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Press On: 3 Fixes To Boost Your Bench Press!

Hit the health club on any given Monday, and you might think there’s an audition in progress for a new episode of “Maury Povich” about the bench press and the men who love it. After all, what better way could there be to start the week than getting under a loaded barbell and pushing it for all you’re worth?

Well, I can think of a couple, but that’s for another article. Look, I understand the allure of the bench press. It’s the ultimate glamour movement in the gym for men, and it’s also a great movement for upper-body size and strength.

The problem is that most people gauge their success only by benching as much weight as possible, and they disregard the crucial setup process and downplay the importance of form to perform the lift correctly. This ends up creating a lot more ex-benchers than strong benchers.

Don’t let your favorite lift beat you down. Use these tried and true techniques to skyrocket your bench and blast off to new levels of mass and strength!

Lee Boyce On Proper Bench Press Technique
Watch The Video – 04:43

Fix 1

Upper back exercises are crucial for making the bench press pain-free, stable, and strong. As I mentioned in the video above, the bench press places stress on the shoulder blades and four rotator cuff muscles that originate on the scapula. Having the ability to keep the scapular muscles nice and tight is a key to stability for any pushing movement.

I program my back workouts before my chest workouts whenever I’m isolating specific body parts. This ensures that the back muscles get sore, tight, and are limited in range of motion and flexibility to help fix the shoulder blades on chest day. On a full-body workout, I pull before I push.

Make sure the following exercises are included in your back training day to really build scapular stability and strength:

Fix 2

If building big bench is important for you, you need to get scientific about it. Break down your lift and figure out where you’re weakest, and then focus on turning that weakness into a strength.

Barbell Bench Press

In most cases, a lifter going for a max-effort rep hits a wall or reaches a sticking point around the halfway point coming off the chest. If this is you, it means you lack lockout strength. Luckily, there are many great exercises to help you improve this sticking point.

Lockout Exercises

Floor press

Use a barbell or two dumbbells and lay flat on the floor with the weight in the bench press bottom position. The elbows will be on the floor and the weight around six inches off the chest.

Keep your upper back tight and shoulders retracted. Breathe in, drive the weight up to full-extension at the arm, and keep the legs held together and straight on the ground. Pause at the bottom of each rep. Perform 3 sets of 8 reps.

Pin press

Set up a bench inside a squat rack to create a bench press station. Position the safety pins 4-6 inches above your chest. Lay the bar on the pins and position your body under it. Assume your preferred bench press grip and drive the bar to the top position.

After lockout, lower the bar quickly to the pins. This exercise allows you to focus on max effort. Due to the lack of eccentric control, you’ll have more juice in the tank to lift.

Give yourself a couple seconds between reps to get tight and reset your body. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 3-6 reps.

Chain bench press

Attaching chains to the bench press makes the load heavier as you progress through the concentric portion of a rep. It’s a great way to make your triceps do more work during lockout.

In rare circumstances, the sticking point happens at the bottom of the lift, which indicates that chest and shoulder strength is a weak link from a biomechanical perspective. Implementing starting strength exercises can help exponentially with this issue.

Bent over barbell row

Starting Strength Exercises

Pause reps

On the bench press, lower the weight slowly and pause for at least one second on the chest. Remember to stay tight during the rep without slackening your grip or exhaling. You won’t be able to lift as much weight as usual with this method, so lower the weight to 80 percent of the normal amount you can lift for reps.

This exercise cuts off the stretch reflex so you can’t use momentum at the bottom of the lift. Momentum tricks your chest into thinking that it’s performing well, when in reality, it’s nothing more than kinetic force that propels the weight out of the hole.

Pause reps are a staple in competitive powerlifting routines everywhere.

One-and-a-half reps

One and a half reps are my favorite way to improve chest activity in a bench press. Ensure that you’re set up correctly and lower the bar to your chest like normal.

Press the bar off the chest to the halfway point, where you have a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Lower the bar to the chest again and drive the bar to the top for one rep. Repeat for 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps.

The science behind this madness is simple: For every rep of 1.5s, you’re doing 2 reps with just the chest and 1 rep with the triceps at lockout. At the end of a set, your chest will have done twice as much work than your triceps.

Fix 3

Like most physical activities, if you want to improve at something, you must practice it. Building a stronger bench press happens in part from benching frequently. Make like the Bulgarians and up your weekly volume—without going overboard, of course!

