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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 21

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Protein is probably the best-known supplement for athletes and gym-goers, but creatine isn’t far behind. This odorless, tasteless compound launched the modern age of sport supplementation back in the 1990s, and today, it is perhaps the most researched of all supplements, with more than 200 studies and dozens of peer-reviewed articles in prominent journals.

We know more than ever before about what creatine does and how it can help athletes, but myths and misinformation are still common in the media and in locker rooms worldwide. Steve will tell you more in today’s video.

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
Watch The Video – 02:12


Day 21 Challenge

  • Learn about creatine.
  • Rest or perform an optional bodyweight circuit.


Creatine Is King

As Steve mentioned, creatine won’t turn you into the Incredible Hulk. What it will do is help fuel intense, short-duration exercise like weight training and sprinting. Your body has plenty of creatine already, but it can struggle to keep up with demand, particularly as intensity goes up and rest periods go down.

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Creatine’s major appeal is that it can help you train more, and train harder, before you wear out. As Steve said, it’s the substance your body uses to get “one more rep.” If you don’t train hard or don’t want to, then it’s probably not something that you’ll need.

So who takes creatine? Among athletes, both amateur and professional, surveys have indicated that at least half take it, and potentially many more. Increasingly, women take it, and a growing number of middle-aged people and senior citizens take it as well. Why? One obvious reason is to help them retain muscle mass, which has been linked in studies to both quality of life and life expectancy. Creatine has also been linked to a range of health benefits in recent studies.

These articles can tell you more:

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Before, After, Or Whenever: The Best Time To Take Creatine

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King Creatine: Your Expert Guide To The Sovereign Muscle-Building Supplement

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If you’ve got anything left in the tank after yesterday’s free weights workout, feel free to tackle of the two bodyweight circuits below! One adds a suspension trainer such as a TRX into the mix, which makes movements like dips and push-ups even more challenging. If you’re not ready for that just, then stick to the pure bodyweight circuit.

On the other hand, if your body is screaming for a rest day, then by all means, listen! You’ve got plenty of fun training ahead in the last nine days of this trainer, and we want you to be ready.

  • 5 rounds:
  • Pushups Pushups Pushups (To side rotation)
    5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep
  • Pullups Pullups Pullups
    5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep
  • Dips - Triceps Version Dips - Triceps Version Dips
    5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep
  • BurpeeBurpee Burpee
    5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep
  • Barbell Side Split Squat Barbell Side Split Squat Side Lunge (Shown w/ barbell)
    5 reps, 4 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps, 1 rep

Or:


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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 21

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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 20

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The first time most people give the weight room a try, they pick up a light weight and crank out reps by the dozens. This is great for getting to know a movement, but once you have specific goals, you’ll learn that there are specific “rep ranges” that are proven to help you achieve each goal. Today, you’re going to learn about them in action!

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
Watch The Video – 02:19


Day 20 Challenge

  • Perform a free-weight workout incorporating strength, muscle growth, and endurance rep ranges.


The Rep of the Story

Workouts focusing on sets of 5 reps or fewer are generally considered “strength-building” work, since you can handle more weight in short small sets. A range of 8-12 reps per set is popular for muscle growth or “hypertrophy,” whereas sets of 15 reps and above are great for building muscular endurance. If you’ve only done 3 sets of 10 up until now, it’s time for you to expand your horizons!

Trainees will use rep ranges in every possible combination. Some will have a “strength day” and a “hypertrophy day” in the same week, or even some balance of those styles in the same workout. Others will work in specific phases, where they devote weeks or months to low-rep strength work, and then do a muscle-building phase as a follow-up.


Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Which style is right for you? The answer is complicated, and depends on your goals, schedule, and experience level. For now, just focus on continuing to learn the movements, and on learning how different rep ranges feel with different weights. For today’s bench press and deadlifts, pick a weight that feels significant, but not overwhelming. What you do for 5 sets of 5 should be heavier than what you would do for sets of 10.

