Strength progression is all about how much weight you can lift, over a certain number of reps or sets, here's how to measure your progression. What is it? Tracking strength progression is vital to any resistance based program, with muscles needing to be consistently challenged in order to fortify the neural connections and muscular adaptions
Most of us are plagued by dreaded cellulite, but before you pack away those shorts or dresses, we’ve got the latest science-backed solutions that could help. Here, sports scientist Ross Edgley rounds them up so you can win the war on cellulite if you’re one of the 87 per cent of women in the UK affected by the orange peel effect.
What is cellulite?
Cellulite is basically a term used to describe the dimpled and uneven appearance of skin caused by fat deposits that are just below the surface of the skin. Although scientists don’t know exactly what causes it, it’s believed to be related to the body’s inability to get rid of toxins, fat and fluid which becomes trapped under the skin and cause fibrous tissue to become hard, which is responsible for producing the dreaded dimpling effect. So what methods can you use to combat it?
Roll with it
Try moving on a foam roller and stretching more often to loosen your muscle fascia. This is the tight, interwoven fibres of the muscles and when loosened up it allows nutrient-rich blood to circulate through those fibres, which not only helps rid the body of toxins but also increases the resting metabolic rate and breaks up fatty tissues.
Eat and drink away cellulite
Eating more brightly coloured fruits such a papaya and mango has been shown to help prevent and reduce tissue damage due to the high content of antioxidants. Also, berries that are darker in colour such as blueberries and blackberries also help boost the antioxidant level in the body and stimulate the production of collagen, which may lessen the appearance of cellulite. One of the quickest ways to smooth out the appearance of your skin is to amp up collagen production with sulfur-packed foods, including cucumbers, black olives and celery. Vegetables that are rich in vitamin A may also aid in boosting collagen production in the human body, so incorporate more cantaloupe, raw carrots and sweet potatoes into your weekly food plan. There are endless ways you can eat yourself smooth!
Although green tea has not yet been specifically tested as a treatment for cellulite it has received a lot of recognition as being a possible treatment for obesity. Whilst losing fat won’t completely solve cellulite, it’s been shown to help, according to research conducted at the Laboratoires Arkopharma in France. Try sipping on 2-3 cups a day (but avoid it too close to bedtime due to the caffeine content). Green tea has a distinct bitterness to it, so for those who don’t enjoy the taste, try The Protein Works Green Tea Ultra capsules (£10.49, theproteinworks.com)
Increase your heart rate
One of the simplest ways to combat cellulite is to stimulate the lymphatic system. This is because the lymphatic system serves as a drainage system to rid the body of toxins and if running efficiently prevents the fibrous tissue under the skin from hardening and therefore causing the dreaded dimpled cellulite effect. So how do you stimulate your lymphatic system? Get exercising and breathing heavier. It really is that simple since studies show exercise can increase lymph activity by 10 to 30 times its activity at rest. Another good reason to get moving! Check out our cellulite workout to get going.
Fight it with fat
Lastly, science shows eating fat could help with cellulite. Yes, really. But not just any fat – a special kind of fatty acid known as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) that’s found in beef. Most notably, in a study conducted in Beverly Hills, California (and published in the Advances in Therapy Journal by Dr Lawrence Birnbaum) 60 females were given CLA for 60 days and ‘in as many as 75% of the women, the appearance of the skin improved significantly, and thigh circumference was reduced by an average of 0.88 inch.’ For an easy CLA hit, try the capsule form (£7.99, theproteinworks.com)
For more information from sports scientist Ross Edgley visit www.rossedgley.com
Want to read more about getting rid of cellulite and burning fat? Subscribe to Women’s Fitness. We’ll give you 3 issues for £1.
There are tonnes of ways to get pumped using exercise, a HIIT class with booming music that shakes the floor, sprinting your morning run because your so pumped because your earphones are so loud they’re practically bursting your ear drums, or signing up for another spin class knowing full well that the instructor will be screaming at you the whole time. But, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a healthy balance of exercise and rest or relaxation to achieve good health – that’s why we love methods that combine the two.
If you thought ‘inner energy’ was all about sitting on a yoga mat in the lotus position while chanting ‘om’, then think again. Those familiar with the Chinese martial art tai chi may have come across qigong before. Sometimes known by its full name of taiji qigong, it consists of 18 exercises that are used to promote the body’s natural healing energy to reduce stress levels and increase your quality of life.
How does it work?
