Interview With Superfit Tania Ziesman

Could You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And How You Got Involved In Fitness?

Growing up I was always a very skinny girl and was teased and bullied a lot because of it. I began working out to become stronger physically and mentally. When I started seeing the changes in my body & health I decided to change it from an interest into a lifestyle. After years of being successful as a bikini and glamour model I wanted to challenge myself again, so I decided to transition into fitness.

What Helps You Stay Motivated?

Looking and feeling my best and seeing progression really motivates me. I have always had problems with my health, and that is what has fuelled my lifestyle. Appearance isn’t everything, but most of us care about how we look. A strong and healthy person just looks good. The confidence that comes from the discipline of fitness, is like no other. I have an incredible support system around me who motivate me everyday. My boyfriend and trainer, Amer “The Hammer” Kamra; is the most incredible person I have ever met. He motivates me everyday to be a better person- in and out of the gym. With him by my side I feel like I can accomplish anything.

 Interview With Superfit Tania Ziesman

What Does Your Workout Look Like?

Hammer Fitness Bootcamp Class
Rest Day

What Sort Of Rep Range Do You Use?

I generally use high reps when I want to add muscle and will switch to medium when toning up.

Free Weights Vs Machines What Do You Feel Are The Pros & Cons and Which Do You Prefer?

I prefer free weights and body weight exercises over machines when strength training. I think free weights are better for those who are more advanced in the gym and beginners should stick to machines until they are comfortable with movements. There are many pros and cons to both. It really depends on the person and your skill level.

 Interview With Superfit Tania Ziesman

What Mistakes Did You Make When You First Started As A Newbie?

I wasn’t too sure what I was doing in the beginning so I was doing everything. Workout videos, yoga, strength training… but I wasn’t necessarily performing proper reps/sets and form. I learned this over time. If you are a newbie, don’t just go through the motions and workout. Know what your doing or get a good trainer.

How Often Do You Perform Cardio?

I perform cardio 4-5 times per week.

 Interview With Superfit Tania Ziesman

What Does Your Diet Look Like?

I am a vegetarian so I always have to make sure I am getting enough protein in my diet. I eat every 2-3 hours and my diet consists of mostly whole grains, oats, nuts, lots of veggies, tofu & tempeh, beans, quinoa, sprouts, berries, fruits and whole eggs. I don’t drink milk so instead I have almond milk and I am not crazy about egg whites… I have to force myself to eat them.

Do You Bulk and Cut Or Do You Stay Lean For The Whole Year Round?

I am pretty lean all year round. Im naturally petite so I stay slim. I put on more muscle at different times of the year.

How Do You Deal With Cravings?

I don’t deprive myself of foods and allow myself a cheat meal once a week. I also will have a square or two of dark chocolate here and there. I love chocolate.

What Supplements Do You Use?

I start each morning by drinking a warm glass of lemon water followed by my probiotic (Ultimate Flora Critical Care). I put 1 tbsp of Nature’s Way – Chlorofresh Liquid Chlorophyll in Natural Mint Flavor into my bottle of water and drink throughout day. I take Ascenta NutraSea liquid fish oil, VitaminDrip brand Immunerol and D-Liver as well as a Multi Vitamin, Vitamin D & C. I also take L-Glutamine twice a day.

 Interview With Superfit Tania Ziesman

What Activities and Hobbies Do You Enjoy When You Are Away From The Gym?

In the summer I like going on hikes and rollerblades and being outdoors. In the wintertime I hibernate and like staying in and cooking or catching a movie.

What Are Your Favourite Supplements?

Liquid chlorophyll. It increases the number of red blood cells in my body which increases oxygen utilization. It also cleanses my body, fights infection, improves energy, and promotes circulatory, digestive and immune health. Plus… it makes my water taste minty fresh 🙂

What 3 Exercises Have Contributed The Most To Building Your Physique?

Bulgarian Split Squat
They have completely transformed my legs and butt.

Hanging Leg Raises
My core and especially abdominals have never felt harder.

Push Ups
After I do push ups, I feel empowered as a woman! This exercise makes me feel strong and you can perform them anywhere.

What Is The Most Common Training Question People Ask You The Gym?

How do I get rid of my tummy?

What Is Your Favorite Workout Music?

I like listening to dubstep music when I workout.

 Interview With Superfit Tania Ziesman

What Is Your Greatest Achievement?

My body has transformed a lot in the past 2 years. I used to be slim with very little muscle. I am proud of how strong I have become and how hard I work in the gym. That is my greatest achievement.

What Is Your Favorite Quote?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people wont feel insecure around you. We were all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; its in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

What Are Your Plans For The Future?

I would like to continue getting stronger and fitter and eventually do a magazine cover. I plan on continuing to build an online community of healthy and strong women, helping and inspiring others to reach their goals.

Who Are Your Favorite Athletes, Bodybuilders and Fitness Models?

Amer “The Hammer” <3

If Someone Wants To Connect With You How Can You Be Contacted?

You can visit my blog based Health, Wellness & Beauty website for lots of fitness tips, inspiration & recipes. Download my “Strong is the New Skinny eBook! Lets be friends!

Twitter: @taniaz_ca
Instagram: @taniaz3
Photo Credit: Tianxiao Zhang


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Meal Timing For Optimal Muscle Growth!

Brad Borland explains how to tweek your nutrition plan and increase your muscle building results by simply meal timing.

Many of you are consistent with your muscle building practices. Your training is on point, your supplement program is sound and you eat all of the right foods including good amounts of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. But what if you could be better? What if you could tweak your diet to make even more significant gains?

Enter meal timing. Meal timing is the practice of taking in specific macronutrients at specific times regarding training, goals and time of day. Many trainers and nutritionists recommend the standard practice of ingesting a certain amount of proteins, carbs and fats throughout the course of the day. Recent research has shown that manipulating certain nutrients and their amounts can significantly increase gains in strength and size and burn body fat.

Whey Early

Immediately upon waking the body has just undergone a six to eight hour fast void of muscle building blocks of protein. Protein should be the first thing on your mind after such a hiatus. Fast digesting whey protein is the perfect fix to set your body into a positive amino balance once again and will hold off catabolism until you can get those eggs cooked! Take around 20-30 grams of whey first thing in the morning.

Another wise move is to take in a good amount of complex carbs in the morning to help refuel your glycogen stores for the day ahead. This will not only give you energy for your training later in the day, but will also stoke your metabolism to switch into high gear helping you to turn on that fat-burning furnace. Anywhere between 40 -60 grams of a complex carb source such as oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal are great choices.

