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Archive for July, 2013

Are you the scrawny guy in the weight room who can’t gain a single pound no matter what you eat? This article contains 6 strategies for the “hardgainer”/ectomorph”.

Ah, good ol’ “hardgainers”; the classic case of the scrawny guy in the weight room who complains that he can’t gain an ounce of weight no matter how much food he shoves down his gullet. If you don’t fall in this category yourself you’re still likely familiar with these “metabolically gifted” (or “cursed”, depending on how you perceive things) individuals. I have no clue when the term “hardgainer” was coined, but it’s a spinoff of the more technical term “ectomorph”.

Image courtesy of Govt. of Western Aust. Dept. of Health

Understanding Somatotypes

An ectomorph is one of the three basic somatotypes, the others being endomorphs and mesomorphs. Ectomorphs are generally skinny, fairly lean, and have a hard time gaining muscle (or any weight at all). Endomorphs generally have a pear-shaped body structure and tend to put on fat easier than the other somatotypes. And lastly, mesomorphs are a sort of sweet-spot between ectomorphs and endomorphs; they are naturally broad-shouldered and muscular, and tend to put on a good amount of weight (mostly muscle) with diligent training and proper dieting.

These terms are all descriptors of general body morphology, but they do serve a purpose in deciphering the physiological tendencies of different individuals.  That being said, the main flaw of the somatotype system is that few individuals are purely one of the three basic templates; most people are to some degree a hybrid of two somatotypes. Moreover, we can’t discount the fact that numerous extrinsic factors can affect one’s morphology (e.g. diet, exercise, lifestyle, etc.). So again, exercise caution before you blanket certain individuals into a somatotype category.

Strategies for the “hardgainer”/ectomorph

HardgainerNow don’t fret just yet, string bean, because there are still plenty of useful strategies you can employ to circumvent your body’s natural tendency to keep you skinny. Some of these tips may seem obvious, but don’t discredit them for that reason. In life (and especially the gym), more often the not the principle of Occam’s razor applies—that is, the simplest solution is often the correct one.

Tip #1 – Emphasize calorically-dense foods

At the end of the day, you will not gain weight if you aren’t taking in sufficient nutrients and calories. Intuitively then, to ease the burden of having to eat massive volumes of food just to meet your daily nutrient/calorie quotas, it’s imperative to include foods that are calorically dense.

These can include things like: nuts, spreads (butter, peanut butter, cream cheese, etc.), oils/dressings, beef, pork, cheeses, dairy cream, whole eggs, granola, coconut, chocolate and a variety of other foods. An extra 200-300 calories can be added to your current intake by simply throwing an ounce or two of these foods into your diet.

Tip #2 – Can’t eat enough? Then drink your calories

There’s a reason weight gainers are generally mixed in liquid, and it’s because liquid calories tend to be much less satiating than an equivocal amount calories from solid foods. Just look at how rapidly people in the U.S. have been gaining weight since the advent of Trenta size Frappuccinos at Starbucks.

I’m not suggesting you rush to the nearest 7-Eleven and guzzle down a Big Gulp of Mountain Dew just for the sake of trying to gain weight, but if you are struggling to ingest sufficient calories from solid food sources, than consider adding in some liquid calories like milk, fruit juices, weight-gainer smoothies, etc.

Tip #3 – Don’t overdo cardio

It’s perplexing to think someone who has ectomorphic tendencies would ever be emphasizing cardio when trying to gain weight (and specifically muscle). Nevertheless, it should be iterated that cardio (especially at low or medium intensities) serves mainly to expend calories, which is the exact opposite of what a hardgainer’s goal should be.

This is not to say that hardgainers absolutely can’t do any cardio and still gain weight/muscle, because I would actually recommend keeping some cardio in most anybody’s routine, regardless their somatotype and goals. Hardgainers just need to be sure to keep the cardio reasonable and relatively infrequent; definitely don’t prioritize it over resistance training.

NOTE: Athletes are often forced to maintain a certain amount of cardiovascular exercise in their training/practice, so if you’re faced with the conundrum of being an ectomorphic athlete and trying to gain weight/muscle, you will have to do your best to offset the caloric burn from your cardio with sufficient nutrient/calorie intake.

Tip #4 – Focus on compound/multi-joint exercises

This is not a stipulation constrained solely to hardgainers since most every trainee should base their training around multi-joint exercises. Multi-joint exercises activate a greater amount of muscle groups (and thus fibers) than single-joint exercises, and thus you get more “bang for your buck” by doing them.

Moreover, by using multiple joints and muscles you are usually able to lift a greater load of weight, allowing you to put more tension on the muscle which is conducive to muscle hypertrophy. When was the last time you saw Johnny “Skin-and-Bones” Doe squatting 500lbs ass to the grass? I assure you it’d be a rare sighting.

An example of some compound exercises include: barbell squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, barbell rows, pull-ups/chin-ups, and a variety of others.

Chest Press

Tip #5 – Get stronger

Not surprisingly, one of the main culprits of stagnation in the gym is simply not improving your strength/performance. When you go into the gym one of your main priorities should be trying to progress from your previous workout. You’d be amazed how many trainees nonchalantly lift the same weight for months (or even years) on end and guess what? They look the exact same now as they did all those days ago.

