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Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mammoth Chest And Back Workout

It was more than three decades ago that Arnold Schwarzenegger last trained for a competition (1980 to be exact), but even today many young bodybuilders point to The Oak as their biggest source of inspiration.

Though the black-and-white images have long faded on the walls of hardcore Southern California gyms, the training philosophies that built the world’s greatest bodybuilder live on. In this, the second exclusive installment exploring Arnold’s training, we focus on his chest and back workout.

“Though the black-and-white images have long faded on the walls of hardcore Southern California gyms, the training philosophies that built the world’s greatest bodybuilder live on.”

Arnold paired chest with back, which are antagonist muscle groups; while one contracts, the other is stretched. Though they are both very large muscle groups, Arnold followed a high-volume, high-frequency approach, performing this workout three times per week. If that wasn’t demanding enough, he typically came into the gym later in the evening for his thigh workouts!

Here’s a closer look at the specific techniques and approaches that helped lay the foundation for his superhuman gains.


Arnold pecs were truly impressive, even as teenager. It was always one of his strong body parts. Arnold prioritized chest training; he did it first in his training when fatigue levels were low so he could train it with maximum intensity.

“I seemed to train my chest hard and correctly from the beginning,” he wrote. “My chest grew because I gave it the most attention, placing it first in my workout.”

“Arnold prioritized chest training; he did it first in his training when fatigue levels were low so he could train it with maximum intensity.”

Here are some of Arnold’s best chest-training tips culled from the many articles he wrote and interviews he gave over the years.

Arnold competed as a powerlifter early in his career, so building a big chest started with training for strength. Arnold’s top weights on the bench included a 500-pound single and 405 for 8 reps. Arnold once did a 225-pound bench for 60 reps!

Arnold believed the concept of progressive overload was critical to building his pecs. “I strongly believe that the size of your muscles grows with the size of the weights you’re using for repetitions.”

Arnold included basic multi-joint movements in his routine that hit the pecs from every angle, which he knew would lead to optimal pec development from top to bottom. “I knew the routine had to be basic and very heavy.”

Arnold hit every body part, not just chest, with high volume and frequency. His offseason routine consisted of up to 26 working sets on a high-volume day, and he trained his pecs three days per week, taking at least 48 hours off between workouts for recovery. That kind of volume and frequency suited The Oak during his competitive years, but for anyone with a full-time job, it’s likely to induce significant jumps in cortisol levels and fatigue. Cycle short periods of high volume or high frequency training into your workout on occasion, but listen to your body for signs of overtraining. Arnold also cycled heavy and light days to both work the muscles with different relative intensities and ensure he wasn’t overtraining his pecs.

Once you become familiar with the various basic movements in the gym, evaluate your weaknesses and try variations of basic exercises. “Not everybody responds to the bench press. You need to determine for yourself which are the best exercises for your body.” Other variations he commonly tried included using slightly closer or wider grips on the barbell to move the area of emphasis in or out a few degrees.

Know the advantages of dumbbells and barbells, but use both in your training. “I feel a better stretch when doing dumbbells, especially with incline movements. The dumbbells can be lowered deeper than a barbell.” This is important because a muscle that’s fully stretched is capable of a stronger contraction, so long as you don’t overstretch the shoulder joint.

Arnold commonly started with 1-2 warm-up sets and then increased the weight on succeeding sets (called a pyramid set) while decreasing the reps. Still, he trained in a fairly low rep range, often starting at 12 and working his way down to six.

Arnold believed that a lack of focus and concentration was the biggest mistake bodybuilders made when hitting chest. “Flex your pectoral muscles throughout the movement, but especially at the top.” Contracting your pecs hard at the top increases the intensity of the movement.


It would be a mistake to think the “back” consists of a single muscle. It’s a group that includes the middle and lower traps, rhomboids, the upper and lower portions of the latissimus dorsi, the erectors (low back), and even the rear delts. Arnold’s approach to this complex group came from all angles.

When he began competing at the elite level, Arnold’s back wasn’t as imposing as his mammoth chest and arms. By employing basic, multi-joint movements to target all areas of his back, he was able to bring it up.

Here are some the basic principles Arnold followed when training back.

Arnold typically broke his back training into two types of movements: chinning and pull-downs for lat width, and rows for overall thickness. Lat pull-downs and pull-ups build a strong V-taper, while rows and bent-over movements better target the middle-back musculature.

“When he began competing at the elite level, Arnold’s back wasn’t as imposing as his mammoth chest and arms. By employing basic, multi-joint movements to target all areas of his back, he was able to bring it up.”

Chins with an underhand grip and pull-ups were a big part of Arnold’s approach to building wide lats. He also varied his grip width, went up to the bar behind his head and to his chest, and sometimes used added resistance or simply his bodyweight. The net result was an assault the worked the lats from multiple angles for better overall development.

“Wide-grip pull-ups coax the upper lats to come out,” Arnold said. With wide-grip movements, the elbows stay out away from the sides, meaning the upper lats become the focus. With close-grip and reverse-grip back exercises, the elbows stay in tighter to the sides; this reduces the emphasis on the upper lats and instead places more of the focus on the lower lats.

One technique Arnold favored was to shoot for a total number of chins, say 50, rather than target a particular number of sets. “On the first set you may do 10 reps. Perhaps you struggle with 8 reps on the second set. You have 18 reps now. If you make 5 on the third set, you have 23 reps. You continue to add them until you reach 50, even though it may take you 20 sets to do it. That’s how I built up my chinning power, and I was very successful with it.”

For Arnold, with chins or with any other back move, gains in strength meant he’d have to increase the weight. “After you’ve mastered 10-12 reps in any type of chin, then you can start to put weight around your waist.” Arnold argued that just increasing the number of reps you do as you get stronger wasn’t as beneficial to the bodybuilder looking to maximize muscle growth as increasing the resistance.

Not everyone can do chins or pull-ups with their bodyweight. Arnold recommended using the pull-down machine until your strength levels increase. Once you can do at least 8 reps with the equivalent of your bodyweight, he suggested switching over to the chinning bar.

