, most rapid outcome for your individual genetic potential. In order for this to occur, the body requires 100% intensity every working set of every exercise. This is the only truly accurate way to gauge the efficacy of your training program. Nothing less than 100% will do. The body needs a reason to adapt. Give it!

Racquetball for Weight Loss

Any type of exercise is good exercise, but some forms of exercise are better for greater weight loss than others. Group sports, and other types of exercise that work the body from head to toe, burn hundreds of calories per hour and they also challenge all muscle groups. Not only can this help you lose more weight, it can also help you keep it off. Just a few uber effective forms of exercise are swimming, cardio boot camp, running, basketball, and racquetball.

Racquetball is similar to handball. The game is played on a four walled court with a short-handled racket and a larger ball. The game is usually played by two players, but four players is also common. The amount of calories burned during an hour long game varies by weight and whether or not the game is casual or competitive. To give you an idea of just how many calories you can burn, a person that weighs 125 pounds can burn around 400 calories during a casual game or 568 calories during a competitive game. A 170-pound person can burn 541 calories during a casual game or 773 during a competitive game.

Racquetball can help you lose weight if you make smart food choices and commit to playing at least three times a week. Once you lose the weight, if you want to keep it off, stick to a sensible diet and try play on most days of the week.

So where are the Racquetball Courts?

If you’re looking for a place to play racquetball, look no further than your local health club, tennis club, community center or park district. If you’re looking for the cheapest place to play, try a community center or park district where public courts are typically no more than $10 an hour.

The optimum time to train

there are many biological factors that are important for muscular hypertrophy like hormone levels, age, sex, muscle fiber type, diet, among others. These factors have been recognized as extremely important for the hypertrophic adaption to strength training. Many of these factors, however, are known to vary throughout the day. Can the daily differences in the above factors like hormone levels, affect the adaptive response to strength training? What time of day is the best time to train?

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research set out to examine the effects of time-of-day-specific strength training on muscle hypertrophy maximal strength in men. The training group underwent a 10 week preparatory training regimen. Afterwards, the subjects were randomized to either a morning training group or an afternoon training group. The groups trained for another 10 weeks with training times between 07:00 and 09:00 hours and 17:00 and 19:00 hours in the morning group and the afternoon group respectively. Cross-sectional areas and volume of the quadriceps femoris were obtained by magnetic resonance imaging at weeks 0, 10, and 20. Maximum voluntary isometric strength during unilateral knee extensions and the half squat one repetition maximum were tested at weeks 0, 10, and 20.

The entire 20-week training period resulted in significant increases in maximum voluntary contraction and 1RM in both training groups. In this study, the magnitude of muscular hypertrophy and strength did not statistically differ between the morning or afternoon group. However, this study was of short duration and like most research concerning physical improvement through exercise, there needs to be more subjects over longer periods of time.
(J Strength Cond Res 23(9):2451-2457)

Exercise induced hormone changes do not promote muscular gains

Exercise induced endogenous hormone levels have been studied extensively. Researchers have examined how the different components of training including sets, repetitions, load and rest intervals affect serum levels of hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone and cortisol. Many studies have demonstrated there is an acute increase in serum levels of anabolic hormones after intense resistance exercise.

To be more specific, high intensity exercise coupled with short rest intervals that is performed with large muscle groups are associated with large rises in these hormones when compared to other training methods. Conversely, training small muscle groups like the biceps has been shown to have no effect on serum hormone levels. Because of the findings in many studies, training programs have been constructed to maximize the post-exercise rise in these hormones based on the assertion that exercise-induced increases in hormones like testosterone and GH will enhance muscle size and strength. But, considering the fact that these increases in hormone levels are very small and of short duration, will they produce muscular gains.

A study from the Kinesiology Dept. of McMaster University in Canada found that exercise induced hormone levels had no effect on muscle size or strength after 15 weeks of resistance training.

There is evidence that a minimal basal level of testosterone is required to support strength and hypertrophy gains, which are otherwise attenuated. Therefore, the hormone-sensitive processes that underpin muscle anabolism at hypo- and supra-physiological hormone levels are not being activated appreciably by exercise-induced increases in hormone availability or at least do not result in any measurable enhancement of strength or hypertrophy.

(J Appl Physiol 108(1); 2010)

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