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Eating For Ultimate Abs: Six Tips For A Six-Pack

Just about everyone I know who’s ever trained seriously, in almost any discipline, has focused in on their abs at one point or another. I know I have. There’s no denying that abs are a core (pun intended) component of perceived physical perfection, so it’s pointless to resist. Almost every magazine cover, advertisement, and billboard shows images of chiseled abs. “Ideal” waistlines have gone in and out over the years, but as a culture, we continue to celebrate abs more than ever.

Beyond that, abdominal training is simply important to all types of athletes. You use your abs every time you lift, twist, or even stand up. A powerful set of abs, along with a strong, balanced physique are big parts of the formula for overall physical health. And to everyone who says “visible abs aren’t necessarily strong abs,” I answer: That may be true, but I can still recognize a strong set when I see one.

Still, as this site and many others are happy to point out for you, you can’t train your way out of a poor diet. While there is an extraordinary amount of conflicting “expert” testimony when it comes to proper nutrition, there are tried-and-true techniques that millions of abs—sixes of millions of them, in fact—can agree on. They might blow your mind or they might be old news, but listen up either way. If you’re not following them, then it probably shows.

1 Fire It Up

First things first: You need to be aware of what you eat. The best way to do this is to prepare as many of your own meals as possible. When you cook for yourself, you can stay on top of exactly what every single ingredient is, and how much you use in preparation. The more knowledge and power you have the better.

When consuming foods made by others, you don’t know much for certain, and particularly when you dine out. Many times, even when prepared by “healthy” restaurants, meals are often served in oversized proportions and laden with gratuitous amounts of empty calories and chemicals. I’ve seen salads and sides that boast more than 1,000 calories per serving. No one will get abs eating like that on a regular basis.

2 Go Green

A lot of folks think I eat nothing but pull-up bars and tattoo ink. They’d be surprised to see how many leafy greens I consume on a daily basis. Everyone knows that green vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, nutrients, calcium, and dietary fiber, but many don’t realize what a large role eating foods like spinach, kale and broccoli can have in sculpting amazing abs.

“People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want.”

Greens, along with most vegetables, are extremely low in caloric intake. People who have problems with self-control and portion size can’t go wrong when it comes to greens, which can be consumed virtually whenever you want. Load two thirds of your dinner plate with veggies, and you’ll fill up with quality nutrition and decrease the temptation to make sketchier choices.

3 Avoid Processed Sugar

If you consume extra sugar and don’t metabolize it quickly, it will be stored as fat. Many of us, men in particular, tend to store this fat on our bellies. Clearly, a diet high in sugar will hinder you on your quest to a six-pack.

Processed sugar is among your abs’ greatest foes. By this, I am not just referring to white table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but to just about any product where everything has been removed but the sugar. This includes “raw” and “natural” sugars, not to mention many other misleadingly labeled sweeteners on the market, including such as “nectars,” “syrups,” and “cane juice.”

The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables do not fall into this category; they have never been processed and are un-stripped of their natural fiber. They therefore metabolize slowly over time. An apple is not only sweet, it’s filling and free of processed sugar, making it a great snack for ultimate abs.

4 Drink More Water

One of the worst things about sugar is that it’s added to virtually everything. While it’s obvious that beverages like cocktails and soda will stand in the way of the quest for abs, many well-intentioned individuals still drink their sugar unknowingly in the form of flavored waters, sweetened iced teas, fruit juices, coffee drinks, and other treats. These products should be consumed minimally, if at all.

“Water improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner.”

Make it a habit to look at ingredients and nutritional information and take nothing for granted. Drinks are not always what they seem! A glass of orange juice has more than 100 calories and 20 grams of sugar. Water has none. The importance of taking in adequate H2O cannot be overstated.

Water also improves metabolic rate and digestion, which helps you get leaner. It hydrates and moisturizes, increasing your skin’s suppleness and enhancing your abs’ appearance. Furthermore, water removes toxins and reduces aches and pains, helping you train harder and recover faster.

5 Eat Less

There are many paths one can take in the quest toward ultimate abs. Lots of diets and eating styles have the potential to help you get lean, and I’m not here to tell you why one is better than another. But here’s a thought: Although there is no single weight-loss method universally proven to work perfectly for everyone in all situations, simply eating less comes close!

Having a ripped six pack requires having low body fat: 10 percent or less for men as a general standard, and 20 percent or less for women. A number like that simply is not attained without good old-fashioned restraint. Assuming you’re like most of us, if you want to show off that hard-earned definition, you will simply have to eat less. There is no way around it.

6 Live Life

Practicing restraint is one thing. Subjecting yourself to deprivation is another. The line between them is one you have to find for yourself, but a system that leaves you constantly wanting more will inevitably leave you dissatisfied. Long-term deprivation can lead to a backlash of bad habits, and usually counter-productive. I think it’s best to have a healthful, holistic approach to training and life. Look at the big picture. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and with the right mindset, you can do so and have your abs, too.

“Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally.”

