Thursday, December 17, 2015

Beginner and Standard Muscle Gaining Training Programs

2 Different training programs you can use to grow muscle. It is good to alternate between programs when you plateau or every 3-6 months for muscle confusion to keep growing muscle at a faster rate.

1. Beginner's Warm-Up Program

This workout program is great for beginners who haven't lifted weights before. It is lighter and has a lower intensity that 'wakes up' the major muscle groups and preps the body for harder programs that can follow it. It can also be used as a high-rep program to recover joints and ligaments after workout programs that have put a lot of strain on them (low reps), or to strengthen joints before heavier workout routines. Muscle growth is achieved here by working muscles more frequently, but less concentrated.

Day 1: Lower Body:

Exercise 1: Squats (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 2: Knee Extensions (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 3: Hamstring Curls (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 4: Calf Raises (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 5: Weight Crunches (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 6: Weighted Incline Back Extensions (3 sets of 20)

Day 2: Upper Body

Exercise 1; Bench Press (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 2: Dips (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 3: Pull Ups (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 4: Barbell Curls (3 sets of 20)
Exercise 5: Dumbbell Side Bends (3 sets of 20)


Tips:

  • Each exercise is performed with 3 sets of 20. The weight used is the same with each set. For example, when you perform barbell curls, use a 20 kg barbell for all sets.
  • If you are just starting a weight training program, follow a day 1, rest day, day 2, rest day, day 1 pattern until you are able to alternate between day 1 and day 2 without taking rests in between days (6 days a week = 3xDay.1 and 3xDay.2 per week).
  • If you can perform 20 reps in all three sets, then increase the weight. Work until you can do 20 reps of each set before increasing the weight again.

2. Standard 5-Day Split

The standard 5- day routine is most commonly used in weight training. This routine is a great program to move onto after the beginner's warm-up program above. Instead of splitting workouts into 2 days, the 5-day split separates workout days into 5 major muscle groups and supporting muscles. Each muscle group is focused on and worked harder in this program, but is also given a longer time to recover before being stimulated again.

Day 1: Chest and Triceps

Chest

Exercise 1: Incline Dumbbell Bench Press (4x12)
Exercise 2: Dumbbell Bench Press (3x8)
Exercise 3: Close-Grip Bench Press (3x8)
Exercise 4: Dumbbell Flies (3x10)

Note: exercise 1 and 2 use dumbbells because barbells can often be hard to get a hold of during rush hours at the gym. If you are more comfortable using barbells for these exercises, that is OK.

Triceps

Exercise 1: Tricep Dips (3x20)
Exercise 2: Skull Crushes (3x12)
Exercise 3: Pull Downs (3x12) 

Day 2: Back and Biceps

Back

Exercise 1: Pull Ups (3x20)
Exercise 2: One Arm Row (3x8)
Exercise 3: Bent Over Rows (2x12)
Exercise 4: Low Row (2x10)
Exercise 5: Chin Ups (Machine) (3x8)

Biceps

Exercise 1: Barbell Curls (3x8)
Exercise 2: Hammer Curls (3x8)
Exercise 3: Incline Curls (3x12)
Exercise 4: Concentration Curls (3x8)

Day 3: Core

Lower Back

Exercise 1: Stiff Legged Dead Lifts (3x20)

Overall Core

Exercise 1: Weighted Planks (3x2 minutes)
Exercise 2: Cable Wood Choppers (3x20)

Ads

Exercise 1: Weighted Crunches (3x20)
Exercise 2: Bicycle (3x20)
Exercise 3: Captain's Chair

Obliques

Exercise 1: Side Planks (3x 2 minutes)
Exercise 2: Dumbbell Side Bends

Note: When doing weighted planks, build up until you can hold each set for 2 minutes, and then increase the weight by putting a plate on your lower back, increasing the weight of the plate as you get stronger.
Note: For cable wood choppers, swing the cable from the top handle down to use more of your core. Swinging from the bottom up will use shoulders.
Note: For bicycle, increase weight by holding a dumbbell behind your head.