Focusing on postures and breathing, qigong is aimed at improving physical and mental health. ‘The exercises can help to promote the body’s natural healing energy, reduce stress and create a feeling of wellbeing,’ explains Ronnie Robinson the director of Taiji Europa, (taiji-europa.eu).
If you know a little about acupuncture, you may be familiar with the Chinese theory of internal energy pathways, or meridians, through which ‘qi’ or ‘chi’ – energy – flows through. ‘Each meridian connects to different internal organs and ensures a healthy energy flow to the connected organ,’ Ronnie explains. ‘When the chi flow is regular the body will remain healthy. However, if there are blockages in this energy flow, problems can result.’
The theory goes that ailments occur because there is disruption to the energy flow in the meridian associated with that particular area. The disruption can be due to stress, poor eating habits, or even being too hot or too cold, creating a build-up which energy can’t freely flow through. Qigong helps to clear these blockages so energy can flow through the meridians with as little disruption as possible.
How to do it
The movements are simple, slow and gentle, yet effective in restoring energy. The body is kept in alignment throughout, and breathing is soft and natural. You may not get your heart racing in qigong, but you’ll certainly benefit physically. ‘Think about the natural movements of animals,’ says Ronnie, ‘like how birds take off and fly. They don’t carry the stresses and strains in their bodies that we humans do. Try to emulate the smooth, easy, natural movements that you see in the rest of nature.’
Want to give qigong a go? Perform each move 8-10 times one after another to create a flowing routine. It’s ideal performed in the morning for a gentle start to the day, or a good option if you need to unwind after work.
Beihui: A pressure point at the central part of the top of the head
Dantian: A pressure point just in front of your tummy
Laogong: A pressure point on the centre of the palm of the hd
Zusanli: A pressure point a few inches below the outside of the knee
Top tips for qigong
Listen to your breath Adopt a soft, natural breathing during the movements.
Be aware of your body Although aches and pains are sometimes normal, don’t overdo it. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
‘Sink’ your weight and ‘lighten’ your upper body Establish a connection with the ground by imagining your weight dropping deep into the earth while your upper body floats upwards. In reality, your upper body may be heavy with tension while you find it hard to keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Maintain alignment Keep a natural arch in your back and neutral spine, the way we’ve evolved.
Focus and intent Connect with all the movements you’re making and the directions you’re going.
Be natural Think of the movements you see taking place in nature and try to follow suit.
“Once you’ve been training long enough, your body grows wiser and you realize that you can’t simply force it to do anything anymore.”
Bodybuilders and strength athletes stop making progress for one reason: They stop coercing their body to adapt. Note how I intentionally use the word coerce, not a connotatively weaker action verb like force. The reason is that once you’ve been in the training game long enough, your body grows wiser and you realize that you can’t simply force it to do anything anymore.
When you continue to push and grunt with no concrete strategy other than “hard work,” you get injured or beat-up. Few things devour reasonable progress faster than what we’ll call “middle ground” training. That is, always training with the same set or rep scheme and with the same intensity. If you default to training in the 8, 10, or 12 rep range, I hate to break it to you, but your growth is simply wallowing in no-gain’s land.
Fortunately, there are tools in the training toolbox that will sharpen up your training. Let’s start with a brief overview and then move on to how these can be applied to your own programming to maximize growth and development.
The Neural-Metabolic Continuum
The first order of business is to focus on a key element of training: The neural-metabolic continuum. It’s a fancy term that allows you to understand whether you actually work your muscles or central nervous system (CNS), based on key variables. For the sake of brevity, here’s a visual breakdown of what it looks like.
Before your eyes glaze over, let me explain. If you’re chasing more metabolic (i.e. hypertrophic) gains, your, say, squatting program might look something like this:
4 sets of 10 repetitions
Tempo: 3 seconds down, no pause in the bottom, 1 second up
60-90 seconds rest between sets
On the other end of the spectrum, where you might be chasing more neural (i.e. strength) gains, your program might more resemble this:
5 sets of 3 repetitions
Tempo: As fast as possible
3-5 minutes rest between sets
Are we clear on the layout of the neural-metabolic continuum? Good, now let’s look at why you need to spend time in both ends (and not the straight middle) to maximize your growth and development.
The Case for High Reps
By now, it’s probably ingrained in you that you need to perform high reps per set (I’m looking at you, bodybuilders). Let me clarify that I define high reps to dawdle in the 8-12 rep range but could be as low as 6 reps per set.
There shouldn’t be anything really earth-shattering here. If you train with high reps, your goal is to build a bigger muscle.