Each one of us is a product of our own day-to-day habits. If you eat well 80-90 percent of the time, there is no reason you can’t indulge occasionally. This principle is true for desserts, “cheat” meals if you’re inclined to call them that, and even Thanksgiving dinners. They’re all fine because they’re occasional. Just make sure to be honest and hold yourself accountable; it’s not a “cheat” if you do it every day.

If you have good eating habits, there’s almost nothing you’ll have to avoid 100 percent of the time. This will leave you and your six-pack abs free to live happily ever after together. Keep the dream alive!


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6 Tricks For A Stronger Squat!

In many serious lifters’ playbook, the squat is the go-to lift for developing serious lower body strength and size. It no doubt gets the job done, but as with all exercises, there will come a point where you feel like you’ve hit a ceiling. You know you should be able to move more weight around, but your muscles just don’t seem to cooperate. At times like these, a temporary vacation from the same-old squat routine is in order.

Don’t worry, after you try one or several of these tried-and-true techniques, you can always come back to the squat variations you know and love best. In most cases, you’ll be stronger and more balanced when you do.

1 Try Single Leg Variations

It’s amazing how simply shifting the work from two legs to one leg can exponentially crank up the difficulty. You might think, “Ok, I’ll just squat half of the heavy load I’ve been moving in a back squat,” but in most cases, you’ll find that weight laughing at you the first time you try it.

The increased balance demands of single-leg squat variations make them highly difficult to the unaccustomed, but they are worth it! Stick with them until you find your footing. Unilateral exercises also confer additional benefits in correcting side-to-side muscular imbalances, which many people find to be a key to building even greater bilateral (two-leg) strength.

Pistol Squats

While there are many one-legged squat moves to choose from, my somewhat unorthodox recommendation for you, if you struggle to improve a barbell back squat, is to try the pistol squat. Tread lightly! Even bodyweight pistol squats can be extremely difficult for most lifters, at least in the beginning. The initial instability produces more muscle engagement, and the high level of muscle control this exercise demands may initially force you to hold onto something for balance. There’s no shame in that, I promise!

In the beginning, perform this exercise with bodyweight only until you can safely and confidently hit six consecutive reps. After you’ve done this for a while with good form, you can start adding weights, either by holding a dumbbell plate, a kettlebell, or a couple of light dumbbells held straight out in front of you. Once you can perform 6 good-form reps with a weight between 25 and 45 pounds in your arms, you should see a notable improvement in every other lower-body lift.

2 Spread Out

In a standard back squat, most experts would direct you to point your feet straight forward, or perhaps ever-so-slightly outward. A small adjustment in your foot position, they know, can cause a significant shift in the muscles that are worked.

Following that logic, try this on for size: Spread your feet slightly past shoulder-width and point your toes outward at a 45-degree angle. This adjusted position is called the sumo squat , and it will develop strength and mobility of the hips, adductors, and glutes to a greater extent than a narrow-stance squat.

Sumo Squat

Some people may find this position to be more comfortable for their individual body, and it becomes their go-to squat. That’s great for them, but make sure you do it right before you fall in love. Ensure that your knees don’t spill too far over your toes when you drop it low. And, perhaps even more importantly, don’t flare your knees inward as you bottom out. Get them out wide over your toes!

3 Pause At the Bottom

Are ya ready to feel your quads and buns burn? Try pausing at the bottom of any squatting movement. This applies to front squats, back squats, pistols, and all other variations you see in the gym. This pause eliminates the stretch reflex in the muscles, and thereby forces the muscle to generate more “true” force to be able to complete the squat.

What do I mean by “true?” At the bottom of a deep squat, the stretch in your hamstrings and adductors helps you bounce out of the hole to some degree, even if it doesn’t look like a “bounce” per se. Envision pulling back a rubber band to a stretched position; it is now primed to spring back to its normal elasticity with even greater power. Adding a brief isometric contraction of about 2-4 seconds makes this “bounce” impossible, and has the potential to improve strength and power production from the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and other lower-body prime movers.

Some lifters find this to be such an effective technique that they perform at least some sets starting from the bottom. This is known as an “Anderson Squat.”

4 Add Half-Reps From the Bottom

Trying new squatting variations is only one way to attack a squat that doesn’t seem to be progressing. Another is to take your current form of squatting and simply make it more difficult. A great way to accomplish this is to perform half-reps from the bottom.

These are just what they sound like. Sink down into a full squat, and then rise up just halfway. Pause, and then lower back into the hole before pushing up into the full standing position. Sound easy? In execution, it’s anything but. This technique places more stress on your muscles during your weakest point of the squat movement pattern, which allows you to build strength where you need it most. Just don’t call me when you can’t sit down comfortably for the next few days.

Few people are able approach their normal squatting volume with half-reps being added in, so take it slowly. Add 1-2 half reps per set to start, and build up until you can perform a full set with a half-rep in between each full rep.

5 Shift the Load

When someone mentions the squat in casual conversation—what, your friends don’t do that?—-most people imagine the back squat during which the bar is placed behind the neck. But that is only one type of loaded squat, and to be honest, it isn’t right for everyone. Some people simply never feel comfortable with the spinal compression that results from having a barbell sit on top of their back. Others find that for reasons of balance, knee strength, or something else, they are able to achieve far superior form with other variations. Open your mind and your squat will feel the benefit!

