December 2010

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Every exercise targets certain parts of your body—but if you tweak a move just right, you can build other muscles at the same time. This workout, designed by Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S., does that by challenging your core, chest, back, arms, and shoulders. Perform it as a circuit with no breaks between moves; then rest for 1 minute and repeat two more times.

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Chinup + Knee Raise

Hang from a chinup bar using a shoulder-width, underhand grip. Pull your chest to the bar while also raising your knees to your chest. Pause, and slowly lower your body while also lowering your knees. If you can’t complete a chinup, simply raise your knees while hanging from the bar. Complete 10 reps, or as many as you can.

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Standing Single-Arm Shoulder Press

Stand holding a dumbbell just outside your shoulder, with your palm facing you. Set your feet shoulder-width apart and keep your knees slightly bent. Raise the weight until your arm is completely straight, and then lower it to the starting position. Do 10 repetitions with each arm.

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Pushup + Row

Start in a pushup position as you grip a pair of hex dumbbells placed shoulder-width apart, your palms facing in. Lower your body, pause, and push yourself back up. Now pull the dumbbell in your right hand straight up to the side of your chest. Pause, and lower it. Repeat the move with your left arm. That’s 1 rep. Do 10.

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Lying Triceps Extension

Lie faceup on a bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length above your head, your palms facing each other. Without moving your upper arms, bend your elbows to lower the weights until your forearms are past parallel to the floor. Pause; lift back to the starting position. Do 12 reps.

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By: Lou Schuler & Ian King

Your body has about 650 muscles. It doesn’t matter that you only care about four or five of them. You need every one in order to perform the normal functions of everyday life—eating, breathing, walking, holding in your stomach at the beach.

Granted, you don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about most of your muscles. The 200 muscles involved in walking do the job whether you monitor them or not.

You could try to impress your friends at parties by telling them the gluteus maximus is the body’s strongest muscle, or that the latissimus dorsi (in your middle back) is the largest, or that a middle-ear muscle called the stapedius is the smallest. But it probably won’t work, unless you have some really unusual friends. And muscle trivia can’t capture the wonder of muscles themselves—the brilliance of coordinated muscles in motion, the magnificence of well-developed muscles in isolation.

We hope, in the following story, to help you understand a little more about how your muscles work, and thus how to make them bigger, stronger, and more aesthetically pleasing (if you’re into that sort of thing). You can accomplish all three, if you know what’s going on beneath the surface.

Shop smarter! Know the 125 best foods at the supermarket.

Muscle Fibers Do Different Things

Your skeletal muscles—the ones you check out in the mirror—have two main types of fibers.

Type I fibers, also called slow-twitch, are used mainly for endurance activities. Type II, or fast-twitch, begin to work when a task utilizes more than 25 percent of your maximum strength. A movement doesn’t have to be “slow” for the slow-twitch fibers to take over; it just has to be an action that doesn’t require much of your fast-twitch strength. And an effort doesn’t have to be “fast” to call your fast-twitch fibers into play.

A personal-record bench press is going to use every possible fast-twitch fiber (plus all the slow-twitchers, as we’ll explain below), even though the bar probably isn’t moving very fast.

Most people are thought to have a more or less equal mix of slow- and fast-twitch fibers. (Elite athletes are obvious exceptions—a gifted marathoner was probably born with more slow- than fast-twitch fibers, just as an Olympic-champion sprinter or NFL running back probably started life with more fast-twitch fibers.) However, the fast-twitch fibers are twice as big as the slow ones, with the potential to get even bigger. Slow-twitch fibers can get bigger, too, although not to the same extent.

So one strategy comes immediately to mind . . .

To Grow Large, Lift Large

When you begin a task, no matter if it’s as simple as getting out of bed or as complex as swinging a golf club, your muscles operate on two basic principles of physiology:

1. The all-or-nothing principle states that either a muscle fiber gets into the action or it doesn’t. (As Yoda said, long ago in a galaxy far away, “There is no try.”) If it’s in, it’s all the way in. So when you get up to walk to the bathroom, incredibly enough, a small percentage of your muscle fibers are working as hard as they can to get you there. And, more important, all the other fibers are inactive.

2. The size principle requires that the smallest muscle fibers get into a task first. If the task—a biceps curl, for example—requires less than 25 percent of your biceps’ strength, then the slow-twitch fibers will handle it by themselves. When the weight exceeds 25 percent of their strength, the type II, fast-twitch fibers jump in. The closer you get to the limits of your strength, the more fast-twitch fibers get involved.

Here’s why this is important: One of the most pervasive myths in the muscle world is that merely exhausting a muscle will bring all its fibers into play. So, in theory, if you did a lot of repetitions with a light weight, eventually your biggest type II fibers would help out because the smaller fibers would be too tired to lift the weight.

But the size principle tells you that the biggest fibers are the Mafia hit men of your body. They don’t help the underlings collect money from deadbeats. They suit up only when the work calls for their special talents, and when no one else can be trusted to do the job right.

In other words, a guy who’s trying to build as much muscle as possible must eventually work with weights that require something close to an all-out effort. Otherwise, the highest-threshold fibers would never spring into action. Moreover, the smaller fibers don’t need any special high-repetition program of their own, since the size principle also says that if the big fibers are pushed to the max, the small ones are getting blasted, too.

Building Muscles Saves Your Bones

Many have tried to disparage the squat, framing it as an exercise that’s brutal to back and knees. The charges never stick. Sure, the exercise can be tough on the knees, but no tougher than full-court basketball or other full-bore sports.