Exercises in which you pull the weight perpendicularly into your body—often called rows—were also a big part of Arnold’s back workout. He favored all kinds of variations—seated cables rows, T-bar rows, bent-over barbell rows—but again each one was done with high volume and progressively heavier weights, pyramiding the weight up on successive sets for fewer reps.

Between sets, Arnold stretched out his lats, either hanging from a bar or holding on to a stable object and leaning away. Stretching helped maintain the flexibility around the joint. He often tensed his lats between sets as well, contracting the muscle as hard as he could to help achieve a superior pump.


  1. Muscle & Fitness, July 1997: Arnold Talks Training, July 1997.
  2. Schwarzenegger, A. & Dobbins, B. (1999). The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Simon and Shuster: USA.

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Arnold’s Blueprint Trainer: Mass Nutrition Overview

Quality mass comes from quality calories. Arnold Schwarzenegger knew that fact inside and out. Learn more about how he ate and follow his nutrition blueprint for more mass!

Arnold’s Blueprint Trainer: Mass Supplementation Overview

Look under the hood of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature supplement line! Learn about the products Arnold recommends for incredible results.

About The Author

As an active martial artist, bodybuilder and accredited personal trainer, David employs the latest cutting edge research to enhance his own progress.

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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness

When most people decide to start working out, they head straight to the gym, hit the machines, or jog on the treadmill. It’s the same whether they want to lose weight, build muscle, or accomplish any fitness goal. They dive right into the “what” without knowing the “why.” They skip the basics and, unfortunately, often set themselves up for failure.

It’s time to change that approach.

The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner’s Guide to Fitness is a one-month course to teach you the essentials of training, nutrition, and supplementation. It’s for anyone who doesn’t know where to start. It’s for those who think fitness is complicated or intimidating. This is fitness made simple: one day at a time, one challenge at a time.

You have the right to be fit. We’ll teach you to exercise that right.

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
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Ultimate Beginner’s Guide Starts In


Steve Cook

IFBB Physique Pro
International Fitness Personality

Kathleen Tesori

Bodybuilding.com Athlete
Fitness Model

Using their years of experience in the fitness industry competing, modeling, training clients, and helping change thousands of lives, Steve Cook and Kathleen Tesori have built the perfect plan to help ease you into the fitness lifestyle.

Every day, your guides will present a new challenge. After 30 days, you’ll know how to train with barbells, machines, and just your bodyweight. You’ll learn how to make wise choices and manage a busy lifestyle. You’ll understand the ins and outs of fitness nutrition and smart supplementation. You’ll have everything you need to change your life.

The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner’s Guide to Fitness Includes:

  • Specific daily challenges. Learn the fundamentals of training, nutrition, and supplementation.
  • Daily videos from Kathleen and Steve. Daily coaching from your elite trainers.
  • Progressive workout program. Master bodyweight, machine, and free weight exercises.
  • Beginner’s cardio plan. Learn and perform multiple forms of cardiovascular exercise.
  • Nutritional guidance and recipe ideas. Try healthy recipes and learn what you need to eat
    to get fit.
  • Essential supplement information. Learn about the supplements you need for great results.
  • Weekly emails. Messages from your coaches will help you stay on track.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Fitness will teach you new concepts every day, building on what you’ve learned to deliver a full course in the essentials of fitness. Each week gets slightly more advanced so you can progressively challenge your mind and body.

Beginner’s Guide Breakdown

  • Week One: Determine your starting point, learn the important parts of a workout, and master the basic principles of nutrition that fitness professionals rely on every single day.

  • Week Two: Tackle more advanced workouts, learn the basics of movement and recovery, and practice essentials of nutrition and supplementation.

  • Week Three: Uncover key strategies to carve off body fat and build shapely muscle, including lifting, cardio, and nutritional techniques.

  • Week Four: Learn everything you need to raise the bar and continually progress in your workouts.

What you’ll need to begin

  • Comfortable workout clothes and shoes.
  • Access to a gym with weight machines, barbells and dumbbells, and cardio equipment.
  • A BodySpace account to enter your before pictures and stats and track your progress.
  • Optional: Foundational supplements like a protein powder, multivitamin, and fish oil.

It’s time to kick the couch, break free from frustration, and become your best self. It’s time to experience the power of your body, the joy of energy, and the strength of muscle. It’s time to change your life.

About The Author

Check out these awesome articles by some of the best writers in the industry.

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Amateur Bodybuilder Of The Week: Henry Is Motivated By Muscle!

QHow did your bodybuilding journey begin?

After my son was born on June 29, 2012, I became stressed from dealing with deep emotional issues stemming from relationship problems with my father. On top of that, my stepfather’s health was deteriorating and I was struggling to keep my marriage alive. These issues caused me to finally let go.

I stopped doing activities that I love like dancing, skating, and hiking and quit talking to lots of my friends. I even canceled my Facebook account. Luckily, I woke up and decided to do something about it. I got a gym membership and started working out every day. My approach was to focus on my weak areas which were my chest and abs. I spent 2-3 hours per day working chest or abs. After a few months, I saw minimal results and was frustrated.

I started researching on Bodybuilding.com and discovered that dieting was the key to success. I didn’t want to accept that because I loved hamburgers, french fries, chicken nuggets, soda, and doughnuts. Being that I’m a certified hypnotherapist, I used hypnotherapy to change my diet and did a seven-day juice fast. That’s when the changes started to happen.

Every time I went to the gym I saw my body change and noticed muscles in places I never imagined. It was exciting and fueled my fire. I lost 10 pounds in five months and now weigh 152 pounds with 7 percent body fat. I ran my first half-marathon last month, which is a major accomplishment because I have asthma and didn’t need my inhaler. Fitness is becoming more engrained into my life every day.

Research shows that 1 out of 10 dads develop postnatal depression and that each child increases a man’s risk of obesity by 4 percent. So I went back to the Hypnosis Motivational Institute in Tarzanna, California, to study the dynamics of hypnosis and weight loss. That inspired me to create Trance Fitness, a revolutionary mind/body weight loss and fitness program that combines hypnotherapy with personal fitness training.