Take, for example, the front squat. In comparison to the back squat, the front squat hammers the quads more and calls for additional muscle activity from the hips and lower back. Due to the biomechanical nature of the movement, the front squat places less spinal compression and torque on the knees as well. Simply put, it offers much of the same stimulus as the back squat, but less risk to your most vulnerable areas.

“In comparison to the back squat, the front squat hammers the quads more and calls for additional muscle activity from the hips and lower back.”

Most athletes find that maximal weight they can front squat will be approximately 80 percent of a back squat’s maximal lift, so bragging rights aren’t quite the same. But in recent years, having a strong front-squat max has become cooler than ever, and is often taken as a sign of being an overall well-rounded athlete. And you’d better believe boosting your front squat will help your back squat grow, too!

6 Make It Explosive

Common sense says that the only way to develop a heavy squat is to squat heavy. Sure, that’s part of it, but there is another proven method: squat fast. Bar speed is often overlooked because it often makes the exercise feel “easy” or less productive, but cranking up the velocity of your squat can help your squat immensely by allowing you to practice technique while still training for peak power.

So what exactly makes it a “speed squat?” Perform the squat at a smaller percentage of your max. Depending on your repetition range and volume of work you want to get done, this can range between 35 and 70 percent of your one-rep max. For heavier loads, lower the rep scheme; the lighter the scheme is, the higher reps should be. You can perform a set portion of a leg day for speed, or if you’re really dedicated to squatting, you could split your week into light and heavy days.

Another way to add power to the squat is by performing bodyweight squat jumps. Drop down into a deep bodyweight squat and launch yourself off the ground as high as you can go. Land quietly, meet the balls of your feet to the floor, and bend your knees slightly to absorb the impact. Drop back into the squat position and continue your reps in this fashion. As you would in any exercise, maintain proper form throughout, being mindful of spine and knee positions. Don’t lean too far forward or let your knees pass too far over your toes.

Give one or all of these tips a try on your next lower-body training day, and share your experience in the comments below!


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Fitness Success Secrets: Secret Techniques From Elite Athletes

Everybody, including celebrity athletes, has secrets. No, I’m not referring to scandalous dirt or shocking rumors about people in the fitness industry! (Let’s leave that to reality TV, shall we?) I’m talking about a hidden cache of secrets which athletes keep hush-hush about how they look the way they do, where their strength comes from, or the secret sauce to their training.

Ever wonder about the close-kept training or eating methods of your favorite athletes and fitness models? Top athletes may hold these tips—which take years of crafting and honing—near and dear to their hearts, but Cellucor’s ripped warriors peel back the curtain a little to let you peek into their methods for top physical and mental performance. (Just promise that you won’t share a single word or a piano may mysteriously fall out of the sky.)

Heed the words of elite athletes Karina Baymiller, Colton Leonard, Jen Jewell, and Craig Capurso. Their secrets can make you stronger.

Karina Baymiller
Her Secret

I secretly enjoy conditioning! If you know anything about me, you know that I love lifting heavy more than anything, but what you don’t know is that I love conditioning work just as much.

I talk a lot of crap about cardio, and it’s true, you wouldn’t catch me dead on an elliptical or doing low-intensity, steady-state. But when it comes to cardio work that gets my heart pumping like crazy, I’m obsessed. Maybe it’s the adrenaline junkie in me, but I can’t get enough of sprints, barbell complexes, jump rope, plyometrics, kettlebell work, and even some short distance (2-3 mile) running.

I do conditioning work 2-3 times per week and give it major credit for helping me stay in shape all year long … Just don’t tell anyone! Winky face.

I secretly enjoy conditioning! I talk a lot of crap about cardio, but when it comes to cardio work that gets my heart pumping like crazy, I’m obsessed.

Colton Leonard
His Secret

My secret? Use heavy weight and high reps to challenge your mental and physical strength, and take your training to the next level. One thing I have always incorporated as part of my strength program is repetition workouts. In strongman, not only do you need to possess the power to perform a lift at maximum intensity, but you often find that you need to do so repeatedly.

7 Strongman Lifts For The Non-strongman

You don’t need to be a strongman competitor to use the lifts! These strongman moves and their variations can help you achieve your goals!

For instance, we don’t just load an Atlas stone; we have to load them either for maximum reps under time, or, at minimum, a five-stone series. You often find deadlift events in strongman, which also require you to perform a maximum number of reps under time. These events led me to start incorporating this type of lifting into my training.

Several times each month, I pick a lift or movement commonly found in competition. After warming up, I complete one all-out set with as many reps as possible. This type of training not only contributes to overall strength, size, and conditioning, but will test your mental fortitude as you approach failure and your body starts to scream for you to stop.

Here’s the real trick: 2-3 times each month, pick a major movement, set the weight at approximately 70-75 percent of your max and, after properly warming up, perform one set of as many repetitions as you safely can in 60-90 seconds. Choose from these exercises to test your guts: deadlift, squat, clean and press, or T-bar row.

