Fat Loss Faster

Utilizing short and controlled fasts to get lean has become more and more popular. While some evidence supports it, most hypertrophy-minded people can’t swallow the idea of going that long without protein. A recent study from China shows that supplementing with L-carnitine while fasting preserves muscles mass and promotes fat burning. Subjects were give two grams of carnitine twice a day via injection. At the end of the experiment, the carnitine group lost more centimeters from their waist than the placebo group.

Additionally, those taking carnitine reported milder feelings of hunger and less intense mental and physical fatigue than the placebo group. Oral carnitine is best absorbed when consumed with carbohydrates, so take carnitine with meals before and after your fast.

Take A Tryp

You probably know of tryptophan as an essential amino acid that is infamously found in turkey. According to your uncle, it’s the reason why he falls asleep after Thanksgiving dinner every year (that and the two bottles of wine he drinks). In fact, tryptophan is known to improve sleep and boost mood through its ability to elevate serotonin levels in the brain. A recent study seems to shows that it also helps you build muscle and lose fat. Animal research published in the journal Amino Acids described how rats who were given extra tryptophan enjoyed reduced fat deposition and increased oxidation of fatty acids. The scientists also found evidence of increased protein synthesis in the tryptophan group as well as reduced catabolism of dietary amino acids.

Vitamin D-Mand

The reasons to take vitamin D just keep adding up. Not only are most Americans deficient in this important nutrient (which is nearly impossible to get from food), but new research shows that the fat-burning effects of high-intensity interval training are increased when combined with vitamin D. Published in the Journal Of Exercise Nutrition And Biochemistry, the experiment examined four groups of subjects: one trained and took vitamin D, another just trained, a third only took the supplement, and a fourth did nothing. After 12 weeks, the two group who exercised both experienced significant fat loss, but the subjects who also supplemented lost more fat off their gut than the other groups. The vitamin D group also saw the greatest improvement in lean body mass, insulin sensitivity, and blood lipid profiles.

The Enemy Of My Muscle’s Enemy Is My Friend

Myostatin is the name of a protein that causes muscles to waste away. Finding a way to stop myostatin from atrophying muscle mass has become something of a quest for nutrition researchers. While no one has found that single magic bullet, research published in the Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition shows that a combination of leucine, creatine, and HMB can slow down myostatin’s negative influence on skeletal muscle. In the experiment, the three supplements stimulated the activity of a gene called Akirin-1, which, in turn, interfered with myostatin. Further research is needed, but scientists feel that creatine had the strongest positive effect. However, HMB and leucine are also thought to be important for affecting myostatin, as each one stimulates muscle growth via a different pathway.

License To Carry

The classic Muscle Confusion Principle states that muscle fibers need constantly varied stimulation to best tap into their growth potential. That is true to a point, but varied doesn’t always mean better sports scientists at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil say. Researchers measured the muscle activation in the biceps of 22 subjects who performed a standing dumbbell biceps curl, incline dumbbell curl, and a dumbbell preacher curl. The dumbbell biceps curl and incline dumbbell curl yielded similar results, but the preacher curl lost stimulation during the last phase of the concentric portion and the first phase of the eccentric, when the elbow is fully flexed and the hands are close to the shoulders. During the dumbbell preacher curl, activation in the biceps was maximized only when the arm was close to being extended.

Be A Nostrabadass

“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people and more useful in general,” is a famous quote by strength coach and author Mark Rippetoe. A recent study seems to corroborate that opinion. The American Journal Of Medicine published research that puts an interesting spin on predicting life expectancy. They found that older folks who are underweight have similar morbidity rates as those who are overweight. According to the scientists, the most accurate determinant of lifespan is how much muscle you have as you get older. At first, researchers divided the participants into bodyweight categories, but they could find no link with mortality rates. When the subjects were grouped according to their amount of lean body mass, it became clear that those with plenty of muscle were 20 percent less likely to die. It could be because muscles better utilize glucose or the way they protect the elderly from falling, but Rippetoe summed it up best: Muscular people just don’t die as easily.

Five Foods For Fat Loss

Add some variety to your diet with these underrated foods that can help you get lean.

By Team Iron Man

Here’s a truth about getting ripped: The leaner you are the harder it is to lose fat. These following five foods can help put a little more horsepower in your metabolic engine, but only if you already have your fat-loss fundamentals covered. These are black belt–level dieting options, designed to squeeze the last bit of fat off you through their clever biochemical reactions. They won’t be effective if your big nutritional picture—carbs, protein, and fat intake—is completely out of whack.

Chickpeas

Consuming this legume stimulates the release of the hormone cholecystokinin, which signals satiety. Add to that the fact that a half-cup of cooked chickpeas has seven grams of protein, 22 grams of carbohydrate (most of which are fiber), and practically zero fat, it earns a place at the top of your grocery list. A study published in the Journal Of The American Dietetic Association suggests an association between chickpea consumption and a decrease in bodyweight due to improved insulin sensitivity. Loaded with iron, chickpeas provide significant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and potassium for optimal muscle function.

Tip: Puree chickpeas to make hummus, toss some into a salad for variety, or roast them for a crunchy snack.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Acetic acid, present in all vinegars, is proven to assist in fat loss by increasing fatty-acid oxidation. A 2009 study published in the Journal Of Agricultural And Food Chemistry found that rodents fed high-fat diets and acetic acid had 10 percent less body fat than the control mice at the end of the study. Another study reported less visceral fat and increased weight loss in subjects who drank vinegar compared to those who didn’t. Acetic acid has been shown to increase fatty acid oxidation and suppress the accumulation of body fat and liver lipids.

Tip: Go with organic unfiltered, unprocessed apple cider vinegar. The superior pectin content helps suppress appetite, increase metabolism, and control blood sugar levels.

