Wednesday, December 21, 2011

“When We Complete Our Squats, The Naysayers Shut Up!”

The success stories just keep pouring in. This one will boost your motivation.

John Warfield from Jackson in Michigan USA just emailed me his results with StrongLifts 5x5. Get this: in only 9 months he accomplished a 325lb Squat and 415lb Deadlift... at age 50! Read his amazing story.



You've changed my life, and my wife's life, in a major ways.

About two years ago I weighed 300 pounds and had a third chin growing. Seeing myself in pictures disgusted me and almost made me cry. I felt ashamed of my body and mind.

A year later of almost daily hour long cardio sessions, I had dropped to 200 pounds, and my energy level was soaring. However, looking in the mirror and seeing a still "loose" physique and hanging skin made me wince. Not knowing any better I embarked on adding the entire round of weight machines to shore up my body -- improve strength and pull up the loose spots.

The machines, at light weights, helped for a while, and I started to show definition that I'd never possessed before. However, as the weights grew, my muscles didn't really. Trying to increase to heavy weights on machines, with such restricted movements and no stabilizer invovlements, was both stupid and dangerous. The machines, especially the leg machines, tended to create large balls of muscle that only really worked about a third of the muscle length. I had huge globs above my knees, and balled hamstrings that always tended to cramp. One day, while "curling" with my hamstrings on the reverse leg lift, I felt one of the hamstring bands snap over another, and the pain was excruciating. I knew I couldn't keep that up.

I started hodgepodges of split routines... I benched on the smith machines... I "squatted" on the smith machines... But strength results did NOT follow, only injuries. I thought I was hot stuff 1/3 squatting 250 pounds on the smith machine with the large shoulder pad, but my hamstrings were laughing at me while my thighs were crying. I didn't know "squat" and felt unfulfilled and guilty for not being able to find a path to my max potential.

Searching for an answer brought me to StrongLifts about a 9 months ago. I really wanted to go with compound lifting, but having never lifted free weights before I was afraid. But you laid it out so plain and simple, and showed how starting with the bar was going to give me the technique to master the weights -- so I jumped in with both feet.

I started everything with the bar, and built, and built. After completing the first round of StrongLifts 5x5, I had gained 10 pounds of muscle in my legs. The muscle is sooooooo different. The entire strands have grown thicker and stronger. It's NOT bodybuilder muscle, it's growth along the entire length, and all stabilizer muscles as well. My hamstrings have gotten so healthy I can do sprints with ease. My legs, arms and chest have grown in this way, while my waist has shrunk still more, and my "looseness" from weight loss has all but disappeared. My abs and torso muscles are thick and powerful. Having once been a size 50 waist, I am now a comfortable 35.

My wife was so impressed with the results we started her on the program. After 4 babies and stubborn extra weight, she was desperate for fat loss and firmness. Her belly muscles, when pregnant, really got pulled apart and doctors had told her that there was nothing she could do to pull them back in and rehab her lower gut. But having had me blast her with a good Mehdi "BULLSHIT" and seeing the results I had achieved, she jumped in. We started training together and she has lost 15 pounds, transferred countless more pounds from fat to muscle, down-sized clothing three times, and shows leg muscles of an olympic champion. She's proud of herself and I am very proud of her.

We are currently on MadCow for intermediate, which has allowed both of us to break through plateaus in squats and deadlifts.

I'm 50 years old, 6'1", 212 pounds, and on Monday I deep squatted 325 pounds (x5). Today I deadlifted 415 pounds (x5). Having done this made me want to write. We can't thank you enough for publishing the StrongLifts site and providing encouragement. We have fallen in love with squats and now love our bodies like we have never imagined we could. We've had to endure the no-squatters, the knee blowers, the unsolicited advice givers, the curlers in the power rack, etc... and now are able to withstand the barrage of negativity that comes from the majority of gym goers...

But when we complete our lifts and walk past the naysayers with the squat or deadlift body/mind pump and steel torso, they shut up -- and silence truly is golden.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

John Warfield
Jackson, Michigan USA


Awesome story John. Your results prove that any guy can achieve a 300lb Squat and 400lb Deadlift within a year (heck, you did it in only 9 months) IF using the RIGHT kind of methods - obviously StrongLifts 5x5, it's simply the most powerful training program on the entire Internet.

If you haven't claimed your free copy of the 5x5 report, please download it now by clicking here (...and remember to send me your success story like John did so I can publish it on the blog, it will motivate all the other StrongLifters).

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Nov 19, Caloric Requirements for 52 y/o Diabetic Weight Trainee | Muscle Building Q&A

Question: Hi Alex. I am 52 yrs old, 5'7" and 165 lbs. I want to build a ripped physique, but don't necessarily want to grow really big. I just want a body with a defined muscle structure.

I understand, that to build more muscle, I need to increase my caloric intake. The problem is, I am a diabetic with a prescribed caloric requirement.

How can I possibly increase my muscle mass and yet, limit my caloric intake, which is designed to control my blood sugar? I hope you can enlighten me on this one. Thanks.

– Andrew

Answer: That's an interesting question you pose, Andrew. I'll do my best to answer it, but I am by no means an expert on diabetes.

So to be safe, please consult your doctor before implementing any of my suggestions regarding nutrition, training or otherwise.

Now, hopefully I can help you find a way to become leaner and more muscular. I'm guessing that your caloric intake is at least at maintenance level. That is, your bodyweight remains static over time when eating at this level.

Since you want to gain some muscle, it would be ideal if you could increase your caloric intake from its current level. You would only need to increase it by 250-500 calories over your current maintenance intake. Do you have any flexibility with your intake, or is it completely set in stone?...

...Check with your doc to see if there's some way you can safely increase your intake. Ask him or her if it's possible to increase your total caloric intake by eating greater quantities of foods that help to control your blood sugar (e.g. whole grains).

Additionally, since it is an established fact that weight training improves insulin sensitivity as well as blood sugar control, these benefits may cancel out any negatives from eating more calories. Again, though, that's something to go over with your doctor.

If it turns out that you can increase your caloric intake, then you are set to start gaining muscle and getting ripped just like any non-diabetic lifter would. It's only a matter of choosing an effective weight training routine and consistently putting in the hard work.

If, however, you aren't allowed to raise your calories at all, don't worry. All hope is not lost.

Since you said you really only care about getting a "body with a defined muscle structure," you can still make great progress towards this goal without a surplus of calories...

...You'd simply keep your caloric intake as is, and initiate your training regimen. By maintaining your current caloric intake, you would actually be in a slight deficit from the increased exercise activity.

Thus, you would begin to notice a gradual reduction in bodyfat.

Despite being in a slight caloric deficit, you would still experience a noticeable surge in strength over the first few months due to being a beginner. It's even possible that you experience some muscle growth during this early phase, as well (ahh yes, the beauty of newbie gains).

Of course, the most desirable scenario would be that in which you are able to increase your caloric intake by 250-500 calories over maintenance.

So I again urge you to contact your doctor about this now, so that you can start your transformation ASAP.

– Alex

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

When To Use The Mixed Grip On Deadlifts

Will T. from Florida has a Deadlift grip question. Quote...

Hey Mehdi,

I'm from Florida, 22 years old, 6'1" at 195 pounds, and currently squatting 235 lbs 5x5. My question is regarding deadlifts, at which I'm currently lifting 245. I've been stuck several times around this weight, and it's entirely because of my grip strength. With the double overhand grip, it invariably starts to fail around the fourth rep and the fifth often feels too weak to attempt.

I've read your article on how to boost grip strength and it's helped a great deal, and my grip strength is increasing, just. very. slowly. While screwing around in a bout of frustration, I found that I could pull 315 with a mixed grip quite easily for reps. Every part of my body besides my grip seems ready for more weight.

So, I would just switch to mixed grip, but I feel I'm at far too light a weight to start doing that. So my question is, should I accept the slow gains on my deadlift in the interest of bringing my grip "up to par," or should I go ahead and adopt other measures such as chalk and a mixed grip in order to start pushing my big mover muscles?


You should definitely use chalk, white knuckling (squeeze the bar hard) and the mixed grip so you can keep adding weight on your Deadlifts. Here's why:

The goal is NOT to build grip strength only. The goal is to build full body strength. If you need specific grip training, do that separately.It's not like your grip will be weak if you can Deadlift 400lb with a mixed grip. Your hands will get stronger from pulling that weight.

Start using the mixed grip on your last Deadlift set, but keep using the normal grip on your warm-up sets which should be like this: 5x135lb, 5x175lb, 5x210lb. So up to 210lb you pull with a normal grip, the 245lb with a mixed grip.

Use white knuckling on every single set and try to Deadlift all your warm-up sets without chalk. If you can't pull your last warm-up set with the normal grip, chalk your hands (get an eco ball if your gym doesn't allow it). If you still can't Deadlift it, use the frigging mixed grip so you can pull that weight and get all your reps.

It would make sense to start adding 10 pounds per workout to your Deadlifts since you say you can already pull 315lb AND assuming your technique is right. Meaning: add 10lb every time you Deadlift, then switch back to 5lb increments once you're past 315lb. This will speed up your strength and muscle gains.

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Nov 19, Best Ectomorph Workout Strategies | Muscle Building Q&A

Question: I looked at your article on different body types, and was intrigued to find that the ectomorph somatotype accurately describes both my personality and my body type. I was wondering, in terms of weight lifting, how does this body type affect the way I should weight train optimally (i.e. reps, etc.).

– Justin (Adelaide, South Australia)

Answer: Thanks for the question, Justin. I can definitely give you a few useful tips and tid-bits on the optimal training strategies for ectomorphs.

Knowing your body type can certainly help in finding an effective training strategy, but it can only do so to an extent...

...So before I pass down my golden nuggets of ectomorph-specific training wisdom to you, let me first stress this point:

You won't notice any distinct improvement in your progress, unless you already have the basic weight training and bodybuilding diet practices down pat.

So if you haven't been doing the basics, then stop reading this page and instead click on the two links above – Read them, memorize them and implement the information found within them.

If you have been doing all the basics, religiously, and have still been struggling to add lean mass, then read on...

...All of the training tips in the bulleted list below are based on the knowledge that ectomorphs generally have poor recovery and burn calories too rapidly.

Thus, each training tip aims to solve these problems by minimizing muscle damage while maximizing recovery time, as well as by limiting caloric expenditure.

