Switch Up Your Gym Routine!

Are you bored with going to the gym and doing the same old thing? If so, it’s time to switch things up! Simply by changing the repetition range, lifting technique or body part split, you can infuse your workouts with something new and exciting. If you really want to ramp up your routine, add plyometrics or calisthenics, or perform supersets or giant sets.

If you don’t exactly know how to make the changes I am suggesting, I have broken down different exercise elements so that you can easily make changes to your workout routine which will keep you interested.

CHANGE REPETITION RANGE – If you have a habit of doing four sets of 15 repetitions regardless of which exercise you are doing, how about switching it up? Perhaps you can do a warmup set at the same weight which you usually eke out 15 reps, but push yourself to do 20 really good reps. Then increase the weight and do 3 sets of 8-10 reps, and perform them with intensity.

STACK REP RANGES IN PYRAMIDS – Another thing you can try is pyramids, which basically consist of gradually increasing or decreasing the rep range, while decreasing or increasing the weight lifted accordingly. You can perform ascending, descending, or ascending-descending pyramids.

Ascending Pyramids = You will gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with each set. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 10 reps, and the fourth set 7 reps. Ascending pyramids are effective for increasing strength since you gradually increase the load on the muscle worked.

Descending Pyramids = You perform your first set at a heavy weight, eking out about 6 to 8 solid reps. Subsequent sets will consist of gradually decreasing the weight used, and increasing the number of repetitions accordingly. For example, the second set may consist of 10 reps, the third 15 reps, and the fourth set 20 reps or to complete failure. Descending pyramids are effective for increasing muscle girth since the gradual drop in weight enables you to perform sets to failure.

Ascending-Descending Pyramids = With this pyramid approach, you gradually increase the weight used, and decrease the number of repetitions accordingly, with the first few sets, then DECREASE the weight used and increase the number of reps to finish out the routine. Because of this, I recommend performing odd numbers of sets. For example, your first set may be 20 repetitions, the second 15 reps, the third 8 reps, the fourth set 15 reps, and a fifth and final set can consist of 20-25 reps.

CHANGE THE NUMBER OF SETS PERFORMED – If you are in a rut because you always perform four sets of every exercise, challenge yourself and do 5 or 6 sets. A great way to shake out the cobwebs in your routine is to go for volume, perhaps performing 8 to 10 sets of each exercise to really work your muscles to exhaustion.

CHANGE YOUR LIFTING TECHNIQUE – Many people tend to perform exercises rather rapidly every time they train, so they don’t really focus on what they are doing. There are a couple of ways in which you can challenge yourself and break through plateaus if you have this tendency. One method is to perform negatives, which basically means that after you lift the weight in the concentric phase (in a bicep curl, this would be the phase in which you curl the weight toward your shoulder), you slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position for a count of 5 or 6 seconds. Another great method is rest-pause, in which you perform a repetition at a normal rate, pause briefly, then go to your next repetition forcefully. When using rest-pause technique, slightly increase the weight used to really challenge yourself.

CHANGE YOUR BODY PART SPLIT – If you always train legs on Tuesdays and chest on Fridays, perhaps you might want to switch things up. If you aren’t seeing enough desirable changes in your lower half, add another leg day and focus on the areas which you would like to improve. If you always train your entire body every time you hit the gym, start splitting up body parts so that you devote more time to getting maximum recruitment in the muscles you train.

ADD PLYOMETRICS OR CALISTHENICS – Adding ballistic movements like plyometrics or calisthenics can serve as the catalyst for rapid body transformation. Just be careful if you have hip, knee, or ankle issues. Try adding moves like jumping jacks, jump squats, mountain climbers, burpees, and X-jumps.

PERFORM SUPERSETS OR GIANT SETS – Try stacking two or more exercises together without resting in between exercises to increase muscle fiber recruitment. You can either stack weighted exercises, or perform a combination of weighted moves and plyometrics.
Examples are:
Leg press machine/jump squats
Incline bench chest presses/pushups/dumbbell pullovers

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Working For Free – REPOST

bloggers-working-free

Have you ever completed a work project which offered no compensation except for a pat on the back? If so, did it bother you? It should have. By agreeing to slave away (pun definitely intended here) at an assignment with full awareness that you would receive absolutely no monetary compensation, you just devalued yourself.

I am not talking about volunteer work, or favors which you offer to do for a family member or friend. I am also not talking about getting your feet wet by taking on a task in an unfamiliar area so that you can gain valuable experience. I am instead referring to situations in which you are asked to provide your knowledge, expertise and service in an area in which you excel, and are coaxed into it with the promise that it’s a one-time favor, or that there will be compensation sometime in the future, only to discover that the promise was in fact a lie.