Cinnamon

Cassia cinnamon has received a lot of good press regarding its ability to promote fat loss. When consumed, this common spice slows emptying of the stomach, which decreases the rate of glucose absorption, allowing the body time to metabolize blood sugar rather than store it as fat. The flavonoids in cinnamon further enhance glucose regulation by reducing sugar uptake. As little as a teaspoon per day can help keep insulin levels in check, along with energy and mood. And by now you know that regulating blood sugar plays a huge role in the body’s ability to mobilize fat stores.

Tip: For best results, eat with other foods. Add it to oatmeal, use it to spice meats, or simply mix a teaspoon in with your coffee or protein powder.

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Watermelon

A study published in The Journal Of Nutritional Biochemistry showed that animals fed a diet that included watermelon juice lost more abdominal fat than animals fed the same diet plus water. Watermelon has also been found to reduce arterial plaque and decrease LDL cholesterol—the bad kind—with a corresponding increase in the amino acid citrulline, found in abundance in watermelon.

Tip: Beneficial nutrients reside in every part of the flesh, from the middle of the melon to the part nearest the perimeter. When selecting a watermelon, choose one that’s heavy for its size and has a smooth rind.

Walnuts

While almonds seem to enjoy all the good-fat press, walnuts boast the highest levels of omega-3s of any other nut. They also contribute to the breakdown and use of body fat by supporting a healthy thyroid and metabolism, as their high iodine content and rich levels of manganese work to metabolize sugar and insulin.

Tip: Add walnuts to salads and oatmeal, or grab a handful for a snack.

 

Cockroach Milk

How far will you go for muscle growth? If a substance is safe and legal, does that mean it’s fair game? If so, you might want to crack open a bottle of cockroach milk. Scientists at India’s Institute For Stem Cell Biology And Regenerative Medicine looked into whether milk protein found in the gut of the Pacific beetle cockroach—a bug that gives birth to live babies instead of laying eggs—resembles milk from a human or cow. They found that cockroach milk had more calories and the same amount of complete protein as buffalo milk, considered to be the most nutrient-dense milk. It also has a mechanism for controlled nutrient release. While harvesting this milk would be a nearly impossible task, scientists are looking into synthesizing it as a sustainable superfood with a low carbon footprint. Get ready to pour yourself a big glass of Bug Gainz.

 I’m In Trouble? Urine Trouble.

Proper hydration is vital for optimum health, strength, performance, and a fast metabolism. Hydration needs are highly individual, though. Size, activity level, and climate all play a role. A brand-new study from the European Journal Of Nutrition has found an easy way to assess your own hydration status: by looking at the color of your urine. The first study of its kind, scientists utilized an eight-shade scale to measure the relationship between fluid intake and urine color. They found that a two-shade difference indicated a significant reduction in total fluid intake. The lighter the color the greater the amount of fluid has been consumed. Ideally, you want to see a consistent color that is almost clear. Tracking the color throughout the day is an easy way to gauge if your hydration habits are helping or hindering our fitness goals.

24-Carrot Prostate

Over the years, meat and dairy consumption have been linked to an increase risk of prostate cancer risk. Since those protein-heavy foods make up a large portion of a bodybuilding-style diet, it might be smart to add some carrots to your eating plan as well. Chinese scientists at the University of Zhejiang performed a meta-study (collating the result of several other reputable studies) and determined that eating just 10 grams of carrots a day (the equivalent of a few baby carrots) can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by five percent. Consuming one large carrot every day cuts the risk in half. Researchers believe that the antioxidant carotenoids found in the vegetable (namely, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene) inhibit the growth of prostate-cancer cells.

Enjoy Your Own Brand

Food prep is an odd habit. In one way, we tend to dread those Sunday afternoons of chopping, cooking, weighing, and partitioning, but in another we couldn’t imagine life without it. We even enjoy it. The fact is, we seem to be genetically predisposed to enjoying food we make ourselves. The journal Health Psychology examined attitudes toward meals that were self-prepared and those that were purchased ready-to-eat. Subjects overwhelmingly experienced greater enjoyment when eating self-prepared foods, especially when they were perceived as being healthy. (Self-prepared unhealthy foods were not enjoyed nearly as much.) It seems that feelings of pride in being industrious, thrifty, and healthy actually improve the perception of the food. This must be the reason why people who have never experienced food prep can’t imagine preferring it to the take-out slop they usually eat.

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Brain Oil

The public has gone coconut crazy lately. Coconut water, coconut flour, and coconut sugar are everywhere. Coconut oil, it turns out, might be the one product that is more than a fad. With a light flavor and a higher smoke point than olive oil, coconut oil is tasty, versatile, and contributes some brain benefits as well. Studies have already shown that coconut oil is effective in combating and delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but new research from the Journal Of Oleo Science has found additional benefits. More than 50 percent of the fatty acids in coconut oil are made up of lauric acid. It turns out that lauric acid promotes the production of ketones within brain cells called astrocytes, providing fuel to neurons and improving overall brain health.

Produce Happiness

Fresh fruits and vegetables are great for your abs, but they are also pretty darn good for your head. Info published in the American Journal Of Public Health claims that people who go from eating no fruits and vegetables to consuming eight servings a day experienced an increase in life satisfaction that was equal to moving from being unemployed to fully employed. Additionally, the boost of happiness that comes from eating more produce (eight servings seems to be the threshold for incremental improvement) happens much more quickly than the proven health benefits that are bestowed by the fresh fare. The scientists, who were collaborators between the University of Warwick, England and the University of Queensland, Australia, feel that a link could be found between mood and the level of antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables, but more research is necessary.

The Eating Window

Time-restricted feeding, also known as a version of intermittent fasting, is when the practitioner only allows themselves to eat for a certain period during the day, usually between four and eight hours. It’s been found to be very effective for people who are overweight or insulin resistant. A new study seems to prove that it’s not a smart choice for those looking to add muscle. Published in the European Journal Of Sport Science, the study examined two groups of young men who were both put on a weight-training program. The first group ate whatever they wanted, and the second group was restricted to a four-hour eating window four days a week, although no restrictions were placed on what they could eat. After eight weeks, the group with the eating window experienced no positive body composition changes, despite eating approximately 650 fewer calories a day. The study concluded that intermittent fasting “is likely suboptimal for muscular hypertrophy during weight training and lean mass retention during weight-loss diets.”

