May 2011

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These 5 new spins on old ab workouts work you harder, so you can build muscle faster, says Jim Smith, C.S.C.S., cofounder of Diesel Crew.


Around-the-World Plank

Replaces: Plank

How to do it: Place both feet on a bench, and assume a pushup position. Brace your core. Then, without dropping your hips or moving your feet, make a full revolution around the bench by “walking” your hands all the way around it. Do 4 revolutions, resting 60 seconds in between revolutions.

Benefit: The stabilizing muscles in your abs, upper and lower back, and shoulders work harder than they would in a traditional plank.


Anti-Rotation Crunch

Replaces: Crunch

How to do it: Attach a rope to the low pulley of a cable station and lie on your back alongside the stack. With both hands, hold the rope in front of your chest. Perform a crunch, arms locked, and don’t let your torso rotate (even though the cable pulls you sideways). Pause, and return to the starting position. Do 15 reps, switch sides, and repeat. That’s 1 set. Do another set of 12, and a final set of 10. Rest 45 seconds between sets.

Benefit: You’re boosting the intensity and efficiency of a traditional crunch, and your abs have to work harder to prevent rotation.


Side Plank with Low-Cable Row

Replaces: Side plank

How to do it: Attach a handle to the low pulley of a cable station and lie on your side, facing the stack. Grab the handle with your top hand. Raise up into a side plank: knees straight, upper body propped on your elbow and forearm. Pull the handle to your rib cage; keep your hips pushed up and forward. Slowly extend your arm. Do 10 to 15 reps, switch sides, and repeat. Do 2 more sets, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Benefit: By engaging your lats, the fan-shaped muscles in your back, you increase torso stability and muscle endurance.


Back Extension with Alternating Dumbbell Row

Replaces: Back extension

How to do it: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, position yourself in a back-extension machine so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Without rounding your back, row the dumbbell in your right hand toward your rib cage. Lower, and repeat with your left hand. That’s 1 rep. Complete 3 sets of 8 reps, resting 60 seconds between sets.

Benefit: As your entire body works to stabilize your spine, you’re boosting endurance in often-neglected muscles: spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings.


Medicine-Ball Pike

Replaces: Swiss-ball pike

How to do it: Assume a pushup position, but with your feet on a medicine ball. Keep in a straight line from your head to your ankles. Without bending your knees, roll the medicine ball toward your hands by raising your hips as high as you can and rolling the ball with your feet. Pause, and reverse back to the starting position without letting your hips sag. Complete 3 sets of 15 reps, resting 45 seconds between sets.

Benefit: You improve balance and engage your hip flexors and rectus abdominis—your six-pack muscles.

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They can be, if you know what to look for. Follow this guide to make your meal count

Probiotics Primer

What they are
Naturally occurring microorganisms that can be good for your health. They’re added to foods, especially yogurt.

What studies show
Certain probiotics can help you fight colds, diarrhea, and more. But those aren’t always the ones in your food.

Source: Mary Ellen Sanders, Ph.D., who studies probiotic microbiology and consults in the industry

Step 1: Know names
See the three circles on the right? They show the three elements of a probiotic’s name. The trouble is, most companies list only the genus and species of a strain. That’s like a restaurant serving “fish” without identifying what kind it is. Not having enough information makes determining any health benefits a difficult task.

Your move: Choose products that include the full names of their probiotics. Chances are, more research is available about the benefits, which is why the food company chose to spotlight the strains it included.

Here’s Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001—the full name of a probiotic in Stonyfield Farm yogurt—dissected.
Genus: Lactobacillus
Strain: HN001
Species: Rhamnosus

Step 2: Ignore the usual suspects
Take these, for example…

L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus
Help turn milk into yogurt

Your move: Don’t be impressed by foods that list only L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus. These organisms do help you digest lactose, but they mostly just help create yogurt. To be labeled a probiotic, an organism has to have a health benefit. L. acidophilus is also common. Some companies use studied strains of it as probiotics, but others use it only for flavor.

Step 3: Vet research
Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 is found only in Dannon Activia—because Dannon developed it, studied it, and patented it. (Dannon claims this strain helps regulate your digestive system.) This is common: Many strains are studied primarily by the companies that developed them. Then the companies promote the benefits.

Your move: Watch for definite claims, like “clinically proven” or “scientifically proven”—Dannon had to scrap both of these claims in a 2010 settlement and replace them with less-certain phrases, such as “clinical studies show.”

Step 4: Read the label closely
Questions about probiotics shouldn’t stop you from eating yogurt, a good source of protein and calcium. Hey, if the live cultures have other health benefits, that’s all the better. Probiotic supplements are another story: Many may have no proven benefits. Look for products with labels that list probiotics’ full names, the number of colony-forming units, and the scientifically studied benefits of each strain. Dosage and storage suggestions should also be included.

