Typically, when people start working out, they start to notice the results of their hard work within a few short weeks. Muscle and bone density become more apparent and, as a result, personal morale surges.
Fast forward a few months and you’ll notice a dramatic change in your energy and strength levels. This typically motivates exercisers to push through some grueling reps. After all, like they say, “no pain, no gain.”
Fast forward a few more months and you might stop seeing dramatic gains. Improvements aren’t coming in as fast or as noticeably as they once did. Since humans are amazing at adapting, our bodies become accustomed to the hard work and we hit a wall, experiencing what’s known as a “plateau effect.” It’s during these plateaus that most people quit — without results to motivate, it’s easier to stop.
To combat those sh*tty plateaus, trainers introduce new, varied training methods to keep the body unprepared — unable to acclimate — which causes muscles to grow once again. If you’re looking to change up your routine, consider the following methods.
Most gym goers take a break after completing one set — usually to check their social media. Instead, consider introducing a second exercise that focuses on a different muscle group before resting. For example, if you’re doing 12 reps on an EZ-curl bar, knock out 12 triceps extensions prior to your social-media checkup.
Also known as “high-intensity interval training,” this killer method is a popular way of burning fat and increasing physical endurance. The idea is to maintain a high work-to-rest ratio — between 1:1 and 2:1. For example, to achieve a 1:1 ratio, you’ll exercise hard for a short burst and then rest just as long immediately afterward. A 2:1 ratio means that you’re resting half as long as you’re exercising.
Trainers usually put their clients through dozens of rounds of HIIT training before calling it a day.
Despite the name, this has nothing to do with going to the beach — although you’ll probably want to be seen with your shirt off after a few weeks of this training. Surfing the rack simply means walking up to the free weights and repping with the heaviest load you can manage. Then, after you’ve exhausted yourself, step down in weight and continue to get reps in.
Most trainers recommend you reduce the load by about 20 percent per step.
Most people never want to fail — which is a good thing. However, “going to failure” in the gym is an epic way to tear your muscles in a controlled environment. Be careful, though — going until failure is tough on your body and can make you nauseous from time to time.
When working out, many people select a manageable weight, complete 8-to-12 reps, re-rack the weight, and take a break. This is a solid way to build muscle, sure, but it’ll also set you on your way to that progress plateau we talked about earlier.
In a drop set, a person selects a manageable weight, and does reps until failure. Next, they opt for a lower weight and continue on. It’s very similar to surfing the rack, minus the rack itself.
Now, get out there and keep those muscles guessing.
Preseason football is winding down across the NFL, and that means one thing— Fantasy Football Draft season is finally upon us. It’s a time for friendly competition among old high school friends, distant coworkers, and your girlfriend’s dad. It’s a rite of cultural passage, and it all centers around one singular day of trash talking, beer drinking, and wildly inaccurate prophesying. We breakdown typical draft day debauchery, minute by minute, for either your nostalgic pleasure or your studious preparation.
8:00 a.m: Your phone alarm blares. It’s Saturday. You’ve waited all month for this. Snooze button.
8:06 a.m: Your second phone alarm blares. It’s still Saturday. You’ve waited all month for this.
8:26 a.m: You’re finally done looking up last-minute Fantasy Football tips and mindlessly double-tapping @LiveLaughLoverXoxo summer beach photos on Instagram. You get out of bed.
8:30 a.m: The first beer of the Fantasy Football Season is cracked open.
8:42 a.m: The living room table is cleared of GI Joes and old issues of Popular Science from a subscription that the old tenant apparently never canceled.
8:56 a.m: An extravagant mise en place is set on the living room table: Fritos Bean Dip, Doritos, a bag of sunflower seeds, and a box of oatmeal cream pies. Mike was supposed to bring the food, and you know he won’t.
9:00 a.m: The email/Facebook invite said for people to get here around 9. So that means we have one hour until people show up.
9:32 a.m: Mike’s here. He brought plastic cups?? He grabs a beer from the fridge and rants to you about how this is the year he wins the fantasy league. Mike’s your best friend from high school. He has lost 12 years in a row.
9:46 a.m: Six Other dudes waltz in together. Three of them you know, the other three are somebody’s brother-in-law and a couple coworkers or some sh*t. You weren’t really listening, but they brought a couple 30 racks of Miller Lite. Everyone has a beer in hand except for the “brother-in-law” who keeps making the same joke about drafting a kicker in the first round. Hmm.
9:52 a.m: Marcus, your oldest friend, Skype calls into the draft. He’s on base in Oki, and it’s like 3 a.m. or something over there. He’s talking more trash than anyone, but it’s lagging 5 seconds late, and the timing forces everyone to try and force small windows of silence for his jokes. Eight minutes until draft time.
9:56 a.m: The rest of the 12 person league files in. Except for Johnny (he goes by “Jonathan” now). He said he’s gonna be late because one of his twins peed on his expensive throw pillow and he has to pick up dry cleaning and—you stop reading the text. You read half it aloud, everyone laughs, and you all agree to put him on auto-draft.
9:57 a.m: Brother-in-law asks what “auto-draft” means.
9:58 a.m: The food is all gone.
10:00 a.m: At long last… The draft begins.
10:01 a.m: Barkley goes first overall to Mike. He calls him a “steal” for some reason.
10:03 a.m: Marcus reaches for Todd Gurley in the first round. He hasn’t watched football in 2 years, and everyone gives him sh*t.
