Sunday, March 4, 2012

Using Negatives to Increase Muscle Size

One way to help get muscles stronger and increase muscle size in through using negative workouts.  A negative workout is when you focus on slowly lowering a weight down. In the lowering phase of the lift, our muscles extend. By focusing on extension, you'll generate force from a completely new angle, creating the potential for new growth. When you do this it's called negative reps.

Most people take negative exercises for granted.  The best time to do negative exercises is towards the end of your workout when your muscles are getting tired and can't do a complete set of repetitions.  By focusing on the negative and slowly lowering the weight it will stimulate additional growth.  Do a few repetitions until complete failure.  By reaching complete failure (where you can't lift any more of the weight at all) it will stimulate additional muscle growth.

You can use machines to achieve the negatives or use a partner or spotter.  I would recommend a partner or spotter if you are using free weights because eventually, when you do these exercises, you will reach a point of complete failure and you don't want to hurt yourself.

Negative workouts are a great way to stimulate muscle growth and can be done with multiple exercises. Some of the more popular exercises are for bicep curls, chest and shoulder workouts.  You can use them for other exercises too.  It's a good idea to include negative workouts to help gain strength.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How Plank Exercises Benefit You

One of the best exercises to build core muscles is the plank. Core muscles actually consists of many different muscles that stabilize the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso. These stabilize the spine and pelvis and create a solid base of support. Plank exercises help strengthen the core muscles and by having a strong core it will help you do other exercises better and easier.

I went to the gym the other day later than I normally do and by that time.  All the benches were taken up and there were not many free weights left.  I decided to do a day of body weight workouts instead so I did push ups, sit ups and planks.  I've seen other people doing planks while working out so I decided to try it and see how it went.

To do a basic plank put your forearms and toes on the ground (like a push up position but on your forearms) and then just hold the position.  Surprisingly, this will work out your muscles that support your abs.  Try to hold it for 20-30 seconds and then rest.  Then begin again. Below is a photo of what it should look like.

You can do side planks that strengthen leg muscles to prevent injuries while running by doing the plank from the side by balancing on one forearm instead of two.

Planks are beneficial in strengthening core muscles that help prevent injuries and improve performance in sports and other exercises.  The exercises are not too strenuous but if you haven't done them in a while it will feel like you've done a good ab workout. Here is a video about planks and core muscles.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to Run Faster

One of my goals is to be able to run faster.   Growing up I played a lot of soccer and football.  These sports had a lot of sprinting involved in them.  I was quite fast and often would beat the person defending me and make a nice play.  I also played baseball but was bad at hitting.  I compromised this by getting proficient at bunting down the third base line and sprinting to first base, beating the throw to first base.  Then I would steal second base and somehow get to home.  All of this was done primarily by sprinting and being fast.

In order to get faster there are a few things that you can do in the gym to help.  The main thing studies have shown include that when doing leg workouts the focus should be on doing less repetitions and heavier weight.  The workouts should include squats and leg presses.  These exercise are ones that focus on exploding upward in order to complete the repetition.  I also like doing leg extensions and leg curls.

When you run for speed you also should try running outside and do interval training by starting of at a nice jogging pace.  Then sprint for 15-20 seconds and then go back to jogging pace. Try sprinting to two or three lamp posts or other objects along your running route and then recover for two or three lamp posts.  This type of running is known as fartlek running.

If you are trying to get faster as a runner you should do leg workouts such as squats, leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls.  When running you should do interval training and practice running fartleks.
Within a few weeks you should notice that you can run faster.

Monday, February 13, 2012

KettleBell 101

If you've gone to the gym lately you may have heard of workouts that use kettlebells. They are very popular in gyms right. What exactly is a kettlebell?  They look like cannonballs with thick handles on them and they come in various weights. Kettlebells can be effectively implemented into workouts as weights for explosive exercises.  The main benefit for using kettlebells is that the exercises used with them hit multiple muscles all at once. It is challenging also because the weight is not centered like using a barbell in any lifts so in order to use them you have to be able to manage the weight being off centered.

Kettlebells come in numerous weight amounts. Choose a weight that is challenging but not too heavy.  The weight should be heavy enough to be challenging but not too heavy to use poor form and risk injuring yourself.  Kettlebell training is unlike any other, as it requires  power, strength, mobility, stability, cardiovascular fitness and good endurance. These are dynamic exercises that allow the body to move fluidly and use different muscles at the same time. 