Getting stronger doesn’t always have to be adding weight to the bar (even though that’s still a priority), but progress can come in the form of adding more volume, longer time under tension, increasing frequency, adding various intensity techniques, etc. Just focus on progressing/improving in some capacity each week.

Tip #6 – Don’t neglect rest

Time in the gym is certainly important in order to provide stimulation for muscle growth, but you should not be living in the gym either. You grow during the hours spent out of the gym (especially during sleep), and skipping out on rest and recovery is sure to hinder your rate of progress.

Keep a sound sleeping regimen, and try to get between 6-8 hours per night. If you can, also consider taking a power nap or two throughout the day when time permits. Again, when you’re in the gym, work hard, but when it’s time to go home, go home. More isn’t always better, especially when it comes to time spent in the gym. Lift, eat, sleep, and repeat (what a tough lifestyle, eh?)

Parting Notes

So there you have it, 5 not-so-shocking, yet effective, tips for all the hardgainers out there. At the end of the day, you will gain weight/muscle if you focus on improving your performance in the gym and provide your body with sufficient nourishment.

Don’t get too caught up in magic formulas, ratios/percentages and all the other hoopla that litters the health/fitness world. Be consistent, keep eating, add more weight to the bar, get adequate rest, and you will reap plenty of muscular gains!

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Should you perform cardio pre or post-workout? Which form is best for your goals? Learn how to combine cardio with lifting to maximize muscle and strength gains.

CardioThe lovely world of cardio, we have to love it right? Cardio has countless benefits for the human body, so it must be good for us, right? How else do you think all the celebrities stay so skinny and “toned?”

How many times have you seen people get to the gym and hop on a cardio machine and just gas themselves, and not to mention go do some resistance training right after. Or what about when someone gets done from an intense lifting session, then goes off and does an intense cardio session?

We know you’ve seen this before and we are not going to get into the psychology of why people do this because that could be a whole other article itself. We are more focused on is it optimal to perform cardio pre and post workout? With a specific focus on which cardio modality (type of cardio you do) is the best to perform to avoid the interference effect of strength, power, and hypertrophy gains?

But before we give you the answer, it’s vital that we always have to take people’s goals, activity level, overall health, and training experience into consideration before anything. So please read this with an open mind and a non-black and white answer, all or nothing approach.

What’s This Interference Effect Thing?

When we refer to the interference effect, we are talking about the interference of strength, power, and hypertrophy gains (muscle growth) when doing cardio pre or post workout. This topic of discussion has been floating around for quite some time now, whether concurrent training is optimal or not.

We all have our biased opinions, but what is the correct cardio modality to do pre and post workout and should we even be doing cardio pre or post workouts? That is the million dollar question that many of us would like to know.

Why continue to keep robbing your hard earned gains and progress if you don’t need to. Instead, why not continue to maximize your overall potential the correct way instead of shooting yourself in the foot? As always, we bring scientific based evidence to the table to get to the bottom of these popular topics, because the research doesn’t lie folks.

Before we delve into the research, we want to quote what Brad Schoenfeld said:

“There is no one cookie-cutter recommendation I can provide that will be ideal for everyone. People have varying responses to exercise programs. Large inter-individual differences are seen in any research protocol.

Thus, in giving advice on a topic such as this, I can only provide general recommendations that must be individualized based on a variety of genetic and environmental factors. This is the essence of evidence-based practice, which should form the basis of every fitness professional’s decision making process.” (1)

We can’t agree more with this statement and we truly feel this statement is a legitimate and valid way of viewing such a topic like this one.

Cardio Modalities

We are certain we can all agree that there are numerous different cardio modalities out there today. To name a few modalities that have more ground-reaction force with higher impact are:

  • Conventional sprints
  • Up-hill sprints
  • Resisted sprints
  • Car pushes
  • Prowler pushes
  • Sled pulls

Pretty much all the badass cardio workouts that we look forward to doing.

Cardio modalities that minimize ground-reaction forces are:

  • Cycling bikes
  • Treadmills
  • Ellipticals
  • Various machine based equipment

The stuff we like to watch TV on or read magazines 😉

These are all great choices whether you use them in the form of HIIT or LISS, but which modality is more optimal to prevent the interference effect and when should you do these you ask? Let’s delve into some research shall we.

Should you do cardio pre or post workout?

Layne Norton and Jacob Wilson claim that when you choose a cardio modality such as running or sprinting after a resistance training bout, the ground-reaction force (think sprints) and distance causes more muscle damage as opposed to a modality with less impact such as cycling instead. Cycling seems to be more similar to hip and knee flexion as opposed to running because it’s biomechanically interfering with squat and leg press patterns. This muscle damage seems to be coming from the eccentric components when running and sprinting (2).

Cardio

Norton and Wilson make a valid point in the essence that if you are going to do cardio post workout, make sure you do it in the form of an opposing muscle group. Let’s say you did a grueling lower body workout, you would then want to do cardio in the form of using your upper body, something like rope slams because otherwise if you go and run or do sprints you are going to get a complete interference effect and possibly get injured.

