Tag: strength training

7 Super Supplements for Bodybuilding

 

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Athletes such as bodybuilders are always trying to find the most efficient ways to achieve their physical fitness goals, including supplementation. There are many helpful and completely natural supplements available today to help weightlifters more quickly build the lean muscle they desire.

Below is a list of 7 extremely beneficial bodybuilding supplements, and what they may be able to do for you:

1. Creatine—

Found naturally in beef and fish, creatine works by providing the muscles with extra energy during a workout, causing better results. It also helps replenish energy faster during a workout, and some reports have shown it may decrease the risk of heart disease in those who use it.

2. Caffeine—

Seems so simple to think that your morning coffee could increase the productivity of your workout, but it goes beyond merely giving you extra energy. One study found that ingesting caffeine before weight training increased strength by 10% (source: European Journal of Applied Physiology). Caffeine also increases tolerance to pain to help push through a rough set.

3. Deer Antler Spray—

Completely natural and loaded with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, anti-inflammatory agents and an insulin-like natural growth hormone, deer antler spray is becoming popular because of its ability to help strengthen muscles while helping muscles recover faster. Derived from the pre-calcified antlers of male deer, this supplement has also been reported to increase blood circulation, giving the user a better workout and quicker results.

4. Protein—

If you want to build muscles up, you have to give them the fuel they need to grow and heal, and one of the most basic supplements for this is protein. Many bodybuilders prefer why protein because it is absorbed quickly into the body, helping to increase lean muscle mass. Others prefer casein protein taken at night to achieve their protein needs. Soy protein is not generally recommended, as it can mimic estrogen in the body when consumed in large amounts.

5. ZMA—

ZMA is a patented mineral formula that has been getting attention lately because of its ability to speed muscle recovery. With zinc, magnesium and amino acids to strengthen the immune system and increase testosterone, ZMA also includes antioxidants to decrease toxicity in the liver.

6. L-Glutamine—

L-Glutamine is an amino acid that aids protein in building muscle, making it an important addition to any supplementation schedule. Increasing growth hormone production, L-Glutamine speeds up muscle recovery and is recommended before and after a workout. If you want to prevent muscle breakdown, this is the supplement to use. It is naturally found in many foods, such as meat, eggs, dairy and spinach, so if you eat a lot of animal products, you’re already consuming a decent amount of this substance.

7. CLA—

Naturally occurring in animal products such as meat and dairy, CLA (a.k.a. Conjugated Linoleic Acid) is a fatty acid that helps build lean muscle mass. CLA can also boost the immune system and fight free radicals with the antioxidants it offers, potentially lessening the risk of certain cancers.

If you have reached a bodybuilding plateau and would like to give your muscles a way to build the strength and mass you’ve been striving for, you might try adding some of the supplements listed above to your nutritional regime. You’ve got nothing to lose, and muscle to gain, right?

Make It Move: 5 Ways to Crank-Up Your Middle-Aged Metabolism

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With age comes wisdom, but some of us would gladly trade a bit of that hard-earned knowledge for the body we took entirely for granted in our 20s. Joints start to ache as we get older, muscles are pulled more easily, and perhaps the worst thing of all that happens is the slowing down of our once-speedy metabolisms.

Like a lot of things we’ve learned about in life, this simply isn’t fair, but the good news is that there are many things we can do to stay in shape as we age. We may have to work a little harder to get there than when we were younger, but it is still entirely possible to maintain a fit and healthy physique.

 

Below are 5 top tips to speed up a sluggish middle-aged metabolism:

 

1. Set a Schedule—

Some people like to eat 6 small meals a day, and some choose the traditional 3, but the most recent research has shown the amount of meals per day actually doesn’t matter as much as we once thought – calories are calories.

If maintaining even blood sugar levels is mandatory, multiple, mini-meals may be your smartest choice, but if you’re a 3-squares-a-day kind of person, that’s okay, too.

However, no matter how often you choose to eat, the most important thing is consistency: set an eating schedule and stick to it. When your body feels deprived, it goes into starvation mode, which lowers metabolism, so let it know what to expect and deliver the goods on time.

 

2. Muscle Up, Buttercup—

In addition to increasing bone mineral density, adding weightlifting to your workout routine can build muscles, which automatically increases resting metabolic rate.

Strength training exercises can also build up muscles around aching joints to take the pressure off of them, reducing strain and pain.

When starting a weightlifting regimen, remember that you don’t recover as quickly as your younger self, so start slow. If you can’t do 15-20 repetitions, lower the weight, and gradually work up to it. Pushing yourself too hard can result in an injury, which will send you frustrated and limping back to the beginning.