One of the basic exercises is to put the kettlebell between your legs while bending and then explosively swing the bell up to shoulder level.  This exercise is using your quadriceps in your legs but also builds your core muscles and arm and shoulder muscles. By doing a set or two of this exercise you are also getting a cardiovascular workout. You can vary the exercises and be able to focus the exercise on whatever muscles you want.  Below is a video I found to help demonstrate the many things you can do with kettlebells

The kettlebell is an excellent way to workout because it builds strength, stamina and burns fat.  It is a dynamic exercise that works multiple muscles at the same time.  Many gyms have classes you can go to that use kettlebells.  You should check them out and see how you like them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Healthy Breakfast Ideas

There are quite a few healthy breakfast ideas that you can use to help get enough energy and nutrients at the start of the day to give yourself an advantage on eating healthy for the rest of the day. It is essential to give yourself enough energy by eating breakfast prior to a morning workout so that you have a good workout and enough energy. There is a reason people refer to breakfast as the most important meal of the day.

 The other day I met with a friend of mine the other day and we were discussing how I've been going back to the gym and having a little bit of success with losing weight and some people are noticing that I am losing weight.  I started out at 208 lbs and have lost a couple pounds since then.My friend discussed how important it is to start your day off right with a good breakfast.  I thought I'd give some examples of things that would make a good healthy breakfast. 

One of the things he mentioned was starting the day off with a healthy protein shake.  The reason for this is that your body is hungry and getting a healthy shake jump starts your pursuit of getting enough protein in your diet for the day.  I have a shake that for one scoop it has 30 grams of protein in it.  I add water to it and shake it up to get it blended nicely.  If you want to use a blender you can do that also.  Some people feel that using a blender makes it better as you don't get the powder particles in your shake as much.  To each his own.

I enjoy scrambled eggs on occasion, I'll admit, but you should try to focus on eating egg whites and staying away from the yolk.  The yolk is where most of the cholesterol is located in an egg.  You can purchase at grocerie stores cartons of egg white.  Just fry it up, mix in any other healthy ingredients (mushrooms,onions, peppers, a small amount of cheese) and make yourself a nice omlette.

Oatmeal is a very healthy breakfast.  You can add just about any type of berry to it to add to the flavor.  You can add cinnamon for a little sweetened taste.You can add apple squares as well. Oatmeal is a good source of fiber and protein and has other benefits too.  According to  the magazine Natural Home and Garden oatmeal also lowers cholesterol, boosts the immune system as well as other things.

Cereals can be another good breakfast.  The key to eating cereals is to stay away from those cereals with lots of sugar.  When picking cereals you should focus on the fiber and vitamin content. Here is a good source of information and statistics that shows how it's important to add cereals into a person's diet.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it jump starts your body into gear, telling it what to expect the rest of the day.  Stay away from food made with a lot of fat, grease and cholesterol.  By eating a healthy breakfast you put yourself at an advantage for the rest of the day to eat healthy and burn calories and fat.  It is essential to give yourself enough energy by eating breakfast prior to a morning workout so that you have a good workout and enough energy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

High Itensity Interval Training (HIIT) Basics

One of the most effective way to get in shape and burn fat is through interval training.  Interval training is a type of workout which the focus is on the intensity of the workout and not how far you ran or how many repetitions you did of an exercise.  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts are a way to get an effective workout in less time than you normally would by running on the treadmill for three miles. 

The thought process behind HIIT is that through doing a workout more intensely than an average workout you increase the heart rate, lessen the rest between exercises and burn extra calories and fat.  When you are done with a HIIT workout you will be hot, sweating and know that you just got a good workout. 

HIIT Treadmill Workout
HIIT treadmill workouts are great because you can do them even if you are just beginning to get back into shape or are just beginning to try these types of workouts.  Start out with a nice jog and then increase the speed by 1.5-2 miles per hour and try running at the new speed for 45 seconds - one minute.  Then go back to the previous jogging speed.  Then after 30 seconds increase the speed again for a 2- 2.5 miles per hour increase.  Continue doing this for 10-15 minutes or so.  The key is to vary the speed to keep your body confused about what is coming next. You should do a warm up and a cool down period with the workout.  You can also increase the angle while running to make it even more challenging.  Here is an example of a HIIT workout on  the treadmill from Trainer Josh .

HIIT At Home Workout
The same type of workout can be done at home.  Again the advantage to these exercises is that the time it takes to get a good workout is deminished and the workout is a good way to burn fat and get your heart rate up.  When doing exercises at home make sure all furnature or other objects are out of the way so you don't injure yourself or break anything. This would be similar to P90X or Insanity .  One guy that does a lot of HIIT routines at home is Mike Chang. Below is a video he did of a sample HIIT workout.

Try these exercises at have and see if you find these more effective at getting a good workout. Please let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Annoying Things I See at the Gym

When I'm at the gym sometimes I see other people doing some things that I find annoying.  Bad behavior in the gym can effect your workout. I think some people don't realize what they are doing and that it is taking away from other people's workouts. 

