6 Supplements you should take

I think this is a topic worth writing about. But, we need to take into consideration what the word supplement means. Supplement is a noun, indicating that something is enhanced or completed by adding to it. If you take a multivitamin, you’re supplementing vitamins that you aren’t getting enough of in your diet.

In other words, you’re taking something extra to make up for a lack of a nutrient/mineral or vitamin that your body is lacking. Depending on your level of fitness and training, you may need to be taking more supplements in order to keep your levels topped off.

If you’re eating enough and choosing your diet properly, more than likely you’re getting ample amounts of protein, so there’s no reason to buy protein powder. On average your body needs about .8-1g of protein per pound. Currently I weigh 144.2lbs, so I need about 144g of protein per day, which I eat easily.

1. Multivitamin

You can take any type of multivitamin, though if you’re training with intensity, you should try to take a multivitamin adapted for athletes. Basically, with as much training as you probably do, you’ll always tapping into your bodies reservoirs of essential minerals and vitamins. The multivitamin is there to really help you keep your levels topped off at all times.

2. Fish Oil

Basically, fish oil is your defense against joint pain. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Think of fish oil as lubrication for your joints. It’s not something that you’ll notice right away after supplementing it, it’ll be noticeable after a few weeks. This will help you big time with your joint health.

3. Creatine

Creatine is the most researched supplement and has a high level of safety as a result. Creatine basically helps keep your muscles hydrated. It also stimulates muscle growth. Think of creatine as increasing your PRs by 2-4%. It’ll also help you go deeper in your sets as a result. That may not seem like a lot, but it’ll help you in the long run.

4. BCAA

Also known as branch chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine & valine). Supplementation of BCAAs can help reduce muscle fatigued, increase protein synthesis and keep your energy levels topped off while you’re working out. Leucine helps in protein synthesis, isoleucine helps in inducing glycogen uptake and more study is needed to determine valine’s importance, though it is! As you work out, your body depletes your reservoirs of BCAAs in the body, and as a result of supplementing it, you keep your levels topped off which can help during exercise.

It should be noted that if you’re eating enough protein, so keep this in mind as it depends on your diet.

5. Glutamine

Glutamine is known as a muscle builder, though there is evidence that it’s not entirely something needed if you’re an overall healthy individual. Mostly, it helps those who have had physical wounds or low immune systems to build muscles. Considering the fact that if you workout with high intensity and you’re always pushing yourself to the max, then muscle strain is a constant thing. Therefore, consider supplementing glutamine so as to keep your glutamine plasma levels topped off. Also, it’ll help with your immune system and intestinal health, which isn’t a bad thing!

6. L-Citrulline

When you supplement L-Citrulline, your kidneys convert it to L-Arginine, which in turn is converted to Nitrous Oxide, which increases your blood flow during and after exercise. Effectively, L-Citrulline helps with the “pump” that we’re all searching for at the gym. It increases your power output during exercise, and as a result of the increased blood flow, you’ll more than likely be able to have solid reps towards the end of your sets whereas prior you might feel a little burnt out.

Conclusion

I’ve done a lot of this research when I chose to really push my workouts to the next level. Supplementation is an investment, and there’s plenty of products that people feel that they need, whereas in reality they don’t. The best thing you can do is read the research yourself, which is why I provided links to examine.com for each supplement that I recommend you take.

If you want the bare minimum in terms of supplements, I’d suggest the following: multivitamin, fish oil, creatine.

*Taking protein supplementation is not really needed if you have a good diet rich in protein already. The $30-$40 per month that you spend on protein could be used for these other supplements that I’m suggesting you take.

That’s my advice, feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 

3 Exercises to improve your Bench Press

A lot of times, people think that in order to improve your various lifts is to concentrate on that lift. While this is true, there are also secondary exercises that you can do in order to improve your targeted lift and therefore to increase your technique, form and weight.

One quick example would be that if you’re having difficulty with your deadlift, then you may want to concentrate on Good Mornings to improve your lower back strength as well as working on lat pulls. Both of these exercises will help to improve your back posture when deadlifting, thus potentially improving your deadlift.

The goal of this article is to improve your Bench Press. There’s basically three major lifts that everyone talks about, measures against others, etc. Those three are, in no particular order: Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat.

