And I am you and what I see is me

Forward he cried from the rear and the front rank died

Do you feel like you can relate to our friend the chimp? Arms hanging forward of our legs, much too far forward. I know I do. I spend a good amount of time at the keyboard of a computer and also probably do more pushups than I should in the sense of having a balanced body. Carrying heavy objects can also lead to forward rolling shoulders.

That’s the topic of today’s post. Shoulders that roll forward. Why spend time writing a post about this? Because it can cause us discomfort from having a sore back, lead to fatigue, and also impacts your performance when exercising. When our body is imbalanced our health and well being suffer.

What

What can be done? Lot’s. Typically our shoulders roll forward due to muscle imbalances. Strong anterior delts (front of our shoulders), strong pectoral (chest) muscles. Not just strong, I guess I should say stronger than their respective opposite muscles, the posterior delts (back of shoulders) and weak rhomboid muscles. I’m not surprised that most of us have this issue. It’s a reflection of our lives these days. Also, if you participate in any fitness class, how many times have you done exercises that target the back of our shoulders, or our back? Probably not that many at all. I’m guilty of that too. It’s hard to do this. Push ups, no problem. Bent over dumbbell flys or lat pulls a different story. Working the back or rear shoulders general requires equipment and that can be hard to accommodate when dealing with a large class size.

But I digress. What can we do to build our weaker muscles. Here are a number of things we can do:

  • Bent over dumbbell flys: This will target the rear delts and the rhomboid muscles. Sit on a chair or the end of a bench. Right, have your dumbbells with you at this point. Now lean over so your body is resting on your legs. With your dumbbells in your hands, and your arms perpendicular to your body, start with your hands around your leg area. Now raise your hands so they become parallel with your back. Does that make sense? If not, please search youtube for a video on how to do this. I think I have said this before that I’m not a big fan of detailing how to do an exercise, that I prefer you acquire the resources of a personal trainer to help you out. Do this for 3 – 4 sets, 8 – 12 reps. Feels good, right?
  • Shoulder blade squeeze: I like this one, I do. Mainly because you don’t need any weights or other equipment to carry this one out. Sit on a chair (we all have one of these) and let your hands rest on your legs. Keep your shoulders down, chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Squeeze them together like there is a pencil between them and you are trying to grasp that pencil with your shoulder blades. Hold the squeeze. Hold it…hold it.
  • Laying shoulder roll: Yep, that’s what I’m calling this one. This is going to be tough trying to explain how to do this exercise. I’ll do my best. Let’s start by lying on your back, and have an arm out perpendicular to your body. Bring your knees into your upper body, like you are hugging them. If your left arm is out, grasp the left side of your rolled up knees with your right arm. Now, let your body roll towards that arm that is stretched out (that arm should be palm up) having your body move as one unit, shoulders and all. To add resistance, let straighten your legs a bit. The further your legs are out, the harder the exercise is. Do you get it? I hope so because I am not the best in writing down how to do exercises.
  • Lat dumbbell rows: Have your dumbbells ready by your side. Be on all fours, hands and knees. Starting with one side, having the dumbbell beside you just ahead of your leg, pull the weight up from the ground until it’s at your side. Do the same on the other side. Again, search youtube for a video on how to do this. *Note: if you would like to see videos on this blog, such as myself performing these exercises let me know. Maybe it’s something I can do.

Will you?

That’s it. I’ve laid it out for you now all you have to do is do it. The work has to be done. Do it. Just like using those predominate muscles made them stronger, you can do the same for the weaker muscles. Over time those weaker muscles will become stronger and balance will be restored. If you are tired of pain, discomfort, injury than do it. Write in your calendar right now that you are going to do this at least twice a week for 4 weeks. Mark the days down. Then when week four is over, you are going to be amazed at the difference in your shoulders. You will! Four weeks, 1 month, 31 days. Or let me put it another way: Twice a week for four weeks is 8 workouts. That’s it. 8. Eight 10 – 15 minute sessions. Do it and see the difference. I’ll take a cheque later for fixing your shoulder issues.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

we’ll get there, I know it

It’s one thing to do the work, another to know what the work is

It’s happened to me. It’s happened to me more than once over the last couple of months. Injured. Injured enough that I can’t perform cardio and need to let my body heal. One fractured toe (or the metatarsal behind the big toe). At least that is what I think. I still can’t do lunged because of the pain. One fractured tibia, I think. I took a kick to the leg and the result of that was one big contusion. Then I noticed one day that my leg was swollen from just below the knee down to my ankle. It stayed like that for about a week. Not good. I’m going to skip describing what happened to my finger as no one needs to hear that story.