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In any sport from football to fighting, when two opponents are practically equal, usually the one who makes the fewest mistakes becomes victorious. With that in mind, presented below is my list of the 40 most common errors martial artists make in the ring. 

Kickboxing Training Mistake #1

Trying to counter when you should be leading the attack. Counterattacking, like faking, is an advanced art. It requires knowing three things: the lead of the opponent, your method of avoiding his lead and the exact way of executing the proper counter-shot. Unless you know them all, initiate.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #2

Failing to step in when you punch. Whether jabbing or kicking, you always need to put your weight behind your executions for maximum power. Stepping in also increases your energy when you use the pivot-shifting and waist-pivoting (hinging) principles for punching power.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #3

Rushing your closing kick after a punching combination. The kick doesn’t have to be in cadence with the rhythm of any preceding punches. After the last punch, you should practice angling out of one of the side doors, resetting and then finishing with a power kick.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #4

Slugging toe-to-toe from the pocket with a slugger. Remember the fundamentals of fighting: Don’t slug with a slugger or hook with a hooker.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #5

Standing square while you’re in front of an opponent or in the pocket. If your shoulders are open, you not only present an easy target for your opponent but also limit your ability to fully rotate your hips through the centerline to create power in your knee strikes or inside punches.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #6

When facing a southpaw or a sharpshooting hard kicker, failing to possess effective feinting or faking skills. Such skills would enable you to draw him off-balance by breaking his timing. When it seems impossible to back him up, you need to know how to disrupt his rhythm or cause him to hesitate using faking skills. Then you must work defensive timing to come in the back door with a counterattack.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #7

Failing to keep your back toward the center of the ring. You’ll end up getting walked to the ropes and find yourself trapped and punished without any room to maneuver or escape.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #8

Remaining in the same pocket position and continuing to fire combinations. You need to at least turn your opponent or change the angle or position from which you attack. Remember that standing in the same spot makes you an easy target.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #9

Failing to keep your feet directly under your punches. When you overreach with your punches, especially a straight right, you’ll end up lunging off-balance without any power. You’ll have too much hang time at the end of your punch, which leaves you unable to follow up with a left ridgehand or hook. You’ll often find yourself collapsing into your opponent directly behind your overextended punch. Or you may leave yourself open to his counter.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #10

Positioning yourself directly in front of an aggressive opponent. This will get you hit. To avoid that fate, you must know how to employ rhythm sets, both with your head movement and your footwork, to offset his alignment or range just before his trigger squeeze.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #11

Allowing yourself to get hit often while you’re coming in. You need to know how to make your opponent miss while you’re breaching his defenses. Against an advanced or equally skilled fighter, you must be able to use faking skills or create angles to turn him after you’ve crossed the critical-distance line or bridged the gap. Failing to do this against a taller or more experienced opponent will definitely cost you.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #12

Neglecting to develop your ability to execute an educated jab or double jab. You’ll have difficulty with your penetration skills, and you’ll be easily countered.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #13

Failing to counter immediately after using defensive movement. If you move your body (rolling) or move your head (weaving or slipping), you’re trying to make your opponent miss. That’s your opening for a counter. If you don’t take advantage of it, he’ll just attack you again.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #14

Refusing to recognize the potential consequences when a taller opponent quickly steps back or pivots in from a clinch. Both actions are designed to create a favorable range to fire a clearing hook kick or straight right punch. You must know how to read and react to this tactic. That usually entails stepping simultaneously to negate the positional advantage such an opponent is attempting to create.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #15

Not learning how to execute kickboxing techniques from a single- or double-arm clinch. If you freeze in this position because you lack the skills, you’re making a physical and mental mistake.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #16

Being a headhunter. No experienced fighter should develop a habit of always aiming for his opponent’s head—unless a specific opponent leaves himself open to such an approach. It’s better to use a game plan that first attacks his body, thus causing him to leave his head exposed.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #17

Standing upright and staying that way for the entire fight. Unless you’re very tall, the use of such a posture demonstrates a lack of disciplined movement skills and sets you up to be hit. Example: If you’re short, don’t stand upright to fight a taller opponent.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #18

Neglecting shoulder and hip rolling as a defensive maneuver. In the martial arts, too much emphasis is placed on using hand blocks as the primary means of defense. It’s better to use body-rhythm skills. They provide you with a more effective way of countering and enable you to more efficiently absorb or deflect incoming shots. Even worse: Every time you use your hands for defense, you eliminate any opportunity you may have had to use them offensively. Don’t trade offensive tools for defense.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #19

Practicing each combination using the same amount of speed and power. If you’re executing a three-punch combo, be sure to vary your speed and power. Suggestion: Fire the first two punches with speed, almost like slapping, just to get your opponent’s attention or cause him to drop his guard. Then throw the third shot hard.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #20

