Tag Archive | "fitness"

Supplement Company Of The Month: Labrada Nutrition

Few names in the supplement industry carry the same clout and respect as Lee Labrada. This retired Bodybuilding Hall of Famer turned entrepreneur has taken a stage name to doorsteps all over the world. If you know Lee, you know profitability isn’t his primary motivator.

Lee seeks to empower, motivate, and change people’s lives for the better with nutrition, exercise, and supplementation. The company has good products, a good message, and good education. Its reputation hinges on high-quality, great-tasting supplements which deliver on their claims. Labrada wants to change the world’s fit status, to deliver a message of health and fitness to individuals across the globe.

Learn what’s new from Labrada Nutrition, including the new Jamie Eason Lean Body line and some exciting new products yet to be released. Lee leads from the front so his company may never fall behind. He’s hard at work, every day, to make sure his customers get what they pay for!

Interview with:

Q How involved are you in day-to-day operations?

I am here every single day, from bell to bell, leading from the front. It’s necessary to do that if you want to stay attuned to your customers’ needs. You have to be creative, flexible, and to do that you have to be hands-on. I’m surrounded by a great team of people so I don’t micro-manage; everyone has their own area of expertise, but I provide creative vision and work with marketing, sales, and research and development to create products.

There’s no offseason for an owner. Of course I always work time into my day to work out. As Mr. Olympia Chris Dickerson told me once upon a time, “Once a bodybuilder, always a bodybuilder.” My heart is that of a bodybuilder. I know my audience and my customers, so I love that lifestyle. I exercise every day and make sure I have time to do that.

Obesity is wrecking Americans. As a company owner and rep of the industry, do you think it’s your responsibility to help fix that problem? Absolutely yes. We’re not in this just for the profit. We are here to help people, society at-large, to get better. There are a lot of people who are sick, and they are sick because they don’t exercise and don’t eat right.

I encourage everyone who reads this to help someone get into shape. If all of us who are in shape go out and take someone under our wing, imagine what we could do. It would be like an army of people getting a multitude of other people in shape! It would be awesome.

Anybody, no matter what condition you are in, whether you are heavy and overweight or thin and trying to put on weight, whether you have had physical impairments or challenges to overcome, you can improve. It’s a question of knowing how to train, eat, and supplement correctly and stay motivated.

We help people with way more than with supplementation. We educate and motivate them, and become a trusted partner they can join in their journey toward physical fitness.

How were you able to make this company mirror your own values when it comes to bodybuilding?

I built Labrada Nutrition on quality, integrity and trust. These are timeless values that everyone can appreciate. Labrada has become the most trusted name in sports nutrition for several reasons:

  1. Our products always meet label claim and are tested by independent laboratories, so people get what they pay for.

  2. We don’t hide ingredients in proprietary blends, so customers know what they’re paying for and how much they’re getting of each ingredient. It’s about creating value for our customer.

  3. We never spike our products with questionable or illegal ingredients.

  4. Our products taste better. We spend more money on higher quality flavorings than our competitors. That’s why we won the American Culinary Institute Gold Medal for taste.

Lee never stopped lifting. He works every day to make this the best company in the industry, but takes time to set bodybuilding goals.

What is more difficult, preparing your body for the stage, or a product for the market?

Preparing your body for the stage is a challenging physical and mental process. That’s why most competitive bodybuilders throw in the towel after a few years. But like anything else in life, if you work at something consistently, you get better at it. Bodybuilding teaches you lessons, like persistence, which you can apply to business.

Bringing a product to market brings challenges of its own, but they are very different. It requires knowing the needs of your customers, it requires creativity, and it requires the ability to mobilize people and resources. It does require every bit as much persistence, however, as preparing your body for competition.

The biggest difference is that when I’m preparing my body for competition, it’s just about me, and if I fail I’m only letting myself down. When I’m bringing a product to market, it’s all about my customers, so I can’t fail, because I can’t stand the thought of letting them down.

Your supplement line is extensive, but do you have a favorite? What is most popular among customers?

We have more than 115 different product SKUs is in our line, so yes, it is extensive, but it’s for a reason. We believe in offering something for everyone regardless of whether they want to build muscle, burn fat, improve performance, or just improve their general health.

That’s why we have a protein line, a performance line, a wellness line, and a women’s line. They are all popular, and address different interests and goals.

My personal favorites include the Lean Body MRPs and RTDs, the IsoLean Pro whey protein isolate, and our new PE-1 Performance Enhancer Pre-Workout Concentrate.

What new and exciting products can we expect in the near future?

PE-1 is Labrada’s next-generation pre-workout concentrate that contains a special citrulline nitrate compound combined with performance-enhancing ingredients that create dramatic vasodilation and energy.

If you’re a bodybuilder, you’re going to love this product. It simply blows the competition away. PE-1 means “Performance Enhancer, 1 scoop.”

Where do you think this company will be in 10 years? Will you still be at the helm?

I know we will firmly establish ourselves as the most trusted name in sports nutrition. We exist to help our customers take control of their bodies and get into their best shape. Whether it’s burning fat, building and toning muscle, enhancing performance, or becoming healthier and more fit, Labrada will be there to help you.

In 10 years, we will be bigger and better than ever, and helping more people than ever. And yes, God willing, I will still be coming into the office every day, just like I do today, to lead Labrada Nutrition.

Is your son Hunter fit to sit on the Labrada throne?

Hunter represents the continuation of the Labrada legacy. We are very excited about his working with us. He’s got incredible genetics (if I may be so bold to say). He has an incredible work ethic. He’s 5-foot-9, 230 pounds, with single-digit body fat.

Hunter Labrada has taken bold steps to becoming a pro bodybuilder. Lee says the current Texas A&M student is the future of the brand.

He’s just on a mission. He’s put on 100 pounds in the last 6 years. He’s just a real inspiration to a lot of the younger bodybuilders. He’s going to be a great representative for the Labrada brand.

What is Labrada TV? How has technology helped spread the outreach for your company?

Labrada TV is our free, web-based video channel that exists to educate and motivate our athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts. We currently have almost 200 feature videos that run the gamut of fitness, nutrition, supplementation and motivation.

Whether you want to learn how to burn fat, build muscle, eat healthy, or need help getting motivated to diet or workout, there’s a video on Labrada TV for you.

Labrada Nutrition:
Watch The Video – 01:50

Technology is making it easier for us to build relationships with our customers and engage in a conversation with them. Labrada Nutrition has more free resources for the athlete and bodybuilder on its website than any competing supplement company.

We have hundreds of free online videos, expert articles, recipes, the Lean Body and Lean Body for Her e-newsletters; even an online 12 week Lean Body Challenge to help people get into shape.

