Tag Archives: weightlifting

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
weightlifting d-ribose

D-Ribose for Muscle Energy and Strength

Sometimes, no matter how motivated or how well-rested you are, you simply don’t feel like you have enough energy during workouts. Supplementing with d-ribose powder is one way to boost muscle energy and get past muscle fatigue. D-ribose is a naturally occurring sugar, which means that it’s safe to take and your body will gladly accept the energy that d-ribose provides.

What is D-Ribose?

d-ribose weightlifting gains

D-ribose can help with that burst of energy needed in the deadlift.

Your muscle cells already contain ribose, a sugar that is used in the manufacturing of amino acids and that promotes metabolic processes. D-ribose, the naturally occurring version of ribose that is in almost all living things, is crucial in starting the process in your body that makes ATP.

Your body uses ATP as energy for almost everything, which means that slowed metabolism of ATP will make you feel sluggish. Clinical studies have shown that supplementing with D-ribose can improve metabolic function and restore energy [1]. It can also reduce after-workout muscle cramps and stiffness, allowing for faster recovery [2].

Benefits of D-Ribose in Muscle Cells

When D-ribose enters the body, it provides greater energy production and helps the user feel more energized. It can be used pre-workout to stop fatigue, and will lower muscle strain. It can also be taken independently of workouts to reduce other types of muscle pain, or to provide energy throughout the day.

D-ribose is becoming increasingly popular because it is natural, effective, and safe. Supplementing with D-ribose supplies your body with more of a sugar that it already has, and boosts your natural production of energy rather than altering it or interfering with existing cellular mechanisms. Taking this supplement is like giving your body a shortcut to making more D-ribose, which is usually a long process. Providing more of it to your muscles quickly lets them recover faster and work better without waiting to synthesize more D-ribose to get the energy they need. Some people even use D-ribose in their energy stack to maximize their potential energy.

How to Take D-Ribose for Energy

d-ribose weightlifting

Supplement right and lift heavy!

D-Ribose is widely available as a dietary supplement powder, and should be taken several times a day before and after working out to maintain energy levels. The suggested dosage is 3 to 5 grams a day, though the amount taken should be modified according to body weight.

1. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2006.12.857?prevSearch=allfield&
2. http://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/177660

Nitric oxide works to increase muscle size

Nitric Oxide Supplements

Nitric oxide is a chemical compound made of nitrogen and oxygen. As a supplement, it is widely used to increase muscle size and endurance. Nitric oxide increases blood flow, which can lead to increased muscle gains.

How does Nitric Oxide Work? What is it and Why is it Important?

Nitric oxide benefits

Nitric oxide can help with muscle strength and growth.

Nitric oxide is a very important biological messenger, and a versatile molecule. It is synthesized from arginine, oxygen, and NADPH. Blood vessels use this compound to relax the surrounding muscles, which makes it a vasodilator.

Its main role in the body is regulating blood flow and communication between different organ systems such as the brain, lungs, and kidneys. Nitric oxide can diffuse freely across membranes, which makes it effective and fast-acting. It can also affect the body’s release of adrenaline and other hormones. Therefore, it can help muscles get more nutrients while under physical stress.

Nitric Oxide Benefits

nitric oxide muscle growth

Nitric oxide can help you set new personal records.

The vasodilation and hormone increasing effects of nitric oxide are believed to make it effective as a supplement for greater endurance and muscle gains. Those supplementing with nitric oxide often report more muscle growth after workouts, and less fatigue. The ability to workout harder and faster means that muscle growth can happen more quickly, and it is easier to increase workout length and intensity when more blood is flowing freely to the muscles. Taking nitric oxide can help increase the anaerobic threshold, the point at which lactic acid builds up in muscles and causes fatigue.

Nitric oxide supplements, and those that increase the influx of nitric oxide to the body, have been shown effective in increasing blood flow in active men [1]. Some supplements contain a precursor to nitric oxide, which is then synthesized in the body after ingestion. Either supplement will rapidly diffuse into the body and increase blood flow quickly.

Taking Nitric Oxide Supplements

The best way to take nitric oxide supplements is by mixing the supplement powder with a beverage and consuming it pre-workout. It is best to follow the dosage instructions that come with the specific supplement, since most nitric oxide powders will contain other compounds that help the nitric oxide to absorb. Supplements commonly contain arginine, citrulline, and other strength boosters that help the efficacy of nitric oxide.

