prefix='og: fb: article:'> 2013 - Strong Muscle

Poundstone Power: Eat Clean, Get Jacked

Nutrition tips from the strongest man with a six-pack Derek Poundstone

Bent-Over Barbell Row vs. Old Fashioned T-Bar Row

Both moves work the back, but which move is better at targeting the lower lats

7 Tips From a World Class Squatter

Inflate your wheels with these strategies from a man who specializes in squatting bar-bending loads

6 Tips for a Ripped Six-Pack

Stop neglecting your abs training. These six strategies will help you retool your training to get the midsection you want

4 Moves to Bring Your Biceps to New Heights

Add some elevation to your cannons with these targeted bicep exercises

Spot the Error: Lateral Raise

One of these photos shows a critical but common mistake on the lateral raise with regards to elbow position in the top position

?Can You Spot Which One is Wrong

About the Lateral Raise

The lateral raise is an excellent isolation (single-joint) move for the delts. During the movement, you primarily involve three muscles in the shoulder girdle — the deltoid, (mostly the middle head), the supraspinatus (a rotator-cuff muscle) and the traps (predominantly the upper traps). During the first 30 degrees of the exercise, starting with your arm by your side, the supraspinatus muscle takes on the majority of the load. The middle delt takes over from there until the arm is about 120 degrees from your side (just above horizontal). The traps then dominate if you choose to take the dumbbells overhead

Spot the Error

If your focus is on the middle delt to give your torso that incredible V-taper, you want to focus on the 30–120 degree portion of the standard lateral raise. We often discuss starting the move with your hands a few inches away from your legs to begin stimulating the middle delt fibers, but we don’t always discuss the angle of the elbow to the hand at the top. See, often guys swing the dumbbells at the top of the move so that their hands are above their elbows, but that means a lot of tension is on the delts. It’s fine if your hands are high, but keeping your elbows virtually in line with your hands is critical to maximal fiber recruitment. PHOTO 1 is correct

✔Fix It

Absolutely use lighter dumbbells. If you’re dropping your elbows in order to gain momentum and throw the weights upward, they’re simply too heavy. It doesn’t take a ton of weight to accomplish your goal for this. You want there to be a peak contraction as you pause briefly, and by keeping your elbows high you can best ensure that. The move should be a strict, isolation move with a slight bend locked in your elbow. Even if you choose to take your dumbbells to 30 degrees above the horizontal plane, your elbow is still high and should never be drooping downward

Beginner’s Tip

As is often the case, if you master the machine version you’ll rehearse the form often enough that when you try the free-weight version, it’ll feel comfortable. With the machine, it’s necessary to keep your entire forearm against the pad at all times so that the elbows and hands move together as a unit. Essentially when you move over to the cable or dumbbell, use the exact same movement. If you do, you won’t be dropping your elbows

Wide-Stance vs. Front Squat

Both versions of the squat target the quads, but which version is better at hitting the outer sweep (vastus lateralis)

Wide-Stance Squat

If you’ve ever stepped inside a power rack or squat rack, you’ve likely tried a wider stance for your squats. If you haven’t, it’s truly a variation you should try from time to time. By taking a wide squat, you lower your center of gravity, permitting an easier balance of the bar across your traps. That’s especially true if you like a lower bar placement. In fact, those two characteristics — a wider stance and lower bar placement — are what the best squatters on the planet use to perform their heaviest lifts. You may have to turn your toes outward a little more than usual to avoid knee discomfort because you want your knee in line with your toes. With such a wide stance you probably won’t be able to keep your toes pointing straight ahead without sheer forces causing havoc on your knee joints

Front Squat

With the front squat the bar rests an a shelf — if you will — that you’ve built with your front delts and arms. You’re not lifting the bar with your arms, but rather your arms are there to create a groove for the bar to rest on. With practice you’ll find the perfect, comfortable place for it. You also will be taking a much narrower stance, making balance a little more demanding. You have to press through the floor with your feet during each rep of the front squat because lifting with your shoulders and torso makes the movement much less effective

Advantage: Front Squat

With all advantages the wide-stance squat provides, it pales in comparison to how effective the front squat is at targeting that much-desired outer quad sweep. Although both movements hit the quads, hams and glutes, the biomechanics of the front squat are what cause the shift to the vastus lateralis. Because the bar is in front of you, you’re forced to remain upright to a greater extent. That’s important to visualize because during a standard squat you kick your hips back and sit down in the hole, but during the front squat your hips remain virtually underneath you to keep the bar in place. Because of the narrow stance the energy that would otherwise be transferred more equally through the glutes and hams gets sent to the outer quads. So even though you may not be able to squat as much weight as you would in the wide-stance version, it’s a sweep for the front squat this month — the clear winner

Chisel Your Chest

Give isolation exercises the attention they deserve for a better pair of pecs

Long has the bench press been the king of upper body exercises, and believed to be the best way to increase size and thickness in your chest. However, big benching alone won’t produce the chiseled mass that most guys want. For maximum pec presence, you have to hit every muscle fiber at every angle. So by all means, keep benching, but don’t forget your flyes, crossovers and dips if you want to carve up that hard-earned chest mass