Not having an “attitude technique.” In sports, all teams have that one play, serve or pitch that they call their “attitude play.” It’s the same in the combat sports. All great fighters have one technique or combination that puts fear in the hearts of the competition. You should spend an hour a day perfecting one maneuver that you’re certain you can execute with total conviction at any time, against any opponent and in any situation.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #21

Habitually stopping inside the pocket after attacking. If you do that, it’s easy to stop working and just cover up. Unless you make an attempt to disengage or reset, you’re a sitting duck.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #22

Not making your ability to throw body punches as refined as your ability to throw head shots. This doesn’t make sense because the body is a much larger target than the cranium and contains just as many nerve transmitters, which determine your chances of scoring a knockout. Word to the wise: Practice your body shots.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #23

Failing to develop your ability to properly rotate your hips past the centerline when you execute a power punch. Do that, and instead of a knockout shot, your punch will be a glorified slap. For maximum power, rotate your hips (which serve as hinges) until you cross the centerline, after which you release the punch.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #24

Not maintaining your composure when fatigue sets in or when you get hurt. It’s all too easy to do when you’re inexperienced. A related problem that stems from inexperience is not developing your ability to maintain your focus after a momentary loss of control. The best way to prevent both from cropping up is to study under an educated trainer.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #25

Positioning your hands too low to mount a proper defense, which is worsened by a lack of head movement. That combination makes your skull an easy target for your opponent. You can’t expect to survive long when you do that.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #26

Getting so aggressive or cocky that you overcommit in an effort to get your opponent to act. That means you’re getting too physical and attempting to use your body and muscle strength to get the job done. In reality, you should trust in your techniques and let them do their job. Fight with your head, not with your hands or feet.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #27

Coming in headfirst or upright when you attack. If you always lead by slightly tilting your head toward your opponent on your initial move, you’ll leave yourself open for a counter that travels straight up the middle. You’re better off using rhythmic head movement.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #28

Freezing up. In the ring, nonaction has consequences, and they’re usually not consequences you’ll like. Learn to avoid nonaction by focusing on only what you have control over and then acting accordingly. Not doing so is both a physical and a mental mistake.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #29

Refusing to listen to your trainer and allowing your ego to dictate your actions. This all boils down to not following directions. If you trust your trainer, do what he says. Note that it’s possible to be on your own and still find yourself the victim of a bad trainer. In such cases, don’t fall into the trap of letting your ego override your strategy.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #30

Allowing your opponent to get set. It’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make. The reason is, once you’ve mastered controlling your opponent’s set point and maintaining the advantage of distance, you can beat 90 percent of the fighters out there.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #31

Getting cute and doing ridiculous things in the ring. Both are huge mistakes and send a message that you either don’t know the fundamentals of fighting or don’t see a need to stick to them.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #32

Succumbing to a mental laziness that encourages you to hold back and not let your techniques go. You must—by reflex, not by consciously thinking about it first—fire the moment your opponent is in range. Build that skill by sparring a lot, staying in shape, having and using a strategy, and practicing timing drills.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #33

Trying to execute a kickboxing technique when you’re off-balance. When you’re off-balance, it’s better to focus on covering up and clinching. Or, if the rules permit, you can tactically drag your opponent to the ground.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #34

Underestimating your opponent and then finding yourself falling behind in the fight. This is a real fear experienced by all fighters. Be like the great martial artists who overcome it: Never let your mental guard down. Realize that no matter who he is, your opponent is tough. Prepare for a real battle.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #35

Simply firing at your target, hoping to hit it. It’s better to always execute your techniques through the target. Be certain that you will make contact.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #36

Allowing your opponent to constantly back you up. Few martial artists know how to fight while moving backward, especially when their weight is on their heels. They often leave themselves in an open stance with squared-up shoulders. Retreating also increases the momentum of your opponent’s attack. Avoid all that by not backing up except when absolutely necessary.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #37

Letting your opponent beat you to the draw. This is bad even if you’re a counterfighter or a grappler who likes to let his upright opponent strike with the intent of getting under his attack. Not permitting your adversary to fire first is one of the cardinal rules of fighting.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #38

Having a sparring-partner frame of mind. It can leave you fighting a defensive game in which your opponent attacks and you block when you should counter. The remedy entails learning to work behind your blocks. For example, if your opponent executes a jab, don’t just block it or cuff it and then stop. Instead, time a right cross that travels over his jab as soon as you complete the cuffing movement.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #39

Getting too hungry. This refers to the habit of leading with power shots like the straight right, left hook and power kick. Those techniques are primarily for counterattacking, not initiating.

Kickboxing Training Mistake #40

Not knowing how to reverse the momentum of the fight when it starts going downhill. Fine-tune your ability to return to a base stance or style of fighting when the going gets tough. Then stick with an “attitude technique” or immediately change strategies to one that’s designed to shift the momentum in your favor.