Nitric Oxide Supplement Side Effects

There are many N.O. boosting supplements available on the market, so side effects may vary depending on the supplement. The most common side effects include, nausea, changes in blood pressure, and decreased dopamine levels. There are several supplements to take that may counteract the side effects of nitric oxide supplements. Fish Oil maintains healthy blood pressure levels and mucuna pruriens increases dopamine levels.

Sources

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20885188

natural ways to boost testosterone

Boosting Testosterone on a Budget

Testosterone is a hormone that you could consider to be the essence of men. While the hormone is found in females as well, men’s elevated testosterone levels are a large portion of what makes them different from women.

From increased muscle and bone size to libido and energy levels, testosterone is one of the most important hormones for men to optimize, especially active or aging men.

There are a few ways to regulate and boost testosterone. Activity levels, diet, and sleep are all essential to proper testosterone levels, but supplementation can play a large role as well. Knowing this fact, many supplement companies have created testosterone-boosting supplements that sometimes cost a fortune.

Luckily, these expensive supplements aren’t the only option and there are some individual supplements that can help you boost your testosterone without breaking the bank.

Benefits and Importance of Optimal Testosterone Levels

Before we discuss the individual supplements that can boost testosterone, let’s lay some more detailed groundwork for why proper levels are so important. As mentioned above, testosterone is found in both men and women, but for men the impact is far greater. When men with low testosterone achieve optimal levels of testosterone, they describe it as if they were truly awake for the first time ever and are ready to conquer the world. Are you ready?

Testosterone is responsible for:

  • General Mood and Energy Levels. Low testosterone levels have been linked to sadness and feelings of sluggishness.
  • Libido. As a sex hormone, testosterone is in charge of driving libido. Low sex drive and sexual difficulty are often symptoms of low testosterone.
  • Muscle Growth. Testosterone increases protein synthesis, resulting in faster recovery and muscular gains.
  • Bone Strength. Testosterone increases bone density. Elderly men with low bone density have also been shown to have low testosterone levels.
  • Hearth Health. Doctors are finding evidence that cardiovascular disease can be prevented when testosterone levels are healthy.
  • Body Fat Regulation. Testosterone regulates many other hormones that impact body composition and there’s a correlation between bodyfat and testosterone.

Best Testosterone Boosters

Now that we’ve established that every man should optimize his testosterone levels, let’s look at some inexpensive supplements that can boost testosterone and libido.

DHEA

DHEA is a hormone naturally produced in a few places in the human body and is the most prominent steroid hormone in humans. It serves a number of functions, but the most important is its impact as a precursor to sex hormones including testosterone.

Natural production peaks around 25 years old and can decrease with age. There have been a few studies that show the impact and benefits of DHEA for men.

One study showed that DHEA raised free-testosterone levels following high-intensity exercise. Another study showed that daily treatment with 100mg resulted in positive body composition and strength gains in males only. With the former study in mind, recommended dosages can range from 25-100mg/day.

Arginine

While arginine isn’t linked specifically to testosterone, it has been shown to help boost libido and is a popular pre-workout supplement. Arginine creates NO (nitric oxide) within the body, which dilates blood vessels.

During a workout, this dilation helps to drive more nutrients to the muscle. It also helps to improve overall circulation, which is essential for proper sexual function. In one placebo-controlled study, men were given arginine for six weeks.

At the conclusion, the arginine group reported improved sexual performance. The measured results showed nitric oxide levels that began low and doubled within the six week period. For libido and exercise performance, recommended dosages start around 5-6g daily.

Tribulis Terrestris

While it has many regional nicknames, the herb known as tribulis terrestris is regarded by some as the holy grail of natural testosterone boosters.

Tribulis is used for erectile dysfunction, libido boosts, strength improvement, exercise performance, and overall testosterone boosts. For men, the potential upside of this supplement makes tribulis a must-try.

Like other super-herbs, it has other potential benefits as well, like improved mood and chronic fatigue relief. Dosage and cycling can vary since it may be considered adaptogenic, but starting dosages are around 85-250mg/day. Since it’s an herb that goes through a process, it’s also important to get a high quality source for maximum effectiveness.