Write down your max reps and test yourself again down the road to track your progress. If this set does not leave you crawling away in pain and agony, you weren’t trying hard enough!

Jen Jewell
Her Secret

Of all the fitness tips, diet tricks, and booty-sculpting workouts out there, my ultimate fitness secret is simple: Stop comparing yourself to others! Instead, constantly work on becoming your fittest and healthiest self. I always say that I’m a work in progress, en route to becoming my best self. Having adopted that mindset has been incredibly beneficial to my health, outlook, and self-confidence over the past couple of years.

Sure, at first glance, it’s easier said than done. With the onslaught of bikini-clad or underwear “selfies” that have seemingly taken over fitness social media, the physiques of others are right in your face when you log on to Facebook, Instagram, and so on. (It’s a bikini booty free-for-all on my Facebook newsfeed!) While some of these posts from fit individuals can be inspiring and motivating, these types of updates are not always that simple.

Seeing others’ progress, cellulite-free legs and buns, and solid six-pack abs can begin to take a toll on your own self-esteem. Inevitably, they compel you to constantly compare yourself to others and how your progress or fitness stacks up against theirs.

The moment I stopped comparing myself to others and focused on my own journey was pretty darn liberating. Charting your own progress from day one—whatever level of fitness your day one may be—and using that as your measuring stick can be extremely motivating. We are all in the gym working hard to set new personal records. Why not maintain that mindset when it comes to progress in your physique, as well?

Admire the physiques and hard work of your favorite “fitspos,” but always keep in mind that the reflection in the mirror is your real competition. Be in competition with yourself, striving to become better each and every day. That is the true secret!

Craig Capurso
His Secret

When I’m trying to manipulate water for shoots, I take full advantage of infrared saunas. An infrared sauna is an effective tool for detoxifying the body and an aid for shedding excess subcutaneous water, yet few people utilize it. While traditional saunas help with water loss, the added benefit of infrared light penetrates the body tissue to help excrete toxins and bring out your musculature.

This has been a trick that I’ve used to come dialed into photo shoots and contests for years. It really makes a difference!

Infrared light penetrates the body tissue to help excrete toxins and bring out
your musculature.

The Secret Is Out

Embrace the valuable information that contributes to these athletes’ success and see how it could fit into your own life and goals. Have you got a secret method few people know about? Tell us in the comments below … unless you’d rather keep it secret.


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The Road To Two Plates: You Can Squat And Deadlift 225 Pounds!

The barbell is calling your name. You’ve been going to the gym for a quite a while now, and you’re comfortable doing the usual lower body machine exercises. Now you feel like you’re ready for a new challenge, and you’re sure it should involve barbells. But how, and to what end?

You could go a couple of different ways here. You could tinker around on those thin-handled barbells over by the dumbbell racks, doing your best to perform squats, lunges, and Romanian deadlifts in a crowd of people doing curls and presses.

Or you could step into the squat rack or onto the platform, make the commitment to learn how to handle an Olympic bar and plates, and work toward the goal of a nice, round number.

Don’t sell yourself short. Get serious, learn proper form, and make yourself proud in the weight room this year!

Who is Barbell Training For?

Lower-body free-weight training is an entirely different beast compared to lower body machine-based exercise. The leg press, knee extension, and leg curl machines have their place, but if you want to develop lower body strength and power, you’re going to have to squat and deadlift.

These closed-chain kinetic exercises—meaning your feet are in contact with the floor—challenge your legs, core, and hip stabilizer muscles in a totally unique fashion. If physique transformation is your goal, they provide a more powerful full-body stimulus than any machine, in half the time. These exercises also have better transference to athletic qualities such as sprinting and jumping.

Barbell Deadlift

You’ll hear people brag about big numbers, but ignore them for now. No matter what comes afterward, 225 in the squat or deadlift is a respectable milestone for any non-powerlifter, amateur athlete, or weekend warrior.

A 200-plus deadlift is also a tough but realistic goal for most fit women. I’ve known many who’ve already achieved it, and many more who can. The back squat is a more difficult lift for many women to go heavy, but squatting heavier than bodyweight is still a worthy goal to start, and this program can get you there.

Endurance athletes like distance runners, cyclists, and rowers can also benefit from adding heavy squats and deadlifts to their injury-prevention routine. Lifting greater than bodyweight improves neuromuscular efficiency to the fast-twitch type-II muscle fibers; and it has been shown in studies to lead to better performance in endurance sports. Despite the “thin and weak” stereotype, endurance athletes can benefit immensely from more strength—and don’t worry, 225 isn’t a number that you’ll need to get “bulky” to achieve.

So what’s the best approach to reach two plates on each side of the barbell? Well, first and foremost, you need to be able to execute each lift with optimal biomechanics. Once you get the form down, just take that light weight you move around, and make it heavier.

The Essentials of the Squat

A number—be it, 225, 425, or 75—means nothing if it’s done with bad form: knees caved, torso doubled over, and a back that looks like it’s about to break. I’m only interested in helping you own the number, and that means squatting with your hip crease dipping below your knee crease at the bottom of the squat, which is referred to as an “ass-to-grass” squat.