Now, without further ado, here are my training tips for ectomorphs: Lift 2-3 times per week.Do an upper body/lower body split routine.Focus 100% of your time and energy on the big compound lifts.Don't go to failure, unless it's during the final set of an exercise.Try to limit the duration of your workouts to less than 45 minutes.Minimize your cardiovascular activity, especially intense cardio.Optimal rep range for ectos is impossible to know, but if I had to guess, I'd say about 3-8.If you really are a full-blown ectomorph, then the advice will certainly help you out.

However, the truth is that most self-proclaimed ectomorphic "hardgainers" are actually not hardgainers at all. In reality, they're skinny because they don't eat enough.

I may sound like a broken record player, but many (though not all) people need to have this point repeatedly pounded into their head: Diet is king! If you're having trouble gaining weight, you must eat, eat and then eat some more! If that doesn't work, then keep eating until you start gaining muscle.And on that note, I'll wrap this page up. Good luck with reaching your goals.

Eat, train & be patient,

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Monday, December 19, 2011

7 Powerful Tips To Master Perfect Barbell Row Technique

If you're a guy who want to master perfect Barbell Row technique, this will be the most important article you will ever read.

Here's why: almost everyone is dead wrong in how they do Barbell Rows. Most guys do Yates Rows, 50° shrugs with underhand grip named after the steroid bodybuilder Dorian Yates. And, guess what? Unlike Barbell Rows, Yates Rows don't train your back - only your traps - and can rip your biceps tendon apart.

Left: StrongLifts Member Tom Doing Perfect Barbell Rows. Right: Bodybuilder Dorian Yates Doing Yates Rows Left: StrongLifts Member Tom Doing Perfect Barbell Rows. Right: Bodybuilder Dorian Yates Doing Yates Rows

Look - if you're one of those steroid meat heads who spends more time with his drug-supplier than on training, you'll grow no matter how you Barbell Row. But if you're a DRUG-FREE, 100% natural lifter like me, then you'll have to do Barbell Rows with proper technique to gain upper-back strength and muscle.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the Barbell Row technique that I'm about to show you is superior to every single other Row variation you'll ever see the curl monkeys do in your gym. In fact, Coach Glenn Pendlay MS USAW (who taught me this very Barbell Row technique years ago) has done EMG studies comparing every single possible variation of Barbell Rows. Guess what he discovered?

Barbell Rows Done With The Bar Returning To
The Floor On Each Rep Strengthen Your Back, Lats And
Traps More Than Any Other Barbell Row Variation!

Here's what this means: you will strengthen your upper-back, lower-back, lats and traps with one single exercise if you do Barbell Rows the way I'll show you. More: you'll not only build a muscular back by Rowing like this, your Bench Press will also skyrocket (because a strong upper-back is key to a big Bench).

Listen: the guys who say Yates Row are better are confused by broscience and muscle magazines. This Barbell Row technique is backed up by EMG studies, REAL science. But don't take my word for it, simply test-drive StrongLifts 5x5 for 12 weeks using the Barbell Row technique that I'm going to show you, and your own body will make you see the truth of what I'm saying.

Here's how to do it: after studying Glenn Pendlay's description of this superior Barbell Row technique, Rowing myself like this for several years and teaching this Row technique to hundreds of guys, I've come up with the seven most important tips to master perfect Barbell Row technique. Here are the 7 tips...

1. Row Each Rep From The Floor.
Because you'll never train your upper-back fully if you let the bar hang in the air. Barbell Row like you Deadlift: with the bar starting and returning to the floor on each rep. The barbell should be above the middle of your feet when you start Rowing, same stance as on Deadlifts.

2. Grip The Bar Like You Bench Press.
For maximum carry-over to your Bench Press, your Barbell Row should be the exact opposite movement. This means no underhand grip but both palms facing you, using the same grip width as when you Bench. Thumbs around the bar and squeeze it hard for maximum strength.

3. Pull With Your Elbows.
This simple trick will help you use your upper-back maximally rather than turning your Rows into a biceps exercise. Pull your elbows towards the ceiling instead of merely pulling with your hands. If you don't "get" it, briefly Barbell Row using the thumbless grip to get the feeling for it.

4. Row Against Your Chest.
If the bar doesn't hit your chest, it's like doing a partial Squat or half Bench: the rep isn't completed and you're not getting the most out of the exercise. So always Row the barbell against your chest. Where exactly? Same position as where you touch the bar on the Bench Press.

5. Keep Your Upper-back Parallel.
Don't let yourself get carried away by your ego or you won't get the most out of Barbell Rows. Be strict: your upper-back should be doing all the work. If your Barbell Rows turn into 50° shrugs or you're cheating with your hips and knees, the weight is too heavy. Lower it.

Proper Barbell Row Technique: Barbell starts on the floor, pulling with the elbows, bar against chest, chest open, shoulder-blades squeezed together Proper Barbell Row Technique: Barbell starts on the floor, pulling with the elbows, bar against chest, chest open, shoulder-blades squeezed together

6. Open Your Chest.
It's - again - the same position as for the Bench Press: squeeze your shoulder-blades together at the top as hard as you can and open your chest up. Don't try to hold the weight at the top, that's all unnecessary nonsense because adding weight builds muscle. Simply pull the weight hard and fast against your chest, and then return it to the floor.

7. Keep Your Head Down.
Do not try looking at the mirror in front of you in your gym, or you'll get neck pain. Don't look at your feet either otherwise your lower back can round and hurt. Simply look at the floor below you and tape yourself from the side you want to check your Barbell Row technique.

Barbell Row Video.
Here's a video of an ex private client of mine, StrongLifts Member Tom, showing the Barbell Row technique described in this article. Pay attention how the bar starts and returns to the floor on each rep, and how his torso remains parallel. The barbell could be a bit closer to his shins if he puts his legs straighter, but otherwise this is perfect technique...

YouTube Preview Image

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Sep 6, Box Squats | How to Box Squat with Proper Form

Box squats are a squat variation that involves squatting down onto a box (or platform) of a given height. It provides two major benefits.

The first benefit is that it improves your body's proprioception; it's ability to know where to stop at the bottom of a rep, within the range of motion of the regular squat exercise.

The other benefit is that it distinctly breaks up the eccentric (negative rep) and concentric (positive rep) chain of movement. This makes the concentric movement more challenging because you have to initiate it from a dead stop.

The end result is that you strengthen your posterior chain, and thus, improve your explosiveness and speed out of the hole.

Plus, your strength gains transfer directly over to regular squats. This is despite the fact that box squats require using a lighter load than regular squats.

Set Up. This exercise is best done in a power rack (though a squat rack can suffice). Start by placing a box or platform inside the rack. Box Height. The box should be the right height for the depth that you'll be squatting. This may require you to be creative to change the heights by putting weights underneath or atop the box to increase its height. There are three types of box squat depths: low, parallel and high box squats. Low. The box height for low box squats can be as much below parallel as desired, so long as you don't have to "rock" your body to squat up. The box is too low if you have to "plop" yourself down in order to sit.Parallel. The top of your knees should be parallel to the crease of your hips. If only your thighs are parallel to the floor (which is considered parallel on regular squats), the box is still too high.High. A high box height is useful for improving the sticking points above parallel. So, the box height for high box squats should be set so that you're only about 1-3 inches above parallel when seated.Adjust the Safety Catches. Adjust the safety bars to prevent the barbell (or yourself) from going beyond the range of motion, in the case of a failed rep or an accident.Add Plates. Add the desired amount of weight to the bar.Get Under the Bar. Get into position in front of the box and proceed to get underneath the bar. You must use the low bar squat barbell position. That means that you place the barbell on the upper part of the middle trapezius, and across the top of the rear deltoids.Unrack The Bar. Unrack and step back into position. Assume a significantly wider than shoulder-width stance with your feet and knees pointing outward. Flex your abs, and keep them tense throughout the entire set, in order to stabilize your core, and thus protect your lower back.Position Your Body. To maintain a proper low bar squat position, push your chest out and bring your scapulae (shoulder blades) together while pulling your elbows down and tensing your upper and middle back muscles. Keep your head inline with your spine, so as to avoid hyperextending your neck. Your gaze should be directed diagonally downward, ahead of you.Negative Repetition. Begin the movement by dropping your hips back and down. Take a Seat. Lower your body at a controlled pace and carefully sit your butt down onto the box. Actually sit down. Don't just "touch and go."Tempo. The negative should take about 1-2 seconds.Midpoint. The midpoint is at the bottom of the range of motion, when you are seated. Here, you must keep your body tense. However, if you can relax your hip flexors without relaxing any other muscles, do so. This allows you to distinctly separate the eccentric and concentric chain of movement. Unless you're doing high box squats, your shins should be at least perpendicular to the floor when seated. Tempo. Pause on the seat for about 1 second.Positive Repetition. Okay, time to stop being lazy, and squat up off that box! "Grip" the Floor. Curl your toes hard by pressing them into the floor. Push through outsides of your feet to drive your hips up and off the box.Squeeze. As you're gripping the floor with your feet, you must squeeze your glutes hard in order to actually propel yourself off the box. As you continue upward, bring your thigh and core muscles into it, too.No Rocking. Do not intentionally rock your torso to gain momentum off the box. That's cheating and it puts you at risk for a lower back injury. Note, however, that some (unintentional) rocking will inevitably occur when squatting heavier loads.Lockout. Complete the repetition by squatting up until your legs are completely extended and locked out.Tempo. Squat up as fast as you can without losing control of breaking form.Repeat. Repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions. This exercise is often done with low reps (i.e. 1-3, up to 5) and heavy weight. Though, some folks use a more moderate rep range (e.g. 6-10) with lighter weight.

This Exercise Is Great for All Lifters. It does not matter if you're a beginner, intermediate or advanced weight lifter. Box squats can be the right exercise choice for anyone...

...That said, beginners should be doing it for a different reason than intermediate or advanced lifters. As a beginner, your aim should be to reinforce proper squat depth and range of motion.

By training with box squats (assuming you use a proper box height), it's impossible to not perform the complete range of motion.

Additionally, as a beginner, you should use lighter weight and adhere to a moderate rep scheme on this lift. You can go heavier once you become more exeperienced.

Similar to beginners, some intermediate and advanced lifters (mostly powerlifters) may also use box squats to reinforce a given squat depth and range of motion. However, they often have additional or altogher different objectives.