Since the pectoralis major’s muscle fibers run in many different directions and span across the freely moveable shoulder joint, they can perform many actions of the upper arm. So instead of focusing solely on pressing moves, it’s time to put your pecs to work in their main role: pulling your arms across your body. Most guys have the tendency on chest day to (1) always do bench press first in the workout, and (2) relegate flye and crossover moves to the end of the routine, almost as an afterthought. It’s time to rethink these habits

Training the pecs most effectively means emphasizing long range of motion, isolation movements on top of your bread-and-butter pressing exercises. Lighten the load if need be and take your muscles to failure. Train your pecs twice a week if they’re in need of some size, slow down your rep speed and make sure the pecs are doing the bulk of the work, as opposed to the delts and arms

To really nail your chest from all angles, we present the below two-pronged approach. On Day 1, you’ll use two isolation exercises (flyes and crossovers) as pre-exhaust moves for multijoint bench presses and dips. Later that week (Day 2), adding in some drop sets and changing the rep scheme will provide a pump that will take your pecs to the next level. Try these routines for at least four weeks for a noticeable improvement in the shape and aesthetics of your chest. And if you’re bench press one-rep max happens to drop off slightly, don’t worry. At least you’ll have chiseled pecs to show for it


Up Next: Day 2

On your last two sets, perform eight reps to failure, then immediately drop the weight 20%-30% and do 6-8 more reps. Drop the weight once more and finish with 4-6 reps

Change Your Deadlift Foot Positioning

What happens when you go from a conventional deadlift foot position to a super-wide stance (called sumo-style deadlift) and bring your hands closer together

Why the Deadlift Is Unique

The standard deadlift is of course the meat-and-potatoes of all deadlift versions. So called a “dead” lift because you begin each rep from a dead stop on the floor. That makes the deadlift super rare because you don’t start each rep with the benefit of any built-up negative energy like most exercises, but rather all you have is positive (concentric) power. That’s one of the many reasons why the deadlift is such a tough and rare lift. Despite the fact that you’re simply picking something up off the ground, the form required for each and every rep is as detailed and critical as anything you’ll attempt in the gym


The deadlift is actually as much of a press as it is a pull, because you’re pressing through the floor with your feet, keeping your arms straight at all times while the bar drags up your legs. In fact, you actually should begin each rep with the bar touching the bottom of your shins, because you literally want the bar in contact with your body at all times. Keeping the bar so close to you puts you in a mechanical advantage: You’ll weaken the lift if you let the bar drift away from your body, not to mention increase your risk of lower-back injury. When you reach the standing position, leaning back slightly at the waist will allow you to squeeze your legs, glutes and back for a peak contraction


To perform the sumo deadlift, stand over a loaded bar that’s resting on the floor, positioning your feet much wider than shoulder width and your feet turned out 30–40 degrees. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width, alternating grip (one hand pronated, the other supinated). Perform the lift as you would a standard deadlift, keeping your arms straight throughout until your legs are fully extended. Return the weight to the floor and repeat. The major change in terms of muscular recruitment is that the very wide stance of the sumo causes the legs to bend farther, which requires more quad usage to straighten them. Besides the greater quad activity, the inner hamstrings and upper traps muscles are worked more than the during the standard deadlift. The sumo variation is great for those with knee, back or hip injuries because the wider stance places less pressure on those joints


Because the degree to which the target muscles are activated is different between these two deadlift variations, it’s never a bad idea to use both styles in your back and legs routine. Again, both focus on your back (spinal erectors), but the sumo style can help you build bigger quads and inner hams, and the standard deadlift will help to build outer hams and glutes. You can either incorporate both styles in the same workout, or alternate them from one workout to the next


I’ve been training hard, and I want to go for new personal records on the bench press, squat, and deadlift over the course of a week. How should I eat to give myself the best chance of beating my old numbers? —Mike S., Long Branch, NJ

I’ve been writing lifters’ diets for years, but to make sure you get the best information possible, I consulted some of the strongest men in the world to answer this question. Jo Jordan, Vincent Dizenzo, and Brian Carroll are elite powerlifters who all bench around 800 pounds and squat 1,200, so they know how to eat when it comes time to max out

Their basic strategy: increase their carb intake the night before testing a big lift, and use supplementation. Increasing your carbs is essential for hitting huge personal records. Your body uses carbs for energy. If you don’t have enough stored, you can’t hoist the heaviest possible weights. However, you don’t need to carb load for days like some athletes do. Your body will use what it consumed a few hours earlier for fuel

Eat a carb-heavy meal the night before training, along with some protein and healthy fat. The day of, eat most of your carbs shortly before the workout, during, and right afterward. Aim for 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight that day, and one gram of protein per pound. Eating any more carbs than this may cause you to feel “carb drunk” and sluggish during the workout. If you feel that isn’t enough carbs, you can increase the load by 0.5 grams per pound. (On off days between max-out sessions, reduce your carb intake by 15% to 20%.) During training, start drinking a shake containing carbs, protein, BCAAs, and glutamine, and finish it afterward