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Post-Exercise Fat

The post-workout meal is the best feeding of the day. You can chow down on a big plate of protein and simple carbs, knowing those nutrients will be partitioned into your muscles. Some recent clinical information seems to show that for best results, you should keep that meal low in fat. An experiment detailed in the journal Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise put two groups of athletes through two-a-day workouts. One group ate high-carb meals between workouts while the other group consumed high-fat meals. By monitoring gene activity, researchers were able to determine that the group who ate a lot of fat between workouts experienced a reduction in the enzyme p70S6K1, which promotes protein synthesis, thus impairing hypertrophy. In other words, save your healthy fat intake for meals that do not surround your workouts.

Product Spotlight: Ultimate Nutrition BCAA 12,000 Powder

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Life is catabolic. It seems that a long list of everyday experiences conspire to break down the muscle we’ve spent so much time working to build. The beauty of a strong and simple BCAA formula is that it spares the muscles you craft, instead of letting them wash away like a sand castle in high tide. BCAA 12,000 Powder by Ultimate Nutrition is a solid performer in the BCAA category, supplying an effective dose of leucine, valine, and iso-leucine. Over the last few years, leucine has taken over the spotlight as the main driver of protein synthesis. While many products like to incorporate a massively one-sided ratio of leucine to the other BCAAs, it’s often accomplished by reducing the amount of valine and iso-leucine.

BCAA 12,000 Powder delivers 3,000 milligrams of leucine and 1,500 milligrams of both valine and isoleucine. The classic 2:1:1 ratio is backed by a by years of research as being one of the most effective BCAA formulations. Other companies look to razzle-dazzle the customer with gimmicks and gadgets, but Ultimate Nutrition has quietly created a reliably sound BCAA supplement for a reasonable price and with only five calories per serving and no carbs and zero sugar. Just like when it comes to working out, the classic fundamentals never go out of style. BCAA 12,000 Powder is available unflavored as well as in cherry, grape, fruit punch, lemon-lime, orange, pink lemonade, blue raspberry, and watermelon flavors.

For more info check out ultimatenutrition.com.

 

Vitamin A-Z

In an increasingly stressful and toxic world, a good multivitamin is more important than ever.

By Jenevieve Roper, PhD, CSCS

 

Ever hear of a food jag? If you have kids, you may know a little something about it. Essentially, with kids, they get stuck in a rut and refuse to eat anything but macaroni and cheese or some other random high-carb, low-nutrient food. Well, as adults, and especially those trying to put on muscle or lean out, we can often find ourselves in a food jag. Except your kind is where you only eat tilapia and asparagus or chicken and rice for extensive periods of time. While it helps us reach our physique goals, we can end up cutting out a lot of vital nutrients, which eventually wreaks havoc on our bodies, and even more so on our metabolism and strength.

Certain vitamins and minerals need to be consumed just about every single day. They aren’t stored in our fatty tissues, so they get flushed out of our systems along with water. And when diets become overly restrictive, you can end up missing out on many nutrients that can keep you in top shape. This is where a multivitamin comes in handy. While it’s not the sexiest thing in your supplement toolbox, it’s still one of the most important.

The next question is what multivitamin should you be taking? With so many out there you can never really go wrong, as they all contain most of the vital nutrients you’ll need. But as an athlete (yes, you should be considering yourself an athlete right now), certain multis are going to be better than others as they contain higher amounts of specific vitamins and minerals that aid in muscle hypertrophy, and others that get used quickly in an active lifestyle. If we at Iron Man had to create a multivitamin, here are a few things we would include.

 

Vitamin D

While a fat-soluble vitamin that you shouldn’t have to consume every day, vitamin D is essential to include in your multivitamin. It’s responsible for supporting the immune system and increasing cognition, but recent research shows that it is also linked with testosterone production and metabolism function. Yes, this is the same vitamin that is synthesized by your body when you step into the sun for at least 15 minutes. But with an increase in sunscreen use (which blocks absorption of vitamin D) and a darker complexion, about 80 percent of the US population has a vitamin D deficiency.

Therefore, it’s essential that your multi include vitamin D. But how much? Well, the recommendation is about 400 to 800 IU per day, but it appears that is too low. You should try to take in about 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day, which should meet the needs of most athletes. This means you may have to supplement with vitamin and a multi. And yes, that is even if you’re in a high-calorie bulking phase. Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients that is almost impossible to consume adequate levels of from whole foods.

 

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Iron

Iron is a mineral that is mostly known for its ability to transport oxygen within the body. It attaches to a specific molecule known as hemoglobin, which allows for the attachment and transportation of oxygen. When iron stores get low, the first sign is fatigue. So if your energy is low and you can’t seem to get through your workouts, iron may be the culprit. It’s found in many types of foods, but mainly animal foods, such as beef and chicken.

While women are usually more concerned about developing iron deficiencies, you should know that anyone who regularly exercises is at risk of low iron levels. The athletic population actually needs about 30 percent more iron than non-exercisers. While we aren’t sure about the mechanism, it was thought that a large amount of iron is lost through sweat. While we don’t believe large amounts are depleted that way anymore, we still known that some small amounts can be lost, which may contribute to the increased need. Look for at least eight milligrams per day to help maintain your performance.

 

Zinc

Zinc is an antioxidant that helps support the immune system. But did you also know that it regulates testosterone production? It also helps in the conversion of cholesterol to free testosterone alongside magnesium. Zinc is a micronutrient that we get from food, but many athletes do not consume a whole lot. And because we lose it in our sweat (a little more than we do iron), athletes are especially susceptible to be deficient in zinc.