It doesn’t have to be much heavier—after all, you’re just learning, and you may not have a spotter for the bench press—but take this as an opportunity to see what a little heavy weight can teach you!


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To learn more about the fine art of strength programming, check out these articles!

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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 20

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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 19

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Over the last three weeks, you’ve been working hard and—hopefully—sleeping hard. The trainers who help actors achieve incredible transformations for movie roles know that those two factors are central to their success. The meal that that actor reaches for after a well-earned rest—breakfast—is just as important!

What’s on your plate or in your bowl in the morning: Something that reflects your ambitious physical goals, or something that reflects Saturday morning cartoon ads? If breakfast is still an afterthought or a nutritional black hole, it’s time for you to get serious about the most important meal of the day. Here’s Kathleen to tell you more.

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
Watch The Video – 02:40


Day 19 Challenge

  • Make a nutritious high-protein breakfast and post-workout meal.

Today, your challenge is simple. Start the day with protein and the other nutrients your body needs to fuel hard training! As Kathleen mentions, if you’re someone who trains in the morning, you may want to wait until after a workout until you take in a big meal. But if you’re following the Ultimate 30-Day Beginner’s Guide to Fitness program and resting today, then take this opportunity to indulge in one of these recipes!

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Your day is too important to be fueled with kids’ stuff, cheap carbs, or worse yet, nothing at all. Try the breakfast that elite athletes rave about: a serving of meat and a handful of nuts!

The recipes above can be tailored to meet different tastes or grocery supplies. If you like a sweet breakfast, or if you enjoyed making homemade protein bars earlier this week, try one of “The Protein Powder Chef”Anna Sward’s whey treats.

If you’re a whole-food lover or prefer a savory breakfast, give Vince Del Monte’s meat and nuts breakfast a try. There’s a world of ways to start your day off with protein!


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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 19

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Gyms Of The Month: All The World's A Weight Room

We bring you three very different gyms this month. Mark Fisher Fitness in New York City is a colorful space for people who are turned off by the regular iron scene but still want to deadlift heavy. The Kaboddycom gym in Kampala, Uganda is a dirt-floor boxing gym in the heart of Africa. CIRIUS Fitness in New Jersey is a family-owned business organized around community.

Mark Fisher Fitness
The Kaboddycom Gym

Cirius Fitness

Mark Fisher Fitness

Growing up, Mark Fisher was skinny and far from the strongest young man in the macho environs of teen locker rooms. But he didn’t let it dissuade him from lifting. On the contrary, it pushed him to imagine what his ideal gym would look like—and to bring it to life. His Manhattan fitness center, which goes by the alternate title “The Enchanted Ninja Clubhouse of Glory and Dreams,” combines progressive training and nutrition strategies in an unconventional, fun, and often profane environment.

“Our tagline is ‘Ridiculous humans, serious fitness,'” Fisher says. “We take the fitness element very seriously.” Fisher and his trainers use outlandish imagery and club-specific terms to teach Broadway dancers and city servants correct lifting form—particularly when it comes to neutral spine, that tricky position that often keeps novices from being able to do the big barbell lifts. They call overarching your back during a lift a “porn star,” and a posterior pelvic tilt is a “sad dog.”

“We keep things fun using those sort of teaching techniques,” Fisher says. “There’s lots of glitter, rainbows, club lighting and fun music. It may sound goofy, but Fisher’s devotees on the Internet and the streets and theaters of New York swear it works. “We’ll take people who in the beginning might be scared to lift weights at all, and a lot of the ninjas become very passionate about lifting—and not just about lifting but about technique,” he says. “Girls do chin-ups and pull-ups. People get very competitive about their deadlift numbers.”

Of course it’s not always easy convincing novice fitness entrants to pick up a loaded barbell, but that’s where the other unique part of MFF’s approach helps out. Everyone who lifts here has a trainer on hand. There’s no open gym. You sign up for classes, join group sessions, or lift one-on-one with experienced trainers. They touch on all the key points—lifestyle, nutrition, and fitness—helping to draw the line between what Fisher calls “health and hotness.”