Remembering Sergio Oliva

There’s so much to remember about Sergio Oliva long after his passing in November 2012. Some say he was the greatest bodybuilder in history. And though the controversy will always reign as to who was really the greatest, what cannot be disputed was that Oliva was certainly the most feared. In fact, the Myth was such a dominant force in his prime competitive shape that this three-time Mr. Olympia won his second title completely unopposed. That year he was so huge even by today’s standards, that prevailing was a foregone conclusion by literally everyone. It was unanimously felt by the competitors of his day that could have gone up against him that they would not only lose but actually would be thoroughly embarrassed by comparison. We have seen nothing remotely similar in our sport to date at such a lofty level. As such, Oliva remains the only Mr. Olympia to ever win the coveted title by unanimous default, yet so few talk about or even know about the training regimen that got him to “parts unknown”

While his enduring victory pose will perhaps be what he 
is best remembered for, I remember many other things. 
I remember his friendship and warm smile every time we saw each other. I remember his personal story of risking his life defecting from Cuba and literally running through the streets to take refuge in the American Embassy. He always spoke of his love for Chicago and his patriotism and thankfulness to be an American citizen. Oliva used to love to rib me over dinner about the fact that I was a Yankees fan even though I had worked with the New York Mets in my capacity as a sports physician. Oliva loved his Mets even more than his Chicago teams (an aspect of Oliva I never fully understood). Yet Oliva would stick that in my face every time he could. Him looking at me with that smile and those eyes and shaking his head saying, “The Mets, baby!” is so ingrained in my conscience that I can’t go to the stadium or treat a Mets player without Oliva entering my mind

But I also remember his personal pain, resentments that persisted throughout his life, at past racial prejudices suffered back in the ’60s at the hands 
of the AAU. Honestly, behind
his warm smile, I knew Oliva as
a bit of a bitter man. The same year I won the teenage East Coast, I was there at Madison Square Garden to witness what Oliva felt were the resurrections of bias over his finishing eighth
 in the 1984 Mr. Olympia at the Felt Forum in New York. He still talked about it with me decades later. At times it seemed like Oliva eventually resented almost everyone around him for one reason or another. Of course, the fact that this amazingly strong human being, both physically and mentally, would put himself out as a perpetual victim sometimes sounded so ridiculous I’d actually laugh in his face. But to his credit, he’d laugh back, almost acknowledging the absurdity of his aspersions

Six Advanced Lifting Methods To Bust Plateaus

Where exercise is concerned, there are the guys who take the “just be healthy and feel good” route, and then there are the other guys – the ones who train like the gym is their sanctuary

They’re there like clockwork most weekdays in the pursuit of muscle, strength and size. They don’t miss a beat and take their workouts, gains, and plateaus quite seriously. You are one of those other guys

This in mind, it can be a real frustration when you tirelessly attack your weak points, lift with good technique, stay on top of your pre, peri and post workout nutrition, yet still reach a stymie that plateaus your strength and muscle gains. Have no fear. Less the cape and tights, I’ve come to the rescue with a rundown of some subtle advanced lifting methods to kickstart your strength and pack on muscle like no tomorrow. Here’s the way to get more out of your squats, bench and deads

Of course, there are several squat variations that can be employed to change the focus of the movement. Overhead squats, front squats, and Zercher squats, are but a few examples. That being said, the issue in a strength plateau could be coming from a deficiency in a certain part of the rep itself

Bottom – Up Squats
Bottom-up squats are great for allowing the body to push weight from zero momentum at its lowest point. It’s quite different from a box squat because the legs don’t get to relax at all when in the bottom position. To do them, set up your squat cage so that the bar can settle on the safety pins when you’re in the full depth of your back squat. For most people it’ll mean setting the pins up somewhere around waist level. In your reps, descend to the pins and let the bar rest there for a full second before driving back up to your start position. It takes core strength through the yin yang to be able to master this movement, especially with heavy weight – but it’ll all pay off. Once you go back to allowing your stretch reflex to kick in to get you out of the hole, you’ll feel like you’re lifting a bag of feathers. Focus on sets of 6 to 8 reps

VMO Squats
Popularized by world-renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin, VMO squats are a simple way to make the quads do more work through the movement. Personally, I like these because it’s easy to do them with both front and back squats. Set up your cage no differently than you would for a normal set of squats, and perform your negative rep all the way to full depth. Come up about 1/3 of the way to the point where the quads are supporting a lot of weight, and pause there for 1 full second. Next, descend back to the full bottom depth, and finally drive your way to the top starting position. That’s one rep. The trick here is that the ‘mini rep’ performed immediately before the full rep, will emphasize the vastus medialis oblique (“teardrop” quad muscle). It will end up having to do twice the work it normally does during one of these sets. Focus on sets of 6 to 8 reps. It won’t take too much weight to feel this one, so make sure you check your ego at the door. Personally, I like to use around 60% of my squat max effort weight for 8 reps