Mid-Day Slump

Another time to keep a close eye on is the mid/late morning blood-sugar crash. Many of us at jobs tend to forget our important muscle-building meals during hectic times of day that we neglect our guidelines to keep us on track. A great (and quick) solution is to pop a protein shake and some healthy fats. This can easily be accomplished with a quick shake of whey and water and around one ounce of nuts such as almonds. Not only will this feed your muscles with the much needed protein boost (not to mention convenient), but will also provide healthy fats to keep blood-sugar levels steady until your next solid meal.

Pre-Workout Loading

One of the most critical times to actually start the recovery process after a training session is before you ever step into the gym. Saturating your muscles with protein prior to training can actually provide not only energy for the grueling session to come but can also provide key amino acids to muscles because they will be readily available for recovery. This will give you an advantage regarding performance and rebuilding for your next intense training bout. Try 30-40 grams of whey protein.

In addition to quality protein you must also consider complex carbs prior to training. Carbs are a must if you want to make any substantial gains at all. Not only will they provide a steady flow of energy, they will also spare protein to be used as energy. 40-60 grams of a quality carb source should be taken with whey protein 30 minutes to an hour prior to lifting. Good sources include oatmeal, 100% whole grain bread, rice or a medium sized apple.

Post-Workout Punch

We all know by now that post-workout nutrition is of utmost importance for muscle/strength gain. This crucial time has a limited window of opportunity, so it behooves the trainer to take full advantage of this important meal. After a brutal training session the body is starving for nutrients. This “window” which only lasts around an hour or less is the perfect time to down a whey protein shake to shuttle in amino acids as fast as possible to ramp up the recovery process. 40 grams of whey will do the trick.

Another key nutrient at this time is simple carbs. Simple carbs taken with your whey protein will raise insulin levels to help shuttle in more nutrients directly into the muscle. Even though higher insulin levels are related to fat gain, you won’t have to worry about that during your post-workout meal. The higher insulin levels are key in regulating hormone levels and nutrient absorption. Take in around 40-80 grams of simple carbs such as Gatorade depending on your goals.

Take advantage of these times to maximize gains and minimize muscle breakdown. These are just a few simple guidelines to try on your quest to a more muscular and leaner physique.


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Every Day Is Abs Day

Ab Training

The power and glory of a ripped midsection can be yours with this user-friendly format.

By Jay Ashman


If you exist in any capacity on social networking in the fitness world, you absolutely cannot miss the endless barrage of ab pics from people who want to show their followers what they crafted from their hard work in the gym.

Let’s admit it right here and now: You want to know what it’s like to walk around feeling some ridges against your shirt. Every one of us who touches a weight wants that at one time or another. Some people make it their primary training goal, while others are lucky enough to be get it as a byproduct of their larger training and nutritional plan. For the rest of us, having visible abs is going to take work. (And quite frankly, that work is only partially done in the gym; the vast majority of it is, as the cliché goes, “built in the kitchen.”)

Aside from having people look at your midsection with wanton envy, the abs play a prominent role in the development of strength and expressing it. When you attempt a heavy lift of any sort, you brace your abs. If you cannot brace them hard enough because they are weaker than they should be, you cannot stay as tight as you need to and take the real risk of failing the lift and risking injury. Another side effect of having a strong midsection is lower-back health. (The pre-workout abs training I prescribe here is designed to specifically develop your core in a way that protects your lower back.)

How do you efficiently train abs for maximal development and strength? There are endless bros who will preach a variety of methods: hundreds of crunches every day, train them twice a week like any other muscle, or never train them at all because you get enough work through them by just lifting heavy. To separate the bro from the go, I recommend a different, more realistic take on ab training. This protocol gives you what you need to have both a strong midsection and an aesthetically pleasing one, and it delivers an effective but realistic volume of work in a user-friendly format. Just follow these three rules:

  • Start Every Training Session With This Warm-Up: The McGill Big 3 is a specific warm-up developed by spinal specialist Dr. Stuart McGill and is a part of the protocol of 10/20/Life as written by powerlifting champion Brian Carroll. It is designed to tighten the midsection to allow for safer lifting because it will protect your lower back. The exercises are simple: the McGill sit-up, the bird dog, and the rolling planks. All three takes about 10 minutes to complete, and they will do wonders in prepping your midsection and lower back for a hard training day.
  • Forget Dedicated Midsection Work After Training: I estimate that more than half the time a guy tells himself he is going to do abs after he lifts, he forgets, is too time-crunched, or just plain gets lazy and rationalizes his way out of it. To circumvent all excuses, I suggest performing work sets of a single abdominal exercise before you lift. The point is to keep it short and simple so it doesn’t cut into the time or intensity of your resistance training, which is the priority. You are going to rotate between hanging leg raises, decline sit-ups, and dumbbell holds using a variety of loads, durations, and ranges of motion.

This is a simple way to ensure you are working the abs enough without overworking them to the point where you dread doing them. These exercises reinforce stabilization as well as flexion to give you a well-rounded and extremely effective hit to your midsection that will cut through all the bull you read everywhere else. It just simply works.

  • End Your Workout The Same Way: After a hardcore lifting session, you’re tired, you’re hungry, and you’re probably late for either getting to work or getting home. End each session with a single exercise: stir the pots on a stability ball. Stir the pots are not only a great ab exercise, but finishing off each session with them further strengthens the lower back.

Ab training isn’t just about looking in the mirror, lifting up your shirt, and showing off for likes and shares. It’s about functionality, performance, and protecting the spine from injury. Endless crunches and sit-ups combined with a sound nutritional plan may give you a six-pack, but will it be enough to keep your back healthy, support you during heavy lifts, all while being easy to look at? Probably not. The accumulated work in this program, and the fact that it plays double-duty as a warm-up and prep tool, spares you the boring grind of a dedicated 30-minute ab workout but delivers results you will be able to see and feel.


 Every Day Ab Training

Strength coach Jay Ashman has developed this ab-training strategy that spreads an effective cumulative dose of abdominal stimulus through three separate but approachable sections. Setting up this daily ab work is simple, and it also prepares the body for the entire workout. Give this program a try for 12 weeks and you will see and feel a difference in your training and your core.

 (Warm-Up) – ART NOTE: Can we turn these parentheticals into brackets that encapsulate the corresponding exercises (which are color-coded)?