Enough about that, that’s not the point of my post to wine about my injuries. What I want to talk about is when you come back from injuries, how do you know where you stand? Is your cardio crap? Probably. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time off to impact your cardio. Have you lost muscle size and strength? Depending on the length of time you might have. But how do you know other than a general feeling.

Measure it

You don’t know where you are until you know where you came from. Really. Of course you could guage your general feeling but that can change from day to day and is subjective.

I’ve posted about it before that you should keep a journal to keep yourself motivated. Writing down your performance levels each workout. The number of reps, the weight, number of sets. For cardio it can be a little tougher. If you are doing what I call traditional cardio, running, biking, you can always measure speed, distance, duration. But what about unconventional cardio, things like burpees, body weight exercises. How do you measure that? I think a good way is to write down the exercise, interval length, number completed and heart rate. A little complicated isn’t it. But, you don’t need to do this every session. Do it once a week to understand the gains you have made, to understand where you are in your life of fitness.

Measuring your heart rate is something you should be doing on a regular basis. If you need to perform at 90% of your max heart rate, how do you know if you are doing this until you actually measure your heart rate? You don’t! It’s really just a guess. If you are supposed to be performing the workout at 90% intensity and you are working out at 100% you could be over training. And over training can be as bad to your body and health as not training. I think we need to get away from balls to the wall training all the time and start to train using different levels of intensities. We need to train at 100% just as much as we need to train at 90% intensity.

We are far from the days of putting on our workout clothing and just start running, I hope. Time has shown us that working out to increase performance is a science. It can be complicated if you are an elite athlete but it can be fairly simple if you are someone who works out for heath and some performance gains. Can it take some time? Yes. Does it require a bit more of you? Yes. Can you benefit from it? Yes!

Start measuring and if not anything else, you will be able to reflect, look back and actually see how much better you are performing. Sounds like an awesome motivator doesn’t it.

Back again

But I digress. I want to get back to my own experience with this. I just started to run again (more than one run) this week. Did I suck? Sure did. And I knew that because I knew where my fitness level was and where it is. Man, I have some work to do to get back, but that O.K. I’ll get there. And I know I’ll get there because I know where ‘there’ is. You will too.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

it’s a good thing, not a bad thing

Small but powerful.

It’s green in colour and has an ‘eat now’ period of about 1 day. Try too early and it’s too hard, too late and it’s green with brown spots in colour. Dense in nutrition, good fat and other things it’s something that you want to include in your diet. The avocado.

Benefits

There are many benefits to eating avocado and unfortunately people shy away from eating avocados because of all the fear mongering done years ago regarding fat. Your body needs fat, healthy fat, it just does to operate. Don’t buy into the low fat nonsense that ends up steering you towards foods high in sugar. I’m going to list a number of benefits to eating avocados and maybe then you’ll think about adding this fruit to your diet.

  • High in fiber – One 100 gram serving of avocado provides 7 grams of fiber, or about 27% of the recommended daily amount. About a quarter of that fiber is soluble, the rest being insoluble.
  • Potassium – When we think of foods with potassium we think of bananas. Avocado has more potassium than a banana. If you are someone who is active and sweats you don’t want to deprive your body of potassium, one of the electrolytes responsible for nerve function. A 100 gram serving of avocado contains 14% of the daily potassium needed, whereas bananas contain 10%. Winner – Avocado!
  • High in fat – Usually this is a bad point, or negative when talking about food but when the fat is monounsaturated fat it is beneficial. But it’s not just any ordinary fat, it’s oleic acid. Oleic acid is great for reducing inflammation which everyone can benefit from. Another benefit of having fat in the foods we eat is it helps in the processing of minerals from foods or supplements. The fat in avocados will also help to give you that satiated feeling where you won’t be reaching for a snack ten minutes after already eating. And, the high fat level will also help to regulate blood sugar by slowing down the digestion of food.
  • Antioxidants – Antioxidants help protect our body against damage to our cells by providing a line of defense against free radicals. As for free radicals, I’ll leave the explanation of what they are and how we can protect ourselves against them for a future post. Just know that they are bad for us. Just know that antioxidants are good for us.
  • Tasty – What good is something being good for us if we can’t even eat it because of it’s taste? Avocados taste great! From adding them to salads to spooning them right out of their shell, they are very versatile. And when you are in the mood for a snack, you can justify eating those nacho chips by dipping them in guacamole, reminding yourself you are eating avocados.

