Archive for August, 2013

If you regularly exercise with any intensity, you are quite familiar with what I like to call “the pain of progress”.  Muscle soreness is very common after heavy or intense training.  I don’t know too many people that would refuse a massage, but unfortunately, regular massage sessions can carry a hefty price tag and may not always be the most convenient (you have to schedule a time, drive there, maybe wait, etc.).  So, what’s a fit guy or girl to do?

Enter the foam roller.  I must admit I have a love-hate relationship with this reasonably-priced yet equally evil little piece of foam.  This is a useful tool for performing self-massage or self myofascial release.  There are many varieties of foam rollers to choose from – different densities, ones with ridges, and everything in between.

Quick anatomy lesson:  Superficial fascia is the soft connective tissue that is just under the skin and it’s purpose is to surround and connect muscles and other structures within the body.  Sometimes this fascia gets very tight and “stuck together” creating adhesions.  These adhesions can cause a loss of motion, pain, and overall reduced flexibility.

What:  Using a foam roller, you can perform self myofascial release, trigger point therapy, or general muscle massage on just about any area of the body.  It takes a bit of practice, but the end result is well worth it.

When:  Always make sure that you are adequately warmed up (either do this after a workout or after a few minutes of exercise to make sure all the muscles and joints are warm).

How:  Make sure you have a clear space on the floor to work.  Position the targeted bodypart on the foam roller, and slowly roll back and forth across the roller.  If you find one particular area to be more sensitive, stop and hold that position for a few seconds or minutes until it “releases”.  You only need 5-15 minutes per session.  I’m not going to lie to you – it hurts and sometimes it can hurt ALOT!

Tips:  Always check with your doctor to make sure that this is an appropriate therapy for you (especially if you have heart-related issues or chronic pain).  When you first start out, rest a day in between areas like you would during a workout (i.e. don’t do leg sessions two days in a row) and make sure you drink plenty of water!  Never roll directly over a joint or bony area.

Popular Target Areas:  Hamstrings, glutes, quads, iliotibial band (lateral thigh), calves, upper back, and lats.

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If you are consistent with using a foam roller, you will notice that not only does your soreness subside more quickly, your range of motion and flexibility will increase.  As a result of this, your workouts will benefit as well.  You will be able to strengthen you body within a larger range of motion, your exercise form may improve, and you will also be less likely to injure yourself during your workouts (due to poor flexibility).

So, get rolling!

Hey all!  Just wanted to write a few quick thoughts about where I am in my contest prep.  I have been “officially” dieting for about 3 1/2 weeks now and have made some great progress.  I’ve seen some changes on the scale, in my body-fat measurements, how my clothes are fitting, but most of all…what I’m seeing in the mirror and in progress photos.  The last 2 are by far the most important measures for me.  I also do measurements with the tape measure but only a few times during my prep.  Thus far, my diet has included plenty of carbs, dairy, and even fruit (just about daily).  I have not been overly hungry or fatigued up to this point.  So, here’s a quick run-down of my current program regarding nutrition, training, and supplementation:

Nutrition:  My carbs/protein/fat ratio is a little bit variable, but on most days it looks like this: 35C/40P/25F.  I try to plan most of my carbs around workout time.  I’ll have a slower digesting carb an hour to two hours before my workout (unless I’m training super early in the morning) and a post-workout meal containing protein and carbs (I’ll usually have some fruit with this meal).  I will occasionally have my carbs in the evening…it just depends on how my macros are working out for that particular day.  This is what works for me…I have found that if I drop my carbs too low, I have no energy for my workouts and I’m much hungrier throughout the day.

Training:  Right now I weight-train 6 days a week.  Here is my current split:

  • Sunday:  Shoulders & Traps; 20-30 minutes light cardio with a few minutes of abs after cardio
  • Monday:  Quads & Calves; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Tuesday:  Back & Biceps; 20-30 minutes light cardio & abs
  • Wednesday:  Chest & Triceps; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Thursday:  Weak Point Training, weighted abs, and 20-30 minutes light cardio
  • Friday:  Glutes and Hamstrings; 20 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Saturday:  Complete Rest or Yoga

So, with this schedule, I’m currently doing cardio 6 days a week but no more than 30 minutes (some days I do skip it).  For me, cardio is an adjunct to proper nutrition and resistance training.  As my prep continues, I will adjust it (up or even down) as necessary.  I will say this though…you will not find me doing hours on end.  I usually top out at 30, maybe 45 minutes.

