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Recent Bodybuilding Articles

How To Choose The Right Weight Gainer

weight gainer

Weight gain supplements are so common they have found their way into the mainstream through television, movies, and advertisements. A trip to the grocery store may reveal them lurking on the shelves. As with any supplement, the more popularity they gain, the more supplement companies jump on board with their own versions. How does a person wade through this confusing market and find the right weight gainer?

First it is important to note that counterfeiting in the weight gain market is uncommon, unlike other supplement areas. A weight gain formula simply needs extra calories to work and this is fairly cheap to accomplish. Most supplement manufacturers would not waste their time, or risk their reputation, on fake weight gain formulas. When trying to find a good weight gain formula it is important to remember that the goal is to gain muscle. To accomplish this a weight gain formula must have the right nutrients in a good ratio to add muscle and not just fat.

A few key points will help in the quest for the right weight gainer. Number one, flavor is not everything. Flavor comes at the expense of added sugar, and sugar does not build muscle. Actually, sugar can cause an insulin spike that opens up receptors on the fat cells and shuffles the excess calories there instead of the muscles. Some sugar (no more than 5 to 10 grams per serving) may be okay to make the drink palatable, but no more. Other carbohydrates in the formula should be complex carbohydrates, with at least a little fiber thrown in to enhance digestion.

The second point involves protein. It is important to remember that muscles are made up of mostly protein and water. Since the muscles require protein (more specifically amino acids) to repair damaged fibers and build new ones, protein becomes an essential piece of the weight gainer puzzle. Depending on how the weight gainer will be used, the amount of protein needed may vary. If the weight gainer is used to replace a meal then you will want one with a higher protein content. If it is simply an in-between meal supplement to add extra calories, and your regular meals are high in protein then the protein content does not need to be as high. Protein and carbohydrate content should be close to even, and protein should be at least double the sugar content.

Ease of mixing is the third key point. A good weight gainer is one you can throw in your car and mix on the road if needed. This provides muscle-feeding calories where ever, and when ever, they are needed. While on the road you can grab a container of milk (or water) from the store and mix the weight gainer on the spot. This comes in handy when you would otherwise have to skip a meal due to being away from home. It should not be a regular occurrence, but serves well in an emergency.

Look for a gainer with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. This will help ensure overall health. A strong, efficient system is important for solid gains. Some formulas add specific amino acids, chromium, creatine and metabolic activators to enhance the formula. This can be a convenient way to get these other nutrients, but if you already take them separately it may not be necessary. Some companies will throw some of the cheaper extras in and hype the enhanced quality, but the extras really have no added benefit. This allows them to increase the price. Avoid these ones, they are more hype than benefit.

A good weight gainer should be low in sugar with some good quality complex carbohydrates. It should have good quality proteins almost equal to the carbohydrate content. A few additional components added to it, such as creatine, glutamine or vitamins and minerals, can be beneficial, as well. All of this in an easy to mix formula makes for a good weight gainer that will help pack on solid weight when accompanied by a solid training program. This is the essential piece, a weight gainer will not add muscle without a stimulus to use those calories for good. Extra calories without intense workouts leads to added fat stores and no added muscle. Lastly, don’’t rely on the name on the bucket to tell you if it is a good product. Research a little. Ask fellow lifters or check out a few online forums. Read the label, and not just the nutritional panel, but also the ingredients list. A good weight gainer can supply those muscle-feeding calories and nutrients to put you over the edge, when coupled with intense, muscle expanding workouts.

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All About The Chicken

One of the main staples of any bodybuilder’s diet is chicken…and lots of it. Eating so much poultry can be a challenge unto itself, it can be expensive, time consuming to prepare and potentially hazardous to your health if not looked after properly. Below are some tips and guidelines to help streamline this portion of your bodybuilding diet and make the largest element of your daily meals a joy to work with.

Chicken or poultry is one of the most versatile and simple meats available; it is available in many forms, reasonably priced and can be cooked in so many different ways, offering so many various flavours, it really is the best source of protein a bodybuilder can add to his diet.

Staring along the meat cooler and butcher counter at you local supermarket will give you some idea of the numerous cuts of poultry that are available; whole chickens, legs, wings, breasts, necks and many other assortments of chicken parts. You can choose from simple cuts of light or dark meat areas, whole cut legs with the bone and skin left intact, or even skinless / boneless breasts and legs. Speaking strictly about taste and pure culinary enjoyment, an outdoor grilled chicken leg with the skin and bone left in, basted with a mild jerk sauce and served with sweet bread, might just be the best dish on earth, though from a health and nutrition standpoint may not be the best choice.

It is widely accepted that skinless boneless chicken breasts are the way to go for a high protein bodybuilding diet; three to four breasts a day fits the bill quite nicely. If you’re buying your chicken in line with your regular grocery trip from the supermarket, you and you wallet may be cringing at the thought of consuming three to four chicken breasts a day, but there are easier and less expensive ways to shop.

With some possible exceptions, most cities have available wholesale butchers and poultry production factories that will likely offer walk-in sales to non-wholesale buyers through factory outlets. Quite often these factory outlets offer sales and discounts beyond what your grocery store mark up will allow, not mentioning the overall price advantage of buying straight from the factory. Typically the product offered through these wholesalers is pre-packaged boxes of standard poultry cuts, including skinless boneless breasts. These boxes, ranging anywhere from 3-8kgs, can contain enough chicken to sustain your diet for a two week period, reaching only nearly half what it might cost through the supermarket. All you need to do beyond that is make sure there’s enough freezer space to hold all that meat, well, nearly all.

So once you’ve found a deal on “bulk” chicken and cleared enough space in your icebox, what next? Unless you plan to eat the entire box of breasts in one sitting, at least a portion of it needs to be frozen before cooking. If you can avoid exposing the meat to the air during freezing, you can usually reduce, if not eliminate, the amount of freezer burn it will suffer; leaving the box sealed until you need it is of course your best option. Never, never, thaw chicken and refreeze it, if you must thaw the chicken, cook it and simply refrigerate the uneaten portion.

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Let’s talk briefly about Salmonella bacteria or food poisoning; Salmonella is a bacteria that is found naturally in the intestines of animals, birds, reptiles, some pets and even humans; but is also found in the environment. People who eat food contaminated by or are exposed to Salmonella can become ill with salmonellosis, also commonly referred to as food poisoning. Chicken and pork are the two most likely sources of food borne salmonella bacteria in the home, and both meats if handled improperly can spread the bacteria to cooking surfaces, utensils and to other food through direct or indirect contact. The process of cooking the meat (heating it to the appropriate temperature for the prescribed amount of time), will destroy any bacteria already present within the flesh, though transfer of the bacteria can occur as the meat comes into contact with other food stuffs, and cookware etc prior to cooking. Always be sure to keep your food preparation area clean and use clean utensils and cookware for preparing your chicken. It’s a good idea to rinse or wash your thawed chicken breast in water prior to beginning your preparations; be sure to wash your hands with soap and hot water after handling raw chicken.

Now you’re ready to get cooking, but have you thought of the method you’re going to use to turn that hunk of raw poultry into a tasty and nutritious meal? While there are many ways to cook that breast, some are less healthy and efficient than others and it’s important to find a method that lets you retain the natural benefits of the meat, while remaining appetizing and not adding too much bad fat or extra carbohydrate to your diet. Let’s look at the three most popular and simple ways to cook your chicken; boiling, broiling and grilling.

The simplest and perhaps best way to preserve all of the natural amino acids and enzymes in the meat is to boil the chicken in water, otherwise known as poaching. Since there is no searing or charring involved and no actual hot surface is touching the flesh of the chicken, nothing is lost during the process of cooking and thus the finished product is pure and unaltered; in addition, boiling the chicken adds nothing to the meat such as fats or carbohydrates from sauces etc.