Focusing on the mind and body creates a synergistic overall transformative lifestyle change that eliminates the frustrations of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I want to give dads across America and beyond hope and motivation to Trance-form their lives.

Cool Fact

Henry choreographed dance routines for artists Justin Bieber, Jason Darulo, and Outkast and has appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show and the American Music Awards!

What workout regimen delivered the best results?

In the beginning, I only trained chest and abs but didn’t see significant results, so I quickly shifted to a full-body regimen. After the change it was leaps and bounds better.

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Amateurs Of The Week

Bodybuilding.com honors amateurs across all categories for their hard work, dedication, and great physiques. Learn how our featured amateurs built their bodies and hit their goals!

What nutrition plan fueled your body?

  • Almonds Almonds
    1 serving
  • Veggies Veggies
    2 servings

What supplements gave you the greatest gains?

“The body is amazing, but the mind tells the body what to do.”

How did your passion for bodybuilding emerge?

The results I see daily blow my mind. The body is amazing, but the mind tells the body what to do. The reaction I get from others is motivation to keep going. I want to inspire people through action. You can’t motivate others if you can’t motivate yourself. I focus on being the best I can be and live up to my potential. It’s contagious and rubs off on people.

What/Who motivated you to be a bodybuilder?

My cousin Aebony Gibson lives in Florida and competes. I sent her my before and after photos and she went crazy and said I should compete, so I did.

Where did you go for inspiration?

YouTube is great for motivation. I watch fitness videos and workouts to get pumped up before a workout. Websites like Bodybuilding.com and its forums are very inspiring too.

What are your future bodybuilding plans?

I would love to compete and take home a trophy, but I try to avoid getting wrapped up in that because it takes my focus away from the pure enjoyment of training. I created my own company called Trance Fitness and my goal is to open a wellness center and build a team of elite personal trainers and holistic practitioners.

What is the most important bodybuilding tip?

One of my mottos is “slow and controlled.” I see many people in the gym lifting like the gym is on fire and they’re trying to get one more set in before the place burns down. Take your time. I also see people lifting too much weight with terrible form. It’s not about what you lift; it’s about how you lift.

Patience is the key. There are many get-fit-quick schemes out there. It takes time to get your body where you want it. There aren’t any secrets to bodybuilding. It takes hard work and dedication.

“It’s not about what you lift; it’s about how you lift.”

Who is your favorite bodybuilder?

WBFF champion Obi Obadike is my inspiration. I’m not trying to get massive; I just want to be lean and cut. Obi is the prime example. He also has a successful fitness company and brand. He believes in what he does and wants to help and share his expertise with people.

How did bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?

Bodybuilding.com gave me the resources I needed to stay on the right path. The site saved me lots of time and frustration figuring out which direction I want to take my career. The site also saved me lots of money by providing the best deals and advice on supplements.

Chopper’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Till I Collapse” by Eminem
  2. “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy
  3. “Bugatti” by Ace Hood, ft Rick Ross, Future
  4. “Sail” by Awolnation
  5. “Started From The Bottom” by Drake

About The Author

Our Amateur Bodybuilder of the Week has the extraordinary qualities to endure the pain and discipline of bodybuilding. Of course, he/she also…

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How to go from couch potato to cycling pro

How to go from couch potato to cycling pro Why not use the three-week long Tour de France race as an inspiration to kick-start your own cycling regime?“Starting with flat stretches and continuing onto challenging terrain and mountain tops, the way The Tour de France is designed is a great way for newbies to approach cycling,” said Jordan Miller, GM of online sports retailer TheActive.com.au and cycling enthusiast.Together with a team of leading experts in the cycling industry, TheActive has developed a three-week programme to help you go from couch potato to the wheel deal during the duration of The Tour De France.Week 1: Easy rider on flat courseDuring the first week of Tour de France, the course usually offers long, flat stretches with very few climbs – so you should take a similar approach during your first week of cycling.“30km is a good starting goal distance, and make sure to choose a flat course. If you still have some energy left at the end of the course, you can sprint the final stretch of the road, just like the champions do in Tour De France!” Miller said.Depending on your fitness level, you can adjust the pace and distance, and Miller recommends doing the 30km course twice during your first week.“If you are feeling flat, ride slower but do the same distance. If you’re feeling good on the day, ride either further or harder – not both!”Week 2: Challenging terrainThis year’s Tour de France commemorates the First World War, and at the end of the first week, stage five will begin in Belgium for a day containing over 15 km of cobbled roads. In other words, it’s time to get tough.“By now, you should’ve gotten a feel for cycling and hade some nice, smooth riding during your first week, so it’s time to turn things up a notch

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3 Healthy Fat-Loss Recipes That Will Help You Get Lean And Mean

Summer is in full swing, and that means most of us meatheads are dieting hard! Hopefully you spent the fall and winter eating up and gaining quality mass, but even the cleanest bulk results in a little unwanted weight. Now it’s time to cut the fat. Unless you have god-like genetics, you’re going to have to cut calories.

Don’t run away yet. Cutting diets don’t have to be dry, bland, or boring. You may not be able to enjoy the tasty treats you allow yourself during a bulk, but there are more than enough ways to spice up your lower-carb and lower-fat meals.

Here are three of my favorite recipes for getting lean and mean!

1 Mexican Frittata

If you’ve never had frittata, your life is about to get a lot better. It’s kind of like a cross between an omelet and a quiche. It comes out in the shape of a pie, and you can slice it like a pie, but there’s no crust—just eggs, egg whites, veggies, and maybe a little cheese if your macros allow. It’s one of the perfect cutting foods for a low-carb diet!