Bench Press
In my last article, I spoke about ladder set training as a way to boost strength gains and encourage high lactate production. When it comes to a struggling bench press, all we need to do is incorporate the same mentality, but use different energy systems to spark up your nervous system like no tomorrow

Cluster Reps
Warm up sufficiently, and start your work sets with 90% of your 1RM. This should be your 2 to 3 rep max. With a spotter, take the weight off the rack and bench it for a single rep. Put it back on the rack and rest for 10 seconds. Set yourself back up, and perform another single. Rest again for 10 seconds, and perform one more. Keep repeating this until you get to double the amount of reps (4 to 6 reps in this case). The “mini breaks” that your chest gets allows it to have a few vital seconds to partially regenerate ATP, the prime energy source for big lifts. Conserving a little power will allow you to put out more max efforts in one go. By the end of the set you will have performed 6 reps with your 3 rep max. More work, more muscle

There’s another way to do this too. If you don’t want to be moving weight that’s so brutally close to your max effort, replace the single-rep clusters mentioned above with some 4+2 rep clusters. Take your 5 rep max, and perform 4 reps. Rack it and rest for 10 seconds, and then take the weight back off the rack and perform as many more as possible (most people probably squeeze out 2 more). You’ll have just as solid benefits from employing this technique

One and a Half Reps
Like the VMO squats, a 1.5 rep bench press can make the chest double its workload. Load a bar to your 10 rep max, and perform your reps like this

Lower the bar slowly to your chest
Explode off the chest, but only for half the distance. No higher than a 90 degree elbow flexion. Pause at this point for less than half a second
Lower the bar once more to the chest
Explode off the chest again, this time to full range
That’s one rep. Perform 6 to 8 repetitions, and enjoy the pump. Again, this is a simple tool to make your muscles do more work per rep

Since the lower back plays a factor in the deadlifts (ahem, a huge factor), we can’t really employ too many exhaustive mechanisms or extended sets for it and keep our safety in check. That said, we can definitely play around with our ranges of motion

Deficit Deadlifts
This one is really straightforward. Stand on a box about 6 inches off the ground. Proceed to perform your typical deadlifts from the floor. This enables more pulling space, meaning more time spent under load. Add that to the fact that you need to get to a much deeper depth to make your pull, and you’ve got one killer exercise that can attack your back the way regular deads won’t

Rack Pulls
Rack pulls are an easy way to get the body accustomed to moving more weight from partial ranges of motion. Set up the safety pins in a squat cage at about knee level, and after warming up, put 90% of your max effort deadlift on it. Set up the way you would if you were pulling the bar from the floor, and complete a partial rep from the pins. Repeat for sets of 3 to 5 reps. Once that gets easy, on a new workout, lower the pins one notch and do the same thing. Then do it again. You get the idea

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to kick your muscles into high gear. A few cleverly thought out tweaks to a solid workout program can make the nervous system and muscles respond with growth and strength like no other changes could. Throw these into your program for a 4 to 6 week span, and blast off to gains


For about 50 years now, Americans have been eating low fat (some no fat) diets and the funny thing is we have gotten progressively fatter and less healthy, Who ever said low fat diets were healthy, and more importantly, why does eating less fat mean you'll be less fat

In attempt to keep this easy to understand, as most of what you read and hear is complicated, confusing, and contradictory, I'm going to be direct, to the point, and explain things in a way that most people can understand

Where to start??? Well, I've done some research on this and have found very little science to back up the claims that eating less fat will keep you trim, I have also found many examples that totally dismiss this idea, For example, the French eat significantly more fat than we do here in the US while there obesity AND disease and illness rates are quite a bit lower

Another example is the Alaskan Eskimos, They consume as much as 70% of their calories from fat (whale blubber and fish) and they have one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world – until they come to the US and eat like us

Before I cover other examples I'd like to talk about some the reasons why the "low fat diet" is not only making us fatter, but also killing people faster than you can imagine

Does that shock you? If so, do I have news for you

Ok… here are just a few reasons
Eating less fat means you have to eat more protein or carbs and most people end up eating more carbs and the wrong type

Dietary fat is very slow burning in the body so when you replace the fat with faster burning carbs you tend to feel less energetic, risk burning muscle tissue, and wreak havoc on your metabolism and hormones because your energy levels (blood sugar) are like a roller coaster

Dietary fats supply some of the best, and most stable sources of energy, So if you want to feel good all day long, you need to make sure you are getting enough fats, and the right types, I'll touch on which types to avoid and which to include in your diet later in this article

The human body needs fat just to function properly, let alone optimal health

Certain amounts of fat are necessary for proper hormone production, If hormone production is off so will your metabolism be, Hormones regulate many things in the body including your ability to build and maintain muscle tissue, which is responsible for a large portion of your energy expenditure, In simple terms, muscle burns calories 24 hours a day and if you eat a low fat or no fat diet you will have a hard time building and maintaining muscle

Here are some facts
Obesity increased from 14% of the American population in 1960 to over 22% by 1980, The Harvard Nurse's Health Study which ran well over 10 years found that not only did low fat diets not decrease the risk of heart disease but also that saturated fat wasn't so bad after all, and that too little was just as harmful