Boyce Post-Workout Burnout! Bench Press 225×15
Watch The Video – 01:11

Post-workout burnout sets are money when it comes to adding benching volume. At the end of every isolation workout, do a couple quick warm-up bench press sets and then perform a burnout set with 60 percent of your max. Rep it out until failure for one big set.

Here’s a video of me doing a post-workout burnout set after a long Olympic lifting workout. My max is around 345 pounds, so 225 pounds is about 65 percent of my max.

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About The Author

Lee Boyce is the owner of Boyce Training Systems, and is a fitness author and strength coach based in Toronto, Canada.

Ask The Ripped Dude: How Can I Improve My Shoulders?

QObi, my arms look great, but I have ski-slope shoulders. What do you recommend?

To build a complete physique, the sculpted sort that looks good on a magazine cover, every body part needs to hold its own—without exception.

That means giving every body part its due in the gym, even if it’s not a “glamour” body part like chest, biceps, or abs.

When I train, my objective is to work each body part a minimum of once each week and a maximum of twice each week. That same rule applies to shoulders. I always pair shoulders with a back-smashing session.

To grow big, strong shoulders, hit them with a minimum of three exercises each training session. Note the word “minimum.” If you’re strong enough, feel free to increase this to 4-5 exercises on shoulder day.

I make sure I warm up my shoulders by stretching my arms out. It’s essential to prevent injury. I start with small circles going forward for at least 30 seconds and then I reverse and go backward for 30 seconds. Then I do the same thing, only making the circles bigger.

Here’s a breakdown of two shoulder routines. I chose these exercises because collectively they work each head of the deltoid. When I mention Monday and Friday—well, that’s up to you. Just don’t train shoulders on consecutive days.

Follow this shoulder routine and they’ll grow. Trust me.

Monday

1 Dumbbell Front Raise

This isolation exercise primarily works your anterior (front) deltoid.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and rest your arms at your sides. Using an overhand grip, slowly raise your arms in front of you and bring the dumbbell to eye level.

Dumbbell Front Raises

Then, slowly lower the weight back down to your sides. Find yourself swinging? It’s likely that the weight you’re using is too heavy. Remember: Speed isn’t the key here. It’s all about slow, isolated exercises.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

2 Dumbbell Overhead Press

This shoulder exercise works your anterior deltoid while indirectly targeting your triceps and upper back.

Sit on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, and make sure your feet are shoulder width apart and flat on the ground. Bring your arms to shoulder level and bend at the elbows. From there, simultaneously push the dumbbells overhead and extend until they touch for a complete repetition. Lower the dumbbells back down to chest level and repeat.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

3 Barbell Upright Row

This compound exercise works the deltoids and trapezius muscles while indirectly targeting the triceps.

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart and your knees slightly bent. Hold the barbell in front of you, resting it against your thighs. Pull the barbell up until it reaches the level of your clavicle.

Barbell Upright Row

At this point, your elbows should be fully pointed outward. Be sure not to swing or bounce the bar or rise to your tippy toes. Keep a steady breath, inhaling on the downward position and exhaling as you pull the bar upward.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Friday

1 Dumbbell Shoulder Shrug

This exercise works the upper trapezius muscle, helping you built titan-style traps.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip. Stand upright, feet shoulder-width apart. From the starting position, squeeze together your shoulder blades while simultaneously rotating your scapula. Try to bring your shoulders to your ears (or as close as possible) while elevating your scapula.

Hold that contraction for at least two seconds before lowering your shoulders back down.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

2 Dumbbell Lateral Raise

These raises primarily work the middle head of the deltoid as well as the anterior deltoid and posterior (back) deltoid.

Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Stand with your feet shoulder with apart, feet firmly planted. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, and keeping a slight bend in each arm, raise your arms to shoulder height.

Slowly bring your arms down and back to your sides. Repeat.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

3 Military Press

This exercise works the entire shoulders complex, but especially the front deltoids.

Sit on a bench. With your feet firmly planted and roughly shoulder width apart, grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Extend your arms straight while lifting overhead. Try not to arch your back.

Lower the bar back down to your clavicle and repeat. Be careful not to hold your breath. Inhale while pulling down and exhale while pushing up.

  • 1 set warm-up of 20 reps using very light weight
  • 3 sets of 12-15 reps

Transform Your Body


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Start Small To Lift Big: How To Master 4 Fundamental Exercises

It’s easy to look at complex movements like dribbling a soccer ball, throwing a baseball, or handling a hockey puck and see how that took years to perfect. Athletes rehearse these movements endlessly, stick to the fundamentals, and trust that practice will improve execution in game situations. One day it finally does, but this happens over time, not overnight.