If you're an intermediate or advanced lifter, box squats are an effective means for increasing your explosiveness and speed out of the hole. In contrast to beginners, the movement will generally be more productive if using heavier loads and lower reps.

^Top of Page

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mar 25, Quadriceps Muscles | Anatomy & Exercises for the Quadriceps Femoris

The quadriceps muscles, or the quadriceps femoris, which is comprised of the four muscle heads in the front of the thigh, is the strongest muscle group in the human body.

The quads are primarily responsible for the extension of the leg at the knee joint, such as when you kick a ball or jump up in the air.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about the quadriceps muscles. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) on the right to easily navigate through this guide.

Quadriceps Femoris














Note: The vastus intermedius is not visible in the previous image. View it in the image below.

Quadriceps Femoris with Vasuts Intermedius^ up to TOC



Dumbbell LungesDumbbell SquatsDumbbell Step UpsDumbbell Front SquatsDumbbell 1-Legged Split Squats


Backward Sled DragsBear Crawl Sled Drags


Bodyweight LungesBodyweight Step UpsJump SquatsPistolsSissy SquatsWall Squats


1-Legged Leg PressHack SquatsLeg ExtensionLeg Press


Standing Quadriceps StretchLying Quadriceps Stretch (prone position)Lying Quadriceps Stretch (side position)^ up to TOC

IliopsoasPectineusSartoriusTensor Fasciae Latae^ up to TOC

^Top of Page

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sep 18, The Best Multivitamin Supplement for You | Multivitamin Reviews

Discover the best multivitamin supplement for you.

Multivitamins are one of the most important dietary supplements that you can buy.

They are one of the few dietary supplements on the market that have credible scientific evidence showing their usefulness.

With a broad range of general (yet essential) health benefits, I recommend taking multivitamins before you even consider muscle buidling or performance supplements.

On this page, I'll discuss the benefits of multivitamins, why you should take them, the two basic types of formulations (premium vs. standard), how to determine product safety and quality, and how to find the best multivitamin supplement for you.

Plus, I'll tell you which specific products I recommend.

Note: To avoid any confusion, when discussing multivitamins, I am technically referring to multivitamins/multiminerals. This is simply for the sake of convenience.

best multivitamin supplement

This is not the kind of supplement that is meant to accelerate your progress or amp up your workouts; at least not directly.

A multivitamin simply ensures your body receives all the micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals) it may fail to get in your diet.

Unless your multivitamin corrects a pre-existing vitamin or mineral deficiency, you can't actually "feel" it working (except for maybe a slight energy boost). It's not meant to produce acute effects.

Rather, it is a supplement that promotes and sustains general health by providing your body with a sufficient amount of the micronutrients it needs carry out cellular functions.

This way, your body can run like a well-oiled, healthy machine. More specifically, this translates to the following benefits:

Stronger immune systemBetter digestive functionLonger lasting energy levelsImproved brain functionReduced chronic disease risk

There are other potential benefits, too, but these are the big ones.

We, as weight trainees, try our darnedest to eat healthily. Despite this, it's not uncommon for us to fall short of our optimal micronutrient intake. Why is this?...

...Well, part of it is due to our increased micronutrient requirements from intense and frequent training routines. Some of it may also be due to dietary restrictions from temporary, but strict diet plans (e.g. no carb-containing foods for contest preparation).

We must also consider that it can be a challenge (not to mention, expensive), to buy, prepare and eat the optimal mix of nutritious foods when we're already busy with training and trying meet our macronutrient goals (i.e. calories, protein, carbs, fats).

And this is where a multivitamin supplement comes into play. You can think of it kind of like an insurance policy for your diet. That is, it will help you out if you make a mistake. Though, if you keep making mistakes, your premium costs (i.e. health risks) will rise.

You should always aim to consume an abundance of nutritious foods everyday. However, as I stated earlier, the reality is that many trainees fail to consistently meet all of their daily micronutrient requirements, despite trying...

...It is a backup plan; a plan B in case you fail to reach your daily vitamin and mineral needs with foods only. But don't let this become an excuse to slack on your diet. It doesn't work that way.

...Put simply, the answer is no – All multivitamin supplements are not created equally. The main differences between different classes of multivitamin products include:

Formulation. Formulations, or the recipe of a given multivitamin product, have two aspects to consider: The Array of Micronutrients. Some multivitamins may contain all micronutrients known to mankind, while others may exclude some. Let's take the exclusion of iron, for example. Such a formulation would obviously be superior if you're trying to avoid iron overload. Iron overload, or the excess iron accumulation in the body, is a harmful condition that is an especially relevant concern for all non-anemic males who eat a lot of iron-rich foods (e.g. meat, dark-green leafy vegetables).The Amount of Each Micronutrient. Some multivitamins may have a larger quantity of, say, vitamin D. Yet others may have a much smaller amount. Let's say you're deficient in vitamin D. Then high-vitamin D formulation would of course be superior for you. It is actually a little known fact there's essentially a worldwide vitamin D deficiency epidemic. Most people (yes, probably you too) have a moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency; to the extent that a dedicated vitamin D supplement is most practical for achieving a sufficient intake.Bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a given micronutrient in the multivitamin pill that can be absorbed into, and circulate within, your system. Bioavailability varies based on the quality of ingredients used in the product formulation. Higher quality ingredients have higher bioavailability.

Below, I'll explain the two basic options you should consider when determining the best multivitamin supplement for your needs:

premium multivitamin supplement

One option is to buy a premium multivitamin supplement from a trusted sports/fitness supplement brand.

Why premium? Because that typically means that it has high quantities of ingredients.

And why should it be from a trusted sports/fitness supplement brand? Because this means the formulation should be proportioned to best meet the needs of weight trainees (though in reality, this likely only gives you a slight edge).

Plus, this typically guarantees high quality ingredients with higher bioavailability...

...This way, you can be fully confident that the multivitamin pills you're taking are being sufficiently and efficiently dissolved, and then absorbed by your body. In other words, you can rest assured that your body's actually getting the micronutrients it needs.

Additionally, some premium multivitamins provide extra benefits, such as added non-vitamin/non-mineral ingredients for extra immune, joint, and digestive support.

While these extras are by no means a requirement, it can be convenient for those who would otherwise be taking a separate supplement to get the benefits.

Lastly, you can be quite certain that a trusted name brand multivitamin will be safe. Afterall, it is a trusted brand, right?

However, I understand that you may be a skeptic (not necessarily a bad thing, by the way) and need hard evidence that your premium multivitamin contains what it claims and is safe.

If this is case, then you should consider products from GMP certified manufacturers. You can also check out results from independent testing labs, such as

...For more on quality and safety, see below.

standard multivitamin supplement

Another option is to buy standard multivitamins. Standard multivitamins are made with relatively low quantities of ingredients. The ingredients, themselves, are less than optimal in quality, in that they have a lower bioavailability.

To make up for the low quantity and quality of ingredients, you can simply take double the recommended serving per day (e.g. if the label recommends one tablet per day, then take two instead; preferably one in the morning and the other in the evening).

You can buy standard multivitamins from name brand companies (e.g. Centrum) or from generic brands.

I strongly suggest buying the generic brands, so long as they are USP verified multivitamin products (for more on this, see below). This way, you save money by foregoing the extra cost associated with brand names, while still ensuring that your multivitamin meets minimum requirements for quality and safety.

I've taken both premium and standard multivitamins before, and both will get the job done.

premium multivitamin vs standard multivitamin

Standard multivitamins are the most economical option. The cost per serving – even after doubling the recommended intake – ends up costing less than the average premium multivitamin.

And while the premium multivitamin formulations do use more and better quality ingredients, you can essentially the same results out of standard multivitamins as long as you take enough of it.

What the standard multivitamins don't offer are the benefits from additional ingredients, which I spoke of earlier. Again, these are certain non-vitamin and non-mineral compounds meant to support or enhance given bodily functions, such as joint lubrication, immune defense or digestion (among others)...

...So If you were planning on buying separate products for one of these functions, then this could be a way to eliminate the need for taking an extra pill. And it might even save you some cash, too.

To decide if a premium or a standard formulation is the best multivitamin supplement for you, you must weigh the information I've given you and consider it in the context of your situation and needs.

But don't think too hard about it. In the grand scheme of things, it won't make a huge difference either way.

Personally, I've been known to dabble with premium multivitamins if I have a little extra money to spend. Otherwise, I go with the standard multivitamin.

Whether you choose a premium or standard multivitamin, you should ensure that the product you plan on buying is safe and that its formula matches the label.

I've already briefly mentioned three different indicators of product safety and quality: the GMP certification, the USP verification and independent testing labs. I'll discuss each of these in detail, below:

GMP certification logo

In order to receive the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certification, the manufacturer must follow the FDA's GMP guidelines.

In short, they must adhere to a strict production process, use correct labeling, eliminate contamination and be responsible for the correct identity, purity, strength, and composition of the product's ingredients.

For your reference, see this list of GMP certified supplement companies. You may not recognize many of those companies, as they are either major suppliers to, or parent companies of, the popular consumer brands.

USP Logo

The USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) is a non-profit health organization. They've been around for a solid 150 years, setting quality, purity, identity, and strength standards for supplements, drugs and foods ingredients.

In order to become verified, products it must undergo a thorough audit of its manufacturing practices (using GMP guidelines) and documentation; as well as laboratory tests and "random off-the-shelf testing."

Specifically, the product must contain the claimed ingredients and the stated amounts of each, be free of contaminants, remain fresh until its expiration date, have correct labeling and dissolve quickly enough for sufficient absorption.

It is predominantly generic multivitamin manufacturers that go through the USP verification process. See all USP verified companies.

You don't see many of the more popular brand name multivitamins with this certification. I'm guessing this is because they've already built enough trust with their customer base.

Independent testing labs are pretty self explanatory – They are the private, independent (at least for the most part) supplement industry watchdogs. They perform the same basic tasks as the USP and GMP certifications, though they are much less connected to governmental agencies or functions.

independent supplement testing companies

The specific protocols vary between testing companies. What do they have in common, though, is that they all test the products themselves (as opposed to simply collecting data from the manufacturer).

The top independent testing labs include and the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). It is worth noting, however, that the functions of the NSF overlap somewhat with governmental functions.

For reference, see certified brands and NSF certified brands.