There are two recommended doses for zinc, one of which is more of a maintenance dose. But since you’re an athlete, you are typically at risk for deficiency, so you’ll need to consume the higher dose of 25 to 45 milligrams per day. Be wary of going above 40 milligrams a day, however, as research has shown that it can start to interfere with calcium and magnesium absorption since they all use the same transporter.

 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is actually a group of several different compounds that all work as antioxidants and help boost the immune system. This is important because the harder you train, the more susceptible you are to getting sick because of something known as “the open window.” Infections and sickness could potentially derail your training. And your risk is even higher when you start incorporating two-a-days.

While vitamin E can be adequately consumed through the diet in foods like avocado and olives, it can be difficult for some athletes to get enough when on a low-fat diet. Look for a multivitamin that contains at least 15 milligrams, but no more than about 150 milligrams.

 

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Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another antioxidant that is known to help boost the immune system and prevent infections. While many foods are fortified with vitamin C, anyone who is restricting their carb intake may be missing out on this key nutrient, since most processed grains, breads, and juices contain vitamin C. And as someone who trains hard, you definitely need more vitamin C than the average Joe.

Most will recommend 100 to 200 milligrams per day since you can easily get vitamin C through the diet, but as an hard-training gym rat, you should be opting for about 2,000 milligrams per day. This will also help support your immune system as your training intensity increases as well as facilitate zinc and iron absorption.

 

Magnesium

Magnesium is another mineral that is a common deficiency in the US. It comes second to vitamin D because grains are actually a poor source of magnesium. And when athletes are carb-restricted in combination with performing high-intensity exercise, magnesium can actually be depleted in our systems fairly quickly since it is a key player in exercise metabolism. Not only is it needed for exercise metabolism, but it helps with testosterone production as well, and can impact muscle hypertrophy.

Therefore, you probably need a bit more magnesium than you actually think. The standard dose is 200 to 400 milligrams per day. Of course, anyone doing morning cardio and 90 minutes of weight training five to six days a week could use a bit more. Actually, a lot more. In fact, it has been recommended that athletes take 200 milligrams per 50 pounds of bodyweight and on days of increased performance (i.e., two-a-days), you should take up to 300 milligrams per 50 pounds of bodyweight.

 

Chromium

Chromium is an essential mineral that is known to help regulate glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. In short, it potentially has the ability to increase the action of insulin and keep your blood glucose levels steady, if taken throughout the day. This helps fight hunger and keeps your diet on track. It is also a common deficiency among those in the US, as it has little bioavailability in most of the foods we consume. Therefore, supplementation is a must, especially with athletes on a restricted diet.

Now, when only supplementing with chromium, usually it’s taken with meals, twice a day. So you may have to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on when to take your multivitamin. However, the minimum you want included in a day is 1,000 micrograms.  IM

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Beyond The Basics

A new breed of multivitamin has appeared on shelves in recent years aimed at the ultra-active gym crowd. It’s smart move, as a hard-training, strict-dieting 24-year-old needs something more than the Centrum Silver that his grandparents take. Here are a few smart extras to look for to round out your nutrient intake:

  • Carotenoids: These yellow, orange, or red fat-soluble pigments act as antioxidants to protect against chronic diseases. They include lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and many more.
  • Digestive enzymes: Let’s face it, protein and fats can be hard to break down sometimes. They include amylase, protease, cellulase, and lipase.
  • Flavonoids: Also called bioflavonoids, these plant-based antioxidants provide a multitude of health benefits to the heart, metabolism, and immune system.
  • B vitamins: Key players in regulating the metabolism
  • Biotin: Great hair, skin, and nails always catches the eye of attractive partners, but also for its role in regulating the metabolism.
  • Calcium: It should speak for itself, but let’s just say you need to make sure you get adequate amounts for strong bones, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission.

 

Listen up!

Music is an important part of your workout. Give it the respect it deserves.

By Amanda Burrill, MS

 

Let’s recap the things we do to make every workout count. We get plenty of sleep, establish a pre-workout routine, factor in fashionable yet functional gym gear, and make sure we are properly fed and hydrated. So once you gaze upon your kingdom and the fireworks are about to go off, what could go wrong?

It’s one of those tragedies that needs to be experienced before it can be fully appreciated: You roll into the iron temple of worship and you don’t have your headphones. You know your workout is going to suffer.

Music can really dictate your workout. The mood you want surrounding your sesh is a personal choice, but I’m willing to bet this mood aligns with adjectives like “badass” and “inspiring.” The headphones delivering this musical message straight to your brain are worth the extra dollars. Music purists insist that wireless headphones compromise sound quality. That may be ever so slightly true, but is it worth being encumbered by wires while you tackle dynamic movements? No way. That’s why all of these picks are wireless. As an added bonus, all of these following options allow you to take calls, too. Not that you even have your ringer on while you work out.

Hear ye!

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JLab Epic2

Cost:  $100

Where to buy: JLabsAudio.com

The number-one asset of these headphones is the 12-hour battery life, tied for longest duration of this lot of products. Second, the Epic2 comes in a choice of three colors and a limited edition called “USA.” (Get that one.) JLabs took their award-winning Epics and upped the battery life, made them more “skip-proof” with newfangled technology, and also upped the water-splash-sweat proofing, earning these an IPX5 rating, the highest there is. Still, don’t wear them swimming. (But really, who swims for a workout?)

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Monster iSport

Cost: $100

Where to buy: MonsterProducts.com

Without fail, every Monster product I’ve tested has superior sound quality, and I really want to emphasize the power of the bass, even in one of their smaller models like the iSport, where I didn’t expect it. The sound maintains clarity throughout the 30-foot wireless range without breaking up. iSport is also lightweight and stayed snugly put during both lifts and runs, thanks to the specially angled tips.