The same theory should apply to weight training. In a perfect world, we would all practice and progress safely, building the type of strength that allows us to handle heavy loads without injuries or negative compensation patterns.

Nevertheless, there’s almost always a look of befuddlement on a trainee’s face when I explain that they must first build a foundation with basic exercises. They simply don’t believe the basics will increase their arm size, build chiseled abs, or sculpt jean-busting legs. They want quick results from extreme plans like they see on television.

It sounds simple, I’ll admit, but my formula for success is this: commit to long-term training goals, and get the most out of the staple lifts like the push-up, dumbbell row, squat, and deadlift. These four are probably the most common exercises within weight training circles, and they’re included in nearly all of the programs you’ll see on this site.

Believe it or not, these exercises are enough to put you on the road to physique of your dreams, if you do them right. However, despite their popularity, they’re very technical movements that can be easy to butcher.

It’s easy to attribute technique flaws to a lack of mobility, but here’s what that excuse overlooks: Most exercises are corrective in nature and relatively easy to master, provided you take the time to progress through them and learn them properly.

Let’s go upstream and solve these problems before they start! Here’s what I see going wrong with the way most people perform the four fundamental lifts, and how you can perform them to get the most bang for your buck in the gym.

Exercise 1

Many push-up issues start when people focus on what muscle groups the push-up “works.” If you’re thinking all about chest, arms, and shoulders, you’ll forget to keep the rest of the body tense and stable. This should be a full-body lift!

Make sure your hips and shoulders are lined up your arms and are in the best position to develop true pressing strength. This will help you build the most force at the bottom push-up position.

Push-Up Fixes
Watch The Video – 02:06

Push-up coaching points
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs to lock your hips to your core.
  • Keep your arm tight to the armpits.
  • Hit the ground with your chest before your head.

Exercise 2

Most issues dumbbell rows happen when the spine is held in a flexed and rounded-back position, rather than a neutral position. Improper spine positioning causes the shoulder blade to move up instead of down when the upper back is rounded, which forces the upper traps to work instead of the lats.

Focus on keeping a long, tight spine during the movement, and you should feel the burn directly below your shoulder blade, into to your tailbone, and through the lats.

Breaking Down The Dumbbell Row
Watch The Video – 02:17

Dumbbell row coaching points
  • Take a wider stance than you think you need.
  • Keep the spine long and straight with the chest up.
  • Let the shoulder blade do the work. The wrist and elbow follow the shoulder.

Exercise 3

Problematic squatters generally fall into two camps: those who are stiff and tight, and those who are mobile but have trouble controlling the movement. I discussed squatting issues before in a power panel with my fellow strength training coaches, but this never-ending battle is always worth discussing.

Squatting is very technical and involves many moving parts. The best plan: Don’t jump into heavy weight too quickly. Start by doing bodyweight reps within your scope of control. Once you add weight, focus on getting comfortable at hitting depth and building a more effective range of motion.

Before you even think of going heavy, ensure that you can control the movement with your heels on the floor, hamstrings resting on your calves, and your torso positioned long and tall.

Squat Fix: Low Mobility
Watch The Video – 05:12

Squat coaching points
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and press evenly throughout.
  • Create force through the hips to drive the movement.
  • Lean the torso forward as your hips move into the rep.
  • Keep the core tense without restricting airflow.
  • Keep the shoulders vertical over the middle of the foot.

Exercise 4

The deadlift is a skill-based movement that takes reps and consistent practice to improve. Most common deadlifting issues derive from the spine doing too much work instead of the hips, which are supposed to drive the movement. The spine should be a rigid lever that transfers force from the legs and hips up through the arms, thereby moving the weight.

Get your core and shoulders tight and keep the spine stiff to assist the movement. The deadlift isn’t easy, but once you perfect your technique, you’d better believe it can be fun to lift a heavy weight off the ground.

Deadlift Tutorial
Watch The Video – 05:23

Deadlift coaching points
  • Keep the spine straight and drive the movement from your hips.
  • Set the bar close to your shins at the start of the movement and keep the shin vertical, without positioning the knee ahead of the bar.
  • Brace your abs, squeeze your arms down tight to your ribs, and stand tall without over-extending at lockout.