10:06 a.m: Jonathan (Johnny) auto drafts Ezekiel Elliot at eight after everyone avoided him. Hopefully, he doesn’t play a single snap this year.
10:09 a.m: Brother-in-law just drafted Mahomes in the first round. One less person to worry about.
10:11 a.m: Everyone agrees it’s time to order pizza, but nobody wants to pay when Dominos is called. You bite the bullet. Again.
10:18 a.m: Everyone is on Miller Lite #3. You’re in your happy place.
10:20 a.m: One of those three random dudes just wasted a pick on Amari Cooper. Some men never learn.
10:25 a.m: Johnny (Jonathan) walks through the door wearing a full suit. While he’s yapping about how he has to head to the office soon, and he can’t stay for long Mike throws him a beer and it jams his thumb and falls to the floor. Everyone laughs, then Johnny laughs, and then 5 seconds later, Marcus’ laugh can be heard through the laptop speakers.
10:31 a.m: Text from girlfriend: “Who is @LiveLaughLoverXoxo ???”
10:41 a.m: Brother-in-law drafts Andrew Luck as a joke. Nobody is quite drunk enough (yet) to think it’s actually funny, but everyone forces some laughs.
10:45 a.m: Somehow, Mark Ingram falls to you in the draft, and you distract the guy picking right before you with some stupid meme on your phone. It works, and he drafts LeSean McCoy.
10:52 a.m: The first defense is taken by, you guessed it, brother-in-law.
10:54 a.m: For some reason, everyone gets anxious and also drafts a defense.
11:06 a.m: The pizzas show up.
11:12 a.m: The pizzas are gone, and so is AJ Green. Damnit.
11:17 a.m: The ending rounds are coming soon. Everyone is pretty buzzed, and only five people are actually focused on the draft at this point.
11:21 a.m: Mike shotguns a beer in celebration of drafting Baker Mayfield. He has 3 QBs.
11:33 a.m: The draft comes to an end. You scroll through your team, smiling proudly upon your selections, completely unaware that 4 of them will have massive injuries in week 12, one will be suspended for eight games for smoking a joint, and you will trade one away before having a historic record-breaking rushing streak. But it doesn’t matter. You look over at your friends. You realize this is the only time you’ll all be in the same room until this time next year. Johnny’s tie seems loose around his neck. Mike didn’t pay a cent, but he’s currently doing a bad Chris Farley impression that is absolutely killing and is well worth the price of admission. Marcus has fallen asleep and can be heard snoring through the laptop. All is right with the world, and you are happy.
11:35 a.m: Text from girlfriend: “Seriously, who is @LiveLaughLoverXoxo.”
Getting better at pull-ups is a subject of concern for many people. As with the “Pushup-Push Workout,” this idea makes little sense physiologically, but it works. You never want to have an extended period of repeating the same exercises day after day, but you can do this workout for ten days, rest for three or four days with no pull-ups, then test on day 14 or 15. Then you will find your increase to be as high as 50-100% from your previous max pull-ups.
Here is a question from a Marine Reservist wanting to max his PFT of 20 pullups:
“Where can I find your pull-up routines outlined? I am stuck at about 7 pull-ups and would like to get to 10-12.”
After the unbelievable success from the “Push-up Push Workout,” in which people doubled their pushups in two weeks, I performed the same test on pull-ups with (young and old) students with similar success. This workout works best on folks who can do 3-10 pull-ups. Many increased their pull-ups to 10-20 in two weeks.
Here is what you need to try for a two-week period:
– Do your regular workout program, but for 10 straight days do an additional 25-50 pullups.
– If you are only able to do less than 5 pull-ups: do 25 pull-ups for your daily plan below:
– If you can do more than 5 pull-ups: do 50 pull-ups for your daily plan below:
Odd Days (Supersets OR Pyramids):
Supersets (repeat 10 times):
– Pullups – max
– Pushups – 20
– Dips – 5-10
– Abs of choice – 30
Pyramids (see PT Pyramid article above)
– Pullups – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 rest with
– Pushups – 2,4,6,8,10,12,14….2
– Abs of choice – 5,10,15,20,25,30,35….5
– Alternate with NO rest from one exercise to the next
25-50 pullups anyway you can throughout the day or in a single workout. Do small repetition sets until you reach 25- 50 pull-ups.
Rotate for the next ten days from odd day workout options and even day pull-up supplement, then take three-four days off from doing ANY pull-ups. Test on day 14 or 15 and let me know your results.
Good luck with the Pullup-Push Workout. Push yourself and you can quickly perform better on your pull-up test. You can fit this type of program into your present workout plan by just adding 25-50 pullups on your rest days so you do a ten-day routine of pull-ups.
Muscle soreness is a function of waste accumulating in your muscles, and does not relate to actual muscle growth directly. DOMS is often believed to be the result of lactic acid building up in the muscle, but this is not true. Lactic acid leaves the muscles within a few hours of working out and does not explain the feeling of soreness 24 to 72 hours after a workout.
Exercise that produces growth of muscles, also known as GAINZ, such as lifting, is typically associated with soreness, but aerobic endurance exercise such as running a marathon can also produce significant soreness with no gains in muscle size. Just ask any Kenyan runner what size skinny jeans they wear, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about distance running and #assgainz.