And for guys with healthy backs and knees, the squat is among the best exercises for strength, mass, sports performance, and even long-term health. The heavy loads build muscle size and strength, along with bone density, and thicker bones will serve you well when you finally break into that 401(k). So you won’t be the guy who fractures his hip and ends up in a nursing home, although you’ll probably pay some visits to your nonsquatting friends.

Setup: Set a bar in supports that are just below shoulder height and load the weight plates. (Be conservative with these weights if you’ve never squatted before. There’s a learning curve.) Grab the bar with your hands just outside your shoulders, then step under the bar and rest it on your back. When you pull your shoulder blades together in back, the bar will have a nice shelf to rest on. Lift the bar off the supports and take a step back. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly, pull in your lower abs, squeeze your glutes, and set your head in line with your spine, keeping your eyes forward.

Descent: To begin the squat, bend your knees and hips simultaneously to lower your body. Squat as deeply as you can without allowing your trunk to move forward more than 45 degrees from vertical. Make sure your heels stay flat on the floor.

Ascent: Squeeze your glutes together and push them forward to start the ascent, which should mirror the descent. Keep your knees the same distance apart (don’t let them move in or out). Your hips and shoulders need to move at the same angle–if your hips come up faster, you increase your trunk angle and risk straining your lower back. At the top, keep a slight bend in your knees.

You Can Improve Muscle Quality

On the day you were conceived, the gene gods had made three decisions that you might want to quibble with as an adult, if you could:

1. Your maximum number of muscle fibers

2. Your percentages of fast- and slow-twitch fibers

3. The shapes of your muscles when fully developed

On the downside, unless you were born to anchor the 4100 relay at next summer’s Olympics, you can forget about ever reaching that goal. The athletes at the extremes—the fastest and strongest, the ones with the best-looking muscles, and the ones capable of the greatest endurance—were already at the extremes from the moment sperm swam headlong into egg.

The upside is that there’s a lot of wiggle room in between. Few of us ever approach our full genetic potential. You probably will never be a freak, but with the right kind and amount of work, you can always be a little freakier than you are now.

The best way to do that is to learn to use your muscles’ very own juice machine.

More Muscle Comes from More T

Everyone has some testosterone—babies, little girls playing with tea sets, grandparents shuffling through the laxative aisle at CVS—but no one has hormonal increases from one year to the next like a maturing male. His level increases tenfold during puberty, starting sometime between ages 9 and 15, and he hits near-peak production in his late teens. From there, his testosterone level climbs slowly until about age 30, at which point he hits or passes a few other peaks.

His muscle mass will top out between the ages of 18 and 25, unless he intervenes with some barbell therapy. Sexual desire peaks in his early 30s. Sports performance, even among elite athletes, peaks in the late 20s and starts to decline in the early 30s.

None of this is inevitable, of course. Unless you’re that elite athlete who’s trained for his sport since before the short hairs sprouted, you probably have the potential to grow bigger and stronger than you’ve ever been. And that could also put a little of that teenage explosiveness back into your sex life.

The testosterone/muscle-mass link is pretty clear in general terms: The more you have of one, the more you get of the other. Strength training, while it doesn’t necessarily make your testosterone level go up permanently, certainly makes it get a little jiggy in the short term. We know of four ways to create a temporary surge in your most important hormone.

1. Do exercises that employ the most muscle mass, such as squats, deadlifts, pullups, and dips.

2. Use heavy weights, at least 85 percent of the maximum you can lift once on any given exercise.

3. Do a lot of work during your gym time—multiple exercises, multiple sets, multiple repetitions.

4. Keep rest periods fairly short—30 to 60 seconds. Of course, you can’t do all these things in the same workout. For example, when you work a lot of muscle mass with heavy weights, you can’t do a high volume of exercise, nor can you work effectively with short rest periods. This is among the many reasons you should periodize your workouts, which is a polysyllabic way of saying change your workouts every few weeks, rather than do the same thing from now till the gene gods recall the merchandise.

Muscles Need More than Protein

The mythology surrounding protein and muscle building could fill a book, even though the science is fairly straightforward. Your muscles are made of protein (except the four-fifths that’s water), so you have to eat protein to make them grow. You also have to eat protein to keep them from shrinking, which is why men trying to lose fat without sacrificing muscle do best when they build their diets around high-quality, muscle-friendly protein from lean meat, fish, eggs, poultry, and low-fat dairy products.

But if you’re young, lean, and trying to gain solid weight, a lot of extra protein may not help as much as you think. Protein has qualities that help weight loss and may curtail weight gain. First, protein is metabolically expensive for your body to process. Your body burns about 20 percent of each protein calorie just digesting it. (It burns about 8 percent of carbohydrate and 2 percent of fat during digestion.)

Second, protein creates a high level of satiety, both during meals and between them. In other words, it makes you feel fuller faster and keeps you feeling full longer between meals. (This effect does wear off as you grow accustomed to a higher-protein diet, so it may not have an impact on long-term weight gain or weight loss.)

Finally, if you eat more protein than your body needs, it will learn to use the protein for energy. You want your body to burn carbohydrates and fat for energy, obviously, so a body that’s relying on protein for energy is like a car that’s using pieces of its engine for fuel.

The best weight-gain strategy is to focus on calories first, protein second. You should make sure you’re eating at least 2 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of muscle mass. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds, so a 160-pound guy weighs about 73 kg and should take in a minimum of 146 g protein a day. But that’s just 584 calories of protein, the amount you’d find in 15 ounces of chicken, two salmon fillets, or a 28-ounce steak. A protein-powder shake can amp up your totals, as well. If you need to eat more than 3,000 calories a day to gain weight, you’d better have some sweet potatoes with those steaks.

