A quick update: I was doing the Whole 30. It was going well for the first 14 days then work got incredibly stressful. I had to work on the weekend, I was putting in 15 hour days. Long story short, I cheated on the whole 30 by drinking alcohol. I’m not happy about it but at least I made it through two weeks without cheating. I did manage to stay gluten free for the past 3 weeks and plan to keep that going.
My next challenge is to try to hike as far as I can while fasting. Tomorrow I plan to try to hike/run/walk from Wilmington, Delaware to Philadelphia, PA (technically Bryn Mawr) while fasting. I ate dinner tonight but I don’t plan to eat again until I have run/walked the 26.4 miles from my house to my girlfriend Emily’s apartment tomorrow. So I will end up fasting for 24 hours while hiking over 26 miles to get to Philly.
I don’t expect this to be easy but I am not too worried about it being too difficult either. I plan to leave work at 3 PM and hope to get to Philly before 10 PM, preferably 8 PM. I haven’t run more than 5 miles in a row in over a year so this might be a little tough.
My girlfriend and roommate don’t think I can do it. I have two bets going, if I get past 14 miles then I beat my roommate, if I make it past 18 miles then I beat my girlfriend in the bet. I plan to take both of their money tomorrow while also proving to myself that I can do what most people can’t, which is completing 26 miles of cardio while also fasting for 24 hours.
This run is just a practice. In the long term I plan to train to the point where I can do a hunger hike from Philadelphia to New York City. That hunger hike would be 100 miles and would take around 3 days. If I can accomplish that then I will be very proud of myself.
I plan to do the 100 mile Philadelphia to New York hunger hike to prove to other Americans that the human body is capable of far more than most people realize. America is suffering from an obesity, which is having a huge negative impact of the health and quality of life of many people. I want to raise awareness that it is not difficult for a person to lose weight and improve their health.
Two weeks ago I made the decision to go on the Whole30 diet. The Whole30 is basically a very strict version of the paleo diet. The idea is to cut out absolutely everything that might bother you for 30 days and slowly introduce foods back into your diet one at a time to see which foods you have an adverse reaction to. There are a few differences between a normal paleo interpretation and the Whole30, which I have outlined below:
- No added sugar at all. This means no honey or other “natural” sweeteners that many paleo cooks/bakers use. This also means no dark chocolate.
- No alcohol. Many paleo followers will still drink alcohol in the form of wine or gluten free liquors, like tequila. On the Whole30 you have to give up alcohol completely.
- No cheat days. You must stay true to paleo 100% of the time, no exceptions or else you have to start over.
- No dairy. This is more for people who follow primal instead of paleo. Over time I drifted into the primal camp due to my love of cheese (grass fed only of course).
Following the Whole30 is very challenging because many consumer products that you wouldn’t think contain bad oils, MSG or soy lectins, which are not allowed. I was surprised to find that a bag of cashews I bought had peanut oil on them. I’m glad I read the label before I started eating them. During the Whole30 you pretty much can’t go out to restaurants because you never know what was used to prepare the food.
While following the Whole30, you are not allowed to weigh yourself. The creators, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, created the Whole30 as a way to improve people’s health, not as a weight loss gimmick. They suggest you don’t weigh yourself during the Whole30, just right before and right after. This will allow you to focus on how your body feels instead of being obsessed with the scale.
There are several reasons I decided to do the Whole30.
- I have been pissed at myself for cheating on paleo more than I would like. Once you have invested a week or two into such a strict diet, the free cookies or cake at the office just don’t seem worth cheating.
- I’m trying to shed a few pounds and it has been going a lot slower than I would have liked. I am headed to business school in the fall and I would like to be in perfect shape when I get there. I won’t have as much time to hit the gym and cook for myself while I am there. If I am going to gain weight while in school, I would like to start from 170 instead of 195.
- I have been drinking too much and I wanted to cut it out. I looked at my health tracker and saw that I was averaging around 600 calories a day in alcohol!! No wonder my weight loss was so slow. Even after my Whole30 is over, I plan to scale back the drinking.