After resistance training you have mTOR (cell growth) being ramped up and protein synthesis (making of new proteins) being turned on and when you do cardio after resistance training you get such high drastic rises in AMP kinase (signaling cascade for ATP production) that it ends up shutting off protein synthesis. In easier terms, cardio after weights interferes with the muscle growth phase and a good analogy is after training you turn the faucet on for muscle growth and when too much cardio is being done or after training, it shuts the faucet off.

As for pre workout cardio, this tends to be a little trickier than post workout cardio and we say this because it really depends on a lot of factors such as: What muscle groups are you training that day? What form of cardio are you doing pre workout (low, moderate, or high intensity)? What modality will you use? Are you in a low calorie and glycogen depleted state?

A Study in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise shows 30 minutes of jogging pre workout decreases volume of spinal discs and leads to a reduction in the amount of weight you can load on your back (3). For example, if you did a moderate-high intensity cardio bout such as jogging before squats it’s probably not a good idea because it will lead to decrements in strength and negatively affect your squats. Jogging shows to have a lot of muscle damage in the quads, hams, and glutes, so this will definitely affect your squat game.

A 2012 study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition showed extended periods of moderate volume concurrent strength, power, and endurance training interferes with explosive strength development (4). This is not something you want if you’re trying to increase your 1 rep max on squats and deadlifts.

The data is pretty clear that performing moderate-high intensity cardio pre workout will lead to decrements in strength and power with your resistance training. Perhaps doing cardio earlier in the day and performing resistance training later in the day will not have a negative impact on either the performance or the measured markers of the exercise induced growth stimulus the resistance training session will have. However, we highly encourage doing resistance training and cardio on separate days as this would be the most optimal route to go.

Is there really an interference effect?

In a study by Wilson et al. a large body of research indicates that combining aerobic and resistance exercise (concurrent training) has a negative effect on gains in muscular strength and size (5). There is credence to the underlying concept that catabolic processes predominate to a greater extent in aerobic training, and concurrent exercise therefore has the potential to impair muscular gains.

There is even evidence that cardio can blunt the satellite cell response (helps with muscle growth) to a bout of resistance exercise and therefore potentially impair the protein-producing capacity of muscle (6). With that said, why are people still considering doing cardio pre or post workout if clearly the evidence indicates that it can potentially inhibit muscular gains, strength, and power?

What if you could avoid the interference effect?

Burn more calories, increase muscle, and acutely increase your metabolic rate, sounds good, right? This is where the famous HIIT cardio would come into play. When you think of HIIT, high intensity and high stress should be taken into consideration.

What we have to keep in mind is that stress has to be recovered from, just like the stress from weight training. Last time we checked HIIT cardio is done during the week along with resistance training. If you are still recovering from a HIIT cardio session to the point that it affects your ability to lift weights, then it can be detrimental to your gains. If there is a significant eccentric component (sprinting and running), or high level of impact, HIIT can cause problems in your overall training and potentially lead to chronic overuse injuries.

You have to be cautious and smart when incorporating HIIT into your training protocol because it seems that the work to rest ratios in HIIT intervals are very similar to resistance training sets and your number one focus should be on progressive resistance training.

Here are some ways to avoid the interference effect:

  • Schedule your cardio around your resistance training, especially HIIT cardio
  • If your number one priority is resistance training, then perform cardio modalities that minimize ground-reaction forces
  • Perform a cardio modality that is opposite of the muscle group your training. For example, if you do train legs then do an upper body dominate form of cardio and vice versa
  • If you absolutely have to do cardio the same day as your resistance training and you can’t find a cardio modality opposite of the body part you trained then make sure to keep the intensity to low-moderate

Wrapping this up

We believe that the research is pretty clear here when it comes to this particular topic. Clearly there is no black and white answer, sorry to disappoint, but at least we have a great indication of what to do and when not to do it. It’s tough to predict that anyone can avoid any interference effect when it comes to aerobic or anaerobic training.

Just like anything else you have to compensate something. We are not all built like machines and able to handle the same workload as others. Genetics always play a vital role in how someone responds to training. Other factors such as nutrition, stress, sleep, occupational activity, etc. All must be taken into account.

Refer back to Brad Schoenfeld’s quote if needed, it pretty much tells you there are only general recommendations that can be given here. The best thing to do is choose the correct cardio modality that suits your training and goals. Always train hard, think logically, and but most importantly train smart.

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Turn your negative thoughts around and reach your goals by embracing failure and harnessing the power of positive daily reinforcement.

ThinkingThe mind is something that most people don’t really try to change. We look at it as something that was already programmed and given to us to use for our journey in life.

A lot of people pass off their thought processes as a part of their personality. They can’t help the way they are. They want to change but just can’t make the connection.

If this sounds like you then sit tight. I’m about to show you how you can do work on your subconscious to bring you the success you want.

Training The Subconscious

Training the subconscious to get in line with conscious thought does not involve any Jedi mind manipulation. It just requires a desire to change and a killer plan of action.

There are some rules you must live by in order to see this success. Start doing or following these now.

What Is Holding You Back?

1) What’s killing you? Decide on what needs to change. What about your subconscious is holding you back? The idea of success? Self worth? Lack of skills? What is your subconscious telling your conscious thought that you can’t do?

Pinpoint this specifically and make it known to your conscious. This would be considered the root of your issue. In your mind you just “know you can’t do it” but there is more to it than that. Why can’t you? What do you tell yourself to make you believe that you can’t?