Now, I'll provide you a some specific product recommendations for both premium and standard multivitamin supplements. All my picks have at least one of the above certifications.

For premium multivitamins, my top two recommendations are ADAM and Orange Triad:

I have just one pick for a standard multivitamin brand:

vitamins in fruits and vegetables

Hopefully this guide helped you better understand multivitamin and how to choose the best multivitamin supplement for you.

But please, don't miss the forest for the tree – As great as multivitamin supplements can be, their usefulness is reduced to irrelevance without the existence of an overall nutritious diet...

...In other words, don't forget to eat your fruits and veggies! (Yes, I have to remind myself to do this, too).

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Sep 25, Best Caffeine Supplements | Caffeine Tablets as a Pre-Workout Supplement

Caffeine supplements are extremely cheap, yet highly effective pre-workout products.

Caffeine supplements amplify your energy, increase your focus and improve your performance...

...All without the hassle of brewing or drinking any coffee!

Just one little tablet contains the caffeine of a 12 oz. cup of strong coffee (200mg). Truly amazing, I know!

How do they do this? Magic? Quite possibly. But I have my own theory, illustrated below:

caffeine tablets

I'm joking of course. And besides, how caffeine tablets are made is irrelevant...

...We only care that they work. And, indeed, they do work. After all, caffeine is a main ingredient in many popular pre-workout powders.

It's just that taking pure caffeine as a workout stimulant is such an obvious idea that many weight trainees never even consider it.

On this page, I'll discuss caffeine, its benefits, its side effects and whether supplementing with it is a good idea for you.

I'll also provide dosing guidelines and tell you my top two recommendations for the best caffeine supplements.

caffeine is a drug

Did you know that caffeine is the world's favorite psychoactive stimulant?

That's right. Caffeine - the stuff in your coffee, tea and soda - is actually a full-blown, raging drug! You junkie, you.

But of course, I'm just being sensationalistic. As most people realize, not all drugs are bad, mmm'kay.

Scientifically speaking, caffeine is a xanthein alkaloid.

This is just a fancy name for a specific class of chemical compounds, which have similar molecular structures and function as mild central nervous system stimulants. They also act as bronchodilators, but that's beyond our focus.

Caffeine is a natural compound found in coffee and cocoa beans; guarana berries; kola nuts; as well as tea, yerba mat?, yaupon holly and guayusa leaves.

People have been enjoying its energizing and uplifting effects for many thousands of years.

cavemen caffeine

Obviously though, ancient folks weren't taking caffeine tablets.

The first connoisseurs of caffeine may have actually been from the stone age, and they would have simply chewed on tea leaves to get a very light buzz...

...Crude, yes. But let's be serious, you can't expect too much from cavemen. :-D

The brewing of tea wasn't "discovered" until as late as 3000 years ago in China. And the brewing of coffee most likely wasn't around until the 1450s AD, if not later.

Caffeine, itself, wasn't discovered until 1820, when a German chemist isolated it from coffee. Without knowing it had been done already, a few French chemists also made the same discovery the very next year.

So you can thank everyone – from the 19th century chemists to your cave-dwelling stone age ancestors – for promoting the use of caffeine and discovering evermore convenient and efficient means for its consumption.

There many desirable benefits to be had from taking caffeine supplements; specifically caffeine tablets. Below is a list of some of the benefits most relevant to weight trainees:

$ave Money. As far as energy products go, pure caffeine gives you the best bang for your buck. If you buy caffeine in tablet form (the cheapest/most convenient form of caffeine), then you end up paying an itty-bitty 5 cents per 200mg serving. Not too shabby, eh? You'll have some money left over to load up on real, nutritious foods.Get Amped & Focused. Caffeine fills you with energy. Obviously this makes you more energetic, but it also heightens your alertness and ability to focus. You can zero-in on whatever task you set out to do. In our case, that would be working out. Your mental energy is concentrated on performing lifts with precision and tenacity. Distractions blur into the background, or disappear altogether.Perform Better. Better mental focus, as mentioned above, obviously plays a role in performance. However, the performance enhancing benefits of caffeine extend beyond the mental realm. It affects you physically, too. It not only delivers a profound rush of energy, but it also delays muscular fatigue. This gives you noticeably better endurance and stamina. In application, the result is that you can pump out a couple more reps during a set (using moderate weights/reps; not extra heavy weight/low reps) than would otherwise be possible, before the delayed fatigue response sets in.Get Shredded. Caffeine elevates the amount of epinephrine (i.e. adrenaline) circulating in your system. This, in turn, increases the rate of lipolysis, or fat mobilization. Fat mobilization refers to the process whereby free fatty acids break away from the larger triglyceride molecule. This raises your body's levels of free fatty acids. The increased levels of free fatty acids leads to a higher rate of fat oxidation, or the "burning" of fat for energy. If not for the caffeine, you would be relying more heavily on glycolysis, or the use of glycogen (a carbohydrate-based energy store), for energy. Thus, caffeine enables you to burn more fat.Burn Calories. In the previous bullet point, I already discussed that caffeine causes your body to burn a greater proportion of fat for its energy needs. But on top of that, caffeine actually causes you to burn more total calories. It does this in two different ways. First, it speeds up your metabolism. And second, it raises your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which refers to extra calories burned because the caffeine makes you move around more (e.g. tapping your foot, fidgeting, pacing, etc.). A double whammy.Tame Your Appetite. Caffeine has been shown to suppress appetite. You can use this as a strategic tool for blunting hunger and limiting daily caloric intake. This is especially helpful on a cutting diets. However, it's also useful when bulking because it can prevent overconsumption and fat gain. As your caffeine tolerance grows, however, the appetite suppressing effect unfortunately dissipates.Save Time. Taking a caffeine tablet takes about one second. Simply pop a pill into your mouth and wash it down with a gulp of water. Done. Compare this to the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, pour a cup, wait for it to cool down and finally drink it.

Health experts, almost unilaterally, agree that caffeine is a safe substance.

This is a consensus echoed by major health organizations; like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who has given caffeine the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation.

That said, you must remember that caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. As such, it does come with some potential side effects. See below:

NervousnessSweatingJittersDizzinessIrritabilityNauseaStomach irritationRestlessnessInsomniaQuickened breathingIncreased heartbeatIncreased blood pressureAnxietyHeadachesChest pain

Again, these are potential side effects. At that, they are generally mild and usually only occur due to excess consumption. They are always temporary in duration.

Furthermore, most people who only take moderate amounts will experience no noticeable side effects.

Caffeine tablets are a great pre-workout supplement choice for many folks. You are an ideal candidate if you...

Want intense focus and more energyDesire superior workouts and faster progressWant to lose fat or minimize fat gainAre on the go and have no time to make coffeeNeed to save money, but want a pre-workout supplement

And, as long as you...

Are not extra sensitive to stimulantsDo not workout near your bedtimeDo not have any pre-existing heart conditionsDo not have other relevant medical issues (e.g. high blood pressure, panic/anxiety attacks, etc.)

If any of the last four bullet points apply to you, then caffeine may not be right for you. Read below on how to deal with each scenario:

If you're highly sensitive to stimulants, then it may be easiest to just avoid caffeine altogether. If you want to try anyway, do so mindfully.

If you workout before sleeping, then the obvious solution is to change your workout time. If this is not possible, then you should not use caffeine. It will keep you awake at night, thus disrupting your recovery and hampering your overall progress.

If you have, or think you may have, some heart issues or other relevant medical conditions, then I urge you to consult your physician before proceeding...

...Actually, it's a good idea for all people to check with their physicians before taking a new supplement. See my full disclaimer.

Most caffeine tablets contain 200mg of caffeine per tablet.

I recommend you cut the tablet in half and take just 100mg for the first workout session. From there, you can hone in on your optimal dosage by using what I'll call the "Goldilocks" strategy:

Too Big? If 100mg is too much caffeine to handle (unlikely, though possible), then cut your serving size to just 50mg.Too Small? If 100mg does not give sufficient stimulation, then increase your serving size to the full 200mg tablet. (Most people will end up taking this dosage.)Just Right? Maybe you got lucky. If 100mg provides just the right effects, then simply continue taking that serving size.

Once you find your optimal serving size, you can take it for a while and still be able to enjoy enhanced workout sessions. However, you will gradually develop a tolerance to caffeine.

The easiest way to combat an increased tolerance is simply increasing the serving size (e.g. by 1/4 of a tablet, or 50mg, each time). It's fine to use this method a couple/few times.

However, you can increase your serving size so many times before you end up having to take large quantities to achieve the same effects.

To limit the possibility of encountering side effects or developing a very strong dependency, don't exceed 300mg if you're (more or less) an average-sized lifter; or 400mg if you're bigger.

There is an effective way to deal with your caffeine tolerance once it reaches such a high level. That is to dramatically reduce, or eliminate, your caffeine intake for at least a week.

This will lower your tolerance noticeably, allowing you to take less caffeine than before while still achieving its desired effects.

caffeine timing

As when to take the caffeine, my advice is to do so about 20-30 minutes before your workout. This gives it enough time to get into your system and start working its magic.

As a general rule, avoid caffeine supplements within 6-8 hours of sleeping. Caffeine close to bedtime can cause insomnia, or at least interfere with optimal sleep patterns.

Do note, however, that 6-8 hours is a general rule – some people can sleep like a baby if they take caffeine 3 hours before bed, while others may still have trouble falling and staying asleep if they have caffeine within 12 hours of their bedtime.

My top two recommendations for caffeine tablets include the following:

I've used both of these caffeine supplements before, and each works like a charm.

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Jun 10, Weight Training Equipment | Home Gym Equipment & Apparel Reviews

Find weight training equipment reviews and information. Discover which type of gym equipment is worth buying and what you should avoid.

Whether you're building a brand new home gym setup, need some new gym apparel and lifting shoes, or if you're just looking for some helpful accessories to bring to the gym with you...

...This page will provide advice on what to look for in products.

Note: This section of the site is largely under construction. Below, I have listed the specific topics I will cover, so you can get a glimpse of the types of products I'll be discussing and reviewing, before I actually do so. I'll be adding more and more links in the coming weeks and months, so keep an eye out for updates!