McGill Sit-Up                                    3                                  6-10

Bird Dog                                            3                                  6-10 (each side)

Rolling Plank                                               3                                  30-60 seconds

(Pre-Workout Set — Choose One)

Hanging Leg Raise                          3-5                               10-20


Decline Sit-Up                                   3-5                              10-20


Single-Arm Dumbbell Hold          3-5                              30-60 seconds (each side)

—Main Body Part Training —

(Post-Workout Finisher)

Stir The Pot                                      3                                  10-20 or 30-60 seconds


McGill Sit-Up: Lie on the floor, one leg straight out in front of you with the other leg bent at the knee with your foot flat on the floor. Place your hands across your chest, and crunch slightly up while attempting to push your abs into your lower back. Tuck your chin a bit and focus on core tightness. With each crunch, hold the top position for three seconds before you return to the ground.


Bird Dog: Begin on all fours with your palms on the ground, wrist under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Take your right leg and left arm off the ground, extend the leg out behind while flexing your glutes and keeping your midsection tight. At the same time, reach your left arm straight out in front of you reminiscent of a bird dog–type pose. The active arm and leg should be parallel to the ground. Hold this for five to seven seconds, then lower to the ground. After performing one side for the prescribed amount of reps, switch arms and legs, and repeat.


Rolling Plank: Start in a neutral plank position with your weight on your forearms and toes. Roll to one side so your shoulders are perpendicular to the floor, and plank for two to three seconds. Slowly roll to the other side and hold. One side-to-side counts as one rep. You can change up the place and roll side to side more quickly, with a shorter duration side plank, and then intermittently go slower and hold a longer plank. The important thing is making sure that your hips are off the ground and fully bridged.


Hanging Leg Raise: Grasp a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Draw your belly button in, and bring your legs up until your thighs come above parallel to the floor. Slowly return to the starting position. You can perform these with straight legs (which is the more challenging variation) or with bent knees.  If you have a hard time hanging from the bar, an appropriate substitute is a Roman chair leg raise.



Decline Sit-Up: Place your feet in the rungs of the bench and contract your abdominal muscles until your back is straight up. Slowly return to the start position. If you are new to these, you can adjust the decline bench so it’s at a more moderate angle to accommodate your ability. You may do these loaded or unloaded. Hold a plate or dumbbell across your chest if you choose to do these with weight.

Single-Arm Dumbbell Hold: Pick up a heavy dumbbell with one hand. (You may use straps, as the stress is meant to be felt in your obliques and not in your grip.) Stand up tall and straight while using your obliques to hold yourself up. There is no a need to do a side crunch with this. The act of stabilizing with a heavy weight in this stance is enough to create stimulus. The beauty of this is that you can pick up a heavier dumbbell as you progress, hold it for longer, walk with it, or lose the straps to add additional stimulus if you choose. Once you work one side, switch hands and work the other.



Stir The Pot: From a kneeling position, place your forearms on an exercise ball in front of you. Come off your knees and onto the balls of your feet and into a plank position with your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. Your abs should be braced, glutes engaged, and your elbows under your shoulders. Slowly move your forearms forward and then into a clockwise circular motion for the prescribed amount of time. Staying tight is a priority here or you will fall off the ball. This can be tracked with either reps or by time. Reverse the direction of the circle for the next set. IM


The Lion Roars: Expert Advice

Answers to your questions about training, nutrition, recovery, and living the fitness lifestyle.
By Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes
Lewis: I’m currently following a push/pull/legs program, using progressively heavier weights. There is a small portion of lighter pump work, but it’s not the emphasis.

Is this a good program for max hypertrophy, or would I be best trying—and at times failing—to hit the reps for progressively heavier weight and let “feeling the muscle” take a back seat? Or should I go lighter on the exercises but emphasize squeezing/controlling/mind-muscle connection?


Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes: This answer depends on you. Hypertrophy depends on a few factors: Mechanical stress. Time under tension. Fiber recruitment. Metabolic fatigue. Eccentric damage. And lastly, and often overlooked, novelty of stimulus. Meaning, your training must be progressively changing just enough to represent a new challenge to your current state to prompt further adaptation.

Regarding the program you mentioned, this program may be a very good for muscle growth. If you’ve been following a higher-volume isolation-based program and had minimal results, focusing on heavier loads and progressive poundage could be exactly what you need. If this program is similar to your current training, though, then it may not be so effective.

The effectiveness of any given program doesn’t lie in the sets and reps, but on the trainee, and whether it’s suitable to that person’s “needs state” at this point in their training life.

To simplify things, are you experiencing results with this program? If so, continue with it. If not, look at what you might need to change. I’ll leave the critical analysis to you.

Curtis: Can you do a clean bulk? Or is fat gain just part of muscle gain?
AJAC: Yes, you can. The leaner you are you, the better your ability to put on muscle. Leaner individuals put on more muscle per pound of weight gained than fatter individuals. This is due to various physiological factors, but overall, a “lean gain” can absolutely be done. It’s just a slow process of accretion. How lean should you be for a lean gain? Around 10 to12 percent body fat. If you’re above that, lower your body fat first, then start a gaining phase.

Matt: How important is it to do unilateral exercises in training? Aside from one-arm dumbbell rows, I don’t really do any single limb work, and I’m wondering if I’m missing out on improving my strength and adding muscle.

AJAC: In the strength and conditioning world, there is a concept called “bilateral deficit.” Basically, this means that if you have one side of the body that is grossly stronger than the other side, you have a strength deficit, and you should fix it.
Is this concept “true”? It can be, as some people do have a significant strength difference between the left and right side. Typically, this is also accompanied by a difference in hypertrophy as well. If this is you, it would be advisable to make about one-third of your movements unilateral ones for eight to 12 weeks to even this out. If this isn’t the case, and your right and left sides are relatively equal, then there isn’t a real need to add in unilateral exercises. Incorporating split squats and one-arm dumbbell rows covers most people’s “deficit” without needing to do much else.


Sean: What do you think of phytochemicals?
AJAC: Phytochemicals typically refers to unique enzymes that are found in vegetables and fruits (and all plants for that matter). That fact stated, I have no idea what you’re asking. What do I think of phytochemicals relative to what, exactly? Here is a suggestion: Drink a gallon of water a day, eat a high-protein diet, and train hard at least four days a week. Do all of that consistently for a few years. If you still think phytochemicals are important after that, then ask me again.