Think of it like this…you have your subconscious which affects your conscious, which in return affects your move to action. If your subconscious speaks failure then your conscious will believe in that failure therefore you will more than likely fail.

Make Note Of The Negative

2) Make note of the negative. Decide on what changes you’ll need to make regarding your subconscious. Lack of confidence, fear of failure, the “I can’t because”; what is your subconscious telling your conscious? This is what you’re going to have to put on blast. This is what need to change.

Once you have pinpointed what is holding you back, think about what is needed to bring about a positive change. For example: ”I can’t teach because I am not smart enough, or I don’t have a degree.” The opposite of that would be “I am smart enough and well equipped to do whatever my passion in life is. If that is teaching then I will start with what I know”.

This has to be your new way of thinking. Your negative nature will want to do the opposite because that is what is stained in your head. Break those negative subconscious beliefs.

Review Your New Thoughts Daily

3) Go over these new thoughts daily. You have to break the habit of your subconscious telling your conscious thought what to do. If losing 100 pounds over the course of a year is your goal, then you need to visualize this goal daily.

I don’t care how you do it, just recite your new thoughts and goals daily and as often as you need to. Write it down and read over it every morning. “I will lose 100lbs through eating and hard work over the next 10-12 months”.

Making your goal more then just a one time declaration will help keep you accountable and force your subconscious to take on this new thought. You will constantly be thinking about it and repeating it. This can work with non-fitness related goals as well….getting a raise, a promotion, growth in business etc.

The more you travel over these new paths the more change you are going to see. It’s not going to happen over night. You first need to 100% commit to the change and realize that there will be ups and downs.

The cool thing is, the more you go over these new positive tracks, the more your subconscious will believe them to be true – therefore your plan of action will be different. The steps you take will be driven by the fact that you know you will see success. You believe in yourself so much that it’s almost like you have already received whatever you’re striving for.

Embrace Failure

4) Embrace failure. So you messed up or missed your mark…big deal. What’s going to bring you success is getting back up, reevaluating why you failed, and going after it harder than ever.

It’s never the mess ups or failures that keep people from seeing what they want, it’s what they decide to do after they have fallen. Pick yourself back up.

Refocus your goals, make the necessary changes and go after it. There are two reasons why people fail:

  1. Your goals were unreasonably difficult/unobtainable.
  2. Due to some circumstance you quit.

Both of these can be turned around to bring success. It’s all about what you keep telling yourself you are, and going after it relentlessly.

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If you’re feeling depressed it’s time to get proactive. These 10 tips can help you set aside the donuts, focus on your goals, find hope and improve your outlook.

Maik WeidenbachWith the dark and cold months upon us, I figured it might a good time to write a quick piece on the subject of depression, or seasonal affective disorder and how training and diet might be helpful in overcoming those illnesses. As someone who has battled with mild, and not so mild depression over the years, this topic is somewhat personal. I hope that my experience will be of help to others.

Disclaimer: I will not touch upon the subject of anti-depressants, since I am by no means qualified to speak thereof. If I mention medication, it is only in the context of my personal experience, which is not to be taken as scientific fact.

So let’s dive right in. How do you know that you are depressed? Truth is you don’t. It is a moving target and you can only do so much to asses your degree of depression.

Typical symptoms would be: loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities (such as getting huge), fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or too little), difficulties concentrating, anger, anxiety, indecision (that is particularly bad, it gets to the point where some people can not decide which dish to order in a restaurant), and apathy.

Men tend to exhibit irritable behavior, women have feelings of sadness. None of these statements are absolutes, but if you find that three or more symptoms fit you, you might want to take a closer look.

As hard as it is, do not rely on self-diagnosis. It will only make things worse. Try to find someone you can trust and speak openly to. Sometimes an outsider, i.e. a qualified professional works best.

Let’s assume you have established that you suffer from depression or SAD.

Should you now curl up on the couch and eat donuts? Trust me, I know that feeling, and have wanted to. While this sounds tempting, it will only make things worse for you in the long run. Once you come off the sugar high, you will feel like a train had hit you. Nobody feels particular great when you are packing on the pounds.

10 Tips to Stay Strong and Motivated

Here is my top tip-list on how to slay the dragon called depression.

Tip #1 – Get Help

Get help. Sounds easy, yet it is the hardest part. After all, aren’t we a bunch meat eating, heavy metal listening, alpha males with extraordinary amounts of muscles? Yes, but I still wouldn’t pull my own tooth out if it hurts.

Talk to to whoever you feel comfortable with, whether it is family member, a friend or a pro. Sometimes it is easier to deal with those matters in front of a neutral professional, so seek out a therapist if you feel it could be helpful.

Tip 2 – Free Yourself of the Stigma

Free yourself of the stigma. Very often, people who suffer from depression feel like other people don’t take them seriously. Well meant advice such as: “it is always darkest before dawn” or “pull yourself together” doesn’t really help.  Depression is a medical condition and needs to be treated as such.

If your surroundings aren’t supportive, it might be time for a change. I mean it. Nobody would tell a cancer patient that “he is just feeling down.” You should get the same respect. Please note, I said respect, not pity.