While the name frittata is Italian, this version has a Mexican twist. Most dieters avoid Mexican food altogether since so many restaurant dishes contain chips, tortillas, tons of oil, and lots and lots of cheese. But, with this recipe, you can enjoy your favorite Mexican flavors without screwing up your diet.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat a large, non-stick, oven-safe saute pan on high.
  3. Saute bell pepper and onion in olive oil until soft. Gradually add spices.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and egg whites and then pour on top of pepper and onion mixture.
  6. Sprinkle diced tomatoes.
  7. Put pan into preheated oven.
  8. Cook for 10-12 minutes.
  9. If your diet allows for some extra fats, you can top the frittata with some guacamole, jack cheese, or both. You can also top with your favorite hot sauce or salsa.

Nutrition Facts
Recipe Makes: 2 servings

Amount per serving

Calories 302

Total Fat16.3g

Total Carbs14g


Mexican Frittata PDF (239 KB)

2 Ginger Basil Chicken and Rice

This easy recipe is perfect for a post-workout meal. Chicken and rice is one of the most common bodybuilding diet meals, but most guys make it boring and bland as hell. Fortunately, just a few additions can make it into a meal that tastes almost like a delicious restaurant stir-fry, just without all the oil, cornstarch, and sugar.

  1. Cook peppers, carrots, and broccoli in olive oil until desired doneness.
  2. Once veggies are cooked, add chicken breast slices, and cook until chicken is just about done.
  3. Add garlic, ginger, and soy sauce.
  4. Remove from heat and mix in chopped basil leaves.
  5. Mix with white rice.
  6. If desired, add honey, cilantro, green onions, and lime juice.

Nutrition Facts

Amount per serving

Calories 487

Total Fat17.1g

Total Carbs24.1g


Ginger Basil Chicken and Rice PDF (239 KB)

3 Pumpkin Protein “Ice Cream”

This last recipe is a low-cal, filling treat for those of you with a sweet tooth. It’s not really ice cream, but the taste and texture are certainly close enough! Plus, the addition of pumpkin adds lots of volume without too many extra calories—a perfect trick for the dieting, hungry bodybuilder.

One difference between this “ice cream” and regular homemade ice cream is that you do not want to let it firm up in the freezer. Since it hardly has any sugar or fat —just a lot of water content—it will end up more like an ice block than ice cream. Eat it right out of the ice cream maker like soft serve.

  1. Blend pumpkin, yogurt, milk, sweetener, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  2. Pour into ice cream maker and churn until frozen.
  3. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
Recipe makes: 2 servings

Amount per serving

Calories 308

Total Fat12g

Total Carbs27g


Pumpkin Protein “Ice Cream” PDF (237 KB)

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3 Healthy Fat-Loss Recipes That Will Help You Get Lean And Mean

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Fitness 360: Chris Thompson, Supplementation Program

Because Chris Thompson is in the supplement business, he knows that selected supplements can help him build and maintain his goal physique. But, he also knows that supplementation can help him stay healthy and active for a long time—an important thing when you’re busy, always on the go, and 45 years old.

Here’s Chris’s supplement philosophy and how he uses supps to improve his micros, macros, and performance.

Chris Thompson Fitness 360:
Watch The Video – 09:59

“I’m getting to an age where I’ve started to look at longevity.”

“I’ve got a great macronutrient program that’s going to help me achieve my physical goals,” says Chris, “but that’s really only half the battle. I’m getting to an age where I’ve started to look at longevity. I put my body through an awful lot of physical demand, so getting micronutrients into my body can make a great difference to my overall health and my performance.”

To improve his overall health, Chris utilizes a multivitamin, CoQ10, and things like alpha lipoic acid (ALA). On the performance side, he prioritizes protein. “Sometimes, my turnaround between whatever I’m doing, a meal, and a meeting can literally be 10 minutes. How am I going to get to all of my macronutrients in that amount of time? Sipping on a protein drink is perfect because it doesn’t interfere with anything you’re doing.”

Along with multivitamins and protein powder, Chris likes to supplement with pre-workout products. “I couldn’t live without fat burners, flash stimulants, and pre-workouts,” says Chris.

“The product that put Twinlab on the map, the product that everyone remembers, is Ripped Fuel. Ripped Fuel is a thermogenic stimulant that provides great mental focus. It’s the type of stimulant that I like.”

Chris’s Supp Regimen

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Figure Athlete To Powerlifter: My First Powerlifting Meet

“Did you get your rack height?” said Cara Westin, owner of FNStrong and meet coordinator for the Southern Powerlifting Federation. She was sorting a stack of registration forms, “Go get your rack height before you come to the registration table.”

Setting the bench and rack height are paramount to lifting in the meet. Everything must run on schedule, and having these heights will ensure a good set up when it’s time to lift. Not only do the meet assistants have to load and unload the bar, they also have to change the rack heights for each lifter. Knowing the adjustments before each lifter steps up to the bar saves a huge amount of time and makes the meet run much smoother.

I hoped that Cara would go easy on me since it was my first meet, but I know she wanted me to feel like a competitor. I wandered over to the monolift, a squat rack specially designed so the lifter doesn’t have to walk backward or forward to perform the lift. I was familiar with the monolift, but I hadn’t regularly used in my own gym. Setting the pins? I was clueless. Jim McDonald, Super Training TV’s video producer, helped me figure it out and then instructed me on how to set my bench height.

The room was filled with what looked like descendants of Goliath: Chad Wesley Smith, Brandon Lilly, Eric Lillibridge. Among these high-caliber powerlifters, I must have looked like a ballerina. I shuffled back over to the registration table to weigh-in and receive instructions for the following day. In less than 12 hours, I would step to the platform for my first powerlifting meet.

From Figure to Powerlifting

I tossed my plastic heels in 2011 after placing 4th in a natural figure pro-qualifier. The burnout factor played a huge role in my decision, but I also realized that the most rewarding part of competing for me happened in the gym, not on the stage. After my final figure show, I still felt the urge for a new challenge. I wasn’t sure where to channel this energy, and I dabbled a bit in sprinting again. But competitive sprinting takes an exceptional amount of dedication and coaching, and I didn’t have either at the time. So, I resigned myself to focusing on building my fitness career.