Please tell us about the Lean Body for Her Jamie Eason Signature Series. Why start a line directed at female fitness enthusiasts?

Jamie has become a women’s fitness icon by helping hundreds of thousands of women reach their fitness goals. She created the LiveFit trainer, which you’ll find here on Bodybuilding.com.

Jamie is a big believer that healthy, natural nutrition plays a major role in helping women get leaner, healthier and more toned.

Jamie’s signature series supplements do just that. I’ve known Jamie for years and can’t think of a better partner to develop a women’s line with.

She’s a high-integrity person who genuinely cares about the well-being of her fans and followers.

We are honored that Jamie chose to partner with Labrada Nutrition for her product line.

Ethics are important to supplements buyers. What does your company do to ensure ethical standards?

Trust is the most important factor in human relationships. We share a one-on-on relationship with our customers, and we value that, so we always do things with our customer’s well-being in mind. Building trust requires honesty.

For over 18 years, our products have always met label claim: “If it’s on the label, it’s in the bottle.” Labrada supplements are tested by independent laboratories to ensure this. We don’t hide ingredients in proprietary blends, like other companies do, so our customers know how much they’re getting of each active ingredient.

Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you would like to share? Is there anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to? Yes! Be sure to check out my Lean Body Daily Trainer right here on Bodybuilding.com!

Also, I’d like to express my sincerest appreciation to my good friend, Ryan DeLuca, the founder of Bodybuilding.com, for building such a great bodybuilding community through his vision, hard work and dedication. We’re proud to be aligned with Ryan’s mission to improve lives and build better bodies.


Q Jamie, you’ve worked as a spokesmodel for some time, but what made you want to join the Labrada team?

Lee Labrada approached me with this amazing partnership opportunity. Lee has served as both a mentor and inspiration to me. His company is known for the highest-quality products and incredible flavors.

He felt that female products were under-represented in the industry and that together we could create a line of products based on what consumers have been saying they want and what I myself have wanted.

There is absolutely no ego with Lee. He genuinely cares about listening to customers and exceeding expectations. I couldn’t have picked a better partner. I knew immediately that with Lee and Labrada Nutrition, I’d finally be able to have the supplement wish list I always wanted!

Can you explain the motivation behind the Lean Body For Her Signature Series?

Jamie is a new mother! Her training, nutrition, and supplementation have changed, but she still works hard to maintain her physique.

I started my fitness journey taking Lean Body for Her products back in 2004, so I knew the flavors were awesome. My hope was that we could capture those same amazing flavors but with all-natural ingredients.

I just had a baby and am currently nursing, so I only want the cleanest and most natural ingredients for both me and the baby.

From the multivitamin and the krill oil to the protein powder and anti-bloat product—recommended post nursing—I can feel good about taking these supplements and any others we may add to the line to support my fitness goals without any worry.

Consumers are much smarter these days and more likely to educate themselves when it comes to fitness, supplementation and nutrition.

As more and more people (men and women alike) seek out products made with only natural ingredients, I’m thrilled to be able to offer such an incredible line through Labrada Nutrition.

When training, what is your favorite Labrada Nutrition supplement? How do you use it?

My favorite Labrada supplement has to be the protein powder from my signature series. Being a new mom, there are times when I might end up skipping a meal, which was unthinkable in the past.

With the protein powder, I always have something quick that is good for both me and the baby—since I’m nursing. I only want to eat what I would want him to eat, so it’s now even more important to me to stay away from pre-packaged and highly processed foods.

I might have a protein shake in the morning, and I also like having a shake post-workout with a little bit of fruit to take advantage of that window of time when my muscles need it most. The protein powder tastes great in my homemade foods, like protein bars, muffins and pancakes.

Can you share some supplement lessons with us? Do we all need to take them?

Years ago when I first competed, I took my essential fatty acids (flaxseed, krill oil, fish oil, etc.) at the instruction of my nutritionist. I took first place in that show and was likely in the best shape of my life.

Later that year I was competing again and when I ran out of my EFA, I just left it out of my nutrition program. That was the only variable that changed in my training and nutrition and I could not get as lean, and dieting for that show was much harder.

Jamie has been with Bodybuilding.com for more than seven years. Her new Labrada line marks a new era for the fitness icon.

I learned from that experience the importance of EFAs. Some of the many benefits are that they keep us satisfied, aid in digestion, increase metabolism, reduce inflammation and increase insulin levels, which aids in weight loss. Even though I no longer compete, I take my krill oil every day.

How has your performance improved using Labrada Nutrition’s supplements?

Having the Labrada Nutrition supplements in my Signature Series helped support my nutrition as I returned to training post-pregnancy. Ask any pregnant woman if there are foods she has aversions to and she will likely list a few she can’t even smell, much less eat.

Many of the food choices that I ate pre-pregnancy, like eggs, chicken, broccoli and asparagus, still turn my stomach post-pregnancy. This is why I love the food-based multivitamin with the veggie complex and my protein powder.

Here is a look at what a meal plan might look like for me currently:

Do you have a specific message you want to share with Labrada customers?

I’m so grateful for the support and trust people have in me to follow the programs I write and to try my products. Before I put anything out, I always ask myself, would this be something I would give to my own mother or tell her to buy? I am so proud of this product line with Labrada!

We worked long and hard and went through many revisions to get them just right. I truly hope that you end up loving the products as much as I do and that they help support you as you continue to pursue your goals!

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Supplement Company Of The Month: Labrada Nutrition

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Ask The Fitness Jewell: How Do I Enjoy Summer While Staying Fit?

Q I’ve worked so hard to get in shape for summer—how do I maintain it while still enjoying my summer to the fullest?

You’re not alone! A number of my friends and clients share this same concern. But having summer fun and keeping your fitness in check isn’t as difficult as you think.

While it’s important to focus on fitness, enjoying time with friends and loved ones is what life’s all about. You can’t miss out on that because you fear straying ever so slightly from your routine.

We all work out, eat healthy and are committed to our fitness goals, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves that saying “yes” to social invites or going out of town is completely normal and won’t necessarily wreak havoc on our fitness.

With a bit of planning and preparation, and by implementing the following tips, you can have your most fit, fun summer yet!


This is seriously my number one rule of fitness. If you don’t enjoy your workouts, then you won’t stick to them for the long haul … so let’s fix that pronto!

My suggestion? Find activities that you enjoy, grab some friends, and get to it! If you’ve been cooped up all winter long, summer is a great season to try new activities and get outside for some adventures.

Kick that boring indoor cardio to the curb and hit the pavement (or local track/bleachers, trail, etc.). It doesn’t seem like as much work when you do cardio while enjoying the outdoors!