Exercise and Depression

Tip 3 – Get Tested for Vitamin D Deficiency

Get tested for Vitamin D deficiency and low thyroid levels. You will need blood work to determine your levels. Living in the northern hemisphere, the majority of us suffer from Vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of sunlight.

Being low on Vitamin D can cause such lovely symptoms as: loss of energy, sluggishness, extreme fatigue. It easily be fixed via supplementation. Low thyroid levels produce similar symptoms: feeling tired, weak, or depressed, dry skin, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, weak immune system, memory problems or having trouble thinking clearly.

If you experience any of these symptoms, you might want to ask your doctor for some more extensive testing in order to see if you need to be treated.

Tip #4 – Keep Training

Keep training. This seems like a no-brainer. We all know that working out makes you feel better and raises your confidence level. Yet it is incredibly hard to get out of the house and into the gym when suffering from depression. The task of working out seems insurmountable, as if someone asked you to fix our beloved Congress.

A couple things that I have learned over  the years might be helpful. First, find a training partner and set an appointment. If there is someone waiting for you at the gym, you’ll be less likely to simply blow that person off. Second, time your workouts. Depression comes with low energy levels, so 90 minutes workouts are out the question (as they should be for most people anyway).

Write up your workout, set your phone or watch to 40 minutes, and go. The short breaks will give you a nice pump and release endorphins quickly. In addition, a 40 minutes pump workout will seem way more achievable than a monster 10×10 squat session, so you are more likely to do it.

Tip #5 – Set Goals and Hold Yourself Accountable

Set goals and hold yourself accountable. I have touched upon this in my last article, 10 Things I Learned: Improving Your Training, Diet And Motivation, but let me reiterate a bit. Having both short term and long term goals can be of great help in overcoming depression. The short term goal should be achievable within two weeks (i.e. I want to add 5 lbs to my incline bench).

The long term goal can be a contest of a photo shoot with a great physique photographer. Achieving the small goals will build up your confidence and keep you coming back for more. Before you know it, you are in front of the lens of Alex Ardenti!

Tip #6 – Stay Involved

Stay involved. Socializing is most likely the last thing on your mind, but isolating yourself will make things much worse. I can tell you from personal experience that whenever I dragged myself (actually it is usually my wife who convinces me to go) to an event, I was happy that I went.

Lunches are a good starting point, since they will only last an hour. So if you feel miserable, there is an end in sight. Watching sports in a bar is also pretty good, since you can phase in and out as you please. If you have mastered these, you can tackle bigger things.

Tip #7 – Trick the Cravings

Trick the cravings. Depression often causes cravings for comfort foods. The problem with this is that cravings aren’t really bodybuilding compatible. Anti-depressants can enhance this feeling, making you reach for donuts and deep fried Snickers (hmm donuts).

Thankfully, it is 2013 and we have a great array of tools available to create our own healthy “junk”. The P28 bread French toast is my weapon of choice, but feel free to come up with your own high protein recipes for cookies or brownies.

Tip #8 – Do Not Oversleep

Sleep, but do not oversleep. Getting enough high quality sleep is critical when it comes to depression. I personally had good experiences when using ZMA and passion flower before bed. However, there is such a thing as too much sleep, which can make the depression worse.

If you are racking up 14 hours plus per day, you need to change things up. Try getting more sunlight, find something you enjoy doing, etc.

Tip #9 – Get Into the Sun

Get out. Into the sun that is. Sunlight produces more Vitamin D than you could potentially take in via food (20 minutes of sun exposure equals about 10,000 IU). So try to get out as much as you can, even if you just walk to pick your lunch instead of having it delivered. This goes in particular for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere. As for tanning beds, use with extreme caution.

Tip #10 – Understand the Worst Symptom

Lastly, be aware that one of the worst symptoms of depression is the inability to perceive a better future. One gets stuck in the belief that it will always as gloomy as it is now. However, if you tackle it rep by rep and meal by meal, chances are you will be pulling yourself up and emerge happier, leaner and stronger!

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When it comes to sports performance, and life in general, mental strength and health is just as important as your gym training. Learn how to cultivate your inner leader.

Mental StrengthIt takes a special kind of mentality in this world to be a leader. It doesn’t come as a surprise that leadership and innovation are rare and prized qualities since much of society is structured to operate around these individuals. For example, most workplaces have a general manager (read: leader) that gives direction to all their subordinates.

In America, we elect a president that acts our nation’s leader. In most all sports the team has a captain (or several) that, once again, act as a leader. Steve Jobs (the ever-so-popular creator of Apple) lead the smartphone industry with the innovative iPhone.

Why, then, do you think we look up to such individuals? Is it because they just got lucky and had some karmic gift endowed to them to be a leader in this world? Absolutely not. Such individuals are embraced because they take control of their life and lead by example; they create their own paths.

Believe it or not, you too possess this quality of leadership and are in fact exemplifying it (to a degree) every waking moment of your life. No matter how much your family, your peers, your teachers, or your boss (or anyone else for that matter) influences your decisions, you still ultimately make them. You are responsible for the entity that is sitting behind the screen right now and reading my boring dribble (and I appreciate that).