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Jabra Sport Coach

Cost:  $120

Where to buy: Jabra.com

This pair checks all the boxes but adds a distinct feature the others don’t have—hence the name “Sports Coach.” The “intelligent audio coaching” helps you plan, track, and analyze cross-training and indoor workouts with an app that lets you choose from more than 40 exercises. You get personalized in-ear coaching based on time or repetitions all while your favorite music plays. And neato-burrito: If your phone or music device is NFC-enabled (near field communication), just tap the Sport Coach to it for the most effortless pairing ever. So you can be effortless and lazy right before you work really hard.

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Plantronics BackBeat Fit

Cost: $130

Where to buy: Plantronics.com

These looked rigid and are one size fits all. Since I have a huge noggin, I assumed the BackBeat Fits wouldn’t “fit” well, but I was wrong. On-ear controls are very convenient and the P21 nano-coating actually repels liquid away. So it’s beyond waterproof. Or I just invented that. If you tend to bebop around late at night or go on outdoor runs, these also have a reflective finish to keep you from getting killed by motorists. These also come with a reversible armband if you need a place to secure your phone, or you can just use it to store the device.

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Jaybird X2

Cost: $150

Where to buy: JayBirdSport.com

I was using wireless headphones before anyone else I know, thanks to a thoughtful gift way back in the day. I basically invented them, and they were Jaybirds. Then last year I reviewed the Jaybird X and loved them for their innovative ear fins that come in various sizes so you can mix and match and adapt to find your best fit. So now it’s only fitting I took the X2s for a spin. It’s not surprising that I love them, too. For taking a beating like a champ, they also have a classy feel that making them seem okay for when I’m wearing a suit. Also of note is the increased battery life—now eight hours—and choice of six color flourishes.

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Active Collection’s Beats Solo2

Cost: $300

Where to buy: BeatsByDre.com

If I’m mixing it up with cardio, I like the smaller earbuds, but for a straight-up iron-smashing sessions, I love over-the-ear headphones. These will cost you a pretty penny, but boy, do they look fresh and offer great sound. The “Active Collection” comes in bright blue, red, and yellow, and have a 30-foot range and 12-hour battery—top of it’s class in both categories. There is an illuminated LED fuel gauge on the headphone, too—the first time I’ve seen that. Did I mention that these look cool?

Athletic Abs

Your core needs to be strong, functional, and ready for anything.

 By Cooper Graham

 

Sit-ups and sports have traditionally gone together like bodybuilders and biceps curls. Even before physiologists could explain why the muscles of the midsection are so important for generating force, coaches instinctively knew that the core musculature coordinates the movement between the upper and lower body.

Unfortunately, a slavish devotion to the sit-up (or crunch) has prevailed. While that type of spinal flexion is good for developing the rectus abdominis, the core is composed of several other muscles that enable an infinite number of movement patterns such as twisting, bending, leaning, swaying, tilting, and stabilizing. For instance, one of the most important movements generated by the abdominals is rotation. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most overlooked when it comes to training.

“Athletes need to be able to rotate and rotate explosively,” says Brian Richardson, MS, CPL2, NASM-PES, co-owner of Dynamic Fitness in Temecula, California. “The reaction of an athlete is like one-thirtieth of a second. So they need to work that pattern and those muscles to react.”

Richardson claims that improving speed and power in the external obliques, the muscles that drive torso rotation, is the key to improving performance in all manner of motions, whether it’s throwing a punch or swinging a golf club. However, training the external obliques can be slightly tricky. For instance, when standing, the external obliques move the upper body from right to left and are the main drivers when throwing a right cross. However, when you are on your back and your hips are anchored to the floor, they move your right hip farther to the right. For that reason, Richardson recommends performing both standing and supine rotational exercises.

Another facet to consider is rep scheme. Core muscles are made up of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers and thus must be targeted with both heavy loads and low reps as well as light weight and high reps.

The bottom line is everyone need a well-rounded abdominal training program that encompasses multiple planes of movement, full ranges of motion, and varying rep schemes. Here, Richardson has created a short but effective workout that addresses all the variables and will have you ready for any challenge.

Rotation

These two exercises will help develop rotational abilities across two planes of motion. The medicine ball throw focuses on building power while the goal of the windshield wipers is stability and muscular endurance.

Weighted Throw: Hold a heavy medicine ball or slam ball at your waist and stand about five feet away and perpendicularly to a stable wall. Your left shoulder should be facing the wall and your toes pointed 90 degrees from it. With both hands under the ball, pivot on your right foot and throw the ball into the wall as hard as possible with a two-handed scooping motion. Pick up the ball and repeat for reps before switching sides.

Sets/Reps: 4×25 reps (two sets each side)

Lying Twist: Lie on your back with your arms straight out to the sides, legs straight up in the air, toes pointed at the ceiling. Your hip, shoulder blades, and back of your head should remain in contact with the ground throughout the movement. Lower your legs all the way to one side until they lightly touch the ground. This is your starting position. Take a breath and tighten your abdominals. Slowly bring them up in an arcing motion across your body and all the way to the other side until they lightly touch the ground. Take a full three seconds to move from left to right. Immediately return, taking another three seconds to go from right to left.

Sets/Reps: 3×12-15 reps

Tempo: 3-0-3

Flexion

While you don’t want overstimulate the rectus abdominis (those muscles that make that six-pack shape) with countless crunches and sit-ups, you don’t want to neglect them either. One of the best exercises for that part of the core is the hanging leg raise.

“The hanging leg raise is a great movement,” Richardson says. “The lower muscle fibers in the abdominal wall will really fire off, and there is a whole slew of other things going on synergistically. It really helps for explosiveness.”

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Hanging Leg Raise With Posterior Tilt: Grasp an overhead bar with one hand, contracting that lat, then grab the bar with your other hand, tightening that lat, as well. (An easier version of this can be performed on a captain’s chair, with your forearms braced on pads.) Your lats and shoulder girdle should be locked down, as opposed to being in a dead hang. From here, internally rotate your legs, point your toes in, and squeeze your thighs together. With this built-up tension, raise your feet as high as you can toward your head, maintaining total control the entire time. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, tilt your pelvis and bring your feet above your waist and slightly forward. Take two three seconds to bring the legs up and two seconds to lower them. For an extra challenge, hold a medicine ball or light dumbbell between your feet.