If you can’t squat that deep, well, you’re in the company of many, many gym-goers. But you’re not off the hook! Just place a 10-pound plate under each heel. This will create a slight anterior weight shift and make up for tight ankles. Still, drive your knees out and keep most of your weight from your mid-foot to your heel.

There should be a slight lean in your torso, and your lower and upper back should have good alignment without excessively rounding or arching.

Last, your knees should be held outward, with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart and your heels flat on the floor. Ideally, you would have a barbell on your back in the “high bar” position, resting mainly on your trapezius muscles and the upper ridge of your shoulder blades.

Back Squat

A great tip from the world of powerlifting is to push your knees out as if you were spreading the floor with your feet. This results in greater stability as your hip muscles tighten up to hold your knees outward.

Pull the bar into your traps as if you are trying to break it across your back. This cue will activate your lats, create more torso stability, and prevent you from falling forward.

The Essentials of the Deadlift

The hip hinge is the major movement pattern involved in a conventional deadlift. Essentially, the hips act like a hinge and flex, while your torso leans forward and your shins stay relatively vertical—that’s the difference between a hinge and a squat. No ass-to-grass here; the hip motion is primarily back-and-forth rather than up-and-down.

As with the squat, however, the spine stays aligned and doesn’t round or extend during a deadlift. But you should feel more tension in your hamstrings than a squat, particularly at the bottom of the movement, where the bar is on the ground.

Also, make sure you perform this movement with soft or slightly bent knees. We’re not doing stiff-legged deadlifts here.

To perform a conventional deadlift, step up to the bar with a hip-width stance. Bend your knees and hips, and grab the bar with a double overhand grip to the outside of your shins.

Push your hips back and puff out your chest. Your spine should be straight with your shoulders just in front of the barbell and slightly higher than your hips.

The squat (left) is a quad-dominant exercise. The hip-hinge (right) is the major movement patter of a deadlift, in which the hips act like a hinge and flex, while your torso leans forward and your shins remain vertical.

Brace your abs and engage your lats. As with the squat, you should feel most of your balance and body weight from mid-foot to heel. With your chin slightly tucked in, stand up with the bar, keeping it close to your body.

Finish with a deliberate hip extension and glute squeeze. Don’t lean back excessively; this places unwanted stress to your lumbar spine. Now slide the bar down your thighs as you push your hips backward. Once the bar passes your knees, sit the bar back to the floor. Reset your position and prepare for the next rep.

The Road to 225

The best way to get stronger and better at a lift is to perform it more frequently throughout the week. This plan will focus on getting your high-bar back squat and conventional deadlift to 225 in a straightforward, systematic way, using three full-body workouts per week. Here, I’ll just illustrate the squat and deadlift routine; feel free to add any upper-body lifts as you see appropriate, as long as they don’t detract from the work you do here.

For the first workout, use a weight you can confidently lift for 5 sets of 5 reps, but which still feels somewhat heavy. If you’re successful at completing all reps in each set, add weight in 5-pound increments and attempt to perform all 5 sets of 5 reps the following week.

Keep moving up in this manner until you hit what feels like a limit. Don’t attempt a rep if you suspect you might not make it; just end the set. If you fail and your reps go like this: 5, 5, 4, 3, 3, use the same weight the next week, and attempt all 5 sets of 5 reps again.

Details, Details

Mixed grip or overhand? Sumo or conventional? Straps, belts, or nothing at all? Focus on learning the squat and deadlift movements first. You may find later that a mixed grip or a sumo stance is more comfortable at heavier weights.

For Wednesday’s workout, use a submaximal weight (roughly 60 percent of the weight used on Monday) and perform speed deadlifts. The execution of the deadlift is the same; however, the bar is to be lifted as fast as possible with correct form. For the jump squat, execute the squat as written above, but explode from the bottom position and jump off the ground. Land lightly and prepare for the next rep.

Last, for Friday’s workout, start with a light weight and perform 5 reps. Add a little bit of weight, and after your rest, perform another 5 reps. Keep adding weight over the next 5-6 sets to reach the maximum weight you can perform 5 reps with, which is called your 5-rep max (5RM). In week two, work up to a max set of 3 reps. In week three, work up to a max set of 1 rep.

This program can be performed month after month until you reach 225 or a different goal number in each lift. You’ll notice a deload week in the fourth week to allow your body to recover before the next phase.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

  • Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift
    3 sets of 5 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest
  • Barbell Squat Barbell Squat Barbell Squat
    3 sets of 5 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest
  • Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift Barbell Deadlift
    3 sets of 3 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest
  • Barbell Squat Barbell Squat Barbell Squat
    3 sets of 3 reps (70% of week prior’s weight), 2 min. rest

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Samantha Ann Leete Fitness 360
Watch The Video – 13:58

Mixing It Up

Samantha likes to use multiple training strategies so she never gets bored. “I love incorporating supersets, giant sets, circuits, HIIT cardio, low-intensity cardio, dropsets, and negatives,” she says. “I also like to switch up my rep ranges, tempo, and exercises.” These constant changes help keep Samantha excited about her workouts and motivated for her future goals.