His approach has been the subject of numerous features in major magazines and newspapers, because it uniquely combines inclusiveness with high-level training, unlike the dumbed-down vibe of, say, Planet Fitness. “Mark Fisher Fitness is dedicated to making very serious and aggressive training principles accessible to people who are not being stirred by how fitness is normally discussed in the conversation,” Fisher says.

Kaboddycom Gym

Imagine a room built of wood and tin, filled with wrought iron, and devoid of modern convenience. Here, at Kaboddycom Gym in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, grit isn’t just a metaphor for mental toughness; it literally covers the floor. Who needs chalk when you can use the dust at your feet?

Between the bouts of boxing and bench press, members of this small gym can be found lifting homemade dumbbells, with slivers of light jutting through the eaves of the tin roof. Muscle is earned the hard way.

Sekiranda Tyson, one of the two cofounders, was a boxer for many years until his health began to suffer. He felt fitness could revive him. A few months later his health had improved, and he decided to share his story with others in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. “We started the gym because we wanted to help more people,” says Tyson of himself and cofounder Kateregga Dalvin. “We’d already gained a reputation as boxers and gymnasts, so we decided to use that reputation to establish this gym.”

In the mold of great boxing gyms the world over, Kaboddycom also gives the youth of Kampala a safe haven and a sense of purpose through physical training. “Moral values and behavior are invested in young people through this gym,” Tyson says. “We use it to curb crime and city violence from our community.”

So how does one start a gym like this? From the ground up, with the money contributed from its members. It was created to fill a need. “There is only one other gym in our area and the only members who have the access to it are the rich and elite persons,” Tyson says. “Ours is a community-based gym which involves every class of person.”

Cirius Fitness

Guy Cirincione always wanted to own a gym, recalls his son Joe. He tried a few times, but none of them seemed to work out. But the dream refused to die, until the day came when Guy’s children were finally old enough to help him bring it to fruition.

In 2013, the family came together to buy Centrex Sports, a 14,000-square-foot gym in Red Bank, New Jersey. They remodeled and rebranded this large training space to create CIRIUS Fitness. “This time it worked!” says Joe. “It’s streamlined efficiency. Had he done it 10 years ago, we would have been in school, and may not have been as helpful.”

Even in the capable hands of five Cirinciones, there were plenty of bumps and struggles along the way. But with a lifetime of shared history, the partners knew they could overcome them. “It was a challenging first three months, but we banded together and broke through,” Joe says. “It’s good to work with your family. You can lean on one another and you trust each other.”

The result is a family gym with a friendly vibe from the second you walk in. “We focus on a family atmosphere and get away from the chain gyms, where you walk in, swipe in and nobody knows your name, you do your thing, and leave,” Joe says. “We try to encourage one another to be the best you can be.”

The gym offers a wide range of options including MMA training, hot yoga, Zumba, and spin classes alongside its heavy weights and vintage dumbbells. And even though CIRIUS Fitness has only been open for a year, they’ve already seen enough of a positive response to consider expanding.

“We are happy,” Joe says. “We want to continue to grow our brand and do more fundraisers for the community and focus on youth fitness. We want to grow into other forms of fitness so we can be a more fulfilling gym for everybody.”



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Gyms Of The Month: All The World's A Weight Room

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Ask The Fitness Jewell: How Can I Eat Healthy At A BBQ?

QSummer barbecue invites are tempting, but I’m afraid the foods will wreak havoc on my fitness goals. How do I hit up the grill but keep my options healthy?

Even though the summer days might be waning a bit faster than anyone would like, barbecue events continue on! For people who attend unprepared, the picnic tables can be glutted with nutritional landmines: succulent baby back ribs with too much barbecue sauce, greasy burgers, mystery-meat hot dogs, an uneven ratio of chips to salsa—never enough salsa—and copious amounts of booze.