On the other hand, bodybuilders are able to increase mass in all muscles, not just muscles that are prone to DOMS. They talk about how certain muscles almost always get sore, while others nearly never do. Nevertheless, there is marked growth in all their muscles. This fact further discredits the idea that you need to be sore the day after a workout in order to have initiated growth.
Kryptonians don’t get sore. If you’re from krypton, you can stop reading now.
The pain caused by muscle soreness isn’t even the worst side effect. What happens to your follow-on workouts is. You shrivel into non-existence like Benjamin Button.
Not actually, but you will feel like your muscles are eating themselves from missed workouts.
Increased DOMS decreases the frequency of your workouts, which reduces overall total volume, which allows for less growth. In other words, when you’re sore, you want to rest, not workout.
Most normal people are averse to pain of any kind, unlike the masochists that tend to join the military. If the first workout back in the gym causes extreme soreness, the chances of getting back in the gym are slim. Not only is soreness not physically beneficial but it is also mentally detrimental.
One workout a week will make you so weak even pickles will beat you.
Let’s make the assumption you aren’t a mental midget, and a little soreness won’t keep you out of the gym. Even if you make it in the door, your ability to workout will be negatively affected by the soreness you caused yesterday. Some studies have shown that exercise form breaks down from soreness, which then leads to reduced muscle activation and fewer gains.
Fewer gains over time kills motivation. If your goal is to get bigger, but you still look like your little brother after months in the gym, you will be less likely to adhere to your plan and more likely to stop going altogether.
No one has gotten bigger on one workout a week. I often see people trying to get by on this model. They workout on Monday, are sore till Thursday, Friday is time to party, and the weekend is time to “rest.” Before you know it, Monday rolls around, and you’ve only trained one out of seven days.
Frequency is a major factor in getting in better shape. The minimum frequency for most people is two to three days a week. Excessive DOMS destroys this template.
Having a plan is the best way to guarantee gainz and limit soreness.
Keep a high frequency of weekly workouts, where your total weekly number of sets and reps is spread out, instead of all on one day.
Only change your exercise selection when your current exercises stop making you stronger. Forget the idea of “muscle confusion”; it’s complete BS and will make you more sore than is necessary for growth. Each week try to lift 2.5-5 more lbs than you did last week. Once you can’t do that anymore, choose new exercises.
Exercising to failure every set of every exercise will cause soreness but will not necessarily cause more growth than if you stop 1-2 reps short of failure. Lift smarter: at 80-90% of your max weight, you will get the same gains you would at 100% AND will guarantee that you can get in the gym tomorrow instead of being too sore to sh*t right.
You might recognize Kelsey De Santis as the Marine Corps martial arts chick who invited Justin Timberlake to her Marine Corps Birthday Ball, but did you know she also owns a gym in Florida?
Military Muscle Gym is located in Davie, near Miami, and boasts workouts that look a lot like a combination of Cross Fit and the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program with a little bit of boot camp sprinkled in.
And it’s too badass for you.
Why? I’m glad you asked:
1: It’s the Marine Corps and if you’re not a Marine, you’re probably going to break yourself. De Santis started the gym with three other Marines, two of whom are former infantrymen and one a former artilleryman. Their PT game is stronger than yours. Of course, you could try to prove me wrong here, in which case…
2: You might cry when the Marines wandering around the gym walk up behind you and “motivate” you to work harder. In fact, if you’re not crying by the end of your workout, you’re going to cry the next day when you wake up sore as hell.
3. You don’t want to get beat by a girl, and Kelsey is as hardcore as they come. Check out the video below, or the Facebook page for more info and pictures on what exactly is happening at Military Muscle Gym, and you’ll see just how awesome she is. Of course, if you do end up going, it doesn’t break you, you don’t cry, and you don’t mind being out performed by a girl, the teamwork might be a challenge.
Think you have what it takes to take on Military Muscle? Go try it out, and let us know what you think.
If you typically workout at a gym, the mandatory closing of most establishments around the world has seriously changed your fitness routine. As a result, there’s a good chance you’ve at least thought about working out at home.
But before you continue your standard training plan, you have to be realistic about what you can achieve. Unless you have equipment that matches the options of your gym, there will be some compromise.
Understanding the limitations of your bodyweight or minimal-equipment workout plan is crucial. At least, if you hope to progress and maintain during this age of quarantine.
With this understanding, you can set realistic goals and train in ways that will help you achieve them.
Here are some factors to remember as you jump into the world of training at home with no equipment.
Impossible doesn’t mean impossible… think about it. What’s impossible for most may not apply to you.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Esgar Rojas
Muscle Building Expectations
If you have no equipment at home, the harsh reality is that building muscle with only your bodyweight will be challenging. Unfortunately, it’s even worse if you’re experienced with lifting weights.
Building muscle depends on progressive overload. In a nutshell, the body responds to resistance training by getting bigger and stronger, depending on how hard you train. But once your body responds, you have to throw more at it if you want to continue improving.
If you have experience with weight training, your muscles have grown to deal with these increased demands of weight, reps, and sets.
Now, you have only your bodyweight as resistance, which is a much lower stimulus than you usually achieve at the gym.
For instance, imagine the number of bodyweight squats you’d have to perform to match the stress and intensity of a 10-rep squat set with 315 pounds. And that’s just one set!
Importantly, if you have five or more years of consistent training under your belt, things will be challenging. Realistically, building additional size with only your body will be very difficult.