Supplements:  I am a proud member of Team Top Secret Nutrition and I use a lot of their supplements everyday.  Here is my current stack:

  • Twice per day (usually morning and afternoon):  TSN Digestive Enzymes, Fish Oil & CLA, Advanced Joint Support, Concentrated Red Palm Oil, ActiveXtreme Mulit (a.m. only), and InterDerm (p.m. only)
  • Before each meal:  TSN Garcinia Cambogia Extract (to support weight loss, appetite control, and it affects caloric absorption)
  • Before Cardio:  If I’m doing morning cardio:  TSN Cardio Igniter;  If I’m doing my cardio in the evening:  I will take either TSN’s Extreme Jitter Free Fat Burner or the new L-Carnitine Plus Raspberry Ketones Liquid
  • Pre-Workout:  Right now I take a combination of TSN Cardio Igniter, Creavar, and Astravar 2.0 BUT I will be starting the brand-new Pump Igniter Pre-workout as soon as my shipment arrives!  Stay tuned for updates and reviews!

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  • Intra-Workout:  TSN BCAA Hyperblend Energy
  • Post-Workout:  If I don’t have a whole-foods meal, I will drink a protein shake (TSN 100% Whey)

For more information on Top Secret Nutrition products, you can check out the following links:

While it’s good to be consistent with your training, it’s also necessary to shake things up from time to time to continue to progress.  Some of the ways you can do this are by adding a few minor changes to the way you train.  To progress, you need to be challenged.  In order to challenge yourself, you can add some intensity techniques to your workout:

1.  Use Supersets, Compound Sets, Tri-sets or Giant sets:  Performing two or more exercises back to back with no rest.  You can either do opposing muscle groups (i.e. biceps/triceps) or the same muscle group (i.e. exercises for just the biceps).  Not only can this shorten your workout, but it can increase your calorie burn because your heart-rate remains elevated for a longer period of time.

2.  High Intensity Training:  This is where you will perform just one working set to failure.  Always complete 1-2 warm-up sets before employing this technique.  You can use this technique if you’re really short on time or you can pick one or 2 exercises toward the end of your workout and really get that “burn”.

3.  Drop Sets:  This one is a personal favorite of mine.  Complete an exercise using your normal weight (you can either do a specified number of reps or go until failure), lower the amount of weight you’re using and then continue with the set without rest.  You can do a single drop, double drop, triple drop, etc.  This is a great one to do on the last set of any exercise.

4.  Reverse Sets:  It’s common to perform, say, 4 sets of 8 reps; but instead, switch it up, go much heavier and perform 8 sets of 4 reps.  This works great when you’re trying to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting for a particular exercise.

5.  Don’t Count Your Reps, Time Them!  A typical set will last maybe 10-20 seconds with a common rep scheme.  Utilizing the principle of time under tension (TUT), time your set instead.  Pick a slightly lighter weight (one you think you can do for around 25-30 reps) but continue the exercise for 45-90 seconds.

6.  Tabata:  Best performed with larger compound movements like squats, deadlifts, etc.  You will be performing the set for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat for a total of 8 sets or 4 minutes.

7.  Negatives:  This is where you will be focusing on slowing down the lowering phase of the exercise.  Make sure the negative portion lasts for at least a count of 6.

8.  Forced Reps or Partial Reps:  This will require the help of a spotter; notice I said “help” – your spotter should only have to get you past the sticking point during the last few reps, not lifting the weight for you.  This will allow you to complete a few more reps than you would have been able to do on your own.  If you don’t have a spotter available, do partial reps:  complete as many full reps as you can and then when you are too fatigued to complete any more reps with good form, do a few reps in as much range of motion as you can at the end.