Gorgeous weather and happy hour seem to go hand-in-hand during the summer. Rather than going out for cocktails after work, invite a few friends for a workout happy hour. This was a little trick I implemented years ago when I was on a mission to shed 50 pounds.

This approach helped me (and my friends) reduce our alcohol intake. Fun activities you may consider include hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, a yoga or Spin class, a run on the beach, or one of your favorite outside sports. Tennis, anyone?


Nothing eats at your mind more than obsessing about how far you’ll set yourself back while on vacation. But holidays don’t have to be about swilling sugary tropical drinks or going on booze cruises. A few drinks once each week won’t derail your progress, but if you want to keep your six-pack abs poppin’ and a hangover at bay, I wouldn’t rack up bar tabs multiple nights every week. Adopt the everything-in-moderation mantra.

Not all alcoholic drinks are created equal. Instead of calorie-busting fruit-juice mixers or margarita mixes, ask for club soda as your mixer, and add lemon or lime with your alcohol of choice. If you’re not up for a cocktail, grab a light beer or a glass of wine. And no, that doesn’t mean you should have more of them!

While I enjoy kicking back on the beach, I also love heading out to explore the area that I’m visiting. Each trip I plan ahead and scout locations which require a bit of a hike to reach. Going for a mountain hike or a stroll through, say, a rain forest will allow you to check out the local sights while working your heart and lungs.

Being prepared and knowing what kinds of foods are available at a hotel also can be a huge help. If you know options are limited, pack a to-go bag.

I always travel with non-perishable food items. Taking oats, protein powder, protein bars, and almonds means I’ll always have these types of healthy options at my disposal. These items don’t replace all of my meals when I’m away, but most of them sure beat the heck out of whatever I’d find at a convenience store or hotel minibar. By having healthy eats on hand, you’re less likely to splurge every meal of the day.

Remember it all comes down to enjoying your summer events in moderation.


One of the easiest social invites to navigate healthfully is the barbecue. Food will be cooked right in front of you, which gives you more of a say in what you eat and how it’s prepared. You can even bring a few lean protein options to throw on the grill for some healthy eats.

It’s typically the side dishes that are cause for concern here. Why not offer to whip up a dish or two of your favorite healthy side options and bring it along?

Remember it all comes down to enjoying your summer events in moderation. It’s worth repeating: The more balanced you are in your approach to fitness and healthy eating year-round, the more realistic it is to sustain the results you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

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Ask The Fitness Jewell: How Do I Enjoy Summer While Staying Fit?

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Are You Ready To Overcome Your Greatest Obstacles?

Physical strength is impressive—there’s no doubt about it. But it’s also fairly common and, let’s face it, not enough to build a life around. If you think for a second, you can probably recall a strong man or woman with glaring weaknesses. They can pull double bodyweight off the floor, but they also half-ass it as an employee or parent. They’ve got biceps and abs for days, but their finances are a wreck.

This is why I began, years ago, to think in terms of Spartan strength rather than simply muscular might. To build Spartan strength, you must commit yourself to working for a long period of time without any concrete evidence that it will pay off, casting off all distractions and nonessentials along the way. It’s less about the prodigious physical strength Arnold Schwarzenegger displayed in the gym, and more about the strength of mind and spirit that drove his body past all limits and against all odds.

Spartan strength goes hand-in-hand with “grit,” an innate trait hidden in most of us that nonetheless can become unlocked through dedication and repeated exposure to challenges. Grit refers to an indefatigable ability to overcome obstacles, like a steep mountain pass capable of knocking the wind out of even an experienced runner, or a series of metabolic circuits that make you feel like you’re sucking air through a pillow by the end. Think of it this way:

  • Spartan strength is the determination that arises out of true commitment.
  • Grit is the application of that strength in the face of overwhelming difficulty.

“Spartan strength emerges out of a psychic need to get something done.”

Spartan strength emerges out of a psychic need to get something done. It’s an acceptance: This is just what is going to be. It puts you on the starting line and motivates you through grueling training. Grit is execution on game day. Grit actually gets shit done.

The Perfect Combination

Combine Spartan strength and grit, and greatness can finally have the space to bloom. Edmund Hillary climbs Everest. Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigates the globe. Mahatma Gandhi lives to see India gain independence from Britain. The Weider brothers envision a worldwide fitness movement and then create it over 75 years, undeterred by staunch opposition and cultural stereotypes. See, grit isn’t always applied physically. It’s Edison perfecting a light bulb design after thousands of failed attempts.

“Spartan strength and grit are the traits that draw people to the Spartan Race and the insanely demanding 3-day obstacle race from which it arose, the Death Race.”

Spartan strength and grit are the traits that draw people to the Spartan Race and the insanely demanding 3-day obstacle race from which it arose, the Death Race. Not coincidentally, they’re also the most important factors in personal success outside of the race course. To succeed at life we must be able to do that which sucks: working late on a weekend in order to meet a deadline; doing what your boss tells you to do even if you don’t agree with it; or heading to the gym when your friends are headed out to drink and party.

These activities aren’t fun in the moment, but you have to do them in order to succeed. If you approach life the right way, you can turn something that should be miserable into something that feels incredibly satisfying—and yes, even fun—to overcome.

Your Life Hangs in the Balance

Want to know how to develop grit? It’s simple: You do it the same way you develop a muscle. In the choices you make, you either train yourself to be gritty, or you train yourself not to be gritty.

The alarm goes off at 5 a.m.—what do you do? Believe it or not, your success in life often hangs in the balance right here. If you go through life hitting the snooze button, your chances for success plunge. When successful executives are studied, one of the basic common denominators found is that they almost all wake up early and work out. They don’t hit the snooze; they all know that if you snooze, you lose.

“In the choices you make, you either train yourself to be gritty, or you train yourself not to be gritty.”

Like getting up before dawn, developing grit is easier said than done. But there are specific steps that make it happen. These include:

  1. Making a commitment to something that will make life better for you and for people around you.
  2. Determining what kinds of bullshit usually get in the way of you fulfilling your commitment.
  3. Learning how to recognize the bullshit when it sneaks up on you, and how to tell it to go away so you can focus solely on the task at hand.
  4. Executing the task at hand as if your ass is on fire, over and over.
  5. Making another commitment and doing it all again!

Make sure the goal in step one matters. Otherwise, you’ll think, Why did I want to do this in the first place? But if your motivation is clear, you can do incredible things. I’ve seen plenty of people become motivated enough to complete the “Spartan trifecta,” meaning that, in just one race year, they complete the short-and-fast Spartan Sprint, the longer, tougher Super Spartan, and the toughest and longest of all, the Spartan Beast. If someone joins the 300 Burpees Club—a club whose name says exactly what you need to do to join—then I have no doubt that they used both Spartan strength and grit to get there.