Power RacksHomemade Squat StandsSquat Racks (i.e. Half Racks)



Olympic WeightsStandard WeightsBumper PlatesMicro-platesWeight Trees



Olympic BarbellOlympic Barbell ClampsStandard BarbellEZ-Curl Bar


Adjustable DumbbellsHex DumbbellsPower Blocks




Grizzly Leather Dip/Pull Up Belt


ChalkGlovesHand GrippersHooksStress BallsWrist RollerWrist Straps


Captain of Crush GrippersFat Gripz


Foam RollersSelf-Massage Tools


Perform Better Foam RollerLacrosse BallsBacknobber II


Pull Up BarsParallel Dip BarsPower TowerSquat BoxesResistance BandsNeck HarnessLeg Press MachineThick RopeChains


Iron Woody BandsHarbinger Neck Harness


Ab RollerDeadlift Bar JackExercise BallsMedicine BallsT-Bar Row Barbell AttachmentsWeight Lifting Belts


Stay tuned for new weight training equipment content. In-depth articles and reviews coming soon!

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Are You Making This Squat Mistake?

Espen from Norway has some issues with his Squats, and asks...

Hi Mehdi,

First of all I must say that I LOVE your site. It is of great inspiration for me and I'm reading all of your posts. Congratulations with what you have achieved here, really impressive!

I am a 34 year old Norwegian who has been doing your StrongLifts 5x5 program for about 4 months. I'm 179cm tall and my bodyweight is now 79kg. Currently I'm doing 5x5 of 80kg in squats, 1x5 140kg of deadlift and just yesterday manage 5x5 85kg in bench. I have reduced my bodyweight from 85kg and my man boobs are gone and close to all my belly fat. I've gain so much confidence from this as I've started to get compliments at work for my "new" body shape. I love this side effect of your program.

I am also quite happy with my progress in the gym but I have issues with my squats as I can't seem to get any progress any more. I've been doing 80 kg for months now and when I put on more weight my technique starts to fail and I can't hold good form. I started out doing ass-to-grass style squats but I've now changed to parallel and hope that this will help my progress. I seem to need work on my new form as I still can't get pass the 80kg plateau.

Any comments to my squat issue is appreciated. I am still doing good progress in deadlift but I can't put on 2,5 kg every week on the bench anymore. Do you think it is time for me to move on to a new program? I've been doing weight training on and off for years so I feel that my form is good in most exercises (except squats that I've only started with 4 months ago).

Thanks and best regards


Thanks for the words of encouragement. And amazing job finally losing your man boobs and belly fat. I too started feeling much more confident after finally eliminating my moobs and pot belly more than a decade ago.

Your question - Technique issues you solve by doing that exercise more, not by substituting it. I'm going to assume your logic was that you can Squat more low bar and thus break your plateau by switching to parallel Squats. But, as you've come to realize, parallel Squats have a different bar position, different torso alignment and thus a different technique than "Ass-To-Grass" Squats. That's why if you don't know how to use your muscles correctly when Squatting low bar, the same weight isn't necessarily going to feel easier.

It would have made more sense to suck up the ego and lower the weight by 20% so you can master technique, instead of continuing the same weight. But, again, you shouldn't have switched to low bar Squats in the first place because form issues are always solved by Squatting more, NOT substituting the lift.

Stick with whatever Squat version you're doing now (my guess is low bar) and start taping yourself so you understand what it is you're doing wrong. Practice perfect technique on your warm-up sets, maybe do extra warm-up sets until it feels right. Once on your work sets, keep your technique perfect even if that means you'll miss reps. Focus, squeeze everything and lift fast.

Don't switch to Madcow 5x5 yet - your Bench is stronger than your Squat, you need to fix that before moving on. And since this is a technique issue, Squatting 3x/week is the best way to master technique. You don't even need to switch to 3x5 yet (in fact, almost all StrongLifts Members switch when they can Squat at least 200lb, usually around 225lb, and many only switch at the 300lb mark).

Deadlift switch from 1x5 to 1x3 and start Deadlifting once per week (1x/week Barbell Rows, 1x/week Pull-ups). Bench Press switch to 3x5 (then 1x5) and use smaller increments. This should keep the progress while you fix your Squats.

But remember, it's only been 4 months since you started Squatting. It's perfectly normal to struggle a bit. The key is to keep plugging at it. Don't be a quitter.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Aug 27, Reverse Band Squats | How to Do Reverse Band Squats

Reverse band squats improve the lockout and explosiveness on the squat exercise. This squat variation is a precise tool for advanced lifters who seek to target these aspects of the lift.

The attached resistance bands on this exercise enable you to experience constantly changing levels of resistance as you go through each rep. This is why it emphasizes the above-mentioned aspects of the squat (again, explosiveness and the lockout).

One might ask: What's the difference between this technique and regular band squats?

Well, on reverse band squats, the resistance bands are attached to the barbell from the top of the power rack to the ends of the barbell. Whereas, on regular band squats, the bands are attached to the barbell from the bottom of the power rack.

Also, on the regular version, the load never becomes lighter than the total weight of the barbell and plates (i.e. the bands add resistance). But with reverse band squats, the load never becomes heavier than the total weight of the barbell and plates (i.e. the bands reduce resistance).

So in this way, the mechanics of the reverse version are actually more similar to chain squats...

...On both exercises, the loads are heaviest at both the very start and the very finish of each rep; and they're lightest at the midpoint (i.e. the very bottom of the range of motion).

As you go through a rep, the varying levels of resistance you feel models a parabola: It goes from heavy to moderate to light, and then back to moderate and finally back to heavy again...

Set Up. This exercise must be done in a power rack. Start by putting the barbell on the pins, just below shoulder level. Adjust the Safety Catches. Adjust the safety catches to the bottom of the range of motion. This way, it will prevent an accident by catching the barbell in case you lose control or fail during a rep.Attach Bands. Ideally, reverse band squats should be done in a power rack with upper band pegs for easy and secure attachment of the resitance bands. However, if your power rack doesn't have upper band pegs, then you can get creative and hook the bands on the top of the frame. Next, attach the end of the bands to the ends of the barbell.Add Plates. Load the desired amount of weight onto the bar. The bands should be to the inside of the plates (but still on the thick ends of the barbell). To prevent the any possibility of the band slipping off the thick part of the barbell and onto the thin part, you may want the band positioned between plates.Unrack the Bar. Position yourself under the barbell. It should be on your trapezius, not against your back bones. Hoist the bar off the pins and take a step back.Negative Repetition. Squat down by lowering your hips and butt, and flexing your knees. The bands will resist the load as you perform the negative repetition, making it so the load becomes increasingly lighter as you approach the bottom of the rep. Thus, the barbell is at it lightest when you reach the lowest point in the range of motion (i.e. the midpoint). Go to Parallel (or Below). Keep going until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Go a little further if you can do so without breaking form.Tempo. Control the weight carefully. Go slower as you transition into the midpoint. The negative should typically lasts about 1-2 seconds.Midpoint. The midpoint is at the very bottom of the range of motion. It's the transition point between the positive repetition and the negative repetition. Tempo. Since this is just a transitory point in the movement, you don't really need pause at all. If you do, it should be very brief. That said, you should have slowed down as you were finishing the negative rep so that you don't "bounce" into and out of the midpoint. Doing this would be dangerous for your knees.Positive Repetition. Squat up... fast! The tension in the bands decreases more and more as you squat up, making it so the load becomes increasingly heavy as you approach the top of the repetition. Once you reach the top of the rep, the load is equal to that of the starting weight. Squeeze! Keep your entire body tight, but flex your your glutes, quadriceps and hamstrings, with particular emphasis.Tempo. Explode upward as quickly as possible, without breaking form.Repeat. Repeat the movement for desired number of reps. Like all lifts that emphasize strength and explosiveness, it's generally best to use lower reps (around 1-5) with relatively heavy weight.

Reverse Band Squats Are Best for Advanced Lifters. This exercise is for seasoned vets who need to focus on their lockout and the explosiveness of their squat. Essentially, it is an exercise technique to fine tune an otherwise strong squat.

It's not efficient, however, for beginners or intermediate lifters, who need not worry about specific aspects of the squat. Rather, as a beginner or intermediate, concentrate on achieving an overall stronger squat.

The reverse band squat is too specific a tool for such a general objective. Until you reach an advanced level and encounter real plateaus, good ol' fashioned squats will suffice.

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Do You Overcomplicate Things?

Cameron from Australia asks...

Hi, im an aussie who just started using your StrongLifts 5x5 method and am extremely keen to see its effects over the next 12 weeks.

i do however have one concern, that is over here the weights and measures system is different. for my increases is it ok to use 2.5 kg instead of 5 lbs? i've looked at the conversions and its not exact, for example 20 pounds tends to only be 9 kg.

i would really appreciate your input on this matter.

Thank you


Yes, increasing the weight by 2.5kg every workout is perfectly fine if you use the metric system like I do. Sure this isn't exactly 5lb rather 5.51lb, but the point is to add a small increment every time. 2.5kg weight increases are proven to work with StrongLifts Members using the metric system.

I'm sure someone out there will complain that he plateaud earlier on StrongLifts 5x5 because the 2.5kg plates made him progress faster than the guys using pounds. Let's hope he won't make excuses about the unfair variations in gravity because of where in the world he lives...

Keep it simple, this isn't frigging surgery.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mar 27, Pronator Quadratus | Forearm Muscle Anatomy & Exercises

The pronator quadratus is a forearm muscle that works with the triceps brachii to pronate, or turn over, the hand. It is similar in location and function to the pronator teres.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about this forearm muscle. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) to easily navigate through this guide.


Anterior-medial surface of the ulna


Anterior-lateral surface of the radius


Wrist extensionPronation of the handHolds together the radius and ulna^ up to TOC


Dumbbell Seated PronationDumbbell Lying Pronation


Machine Seated PronationMachine Standing Pronation

Resistance Band

Seated Pronation with Resistance BandStanding Pronation with Resistance Band^ up to TOC

^ up to TOC

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Mar 5, Calf Anatomy 101 | All About the Calf Muscles

The calf anatomy includes the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Learn about both of these muscles, their locations and their functional anatomy.

This page provides an overview of the calf muscle group. Discover more information about the calf anatomy by clicking the links throughout the page. Each link contains more in-depth information about the calf muscles, including exercises, detailed descriptions, a glossary of anatomy terms and any useful tips.

The calf contains two main muscle – The soleus muscle and the gastrocnemius muscle (also known as the "gastroc").