Day 4: Shoulders and Forearms

Shoulders

Exercise 1: Machine Shoulder Press (3x15)
Exercise 2: Dumbbell Lateral Raises (4x8)
Exercise 3: Dumbbell Reverse Flies (3x8)
Exercise 4: Dumbbell Military Press (3x8)
Exercise 5: Upright Rows (2x12)

Forearms

Exercise 1: Reverse Dumbbell Wrist Curls (4x20)
Exercise 2: Barbell Wrist Curls (4x20)

Note: With forearms, the first exercise has palms facing down and the second exercise has palms facing upwards to target different parts of the forearms

Day 5: Legs

Upper Legs

Exercise 1: Squats (10, 8, 6, 6, 4)
Exercise 2: Knee Extension (3x12)
Exercise 3: Hamstring Curls (3x12)

Calves

Exercise 1: Standing Calve Raises (4x15)
Exercise 2: Seated Calve Raises (4x15)

Note: with squats, the reps should decrease as the leg muscles start to fail. Once you can do the amount of reps specified in the 5 sets above, increase the weight.

Tips:

  • Even though this is a 5-day split, it can still be done 6 times a week. For example, week 1 can have day 1-5 Monday-Friday and day 1 again on Saturday, so that week 2 starts with day 2 on Monday
  • If you miss out on a workout, don't skip that day's muscle group. For example, if you missed Core on Wednesday, do them on Thursday when you are back in the gym instead of moving over to Shoulders and Forearms. This way, every muscle group is stimulated a day later than usual, instead of one muscle group missing an entire week of training.

For an advanced training program, called the GARRY bodybuilding workout program, click here.

The beginners program is a great introduction to weight training for beginners and helps strengthen the joints and tendons. The standard 5-day split is a great workout program to use regularly. It is also beneficial to alternate between the standard 5-day split and other weight training programs to keep muscles on their toes, growing as much as possible to adapt to new stimulus. STAY STRONG! 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Perfect Rest Day

Regular rest is important to maximize muscle growth. It prevents over training, gives your body a chance to grow and adapt to the stimulus you have put on it and ‘catch its breath’ so to speak. It also makes sure that your central nervous system and immune don’t fall behind. Most of us don’t like rest days, but they can be a good mental break to come back in full force. Additionally there are things you can do on your rest day that will help your body recover to its maximum potential.


Here is a list of things you can do on your rest day:

          Total Rest

Total rest is good for the body to recuperate. It gives your muscles the time to recover on a deeper level, refill their glycogen stores and grow in strength without rushing to recover before being worked again. Most workout splits work a certain muscle once or twice a week so that they can recover before their next session, but their recovery is sometimes limited because even though they are not being put under a physical stress, they end up competing with the other muscles that are working in the other sessions for nutrients. The body can only do so much at a single time, and occasional rest days that involve complete rest with any stimulus allows it to focus more of its resources on rest and growth instead of performing at the same time.

          Replacement

Those who are really dedicated to the iron often feel lost during the time that they would be pumping things up. It is also possible to also feel depressed because you don’t feel the endorphin release that exercise brings. Others even feel guilty for not pushing their bodies to the limit all the time. This can make some hate rest days, but some use this extra time as an opportunity to do things that they don’t usually have time for or don’t think about doing. These things can include taking a walk, going for a swim, spending time with family and friends, watching a good movie, cleaning out the house or eating at a fancy restaurant.

          Steam Room

The steam room is a favorite among those on rest days because they have an excuse to go to the gym (force of habit) even though they are not working out. The steam room also compliments rest and recovery because of sweating that helps remove toxins and waste products. Additionally, the increased blood flow from the heat and widened blood vessels increases the availability of nutrients to muscle for optimum growth.

          Stretching

Stretching is also a good option because it elongates the muscles, increases blood flow and relaxes them. The benefits that stretching provide not only help to get the most out of rest days, but offer additional benefits like improved range of motion and flexibility and decreased injury risk.

          Light Cardio

Light cardio is a popular form of rest (often called active rest) because it allows people to still exercise when they are ‘resting’ from their prioritized form of exercise. Light cardio can benefit rest and recovery because it increases blood flow, which will help take away toxin and waste products from recovering muscle and at the same time increase the rate at which required nutrients are delivered to these muscles. Cardio at a higher intensity or for a prolonged period of time, however, can actually inhibit muscle growth because this could cause the body to redirect resources (energy and nutrients) from muscle to cope with the new stress placed on it.