What’s a person with fitness goals to do?

Fortunately, after reading this, you will be more than prepared to eat at any summer event without having to compromise your fitness objectives. The key is to plan ahead and bring something you know will be “safe” to eat so you can avoid some of the most common diet pitfalls.

From preparing your own healthy side dishes to saying no to the fruit cocktail, you can dance around these six pitfalls while still having fun and rockin’ your abs.

Pitfall 1

Solution

Chips have long been a barbecue staple, but like the Pringles commercial says, “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop.” Chips typically throw portion control out the window, especially as you hungrily wait for the main course.

This mindless consumption of fat and vegetable oils from the chips simply does not cooperate with anyone’s health and fitness goals.

I say skip the chips entirely. Sometimes this is easier said than done, but your fail-safe measure would be to bring your own big bowl of fruit salad or a fresh veggie platter to enjoy. Crunchy carrots and celery can provide a crispity-crunch similar to the chips—without wrecking your waistline. Don’t be afraid to go heavy on tomato salsa, as well.

If chips are absolutely something you want, there are now healthier baked and popped variants available in stores.

Pitfall 2

Solution

One dip, two dips, and three dips later—the calories and fat sure add up quickly, even with veggies! Store-bought dips are usually the worst offenders because of long ingredient lists and obscene amounts of fat.

Steer clear, and if you must indulge, stick to the tomato-based salsa or moderate servings of guacamole. If you’ve been put on dip duty, easily sneak in extra protein by whipping up a packet of powdered dressing with low-fat plain Greek yogurt.

And there you have it—delicious, healthy dip!

Pitfall 3

Solution

Beer, margaritas, and summery cocktails all have their place on barbecue menus and aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon. Watching your alcohol and calorie intake—while not being a complete buzzkill—is a delicate process. Thankfully, there are ways to enjoy your adult beverages and not drink a quarter of a day’s worth of calories in one glass.

First, cutting out mixers such as juice, sugary soda, or anything with “creme” in the name will drastically cut calories per drink. Instead of fruit juice or premade cocktail mixes, use club soda and squeeze in lemon or lime with your alcohol of choice.

If you love your brews, stick to light beers; the greater the alcohol content, the greater the number of calories. Love wine? Wine definitely has its healthy perks, but the quantity can add up quickly. Stick with red wine and try to avoid the sweeter varieties.

Remember to be mindful of how much you drink, and raise a glass to living the fit life!

Pitfall 4

Solution

Leave the greasy beef patties and overly salty hot dogs on the table; their protein-to-fat ratio is typically abysmal.

Instead, bring your own lean protein source like chicken, lean steak, or salmon, which all taste spectacular when grilled on the ‘cue.

If it’s a burger you’re after, then leaner ground beef, buffalo patties, or turkey patties will work.

If your only option is what the host has in hand, eat the patty without the bun, using lettuce and veggies to dress your burger.

Pitfall 5

Solution

The last backyard soiree I went to actually had more desserts than it did regular food: cookies, cupcakes, cakes, brownies, and pies—you name it! Had I known ahead of time that the dessert spread would rival Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, I would have been more prepared.

Choose a simple protein treat recipe that’s both delicious and satisfying for your sweet tooth, sans sugar crash and extra calories. Try whipping up a batch of protein brownies or maybe even this protein berry cheesecake. There are so many choices that the main problem now is deciding on one!

Of course, if you don’t have the time to prepare dessert ahead of time and you want to nibble on some sugary goodness, I recommend choosing one dessert and sticking to that one. You tend to run into trouble when you want to “sample” a little bit of everything.

Pitfall 6

Solution

Forgo the traditional macaroni salad, and opt for an actual salad—you know, one with real vegetables that aren’t drenched in fat. Your salad doesn’t have to look like rabbit food.