Some folks call this “structural hypertrophy” since the higher rep sets allow you to focus primarily on the muscles themselves. They also lend themselves to fewer total sets per exercise. By virtue of slowing down the movement, coupled with the sheer amount of reps you do per set, you’re going to increase time under tension, which is a necessary stimulus for hypertrophy. No doubt, gains in strength will come along for the ride, but increases in muscular growth will outpace the increases in strength.
But what happens if you spend all your time here? Quite simply, your body will adapt to your training in this rep range if you continue it for extended periods of time. Furthermore, training in that zone will ultimately limit the amount of intensity you can use as well.
Do high-rep sets (15, 20, or more reps per set) have a place in programming? Sure, but they’re probably the exception rather than the rule.
The solution here is clear: Focus on getting stronger! This brings me to my next point…
The solution here is clear: Focus on getting stronger!
The Case for Low Reps
High reps deliver big gains, right? Well, low reps have a place, too!
The low-rep zone can be defined as anything between 1 rep with near-maximal effort and 5 reps in a set. They’re often viewed as being geared more for powerlifting or Olympic lifting, but if you really want to make high-threshold motor units work, you will need to push some serious weight!
This focuses on making your nervous system more efficient. If you switch from sets of 10 to sets of 3, you coerce your body to unfamiliar, shocking stressors, especially since low rep ranges encourage the use of much heavier weights. Every movement requires more “tightness” and a more intense focus. Further, more motor units and muscle fibers are recruited, and your body gets better at turning off antagonists (or opposing muscle groups) as well.
The result is that you’ll get jacked, but in a slightly different way. Since the goal is more on strength, your body composition will greatly differ from someone who performs exclusively high-rep sets. Powerlifters are strong as hell and can move jaw-dropping weight, but probably lack a bit of the size and definition of a well-trained bodybuilder.
The Perfect Combination
So if high reps promote hypertrophy and low reps facilitate strength increases, then in theory, the marriage of both rep schemes will bring forth muscular and strength development worthy of the Greek gods.
You need to spend dedicated periods of time in both the high-rep and low-rep ranges to maximize your development. High reps build muscle and connective tissue strength, and give your body respite from the grind of low-rep sets, too. Similarly, low-rep sets build neuromuscular and CNS efficiency. When you become more efficient and then go back to your big lifts, you can use even more weight than before, because you’re just that much more efficient and effective.
As an example of what I often do with physique-focused clients, I break down their set-rep schemes into one of two categories:
- High rep – 8-12 repetitions per set
- Low rep – 4-8 repetitions per set
These aren’t hard-and-fast rules. There may be times when even higher reps (15-20) could be used. On the flipside, there are other times when you may want to push the weight and work in the 1-5 rep range.
The biggest benefit from switching between these two ranges is that you’ll constantly coerce (there’s that word again) your body to adapt, to grow, and to improve.
Can’t I Just Train Everything at Once?
I know some people really like undulating periodization, in which you hit different set-rep schemes on different days of the week.
“You have to dial up the focus and be the orchestrator to your symphony of muscles.”
If this is you, perhaps your training looks something like this:
- Monday – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Wednesday – 5 sets of 5 reps
- Friday – 10 sets of 3 reps
With this weekly program, you hit everything in one training week, thinking it’s smart, efficient training. This is true if you’re newer to lifting or have never tried a protocol like this before. However, as you get more and more advanced, this type of scenario won’t work nearly as well since you’re sending multiple mixed messages to your body.
Monday’s workout would tell your body it’s time to get big, but then Wednesday’s workout will kick your body into a bit of strength mode. Finally, Friday’s workout will run counter to Monday’s and place the emphasis on raw strength. What is a confused body to do?! As you become more proficient, you have to dial up the focus and be the orchestrator to your symphony of muscles (and thus, training).
It’s kind of why an elite level sprinter can’t simply wake up one day, decide to run a marathon, and hope to be awesome at both distances.
While I’m saying that you need to spend time on both ends of the neural-metabolic continuum, you need to have some patience and zero-in your efforts on one at a time. The general rule is to spend at least 4-6 weeks focusing on one end before you even think about heading to the other.
The Final Step
Hopefully, you’re now alternating between periods of high-rep and low-rep training—awesome! The next step is to alternate the level of intensity over the course of the training cycle. Think of the following quote: “A peak is surrounded by two valleys.” You can’t expect to go at 110 percent intensity every time you train. You’ll only burn yourself out. Layer-in days of high intensity combined with days of low intensity.