Do Deadlifts

Ever watched a Strongman competition on TV? They start with large men picking something even larger up off the ground. That’s a deadlift—the most basic and practical of all strength-building movements. Now, have you ever watched a Strongman competition with your wife or girlfriend? She’ll notice something you probably wouldn’t: Not a single one of those guys has a flat ass. So pull up a barbell: You’ll be able to perform everyday feats of strength—lifting a sleeping child or a dying TV—and you’ll look a lot better when she follows you upstairs to the bedroom.

Setup: Load a barbell and roll it up to your shins. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position your shoulders over the bar as you grab it with an overhand grip, your hands just outside your knees. Keep your back in a straight line from head to pelvis. Finally, pull your shoulder blades together and down.

Just before the lift: Straighten your legs a bit to establish tension on the bar. Pull in your lower abs and squeeze your glutes.

First pull, from floor to knees: Straighten your legs while keeping your trunk and hips at or near the same angle. The bar should stay in contact with your skin at all times.

Second pull, from knees to midthighs: Stand up, driving your hips forward. Finish upright, with your shoulder blades back and down and your lower back flat.

Lowering: No need to perfectly reverse the motion; just slide the bar down your thighs and shins to the floor. Don’t annoy your fellow lifters by dropping the bar.

Next repetition: Repeat the setup, letting go of the bar and regripping if necessary. You want perfect form on every repetition, and you won’t get that if you bang out reps without stopping to set up properly before each lift. Remember, it’s a deadlift. That means no momentum from one repetition to the next.

If you use perfect form, your lower back should give you no trouble. However, if you have preexisting back problems, your muscles may not fire properly for this exercise. Try the sumo deadlift instead. Set your feet wide apart, toes pointed slightly outward, and grip the bar overhand with your hands inside your knees. Your back will be more upright at the start, taking away some of the potential for strain.

Dip for Big Triceps

Beginners almost invariably hit their triceps with light weights, limited ranges of motion, and simple, easy exercises. Which is fine . . . for beginners. For sizeaholics, the key to triceps development is lifting really, really heavy loads.

If you have time for just one triceps exercise, make it a dip. It’s the big, basic movement that works all three parts of the muscle (thus the name “triceps”). And, because the bigger, stronger chest muscles are the prime movers—the ones that get your body moving from a dead-hang position—your triceps get to work against a much heavier load than they would in a triceps-isolating exercise.

How to dip: Hoist yourself up on parallel bars with your torso perpendicular to the floor; you’ll maintain this posture throughout the exercise. (Leaning forward will shift emphasis to your chest and shoulders.) Bend your knees and cross your ankles. Slowly lower your body until your shoulder joints are below your elbows. (Most guys stop short of this position.) Push back up until your elbows are nearly straight but not locked.

Making progress: For most men, doing sets of dips with their own body weight is challenging enough. But when you reach a point at which you can do multiple sets of 10 dips, you want to add weight. The best way is to attach a weight plate or dumbbell to a rope or chain that’s attached to a weight belt. Many gyms have belts specially designed for weighted dips and chinups. Another solution, especially if you work out at home, is to wear a backpack with weight plates inside it.

But the more weight you add, the more careful you have to be. Always lower yourself slowly—you don’t ever want to pop down and up quickly on a weighted dip, unless you think you’ll relish the feeling of your pectoral muscles detaching from your breastbone.

Precautions: Aside from the pec-tearing thing, you want to protect your shoulders. If you have preexisting shoulder problems, or feel pain there the first few times you try dips, you should skip them.

A comparable but more shoulder-friendly exercise is the decline close-grip bench press, using a barbell or dumbbells held together.

Run Less to Grow Faster

Running doesn’t build muscle mass. If it did, marathoners would have legs like defensive linemen, and workers in Boston would have to repave the streets each year following the city’s signature race. But running shrinks muscle fibers to make them more metabolically efficient, thereby saving the pavement.

You’d think you could get around this by lifting weights in addition to running, but your body negates that work through a mysterious “interference effect.” Your type II fibers—the biggest ones—will still grow if you run and lift. But your type I fibers won’t, and even though they’re smaller than the type IIs, they probably comprise 50 percent of the muscle fibers in your body that have any growth potential.

Cut back on your running program and you’ll see growth in both your slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and perhaps finally get your body to look the way you think it should.

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by Mens Health

While machines might seem like the foolproof way to exercise, they aren’t always the safest. In fact, sometimes they actually contribute to the injuries you were trying to avoid in the first place. Here are 6 machines you should lift without.

Extra tip: Download our on-the-go fitness app: No machine necessary

The Seated Leg Extension

The myth: It’s the safest way to work your quadriceps, or thigh muscles.

The truth: Physiologists at the Mayo Clinic determined that leg extensions place significantly more stress on your knees than squats. Why? Because the resistance is placed near your ankles, which leads to high amounts of torque being applied to your knee joint every time you lower the weight. What’s more, Auburn University scientists found that people who squat long-term have tighter, stronger knee ligaments than those who don’t squat at all.

The alternatives: Free weight squats, split squats, and lunges—performed with perfect form—are all better choices for working your quads and protecting your knees.

The Behind-the-Neck Lat Pull-Down

The myth: The best way to perform the lat pulldown is to pull the bar behind your head, down to your upper back

The truth: Unless you have very flexible shoulders, this exercise is difficult to do correctly, and can increase your risk for shoulder impingement syndrome—a painful condition in which the muscles or tendons of your rotator cuff become entrapped in your shoulder joint.

The alternative: Simple—just pull the bar in front of your head, down to your collarbone. You’ll work your back just as hard, but with less risk for injury.  

The Pec Deck

The myth: It’s a super safe and very effective way to work your chest muscles.

