Tricks and Systems to Energize Your Muscle

The principle of dividing lifts into sets of reps, with rest stops between, is actually the most basic muscles-shocking techniques, since the rests allow you to do more reps. What follows are more-sophisticated ways to challenge your muscles. Try any one method for three or four weeks. The move on to a different one. Remember: Variety is the key to progress in this game.

Go Farther with Smaller Steps

Sometimes you can get a fuller workout by actually decreasing your range of motion: For example:

Burns. These are partial repetitions, which consist of pressing a weight only halfway up. You do them at the end of your usual set when you’d ordinarily be too tired to do any additional full reps. “Burns allow you to go beyond what would normally do and place a little bit more overload on the muscles,” says John Amberge, a personal trainer at the Sports Training Institute in New York. “Recruiting even a little more muscle into the exercise can make a noticeable difference for the next time you lift.”

Here’s how to do it: Let’s say you’ve bench-pressed a weight 10 times, and you can’t do even one more time. Instead of simply letting the weight down and moving on the next exercise, slowly lower it just a few inches. Then raise it back up to the fully extended position. Often you can squeeze out two or three additional half-reps before your muscles are completely fatigued.

The 21 system. The goal here is to combine three sets of even reps into one intense set of 21. But the secret isn’t in the number; it’s in how you weight from the starting position to the halfway-up position. For instance, with a barbell curl you would bring the bar up from the point where the bar is touching your tighs to about the point where your forearms are parallel to the floor. Then you’d lower it again. For the next seven repetitions, begin at the midpoint and lift the weight to the top of the movement and back. The final seven repetitions are full exercises–you take the weight all the way up and down.

Some caveats: The 21 method is very tiring and can lead to overtraining. Use it for only one exercise per workout, and vary the muscles you target with it from day to day. We recommend you use resistance machines rather than free weights until you get the hang of the movements.

Warm Up, Wear Out, Cool Down

Pressed for time? One set of exercises using the following technique can have the same benefit as three to four regular sets. In one quick series you can get your muscles warm, do your exercise and cool down, says Michael Yessis, Ph.D., noted exercise physiologist and president of Sports Training, Inc., in Escondido, California.

The pyramid system. Again, using the curl as an example, stand at a dumbbell rack and pick up a pair of light weights–say, maybe half of what you’d normally lift for 10 repetitions. Curl them five times. Then replace them and, after a short pause, go to the next heaviest dumbbells, doing five more repetitions. Continue on up the rack until you reach a weight that’s too heavy to curl five times. Then begin working your way back down through the weights until the lightest pair of dumbbells becomes a chore. (You’ll know you’re doing it right if, by the end of the exercise, you look a little silly straining to lift the tiniest weight you can find.)

This principal is not, by the way, limited to use with dumbbells. You can also do pyramid sets if you have access to a resistance machine with weight plates or if you have a barbell that can easily loaded and unloaded. As a safety precaution, and to save time, always have teo spotters assist you in loading and unloading the weight plates throughout the exercise.

Combine Two Exercises in a Single Set

The more work you give a muscle to do, the faster it responds. These techniques tell your body you’re serious about gaining strength.

Supersets. The idea here is to work a muscle group more intensely by challenging it with two different exercises performed in succession. The first exercise exhausts your muscles. Then the next one places a new demand on them, forcing a little extra work.

On the next page is a sample superset workout. For each muscle group, there are two exercises. Do 8 to 12 repetitions of the first exercise, then, without resting, continue right into the second for another 8 to 12. Allow yourself 60 to 90 seconds of rest after each pair, then complete a second superset. (If you’re not familiar with proper form on the exercises below, ask a trainer at your local gym for help.)

Chest: Bench press with dumbbell fly

Upper back: Lat pulldown with chinup

Lower back: On-floor row with back extension

Biceps: Barbell curl with preacher curl

Triceps: Pressdown or bar dip with triceps kickback

Shoulders: Dumbbell press with lateral raise

Abdominals: Crunch with bent-knee situp

Legs: Squat with leg extension

Push-pull supersets. A great alternative to the above techniques is the push-pull superset. Instead of approaching the same muscle from two angles, this method works opposing muscles in harmony–exercising, for example, for chest muscles, which push your arms away from your body, and the back muscles, which pull them toward you. This technique has an injury-prevention benefit: “When you work opposing muscle groups in succession, you’re stretching one group while working the other, which can help prevent excessive stress and strain of the muscle,” says Jeff Zwiefel, M.A., director of the National Exercise for Life Institute in Minnesota. Do the following the same way you do standard supersets:

Bench press (chest) with bent-over row (back)

Dumbbell press (chest) with one-arm row (back)

Dumbbell fly (chest) with bent-over reverse fly (back)

Military press (shoulders) with lat pulldown (back)

Leg extension (quadriceps) with leg curl (hamstrings)

Triceps pushdown (triceps) with biceps curl (biceps)

Crunch (abdominals) with back extension (lower back)

Pre-exhaust system. Often when we train, large muscle groups get shortchanged because the smaller muscles that are involved in the movement wear out too soon. The pre-exhaust system isolates the targeted muscle group, then works the supporting muscles. After you finish your set of dumbbell flies, for example, you would go to the bench press. The bench press hits the chest again after it has been somewhat fatigued by the dumbbell fly.

Again, as with supersets, do one set of an exercise in the left-hand column below before proceeding straight into a set of an exercise on the right. (Choose only one pair of exercises per muscle group, please.) Two to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of each double exercise should give you all the work you need.

Go Slow for Fast Gains

A weight lifter typically spends about two seconds lifting a weight and four seconds lowering it. But the newest research indicates that faster results can come from slower action.

Super slow. The super-slow method consists of spending 10 seconds raising the weight and four lowering it, and its proponents say you’ll employ more muscle fibers more vigorously than if you hurry through an exercise. “It’s the most efficient, effective and safest way to build strength,” says Ken Hutchins, a former consultant for Nautilus and author of Super Slow: The Ultimate Exercise Protocol. In fact, a study done last summer by the YMCA showed that men who spent a full 10 seconds lifting the weight and half that time lowering it increased strength 50 percent faster than those following the more conventional practice.

To get this technique right, Hutchins recommends doing just one set of four to eight reps. Use a weight light enough to allow you to complete eight reps at 10 seconds up, four seconds down before failing. (For most people, that’s 70 percent of what you’d normally lift eight times.) A few food exercises that lend themselves to slow weight training include the leg press, leg curl, leg extension, bench press, seated row, shoulder press, biceps curl and triceps pushdown.

WHICHEVER OF THE ABOVE METHODS YOU adopt, remember to change your routine every five weeks to reap maximum muscle gains. If you don’t, it takes just a few workouts for your muscles to adapt. Then, no matter how many weight plates you slap on the barbell, no matter how many sets you force yourself to complete, you won’t be getting stronger. The lesson is that you don’t necessarily have to work harder to make muscles grow. But you do have to work smarter. Just add a little variation and your body’s back in overdrive again.

“There is no such thing as the best workout,” says Yessis, “only the best workout for a particular period of time or objective.” Half of the challenge, and half the fun, is discovering what works best for you.

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The Role of Iron, Calcium and Folate in Bodybuilding Workout Part 3

Think Folate, Think Prevention

folate pictureFolate continues to move into the vanguard of disease prevention and nutrition, especially for women. “We know that increasing daily consumption of folic acid to at least 400 micrograms reduces the risk of neural-tube defects in newborns,” notes Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. “Unfortunately, the typical intake of American women is closer to 150 to 180 mcgs a day.”

Folate helps build red blood cells, the active woman’s bank account. A deficiency, although uncommon, causes abnormal cells to form and can lead to fatigue, difficulty breathing and anemia. Too little folate has been linked to elevated blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which may be a risk factor for heart disease. Research has also indicated that folate may reduce the risk of cervical dysplasia and cancer.

This is probably the easiest of the triad when it comes to getting the RDA–only 180 mcgs. Dried beans and green leafy vegetables are the best sources of folate. Buy fresh or frozen vegetables, then eat them raw or avoid overcooking them to preserve the folate. Whole grains, oranges and bananas are other good sources. Boost your daily intake of folate if you use oral contraceptives; they increase your need for it. Although most women get enough without supplements, check with your doctor if you’re planning to become pregnant to be sure you’re getting all the folate you need. WSF

Triad and True Mexican Dinner

This dinner provides a healthy amount of iron, calcium and folate. Combined with a balanced diet the rest of the day, you should have no problem meeting the RDA for all three nutrients.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional Information per serving: 463 calories

* 28 grams protein (24%)

* 65 grams carbohydrates (56%)

* 10 grams fat (19%)

* 170 milligrams calcium

* 4 milligrams iron

* 111 micrograms folate

Quick and Hearty Burritos

2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned and all visible fat removed

2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice

1 Tbs. tamari or low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 Tsp. sugar

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 recipe refried beans (recipe follows)

1 (14 oz.) can stewed tomatoes

2 Tbs. tomato paste

8 large tortillas

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Prepare chicken breast and place in a shallow dish, set aside. Combine the next 4 ingredients. Pour over the chicken and allow to marinate for at least 1/2 hour or up to 4 hours.

