Carlon Colker, MD, FACN, and a former champion bodybuilder, now co-stars in the new ABC-TV reality series, “Shaq’s Big Challenge." He is also Shaquille O’Neal’s personal physician and trainer, and has worked with Andre Agassi and many other world-class athletes as well professional and amateur bodybuilders from around the world. Dr. Colker, CEO and Medical Director of Peak Wellness, Inc. of Greenwich, Connecticut, would like to help sports fans and the public in general better understand the entire issue of performance-enhancing drug use: what’s involved, what’s at stake, and how he believes we should move forward with more realistic and effective drug testing, as this problem continues both on and off the playing field.
To do that, Dr. Colker has just published a new book, Extreme Muscle Enhancement: Bodybuilding’s Most Powerful Techniques (ProSource Publications, 2007). In it he offers a comprehensive and frank appraisal of why athletes use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, and why a "don’t ask, don’t tell" attitude is tragically common. The book offers an in-depth look at what we know (and don’t know) about drugs’ effects and how they’re used, including "stacking," how many athletes beat the tests (you won’t believe some of these methods!) and why many officials "look the other way" or even encourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Overall, Dr Colker’s book is a "how to" manual for bodybuilders and other athletes who want to build serious muscle mass and gain a competitive edge in sports, and in life, as well as suggesting natural alternatives to drugs, and debunking many popular myths about nutrition and fitness. As a physician and as a bodybuilder who knows this sector intimately, Dr. Colker presents his informed opinions about how these serious issues can be intelligently and satisfactorily resolved for the good of athletes, athletics, and the sports-loving public.
A sought-after media expert, Dr. Colker has recently been asked to address the controversy swirling around the possible past use of performance-enhancing drugs by Barry Bonds, as he closes in on Hank Aaron’s home run record and the drugs suspected in the murder-suicide of pro wrestler Chris Benoit.
Questions Dr. Colker is often asked include, "If Bonds breaks Aaron’s record, will it even be legitimate, or have performance-enhancing drugs in fact given him and other modern-day athletes an unfair leg-up on superstars of the past? And what do we really want from our superstar athletes?" and "Do we, the public, have any culpability in turning some of them into superhuman freaks-of-nature?" Speaking generally, Dr. Colker says that sometimes the use of performance-enhancing drugs (which, he points out, Bonds has not admitted using), is subtly not only condoned but encouraged by competitive coaches and handlers. The athletes themselves are "in it to win," and if others they must go up against have that edge, they feel they may have no other choice. What Dr. Colker suggests, in his frank, "tough love" way, is that perhaps it’s time to take a good, hard look at what "monsters" we’ve created."
Speaking of monsters, using the example of the comic book character “The Hulk,” Dr. Colker has also been asked if, in the real world, the high level of synthetic testosterone found in wrestler Chris Benoit’s blood could have produced the so-called "’Roid Rage" effect, and been a causative factor in his murder-suicide? As Dr. Colker explains, "Wrestlers are performers, and are generally not at all as "aggressive" away from the ring as they seem to be while inside it. A mild-mannered person, such as Chris Benoit was reported to be, would not do a 180-degree about-face and suddenly become a killer. There were many other causative factors. I don’t believe steroids had a direct effect on this terrible tragedy."
Today, as drug testing becomes increasingly widespread in professional sports, and more athletes test positive, the longtime hot-button issue of performance enhancing drugs has heated up. In this controversial arena, Dr. Colker is a strong and true voice of reason.
In addition to Extreme Muscle Enhancement, Dr. Colker is the author of The Greenwich Diet and other books. His practice specialties include sports medicine and sports nutrition. He is a frequent contributor to Muscular Development Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Ironman, Muscle Magazine,Body, Runner’s World, Walking, Let’s Live, Self, Strive, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Cosmopolitan.
For more information, visit www.extrememuscleenhancement.net.
Get ready for the ultimate set of hard, ripped and defined abs. These 12 workouts — 6 for beginners, 6 for more advanced fitness buffs — can help anyone carve a killer set of gut ruts.
If you fortuitously stumbled across a genie and were granted three wishes, what would they be? Immortality? Check. Plenty of F.U. money to make Monday morning’s meeting with the boss a special moment? Check. And, if you’re a bodybuilder or fitness enthusiast, your third wish might just be that coveted six-pack.
To really make that third wish come true, you have two choices: You can either go on an Aladdinesque search, polishing various lamps (an activity that doesn’t look so hot on a resume or a police report, by the way); or, you can earn a six-pack the old-fashioned way, through a clean diet and consistent exercise with programs such as the 12 presented below. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced trainer, we have the perfect routine for you. Perhaps most conveniently, no genie is required for quick results.