Some of the things I find annoying is when people who are working out bring their cell phone with them.  I find it annoying because to me it seems like if you were there to workout it would be more important than possibly receiving a phone call.  Are they so important that they need to have their cell phone on them at all times- even when working out? It seems to me that they may be preocuppied and not really there for a good workout.  When people have the cell phones with them and are on treadmills or other cardio equipment are they really going to stop the workout just to answer the phone?

Another thing at the gym that I find annoying is when people finish their workout on a bench and leave the bench with a sweat stain for the next person to clean up.  People need to bring towels with them or wipe the bench down with a sanitary swipe that most gyms provide so that you can wipe down equipment and not leave them nasty.

People that use the equipment as a place to rest instead of using it to actually work out are another thing that I find annoying.  If you don't have enough energy to work out then call it a day and rest up.  Your body tells you when it's time to stop.  Laying on a benchpress bench for minutes is not giving you a good workout.  It's tying up that bench so nobody else can use it.

Finally, there's been times that I've been working out and this large muscluar guy is doing only a few reps of certain exercises but loudly grunts the last couple reps out as if he is trying to get other people to look at him and how much he can lift.  Keep your grunting to yourself!

What do you find annoying when you go to the gym?  Did I miss anything that you can think of?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to Increase the Size of Your Arms

When people are at the gym they tend to walk past people and make a mental note about how the other person they just passed looked. They may even go as far as deciding if they are stronger or in better shape than the other person. Visually, the eyes tend to go towards the size of the arms, chest and stomach of the other person.

A little basic anatomy is needed to understand the muscles in the arm.  The main muscles are the biceps and triceps.  The biceps are located in the front of your arm and have two heads- the long head and short head.  The triceps are located in the back of your arm and have three heads- the long head, the medial head and the lateral head.

The tricep push and the biceps pull.  When working out it is a good idea to not do both bicep and triceps workouts on the same day as you will end up with soreness in your entire arm, which may cause you to miss a workout or not do the workout properly or with the same effort level the next time.

Basic Arm Exercises
Some of the basic exercises to develop the arms for the biceps include various types of curls. They can be seated, inclined, or standing.  You can also use different equipment and bars to do the exercises.  There are straight bars, EZ Curl bars or you can use machines to help work out the muscles.  For bicep exercises I do standing curls, preacher curls, and seated curls at different angles to help grow the muscle.

For triceps muscle development I do tricep pulldowns, triceps extentions and skull crushers, and triceps kickbacks.

With any of these exercises in order gain mass use heavier weight with fewer repetitions and if you want to get muscle definition use lighter weight with more repetitions.  A good plan will incorporate both so that on some days you focus on gaining mass and other days you can focus on gaining definition.  The key is consistancy and also giving your body enough rest in between workouts. By doing these exercises you will add size to your arms and will get stronger overall.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Think I'm Going to be Sore Tomorrow

Today I went to the gym and did an upper body workout.  I started with bench press.  I warmed up with 135 lbs and then did 10 reps each at 155 and 165.  It wasn't the most I've ever lifted but I am just starting to work out consistantly after not weight training for a while. 

After doing bench press I moved to inclined bench press with 35 lb dumbells.  I did 3 sets of 10 with those and then moved to working out my shoulders. I did front raises and shoulder presses and finished off with doing some work on a machine that works out the rear deltoid muscle.

I also did some work on tricep pull downs using a rope.

I then did some cardio work on the treadmill.  I started off slow and then did a small HIIT workout.  What is HIIT?  That is an acronym for High Intensity Iterval Training.  One of the best ways to burn fat and get your cardiovacular system in shape is interval training.  HIIT is the principle that the popular workout systems Insanity and P90X use and it is quite effective.  It is hard and if you're not in shape it won't take long to figure that out.

After 15 minutes of cardio work I then moved downstairs to the basketball court and practiced some shots.  Even though I was only shooting baskets and not playing an actual game I still could feel it in my legs when I jumped around and a little bit in the shoulders when actually shooting the ball.

I will probably be sore tomorrow but that will be a good thing.  I will do a lot of stretching to prevent injuries and keep flexibility so the muscles don't tighten up too much.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reasons to Weight Train Before Cardio

Time to get a little bit scientific. It's important to understand what happens to your body when you exercise and how it relates to working out. When working out it is a good idea to mix cardiovascular work with lifting weights.  This is because you build muscle and lose fat at one time. It is important to do weights before cardio work for a few reasons:

If you’re goal is to lose weight then doing cardio after your weight training is especially important. The simple reason is that weight training depletes glycogen is muscles. What is Glycogen? Glycogen is a primary a fuel source for cardiovascular exercise. When the glycogen depletes in your body it is more likely release fat from cells to be used as energy. When you do cardio without weight training before, it takes around 20-25 mins for glycogen levels to fall and fat cells to potentially be released. Here is a link discussing the role of carbs and glycogen for use in exercise.