As a result of my abiding loyalty to companies, friends, family, and pets, I am the type of person who never leaves. You can count on me, and I honor my word. One of my faults is that I assume that other people are the same way, and even when I can plainly see that I am being taken advantage of, I often still hang on. This type of behavior spilled over into the world of medicine, wellness and fitness for a while, but a couple of years ago, I cut off all of the companies and individuals who got too much of a good thing for too long, essentially my time, services and knowledge for free.

In one situation, one company asked me to provide professional services on a monthly basis, stating that it would be unpaid to start out with, but that compensation would be given after a few months. Next thing I knew, I had provided those services free of charge for eighteen months! When I fired a warning shot, essentially stating that I no longer wanted to work for free, the company responded by inferring that the “exposure” I was receiving from them was payment enough. The funny thing is, I didn’t need the exposure, nor was this company in a position to help me. I merely agreed to the arrangement as a temporary favor to them, sort of a good faith move. All it ended up doing was getting me stuck in a monthly obligation which I got zero benefit from doing. Once I realized this, I severed ties immediately. Though I used very professional and polite language, it felt so good to tell them that I was done being an indentured servant. No longer did I have to put their assignments in my calendar, or resent the fact that each one of those assignments chewed up a good hour or two of my time.

More recently, I agreed to complete an assignment for free simply because I found it intriguing, and I had a small pocket of time in which to complete the assignment. I also felt that it was a good way to introduce my skill set to the company. However, I made it very clear that the assignment was isolated, and that if the company wanted my services in the future, I would only consider paid assignments.

Time is money, and because I hold a medical degree and a bachelor’s degree, am a board certified physician, and have worked in the fitness industry for three decades, I have value which deserves proper compensation. Would you like to work for free, especially if it is in an area in which you have expertise? Let’s face it, we all need to find a way to bring money in. We have skills, we have knowledge, and we deserve to get a financial return for services rendered in our chosen work environment.

If you are the type of person who has a tendency to take on more than your schedule can handle, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your obligations and see if any of them are a threat to your self-worth. If they are unpaid, uncontracted, require your skills in an area in which you are considered an expert, and are contributing to a decline in your quality of life because they are a time burden, then you should consider dropping those obligations.

The Challenges Of Traveling: How to Eat Clean and Train While On The Road

It can be extremely challenging to adhere to regular training and healthy eating habits while traveling. As if that wasn’t enough, the impending holiday season presents even more of a challenge because of the indulgent foods which emerge. That is why some die-hard fitness people are resistant to travel, and are almost terrified of the holidays. And while it is possible to stay on track with workouts and food while traveling, foraging for fitness resources like a gym to work out at and places which carry clean food selections can range from frustrating to impossible.

With a little determination, it is definitely possible to exercise regularly and eat clean when traveling. The guidelines listed here will give you a blueprint which you can use to manage and stay on track with your fitness goals.

WORKOUTS ON THE ROAD

A little creativity can go a long way in figuring out ways to get your daily workouts while on the road. Here are some suggestions on how to make the most of what is available to you when you are traveling.

1. Search for gyms in the area before you travel. Once you know your travel destination, you can do an online search of the area to find gyms and fitness centers. In some cases, hotels have very nice fitness centers which are fully equipped with free weights and exercise machines.

2. Try hotel room workouts. It is always possible to create intense workouts in any location by performing body weight exercises, exercises with resistance bands, and mat work. Resistance bands are lightweight and can easily be thrown into a suitcase.

3. Train outdoors. In most cases, you should be able to find a local park or school in which you can perform body weight exercises, plyometrics, calisthenics, stairclimbing, running, etc. You can use park benches or ledges for your workouts as well. Get creative, and keep up the intensity to get your body moving and the blood pumping!

FIT FOODS WHILE TRAVELING

Whether you are a seasoned competitor who is accustomed to following a strict meal plan, someone who wants to adopt healthier eating habits, or battling excess body weight, you may find it very difficult to pass up regular restaurant meals, fast foods, and holiday treats while on the road. The holidays can be especially brutal, since evil culinary temptations abound and threaten to sabotage any efforts at maintaining clean eating habits.

If you aren’t on prep, you can still indulge in small amounts of rich foods which are not considered clean as long as your other foods are healthy and clean. This means that your abs don’t have to hibernate during the holidays. However, if you compete and have competitions coming up, you can’t exactly throw caution to the wind and consume whatever you want. You will need to keep a tight rein on what you consume while traveling, a feat which is challenging, but which can be done.

Here are some tips to keep you in line with clean eating while traveling.

1. Invest in a great food cooler bag. A food cooler bag will enable you to enjoy your trip without having to worry about what you will eat throughout the day.