The best way to apply the 40 lessons listed here is to remember that training is a process, not a game of unfounded predictions. Predictions never justify anything in the fight game, especially the end result. What counts is not what you say; it’s what you believe. A successful outcome stems from self-confidence and adherence to a work ethic. As they say, the journey is always more important than the destination.

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You know the routine: Do a set, rest, do another set. Let’s change that. “By filling your rest periods with exercises, you can improve conditioning and kickstart your metabolism,” says Jim Smith, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Diesel Crew. Pick fillers that work different muscle groups than your main exercise does, and do them for 30 to 60 seconds between sets. Smith likes these pairings. 

Mountain Climber

Between sets of: Chinups
Do this filler: Mountain climber

Assume a pushup position with your hands on a medicine ball. Lift your right foot off the floor and raise your right knee as close to your chest as you can, without rounding your lower back. Put your leg down, and repeat with your left leg. Continue alternating as fast as you can.

Jump Squat

Between sets of: Dumbbell bench presses
Do this filler: Jump squat

Place your fingers on the back of your head and pull your elbows back so they’re in line with your body. Dip your knees, and then explosively jump as high as you can. When you land, immediately squat and jump again.

Medicine-Ball Slam

Between sets of: Deadlifts
Do this filler: Medicine ball slam

Hold a medicine ball at waist level, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. While keeping your elbows slightly bent, explosively lift the ball up and then slam it to the floor in front of you. Grab the ball on the rebound and repeat.

Dumbbell Hang Pull

Between sets of: Squats
Do this filler: Dumbbell hang pull

Stand with your hips pushed back (as if you’re about a quarter of the way into a squat) while holding a pair of dumbbells with an overhand grip. In one movement, straighten your hips, knees, and ankles, and explosively pull the dumbbells as high as you can. Lower yourself to the starting position and repeat.

Bench Jump

Between sets of: Dumbbell military presses
Do this filler: Bench jump

Stand facing a bench that’s at knee height. Squat as low as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Then explosively jump over the bench and land in a deep squat. Turn around so you’re again facing the bench, and repeat.

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Sunday night, the Disney-owned ABC network opened its broadcast of the 2011 Billboard Music Awards (8:00 p.m. ET) with a sexually explicit performance of the song “S&M” – while rating the program suitable for 14-year-olds.

The opening number featured singer Rihanna, clad in a white leather dominatrix outfit, writhing on the stage as men’s hands groped at her thighs and crotch, while singing the lyrics, “Sex in the air, I don’t care, I love the smell of it/Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and whips excite me.” Later in the song, Rihanna was joined by Britney Spears in a black leather outfit and bunny ears and mask. Together the two twirled on stripper poles, then concluded the song with a pillow fight.

This kind of content may be appropriate for a striptease show in Las Vegas (where the broadcast originated); but Disney decided it should enter the living room of every family with a TV set, at 8 o’clock Sunday night (only 7 p.m. in the Central/Mountain time zones).

This is not the first time the Billboard Music Awards have shoved extreme content at viewers. In 2002, Cher used the F-word; the next year, the Awards featured Nicole Richie saying, “Have you ever tried to get cow s*** out of a Prada purse? It’s not so f***ing simple.”

But this time, it was not an accidental, unplanned “slip of the tongue.” Rihanna’s routine was obviously well-rehearsed. Disney, ABC, and their advertisers knew EXACTLY what they were getting – yet they chose to put it on the air and sponsor it anyway!

If YOU are sick and tired of Hollywood dumping explicit sex shows into your living room, TAKE ACTION!

Contact ABC-Disney and the show’s advertisers — Chevrolet, Old Navy and McDonalds, among others — and let them know that you plan to “vote with your wallet” next time you’re shopping!

The network and every sponsor must explain to the public why they would use their ad dollars and squander their good-will with America’s families by delivering S&M themes and imagery to teen audiences.

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Mark Cheng People tell me I tend to sound like an old-timer. I tell them to shut up and get off my lawn! Then I explain that a lot can be learned from comparing the way we did things in the past with the way people do them now. Case in point: martial arts training.

Back at the tail end of the 1970s when I started, we were told we could get everything we needed from one art and one master. Want to get strong? Eat lots of rice, like your master does. Need to build up your arms? Do more punches. Want to boost your endurance? Spar and do more kata. Worried about taking on an armed assailant or multiple attackers? Spar and do more kata—what’s wrong with you, I just said it!

Things are different now. We have access to so much more information thanks to martial arts books, DVDs and the Internet. We can train under people whose job it is to specialize in the various aspects of the martial arts. We no longer believe one sensei has the answer to every question in the universe. Overall, I think it’s a good thing.

We’ve also benefited with respect to the big picture. How? It’s led to the creation of a concept I call the 21st century martial artist. It’s epitomized more and more by people like Dr. Mark Cheng. Here are some of his martial arts training tips.