Stack your plate full of as many veggies you can get your hands on! The greater the variety of crunch, texture, and color to the salad, the better. Your salad will be more filling and satisfying than just, well, lettuce.

If you live for a side serving of potatoes, mash up some sweet potatoes and top them with cinnamon! Or even cut them length-wise and bake them to make some awesome baked sweet potato fries for folks to enjoy with their fare.

Balance, BBQ-Hopper

In the end, it’s all about balance. You don’t have to bring everything to a barbecue, but remember that you probably shouldn’t indulge in the chips, alcohol, dips, greasy protein, and decadent desserts all at once!

Play a little give or take and tell yourself that if you opt in for chips, you’ll have to cut down on alcohol. If you want dessert, skip the chips and alcohol. And so on.

With so many healthy alternatives to traditional barbecue foods out there, there’s no reason you should think twice about accepting an invite. Taking these simple steps and preparing ahead of time will make it far easier to stay on track with your fitness goals.


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Ask The Fitness Jewell: How Can I Eat Healthy At A BBQ?

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AMP: Marc Megna's 8-Week Aesthetics Meets Performance Trainer Phase 1, Day 2

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Cardio output training consists of steady-state work done for an extended period of time. Today, you’ll choose your cardio weapon of choice—the treadmill, the stair climber, or the stationary bike—and work for 40 minutes. You’re not doing intervals or sprint work, so you’ll keep a consistent speed for the entire workout. This type of cardio will build your work capacity and cardiovascular function, which helps you perform better. Cardio workouts will also help you burn fat so you can uncover that excellent physique.

The goal of this workout is to keep your heart rate at 130-150 beats per minute (bpm), but measuring your heart rate can be difficult without a device. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, go by feel. Your heart rate should be elevated, but you should not be so out of breath that you can’t hold a steady conversation.

Don’t forget that your nutrition habit for this phase is to eat every 2-4 hours. This is an essential part of the AMP trainer. If you’re not fueling your body often and with healthy, whole foods, you won’t see the results you’re after. This habit might be difficult for the first couple of weeks, but it will soon become second nature.

  • Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill Cardio Of Choice
    40 minutes at 130-150 heart beats per minute


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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 13

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If you’re still sore from your ramping set workout two days ago, we apologize! Many people find that when they experience delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), it’s actually worse two days after training than it is the first day. This may seem unfair, but it’s really common.

But if you’re rubbing a tender chest or lat muscle as you read this, hearing that you’re not the only one isn’t much consolation. You want to know how to make it better! And we can help there, too, because today, you’re going to learn about self-myofascial release, also known as “foam rolling.”

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
Watch The Video – 02:53


Day 13 Challenge

  • Perform another “ramping” workout, this time for the upper body.
  • Learn about foam rolling, and try it if you’ve got a roller at your gym or house.


Roll With It

There are a number of different self-release techniques, all with the same goal: to help spur the natural healing processes of your soft tissues. These techniques apply pressure to the tight muscle tissue, which it interprets as “Danger! Too much tension! Relax!” This causes a reflexive reaction that simultaneously causes the muscle to lengthen and relax. Effectively, it could be thought of as a light switch that turns off a muscle that is in danger of hurting itself. Although, to be clear, we aren’t putting muscle in danger!

The concept of what we are doing is the same as that of a deep-tissue massage. The main difference is that it doesn’t cost much since you do it to yourself. There are various ways to incorporate this technique into your training, but the most common method is foam rolling either before or after your workout.

Before a workout, rolling can be a great way to increase your mobility and range of motion in the area you’re working—for example, rolling your quads and IT band before leg training. After training, plenty of people find it helps them recover or avoid that “restless leg” feeling that can come with hard lifting or cardio.

How much tightness you have and how much discomfort you can handle will determine what device or surface you can roll out on. The white foam rollers, which are probably the most common, are a good place for inexperienced people to start.

Someone who has been at it awhile may find those too soft and prefer something harder, like a black foam roller or knobby rumble roller. With time, experienced trainees will use everything from foam rollers to PVC pipe and lacrosse balls to help them target specific muscles.