The soleus and gastrocnemius work in tandem to carry out the function of plantar flexion. Plantar flexion is just medical terminology for the movement of pointing/pressing the ball (front part) of your foot downwards.

You perform plantar flexion when standing on your tippy-toes, pressing (or flooring) the gas pedal of a car, walking, and of course, when performing calf exercises.

The gastroc extends from the femur (thigh bone) down to where it inserts into the Achilles tendon. The gastrocnemius is much larger than soleus, accounting for the nearly all of visual bulk of the calf anatomy.

Gastrocnemius Anatomy

The major characteristics of the gastroc include the following:

Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers. The gastroc is made up of mostly fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers forcefully contract to produce explosive movements, but experience rapid fatigue. They are utilized during anaerobic activities, such as high intensity (very heavy) weight training and sprinting.Assists Knee Flexion. The gastroc plays a small role in knee flexion. So it is essentially untrained during any calf exercises where the knee is bent, such as seated calf raises (the soleus does all the work). As you can imagine, it would be a major mistake to do a calf workout with only bent-leg exercises.

The soleus extends down from the tibia and fibula to where it is attached to the Achilles tendon. It's much smaller than it's good friend, the gastrocnemius.

Soleus Anatomy

But not to discount its aesthetic importance, a well-developed soleus muscle does have a some noticable visual impact on the calf, despite being located underneath the gastroc.

Sure, the soleus may not be the most important muscle in the calf anatomy for getting hyoooge calves. But obviously it shouldn't be ignored, otherwise I wouldn't be talking about it! Listed below are the characteristics and main function of the soleus muscle:

Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers. The soleus primarily consists of slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers, which are highly fatigue resistant. This means that they are utilized for aerobic and endurance-type activities that range from maintaining posture, walking, jogging, or long-distance running. Slow twitch fibers cannot produce the forceful contractions required for creating fast and powerful movements.Ankle Stabilizers. As I mentioned in the previous bullet, one function of slow twitch fibers is to maintain posture; and the soleus does just that. Its most obvious functional purpose is to maintain posture by stabilizing the leg's connection to the foot. Without it, we would all be constantly rolling our ankles, if not completely immobilized.

Although the Achilles tendon is not actually a calf muscle, it does directly connect to both the soleus and the gastroc.

What's important to know about the Achilles is that it can act like a spring. Put differently, it can store a lot of energy and then output the energy with minimal help from the muscles (a.k.a. elastic recoil).

In terms of calf exercises, elastic recoil allows you to perform reps with a lot of weight by "bouncing" the weight. For example, if you perform a seated calf raise ? by lowering the weight too quickly and not pausing at the bottom ? you do not work the actual calf muscles.

Rather, the Achilles' elastic recoil effect carries you through the motion of a repetition, but does not contribute to any muscle growth or strength increase.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mar 26, Brachioradialis | Forearm Muscle Anatomy & Exercises

The brachioradialis is located at the upper outer region of the forearm. This muscle's name was coined from "brachio," meaning the arm, and "radialis," referring to the radius bone of the forearm.

This muscle acts to turn the forearms and palms upward (supination) as well as downward (pronation). It also assists the biceps brachii in flexing the arm at the elbow joint.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about this forearm muscle. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) on the right to easily navigate through this guide.

Beer Drinking MuscleForearmUpper Outer Forearm


Lower two-thirds of the lateral supracondylar ridge of the humerus



Elbow flexionForearm supinationForearm pronation^ up to TOC


Reverse Barbell CurlReverse EZ Bar CurlReverse EZ Bar Preacher Curl


Hammer CurlReverse Dumbbell CurlReverse Dumbbell Preacher Curl



Machine Hammer Preacher CurlMachine Reverse CurlMachine Reverse Preacher Curl^ up to TOC

^ up to TOC

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Mar 27, Oblique Muscles | Internal & External Obliques Anatomy & Exercises

The oblique muscles are divided into internal obliques and external obliques. The internal obliques lie underneath the external obliques and just above the transversus abdominis muscles.

The obliques are primarily responsible bending sideways and twisting your body at the lumbar spine.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about this muscle. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) on the right to easily navigate through this guide.

Internal Obliques


Front of the Iliac crest of the IlliumInguinal ligamentLumbar fascia


Linea albaConjoint Tendon of the PubisLower 4 ribs


Rotation of the lumbar spineFlexion of the lumbar spineLateral flexion of the lumbar spineIntra-abdominal pressureRespirationExternal Obliques



Crest of the PubisFront of the Iliac crest of the IlliumInguinal ligamentRectus Abdominis Fascia


Rotation of the lumbar spineFlexion of the lumbar spineLateral flexion of the lumbar spineIntra-abdominal pressureRespiration^ up to TOC

2 Arm Overhead Cable Side BendsBicycle CrunchesCable LiftsCable Wood ChoppersDouble Legs to the SidesDouble Knees to the SideHalf Kneeling Cable RotationHanging Oblique Knee RaisesKneeling Cable RotationOblique Hip ThrustsOblique Crunches Feet FlatOblique Crunches Knees CrossedSide Bends with RotationSide CrunchesSide Oblique Heel TouchesSide PlankSide V-InsStanding Cable RotationStanding Side Bends^ up to TOC

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Mar 27, Anterior Deltoid | Front Deltoid Muscle Anatomy & Exercises

The anterior deltoid is the frontmost of the three deltoid muscle heads.

This part of the deltoid gets worked hard during all upper body compound pushing exercise. It is for this reason that it is usually unnecessary, even counterproductive, to train this muscle with isolation movements.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about this muscle. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) on the right to easily navigate through this guide.

Front ShoulderFront Deltoid (delt)Anterior Deltoid


Anterior lateral third of the clavicle


Lateral portion of the humerus


Internal shoulder rotationShoulder abductionShoulder flexionTransverse shoulder flexion^ up to TOC




Cable Military PressCable Shoulder PressCable Behind Neck PressCable Front RaisesCable Twisting Overhead Press

Body Weight


Machine Military PressMachine Reclined Shoulder PressMachine Behind Neck PressMachine Shoulder Press


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Mar 27, Lateral Deltoid | Outer Deltoid Muscle Anatomy & Exercises

The lateral deltoid is the one of the three heads of the deltoid muscle. When it is developed, your shoulders appear much broader and more "capped." It functions to raise your arms up at your sides.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about this muscle. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) on the right to easily navigate through this guide.

Outer deltoid (delt)Outer shoulderSide deltoid (delt)Side shoulderLateral Deltoid


Lateral portion of the acromion


Lateral portion of the deltoid


Shoulder abductionTransverse shoulder abductionShoulder flexion^ up to TOC




Cable Lateral RaiseCable Upright Row


Machine Lateral RaiseBarbell-Machine Upright Row


Fixed Bar StretchSide Deltoid Stretch^ up to TOC

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Feb 13, Face Pulls | Activate & Strengthen Rear Delts & Lower/Middle Trapezius

Face pulls are great for shoulder & scapular health. They work the lower to middle trapezius fibers & the rear delts. Discover how to use proper form with this complete exercise guide.

The following video demonstrates proper face pulls exercise technique (using a neutral grip).

Video credits: YouTube user "fitlisavideos"

Set up. Go to the cable machine, and set one of the pulleys to neck level. Attach rope. Fetch the rope attachment and secure it to the pulley.Adjust the Weight Stack. Use the correct amount of weight by placing the pin in the appropriate spot on the stack of weights. Don't try to go too heavy on this exercise, as it is meant to be done with moderate to light weight.Choose Grip. There's two different types of grips you can use. The most common type is the pronated (overhand) grip, which is done by holding the rope from the inside, with your pinky-side touching the end; or you can use a neutral grip. The other type is the neutral grip, which is done by holding the rope from the outside, with your thumb-side touching the end.Distance Yourself. Extend your arms straight out in front of you and step backward until you just barely lift the weight off the stack. This is the starting position.Positive Repetition. Pull the weight stack toward your face - Hence the name, face pulls. Elbows High. Raise your elbows up high as you pull the rope toward your face. This keeps the focus off of your lats, and on your trapezius.Squeeze Scapulae Together. Bring your shoulder blades together, keep them together as you pull and squeeze extra hard at the end of the positive rep.Tempo. Don?t go really fast, but don't go super slow either. Control the movement by going at a speed that lets you feel the rear delts and upper/middle back muscles working. One second or a little more should be fine for positive rep.Negative Repetition. Perform the negative repetition by returning to the starting position in the same path as the positive repetition. Tempo. Control the weight and maintain form. Aim for 1-2 seconds on the negative.Repeat. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. You should use moderate to high rep ranges for this exercise. Anywhere from 8-16 reps should suffice. In the MYx8 weight lifting routine, I recommend doing face pulls (or bent over lateral raises) for 3 sets of 12-16 reps.

This Exercise Is Great for All Levels of Experience. This small, but powerful exercise can prove invaluable to you, whether you're a beginner, intermediate or an advanced lifter.

Since it improves scapular stability as well as muscular balance between the front and back muscles of the body, this exercise is an important asset that nearly all every weight lifter should have in his arsenal. Why?...

...Because the major lifts all provide inadequate stimulation to the minor (yet important) muscles that contribute to scapular and shoulder health. Eventually, there is a high potential that these oft-ignored muscles will become a "weak link" that can destroy your progress and/or invite injury.

Think of it like this – The major lifts are like brushing your teeth, and face pulls are like flossing: Both are necessary, and while flossing doesn't make your teeth whiter, it does keep your teeth strong and healthy by taking care of the areas that brushing can't reach... Err, maybe a dental metaphor wasn't the best choice, but you get the point!

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Oct 16, 14 y/o: Can I Gain Muscle at My Age? Do I Need to Bench? | Muscle Building Q&A

Question: I'm 14 years old and 6'1" tall. I want to know if it's possible for my muscles to get bigger at my age. Also, do you have any tips on how to gain muscle mass without bench pressing?

– Patrick (New Jersey, USA)

Answer: Hi Patrick. Judging by your height, I think it's safe to assume you've already hit puberty. Therefore, it is very possible to significantly increase your muscle mass at your age.

While you won't be able to add as much muscle as, say, a 17 year old could, you can certainly build up an impressive base.

It's imperative that you focus on the basics at your age, so as to teach yourself good training habits. This includes learning and consistently using proper exercise technique, focusing on compound exercises and getting progressively stronger, among other things.