Different spices and seasonings are available to add flavour, which is carried into the meat through the boiling process, but essentially, boiling is the best way to ensure your chicken is just that…pure chicken. The only drawback to poached chicken is that the flavour can be somewhat distilled and faint, so for those who prefer a more flavourful chicken experience, broiling may be the way to go.

Broiling chicken involves placing the meat in the oven at high temperature for specific amounts of time, usually basted and/or pre-marinated in sauces, rubs and various spices. This type of cooking can be time consuming, though it would be possible to cook several breasts at once, depending on the size of your cookware. You will find that broiling chicken results in a much more flavourful and tender finished dish, the heat and length of time help to draw the flavours and oils from the basting sauces etc into the meat, essentially permeating the entire breast with foreign substances. Obviously, adding sauces to your chicken is not only going to change the flavour of the meat, but it will also add fats, oils and carbohydrates to the chicken, as well as alter some of the amino acid chains naturally found in the meat. The effect of the change could be insignificant, depending on the types of sauces (i.e. low fat products etc), or it could result in a fattening, cholesterol rich meal that would ultimately be detrimental to the goal of your diet.

Lastly, and perhaps finally (to the backyard grill masters out there), there is grilling. Virtually every restaurant you could go to offers some variety of grilled chicken, usually a skinless boneless chicken breast, grilled with a light oil basting, served with some form of pasta or rice, and you might be hard pressed to find a person who has not at some point tried similar recipes and dishes at home. Whether you plan to grill your chicken on an indoor electric grill or outdoors on a charcoal or gas grill, the process is virtually the same. As with boiling, grilling can be done to add nothing extra to your chicken, simply placing an unseasoned, plain breast on the grill can provide you with a nicely cooked and pure source of protein, though it would be less than tasty. There are many hundreds of barbeque sauces available and even some decent low fat, low cholesterol choices; marinating and basting your breast in one, or a combination of sauces is a good way to flavorize the meat, though, as with broiling you end up adding fats and carbohydrates to the meal. The difference might be, at least with open grilling, that a good deal of the oils and fats are burned off in the fire, leaving most of the flavours and less of the undesired contaminants; and again, the process of grilling leaves the chicken slightly altered, as far as it’s amino acid content, though the change is negligible and not enough to drastically alter the quality of the meat.

Any way you slice it, chicken is a tasty and effective way to increase the amount of protein in your diet, while not sacrificing taste and satisfaction from your meals. Make wise choices and you will be rewarded with an effective and wholesome diet that will support your bodybuilding goals.

See below for some quick and easy recipes for tasty and healthy chicken dishes.

EASY GRILLED CHICKEN
Ingredients
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 cup fat free Italian-style dressing
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini (substitute fresh mushrooms is desired)
Directions
1. Place washed chicken breasts in large sealable bag. Add 1 cup fat-free Italian dressing and close. Let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Cut up peppers into big chunks, and zucchini into big slices. Put into another sealable bag. Coat with leftover dressing.
3. Grill chicken and veggies over medium heat.

PANSEARED CAESAR CHICKEN
Ingredients
  • 2 - Large skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 - Cup light (low fat / low cholesterol) Caesar salad dressing
  • Pinch - Seasoning salt or poultry seasoning
Directions
1. Place breasts in a low flat dish and pour dressing over breasts (be sure to cover breasts in sauce) and mix in seasoning, let marinate for 5-10 minutes
2. Preheat frying pan to medium heat
3. Place breasts in pan and pour dressing mixture on top, fry in pan until done
Tip – baste a small amount of the cooked dressing on the breasts after removing them from the pan for a small bit of added flavour

POACHED LEMON CHICKEN
Ingredients
  • 6 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 lg. onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 peppercorns
  • Salt to taste
  • Water to cover
Directions
1. Place chicken breasts in a layer in large skillet.
2. Top with onion, lemon juice, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt.
3. Pour over enough water to cover.
4. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium/low and cook 10-15 minutes or until chicken is tender.
5. Remove from heat and allow to cool in its liquid.

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Easy Ways To Increase Muscle Gains

For some of us it might be enough to simply go through the motions; to lift without attention and focus. Though, for most of us, gaining muscle will require a great deal of concentration, focus and adaptive training. For the most part, bodybuilding is a difficult endeavor to be successful with. What follows are some simple tips to maximize the growth of your muscles.

Many beginner bodybuilders will enjoy some fairly rapid gains within their first six months of training. Their body is being assaulted from every angle; it’s being forced to adapt to a new set of physical requirements and hopefully that beginner’s diet is sufficient enough to sustain that adaptation on an ongoing basis, thus allowing significant lean muscle mass gains.

What about beyond that first six months though? Your gains start to slow down, you notice reduced muscle soreness between workouts, maybe you sweat less during your workouts, and you feel less tired in general. Well, the fitness guru would tell you that you achieved your goals; you are now on a healthier path. Your heart is stronger (hence feeling less tired), your cardiovascular system on the whole is operating much more efficiently (the reduced sweating), your muscles are far more efficient at repairing damage due to strenuous exercise (lack of soreness), and your body is adapting well to the rigors of regular strenuous exercise (the reduced gains). This, however, is obviously counterproductive to your actual goals as a bodybuilder.

What you have reached is your first training plateau. Beyond this point is where you will have to commit the resources of your greatest muscle to this endeavor...your brain. If you were to continue to train as you have been, you wouldn’t necessarily do yourself any harm, but you would certain experience some greatly reduced gains. The human body is a marvel of adaptability; it will find a balance between energy out put and energy intake, and will adapt itself to fit those levels, all in an effort to maintain the status quo. In order to make continuous and efficient muscle gains, you must continually push your body to its limits.

We’ve all heard the colorful and memorable idiom, 'go heavy or go home'; and while often misunderstood as a male bravado excuse to grunt loudly and impress women, it is actually an intelligent gem of advice. The only way muscle will be gained is by stimulating the muscle group in question through increasing resistance training (essentially tearing the muscle fibers with each movement and causing the body to repair those muscles, in turn making them bigger). The problem lies in the adaptability of your body. Over time, your muscles will become accustom to the demands of your regular workout; your muscles will grow to be strong enough to handle the normal amount of weight you train with and will no longer need to repair themselves afterward. To counteract this is to continually lift heavier weights and rearrange your daily regime. You will find that most bodybuilders have no difficulty with the concept, though a great many do not understand why. The rate of adaptability you experience will be unique to you, so therefore the rate at which your weights increase will also be unique to you. As stated previously, bodybuilding is a sport in which you compete only against yourself (even on stage in actual competition, which we will discuss later). This is why it’s important to maintain a log book of your daily workout routine. Marking the reps, sets and weights lifted for each exercise will allow you to review your training history and determine if you have been increasing your weights at regular intervals and correlate those figures to your muscle gains.

The short story here is...lift as heavy as you can as often as you can; though that's not the whole story.

If your gains have slowed over a period of time, adapt your plan to not only increase your weights, but also change the specific movements and the order of the movements in your daily routine. Your body will adapt so well that staying with the same exercise order and workout schedule will also begin to reduce your gains. A general rule of thumb is to change your routine every three weeks to six weeks. You don’t need to make drastic changes, and in fact you can simply rearrange the order in which you perform exercises on each day. The level of change necessary will depend on how drastically you need to increase your gains.

By now you know what a rep is and a set is. A rep (repetition) being the unit of measure for each exercise movement (each time you lift the weight), and a set being the grouping of total reps for that exercise. A typical exercise will be comprised of three sets of eight to ten reps. More advanced bodybuilders will play with these numbers in an effort to customize their training for their specific circumstances in any given week or day, but generally 3 sets for 8-10 reps is normal for most bodybuilders.

A typical exercise will begin with a warm up (a very important beginning set at a lower weight), which is not usually counted as one of the three planned sets. Then the first set will normally be ten reps at an easily manageable weight (meaning that ten reps can be managed with little strain, but not much more), and then the remaining sets will be of incrementally greater weight, with the third and final set being of a weight that can only just be managed for between eight and ten reps (or as low as 6 reps for more advanced bodybuilders).