The astute reader (you!) might inquire about whether simply wavering between high and low rep ranges might already serve this purpose. It does in a rather unrefined way. Here’s an example of how I’ll set my intensity within a training month:
- Week 1 – 4 sets of 5 reps @70%
- Week 2 – 5 sets of 5 reps @80%
- Week 3 – 4 sets of 3 reps @75%
- Week 4 – 3 sets of 5 reps @85%
As you can see, I’m not trying to move the same weights or loads on a week-to-week basis.
In week 1, I build a base and get a good weight to build my base from. In week 2, I push the limits of my volume. In week 3, I deload. Basically, that means I lower the intensity and volume to make it an “easier” work week, allowing my body to recover and supercompensate. Finally, in week 4, I go for broke with regard to my intensity. Try using this for your squat sometime—it works great!
“You can’t expect to go at 110 percent intensity every time you train. You’ll only burn yourself out.”
You could also do something far simpler, which yields amazing results when you just get started:
- Week 1 – 3 sets of 10 reps @70%
- Week 2 – 3 sets of 8-10 reps @75%
- Week 3 – 3 sets of 8 reps @80%
- Week 4 – 2 sets of 8 reps @70-75%
In this example, I use a stair-step approach to prepare you for week 3. After that, you deload and get ready to run the cycle again on week 5.
With these examples, the point I’m driving home is that you can’t go hard every single week. Instead, “wave” your intensity and build up to a series of big workouts, then back off to allow your body time to recover.
It’s All About Smarter Training
If you want to get the most out of your training, you not only need to work hard, but you need to work smart. By training on both ends of the neural-metabolic continuum and incorporating undulating waves of intensity into your training cycle, you’ll not only see better results but you’ll incur fewer bumps and bruises along the way.
Recommended For You
I’m a trainer of celebrities and VIPs, an IFBB Men’s Physique Pro, and a fitness advocate. I’d like to help you reach your goals by answering your tough questions!
If your rep scheme isn’t getting you where you want to be, then add an additional exercise to snack on after the main course. Rest when you’re dead!
Going beyond failure doesn’t have to put your spine at risk. Discover cheat-centric reps and add a valuable new muscle-building tool to your arsenal!
Your Setup Some people have elaborate training accommodations in their homes (a power rack, full sets of dumbbells, bars and plates, one of those decked-out home gyms, etc.). You’re not one of those people. You have the bare minimum: a bench and one pair of dumbbells sitting in the basement. The guy with the decked-out gym can do pretty much any of the complete programs we publish every month.
Stuck in a rut? If you exercise regularlybut can’t ﬁgure out how to smashplateaus, you’re in the right place.This plan, by IFBB ﬁtness pro Fiona Harris,will trim inches off your thighs, tone and sculptyour arms, perk up your glute-ham tie-in,and create deﬁnition like your Insta-idol@NicoleMWilkins. By manipulating variablessuch as intensity and frequency andincorporating different training techniques—like heavy/low-rep and light/high-frequencybody-part splits, plus cardio, HIIT, andplyometrics—you WILL keep your bodyprogressing right to the top.
Name: Karina Baymiller
Occupation(s): Team Bodybuilding.com; Cellucor athlete; ACSM Personal trainer
When I first picked up weights a few years ago, maximal lifting wasn’t even on my radar. I ran around in circles with my 10-pound dumbbells, completely unaware that I was missing out on an entire world of fitness.
In the world of 1RM strength, you set specific goals and work for weeks or months to inch closer to them. You push your body to its limits to achieve a triumph that only lasts a couple of seconds. But you also get rewarded with a rush unlike anything else. It’s a great world to be a part of, and it’s changed the entire way I view health and fitness.
I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on heavy lifting—yet. But I’ve still learned some important lessons along the way, and I’m confident you’ll find them just as helpful as I did. If you’re looking to find your numbers or move them up into uncharted territory, here are five rules you need to take to heart.
1 Train Systematically
Why Bother With Maximal Lifts?
- Heavy weight is instructive. You can cheat your way through a 10RM, but not a 1RM!
- Going for an occasional PR helps you to separate your training into phases.
- Stronger muscles are more efficient muscles. Having more strength in reserve will boost your endurance and athleticism in surprising ways.
- Big numbers take time to achieve, but they feel great when you achieve them.
- In life, and in the gym, there’s no substitute for brutal strength when you really need it.
- For fun!