If you’re new to the gym scene, or returning after a long layoff, start here, using any of these six routines 1-3 times per week. They are designed to be challenging, yet not overwhelming, and in 2-3 months should have you ready for some of the hardcore programs presented in the “Advanced Six-Pack” section.
STARTER PACK I
This workout includes an exercise for each of the three key areas of your midsection: The upper abdominals, targeted with the curl-up; the lower abs, engaged with leg raises; and your obliques (muscles found along each side of your abdominal wall), attacked with the alternating sit-up.
Curl-Up: Lie on the floor with your hands alongside your body, palms flat, knees bent and feet on the floor. Contract your abdominals to slowly curl one vertebra at a time off the floor, bringing your upper body up as high as you can while keeping your lower back in contact with the floor, then lower yourself under control to the start. Your hands will move alongside you as you rise up. Repeat for reps.
Leg Raise: Start with your hands alongside your body, your back flat on the floor, and your legs together and held about two inches off of the floor. Slowly lift both legs upward to a point just before they reach perpendicular to the floor, then lower them back to a point just before they touch down before beginning the next rep.
Alternating Sit-Up: Lying on the floor, knees bent and feet flat, place both of your hands lightly behind your head. Crunch upward as you twist your body, bringing your right elbow toward your left knee. Lower yourself back down, then bring your left elbow toward your right knee and lower yourself to start again. Once to each side equals one rep.
STARTER PACK II
Here we incorporate the most popular movement for abs, the crunch, which hits upper abs, and pair it with the seated knee-up and a side crunch. This full-balanced attack is a middle-burner whether you’re a beginner or an old pro.
Crunch: Lie on our back and place your hands lightly behind your head, elbows out. With your feet flat on the floor and knees up, curl your upper body up toward your knees as high as you can without bringing your lower back up off the floor. The movement spans only a few inches, but will cause a strong contraction in your abs.
Seated Knee-Up: Sit at the end of a flat bench and grasp the sides with both hands. Balance on your glutes as, with your legs together and extended out, you contract your abs to bring your knees in toward your chest, then extend them back out. Repeat for reps.
Side Crunch on Back-Extension Bench: Lie sideways so you’re supported on one hip on a back extension bench. Place your upper hand behind your head and your lower hand either behind your head too or on your abs. Contract at the side of your torso to curl your upper body up a few inches, hold for a second, then return to a body-straight position.
In this workout, you’ll start off on the upright bench — a precursor to the hanging ab moves you’ll experience in our advanced regimens — and finish up with two exercises on the decline bench, always a useful piece of equipment for carving an enviable midsection.
Vertical-Bench Knee-Up: Step into a vertical bench, back against the pad, forearms on the pads and hands on the handles. Extend your legs straight below you, then bend your knees and bring them straight up as high as you can toward your chest. Your lower back should curl off the pad as you reach the top. Extend your legs back down and repeat for reps.
Decline-Bench Crunch: Set a decline bench to about a 45-degree angle, get on and hook your legs under the supports. Place both hands loosely behind your head (do not interlace your fingers). Lower yourself until your back is about an inch or less from touching the pad, then curl your body up as high as you can.
Decline-Bench Twisting Crunch: Similar to the decline-bench crunch, except you’ll curl up while twisting to your left side to bring your right elbow across your body, then lower yourself to a point just before your back touches down and curl up again, this time twisting to your right. Once to each side equals one rep.
WALK THE PLANK
Instead of the typical repetition-focused routine, two of these exercises utilize a time approach — for both scissor kicks and the plank, you’ll attempt to work for 30-60 seconds, which you can try to increase as you get stronger over time.
Scissor Kicks: Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and elevated off the floor about 6-12 inches, your arms and hands alongside your body, palms down for support. From there, rapidly move your legs up and down in alternating fashion, from a point just above touching the floor to a couple of feet above the floor.
Butterfly Crunch: This is performed like the crunch explained in “Starter Pack II,” except instead of keeping your feet flat on the floor, open your knees “butterfly style” and keep the bottoms of your feet together.
Plank: Get into a modified push-up position, where, instead of being on your hands, you are resting on your forearms. Time yourself as you hold your body in a completely straight “plank” position, supporting yourself with only your forearms and toes in contact with the floor.
Just like the name implies, you’ll perform three different types of crunches in this session, each aimed at one of the three key areas of your core.
Reverse Crunch: Lie on the floor, arms alongside your body for support. Lift your legs off the floor, bending about 90 degrees at your knees. From here, curl your glutes and lower back off of the floor by bringing your knees toward your upper body. Lower back to a point about one inch before your glutes touch down and begin the next rep.
Crunch: See “Starter Pack II” for description of this move.
Side Double Crunch: Lie on one side, upper hand behind your head, legs bent about 90 degrees. Simultaneously bring your upper and lower body together (the actual movement will consist of only a few inches), lower and repeat for reps.