Martial Arts Training Tip #1: Stand-Up Skills

Sil lum fut ga is a unique combination of savagery and artistry; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a style of southern Chinese martial arts with more of a mean streak with such control of movement. Combat shuai chiao is China’s best throwing art. Once I got the opportunity to study under Bruce Lee’s highest-ranked student, Dan Inosanto, it was a no-brainer.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #2: Stand-Up Recommendations

“If you want to develop combat skill, any system that puts you in the ring as often as possible and gives you tons of contact will get you to develop quickly. However, if you want to not only develop combat skill but also avoid making Advil your chief dietary supplement, you need to look at a holistic system that gives you training in fundamental movements. Bando, shuai chiao, northern Shaolin kung fu and silat teach warm-ups that are essentially sophisticated yogic routines that prepare your body to perform at a higher level instead of compensate at a deeper level.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #3: Ground Skills

“Combat shuai chiao allows you to deal with someone from either a striking platform or a grappling framework. To throw him into the ground is the essence of control and situational mastery. On the ground, Brazilian jiu-jitsu is unparalleled. Sambo and old-school judo also have great ground-fighting repertoires.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #4: Impact/Edged Weapons

“Every individual I consider gifted as an empty-hand fighter has always said that if he had the option to use a weapon when the odds were stacked against him, he’d use it. I carry a knife—it’s an insurance policy.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #5: Weapon Arts

“If you’re a policeman doing riot control or a member of the armed forces who has to deal with close-quarters combat, krabi krabong might be your best choice. If you’re a civilian who wants to become familiar with different weapons that you might have to improvise with, the Inosanto blend of kali is superb.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #6: Firearms

“I own firearms and practice with them whenever I get the chance. If you have access to a self-defense tool that greatly stacks the odds of survival in your favor, you’d have to be supremely confident or stupid not to make use of it.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #7: Kettlebells

“Kettlebells are my main form of weight training. I was privileged to train directly under Russian Kettlebell Certified founder and former Spetsnaz operator Pavel Tsatsouline. His methods have revolutionized my views on training. I also use the Century Ripcord to practice throw setups. It’s a grossly underutilized piece of equipment that has high yields.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #8: Conditioning

“At this point in my life, conditioning is secondary to correction. Making sure my body is functionally symmetrical and pain free is what improves my performance under stress.”

Martial Arts Training Tip #9: Shaolin and Shotokan Exercises

“The more I investigate sports science and human performance, the more I realize that the fundamentals I was taught in Shaolin kung fu, shotokan karate and almost every old-school system are where the real gold is. Many of those traditional warm-ups are very sophisticated yogic practices. They build a strong foundation of movement so you don’t end up piling fitness on dysfunction. Those exercises force you to develop a broad base of movement so your strength and skill acquisitions don’t tear your body apart from the inside out.”

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By: Scott Quill

The guy lifting beside you looks like he should write the book on muscle. Talks like it, too. He’s worked out since the seventh grade, he played D-1 football, and he’s big.

But that doesn’t mean he knows what he’s talking about. Starting now, ignore him.

The gym is infested with bad information. Lies that start with well-intentioned gym teachers trickle down to students who become coaches, trainers, or know-it-all gym-rat preachers. Lies morph into myths that endure because we don’t ask questions, for fear of looking stupid.

Scientists, on the other hand, gladly look stupid—that’s why they’re so darn smart. Plus, they have cool human-performance laboratories where they can prove or disprove theories and myths.

Here’s what top exercise scientists and expert trainers have to say about the crap that’s passed around in gyms. Listen up and learn. Then go ahead, question it. 

Slow Lifting Builds Huge Muscles

Lifting super slowly produces superlong workouts—and that’s it. University of Alabama researchers recently studied two groups of lifters doing a 29-minute workout. One group performed exercises using a 5-second up phase and a 10-second down phase, the other a more traditional approach of 1 second up and 1 second down. The faster group burned 71 percent more calories and lifted 250 percent more weight than the superslow lifters.

The real expert says: “The best increases in strength are achieved by doing the up phase as rapidly as possible,” says Gary Hunter, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., the lead study author. “Lower the weight more slowly and under control.” There’s greater potential for growth during the lowering phase, and when you lower with control, there’s less chance of injury.

More Protein Builds More Muscle

To a point, sure. But put down the shake for a sec. Protein promotes the muscle-building process, called protein synthesis, “but you don’t need exorbitant amounts to do this,” says John Ivy, Ph.D., coauthor of Nutrient Timing.

If you’re working out hard, consuming more than 0.9 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight is a waste. Excess protein breaks down into amino acids and nitrogen, which are either excreted or converted into carbohydrates and stored.

The real expert says: More important is when you consume protein, and that you have the right balance of carbohydrates with it. Have a postworkout shake of three parts carbohydrates and one part protein.