If you’re not satisfied with your bench press, for one reason or another, try incorporating the following exercises and you may just see an increase to your bench.

1) Inverted Rows

Benefits of the inverted rows: It helps develop back strength, it is very scalable, meaning you can easily change the angle to hit different back muscles. It increases your grip strength and increases time under tension for your back, arms and shoulders. It helps build core stability.

Think of the inverted row as a reverse push-up.

inverted row

  1. Position a bar in a rack to about waist height. You can also use a smith machine.
  2. Take a wider than shoulder width grip on the bar and position yourself hanging underneath the bar. Your body should be straight with your heels on the ground with your arms fully extended. This will be your starting position.
  3. Begin by flexing the elbow, pulling your chest towards the bar. Retract your shoulder blades as you perform the movement.
  4. Pause at the top of the motion, and return yourself to the start position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

2) Pin Press

This is also known as the “rack lockout.” There are four benefits to the Pin Press: 1) Build your triceps, size 2) Build your tricep strength, 3) Increase your bench press strength, 4) Increase your overhead press strength. Basically, a lot of failure with the bench press occurs at the bottom of the movement, when the bar is closest to your chest. At this stage in the press your triceps are heavily relied upon to really get the bar above the “lockout” threshold. So, the pin press is designed to build your strength at the bottom half of the bench press and will help you to better lockout your press.

pin press

  1. You’ll need a power rack for this. Basically set the pins at the desire point in your range of motion, whether it’s the lockout point or below.
  2. Set yourself up on the bench as if you were performing a normal bench press.Keep your body tight as you would a bench press.
  3. You can take a standard bench grip, or shoulder width to focus on the triceps. The bar, wrist, and elbow should stay in line at all times. Focus on squeezing the bar and trying to pull it apart.
  4. Drive the bar up with as much force as possible. The elbows should be tucked in until lockout.
  5. Return the bar to the pins, pausing before beginning the next repetition.

**You can also use this same technique with the overhead press, and it’ll serve the same function in helping you if you’re having issues with your overhead press.

3) Push-Ups

Aside from the obvious benefits of strengthening your core, push-ups help to build muscle density in your chest, work your back, shoulders and triceps pretty well. It’ll also help with definition.

pushup

I’m not going to tell you how to do it, because it’s pretty self-evident. Though if you want to increase the difficulty you may want to elevate your feet, or change up your hand positioning.

Closing thoughts

So, there you have it. Three exercises that should help you increase your bench press. Leave a comment and let me know what you think or what you try out. How does it work for you?

You may also want to consider alternating your training routine on chest days to one day for hypertrophy training (low weight & high reps) and one day for strength training (high weight & low reps). For the hypertrophy days you’ll want to lift 75%-80% your 1-rep max (1RM) and on strength days you’ll want to lift 90%-95% your 1RM.

Trap work – Exercises to hit your traps

Introduction

There are a few often overlooked muscle groups that do not get quite as many reps as your biceps, quads and pecs. A lot of times, these overlooked muscle groups can help complete your physique and add to your appearance, often making you appear bigger. Your traps is one of those muscle groups that doesn’t get as many reps per week as your major muscle groups. So, I thought that I would take a minute to highlight some exercises that you may already be doing, as well as others that you can include the next time you work your traps.

There are three main segments to your traps: the upper, the middle and the lower. Upper traps are activated primarily when you shrug your shoulders upwards, whereas your middle traps are hit when you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lastly, the lower traps are best activated when you bring your shoulder blades downward. So, if you’re only doing shrugs, you may not hit all parts of your traps.

Upright Dumbbell Row

The upright dumbbell row is a staple for growing your traps. The reason I favor the dumbbell instead of the barbell for my upright rows is because I want to make sure that each side of my traps is doing the work. Always opt for unilateral work when you begin to remark symmetry imbalance with your muscles. This movement will also hit your lateral delta as well.

Farmer’s Walk

While you may not think that this is a great exercise for your traps because you aren’t moving them, it actually hits them very well…that is if you do the exercise right. If you do it right, you’ll be hitting your traps for static resistance. Basically, you want to bring back your shoulders and shrug the weight up, holding the shrug at the top position. Then you simply go for a walk. I’d suggest going for a lap around your gym. Do this a few times and you’ll certainly feel the burn in your traps, triceps and lateral delts. This exercise is great for increasing your muscle endurance. To add some difficulty to the exercise, do 5 to 6 shoulder shrugs at the end of your circuit. Take a 45sec break and get back to it!