But What About The Pain?

To achieve a truly triumphant goal, it helps to have practice in overcoming smaller, far more unpleasant goals. This builds the confidence you need to achieve whatever you put your mind to—and to convince you that you have grit. Because, if you’re anything like most people, you’ll need convincing.

For example, say you’ve already completed an introductory trainer such as Lee Labrada’s 12-Week Lean-Body Trainer. Next up, consider trying something even more intense, like MFT28: Greg Plitt’s 4-Week Military Fitness Trainer. Or if you want to put the toughness and grit you’ve been developing in the gym to a more unpredictable test, sign up for a Spartan Race.

“The inspiration to join a Spartan Race is similar to the feeling we get watching a movie like ‘Die Hard,’ where an ordinary guy like John McClane becomes a hero.”

The inspiration to join a Spartan Race is similar to the feeling we get watching a movie like “Die Hard,” where an ordinary guy like John McClane becomes a hero: “Boy, I can see myself doing that. I could do it if I had to.” Only there’s no “have to” in a Spartan race; it’s all voluntary. The mere act of signing up for a Spartan Race is an initial spark of Spartan strength and grit, because you know that you’ve got a tough task ahead of you, and you choose to embrace it.

But here’s the thing about a Spartan Race, or a Bodybuilding.com daily trainer, or any other life-transforming challenge: You can do it. It’s easy to make this commitment, because you are simply saying yes! You’re instantly a member of a community—a team—with other people who have said yes. In this setting, you have to develop grit because you don’t want to let them down, nearly as much as you don’t want to let yourself down.

Once you’re there, you’ll understand. The rest is up to you.

Is there is someone in the fitness world or in your own life that you feel personifies the concepts of Spartan strength and grit? Let us know in the comments below!

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Are You Ready To Overcome Your Greatest Obstacles?

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4 of the best fitness bloggers

The best places to get your free daily fitness fix (aside from our website, of course)…Fitness Food and StyleDani Stevens, 40 | fitnessfoodandstyle.blogspot.com.auWho she is: Having just hit the big 4-0, Stevens is motivating Australian women of all ages to defy the effects of ageing via an active lifestyle. With four children under eight, a role she juggles with her website Fitness Food and Style, Stevens is our definition of a super mum.Her philosophy: Stevens is a firm believer that children or a busy lifestyle are no reason to sacrifice a healthy existence. “The purpose of the blog is to keep it real and share practical and doable tips for making health and fitness a priority for busy mums like me.


4 of the best fitness bloggers

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You Snooze, You Win: 7 Useful Sleep Tips

We all know the feeling after waking from a long, deep sleep. We’re rested, relaxed, and feel like a million bucks.

But for too many folks, this feeling is as elusive as a forgotten dream. Their restlessness prevents them from getting the quality rest their body needs for proper physical and mental recovery.

What can you do to ensure adequate quality sleep? It doesn’t have to cost money, and might take but a few minutes of your time.

Try these proven methods to prime your body and mind before hitting the sack.


Turn the temperature down in your home and dim the lights or use less light as you prepare for bed.

The lower light and temperature combine to create a relaxing environment and help set off the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. In contrast, exposure to artificial light suppresses melatonin release and increases alertness.

Turn off the electronics one hour before bed. We’re so connected in this day and age that technology has become second nature.

Turn off the electronics one hour before bed.

In a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2011, more than half of respondents experienced a sleep problem every night.

Of those people, nearly 95 percent watched TV, used their computer, played video games, or were on their cell phone at least a few nights each week in the hour before bed.


Try an evening flow. Wait, flow? Yes. An evening flow—a style of yoga—always seems to help me calm my muscles and mind after a long day. It can be as brief as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. You can find peace and calm while enjoying a series of movements designed to help you sleep.

This suggested flow is designed so you can practice right from your bed. Each pose can be held up to 2 minutes and should incorporate slow, even breathing.

Relaxation Yoga
Watch The Video – 06:52

5-move yoga routine for sleep

  1. Simple Forward Bend
  2. Child’s Pose
  3. Supported Wall Inversion
  4. Supine Stretch
  5. Corpse Pose


Breathing—or deep breathing, rather—oxygenates your blood. This simple involuntary act can also be the center of your focus to help calm your body and calm your mind for a restful night’s sleep. By making it voluntary, you can enhance your calm and lower a stressed mind.

According to the Sleep Disorders Center from the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), concentrating on slow, elaborate breathing allows the rest of the body to relax.

UMMC offers the following suggestions to practice your deep breathing technique:

Deep Breathing Technique

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Slowly relax your body.
  3. Begin to inhale slowly through your nose if possible.
  4. Fill the lower part of your chest first, then the middle and top part of your chest and lungs. Do this slowly, over 8-10 seconds.
  5. Hold your breath for a second or two.
  6. Quietly and easily relax and let the air out.
  7. Repeat cycle


Not that kind of nightcap! Consider an evening “mocktail” of BCAAs and glutamine or a ZMA supplement. I know, I know—folks like to pooh-pooh glutamine, but taken on an empty stomach and just before bed, the glutamine alone can hone in on brain and GI function without interrupting the BCAAs path to the muscle for recovery.

Your body recovers as you sleep, but if you don’t get a good night’s rest, then you may lose your hard-earned gains. Pre-sleep supplements can help.

An alternative would be ZMA—a natural supplement comprising zinc and magnesium aspartate, which can be found in capsule or powder form. Zinc plays a critical role in cell growth and protein synthesis; magnesium is responsible for bone strength, immunity, and supports a healthy nervous system. A deficiency in either can disrupt sleep.

What to avoid? Alcohol can actually disrupt sleep patterns and make it difficult to resume sleep after waking. Try to also avoid consuming caffeine 2-4 hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a well-known stimulant which can disrupt sleep and remain active in your system hours after consumption.

You can also sip on hot herbal tea. If you’re not a fan of the earthy, green tea; try its estranged brother and opt for an herbal tea or herbal blend—decaf of course. The hot beverage increases natural body temperature, which decreases naturally as we sleep. This temperature spike can kickstart a cool-down and lead to a deeper sleep. The herbal notes and smell can help soothe tension and stress. Chamomile is a popular evening tea. No wonder it’s called “sleepy time” tea.


Maintain a regular sleep schedule—wake and bed time—even on the weekends. Our circadian rhythm thrives on consistency. Most of us can already relate to the power of consistency in our lives in the weight room, so take that lesson home with you.