The terms failure and pump are often used to describe the feeling within the muscle at the completion of that third set. Often these terms are confused among each other, though each term describes its own distinct characteristics.

Before outlining those characteristics, understand that training without a spotter is dangerous and not recommended. (A person capable of lifting the weight you are using, who stands ready to assist in the event that you are unable to lift or become injured during the movement) Always use a capable and trusted spotter to prevent injuries and to assist with your form for each movement.

These terms describe the end result for a given exercise. For instance, performing three sets of incrementally greater weight on a particular exercise, ensuring that the cumulative effect of those sets is that you are unable to lift the weight even one more time without assistance would be known as 'working to failure’. Pump or tightness describes the size of the muscle following the movement, speaking to the volume of blood that can be 'pumped’ into the muscle through stimulation.

Many bodybuilders argue the validity of working to pump or failure for maximum muscle gain, with groups advocating either one or the other. Technically speaking, training to failure would be the most advantageous for the person most interested in gaining raw lean muscle mass, and working to pump is best reserved for times when shaping and trimming muscle groups is needed.

The general tone in this is simple, lift as heavy as you can while remaining safe and you will experience gains. When you’ve reached a plateau and feel like you aren’t making gains in muscle mass or in weights, use an experienced spotter and increase your weights deliberately beyond your failure threshold, to be certain you are stimulating the muscle group deeply enough to push past the plateau.

Now, the term 'form’ was used earlier and likely many were hoping to avoid another lecture on maintaining good form in your movements, but you have no such luck today. One of the most important factors for safety and effectiveness in weight training is form. The next time you're watching some He-Man at your gym lifting a ridiculous amount of weight on flat bench or push downs or even preacher curls, take a look at how he's getting the weight up. Is he moving slowly, in a controlled fashion and deliberately pushing or pulling the weight in a specific arc or direction? Or is he squirming, bending and manipulating the weight to its top point? The former would quite obviously be the safest and most effective method, but when looking around your gym, take note of the numbers of people employing the latter technique.

Form is important for two reasons; first of all, safety. Controlling the movement is the best way to be sure that weight goes where you want it to, translating to a safe movement. If you squirm and wiggle under the weight (or over it), you create opportunities for your joints and muscles to move in unnatural or dangerous ways in response to the stress. Most commonly, bodybuilders will suffer back, knee and shoulder injuries as a result of poor form combined with heavy weight.

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The second reason is effectiveness. Every movement you will perform is targeted to stimulate one muscle or group of muscles, employing poor form in those movements will not only take the focus away from the intended muscle group, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the movement; but in doing so, it will put that focus on other muscle groups, some of which are not capable of withstanding that kind of strain. When trying new movements or even movements you believe you have a full understanding of, be sure to research the proper form of the movement and practice that form with every lift.

Paying attention to form is one of the most effective ways of maximizing your gains. Another highly effective aspect of training to focus on for increased gains is the type of movements you perform. In the world of bodybuilding, there are many hundreds of exercises, movements and combinations of movements at your disposal, and likely you have chosen some of the more popular ones for your training arsenal. In order to maximize your gains, it's important to ensure that your movements or exercises are core focused, or core exercises. As stated previously, every movement targets a specific muscle or muscle group, but it does no good to focus your training on developing smaller, or incidental muscle groups when you could be focusing on the larger groups that are more capable of advanced growth.

For example; one would not expect enviable gains from a training plan whose exercises focus on quadricep adductors only. The adductors are capable of lifting only small amounts of weight in a very specific movement and would provide very little incidental benefit to the rest of your quad in the process. Why not focus your leg routine on the quad itself, which is capable of lifting far more weight and through its movements, will provide ample incidental stimulation to the adductor and the other muscles of the leg. Whenever possible, which should be most of the time, use core movements such as: flat bench press, shoulder press, squats or leg press, deadlifts, rows, dips and pull ups (or downs) to provide appropriate stimulation to the major muscle groups, as well as good incidental stimulation to smaller, supportive muscle groups.

Core movements can be identified as those exercises in which you can lift heavier weights, and should be the focus of your training per body part each day. Augment core exercises with isometric movements and get good overall stimulation.

Beyond training there are other ways to optimize your muscle gains, not the least of which is ensuring that your diet is engineered appropriately for your lifestyle, size and body type (See article on Creating a Diet Plan); but also drinking enough water through out the day and making sure you get enough rest.

The one possible element of your overall bodybuilding plan that may be more important than training or protein intake is rest. Muscle grows when your body is at rest...it's as simple as that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was once quoted as saying “If you don't have to run, walk; if you don't have to walk, stand; if you don't have to stand, sit; if you don't have to sit, lie; and if you don't have to be awake, sleep.” While possibly not practical for the non-professional bodybuilder / movie star, his words are poignant. If you plan to work hard, train hard and play hard, when do you plan to grow?

These are seven of the easiest and most commonly used (or misused) bodybuilding concepts for maximizing lean muscle mass gain in your training plan. Lift heavy using core exercises and good form; eat well, drink lots of water and get lots of rest; and when ever you feel that your gains are slowing down, change things up.

There is nothing random or lucky about large muscle gains, it is a very scientific process that can be controlled, documented, and adapted to meet your own personal requirements. The number one element in every training plan that will lead to either failure or success is easy...it's you. Believe in yourself, be dedicated and smart and you'll make all the gains you're looking for.

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Most Effective Exercises for Building Leg Muscles

In order to get the kind of muscle mass results you are looking for you are going to have to lift rigorously, several times a week. Because it is likely that you will break your routine into upper body and lower body, we have separated our articles the same way.

The following exercises can all be done together and are great for adding muscle mass to your legs.

Deadlift

deadlift

Positioning - Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. The weights should be resting on the ground with the bar crossing over the balls of your feet. Squat down, keeping your eyes forward and your back straight. Grasp the bar just slightly wider than your feet.

The Lift - Keeping your back rigid and arms straight and unbent, raise the bar by extending the knees and hips. The power from this exercise should come from your legs not from your back. Bending your back can lead to herniated discs. Once you have reached the upright position complete the lift by raising your shoulders.

Down Phase - With the same pacing and control you used to lift the bar, return it to the starting position by lowering your body from the knees and hips.

Squats

squats

Positioning - The bar should be should rest on the rack 3 inches lower than the top of the trapezius muscle. You should stand backed up to the bar. Feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width. Hands should be placed evenly on the bar.

Down Phase - Stand up into the bar, holding it steady across the trapezius. Slowly lower your body be bending at the knees and hips. You should always keep your eyes forward and your torso rigid. The tendency to look the direction you are moving can lead to falling, either forward or backward while lifting.

The Press - Once you have reached the bottom of your knee bend, extend your hips and knees and rise to the fully erect position. Exhale throughout this portion of the movement. Make sure that you maintain control of the bar as you reach the end of your motion.

Lunges

lunges

Positioning - Stand with one foot forward and the other back. The distance between the two should be a little longer than your natural stride. Make sure that the position of your front knee is directly above your front foot. In order to get great muscle mass gains you should have a dumbbell in each hand.

Down Phase - Slowly lower your rear knee to the floor by bending your front knee. Keep your Head up and your eyes forward. This will prevent leaning forward.

Recovery - Squeeze you buttocks tightly and rise by straightening both legs. Use your abdominals and lower back to maintain your upper body's position.

Leg Press

leg press

Positioning - This is done on a machine. Sit flat against the chair back, placing your feet firmly on the footpad. Feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width. In the starting position your legs should be bent just past 90°.

The Press - Using your heels as the pressure point (not the balls of your feet), extend your legs to the point just before they lock.

Down Phase - Lower the weight at a controlled pace until you are back to your original starting position.

Calf Raises

calf raises

Positioning - Place your feet firmly on either the base of a calf raise machine or place your toes on the edge of your calf raise block. If you are using a machine then place your shoulders against the pads of the machine. If you are using dumbells make sure that you have them secure in each hand.