These things can help to maximize your rest days. It is best to try a combination of these. For example, doing light cardio on some rest days will contribute to a balanced health and fit body, but rest days with complete rest (no exercise) are also necessary for the body to dedicate all of its resources to growth and development alone. STAY STRONG! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Good Gym Days And Bad Gym Days

Had A Bad Day At The Gym?

Today’s workout session was a failure. It was a terrible day at the gym; you couldn’t do the weight or the reps that you could last time. Is something wrong? And how can you stop this from happening again?

Above is an illustration that shows the typical pattern of growth. This kind of pattern can be seen in economics, price markets, relationships, business revenues, learning capabilities, physical improvements, population growth etc. For example, a business that is growing in sales rapidly will not necessarily have a better sales day than the previous one every single day. Some days will be slower than others, even though sales are generally increasing in the long run. Your body works in the same way.

Let's get back to Gym.

We have all had those days, and the good news is that it is completely normal.  They say that 80% of your workouts will be the standard, clock-in clock-out routine kind of workout; 10% of your workouts will be one of those amazing, ‘wow factor’ days where you feel like you’ve made a lot of progress in just one session and the remaining 10% of the time you will have a workout that seems to be more of a flop than anything else. If you experience a bad workout once in a while, then you have nothing to worry about. It is a part of training and just like anything else in life, your body works in a cyclical pattern, moving in a certain direction with bumps and turns along the way.
Why do we get these bad days?
There are a variety of reasons that could contribute to the difference between a good workout, a great one and a bad one. For example, these factors could include sleep, stress, mental focus, social distractions, diet (short term or long term), starting a new workout program, using the same program for too long, over training, low blood sugar levels, the kind of music that was playing, dreams you had the last time you were sleeping, mood, arousal, and hormone cycles.
Think about it this way, in two years from now, will the fact that you had a bad day at the gym make a difference? Not really. But what will matter is the fact that you worked through it and didn’t give up.

I’m having these days increasingly often, what could be the issue?

If you are having these days increasingly often, then there could be a determining factor that you need to take care of. Below of a list of the most probable causes, in order from most probable to least:

Over Training

The most common cause of decreased physical performance is, ironically, too much physical performance. Are you putting so much strain on your body that it is starting to break down? It is beneficial to take a rest day at least once a week, and have an entire week of rest once every 8-10 weeks so that your body can recover and adapt fully. Additionally, working a certain muscle group too often for it to recover between sessions will hinder muscle growth and strength.

Under Training

You could be training at an intensity that does not stimulate your muscles enough to spur on growth and adaption. Aside from that, you could be working a certain muscle group too long after it has recovered, so that it adapts and then decreases in size and strength because it does not feel the need to stay at a certain size anymore. The body is made for optimal survival, and it will decrease muscle size if it does not feel the need to keep them because muscle costs the body a lot in energy and nutrient resources to grow and maintain. Try to find a good balance between training enough, but not too much.

Diet

Diet is also one of the most common reasons for decreased performance or slowed transformation. If your body does not have the building blocks it needs, it will be unable to change. Besides building blocks, it also needs fuel for energy as well. Make sure that your macro-nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) are right for your physical output and goals. Additionally make sure that you getting the right micronutrients (minerals, amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, etc.) to keep the body in a healthy equilibrium.

Same Program

If you have been using the same workout routine for too long, your body will start to adapt and plateau. It is considered optimal to change your program every 3-6 months for the best results. Changes can include exercises done, exercise order, workout split, rep range, intensity, duration, etc.

Sleep

Most muscle growth happens during sleep. Sleep is the body’s time to grow and recover without interference. If you are not getting enough sleep, then your body does not have the time to change and might break down muscle to fuel its other needs like mental well-being, which it will prioritise over physical transformation.

 Motivation

Studies have shown that listening to the right music has a direct effect on the amount of reps that a person can do. Additionally, men are able to lift more weights when attractive females re around them. This shows how much being in the right mental state can affect your workout.