A fave relaxation exercise of mine comes from UW Health Sleep Scientist and Psychologist, Dr. Shilagh Mirgain; it’s called “progressive muscle relaxation.” This can also be a helpful exercise to return to sleep after waking in the middle of the night.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  1. Begin this exercise by lying down.
  2. Starting with your feet, tense the muscles and hold tightly.
  3. Inhale as you tense and hold your breath for a few seconds.
  4. Exhale and release the muscle tension in your feet.
  5. Continue with each muscle group until you reach your head.

Pick up a bound book! Yeah, it’s old-school, but you’ll learn something and fall asleep faster.

Another mind-fulfillment technique is to simply take a hot bath with Epsom salts or a hot shower. Body temperature naturally dips at night, so, much like sipping on a hot beverage, the hot water from either a shower or bath will not only help soothe sore muscles but also kickstart the body’s cool-down process, helping you sleep.

If your imagination runs wild before bed, pick up a good read. Reading a story can help take your mind away from the stressors of the day.

Alternatively, organize your thoughts by writing them down. Journaling can allow you to release stressful thoughts.


This cannot be stressed enough. Give your body enough time to rest and repair. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin found that the brain needs sleep to learn and memorize new skills.

No, this doesn’t mean you’re going to lose those sweet, new curling skills or forget how to squat. But a balanced nightly sleep window will help preserve and enhance your brain health and overall function over time.

A balanced nightly sleep window will help preserve and enhance your brain health and overall function over time.

We make time to exercise and eat healthy, as well as manage our stress, but if we do not get a solid eight hours each night, we undermine all these efforts.


Like trying to soothe a crying baby in the middle of the night, supporting or reinforcing bad sleep behavior will only perpetuate the problem. Avoid getting out of bed for that drink of water. Never look at the clock. Creating habits like this reinforces poor sleep. Correct it.

Stay in bed. Turn your clock away from you before falling asleep. Break the cycle. Most people can return to regular sleep after 1-2 weeks with this reverse strategy.

If you have any questions, awesome sleep techniques, or sleep-hygiene nightmares you’d like to share, write them as comments below!

  1. Business Standard. Brain Needs Sleep to Learn and Memorize New Skills. ANI News. Retrieved on January 10, 2014, from http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/brain-needs-sleep-to-learn-and-memorize-new-skills-114011000670_1.html
  2. Freedman, L. Men’s Fitness Magazine Supplement Guide – ZMA. Men’s Fitness. Retrieved on January 8, 2014, from http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/supplements/supplement-guide-zma
  3. Health.com. Bedtime Behaviors That Work: 7 Habits That Will Prepare Your Body for Sleep. Retrieved on January 8, 2014, from http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20189095,00.html
  4. National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Annual Sleep in America Poll Exploring Connections with Communications Technology Use and Sleep. Retrieved on January 11, 2014, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/press-release/annual-sleep-america-poll-exploring-connections-communications-technology-use
  5. Tartakovsky, M. (2011). 12 Ways to Shut Off Your Brain Before Bedtime. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/12-ways-to-shut-off-your-brain-before-bedtime/0006577
  6. University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Sleep Disorders Center. Relaxation Techniques. Retrieved on January 10, 2014, from http://umm.edu/programs/sleep/patients/relaxation#ixzz2qt79DeVN
  7. Uwhealth.org. Simple Strategies to Improve Your Sleep. Retrieved on January 8, 2014, from http://www.uwhealth.org/news/simple-strategies-to-improve-your-sleep/40770

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Fitness Amateur Of The Week: Melissa Harding Rocks A Hard Body!

QHow did your fitness
journey begin?

I lifted and enjoyed the gym for years, but 2013 was the first time I pursued my dream to become a fitness competitor. I learned about training, nutrition, and the importance of developing a mind-muscle connection so I could target the working muscle.

From age 16, I’ve trained in the gym 5-6 days per week consisting of cardio, fitness classes, and high-volume weight training. I discovered Bodybuilding.com four years ago and started to read up on advanced training methods to lift heavy, get stronger, and build muscle.

My results skyrocketed when I entered Physique of the Week Live, my first fitness competition, at the massive Body Power event with more than 60,000 visitors from England. I only had 10 weeks to prepare and had friend from college help me structure my training and nutrition plan.

“The sky really is the limit. Anything is possible if you want it badly enough.”

On the first day of contest prep, I was run over on the walk to work and couldn’t train for three weeks, so 10 weeks of prep suddenly became 7 weeks. Rather than give up and pull out of the competition, I became more determined. I was astounded at the incredible results I achieved in short time from consistent training and nutrition. I stepped on stage in the best shape of my life and was honored to win the best fitness personality award and place second overall out of 500 competitors.

My competition success gave me a taste of overwhelming accomplishment and made me crave the next big challenge. It was my dream to compete with the UKBFF (UK Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation) bikini division but was told I couldn’t because I had a fitness model body. I didn’t let that stop me and went for it anyway. I switched my training method and transformed my body into a curved, bikini physique and placed third in my first bikini competition, which supplanted my place in the British National finals.

Throughout the past year, I prepped for five competitions and learned about discipline, mental strength, and consistency. Contest prep requires planning, organization, and time management to train, prep meals, and work full-time. I plan to keep working hard to improve and accomplish more down the road.

What fitness regimen delivered the best results?

  • Stationary Bike Stationary Bike Stationary Bike
    6 sets of 20 second sprints with 2 minute recovery between sets
  • Elliptical Elliptical Elliptical
    6 sets of 20 second sprints with 2 minute recovery between sets

Amateurs Of The Week Main Page

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?

What supplements gave you an edge?

How did your passion for fitness emerge?

My passion for fitness arose from a place of low self-confidence and determination to challenge myself to get on stage and face my shyness head on. It meant a lot to win best fitness personality at my first contest. Competing brought out the best in me. Now I feel confident and happy with my abilities.

Competing ignited a passion to demand more of myself and to strive for constant self-improvement. Bodybuilding provides an arena to constantly challenge myself physically and mentally. I get pumped up thinking about how far I came this year and how much more I still have to achieve.

What motivates you to live a healthy lifestyle?

I’m motivated to live healthy overall. My cravings went away after consistent dieting. It’s about more than looking good. It’s important to remember that healthy living is great for general health. In the process of competing, I also learned about nutrition and improving my general health to get the best out of training. This knowledge allows me to be healthy for the rest of my life.

Where did you go for inspiration?

Bodybuilding.com is where I go to get psyched up before every workout. I love watching the videos before the gym to motivate me. I enjoy learning philosophies from other athletes and competitors.

What are your future fitness plans?

I plan to win a UKBFF show and qualify for the British finals again to compete internationally. My dream is to become a fitness model and grace the cover of a major fitness magazine. I know what’s possible when I set my mind to improve my body. I’ll keep working until I achieve my goal. The sky really is the limit. Anything is possible if you want it badly enough.