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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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7 days to ultimate health with Tegan Haining

  With the help of the author of The 7 Day Quickie and personal trainer Tegan Haining, we’ve come up with an approach to the week-long kickstart.  Haining’s book is a simple yet detailed guide to seven days of health and fitness that combines a balanced diet with a more active lifestyle. Nourishing food and drinks Haining says simple, nourishing food is key to incorporating good food habits into your lifestyle. Throughout the seven days, meals should be built around a palm-sized portion of protein (such as chicken, fish, organic grass-fed red meat, eggs, quinoa or tempeh), two cups of vegetables and a thumb-sized portion of healthy fats (such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado or nuts). When it comes to carbohydrates, Haining includes nutrient-dense carbohydrates in her plan but advises to add them last. “Carbohydrates are part of The 7 Day Quickie but we have brown rice instead of white rice, sweet potato instead of potato or rye toast with almond butter instead of white toast with jam, so the general person wouldn’t feel deprived eating this way,” says Haining. Choose your vegetables wisely by including carrots, cauliflower, beetroot or pumpkin on your plate and you get your carb hit simultaneously. To get the most out of your week, drop all processed foods, sugar (if you fancy something sweet Haining suggests low sugar fruit such as blueberries, green apples or ruby red grapefruits) and pre-packaged food. For liquids, maximise your water intake and aim for two litres daily. For caffeine lovers, Haining says one coffee per day before 2pm is fine. But for those keen on a glass of red, the news isn’t good. “Having a glass of wine in the evening really affects my sleep pattern because the liver often detoxes around 3am in the morning. This is when you want to be getting that rejuvenating sleep, not detoxing the glass of wine or bad food from the day before,” says Haining. “Without an evening wine, I find I wake up before my alarm clock and feel really good. So give it a try for one week and notice what it does to your morning motivation.” Exercise smart If you think the seven-day period of amazingness means you’ll be smashing yourself in the gym two hours every day, think again. Haining believes a balanced approach achieves the best results, including two rest days. “The people who give themselves rest days and time to allow their lean muscle mass to develop actually become more efficient at fat burning than those constantly running on the treadmill,” says Haining. “Yes, they’re burning fat, but they’re burning muscle too, and their cortisol is very high and they’re stressed…it’s not an ideal way to get a happy life at the same time.” Instead, factor in two days of strength or resistance training, two days of interval training and a day or two of gentle yoga stretches over the week. Instead of leg or arm days, Haining recommends whole body workouts that work the front and back for ideal posture. “Work the front and then the back of your body so you’ve got nice posture, balance the upper and lower body exercises, work both pushing and pulling movements so we don’t get any rounded shoulder positioning that produces tightness in the chest – all of these are factors to consider,” says Haining. “Focus on a balanced, flexible and strong body – be really mindful of tightness because that’s where injury starts.” Sleep The importance of sleep this week (and always) cannot be underestimated. When we get less than eight hours of quality sleep, our body produces the hormone ghrelin, making us crave foods (especially sugar) and our hunger is often insatiable. On the flipside, a decent eight-hour sleep produces the hormone leptin, which increases satiety, reducing the urge to overeat. “It’s often the most challenging thing for my clients when I talk about going to bed at 10pm. They think I’m from Mars, but it makes such a difference,” says Haining. “One of the models I trained in London couldn’t shift weight from around her waistline and when we looked at her sleep, she wasn’t ever going to bed before 1am. As soon as we got her to bed at 10pm, she lost that layer.” The magic time between 10pm and 6am, working with the sun, seems to be the ideal sleep format to prevent us reaching for stimulants the next morning. “When we’ve had a good night’s sleep, everything else flows from there,” says Haining. “We’ll make better food choices and we might be a little bit happier about going to the gym. A bad night’s sleep messes with our mindset, and positivity is what gets us through the day and kicking goals!” Self-care When you’re exercising hard plus eating lighter and healthier than ever, you may find some sore muscles and detoxing symptoms are the result in the first few days. Haining says self-care over the week is crucial to staying on track. “Choose one wellness factor, whether it be going for a massage, going to a sauna or a feelgood thing you wouldn’t usually do on one of your regeneration days,” suggests Haining. “Day six is good because you’re nearly at the end of the week, you might have detoxed and be feeling a bit average, so give your body some extra love. Even an Epsom salt bath for half an hour at home will feel really good on sore, tired muscles.” For a daily hit of love, Haining is a firm believer in the power of affirmations, twisting any negative thoughts around. “Affirmations are a huge thing in my life and they really work,” she says. “If you’re feeling negative about something, you have to change your thinking, which might involve writing down a positive flip on that thought, such as ‘How am I ever going to get through these seven days’ and turn it around to ‘I can’t wait to feel how good I’m going to feel after these seven days’. Write it down and put it on your fridge or on your phone as a daily alert; just constantly remind yourself.”   Pros & Cons Pros Seven days is achievable for anyone and Haining’s The 7-Day Quickie caters for all fitness levels and most taste buds. The balanced approach with carefully thought out nutrition alongside a mixture of exercise means you are unlikely to feel hungry or exhausted during this plan and, by the end, your energy levels will only increase. While Haining is reluctant to mention a number on the scales as everyone is different, she says people will lose a layer and gain a flatter tummy. Without alcohol and processed foods, your sleep pattern should improve, which means you’ll look fresher and experience better moods. Cons Whenever we go full throttle and deprive ourselves of favourite foods, there’s the possibility of backlash once we reach the finish life. Haining says slips are part of being human and if you fall off the wagon on day eight, don’t sweat it. “I worked with James Duigan for so many years and his motto or mantra is to be kind to yourself – which I so agree with. At the end of the day, you might have the worst eating day of your life on day eight after the program,” says Haining. “Drink your wine and eat your chocolate but know on day nine you can go back and do the quickie again for seven days and you’ll feel great. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a day of bad eating, it’s when you have a bad couple of years of eating that we have a problem. Be kinder to yourself: it’s more important to feel happy and enjoy life, and not feel as though you’re being deprived of anything so you can maintain longevity.”     {nomultithumb}  