- I wanted to prove I could. This is the only time I will be able to do the Whole30 in the next 5 years. While in school there are a lot of recruiting events where it just isn’t feasible to follow paleo. When I graduate, I plan to be a consultant. As a consultant it will be impossible to follow paleo completely because I’ll be on the road 4 days a week and won’t be cooking myself.
So far I have been following the Whole30 completely. There was a close call on some paleo chili I made, but thankfully I bought tomato sauce which was sugar free. The one thing that I haven’t followed is the no weighing yourself. It isn’t because I care so much about my weight but because I have created a health tracking model in Excel which requires my weight to calculate what my calorie intake should be. I’ll do a post about my health tracker later; I love it and am addicted to it.
So far my experience has been pretty good, but it has been a challenge. Cutting out alcohol has been especially hard for me as a guy in my 20’s with a social life. I’ll do a post specifically on my experiences later.
In summary, the Whole30 is not an easy task. However, nothing that is worth doing is ever easy. If you are serious about improving your health then give it a try. To learn more about the Whole30, check out the book: It starts with Food. I read it two years ago and it is really great.
I believe that willpower is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order for it to grow and gain in strength.
By Wayne Atwell
When a person decides that it is time to get into shape, usually they want to build muscle and lose fat. These two goals are often difficult to accomplish at the same time. In order to lose fat you need consume fewer calories, while to build muscle you need excess protein to use as building blocks. The best way to accomplish both of these goals at the same time is to use intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is when you when you periodically fast for a short to medium duration. When first starting fasting, the easiest way to begin is with skipping breakfast. Eat a normal or slightly larger dinner the night before then skip breakfast, this will allow you a roughly 16 hour fasting period. If you wake up at 8 am and eat lunch at noon, then you will only be without food for four out of the 16 hours which is not challenging.
As you get accustomed to short term fasting you can slowly start to increase duration by eating dinner earlier and lunch later. Eventually you will be ready to skip lunch in addition to breakfast and do a 24 hour fast. Fasting is easier if you are on a low carb diet such as the paleo diet or Atkins because your body eventually adapts to burning fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.
I’m sure that you believe me that fasting can help you burn fat, but how is it that fasting can help you gain muscle too? There are many benefits of fasting but two of the most important benefits are reduced insulin level and increased production of HGH. Insulin is a hormone that is released in response to eating, the more carbs and sugar you consume the more insulin is released. Although insulin is required for metabolism, excessive insulin leads to increased hunger and fat storage. A high insulin level will also result in your body stopping production of HGH.
HGH (Human Growth Hormone) is a hormone that is responsible for growth during childhood, building muscles and maintaining bone density. Since fasting reduces your body’s insulin leve because you are not consuming any food, your body will release HGH instead. HGH not only helps you build muscle but also stimulates your body to release fat from fat cells to be burned for energy. Having an elevated HGH level is what allows you to lose fat while putting on muscle. High HGH levels make building muscle much easier.
HGH also prevents your body from burning muscle for energy while you are dieting which is important. Normally while dieting, 25% of the weight a dieter loses is from lost muscle mass. Fasting helps to prevent that problem by releasing fat to be used as energy so your body never needs to use muscle.
Timing your meals and workouts are important if you want to burn fat and gain muscle simultaneously. It is important to lift weights while you are in a fasted state but you also need to have the protein required to build the muscle. I have found that the ideal way to time meals are as follows:
Normal Lunch (noon)
No snacking between lunch and weight lifting
Weight Lifting (6 to 7 pm)
Large High Protein Dinner (8 pm)
High Protein Breakfast (8 am)
High Protein Lunch (noon)
After day 2 repeat the cycle. This allows you to have plenty of protein when your body needs it for building muscle, but you also have a 24 hour fast. During the fasting period you will have low insulin and high HGH which will lead to rapid fat loss. It is important to wait roughly an hour after you finish your lifting to eat dinner. Weightlifting stimulates your body to release HGH during and after a workout. If you consume a protein shake right after you finish working out, your insulin level will increase and prevent your body from releasing HGH when you need it most. If you wait an hour after lifting to eat then you get the benefit of higher HGH from lifting but you get protein to your muscles fast enough to allow muscle gain.