“My dream is to become a fitness model and grace the cover of a major fitness magazine.”

What is the most important fitness tip?

  • When you feel like giving up, stop and visualize yourself achieving the goal.
  • Achieving your dream body comes down to consistent nutrition and training.
  • Dramatic lifestyle changes cannot happen overnight, so start small.
  • Think about what you want to achieve specifically.

Who is your favorite fitness competitor?

Amanda Latona is herself on stage and has fun with it. Amanda embodies a journey of self-improvement and confidence.

How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?

Bodybuilding.com is packed with educational content. It’s my favorite destination for videos and articles on nutrition and training. The exercise guides and video features are very useful to help me change my program according to my goals.

Melissa’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Take You Down” by Bassnectar
  2. “Hate Me Know” by Nas (Feat. P Diddy)
  3. “Paris” by Kanye West
  4. “Public Domain” by Operation Blade
  5. “No Church In The Wild” by Jay-Z (Feat. Kanye West)
Competition History
  • 2013 Body Power – Best Fitness Personality, 2nd Place Physique
  • 2013 UKBFF British Nationals – Finalist
  • 2013 UKBFF East Of England Championships – 3rd Place
  • 2013 UKBFF Stars Of Tomorrow/London Classic Championships – 4th Place

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Body Transformation: Former Ballplayer Gets Diamond Cut

Why I decided to transform

I played as a professional baseball player in the MLB in 1992 when I was drafted into the New York Yankees right out of Murray State University. I retired from my professional career in 2003. At 205 pounds and carrying around 10% body fat, I was very fit at the age of 33.

Baseball is in my blood and even after I left the professional game, my love of baseball never vanished. During my off-season, I had received requests from parents to coach their kids on how to play. I enjoyed sharing my knowledge of the game and seeing them succeed. When I retired, I opened an indoor training facility in Paducah, KY, where I still currently coach young players on baseball.

As with most retired professional athletes, however, I let myself go since I didn’t have to train all the time. Over the next five plus years, my weight climbed to 235 with most of the weight gain being fat. A yearly physical at age 38 indicated I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

Gradually, my energy levels dropped and my joints started taking the toll of the extra weight. I suffered from severe migraine headaches, fatigue, and dehydration. I suspected these all stemmed from the crappy diet I put myself to. I finally decided that something had to be done!



AGE 39 / HEIGHT 6’3″ / BODY FAT 20%

AGE 43 / HEIGHT 6’3″ / BODY FAT 9%

Post To Fitboard

How I accomplished my goals

The workout was never a problem for me. I love the feeling! The harder beast to slay was my pesky diet! I developed bad eating habits and chugged soda like it was nobody’s business. I felt like my body craved and fueled itself on soda, as I easily knocked back a six-pack of soda on the daily. Imagine, drinking 1000 calories a day like I was paid to do it.

It was only approximately six months ago when I started to get serious about making a change. That’s when I went online and discovered bodybuilding.com. I was hooked! The information available was unbelievable and really motivated me to get back into shape.

My two wonderful daughters, Kenzie and Katie Wallace, really helped me kick my ass in gear and stay the course. They told me that daddy needed to stay in shape so that he can fight off all the boys! The thought of it still makes me laugh, but I’m just glad I can keep up now if I ever needed to chase someone down.

Apply Here To Be A Transformation Of The Week!

Apply Here To Be A Transformation
Of The Week!

Bodybuilding.com honors people across all transformation categories for their hard work and dedication. Learn how our featured transformers overcame obstacles and hit their goals!

Supplements that helped me through the journey

Diet plan that guided my transformation

Training regimen that kept me on track

What aspect challenged me the most

Because I had developed very poor eating habits, my diet was one of the most difficult things to restart. As you can imagine, fried foods, fast food, and other junk food are so tempting and convenient when you’re so accustomed to it for so long. Plus before I read more about nutrition, I guess I never really thought about what went into my body. I often finished dinner with a bowl of ice cream and a brownie.

Eliminating the sugary foods cold turkey the first month was tough. The cravings get so powerful that sometimes the workout is the wrestling match between my body and mind.

“Don’t be afraid to try new foods and exercises before your interest stagnates. After all, boredom is one of your worst enemies!”

I never relented, and after a month or so, my cravings curbed. I’d say kicking the soda habit by far proved to be most difficult. I switched to diet soda for a while and I still enjoy a couple of diet drinks a day.

I just lay off the regular soda, but every now and again I’ll have a real soda. But for every soda I drink, I tell myself to drink a bottle of water.

My future fitness plans

I plan to get certified as a personal trainer to supplement my coaching in baseball. I feel that this would allow players and students to respect my credentials more as a coach.

Cool Fact

Kent struck out David “Big Papi” Ortiz in 1999, who ended up being
the 2013 World Series MVP for the Boston Red Sox.

Suggestions for aspiring transformers

Be patient and expect bumps along the way. It’s okay to fail. You don’t have to like it, but you must not let it keep you from reaching your goal.

Don’t be afraid to try new foods and exercises before your interest stagnates. After all, boredom is one of your worst enemies!

How Bodybuilding.com helped me reach my goals

Bodybuilding.com is my go-to exercise resource. It is my reference for any question I may have about a particular exercise, food, or supplement. I also love reading about other people’s success stories. I hope mine is just as inspirational for you.

Kent’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Enter Sandman” by Metallica
  2. “Get on the Floor” by Pitbull
  3. “Timber” by Flo Rida
  4. “Monster” by Eminem
  5. “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre (feat. Eminem)

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Ask The Fitness Jewell: What Are Some Booty-Building Squat Alternatives?

QI know squats are important for building a great butt, but some injuries prevent me from doing them. Do you have any good squat alternatives or even a squat-free booty workout?

In general, the rule in the gym is “if it hurts, don’t do it.” If your back or hips are immobile or injured, loading heavy weight on your back and trying to squat it may be a bad idea. Although there’s no doubt about the efficacy of squats for booty-building, sometimes they’re just not in the cards.

Have no fear, though! Even if you must avoid the squat rack due to injuries, you can still achieve the ultimate set of glutes. There are many other fun and challenging exercises that will build and shape buns of steel.

Just 10-15 reps of the following exercises will stimulate your glutes from all angles. Mix and match them on your leg or glute days, or include them in your full-body circuits. Do them correctly and frequently and you’ll build a round, full bum that looks great in a bikini or even a pair of jeans.

Let’s go booty-building!

Ode to the lunge

A fantastic alternative to the squat is the lunge. Although there are about a million variations, most lunges have the same basic setup: one leg is forward with the knee bent and the other leg is behind. You can do them without weight, or you can hold a barbell, dumbbells, or even kettlebells.