The Raise - The only motion should be at the ankle. By pressing down on the balls of your feet you can extend your entire body upwards. Do not bend you knee.

Down Phase - Lower yourself at a controlled pace until the heels of your feet are slightly off the ground.

Leg Extension

leg extension

Positioning - This is done on a leg curl machine. Seated on the chair of the machine your legs go over the top padded bar. This bar should rest behind your knees. Your feet then tuck in behind a lower padded bar. This bar will cross in front of your ankles. Make sure that this pad is just above where your shin meets your foot. The higher that this pad is the shorter you are moving the weight, cheating yourself out muscle mass.

The Extension - Raise the bar by extending your leg in a kicking motion The lift should continue until your calves are parallel to the floor but not so far that you lock your knees.

Down Phase - Lower the weight at a controlled pace until your knees are again bent to the original 90 degree position.

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Five Effective Exercises For Building Bigger Guns

The amount of lifting that is required for serious muscle mass requires a good schedule. As part of that schedule you’ll likely be breaking your routine up into sections. There just isn’t a way to work your entire body to exhaustion all in the same session. A good start is upper body and lower body. The upper body though can be broken down even more. Separating the upper body into chest in one session, and arms in another will allow you to get even bigger muscle mass gains.

The following are some of the best arm exercises for getting bigger and gaining serious muscle mass.

Bicep Curls

bicep curls
Positioning - This can be done many different ways, but one of the best is to use a curl bar. Sections of the bar are angled so that your hands rest at an angle. Simply by grabbing the bars outside grips, underhanded you know that you are in the right position. Your arms should be nearly extended with the bar resting against your thighs.

The Curl - Squeezing the muscle tightly bring the bar up to your chest. Make sure that your elbows remain in the same position throughout the entire curl. Do no let them move back and cheat you out of muscle mass gains.

The Down Phase - From its position at chest level return the bar to it’s starting spot by moving back on the same path that it traveled on the curl. Do not let it go down vertically. The resistance provided when you control the weight on the down phase can add significant muscle gains.

Tricep Extensions

tricep extensions
Positioning - Place your knee on a flat bench. Your other foot should be flat on the ground and your body should be parallel to the bench and directly above it. Place the hand that is opposite the knee (i.e. right knee, left hand) flat on the bench. Use the other hand to grab the dumbbell from the ground, it should be on the side opposite of your foot. Lift the dumbbell so that your elbow is bent at 90° the upper portion of your arm is parallel to the ground.

The Extension - In a smooth motion extend the dumbbell back until your arm is straight. Squeezing your tricep from start to finish will help increase muscle mass.

The Down Phase - Make sure that your upper arm stays parallel to the floor by maintaining a steady pace for the weight. The controlled descent back to the 90° position will help with muscle gains as well.

Hammer Curls

hammer curls
Positioning - This exercise is done with dumbbells. With one in each hand, your arms should hang down at your sides. You palms should be facing in toward the center. This should leave the dumbbells parallel to each other.

The Curl - Squeezing the muscle tightly bring one dumbbell up to your shoulder by bending your elbow. Your elbows may move more than they did on the bicep cur but make sure you are lifting the weights not swinging them. Also do not cheat your muscle mass gains by using the down swing momentum of one hand to fuel the up swing momentum of the other. Pause between each motion and make sure you get the most out of your routine.

The Down Phase - From its position at shoulder level return the dumbbell to it’s starting spot by moving itback on the same path that it moved upwards. Do not let it go down vertically. The resistance provided when you control the weight on the down phase can add significant muscle gains. Throughout this motion, both up and down, the weight should stay in the same alignment, do not rotate or turn it through the motion.

Rope Pulldown

rope pulldown
Positioning - This exercise is done on a cable machine, with a rope-handled attachment. Place your feet shoulder width apart and face the machine. The rope should be set so that when it is at rest your elbows can be tucked against your sides.

The Pulldown - Keeping your elbows pinned to your sides, grab the rope handles and pull down. The only movement should be the extension of your forearms downward. When you start the motion your hands should be next to each other. They should expand out increasing the angle of the rope handle throughout the downward motion. Make sure to keep your torso straight up and down. Do not lean over your hands, you will end up pushing down and cheating yourself out of muscle mass gains.

The Up Phase - The weight on the rope will return it to the starting position as quickly as you let it. Resisting the return is one of the ways to see improvement in your muscle growth. Most exercises for gaining mass are done with free weights but this exercises impact makes the machine a good bet.

French Curl

french curl
Positioning - This exercise uses a curl bar. Sections of the bar are angled so that your hands rest at an angle. Simply by grabbing the bars inside grips, overhanded you know that you are in the right position. Your arms should be nearly extended with the bar resting against your thighs. This can be done on a curl bench, or standing with your feet shoulder width apart.

The Curl - Squeezing the muscle tightly, bring the bar up to your chest. Make sure that your elbows remain tight against your sides throughout the entire curl. By keeping them in one spot you are targeting the muscles individually.

The Down Phase - From its position at chest level return the bar to it’s starting spot by moving back on the same arc that it followed upward. Do not let it go down vertically. The resistance provided when you control the weight on the down phase can add significant muscle gains.

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Most Effective Chest Exercises

The chest is the trophy piece of every person who tries to gain muscle mass. As much as we can tell you not to neglect the other areas of your workout, you, like everyone else, will put a little more into your chest. This isn't just vanity, it's smart too. The chest is the largest muscle group in the upper body. The following exercises are some of the best ways to build chest muscle.

Bench Press

bench press
Positioning - Proper Bench technique begins with your location. As you lie on the bench, the bar should be at its resting position directly above your eyes. From your shoulders to your buttocks should be flat on the bench. Your feet should be at a comfortable width, flat on the floor.

Down Phase - After raising the bar from the resting position, lower it to just below the nipples. This lowering should happen at a controlled pace, do not drop the bar on your chest. This is dangerous for you, and reduces the impact of your workout. You should be inhaling through this portion of the lift.

The Press - Press the weight back to the starting position; arms fully extended, elbows locked. This press should take pace with the same amount of control and force throughout the motion. This will ensure muscle gains throughout the muscle.

Cable Crossovers

cable crossovers
Positioning - This exercise is done between two cable machines. You stand centered in between the two machines with one cable in each hand. With one foot forward for balance hold the handles near your shoulders with your elbows completely bent.

The Crossover - Push forwards and down towards your waist until you hands meet. Exhale as you push, and do not slam your hands together at the end.

The Return - Maintain resistance on the handles as the cables pull back to the start position. Don't let the weights jerk your arms back this can cause injury.

Incline Press

incline press
Positioning - This style of press has you sitting in a chair that is reclined. Chairs are either fixed or adjustable. Your back should be flat against the seat back. Your feet should be at a comfortable width, flat on the floor.

Down Phase - After raising the bar from the resting position, lower it to the top portion of your pectoral muscle. This lowering should happen at a controlled pace, do not drop the bar on your chest. This is dangerous for you, and reduces the impact of your workout.

The Press - Press the weight back to the starting position; arms fully extended, elbows locked. This press should take pace with the same amount of control and force throughout the motion. This is good for working the upper portion of your chest.

Decline Press

decline press
Positioning - This style of press has you lying on a bench with your feet hooked in to pads. Your head will be lower than the rest of your body. These benches are either fixed or adjustable. Your back should be flat against the bench and your feet should be secure in the pads.

Down Phase - After raising the bar from the resting position, lower it to just below the nipples. This lowering should happen at a controlled pace, do not drop the bar on your chest. This exercise works the lower as well as the inner portions of your chest.

The Press - Press the weight back to the starting position; arms fully extended, elbows locked. Make sure that the bar is moving perpendicular to the ground. Because you are inverted and at an angle, it can sometimes be difficult to maintain an exact vertical line. That will be the most beneficial to your muscle mass gains.