When people talk about wanting to lose weight what they normally mean is that they want to lose fat. When a person takes in fewer calories than they burn they will lose weight. What you eat and what types of exercise you are doing can affect how much of the weight loss is fat and how much of it is muscle. On average 75% weight loss is fat and 25% is muscle. Isn’t that disappointing, if you lost 40 pounds, you really only lost 30 pounds of fat! Fortunately if you know what you are doing you can prevent this from happening.
Losing Weight the Wrong Way
Your body adapts to your needs based on what you do on a daily basis. If you are dieting and running a lot then the message it sends to your body is that you need to burn reserve fuel (fat and muscle) to survive and you need to build stamina for running. You aren’t sending the message to your body that you need your muscles for heavy lifting because you aren’t lifting weights. During dieting you are simulating a famine so your body purposely metabolizes your muscle because muscle requires more energy than fat even if you aren’t moving or exercising.
Losing Weight the Right Way
Lifting weights stresses your muscles and breaks them down. It sends a message to your body that you need to rebuild your muscle stronger than they were before so that the task of lift weights is easier for you in the future. Our body adapts to the task at hand. If you lift weights while dieting you send the message to the body that you still need muscle and it should not be burned for energy. If you are only going to the gym once or twice a week while on a diet I would recommend you focus on weight lifting. Hit each muscle group for at least one exercise a week with three sets. This will provide protection to your muscle and will allow you to lose 100% fat. If you are able to go to the gym more than twice a week then add in some cardio. Although you burn more calories doing cardio, a lot of that weight loss will be muscle and new research indicates that cardio may not burn nearly as many calories as we originally thought.
There are other reasons to lift while losing weight. While on a diet, a person’s bone density decreases. Lifting weights helps prevent this from happening. Weight lifting helps to build stronger bones. Gaining muscle also helps improve insulin sensitivity which will help your lower your hunger and makes dieting easier.
I’m sure at this point everyone has heard that exercising is good for your health and will keep you young. Exercising can help you lower your cholesterol and triglycerides as well as reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Today I am going to talk about some of the less well know benefits of exercise for older people.
A recent study has shown that even short exercise sessions can improve memory in elderly adults. The study used 50 adults aged 50 to 85, half who were mentally healthy and half who had memory problems. They broke the subjects into two groups, one group exercised for 6 minutes while the other group did not. Both groups were shown 20 images then were tested to see how many they recalled an hour later.
The group that exercised were much better at recalling the images. Those with memory problems had a larger boost in memory than the healthy adults. The researchers believe that the improvement in memory is due to exercising stimulating the release of a chemical named norepinephrine, which has a strong influence on memory. This development could help to improve quality of life for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.
A second study showed that exercising can improve elderly people’s attitude toward getting older. Women aged 70 to 93 were split into 3 groups for this 12 week study. One group exercised 3 times a week, which included riding a stationary bike, lifting weights and working on improving their balance. The second group that received computer training in a classroom environment. The third group did not change their behavior.
All three groups were asked how the felt about getting older at the beginning and the end of the study. All three groups had similar scores at the beginning. The group that exercised improved significantly while the group that was trained on computers declined slightly. The women who exercised found that as they exercised more they found it to be rewarding for its own sake.
The final benefit of exercising I will tell you about today is improved muscle reserve. Organ reserve is the amount of excess organ capacity for supporting life. As we age both our muscle mass as well as our organ reserve decreases. Exercising, especially weight lifting helps us maintain or even gain lean muscle mass. Skeletal muscle is strongly correlated to organ reserve and high organ reserve is the best predictor of longevity. If you are interested in living longer, you should start weight lifting.
If you are new to the gym you may not know what is proper gym etiquette and what is not cool. Here are some of the most important rules for proper gym etiquette.
1. Wipe down equipment after you are done. Especially if you are sweaty and left a pool on the machine. Some gyms are stricter than others. If you are in a relatively lax gym which has one cleaning station for the entire gym close to the cardio equipment then you are ok not wiping down lifting equipment unless you sweat on it. However if you are in a gym that has signs everywhere that tell you to clean the equipement and you can’t walk 5 steps without running into a cleaning station then you should clean all equipment including lifting machines.