The truth: This apparatus, also called the chest fly machine, can overstretch the front of your shoulder and cause the muscles around the rear of your shoulder to stiffen. The result: Doing this movement frequently can lead to shoulder impingement syndrome.

The alternatives: Forget the machine, and stick with exercises such as the pushup, dumbbell bench press and dumbbell incline press; they’re easier on your shoulders and the best way to build your chest overall. In fact, Truman State University researchers found that pectoral muscles are activated for 23 percent less time during the chest fly, compared with the bench press.

The Seated Hip Abductor Machine

The myth: This machine is the best way to work your out thighs, including your glutes.

The truth: Because you’re seated, it trains a movement that has no functional use. And if done with excessive weight and jerky technique, it can put undue pressure on your spine.

The alternative: Work the same muscles, but while standing. Simply loop a resistance band around both legs, and position the band just below your knees.  Now take small steps to your left for 20 feet. Then side-step back to your right for 20 feet. That’s one set. This is much harder than it sounds, but you can do it anywhere, and it’s also a great warmup for any sport.

Extra tip: Get stronger, faster. Read our story about the 8 Perfect Foods for Fitness.

The Seated Rotation Machine

The myth: Twisting on this machine helps melt your love handles.

The truth: It works the muscles under your love handles, but will do little to reduce the fat that covers them. What’s more, because your pelvis doesn’t move as you rotate your upper body, this exercise can put excessive twisting forces on the spine.

The alternative: As long as you don’t expect to shrink your love handles, you can use rotational exercises to work your obliques. But here’s the secret to safety: Before you do any rotational exercises, brace your abs forcefully—as if you’re about to be punched in the gut—and hold them that way as you do the movement. This limits your range of motion and helps to keep you from rotating excessively at your lower spine.

The Smith Machine

The myth: This machine—which looks like a squat rack with a built-in bar that runs on guides—gives you all the benefits of squats, but none of the risk that comes from holding a heavy barbell across your back. That’s because the bar can easily be secured at any point during the movement.

The truth: Because the bar runs on guides, you can only move straight up and down as you squat—instead of down and back, as you would in a free-weight squat. The result: An unnatural movement that puts extra stress on your knees and lower back. Need another reason to skip the Smith? Canadian researchers found that traditional squats produced almost 50 percent more muscle activity in the quadriceps than squats done on a Smith machine.

The alternative: If you’re not comfortable with barbell squats, simply do the exercise while holding dumbbells at arm’s length next to your sides. You won’t need a spotter, and your body will be free to move through the natural motion of the squat.

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By: Adam Bornstein

There’s a secret every trainer in Hollywood knows, and it’s one you should know, too:

“The fastest way to look like you’ve packed on 20 pounds of muscle is to lose 10 pounds of fat,” says Alan Aragon, M. S., the Men’s Health Weight-Loss Coach. That’s because the closer you come to removing the lard that covers your six-pack, the more defined every muscle becomes, making you look buff all over.
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Download the Trade Your Belly for Biceps Workout to your MP3 player
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Which is why I’ve spent a lot of time trying to lose my last 10 pounds of flab. Unfortunately, like many men, I’ve found that goal to be frustratingly elusive. That is, until I enlisted the help of Aragon, whose nutrition and training methods have shaped the bodies of NBA athletes, Olympians, and competitive bodybuilders.

Using Aragon’s advice, I slashed my body fat in half—down to a lifetime low of 6.8 percent—and sculpted not only the muscles of my midsection, but the ones everywhere else, too. Now it’s your turn. Combine Aragon’s simple 5-step diet plan (listed here) with this workout routine. You’ll finally finish off your gut for good—and make every muscle pop. 

Calculate Your Calories

When it comes to calories, Aragon has a simple rule: Eat for your target body weight. Let’s say you weigh 220 pounds but would like to tip the scales at 180. You’ll adopt the calorie intake of a 180-pound man.

The formula: If you perform 1 hour or less of exercise a week, multiply your target body weight by 10. That’s how many calories you should consume daily. However, if you work out more than that, add 1 to the multiplier for every additional hour you train. So if your target body weight is 180 pounds and you exercise for 3 hours a week, you’d multiply 180 by 12—giving you a target of 2,160 calories a day. You can divide those calories into however many meals you want—three, four, five, or six—as long as you don’t eat beyond your daily limit.

Eat by the Numbers

Sure, you could just focus on calories. But by eating the right amounts of the right nutrients, you’ll speed your results without feeling like you’re on a diet.

Protein
You probably don’t need to be sold on the virtues of protein, since it’s the raw material for muscle growth. But it also helps extinguish your appetite and aids in fat loss.

The formula: Eat 1 gram for every pound of your target body weight. If you want to weigh 180 pounds, you’ll eat 180 grams of protein. One gram of protein is about 4 calories. So to calculate the calories you’ll be eating from protein, multiply the number of grams by 4. In this case, that’s 720 calories.

Fat
For years, this nutrient was considered a dietary demon. However, recent studies clearly show that it’s not fat that inflates your belly, but too many calories, period. And, it turns out, fat may actually keep you from overeating because it makes you feel full. The end result: You stop eating sooner and stay satisfied longer.

The formula: Eat half a gram for every pound of your target body weight. If your goal is to weigh 180 pounds, that’d be 90 grams. And since 1 gram of fat has about 9 calories, that’s 810 calories from fat. This will be about 40 percent of your total calories.

Carbohydrates
Carb-containing foods not only taste good, but can also be rich in vitamins and minerals. So you don’t need to eliminate them altogether; you just need to make sure you don’t eat them in excess. And consuming the right amounts of protein and fat will make that goal far easier, since both keep hunger at bay. That’s one key reason Aragon places a greater priority on protein and fat and leaves the remainder of your calories for carbs.