HIGH ‘N’ LOW
In this workout, you’ll superset exercises targeting your upper abs with moves hitting your lower abs. In a superset, you do all the reps for the first exercise, and then immediately, without resting, do all the reps in the second listed movement. Rest about 30-60 seconds, then start your next superset.
Hands-Overhead Crunch: Perform this like a standard crunch as described in “Starter Pack II,” except instead of holding your hands behind your head, extend them straight overhead. This position is slightly harder than the regular crunch.
Inverted Bicycle: Lie on the floor, placing your hands lightly behind your head while elevating your legs straight up in the air. Twist so your left elbow moves toward your right knee as you simultaneously bring that knee down toward your elbow. Return to the starting position, then repeat with your right elbow and left knee. Do this exercise in a steady, rhythmic fashion. Once to each side equals one rep.
Curl-Up: See description in “Starter Pack I.”
Vertical-Bench Knee-Up: See description in “Middle Manager.”
Ready for a real test? These six workouts turn up the heat on your abs, but the intense burn should prove to be well worth the new muscle and definition you’ll attain.
This workout is designed to be rotated with the lower-ab blast and the oblique blast that follow — for example, if you work abs thrice weekly, you could do the upper workout Monday, lower Wednesday and oblique Friday, for a complete ab thrashing every seven days.
Swiss-Ball Crunch: Lie atop a Swiss (a.k.a. exercise) ball, hands behind your head, your lower back aligned along the curve of the ball, feet flat on the floor and spaced apart for firm support. Curl your upper body forward until you achieve a complete abdominal contraction, then lower yourself back to the start and repeat.
Steep Decline-Bench Crunch: Perform as described in “Middle Manager,” except instead of setting the bench at a 45-degree angle, set it as steep as you can handle.
Rope Crunch: Kneel in front of an upper pulley and grasp the ends of a rope attachment, one in each hand. Bring the rope down so your hands are on each side of your head, and your elbows are in tight. Lock your arms into position, and then crunch your abs to bend your body and bring your head down toward the floor. Return to an upright position, feeling a stretch in your abs. Don’t let the weight stack touch down between reps.
This lower-ab focused routine is designed to work in concert with the upper-ab and oblique blast workouts, above and below.
Vertical-Bench Medicine-Ball Knee-Raise: Perform the exercise as described in the “Middle Manager” workout while holding a medicine ball between your knees.
Incline-Bench Knee Raise: Lie on an incline board so your head is higher than your body, and grasp the handles or the sides of the bench above your with both hands. Bend your knees to 90 degrees and lift them up so your feet are in the air. From that position, curl your glutes and lower back off the pad while bringing your knees toward your chest and high up as you can, then lower to the start. Touch very lightly down on the bench before beginning the next rep.
Reverse Crunch: See description in “Crunch Time.”
This oblique-centered workout is the third in the series, as described in the “Upper Ab” and “Lower Ab” regimens above.
Decline-Bench Crunch with Twist at Top: Perform like the decline crunch explained in “Middle Manager,” except pause at the top and twist slowly to one side, bringing your lead elbow all the way across your body, then twist to the other, before returning to a straight-ahead position and lowering your body back down.
One-Arm Cable Side Bend: Stand sideways to a cable stack, right side closest to it, holding a D-handle attached to the lower pulley. With your body in a straight-up position, the weight stack should be elevated. From there, bend slowly toward the side opposite the stack, flexing your oblique muscles along the left side of your body. Repeat for reps, never letting the stack touch down, then switch sides and work the right side of your body.
Side Crunch on Back-Extension Bench: See description in “Starter Pack II.”
While most abdominal routines focus on higher-rep schemes, the abdominal muscles do respond extremely well to weighted exercises. This routine takes advantage of that fact, with two machine-based exercises and two highly difficult exercises that use your bodyweight maximally to pummel your abs.
Machine Crunch: Take a seat in the machine; it should be adjusted so that the pad hits you in the upper pectorals. Place your feet behind the rollers or firmly on the platform, whichever is provided. Forcefully contract your abs to curl your upper body toward your legs, holding the peak-contracted position for a moment before returning to the start. Don’t let the weight stack touch down between reps.
Rockys: Named after an exercise Sylvester Stallone made famous in Rocky IV, this test of strength will put your abs under an intense isometric contraction. Lie on a flat bench and firmly grasp the sides next to each side of your head. With your body flat as a board and straight (your lower legs will extend past the bottom of the bench), flex the muscles of your core and surrounding areas to lift your lower body up in the air, so that only your shoulders and head remain on the bench. Stop just before your body reaches a position perpendicular to the floor, then slowly lower yourself; as you get stronger, you should be able to continue without letting your body touch down to the bench between reps.
Oblique Rope Crunch: Perform as described in “Upper Ab Blast,” except twist your body to the right (left elbow toward right knee) for one rep, then twist to the left (right elbow toward left knee) on the other. Once to each side equals one rep.