So to sum things up…
If you want to lose weight and be healthy – DON'T eat a low-fat diet! You would have to be absolutely insane to after learning the truth about dietary fats, If you have doubts or questions please do some research and you will be amazed at what you will find out, In the meantime, go eat some healthy fats


Losing weight can be stated in a simple way. If you consume more calories than you burn you will gain weight, If you consume less calories than you burn you will lose weight. Burning calories does not mean "working out", The primary way your body burns calories is through your metabolism. The higher your metabolism the more likely it is you will lose weight

Metabolism is the process in which the body turns nutrients into energy, Metabolic Rate is the rate at which your body burns calories, Many have heard the terms "fast" and "slow" used with metabolism, It is not just a matter of genes, you can do something to raise your metabolic rate and burn more calories

The first thing that affects your metabolism is your resting metabolic rate, or RMR, This is the number of calories you burn while sitting around doing absolutely nothing, This number accounts for 60-75% of your metabolism, It is this number that you want to be as high as possible

It is important to exercise regularly. Regular exercise will raise your metabolic rate in two ways, First, muscle tissue uses more energy than fat tissue, So, the more muscle tissue you have the more calories you are going to burn, Second, cardio allows your body to use oxygen more efficiently, This in turn ups your metabolic rate

It is important to eat 4-6 small meals throughout the day as opposed to 2-3 large meals. This way your body avoids "starvation mode", When you are constantly taking in just enough nutrients to fuel the body, your metabolism stays steady and constant, Eating larger meals slows your metabolism

"Starvation Mode" is when your body slows your metabolic rate and stores the food you are eating as fat. The body knows you will not be eating again for hours and it wants to save as many calories as possible, These calories are stored and lead to weight gain, This can be avoided by eating small meals often, Then the body does not need to store calories. It knows that you will be eating again shortly, and there is no need to store calories

A balanced diet is also helpful, Since the body burns nutrients at different rates, it is beneficial to get a balance of carbs, protein, and fat, This will allow you to maintain your energy level until your next small meal, First your body will burn the simple carbs for quick energy, then the proteins, and then finally, the fat is last to burn, Since you have only small amounts of each, nothing is stored and everything is used, By this time you are hungry for your next small meal

Finally, breakfast is incredibly important. This accounts for 25% of your metabolism, Without breakfast your body will burn calories less efficiently the entire day, Breakfast is what gets your metabolism going, Without it your metabolic rate never gets started properly, This leads to weight gain, For more information see the article The Importance of Breakfast


HYPOTHESIS Most bodybuilders stick to traditional bodyweight exercises for abs, such as crunches, bicycle crunches and hanging leg raises at about 20 reps per set. Yet the abs are muscles just like the biceps in that you need to vary your weight and rep ranges to strengthen and better develop the muscles and avoid stagnation, (See “Hardcore Abs,” beginning on page 158)

RESEARCH Researchers from Youngstown State University (Ohio) had male and female subjects perform a bodyweight ab workout three or six times per week, and others did no ab training at all, They did three sets of 20 reps for all exercises with 30 seconds of rest between sets, They measured their abdominal muscle strength at the start of the study and after 11 weeks of following the program

FINDINGS The researchers were surprised to find that regardless of whether the subjects did the ab workout three times per week or six times per week, their abdominal strength did not increase significantly from their starting strength

CONCLUSION Sticking with the same resistance and repetition range even for abs appears to cause stagnation and prevents significant gains in muscle strength

APPLICATION Regardless of how often you train abs, the more important factor appears to be cycling the resistance (weight) and rep range, Be sure to include weighted exercises, such as weighted crunches, cable crunches and machine crunches, and alter between heavy weight and low reps (6–8), moderate weight and moderate reps (8–15), and light or no extra weight and high reps (15-plus reps


Learning how to identify and snuff out physique imbalances is critical to building a better overall physique
By Brandon Curry, IFBB Pro
[Q] What’s been a tough bodypart for you to bring up and why

[A] Quads have been one of the toughest bodyparts for me, As an athlete, my focus in the gym was always on muscle performance and not muscle breakdown, I was of the mindset that in order to grow a muscle, you had to get it stronger and that forced me to stray from good control, It wasn’t until I lightened the weight, focused on the tempo and began controlling the weight that I was able to prevent other muscles from aiding in the lifts, That’s when I started seeing better results

[Q] Brandon, what’s the best way to identify a weak bodypart? Do you just go by appearance or by how a muscle group performs for you in the gym?

[A] With bodybuilding, it’s always appearance, The only way you know that is to get onstage and compete or to be judged by someone you trust, But you should look in the mirror and be honest with yourself, You probably already know, In this sport, the strong muscles aren’t always the best, It’s definitely appearance

[Q] What have you found to be the best solution for attacking a weak bodypart? More volume? More intensity?