Sets/Reps: 3×10-12 reps

Stability

A body needs to do more than contract and explode. Deceleration and control are vital biomotor abilities. If you can lock down your core and prevent excess motion, you will more effectively transfer power from your trunk to your extremities. This turbo-charged version of the classic plank forces you to maintain dynamic stability for a full minute.

Stir The Pot: From a kneeling position with an exercise ball in front of you, place your forearms on the ball. 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, your glutes engaged, your elbows under your shoulders, and you should have neutral spine alignment. Initiate the movement by slowly moving your forearms forward and then into a circular motion for the prescribed amount of time. Reverse the direction of the circle for the next set.

Sets/Reps: 60 seconds

Tempo: 4 seconds for each circle

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Stay Positive

Online trainer Parker Egerton has a secret for his success. No, it’s not the beard.  

By Mike Carlson

 

PQ: “”People always want to find a flaw and attack it. I try to stay positive. I always say, ‘I treat people the way I want them to treat my son.’”

PQ: “I always figure that someone else out there is going through worse but trying harder.”

The interweb is filled with physique transformation experts and online trainers. How does a reputable coach cut through the static and separate themselves from the rest of the pack?

“I ask myself that almost every day. I want to know how I can continue to grow. I tell people all the time there are thousands of guys out there on social media with crazy aesthetics and a way better physique than me, but they don’t have a following at all,” Parker Egerton says . “Maybe a 6’2” bearded tattoo guy with abs sticks out a little bit more than someone who doesn’t have a beard and tattoos? I think I’m more recognizable.”

Egerton has more than 500,000 followers on Instagram, an impressive feat when you consider he’s not a competitor, isn’t in advertisements, doesn’t have clothing line, and isn’t sleeping with a Bikini star. What’s remarkable is that he spends most of his days at home, tending to his online clients and his five-and-a-half-year-old son, Parker V (yes, he is the fifth in a long line of Parkers).

So what’s his secret? Some of his appeal comes from his looks, but the energy he puts out in the world deserves plenty of credit. Egerton lives with an emulsion tear in his right leg, a near-crippling injury that makes his leg numb at best and sends unbearable stabbing pains through his lower body at worst. If he drops his keys, he has to kneel down to reach them. Still, you almost never see him without his huge megawatt smile on his face and words of encouragement spilling from his mouth.

“My brother is a Navy SEAL, and we have friends who are missing limbs now because of fighting in a war,” he says. “I feel fortunate for still being able to do what I did. I stay positive. You have to stay positive.”

Egerton first visited Iron Man in May of 2015. It was the first time he had ever visited California. When he got home, he told his wife they were moving. A few months later, Southern California became their permanent home, and Egerton has recently signed a lease to open his first gym. That’s the power of positive thinking.

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Mike Carlson: At 6’2” and 230 pounds, you stand out in the aesthetics field just on sheer size.

Parker Egerton: I get that a lot. I’ll be at expos like FIBO or Olympia, and when I meet people that is one of the first things people always say to me: “Man, you are a lot bigger than I thought you would be in person.” I always say, “I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing!” It is a good icebreaker, though.

MC: You don’t have a tiny waist like some competitors. You have a more manly look. Is that what sets you apart?

PE: I wish I had that tiny waist! I don’t have a tiny waist, and I’m not good at vacuums or sucking my stomach in. I wish I could, but that’s just not me. My waist is not small like Sadik’s [Hadzovic]. He has a crazy-small waist. I don’t have that, and no matter what I do it’s not going to happen. So I’m not going to sit there and stress about it. I’m going to do the best I can with what I have.

MC: Is that part of your appeal?

PE: Possibly. I feel like more people can relate to me more than Sadik or Jeremy [Buendia]. There is a handful of those guys with those crazy waists. That’s a lot of genetics as well. I feel like I train really hard every single day, and no matter what I do, my waist is not going to get smaller.

MC: You have hundreds and hundreds of online clients. What kind of clients seek you out?

PE: I get a varied spectrum of clients. I just signed a kid the other day. He’s 16, and I had to tell him that I needed to talk to his parents since he’s not 18. Then I have clients who are in their early 60s. I have people who haven’t been to the gym since high school and are now in their 40s, and others who just got offstage for a competition and want to bulk up. I try to do it all.

MC: What’s the most common fitness misconceptions you encounter?

PE: People think they can half-ass the nutrition. I’ll get, “I haven’t been weighing out my meals, and I’ve been snacking a little bit, and I don’t understand why I’m not transforming.” I’m like, “It’s because you’re doing the same thing you were doing prior and you expect a different result. That’s called insanity.” I explain to them that I use this idea in every concept in life: “I am not going to give a half-effort to get a half-result.” They’re like, “But I’ve been working out!” I tell them, “The working out is the fun part.” I love going to the gym, but would I rather have doughnuts and lasagna than ground turkey? Of course! People get lazy on their nutrition.

MC: Tell me about the injury that you live with.

PE: The tendon that holds on to my hamstring at the insertion point under the glute completely ripped off. It went all the way down to the lower part of my knee. I had two surgeries that cost 120,000 dollars and I’m still not fixed. They screwed metal hooks into my pelvic bone and that reattached two of three hamstrings. For the second surgery, they tried to repair the third one but it still wouldn’t attach. The biceps femoris is supposed to be inserted under the glute, but it’s hanging by my knee. It’s clearly visible. I have a couple scars from both surgeries that form a T. The top of the T is right under my butt cheek and goes all the way down most of my thigh. I have no feeling from the back part of my hamstring all the way down to my Achilles. It’s a bummer, but I always figure that someone else out there is going through worse but trying harder. That’s something I always tell myself.