“I had always maintained decent strength since I began weightlifting, but I never focused on getting insanely strong in my three big lifts: barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift.”

My complacency didn’t last long. Earlier this year, I scratched that ambitious itch again and signed up for my first powerlifting meet. I had always maintained decent strength since I began weightlifting, but I never focused on getting insanely strong in my three big lifts: barbell squat, bench press, and deadlift. I suffered a few minor setbacks with low back pain, but overall my training was seamless.

Preparing for the Meet

Nine weeks from my meet date, I hired Jordan Syatt of Syatt Fitness to coach me to the platform. Although he lives in Boston and I’m on the left coast, I felt confident enough in my lifts to manage an online program. Syatt assessed my form, my musculature, and evaluated my application before he built my program. In addition to hiring Syatt, I also worked with Cara Westin—the aforementioned meet coordinator—to help improve my technique. Working with these two coaches provided the right guidance so I could be as prepared as possible.

Syatt programmed an adaptation of Westside Conjugate, which is a training methodology created by the legendary Louie Simmons to increase an individual’s performance in the powerlifts. My workouts were structured with two max effort and two dynamic effort days. My week looked like this:

Monday: Max Effort Lower
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: Max Effort Upper
Thursday: Off
Friday: Dynamic Effort Lower
Saturday: Dynamic Effort Upper

My max effort days were set up to produce the greatest strength gains while dynamic effort days helped me build speed. On max effort days, I lifted as heavy as I could using quality form for a given number of sets and reps. On dynamic effort days, I used smaller percentages of my max-effort lifts and worked on lifting this weight as fast as possible with quality form.

As my meet date neared, my workouts grew longer. Sometimes they took up to two hours. Heavy training requires a great deal of rest between sets. If you’re going as heavy as possible with great technical form, you can’t do well if you only rest 30 seconds between lifts. Rush the process and technique breaks down rapidly.

There is always a delicate balance between moving up in weight and maintaining form. In order to grow stronger, breaking form is inevitable, but breaking form shouldn’t become a habit. If you begin pushing yourself to go heavier with questionable form each time you step up to the bar, you’ve created a recipe for disaster.

I trained like this for eight weeks and added 500 calories to my daily intake. I couldn’t have asked for better results: My quads grew an inch and my overall physique was more athletic. My starting weight was 131 and I weighed in at 139.5 the day before the meet. I came in looking and feeling better than ever.

My Meet Results

Both Syatt and Westin told me to make hitting all nine lifts my goal for the meet. I wanted to use my best possible technical form and wasn’t too concerned about hitting big numbers.

My meet attempts

First attempt: 175 lbs
Second attempt: 192.5 lbs
Third attempt: 215 lbs (missed)

First attempt: 95 lbs
Second attempt: 105 lbs
Third attempt: 115 lbs (missed)

First attempt: 225 lbs
Second attempt: 245 lbs
Third attempt: 260 lbs

I knew exactly what went wrong with my two missed attempts, which means I know exactly what to work on before my next meet. My squat miss was out of my hands because they mixed up my attempt load with another competitor’s. My attempt was set at 203 pounds, which I could have nailed, but I wound up trying to go for 215. I got a little eager with my bench and jumped 10 pounds instead of five.

My deadlift is my best lift and I could have easily lifted 295 that day. But the deadlift is also the lift that aggravated my back earlier in my training and even the week prior. I didn’t want to walk away injured in the name of hitting a personal record (PR).

Syatt told me that I was going to walk away feeling like I left a lot of weight on the platform, and that it wouldn’t matter. The first meet isn’t about breaking records, it’s about meeting a goal—besides, each of my lifts would be a “meet PR” anyway, considering it was my first meet.

Putting the Pieces Together

The last time I competed in 2011, I focused on my physique without giving much thought to strength. Sure, I felt strong in the gym, but my overarching goal was stepping onto that stage looking my best. This go-round, I didn’t give a second thought to how I looked. I focused solely on gaining strength and using excellent technique. I stepped onto the powerlifting platform looking better than I had on show day when I was competing in Figure.

“Building a strength base and a foundation of quality muscle with powerlifting will help you add more muscle mass so you can sculpt a better physique.”

I believe that anyone with aesthetic goals can greatly benefit from powerlifting. Building a strength base and a foundation of quality muscle with powerlifting will help you add more muscle mass so you can sculpt a better physique. Today’s powerlifter doesn’t just focus on the squat, deadlift, and bench press. A good powerlifting program also incorporates assistance work to build muscle. More muscle mass usually means better aesthetics and also more strength in your “big three.”

Even if you never plan to step on the stage or lift on the platform, your program should be based on the squat, deadlift, and bench press for strength and accessory or isolation work for muscle-building and aesthetics. You won’t be disappointed!

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About The Author

Kellie Davis is a freelance writer and blogger turned fitness coach living in Northern California.

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Figure Athlete To Powerlifter: My First Powerlifting Meet

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Build Lean Mass Without Counting Calories

If you’re a professional sports athlete, dialing in your nutrition is as easy as consulting with your team trainer and having your personal chef prepare all your meals. Each plate arrives in front of you with precise macronutrient ratios dialed in, and it tastes far better than if you were to try to make it yourself. Nutrition solved.

Life for the rest of us isn’t quite so easy. We have limited resources, and we’re forced to stay on top of our individual nutrition needs. We prepare our foods ourselves, act as our own bodyguard when late-night cravings strike, and fight the fast-food advertising that succeeds in reaching our eyes.

So what do we do? We become our own ad hoc nutritionists. We start counting calories and tracking everything we eat in confusing apps and food journals. But deep down, we don’t really believe it should be that complicated. So we end up getting discouraged and quitting before we get where we wanted to go.

If you’ve ever started a bulking “diet” with visions of looking like Zeus but ended up more like Buddha, the problem wasn’t your math—it was your choices! Sure, if you’ve got lofty goals like competition, then counting may be unavoidable. But if your goal is simply to add lean size, then these eight rules are all you need. Take them to heart and start growing!

