Tag Archives: muscle

front squat

Correct Squat Stance: How Wide, and How Low?

squat form

Here is an example of a shoulder-width stance.

Squats are a great exercise to strengthen the lower body and are fairly easy to incorporate into a workout.  However, as with most athletic and weight-lifting activities, form is incredibly important in completing the exercise correctly.  Improper form can result in injury or a lack of effectiveness, and no one wants to get hurt or waste his or her time working out incorrectly.

Squats can be particularly difficult to figure out the correct form because there is some debate over how to position the body.  Some people believe that a wider stance is more effective, while others think that the feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Aside from that, many disagree on how deep squats should go—is parallel good enough, or should a squatter try to get the deepest squat possible?  All of these conflicting opinions can be confusing, but squats are actually fairly easy to sort out.

Figuring out Squat Stance

wide stance squat

Here is an example of a wide-stance squat.

Positioning the legs in the first step in a successful squat.  First of all, stance depends on the physical composition of the person exercising.  Some people may be more comfortable with a wider stance, and women in particular may choose a wide stance or point their feet out more because their hips are turned out further.  Having a wide stance does not necessarily mean that the squat is being done incorrectly.

The most important part is choosing a stance that allows for proper form.  Keeping the feet closer to shoulder distance apart will work the legs and quads more, while a wider stance is better for working out the glutes.  Either of these choices is fine, depending on which area of the body you want to work harder.  The most important aspects are keeping the torso in the correct position, keeping your feet firmly planted on the floor, tracking your knees and feet in the same direction, and making sure your knees do not extend past your toes.

How Low Should You Go?

While it is a popular opinion that “real” squats require lowering the body to the ground, this is not necessary for an effective squat.  The key with squats is to go below parallel—to have the line of the hips go beneath the line of the knees (unless you have a medical condition that prevents this).  Deeper squats are not necessarily more successful, and in some cases may be a detriment [1]. Once again, the key is keeping correct form.

Sacrificing form for a deeper squat means that the exercise is not as effective as it would be with a shallower squat and perfect form.  Letting the knees splay out or cave in, putting too much pressure on the toes, or bending the lower back can all result in injury.  It’s best to stay comfortable with your stance and depth, rather than trying for a wider or deeper squat and risking injury.

Getting the Most Out of Your Squats

When you have the correct form down, squats should be an effective way to build lower body strength and muscle.  Once comfortable with squats, you may want to look into supplementing with branched-chain amino acids to improve performance and muscle gains [2].  These supplements can give your workout an extra kick, and help you see better results faster.

You may also find yourself struggling with muscle soreness after an intense lower-body workout. Try taking a citrulline malate supplement to reduce muscle soreness or protein powder to support your muscles with proper nutrition.

Sources

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16194981
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20601741
whey milk protein

How Much Protein Does a Person Need?

The body needs plenty of protein because protein builds muscle and aids in a variety of internal processes. While most Americans eat plenty of protein in their diets, getting the right kind of protein is just as important as how much is consumed. Different proteins play different roles in muscle growth, immunity, hormone regulation, and energy production. Whey proteins have become popular as a supplement because they can be used for muscle building as well as a variety of other health benefits.

What are Whey Protein Supplements?

whey protein builds muscle

The first step to building a great physique is to make sure you’re ingesting enough protein.

As the name suggests, whey protein comes from whey, a by-product of cheese production. It contains all of the soluble proteins and nutrients from milk, but is dehydrated into a more convenient supplement form. Whey is generally available in three different forms: concentrates, isolates, and hydrosolates.

Concentrates still contain fats and lactose, but are less processed than other whey protein forms. Isolates have the fat and lactose removed and are made up of a higher percentage of pure protein. Hydrosolates are processed even further and metabolize more easily. All of the forms of whey protein can be used as a pre-workout supplement to increase gains in muscle mass (1).

The Benefits of Whey Protein

Whey protein is an incredibly popular supplement for bodybuilders due to its ability to help increase muscle mass and endurance and reduce body fat. It stimulates protein synthesis in the muscles, which means more muscle mass and more energy.

These proteins are also absorbed quickly, meaning that they start working faster than other supplements. Whey protein will increase blood flow to muscles, providing energy and allowing for a faster post-workout recovery. On top of the workout benefits, whey proteins contain leucine, a compound that helps the body to adapt to high levels of stress from exercise. Whey contains antioxidants that destroy free radicals, and also blocks harmful carcinogens from affecting the body. Using whey protein not only helps during and after workouts, but also protects your body from outside threats.

How Much Whey Protein to Take

whey protein shake

Whey protein makes for a delicious pre or post-workout snack.

Ultimately, the body needs at minimum between 46 and 56 grams of protein per day, and whey protein is a great way to reach, or even exceed, that number. Proteins from food are necessary to keep the body running, but adding whey protein has the added benefit of being a workout booster.

A whey protein supplement can be taken before workouts, usually in an amount of 10 to 20 grams, but can also be taken post-workout at 20 to 40 grams. It can also be taken in between meals for an extra boost. The amount of protein needed by the body is actually fairly small; supplementing with whey protein means that you get extra nutrients, more power, and more strength.

1. Burke, Darren G. “The Effect of Whey Protein Supplementation With and Without Creatine Monohydrate Combined With Resistance Training on Lean Tissue Mass and Muscle Strength”. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.

post-workout and pre-workout nutrition

Post-Workout Nutrition is as Important as Pre-Workout Nutrition

Overview:

Every athlete recognizes the need for pre-workout nutritional support. This recognition is clearly evidenced by the incredible array of such supplements. Anything from energy drinks to the newest protein formulation is currently being marketed for the purpose of pre-workout nutrition. What many people seem to forget or not realize in the first place is that post-workout nutrition is just as important. In fact, there are even indications that it might be MORE important. Lack of post-workout nutrition can severely hamper performance in the gym, performance in your chosen sport or activity, and reduce the chance of reaching your full potential.

Why Pre-Workout Nutrition is Important:

The main reason why nutrition is important immediately before a workout is to provide your body with the support that it needs to power through the increased demands you are about to place upon it. There are so many energy drinks, pills, and powders on the market that it can make your head spin. Another reason why pre-workout nutrition is important is to help place your body in a good position for future muscle repair and growth. This means giving your body things like amino acids in order to supply more building and growth materials for later.

Why Post-Workout Nutrition is Important:

Very often the need for post-workout nutrition is overlooked. Workouts are intense and damaging events. You are actually destroying muscles. Of course, the hope is that this will force them to adapt and grow stronger, bigger, and more conditioned (depending on the type of routine and goal).

The rebuilding process is what will ultimately determine the results and effects of your training. After a workout, your body is in a severely catabolic state. To reverse this process you need to eat something soon after the workout is over. The 30-45 minutes immediately following training has often been called the ‘golden’ hour for nutrition.

What to Use after Your Workout:

In order to reverse the catabolic (the body feeding off of glycogen and protein stores) state, consume a high quality supplement. This supplement should contain some high quality protein and high-glycemic index (turns to glycogen very quickly) carbohydrates. When consumed in a ration of 2-to-1 or even 1-to-1 in favor of the carbohydrates, this supplement is able to help restore insulin levels and begin the process of recovery. Another thing that can help is to immediately consume some branched-chain amino acids. This will help to supply some of the best types of protein building blocks to the muscles very quickly.

Following these guidelines will help to make your workouts much more effective. You will see added gains and results after as little as a few weeks. Just be sure to always nutritionally support your efforts in the gym or on the field.