V-Up: Balance on your glutes, with your legs straight and elevated a few inches off the floor and your shoulder blades elevated a few inches off the floor and arms straight. From here, you’ll go into a full jackknife position, crunching up to bring your outstretched arms toward your toes overhead; hold the contraction for a second, then return to the start, preferably not touching your legs and upper back down to the floor between reps.
With nothing but a pull-up bar, you can get a thorough midsection workout, thanks to leg raises, knee raises and windshield wipers.
Hanging Leg Raise: Hang from a pull-up bar, body straight, and lift your legs (held straight) out in front of you, as high as you can lift them, then return to the start. Control the movement so you don’t sway back and forth on each rep. To maintain your grip, consider using wrist straps.
Hanging Knee Raise: This is similar to a hanging leg raise, except you do it with your knees bent instead of legs straight.
Windshield Wipers: Hang from a pull-up bar, and lift your legs as high as you can, keeping them together. Your body should be in a jackknife position. From here, slowly lower your legs in an arc toward the left as far as you can, then back up and around to the right side as far as you can. Once to each side equals one rep. As on the above two exercises, consider using wrist straps, or even elbow sleeves, as three exercises in a row holding onto a pull-up bar is an extreme workload for even the strongest forearms.
From your upper abs to your right obliques to your lower abs to your left obliques, this giant set circles your midsection for a full-out attack. Do all four exercises below as one giant set, back-to-back-to-back-to-back with no rest in between. If necessary, rest 30 seconds between each giant set. On the very last set of all four, attempt to reach momentary muscular failure.
Medicine-Ball Crunch: For this, you’ll do a crunch as described in “Starter Pack II,” except you’ll need a training partner. On the up-phase of each rep, you’ll throw a medicine ball to your partner who stands a few feet in front of you, pressing it from your chest. On the downward motion, your partner should toss the ball back so you catch it and bring it back to your chest as you slowly lower yourself to the floor. Curl back up, throwing as you do so, and continue in this pattern for reps.
Side Crunch: Perform as described in “Crunch Time.”
Leg Raise (with partner): Lie on your back with a partner standing directly above your head. Grasp his or her ankles with both hands for support. Keeping your legs together, raise them up, curling your glutes and lower back off the floor a few inches as you do so. At the top, your partner will push your legs back down toward the floor as you resist. Repeat for reps.
Jul 12, 2007 General Health & Fitness
Creatine ethyl esters (CEE) are a popular form of creatine marketed to have several advantages over creatine monohydrate and other forms of creatine. Esters are compounds made from the combination of an alcohol and a carboxylic acid. The idea behind “esterifying” creatine is that it will change the physical properties of the compound making it more stable and bioavailable at the target tissue. The hope is that an ester bond may protect the compound from being digested in the gastrointestinal tract by typical enzymes or it may increase its solubility so that it is taken up by tissues. Despite heavy marketing, no studies have evaluated CEE compared to creatine monohydrate – until now. Researchers from the United Kingdom tested the stability of two commercially available CEE products compared to creatine monohydrate. Each creatine product was exposed to acidic conditions designed to simulate conditions in the stomach. Serial measurements were then made for creatine and the breakdown product creatinine. A significant portion of the creatine was converted to creatinine for both CEE products, whereas more than 99% of the creatine remained available from the creatine monohydrate product. The findings do not confirm the greater stability of CEE in the gastrointestinal tract, in fact these result indicate that CEE more readily converts to its breakdown product creatinine in acidic environments. The bottom line is that most ester supplements are largely unproven, and unless you see documented clinical data, are probably not worth the additional cost.
Child R, Tallon MJ. Creatine ethyl ester rapidly degrades to creatinine in stomach acid. International Society of Sports Nutrition. Las Vegas, NV, June, 2007.
Score better workouts and more muscle mass with ProSourceâ€™s picks for the worldâ€™s greatest bodybuilding exercises.
Â In sports, determining the best comes down to proving it on the field of play. The top team in the NFL is determined through a grueling 16-game regular season, followed by a 3-4 game playoff system. You win, you’re the best, debate over.
Â When it comes to ranking exercises, however, â€œthe bestâ€ is not always as clear-cut as a Manning-to-Harrison touchdown pass. And there isn’t a playoff-style format we can use to pick the winners, leaving us to sort everything out college-football style … that means, plenty of room for differing opinions, analysis and debate.
Â Having said that, we feel we can confidently pick the single-best exercise for each and every body part based on exercise physiology and years of in-the-trenches experience, and coach you on how best to use that particular exercise in a workout. Some of our picks you may agree with, some you may not, but we guarantee every single one is an excellent muscle-building move that should occupy a place in your training playbook.