Rule 1:

You know protein is essential to building and repairing muscle, but do you know how much 40 grams looks like? Is it a 4 oz. chicken breast? Six? Ten? If you don’t know, it’s time to start getting more precise about how big of portions you consume at every meal.

That doesn’t just go for chicken, either. You need to learn how to effectively eyeball a mass-building serving size of about 40 grams of protein with steak, fish, turkey, dairy, eggs, and even protein powder.

If you can get that amount of protein at each of your 5-6 meals each day, the most important growth nutrient will be accounted for.

Opt for fowl without skin and leaner cuts of steak like loin and round cuts when choosing lean protein sources. When eating out, avoid any proteins that come battered and fried.

Grilled and broiled meats are always better options. Making the right choices helps save you a boatload of extra calories with far less chance that it’ll hang from your midsection.

Rule 2:

Sugar-sweetened teas and coffees, flavored drinks, smoothies, juices, and sodas account for a whopping 37 percent of all calories Americans consume, and these fast-digesting carbs can send your blood sugar—and insulin levels—skyrocketing. With so much sweetness around us, it’s no wonder that the number of overweight people in the world recently surpassed the undernourished for the first time in human history.

Luckily, you only have to watch your waistline. The take-home here is to be principled about which carbs you allow into your body. Choose slow-digesting complex carbs such as brown rice, yams, and quinoa, as well as starchy carbs including whole-grain breads and pasta. You’ll have sustained energy throughout the day, and the lower insulin response means you’ll be less likely to store any excess calories as body fat.

When it comes to beverages, water can keep you refreshed without all the extra sugar. Eat and drink like a grown-up rather than a child for a while and you may actually look like the man or woman you always wanted to be.

Rule 3:

Dietary fats often get a bad rap when you’re trying to eat clean, but they’re far too important to eliminate entirely. Not only do they contain a number of key vitamins and help us absorb a number of others, but they’re also essential in the production of key muscle-building hormones like testosterone.

Divide your fat intake between the two major types:

  • Unsaturated and monounsaturated fats: from olive and canola oils, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish

  • Saturated fats: from dairy, meat and eggs

To build mass, aim to get 30 percent of your calories from dietary fats. Yup, I said no calorie-counting, but you can get to this number without any scales or reference materials. Where you’ll get into trouble with this macronutrient is when you make the wrong choices.

To build mass, aim to get 30 percent of your calories from dietary fats.

Choosing an 8 oz. prime rib over sirloin more than doubles your fat intake and nearly doubles the total number of calories, for instance. The same goes for ground beef rather than extra-lean ground beef.

Let common sense guide you. Stay away from anything battered or fried, stop at a handful when it comes to fat-heavy nuts and seeds, and you’ll be fine.

Rule 4:

If your body weight has remained constant with no noticeable changes in your body fat, chances are good that you’re expending about as many calories as you eat per day. If you’re looking to add mass, then you simply have to consume more calories above and beyond what’s needed for bodyweight maintenance.

You may already be eating 5-6 times per day—and if you aren’t, consider how difficult it is to consume enough clean foods in just three meals. But if that’s not enough, start adding 1-2 small meals each day to your intake, preferably as high-protein snacks that won’t interfere with your appetite at a later meal.

The extra calories will start tipping the scale of calories in/calories out, and you should notice small but significant strength and size gains within a few weeks. If you’re still not seeing progress, double those portions.

Want to know where to start? Consider a pre-bedtime meal of slow-digesting casein protein. A 1.5-cup serving of cottage cheese or some supplemental casein alongside a small serving of nuts and seeds should do the trick. Make sure to skip most carbs at this late-night meal to ensure an insulin release doesn’t send those calories to fat stores.

Rule 5:

Hard training expends glycogen, the stored form of sugar in muscle tissue and the liver. It also elevates levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol, meaning this is a great time for a fast-digesting meal. Nothing is faster than taking your shaker cup filled with the protein of your choice. Even soy protein, which gets a bad rap these days, is better than no protein at all after your training.

While your focus throughout the day was on slow-digesting carbs, after your workout your body needs fast-digesting carbs in the form of sugar—glucose and dextrose are ideal—to drive protein to your muscles. With a quickly digested shake, you’ll still be hungry for a post-workout meal some 60-90 minutes later.

Rule 6:

There’s always a wiseguy who’ll tell you that you don’t need supplements—and he’s right. But few of us have the time to prepare 5-6 clean, high-protein meals each day that contain all the right foods that provide not just the key macronutrients, but also enough creatine, BCAAs, and other key ergogenic support nutrients to help recover from hard training.

Strive to get at least three main meals of whole foods, and use supplements to address what you may miss based on your goals.

Let’s face it: Two scoops of whey powder in a shaker cup is the easiest way to get your 40 grams of protein, especially if you’re away from home. This was true 20 years ago, and it’ll be true 20 years down the road.

Strive to get at least three main meals of whole foods, and use supplements to address what you may miss based on your goals. Since taking in 40 g of protein at each feeding is your number one priority, a good whey supplement is still your smartest investment.


Many bodybuilders would rather miss a movie, a class, or a social occasion than skip on their workouts, but that mentality needs to carry over to their eating, too.

Think about it: You’re reading this today because you’d like to add mass, but I’ll bet you can point to any number of occasions when you’ve missed a meal because you were too busy and weren’t prepared. You need to start thinking that missing a meal is worse than missing your workout.

Stock up your fridge with high-protein and clean foods, reserve an afternoon on the weekend to cook for the week ahead, and invest in Tupperware containers that keep your food fresh. Haul it along to work or class, and don’t blink at bringing your cooler to the gym for a fast and easy post-workout meal.

If you’ve been self-conscious about taking steps like these that put your fitness quest out in the public eye, it’s time for you to start wearing your goals proudly. This step—and the time it requires—are key if you’re serious about packing on the pounds.

Rule 8:

Each time you reach for food—any food—consider how it’s going to help power your performance in the gym, and where it’ll go on your physique. Even if you train hard for 90 minutes or more every day, you can sabotage your goals by not keeping a watchful eye on your diet.