[A] Whatever tool you use, it’s always about quality, It’s not necessarily about strength levels, The ability to control the muscle and break it down properly is what allows it to grow, In bodybuilding, it’s the ability to display what you’ve worked on, You have to remove ego, There are so many people who would say that you have to do more of everything and I’ve tried that approach and it didn’t work for me. My muscles were inflamed and hurt all the time, When I did the reverse, I started finding success, If it’s a weakness, you need to treat it like a weakness by removing ego and starting at square one

[Q] How do you keep a strong bodypart from dominating your physique? Do you train it less frequently? With less weight?

[A] My arms have always been very strong, so now, as I work on better symmetry and balance, my training for them is less intense, I do just enough to get some good blood flow and stimulation. For a dominant bodypart, you may just want to work it every other week, You have to pace yourself with muscles that are genetically gifted, I know that’s not an issue a lot of people can relate to

Here’s the routine that Brandon used to address his lagging quads, This program focuses on lighter-than-normal weight loads in traditional, muscle-building rep ranges, For each exercise, Brandon aims to control the weight slowly on the way down before exploding on the way up

 Exercise Sets Reps
 Leg Extension 3 10–12
 Barbell Squat (heels elevated)
-superset with-
Barbell Hack Squat (heels elevated)


 Leg Press (on toes)
-superset with-
Leg Press (traditional)


 Machine Sissy Squat 3 10–12
 To flush his muscles and joints with blood for the work ahead, Brandon performs this as a triple drop set, performing reps to failure, then dropping the weight 20-30% and continuing to failure each time
 Brandon performs these with his feet low on the platform 

Only his toes touch the platform as he descends into each rep, as in a sissy squat, When his knees hit 90 degrees, he reverses the motion


Take vitamin D to boost testosterone levels and strength
If you still think vitamin D only aids bone health, then you’ve missed out on all our articles about its impor- tance for muscle strength. Yes, muscles actually have vitamin D receptors crucial to strength

Two new studies further highlight the importance of D when it comes to muscles, German scientists found that men with higher blood levels of vitamin D had sig- nificantly higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of sex-hormone binding globulin than those with low levels of vitamin D in their blood, Having lower SHBG, means that more test is free to get into the muscles and increase muscle growth

 Another study found that col- lege-age women with lower blood levels of vitamin D had significantly higher levels of fat in their muscles than those with high levels of the vitamin

You can store body- fat both under your skin and in your muscles. Having fat- tier muscles not only means that you have more bodyfat, but also potentially weaker muscles

To make sure your vitamin D levels are up to par, as well as your testosterone levels and muscle strength, take 2,000-5,000 international units of vitamin D3 per day with meals

Key Hamstring Exercises

The hamstrings are not one single muscle, but a group of muscles with multiple functions. Their most important function is hip extension, which is vital for explosiveness, sprinting, jumping, and even low-back health. If you have been neglecting your hamstrings in the gym below is a list of exercises you should add to your next training session

Clean Deadlift: The deadlift is, not surprisingly, our champion. The “clean” version of the setup is slightly different from your conventional deadlift, placing more tension on the hamstrings (as opposed to the low back). Your butt will tend to be a little lower and your hands a little bit wider. In a clean deadlift, which simulates the positions needed in the first phase of a clean, your shoulders will be a little in front of the bar, your shoulder blades retracted, and you will have to use your lats to keep the bar close to the body. You may use a little less weight in this setup than your regular barbell deadlift, but it is great for training the posterior chain

Romanian Deadlift from Deficit: While called a Romanian deadlift, this is actually a stiff-legged deadlift. The knees should be slightly bent and then stay that way. When you “bend over,” your hips will move back only a little bit. Bend around the hips, letting the shoulders go forward. Some people will intentionally round their backs on this movement to train their erectors; just as rounded-back good mornings are used. I would save this technique for advanced lifters who know what they’re doing

Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlift: A unilateral approach to the hip hinge allows us to reduce the load on the back while still fully recruiting the hamstrings. The biggest mistake on this movement is rounding of the spine. Remember: the entire upper body should be rigid, rotating around the hip

Power Snatch: While the snatch is a full body movement, upward acceleration of the bar relies heavily on the power of the hamstrings. A full snatch is difficult to learn, but most can probably learn a power snatch, where you receive the bar above a full squat (or even standing). The reason this movement is so good for hamstrings is that the first two phases of it are essentially a deficit deadlift and a Romanian deadlift, both of which are huge hammy killers

Hang Snatch: The hang snatch is similar to the power snatch, but it eliminates the initial pull from the ground to the knees. I recommend beginning standing upright with the bar hanging, and then pushing your butt back until you are in pulling position (as opposed to just starting in your pulling position). If the first part of this movement feels very much like a Romanian deadlift, then you are doing it right

Floor Glute-Ham Raise: The poor man’s version of the glute-ham raise is significantly harder than the original. You can’t quite get all the benefits of the full version off of the floor, but this will be the hardest knee flexion exercise you can do. Most people won’t be able to do this movement at first, so I recommend using a band, a training partner, or using a push-off to bring the difficulty down a notch