For you, you’ll need to train harder than you ever imagined if you have no resistance and want to build additional muscle.
If you have almost no experience with lifting weights, (which is unlikely) and want to begin working out, muscle growth will still be challenging, but possible. At least, as long as you make sure to practice progressive overload by adding exercises, sets, and reps.
If you’re lucky enough to have some equipment, like dumbbells, kettlebells, and a pull-up bar, building or maintaining muscle will be easier. However, don’t expect the same results as you would with a full gym at your disposal.
Strength with a capital “S” is that which must me trained at your limit. It’s hard to find your limit at home unless you decide to lift your car.
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Lucas
Strength Building Expectations
If you’re experienced and strong, building and maintaining strength with only your bodyweight will be even more challenging than building muscle size.
Strength and muscle size are connected. However, strength depends more on how your nervous system reacts to heavy resistance. Without that resistance, strength gain is challenging.
Have you ever seen someone with incredible strength, despite being small? That’s because muscle size isn’t the only factor for strength.
Think of it this way: your muscle tissue is your hardware, and your strength ability is your software. Bigger muscles have the capacity to produce more strength, but you have to train correctly to use that potential.
Fortunately, performing explosive movements like high and long jumps will help your muscles maintain the ability to produce force rapidly. But, understand that explosive bodyweight jumps will never match the stimulus of a heavy and explosive squat or deadlift.
Here’s the takeaway: if you want to maintain your strength without equipment, try to incorporate explosive movements. These include things like:
High and long jumps
Contracting your muscles as forcefully as possible during exercises. (Including an explosive set or two in some of your workouts can do the trick here.)
M240B is 27.5 lbs that’s a nice bit of extra resistance that would be frowned upon at your local Planet Fitness. Make the most with what you have.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Esgar Rojas
Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity
Luckily, it’s not all bad news.
If your cardio is lacking, you have an awesome opportunity to improve. That’s because aerobic and anaerobic capacities don’t rely on resistance.
Mostly, you can challenge and improve your cardio with little or no equipment, by just going for a run.
As another example, try performing 100 bodyweight squats with as little rest as possible. Then the next time, try 150. Challenges like this will stress both your aerobic and anaerobic systems and help you maintain and improve.
Best of all, even though your cardio still depends on progressive overload, you can practice this overload easily with no resistance. For example:
You can run longer
You can run faster and longer
You can take shorter rest periods between exercises
You can add more exercises
You can sprint uphill or downhill
You can add more squats per set
This list goes on.
The takeaway here is that building and maintaining muscle and strength with only your bodyweight will be challenging. Your cardio, however, doesn’t rely on external resistance. This factor makes cardio improvement a bit easier to achieve, especially if you have no equipment available.
Hold yourself accountable to training 6 times a week for two months then worry about results. You can only control your actions not the outcomes of them.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Timothy Shoemaker
Maybe, maybe not, maybe go fix yourself.
The fact of the matter is 90% of you fine readers should have just shrugged by the end of this article after realizing not much is changing since you don’t work out consistently or intensely enough. The other 10% are probably weight and power lifters. Chances are you lifting cults…errr, clubs never closed anyway.
Now, if your goal is to put on muscle while training at home you can still do it. Just get creative by finding “weights” around the house or check out one of the countless calisthenics strength training YouTube channels. With the internet at your fingertips you have no choice to feign ignorance. Start with AthleanX or my bodyweight program Back in Fighting Shape here if you’re absolutely experiencing paralysis by analysis.
Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, at Fort Leonard Wood is one of a small handful of training units piloting a new concept in physical readiness mirrored on characteristics of the new Army Combat Fitness Test.
The Strength Training Program was developed by the Maneuver Center of Excellence Directorate of Training and Doctrine’s Training and Education Development Division at Fort Benning, Georgia, who looked at an assessment of Soldier physical fitness in relation to the Army Physical Fitness Test.
“The APFT does not adequately assess the domains of muscular strength, explosive power, speed, agility, flexibility and balance,” said Capt. Jeffry O’Loughlin, Company D commander. “This new physical training program was developed to better prepare a Soldier’s readiness for the demands of the modern battlefield by focusing on all aspects of combat fitness — similar to the aim of the ACFT.”
According to Maj. Donny Bigham, head strength coach for the Tactical Athlete Performance Center at Fort Benning and developer of the program, the pilot’s purpose is two-fold.
“First, it will increase lethality and survivability through physical dominance,” he said. “Second, it will increase readiness by reducing musculoskeletal injuries in order to improve a unit’s mission capability in the operational force.”
According to O’Loughlin, the program has a balanced design to attain the new physical readiness training goals to develop strength, endurance and mobility. The current fitness model has 47 aerobic sessions, 18 anaerobic sessions, zero strength sessions and zero mobility sessions.
“The Strength Training Program Delta Company implemented consists of 16 aerobic sessions, 16 anaerobic sessions, 19 strength sessions and 19 mobility sessions,” he said. “It deliberately integrates more strength and mobility workouts into the schedule to increase physical readiness in all aspects. The current model only builds muscular endurance — we instead instruct proper form while lifting heavier weight. Correspondingly, trainees are better prepared to complete warrior tasks and battle drills, such as casualty extraction.”