Although she uses different modalities to train various muscle groups, Samantha likes to keep her split fairly consistent. “I usually lift three or four days per week and do sprints or plyometrics once per week. For my upper body, I usually stick to a 10-12 rep range. For my lower body, I do 10-20 reps per exercise.”

Romanian Deadlift

Like most of us, Samantha has a tough relationship with cardio. “Sometimes it can be fun and I look forward to it, especially when I’ve had a stressful day and could use a cathartic sweat session.” She’ll squeeze in a cardio session during lunch at work, but if she’s in the gym, she prefers the arc trainer, the stepmill, or plyos.

Unlike some elite competitors, Samantha believes in rest days. “I just try to listen to my body,” she says. Sometimes a rest day means hitting a hard cardio session, sometimes it means going for a long, fun hike, and sometimes, rest just means rest. “Rest days can literally mean just chilling out and watching a movie,” she explains.

Samantha’s Training Split

Cardio

These are examples of cardio workouts that I might do during the week

Cardio workout #1
45 minute Arc Trainer

Cardio workout #2
Treadmill lunge intervals
3-minute incline lunge
3-minute incline run
3-minute incline walk
Repeat for 30 minutes

Cardio workout #3
Treadmill HIIT sprints
30 second incline sprint
30 second incline walk
Repeat for 20 minutes

Cardio workout #4
HIIT circuit
2-minute row
1-minute rope jump
100 mountain climbers
Rest 30-60 seconds
Repeat for 20 minutes


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The Truth About Weight Loss

The start of every health kick can be a glorious time, with your motivation at its highest and the fitness gains at their easiest to come by. Your muscles might be aching, and your diet could be missing a few unhealthy favourites, but the weight will be dropping off like nobody’s business.At some point, however, you might find that whatever efforts you make in the gym or the kitchen do not result in any further losses when you step on the scales. Your weight plateaus, or perhaps even nudges slightly upwards. Obviously, this can be the ultimate motivation killer if your main goal is weight loss, but a simple scales reading can be misleading when it comes to your general health.More important than how much you weigh is your body composition – namely how much of your body is made up of fat, muscle, bones, water, assorted organs, and so on.

How To Get A Better Butt: 5 Rules For Stronger Glutes

Strong, round glutes are the foundation of a great physique and a healthy body. Unfortunately, many of us have weak glutes that just get weaker because we sit all day. Aside from not looking so great, feeble butt muscles can cause a litany of postural problems and pain issues. Even worse, having a weak bum means your primary lifts like the squat and the deadlift aren’t as strong as they could be. If that doesn’t motivate you to put some muscle on your backside, I don’t know what will!

To restore your ailing glutes, you need to make training them a priority. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with constantly tight hips and probably contract flat-ass disease.

Save your butt from these depressing side effects by following these five rules. They’ll help you feel stronger and more mobile. They’ll also help you add some great-looking curves to your rear end.

Hit Them Baby One (Okay, Three) More Times

If your training routine only calls for one glute-specific workout per week, it’s time to ramp things up. Glutes adapt well to frequency— the more often you train them, the quicker they grow in size and strength. Rather than performing a single glute workout once per week, add booty-busting exercises to each workout you do during the week.

Try this: Add loaded hip thrusts, glute bridges, hip abduction exercises, back extensions, or hip extension exercises to your daily workouts.

Single-leg bodyweight glute bridge

Mix Up Your Hip Extension

Hip extension is important for pelvic stability and daily movement. Walking, running, standing, and sitting in with proper posture begins and ends with your butt.

In this age of computers and cubicles, people spend most of their time in hip flexion (seated position). More often than not, long bouts of sitting cause tight quads, a tight psoas muscle, and weak hip extensors—namely the gluteus maximus.

To alleviate these symptoms and put yourself on a path to a perkier posterior, it’s wise to activate your hip extensors regularly. Hip extension occurs when the thighs or pelvis move rearward. The most common—and best—exercises for hip extension are the squat and deadlift. These two lifts belong in your lifting regimen along with assistance exercises to pack on glute mass.

Try this: Use squats and deadlifts as a primary hip extension exercises and add in one or two assistance exercises to each routine. Assistance lifts include, but aren’t limited to: Romanian deadlifts, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, glute bridges, back extension, reverse hyperextension, glute kickback, and donkey kick.

“The most common—and best—exercises for hip extension are the squat and deadlift. These two lifts belong in your lifting regimen along with assistance exercises to pack on glute mass.”

Add a Little Abduction, Too

Your hips articulate in several ways other than the all-important extension. Your hips can also move in flexion, medial and lateral rotation, adduction, and abduction. If you move your hips in circles, you’ll get the idea. Along with hip extension, another important element of strong glutes is hip abduction, or moving the thighs outward from your midline.

Your glute medius is a major abductor of the thigh. Its anterior fibers rotate the hip internally while the posterior fibers rotate the hip externally. A strong glute medius will control any unwanted sideways movement in your pelvis. For example, if your left hip drops when you stand on your right leg, your right glute medius is probably weak. An unlevel pelvis can lead to other issues like IT band syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome, neither of which is pleasant.