Eat a meal several hours later, and then reverse that ratio in your snack after another few hours, says Ivy. “This will keep protein synthesis going by maintaining high amino acid concentrations in the blood.”

Squats Kill Your Knees

And cotton swabs are dangerous when you push them too far into your ears. It’s a matter of knowing what you’re doing.

A recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercisefound that “open-chain” exercises—those in which a single joint is activated, such as the leg extension—are potentially more dangerous than closed-chain moves—those that engage multiple joints, such as the squat and the leg press.

The study found that leg extensions activate your quadriceps muscles slightly independently of each other, and just a 5-millisecond difference in activation causes uneven compression between the patella (kneecap) and thighbone, says Anki Stensdotter, the lead study author.

The real expert says: “The knee joint is controlled by the quadriceps and the hamstrings. Balanced muscle activity keeps the patella in place and appears to be more easily attained in closed-chain exercises,” says Stensdotter.

To squat safely, hold your back as upright as possible and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or at least as far as you can go without discomfort in your knees).

Try front squats if you find yourself leaning forward. Although it’s a more advanced move, the weight rests on the fronts of your shoulders, helping to keep your back upright, Stensdotter says.

Never Exercise a Sore Muscle

Before you skip that workout, determine how sore you really are. “If your muscle is sore to the touch or the soreness limits your range of motion, it’s best that you give the muscle at least another day of rest,” says Alan Mikesky, Ph.D., director of the human performance and biomechanics laboratory at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

In less severe instances, an “active rest” involving light aerobic activity and stretching, and even light lifting, can help alleviate some of the soreness. “Light activity stimulates bloodflow through the muscles, which removes waste products to help in the repair process,” says David Docherty, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at the University of Victoria in Canada.

The real expert says: If you’re not sore to the touch and you have your full range of motion, go to the gym. Start with 10 minutes of cycling, then exercise the achy muscle by performing no more than three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions using a weight that’s no heavier than 30 percent of your one-rep maximum, says Docherty.

Stretching Prevents Injuries

Maybe if you’re a figure skater. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed more than 350 studies and articles examining the relationship between stretching and injuries and concluded that stretching during a warmup has little effect on injury prevention.

“Stretching increases flexibility, but most injuries occur within the normal range of motion,” says Julie Gilchrist, M.D., one of the study’s researchers. “Stretching and warming up have just gone together for decades. It’s simply what’s done, and it hasn’t been approached through rigorous science.”

The real expert says: Warming up is what prevents injury, by slowly increasing your bloodflow and giving your muscles a chance to prepare for the upcoming activity. To this end, Dr. Gilchrist suggests a thorough warmup, as well as conditioning for your particular sport.

Of course, flexibility is a good thing. If you need to increase yours so it’s in the normal range (touching your toes without bending your knees, for instance), do your stretching when your muscles are already warm.

Use Swiss Balls, Not Benches

Don’t abandon your trusty bench for exercises like the chest press and shoulder press if your goal is strength and size. “The reason people are using the ball and getting gains is because they’re weak as kittens to begin with,” says Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S. You have to reduce the weight in order to press on a Swiss ball, and this means you get less out of the exercise, he says.

The real expert says: A Swiss ball is great for variety, but center your chest and shoulder routines on exercises that are performed on a stable surface, Ballantyne says. Then use the ball to work your abs.

Always Use Free Weights

Sometimes machines can build muscle better—for instance, when you need to isolate specific muscles after an injury, or when you’re too inexperienced to perform a free-weight exercise.

If you can’t complete a pullup, you won’t build your back muscles. So do lat pulldowns to develop strength in this range of motion, says Greg Haff, Ph.D., director of the strength research laboratory at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

The real expert says: “Initially, novice athletes will see benefits with either machines or free weights, but as you become more trained, free weights should make up the major portion of your training program,” says Haff.

Free-weight exercises mimic athletic moves and generally activate more muscle mass. If you’re a seasoned lifter, free weights are your best tools to build strength or burn fat.

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By: Todd Durkin, C.S.C.S.


Perform the following routine prior to every upper body workout. The movements will activate the muscles in your shoulders, back, chest, and arms, which helps you lift more weight and prevent injury. The exercises should take no more than 10 minutes.

Pushup Circuit
Complete one set of 5 to 10 reps of each pushup version listed below. After each set rest 10 to 20 seconds and then continue on to the next exercise. Use the higher number of reps if you’ve been resistance training for more at least 1 to 2 years.

How to do it: This circuit uses variations of the standard pushup. For each movement, assume a pushup position (with your body in a straight line from ankles to shoulders), and then lower your chest to the floor. Press your body back to the starting position by straightening your arms.



Assume a pushup position with your hands set just wider than shoulder-width. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your ankles. Lower your body until your chest almost touches the floor, then push yourself back up to the starting position. That’s one rep.