1) Chest: Incline Dumbbell Press
Â Sure, the flat bench press would be the puristâ€™s choice, but itâ€™s not the perfect one. The bar limits your range of motion, while the angle (or lack thereof) focuses on the meaty middle of the pectoral muscles. Itâ€™s sometimes argued that the popularity of the bench press has led to a prevalence of guys with well-developed middle pecs and flat upper pecs, but really, the problem is more likely due to the fact the upper region is just harder to develop.
Â The incline dumbbell press doesnâ€™t allow you to move as much poundage as the barbell version, but dumbbells do allow you to get a better stretch at the bottom while not letting a stronger side of your body overcompensate for a weaker one. Thus, while itâ€™s a close horse race, dumbbells get the nod.
Â In this sample workout, presses come first, followed by flyes. The three main angles are covered â€” incline, decline and flat â€” with upper chest getting hit right off the bat because itâ€™s usually lagging in size, as mentioned above, meaning you want to work that area when youâ€™re at your strongest and can push the most weight.
Â Perfect 10 Chest Workout
|Incline Dumbbell Press||1-2||15-20 (warm-up)|
|Barbell Bench Press||4Â 4||12, 10, 8, 6Â 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Decline Dumbbell Press or Smith-Machine Press||3||10, 10, 8|
|Incline Dumbbell Flye||3||10|
|Pull-up||3||10, 10, 10|
|Bent-Over Barbell Row||5||12, 10, 8, 8, 6|
|Pulldown To Front||3||12, 10, 10|
|One-Arm Dumbbell Row||3||12, 10, 8|
|Barbell ShrugÂ Â||4||15, 12, 12, 10|
|Deadlift||4||12, 10, 8, 6|
3) Shoulders: Barbell Military Press
Â Once again, the best exercise comes down to a compound movement (i.e., an exercise that calls multiple muscle groups into play, as opposed to isolating one particular muscle or part of a muscle). With the seated press, you recruit the anterior (front), middle and posterior (rear) delts to hoist a heavy weight overhead. The dumbbell and machine variations are valuable too, but dumbbells are awkward to get into place without the help of a spotter, while machines lock you into a set range of motion that may or may not be appropriate for your particular biomechanics.
Â Any good shoulder workout will include a press, and also isolation exercises to target each of the three deltoid heads. The following routine does just that, emphasizing the rear delts, as they are most often underdeveloped of the three heads among aspiring bodybuilders.
Â Perfect 10 Shoulder Workout
|Barbell Upright Row||2||20, 15 (warm up)|
|Barbell Military PressÂ Â Â||5||12, 10, 10, 8, 6|
|Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise||2||10-12|
|Reverse Pec-Deck Flye||2||10|
|Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise||3||10|
|Alternating Dumbbell Front Raise||3||10|
4) Biceps: Standing Barbell Curl
Â This shouldnâ€™t be a surprise. One of the most ubiquitous exercises in gyms worldwide (and one of the simplest), barbell curls allow for the use of plenty of weight, and work the biceps through their full and natural range of motion. After all, if you want to work biceps, you curl â€” no fancy methods exist to circumvent this fact.
Â Thereâ€™s also a lot to be said for other moves, like the incline dumbbell curl, which puts your biâ€™s under a pre-stretch at the bottom, making the contraction that much stronger, and the alternating dumbbell curl, as the twist of the wrist as you lift engages multiple sections of the biceps. We work all three into our suggested routine.
Â Perfect 10 Biceps Workout
|Standing Barbell CurlÂ Â Â||1-2Â 4||15-20 (warm-up)Â 12, 10, 8, 8|
|EZ-Bar Preacher CurlÂ Â||3||12, 10, 8|
|Alternating Dumbbell Curl||3||10|
|Incline Dumbbell Curl||2-3||10|
5) Triceps: Parallel-Bar Dip
Â Plenty of good triceps exercises exist â€” close-grip benches, skullcrushers and cable pushdowns to name a few â€” but for basic mass building, the dip is hard to surpass. Once you master the movement using only your bodyweight as resistance, you can use straps to attach additional weight, meaning you can never outgrow the dip: No matter what level of experience and strength you ultimately reach, it can and should be a valued part of your triceps training.
Â The following routine incorporates the dip, along with the other three moves mentioned above; together, they equal a thorough tri routine that leaves no part of your horseshoes untapped.
Â Perfect 10 Triceps Workout
|Cable Pushdown||2||20, 15 (warm-up)|
|Close-Grip Bench Press||4||12, 12, 10, 8|
|Dip||4||15, 15, to failure, to failure|
|Skullcrushers orÂ Two-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Extension||3||8-12|
Â 6) Forearms: Barbell Wrist Curl
Â Ideally, to thoroughly work your forearms you should employ wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, and some type of hammer-style curl. But to hit the meaty side of your upper arm â€” where you can squeeze the most growth out of your efforts â€” nothing beats the barbell wrist curl.