These are probably the five most common muscle groups people foam roll:

  1. Calf
  2. Latissimus dorsi
  3. Gluteus maximus/minimus
  4. IT Band
  5. Quadriceps

Here’s how to begin: Lie down on the floor. Apply pressure to the middle or “belly” of the muscle you want to work, using your bodyweight to increase the compression. Slowly roll over the muscle, pausing on “hot spots” when you find them for about 20 seconds. Don’t roll over the joint itself; stay on the muscle.

An important key here is to relax. You won’t want to, because if you have any tightness then this will be uncomfortable and you will attempt to brace yourself. Don’t do it. Find your happy place, breathe deep, and relax. This will take experimentation, so be patient and try to learn to enjoy the pain!

Need more instruction? We’ve got guides to rolling the major muscle groups in our Exercise Database. We’ve also got other articles packed with techniques to help you get over your DOMS and get back to training more quickly!


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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 13

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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 12

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People who hike and climb in the mountains like to say that food never tastes as good as when you’ve cooked it yourself after a long, hard day. This applies to fitness, too. Food tastes great when you’ve done your time in both the gym working up a sweat, and in the kitchen making it. If your food isn’t delicious and nutritious, don’t fret. You just need some new recipes!

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
Watch The Video – 02:57


Day 12 Challenge

  • Explore Bodybuilding.com’s recipe database and recipe content.
  • Try your hand at cooking a new recipe!

Get familiar with our recipe database, and you might find yourself getting excited about cooking for the first time in your life. We’ve got recipes to last all day, from breakfast to your post-workout shake, healthy snacks to salads, marinades to make your meat tastier, and even fool-proof protein desserts. We also have recipes to fit every event and season, courtesy of Kevin Alexander of “Fit Men Cook,” Anna “Protein Pow” Sward, and plenty of other regular contributors.

Earlier this week, we told you that you’ll most likely eat more than you’re used to in this trainer. This should be a prize, not a punishment. As you rest up from yesterday’s tough workout, today’s challenge will seem simple enough: Find a recipe that makes you go “Hmm,” and give it a go!


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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 12

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Mind Over Muscle: Your One-Rep Max Mental Checklist

While bodybuilders aren’t known necessarily for doing single-rep maxes, your one-rep max (1RM) on key lifts means much more than determining your pecking order among the gym’s elite. The 1RM is also useful for directing your future training plans, which makes it essential to occasionally max out on major movements.

While knowledge is power when it comes to planning, it also has a heavy influence on strength performance. Despite the high-tension physical strain of lifting—muscles and tendons pulling on bones, human frames overcoming iron and gravity—1RM testing isn’t dominated by the physical form. It’s actually a carnal demonstration of a robust mental state.

When you venture into the territory of testing your physical limits, you’re more likely to succeed if you follow a process—a mental checklist of sorts—that prepares your mind to lead your body in battle against metal and inertia. That battle can often be won or lost before you even touch the weight.

Follow these five steps to dominate your next max-effort attempt against a massive load of iron.

1 Visualize the Lift

Let’s start with visualization, which begins days, weeks, or even months before your body even engages the barbell.

My college defensive coordinator drilled visualization into my training habits. Our daily instructions were to visualize successful plays when we woke up and again before we went to bed. On Saturday afternoons, it was as if my team had already played the game because we spent so much time visualizing the outcome. Lifting is no different.

Throughout your training cycle, visualize yourself successfully lifting your goal 1RM. In your mind’s eye, picture your performance: the weight on the bar, the gym around you … see your body forcefully defy gravity.

As you visualize, feel. Feel yourself strain to move the weight; feel the positive emotion from accomplishing your goal. The goal of visualization is to create the entire environment in your mind so your neurology is accustomed to it at game time.

Start visualizing every day—morning, night, and between sets while training—at the beginning of your training cycle. Keep visualizing your success until the moments before you attempt your 1RM.