Butterfly Press

butterfly press
Positioning - This can be done with free weights or a machine. For the machine you will simply sit in a chair and place your arms against the padded bars. With free weights you will be lying on your back on a bench. Make sure your feet are shoulder width apart. You will have a dumbell in each hand, with your arms bent so that the dumbells are about ear level.

The Lift - On the machine you will push the pads in their pre-set arc, with the palm side of your forearms. For free weights, without changing the bend at your elbow, bring the dumbells together in front of your face.

The Return - For the machine provide resistance at the weights pull the padded arms back to their starting position. For free weights maintain the same arc the weights traveled up slowly lower them down. Use this resistance to help get bigger muscle mass gains.

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Machine Weights Versus Free Weights

machine weights vs free weights

The argument about whether free weights or machines are better for getting results is passionate on both sides. You need results, so we breakdown the argument from both sides. We'll examine the facts and then make some decisions about what is best for the results you are looking for. Both types of weights; free weights and machines, have value. The real question is which one is more valuable to you.

Machines

When you go into a gym you may notice that machines dominate a large portion of the real estate. This has a lot to do with the fact that machines are great for people new to lifting. As you likely know, people who are trying to get back in shape make up a lot of the gym crowd. More power to them and we hope they stick with it, but they normally don't. Next month will bring a new group of people that are trying to get back in shape.

Because of all of this turnover the average experience level of gym members is novice. Machines offer an advantage to these novices. Most machines are pretty self-explanatory and new members can figure them out by looking at them and sitting on them. They basically force the new member to do the exercise the way the machine was designed. This helps them get a foothold in the world of lifting and also keeps them safe.

Another advantage offered by machines—and this one applies to all of us—is that they offer weight from positions that would other wise be difficult. Rather than having to invert your entire body and use dumbbells to do decline presses at an angle across your body, you can just use a cable machine.

Free Weights

The biggest benefit of free weights is that you have to control the movement. Actually you GET to control the movement. You can get a lot more variety into your routine by changing angles in a variety of exercises. The other aspect of controlling the movement, that helps you gain muscle mass is the use of stabilizing muscles. As you move a dumbbell through the motion of a particular exercise that targets one primary muscle, you are using several secondary muscles to keep that dumbbell on a proper plane.

A thorough workout routine will cut down the work you have to do on core muscle development. They will get a lot of attention as a by-product of the rest of your free weight routine. The fact that you are forced to control your entire body while lifting also helps your overall muscle mass gains.

Another big benefit that applies directly to gaining muscle mass is that machines all have a maximum weight. As you lift heavier and heavier to gain muscle mass you will eventually surpass these machines. Machines also have fixed increments. With free weights, if you know you can lift 2 more pounds or 3 more you can just add them onto your bar or dumbbell. These may seem like small benefits at the time but over time you will see more results the sooner you can increase the weight you are lifting.

Machines also offer real world strength. When asked which was more effective, free weights or machines, Mayo Clinic physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist Edward Laskowski, M.D., and his colleagues responded "Free weights simulate real-life lifting situations and promote whole-body stabilization when used correctly. "

As we thought to begin with, there are definitely advantages to both lifting methods. The advantages that apply to lifters who are looking to gain serious muscle mass definitely come from free weights.

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Setting Training Goals

training goals

So you've decided to become a bodybuilder, you've joined a gym, you purchased some fancy workout clothes and are prepared to build up a few calluses on your hands...what next?

Well, the only person who can decide what's next for you...is you. You need to determine what you'd like to do, how you'd like to do it and for how long; but more so, you need to figure out what you want to get out of it. The best way to answer those questions is to do some goal setting. You're probably having flashbacks to your high school guidance counselor, harping on you about setting goals for the progression of your life, but don't worry, there's no pressure here. This is simply an exercise in focusing your intent to better allow you to predict and track your progress as a bodybuilder.

It's certainly possible to achieve results, gain muscle, lose weight, increase strength and get healthier without setting and writing out goals; after all, what is a goal? A goal is nothing more than an outlined and usually written idea of something you want, whether that be a gain, a loss, a strength achievement, or even just setting a record for the fewest missed workouts. So if that's all a goal is, why do you need to go through the effort to set them? Why can't you just jump in, head first and start grunting that weight up? Well, by all means, you can, but isn't it better to have a written statement of your intention, to be referred to in times of frustration; so that any time you ask yourself why you're doing all that strenuous work, you can read back on your goals and re-inspire yourself to achieve them?

This is the true reason for setting goals in any endeavor, and for a few minutes of effort, goals can be a powerful tool in maintaining steady progress and gains in your bodybuilding career.

Your goals of course, pertain only to you; they are a personal and intimate reflection of your ideals and ethics as they pertain to bodybuilding, and as such you are the only person who can set your goals. You can use the assistance of trained professionals either at your gym, through a nutrition clinic and even bodybuilding clubs to help you identify what you are capable of and what might be a reasonable goal for you as an individual, but ultimately, your goals are your creation and your responsibility.

Bodybuilding as a sport is quite different from most others; while you may choose to enlist a workout partner and you may seek advice and guidance from others within your gym community, being a bodybuilder means you are competing only with yourself. No one has exactly the same genetic make up as you, no one can build muscle at the same rate as you, or make strength gains at your pace, and therefore no one else will have exactly your goals.

The average person, of reasonable heath and motivation, can achieve a lean muscle mass gain of approximately 20lbs within six months. This takes for granted that the person eats properly, gets plenty of rest and has taken an intelligent approach to training. It would be easy enough to simply make that your primary goal and be done with it, but eventually you'd run into a problem. Six months later, you could assess your progress and find that your gains have been less than optimal; you failed to achieve your goal and can't figure out why, not to mention you have no direction and no idea where to go next. What you should have done is taken that one goal and added it to a list of short and long term goals, as steps to be taken over time, in order to achieve overall results. So that a time line or progression of where you want to be and when is already laid out in front of you.

Ok...point beaten to death; let's talk about what goals to set.

First of all, let's acknowledge that no one has ever become a successful bodybuilder by accident, no bodybuilder anywhere, has ever made muscle gains without a least some effort, and in most cases, it took a great deal of effort. This means that the process of building your body into a rippling and bulging mass of pecs and biceps is going to take some very deliberate and long term effort. It's going to take dedication, commitment and stamina, and halfway effort is only going to produce halfway results.

When you consider the long term nature of a bodybuilding career, it's important to set your goals to be sustainable lifestyle choices. Obviously the overall goal is to develop your body into your idea of the perfect physique, though you must know that this process has no real end, you will never achieve perfection and thus it is pointless to list that as your top goal. Instead you might consider breaking that idea down into term specific goals, such as five, three and one year goals, supported by six, three and one month intermediate goals, which are supported even further by weekly goals. The shorter the term of the goal, the more specific and measurable the content of the goal should be; the longer the term the more general, and more event specific the goal should be. For instance, once you've determined what is reasonable for your body, set your immediate goals in terms of strength gain over all of your various exercises for a short period of time (one week), next set your intermediate goals in terms of pounds of lean muscle mass gained within longer periods of time (one month); set your long terms goals according to your original idea of what that ideal physique might mean to you or what you'd like to do with it.


A sample list of immediate, intermediate and long term goals might look like the following:

-Weekly – Attend gym according to my training plan, don't miss any meals and increase my strength by 3-5lbs on all exercises

-1 Month – Expand my training plan to include more isometric movements, increase my strength by 15-20lbs on all exercises

-3 Months – Increase my weight by 10lbs, while maintaining my current body fat percentage

-6 Months – Achieve a lowered body fat percentage and increase my weight to 210lbs (beginning at 190lbs)

-1 Year – Attain a physique that is recognizable as an intermediate Bodybuilder, increasing my weight to 220lbs

-3 Years – Enter and participate in first Bodybuilding show

-5 Years – Enter and participate in a National Bodybuilding show You might notice that as the goals progress from short term to long term, and each preceding goal provides the means to reach the next. The short term goals are specific and detailed, providing measurable gains to be tracked and recorded, while the long term goals speak of almost peripheral events or achievements that are only quantifiable based on a one time participation that relies on the fulfillment of all of the short term goals leading up to it.