Read how to gain muscle mass for a full explanation on building muscle by consistently applying a few basic principles.

Now, let's move on to your question about bench pressing...

...The bench press is great exercise. But it is, by no means, a requirement for building muscle. There are other exercises that work the same muscle groups...

My favorite bench press alternative is the dip exercise. But there are other movements, such as push ups, including many push up variations.

The dumbbell pullover may also be another option to consider, but I wouldn't recommend making it a major part of your routine because it isolates the chest more than the previously mentioned exercises.

At your age and experience level, the last thing you want to do is put too much emphasis on isolation work.

Plus, the chest is also worked indirectly in major compound exercises, such as the overhead press, clean and presses, deadlifts and even squats, to an extent.

It's possible to never do any chest-focused exercises and still be a beast (and still have a muscular chest). Don't believe me? Just look at some of the Olympic weightlifters out there, like Maosheng Le.

– Alex

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Aug 20, 15 y/o: Lifting Weights for Months with Disappointing Results | Muscle Building Q&A

Question: Hello, I have been weight lifting for a few months. I am only 15 years old. I'm skinny, at 5'10" and 120 pounds. I've been lifting dumbbells at home that are about 20-30 pounds. I've gained only a tiny bit of muscle from when I started, but nothing significant. Maybe it's because I'm not lifting properly or just don't know what to do. Thank you.

– Nevin (Piscataway, NJ, U.S)

Answer: Hi Nevin, thanks for the question. From the sounds of it, you need to upgrade your equipment. Unfortunately, 20-30 lb. dumbbells just won't cut it. To start seeing real gains, you need a power rack or squat rack, a flat or adjustable bench, an Olympic barbell and Olympic weight plates.

You can buy this equipment or get a membership at a good gym. Yes, either option will cost money, but it's worth it. No excuses. If you don't have the money, get a job, ask your parents or friends to loan you the money, dig for treasure in your back yard – whatever it takes.

Once you have your new equipment or gym membership, you'll have to have an effective weight lifting routine for your novice level of experience. I recommend the MYx8 or Rippetoe's Starting Strength. Additionally, always strive to use proper weight lifting exercise technique during your workouts.

The other major thing you must do is to ensure your diet is on point. Since you want to gain muscle, you should be "bulking," or eating more calories than you burn. For full details on diet planning, read bodybuilding diet.

And last, but certainly not least, get plenty of sleep each night. That's the only time your muscles actually grow!

If you follow all of the above advice, you'll start seeing much faster gains, almost immediately.

– Alex

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Oct 11, Fish Oil Dosage | Discover Your Optimal Daily Fish Oil Intake

Fish Oil Dosage

Which fish oil dosage will give you the best results?

I wish I could give you a "one size fits all" answer to that question. But your optimal dosage depends on a couple factors.

This page will help you discover your optimal daily fish oil intake.

Whether you'll be getting some or all of your fish oil from actual fish or a fish oil supplement, I'll provide guidelines for figuring out the right amount(s) of each/either.

My recommendation for healthy people is a fish oil dosage in the range of 2000-3000mg combined EPA/DHA per day.

However, you should discuss dosing parameters with a qualified medical professional if you have certain medical or health issues that may increase the likelihood of fish oil side effects.

If your particular health issue is relatively minor and you can't or won't consult a doctor, then you should at least start with a low fish oil dosage (e.g. 500-1000mg of EPA/DHA per day).

Realize that your tracking of EPA/DHA intake should include both supplement and food sources.

fish and fish oil

So if you eat fish on any given day, you should take that into account by reducing the number of fish oil capsules you'd otherwise take.

In theory, the best way to get fish oils is by eating fish, since it's a whole food that provides a more complete nutrient profile.

However, that kind of diet just isn't practical, economical or even desireable for most people.

Furthermore, eating that much fish would be potentially dangerous because of the health risks posed by the accumulation of mercury and other contaminants commonly found in fish. Whereas, you can buy fish oil supplements that have been purified.

In reality, the safest and most effective approach is to eat fish a few times a week, while getting the rest of your EPA/DHA needs from fish oil capsules.

So, how do you find out how much EPA and DHA is in the fish you're eating? And how much of each is a fish oil supplement? Good questions. Read below for the answers.

Real Fish. See this resource for a list of all major kinds of fish and their respective EPA/DHA content.Fish Oil Supps. The quantities of EPA and DHA in fish oil supplements vary from product to product. It's most common to find fish oil products with 300-600mg of combined EPA/DHA per capsule. This information is on the product's nutrition label.

Let's do an example, using me as the subject. We'll assume my target range is 2000-3000mg EPA/DHA per day, and that my fish oil supplement has 600mg of EPA/DHA per capsule. Here's how I would handle three different scenarios:

No Fish. On this hypothetical day, I'm not eating any fish. That means I'll be getting all my EPA/DHA from my fish oil supplement. In this situation, I'd take 4 or 5 capsules for a total of 2400-3000mg EPA/DHA.Some Fish. On this hypothetical day, I'm in the mood for just a little bit of fish. Probably something modest, like a pan seared 3-ounce shark meat fillet with caramelized onions and a side of risotto topped with a few dollops of cr?me fraiche. Look at the resource I mentioned ealier and see that 3 ounces of shark has 0.7 grams (rounded), or 700mg, of EPA/DHA. This falls short of my target range. So I'd have to take 3 capsules for an extra 1800mg EPA/DHA and total of 2500mg.Lots of Fish. On this hypothetical day, I'm gonna go all out on a massive "everything" pizza, including 6 ounces of raw anchovies! Using the above-linked resource, we see that the achovies give me almost 2.5 grams (1.232g per 3-oz serving x 2 servings = 2.464g), or 2500mg of EPA/DHA. This is right in my target range, so there's no need to take any fish oil capsules.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Mar 26, Supinator Muscle | Forearm Muscle Anatomy & Exercises

The supinator muscle is a broad muscle that is curved, covering the superior third of the radius. It gets its name from its function, which is to assist the biceps brachii in supinating, or turning up, the hand.

On this page, you can find all information you'd want about this forearm muscle. Learn its anatomy, view pictures and discover the best exercises for training it.

Use the table of contents (TOC) on the right to easily navigate through this guide.

Supinator Muscle


Superficial Fibers Deep Fibers Supinator crest of the ulnaLateral epicondyle of the humerusRadial collateral ligamentAnnular ligament



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Seated SupinationLying Supination


Standing SupinationSeated Supination^ up to TOC

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Aug 28, Band Squats | How to Do Band Squats

Band squats are a useful technique for advanced weight lifters hoping to bust through plateaus and boost their squat numbers.

By taking advantage of the properties of resistance bands, this exercise enables you to train specific aspects of the squat technique; namely, explosiveness and the lockout.

The band squat technique involves attaching resistance bands from the bottom of the power rack to each side of the barbell. Tension is created when the bands are stretched from the rack to the barbell. The tension places downward pressure on the load.

Maximum tension, and therefore the heaviest weight you feel when squatting, occurs when you're standing erect. That is, both at the beginning and the end of the range of motion.

Although the heaviness of the load is at it's maximum at the start of a repetition, it becomes lighter and lighter the further you squat down. This is the easy part of the rep.

The most challenging portion of the rep is when you're squatting up. Although the load's heaviness is lightest at the bottom of the rep, it becomes heavier and heavier as you squat up. It's like swimming against the current.

If you're interested, you can also check out the variation of this exercise: the reverse band squat.

Set Up. Find a power rack. Place the barbell on the rack pins below shoulder height. Adjust the Safety Catches. Set the safety catch bars to the bottom of the squat range of motion. This way, you won't be you don't have to worry about an accident happening if you fail during a rep or lose control of the barbell.Attach the Bands. Attach a resistance band from the bottom of the power rack to the thick part of the barbell, on each side. This is best done if your power rack has lower band pegs, which are made precisely for attaching bands. However, you can try other creative ways of attaching them (e.g. if you have an extra pair of safety catches, put them on the lowest setting and attach the bands to them). Be sure that your rack is securely fastened to the ground (or sufficiently heavy) so that it does not lift up during the set.Add Plates. Load the desired amount of weight onto the bar. The weights should be to the outside of the resistance band. However, some people like to put the bands in between plates so that there's no chance of the band slipping onto the thin part of the barbell.Unrack the Bar. Position the bar on your back so that it rests on your trapezius muscle, not on your spine. Lift the bar off the rack pins and step back into an athletic stance.Negative Repetition. Squat down by lowering your butt and hips while bending your knees. Go to Parallel (or Below). Go down until the top of your thighs are parallel or below parallel to the floor.Tempo. Aim for about 1-2 seconds. Maintain control of the weight and slow your pace as you near the midpoint.Midpoint. This is the halfway point; at the bottom of the range of motion, between the negative and positive. Tempo. There's no need to pause at the midpoint, since you are really just transitioning between a downward and upward direction. If you do pause, though, it shouldn't be for more than a split second. On the other end of the spectrum, don't "bounce" straight from the negative to the positive rep. Ease into it. Otherwise, you risk a knee injury.Positive Repetition. Squat back up with a vengeance. Flex! Flex your glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps like there's no tomorrow. You'll be squatting against an increasing amount of resistance, so you'll need the initial momentum generated from the bottom of the squat, to help you through the rest of the movement. Keep flexing until you've squatted all the way up and are standing straight with your knees locked.Tempo. Make like a rocket ship, and blast off! But don't crash. (I.e. go as fast as you can without using poor form.)Repeat. This is a strength and power exercise, so use low reps (i.e. around 1-5) with heavy weights.

Band Squats Are Best for Advanced Lifters. If you're an advanced trainee, then band squats may be a good choice for you.

Have you hit a plateau on squats? Do you need to improve your lockout strength? Are you weak out of the hole (i.e. the bottom of the squat)? Maybe you need to improve your lower body power and explosiveness for a sport.

Anything resembling the preceding scenarios makes you an ideal candidate for this exercise (again, an advanced level of experience is a prerequisite).

If you're still in the novice or intermediate phases, then hold off on this technique. Doing band squats in a relatively early stage is not only unnecessary, but inefficient...

...Stick to the basics. Traditional squats will give you more bang for your buck. If you have problems increasing your squat, then you simply need to do some troubleshooting – You may need to modify your workout volume (reps x sets), frequency (sessions/week) and/or intensity (weight).