Diamond Pushup

Do a pushup with your hands close enough for the tips of your thumbs and index fingers to touch, forming a diamond shape.


Wide-Hands Pushup

Place your hands about twice shoulder-width apart.


Staggered-Hands Pushup

Place one hand in standard pushup position and your other hand a few inches farther forward.


Explosive Pushup

After you lower your body, press yourself up so forcefully that your hands leave the floor.

After completing the pushups, perform the following two exercises designed to improve range of motion in your shoulders and protect your joints before lifting heavier weights.


Dumbbell Lateral Raise and External Rotation

1-2 sets of 15 reps

Grab a light pair of dumbbells and hold them at arm’s length with your palms turned toward each other. Bend your elbows 90 degrees. Without changing the bend in your arms, raise your upper arms out to the sides until they’re parallel to the floor. Rotate your upper arms up and back so that your forearms are pointing toward the ceiling. Pause, then reverse the movement and return to the starting position.


Cable Diagonal Raise

1-2 sets of 15 reps per arm

Attach a stirrup handle to the low pulley of a cable station. Standing with your right side toward the weight stack, grab the handle with your left hand and position it in front of your rip hip, with your elbow slightly bent. Without changing the bend in your elbow, pull the handle up and across your body until your hand is above your head. Lower the handle to the starting position. Complete all repetitions with your left arm, then immediately do the same with your right arm.

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By Scott Quill

You’ve been told to listen to your body, learn its idiosyncrasies, embrace it like a friend. Don’t buy it. You can listen and learn, sure, but forget the friendly stuff. When it comes to muscle, you need to be less good buddy and more psychotic drill sergeant.

Keep your muscles off balance. When they get used to lifting a certain amount in a certain way (sound like your workout?), they stop growing. A weight-training program that never changes also creates strength imbalances; that’s unproductive and dangerous.

This doesn’t mean you have to master the incline behind-the-back modified Slovenian triceps windmill. Just do your usual exercises, but use different combinations of sets and repetitions.

What follows is a guide to different kinds of sets and how they produce different results, from trainer Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S., owner of Plug this into your weight training-program and see the surprised—and supersized—reaction you get from your muscles. 

Straight Sets

What they are: The usual—a number of repetitions followed by a rest period, then by one or more sets of the same exercise.

Why they’re useful: The rest periods and narrow focus of straight sets help add mass and build maximal strength. As long as you rest enough between sets (1 to 3 minutes), your muscle, or group of muscles, will work hard two, three, even five times in a workout.

How to use them: The start of your workout is the best time to do straight sets, regardless of your experience level, Ballantyne says. Your energy and focus are high at the start, so it’s the best time to execute difficult moves. Perform three straight sets of six to eight repetitions of a challenging exercise like the bench press, pullup, or squat; aim to do the same number of repetitions in each set, with either the same or increasing amounts of weight.


What they are: A set of each of two different exercises performed back-to-back, without rest.

Why they’re useful:Supersets save time and burn fat. You can multitask your muscles—for instance, working your chest and back in one superset and legs and shoulders in another. Lifting heavy weights in a short time period increases the rate at which your body breaks down and rebuilds protein. This metabolism boost lasts for hours after you’ve finished lifting.

How to use them:Insert a superset at any time in your workout. To involve the most muscles, pair compound exercises—moves that work multiple muscles across multiple joints. For example, combine a chest press with a row, or a shoulder press with a deadlift. To save more time, pair noncompeting muscle groups, such as your deltoids and glutes. One muscle group is able to recover while the other works, so you can repeat the set without resting as long.


What they are: Three different exercises performed one after another, without any rest in between.

Why they’re useful:Trisets save time and raise metabolism. A single triset can be a total-body workout in itself, like our 15-minute workouts.

How to use them:Trisets are a good workout for at home (or in an empty gym), because you need to monopolize equipment for three exercises. Do basic exercises that hit different body parts—like bench presses, squats, and chinups. Perform a warmup set using 50 percent of the weight you usually use in each exercise. Then repeat the triset two or three times, using weights that allow you to perform eight repetitions per set. Rest 1 to 3 minutes after each triset.

Drop Sets

What they are: Three or four sets of one exercise performed without rest, using a lighter weight for each successive set. Also called descending sets or strip sets.

Why they’re useful:Drop sets are a great quick workout, fatiguing your muscles in a short time, getting your heart going, and giving you an impressive postworkout pump as your muscles fill with blood.

How to use them:Use drop sets when you’re pressed for time. Don’t do them more than three times a week; you’ll get so tired you won’t be able to accomplish much else. Start with a warmup, using 50 percent of the weight you expect to use in your first set. Now use the heaviest weight you’d use for eight repetitions of that exercise to perform as many repetitions as you can. Drop 10 to 20 percent of the weight and go again. Continue to reduce the weight and go again, always trying to complete the same number of repetitions (even though you won’t), until your muscles fail.