 Stress

Exercise is good for stress and those who exercise are better able to cope with stress, but mental stress can have an impact on the body in a negative way, in-turn impacting the body’s ability to lift weight or exercise. Try to make sure that you outside-the-gym life is not stealing from your inside-the-gym life.

Too Much Junk

Expanding on the point above, there could be junk in your life that is hindering you from achieving your goals. These things can include smoking, drinking, late nights, eating habits and other distractions.

Sometimes a bad day is just a bad day. Be proud of the fact that you at least went in and had the perseverance to finish the workout regardless of how you performed. We have all had bad days, but what really matters is whether you stand up and get back to it. STAY STRONG!

Benefits of Skipping For Bodybuilders

Skipping can actually help bodybuilders achieve greater muscle growth. Here are a few reasons why:

Because Skipping is Cardio

Cardio has been thought to be the arch enemy of muscle growth, but the right kind of cardio can help muscle growth by increasing blood circulation and improving anaerobic performance.

Skipping Improves Workout Performance. You have less Light Headedness, less Nausea and less Fatigue.

Skipping improves your energy performance and endurance. This is why boxers skip; so that they can perform at the highest intensity for prolonged periods of time. The reason why people often experience light headedness, nausea and fatigue or feeling exhausted when doing squats, for example, is because they are not used to expending so much energy in a short period of time. The body is therefore trying to cope with the energy-intensive part of the workout instead of the muscular stress. When your body is more adapted to working at a higher intensity, you will feel less of these side effects.

Focus on Muscular Fatigue Instead of Cardio-Vascular Fatigue

Ever had to stop squats or deadlifts because you feel light-headed or nauseous? What if you didn't get that feeling at all and could carry on until your muscles failed, instead of your energy system? Skipping makes your body more adept at high exercise intensities, so that when you train under the iron, you can focus on delivering maximum stimulus to your muscle without hindered energy limitations.

Speedy Recovery

Because of the above, when your body is more cardio-capable, recovery after your workouts will be quicker and more efficient. Your body will need to recover less from the energy-related aspect of training and can focus more on recovering from muscular stress. This means that you will enter into an anabolic state quicker and more recovery can be done per muscle per day. Less resources (nutrients and energy) spent on energy, more resources (nutrients and energy) spent on muscle! 

Excess Energy: 

Because you will also require less rest in between sets, your workout can either be shorter or include more exercises. Having higher energy levels also means that you will push harder during your weight training.

Increased Metabolism:

Skipping increases your metabolism, so your body will burn carbs quicker for energy. This means that you will need to make sure that you are eating enough carbs, otherwise your body will break down muscle. The brighter side of an increased metabolism is that your body is better able at producing energy, which can also be used for muscle growth and recovery.

Better Immune System

Being more physically fit increases your immunity so that you get sick less often, we all know how illness can set us back a few weeks!


Skipping Tones Your Body

Skipping is a great way to keep your bulk phase as clean as possible (more muscle, less fat) and speed up cutting phase (shorter duration needed, better results at the end)

Skipping Tones Muscle

Skipping tones the shoulder, arm, ab, quad, hamstring and calve muscles. Adding an aerobic exercise like skipping to a weight training exercise will add a separate stimulus to the calves, for example, challenging them to grow bigger to adapt.

Good Joint Health

High rep training helps to solidify joints so that they are stronger during low rep training. Skipping helps to build shoulder joint stability, for example, so that they are less prone to injury under the bar.

Add Jump Rope To Your Routine, But Don't Subtract It!

Let skipping add to your workout, but don't let it take away from your original goal. As great as skipping can be as a complimentary exercise to a muscle growth program, too much can be a bad thing. If your main objective is to grow muscle, do not skip so much before weight training that you don't have enough energy to finish you training at an optimal level. As well, skipping too much after a workout might overload your body so that it spends less of it time recovering (and growing) from muscle stimulus to cope with the stress of this intense cardio. One of my favorite ways to include skipping into my routine is to skip at night because I train in the mornings, so that it does not interfere with muscle growth. Additionally, don't push yourself too hard when skipping. Rather give 100% during weight training workouts and around 60% when you skip. Don't try to push yourself to perform better in the same way you push yourself to improve on every workout. Your body will slowly adapt with time and rather increase the intensity or time over smaller increments so that your body spends more of its precious resources on muscle growth instead of trying to adapt to skipping more.