The best thing about these supplements is that they shouldn’t counteract each other and would make a great stack. The mechanisms of action for each are so different that combining the three as a daily testosterone-boosting stack would make a fantastic way to improve your health, libido. and testosterone levels without spending a fortune.

compound lifts

Compound Lifts versus Isolation Lifts

A long-standing debate in the world of weight lifting and exercise is between what types of weight-lifting exercises to use. The two choices are generally broken into either compound lifts or isolation lifts. Each of these has pros and cons to consider before making a final decision. Another thing to consider is what type of training you are going to be using as well as the reason for training. For example, someone who is training for football will have different concerns than a competitive body builder. Either way, do not neglect your preworkout nutrition, as it is important for any serious weight lifter.

What are Compound Lifts?

Compound lifts are those which use multiple joints in an effort to work several different muscles or muscle groups at the same time. The best example of such an exercise is the squat. This seemingly simple movement is really anything but. It can be felt in the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, lower back, and even your core.

What are Isolation Lifts?

Isolation lifts are those which work only one muscle or muscle groups at a time along with only one joint. A great example of an isolation movement would be the biceps curl. Curling a single dumbell or performing this movement on a machine will really only work the biceps and its tie-in or connecting muscles.

Why Use Compound Lifts?

There are a lot of great reasons to use compound lifts. Since they work more of the body it usually means more calories burned and simulates real-world movements and activities. It also serves to improve things like coordination, reaction time, balance, joint stability, and it decreases the risk of injury. Additionally, it keeps your heart rate up and offers cardiovascular benefits. Plus, you will be able to lift more weight and train harder.

Why Use Isolation Lifts?

The best reason to use isolation lifts is to correct muscular imbalances or weaknesses. This imbalance is often created by injury, so isolation lifts can help you to recover. In many cases after an injury the hurt muscle needs to be retrained and isolation movements can really do this retraining much more effectively. Many people also use these types of movements when wanting to focus on a particular muscle or muscle group. For example, a bodybuilder getting ready for a contest might feel that their biceps are a little small in relation to their shoulders, so they spend some time doing curls and maybe even chin-ups.

Conclusion—Which is Best:

In general, compound lifts should be used much more often. These are going to be the bread-and-butter or foundation of your training routine. They will help to build more muscle, strength, power, and provide a good base to build upon. Isolation lifts can be used from time to time, but they should be seen more as finishing pieces.

Supplements to Increase Vascularity

There are many powerful vascularity supplements

It seems like every bodybuilder and weightlifter wants to have a more vascular appearance. In other words, they want the added impressiveness of bulging veins on a massive and ripped body. This vascularity certainly shows to the world that you are a beast.

Of course, a lot about how much veins can be shown is determined by genetics. Even still, everyone can work hard at building larger veins and making them stand out. Plus there are some supplements that can aid in this task. Some are vasodilators, some improve blood flow, and others increase pumps.

Citrulline Malate:

Supplements and Vascularity Benefits
Citrulline Malate

  • Vasodilator
  • Maintains energy levels in muscles
  • Promotes release of nitric acid to increase pumps

CoQ10

  • Poweful antioxidant
  • Removes free radicals, improving blood flow

Nitric Oxide

  • Enhances blood flow and opens up veins

Creatine

  • Boosts energy and muscle pumps
  • Improves blood flow

One of the best vascular aids currently on the market is Citrulline Malate supplement. This supplement operates as a key intermediary in the urea cycle and helps to rid the body of both ammonia and lactic acid, which helps to maintain energy levels in working muscle cells. It is also known for promoting the release of nitric acid, which is thought to be responsible for increasing the intensity of pumps. It also acts as a vasodilator, helping blood vessels to open and expand.

The best way to take this supplement is right before your workout (about 30 minutes before training). The generally accepted dosage range is between 5 and 8 grams.

CoQ10:

Co-Enzyme Q10 is also thought to be a very effective vascular enhancing agent. This enhancement is especially true when it is taken as part of your pre-workout supplementation routine. Additionally, it is a powerful antioxidant and can help to rid the body of numerous poisons and toxins. An even more potent form of this powerful enzyme is Ubiquinol. These supplements are both thought to work by their removal of free radicals in the body, making blood flow much more efficient.

Nitric Oxide:

Another very popular method for increasing vascularity with vascularity supplements is the use of Nitric Oxide or NO enhancers. There are a number of these which have, in recent years, been touted as some powerful pre-workout drinks or energy supplements. Probably the most effective of these has been BSN NO Xplode. The Nitric Oxide has the capability of enhancing blood flow and opening up the veins.