The formula: Add your calories from protein and fat, and subtract that total from your allotted daily calories. Using the 180-pound example, that leaves you with 630 calories. This is the amount of calories you can eat from carbs. As protein does, carbs provide about 4 calories per gram—so divide your carb calories by four to determine how many grams of carbs you can eat. In this case, it’s about 158 grams.

Create Your Menu

Build your diet around whole foods—those you’d find in nature. You should choose mainly meat, eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes, plus grain products that are made with 100 percent whole-wheat flour. Note that typical junk foods—candy, baked goods, and sugary drinks—don’t make the list.

Use the food options below as a guide for designing your diet. Mix and match the foods in any way you like while following the calorie, protein, fat, and carb guidelines for your target body weight. The nutrition numbers listed don’t provide exact amounts of calories and other nutrients, but these ballpark averages allow you to eyeball your intake. You can also analyze your daily diet for free at sparkpeople.com.

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Dial in Your Diet

Follow these rules to make your eating plan even more effective.

1. Consume at least 2 servings of vegetables a day. Vegetables are low in calories and high in belly-filling fiber.

2. Eat at least 2 servings of fruit a day. Fruit provides your muscles with plenty of carbs for energy, but has less impact on your blood sugar than grains and other high-starch foods do. This is important because it can help you avoid the cravings and binges that occur when your blood sugar rises quickly and then crashes. Ideally, the majority of your carbs will come from fruits and vegetables. So limit yourself to just two daily servings of grains, beans, and high-starch vegetables, and consume the rest of your carbs from produce.

3. On the days you work out, eat 1 hour before you exercise and again within 60 minutes after your last rep. For both meals, aim for 0.25 gram per pound of your target body weight in protein and carbs. So if your goal is to be 180 pounds, you’d eat 45 grams of each nutrient. This provides your muscles with a healthy dose of nutrients for fueling your workout and for upgrading your muscles after you’re done. Keep in mind that your total protein and carb intake for the day doesn’t change; you’re just eating strategically for better results. Options are . . .

  • A preformulated shake, such as At Large Nutrition Opticen (atlargenutrition.com), that has a mix of protein and carbs. Add fruit if it requires more carbs.
  • A shake that’s almost entirely protein—such as Optimum Nutrition Whey—along with 1/2 cup of oatmeal and a piece of fruit.
  • A tuna-salad or turkey sandwich.  

Forget About the Details

One meal a week, go ahead and splurge. “There’s always room for junk food, as long as it’s a minority of your intake,” says Aragon.

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Here’s another great, body-sculpting move that few people know about

What exercise can help you jump higher, run faster, and lift more weight? It’s called the barbell hip raise, and chances are, you’ve never done this exercise. In fact, you’ve probably never seen anyone else do it, either. But it’s one of the best movements you can do to build muscle, boost strength, and improve athletic performance. Check out the video to the left to see how to do the barbell hip raise with perfect form. You might just find it’s the best exercise you aren’t doing.

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By Mickey Z., Planet Green

Imagine for a minute if corporate-sponsored mouthpieces like Limbaugh and O’Reilly were correct on either of these points:

  • Global warming is a hoax
  • Humans are not responsible for climate change

Well, guess what? It wouldn’t change the green movement’s primary mission. Because while some waste valuable time debating deniers, every 24 hours:

  • 13 million tons of toxic chemicals are released across the globe
  • Over 100 plant or animal species go extinct
  • 200,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed
  • 45,000 humans die of starvation

And that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg…

Climate change, of course, connects to many of the pressing green issues but our eco-system would be in peril even if the deniers are right. We’d still have 80 percent of the world’s forests gone. We’d still have 90 percent of the large fish in the ocean gone. In other words, we’d still have an urgent need to dismantle industrial civilization and work towards a greener future.

Next: 5 eco-problems Al Gore may never make a movie about (but should)

5 Eco-problems (of Many) Al Gore May Never Make a Movie About (But Should)

1. Nuclear Waste

Imagine tomorrow that global warming were reversed, slaughterhouses shuttered and closed, pesticides banned, and the auto industry no longer received corporate welfare. Even as we celebrated, the reality would remain: radiation is forever. The half-life of DDT in the environment is 15 years — which is bad enough — but the half-life of uranium-235 is 704 million years; and for uranium-238, it’s about 4.47 billion years.

Note to Al Gore: Stop supporting nuclear power.

Take Action: Learn why nuclear power is not and can never be clean energy.

2. Factory Farming

For just a snapshot of what this insane institution can do to the environment, we’ll turn to PETA:

  • Each day, factory farms produce billions of pounds of manure, which ends up in lakes, rivers, and drinking water.
  • Of all the agricultural land in the U.S., 80% is used to raise animals for food and grow the grain to feed them — that’s almost half the total land mass of the lower 48 states.
  • Chickens, pigs, cattle, and other animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the U.S.; for example, it takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole wheat flour.

Note to Al Gore: Why were burgers and hot dogs sold at the Live Earth concerts?

Take Action: Go vegan.

3. Deforestation

Deforestation, put simply, is the permanent destruction of indigenous forests and woodlands. Greenpeace tells us that an area of natural forest the size of a football field is being chopped down every two seconds. The Nature Conservancy adds that over 32 million acres of the planet’s natural forests are lost each year due to logging, much of it illegal. Other reasons (sic) for deforestation cattle grazing, agriculture, mining, oil extraction, population expansion, dams, pipelines and other infrastructure projects.

Note to Al Gore: Without trees, we’re doomed.

Take Action: Recognize the connection between what we eat and why trees are clear cut.