Ben: What’s the best biceps exercise?
AJAC: There’s no such thing. Exercise effectiveness is, however, very dependent upon structure, mainly muscle belly length and tendon origin and insertion.
• If you have long muscle bellies and short tendons (your bicep starts right at the inside of your elbow), you can do practically any bicep exercise and likely will find it effective. This comes down to experimenting and seeing what gives you the best contraction and pump.
• If you have short muscle bellies and long tendons, you’ll need to be very specific with your movements. Select exercises that allow you to keep constant tension on the biceps muscle, and shorten the ROM if needed. Avoid stressing the joint as much as possible. Cables, bands, and dumbbells tend to work better over barbell curls in this regard.



Deus Ex Machina

The barbell is a great tool, but strength athletes miss out by eschewing machines

By Eddie Avakoff, owner of Metroflex LBC


Over the last few years, functional fitness trends have ostracized weight machines as if using them would transmit some deadly case of “non-functionalitis” where, God forbid, your core may not be completely engaged during the entire movement.

It wasn’t long ago when health clubs were filled with machines and everybody was using them. But somewhere between then and now, machines fell out of favor and everyone went barbell crazy. And now barbells have seemingly replaced machines because everyone in the gym is a self-proclaimed “functional athlete.” I don’t know if Greg Glassman’s Kool-Aid is responsible, but suddenly no one wants to use machines anymore.

When you hit a strength plateau, the course of action is simple: Break the movement down, isolate and strengthen the weak components, then retest the system. Machines are an isolation movement. Allowing you to focus on a specific muscle without the rest of the body providing assistance. Is isolating a muscle group ideal for total-body functional strength? Not directly. But when you consider that the isolation movement can in turn strengthen a muscle group used to produce a larger movement, therefore making that movement better, then all of a sudden we can see the applicability of machines.


In the big picture, the functional athlete should look at these machine movements as an opportunity to specifically target a weak link to the chain: If your deadlift sucks because your legs are failing on the lift, don’t just keep deadlifting. Dissect the movement and identify which muscles are weak. Then hammer the hell out of that weak muscle group on the appropriate machines.

Think of the overall movement as a bridge that cars travel over. The bridge is supported by pillars. Failing the lift is like having too many cars on the bridge and a breakdown of a particular pillar. However, we can strengthen the bridge by dissecting it pillar by pillar, and strengthening each one individually. After that, we retest the bridge. If it fails the weight, we repeat the strengthening process. If it holds more cars, then we keep increasing the weight until another pillar gives out. Then we isolate that failing pillar and strengthen it. This cycle could go on forever.

Machines are a great way to build general strength that can make functional movements a whole lot better. If your goal is to grow bigger and stronger, try these five machines.


Leg Press

The leg press is one of the most effective machines in the gym at building overall strength and muscle mass. Aside from squats, it’s definitely one of the most important exercises in your leg routine. Hopefully the leg press in your gym has a large enough foot plate to adjust your feet, because foot placement is important depending on your goals.

Placing your feet close together utilizes the outer quads (vastus lateralis), whereas placing your feet wider begins to utilize more and more inner quads (vastus medialis). You will also begin to feel your hamstrings engage more the wider you place your feet.

Vertically, on the foot plate, be very careful as to how low you set your feet. High foot placement is safe and targets the glute/ham tie-in, and the lower you place your feet the lower the stress drops from your glutes down into your quads. However, placing your feet too low can elicit tremendous stress on your knees.


Cable Row

The cable row offers strength benefits to back, shoulders, biceps, and even grip. But perhaps the most significant benefit of all is how it strengthens your overall posterior chain. The cable row is a great movement for assisting the deadlift. In talking with some incredibly respectable coaches since opening Metroflex LBC, cable rows come up as the most utilized assisted exercise for increasing one’s deadlift. In fact, I’ve talked with some coaches who use cable rows in higher training frequency than deadlifts themselves and have produced state, national, and even world-record deadlifters.

Using a straight bar (like a lat pulldown bar) is a great cable attachment for someone looking for the strength benefits to help their deadlift. Place hands on the bar at the same width as you would place them on the barbell for a deadlift. Avoid using a reverse grip and keep everything symmetrical.

If your goal isn’t necessarily a big deadlift as much as its just building a big back, then use a cable attachment that keeps your hands close together, like the double D-handle attachment. Using unconventional attachments also has benefits. The double-end rope, for instance, elicits more activation to the upper back, assuming you’re pulling the rope high into your upper chest).

Engaging your hips in the movement is another variable that’s dictated by goals. Powerlifters and other functional athletes looking to always increase their hip extension power might want to use their hips at the top of the pull. Hip movement will also allow the athlete to reach extra low on the cable rows (again, providing a big assistance to the deadlift). Athletes looking for an aesthetic benefit should keep their hips and core motionless, and focus all the movement on the shoulders and back.

Machine Biceps Curl

Strength can roll their eyes about biceps curls, but rest assured they are important. Pick up just about anything and you’re using some part of your bicep. Grip strength is also a direct precursor of bicep strength. Think of the crossover applicability: Chin-ups require a lot of bicep strength when it comes to getting your chin over the bar. Deadlifting, especially with a reverse grip, presents a risk of tearing the bicep if it’s not strong enough. Even grappling sports like wrestling or jujitsu require a lot of bicep and grip strength.

I know a lot of people who adhere to biceps curls with a barbell or dumbbells. And as effective as free weights are, there are times when machines can get the job done just as well, if not better. The appeal of using free weights is that your core is engaged. Therefore, your core helps with the movement. This is just as much of a blessing as it is a curse, depending on your goals and what you’re trying to isolate. I recommend bicep curls out of a machine because it generally locks your elbows into place and isolates all the movement and muscle tension directly to the biceps. The core is disengaged and the arms do all the work.


Machine Shoulder Press

I recommend that all strength athletes practice pressing from both the horizontal (bench) position, as well as the vertical (military press) position. If possible, even explore something in the middle, like a 45-degree incline-bench pattern. Isolating the shoulders through pressing movements is a great way to increase overall shoulder strength. I usually save the machine hypertrophy and assistance work to vertical press patterns (and leave the horizontal patterns to free weights). That said, the shoulder press machine is a great tool for isolating and strengthening your shoulders, in both the seated and standing position.

Completing the shoulder press from a standing position and with the instability of a barbell, especially when pursuing heavy weight, is great for strengthening your core. In fact, many lifters will attest that their core fails out during shoulder presess before their actual shoulders do. Therefore, it’s difficult to truly exhaust the shoulders before having to put down the weight and rest. A shoulder press machine allows for the core to take a back seat to the shoulder tension. The core is still engaged (especially if standing), but it’s not taking the brunt of the load, especially during lockout.