 

3. Make More Movement—

Your days of circling the parking lot, vying for the up-front parking are over. If you want to boost your metabolism, one of the best ways to do this is to create reasons to go the long way – like parking at the back of the lot. On purpose.

If you work in a building with an elevator, make friends with the stairs; they will thank you by burning calories and building muscles. Finding a walking buddy to get some head-clearing and fat-burning exercise on your lunch break is another great idea.

If you can get up and walk around while on the phone, even pacing while you chat is an excellent way to sneak in more movement.

 

4. Protein is Your Pal—

Studies have proven that protein not only assists in the building of muscles, it makes us feel more satisfied than carbohydrates, which can cut down on daily calories consumed.

Try to include a little protein with every meal for increased feelings of fullness and steadier glucose levels to eliminate hunger-binging.

High-protein yogurt (such as Greek) can be especially helpful for weight loss, as it also contains probiotics to bolster good intestinal flora and assist in digestion.

 

5. Slow Down to Speed Up—

The stress hormone cortisol is a common carbohydrate-craving culprit that can cause extra weight gain, especially in the belly area. Not getting enough sleep can also increase levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite.

The solution to this hormonal weight gain double whammy is difficult for many: making sleep a priority, and getting a minimum of 7 hours per night. But no matter how hectic your life may be, it’s crucial to get a good night’s sleep.

Yoga and meditation are also wonderful ways to stretch, relax, soothe the soul and de-stress. And if nature eases your mind, gardening or taking a hike somewhere green can work wonders, as well.

 

If you’ve noticed you can’t eat as much as before without gaining weight, and the ways you used to stay in shape are no longer working: don’t give up. Try some of the ideas above, and move your metabolism back into a higher, fat-fighting range to keep your body burning calories like a champ and feeling great.

Exercise Etiquette: Top 5 Mistakes Gym Newbies Might Make

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You finally joined a gym, signed on the line, and you’re officially a member of the fitness club. Good for you! You’ve probably been given a tour of the machines by an employee, and now you’re on your own. Excited. Nervous. Alone.

It’s normal at this point to feel a bit self-conscious about being the new kid in the gym, but if you know some basic mistakes to avoid, you won’t stand out. (Or at least you won’t annoy the grumpier gym veterans.)

Plus, there is certain workout protocol that everyone should know, and sometimes these flubs are exhibited by folks who should really know better.

Read below about 5 common gym beginner mistakes… and how you can avoid making them.

 

1. Cardio Coma—

You’ve probably seen them: the person who monopolizes the recumbent bike for an hour, leisurely reading a book and pedaling, or the person on the treadmill spending more energy on their fascinating cell phone conversation than the workout.

These cardio zombies might as well be napping on cots in the back of the gym, because they aren’t accomplishing anything that has to do with fitness. Worse, they’re monopolizing the equipment and wasting the time of people who came to exercise.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: If you’re not pushing yourself, move on and let someone else use the machine. And stick to a 30 minute limit if all cardio machines are full.

 

2. Form Malfunction—

It’s better to do 10 repetitions of an exercise the proper way than 25 the wrong way. Learn how to do all exercises correctly by asking an employee, a friend, reading the instructions on the machine, or doing prior research.

Improper form not only makes you look like a novice, it also makes you more prone to injury. Whipping through your reps and using the force of momentum and gravity rather than muscles is another quick way to look like a rookie.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Don’t slam or drop the weights at the end of each rep or set. Controlling the weight on the way down is how professionals build muscles more efficiently, and nobody likes sudden clanking noises while they’re trying to concentrate.

 

3. Wrong Weight—

Women in particular often have a fear of bulking up by using too much weight when they strength train. This fear is completely unfounded, however, as most women lack the hormones and genetics for this.

For building lean muscle, it’s generally recommended to lift as much as you can still handle while maintaining proper form for 2 to 4 sets of 15 to 20 reps each. If you stop breaking a sweat, it’s time to move your weight up.

Men often do the opposite of this and try to lift more weight than they can handle without maintaining proper form, often leading to injury or loud dropping of the weights—officially making them That Annoying Guy Who’s Doing It Wrong in the gym.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Speaking of weight, you may see a sign at your gym that says “Please rack all weights.” This means that if you put weights onto a machine, please take them off afterward. This bad gym habit is perplexing because it makes no sense that people who pay to exercise in a gym are then too lazy to do so.