If you’re currently training in the 10-20 rep range and have limited experience with anything less—think 3-8 difficult reps—then you aren’t ready for a 1RM test. Attempting a max test when you’re mentally and physically unprepared is a bad idea. You’re just setting yourself up for failure.
I highly suggest using a program that trains specifically for the kind of intensity you’ll find in a 1RM test. I used Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 system successfully for several months before getting a more personalized powerlifting training program from the Strength Guys. Trust me, proper programming makes all the difference both in terms of performance and safety. Squatting 3 reps at 85 percent 1RM is an entirely different ballgame than doing 15 reps on the leg press. Programs like 5/3/1, the Westside System, or Stronglifts 5×5 will prepare you for the intensity that lies ahead.
If you’re unsure of your max or haven’t yet had the chance to test it, I suggest using a 1RM calculator initially. Just enter your best lift, and it does the work for you. The heavier the weight and the lower the number of reps, the more accurate the calculator is. For example, 200 pounds for 5 reps is more accurate than 150 pounds for 9 reps. Nothing is as accurate as actually getting under the bar and testing your 1RM—preferably with some supervision from somebody who’s done it many times—but, these calculators can give you a sufficient idea of what your max should be. You’ll need that number in order for the percentage-based training of strength programs to be effective.
2 Learn How To Get in the Right Headspace
Testing your 1RM requires a serious amount of intensity and concentration. You won’t be frolicking in the land of unicorns, bunnies, and rainbows here. To be honest, testing your 1RM sucks. It usually hurts physically, and it always challenges your body’s idea of what is “possible.” Putting that kind of stress on your body is more than just a physical trial, though. It’s a mental one, too. Before you step up to a barbell to try for your max lift, you need to be a master of these three skills:
If you find your mind in 35 different places and none of them are at the gym with the bar, it’s not the day to test your max. There may be no such thing as the perfect day, but there are optimal conditions that give you a shot at hitting your best numbers. You want to be present and composed with mental clarity. Your focus should be on one thing and one thing only: moving that heavy weight.
Visualize yourself easily pulling your deadlift max. Then see yourself adding some more weight and pulling again with ease. Picture your bench max going up without a hitch. Visualizing not only gives your confidence a much needed boost before you tackle your lift, but it can also actually improve motor performance, making your 1RM attempt a major success.
Not everybody needs music in order to get into a PR headspace, but for many of us, it’s crucial. Listening to music during a training session has been proven to improve performance; it can also be a great boost of motivation when you’re aiming to venture into uncharted waters. Some people like screamo heavy metal to get their blood pumping, and others prefer electronic music, jazz, or film soundtracks to help calm their mind and set the scene for an epic triumph. Whatever works for you, do it!
3 Embrace The Routine
Everyone has their own way of getting ready for a max. Some people do a specific number of warm-up sets, and some people listen to a particular playlist or eat a particular meal. Find a routine that works for you and stick with it. For people who haven’t yet had the chance to take a 1RM, this is what I suggest the first time around:
An extensive warm-up process is essential to get an accurate 1RM and prevent injury. I start with some basic mobility work, taking my joints through a full range of motion, and then I move to my warm-up sets.
Get heavy slowly
Opinions vary about which rep scheme to use as you work up to a heavy weight. Your program or coach might have a specific way of doing this; if so, follow it. Here’s the routine that I like to follow when testing my max or going for a PR.
- Bar x 10
- 50% x 5
- 60% x 3
- 70% x 2
- 80% x 1
- 90% x 1
- 95% x 1
- 1RM attempt
High reps don’t have a place on max day. I want to know that I can push or pull heavy weight, which is why I perform several sets of a single rep as I get closer to my max. Each of these reps boosts my confidence and prepares me mentally and physically for the pinnacle lift.
No matter how you choose to arrange your warm-up sets, they should fully prepare your muscles, joints, and central nervous system for the lift ahead. I always leave at least 2-3 minutes of rest between my warm-sets, and then I give myself an extra minute or two as I get closer to my max attempt.
“High reps don’t have a place on max day. I want to know that I can push or pull heavy weight.”
4 Find a spotter
I like to train alone. If you see me in the gym, my headphones are usually in, my hat is down low, and I have a leave-me-alone-until-I’m-done look on my face. On max day, it’s a different story. It’s crucial that you have someone spotting your bench max, unless getting pinned under a barbell sounds like your idea of a good time.