4. Overfishing

“Populations of top predators, a key indicator of ecosystem health, are disappearing at a frightening rate,” explains Greenpeace, “and 90 percent of the large fish … have been fished out since large scale industrial fishing began in the 1950s.” The connection between human survival and the oceans has never felt more vital.

Note to Al Gore: You shouldn’t have served endangered Chilean Sea Bass at your daughter’s wedding.

Take Action: Transition away from fish in your diet.

5. The Use of Pesticides

“Prior to World War II, annual worldwide use of pesticides ran right around zero,” says author Derrick Jensen. “By now it’s 500 billion tons, increasing every year.” As a result of such a massive toxic overload, about 860 Americans suffer from pesticide poisoning every single day; that’s almost 315,000 cases per year. Worldwide, the death rate from pesticide poisonings is more than 200,000 per year.

Note to Al Gore: Those tobacco farms used an awful lot of pesticides.

Take Action: Go organic.

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from MensHealth.com

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You can boost your brain, build muscle, burn fat, and help your heart in less than one minute: Just mix up a smoothie and slurp. It’s that simple—if you include these dozen add-ins that not only pack health benefits, but also make your shake taste even better.

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Peanut Butter

Packed with protein, manganese, and niacin, peanuts can help stave off heart disease and, when eaten in moderation, promote weight loss.

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Fat-Free Milk

All the calcium and protein, none of the fat.

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Blueberries

The huge amounts of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, in blueberries have been shown to slow brain decline and reverse memory loss.

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Low-Fat Vanilla Yogurt

A cache of calcium and digestion-aiding probiotics in every scoop.

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Raspberries

An antioxidant powerhouse bursting with fiber, manganese, and vitamin C, these berries will keep your heart and brain in top shape.

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Fat-Free Chocolate Frozen Yogurt

Calcium, phosphorus, and none of the guilt.

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Pineapple-Orange Juice

OJ has vitamin C, and pineapples contain bromelain, a cancer-inhibiting, inflammation-reducing enzyme.

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Cherries

In addition to their vitamin C and fiber content, cherries have been linked to reducing arthritis pain.

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Bananas

Heavy on potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6, bananas do wonders for your heart and provide good carbs to keep you full and energized.

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Whey Protein

Its essential amino acids help pack on the muscle—making whey the best friend of athletes and gym rats.

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Frozen Mangoes

To their stock of vitamins A and C, mangoes add a healthy dose of beta-carotene, which helps prevent cancer and promotes healthy skin.

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Use our fitness challenge to find out how you measure up

Can you handle your own body-weight? Find out, by taking our Body-Weight Strength Test. It’s a fantastic way to see how strong you really are, and also challenges you to improve your score every week. The video to the left will show you how.

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By: Adam Campbell

We have a lot of time on our hands, so the other day we looked up “fit” in the dictionary. We read about fit (as in flipping out) and fit (as in what your hat should do) before finally landing on definition number three: “Sound physically and mentally.”

Not exactly helpful. After all, it doesn’t say squat about how many pushups a man should be able to do. Or how much weight he should be able to lift. Or how fast he should be able to sprint. Which is why we’ve taken matters into our own hands.

On the following pages, you’ll find our definition of fit—10 simple (though by no means easy) things every man must be able to do before he stamps himself “in shape.” Says who? Says us.

The good news: If you don’t measure up to our admittedly high standards right away, we’ve given you the tips and training strategies you need to get there quickly. Then you won’t need to look in a dictionary for the definition of fit. You’ll just need to look in a mirror.

 Bench 1.5 Times Your Body Weight

Upper-body strength is important for more than bench-press bragging rights. Literally being able to throw your weight around—plus half that of the guy standing next to you—is the ultimate sign that you’ll never have a problem hanging drywall, holding your ground in the post…or looking great in a tank top.

The Test: Use a bench-press machine and keep your feet flat on the floor during the entire lift. To get your score, divide the heaviest weight you can lift one time by your body weight.

The Scorecard:
Less than 1.0: Weak
1.0-1.49: Ordinary
1.5 or more: You rule on the bench

Boost Your Bench Press: The key to strengthening any muscle is lifting fast, says Louie Simmons, strength coach to five of the world’s top bench-pressers. Follow Simmons’s plan for 4 weeks to improve your own bench-press performance:

Using a weight that’s about 40 percent of what you can lift one time, do nine sets of three repetitions, with 60 seconds’ rest between sets. Lower and raise the bar as fast as possible, and alternate your grip every three sets, so that your hands are 16, then 20, then 24 inches apart.

Three days later, perform three sets of flat, incline, or decline barbell bench presses (alternate varieties each week) with the heaviest weight you can lift six times. Bonus tip: Press your head into the bench as you lift. You’ll activate the muscles called neck extensors, which help ensure that your spine is in a straight line. That’ll put your body in a stronger position.

Run 1.5 Miles in 10 Minutes

Breaking the 10-minute mark for a mile and a half isn’t just a sign that you can outrun the feds. It’s also an indicator of peak aerobic capacity—your body’s ability to deliver oxygen to your working muscles. Regular aerobic exercise lowers your cholesterol and helps keep your body fat low—both of which significantly decrease your risk of heart disease.

The Test: Run 1 1/2 miles on a flat path as fast as you can.

The Scorecard:
12 minutes or more: Slow
Between 10 and 12 minutes: Ordinary
10 minutes or less: Endurance excellence

Air Out Your Aerobic Ability: To build aerobic capacity, you need to run far. But you also need to run fast, says Barrie Shepley, C.S.C.S., Canadian Olympic triathlon coach and president of Personal Best Health and Performance. Follow Shepley’s plan for 6 to 10 weeks and you’ll increase your endurance about 30 percent.