Live on the edge

Live on the edge of healthy eating but not only healthy, great tasting eating. Unfortunately some people think that healthy eating has to be boring and flavourless. Not the case. There is so much you can do and adding avocados to your dishes is just one more.

One more thing, if you have never had an avocado, there is a trick to getting to the good stuff. Start with a sharp knife and cut the outer shell by running the knife around it’s perimeter on the long side. Then separate the two halves by holding onto both halves and turning them in opposite directions. Then, using a heavy knife, bring it down onto the seed hard enough to cut into it. Be careful. Your knife should be stuck in the seed. Turn the knife clockwise about a quarter turn and the seed should pop out easily. That’s it!

So go do it, and enjoy it. You can’t go wrong.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

I’ll give you everything I’ve got

I struggle with the speed of everything

In continuation of my series on options to add muscle and strength, I give you Drop Sets. Drop sets is another option to doing the same thing every day. The body adapts to stress and if you don’t change your workout, you will limit your gains in strength and muscle. Remember, no change, no gain.

What

First thing, drops sets are for intermediate or advanced athletes. If you are a beginner, stick with a typical workout.

Drop sets is a way to totally fatigue your muscles. Let’s use pushups as an example. You start out doing pushups in the traditional way and are able to get about 15 done. Number 13 is tough, 14 even tougher and then 15, everything you have you use to squeeze out number 15. So that’s it, right? You can’t do any more. But, could you do more if you then went on your knees to do your pushups? For sure! You could probably squeeze out about 5 more. Why? Because the load has been lessened by moving to your knees to do the pushups. So what happened? Even though you were exhausted by doing 15 pushups, you still had enough energy and muscle strength to carry out more pushups by lessening the load. In a sense your body recruited more muscle fibres to get the work done.

That was an example of a two set drop set workout. Traditionally drops sets will be about 4 sets. Using a weight to complete about 8 to 12 reps to failure, you then strip off about 20% of the weight and do as many reps you can, then remove about 20% again and complete to failure, etc., until you have completed 4 sets. Here is an example using bench press for the exercise:

Set         Weight                 Reps

1              200lbs                   10

2              160lbs                   8

3              130lbs                   4

4              100lbs                   1 – 2

* There is no rest between sets

Why

So why do Drop sets. Basically you are working your muscles to complete exhaustion. We think we have done that when we do as many reps we can with a certain weight. We struggle to get out that last rep so there isn’t really anything left, right? I guess not. What we have done is exhausted the muscle fibres that were recruited to execute the reps we did. By reducing the weight and continuing our reps, the body is recruiting more muscle fibres and same with the next set with lower weight and so on. We are working the muscles to total exhaustion. Basically we are helping our body recruit as many muscle fibres as possible and work the muscles in a way they haven’t been worked when only doing one set then resting.

Start

Give it a shot. Oh yeah, another benefit is the feeling from doing drop sets. You’ll be exhausted but that feeling of blood saturating the muscles is quite satisfying in that you really feel like you have worked the muscles. Enjoy that pumped feeling and if you like, put on a tight fitting shirt and head out. Watch out for narrow doorways though.

Stay tuned for another post on more ways to add strength. And stay tuned for a special article coming up. What will it be about? You’ll have to wait to find out.

Yours in health,

Darryl

with that same old safe bet

…tiny penny rolling up the walls

In the theme of helping you add muscle to your body, I will be writing a number of posts that will cover options to do this. If you have been doing the same exercises and not make any gains, read these posts and pick one of them to try. I’ll guarantee you your muscles will respond. Remember, no change, no gains.

Note: If you are a beginner, these approaches are not for you. What I’m covering is more for those in the intermediate to advanced level fitness.