The program allows for strength and endurance development into the performance of basic military skills such as marching, speed running, jumping, vaulting, climbing, crawling and combatives.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Yeates, a drill sergeant with Company D, 31st Engineer Battalion, demonstrates to trainees the proper technique for a kettlebell bent-over row. The company is piloting a new concept in physical readiness called the Strength Training Program, which is designed to reduce injuries throughout Basic Combat Training.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Jeffry OLoughlin)
“The ACFT will utilize six assessments at a minimum to capture all of the essential attributes of a Soldier to ensure nothing is overlooked in training the Soldier as a tactical athlete,” Bigham said. “The combination of fitness components, along with the performance fitness skills provide a better picture of the true functional competence required to physically dominate any mission related tasks. This program ensures exercise order, variation and the specificity necessary to be successful on today’s battlefield.”
As part of the new program, an assessment divides trainees into three ability groups — advanced, trained and untrained — and the results seen so far in Company D over 18 months show an overall increase in APFT scores and decrease in injuries. From 2018 through the most recent training cycle to be completed, Company D went from 26 injuries to 11, eight, seven, and finally just four. At the same time, O’Loughlin saw average physical training scores jump from 212 to 227 (237 to 248 in advanced individual training).
O’Loughlin said he feels much of that success can be equated to this new way of thinking in Army physical training.
“This program is not just about lifting kettlebells,” he said. “We also consider active recovery with mobility sessions with rollers and balls to break up adhesions and scar tissue to speed up the healing process and help prevent over-training.”
According to Bigham, seven training units have completed the program so far, and currently all trainees assigned to the 198th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning are piloting the program as of Oct. 1 of this year. Across the board, he’s seeing injury numbers halve, while APFT failure rates are about a third of what they were previously
“Physical training should be the number one aspect when it comes to improving lethality on the battlefield,” he said. “It must be mandatory to ensure Soldiers have the tools in their kit bag to win the last 100 yards. This strength-based program will be a force multiplier that will increase lethality, combat effectiveness, moral and ethical decision making, overall readiness and survivability on any battlefield that enemies pose a threat to our nation.”
This article originally appeared on Army.mil. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.
It’s almost beach season! That means it’s time put on those colorful tank tops and get your feet sandy. However, before we sizzle in the sun, many of us want to get our arms jacked so that we can give out free tickets to the gun show.
So, how can you get your arms pumped up before summer? Well, at this point in the year, it’d take a miracle — but now is always the best time to start.
The biceps are composed of two muscles: the long and short head. To bulk them up, you’ll also need to include some work on the triceps — which is made up of the lateral, medial, and long head.
If you’re ready to get that daily muscle pump going, then let’s go.
Note: Don’t get these confused with EZ-curls, that’s something different.
This exercise requires a tight grip on the bar, keeping your hands about shoulder-width apart with your elbows placed in front of your hips. With your wrists straight, lift the bar up and feel the squeeze in those biceps.
Then, lower the bar slowly, focusing on the negative motion. This movement should take approximately three seconds to complete. Go any faster and you’re probably not getting the full rep.
While using an adjustable cable machine, take a solid step backward, set your feet, keep a slight bend in your knees, then push down and breathe out. After you push down, slowly raise the bar until your elbows return to a 90-degree bend.
Similar to a straight bar curl, seated incline bench dumbbell curls are a great way to shoot blood into your biceps and achieve that epic pump. While in a seated 45-degree position, have workable weights in both hands — which should be hanging down by your sides.
As you start the rep, bring the dumbbells up and squeeze the bicep at the peak of the rep, then, lower that sucker back down slowly. The key to this exercise is to keep your back firmly on the bench. Lifting off the inclined bench could result in crappy form, and we don’t want that.
Laying flat and using an EZ-curl bar with a proper amount of weight, start the rep by lowering the bar toward your forehead. Keep your elbows pointed inward and you slowly bring the bar to touch your forehead.
If you mismanage the rep, you can smack yourself right in the forehead. We don’t want that, but that’s why they call it a skullcrusher.
This exercise focuses on expanding the width of your bicep and forearm. Once you’ve grabbed a manageable set of weights from the rack, hold them down by your side until you are ready to begin.
Now, raise the weights up by bending elbows at a 90-degree angle and squeeze that sucker at the peak. There are many ways to complete this exercise correctly. You can alternate hands and which direction you decide to move the weight: toward your chest or out in front of you.
This one is the opposite of the tricep push down. Once you’ve chosen a legit dumbbell weight that you can handle, bring it over your head with two hands and stretch it back behind you. Make sure you don’t hit yourself with the weight as you begin the rep, extending your arms straight overhead.
Once you slowly lower the weight down, remember to breathe and halt the weight when your elbow reaches a 90-degree angle. Then, bring the weight back up. Easy day, right?
Note: These exercises should be done with a spotter or a fitness professional. Have fun getting buffed out, but don’t get hurt out there.
A general assumption is that in order to lose weight, gain muscle, or get in better physical shape, you have to work more and work harder. While it’s true that the body must be put under stress in varying degrees for muscles to grow, what is sometimes overlooked is the importance of not working — the recovery process.
Anytime you deadlift, squat, bench press, or exceed the normal limits of daily activity, your muscles experience micro-tears. In response, your body releases inflammatory molecules called cytokines that activate the immune system to repair the muscle. Your body triggers delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — that dull achy feeling you may experience 24 to 48 hours after the activity.
DOMS are local mechanical constraints. It’s your body telling you to stop using the muscle group and to start recovering the affected area.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Whelan.)