2. Re-rack your weights. Always put your dumbbells back on the rack in the correct place. There is nothing more annoying than waiting for dumbbells that someone just left lying around. Don’t leave weights on the bench press bar, you never know if the next person can’t lift the 300 lbs worth of weight you left on the bar, it could be an elderly person or someone who just started out. They shouldn’t have to spend 5 minutes cleaning up after you.
2. Don’t work out right in front of the dumbbell rack. I hate it when someone stands right in front of the dumbbell rack and does their exercise. They are usually blocking around 6 sets of dumbbells for 30 seconds to a minute. Take two steps back.
3. Standing naked in the locker room for extended periods of time. Clearly locker rooms are for changing but there is no need to stand naked for 10 minutes while you brush your hair or have a conversation.
5. Don’t grunt continuously. When lifting heavy weights it is understandable to inadvertently grunt on occasion but people who grunt every rep of every set annoy everyone in the gym.
6. Don’t talk on the cell phone while in the gym. The gym is for working out, not for cell phones. Talking on the phone distracts everyone around you.
7. Don’t play loud music. If everyone around you can hear your music even though you have headphones on, your music is too loud.
8. It is ok to ask to work in with someone. If someone is on a machine or bench for an extended period of time it is ok to ask to work in with them. 95% of the time they will say yes or tell you they only have one set left and will be off it soon. Some equipment is better than others for doing this. Machines that can easily set to different weights are ok, but a barbell bench press where you are using a very different weight will get annoying because you have to keep changing the weight.
9. Don’t work out too close to someone using dumbbells. Dumbbells can be difficult to control and sometimes a person will need to drop them. Don’t stand right next to a person because it is dangerous for you and them.
10. Don’t drop weights excessively. It is ok to drop weights every once in a while if you miscalculated how much you can handle but don’t drop the weight after every set. If you drop your weights more than once or twice per workout then you are doing it wrong.
11. Stay out of the gym if you are sick. Everyone uses the same equipment, so please don’t get us all sick if you are coughing and sneezing. Not only is it obnoxious but it will take you longer to get healthy if you keep working out. If you really want to burn a few calories while you are sick, go for a walk.
12. Don’t wear heavy perfume or cologne. Working out is hard enough without choking on someones perfume.
13. Ask before you change the channel. When there are shared TVs, choosing the channel is first come first serve. The other person may not care about what is on so it is ok to ask but don’t assume they aren’t watching it.
If you follow these rules then you are unlikely to have problems with anyone. You should also be aware that a lot of women are bothered by other women who wear excessive make up or skimpy clothing. As a guy I really don’t care if a girl tries to look good while working out, after all we are at the gym to improve our body and health, what is wrong with looking good. People also complain about guys who spend too much time looking in the mirror. It is a little weird but who cares? To those people I say, worry about what you are doing not what other people are doing if it doesn’t affect you.
A lot of women don’t like it when guys hit on them at the gym. I can’t blame them but then again some women don’t want to be hit on while at the coffee shop or work or on the street leaving the only place where it is appropriate is at the bar. I think it is pretty sad if the only place where it is ok to talk to someone of the opposite sex is when alcohol is present. Personally I go to the gym to work out, not hit on women but I don’t blame a guy for striking up a conversation with a cute girl on occasion. If you are both at the gym then you share at least one interest after all. Just don’t make a career out of bothering girls.
I used to give people advice when I was at the gym and I saw them doing something wrong but I stopped doing that. If I was messing up I would appreciate some help but most people don’t appreciate it nor do they listen. One time while I was biking an experienced biker rode by and mentioned that my seat was too low and I would get more power if I raised it two inches. I thanked him and pulled over to adjust it. Sure enough biking became a lot easier and I was happy. Not everyone else is like me so it is better just to let them keep messing up.
Here is a funny video of that annoying guy at the gym. I laugh so hard when I watch it cause I used to be the coach guy and I sometimes am that show off guy. I do my handstand push ups while at the gym. I know they look kind of silly but they are a great exercise.
I would like to thank Christopher Brown for guest posting about the reasons your muscles fail to grow earlier this week. He is a very knowledgable guy and writes for his own website Gain Build Muscle. I recommend you all go check it out.
