Tag: Powerlifting

One of the popular questions I get asked alot is what supplements should people take? Supplements aren’t needed but some are definitely helpful. For the purpose of this article I will focus on the benefits of why you should be taking creatine to assist you in your fitness journey. Several people shy away from creatine due to the fear of water retention. If you ever had several alcoholic drinks, high sodium meals or just didn’t consume enough water, the day after you will notice a weight increase and more of a fluffer look to your physique. That’s your body retaining water in the skin. Creatine on the other hand causing you to hold water in the muscles which in my opinion makes it a very useful supplement.

If you’re a powerlifter, bodybuilder, crossfitters or just someone who wants to put on some muscle size, creatine can benefit you. Creatine may also help those who perform high intensity sprints or endurance training. So how does creatine actually work? Creatine increases your muscles phosphocreatine stores which help create additional ATP energy. During high intensity exercise such as resistance training, ATP fuels your muscles during your workout. ATP energy is burned faster than the human body can reproduce it so supplementing with creatine allow you to produce more ATP which will improve performance during your high intensity training sessions. If you’re currently not supplementing with creatine you probably notice days in the gym where you hit a certain amount of weight for a certain amount of reps successfully. But on the last set with same weight, you’re unable to execute. This is due to not being able to reproduce ATP fast enough at that present time. Since supplementing with creatine, I’ve noticed an increase in energy. Prior to using creatine I found it difficult to successfully complete 4 sets of 3 reps on my heavy squat days being that my body wasn’t producing more ATP. This is the key benefit of creatine supplementation!

Now you know the most important benefit of creatine so which one do you purchase? With the supplement industry constantly growing, several different forms of creatine have been developed. Creatine monohydrate is the one I’d recommend for two reasons. One is the cheapest form of creatine and two other forms are still relatively new which haven’t been tested to see if they actually work how supplement companies claim they do. Creatine monohydrate is the most common you will find and is the form that most scientific studies have used to conduct their research on the effectiveness of the supplement. So instead of possibly paying an overpriced charge for creatine, stick to the one that has been proven to work for years. Just to give you an idea of how cheap creatine is, a 200 serving container of creatine on Vitacost.com will cost $17.32 not including shipping. That should last you about a half of year if you’re only taking the daily recommended amount of 5 grams.

Out all the supplements that exist today, creatine monohydrate is one of the few that is actually backed up by science. I personally used creatine whether I’m bulking, dieting or just maintaining simply because of the improved performance during my workouts. So to address the title of this article “no creatine DOES NOT make you fat”. Instead it provides your muscles with additional energy than what your body can naturally produce to push past intense training sessions. If increased strength, muscle or endurance is one of your goals, creatine is the one supplement that can benefit you!

The supplement industry has grown dramatically over years due to the increase in the fitness community. Anyone with money to spend can create a supplement company in the matter of weeks. Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA like pharmaceutical drugs before they reach the market, therefore potentially putting the customers at risk of consuming “unapproved drugs”. These drugs have potential of causing serious health issues. Supplement companies have customers from all fitness levels to market their products. From bodybuilders to cross fitters to the average person in the gym, products are constantly being advertised across all social media platforms and fitness expos. I’m not here to bad mouth any supplement companies because I truly believe in some products that truly work. But just because they work, doesn’t mean you necessarily need them.

 

There’s a place and time where I believe supplements are beneficial. Supplements shouldn’t replace real food. Supplements are meant to fill in certain gaps in your nutrition. As an online trainer/coach I provide my clients with specific macro nutrients that I want them to reach every day. Depending on the individual, protein may be a bit higher than what they were previously accustomed to. If consuming the desire protein intake becomes difficult to reach, adding a protein supplement can help them reach your daily protein intake without having to consume another meal. Some individuals like myself can force an additional meal easily, but for someone who can’t, adding a protein supplement can definitely assist with that gap.