Try this: To strengthen the glute medius, add 2 sets of 10 reps of standing cable hip abduction and 2 sets of 12 reps of seated band hip abduction twice per week.

Keep Your Booty Active

If you sit on them all day, your glutes will just become weaker and weaker. This weakness can be compounded when other muscles have to take over a lift in order to compensate for them. Avoid a weak booty by doing a series of activation and mobility drills ten minutes a day. Practicing glute activation will help them fire during every exercise.

Try this: Perform 10 reps of each exercise once per day.

  • Single-leg bodyweight glute bridge
  • Fire hydrant
  • Bird dog
  • Standing glute squeeze

Get Tense

“Passive tension is how your hamstring muscles feel at the bottom of a Romanian deadlift.”

Mechanical tension is the bee’s knees when it comes to muscle hypertrophy (growth). Mechanical tension occurs when you passively stretch or actively contract the muscle. Passive tension is how your hamstring muscles feel at the bottom of a Romanian deadlift and active tension is how your biceps feel as you contact in a barbell curl. Both are key players in muscle growth, and both can make a big difference in gluteal development.

When using a full range of motion (ROM), your muscles are placed under a combination of both passive and active tension. For example: At the bottom of a squat, your glutes are in a stretched (passive tension) position; at the top, they’re in a squeezed (active tension) position.

Maintaining this tension through a full range of motion is optimal for gains. To do it, control your reps, keep a steady tempo, and don’t rely on momentum to get through the exercise—oh, and don’t skimp on the ROM.

Try this: To increase mechanical tension, use a tempo for your exercises. Tempo is expressed as a series of 3 or 4 numbers, such as 2-2-2. The first number is the number of seconds in the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement, the second number is the pause, and the third number is the number of seconds in the concentric (lifting) portion of the movement.

You can incorporate an exercise tempo as simple as 2-2 or 3-3. You can also incorporate a pause in the middle, like 3-3-3, or even have a longer eccentric portion like a 4-3 tempo. Remember, though, that adding a tempo doesn’t mean you get to forgo a full range of motion.


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Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

In the fitness community, I’m most often recognized because of my big weight-loss transformation. I went from 185 pounds to a little less than 130 pounds. It took me a few years to get to my lowest weight, but I followed the motto that slow and steady wins the race and I never gave up. I know it was this attitude that helped me place second the 2013 Bodybuilding.com BodySpace Spokesmodel Competition.

Sometimes, I look back and can’t believe how far I’ve come. I don’t even remember the girl who had never stepped foot in a gym and gorged on pizza, chips, and ramen all day.

But I’ve decided my transformation work is not yet done—in fact, it’s only just begun! I’m on a second transformation journey, and this time I’m putting my happiness and my health first. I’m transforming my body from skinny to strong, and my mind from unhealthy to happy.

Before

After

Why I Decided to Change … Again

Believe it or not, when I weighed 185 pounds, I was one confident girl. I loved my body and never thought of myself as fat. I was who I was and that was that. I wasn’t defined by my body’s appearance. But that self-confidence changed the moment I decided I should lose weight. It seemed as though the more weight I lost, the more self-conscious about my appearance I became. I reached every weight-related goal I had set for myself, and yet I was never good enough.

At 125 pounds and with barely enough body fat to function, I competed for the first (and last) time with anxiety that I was “too fat” to be on stage. I had become so progressively wrapped up in numbers and body fat percentages over the few short years of dieting, that I was mentally destroyed.

I also noticed that my training started to suffer. I first began working out to be healthy and because I loved the way it made me feel, but I had lost sight of those reasons. I trained to burn calories and stay as thin as possible. If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run. I started to hate outdoor runs because I was forcing myself to do them. I allowed my training to control me. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed in exchange for doing whatever it took to stay thin.

Along with a severely distorted body image and training that was running me into the ground, my relationship with food started to become extremely disordered. Gone were the days of using food for fuel. If my food wasn’t weighed out to the gram and if I didn’t prepare it myself, I refused to eat it. There were days that I had full-blown anxiety attacks because I couldn’t log something in MyFitnessPal.

“If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run.”

I began taking hours of my day to try to configure my food so I would hit my macros just perfectly. If I didn’t, another anxiety attack would ensue. To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I restricted myself with calories, types of foods, and situations. God forbid I would eat a cookie!

I felt like I was drowning, like I was just barely holding my head above water. Everything I had loved so much in the beginning—the healthy eating, the workouts, my body—now had complete control of my life. They were no longer positives. They had become negatives, weighing me down with each passing day. I knew I had to change. It was only a matter of time before I broke down completely.

That’s when I decided I wanted to find strength.

Letting Go

The first thing I had to change was my mindset. I had to let go of the unhealthy habits that were slowly suffocating me. My negative body image was, and still is to this day, the hardest thing to let go of. I found it much easier to allow for self-hate than to find self-love. Sadly, I think this is true for many people. But I had to let go.