You should save your maximum amount of energy for the weights. Lifting weights takes a lot of energy and it is important to use proper form to prevent injuries.  If your body is already tired from running there is an increased risk that you won't use proper form. This also limits your potential for muscle building  as you won’t be able to do as many reps that you otherwise could.

Here is a video I found on YouTube that talks about why you should weight train before doing cardio workouts

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Some Healthy Decisions That Helps in Fat Loss

When you exercise consistently one thing you'll need to also look at is your diet and what you are eating. The key to successful weight loss is developing healthy diet and exercise habits.  If you have a high protein and low calorie diet you will lose weight as your body burns carbohydrates first and then goes to burning fat.  According to the Mayo Clinic, "Weight loss comes down to burning more calories that you take in. You can do that by reducing extra calories from food and beverages and increasing calories burned through physical activity."

I include quite a bit of chicken and tuna in my diet because those foods are good sources of protein.  Tuna fish is easy to make because it is in a can and all you have to do is add a little bit of light mayo to it and you can make a good sandwich or salad. Here is a list of possible recipes with tuna so that you don't have to make just sandwiches.

People also should drink an adequate amount of water.  Eight glasses of water is recognized by most people as the required amount of water a body needs in a day.  This seems like a lot and can be difficult but if you keep a bottle of water by you during the day and take occasional sips it may become easier.  For more information on the importance of drinking enough water and how it relates to losing weight and becoming healthier here's a good explanation. You should also try to stay away from sodas and other drinks that have a lot of sugars in them because the sugars can be converted into fat. One can of soda contains 160 calories that have no other nutritional value.  There are better ways to get hydrated than drinking sodas so you should try to stay away from them if you want to lose weight and live healthier.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why Stretching is Important

Before working out it is important to properly stretch so you do not sustain an injury while working out or playing a sport. The benefits of stretching include reduced muscle soreness after running and even better athletic performance. When playing a sport like tennis, soccer, football or any other sport where there are sudden bursts of speed and sudden stopping it is very important that you stretch before and after exercise so that you don't pull any muscles or experience other injuries. When stretching make sure you stretch the muscle slowly and don't bounce because bouncing can cause injuries. Hold the stretch for around 30 seconds.

If you have just started working out or playing a sport you haven't played in a while it's important to realize that it takes time for your muscles to have the same flexibility that they may have had and that you remember having. This occurred to me when I played soccer for the first time in a few years and I ended up pulling a groin muscle. I knew how to make the moves but because I hadn't stretched properly my body wasn't able to do what I wanted it to do. I stopped quickly and cut back to the side and that is when it happened. Luckily it wasn't a bad pull but it still made it uncomfortable running for a few weeks.

Also, prior to beginning a workout you need to warm up your muscles with a few minutes of jogging or light running so that you warm your body up in preparation of the real workout.

Below is a really good video I found on how to stretch before working out.

Here is a guide from the Mayo Clinic concerning stretching properly.

Remember to stretch properly before and after workouts in order prevent injuries and to increase performance and athletic abilities.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Gym

I went to the gym yesterday for the first time in a while. I did a weigh-in to see where my starting point is in my goal of getting down to about 180lbs with less body fat and  more lean muscle mass. I weighed in at 208 which was less than I thought I was but still has me losing 20-25 lbs.  I brought my daughter with me because the gym offers free baby sitting so you can bring your kid and go work out and the kid can play in a supervised environment. That is a big selling point to the gym along with other things like the pool, group exercise classes, the basketball court, they offer personal training and they have many machines so if it gets busy the odds are that there will always be an available machine.

My gym has lots of treadmills on both the first and second floors. I've found that the treadmills get very busy on Sunday evening and Monday evenings. That is because people start thinking about how much they ate over the weekend or the planned exercise time that was missed for one reason or the other. People are creatures of habit and it consistently happens that on Sunday and Monday evenings it may be difficult finding a treadmill that's open.

What do you look for in a gym?  Do you prefer joining a gym or staying in shape other ways?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Starting over again

Well it's been a while sinse I last updated this web page.  I'm back now though and am back working out.  The hard part of getting back into shape is that you have to find the time to actually go workout and keep up with it. Here's a video from a guy I subscribe to on YouTube that explains what is needed to get back on track.

It takes consistancy for things to become a habit.  Usually about 2 weeks worth of doing things consistantly will make it a habit.  When applying this to working out it means consistantly making time for working out, eating right so you have the energy to go work out and not letting other reasons get in the way of your goal of making exercise.

I will post more updates on how my exercise goals are coming along on a consistent basis and will keep giving more information on articles and videos that I find related to exercise and health.  Till next time.....