Â Donâ€™t fall into the easy trap of only tacking a forearm movement lackadaisically to the end of your biceps workout â€” for optimal size and development, they need some concentrated focus of their own. The following routine can be added to the end of any other workout in your arsenal without a huge time commitment, but will yield results.
Â Perfect 10 Forearms Workout
|Barbell Wrist Curl||3||10-15|
|Barbell Reverse Wrist Curl||3||10-15|
|One-Arm Hammer Cable Curl||2||10-15|
Â 7) Abdominals: Double Crunch
Â The most obvious exercise for abdominals is the crunch, todayâ€™s more direct version of the old-fashioned sit-up. But the crunch, while it does work both the upper and lower abs (as almost all abdominal exercises do to some degree), focuses on the upper portion. Meanwhile, exercises that involve bringing your legs toward your body, such as the reverse crunch, are exceptional choices for the lower abs.
Â The double crunch combines the best of both worlds â€” simultaneously bringing your upper body and lower body together in a crunching movement is an efficient way to blast the entire length of your six pack. Below, we use it as an anchor of a complete routine.
Â Perfect 10 Ab Workout
|Hanging Leg Raise||2||15-20|
|Decline-Bench Twisting Crunch||2||20|
|PlankÂ Â Â||2||30 second hold|
Â Quadriceps: Barbell Squat
Â Of all the exercises we had to choose for this article, this one was the easiest. The squat is unquestionably the best leg exercise ever devised. Huge, tree-trunk thighs can be had no other way than paying your dues in the squat rack. Difficult, often uncomfortable, and when done to parallel with a near-maximum weight draped across your upper back, theyâ€™re the hardest challenge you may ever face in a weight room. But theyâ€™re essential, so if youâ€™ve been avoiding them for the relative sanctuary of the leg press or selectorized machines, itâ€™s time to step up and take your punishment. The rewards will be worth it.
Â Perfect 10 Quad Workout
|Leg Extension||2||15-20 (warm-up)|
|Barbell Squat||5||15, 12, 10, 8, 6|
|Leg Press or Hack Squat||4||12, 12, 10, 10|
Â 9) Hamstrings: Romanian Deadlift
Â If lying, seated or one-leg curls are the hamstring options you rely on exclusively, youâ€™re missing out on some massive gains. All those aforementioned moves work the hams at the knee joint â€” to work the muscle from the hip too, you need the Romanian deadlift.
Â By combining the Romanian dead with a curl in a routine, as we do below, you create a complete workout, one that will develop your hamstrings from top to bottom. On the Romanian, be sure you keep the barbell as close to your body as you can on the ascent and descent, and tighten your lower back and abdominals for stability and protection of the spine.
Â Perfect 10 Hamstrings Workout
|Seated Leg Curl||2||15-20 (warm-up)|
|Romanian Deadlift||4||15, 12, 12, 10|
|Lying Leg Curl or One-Leg Curl||4||10-12|
Â 10) Calves: Standing Calf Raise
Â For complete calves, you need to incorporate both a standing and seated calf raise into your workouts. But as far as a ranking of the best overall calf exercise, the standing version wins in a landslide. Thatâ€™s because it engages the largest muscle on the back of your legs, the gastrocnemius. The seated raise works the soleus, which is smaller but still important if you want the best set of calves you can possibly build.
Â Perfect 10 Calf Workout
|Standing Calf Raise||5||20, 15, 15, 15, 10-15|
|Seated Calf Raise||3-4||15-20|
Â Extra Points
Â There you have it: The No. 1 best exercise for every body part, and sample workouts of how you can work each into a complete routine. Now itâ€™s up to you â€” you can either integrate each of them into your own existing regimen, or combine the workouts suggested above into a full program. The following split is a basic way to train each body part once per week:
Â Monday: Back, Biceps & Forearms
Â Tuesday: Chest & Triceps
Â Wednesday: Off
Â Thursday: Quadriceps, Hamstrings & Calves
Â Friday: Shoulders & Abs
Â Saturday: Off
Â Sunday: Off (or, if you prefer, start again with Mondayâ€™s workout)
Â Whether you take the field with all of our workouts, or only our top draft picks, you can be sure of one thing â€” your â€œteamâ€ of exercises will help your march toward the ultimate prize in this game: More muscle.
Â Â Â
Mistake-proof your fitness regimen
Caution: These eight bonehead maneuvers can derail your progress. Here’s what to watch out for, and how to fix what you’re doing wrong to maximize your results.
Blunders. We all make them from time to time, wittingly or otherwise. Sometimes we take a wrong turn while driving. Or perhaps we forget our significant other’s birthday, leading to an uncomfortable night sleeping on our best friend’s couch.