2. Make sure your meal plan is balanced. Don’t use traveling or the holidays as an excuse to rationalize bad food choices! Eat enough protein each day to keep you feeling full and fed so that hunger pangs are kept at bay, and drink plenty of water.

3. Prep your meals in advance. If you prep your own meals, you will have total control over ingredients, cooking method and portion sizes. Once you have prepared your food, store single serving sizes in individual containers or bags which are easy to pack. Freeze the food you will eat during your trip, and refrigerate the food which you will eat on the day you travel to your destination.

4. Ask the hotel for a refrigerator in your room. In most cases, hotels can supply a refrigerator upon request.

5. Consider a meal prep service. Meal prep services can be a blessing because they take the hassle of having to prep food out of the equation, and they can deliver directly to your destination.

6. Pack emergency fit foods. Non-perishable foods like protein powder, protein bars and nuts can be easily packed into your luggage and will ensure that you have backup food.

7. Consider staying in a room with a kitchenette. You can visit a local market, purchase fresh food, and prepare it in your hotel room.

8. Explore local produce and clean food selections in the area. Most countries tend to consume whole foods, so as long as you avoid sauces, you can often find clean dishes to eat.

9. Consume a small amount of lean protein right before you have a carb cheat. This will slow down digestion so that the carbs aren’t stored as readily.

10. Drink at least eight ounces of water before you indulge in a decadent treat. This will help to fill you up so you consume less food afterward.

11. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. If you have a holiday feast to attend, make sure to eat every 2-1/2 to 3 hours beforehand to ensure that you won’t be ravenous come party time.

12. Don’t cave in to peer pressure. Sometimes family and friends can sabotage clean meal plans by convincing others to eat forbidden foods. If you find yourself in such a situation, you need to ask yourself if it is worth unraveling your healthy eating habits in order to appease a relative or buddy.

Keep That Body Running Smoothly

I’m willing to bet that most of you who are reading this article keep up to date with scheduled maintenance on your vehicles so that they will run as smoothly as possible. I also know that many of you insist on using a certain brand or grade of gasoline to optimize your car’s performance. Do you take care of your body in the same way, putting healthy, nutritious food into your gullet every day? Do you exercise regularly? If the answer to either or both of those questions is no, then you are neglecting your body’s needs for optimal function, fitness and health. Over time, such bad habits have a cumulative effect and can manifest in countless diseases and dysfunctions, including potential killers like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Just as additives in gasoline can hinder the performance of a car, processed foods will interfere with optimal body functions, and your body must deal with breaking down, eliminating, or storing the chemicals found in packaged meats and other junk foods. The preservatives and artificial colors and flavors which are added to packaged foods trigger production of free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules which damage the cells of the body and contribute to the development of cancer, atherosclerosis, and aging in general. In contrast, foods which are rich in antioxidants offset this harmful cascade. If your meals regularly consist of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts, beans and lean meats, you will be filling your body with clean fuel, providing nutrients which will optimize your health.

Another important component of optimal daily body maintenance is regular exercise. If you can commit to a consistent exercise schedule (and you CAN), you will reap a myriad of benefits, including improved circulation, better cardiac output, improved muscle tone, better concentration, and more energy. Your body is an amazing machine, and just like any machine, will begin to malfunction if it is mishandled or neglected. Regular exercise can be compared to running the engine in your car regularly to keep the pistons and gears running smoothly.

What Are You Waiting For?

While working at a recent bodybuilding event, I had a very interesting conversation with one of the attendees. He was a 42 year old man who revealed to me that he had a couple of health concerns, and who very clearly stated that he wanted to be healthy for his sons (one son was about 10, and the other was about 13). He had a habit of eating fast food daily, and he never exercised because he figured that he was at a normal weight and didn’t need to work out.

He told me that he was so busy with work and with taking the boys to all their practice sessions that there was no time right now to train or to clean up his eating habits. He went on to say that he figured he would wait until the boys were older before he got into an exercise program and cleaned up his diet.

I very nicely told him to make every effort to fit in 10 or 15 minutes of intense plyometric or calisthenics work each day, between work and carting the boys around for their soccer and baseball practice sessions, but deep inside I was incredibly frustrated. I even told him that if he indeed waited a few years until the boys were older, major disease processes like diabetes or high blood pressure could emerge and put him in a dangerous health situation. However, I could tell that my words fell on deaf ears, and that this man would not take any steps towards a healthier lifestyle.

I honestly and truly believe that when it comes to anything in life, where there’s a will, there’s a way. If someone truly wants to positively impact his or her health, then steps can be taken immediately to develop a consistent regimen. There have been plenty of people who have made excuses and lived in denial, who were suddenly stricken by stroke or heart attack. Once a major event like that occurs, assuming someone survives it, there’s a big wake-up call and the person is forced to make the changes he or she didn’t want to make years ago.

Why wait?