Circuit Sets

What they are: A series of exercises (usually six) that you complete one after another without rest, though you can do some cardiovascular work (such as jumping rope) between exercises.

Why they’re useful:When you use weights, circuits can be a great total-body workout. But they’re most valuable without weights as a warmup of the nervous system, joints, and muscles, Ballantyne says. Because a circuit stresses the entire body, it’s more effective than a treadmill jog, which primes only your lower body.

How to use them:You’ll annoy the other guys at the gym if you do an entire workout based on circuits, because you’ll monopolize so many pieces of equipment. But one circuit is quick and effective. If you’re using it as a warmup, you need only your body weight or a barbell. Or use just a pair of dumbbells and circuit-train at home where you won’t annoy anyone.

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By Scott Sonnon

1. Decompress the specific joints to be used. Joint mobility is great. So is dynamic flexibility. Great warm-up activities. However, if you bring a scalpel instead of a pickax, youʼll accelerate your results and distill your warm-up to the exact movements you require. Whatever movement youʼre about to do, circle the joints to be used 10 times in both directions before starting. Smoothly and slowly. Tension to extension. Exhale into the tightness. Shave off the tension a little at a time.

2. Activate the core. Perform four 1-minute sets of front, side, other side, and rear plank holds after your specific mobility warm-up. Effort comes from the core outward (called proximo-distal trend by the neuro-geeks), so if you start with an exercise not to conditioning the core, but to “switch it on”, youʼll see greater output in your exercise. And with only 4 minutes, this guarantees that youʼll invest the time on bringing all of the body online for your exercise.

3. Vibrate the muscle pattern used during the exercise, in between sets. Donʼt stand around between sets of exercise. Turn off the muscles you just used to their resting length. A shortened muscle produces consecutively lesser force the more it shortens (remains tight). So in between sets, shake off and out the muscles you just used and get them (including and foremost, your facial muscles), so that you come back with greater strength on subsequent sets, rather than diminishing strength which is the norm.

4. Put effort into the technique, not into the repetition. This mantra isnʼt some cliche regarding focusing on “form.” Itʼs a very specific “structural alignment” issue from biomechanics. The goal isnʼt to get from point A to point B, but to increase the strength around the joints needing to be stabilized, so that the joints needing to move, do so with greater strength and precision. So, each time you begin a set, visualize what you want to strengthen, and if you donʼt know, itʼs usually the joints adjacent to the joints you want to move. (For example, instead of trying to curl a dumbbell, pull your shoulder blade down, fix your wrist in place and flex your lat and pec at the same time, as you exhale tightly. The dumbbell magically floats upward.)

5. Roll out tension like pulping a grapefruit. Okay, many people are starting to use foam rollers to remove tension, but most trainers miss the primary concept. Fascial density – the thick leathery straps which prevent nutrition from reaching the area that needs it, from giving you resting length (and as a result strength, see #3), and from allowing you ease of activity – doesnʼt just break up when you roll non-specifically. It only “pulps” when you extend the tissue to itʼs maximal length. So, whatever you want to roll out, stretch it and keep it expanded, then roll. For example, if you want to roll out your erectors, then arch forward rather than fall backward over the roller (and better yet, use a small ball rather than a roller… but thatʼs giving away some other secrets Iʼm about to share with you.)

Each of these nuances was hard-won. They sound so sensible, but unfortunately theyʼre “uncommon sense.” Many trainers will teach you not only the wrong way, but the wrong thing, because theyʼre thinking segmentally rather than systemically. The body doesnʼt have parts. It only has actions. Movements, not muscles. And thatʼs what Iʼm about to share with you. How do movements liberate your fitness? Frankly… you donʼt miss what you donʼt have, until you need it. We live such automated lives of convenience and predictability that when the inconvenient and the unpredictable happens… youʼre screwed, broken, and on the gurney staring into the eyes of an unamused medic.

We are sharks. If we donʼt move, we die a little bit every day. But there are tricks to bring it all back online, a library of secrets from different countries, from the classics to the greats, from East to West, North to South. Movements not only heal, because weʼre not always broken. Movements enable. Most people give up on themselves, not because theyʼre old. But because theyʼve committed motor suicide a little bit every day, and their nervous system tells them that should they even attempt said skill, a heavy price will be paid. I know too many people who evaluate a potentially exciting activity on how much pain theyʼll be in the next day. And then if the benefit is great enough, take the risks or accept the consequences.

I canʼt tell you that youʼll never be hurt again. Iʼve still been injured over the years. Fighting ainʼt tennis. But in my 40s now, Iʼm still winning world championships in new sports, still move with grace and power pain-free, and happily jump in a game of beach volleyball with the 20-somethings with no fear of the day after.

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