Not only for food

The pyramid sets. Think of the shape of a pyramid and I think you can kind of figure out how this works. The traditional pyramid set is done from the bottom up, climbing up the pyramid. You start with a higher amount of reps than you end with, typically ending with 1 rep. The reverse pyramid starts with the fewest reps first and works it’s way to finish with a larger amount of reps.

How do you do this? By changing the amount of weight you use. Here is an example of traditional pyramid sets for bench press:

Reps                      Weight

12                           160lb

10                           180lb

8                              190lb

6                              200lb

4                              210lb

2                              220lb

1                              240lb

* Each set is followed by a 90 – 120 second rest period

You may have noticed that the last set of 1 rep increased by 20lbs instead of the 10lbs. The reason I did this is because you are doing only 1 rep. Typically the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one rep is higher by percentage than if you did multiple reps. Keep in mind that the weight I used above is for example purposes only. Use the amount of weight that allows you to hit the number of reps needed keeping proper form.

If you prefer the reverse pyramid, or descending the pyramid, start with 1 rep working your way up to 12 reps.

Why

Why do we want to include pyramids in our workout regimen? If you are someone who trains with heavy weights all the time, this allows you to still use heavy weights but it is mixed in with using lighter weights for higher reps, giving you some muscle endurance. The same goes for if you always train using high reps, this will give you the lower reps to build strength. Basically you are stimulating both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres.

Simple

Simple but intense. It may look easy on paper, but it can be intense. In the above example you are carrying out 7 sets. This is probably more than the standard 3 to 4 sets you have been doing. You will probably find yourself quite sore after a pyramid workout. Be sure to eat properly to nourish the body and be sure to get adequate rest.

Try it out and let me know what you think. Oh yeah, get ready for the added muscle and strength. One of the benefits of pyramid training.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

 

 

 

running and standing still

I ran until I could run no more

You love running, so much that it’s all you do. Running can be an escape, it can be a time for the mind to wonder off to other places for that time you are running. You run anywhere from 5k to 10k, sometimes more. And that was fine. Now, you want to increase your speed, finish your runs quicker. Or maybe run longer. Or, how about running pain free? All good options and endeavors. So what can you do, keep running, right? Sort of, but not exclusively.

Better

Doing nothing but one exercise no matter what is harmful to the body. You will develop muscle imbalances and increase the risk of temporary or even permanent injury. And doing nothing but one exercise will not help you in getting better doing that exercise. I know, it sounds counterproductive. If I want to be a better runner shouldn’t doing nothing but running get me there? No, it won’t. I know that sounds strange but if you start to add exercises to your week that are different than running in this case you will notice an improvement. Especially if those exercises work the opposite muscles that you exercise regularly through running.

What

I’ve mentioned it before and I’m going to mention it again. Interval training. Interval training brings many benefits such as increased aerobic and anaerobic thresholds – think of having better cardio performance. Increased resting metabolism, more efficient processing of glucose allowing your body to be more efficient with the fuel it has, and more. Many years ago when marathon runners incorporated interval training their run times decreased allowing them to win gold at many Olympic races.

Let me list how you can add interval training to your workout:

  • Sprinting – Depending on your fitness level, you can carry out this routine for either 4 or 8 minutes. Start by taking 5 to 10 minutes to warm up by running at a light pace that keeps your heart rate at around 120 bpm’s. Then it’s time to start. For 20 seconds you are going to sprint as hard as you can. Then, when finished the 20 second sprint, you will rest for 10 seconds. By rest I mean to stop and do nothing. Don’t sit down though because you are not done! After the 10 second rest you are going to sprint again for 20 seconds and then rest again for 10. Do this for the 4 or 8 minute time you have set out. Seems easy right? If it is easy you aren’t doing it right. When I stated that your sprint is as hard as you can go, that’s what it has to be. 100% output for the 20 seconds. You feel defeated when doing it, but later you will feel better, trust me. Try to do this once a week if you can. If you are a more advanced athlete, you can try this 2 -3 times a week. Be sure to get the proper amount of rest and be sure to fuel up after with some quality carbs.
  • Jump Squats – Think of jump squats as doing squats without any weights. Bring yourself to the downward position of the squat and leap up as high as you can go. When you land don’t land with your body rigid. Let your body go back down to the squat position not letting your joints absorb all that energy. Try not to lean forward when doing this. Be sure to get as low as you can and be sure to jump as high as you can. For jump squats, I want you to try an interval time that brings your heart rate up to about 90% of max. How long was that? 30, 45, 60 seconds? Whatever the time, double it for the rest period. Now for this rest period you are going to exercise at about a 60% heart rate. This is called an active rest. Think of doing things such as a jog on the spot, jumping jacks, or even planking or push ups. Now do this for anywhere from 10 minutes to 25 minutes based on your fitness level.
  • Burpees – Burpees are an awesome exercise for working the whole body. No one likes them because they suck the life out of you. If you don’t know what a burpee is, think of doing a jump squat but when you are at the bottom of the squat you are going to kick your feet out behind you so you are in a push up position. Don’t do a push up though. Bring your feet back under you then jump up just like in the jump squat. For the interval times use the jump squat example above. You can actually alternate between jump squats and burpees if you feel like it.
  • Squat Jacks – This one is a great leg burner. It will really help you with running because it’s a great quad killer. Get yourself in a squat position where your upper legs are parallel with the ground if you can. Don’t go any lower. You will find you will probably be a bit higher than parallel especially when you start to get tired. Have your hands in front of you like a boxer would. While in this position, move your feet side to side quickly like you were doing jumping jacks. That’s it! For the interval times use the jump squat example above. Again, you can use this exercise exclusively or intermixed with the other examples that use the same interval times.

Does it matter

All these exercises can be used in any type of interval training be it 20 on 10 off ratio, or the rest period being double that of the work. I guess the point of this post is you really should be doing interval training. Try it. Don’t overdo it though. Any type of interval training is hard on the body. Be sure to get adequate rest between. Try interval training for a month and see what happens to your run times. I know you will do better. Just keep with it.

Yours in health,

Darryl

driving hard the reward eludes me

Forward he cried from the rear
and the front rank died

You enjoy working hard, you have that mindset that you need to work harder to make gains. You need to push the body to it’s limits, day in and day out. Your personal trainer is telling you otherwise but you don’t listen. You have read the weekly articles about how to gain 10lbs of muscle and none of them talk about working yourself into the ground. But you can’t help it. If you don’t you feel like you have not done enough.

The mind

It’s a case of your mind defeating you. You know that you need to be training differently to gain muscle but you can’t help but push yourself because it feels good and if you don’t you have to deal with that feeling of guilt because you haven’t done enough. The mind is a powerful thing and ultimately it will defeat you, if you let it.

It’s funny though because you continue to train this way for months or even years and nothing has really changed with respect to your body. You are your enemy, sabotaging your path to growth. What do you do? What can be done?

Alternatives

You need to reflect on why you do these things. Is it to keep busy? Is it guilt? Ultimately it’s the mind that is driving you to do these things. I think it’s time for you to reflect on why you can’t do only one workout a day, or not do legs one day after the next. Adding muscle and strength is very scientific; low reps, proper eating, rest. If this is your goal, you will never reach it until you change.

Do what you need to do to change. Meditate to quiet the mind and to focus the mind. Try to understand why you behave this way and what you can do to change it. Substitute something else for that workout you want to do where really you should be resting. Carve out 4 weeks and try you best to stick to the proper program to make your gains. Stay on that schedule no matter what. Maybe then at the end of the four weeks when you see the results you have just made you will be more aptly to stick to your program. One way to change behavior is to replace it with other behavior. Just make sure that it’s a positive behavior you are replacing it with.

A long way around

I guess the point of this post is you need to understand the road blocks you put in place that compromise your training and your results. Also that the mind and behavior are really in control. Take the time to step back and reflect and determine what your goal is. If it’s an important goal than you need to modify your behavior. If it isn’t than don’t worry about it. But until you change nothing else will change. As the saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Yours in health,

Darryl

moving backward to move forward

when backward will get your forward

I’m going to turn everything around for you, literally. Want to do something that increases coordination, balance, help address muscle imbalances, allows you to exercise when injured, help address bad posture? Holy crap of course you do! All these benefits can be realized by something most of us who exercise already do.

I’m going to take something that is common and spin it around 180 degrees.