When deciding which recovery techniques to use, various factors must be considered, such as age, gender, physical fitness level, and the activity that was performed.
There are a growing number of techniques being used by athletes; however, proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration are key.
Sleep is a vital aspect of muscle repair and growth. While you sleep, your body goes into full repair mode. As you enter the N3 stage of non-REM sleep, your pituitary gland releases human growth hormone, which stimulates muscle growth and repair. Not only does sleep replenish the muscles, but it also recharges the brain — allowing for productive workouts the following day.
Exercise causes the depletion of glycogen stores and the breakdown of muscle protein. Consuming both carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes of your workout can improve recovery. Carbohydrates refuel your body, allowing you to restore lost energy sources, while proteins help repair and build new muscle cells. It is recommended that you consume .14 to .23 grams of protein per pound of body weight and .5 to .7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
Proper hydration is imperative both during and after your workouts. During strenuous exercise, your body sweats to maintain temperature, causing fluid loss within your body. You can find your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after exercise — then replenish your body by drink 80 to 100 percent of that loss.
Additional recovery techniques can be used in conjunction with the basics.
By reducing the weight and volume, weightlifting becomes active recovery.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Whelan.)
Active recovery is a way to flush out the by-products produced by exercise. To do this, choose an activity and lower the intensity to just above your resting heart rate. Some examples include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, yoga, and weightlifting at lower weights and volumes.
Hydrotherapy — such as cold water immersion (CWI), hot water immersion (HWI), and contrast water therapy (CWT) — is a common technique used by many athletes. Studies have shown that CWI is significantly better than others in reducing soreness and maintaining performance levels.
The easiest way to reap the benefits is to fill your tub with ice, run some cold water, and immerse your body for six to eight minutes. Ice baths can be painful at first, but they get easier with time.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt Chris Gabayan, left, and Air Force 2nd Lt. Rhett Spongberg talk about how they each pushed each other to conquer the course while they recover in an ice bath after the 2019 Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle at Retama Park, Selma, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Debbie Aragon/U.S. Air Force.)
The fascia is a thin connective tissue that covers our muscles. The purpose of myofascial relief is to break down the built-up adhesions and decrease muscle aches and stiffness.
If you’ve entered a gym in the last five years, chances are you’ve seen a foam roller — one of the most basic techniques to reduce muscle stiffness. In addition to foam rollers, sports massage and lacrosse balls have also been known to provide short-term increased range of motion and reduce soreness.
It’s easy to muster up an hour of motivation. Just turn up the music, scoop some pre-workout, and chalk up your hands. What’s not so glamorous is the time spent outside the gym — the 23 hours between training sessions. But it’s that time in between that determines your long-term results. Work hard — but recover harder.
It’s in a dark and wet corner of the gym. Half the gym-goers ignore it altogether. The other half use it to torture their spine as if it owes them money.
The back extension machine can be a valuable tool for your training progression. It could also be the reason you’re spending more time at the physical therapist than making gains. This article is going to set you on the path to a strong, resilient, and pain-free posterior chain.
When you look at a back extension machine, is your first thought to lay face down/ass up, or face up/ass down? If you’re ass up, you’re working ass, and if you’re abs up, you’re working abs.
Using the back extension machine to work abs
Though the machine is intended for the back extension exercise (abs down), it is much more commonly used to train abs, and often unsafely and ineffectively.
Here’s the proper way to train your abs on the machine.
The key is to not over-extend the back when doing your “sit-ups” on the back extension machine. This probably runs counter to every single person you’ve ever seen doing this exercise, including many of the athletes at the Crossfit Games. The below video is a great example of proper form.
When used as intended, lying belly down, the back extension machine trains your hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Back extensions are a great supplemental exercise to the squat and the deadlift for developing your posterior chain. The key to all exercises on the back extension machine is to keep a straight (neutral) spine.
Your spinal erectors–those muscles on either side of your lower spine–are designed to work mainly isometrically in these movements. That’s when a muscle contracts to maintain position, rather than to move a part of the body–think planks, not crunches.
In all of the movements that are possible on the back extension machine, the primary purpose is not to actually put the back into extension. If taken literally, the machine is poorly named.
It should be called the hip extension machine, because that’s what you are primarily doing: extending your hips.
The muscles of the back extension.
The back extension works your spinal erectors in the same way that the squat or deadlift does. You are using the spinal erectors to maintain your spinal integrity.
The way to target different levels of your posterior chain is conquered in the setup. Set yourself up for success by properly setting the machine to target the muscles you want. This is where the pad should hit your legs to properly train different muscle groups.
Hamstring focused: low balance point (around mid-thigh)
Glutes focused: middle balance point (just below hip-flexors)
Low back focused: high balance point (hip-flexors on the pad) (not recommended)
In truth, the back extension is not the exercise you actually want to be doing to target your hamstrings specifically. To use the back extension machine for glutes, you want to be doing the glute ham raise. It’s a leg curl using your entire body as the counterweight rather than a machine. It has the benefit of including your glutes and back in the movement as well, which is completely neglected when doing the same movement in a leg-curl machine.
To focus your back extension on the glutes, start by finding the sweet spot on the back extension machine where:
Your hips aren’t too high above the pad.
Your hips aren’t covered by the pad (too low). This forces rounding in the back and takes the glutes out of the equation.