 

Supplement companies are in the money business meaning that the lower the cost to create these products, the more profit they will earn. It’s a business and every business has a goal to turn the biggest profit. Some companies have sold the public dreams on what there products can really accomplish. I remember reading a pre-workout label that guaranteed 8lbs of muscle in just 8 weeks! Now let’s be realistic, not even illegal substances can guarantee that. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. But there are a few approaches you can take so that you aren’t being taken advantage of by these companies:

 

  1. Buy from trusted companies! New companies may be out to make a quick dollar off of you but a company that has been established for quite some time will have a lot more to lose by trying to deceive their customers. Simply do your research and read/watch reviews on these products.
  2. Read the nutritional labels! Beware of proprietary blends where companies don’t disclose specific amount for each ingredient. Instead they provide a total of the variety of ingredients. This is extremely common in pre-workouts. Pre-workout ingredients need a specific amount that make them effective. If a proprietary blend in is a product, you don’t actually know if the effective dosages are included for each ingredient.
  3. Don’t just follow your favorite bodybuilder or fitness icon! These individuals make money based on the amount of people who use their discount code. Only support if they are in fact promoting a solid product.
  4. Don’t shop at a local store! You’ve never taking supplements before so take some time research why you need them, the effects and the benefits. The internet is a great way to educate yourself on practically anything. Certain representatives at local a GNC or vitamin shop don’t educate themselves or personally use all the products in the store therefore mislead you to buying something you don’t actually need or even want.

 

Cheat meals have become very popular over the years. As more and more people are incorporating fitness into their lifestyle, the need for a reward after being consistent with your diet has taken off. To some dieting can be a breeze and they can do it effortlessly without shifting into bad eating habits. But for the majority of us, the thought of just dieting makes us think of all the other foods we rather eat instead of a salad, well-balanced meal or a healthy snack. Cheat meals give people something to look forward to typically at the end of each week. Cheat meals can in fact set you back but there are several ways to enjoy a cheat meal so that you don’t ruin the progress you’ve made thus far.

 

Plan Out Your Cheat Meal: If you know you’re going out to a restaurant on a certain day, spend some time looking at the menu and see what will satisfy your cravings. MyFitnessPal is a great app that I’ve used for years to track my calories as well as my macros. I honestly can say that I’ve been able to find any food or meal on the app to get a rough estimate of how many calories I’ll be consuming. Even though the calories are estimates and not 100% accurate, you still have a based line of how many calories you can consume prior to your cheat meal so that you don’t go too over your caloric intake for the day. This is great for people who can’t afford to go over their caloric intake.

 

Eat Your Calories: There are many drinks that contains calories primarily carbohydrates in the form of sugar. I honestly don’t believe these drinks are a necessity, there are more of a preference. If you can fit them while dieting great. But eliminating them completely or substituting them calories free drinks, will save you calories that you can use later for your cheat meal. For coffee drinkers look into having  your coffee black with artificial sweetener such as splenda or stevia. Soda drinkers, look into diet zero calorie options or even flavored soda water. I use flavored soda water all the time when I’m out consuming alcohol. If you enjoy certain juices, look into a more natural options that doesn’t contain added sugars. These options will still contain calories but not as much as the one with added sugar. Refer to the nutritional label to see if a product has any added ingredients.

 

Prioritize Your Protein: When we think of cheating on our diets, we usually think of pizza, ice cream, donuts, cookies, etc. which are all high in carbohydrates and fat. Not to say they don’t contain any protein but amount is very little compare to carbohydrates and fats. A strategy I’ve used in the past was to consume 2-3 meals that were high in protein but were low in carb and fat. This typically was a lean protein source such chicken breast, ground beef or  ground turkey with a serving or two of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower or asparagus. This way I get my protein in for the day and leave most of my carbs and fats to enjoy at night for my cheat meal.

 

Intermittent Fasting: This is great tool for someone who just wants to take a break from tracking their meals. Lets say you’re able to function without eating for a certain amount of hours, you can enjoy a big meal later that evening. There are certain days where I want to over indulge and there are some days where I want a small treat. Intermittent fasting a great way to save your calories for a wedding, party or a day where you want to eat freely but not have to worry about calories/macros. Quick disclaimer while it’s still possible to go over your calories, implementing this practice and keeping your eating window small and not let it carry to the following day, you should be able to enjoy the foods you love without hurting the progress you’ve made.

Compound exercises are king when it comes to developing a solid physique. These exercises recruit multiple muscle groups which allow you to maximize tension while stimulating muscle growth. Please be advised that performing these compound lifts without properly warming up could potentially put you at risk of never being able to perform them again. The fact that numerous muscles and joints are involved in these movements, its best to warm up all areas that will be utilized during the movement. Squats is one of the compound lifts that requires the entire body to be warmed up in my opinion especially if you’re lifting heavier loads of weight. Below are 5 exercises you can start incorporating to make sure your body is ready the next time you squat!

 

Banded Pull-Aparts: This is a movement that is great for shoulder mobility. Squats is lower body exercise so why do I need to warm up my shoulders? Well, your shoulders play a role in how secure you hold on to the bar while it’s resting on your traps. If you are unable to retract your shoulders back while squatting, it also becomes difficult to maintain tightness on your upper back while squatting.