Prepare refried beans. Combine stewed tomatoes and tomato paste and puree in a food processor or blender. Remove chicken from marinade and broil for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until just cooked through; cut into 1/4-inch strips.

Fill the burritos with the refried beans, sprinkle with the thin strips of chicken and roll up. Place in lightly oiled baking dish. Top with tomato sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.

Bake in preheated 375[degrees] F oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Tent with foil if the cheese browns too quickly.

Versatile and Delicious Refried Beans

1 onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1-2 stalks celery, chopped

1-2 carrots, chopped

1 Tbs. sesame oil

1 (48 oz.) can pinto beans, drained

1-2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped Tamari or soy sauce to taste

In a large skillet, saute the fresh vegetables in the sesame oil on moderately low heat to avoid burning the oil.

Chop the beans coarsely either by pulsing in the food processor or with a potato masher. Add them to the vegetable mixture, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Uncover and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook until the liquid is reduced and a creamy texture is achieved. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and season with tamari.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

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The Role of Iron, Calcium and Folate in Bodybuilding Workout Part 2

Better Bones and Muscles

calcium picturesCalcium definitely helps support your active lifestyle. But if you thought you needed it just for your bones, think again. It helps your muscles (including your heart) contract; it activates enzymes that affect valuable glycogen stores in the muscles and liver; and researchers speculate that low calcium levels may cause muscle cramps. Most importantly, clacium plus exercise equals a one-two punch that will help protect you against osteoporosis and the increased risk of fractures accompanying it.

Although we’ve all heard how serious calcium deficiency is, most women still get less than the RDA of 800 mg; one in four takes in less than 300 mgs daily. To maintain blood calcium levels and to offset daily losses in urine and the intestinal tract, your body draws from the bones. “Most women who eat calcium-deficient diets have this parasitizing of bone calcium going on all the time,” says Sydney Lou Bonnick, M.D., author of The Osteoporosis Handbook. Unfortunately, you don’t experience the symptoms of bone loss until it’s too late, but you should take extra care to get the RDA if you’ve noticed your muscles cramping or twinging.

A panel of experts at the National Institutes of Health recently recommended that women aged 25 to 50 consume 1,000 mgs of calcium (two to four servings) daily. Children and young adults should get 1,200 to 1,500 mgs, postmenopausal women 1,000 to 1,500 mgs. Women who are pregnant or nursing, like women who exercise intensively and have little body fat, are at particular risk of losing calcium and should make an effort to up their intake. It’s difficult to get too much calcium in your diet, but 2,000 mgs should be the most you’ll need.

Dairy products are the most concentrated source of calcium, and the vitamin D in milk increases its absorption, as does lactose. If you aren’t big on milk products, add tofu to salads or try kale, collard greens and calcium-fortified juices. Diets high in salt increase calcium loss, and alcohol may lessen absorption. Although supplements aren’t the solution to a nutrient-poor diet, they can help

What’s in a Pill?

The best way to get the calcium you need is through a balanced diet. Supplementation is controversial, but if you’re not able to get the RDA in calcium-rich foods, here’s what to look for in a supplement:

Not all calcium supplements are created equal. Check the label to see how much elemental or pure calcium a product contains. Calcium carbonate (the type found in Tums) provides the most per tablet (500 to 600 mgs) and should be taken with meals. Calcium citrate is well absorbed on an empty stomach, but provides only 200 mg of calcium per tablet. These days most calcium supplements dissolve, but look for a guarantee from the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) to be sure. If you have a history of kidney stones, check with your physician before taking calcium supplements.

Read part 1 here

Read part 3 here

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The Role of Iron, Calcium and Folate in Bodybuilding Workout Part 1

They’re three of the most important nutrients in a woman’s diet: iron, calcium and folate. Run low on any one of this triad and the first place it will show up is your workout. Active women in particular benefit from the oxygen and energy supplied by iron and folate, and the strong bones and protection against fractures produced by calcium. Studies have shown that most women don’t get enough of at least one of these essential nutrients–but there are ways to make sure you do.