MC: You seem to get a lot of “haters” on social media commenting on your legs.

PE: All day long. It’s always about my legs. I’m not going to sit there and explain it 100,000 times. If I was able to train my legs, by all means, I would try my best to make them as aesthetic as possible. But the fact is, I am a provider for my family. I had two different surgeries and I couldn’t leave the bed for four months. It was horrible. If that were to happen to me right now, the bills won’t be paid. It would be stupid and selfish for me to try to put five plates on the bar and squat.

MC: Can you train legs at all?

PE: I still train my legs, but I can’t go heavy. I can’t squat or deadlift. I do a lot of extensions. I probably do 200 reps of extension. I do legs more than any other bodypart, but you can’t tell because there’s only so much I can do. People always want to find a flaw and attack it. I try to stay positive. I always say, “I treat people the way I want them to treat my son.” That’s how I treat people.

MC: Why don’t you compete in Men’s Physique? It seems perfect for you with the long boardshorts.

PE: I did a few national shows. I got a first call-out, but I never got my pro card. I realized that competing was not for me when I was till eating Krispy Kreme the week of my shows. Whereas when I was first approached by Iron Man to shoot, I was 100 percent on it. That kind of told me that I took photo shoots more seriously. My hat is off to anyone who competes. I know what it takes. I’ve been through it, and I have respect for every single competitor. I don’t care if you get last call-outs or if you’re Jeremy Buendia.

MC: Whose physique inspires you?

PE: If I had a dream physique, it would be two people put together: Sergi Constance and Calum Von Moger. They are both friends of mine. Sergi’s physique is the best in the game. But I also like how big Calum is. And he is super-shredded.

MC: Without competition, how do you stay motivated?

PE: I look at my body as a business. I make my income from all my training. I can always tell that when I’m leaner and looking shoot-ready, my sales are much higher. I am really competitive person, and it drives me crazy not to look my best all the time. I’ll take two to four weeks once a year and go off a strict diet and I’ll live a little bit. For the most part, this is a lifestyle for me. And there is always my competitive edge. I feel like there are guys out there who are training harder and who want it more, and that pushes me even harder.

MC: What’s your game plan for the rest of 2016?

PE: I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I set a lot of goals for myself and I write them down. I work toward them every day. I have a big one I want to achieve before the end of the year. I show first and I talk later. There are too many talkers. I’d rather say, “I did this,” rather than “I am going to…” That’s just me.  IM

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Name:  Parker Egerton
Age: 29

Lives:  Corona, CA

Favorite exercise:  A variation of an Arnold press, but to target the anterior deltoid compound set with dumbbell front raises

Least favorite exercise: Anything pertaining to abs

Weirdest healthy food you eat regularly: Brussels sprouts

What would be your last meal on Earth? Japanese hibachi

Who would you cast to play you in a movie? Dan Bilzerian, although I have a better beard

What was you last legitimate reason for skipping a workout?  I signed a lease on an industrial building for my first gym!

Instagram:  @Parker_Physique

Website: ParkerPhysique.com

 

Injury-Free Chest

Build  muscle and strength while staying pain-free and healthy in the process.

By Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes

Training the pectoralis major and minor, also known as the chest, is a common priority for both recreational and competitive lifters. When you’re young, it’s quite common for the bench press to be the predominant lift that is used for chest development. If you have advantageous biomechanics (big chest, short arms), bench pressing can seem incomparable for chest development.

As you age, though, there is an accumulation of wear and tear. Rotator-cuff injuries are the most common complaint among recreational lifters and competitive bodybuilders, and they are almost always incurred during pressing movements, specifically the bench press and incline press. You may feel invincible in your 20s, but once you get into the 30s, 40, 50s, with decades of lifting, you start to feel all those repetitions adding up.

As you age, your training approach to chest must become smarter. Your shoulder joints and pec tendons have only so many repetitions in them where they can be overloaded before something tears, frays, or snaps. And once injured, your ability to build any more muscle is highly compromised.

Rather than back off chest training completely, or be forced into stasis and believe that you’ve no future of muscles gains, your chest training can evolve. What follows is the Mountain Dog approach to chest training. This protocol is not only designed to prevent injury and have you train safely, but also sequenced in such a way to spur muscle growth, while not aggravating any preexisting or past injuries.

 

Rotator Stuff

Almost every man who has lifted has strained one or both of his shoulders from pressing. Why does this happen?

Go into the gym to train chest, and almost everyone does the same thing: They immediately head over to the bench press or incline press and start pressing right away. It seems like the right thing to do. Arnold loved to bench, the majority of magazines tell you to start off with flat or incline pressing, and there’s plenty of studies that say multi-joint compound movements are best for muscle growth. Are they all wrong? No, but they’re not quite right either.

When you go immediately into pressing without taking the time to pump the pecs with blood and invigorate the upper-back muscles for shoulder stability, you are creating the perfect setup for injury. Bench pressing is one of the most stressful movements you can do, and doing it first without any blood flow within the shoulder girdle is going to be aggravating to the muscles of the rotator cuff.

This may sound like I hate the bench press, but I don’t. Rather, it’s too often used as either an ego lift, or a staple exercise because everyone does it. But the results, and the state of your joints, don’t reflect the effort you put into it

So how do you adapt your training to deliver the muscle you want while staying pain-free and continuing to lift?

 

Smart Sequencing Equals Progress
Rather than persist with the same structure, let’s look at the exercises that we’ve previously been bashing: the bench press and the incline press. Instead of dropping them from the workout, I want you to change when you do them. For instance, let’s make barbell pressing the third or fourth movement instead of the first.

Sure, you may not feel as fresh and strong on the bench, but you’ll be thoroughly warmed up and your pecs and shoulders will be pumped with blood. You’ll also feel more coordinated from the pressing movements you have already done, and you’ll make greater muscle gains long term, by training your chest with compound movements in an already fatigued state.