Lunges build and shape your quads, hamstrings, and butt. The farther forward you step your front foot, the more your butt and hamstrings will have to work. A shorter step will emphasize your quads. Lunges are also great for stretching out those hip flexors—if you sit all day, yours are probably short, tight, and weak. Lunges will also work those oft-forgotten hip adductors and abductors that are so important to stability and athletic performance.

Here are a few of my favorite types of lunges. You can add a few sets to your leg day and enjoy the benefits.

Barbell Lunge
Walking lunge

Grab a barbell or set of dumbbells and go for it. Walking lunges differ from stationary lunges in that you have to use your already-taxed front leg to step forward instead of pushing backward into a standing position. The trailing leg is mostly just for stability.

Although stationary lunges are great for leg and butt development, I prefer walking lunges because they hit that forward leg a little harder. Remember to reach forward with your front leg to better activate your butt and hamstrings. Do enough reps to feel the burn!

Reverse lunge from deficit

Deficit lunges are great for building better glutes and hammies, because those muscles actually initiate the movement. Because you’re working from a deficit, your hips have to work harder to drive your body upward, which places more emphasis on your backside.

There’s no need to lunge backward from a cliff, here. A 2-4 inch deficit will be plenty.

Start with both feet on the step and step back with one of your legs. Make sure you step back far enough so you can go low to engage your glutes and hamstrings. Push your weight through your heels as you power back up.

Make sure you train each leg evenly and do your best to keep your spine straight and your head neutral throughout the movement.

Curtsy lunge

This variation of lunge is great because well, you get to curtsy, and you get to work on building an awesome butt! The curtsy lunge hits your glute medius—one of your glute muscles that helps pull your legs away from the midline of your body—and also strengthens your abductors and adductors.

The movement is a little strange, so it’s best to practice without weight until you feel comfortable. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your left foot behind and across your body as you lunge downward. Both knees should be at about 90 degrees.

Try to keep your front knee from going too far over your toes. If it’s difficult to balance, use a wall for stability until you feel ready to do them on your own.

Other great butt-building moves

Sumo deadlift

I absolutely love sumo deadlifts! They’re awesome because they help us emphasize the weakest parts of our bodies. When doing conventional deadlifts, most people use their lower backs and their quads to assist with the lift. The sumo deadlift basically removes your quads and lower back from the picture so you’re left relying on your hips, glutes, and hamstrings to do the pulling. If you have a history of back problems, then sumo deadlifts are your friend.

Although they’re great on paper, sumo deads can be difficult. To do them correctly, set up with a 45-degree foot flare and your shins touching the bar. Your legs should be wide. This external rotation of your hips will help you engage the hips during your pull. Your knees need to be turned outward to match your feet. If your knees cave inward, you’re in the market for an injury.

Sumo deadlift

Don’t squat down, but try to keep your hips relatively high. Reach your arms straight down and grab the bar. Your chest should be up, your spine and head neutral, and your core tight.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a 50-year-old woman or a 23-year-old guy, deadlifts need to be part of your program. You don’t have to go super heavy, but lift enough weight to challenge your glutes to grow.

Glute bridge and hip thrust

Glute bridges and hip thrusts are the ultimate glute builders and shapers. If you want a better booty, you can’t have a routine without these exercises in it.

The glute bridge is a beginner exercise. I suggest you start with it until you can master the feel of the movement and understand how best to activate your glutes.

To perform a glute bridge, lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be about six inches away from your butt. Use your glutes to raise your hips in the air and squeeze at the top. You should concentrate on using your glutes and nothing else.

Hip thrusts are a little more difficult because the range of motion is larger. Do them with your upper back against a bench and your feet a little farther out in front of you. At the top of the movement, you should be able to draw a straight line from your knees through your hips and to your shoulders.

If you want to make these more difficult, you can roll a barbell onto your hips for resistance. Your glutes will have to work extra hard to move the weight up!

Plie squat

Plie squats aren’t just for the ballerina in you. This squat variation is perfect for people with lower-back injuries: There’s no stress on the back, but you still get to be in the ultra-effective squat position.

To do a plie squat, stand with your feet wide and your toes pointed out, much like the starting position in a sumo deadlift. The key to making plie squats work for your butt is to concentrate on using your glutes to push yourself back up out of the hole. If you want to use weight, hold a kettlebell, dumbbell, or two in front of you. Be sure to keep your back straight and your chest up.

You should feel some excellent stretching in your hips when you do this movement.

Cardio Bursts

I love to add in cardio bursts to my lower-body training. Between sets of weighted exercises, I’ll throw in sets of plyometrics—burpees, mountain climbers, jump squats, and more—to get that extra burn. You can also keep it simple by jumping rope between sets.

Cardio bursts between sets of resistance exercises keep your heart rate elevated so you can burn more fat, which will help you uncover that crazy-awesome booty in no time!

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Ask The Fitness Jewell: What Are Some Booty-Building Squat Alternatives?

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CrossFit – a no bullshit, no mirrors regime

CrossFit – a no bullshit, no mirrors regime CrossFit is no bullshit, no mirrors training regime. Can YOU handle it?What is crossfit?Founded by strength and conditioning expert Greg Glassman in 2000, CrossFit pulls in Olympic movements and functional exercises in one high-intensity program. Daily workouts are known as WODs (workout of the day).

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Iron Is A Girl's Best Friend

When I first picked up weights a few years ago, maximal lifting wasn’t even on my radar. I ran around in circles with my 10-pound dumbbells, completely unaware that I was missing out on an entire world of fitness.

In the world of 1RM strength, you set specific goals and work for weeks or months to inch closer to them. You push your body to its limits to achieve a triumph that only lasts a couple of seconds. But you also get rewarded with a rush unlike anything else. It’s a great world to be a part of, and it’s changed the entire way I view health and fitness.

I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on heavy lifting—yet. But I’ve still learned some important lessons along the way, and I’m confident you’ll find them just as helpful as I did. If you’re looking to find your numbers or move them up into uncharted territory, here are five rules you need to take to heart.

1 Train Systematically

If you’re currently training in the 10-20 rep range and have limited experience with anything less—think 3-8 difficult reps—then you aren’t ready for a 1RM test. Attempting a max test when you’re mentally and physically unprepared is a bad idea. You’re just setting yourself up for failure.

I highly suggest using a program that trains specifically for the kind of intensity you’ll find in a 1RM test. I used Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 system successfully for several months before getting a more personalized powerlifting training program from the Strength Guys. Trust me, proper programming makes all the difference both in terms of performance and safety. Squatting 3 reps at 85 percent 1RM is an entirely different ballgame than doing 15 reps on the leg press. Programs like 5/3/1, the Westside System, or Stronglifts 5×5 will prepare you for the intensity that lies ahead.