My hope for this discourse is not to make individuals believe leadership is some esoteric quality that they have to search endlessly for, but to help them realize it’s an innate characteristic that’s been sitting inside you since you left the womb, waiting to be expressed. You are your leader, your creator, and this is your life.

Ideate: Think for Yourself

In the health and exercise realm, the first thing the majority of people do is wonder what other people are doing for their fitness regimen, “Hey that guy is pretty ripped; he must be on the best program! I’ll just do what he’s doing.” For better or for worse, a lot of folks with admirable physiques or strength don’t have a clue about nutrition and training (what you see is usually heavily influenced by their genetics and/or performance-enhancing drug use). This is why it is imperative in this aspect of your life that you are your own leader and find what works best for you.

Not don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t be willing to learn from others, because if every individual was so stubborn to believe that only their methods are the best than we all would fail to progress on so many levels. Having an open mind and challenging concepts is highly important if you want to be a better leader.

At the same time though, you must think for yourself; don’t be afraid to try things that no one else has done, even if people tell you it won’t work or they doubt you. It’s your path to create and there really is no way to veer off a path that doesn’t exist yet, is there? Like Doc always said to Marty McFly, if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. If you have an idea, don’t dismiss it just because others don’t believe it will work like you do.

Believe: Exude Self Confidence

After you have an idea, you need to protect and cultivate it, not in the literal sense like copyrighting it and/or patenting it, but in the sense that you stand behind it no matter what others say. This means being true to yourself and having integrity to go forward when everyone is telling you to stop and head back the direction you came from.

If you think you can make great progress on a certain program that others haven’t tried in the gym, then what is stopping you from going through with that program? Is it the voices emanating around you saying “You’re wrong, that can’t work because it hasn’t been done before” or is it coming from within?

If it’s the former, I implore you to keep your head down and pursue your idea; walk the line that no one else has and lead by example. Have confidence in yourself. If it’s the latter then go back to the drawing board and find out what you think is flawed with your idea or plan.

Don’t misconstrue confidence with arrogance or cockiness though. It takes a certain amount of egotism to stick to a path when others are trying to derail you, but be careful not to dig your own conceited grave. They always say insanity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results, so if something just isn’t going to work don’t try and force the issue just because you think it should be otherwise. Be wary and able to decipher facts from opinions.

Act: Do What Needs to Be Done

Now comes the phase that weeds out those who are great leaders from those who just make excuses or give up easily. At the end of the day, nothing can be accomplished unless you actually do something and see things through. No matter how great an idea seems from its inception, it can never truly be a great idea until its wheels are in motion and it’s stood the test of time.

Yes, in the world of bodybuilding and weightlifting, this means you’re going to have to get off your hump and physically do things. As with most rewarding things in life, there will be a certain amount of diligent effort required to see your idea through to the end. If you want to be a leader this is mandatory and there are no shortcuts. I wish I could tell you otherwise, but that’s the way it goes. What you put in for effort usually reflects in the results.

Mental Strength

Resiliency: Be Prepared for Failure

Before you jump out of your computer chair and find the nearest squat rack I should forewarn you of possible setbacks that may occur so they aren’t a total shock to you.  Failure is an interesting topic because it is so often taken as a negative connotation. The reality is most successful leaders in this world have failed time and time again, but they just have the resiliency to bounce back up when they get knocked down.

You’re going to face challenges if you want to be a leader and change your body for the better, that’s just the blunt truth. Think of it like this, when you first set foot in a gym and could barely bench press a 95lb bar off your chest did you leave the gym thinking “Well that’s it for me, I might as well not even come back for the next workout because I’m too weak today”?

Maybe you did, and odds are you probably didn’t show up the next training day. Essentially you failed and considered yourself a failure, but therein lay the distinction I’m trying to make about successful leaders; you can fail without being a failure. There is a difference, one is a verb and one is an adjective. Don’t let the term failure describe who you are. It’s okay to fail; it’s not okay to be a failure.

Why Leading Matters

I felt it was relevant to discuss the topic of leadership in regards to health and physique training because so often people are looking to others for the answers when the reality is everything you need is lying dormant inside you. Again, this doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to seek advice from experienced individuals about your training and nutrition, but it iterates the point that you have a capable brain in that cranium of yours and its potential is beyond anything you can possibly fathom.

Don’t be afraid to challenge concepts and think for yourself, especially in the gym and kitchen. Imagine how dull the fields of training and nutrition would be if nobody deviated from the beaten path of yesteryear’s ideologies.  If you would’ve asked me six to seven years ago if lifestyles like intermittent fasting would be applicable to physique competitors I would’ve laughed hysterically at such a postulation. Ask me that same question today and I would say without hesitation that someone can absolutely make tremendous improvements in their body composition only eating one or two meals a day.

That’s just one example of hundreds of concepts that have arisen in the health and physique world because of people taking the helm and challenging preconceived notions. So what’s holding you back from doing the same? The answer is you. You set your own limits, don’t confine yourself to the monotony of being “normal”. Think outside the box, try new things, and be a leader. What do you really have to lose in the end? Absolutely nothing; and the reward could be grand if you just see it through to the end.

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Learn how to set aside gym judgment, find the right gym for your training style, and overcome personal obstacles. Don’t be a victim of circumstance: reach your goals.