Creatine:

This supplement is well known for the ability to increase energy. Since it is also a nitrogenous substance, the thought is that this partly explains its positive effects on muscle pumps and improved blood flow. Athletes in all sports, from strength to skill and speed events, have taken notice of a number of benefits of Creatine including the ability to produce a more vascular look.

How to Increase Vascularity

All of the above presupposes hard training and an effective nutritional routine. Obviously, in order to achieve a goal like added vascularity you really need to support the body. In addition to training and nutrition, make sure to get enough rest and sleep; rest time is when recovery and muscle/vein building actually occurs.

overtraining is a myth

Overtraining: Myth or Reality?

Is Overtraining a Myth?

One of the discussions that comes up often in online forums and blogs regarding weight lifting, exercise, and physical training is the idea of overtraining. There are people adamant on both sides of the issue, with some saying that overtraining is a myth and others saying that it is indeed reality. What is the truth about the overtraining myth? It might help to take a look at what this state actually is, how it is reached, and how to avoid it.

What is Overtraining?

Using Supplements to Support Your Muscles

Your body needs fuel to keep up with the demands of a rigorous training regimen. It also needs sleep to properly repair muscles. Without these two factors, you can easily suffer from overtraining.

  • Whey Protein: This will help your muscles repair after an intense workout.
  • Citrulline Malate: This helps buffer acid, but it’s main benefit is reducing muscle soreness.
  • Melatonin: This is an excellent sleep aid. If you have trouble falling and staying asleep, your muscles will not have an adequate opportunity to properly repair.

To answer that question, let’s look at the basic components of overtraining. Overtraining is the result of chronic fatigue, whether this is physical or mental (as in central nervous system fatigue), there is no distinction. Often times people will just try to shrug of the condition or work through it, but that is in fact the second component of overtraining, the desire to keep going, despite the growing list of problems.

Unpleasant stuff will happen once you are in this situation. It could mean the loss of strength, muscle mass, and endurance. Your appetite could be affected, motivation may plummet, and even irritability (you may find yourself get angry over nothing very easily) could arise.

On top of these possible symptoms, continuing to push yourself could cause much worse problems. Your immune system can become weakened, you could develop sleep or eating disorders, your resting heart rate could change, stomach and gastrointestinal issues could arise, even your blood pressure or respiratory patterns can become negatively impacted.

While overtraining is indeed a reality for most people, there are certain notable exceptions. There are several training systems that involve using incredibly high intensity training methods. There is even a Bulgarian method that involves training with maxes almost every day. It should go without saying that methods such as these may not be for everyone and almost certainly come with an increased risk. So, while overtraining is a reality, how you reach this state can also be an important factor.

How an Overtrained State is Reached:

There are really several factors involved in how one reaches such a state. The first factor is food. You need to be eating the proper types of food and amounts of them to support your level of training. If you do not eat enough, overtraining will almost definitely occur at some point. Of course, this lack of nourishment will be determined by a number of different factors such as vitamins, levels and rate of depletion of your glycogen stores, etc.

Another very important factor is rest. Sleep not only helps us to feel more refreshed but it helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy, releases growth hormone, strengthens the immune system, regulates appetite, weight, and controls blood glucose levels. Not to mention that during sleep the muscles recover and grow.

Your routine itself is also critical. In other words, it should be reasonable. Doing 20 sets of curls, 20 sets of bench presses, and 25 sets of rows is not reasonable unless you have a death wish. More is not always better, sometimes it’s best to take a slow and steady approach. Your routine must allow for a reasonable amount of time to recuperate, as recovery is very important in strength training.

How to Avoid Overtraining:

Is overtraining a myth?If you feel like you are in an overtrained state, the first step is to simply recognize it. Of course, this is easier said than done in many cases. The key to knowing that you’re overtraining is the constant feeling of exhaustion and progress coming to an almost non-existent stand still. The possibility that you may be overtraining should seriously be considered if this is the case.

The easiest way to get yourself out of such a situation is by taking time off from training. This break may be difficult to do for many people, but it really allows your body to sort of reset itself. Depending on how overtrained you are, this break could be as simple as adding a recovery day or two to your schedule or as severe as a 2 to 4 week layoff. Of course this all depends on the person, so take the action that you think would be the most beneficial and make sure that you feel one hundred percent before resuming your routine.

Sources

  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/
  • http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/overtrainwithresistance.pdf
  • http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/overtraining.html
L-Citrulline and L-Arginine are good pre-workout and provide for muscular gains.