Prone Hamstring Curl

Ask just about any professional athlete and they’ll tell you that you can never have hamstrings that are too strong. Hamstrings can always be bigger, stronger, and more explosive. Not just for deadlifts, but for jumping, sprinting, kicking, rowing, and just about any other athletic movement.

I feel strongly that prone hamstring curls are more effective than standing. I generally see a greater range of motion allowed by the machine and also a more distributed tension throughout the entire rep. Standing leg curls offer a great squeeze at the top but little resistance at the bottom. Hamstring curls are one of those movements that can and should be completed at least twice a week. I complete hamstring curls on leg day (moderate weight four sets x 12 reps) and also on back/deadlift day (light weight five sets x 20 reps). The mix of weight and volume allow for a great leg response.  IM



Why Rest Is Crucial for Effective Muscle Growth

If you truly want to achieve optimal muscle growth, you must allow your body ample “rest time” so it can replenish itself and recover effectively. Rest involves two elements, adequate sleep, and adequate time in between your workouts

It is essential that you sleep as many hours as possible, consistently, every night. Most people overlook the fact that sleep is just as important as your training routine, when it comes to effective muscle growth.

If you do not allow yourself to get enough sleep, you are essentially neglecting a crucial element of your muscle building routine.

You must allow ample rest time in between your workouts. The professionals call these “rest days”, which are essential for allowing your muscles to recover. It is advisable to avoid weight training on two consecutive days, especially if you are targeting the same muscle groups.

You must keep reminding yourself that your body only builds muscle when you are not weight training. Muscle building occurs during sleep, not when you are in the gym. Therefore, if you embark on your weight training program, and forget to incorporate enough sleep, or train too frequently, your muscle building journey will become a long, uphill task.

The fact that you do not sleep enough each night, or you do not allow yourself the “rest days” in between your workouts will drastically compromise your muscle building efforts. It must be said again, rest and recovery are paramount, and should be on the top of your “to do” list when trying to achieve your muscle building goals. You can learn more about the muscle growth process by visiting

What Happens If You Do Not Get Enough Sleep?

By not sleeping enough, will play a number of negative roles in your muscle building efforts. Not only will this hinder your muscle growth, it may also deplete your energy, testosterone, growth hormone levels, and will also increase your catabolic hormones, which play a “muscle destroying” role.

When you sleep, you pass in and out of four phases. These phases are known as the “sleep cycle”, which is vital to a bodybuilder. After all, it is during sleep when the body releases the growth hormone. By depriving yourself of sleep, you are essentially disrupting the sleep cycle, which can lead to some or all of the mentioned effects.

To summarize the importance of sleep, its deficiency makes muscle growth an uphill struggle. Sleep deprivation will encourage your body to lose muscle and increase body fat instead. And that is the last thing you want when trying to build muscle. So remember, get as much sleep as you can, and if you are behind on your sleep, try to make up for lost time.

How Much Sleep Is Enough Sleep?

The amount of sleep that your body requires is heavily dependent on a number of factors such as the level of your daily activity, the amount of stress being experienced, the quality of your diet, and the intensity of your gym workouts.

Professional bodybuilders need more sleep than the average person due to the stress that is put on the body after a weight training session. Studies have suggested that getting less than six hours of sleep can hinder your coordination, judgment, reaction time, and ultimately affect your body’s ability to build muscle mass.

The majority of experts recommend that the average person should target a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night.

However, bodybuilders are the exception to the rule. A proper bodybuilding program will no doubt be taxing on the body, which will need all the rest it can get. Therefore, the question arises… how do you know if you are deprived of sleep? The best way to determine if you are suffering from sleep deprivation is to have a lie down in the middle of the day. If you happen to fall asleep within 10 minutes, you are likely to need more sleep during nighttime.

Thankfully, if you suffer from sleep deprivation, it is possible to catch up on lost sleep, and your body will no doubt reward you by accelerating your muscle growth.

A good way to catch up on sleep is try to aim for nine hours every night for a period of three weeks. At the end of the three week period, you can try the 10 minute test once again. If you do not fall asleep in that period, it is likely that your body has made up for lost time. On the other hand, if you do happen to fall asleep, it is recommended to continue sleeping for nine hours every night for a further two weeks.

What Happens If You Do Not Get Enough Rest?

By not allowing your body adequate recovery time in between your workouts will inevitably result in “overtraining”. Overtraining is often a precursor to injury, which can drastically hinder your muscle growth journey.

The amount of stress that your muscles endure during every workout makes resting ever more important. Try to ensure that your muscle building program allows for one rest day in between your weight training sessions. If you are insistent on training on consecutive days, the best thing you can do is to target a different muscle group every time you train.

When devising your weight training program, always try to incorporate at least one rest day in between each session, and avoid training the same muscle group on two consecutive days.

The amount of rest and recovery each bodybuilder needs is dependent on a number of factors, however most experts recommend you get up to 9 hours of sleep every night, as well as 3-4 rest days every week to truly realize your muscle growth potential.

How Much Rest Is Enough Rest?

Most professional bodybuilders try to aim for at least one day of rest in between each weight training session. Some prefer two days. If you train three days a week, for example Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then you’re rest days would be the remainder of the days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday).

During your rest period, it is vital to “take it easy”. No matter how tempted you are, you must not work out on your rest days.

If you struggle with this idea, keep reminding yourself that your body will not use the rest days to effectively repair and rebuild your muscles.

Try to relax and enjoy your time off.

Here are some tips you can follow to make the most out of your rest days, allowing for you to maximize your muscle building potential.

– Target a minimum of eight hours of sleep every night.

– Avoid doing stuff that will increase your adrenaline

– Avoid physical activity close to your bedtime

– Avoid eating large portions close your bedtime

– Adopt a consistent sleep schedule

As you can see, the rest and recovery phase in your muscle building program is vital.

As a bodybuilder, you need at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep consistently every night. A lack of sleep will no doubt hinder your muscle growth and reduce your anabolic hormones, increase your catabolic hormones, and deplete your energy levels.

This will lead to extremely lethargic muscle growth.

Try to incorporate rest days into your weight training schedule so your body is allowed to repair itself and rebuild muscle more efficiently.

By not allowing yourself the rest days, and training consecutively for two days will result in possible injuries.

When designing your training program, you must ensure that the rest and recovery phase is not overlooked or underestimated.