Deadlifts

This is one of the best exercises you have in your repertoire. It literally enlists your entire body, traps included, to properly execute the movement.

Since you are pulling from a bent-over position, you’re activating your traps. If you gym has a trap bar, opt for it over the conventional barbell. The trap bar will help you further activate your traps whilst performing the deadlift, and if you’re feeling up to it, you can even try to perform a shoulder shrug or two once you finish the movement.

Face pulls

The face pull is an excellent exercise that not only hits your rear delts, but when you properly perform the movement and you squeeze your shoulder blades together, you’re also activating your middle traps. A lot of people opt for using a rope grip, but I actually prefer to use to hand grips when I do face pulls.

Conclusion

These four exercises will certainly help you get some size to your traps. I’d recommend at least 75 reps per week of pure trap isolation (upright rows). Also, since the traps are made up of both slow twitch and fast twitch muscles, you should be doing a mixture of high reps/low weight and low reps/high weight sets. Although, be sure not to get too crazy with the weight as it’s easy to increase the weight too much and cause injury. Use your best judgement!

One thing to keep in mind is not to sell yourself short on the range of motion when you’re using low weight.

 

 

 

There are a few often overlooked muscle groups that do not get quite as many reps as your biceps, quads and pecs. A lot of times, these overlooked muscle groups can help complete your physique and add to your appearance, often making you appear bigger. Your traps is one of those muscle groups that doesn’t get as many reps per week as your major muscle groups. So, I thought that I would take a minute to highlight some exercises that you may already be doing, as well as others that you can include the next time you work your traps.

There are three main segments to your traps: the upper, the middle and the lower. Upper traps are activated primarily when you shrug your shoulders upwards, whereas your middle traps are hit when you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lastly, the lower traps are best activated when you bring your shoulder blades downward. So, if you’re only doing shrugs, you may not hit all parts of your traps.

Upright Dumbbell Row

The upright dumbbell row is a staple for growing your traps. The reason I favor the dumbbell instead of the barbell for my upright rows is because I want to make sure that each side of my traps is doing the work. Always opt for unilateral work when you begin to remark symmetry imbalance with your muscles. This movement will also hit your lateral delta as well.

Farmer’s Walk

While you may not think that this is a great exercise for your traps because you aren’t moving them, it actually hits them very well…that is if you do the exercise right. If you do it right, you’ll be hitting your traps for static resistance. Basically, you want to bring back your shoulders and shrug the weight up, holding the shrug at the top position. Then you simply go for a walk. I’d suggest going for a lap around your gym. Do this a few times and you’ll certainly feel the burn in your traps, triceps and lateral delts. This exercise is great for increasing your muscle endurance. To add some difficulty to the exercise, do 5 to 6 shoulder shrugs at the end of your circuit. Take a 45sec break and get back to it!

Deadlifts

This is one of the best exercises you have in your repertoire. It literally enlists your entire body, traps included, to properly execute the movement.

Since you are pulling from a bent-over position, you’re activating your traps. If you gym has a trap bar, opt for it over the conventional barbell. The trap bar will help you further activate your traps whilst performing the deadlift, and if you’re feeling up to it, you can even try to perform a shoulder shrug or two once you finish the movement.

Face pulls

The face pull is an excellent exercise that not only hits your rear delts, but when you properly perform the movement and you squeeze your shoulder blades together, you’re also activating your middle traps. A lot of people opt for using a rope grip, but I actually prefer to use to hand grips when I do face pulls.

Conclusion

These four exercises will certainly help you get some size to your traps. I’d recommend at least 75 reps per week of pure trap isolation (upright rows). Also, since the traps are made up of both slow twitch and fast twitch muscles, you should be doing a mixture of high reps/low weight and low reps/high weight sets. Although, be sure not to get too crazy with the weight as it’s easy to increase the weight too much and cause injury. Use your best judgement!

One thing to keep in mind is not to sell yourself short on the range of motion when you’re using low weight.