In your mind’s eye, picture your performance: the weight on the bar, the gym around you … see your body forcefully defy gravity.

2 Set Your Mental Intensity Lever

Psychological intensity is the lifeblood of heavy lifting. Moreover, you have the ability to practice controlling said intensity by creating a mental intensity lever.

Psychological intensity is the lifeblood of heavy lifting.

This practice is rooted in visualization. I can’t give you the exact visual—you’ll have to create one with your own imagination—but you need a lever and numbers to rate your intensity. Start by imagining an actual lever that, when pulled, increases your concentration and strength. My lever ranges from 1-10, where 10 is maximum intensity. During warm-up sets I systematically crank the lever, working from 5-10.

Even though you’re not maxing out during a regular training day, you need to get used to feeling what maximal mental output feels like and associate it with your lever. So crank it up to 10 just once during your last warm-up set, drop down to 8 or 9 during most of your working sets, and get to a full 10 again during your last working set.

Let’s use the deadlift for a tangible example of how the lever works:

As you approach the bar, close your eyes and picture the lever next to your right hand. Grasp the lever and pull it hard until it reaches your desired intensity. Grab the bar, set your position, and match your performance intensity with your lever intensity.

It’s abstract, and it seems a bit New Age, but this really works. Build your mental intensity lever and put it into practice right now. When your big-lift game day arrives, you’ll find a new intensity level you didn’t know you possessed.

3 Engrain Coaching Cues

No matter if you coach yourself or outsource your training process, sound coaching cues are necessary for strong lift performance. Like the previous two checklist entries, coaching cues are engrained in your procedure months before your max attempt. The goal is to make these cues automatic, so conscious thoughts about starting position, lift engagement, and lift completion become unnecessary.

However, revisiting cues before approaching the bar for your ode to “human conquest over inanimate iron” is always a good idea.

As you practice your final visualization in the moments preceding your lift, remind yourself of your coaching cues for all phases of the lift. Start with your setup and make sure you master the necessary steps for good positioning. Move on to lift engagement: Is your first movement guiding you to your final destination? Are you in good position to lock the weight out?

Develop a list of 2-3 cues for each part of the lift and rehearse them religiously before yoking the bar to your will.

4 Get Aggressive

In 2014, aggression is viewed as an archaic psychological relic, a remnant from centuries gone by, and unnecessary for function in the civilized world. Yet it still hangs about, cultivating land within our psyches. A 1RM attempt is the perfect opportunity to harvest its yield as mental nourishment.

Getting angry is a “to each his own” type of process. I can’t offer you a step-by-step primer on rousing your inner beast to let loose on a barbell. I can, however, recommend that you find a dark place in your psyche and provoke it. This provocation coincides with ramping up your mental intensity lever. The combination turns aggression into applied performance.

Be mindful, however, to not disregard your coaching cues. Blind anger is a hindrance; focused aggression is an enhancement.

Blind anger is a hindrance; focused aggression is an enhancement.

5 Take Care of the Little Things

We’ve journeyed through mental territories that most training articles detour. We also engaged in processes that most don’t consider. Acquiring exciting new skills and perspectives, however, doesn’t award us license to disregard the diminutive, seemingly mundane tasks that keep our minds worry-free.

Start with procuring a trustworthy spotter. Knowing a person is there to save your skin—should any hazard reveal itself—is priceless for peace of mind. No need to waste mental energy that would be better spent on accelerating mass.

Sometimes collecting the little rocks permits us to move the big ones, so be sure to secure sturdy weight clips tightly to your plates, clear your lifting space, and make sure you’re not attempting an ego lift.

Now, check your list—check it twice if you have to—and go crush your next 1RM.

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About The Author

Todd Bumgardner works as a strength and conditioning coach and manual therapist at Ranfone Training Systems in Hamden, Connecticut.