 

4. Skipping Stretching—

It’s important to warm up by stretching and/or doing cardio before starting the strenuous part of a workout. This will limber up the muscles, preventing injury, cramping, and enhancing performance.

Doing 20-30 minutes of cardio after intense exercise such as strength training has also been shown to better eliminate lactic acid from the muscles, for a quicker recovery and less painful next day.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Always wipe down machines when you’re finished to remove wetness for the next user. It’s really unpleasant to sit down into the sweat of a stranger.

 

5. Adoring Experts—

There are a lot of know-it-alls in the world who want to sell you the latest workout equipment, recovery drink, or weight loss pill, and promise they have the answers to all your fitness needs. But you will learn what works best for you through trial and error, and not through the exercise world equivalent of magic beans. Ignore them.

Proper Gym Etiquette Tip: Some of these “experts” may be walking around your gym in the form of people with “pro-tips” to help you work out better. Because they don’t know your medical history, fitness level or physical limitations, this behavior is not only egotistical, it’s completely irresponsible. Ignore them, too.

 

Remember to adjust the machines to your size, mix up your routine to work different muscle groups, and most importantly, listen to your body. If you experience sharp pain, stop immediately, and be sure to take days off to let your body rest and heal.

If you follow the 5 tips above, you’ll blend in quickly at you gym and look like you’ve been there for years.

Safe Strength Training for Kids: 5 Tips to Make It Helpful, Not Hurtful

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Most doctors generally agree that heavy-weight strength training and power lifting are not safe activities until after puberty, as they can damage growth plates in young bones, as well as harming joints and tendons.

But lifting light free weights, using resistance bands, and other forms of strength training have been shown to be highly beneficial for kids when properly performed. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has deemed strength training for children to be safe after age 7 as long as children use light weights and get medical clearance from a doctor first. (Source: WebMD.)

In addition to helping kids maintain a healthy weight to avoid issues like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, carefully guided light resistance exercises can increase muscle strength, protect kids from sports injuries, improve balance, athletic performance and coordination. Many parents also notice a boost in self-esteem and increase in positive body image as kids begin to feel stronger and fitter.

If you’re considering strength training as a form of healthy exercise for your child, there are specific guidelines and rules to follow to ensure their well-being. Below are 5 tips from pediatricians and child fitness experts to help anyone develop a safe and effective strength training routine for kids.

 

1. Warm Up and Stretch—

It’s as important for kids to warm up before pushing muscles as it is for adults, so be sure children get aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, biking, jumping rope or doing jumping jacks before lifting weights.

Stretching the muscles before strength training can prevent injury, and yoga poses or floor extensions can also be great for limbering up muscles and tendons.

 

2. Keep the Weights Light—

Until kids have gone through puberty, they are physically unable to pack on muscle like grown-ups, so don’t push them to lift overly heavy weights.

If the child can’t perform at least 12-15 repetitions of a weight-bearing exercise, it’s too heavy and can damage growth plates in the bones, making it crucial to keep weights light and repetitions high.

Sit-ups, push-ups and resistance tubing/elastic bands are all safe after age 7, so don’t forget that there are other strength-building options besides free weights.

 

3. Set Realistic Expectations—

Children are especially known for seeking instant gratification, so in order to avoid disappointment later, be careful not to give your child unrealistic expectations about what strength training can do for them.

Make it clear that they will not be able to achieve the muscles they see on movie superheroes, but they will be able to become stronger and more powerful.

Letting kids know that strength training may enable them to perform better in athletic activities such as sports is a reasonable potential outcome to give as well.

 

4. Proper Form is King—

As with adult weightlifting, it’s better to do 5 reps of an exercise with correct form than 15 reps the wrong way. Weight and resistance create potential for injury when strength training is done incorrectly, making it especially important to work out the right way when a child is involved.

If you are not already trained to do all exercises properly, research your regimen or consider hiring a personal trainer to guide you and your child until you both learn how to safely and effectively perform every movement.

Once you’ve achieved proper form in all exercises, it’s still important to supervise your child’s weightlifting activities to prevent “overconfidence injuries” caused by kids pushing themselves to lift too much.

 

5. Rest for Growing Bones—

Adult bones need frequent strength training and weight resistance to increase bone mineral density, but kids don’t require this, nor is it good for them.

Because the bones, joints and tendons used in strength training are still growing, it’s generally recommended that children participate in weight-bearing and resistance exercises no more than 3 times a week, with a day off between each session to heal.