You are being judged

Bicep CurlsI’m sure many of you are familiar with the (somewhat cliché) adage that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but, love it or hate it, we live in a society that places much emphasis on superficial characteristics. Heck, we have competitions (ala bodybuilding, fitness, bikini, etc.) that judge people solely on the way they look.

Granted these physique competitions are voluntary on the competitor’s part, we all face some degree of superficial judgment everyday just walking around in public. Sadly, the intensity of this judgment tends to be exponentially heightened in gym atmospheres.

When people hear the term “meathead”, I’d surmise a majority of them conjure up an image of an intellectually-deficient hunk with Schwarzenegger-esque proportions (well, back when he was the golden boy of bodybuilding). Moreover, many individuals seem to blanket overweight individuals into a category of being lazy, gluttonous slobs.

Skinny males with glasses are inherently “nerds” or “geeks”. Attractive females with blonde hair are “dumb”…the list of stereotypes goes on.

So we have this propensity to acutely judge individuals based on how they look, but is this shallowness founded on any definitive connection between superficial features and intellectual aptitude? Is it really necessary (and/or proper) to preemptively debase people because they appear a certain way?

Alas, if that’s your way of viewing people I can’t stop you, but hopefully you’ll consider the following thoughts and rethink not only the way you view your peers in the gym, but also individuals you come across in daily life.

Find the right gym for your training style

Before delving further into the subject matter, it’s pertinent to consider what’s the proper gym environment for yourself. Unfortunately, many gyms just don’t (or can’t) cater to the training types/mentalities of all trainees. It’s likely unwise for someone who doesn’t like loud, intense training environments to workout at a hardcore barbell club that blares death metal and reeks of ammonia and sweat.

At the end of the day you want to find a gym that surrounds you with like-minded individuals. However, this doesn’t mean that a soccer mom who just wants to do some cardio can’t make progress at a hardcore bodybuilding/powerlifting gym; it just iterates the point that the trainee stands to benefit greatly if they find an environment that meshes with their training style.

Case in point, a powerlifter or an Olympic weight lifter trying to perform their training at Planet Fitness would likely result in that individual being thrown out of the gym. Oil and water are not miscible, and sometimes the gym and trainee face the same polarity.

Quick digression here, but isn’t it ironic that Planet Fitness’ motto is that it’s a “Judgment-free Gym” yet they have an alarm (dubbed the “lunk alarm”) that obnoxiously roars every time someone makes too much noise (e.g. grunts, drops a weight, etc.)? Anyhow, that’s a rant I will save for another article.

In instances where you don’t have access to a gym that you find suitable to your needs, consider training at home if you have the resources. There are pros and cons to both commercial and home gyms, so it is ultimately up to you to decide what is best for yourself when all factors are taken into account.

Moreover, if you are stuck with having to train at a gym that you don’t find ideal, it’s still certainly better than not training at all. Worst-case scenario, you could always train Rocky IV style by cutting wood and running to the top of snow-covered Alps in sub-zero temperatures.

We all face our own obstacles

One point I most wish for readers to take home after reading this exposition is that each and every individual in this world is faced with their own set of circumstances. Whether it’s financial struggles, genetic shortcomings, inborn (or contracted) disease/illness, social problems, etc., we all deal with a milieu of hardships throughout life.

This is why it’s senseless to compare yourself to others; the path towards success is an intrapersonal battle, not interpersonal. So how does this relate to one’s goals in health and fitness?

Well, for one, it tells us we shouldn’t be so hasty to look at others in the gym and chastise them because of their physical stature. Who knows what they’ve been through?

Consider the example of an overweight individual, maybe they were faced with a crisis situation and unfortunately it led them to poor dietary habits and/or lack of exercise for a period of time. Does that make it okay to vilify these individuals and treat them like a source of amusement?

Absolutely not. I don’t care what they look like at any given moment; they are still in the gym and trying to change things for the better, which in and of itself takes some level of determination.

Also consider the contrary, whereby an individual may have a lean, muscle-bound physique. Most people probably assume this person was genetically graced with the body of a Roman god and doesn’t deserve the look they’ve achieved (which, 99% of the time couldn’t be further from the truth).

Gym Workout

It is entirely possible that this individual was at one point in a similar scenario to the aforementioned overweight person, and they just chose to persevere and transform their body. I assure you this individual would have nothing but respect for others in the gym because they would know exactly what it feels like to have others disparage you based on external appearance.

The preceding examples are just two of infinitely many situations people may be faced with. They merely serve to reinforce the point that despite the different obstacles we are faced with and our (perceived) physical imperfections, we all still share one common goal in the gym: to be better than yesterday’s version of ourselves.

I implore you to acknowledge and respect this before snapping to judgment about others in the gym (and any other environment for that matter). Maybe next time you see Fatty McTubbs walking on the treadmill you will see the positive side of the situation instead of tapping your friend on the shoulder and making some smart-ass joke? Or when Mr. Quadzilla is squatting 600lbs ass-to-grass, maybe you will accept the fact that he’s been working his butt off for decades to get to that point instead of assuming he’s just a half-witted, steroid-using genetic freak?