You should know that just because you don’t feel as strong initially when following this protocol, it doesn’t mean that you are weaker or that you are hindering muscle gains. Quite the opposite. You are setting yourself up for greater future growth and improved joint health.

 

Work Your Angles

A typical chest workout is usually some pressing that’s done on a flat bench, some pressing done on a 45-degree incline, and then some variation of flye. While this seems like a good mix of stimulus, the reality is that everyone is a little bit different in regards to what angles best suit their individual structure.

How do you know if flat and a 45-degree incline are the best angles for you? Pretty simple. Do you feel your chest and upper chest working? Or do these angles feel like you’re working your front delts?

Minor incline angles, or decline angles, or even extra-high angles (60 degrees versus 45 degrees), can yield massive improvements in pec recruitment. Slight inclines and high inclines can often work much better for “middle” and “upper” chest, while slight decline angles can also emphasize lower-chest fibers far better than flat angles.

A commonly held belief is that you cannot truly “isolate” a muscle. Even on a machine like a pec deck, other muscles in the shoulder are still working. So while it’s technically true to say you can’t isolate, you can emphasize.

Hypertrophy is joint-angle specific, and muscle is “built” along the lines of mechanical stress that is imposed on the muscle. So angles matter for muscle development. If your chest development has been a struggle, and you’ve had recurrent shoulder issues, then changing the angle of the movements you do will likely make a dramatic difference, both from a muscular development aspect and training longevity as well.  IM

 

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Range Of Motion Is Relative

Form Nazis will tell you that every exercise must be full range of motion. That is wrong. In reality, range of motion (ROM) is relative to the resistance you’re using, the implement, and the intended effect of the exercise in question. Some exercises you want a complete ROM, while it can be very beneficial to cut the ROM short in others. Here are some shoulder-saving guidelines for ROM with various implements.

Dumbbells: For dumbbell movements, a complete range of motion should generally be utilized. What is most important with dumbbells is the setup of the arms. With some movement you may want your elbows flared, while in others your arm should be in tighter. Adjust your setup with whatever provides the most pec stimulation.

Barbells: Barbells can be much more stressful on the shoulder than dumbbells. If bringing the bar all the way to the chest strains the shoulder, then stop your ROM one to two inches above the chest. If the barbell feels good, however, then you can go all the way down, but pause each rep right above the chest. This will ensure you never use momentum to bounce out of the bottom and put the rotator cuff in a dangerous position.

Machines: Machines can vary with their ROMs. What is most important is finding and adjusting the machine to suit your biomechanics. Don’t be the guy who hops on the hammer press after someone else used it without bothering to adjust the seat height. Machine ROM can be full or partial, but always customize it as much as possible.

Cables: For cables movements, use a full range of motion. Cable exercises are completely customizable, so there is no excuse for cutting it short. The only caveat with cables is not to over-exaggerate the ROM past the ability of the muscle to contract. Otherwise, cables are phenomenal for targeted muscle tension and maintaining flexibility in your joints.

Bodyweight Movement: Much like cables, a bodyweight exercise like a push-up or dip can be individualized to your exact mechanics. Not only that, but the ROM for push-ups and dips is arguably the most “natural” training you can do for your pectorals. Do not cut ROM short on these movements unless you’re doing partial reps after having burned yourself out with full reps. An inability to complete a full ROM dip or push-up is indicative of poor joint health in the shoulders.

 

The Workout
Now that method and rationale has been made clear, here is how the protocol itself looks in practical workout form.

1. Pump and Activation: Moderate weight, moderate reps, 3 to 4 working sets

Goal: Warm up the joints and muscles with a complete ROM and sustained pump

Example: Pronated/Neutral-Grip Machine Chest Press

With this movement, you will first want to adjust the seat and seatback so that the lever arm is right in the line with lower chest. From there, select either a neutral or pronated group, and test what gives you better chest engagement. Begin with warm-up sets of 20, and work up to a harder set of 15. Add a little weight, and hit a set of 10. Add some more weight, and hit two very concentrated sets of eight. Reps should be smooth on every set, with a controlled concentric and controlled eccentric. Count two seconds down, two seconds up.

Sets: (3) 4

Reps: (Warm-up: 20, 20, 20) 15,10, 8, 8

 

2. Progressive Overload: Low to moderate reps, 3 to 4 working sets

Goal: Use heavier weight, progressively work up to top end sets that safely work both muscle and progress strength development

Example: Low Incline Dumbbell Press 

First, experiment with the height of the incline. Anything from as little as five degrees to as much as 30 degrees can work. Find what angle is suitable for you and allows for a complete stretch of the pecs without overworking the front deltoid. Start with reps in the 15 range, and work up to a hard set of 10. From there, increase the weight for a set of six to eight reps based on how strong you are feeling. Aim to either add reps to that weight each week, or increase weight the next time.

Sets: 3

Reps: 15, 10, 6-8

 

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3. Supramaximal Pump: Moderate to very high reps, 2 to 4 working sets

Goal: Create as much blood flow to the muscle as physiologically possible through higher reps and constant tension 

Example: Smith Machine Incline Press

On the Smith machine, set an incline anywhere from 25 to 60 degrees, at whatever angle engages your upper chest more. For the weight, start with a set of 30 reps as a warm-up and then add weight for the work sets. At this point, your pecs and shoulders should be thoroughly warmed up. With these reps, use a faster tempo and keep tension constant, stopping one to two inches short of the chest.

Sets: 3

Reps: 30, 15-25, 15-25

 

4. Contraction and Stretch: Moderate to high reps, 2 to 3 working sets

Goal: Work the pumped muscle through a super intense contraction while emphasizing a full stretch to promote muscular growth. 

Example: Assisted Dip

For these, go right into the working sets. Offset your bodyweight just enough so that the resistance burns you out around the 8 to 10 rep mark. On each rep, slowly lower yourself, emphasizing the pec stretch on every single rep. Take a full five seconds on every descent.

Sets: 3

Reps: 8-10