What

Running backwards. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone doing this, never. Probably because it looks ridiculous. The idea to look more into this came to me today while running a fitness class. Usually for the warm up of this class I will have everyone run backwards for a total of about 2 – 4 minutes. I already new that there is some benefits to running backwards, but I wanted to find out more about it and what other benefits there are. Maybe after reading this post running backwards will become part of your workout routine.

Why

The benefits are great. Here are some of the benefits to running backwards:

  • Muscle imbalances – if you are someone who does a lot of running, and don’t spend time doing resistance training on your legs your probably have muscle imbalances due to working the same muscles all the time. Running backwards works the muscles that aren’t being worked while running forwards. It’s that simple.
  • Posture – while running forwards, our body takes on a posture that is typically forward leaning. Over time this posture becomes part of our posture when not running. Not as severe, but it does influence our normal posture. Running backwards we are no longer leaning forwards. Think of it as balancing the scale.
  • Higher burn – running backwards tends to use more calories. Research has shown that the increase in burning calories can be up to 20%. If this is something you are looking for than running backwards is something you should do.
  • Injuries – if you feel pain in your knees or ankles when running forwards, try running backwards and there is a good chance there will not be any pain. Most times these pains we feel are repetitive use injuries. Running backwards addresses that repetitive use in that we are no longer executing the same motion. If you can run backwards pain free than you will be able to keep up your fitness level. Incorporating this into your regular routine, alternating running backwards with running forwards once healed may prevent your injury from happening again.
  • Heightened senses – it may be obvious that running backwards requires you to be more alert since you need to be aware of what’s behind you as to not trip up. Typically your senses of hearing and your peripheral vision will become heightened.

Caution

Be careful running backwards. I would recommend you do this on a track since the surface should be in good condition and you can use the lines on the track to help you stay on a constant path. Do this with someone else who is running forwards and use them as your lookout.

I recommend you ease into this. Don’t go out and run 3 miles the first time. Try about 10 minutes and see how you feel the next day. Try not to lean too far backwards when running or you could end up taking a tumble. You could also try walking backwards first and then slowing go into a run.

Why not

Convinced? Will you try it? I think you should, there are so many benefits. But make sure you are comfortable doing this otherwise your anxiety may end up causing an injury.

It may look silly, but who cares?

Yours in health,

Darryl

And the stars are shining bright

Absence intensifies the desire

I think this is the start of  a theme. My last post was building bigger legs, those legs that clearly show you are not afraid of leg day. This post is going to focus on what can be done to get that killer chest, a bigger chest that your shirts no longer fit comfortably. After all, you have already built your bigger shoulders and back, so of course you now want to do the same with your chest.

What is it

I think most of us know the chest as our ‘pecs’. We actually have 2 ‘pec’ muscles, the pectoralis  minor, and the better known pectoralis major. The pectoralis major is the larger of the two, actually quite larger. It covers most of the upper chest. The pectoralis minor actually sits underneath the pec major. The main purpose of the pec major is to move the arm across the body.

Time for work

So what can we do to build up the pec major, or the chest. It’s going to be pretty much the same motion, bench press, push ups and we can add somewhat of a different movement, a movement that isn’t a pressing movement, the chest fly.

Maybe you have been doing these exercises already but have hit that plateau, and are now stagnant. What can we change to shock the chest into growing? Let’s take a few exercises and see what we can do.

Push Ups:  Boring but effective. Let’s start by changing hand position. Do a set of 15 push ups, 5 normal grip, 5 wide grip and then 5 narrow grip. This will target different  parts of your pecs but will also shock the chest into responding by growing. Changing the hand positions should be enough of a change that the muscles will respond. Another option, one that adds resistance is to put your feet up on an object such as a bench, or couch to add more weight to the upper body making the push ups more challenging. Let’s look at one more hand position change, staggering the hands. Have one hand 6 inches forward of the shoulder and the other 6 inches back of the shoulder. Now alternate hand positions on each push up. Try that and let me know what you think.

We can also change the cadence. This really pertains to any exercise we do. Take 5 seconds to lower yourself in your pushup and then hold for 1 second. Take another 5 seconds to raise yourself. I know you will feel  muscle soreness later on if you try  this.