Notice of course that the short term goals are realistic and measurable with the use of a log book and daily recording of your reps, sets weights and even meals. The best place to record your goals would be in the front of that log book, allowing you to read them over daily or weekly, renewing your motivation each time. It remains important to maintain an understand of what you want and why you are doing this, and the best way to do that, is to read over your goals as often as possible.

Not everyone need go into such detail on their goals and there is some argument about setting long term goals more than one year in advance; at the same time, there may benefits for some people in going further in depth and even providing more of a step-by-step progression toward the longer term goals. Any way you do it, the most important thing to remember, is to be realistic. Understand why you are outlining your goals and use them as a reminder to keep you motivated and moving forward.

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Bigger Triceps Mean Bigger Arms

bigger triceps

Many people underestimate the importance of well developed triceps in the physique of a bodybuilder. When in fact the tricep makes up just more than 3/4’s of the upper arm. There’s nothing more effective for making the upper arm seem massive and powerful than well developed tricep brachii.

As the name implies, there are three major muscle bundles in the tricep; the tricep brachii lateral head, long head and medial head, and while all three bundles of muscle fiber do pretty much the same thing (extend the lower arm), the all do it in a slightly different way. This means that while you look awesome doing set after set of cable pushdowns, if you’re doing nothing to stimulate the two other brachii heads directly, you’re selling your upper arms short.

There are numerous exercises which either directly or indirectly stimulate the tricep. Among those exercises there are two distinct categories, isolating movements and compound or core movements. It’s always best to populate your training plan with a good mix of both types of movements, and your tricep routine is no different. Below we will examine three of the most effective tricep movements there are; Seated Overhead Tricep Extensions, Close Grip Bench Press, and Dips.

1) Seated Overhead Tricep Extension (a.k.a. Overhead Raises)


You may have read or heard others talking about the benefits of stretching the muscle during the movement, and no tricep exercise stretches all three heads as well as Overhead Tricep Extensions.

This exercise can be done while standing or seated, though it is would recommended to performing it while seated for greater stability throughout the movement. Overhead Tricep Extensions can be done with a dumbbell(s), a barbell or with a cable raise machine. Possibly the most effective method is with a single heavy dumbbell.

While seated on a chair bench that will support your upper back, grip the plates on one side of a single dumbbell in both hands so that the handle of the dumbbell is vertical. Carefully raise the dumbbell above your head so that your arms are straight and the weight is directly above the top of your head. Be sure to hold the upper section of your arm straight and vertical.

Once you are set to begin, slowly lower the weight behind your head by bending your arm at the elbow. Be sure to keep your elbows tucked in close to your ears on both the positive and negative parts of the movement. The bottom of this movement is the point at which your elbow is bent as far as it can while maintaining your upper arms in a straight and vertical position. Doing so will ensure a deep stretch of the muscle and in turn pull more blood into the muscle group, allowing for more energy and faster repair of the tissues following your workout.

The benefits of performing this movement with a dumbbell rather than a barbell are in simplifying set up. It is easier to select a single dumbbell and begin the exercise, than to load a bar and maneuver it into position above your head. It could also be said that the position of your hands while using a dumbbell, rather than a barbell, will provide a better stretch through out the movement. In any event, the basics of this movement are simple and the rewards are vast. Performing this exercise properly and with the supervision of a competent spotter, you will effectively stimulate your tricep brachii, long and medial heads; and you’ll be surprised how quickly you experience strength gains.

2) Close Grip Bench Press (a.k.a. Close Bench)


There may not be another exercise so effective for focusing so much weight in such a perfect movement. Close Bench offers heavy stimulation to all three brachii heads as well as incidental stimulation to your pectorals…what more could you ask for?

Before discussing this exercise, it’s important to note that there is serious risk of injury to yourself and to others if it is performed incorrectly or without a competent spotter. The narrow grip, combined with the nature of the apparatus and the potential weight involved, make this a potentially dangerous movement. Take caution before adding it to your routine and do not attempt it if you are not comfortable with your spotter.

Close Bench can be performed on an Olympic bench with a full length bar or on a stand-alone bench with a bent or preacher curl bar. The preacher curl bar may provide a better angle for the wrist joint, though more weight can be used with an Olympic bench and bar. It boils down to personal preference as both methods will provide very similar results.

As the name implies, Close Bench is a variation of Standard Bench Press or Flat Bench Press but employing a much closer grip on the bar. Your hands should be placed within six inches of each other, near the center of the bar and no wider than the vertical plane of the bench width. As with Standard Bench Press, raise and lower the weight from your chest at a point that is even with the bottom of your pectorals, to a point above your face that is even with your eyes. Do not bounce the weight off of your chest and do not lock your elbows at the top of the movement.

With the indirect assistance of your much stronger pectorals, it is important to pyramid this exercise in your sets. Increase the amount of weight you are lifting for this exercise with each set, beginning with a weight that is easily manageable, and ending with a weight which brings you close to failure on your final set.

Close Grip Bench Press is one of the few exercises available that will stimulate not only the long and medial brachii of the tricep, but will also effectively stimulate the lateral head as well, which is very important for developing thickness or width in your upper arm.

3) Dips


Perhaps one of the simplest exercises there are; dips are highly effective for providing direct stimulation to all three tricep brachii heads, as well as good indirect stimulation to the pectorals, allowing good development of the outer pectoral fibers (closest to the armpit) and anterior deltoids.

Your gym may have a dip apparatus, in which case, dips are simple enough to perform. Simply stand between the bars, elevated on the foot pads, grasping the bars at your hips and lift your weight. Then bend your arms at the elbow and shoulder to lower yourself between the bars until your arm is bent at 90 degrees. Then raise yourself back to the top position using your triceps to push your bodyweight.

Should your gym not have one of these apparatus, you can use two benches to suspend your weight by placing your feet on one bench and supporting your weight on your hands at the edge of the other bench, so that you are in a seated position with all of your weight supported by your arms and feet. Once set, lower your body by bending your triceps and extending your bent arms behind you. Then rise by pushing down on the bench with your hands.

Both of these exercises are effective for a time with your own bodyweight, but after a period of training you may find that your bodyweight is no longer sufficient to stimulate your triceps appropriately. In this event, you can add weight to yourself through the use of a specialized a belt, to which you can attach standard Olympic plates, or by placing plates on your lap for bench dips. This can be exceedingly difficult to do without a spotter or training partner.

Whichever movements you ultimately choose to aid in developing your triceps, always remember to stretch the muscle as far as possible without injury and to squeeze the entire muscle group at the top of the movement each time. Your triceps have the potential to get your arms noticed, go heavy, go hard and eat well; and in no time you’ll be the envy of the gym.

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Focus on Protein For Building Muscle

protein

The number one reason bodybuilders think they're "hard-gainers", is they don't take in enough protein.

Anyone who's flipped through a bodybuilding magazine while standing in line at the supermarket has some vague understanding that protein equals muscle, somehow. Just why that is may be a mystery to some people and the short answer is...protein is muscle.

Protein can be described as the connective and supportive tissue found in virtually all natural consumables. If it once lived and you can eat it, likely it's high in protein. It is essentially a combination of hormones, enzymes (created through the combination and utilization of various amino acids) and amino acids; all of which are important to the function of the body, after all the human body is 15% protein.

If you didn't already know, amino acids are the building blocks of the body; they act as the bricks and mortar for muscle growth, tissue regeneration and the general development of the body. Combined with those hormones and enzymes they enable or better yet, facilitate efficient metabolic processes throughout the body; protein is one of the most important elements of any athlete's diet.
The most common and easiest form of protein to understand is animal protein, which as should be obvious, comes from animals. It is the muscle and connective tissues in their flesh; when you eat a steak, you're consuming the muscle fibers (protein) of whatever part of the cow you've chosen to grill on the barbeque. (We'll talk about the difference between red and white meat a little later)

The second most common form of consumed protein comes from plants (separated into two categories; soy and whey); wheat's, lentils (beans etc) and in a round about way, milk and cheese. The differences between animal and plant forms of protein, boil down to the amino acid content of each variety, and their differing ratios of essential and non-essential amino acids.