 

Pull Up/Lat Pull Downs: The upper back plays a huge role in protecting the lower back when squatting. Most of us either have a poor muscle mind connection with their upper back or we fail to activate them. Perform 2 sets of 5-10 reps will help activate those muscles to make sure tightness is maintained during the squat.

 

 

Pigeon Stretch: The hips tend to get really tight for a lot of us especially those who work desk jobs. Men usually have tighter hips than females because men don’t have to ability to give birth but that doesn’t mean women don’t have to stretch. Any form of tightness in the hips can prevent you from squatting effortlessly into your hips. This is one of the most effective stretches due to the fact that you can focus on one hip at a time.

 

Goblet Squats: All compound lifts have exercises that are similar in order to warm up to the movement. I’m not suggesting not warming up with the bar as you would before progressing to heavier weights, but adding this variation will help train your body to descend in the hips while keeping your torso upright before you begin the squat. This is great exercise to add after loosen up your hips from performing the pigeon stretch.

 

Half-Kneeling Ankle Mobilization: Most people fail to realize the importance of ankle mobility. For people with longer femurs like myself, it’s crucial to stretch the ankle to allow the knee to travel in front of the foot. Individuals who are taller with small feet is a perfect example who need great ankle mobility in order to perform a proper squat. Having tight ankle joints can cause you to not to perform the squat in full range of motion which may force the upper torso to sink down putting a lot of stress on the lower back or on the knee joint.

There’s a lot of debate in the fitness industry on which training split is best to follow. I’m sure you’ve heard fitness professionals claim “I gained 8lbs of muscle in just 12 weeks” following a specific split. But the honest truth is that there are certain factors to keep in mind when choosing what split you should follow. As an online trainer/coach who customizes training program for his clients, I would say that people shouldn’t adjust their availability and goals for a specific split, the split should adapt to the person’s availability and goals. What do I mean by that? Well we all should know some basic facts about strength training. One is that stimulating a muscle twice a week is most optimal and in certain cases three times a week would be better. And two after training a muscle group, you will be able to train that same muscle after 48 hours of rest and recovery.

 

When the question of what is the best training split follow comes about I asked two very specific questions. What are your goals? What is your availability to be able to go the gym? If your goal isn’t to look like a body builder, you shouldn’t follow a split that requires intense workouts for 5, 6 or even 7 days a week. Training splits should be very specific to you, the person that will be benefiting the stimulus of training. Everyone is at different levels of their fitness journey therefore the level of experience will determine the split they can or should be following. For example, a person who never step foot in the gym can start out on a 4 day split most likely upper, lower, rest, upper, lower, rest & rest. 9 out of 10 when I speak to clients who are new to the gym even if they tell me they are able to train everyday, I always advise the risk of not being able to recovery from session to session. Starting small not only helps you assess a training split that can be maintained, it also give you a lot of room to increase the days you train in the future when plateaus arise.

 

Personally I’m a huge fan of the Push, Pull, Legs split. Not because its some kind of magical split, but because it fits my schedule and allows me to get a solid training session without spending hours in the gym. Push, Pull, Legs combines muscle groups that work together in most exercises. If you asked someone what are pull ups good for? I’m pretty sure most people will respond by saying “its a back exercise”. But what most people don’t realize is that the biceps play a role in the pull up as a secondary muscle group. So pull ups can be included in your pull session days along other back, traps and biceps exercises. This is the main benefit of the Push, Pull, Legs split. Primary and secondary muscle groups are able to stimulated through single movements which reduces the amount of  exercises you will need to do each training session which reduce the amount of time you spend in the gym.

 

Full body splits can be for anyone no matter the fitness level, they can be extremely beneficial from someone who is overweight and brand spanking new to the gym. Why? Well first of all you won’t be able to train full body 7 days a week due to recovery therefore limiting the amount of days you go to the gym. Secondly full body splits consist exercises that give you the most bang for your buck also known as the compound lifts or exercises that maximize the most amount of tension on the muscles. These exercises will exert the most energy and stimulate multiple muscle groups at once, causing your body to burn the most calories as oppose to perform isolation movements such as a cable fly for your chest. If programmed correctly, each muscle group can still be trained twice per week for the most optimal results.