The post Why Rest Is Crucial for Effective Muscle Growth appeared first on About Muscle.

Interview With Diabetic Bikini Competitor Melissa Moziejko talk with diabetic NPC bikini competitor Melissa Moziejko. After being diagnosed with diabetes in her junior year of college Melissa found a passion for fitness.

Could You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And How You Got Involved In Fitness?

I’ve always been very athletic. I played sports in high school and ran college track. However, in my junior year of college I was diagnosed with diabetes, which changed my life. My doctor, Eric Serrano, highly suggested I get involved with weight training, which helped me improve my times for track. He also put me on a very strict diet, which kept me off of insulin for 3 years. I can’t thank him enough. After graduating from college I wanted to stay as active as possible as I am very competitive, so I started training for an NPC bikini competition. Being diabetic, I’ve always had to follow a strict diet, and weight lifting has helped my insulin sensitivity. I loved the changes I saw just after a few short months of heavy lifting. I did my first show in November 2012 and qualified for North American Championships. I’ve done two other shows since then and have become a sponsored athlete. I love the lifestyle of staying healthy and fit, not just for aesthetics, but also because it has changed my life as a diabetic.

What Helps You Stay Motivated?

What helps me stay motivated is the fact that I know the healthier I eat and the harder I train, the less insulin I have to take, and the possibility of being completely off of it in the future. Also, competing keeps me highly motivated as well. If there is a day where I am not motivated or do not feel like training/eating clean I think to myself “what is my competition doing? I bet they are not slacking.” That right there will get me to the gym and back on track with my diet!

What Does Your Workout Look Like?

Chest and Shoulders
Sprints or Prowlers
Sprints and Prowlers
Arms and Abs
Rest Day

 Interview With Diabetic Bikini Competitor Melissa Moziejko

What Sort Of Rep Range Do You Use?

Rep range all really depends on the intensity of the week. Some weeks I may want to be higher intensity so I may go as high as 50 reps (50 calf raises, 25 single leg split squat on each leg, 50 weighted belt squats). Other weeks may be a lower volume week yet higher weights so I may do a pyramid system where I start with 12 reps and gradually increase weight and lower my reps as I go. Both help with building and insulin resistance.

Free Weights Vs Machines What Do You Feel Are The Pros & Cons and Which Do You Prefer?

I would definitely choose free weights. Nothing hits glutes like a single leg split squat or a glute bridge. However, I will use machines for lying hamstring curls or leg extensions. I feel that there are pros and cons to both. With free weights you can sometimes have a better sense of mobility which allows you to really get the extra stretch, especially if you are a more advanced lifter and understand the proper form. However, with machines you may have a tad more control over what you are doing.

What Mistakes Did You Make When You First Started As A Newbie?

I think the hardest thing for me as a new diabetic bikini competitor was trying to understand how my body reacted to certain types of foods and cardio. My first show was hard because I wasn’t use to the bikini competition diet, let alone one for a diabetic. Also, diabetics don’t respond to a lot of steady state cardio like a normal competitor would. My trainer had a great sense of what to do with me, but it was just figuring out the right amount of macros and types of macros that would get me lean, yet still have great definition.

How Often Do You Perform Cardio?

I do 9 sprints or push prowlers twice a week. For my sprints I will get on the treadmill, bump it up to a level 13, and go for about 15 seconds and then take 30 seconds off. For prowlers I usually use to 30 pound plates and will push as hard as I can on the low part across the gym and then go back with the high part.

Which Do You Prefer and Why… Steady State Cardio Or HITT Cardio?

Definitely HITT. As a diabetic, my cortisol levels spike higher with steady state, so sprints not only are great for leaning me out but also lowering my blood sugar and building my glutes and hams! I love sprints and prowlers.

What Are Your Personal Thoughts On Fasted Cardio?

I think fasted cardio can do wonders for starting up your metabolism, however too much cardio can do harm as well. If you are preparing for a show and need to lean out a little more, it’s a great way to do that along with altering your diet.

What Does Your Diet Look Like?

My diet is extremely high in fat and very low carb.

Meal 1:
3 whole eggs
1 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup spinach
Meal 2:
lean meat
2 cups broccoli
one teaspoon butter
Meal 3:
lean meat
2 cups of spinach
one teaspoon EVO Train
Meal 4:
Lean meat
2 cups spinach
one tablepoon macademia nut oil
half alvacado with 30g of complex carbs

Do You Bulk and Cut Or Do You Stay Lean For The Whole Year Round?

I definitely prefer to stay lean year round but sometimes we all need a good bulk just to build more definition. After my last show, I came in a little too lean, so I took this winter to bulk and it really helped add to my figure and curves. However, it is easier to stay somewhat lean year round just so you do not have to cut as hard.

 Interview With Diabetic Bikini Competitor Melissa Moziejko

What Do You Find Gives The Best Results When You Are Cutting?

Sticking to my diet is the number one and main answer. I respond well to very very high fats and low carbs and NO CHEATING! So that means following my diet to a T and lifting heavy! The harder I workout, the better results I get. I rarely ever do more cardio to cut.

How Do You Deal With Cravings?

I use to love sweets and junk foods but I know that when I eat them, I feel AWFUL so I try to avoid them as much as possible. If I’m really craving something I may eat a tablespoon of almond butter. I love my nut butters!

What Supplements Do You Use?

Obviously SLAP Nutrition products! Their whey isolate has 0g carbs, no sugar, only sweetened with stevia and no genetically modified hormones. As a diabetic that is perfect for me. I also use Alpha Omega 3 fish oil pills, glutamine, and L-Carnitine.

What Activities and Hobbies Do You Enjoy When You Are Away From The Gym?

I love reading and studying up on nutrition. There is nothing like reading a good health article and learning more. You can always enhance your knowledge!

What Are Your Favourite Supplements?

All Slap Nutrition supplements and my fish oil, glutamine, and L-Carnitine. Because my diet is so high in fat, L-Carnitine does wonders for me!

What 3 Exercises Have Contributed The Most To Building Your Physique?

Single leg split squats, weighted belt squats, and military press. Shoulders and glutes have always been weak areas for me.

What Is The Most Common Training Question People Ask You The Gym?

I’ve always had decent legs from track so mainly what exercises I do for legs. I always tell them SQUATS!

What Is Your Favorite Workout Music?

Anything that will get me up and moving! I love oldies rock, rap, or anything that has a great beat to it. Something that will get me in the zone! I love listening to all different types of music.