Over 40 Amateur Of The Week: Jodi Shows No Signs Of Slowing Down

QHow did your fitness
journey begin?

I am the proud wife of a retired Air Force senior master sergeant. During the early years of our marriage, I stayed home with our children. My focus was on them, not on my fitness. When I returned to work, I took a high-visibility job that required long hours and frequent travel. My limited fitness went down the tubes in the face of airport food and stress. In 2009, the Air Force moved us to Phoenix, Arizona, where it jump-started an incredibly positive change in my life even if I didn’t know it at the time. A good friend of mine talked me into attending the high-intensity, functional fitness cross-training classes on base. At first, I was very skeptical and didn’t take it very seriously, but before I knew it I was in love. I loved how I felt and the transformation that took place.

After training for about six months, my friends encouraged me to enter a bodybuilding competition on base. I didn’t know a thing about nutrition or training for that kind of event, but I did it anyway. To my surprise, I came in second. This was only the beginning of my foray into bodybuilding.

As luck would have it, there was an Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders show in Phoenix the following weekend. On a whim, I entered. I got my butt kicked, although I still managed to come in seventh. Amazed and inspired by the incredible showings of the other competitors, I wanted to learn more and compete again.

My first step in the direction of serious competition was obvious: I’d buy a suit. I found a suit on eBay being sold by a competitor also in Phoenix. She and I arranged to meet at her gym so I could try the suit on before buying it. I ended up loving the suit and the owner of the gym, too! Mr. Tim Sparkes, the owner of Die Hard Gym and Fitness, agreed to take me on as a client. As they say, the rest is history.

He’s been a dear friend and coach. He still does all my nutrition, even though I moved to Alabama two and a half years ago.

Cool Fact

Jodi recently earned her CrossFit Level 1 Trainer certification and is a coach at CrossFit Montgomery.

What workout regimen delivered the best results?

A.M. Workout
  • Cardio Cross-TrainingCardio Cross-Training Cardio Cross-Training
    30 minutes calisthenics, plyometrics and intervals
A.M. Workout
  • Cardio Cross-TrainingCardio Cross-Training Cardio Cross-Training
    30 minutes calisthenics, plyometrics and intervals
A.M. Workout

What nutrition plan fueled your body?

Off Season Plan

  • Lean Protein Lean Protein
    4-6 ounces
  • Salad Vegetables Salad Vegetables
    Large helping
  • Green Vegetables Green Vegetables
    1-2 cups
  • Lean Protein Lean Protein
    4-6 ounces

Competition Prep Plan (8-12 Weeks Prior to Show)

What supplement schedule gave you the greatest gains?

“You have to be relentless in your training, your nutrition, your recovery and rest. All the factors have to be in balance. You have to give it 100 percent effort to be successful.”

How did your passion for fitness emerge?