Perform a 40- to 60-minute run on Saturday at a pace just slow enough that you never feel winded. (Walk if you need to.)

On Tuesday, do four to six half-mile intervals at your goal pace for the mile-and-a-half run. (If your goal is 10 minutes, run each interval in 3 minutes, 20 seconds.) Rest for the same amount of time as each interval takes.

On Thursday, perform four to six uphill runs at a moderate pace, with each lasting about 90 seconds, and take about 2 minutes’ rest after each interval. After your last interval, jog for 10 to 15 minutes at an easy pace.

Bonus Tip: Train like Roger Bannister. That is, split the distance into four 600-yard intervals and run them at a pace that’s about 10 percent faster than your 11/2-mile pace, resting 1 minute after each. Bannister used this method to train for the first sub-4-minute mile.

Touch the Rim

Touch the rim? You bet. In addition to the fact that a fit man just ought to be able to show off once in a while, a good vertical leap is the ultimate sign of lower-body power. It means you can combine lower-body speed and strength into one quick movement. And that’ll help you anytime you need to move explosively—stealing a base, grabbing a rebound, diving for cover.

(For the record: Guys with the best hops always have help from genetics, plus a few extra inches, but a fit man should still be able to score high on the vertical-jump test. If the rim is out of reach, make the backboard your goal.)

The Test: You’ll need a small bag of chalk to do this test. Chalk your fingers and stand flat-footed next to a wall. Place your chalked hand as high as possible on the wall and mark it with your fingertips. Then, without taking a step, dip your knees, swing your arms up, and jump as high as you can, again marking the wall with your fingertips. The distance between the two marks is your vertical-jump height.

The Scorecard:
20 inches or less: Grounded
Between 20 and 26 inches: Ordinary
Higher than 26 inches: High flyer

Have Better Hops: To leap higher, you have to practice explosive jumps, says Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S., a strength coach in Toronto.

Stand on a box or step that’s about 12 inches high. Step off the box, and as soon as your feet hit the floor, jump as high as you can. Repeat five times.

Do four more sets, resting 30 seconds between sets.

Bonus Tip: Never use your first jump as your score. You can expect maximum air on your third attempt.

Leg-Press 2.25 Times Your Weight

When it comes to strength, your lower half is your better half. Your leg and butt muscles are the foundation of your body and essential for almost any activity—from standing upright to sprinting to pushing your brother-in-law’s Hyundai out of a ditch. You’re 175 pounds? Make your leg-press goal 400 pounds. Your brother-in-law will bow in your presence.

The Test: Assume the position in the leg-press machine. Lower the weight until your knees are bent 90 degrees, then push the weight back up. To get your score, divide the highest amount of weight you can lift one time by your body weight.

The Scorecard:
Less than 1.8: A shaky foundation
1.8 to 2.2: Ordinary More than
2.2: Serious strength

Get Stronger Legs: Try this technique, called diminished-rest interval training. You’ll improve your leg-press performance by 10 to 20 percent in 3 weeks, says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., owner of F.A.S.T. Systems in Newhall, California.

Using a weight that’s about 95 percent of the amount you lifted in the test, perform 10 sets of one repetition, resting 80 seconds after each set.

Do this workout twice a week, each time reducing the rest period between sets by 10 seconds. When your rest period is down to 30 seconds, retake the test and increase the weight.

Bonus Tip: Right before you take the test, do a leg press with 20 percent more weight than what you think you can lift one time—but lower the weight only halfway before pushing it back up. When you perform the test, your muscles will be expecting a heavier weight. It’ll not only seem easier, but you’ll be able to push more pounds.

Swim 700 Yards in 12 Minutes

Funny thing about swimming: We know guys who can run 26 miles without breathing hard, yet sink to the bottom of the pool after half a lap. Why? Because swimming requires both aerobic capacity and upper-body muscle (the kind a lot of those marathoners lack). Paddling 700 yards in 12 minutes should be just enough to help that cute lifeguard in a pinch.

The Test: Swim as far as you can in 12 minutes. Your total distance in yards is your score.

The Scorecard:
Less than 500 yards: You’re sunk
500-700 yards: Ordinary
More than 700 yards: Aquatic excellence

Swim Better, Swim Farther: According to the American Swim Coaches Association, only two out of 100 Americans swim well enough to complete a quarter of a mile without stopping. That’s usually because they have poor form, says Terry Laughlin, author of Swimming Made Easy.

Follow this rule: Keep your head aligned with your body (the way you hold it when you’re not in the water) the time you’re swimming. When you breathe, roll your entire body—as if you were breathing with your belly button—without changing the position of your head. You’ll float better and use less energy. And that means you’ll be able to swim farther.

Bonus Tip: Swim 25 yards at a time to practice your form. Start by swimming a total of 200 yards per session—eight 25-yard intervals. Add 50 yards each week until you’re swimming a total of at least 500 yards. Increase your intervals by 25 yards every 2 weeks until you’re able to swim the entire distance without stopping.

Do 40 Pushups

Drop and give us 20, soldier. Twice. Why? Because pushups measure upper-body endurance—the ability to use your strength over time. If you can crank out 40 pushups, we guarantee that your body won’t quit when everything’s on the line—like when you’re carrying a kid out of a burning building (or hauling your wife’s luggage through three airport terminals).

The Test: Lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor, then push yourself up. Repeat as many times as you can.

The Scorecard:
25 or fewer: Weak
26-39: Ordinary
40 or more: Strong and tough

Build an Upper Body for the Long Run: Try this program from Charles Staley, a strength coach in Las Vegas. It will get your upper-body endurance to fit-man level in 12 workouts. Perform sets of half the number of pushups that you completed in the test—resting 60 seconds between sets—until you’ve done a total of 40 pushups. (For example, if you did 12 pushups in the test, you’ll do seven sets of six pushups.)