What Is Your Greatest Achievement?

Qualifying for North Americans, becoming sponsored, and lowering my insulin intake.

 Interview With Diabetic Bikini Competitor Melissa Moziejko

What Is Your Favorite Quote?

“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

What Do You Love About Competing?

I love meeting new people and being on stage! There is nothing like working your butt off for several months to get on stage and show how hard you have worked. It’s like the saying “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

What Are Your Plans For The Future?

First and foremost to get completely off of insulin. I would also like to earn my pro card and become published in a magazine to inform other people of the benefits of clean eating.

Who Are Your Favorite Athletes, Bodybuilders and Fitness Models?

I’ve always looked up to Amanda Adams, Nicole Nagrani, and Paige Hathaway. They are the perfect examples of a the look and lifestyle I want to go for.

If Someone Wants To Connect With You How Can You Be Contacted?

Facebook | Website

Twitter @MelissaConceta | Instagram @MissyMoziejko

I believe that once you conquer your mind, you conquer your body. I hope to be an inspiration to all athletes and competitors everywhere!


The post Interview With Diabetic Bikini Competitor Melissa Moziejko appeared first on About Muscle.

The Afterburn Effect: Take Advantage of the Post-Workout Window!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve certainly heard about the post-workout window of opportunity. The two- to three-hour period after a hard lift is an almost magical time, when your body is primed to build muscle and burn fat at incredible rates. No matter what else you’re doing with your meal plan, you MUST optimize your post-workout nutrition to see optimal results.

Still, opinions vary wildly on the best post-workout shakes and meals. Some guys think you need to load up on hundreds of grams of carbs, while low-carbers might stick strictly to protein and aminos. To make things more complex, lots of people include other goodies – creatine, arginine, and even caffeine.

So, what’s really necessary? What should you put in YOUR post-workout meals to fit your meal plan and optimize recovery? Read on to find out!

Managing Insulin

Every guy wants to optimize testosterone, but there’s actually another hormone that’s even more anabolic – insulin! That’s right, that carb coma-inducing hormone that diabetics worry about is also your greatest asset in the quest to build muscle.

Unfortunately, insulin can also be sure-fire fat builder if you don’t manage it properly. It’s incredibly effective at inducing your body to STORE nutrients in cells, and that storage can occur just as readily in fat tissue and muscle fibers.

To harness the muscle-building properties of insulin without getting fat, you’ll want to stick a hefty portion of your daily carbs into the post-workout window. Heavy resistance training induces greater insulin sensitivity in your muscle cells ONLY, leaving your fat deprived of nutrients – exactly what you want! Those carbs will help to dive other nutrients – particularly amino acids – straight to where they’re needed most.

» Double Your Gains and Strengthen Weak Bodyparts

The Right Carbs

Not just any carbs will do, however. You probably already avoid table sugar, fructose, and other industrial crap – as you should! But when it comes to the post-workout window, you need to steer clear of some of the “healthy,” slow-digesting carbs, as well. This is NOT the time to be gorging on oatmeal, brown rice, or any other whole-grain goodies that’ll take hours to digest.

No, you need FAST-acting carbs post-workout, and that means sugars! Don’t go searching out the baking aisle, though. Table sugar (sucrose) is half fructose and half glucose, and that big batch of fructose is bad news. To spike insulin and refill your muscle glycogen, you want pure glucose – the preferred form of energy for both plants and animals. Most health food and supplement shops sell it as “dextrose,” and you’ll usually see it listed as one of the first ingredients on pre-mixed workout drinks.

How much glucose do you need? That’ll depend on your current goals and body fat levels. If you’re lean and trying to pack on size, go with about a half a gram per pound of body weight. If you’re on the chubbier side and trying to shed fat, err on the side of a quarter gram per pound.

Fast-acting Proteins

Carbs are crucial, but they’re not going to accomplish much without some sort of protein. Most bodybuilders use whey, and in this case I see no reason to rock the boat! A good whey isolate powder will digest quickly, providing your muscle cells with a radid supply of amino acids for growth. Shoot for about half as many protein grams as carb grams in your final shake.

Of course, you may want to supplement those complete proteins with a few specific aminos. There are twenty in total, but three in particular – the branched-chain amino acids – will flip a muscle-building “switch” in your body. These aminos are leucine, valine, and isoleucine, and you want to get those in a 4:1:1 ratio, respectively. Don’t worry too much about the math, though – that’s the ratio most companies already use when they manufacturer their BCAAs. Add 10-15 grams to your post-workout shake, and consume a couple more doses throughout the day if you can afford to.

 The Afterburn Effect: Take Advantage of the Post-Workout Window!

Testosterone and Growth Hormone

Other than insulin, test and GH are the most anabolic hormones your body can produce. However, some studies suggest that these hormones actually DROP when you consume a carb-filled, protein-packed post-workout shake.

In fact, some guys will go so far as to AVOID food for a few hours after their workouts, believing they’re optimizing their hormones and creating a more favorable environment for growth. Is this a good idea? Hell no!

Despite any rises or dips in testosterone, the research is pretty clear on the benefits of post-workout nutrition. If you skip these critical shakes and meals, expect to feel tired and sore for FAR longer than you would otherwise. As for your hormones, levels will return to normal shortly after your shake is digested. In fact, better nutrition tends to boost anabolic hormones in the long run. Temporary spikes and dips are to be expected; it’s the average levels that really count.

» Double Your Gains and Strengthen Weak Bodyparts

Fat-Burning Effects?

So far we’ve only touched on mass gains, but the post-workout window is just as useful for fat loss. For one thing, anything that helps your body retain fat-free mass (muscle tissue) is going to help you get ripped. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be, and you can’t afford to lose that muscle because of skipped meals. Misguided attempts to cut calories from the post-workout window will only leave you weaker and fatter in the long run.

The longer-term post-workout period is also fantastic for fat loss in its own right. Heavy resistance training can increase lipolytic (fat-burning) activity in your body for a day or two, so don’t worry about spiking your insulin in the first hour. Once the carbs are cleared from your system, your body will still be more primed to burn fat than it was before. Basically, but optimizing your post-workout nutrition, you can have your cake and eat it, too!


Justin Woltering is a distinguished Fitness Expert, Author, and Dymatize Sponsored Athlete. See


The post The Afterburn Effect: Take Advantage of the Post-Workout Window! appeared first on About Muscle.