Your feet are splayed out at 45 degrees or further and separated as wide as possible (think the same stance as Parade Rest in drill).
Bret Contreras is the global authority on all things glutes. The guy literally has a Ph.D. in butts (see, kids, you really can be whatever you want to be when you grow up…even an assman.) Below, he takes you through the optimal setup and cadence for the glutes-focused back extension.
As previously mentioned, the back extension machine’s name is a misnomer. You do not want to actually target your low back through repeated flexion and extension of the lumbar (low) spine.
Think of your back like a paper clip. When it is in a neutral position, it’s strong and can easily hold together the first draft of your romance mystery novel. But if you bend it back and forth repeatedly, eventually the stress will cause the paperclip to snap, and your novel will scatter to the winds.
Likewise, repeated unnecessary extension and flexion of the spine can cause similar damage.
Before you claim fear mongering think of it like this…
Sure, we have muscles that can flex and extend the spine, but we also have complex joints like the hips, knees, and ankles that have the strongest and largest muscles of the body attached to them, that provide better range of motion and function than a bent spine ever could.
Why would you want to train a muscle group to do something it is designed to do as a fail safe (extend and flex the spine) when you could instead train the spine to isometrically hold strong while huge and powerful muscles like the glutes and hamstrings allow you to pull a truck, lift a pool table, or deadlift 400 lbs with ease.
If you’ve dieted before and lost weight, how did it go? What were your thoughts when the three months were up, or the 6-week challenge was finished? If you were like most people, you probably had some thoughts like these:
That was good but I’m glad it’s over.
I got what I wanted (lost weight), so now I can bring back some of the things I used to eat.
All those urges sucked, I’m not doing that again.
I learned some good stuff, but that diet didn’t really fit my lifestyle.
The hidden idea behind these thoughts is that the diet was temporary. The thing is, when you start a diet, you want to end with the result being a new weight, and you want to KEEP your new weight, right? Why doesn’t this happen?
Losing weight AND keeping the weight off requires that you learn to manage your mind.
If you’re overweight, then it’s because you’re overeating. It’s as simple as that… but it’s also not so simple.
Food doesn’t get eaten just because it’s there, sitting in front of you – whether it’s chicken and broccoli or two Pop-Tarts. Just like you don’t go to the gym just because it exists – it’s just a building with heavy stuff in it. So why do you eat the food you put in your mouth, and why do you lift the weights when you’re at the gym?
The reason you do anything in life is because of how you think it’s going to make you feel when you get it or when you do it.
Our feelings are the most powerful experiences in our body because they compel us to act. Feelings are what drive our actions. They are the fuel to our actions. Think about it… we don’t do anything unless we feel like it.
We eat the salad because we think we’ll feel lighter, healthier, and happier. We go to the gym because we think we’ll feel strong, skinny, and sexy. We show up early for watch because we think we’ll feel liked and benevolent by our peers. We complain about our job or our supervisors because we think we’ll feel justified and correct.
Think about it… why do you follow orders so well?
“We follow orders because it was “drilled” into us…. On your first day of basic training (when you’re sweating, confused and scared), and the drill instructor was yelling and spitting in your face telling you to follow his or her orders or else your shipmate on your first deployment could die… the feeling of horrendous guilt, fear, and shame inundated you. You may not remember this day or how it went down exactly but you’ll never forget the feeling. You immediately envision that terrible possibility of you being ignorant and not following orders and someone you know dying or getting maimed because of your inaction. The guilt and fear of that thought is so compelling, that your brain learns immediately that following orders is non-negotiable. Your brain shifts that thought into your subconscious so that it doesn’t even have to think twice about following orders. That’s why following orders sometimes feels necessary for your survival. That’s how powerful our thoughts and emotions are.”
All feelings come from our thoughts. We have a thought that begins in our brain. Our thoughts are triggered by what we see, hear, smell, feel, and taste around us. Each thought travels down our body, and we experience it in our body as a feeling, as an emotion. It’s known that we have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, which is why it’s so hard at the beginning to develop the skill of managing your mind by finding the thoughts that are creating certain emotions for you.
We have a thought in our brain, and the neural connections that are made cascade their way down our body signaling a feeling that corresponds best. You’ve seen this happen in your own life. When you think about how sharp and proud you’ll feel by wearing a clean, ironed uniform and the great first impression you’ll make at the pinning ceremony in front of your new Commanding Officer, what do you do in that moment? You’ll most likely wash and iron your uniform and lay everything out so that you don’t forget a single uniform item, including your underwear.
Your brain, which is the most powerful tool on the planet, was designed to operate this way and understanding how it works will help you begin to manage your thoughts so that you can start losing weight without having the weight come back on.
The more you think about the result you desire, the more your brain will learn to pay attention to it because it feels better than anything else.
Remember, we only do things because of how we think we’ll feel when we do them or when we get them.
This is how you begin developing the skill of managing your mind.
The answer is, you learn to eat the way that you see yourself eating for the rest of your life that creates the body and the results you want for yourself.
It’s important to know that you can take action from any feeling, positive or negative. You can follow a diet feeling deprived. Or, you can follow a diet feeling fulfilled. But one route guarantees a more enjoyable experience, one that you will want to continue to experience. Ultimately, one way ensures a more enjoyable existence. Therefore, how willing and committed are you to creating the results you want for yourself?
You must decide. Then let your feelings drive or inspire your actions, and over time, you will have your results.