 

 

 

Try these exercises for bigger legs

Not a lot of people outside the world of bodybuilding would look at a bodybuilder’s physique as a work of art. But, in reality, it is a work of art. Each muscle is developed specifically so as to adhere to symmetry and aesthetics.

You’ve all seen the guy at the gym who has a massive upper body, but his legs are tiny? Yeah, there’s a litany of funny memes about guys who skip leg day. In fact, this past summer I was vacationing in Mallorca and I noticed plenty of guys who skipped leg day.

leg day meme

Anyways, what I’m saying is that sometimes we have difficulty developing one muscle group in relation to others. What needs to happen when this is the case is that you make this muscle group the priority. Rather than always doing chest on Monday because that’s what “everyone does,” why not put your main muscle group after a rest day? That way you’re ready and well-rested to really put in some work? In my case, it’s legs.

After a solid year of strictly following a progressive program, I’m finally starting to see growth and definition in my legs. So, I thought I would write something up on what I’m doing to see my results.

  1. Ass-to-grass (ATG) Squats (Deep Squats)Arnold Deep Squat

    • This is one of the “new” trends in bodybuilding, but in reality it has been around for a while. It’s just that with the prevalence of Crossfit, ATG squats are becoming more common than ever. Technically speaking, a squat is when you go to a point where your quads are parallel with the floor (90* angle at the knees). This is a great technique and by no means should you not do the “regular” squat. By that, I mean to say that you should try to add variation where possible because your body adapts to your exercises and you will begin to lose efficacy on your lifts if you always do the same thing.
    • ATG squats are when you go all the way to the ground for your rep. It increases your range of motion and also helps build fuller quads because you’re going into the negative rep range of motion.
    • I’d suggest doing this on your hypertrophy leg days, if you have them, and don’t be afraid to put your ego to the side and back down on weight so you get the technique down. I’d probably suggest starting at 95lbs and working up from there. It’s better to get the technique right, then assume you can squat your normal weight with an ATG squat.
    • I’d suggest squatting twice a week, one leg day is heavy the next leg day is light.
  2. Deadlifts arnie-deadlift

    • A staple in any leg workout. There’s plenty of different variations you could do and you can also use a trap bar or a regular barbell. Personally, I feel like I get better pulls using the barbell than the trap bar, but it’s all up to what you feel comfortable using.
    • I’d suggest deadlifting twice a week, one heavy the other light.
  3. Romanian Split Squats bulgsplitsquat__landscape

    • I’ve only been doing RSS for the past three months, but since I started doing them, I’ve really noticed an increase in size and definition. I’m not going super heavy with them, but I’m challenging myself with high reps all the while increasing slowly my weight.
    • Some people do them with dumbbells, but I find using the Smith Machine allows me to increase my weight all the while helping me to maintain balance. Sometimes the Smith Machine is taken, so I use the Squat Rack, it’s definitely harder because you have to concentrate not only on the RSS but you also have to maintain your balance. So whenever I have to use the Squat Rack, I always go down in weight so as to make sure that I can still maintain balance and get the necessary work in.
  4. Leg Extensions – Unilateral uni leg ext

    • This will help get that “tear drop” look with your quads. In my opinion, there’s no reason to really go heavy with leg extensions, as you have Squats to really help put size on your legs. With leg extensions the goal is to really get the blood flowing.
    • I’ve started unilaterally (one leg) work my legs when at all possible. I found that I have some imbalances between my right and left side, so this has helped to even out things.
    • Start with low weight and increase the weight till you can rep out 8-12 reps with a few left in the tank.
  5. Leg Curls – Unilateral

    1255
    I couldn’t find a decent pic of a unilateral leg curl, sorry!
    • The same idea applies with the leg curl as with the leg extensions. You just want to increase blood flow. Deadlifts are your staple for increasing size.
    • Start with low weight and increase the weight till you can rep out 8-12 reps with a few reps to spare in the tank.
  6. Weighted Calf Raises – Unilateral Calves

    • My calves aren’t huge, but I’m beginning to see some growth.
    • I mix up my calf raises between a seated calf raise and a standing calf raise.
      • I’m not sure what’s up, but whenever I do seated calf raises, my left arch kills me, but when I do standing calf raises, there’s no pain at all. So, I do standing calf raises more frequently than seated calf raises.
    • I aim to do between 75-100 reps per leg day.