9.  FST-7:  Created by Hany Rambod, Fascia Stretch Training is done on the last exercise for the target bodypart.  7 sets will be completed for this last exercise with a rest time of 30-45 seconds.  This will really get the blood flowing!  If you don’t get a good “pump” from this, you did something wrong!

10.  21’s:  During this technique, you will be doing a total of 21 reps in the set:  7 reps in the lower half of the exercise, 7 reps in the upper half of the exercise, and then 7 reps performing the full range of motion of the exercise.  Again, here you will most likely need to lower the amount of weight you would typically use for a regular set.

Use these techniques to add some variety to your workouts or push you through a plateau.  Just don’t forget to make sure that you have the proper fuel and recovery (nutrition, sleep, and supplements).  I can’t wait to try adding the new pre-workout from Top Secret Nutrition (Pump Igniter)!  You can check it out here: http://www.topsecretnutrition.com/sports-nutrition-15/top-secret-pump-igniter-30-serve.html

Remember that you can make your workout your own by adding one or more of these techniques or even adding them together (i.e. doing supersets with a drop set on the last set of each exercise).  Also remember that they should make your workout quite intense, so don’t abuse them either!

It’s amazing what we can accomplish just by putting some serious thought into something.  This applies to just about anything, but in this blog I am going to relate it to fitness.  Recently, I just got back from a family vacation and I am now full-swing into my contest prep for my fall show.  During my vacation, I trained a couple of times and stuck to my normal eating plan for the most part, but I did give myself a little bit of a break (both physical and mental).  Anyone who has been on a diet, prepared for a fitness/physique contest, or just trained for a race or other sport knows how much is required to fully prepare for these events.  There is a meal plan to stick to, a training schedule, food prep, and many other variables that must be considered.  One of the most overlooked components (in my opinion) is getting the mind prepared.  If that element is not in order, the rest is going to be a huge struggle.  How do I know this?  Well, I’ve prepared for several competitions now and some preps have been easy and some have been tough.  A lot of it had to do with my mindset.  There was one contest that I trained for “just to do it” and I struggled A LOT!  You see, since my mental focus was not 100%, it made everything else a lot more difficult;  I still trained hard but had trouble sticking to my diet on a few occasions.

This contest is a completely different story.  I chose not to compete in the Spring this year because I didn’t feel that I was ready.  I did a few short cutting and maintenance/gaining cycles to work on some lagging bodyparts but now, I’m feeling more than ready!  The huge thing that I noticed is that my mental focus is 110%.  I have become aware of some great things this week because of this.  I realized I had much greater control over my hunger and fatigue.  I made it a point to analyze what was going on when I felt “hungry” even though I had just eaten.  When you’re dieting, it is so easy for food to become the focus of your day; even to the point of becoming obsessive about it.  What am I going to eat today?  When can I have my next meal?  Etc. Etc.  After analyzing why I thought I was hungry (and often coming up with a variety of reasons other than hunger) I realized I wasn’t hungry at all.  Even if I was truly hungry, distracting my thoughts away from hunger and food always works great to pass the time (and it can make for quite the productive day!)  My adherence to my meal plan this week was 100% and I can say that there wasn’t any particular time where I felt deprived, starving, etc.

Another area where the power of the mind is huge is during training.  Training is hard if you do it right.  It hurts and it can make you tired.  Maybe you don’t feel like going to the gym because you had a long day at work, the kids exhausted you, or you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  There are many legitimate reasons to skip the gym (i.e. you need a rest day, you’re injured, or you’re sick), but these other “excuses” just won’t do!  Getting psyched up for the gym starts in the mind.  Think about what you want to accomplish during your next workout; do you want to add more weight/reps to an exercise, do you want to be able to sprint faster/longer?  Use these goals as a starting point.  Most of you know, once you actually get to the gym and start working out, you realize you’re really not that tired or unmotivated.

Don’t underestimate the power of your mind:  everything starts with a thought, is planned and put through a process, and eventually becomes your new reality…so, train your brain people! 🙂

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