The most recent Health Related Behaviors Survey for the Department of Defense, conducted by the RAND Corporation, has been released recently — and, spoiler alert: it’s not looking so good.
While the study covers a wide array of health problems, the biggest standout — the one that ruffled everyone’s feathers — was that, across every branch, over sixty percent of troops are overweight or obese. The Army took top “honors” with a whopping 69.4 percent while the Marines achieved a slightly slimmer 60.9 percent.
But this isn’t the most alarming statistic.
Troops are also getting less sleep than before. There’s no denying the connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. Troops are still PTing their asses off early in the morning along with eating relatively well, which makes it pretty easy to identify the real root of the problem.
It’s not hard to point out why troop’s get little sleep nor why their sleep is so awful.
(U.S. Army photo)
As noted by the Military Times, nearly sixty percent of all troops have reportedly gotten far less sleep than needed. Another research study conducted by the Journal of Sleep Research concludes that both insomnia and sleep apnoea are on the rise among service members. This surely contributes to the nine-percent of all troops that have reported daily or near-daily use of sleep medication.
Contrary to popular belief, sleeping more is not a symptom of laziness, a laziness that many point to as the cause of weight issues. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A lack of sleep throws a person’s hormones that regulate hunger, ghrelin and leptin, out of order. Getting just four hours of sleep will impact your body’s ability to accurately determine its food intake needs.
Your best bet is to eat three solid meals a day to curb hunger.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Riley Johnson)
Of course, eating too much junk food is going to increase weight gain. But did you know that the opposite — eating one meal a day (which is usually junk food or a late-night binge meal) — is often just as bad. Fat buildup is the body’s way of conserving energy. If you’re starving your body throughout the day and, right before going to bed, loading up on pizza and beer, your body will instinctively hold that junk food because that’s all you’re giving it.
While has been proven that intermittent fasting (intentional or not) does not have adverse effects on metabolism, it’s still very unhealthy — especially when combined with the metabolism drop that comes with a lack of sleep.
It’ll be a hell of a work out, I’m sure. But don’t expect it or the training to cut fat off the formation.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kelsey Miller)
Which scenario is more likely within the military? That a slight change in PT schedule was so widespread and disastrous that well over half of troops are now more fat — or that an increasingly competitive and stressful environment is causing troops to skip meals and sleep to accomplish arbitrary missions in a garrison environment?
And since the projected Army Combat Readiness Test, the new PT test for the Army, seems like it will be focusing more on physical strength over cardiovascular endurance, expect them to keep the top spot for the foreseeable future.
Just a year ago, Christian Montijo was a different man. In fact, he was almost twice the man he is today.
He figured he weighed a little more than 350 pounds. But it was more of a guess, since his scale only went up to that number.
Overweight and realizing his unhealthy habits, the 28-year-old banker from Kissimmee, Florida, set a goal to transform himself. And, if he could, revive his dream of joining the Army.
“I would wake up tired,” he said Tuesday. “I’d be sitting down watching TV and my wife would be, ‘are you OK because you’re breathing really heavy?’ So I decided that I had to make a change.”
The father of two started to eat healthier and drink water instead of several bottles of soda each day. He began to walk after work, then that turned into a jog and eventually a 2-mile run.
He also worked on his situps and pushups as the pounds shed off.
Christian Montijo before the weight loss.
“Last year at this time if you told me that ‘I’d give you a million dollars to do one pushup,’ I could not have done it,” he said. “Honestly, I would go down but I couldn’t go up to save my life.”
A new man
Over the past year, his daily routine allowed him to lose about 160 pounds.
“It’s night and day. I’m a whole new person,” he said. “I wake up with energy, I sleep through the night. I can run now and be fine, and I can keep up with my kids.”
His new frame also met the Army’s weight standards. Coming from a military family, Montijo aspired to be a soldier since high school.
Now eligible, he searched for a job that fit his interest in either technology, communications or intelligence. He then came across 25S, a satellite communications systems operator-maintainer.
Christian Montijo after the weight loss.
“It had two things that I wanted: communications and technology,” he said. “It was a two-for-one pretty much.”
In January, he plans to ship out to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training.
A positive example
Before signing his enlistment papers, Montijo credited his recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Isaac Ayala, for motivating him when he was still overweight.
Ayala stayed in touch with Montijo since the summer to answer his questions and help map out his goals.
“I wasn’t really expecting that type of engagement that he had with me,” Montijo said.
But for Ayala, he said Montijo’s positive attitude got himself into shape and prepared for the strenuous training to come.
“He’s more than ready, because he’s continuing to lose weight,” Ayala said. “All the working out he has done has been on his own.”
If Montijo is able to carry that same outlook into the Army, Ayala said he wouldn’t be surprised if he quickly jumps up in rank.
“I explained to him that if you have this type of drive to accomplishing his goal, you’re going to pass me up a lot faster in rank,” he said. “The sky’s the limit on the stuff you can accomplish while you’re in the Army.”
Ayala also likes to use him as an example when potential recruits get discouraged about being overweight.
“They look at me all dismayed that their bubble has been popped about joining,” he said of when he informs them about the weight standards.
The recruiter then goes over to his computer and shows them his desktop screen, where he displays Montijo’s before and after photos.
“They’re like ‘wow’ and I even had a couple people say, ‘well if he can do it, I can do it,'” he said.