It’s also important to have a cooling down session, light aerobic exercise, or stretching post-workout. This can prevent the muscles from tightening up or cramping, and help work lactic acid out of them for a pain-free next day.

 

Starting a child on the path to fitness early with an exercise program can instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime, and working out along with them sets a good example while providing excellent parent/child bonding time. If you’d like to include your child in your current workout, or start an exercise plan together, get the go-ahead from your child’s pediatrician, use the tips above, and get started today.

Strength Training: 5 Basic Tips for Nervous Newbies

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Cardio exercise is easy to figure out: we’ve been running, climbing stairs, and doing other forms of this healthy exercise since we were kids. But the weight machine side of the gym can be daunting for those who’ve never been trained in proper technique, making it an unknown and intimidating addition to any workout regimen.

But strength training is important because it creates muscle mass, naturally protecting the joints and body from harm. Resistance also builds bone mineral density, which begins to decrease as we age. This means that cardio is only half of the workout necessary for maximum health benefits, necessitating some form of strength training for anyone who wants to be in great shape.

If you’re interested in adding weightlifting or strength training to your physical routine, below are some recommendations and suggestions to make the transition easier for you.

 

1. Stretch the Muscles—

Before you shock muscles that haven’t been lifting heavy things with a sudden leap into strength training, it’s important to stretch them so they’ll be warm, limber and ready for action.

Cold muscles are also more prone to injury, and a painful setback can be extremely demotivating, making it important to be careful.

Stretching can be done via floor mat exercises such as yoga positions, or through a light cardio warm-up like 30 minutes of cycling or treadmill walking. Your goal is to get the blood moving through the muscles without completely wearing them out, because you’ll need that strength, so don’t push too hard.

 

2. Start Slowly—

Remember the tortoise and the hare fable about how slow and steady wins the race? It’s time to be the tortoise, because that lesson truly applies to any form of weightlifting. If you burn out your muscles too fast, you’ll have nothing left for the end of the race.

To find the right amount of weight for results without injury or muscle strain, be sure you can do 2-3 sets of at least 12-15 reps of the exercise you’re doing; and if it hurts in a sudden, shooting, or non-achy way, stop immediately. Alternately, if you can do 15 reps or more without any fatigue, it’s time to add a little weight. (Progress!)

If you do push muscles to the point of a light strain, ice the painful area immediately and take ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. If you give yourself an extra day or two of rest after pushing an area too hard, you will generally be able to heal without loss of progress. But a more serious injury can potentially set you back for weeks, so take it easy when starting out.

 

3. Proper Form is King—

Any professional weightlifter will tell you this well-known truth: It’s better to do 5 reps of a strength training exercise with the correct technique than to do 15 reps the wrong way.

Some common weightlifting mistakes, for example, would be locking the knee and elbow joints so the bones are taking on the strain, rather than the muscles, or letting the weights fall or slam down after lifting, which prevents the muscles from receiving the resistance benefits on the way down. These are both lazy lifting habits that waste time and energy, as well as potentially causing injury.

Having a professional trainer or gym employee walk you through the proper use of the machines is a service most reputable gyms offer for free, and is well worth the time, even if it makes you feel a bit self-conscious. (Remember that everyone around you using the machines as you take your “tour” had to be taught correct form by someone once, too.)

 

4. Be Consistent—

If you want results, you’ll need to stick with your strength training regimen, and generally 3-4 days a week is recommended for optimum advancement.

You will also need to monitor your progress as you move forward, adding weight/resistance as you go to keep yourself from hitting a plateau. If this happens, switch up the types of exercises you’re doing, such as using resistance bands instead of the machines a few days a week (or try using some new machines).

Forcing your body out of a workout rut with different challenges can get you back to making progress, while keeping you intellectually stimulated as well.

 

5. Recovery Rules—

In general, calf muscles and abdominals can be worked nearly every day because they recover quickly, but the other larger muscle groups need 24 to 48 hours between workouts to heal.

Muscles are formed by microscopic tearing of fibers that repair themselves to be stronger for the next workout, but they can’t do this is they’re constantly being broken down.

Recovery and rest are necessary parts of a successful strength training program, and will help prevent strain and injury as well, so consider cardio on the days between, and don’t push too hard, too often.

 

Once you begin a strength training program and know what you’re doing, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start years ago as you reap the rewards, such as increased muscle mass and a faster metabolism – and be sure to enjoy the better way your clothes are fitting as your body tightens up. Use the tips above to start strength training, and finally get into the amazing shape you’ve been working so hard to achieve.