L-Citrulline vs L-Arginine For Pre-Workout Supplementation

Introduction to Pre-Workout Supplementation:

Athletes everywhere have used supplements to enhance and improve their workouts ever since the nutritional industry was in its infancy. There are a number of things that should be considered when choosing such a product. The first of these considerations is energy. Obviously, in order to power through an intense workout you need a lot of energy. Of course, you also want this energy to come from a natural source since having to deal with side effects like an energy crash an hour or so later is just not worth it.

Another benefit sought from pre-workout supplementation is an ability to support muscular gains. This way, you will also put yourself in the best position to recover faster from your workouts and to translate the hard effort into real benefits. Some of the best supplements to be used before a workout are L-Arginine and L-Citrulline.

L-Arginine Benefits:

L-Arginine is an amino acid that has a number of positive benefits associated with its supplementation. These benefits include the ability to help the body produce and synthesize proteins. Proteins are essential in the process of muscular repair and growth. It is also thought to stimulate the production of growth hormone like natural sterols. These are also quite effective in helping the muscles rebuild and grow larger after an intense workout.

This supplement is also thought to help remove cortisol and other waste products in the body. Cortisol is chiefly responsible for stress levels throughout the body. Therefore, its removal can lead to a more focused and intense workout, potentially even helping one to remain more energetic throughout.

L-Citrulline Benefits:

One of the most popular benefits associated with L-Citrulline is its ability to help reduce body fat levels. It is also incredibly helpful in maintaining your natural energy production, which can often drop off considerably during a hard workout. Another excellent benefit is that it acts as a vasodilator. This has the effect of helping to open and expand blood vessels. This may be also why it can lead to a reduction in blood pressure levels.

For weight and strength training athletes, this supplement also helps in the release of nitric acid. This chemical helps to build proteins and re-form muscles that have been torn down from intense training. Citrulline acts in the urea cycle to remove lactic acid from the body which is produced as working muscles become fatigued. Couple this together with the ability of the supplement to enhance ATP (energy) production and it easy to see how this can lead to a much improved workout.

Citrulline vs Arginine Pre Workout

Overall in the question of L-Citrulline vs L-Arginine, both of these supplements can certainly be helpful as a before workout addition. Instead of being forced to choose one or the other, why not stack them together and take both?

protein for weightlifting

Protein Timing and Its Effect on Weight Training

Introduction:

One of the topics that is discussed on a regular basis by weight lifters, body builders, and other athletes is protein. This discussion usually involves the typical “how much to take” and “which form is the best.” However, an interesting idea is protein timing. There has been some new research that delves into the idea of how important it is to take your protein at specific times. Combined with the answers to those typical questions along with the actual effects can lead to a much improved understanding of how to improve muscular gains and development.

How Much Protein to Consume:

A 2012 study released in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) comes to some interesting conclusions about how much protein we should ideally be consuming. The bottom line is that we should take between 1.2 and 2.0 grams of high quality protein per kilogram of body weight.

This should be consumed on a daily basis, whether or not we workout that day. This is critical since most muscle growth actually occurs during our “off” days. In the past, many athletes simply did not take any extra (or at the very least, significantly less) protein during their non-workout days.

Effects of Protein Consumption:

The study has also shown that protein will have tremendously beneficial effects. This is certainly not a surprise, but it is nice to see in print again. Better still, these finding also indicate that there are significant benefits whether the protein is consumed before or after your workout. It will increase performance, recovery, lean body mass, hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth), and strength.

Pre and Post Workout Supplementation:

The best types of supplements to use with a pre-workout meal or energy hit are branched chain amino acids. It is also interesting to note that most of the serious and professional level bodybuilders and strength athletes tend to also use handfulls of these BCAA’s during their routines as well.

The post-workout meal should be squarely focused on recovery. The study shows that 3 to 4 grams of leucine will help to promote the maximum amount of protein synthesis. You would also want to use a fast-acting carbohydrate source like glucose or maltodextrin in order to help provide the needed insulin to allow for protein production.

Which Supplements to Use:

According to this study, the best type of protein supplement to use during the pre-workout is the aforementioned BCAAs. They can also be used during the workout itself to help supply vital ATP energy to the working muscles. After the workout is finished, a high quality whey protein powder is recommended. Of course, you could also take other forms of protein powder (although whey is still best) and add in some leucine supplements along with a carbohydrate drink that includes either glucose or maltodextrin.