Everybody is, at one point or another, a beginner in the gym. If you see someone doing an exercise improperly, take the opportunity to help/teach them the correct way to do it. The gym should be about camaraderie and selflessness, not about mocking your peers because they’re “doing it wrong”.  Now, don’t take this to mean you should just stick your nose in other people’s business and correct every thing they do, but if someone is chronically performing something wrong and they are a newbie to the gym then it’s only natural to help guide them.

You don’t have to be a victim of circumstance

I wish I could tell you that making consistent improvement with your health and fitness will be easy as 1-2-3, but the reality is that you reap what you sow in and out of the gym. Half-assed effort usually yields half-assed results, so just take a step back before you embark on a committed plan to improve your health and understand that you really are only shortchanging yourself by making excuses or slacking on your diet and/or workouts. I know these statements sounds crude, but they are the truth (which is a tough pill to swallow at times).

There is a promising side to all this though, and that is the fact that you always have the choice to change for the better. No matter what your current situation is, no matter what your genetic shortcomings are, no matter what others tell you, you’re still the one in the driver’s seat. It’s pretty damned easy to wallow away and play the woe-is-me card, but where does that get you? Probably nowhere.

So you have the option to either let these circumstantial factors ruin your aspirations by continually making excuses and pitying yourself, or you can simply put your best effort forth in the things you can control and let the rest of the chips fall where they may. It may sound paradoxical, but when it comes to your fitness and physique, you don’t have to be a victim of circumstance, because you are in control.

Going forward

I hope this article has shed some new light on ways to approach your physique and fitness goals and set you up for success. If you don’t remember what was discussed, here’s the abridged version:

  • Find the right gym environment for your training style and goals.
  • Respect (and help) others in your gym rather than belittling them.
  • You’re in control of your choices when it comes to your fitness and body, don’t let the things beyond your control bog you down.

Now go and achieve your goals!

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For many people a lush full head of hair is a very important factor in appearance. Knowing how to help your hair grow faster can be a great way to maintain appearance. However, there are not that many hair loss programs that have been scientifically proven to work. There are a number of helpful steps that a person can take to encourage faster and healthy hair growth.

A large factor in hair loss is stress. Often times stress can have many different affects on the human body. These affects range from exhaustion to head aches and hair loss. By taking a little time everyday to remove stress the person can remove some of the harmful effects of stress. There are many different ways to remove stress from the mind and body. One of the most popular choices is Yoga. Yoga is an exercise routine that uses gentle stretching to clear the mind and relax the body. Meditation is also used to help clear the mind of stress. Another cause of unhealthy hair growth can be medications and poor health. By properly caring for the body hair growth will improve.

Proper hair care can increase the rate of hair growth. Caring for the hair includes keeping the hair moisturized, using a quality brush, and being gentle with the hair. Moisturized hair will be less likely to fall out. A person should not wash their hair every day, but instead should give the natural oils found in hair a few days to moisturize the hair naturally. When the hair is washed a gentle scalp massage can encourage better hair growth. Many hair loss programs also recommend a quality hair brush be used. This will ensure that the hair is not being pulled out. By being gentle with the hair by not pulling it into tight pony tails or using harsh dyes hair growth will also increase.

Combing hair with a wide-tooth comb after showering is certainly another way to prevent hair loss.  A wide-tooth comb will help get tangles and mats out of hair, while providing minimum pulling and breakage to the hair shaft.  It is important not to use a brush on wet hair, as a brush can pull and stretch individual strands of hair causing damage and breakage to hair strands, leading inevitably to hair loss and thinning.

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The mystery of hair loss or baldness has really puzzled man for more than centuries now.  This is a problem that sometimes even money cannot solve. At present, studies shows that hair loss can be attain by both men and women but more or less men will more likely be the unfortunate victims of this problem.

There are several reasons for hair loss:
1. Lack of nutrients (Inadequate essential amino acids and Vitamins)
2. Insufficient blood circulation to the scalp
3. Genetic disorders
4. Environmental factors.

The Natural Treatments For Hair Loss

Firstly, food would be considered as the best treatment. Eating green vegetables and fruits serve as antioxidants which regulate the production of healthy chemicals, so that cell damage can be prevented. Fruits are rich in vitamins can be used to prevent hair loss.

Secondly, infections to the hairs can also lead to hair loss.  Hence, it is most advisable to use some anti infective agents or good shampoos to overcome the problem. Actually, many people are unaware of the usage of shampoo, meaning that after wetting the hair, we have apply and rub the shampoo and leave it for at least 5 minutes. What happens is the ingredients present in the shampoo will penetrate the layers of the hair cell and nourish the cell components. Apply oil at alternative days, so that the skull is not heated up and not produce damage of the cells.

Thirdly, one of the most important methods of maintaining healthy, thicker, fuller hair is as simple as scalp massage.  Simply massaging your scalp with your fingers for a few minutes a day promotes circulation to your scalp and roots.  This can help alleviate some early onset of balding and thinning hair.  It is recommended to do this with your fingertips instead of with a brush or comb, as those types of tools can be responsible for pulling out more hair in the process of increasing circulation.

Finally, hair growth by laser treatment. There are some surgical procedures to be followed to regrow the hair cells. But mechanism and success rate is again compromised. So, home remedies are considered as a better alternative as they have little or no side effects at all. Hence, the person who has hair issues can look for many outcomes to get his or her hair back with the right natural treatments.

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