Lying Leg Curls: The leg curl is a classic bodybuilding movement to isolate the hamstrings from the rest of the posterior chain. Unless your machine has a cam on it, your leverage usually improves making the movement easier during peak contraction. If this is the case, I typically will put a band around the rollers so that tension will increase through the range of motion

Romanian Deadlift: The key in the Romanian deadlift is to move your butt back. Think of it as a horizontal movement, as opposed to a vertical movement like our other deadlifts. In this style, our butts move back with the knees slightly bent. Done correctly, even with no weight, by the time your hands reach the knees, your hamstrings should feel like they are going to rip off. If you can touch your toes, you are doing it wrong. Keep your head up, trying to create as much distance between your chin and your butt as you can

Sumo Deadlift: The very wide stance of the sumo deadlift takes some of the load from the back and transfers it to the hips. The setup makes it easier to maintain proper position, and it is fantastic for developing hamstrings and glutes

Tips On Improving Your Back Exercises

Squeeze: The most important thing to do on every rep of every set of every back workout is to squeeze it. Most of the time the reason you can’t grow your back is because you can’t feel it. Hold the contracted position of each back lift for one second and if you still can’t feel your back working you are probably still performing the movement incorrectly. If you are doing pulldowns hold the bar at your chest and pull from your elbows to hold it down. If you are doing rows (cable or barbell rows) pull the bar to your midsection and hold it there pulling your shoulder blades together as hard as you can. That pump you get after a full set is your back muscles working

Use Straps: There is one time that I have felt that straps can help, though, and that is when you are having a hard time targeting your back muscles. A lot of the time when you can’t feel your back working it’s because of the fact that your forearms and biceps muscles are giving out and getting fatigues much earlier than your back muscles are. This happens a lot more as beginners, and it can be a huge pain. When you start to use them you won’t have to worry about your forearms and biceps anymore and your back can take the brunt of the work

Go Light: If you are training your back and swinging your body on every rep with horrible form then you are using way to much weight with your exercises. If your back is rounded on deadlifts, rows, or any of the lifts for your back then lower the weight. If you have to throw your entire body into each lift then you are using too much weight. I know that once you hit a certain weight with things, like barbell rows, you can’t help but swing a little but keep it too a minimum

Pre-Exhaust: Pre-exhausting is a technique that has been around for a very long time and works very well when you are having a hard time feeling a certain muscle being worked. When you work out your back you are using the big exercises like rows and pull ups as the core of your back training. It can sometimes be very hard to work your back on compound exercises like these when so many other muscles can be working also. Add in an isolation exercise for high reps before you do your compound movements and you will have a much easier time feeling your back work during those compound movements. A good exercise that I use if I’m having trouble feeling my back work is a straight arm pulldown which is when you take a cable machine set on the highest positions, and grab it palms down. You keep your arms straight (as described in the name) and pull it down to your thighs all the while keeping your arms straight. At the bottom position, by your thighs, squeeze your lats. Do this exercise for 12 – 15 reps and then go onto your compound movement and feel your lats work like never before

Improve Arm Strength: You use your forearms and biceps in every single back movement. The problem is that your biceps and forearms are a whole lot weaker than your back. Bring these body parts up, especially your forearms. Train grip exercises more than anything if your main goal is to aid your back training. By training your grip you can hold onto the bar longer therefore making your back work longer. Improve all of your forearm numbers and bicep numbers and I promise that they will translate to better back exercises

What NOT to do in The Off-Season

Not Eating Enough
First off, I have to say that women tend to fall victim to this mistake a lot more than men. The reason behind this is that women hate putting on weight and after looking so good on stage the last thing that they want to do is put on Fat. So they continue to eat like they are still dieting. The result is they don’t have the energy to make any new gains or improvements to their body and, in many cases, lose muscle mass

The off-season is the time of year a person makes 95% of their improvements to their physique. Without the energy and the fuel, via a surplus of healthy clean food, you can not make the improvements you need

Make sure that you are eating enough calories to enable you to make those improvements and show up better next time you step on stage. Though you might put on a little (note I said a little) body fat, the body fat will come off once you diet down for your next show

Not Eating Enough Healthy Clean Foods
What is the first thing you do after you step off the stage with all of your trophies (let’s be optimistic)? You go directly to your favorite restaurant, or fast food place, and EAT. Granted, it is fine to indulge in good food after the show is over. You earned it. However, don’t let a fast food frenzy spill into your off-season diet

Now, above I talked about taking in enough calories so you can put on good size in the off-season. You might say, “fast food and junk food are calorie dense so why not have them once or twice a day so I can bump up my overall calories?”
While you want to have excess calories while bulking, the majority of those calories should be from clean healthy foods: lean cuts of meat, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. The off-season is the time to put on size but the majority of it should be muscle, not fat. A diet riddled with junk food will result in little muscle gain and plenty of fat storage. Clean it up and you beef it up

Staying Away From Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are a very important part of the off-season diet and a great energy source, if used properly throughout the day. Simple carbohydrates (i.e., fast digesting) are great to have post-workout because they spike your insulin level and drive the glycogen into your muscles