Utilizing a spotter on squat max testing isn’t always necessary, particularly if you squat in a rack with safety bars. If I’m testing my squat, I generally use the safety bars for warm-up sets and then grab the most experienced lifter I can find to spot me for my max attempt. Pulling a random spotter off the gym floor isn’t something that I mind doing, but if this is something you’re uncomfortable doing, bring a friend you trust to put your nerves at ease. And maybe have them read up on the rules of spotting first.
There’s no way to spot a deadlift physically, since you either pull the bar off the ground or you don’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite a mental or emotional spotter along for the ride. If you feel like having someone yell “light weight!” in a Ronnie Coleman voice would help you move a heavy weight, then by all means make sure they’re there!
5 Make Your PR A Lift Like Any Other
The time has come. You’ve been training for this moment for months. You’ve done your warm-up sets, you’re focused and ready, and now it’s go time. All of your prior training has led you to this moment. Scary, right?
“I’m nervous, I’m pumped, I’m motivated, and I want to do something I’ve never done before.”
I’m always a mixed bag of emotions right before my lift, but I think that’s what carries me through and gives me the best possible lift. I’m nervous, I’m pumped, I’m motivated, and I want to do something I’ve never done before. Somewhere in that mess of emotions, I usually just say “Enough! I’m ready to do this,” and then I go for it.
Aside from this inevitable dialog, though, the mechanics of a max attempt should be the same as all the other lifts you practiced up until this point. This isn’t the time to do a quarter-rep or forget to engage your lats when you deadlift. As you visualize your lift, you should be taking note of form and remembering all your normal cues. A max lift where you injure yourself in the process doesn’t count in my book.
After your initial attempt is complete, step back and assess. How do you feel? How did the lift go? Are you ready for more, or did it take everything out of you? I like to keep going until I either miss a lift or know there’s no logical way I can get that weight back up. But many people will stop after one, and that’s fine.
If you feel like you’re ready to conquer another max attempt, I suggest giving yourself 7-10 minutes of rest before you step up to the bar again. Add no more than 5-10 pounds to the bar; don’t get greedy. Even if you leave that second or third max attempt unrealized, you should feel damn good about what you accomplish!
6 Don’t Overthink It
I’m often guilty of beating myself up after the fact. Did I eat too much? Too little? Could I have done another rep? Should I have done more weight? We all do it. When you’re completely invested in something—like so many of us in the world of health and fitness are—you want to be perfect.
But when you’re waging war against big numbers and percentages, there’s nothing to be gained by harboring regrets. Nagging doubts and questions can take over your brain and prevent you from improving, but just as importantly, they can keep you from enjoying an important victory.
The best possible advice I can give you is to let go. At no time is that more crucial than during and after your 1RM attempt. If you walk up to the bar wondering if you’re going to miss, or questioning your preparation, or revisiting the failed lifts of the past, you’ve already lost. You just have to go for it.
You’re ready. It’s time to believe in yourself. Pick up that weight and show the bar who’s boss.
Recommended For You
Having trouble ripping that iron off of the ground? Clean up your deadlift and hit a new PR with these five tips from a strong fitness model!
Karina Baymiller may have had 6-pack abs, but she wasn’t happy. Learn how she let go of her obsession with image and built a healthier, happier, stronger body and mind!
This article will explain exactly how to conduct one-repetition-maximum testing and suggest ways in which test results can be applied across a range of training objectives.
When leg day rolls around, is it better to train more like a bodybuilder or an athlete? If you’re asking yourself this question (meaning you’re undecided), perhaps the answer is both. Bodybuilders train their quads for maximal hypertrophy, while football and basketball players are more interested in developing explosive power to enhance speed and jumping ability.
Big exercises build big arms. You can isolate your biceps and triceps as often as you’d like with low-weight exercises like kickbacks and concentration curls, but it’s compound moves, using heavy loads, that will make your arms grow. Take a look at the workout below. The first exercises you’ll see on each training day are relatively big arm movements like weighted bench dips, skull crushers, and barbell curls. The lighter stuff comes last, when your arms are too spent to do much more
Name: Danny Kavadlo
From: New York, NY
Occupation: Trainer, author, progressive calisthenics specialist
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!
Recommended For You
Who cares how big your forearms are if they can’t get the job done? Build strength you can use with these five grip-building techniques!
All too often, life won’t wait for you to finish your 12-week program. Keep strong wherever you go with these resourceful full-body lifts!
A stacked gym with every fitness tool known to man looks cool, but how much of it are you really going to use? Keep these three fundamentals at home, and rest easy knowing you can get strong no matter what!