 

If you’re looking for a new training split to follow next time you visit your local gym remember to identify what goals you are trying to reach which is the most important factor. With the internet and rise of social media, there are thousands of training splits you can follow but that doesn’t always mean they will compliment your goals. You have to be realistic as well. If a Mr. Olympia that you admire is following a training split but you yourself are natural and aren’t taking any steroids to further enhance your progress, that split won’t work for you. Once you identify your goals, assess the days you can commit to going to the gym. Don’t set yourself for failure by following a split you can’t fully commit to. Instead find days and times in the week where you know for sure you can attend the gym no matter what then build your split around that. If you always have the time to get your training sessions done, eventually you’ll see the results that you’ve been working so hard to achieve.

Picture this, you get out of work at 9 pm, later than expected and the gym closes at 11 pm. You thought you had more than enough time to go home eat, grab your gym bag and head out to the gym being that you were scheduled to end work at 6 pm. Now time is not on your side and you still have to get your workout done. I’ve heard this scenario plenty of times. I can understand how someone will think of exercises they can skip in order to have enough time to just focus on lifting which ultimately ends up being the warm up exercises. This isn’t always the smartest idea. Resistance training definitely has its benefits but its also has its disadvantages. If you focus of the disadvantages, you’ll continue to reap to benefits. But if you ignore the disadvantages, you could potentially be at risk of injury during your training session. Let’s first understand the difference between “warm up sets” and “working sets”.

 

Warm up sets are typically exercise that you perform to activate your muscles, loosen up your joints and/or create a muscle to mind connection with the muscle(s). These aren’t meant to fatigue you in fact, they are meant to prime your body prior to starting your actual workout. Think of injury prevention next time you’re thinking a skipping your warm up. After resistance training for a long time, muscles get tight, joints get stiff and if you work at a desk for long hours, we need to get our blood flowing around our body before beginning an intense workout session. Let’s say for example you suffer from tight shoulders and then go on to perform the bench press, it will be extremely difficult to keep your shoulders behind the chest while pressing because you haven’t properly loosen or warmed up that muscle. There’s always a way to improve if you put the effort to get better and prioritize what needs more focus.

 

Working sets on the other hand is where you want to fatigue your muscles. Typically working sets can be 4 sets of 5 reps or a pyramid for 4 sets for 4-8 reps while increasing the weight gradually after each set during an exercise. This is where the magic happens or should I say where muscle break down happens. I’ve said this before in a previous article that in order to build muscle, you need to put your muscles through stress so that they grow bigger, stronger and better through rest, recovery and proper nutrition. The main issue is that a lot of us obsess about the working sets and fail to realize how a small warm up can increase the efficiency of our working sets and prevent injuries.

 

A weak muscle to mind connection is common for a lot of beginners. Its not necessarily a bad thing at first but without focusing on developing a stronger muscle to mind connection each session, you could be wasting precious time in the gym with little to no results to show for it. This is where a lot of fitness professional utilize the “pre-exhaust” method which means exactly what it sounds like. You choose an exercise to perform first, typically one that causes the greatest contraction to get your mind to contract the muscle with every repetition. Using the “pre-exhaust” method not only warms up your muscles, but now that you’ve established a solid connection with the muscle of focus, it makes it easier to feel every exercise throughout the remainder of the training session. This is just one example. There are many different ways to properly warm up.

 

Warm up sets should be prioritized first and should never be ignored. Squats is an amazing exercise to develop the lower body but not everyone is able to perform them. This may be due to an injury suffered in the past, mobility issues, bad form or just the way a person has been created just to name a few. I personally warm up everything when I’m preparing to squat. From ankles all the way back up to my shoulders. Might sound a bit over the top but I understand that I’m not getting any younger therefore better safe than sorry. For the average person, I will highly suggest focusing on warming up the hips and knees. This can be 5-10 minutes on the leg extension machine. Set the weight about 20-30 lbs lighter than what you would choose for your working set, perform 10-15 repetitions of leg extension focusing your mind to squeeze the quads muscles. Then immediately perform body weight squats for 10-15 repetitions to warm up the hips for 2-3 sets total.

 

Doing a warm up set such as this can be a bit boring compared to the working sets. But its one of the major keys to squatting right into your hips to generate the most power to come back up. If you don’t perform any kind of warm up, you may be surprised when you realize tightness in your hips joint during your working sets. This can create additional tension to your knees and lower back that you could have probably prevented by just warming up properly. The gym is great place to redefine who are but if you don’t take every aspect of fitness seriously, you could be at risk of hurting yourself performing an exercises you done plenty of times in the past. DO NOT NEGLECT YOUR WARM UP!