I had to let go of having visible abs 24/7. I had to let go of desperately trying to maintain 12 percent body fat. I had to let go of the number on the scale. Most importantly, I had to let go of the idea that I would only be happy if I was lean. I wanted to be happy when I looked in the mirror, and I knew it wouldn’t come from a certain size. It had to come from letting go and loving myself no matter what.

“I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made.”

I still remind myself of where I started. That girl sitting on her ass eating ramen all day is 180 degrees from where I am today, and she always will be. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made. Whether I stay the size that I am now or gain or lose a few pounds, I love who I am. My worth is no longer based on what the scale says in the morning.

I don’t have “fat days” or “fluffy days” anymore, because quite frankly, I don’t care. I refuse to let something like three pounds of water destroy my day. I know now that I’m healthier than I ever was at 130 pounds. My hormones aren’t out of whack, I’m not moody or depressed, I don’t have random headaches, I’m not constantly fatigued, and I don’t feel weak.

Unfortunately, there’s a widespread belief that equates health to six-pack abs. This might be true for some people, but for the majority it’s not. I can lift more, sprint faster, and am healthier now than I ever was. There is beauty in strength. I don’t just say it, I know it.

Letting Go

I wanted my fire for exercise to burn like it did when I first started lifting, so I let go of the forced daily runs and extra HIIT sessions to “make up” for calories. I began to utilize conditioning work 1-2 times per week instead. I added back my short outdoor runs, but much more infrequently, and never because I felt pressure to burn a certain number of calories. I threw my heart monitor away.

I also discovered powerlifting. When I finally dropped the light-weight, high-rep stuff I was doing to stay thin, I started following Wendler’s 5-3-1 program and quickly fell in love. My strength skyrocketed, and when I decided I wanted to take my training to the next level, I signed with The Strength Guys. Now, the spark is back when I’m in the gym. I feel the fire again.

Squat

Strength Training Program

I follow an intense, block-periodization powerlifting program created by my coach, Jon Stewart. It’s high volume, tailored to correct my weaknesses, and uses movements and load intensities built for progression. I’m on six-week cycles of five-day splits. I have one day of light conditioning and one day of complete rest. Mobility is a vital component of my current program because my training pushes my body to its limits.

Each day and week I use different sets, reps, and weight with a specific rest time, exercise tempo, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to follow. Days one and three look on week three of my program.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Pause Squats have the lifter descending to the bottom position of the squat and freezing. The bottom position is held for three seconds, maintaining tightness in the muscles and correct technique, before returning to the starting position.

Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.)

is lifting sub-maximal loads with maximum force. For more details check

elitefts.com

.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Reset Deadlifts are performed the same as a standard deadlift, but the lifter will put the weight completely on the floor and reset their hip position between each rep.

Letting Go

The hardest physical aspect to change for me was my diet. I had developed such rigid views and habits around food that it was almost more of a struggle to let them go than it was to keep them. I packed away my food scale and deleted MyFitnessPal. I started incorporating foods that I hadn’t allowed myself to eat in years. I stopped restricting. I re-learned how to eat, not from a clock or scale, but from what my body was feeling.

At first I thought I would feel free without the calorie counting, stress, obsession, and anxiety, but I didn’t. I would take two steps forward and three steps back, wondering if I would ever be able to change. It took years to develop my disordered relationship with food, and I knew it wasn’t going to take a week to fix it. So, I trusted the process just as I always had, kept working at it, and didn’t give up.

Today, around 70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food that allows my body to perform at its optimal level. This includes things like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

The other 20-30 percent of food I consume is made up of things that I crave, or that I just plain want—no explanation or condition necessary. There is no special time, day, or place for these foods. I allow myself the freedom to eat them when I want them. Some days I’m at a 50/50 split, some days it’s 100/0, but on most days I stay right around 80/20. It all balances out.

I don’t restrict, I listen to my body’s needs and wants, and most important, I consume everything mindfully and in moderation. Through all of the extremes, I’ve found balance to be the key component in my physical and mental health. It’s also been the key to my happiness.

Sample Day

I don’t have a meal plan to follow because the foods and amounts I eat change on a daily basis. I don’t weigh or measure anything, so all quantities below are estimated. I don’t know my caloric intake or macro breakdown, but I would guess I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200-2,700 calories per day. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Greek Chicken Wrap

Final Thoughts

Throughout my second transformation, I’ve found myself spending more time with friends and family. They couldn’t care less what I look like—my abs make no difference to them. As long as I’m healthy and happy, they’re happy too.

It’s funny because these are the people I pulled away from when I started my downhill slide into disordered eating and thinking. I sheltered myself from everything that wasn’t fitness related, even friends and family. But when I finally let go of the obsession and the stress, I felt free.

During this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

The fitness community is full of extremes. We work out until we can’t move. We eat diets of tilapia and broccoli. It takes a strong individual to endure what we put ourselves through. But during this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

I want to be somewhere between the overweight college girl and the underweight girl on stage, somewhere between the girl who ate pop-tarts for every meal and the girl who ate lettuce for every meal, somewhere between the girl who never stepped foot into the gym and the girl who wouldn’t leave it until she’d burned enough calories. This middle spot is where I’m happy and strong. It’s where I found my balance.


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