So now that you're thoroughly confused by the 'what' of protein, le's look at the 'why'. Bodybuilders, as a unique type of athlete, compete in a way that is different than any other sport; generally speaking, it is advantageous for an athlete to trim weight, gain strength and provide enough fuel (carbohydrates) for their body to complete whatever task their sport involves.

For a bodybuilder though, the ultimate goal is one of physical growth, and while they do need to gain strength and keep their gas tank full (most of the time), the foremost concern of the bodybuilder is muscle gain. The task of lifting weight is secondary to the goal of bodybuilding, and as such the bodybuilder is concerned not only with fueling his body so there is enough energy to move the required weight; but also, he is concerned with maintaining enough fuel and elemental building blocks in his cells to repair the damage done through the resistance training, in turn gaining muscle.

The importance of loading and maintaining the correct amount of protein is simply, if you don't have enough of the stuff when you need it, your body will take what it needs from your own muscles, to the obvious detriment of the goal of gaining muscle. This process is typically known as cannibalization or atrophy; wherein you have not provided enough amino acids through diet to repair broken down tissues, leaving your body with no choice but to seek those amino acids from areas of the body with less of a need for repair. Hence, the "hard-gainer" believing that his genetics are keeping him from growing, instead of his diet.

How much protein should you take in to avoid cannibalization? Again, the easy answer is 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. While you do that math in your head, I'll tell you that for the average bodybuilder at 190 to 200lbs that's between 270 and 400 grams of protein per day.

Lets put that into perspective; consuming a single breast of chicken, a glass or two of milk, maybe some lentils and a nice juicy steak over the course of a day, you might take in 80 to 100 grams of protein. We all know most people eat much less than that, skipping breakfast and feasting on carbohydrates all day. This means that most people take in far less protein than would be required to consistently and efficiently gain lean muscle mass, let alone maintain an increased volume of muscle mass.

You might be asking, how exactly a person is supposed to eat enough food to provide that much protein, and the answer is simpler than you might think. Every supermarket, drug store and health food store these days is peddling some variety of protein powder, or meal replacement powder or weight gainer. With some exceptions, these products offer the same thing, concentrated protein. With designer flavors and different recipes from various brand names offering additives that provide other select benefits, combining protein powder with water, milk or even low fat yogurt is a tasty and effective way to increase your protein intake considerably, though man cannot live on milk shakes alone.

Be sure to select a brand of protein powder that offers a high quality mix of whey protein, take note of any additives that may bring the carbohydrate content higher than is reasonable for such a product. While there are many varieties available, it would be best for anyone wishing to gain muscle while maintaining a tight, lean body index, to select a protein powder that is pure whey protein only, with no additives or enhancements. Pure is better, every time.

The main staples of a bodybuilder's protein intake regime are more often than not a combination of protein shakes, chicken and tuna. Spread out across six or seven meals in a day, each one consisting of those three foods, plus intelligent choices of complex carbohydrate and fib...it's relatively easy to fill your body with enough protein to build the physique you want.
In essence, a bodybuilder's day should be interspersed with relatively small meals, spaced approximately two to three hours apart. Each of those meals should be high in protein with a ratio of approximately 3:1 for protein and carbs / fats.

Now, it may not please your pallet to scarf down a boiled chicken breast for breakfast and it's probably not the best use for that protein either. While there's really no bad time to fit in a good protein rich meal, there are better times to metabolize certain foods. For instance, depending on your workout schedule (am vs. pm), it would be best to consume a meal higher in carbohydrates first thing in the morning, to fuel the day ahead, supplementing that meal with a protein shake.

Your last meal before your daily workout (at least 30 minutes prior to beginning the workout) should also be higher in quickly digested carbohydrates, such as fruit and other foods high in fructose, again to fuel your workout; following the workout with a high protein snack, whether that be a shake or a protein bar, is a good way to ensure your body has enough amino acids when it needs them most. Lastly, and some would argue the validity of this, your final meal of the day would do well to consist of protein only, thus providing your body with an ample store of aminos, critical enzymes and hormones for muscle fiber production while you sleep, and not giving opportunity for un-metabolized carbohydrates to turn into fat stores.

Don't forget to mix in a good, name brand multi-vitamin / multi-mineral and plenty of water, and you should be well on your way to creating the right diet for your needs.

So now you know the importance of protein in your bodybuilding diet; you know what you need and how much, and not only that, but you know when to eat it. Protein is the single most important element in a successful bodybuilders tool kit, understand protein and how it works and you'll be further ahead than the guy next to you; and the next time you hear someone call themselves a "hard-gainer", ask them how much protein they take in, and smile when they tell you that protein isn't related to their bodybuilding difficulties.

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Nutrition For Building Muscle Mass

gain mass

Your body is a machine. Like any other machine it requires maintenance. But it also requires the proper fuel. No matter how much work you do on your car, if you put sand in the gas tank, you’re not going to get the results you are looking for. Your body works the same way. As you put in the time exercising and taking the proper steps to lift for mass, make sure you are getting the most of that time by giving your body the proper fuel. What you eat and drink is important, but so is when you do your eating and drinking. Doing all of these things the right way, in combination with an intelligent workout routine, will have you gaining solid muscle the right way.

One of the biggest keys to gaining muscle is the workout. No matter what you eat, if you do it as a part of sitting on your couch all day, you are not going to see the results you are looking for. Second in importance though is definitely the food that you eat. The quality and type of food is important, and we will get to that, but we need to start by knowing how many calories a day you need. A simple formula is to multiply your weight by 15-20. Each person is unique and so this isn’t exact but you can start in the middle with 18, and adjust up or down after you see some results. Let’s use a 200-pound person as an example. 200 x 18 =3600. In order to gain mass this person needs to eat 3600 calories a day, and work a rigorous lifting program several times a week. Those two things are a good start for information, but they are only the beginning.

Now that you have worked out how much you need to eat, it’s time to figure out what you need to eat. A milkshake on the way to the gym, and a burger with fries on the way home will defeat all of the hard work that you do in between. All the foods you consume can be broken down into 3 main categories; protein, carbohydrates (carbs), and fats. In order to make sure that you are eating the right diet to gain weight, you need to have these three categories balanced properly.

An industry standard is the 40-40-20 rule. 40 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, and 20 percent fat.

The biggest key is protein. The only thing more prevalent in your muscles than protein, is water. To determine how much protein should be consumed daily, we can use another simple formula. 1-2g of protein per pound. Using the same 200-pound person as an example, they would consume 200-400g of protein daily.

Carbohydrates offer you a wide range of choices, but be careful. Not all carbs are created equal. Try to get the majority of your carbs from foods like fresh vegetables, whole grains, oatmeal, cereal grains, brown rice, and potatoes. These are all complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like; candy, sugar, and white bread are not good choices to help you gain muscle.

The fat is the one you have to worry least about. Make smart choices about the proteins you are choosing, and opt for complex carbs instead of simple ones. As a natural by product you will end up with the fat your body needs to operate, without over doing it.

Now that we have the How much? And the What? Of your nutrition plan covered, let’s talk timing. Your body is at it’s peak when it is constantly working. By eating smaller meals, more often, through out the day you are ensuring that your digestion keeps a steady pace all day. Your goal of gaining mass is assisted by the fat that is burned by constant activity all day. The other reason for spreading your meals through out the day is practical. It is not always easy to eat 3600 calories daily. By spacing out your meals you are more likely to get those calories in intelligently. It is easy to eat a 1500-calorie meal at a burger joint, it takes a lot more lean chicken breast and vegetables to reach that same 1500 calories. You will have days that you are working to get to your necessary caloric intake. It will be easier to eat 7 meals of 500+ calories than it is to eat 3 meals of 1500+ and still eat healthy.