Silly analogy: a little chilli makes French toast better, but too much takes the original flavor away. Stay Strong!

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Effects of Smoking on Bodybuilding

Looking to take your bodybuilding endeavors to the next level by finally putting down those nasty cigarettes but need the motivation and some information to give you that push you need to quit? Well then, dear smoker, you are at the right place!

We all know that smoking is bad for you, and that it hampers your training progression. Here is a list of reasons why quitting smoking will help you to get bigger, stronger and fitter.

Smoking Harms Blood Sugar Levels

Nicotine causes a quick, short-term release of blood sugar. This is one of the reasons why smoking often leads to diabetes. It also lowers insulin sensitivity, which means that your body is less able to handle sugar and energy production. The less your body is able to create and utilize energy, the less energy you have during workouts and you get tired quicker. Your strength is also hampered, which means that if you didn’t smoke, you would probably be able to lift heavier weights, for more reps, for a longer period of time, causing a greater stimulus leading to greater muscle gains. Insulin helps to regulate sugar and therefore energy. Because your body is less able to regulate energy, it is less able to perform other functions that require energy that it needs to do to adapt and grow muscle, such as filling muscles with glycogen (the energy in the muscle that enables it to work). Because energy is already lowered in smokers, their bodies take longer to change from a stress-induced state that exercise causes to the anabolic, repairing state that grows muscle and strength. When the body stays longer in this stress-induced state, it will start breaking down muscle as a survival mechanism for energy and nutrients.

Smoking affects Your Breathing and Oxygen Levels

One of the most important roles of the lungs is to take in oxygen from the surrounding air and expel carbon dioxide out. Smoking physically damages the lungs, and also progressively smothers the lungs with tar. Additionally, the lungs are also too busy trying to heal and clean themselves out to function optimally. This greatly reduces the amount of oxygen that the body has at its disposal and the amount of carbon dioxide it can get rid of. This leads to decreased energy and strength, lengthened recovery times needed between workouts and a lowered ability for muscle to grow and adapt from stimulus.

Carbon Monoxide and other Toxins

Smoking increases the amount of carbon monoxide in the blood, along with other toxins. The naked eye can see the different between the blood of a smoker and that of a non-smoker. The blood of smokers is thicker and darker than that of non-smokers. If you think about blood and veins as a road which acts as the body’s delivery system, then the carbon monoxide and other toxins can be seen as elephants in the road that take up a space that is not designed to accommodate them. They get in the way of the other vehicles and stop them from doing their job properly, turning an efficient road into peak traffic on damaged roads. The body is also less able to respond the way we want it to with weight training because it is busy fighting off and trying to cope with these harmful chemicals. For example, these chemicals place an unnecessary burden on the liver and kidneys which are metabolizing and eliminating these chemicals, on top of regulating and creating chemicals needed for growth.

Smokers Get More Sick

Smokers get sick more often than non-smokers, and when they fall ill, they are sick for longer and experience worse symptoms. We all know about the terror of falling sick and being unable to gym, as well as feeling like we are losing all the strength and size gains we have worked so hard to get. Getting sick more often means that your body spends less time in the gym, and less time growing from strength to strength and the worse symptoms mean that you suffer greater setbacks every time you get sick.

Smoking Disrupts Eating and Diet Habits

Eating the amounts of food you need in order to gain mass can sometimes be challenging. The increased appetite from quitting smoking is a great chance to stock up on the extra calories that you need to increase muscle growth. In the long term, smoking will no longer interfere with your appetite and blood sugar levels.

Sleep

Smokers not only need more hours of sleep than non-smokers, but their sleep is of less quality. One reason for this is because their bodies spend a lot of time trying to cope with the demands placed on it from smoking. Another reason is because of the nicotine withdrawal they go through while sleep. Getting better quality sleep as a non-smoker means that your body is better able to recover and grow muscle every night you sleep.