Ask yourself: What did you do the last time you were really, really hungry? This is when you’ll make poor choices like going to a fast-food restaurant or buying ready-made dishes at the market. Alcohol may seem like it’s free of nutritional consequences—after all, it’s just a little fluid in a glass, right? —but it’s often loaded with sugar, and bartenders are eager to help you make bad choices.

Clean house while you’re at it! Throw away cookies, chips, and other definition-robbing foods so you don’t even have the option of eating them. They have little nutritional value, but more importantly, junk foods take the place of the clean foods you should eat.

In bodybuilding—more than any sport—you truly are what you eat. And you or your loved ones will eat what you have in the house.

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Build Lean Mass Without Counting Calories

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The Fit Person's Guide To Social Media

Enter any gym these days, and you’ll see as many people lifting a smart phone as a dumbbell. Watches that once told time now look like they could launch space flight. In this digital landscape filled with fitness apps, selfies and “Which Protein Powder Are You?” quizzes, social media and fitness are such snug bedfellows that they’ve spawned a new term together: “fitspiration.”

Posts from friends, quotes, a simple picture, or article can sway someone or move and produce some old-fashioned perspiration. Social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter make it possible to share workouts, training videos, inspirational stories, or even gym selfies with people throughout the world. Rather than fight against the deluge of digital information at your fingertips, here’s how to use it to get ahead in your fitness and wellness goals—and a few pitfalls to avoid.

The Pros of Social Media

1 Follow your role models

Most of your favorite athletes and celebrities are active on the various social platforms. They’ll post drool-worthy photos of their meals, gym photos, and basically offer a looking glass into their daily lives. By monitoring their activity, you can emulate their healthy habits, workouts, style, and favorite foods. Following a registered dietitian or fitness expert on Instagram, for example, can be a treasure trove of valuable information on healthy foods to eat and exercises to try. Plus, watching your favorite athlete make regular progress can motivate you to want to push harder than him or her.

2 Improve your nutritional habits

A majority of fitness-minded social media users constantly show off their new recipes. They even show you the appropriate portion sizes and how frequently they might eat those meals. Learn about the various things they eat and drink throughout the day, before and around their workout, and even at night to help guide you toward sustainable eating habits.

3 Get workout ideas

If you ever find yourself admiring someone’s physique, use media to find out more about the workouts they do to attain their shape. Once learnt, either incorporate these new movements into your current routine or adopt an entirely new one to breathe new life into your training. Sometimes people come up with creative ways to train a specific muscle group that you may never have considered.

4 Find motivation

After a long day’s work, sometimes that couch looks far more inviting than a gym commute. Social media to the rescue! The rise of fitspiration has allowed people to find and provide motivation via quotes and images meant to ignite the fitness fire in you when you think it’s gone kaput. When you feel like skipping the gym today, spend a little time on social media to read some motivational posts or scroll transformation pictures. Get yourself pumped and then destroy some weights at the gym!

“The rise of fitspiration has allowed people to find and provide motivation via quotes and images meant to ignite the fitness fire in you when you think it’s gone kaput.”

5 Increase your worldly knowledge

Since you’ll be able to connect with people from all over the world, you’ll also be able to share knowledge on—as well as learn from—differences in training, cuisine, habits, and cultural beliefs. Although these things may vary by country, we all aspire to be as healthy and fit as we can be.

The Cons of Social Media

Not everything fitness-related on social media is rainbows and unicorns. Some posts on social media can be downright toxic. Take these steps to protect yourself!

1 Question intentions

Many users on social media make a living by promoting lifestyles or eating habits that are solely for entertainment value. Driven by clicks, likes, follows, and of course, money, they don’t necessarily have your well-being or best interest at heart. They might promote how you can lose incredible amounts of weight simply by eating what they eat, all in order to sell you a program or plan. Be aware and question some of the things you see or watch; they’re not always meant for you to follow.

2 Social media has fads, too

When a post or video goes viral, it may have a huge impact on who sees it and whom it may affect. Like an uncontrollable wildfire, some fads spread out of control to the benefit of a few and the detriment of many.

3 The truth isn’t easy to find

The trend of news and studies breaking on social media and then proliferating makes it difficult to sift through what might very well be a hoax or could simply be untrue. Just because something is popular, it doesn’t mean it’s been scientifically proven to work or is necessarily good for you. Be skeptical of the information you come across; sometimes “easy,” “fast,” or “best” are little more than marketing-speak.

4 Everything on the Internet
lives forever

Social media is a digital soapbox for anyone and everyone to express their opinions if they so wish to. This is great, but people sometimes forget that they are not speaking within a vacuum. Anything posted on the Internet lives forever. You have a reputation to uphold; don’t waste it by spreading lies or ruining others with libel or slander.

As with everything you come across on the Internet, social media networks are a phenomenal resource when used correctly. They can be used to improve, motivate, and change people’s lives for good—assuming you use it correctly.

Do you have favorite form of fitness social media—or a pet peeve, like the guy or girl who tweets every single trip the gym? Let us know in the comments section below!

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About The Author

Alex is an IFBB Physique pro and Optimum Nutrition sponsored athlete from Brazil. He currently operates his training business from his home.

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The Fit Person's Guide To Social Media

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Beginner Fitness: 12 Starting Steps To Reach Your Goals

When it comes to fitness, it’s easy to steer off course. Beginners often go hard for a few weeks, or even a few months, but many stall after their short-term motivation goes out like a candle. If you’re determined to make fitness a long-term facet of your lifestyle, you can get back on course, smash PRs, and meet strength and physique goals with these 12 simple tips.

1 Set Goals

Goals are essential to long-term progress. Unless you want to waste your time flailing around at the gym, you need to set specific and measurable goals.

This year, my main goal was to make Southern California Regionals for CrossFit and compete as an individual. But before I could tackle my main, long-term goal, I had to break it up into smaller, more manageable goals. I competed in local CrossFit competitions and even threw in a bit of cross training with EPIC, Tough Mudder, and Ultra Endurance races. Having mini goals helped me stay motivated for my primary goal and added variety to my routine.