So there you have it, my top leg exercises that I’ve been doing over the past few months. What is your favorite leg day exercise??

Feel free to leave a comment or a tip/suggestion. I’d appreciate the feedback!!

A Beginner’s Guide to Working Out: Day 3

Today you’ll be doing Shoulders and Arms. It’s pretty straight forward, but you’ll have some work cut out for you. The hardest two exercises will be the first two where you’ll want to challenge yourself, then it gets “easier.”

The goal with this workout is to get a solid number of reps per muscle with a mixture of strength (for size) and reps (for definition). Ideally, the lower number of reps you do, the heavier the weight you will lift. So for example, when I do the ez-bar curl for 3 reps, I usually have about 75-80lbs, but when I’m doing it for 8-12 reps I generally have somewhere around 65lbs. The key is to find out what you can manage with the rep count and then go from there either increasing it if it’s too easy or slightly decreasing the weight if it’s too hard.

Overhead Barbell Press 3×8

ohp

Arnold Dumbbell Shoulder Press 5×5

arnold-shoulder-press-animation

Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3×12

dumbbell-lateral-raise

Rear Delt Fly 3×12

Two_Armed_Bent_Over_Flyes-1

Ez-Bar Curl 6×3

EZ-Bar-Curl

Incline Dumbbell Curl 3×8

incline dumbbell curl

Overhead Tricep Extension 3×12

Standing+Two+Arm+Overhead+Dumbbell+Triceps+Extensions

*feel free to do single-arm tricep extensions.

Lying dumbbell tricep extension 3×8

dumbbell-lying-triceps-extension

 

Now that you’ve successfully done 3 days of working out, enjoy an off day and then start back with Day 1 again! Great job!!

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Working Out: Day 2

So, you’ve successfully finished your chest day. You may be sore, or in pain, but rest assured it’s Delayed Onset Pain. It’s a normal part of working out, just make sure to stretch a bit and keep hydrated. It’ll help your body recover. Tasha will be posting some content on stretching soon, be sure to keep your eyes out for it.

Well, now we are on Day 2. This is going to be a leg workout. Legs are notorious for being hard to grow, and there’s no trick to working your legs. It just requires some perseverance and willingness to go beyond what you think your limits are.

When picking a weight you want to do something that challenges you, yet you’re still able to maintain form. The goal here is to get a solid rep count while still having a few reps in the tank. In other words, you aren’t suppose to go to failure. If it’s too heavy after the first set, don’t be ashamed to get a lighter weight.

Kettle Bell Squats 5×5

Kettlebell-Squat

*The key thing with squats of any kind is to make sure that you keep your back straight throughout the movement.

One-legged Kettle Bell Deadlift 5×5

kettlebell-one-leg-deadlift-exercise

Like with squats, you want to keep your back straight with this movement. Also, with key to the deadlift is to not bend your knees too much. You should feel this exercise in your hamstring. If you’re having difficulty with balance, feel free to grab another kettle bell and have one in both hands, or alternatively, hold on to something with your free hand. Though I recommend trying to get the balance aspect down.

Dumbbell Split Squats 3×8

split-squats

Make sure to keep your back straight. Also, you don’t want your back knee to touch the ground.

Leg Extensions 3×12

Leg Extension

You don’t have to do this exercise fast. Look for control over speed. The burn will be real, but so will the gains.

Leg Curls 3×12

leg curl

Like the leg extension, you don’t need to do the exercise fast, just control it and try to really get through the whole range of motion.

Calf Raises 3×15

Stair-Calf-Raises

I’d prefer to do this with one calf at a time, or a unilateral approach. If you’re just starting out, feel free to do both calves at the same time, but increase your reps to about 20-25. If you’re not really feeling much with either way, then try holding a dumbbell.

Thanks for checking this guide out. Look for Day 3 tomorrow!

Pardon the brief hiatus

Things got a little crazy for me in February to March. I had an online class that I needed to take in order to work towards my teacher’s license. It wasn’t fun, and I really felt terrible for not posting any content, but rest assured, now that the course is over content will be flowing on a regular basis!

Thanks for sticking it out with me/us.