Hey, mistakes happen. The key is, how soon can you recognize the error of your ways and remedy them? When it comes to your fitness goals, the sooner the better, as it’s no fun to put in a lot of time and effort into your body only to never see the transformative results you’re hoping for.
Here, we tell you the most common slip-ups and how to correct them.
1) GETTING SLOPPY
We know you’ve seen those people in the gym. The one’s who slap a plate on each side of a barbell, then proceed to put enough body english into their curls that you wonder if they’ll fall backwards from the momentum. Or perhaps they’re benching with their butt and lower back so far off the pad you could roll a Swiss ball through the resulting aperture. Such cringeworthy performances not only draw the stares of appalled (or at least amused) gym devotees who know better, they’re actually completely counterproductive.
Not practicing correct form on an exercise is akin to fishing with TNT — sure, you may get some fish as they float to the surface after the explosion, but the collateral damage is far more costly than the benefit of the catch. Similarly, training in such a “lift it at any cost” way may result in a little muscular benefit, but certainly not efficiently or optimally, and likely not without some consequences along the way — i.e. a serious injury.
There’s a reason exercises have a particular and specific form associated with them. They have been designed, tweaked and perfected by exercise physiologists over the years to make them inherently safe as possible, and maximally effective as far as targeting the specific body part or body parts they’re aimed at. Not sticking to the parameters of correct form takes you out of the most advantageous biomechanical position, meaning it’s not hitting the intended muscle groups and, in many cases, it’s putting tendons, muscle, connective tissue or your spine at risk. What’s the point of that?
Bottom line: Learn the correct form. If you must, acquire an exercise manual from a reputable organization such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (www.nsca-lift.org) or the American College of Sports Medicine (www.acsm.org), or seek the help of a competent and certified personal trainer at your gym. If you’re not willing to do that — well, maybe fishing is a better and safer activity for you to consider.
2) AMBLING AIMLESSLY
If you’re constructing a building, you need a blueprint. If you’re driving cross country, you consult a map. And if you’re doing surgery — well, let’s just hope you have a plan before wielding the scalpel.
If that all sounds reasonable, then it’s hard to fathom why so many otherwise ambitious fitness buffs bounce through workout after workout without a specific goal in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t magically expect to get there.
The simple solution– Make a plan. Decide what you want to look like, and set some reasonable benchmarks to arrive there. You can’t go from fat to fit overnight, but over the course of three months, six months, a year, you can make exceptional improvements. Maybe the goal is adding two inches on your arms, or dropping 10 pounds of bodyfat — you write down where you are now, then you create a program to reach your destination.
If you know where you started, and you see in black and white how much progress you’ve made toward the goal, you can react. If it’s the aforementioned size on your arms, if after a month you’re guns are still at the same measurement, you know you’ll have to up your calories to gain some more weight, and you may need to either add some intensity to your workouts or lessen your workload, as you may be overtraining. Without the data, you couldn’t make such changes to your program, but once you know what you’re after, you can methodically pursue it until your objective is reached.
3) WINGING IT
This one follows on the heels of our advice in No. 2. Just as you shouldn’t simply exercise and hope you one day attain the physique you want, you shouldn’t just try to work out by memory, or go in and do –whatever you feel like– for a particular body part or training session. For sustained growth, you need to make sure you’re pushing yourself a little bit further just about every time you train.
Results don’t come in one fell swoop — they are gained a little at a time. If you’re talking an exercise like the bench press for instance, this week, you may get one more rep than last time on your final set, or you’re able to push five more pounds than before. Without writing it down however, unless you’re a freaky genius, you really can’t remember such imperceptible changes. And certainly, even if you remember from one week to the next (unlikely as that is), you won’t remember every workout over months to know how many small yet significant improvements you’ve made along the way.
Those who don’t keep journals will not be able to ensure they’re always moving forward, and won’t be as quick to notice trends, either positive or negative, which gives confirmation that a particular regimen is working or if it is not.
Take the time to bring a notebook along and track your exercises, sets, reps and weight. If you’re serious about accomplishing specific goals, it will soon become an indispensable tool you’ll never want to be without again.
4) EXERCISING TO EXCESS
You can sometimes call it a New Year’s Resolution run amok. Often, when someone begins training for the very first time (or after a long layoff), he or she jumps into the fray full-bore, hoping to undo years of neglect in days or weeks. With a “More is Better!” mantra emblazoned into their fitness-starved psyche, they hit the treadmill running full speed, lifting weights and doing cardio for hours a day.
It’s no wonder that, by February 1st, the influx of new members who signed up the first week of January has dwindled to a precious few. For those of us dedicated to fitness for the long haul, it’s kinda nice to have the gym back to ourselves, but then again, deep down we do like to see more of the general populace taking up a fitness lifestyle. The more the merrier, after all.