If you’re unsure of your max or haven’t yet had the chance to test it, I suggest using a 1RM calculator initially. Just enter your best lift, and it does the work for you. The heavier the weight and the lower the number of reps, the more accurate the calculator is. For example, 200 pounds for 5 reps is more accurate than 150 pounds for 9 reps. Nothing is as accurate as actually getting under the bar and testing your 1RM—preferably with some supervision from somebody who’s done it many times—but, these calculators can give you a sufficient idea of what your max should be. You’ll need that number in order for the percentage-based training of strength programs to be effective.

2 Learn How To Get in the Right Headspace

Testing your 1RM requires a serious amount of intensity and concentration. You won’t be frolicking in the land of unicorns, bunnies, and rainbows here. To be honest, testing your 1RM sucks. It usually hurts physically, and it always challenges your body’s idea of what is “possible.” Putting that kind of stress on your body is more than just a physical trial, though. It’s a mental one, too. Before you step up to a barbell to try for your max lift, you need to be a master of these three skills:


If you find your mind in 35 different places and none of them are at the gym with the bar, it’s not the day to test your max. There may be no such thing as the perfect day, but there are optimal conditions that give you a shot at hitting your best numbers. You want to be present and composed with mental clarity. Your focus should be on one thing and one thing only: moving that heavy weight.

Bench Press

Visualize yourself easily pulling your deadlift max. Then see yourself adding some more weight and pulling again with ease. Picture your bench max going up without a hitch. Visualizing not only gives your confidence a much needed boost before you tackle your lift, but it can also actually improve motor performance, making your 1RM attempt a major success.

Jamming Out

Not everybody needs music in order to get into a PR headspace, but for many of us, it’s crucial. Listening to music during a training session has been proven to improve performance; it can also be a great boost of motivation when you’re aiming to venture into uncharted waters. Some people like screamo heavy metal to get their blood pumping, and others prefer electronic music, jazz, or film soundtracks to help calm their mind and set the scene for an epic triumph. Whatever works for you, do it!

3 Embrace The Routine

Everyone has their own way of getting ready for a max. Some people do a specific number of warm-up sets, and some people listen to a particular playlist or eat a particular meal. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it. For people who haven’t yet had the chance to take a 1RM, this is what I suggest the first time around:

Warm up

An extensive warm-up process is essential to get an accurate 1RM and prevent injury. I start with some basic mobility work, taking my joints through a full range of motion, and then I move to my warm-up sets.

Get heavy slowly

Opinions vary about which rep scheme to use as you work up to a heavy weight. Your program or coach might have a specific way of doing this; if so, follow it. Here’s the routine that I like to follow when testing my max or going for a PR.

  • Bar x 10
  • 50% x 5
  • 60% x 3
  • 70% x 2
  • 80% x 1
  • 90% x 1
  • 95% x 1
  • 1RM attempt

High reps don’t have a place on max day. I want to know that I can push or pull heavy weight, which is why I perform several sets of a single rep as I get closer to my max. Each of these reps boosts my confidence and prepares me mentally and physically for the pinnacle lift.

No matter how you choose to arrange your warm-up sets, they should fully prepare your muscles, joints, and central nervous system for the lift ahead. I always leave at least 2-3 minutes of rest between my warm-sets, and then I give myself an extra minute or two as I get closer to my max attempt.

“High reps don’t have a place on max day. I want to know that I can push or pull heavy weight.”

4 Find a spotter

I like to train alone. If you see me in the gym, my headphones are usually in, my hat is down low, and I have a leave-me-alone-until-I’m-done look on my face. On max day, it’s a different story. It’s crucial that you have someone spotting your bench max, unless getting pinned under a barbell sounds like your idea of a good time.

Utilizing a spotter on squat max testing isn’t always necessary, particularly if you squat in a rack with safety bars. If I’m testing my squat, I generally use the safety bars for warm-up sets and then grab the most experienced lifter I can find to spot me for my max attempt. Pulling a random spotter off the gym floor isn’t something that I mind doing, but if this is something you’re uncomfortable doing, bring a friend you trust to put your nerves at ease. And maybe have them read up on the rules of spotting first.

There’s no way to spot a deadlift physically, since you either pull the bar off the ground or you don’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite a mental or emotional spotter along for the ride. If you feel like having someone yell “light weight!” in a Ronnie Coleman voice would help you move a heavy weight, then by all means make sure they’re there!

5 Make Your PR A Lift Like Any Other

The time has come. You’ve been training for this moment for months. You’ve done your warm-up sets, you’re focused and ready, and now it’s go time. All of your prior training has led you to this moment. Scary, right?

“I’m nervous, I’m pumped, I’m motivated, and I want to do something I’ve never done before.”

I’m always a mixed bag of emotions right before my lift, but I think that’s what carries me through and gives me the best possible lift. I’m nervous, I’m pumped, I’m motivated, and I want to do something I’ve never done before. Somewhere in that mess of emotions, I usually just say “Enough! I’m ready to do this,” and then I go for it.

Aside from this inevitable dialog, though, the mechanics of a max attempt should be the same as all the other lifts you practiced up until this point. This isn’t the time to do a quarter-rep or forget to engage your lats when you deadlift. As you visualize your lift, you should be taking note of form and remembering all your normal cues. A max lift where you injure yourself in the process doesn’t count in my book.

After your initial attempt is complete, step back and assess. How do you feel? How did the lift go? Are you ready for more, or did it take everything out of you? I like to keep going until I either miss a lift or know there’s no logical way I can get that weight back up. But many people will stop after one, and that’s fine.

If you feel like you’re ready to conquer another max attempt, I suggest giving yourself 7-10 minutes of rest before you step up to the bar again. Add no more than 5-10 pounds to the bar; don’t get greedy. Even if you leave that second or third max attempt unrealized, you should feel damn good about what you accomplish!

6 Don’t Overthink It

I’m often guilty of beating myself up after the fact. Did I eat too much? Too little? Could I have done another rep? Should I have done more weight? We all do it. When you’re completely invested in something—like so many of us in the world of health and fitness are—you want to be perfect.

But when you’re waging war against big numbers and percentages, there’s nothing to be gained by harboring regrets. Nagging doubts and questions can take over your brain and prevent you from improving, but just as importantly, they can keep you from enjoying an important victory.

The best possible advice I can give you is to let go. At no time is that more crucial than during and after your 1RM attempt. If you walk up to the bar wondering if you’re going to miss, or questioning your preparation, or revisiting the failed lifts of the past, you’ve already lost. You just have to go for it.

You’re ready. It’s time to believe in yourself. Pick up that weight and show the bar who’s boss.

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Iron Is A Girl's Best Friend

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