Muscle in more iron

iron deficiency anemiaProfessional triathlete Karen Smyers knew something was wrong in 1988, when her training took a turn for the worse soon after she’d increased her running mileage. “Whenever I was exercising at high intensity,” she recalls, “I couldn’t sustain my normal pace and had trouble breathing.” Her physician diagnosed an iron deficiency and prescribed iron supplements; Smyers also decided to start eating red meat again. A few months later she was back to normal.

You don’t have to be a triathlete to deplete your iron stores. Any active woman risks doing this, especially if she’s eliminated red meat from her diet or stepped up her workout intensity and duration. Iron deficiency develops over time, often creeping up on you till your morning run turns into a walk or you find yourself gasping for air as if you were running up Kilimanjaro instead of around the track. Iron enables the blood to carry oxygen to the muscles. A deficiency means you’ll have trouble getting enough oxygen to fuel your workout and you’ll tire sooner.

The severest form of iron deficiency is anemia. “The incidence of true anemia in women is actually quite low, about 5 percent,” says thomas Rowland, M.D., of Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. “But up to half of all female athletes have low ferritin, the main form iron is stored in. These athletes can develop anemia.” rowland adds that women athletes, and runners in particular, are unusually prone to low ferritin levels. Although doctors aren’t sure why this is, they suspect that it may be due to iron losses in sweat or the jarring of high-impact exercise, which can burst blood cells.

Diets low in iron and blood loss during menstruation are what put most women at risk of anemia. A concern about fat and cholesterol has led many active women to limit their intake of one of the best sources of iron, red meat. But the iron found in lean meat, poultry and seafood is absorbed more readily by your body than iron from plant sources. In order to get the 15-milligram recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron, try adding lean beef to a high-carbohydrate bean chili or turkey to lentil soup. You can maximize the iron your body will absorb from plant sources by combining those with foods rich in vitamin C. Top iron-fortified cereal with strawberries and drink a glass of orange juice. Beware of coffee and tea; they contain tannins that decrease iron absorption–another good reason to limit your intake.

If you think you might be getting too little iron, ask your physician. The shortterm treatment to restore iron levels should have no ill effects, but you don’t want to take iron indiscriminately or you may end up taking too much. Doses of 25 mg a day can decrease your absorption of zinc, a mineral necessary to metabolism, would healing and immunity. And although the research is still inconclusive, excess iron may increase your risk of cancer or heart disease. You’re safe downing a daily multivitamin with the RDA of iron, but ask your doctor if you’re thinking of taking more than that.

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Gold’s Gym – Flexing its Muscle Through Marketing

golds gym logoGold’s recently signed an exclusive deal with American Marketing Works, a L.A.-based licensing firm, to serve as licensor for the Gold’s Gym name and logo. AMW, which this month relocates to Carson, Calif., also will handle the manufacture and distribution of Gold’s Gym apparel for men and women.

Marvin Winkler, chairman/president of AMW, says licensees already have snapped up marketing rights for accessories, home gym gear and sunglasses. By late March, licensing will be complete, he speculates. At that time, AMW and Gold’s Gym officials together will launch a search for an ad agency to handle the account, which he pegs preliminarily at about $1 million. Media will include fashion and health magazines as well as body-building publications.

“Five years from now, I think we’ll be a major force in the fitness industry,” says Joe Bozich, Gold’s national director of marketing and sales. He adds that Gold’s 30-year association with the body-building movement gives its name a high level of credibility among athletes and casual fitness buffs alike. “The people who run our clubs have a lot of knowledge and the people who train at our clubs are real serious,” he says.

Gold’s with some 300 fitness clubs worldwide, expects to add several hundred new units in Europe and is pushing into Japan, Greece and Australia as well.

Ten years ago the firm ventured into producing unisex, durable workout wear to sell through its clubs. Two years ago, riding the body-building boom, Gold’s branched out to sell its clothing at specialty sportswear and upscale department stores, moving merchandise with trade advertising and word of mouth.

“We started getting bombarded with calls from people who wanted to know where to buy our apparel,” says Bozich. “The demand was much more than expected.”

According to BAR/LNA, Gold’s only spent some $22,600 for the first six months of 1989 on advertising (handled in-house) for its men and women’s apparel. Bozich declines to give financial details on the privately held firm.

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