Bodybuilding is an incredible test of willpower and motivation. It is a sport of control in which you control your results: You get exactly what you put in to it. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve done your very best, no matter what place you come in during competition. You have to be relentless in your training, your nutrition, your recovery and rest. All the factors have to be in balance, and you have to give it 100 percent effort to be successful.

What or who motivated you?

My husband of 18 years is my greatest motivation. He supports me and encourages me, even during the darkest days of dieting. Also, my trainer Tim Sparkes of Die Hard Gym and Fitness in Phoenix pushed me harder than I ever thought possible. He always believed in me.

Where did you go for inspiration?

Having a contest to train for is the best way to stay inspired. Any time I feel like skipping the gym I remind myself that I’ll be on stage, basically in my underwear, in front of hundreds of people. Am I willing to present less than my best? The answer is “no.”

“Am I willing to present less than my best? The answer is ‘no.'”

What are your future fitness plans?

I hope to continue to compete, but I’m considering a transition to fitness competition. Despite having no gymnastics or dance background, it’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time. I may be the worst fitness competitor ever, but I want to at least give it one shot.

What is the most important fitness tip?

This quote from Muhammad Ali always motivated me: “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”

Who is your favorite bodybuilder/fitness athlete?

Erin Stern is my favorite bodybuilder. She is an incredible athlete and real a class act. Plus her longevity in the sport is inspiring.

How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?

I have used resources from Bodybuilding.com in every stage of competition prep – from learning better form for lifting to reading how other competitors prepare to tips on choosing the right suit and even tanning.

Jodi’s Top 5 Gym Tracks

  1. “Here Comes the Boom” by P.O.D.
  2. “Get Low” by Ying Yang Twins
  3. “Heart of a Champion” by Nelly
  4. “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins
  5. “Killing in the Name Of” by Rage Against the Machine
Competition History
  • 2010 Luke Air Force Base Bodybuilding and Figure Competition 2nd place
  • 2010 Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders Arizona Natural 6th place
  • 2010 Fitness America 7th place
  • 2011 Luke Air Force Base Bodybuilding and Figure Competition 3rd place
  • 2011 National Physique Committee Western Regionals 3rd place
  • 2011 Heart of Dixie 2nd place
  • 2012 Panhandle Showdown N/A
  • 2013 Clash at the Capstone 1st place


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Fitness 360: Samantha Ann Leete, Leete’s Fitness Feats

One of the many things that make Samantha Ann Leete such an inspirational athlete is her realistic, balanced approach to health and fitness. She has a full-time job, coaches cheerleading, participates in bikini competitions, and makes appearances at fitness expos. She’s a busy girl! Sometimes, fitness has to come second on her priority list—and that’s OK. Samantha has learned how to balance her life and her schedule.

Samantha has also become an expert at maintaining a positive attitude despite having a hectic life. She loves fitness, enjoys her workouts, and feels healthy and happy about her diet. It is this positivity—along with a fantastic body— that earned her first place at the 2013 BodySpace Spokesmodel Contest. She’d be the first person to tell you that fitness doesn’t just belong to an elite group of people, it belongs to everybody. As she says, “If I can do it, anyone can!”

If you have a busy life and are looking for ways to implement a healthier lifestyle into your schedule, check out Samantha’s plan. You’ll learn how to make workouts, healthy nutrition, and supplementation work for your hectic day.

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

Samantha Leete's Training Program

Samantha Leete’s Training Program

Samantha likes to work out with various training techniques so her regimen never gets boring. Get the details of her fun, bikini-body program right here!

Samantha Leete's Nutrition Program

Samantha Leete’s Nutrition Program

Just because your food is healthy doesn’t mean it has to taste bland! Samantha knows how to get the best taste and nutrition out of her meals. Check out her nutrition philosophy.

Samantha Leete's Supplement Program

Samantha Leete’s Supplement Program

Learn how basic supplementation helped Samantha transform her body and turned her from being a supp skeptic into a protein shaker!

Athlete For Life

Samantha was an active kid. If she wasn’t running around the track or playing soccer or volleyball, you could find her with the dance team or cheerleading squad. She continued her active lifestyle at Weber State University, where she danced and cheered for two years. But, like many ex-college athletes, Samantha didn’t maintain her activity level. “Once I stopped cheering at college, I noticed my body was changing,” she says. “I wasn’t as healthy as I [once] was and I went through a period that was unhealthy and unhappy.”