Alternatively, you may need to change your diet, fix your technique, get better sleep or whatever. However, using an advanced squat variation such as this one certainly isn't the solution.

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Oct 12, Best Fish Oil Supplement | A Complete Guide to Fish Oil

Discover the best fish oil supplement for you. Get ready to learn all about fish oil, why it's good for you and how to effectively supplement with it.

Fish oil is one of the few supplements on the market that deserves the attention it gets – because it actually works!

Unless fatty fish is a big part your diet, fish oil should be at the top of your supplement wish-list.

It's important to note that it is a general health supplement. It's not for performance or building muscle...

...However, you can't expect to have optimal performance or muscle gains if your general health isn't up to snuff in the first place!

On this page, I'll talk all about fish oil. Specifically, I'll give background information on fish oil, explain its benefits and potential side effects, and provide dosing guidelines.

I'll also list the criteria I use when shopping for a fish oil supplement. Plus, I'll give you my recommendation for the best fish oil supplement.

fish oil capsules

Fish oil refers to concentrated Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, trout). Specifically, it refers to the long-chained Omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).

However, fish oil supplements sometimes include the short-chained Omega-3 fatty acid, Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found in various vegetable oils (e.g. flaxseed, canola, soybean, walnut), as well as in some green vegetables like spinach and kale.

But let's back up for second. What are Omega-3 fatty acids?...

...Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids (EFA). This means that your body cannot synthesize them, but requires them to carry out vital metabolic processes. You need them for proper growth and development, and to be in good health.

People who eat western diets rarely consume enough Omega-3. We westerners, however, get a ton of the other type of essential fatty acids, Omega-6. The typical western diet contains an Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio of about 20:1 or more, while the ideal ratio is somewhere between 1:1 and 4:1!

Okay, now that we know a little bit about Omega-3 fatty acids, let's return to our discussion of its components: ALA, EPA and DHA.

ALA is the "parent" molecule of the Omega-3 fatty acids family. EPA and DHA are the "children" molecules.

Your body cannot synthesize ALA. However, it can convert ALA into EPA and DHA; though not very efficiently.

ALA, it should be noted, is not a fish oil. As such, it is not the focus of this page. I only brought it up in the context of EPA and DHA.

While ALA is still necessary in and of itself, EPA and DHA are more important because their benefits are comparatively much more profound...

To truly enjoy the positive effects of DHA and EPA, you must consume them in large enough quantities. Hence, the usefulness of a fish oil supplement.

There are many impressive benefits to be had from fish oil. Unlike most supplements on the market, there is a significant amount of evidence supporting the efficacy of fish oil. Listed below are some of the best fish oil supplement benefits:

Reduces Triglycerides (Fat) in the Bloodstream. High blood triglyceride levels are a signature component of dyslipidemia (excessive fat/cholesterol in the bloodstream), which can lead to heart diseases like atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries from a build-up of fatty material). Luckily, fish oil has the well-known effect of lowering your blood triglyceride levels. Thus, it attacks the problem at it's source.Reduces Blood Platelet Aggregation. Fish oil prevents the excessive and dangerous build up of blood platelets. Such a build up can lead to blockages in veins and arteries, and ultimately to ischemic or thrombotic strokes (i.e. strokes induces from blood clots).Lowers Blood Pressure. Fish oil has been shown to significantly lower both systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure in individuals with hypertension (high blood pressure). Unlike many prescription hypertension drugs, it doesn't negatively effect your cholesterol or come with a laundry list of serious side effects.Reduces Inflammation. Some inflammation is a good thing. It's the body's attempt to eliminate pathogens and other detrimental stimuli. However, excessive and long-term inflammation is a bad thing, and is involved in, or can lead to, a host of disorders. These disorders include atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and many others. Fish oil's anti-inflammatory effects may help to prevent inflammation-related disorders, or lessen their symptoms.Helps Treat Behavioral & Mood Disorders. Fish oil may aid in the treatment of mood disorders (e.g. bipolar disorder, depression) as well as behavioral disorders (e.g. ADD/ADHD, addiction). Although further research is needed, several studies thus far have shown fish oil to have stabilizing effects on mood and calming effects on hyperactive and impulsive behavior. Considering that the brain consists of about 8% Omega-3 fatty acids, it's not hard to see how fish oil could have dramatically positive effects on the brain functioning - especially if there is a deficiency to begin with).Promotes Bone Health. Although research is relatively new in this area, the current evidence suggests that fish oil improves bone health. A higher Omega-3 fatty acid intake seems to be directly related higher bone mineral density. Moreover, higher omega-3 levels have been shown to both promote bone mineral density growth and to prevent its decay.Improves Hair, Skin & Nail Health. Got lifeless hair, dry and flakey skin or brittle nails? These are the initial symptoms of an Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. Taking a fish oil supplement will correct the deficiency. You'll have shinier hair, smoother skin and stronger nails.

While fish oil's benefits are certainly something to be excited about, it's important to realize that there still exists the potential for side effects.

That said, the potential side effects of fish oil are relatively few in number and generally mild in intensity (though serious in extreme cases).

They typically only occur if a person consumes an excessive amount of fish oil and/or if that person has certain health and medical issues (which I'll explain in the next section).

Below, I'll list and explain the major potential side effects of fish oil:

Immune Suppression. It is theorized that taking unnecessarily high doses of fish oil can suppress your immune system by producing an amplified anti-inflammatory effect. While we know that an excessive or long-term inflammation is a bad thing, a normal inflammation response is vital for eliminating pathogens and other threats.Bleeding Risk. As mentioned in the benefits section, fish oil reduces blood platelet aggregation. This is good to an extent. However, if you consume too large a quantity, this likely increases the risk of thinning the blood to the point where it impedes upon the vital function of clotting. The spectrum of consequences could range from mild nosebleeds to a hemorrhagic stroke.Allergic Reaction. Though rare, some people experience allergic reactions from fish oil supplements. The reaction, which can range from mild to severe, takes place in the upper respiratory tract and can result in itching, redness, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing. This, however, doesn't happen to just anyone. It occurs in those with an allergy to fish, or to the capsule material (e.g. gelatin). You should probably know by now if you have these types of allergies.Gastrointestinal Irritation. Fish oil may cause gastrointestinal issues, such as an upset stomach, gas, bloating and diarrhea. This may be due to a fish oil supplement that has gone bad, which can happen if left exposed to light, heat and oxygen. Or, you may simply have to wait a couple days to allow your body get used to the supplement.Fish Burp Breath. In the time after taking your fish oil supplement, it's not uncommon to experience distinct fishy-tasting burps. It's not pleasant, but you can avoid or mitigate this side effect by always taking your fish oil during or immediately after a meal. As mentioned above, the cause may also be due to rancid fish oil.

If you think you may be experiencing any of these side effects (except "fish burp breath") after taking fish oil, then you should reduce your dosage or stop altogether. Then, consult a doctor before increasing or continuing your supplementation regimen.

You should be especially cautious in increasing your fish oil intake (whether through fish or a supplement), if you...

Have a tendancy to bruise easily, as this may increase the risk of bleeding.Have liver disease, as this may also increase the risk of bleeding.Take blood pressure meds, as this may cause an extreme drop in blood pressure.Have a heart condition, as this may cause unforeseen complications.Have a fish allergy, as this may cause you to swell up like a balloon.Have a behavioral or mood disorder, unless you consult your doctor first.Have HIV or AIDS, as this may threaten an already fragile immune system.

Of course, it's always a best practice to consult a qualified doctor whenever starting a new supplement. Also, see the site disclaimer.

A good goal for most healthy individuals is to consume between 2000-3000mg of combined EPA/DHA per day. The typical fish oil supplement contains between 300-600mg EPA/DHA per capsule (it varies between brands). So if you have 500mg per capsule, you'd need 4-6 capsules per day.

If you have any of the potential health risks as discussed in the previous section, I strongly encourage you to consult a doctor; or at least start with lower fish oil dosage (e.g. 500-1000mg EPA/DHA per day).

Your EPA/DHA intake should be calculated from both supplement and actual fish intake.

My basic criteria used in determining the best fish oil supplement to buy, include the following:

Fish Oil Capsules > Straight Fish Oil. Fish oil capsules are more portable and less messy than straight fish oil liquid, because they don't require the use of a measuring spoon to get and take consistent serving sizes. Also, if you were to spill your bottle of fish oil, you'd have better luck salvaging capsules instead of straight fish oil. Plus, who wants to deal with the nasty aroma and taste of straight fish oil? If you're fine with all of this, then by all means, go for it.300+ mg of EPA & DHA Per Capsule. I advise buying a fish oil product with at least 300mg of EPA/DHA in each capsule because anything much smaller than this quantity would mean having to take an even greater number of capsules. I find that annoying. Taking 7-10, 300mg capsules is where I draw the line! :-D As a side note: when you are looking at the nutrition facts to find a product's EPA/DHA per capsule, you must take the serving size into account (i.e. the serving size for some products is two or more capsules).EPA:DHA Ratio of 3:2. The EPA:DHA ratio can vary greatly from one fish oil supplement to the next. In studies, benefits have frequently been realized with an EPA:DHA ratio of 3:2. Other ratios have shown results, too, but there is no conclusive evidence of an "ideal" ratio. Therefore, I think its a logical bet to choose a product with a 3:2 ratio. Though something right in the middle like a 1:1 ratio is just as safe a choice. Conveniently, though, it is most typical to find fish oil products with the 3:2 ratio. But don't lose sleep if the one you have doesn't precisely match my guidelines.3rd-Party Quality Certification. Since accurate dosing is paramount to receiving the full benefits of fish oil, it's important to be certain that your supplement actually contains its listed EPA/DHA quantities. You also want to be sure that it is free from dangerous levels of mercury and other toxins. There are several organizations that do this detective work for you, including the following: United States Pharmacopeia (USP), International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS), National Products Association, NSF International and Foods Super EPA

NOW Foods Super EPA is my personal recommendation for the best fish oil supplement. It's notable benefits are as follows:

It meets all four criteria listed in the section above (i.e. the buying guide)It's certified by the National Product Association for product quality.Each capsule contains an impressive 360mg of EPA and 240mg of DHAA 240-capsule bottle lasts you a minimum of 2 full months (4 per day).At just over $22 per bottle, or about 9¢ per capsule, it's a great value.

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