Another aspect of timing your meals is their relationship to your workout. In the 90-minutes prior to working out it is good to consume a meal that consists of proteins but is a little heavier on the carbs. These carbs will provide the energy that fuels you through your work out. Also if you are going to have simple carbs at all in your diet, juice prior to working out can offer a quick burst of energy for your workout.

Your post work out meal is even more important. Your entire time at the gym was spent breaking down your muscles in order for them to rebuild even larger. It’s important that your post-workout meal provide your muscles with the elements necessary to rebuild. Your post workout meal should be 20%-25% of your daily caloric intake, consisting of proteins and carbs in a fairly equal balance. Studies have shown that the timing plays a large part in the effectiveness of the post-workout meal. The sooner after the workout that you get your meal in, the more mass can be gained. Waiting any longer than 90-minutes nearly eliminates the effectiveness of the post-workout meal.

The final part of your diet is also the easiest to master. Water. The standard suggestion is a minimum of 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Those doing heavy lifting will often require more. Weight training can be a very dehydrating process. There is no dangerous level of water intake; consuming more can only help you. It also aids your kidneys in processing the large quantities of proteins that you will now be consuming. The one caution with water consumption is the timing. It is best to limit the amount you drink before and during your meals. Filling up on water will limit the amount of calories you can consume in each sitting.

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Eat Six meals a Day for Muscle Gain

six meals a day for muscle gain
If muscle gain is your goal, three square meals a day isn't going to get you there. Eating the traditional food guide diet is going to get you a confused metabolism, increased fat stores and a hungry belly when it counts.

Fad diets and binge eating have proven time and time again, that our bodies will respond to the frequency and amount of food we give it. Starve your body and you will lose weight, feed it and you’ll gain it back. This is the function of metabolism; metabolism is a set of reactions and processes within the body that facilitate growth, maintenance and general operation of our bodies. Metabolism regulates absorption of nutrients, expulsion of waste (or storage of wastes for later use), tissue growth and development; it interacts with the nervous system, sending messages for hunger, satiation, deficiencies and surpluses of the various elements needed for efficient operation. Some would say it is an autonomic process, something we have no control over and are at the mercy of; those of us with fast metabolism are said to be blessed and those with slower metabolism are curse...though to the surprise of many, this is simply not the case.

Anyone’s metabolic rate can be manipulated and controlled. Did you get that? I'll say it again...anyone's metabolic rate can be manipulated and controlled. That’s right, there is no resignation to the curse of slower metabolism for the overweight, and likewise, there is no mistaken blessing for those bodybuilders with faster metabolism than is conducive to weight gain.

So how is this black magic of the body done? Well…since your metabolism regulates those processes in the body which relate to food, it would stand to reason that food is the key to controlling your metabolism; though I suspect some may be surprised to find out that quite often the process works backwards.

It is true that prolonged starvation will eventually cause severe atrophy of the muscles and a cannibalization of pretty much all tissues in the body, until of course, death occurs. This is extreme, but it is an example of metabolic manipulation; the utilization of muscle and connective tissues over times of starvation is precisely what your metabolism is for…it keeps you alive until you can find food.

In a more realistic setting, you metabolism does exactly the same thing, though on a much less severe scale. As you go about your day, snacking at times and at other times eating nothing for several hours; your body is constantly monitoring the gas tank, and making adjustments to the rate at which you burn energy (both stored energy and fresh nutrients). You can imagine a race car with two fuel tanks; one full to the brim with regular stored fuel and the other with only a small amount of racing fuel in the bottom. In this scenario, the car wouldn’t get very far on the race fuel, but it can be used for short bursts of speed at strategic times. This car must rely on the regular stored fuel from the first tank to keep going. As the race goes on, the pit crew for this car continually keeps that first tank full by storing more regular fuel there; this is because they know they’re going to need it. Why they don’t just put more race fuel in might be a good question.

The race fuel isn’t readily available, because the supplier isn't reliable; but what happens when they change suppliers and can use race fuel all the time? Well, obviously, the car goes faster, but more than that, they no longer need the first tank full of regular fuel, which means they can stop refilling it.

Your body works just like the race car, start feeding it regularly and consistently with good quality "race fuel" food and it will slow down on the storage of the "regular fuel" (fat). Alternatively, eating inconsistently throughout the day simply confuses your metabolism; when you go from meal to meal with long periods in between, you force your metabolism to constantly switch gears, going from race fuel to regular fuel between meals. If you increase the frequency of your meals, you allow you body to run on the more efficient and now readily available "race fuel".

In the end, increasing the number of meals you consume in a day will allow you manipulate the efficiency of your metabolism; it will give you more energy, allow you to concentrate better and give you more stamina for life. What it was also do, and this is important to the bodybuilder, is allow your body to run on complex carbohydrates, which take longer to process and provide better, longer lasting energy (providing you’ve made smart choices for those meals), leaving virtually all of your protein intake for muscle repair, and in turn enhancing your ability to gain lean muscle mass.

Now to the nitty gritty of it all; how many meals should you eat in a day? The text book answer is somewhere between six and eight meals per day; this should be sufficient to increase and maintain a higher metabolic level. But this begs the question, what is defined as a meal?

No one is suggesting that you should force down eight full course meals in a day, and quite frankly, I’d like to see you try. Common sense dictates that eating more often allows you to eat smaller meals; on the whole, your caloric consumption will have increased dramatically, but each meal will be small enough to simply satisfy, not stuff.

For most people six meals a day is more practical than eight, when you consider prep time, works schedules, food costs and simple eating time, eight can be overkill and might be best reserved for the professional bodybuilder who can dedicate their full attention to those matters.

A sample bodybuilding meal plan might look like this:

-Meal 1Breakfast; consisting of a small bowl of oatmeal, a glass of juice, a protein shake and daily vitamins

-Meal 2 – Mid Morning Snack; consisting of one can of fresh tuna mixed with light mayonnaise for flavor and a bottle of water

-Meal 3 – Lunch; consisting of one, to one and a half chicken breasts (cooked as preferred), with a quarter cup of boiled white or brown rice and a protein shake

-Meal 4 – Pre-Workout Snack; consisting of one can of fresh tuna mixed with light mayonnaise for flavor, a natural granola bar or an apple and a bottle of water (or low carb energy drink)

-Meal 5 – Post-Workout Meal; consisting of two eggs (poached or boiled), a half to one whole chicken breast and a bottle of water

-Meal 6 – Bed time Snack; consisting of one chicken breast and a protein shake

When reviewing the above meal plan, take note of the progression throughout the day, from meals higher in carbohydrates at breakfast to the final meal with no carbs whatsoever. This is to ensure that you have consumed enough complex carbohydrates to fuel your day, but haven’t provided your body with an excess of carbs to be stored as fat overnight.

While this plan may seem somewhat bland and even sparse compared to a more colorful day of brown bag bologna sandwich and McDonald’s take out dinner; in practice, these meals, spaced two to three hours apart, will not only satisfy any sense of hunger you might usually feel, but will provide you with far more energy than the regular work week diet.

It’s important to be flexible with any diet plan, restricting caloric intake and instilling a strict no cheating attitude will only set you up for failure; try to use a meal plan as a general guide for your overall diet, mix in other choices for carbohydrates and try different recipes to avoid becoming bored, and your body will adapt to this new, healthier way of looking at food in no time.

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Lift Lighter, Build More Muscles

Tired of waiting around in the gym for the right weights to be free? New research form the US means you can make gym queues like this a thing of the past, as it proves that you can build muscle just as fast using lighter weights. Traditional exercise wisdom says that the quickest way to build big muscles is to lift as heavy as possible. However, the new study shows you can get equally impressive results from going lighter but performing more repetitions. The only condition is that you must do all your sets to failure. So, next time your preferred dumbbells are taken, just switch down and up your reps. You'll be out of the gym that much quicker and still see the growth you're looking for.

 
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