Boyz In the Hood

Check out the best picks for this ultimate fitness staple

By Amanda Burrill, MA


Hoodies are “off the clock” wear to some, but to us athleisure types, there is no shame in rocking a hoodie all day every day. Aside from looking good and evoking a feeling of cool, a hoodie is great for hiding a bad hair day, signaling to others that you want to be left alone, hiding your tears, or escaping a downpour. Hoodies are a wardrobe staple, but they need to roll with the punches and look good doing it. Here are my picks for six of the most stylish, comfortable, and versatile hoodies on the market.



Better Bodies Jersey Hoodie

Cost: $99

Where to buy:

This lightweight hoodie will get you to and from the gym in streamlined fashion, but it’s also great for wearing during your workout. The body is unlined, so it’s nice and cool, but the hood interior is jersey cotton, which feels good on the face and noggin. What stands out about this model are the ribbed cuffs and waistband—a bit of a nod to the classic hoodie look. My skin was concealed, but it was perfectly clear that my waistline was on point. This is definitely cut for the person who wants to show the world that they keep it tight through the middle.



Live Fit Recon Tech Jacket

Cost: $110

Where to buy:

I dig this fashionable fitness brand. The feel is streetwear meets bodybuilding, and the color variety won’t leave you disappointed. To change it up from the rest of the cotton-poly playing field, I tested out this brand’s weatherproof hoodie. The shell—there is no lining—is water and wind resistant with a sealed zipper. The zip pockets are great and the cut looks fresh, with a three-panel body and contoured hood. There is very little stretch, which is to be expected in a windproof hoodie, so it performs better during outdoor cardio than in the gym.





Celestial Bodiez Unisex Lightweight Hoodie

Cost: $40

Where to buy:

If your girlfriend likes to steal your hoodies, you might as well get one that looks good on both of you. This unisex hoodie is made from a lightweight and breathable tri-blend fabric that is perfect for training in the gym or going out for a lazy Sunday breakfast. It’s cut on the long side, so even tall guys can rock it, and the charcoal gray not only looks good, it hides every stain or drop of sweat that hits it.



Better Bodies Women’s Athletic Hood

Cost: $99

Where to buy:

This is a triple threat: looks great on the go, works during the gym sesh, and is warm enough to withstand the outdoor elements, too. I’m a big fan of the zipper and lining in contrast color, and I love the elastic binding and thumb holes that give this piece a very athletic feel to match the fitted cut. The hood has a close-fitting three-piece construction lined with a matching mesh. Best of all, it doesn’t shrink at all.



Crew Brushed Fleece Zip Hoodie

Cost: $78 (Tall $83)

Where to buy:

Fair warning: I will borrow this hoodie from you and you won’t get it back. This no-brainer is a comfy cloud in soft vintage fleece, with an old-school drawstring hood, large slant pockets, and rib trim at the cuffs and hem. The cuffs aren’t super tight or structured. They’re… just right. Being able to wear it to the gym and throw it in the washer and dryer without a second thought seems like a gift.


Celestial Bodiez Cropped Hoodie

Cost: $99

Where to buy:

Hoodies are warm, hoodies are easy, hoodies hide all your winter weight. Well, not this hoodie. Stay warm up top and still show off your abs! I imagine this to be a fitness photo-shoot staple for the ladies. Not everyone can pull it off, but if you can, it’s going to look smoking hot. Comes in charcoal or white.




Hit It On The Flipside

Target your hamstring for strong, sexy, and injury-free legs

By Team Iron Man

Hamstrings get little respect in the world of aesthetics. The regulation boardshorts used by Physique competitors combined with the classic folly of neglecting muscles you can’t see in a mirror has created a global pandemic of small, weak, and injury-prone hamstrings. It’s a shame, because the hamstring are not only crucial to strength exercises such as deadlift and squat variations, but are also necessary for basic athletic movements like sprinting and jumping. Not to mention, the hamstrings are an underappreciated vanity muscle. On men or women, a nice glute-hamstring tie-in is a wonderful thing.IM0416_T2G_Exercise_LegCurls_01


A typical leg day docket of squats, leg presses, deadlifts, step-ups, and lunges will hit your hamstrings, but they’ll put more emphasis on your quadriceps, and that’s where problems arise. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy showed that hamstring strains account for 12 to16 percent of all injuries in athletes with a re-injury rate as high as 34 percent. The scientists who conducted the experiment cited muscle imbalances, specifically between the quadriceps (too strong) and hamstrings (too weak) as one of the main factors responsible for injury. Another study, published just last year in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that hamstrings that are weak in eccentric movements increased the risk of future injury to that bodypart and that risk of injury, associated with age or previous damage, was decreased when hamstrings were made stronger.


Dedicating part of your weekly training to hamstring-specific exercises will pay off in a stronger, more appealing set of wheels and a decreased chance you’ll have to ask somebody to tie your shoes for you. Here, we have three of the most effective exercises for targeting the backside of your legs. They will not only help to bridge the strength gap between your quads and hamstrings, but they are also a few of the best accessory moves for big lifts like the squat and the deadlift. After six weeks of implementing these into your training program, don’t be surprised if the barbell starts feeling lighter during your heavy back squat sets.


Glute-Ham Raise: If you have never done these, start slowly and carefully. (If you go too hard too early it will feel like your hamstrings are going to come right off the bones.) Begin upright with feet hooked in the glute-ham developer (also called a gute-ham bench), then slowly lower your upper body until it’s parallel with the ground. Make sure as you lower your upper body that you straighten out your lower body and avoid keeping your knees bent, which will prevent you from getting the full stretch in your hamstrings. Then curl your hamstrings as you raise your upper body back to the starting position. Tuck your chin to avoid using too much of your lower back.


Lying Leg Curls: These are preferable to seated leg curls because they fully stretch your hamstrings before they contract. Lie on your stomach and begin the movement by slowly curling the weight up, and then lowering the weight slowly back to the starting point. This is not a power exercise, so do not move the load with any significant speed.



Barbell Romanian Deadlift: This exercise should start and finish with you having a neutral spine. If your hamstrings are too tight for you to keep your back straight at the bottom, perform a conventional deadlift on the first rep. To lower the weight, push your hips back until you feel a full stretch in your hamstrings (the bar should come down to about shin level). As you stand back up, thrust your hips forward until you’re fully locked out, always keeping your knees slightly bent. The load for this exercise should be much lighter than what you use for a conventional deadlift. Do not concern yourself with PRs or 1RMs for a Romanian deadlift. Just like lying leg curls, focus on slow, controlled reps and maximizing time under tension. IM