Avoiding this pitfall is easy, once you recognize the symptoms in yourself. You need to scale back, temper your gung-ho spirit and channel it into a lifelong venture. Perhaps it will help to realize this fact about muscle gains and body transformations: Your body can only recover and grow at rest, not while you’re training — if you chronically train, your body can’t keep up and repair the damage you do in the gym, meaning you’ll constantly be in a state of breakdown.
Avoid the burnout. Slow and steady is best. As an old workout adage goes, “Stop your workout while you have one good rep left in you” — calling it a day before utter exhaustion, when you feel like you still can go on just a little bit further, means you’ll have plenty of motivation to return next time. It’ll keep you wanting more, which is exactly what you need to turn your initial ambitions into a permanent undertaking.
5) SCOFFING AT A SCHEDULE
“Eh, I’ll work out sometime today.” How many times does that statement end up with, “Oh, man, where’d the day go? That’s cool, though, I’ll just hit it twice as hard tomorrow.”
If the above scenario never happens to you, congratulations. For the other 99.9% of the population that’s not part infallible robot, a promise to get to the gym whenever you can make time is not usually good enough to always guarantee you’ll make it.
To ensure the other important tasks in your life don’t push your fitness pursuits to the side, try scheduling your workouts, just like you would work, school, or a doctor’s appointment — write the time in your day planner, sandwiched between job interview and your exotic-dancing lessons if need be (hey, who are we to question what you do with your free time?). Respect your time at the gym as much as would any other important appointment, and your newfound consistency will reap dividends.
6) GOING IT ALONE
Training with the intention of improving yourself is, at its heart, a solitary endeavor. It comes down to your will against the weight, your determination to go one more mile when you don’t think you can.
But that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from the support of friends, family or your significant other. In fact, those closest to you can make the difference in your long-term success or failure. If they’re not on board, they could even tempt you away from the path — encouraging you to skip a workout to watch a ballgame at the bar, or poking fun when you try to eat healthy in front of them while they stuff themselves with another order of fries and round of beer.
A significant other who doesn’t support your decision could indeed be the death-knell of your effort. Maybe he or she doesn’t necessarily understand why you want to change your body, or worse, is harboring deeper-seeded resentment for psychological reasons beyond the scope of this article.
That’s why you should talk it over with the important people in your life before you embark on your fitness journey. Tell them what you want to do, and why, and recruit their backing if possible. Sure, not everyone will help — but in some cases, maybe that’s an indication that it’s time to “clean a little house” when it comes to some of the negative people in your life. The more you can surround yourself with those who will encourage your behavior (instead of attempting, intentionally or otherwise, to steer you off course), the better chances you’ll have to fulfill all of your aspirations.
7) THROWING YOUR DIET OUT THE WINDOW
The justification game goes a little like this: I had an awesome workout today — that should more than make up for the half-a-pizza I’m about to wolf down. Or maybe it’s not just a major cheat here and there, but a continuing practice: If I train regularly, that should more than make up for the fact I’m not really paying attention to my diet.
Guess what? That’s a huge mistake. In fact, to be totally honest, what you eat is a little more important than what you do in the gym. A sound nutritional strategy can help you make rapid changes in your body composition — but all the training wisdom and dedication in the world may not matter in the face of excess calories and all-you-can-eat-Chinese-buffet binges.
You’re serious about making gains and improving yourself: After all, you’ve read this far. So don’t dig yourself into a hole. Attack your meal strategy as meticulously as you do your workouts, and enjoy all the fruits of your labor. (Now fruit, there’s a good snack for you)
GIVING UP WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH
When Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago were beating his face in, Rocky Balboa didn’t turn to his corner and plead for them to throw in the towel. No, he picked himself off the mat and kept going. Hence, that’s why he’s the renowned champion of underdogs everywhere.
Oh, wait, Rocky wasn’t a documentary? Okay, fine, but the lesson holds true in real life: Quitters never win. You’ve gotta stay in the game in the face of adversity. In the realm of training, unforeseen roadblocks, time crunches, or just the everyday trials and tribulations of everyday survival can get in the way of the most focused fitness fanatics. But you can’t let a few missed workouts turn into a six-month layoff. And you don’t want to start, then stop, then start, then stop again, haltingly working out then falling off the wagon (or worse yet, fall off once never to return to the fold).
Once you begin on the road to a fitter lifestyle, know you’ve made the right decision — and keep that burning in your head as all kinds of obstacles fall in your path. Sure, after the first few weeks, the buzz of working out wears off, and sometimes it seems easier to lie on the couch than schlep to the health club, but persevere. Almost everyone out there today who say they couldn’t imagine a life without regular workouts started in the same place as you may be now — you know, wondering if it’s worth it, whether you have the energy to keep it up, questioning whether you simply have the time — it’s all a part of the “initiation” period. Stay on course, and you’ll come out the other side, just like so many others — wondering why you didn’t start working out sooner.