In order to turn her life around, Samantha had to find new athletic goals for herself. “I met some girls at Weber who were training for a bikini competition. That’s where I was introduced to the world of bodybuilding.”

Samantha knew her life and body were not going in positive directions, so she plucked up some courage and signed up for a bikini competition. “I needed something I could do on my own. Something that would keep me fit for a life, not just for a short period of time,” she says.

“‘I fell in love with training, making healthier choices, the entire lifestyle.'”

Although she had played sports, Samantha hadn’t spent much time in the gym. “I had never lifted weights before,” she explains. Like any good student, Samantha did some research and found Bodybuilding.com. After that, she was hooked. “I fell in love with training, making healthier choices, the entire lifestyle,” she says.

“Through the obstacles that I’ve overcome, I learned a valuable lesson. When things got tough in my life, I thought I was being responsible and unselfish by not taking the time for physical fitness. Now I know better.” Her choices to stay fit have had positive impacts on every other aspect of her life. Samantha has more energy, is happier, feels more accomplished, and is mentally stronger.

Success Doesn’t Come Easy

Although she’s been successful in her fit life, Samantha has had to make a lot of sacrifices and live with a hectic schedule. “I’ve had to work around multiple full-time jobs, the IRS, coaching, cheerleading at multiple places, working swing, working days, going to school, and all the other things we all deal with on a daily basis.”

Samantha’s dedication to commit to fitness, no matter what, is an inspirational feat. “Sometimes I have to do my cardio at lunch. So I’ll run up and down the stairs in my building or run around outside.”

“Samantha’s dedication to commit to fitness, no matter what, is an inspirational feat.”

As much as she loves fitness, Samantha knows how to balance. “I’d be lying if I told you fitness [always] comes first in my life,” she says. “We all have those ‘life happens’ moments when other obligations take priority over the gym. I want to help people realize that just because they can’t go 100 percent all day every day, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try!”

Samantha knows full well that life can get in the way. “I’ve never been able to plan out my month and stick to it. I’ve had to shift workouts, get them in at odd times, and sometimes improvise meals and workouts depending on where I am and what I’m doing.”

It’s no easy task to live fit, but Samantha just keeps going. “It would be awesome if we could all be full-time athletes and never miss a workout, but that’s just not a reality.” With her status as a BodySpace Spokesmodel, she’ll certainly have a bigger platform to should those great words of advice.

More to Share

What do you like most about being a BodySpace Spokesmodel? Why?

I love being able to share my perspective. I spent almost two years thinking about making a “lifestyle” change but not acting on it because I was scared. I love sharing my experiences with others and then watching them incorporate my advice and successfully make changes.

I want women to be the best version of themselves. We all have strengths and weaknesses. What makes us unique is what makes us beautiful!

I also love being able to share supplements! When I first started focusing on living a healthier lifestyle, I knew nothing about supplements. I didn’t even think they worked. Once I started trying different kinds, different brands, and different flavors, I quickly learned what works and what’s crap. I love recommending products and explaining how they can help people achieve their goals.

What would you tell a person who wants to look like you? What’s the first piece of advice you’d give her?

My first piece of advice would be to not want to look like me. Society has trained us to compare ourselves to others. Usually, it just leaves us feeling inadequate and sad. I want women to be the best version of themselves. We all have strengths and weaknesses. What makes us unique is what makes us beautiful!

If you are trying to build your best self, the first thing you must do is choose a goal. Once you’ve chosen a goal, structure a plan for that goal around your schedule and the tools you have available to you. The best plan is one you can tackle and stick to for a long time. Super quick transformations are impressive, but they’re usually difficult to maintain. Slow and steady wins the race!


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Calum Von Moger’s Armed And Ready Workout

I’m not interested in looking like today’s bodybuilders. I prefer the classic physiques of guys like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dave Draper, and Franco Columbu. They had incredible symmetry, great proportions, and amazing overall development. Those are guys I want to look like—but maybe just a little bit better.

In this workout, I’m going to hit arms with an old-school approach to help you build a set of Golden Age guns, from tall biceps peaks to dense, horseshoe triceps. We’re going to put on mass and carve out shape. Our goal isn’t just size. We’re going to build size, aesthetics, proportion, and balance.

I thrive on pushing myself to that next level—breaking past plateaus and goals I’ve set and adding on the reps. If I have it in me, I’ll keep going. You’re not going to grow if you don’t push yourself to the next level. If you want to see results, you have to kick up your training.