They also help to drive the amino acids from your protein shake, that you should have post-workout, with that simple carbohydrate to aid in protein synthesis (i.e., muscle building). Complex carbohydrates provide a more prolonged energy source and are great to have for breakfast or later in the day

Examples of complex carbohydrates are oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes. Examples of simple carbohydrates are sugars, white bread and pasta

No Cardio
This is a huge mistake that I see all the time and 99% of the time men fall victim to the no cardio approach in the off-season. They justify it by saying “I don’t want to lose any size.” Well, I am here to tell you that three 30 minute cardio sessions a week will do wonders for your bulking phase

By incorporating a cardio routine into your workout program, your appetite will go through the roof, which will make it a lot easier to eat clean healthy food. You also will improve your cardiovascular system, which is critical when lifting heavy

I have seen countless guys fail to reach their desired rep range because their cardiovascular system failed on them. They were strong enough to get those extra 2 reps but were too out of breath and had to rack the weight. Sooner or later you will start losing muscle if you don’t reach your desired rep range. If you want to put on that size start, then start doing some cardio

Too Much Cardio
Ladies, this is where many of you slip up. You don’t want to put on those couple of extra pounds so you stick to your contest prep cardio program. Your body cannot make improvements in muscle size and shape if you are expending too much energy with cardio

Most people (guys and girls) should stick to a moderate cardio program like 3-4 low intensity 20-30 minute sessions a week. This will keep both your metabolism humming and your appetite up and, most importantly you will be working the heart, which is the most important muscle of all

Too Much Machine Use
Too many trainers rely too heavily on machine use in their workout programs. With all the new fancy machines out now, who can blame them? They are comfortable, smooth and easy to use. But I have the motto

These machines do have benefits, when used properly and are great to supplement your program (I like to use them at the end of the workout, if I use them at all) but nothing works better than free weight basics

Free weight basics, with barbells and dumbbells, like squats, deadlifts, rows, bench etc., should be the bread and butter of all of your workouts off-season and pre-contest. They recruit the most muscle fiber use which will lead to maximum growth and improvement

Only after you have exhausted maximum energy with the free weight basics, should you think about using machines or cables. Remember, the harder you work, the better the results and nothing is harder than free weights

Not Enough Rest/Recovery Time
In the off-season, your major goal is to put on lean muscle mass. Many novice trainers don’t realize that you do all your growing outside the gym. Even some experienced lifters find it hard to stay away from the gym in the off-season. They do everything right: eat clean, workout out hard, but forget to give their body’s enough rest and recovery time between workouts so gains are negligible

You break down the muscle tissue in the gym, given that you fuel your body with nutritious food. The final piece of the puzzle is time. You need to give your body time to recover. Without adequate time to recover, you will break down already broken down muscle tissue caused by overtraining

There is a lot of debate over how long a muscle needs to rest/recover from a workout before you should work it out again. I am a big believer in 72 hours, or 3 days of recovery time. If the muscle still seems to be sore, give it another day of rest. The last thing you want to do is to injure yourself

Worrying about the scales has caused a lot of men to put on fat in the off-season. Men love stating how much they weigh, if the number is above 200 lbs. So in their pursuit to put on as much weight as possible, most of these ego driven males end up putting on a substantial amount of body fa

Your body cannot continue to add pounds of lean muscle mass each week, so if your weight continues to increase every week, you are probably putting on too much body fat. I tell my clients to focus on what they look like, not on what the scale says

Women are the complete opposite once they see their weight go up; they either stop eating as much or do a lot of cardio. This shift is driven by the pursuit to keep in contest shape. However, this practice will make it extremely difficult to make improvements

 Lack Of A Goal
This issue is for my competing athletes and starts immediately after your contest is over. You should talk to the judges about your presentation to help you understand where you can improve and what your strong points are. Then, in the next week or so, sit down with your personal trainer and discuss how you are going to approach the off-season and make the improvements to your physique

I see many competitors, pros and amateurs alike, who show up every year looking the same. These individuals don’t improve and also don’t win

So in the beginning of the off-season, make some short and long term goals for yourself; this will help keep you focused on the improvements that you need to make between competitions

Skipping Meals
This is a common mistake made by the hard gainers. They are not hungry so they either push back the meal by an hour, or worse, just skip it all together. This is a big mistake. Your body needs protein every 2.5-3 hours so your muscles can have a steady stream of available amino acids

You need to keep your body in a positive nitrogen balance. When your body doesn’t have enough amino acids, it goes to your muscles to find them

Your body will begin to eat away at your hard-earned muscle for fuel, a result you must avoid. This is referred to as a catabolic state (i.e., muscle wasting). You want to be in a positive nitrogen balance as much as possible, which is referred to as the anabolic state (i.e. muscle gaining). If you can’t stomach a full meal, then try to suck down a whey shake. This will give you enough amino acids until you eat your next meal

The off-season is a time to make improvements to your physique. Use this time as productively as possible by avoiding any of the mistakes discussed above

Wasted time is wasted growth so if you find yourself falling into any of these pitfalls, then make a quick correction in your diet and/or workout programs. If you can do this, you will be well on your way to adding that desired inch to your physique