Recovering From Smoking Instead of Growing

As mentioned earlier, smoking placed a big burden on the body and the body is in a constant battle to deal with its harmful effects and survive. This energy that the body spends counteracting the negative effects of smoking would be much better spent building muscle.

Smoking and Focus during Workouts

Smokers are less able to concentrate because they are in constant withdrawal from nicotine. This withdrawal starts a few minutes after their last cigarette and builds up as time goes by. Withdrawals usually get to a point where people start craving another cigarette after 30 minutes, which is why the average person smokes a box (20 cigarettes) a day. As time drags on, withdrawals intensify, leading to symptoms like thirst, moodiness, dropped sugar levels, lack of concentration etc. These withdrawals mean that smokers are generally not as able as non-smokers to focus 100% on their entire workout program.

Smokers Take Longer to Build Muscle and Reach Greater Levels of Fitness than Non-smokers

Can you grow muscle if you smoke? Yes. Can you get bigger muscles than most people who go to the gym if you smoke?  Yes. Can you compete in bodybuilding competitions and have a successful bodybuilding career as a smoker? Yes. Can you do all these things with the same amount of time and energy compared to if you didn’t smoke? No. You can still get there, but the road will be longer and tougher.

Rather quit smoking and give your body every fighting chance that you can to reach your goals as quick as possible. STAY STRONG!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Health Benefits of Sweating

You sweat while you work out, while in the sauna and throughout the day because of heat. Sweat is the body’s way of cooling the body down because of the cooling effect when water evaporates from the skin. In the cave man era, humans were able to run for long periods of time - longer than most animals – because their ability to sweat. Sweating prevented them from overheating, which would lead to collapsing, feinting and even death.


Sweat is smelly and unattractive, but is essential for life. Here are a few benefits of sweating:

Sweating Prevents Death. 

This is because of its ability to cool the body down. If humans could not sweat, then more than 70% of the human population would die within one week. Scary statistics…

Sweating helps to detox the body. 

Sweating allows the body to release some of the toxins that it needs to expel through the skin. This detox method can release up to 30% of the toxins and impurities that the kidneys and liver would otherwise have to deal with. This eases the burden on the kidneys and liver, allowing them to perform more of their other bodily functions like energy, nutrient and hormone control, metabolism and release.

Sweating is good for the skin. 

Sweating opens up the skin so that it can receive some of the nutrients and minerals from within. This includes lipids and oils that moisturizes dry skin and also allows the skin to release excess oils that might cause pimples and blackheads. People who sweat more often have better looking skin than those who sweat less.

Sweating can be used as an indicator to the level of effort used during exercise. 

Although people sweat differently (i.e. some people sweat less after high intensities of exercise while others sweat a lot even when they are not exercising.), without sweat people could push past what is safe because we could be overheating without realizing it. The dangerous effects of overheating progress until death.

Sweating decreases water retention. 

Sweating gives the body an opportunity to get rid of some of the excess water under the skin. This excess water looks like cellulite, can make people look bloated and hides muscle definition. Sweating also gets rid of sodium, which is an important mineral but can cause health problems. People who follow a typical westernized diet consume too much sodium (the amount of sodium needed is 2400 mg. The average American consumes 7800 mg a day).


People who don’t engage in exercise and therefore don’t sweat often enough tend to have higher levels of toxins in their bodies. They are also more prone to duller looking skin which is more likely to breakouts with pimples or blackheads or whiteheads, rashes, redness, inflammation and flaking.
As healthy as sweating is, sweating too much can cause the body to lose precious nutrients like water and electrolytes that the body cannot survive without. Make sure to replenish water whenever you sweat to stay hydrated and eat a good diet that is rich in minerals and electrolytes. Mineral and electrolyte dense foods are foods like fresh, raw produce (like vegetables, leafy greens, fruit, seeds, nuts) red and white meat, fish and seafood.
It is commonly believed that those who sweat more are healthier than those sweat less. The fitter you become, the more you will sweat as one of the ways that your body becomes more adept at cooling itself down.

Sweating might not be the best thing for your image and it might make you feel uncomfortable, but at least you know that it is a healthy thing to do. Keep hydrated and make sure your diet / supplementation includes the minerals and electrolytes that are lost from sweating. STAY STRONG!