Integrate this workout into your program once or twice each week to keep your arms growing.

Calum von Moger’s “Armed And Ready” Workout
Watch The Video – 13:43

This workout is a simple, six-exercise breakdown: three exercises for your biceps and three exercises for your triceps. Start out with higher reps of 12-15 to warm the muscles up, and then taper your reps to the muscle-building range of 6-12 reps for 4-5 sets. Heavy weight and ample volume will ensure a killer pump.

I like to add mass with compound movements and carve with isolation exercises. Start with the compound moves—they’re the best way to work on the mass and the size of your arms—and finish with isolation exercises for detail, cuts, and that added pop.

Calum’s Pro Tips

Barbell Curl

I didn’t have a gym membership until I was 18 or 19 years old. All we had was a barbell, some weights, and some dumbbells. All I knew were barbell curls. Today, they’re still one of my favorite exercises.

I think barbell curls are a great exercise to start an arms workout because you have to employ coordination and balance. There’s no isolation and no machine to rely on, which helps you develop core and overall strength.

“I think barbell curls are a great exercise to start an arms workout because you have to employ coordination and balance.”

Preacher Curl

Concentrate on good form—elbows tight to the pad, no swinging, no momentum&Mdash;and a great stretch on the preacher curl. At the top of this isolation exercise, remember to squeeze your biceps as hard as possible for the ultimate pump.

Stay focused. Just going through the motion won’t get you the physiques of classic bodybuilding champs. Build your mind-muscle connection. Doing so will give you more control and a lasting pump you can feel.

Don’t be afraid to play around with your grip to help hit your biceps from different angles.

Concentration Curls

I like to finish my biceps with the concentration curl. It’s a great isolation exercise that will stretch your biceps and help build high peaks. I like to do them while standing for the added resistance.

When it comes to the concentration curl, contract with as much force as possible, but remember to control the eccentric (lowering) part of the movement. You never want to swing down or simply drop the dumbbell.

French Press (EZ-Bar Skullcrusher)

Keep your elbows as close to your body as possible, and keep them fixed once you get the weight up. I like to bring the bar to my forehead to get a bigger stretch out of my triceps. Explode on the way up and stay controlled on the way down.

French Press

Don’t always feel like you have to stick to a specific number of sets and reps. You may use any workout template as a guideline, but once in a while you have to break the rules and go beyond your “assigned number.” Challenge yourself and grow!

Seated Triceps Press

To really hammer the long head of your triceps, you need to get your arms over your head. Maintain control as you lower the dumbbell behind your head, go down as far as you can to get a really good stretch, and extend all the way at the top. You want the last few reps on your final set to leave you completely gassed.

Dip

Dips are a great finishing exercise. Your triceps are already fatigued, and dips give them that extra, final push. Increase the intensity as needed by increasing the rep count and limiting your rest period.

Attack as many reps as you possibly can, no matter how tired you are.

Dip

Calum’s Golden Rule

Not sure if you’re training arms hard enough? Take this test: At the end of your workout, try and touch your shoulders. If your biceps are so pumped up you can’t reach them, you’ve done your job well. If you easily get a hand on each deltoid, you need to keep pushing.

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Train With Dana Linn Bailey Contest: Winning Back Workout

Sam Wells is one lucky girl. The aspiring women’s physique competitor not only met the first-ever women’s physique Olympia winner, Dana Linn Bailey, she trained with her too. Sam won MHP’s 2013 “Train With Dana” contest, and her prize was spending the day at City Athletic Club in Las Vegas trading reps with her idol.

“When I got the call that I had won, I honestly didn’t know what to do—I just ran around the house crying like a total spaz,” recalls Sam. The day after DLB won the Olympia, Sam was there to meet her. Among flashing cameras and surprise visits from other notable Olympia athletes, such as Kai Greene, the two women got right down to business by crushing a back workout. “Getting to do what I love to do most alongside the person I most look up to was a remarkable experience,” says Sam.

Train With Dana
Watch The Video – 11:09

Although she was depleted and tired from the day before, DLB challenged Sam to do her best. “The thing about Dana is that she is so inspiring,” says Sam. “She makes you feel like you can do it too. There are some people who are discouraging and have a cocky attitude. She’s not like that at all. She’s really uplifting, inspiring, and motivating.”

“I was speechless the whole day—I just tried to take it all in. This day changed my life.”

Follow the workout these two inspiring ladies did together!

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