2 Write Your Goals Down

Taking pen to paper might seem a bit generic, but having concrete evidence of your goals from the start can limit the likelihood that you’ll stray from them when times get tough. If you have a strength goal, you can chart your weekly progress toward a new PR. If you have a physique goal, take progress pictures so you can measure weekly improvements. With consistent tracking, you’ll know where you’re going and where you’ve been.

3 Educate Yourself

Learn something new about training every day. There are countless resources; you just have to seek them out. It’s not unusual for me to approach some of the more seasoned athletes at my box and ask them for pointers: Are my hips explosive on my snatch? Am I breaking parallel on wall balls? Are my shoulders engaged? Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice.

“We all know that nutrition is an integral part of fitness, which explains why I’m such a big fan of cooking and lifestyle blogs. I love Mark’s Daily Apple and Stupid Easy Paleo.”

If you’re in the market for reading materials, “Born To Run,” “Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes and Coaches,” and “Becoming a Supple Leopard” are a few of my favorite books. We all know that nutrition is an integral part of fitness, which explains why I’m such a big fan of cooking and lifestyle blogs. I love Mark’s Daily Apple and Stupid Easy Paleo .

4 Nail Your Nutrition

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Fat does not make people fat. Sugar and inactivity make people fat. Everything you put into your body affects you on a cellular level, so choose wisely. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned during my training is proper food prep. It’s the bedrock of any training program. I know from personal experience that failure to plan ahead is a surefire way to steer off course, so dedicate one or two days each week to meal prep and make your nutrition as much of a priority as training.

I usually do all my grocery shopping on Sunday morning, then spend a few hours cooking in bulk and dividing meals into Tupperware. As a result, my week starts relatively stress-free. If I know I’ll be out of town for a while, I’ll take several meals and snacks with me in my insulated 6 Pack Fitness bag.

Everyone knows that poor dietary choices can lead to a host of health problems including diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Still, even if it’s not at an extreme, poor diet can affect you in other ways that will impact your training: poor sleep, increased inflammation of the tissue, and slower recovery time.

My advice: Keep things simple, eat whole foods, and “eat the rainbow.” Get as much color on your plate as possible: red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, kale, figs, eggplants, etc. For protein, I tend to reach for the usual suspects: chicken, salmon, and steak. For a well-rounded meal, throw in some brown rice or sweet potatoes for complex carbs, plus a mix of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado.

Foods I recommend as part of a well-balanced, muscle-building plan

Lean Proteins
Fish, Chicken, Turkey, Red Meat, Beef, Lamb, Pork, Egg/egg whites

Complex Carbs
Brown Rice, Oats, Beans, Sweet potato, Whole-wheat pasta

Olive oil, Flaxseed, Avocado, Nuts, Fish, Almond butter, Coconut milk

Broccoli, Spinach, Asparagus, Peppers, Tomatoes, Carrots, Celery, Cucumber

Apples, Oranges, Berries (all), Grapefruit, Pineapple, Plums, Kiwi

Tea, Coffee, Water: lemon, lime, and BCAAs can be added

Not On The List
Drugs! Soda, Anything with high sugar (10grams or more), Processed and fast food

5 Find A Training Partner

Seek out the experts. Someone always knows more than you and, more often than not, they’re willing to share their knowledge. Be polite when you approach a potential bench buddy and demonstrate that you’ve put some effort into finding an answer on your own. You’ll get the answer you need or, at the least, get pointed in the right direction. Who knows, maybe you’ll even strike up a friendship that turns into a training partnership. A study from Kansas State University found that people who exercise with someone who they perceive as being athletically superior push harder—the cyclists observed rode 90 percent longer!1

6 Address Your Weakness

Just like stretching and hydrating, trying to improve on my weaknesses is part of my daily schedule. I usually choose 2-3 things I need to work on and practice them for 15-20 minutes every day, sometimes twice a day until I can put them in my arsenal of perfected movements.

7 Build Mental Toughness

The thing that separates one trainee from another might not be their physical strength. The difference often comes down to mental toughness and the decision to power through. You’re capable of so much more than what your sub-conscious mind tells you. Just remember this: There are plenty of people in this world who will root against you. Don’t let yourself become one of them.

8 Keep A Fitness Log

A log is great for several reasons. First, it’s a good record of how far you’ve come and a great way to get into specifics since you can log your weights, reps, and sets. Recording your workout sessions also keeps you focused on the task at hand. After all, you’re less likely to get distracted when you have a firm goal in mind. Fitness logs help you learn more about your body, your training, your nutrition, and what does and doesn’t work for you.

9 Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

A lot of people say you should drink at least 64 oz of water per day. While there’s no specific number you have to meet, staying hydrated is essential to living a fit lifestyle. Depending on my training day, I typically consume anywhere between 64 ounces to 1 gallon of water every day.

10 Allow For Ample Rest And Recovery

Muscle fibers break down during exercise and rebuild into their bigger, stronger counterparts during rest and recovery. I schedule rest days based on how my body feels—nothing is set in stone. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve set new personal records for lifting on my rest day. Then again, there have been days I was scheduled to train but knew my body needed to rest. Instead of lifting, I’d engage in active recovery like swimming or biking. This is where you need to know your body and its limits. Know the difference between being sore and being completely fatigued and burned out.

11 Prioritize Mobility

When it comes to mobility, just do it. My favorite book and resource for all things mobility related is “Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance,” by Kelly Starrett of San Francisco CrossFit.

“When it comes to mobility, just do it.”

12 Remember, Never Quit

Your mind is the most powerful weapon you have. When your body wants to quit, you have to rely on your mind to push you harder. Sometimes it takes a while to reach certain goals. Some days, you just don’t have motivation. In those times, you have to pull from something even deeper: belief. Stay focused and dedicated.


  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22576339

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Beginner Fitness: 12 Starting Steps To Reach Your Goals

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