Each workout (do it every 4 days), deduct 5 seconds from the rest interval. After 12 workouts, you’ll be able to do 40 pushups without rest.

Bonus Tip: Time how long it takes you to do as many pushups as you can. Then rest for the same time period, and repeat the process two to four times. You’ll quickly improve your upper-body endurance.

Measure Up

Take a look at yourself. If your belly is growing faster than your butt, you have bigger problems than figuring out how to get a tan without taking off your shirt. The more fat your body stores in your midsection, the higher your risk of heart disease. And this much we know: Fit men don’t get heart disease.

The Test: The easiest method of determining your risk level is a comparison of your waist and hip circumferences. Grab a measuring tape and measure the circumference of your waist at the narrowest point. Then measure the distance around the widest part of your hips and butt. Divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference for your score.

The Scorecard:
0.92 or higher: Your wife and kids are going to miss you
0.82 to 0.91: Ordinary
0.81 or less: Flat and happy

Shrink Your Belly: A combination of diet and exercise will help you lose weight the fastest, says Jeff Volek, Ph.D., R.D., coauthor of the Testosterone Advantage Plan.

Try this simple method to make the transition from chip-eater to healthy guy: Cut 250 calories from your diet and burn 250 calories a day through exercise. That’s a total of 500 calories—enough to lose a pound a week.

Foodwise, 250 calories is about the same as a 20-ounce Coke, a small bagel, or two handfuls of potato chips. To burn the same number of calories through exercise, a 180-pound man could lift weights for 30 minutes, walk 21/2 miles, or play basketball for 20 minutes.

Bonus Tip: Limit your carbohydrates—especially the high-sugar kind—after 5 p.m. Research shows that as the day progresses, your body has a greater potential to store them as fat.

Run 300 Yards Sub 1 Minute

Whether you’re chasing down a purse snatcher or running the fast break, every once in a while a man just needs to bust it. If you can cover 300 yards in 60 seconds, you have the speed and drive you need for just about anything.

The Test: Run as fast as you can between two lines spaced 25 yards apart. Do six round-trips, for a total of 300 yards.

The Scorecard:
More than 70 seconds: Slow
60 to 70 seconds: Ordinary
Less than 60 seconds: Fast and agile

Increase Your Speed: Train with sprint intervals three times a week, says Mike Gough, C.S.C.S., a strength and conditioning coach in Ottawa, Ontario.

Sprint at 85 percent of your full effort for 1 minute.

Then run at a lower intensity—about 40 percent of your full effort—for the next minute.

Continue to alternate between intensities for 20 minutes. Try this workout on a hill to get even better.

Bonus Tip: Sprint as hard as you can each time you push off the line for your first three steps. Then stride though the middle portion of each 25-yard sprint by simply trying to maintain the momentum you gained from your sprint.

This will increase your speed drastically, since the starting and stopping parts of the run are where most guys let up. That’s because accelerating or decelerating is more physically demanding than just running.

Touch Your Toes

No one has to mistake you for Sarah Hughes, but flexibility really does equal fitness. And having flexible muscles will help keep you moving—in the gym, on the court, at the golf course—as you get older.

Research shows that from age 35 to 50, the average man’s flexibility decreases by 25 percent. That can lead to shoulder injuries and runner’s knee. Plus, tight pectoral muscles limit your strength, so your weight workouts will suffer, too—not to mention your ego.

The Test: One of the best measures of flexibility is the sit-and-reach test.

Here’s How to Do It: Place a yardstick on the floor and put a foot-long piece of masking tape across the 15-inch mark.

Sit down with your legs out in front of you and your heels at the edge of the tape, one on each side of the yardstick.

Put one hand on top of the other and reach forward on the yardstick as far as you can by bending at your hips. Your score is the number your fingertips touch.

Toss a Basketball 75 Feet Kneeling

We know what you’re thinking: This skill may come in handy if you’re taking a last-minute desperation shot in your local over-40 league. But otherwise, what’s the point?

Here’s why it’s important: Throwing for distance is the ultimate measure of your upper-body power (that’s strength plus speed). A fit man needs a powerful arm not only to throw the long bomb and hit his tee shot 300 yards, but also to punch somebody in the kisser. Still think it’s a weenie goal?

The Test: Kneel on the court, just behind the baseline. Throw the basketball overhand as far as you can. The top of the key at the far end of the court is 73 feet—just short of the Fit Man standard.

The Scorecard:
Less than 60 feet: Lousy arm
60 to 74 feet: Ordinary
More than 74 feet: Cannon fire

Make Your Upper Body More Powerful: The single-arm clean and press will improve both upper-body speed and strength, says Ballantyne.

Grab a dumbbell with an overhand grip and hold it in your left hand so that it hangs down at arm’s length in front of you.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Explosively pull the dumbbell straight up by dipping your knees, then straightening up as you shrug your shoulder.

As you pull upward, rotate the weight in an arc over your upper arm until the dumbbell rests on the top of your shoulder. Your upper arm should be parallel to the floor, and your knees slightly bent again.

Dip at your knees and push the weight above your shoulder until your arm is straight. Return to the starting position and repeat with your right arm. Do this move 2 days week, with 3 days of rest in between. Perform three sets of four repetitions with a heavy weight in one workout, and eights sets of one repetition with a lighter weight—about 30 percent of the heaviest weight you can lift one time—in the other.

Bonus tip: Throw the ball at a 40- to 45-degree trajectory. It’ll go farthest that way.

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