Lastly I want to add in what I refer to as explosive push ups. Lower yourself close to the ground and then ‘explode’ on the upward motion, pushing as hard and fast as you can. Hopefully you pushed so  hard and quick that you hands have left the ground. On the downward motion let your body absorb the energy instead of stopping dead. This will put you right into the next push up. Explosive push ups. You will love them, or maybe even hate them.

Bench Press: Another straight forward exercise. If you have been doing bench presses with a barbell, change  it up by doing them using dumbbells. This will allow for a more symmetric approach to the exercise since you can only do as many as your weak side will allow.

You can also change the exercise, shocking the pecs, by doing this exercise on an incline. This will target more of the upper pec major,  but should also shock the chest into growing.

Dumbbell Fly: Lastly, the dumbbell chest fly. Not a whole lot to change here other than trying this exercise on an incline, and slowing down the cadence. I think most of us can benefit from a slower cadence as most of us tend to rush things when exercising.

Try it

Give it a try and see the results. One more thing you can try is before working your chest, work your triceps. The triceps are secondary muscles used when working the chest and if you exhaust them before hand, the chest has to pick up the slack to execute the exercise. Of course you will end up using less weight because of this. But that’s ok. It  should never be about the numbers, it should be about the results.

Make the change. Do it. And you will enjoy the results. You can thank me later.

Yours in health,

Darryl

But still, like dust, I’ll rise

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within

Are you working your legs hard but you just aren’t putting on the size you want to? Do your quads look more like tri’s? You’re putting in the time and exercise but the size just isn’t coming on. I’m going to lay out some exercises you can do that will hopefully add some muscle onto those legs.

Some History

Our legs are made up of 3 main areas; the quads (upper front of the legs), hamstrings (the upper back of the legs) and the calfs (the lower back of the legs).

The quads as the name says are a group of four muscles; the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis and the vastus intermedius. The vastus intermedius lays under the rectus femoris. The rectus femoris is the one that is positioned at the front of the leg and the vastus lateralis is on the outside of the leg. These two are probably the ones that are noticed when looking at the quads, in a sense it’s what gives our legs that muscular look.

The hamstrings are made up of 3 muscles; the bicep femoris, the semimembranosus and the semitendinosus. You could almost say  it’s made up of four muscles since the bicep femoris has two heads (bi-cep). Strong hamstring muscles are what gives you that outer curve to the back of the upper leg.

Lastly we have the calf muscles also comprised of 3 muscles; the soleus and the gastrocnemius which sits on either side of the soleus.

You now know more about the muscles of the legs, maybe more than you want to know. Don’t worry though, that’s it for anatomy.

The exercises

It’s time to shock the body, time to mix it up and get the legs growing. These exercises are going to suck the life out of you but it’s worth it when you see the results. Let’s start.

Medicine ball jump squats: Basically we are taking the jump squat and adding some weight to it by holding a medicine ball while doing the jump squats. This exercise will give you explosiveness in the legs and the added weight will help in increasing strength and muscle size. Hold the ball close to your body while doing this, and be sure to get your thighs parallel to the ground when squatting, if you can. When jumping, be as explosive as you can.

Step Ups: Using a box or something  sturdy that puts your thigh above your hip when your foot is on it, holding dumbbells you are going to drive down with the heel  of the foot on the box and lift your body up so your other leg is hanging. If you can, use a weight that allows you to be fatigued when you do 10 of these per leg.

Weighted calf raises: Using a 4 x 4, or 2 x 4 piece of wood, stand on it with your ball of your foot close to the edge allowing the heel to drop. Holding a dumbbell in the hand on the same side as the foot you are going to exercise, and holding onto something with the other hand for stability, lower the heel for the starting point. Now raise the heel so you are up on the ball of your foot. Raise your heel as high as you can. Repeat about 10 – 12 times than repeat on the other foot.

Simple

That’s it. Pretty simple isn’t it. Adding the weight to the exercises will help in the process of gaining muscle strength and size. Along with getting adequate sleep, eating well you should notice some nice results. Give yourself a couple or three days rest between this leg workout. If you are an advanced athlete try doing 3 – 4 sets. If a beginner, stick to 2 sets.

Try it. Do it until your legs are shaking and feel like rubber. Than you can thank me.

Yours in health,

Darryl