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Mind Over Muscle: Your One-Rep Max Mental Checklist

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Teen Amateur Of The Week: Stacked And Symmetrical

QHow did your fitness
journey begin?

My fitness journey began at age 10. I grew up being competitive and was passionate about competitive sports. I wanted to be the best at soccer, football, baseball, track and field, and more. While driving home one day from football, I passed a martial arts school and decided to join at age 11. I became well-conditioned, strong, and maintained a serious training regimen.

As my training and sparring progressed, I became obsessed with conditioning my body. I love full-contact sports, but my martial arts club only allowed minimal contact. I took a break from martial arts and stepped down to a brown belt level, much to the dismay of my martial arts coach, to explore a sport that enveloped full contact.

I was 14 years old, 5-foot-7, 130 pounds, compact, and quick. I joined a summer football league and excelled beyond expectations. Upon completion of the season, my coach suggested that I add mass to see how I performed with more weight. I started a vigorous gym training schedule, watched numerous workouts and Bodybuilding.com videos, and became obsessed with bodybuilding.

Cool Fact

Aside from the hard work Brandon puts into the gym, he spends quality time with his family hunting, fishing, and camping!

I became friends with a personal trainer at the gym who helped me with lifting, cardio, and dieting. He was a sports trainer for years and offered to help me achieve my goal. To have the form and technique I longed for, I started from the basics. There is no greater feeling than being a “potter” and moulding my body into perfection.

Brandon Bock
Watch The Video – 1:08


What workout regimen delivered the best results?

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?

“Fitness can be used to turn stress or negativity into positive energy.”

How did your passion for fitness emerge?

I love being active, especially when the results pay dividends. I used to watch athletes on television and the Internet and admired how they looked. Through hard work and dedication, the sky’s the limit. Fitness can be used to turn stress or negativity into positive energy. It benefits general health, which is a bonus. I maintain a busy schedule and utilize my day to the fullest potential. Bodybuilding provides “me time” and gives my body a temporary release of the unlimited energy that’s bottled inside me.

What/Who motivated you to be a fitness guru?

I idolize Shawn Ray’s symmetry. He’s an underrated bodybuilder who never gave up. I admire his no-quit attitude and his quest for perfection.

Where did you go for inspiration?

I went to different gyms, talked to bodybuilders, and read books. I always watched bodybuilding videos and professional bodybuilding events. I learned about their workout regimens and applied their professionalism to my workouts.

“I plan to gain size and thickness and build on my symmetry.”

What are your future fitness plans?

I plan to gain size and thickness and build on my symmetry. I’m going to compete in future shows also. I would like to model sportswear, endorse supplements, and coach future bodybuilders. I will become a professional bodybuilder and strive to be the best!

What is the most important fitness tip?

Have an open mind. You can gather good tips and information from people to create your own workout. Form and technique are vital. When you master form and technique, you’ll develop your fullest potential. Be one with the mind and body to push past your limits like you never thought possible. The mind is a powerful tool that can be harnessed. No matter your size, height, or weight, drive and ambition will drive you to achieve anything. The person most willing to push the limits will be the true champion.

Who is your favorite competitor?

Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray, Dorian Yates, Lee Priest, and Franco Columbu are my favorite competitors.

How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?

I watched lots of Bodybuilding.com videos and read many articles that made me a more knowledgeable bodybuilder. I also watch many motivational videos to pump me up before the gym and developed a great understanding about nutritional facts and diet plans thanks to Bodybuilding.com.

Brandon’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Diary Of Jane” by Breaking Benjamin
  2. “Hate” by Drowning Pool
  3. “Shoot To Thrill” by AC/DC
  4. “My Curse” by Killswitch Engage
  5. “Shove It” by Deftones
Competition History
  • 2013 Sudbury Classic Championships



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About The Author

Want to share your story with the world and get some free supplements? Well, send in your info to Teen Amateur Of The Week! Learn more here!

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Teen Amateur Of The Week: Stacked And Symmetrical

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