Today I am going to talk about how you can get the most muscle gain while working out. I know a lot of guys who go to the gym several times a week yet are never making gains. If you want to make progress then you need to have a solid plan to get there.
1) Decide what kind of weight lifting you want to do. If you want to compete then there are two main types of competitions, powerlifting and bodybuilding. Powerlifting is a sport in which the athletes attempt to lift as much as they can in three events: bench press, squats and dead lift. Bodybuilding is not really a sport because you don’t physically compete during the competitions and don’t actually lift weights, it is more like a beauty contest in which people are judged on the size, shape and proportions of their muscles as well as their tan.
I know most people will not actually compete in powerlifting or bodybuilding but picking a goal is important so you know how to lift. In powerlifting you need as much strength as possible and size is not important. In bodybuilding size is important but strength doesn’t actually matter in competitions. You as a lifter need to decide if you want to lift for strength or for size and looks, or some combination of the two.
If you want to go for strength, you should do 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps for each exercise and long 2 to 3 minute rests in between sets. If you just want size then do five sets of 12 to 15 reps with short 30 second to one minute rest in between sets. I think most people should try something in between these two extremes. I recommend 3 sets of 5 to 8 reps with 2 minute rests. This will give you plenty of strength gains as well as very visible gains.
2. Change up your routine on occasion. I see people hit plateaus all the time and then get frustrated. They usually end up turning to expensive supplements or just end up quitting. I am personally against lifting supplements of any kind (I do take vitamin D and omega 3 supplements, but that is for my healthy).
Instead of getting frustrated, try changing up your routine on occasion. If you keep the same routine forever and never change it, your muscles will eventually get so used to those exercises that your progress will slow down and eventually stop. Switch which muscles you work out together and change a few of your exercises. For example my routine A is chest/triceps, back/biceps and shoulders/traps; my routine B is biceps/triceps, chest/shoulders and back/traps.
The optimal frequency for changing your routine is every 2 to 3 months. This gives you enough time to make some real progress but not so much time that you hit a plateau.
3) Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is very important for weight lifting. It gives your muscles the rest they need to recover from hard workouts. Sleep raises your HGH and helps you build muscle. Sleep also lowers your cortisol, which is a stress hormone. High cortisol level sends a message to your body to break down muscle and use it for energy which will be counterproductive. It is also important to be well rested so you have the energy when you are in the gym to have your best workout possible.
4) Use correct tempo when lifting. Every day I see people screwing up and using momentum to get as many reps as possible. Using momentum is when you never actually stop at the top or bottom of a rep, instead you kind of bounce at the bottom and one rep flows into the next rep. Usually these people are doing very fast reps. This makes each rep significantly easier but it is less effective. Instead lift slowly and pause for half a second to a second at the top and bottom. It will be a lot tougher than you are used to and you won’t get as many reps, but you will make better gains in the long run.
5) Don’t lift to failure. Lifting to failure puts significant extra stress on your muscles and breaks them down further than non-failure lifting. Lifting to failure leads to a longer recovery time until you can lift again. It also has a huge impact on your actual workout. If you lift to failure in your first set, it will negatively impact your second set. Then lifting to failure during your first exercise will hurt your second and third exercise. Imagine how bad you will be doing by the time you reach your last exercise, you won’t be lifting nearly as much as you are capable if you didn’t lift to failure every set. Instead only go for reps that you know you can complete.
A recent study by the Mayo Clinic has shown that fidgeting can help you lose weight and stay lean. Researchers selected 10 lean men and women and 10 slightly obese people who self described themselves as couch potatoes. They had both groups wear underwear with motion sensors built in and measured their movements and fidgeting. They found that the lean people spent 2 extra hours a day on their feet and burned an additional 350 calories a day, which would be 36 pounds of weight loss a year.
The researchers were able to determine that people have a genetic predisposition to fidget and move or to be sedentary. While I believe that is true that we a genetically more or less likely to fidget, I do think we have control over our movement.
I am already a pretty active person, I work out almost every day and try to walk as much as I can during the day. When I read this study I decided to try to use fidgeting to stay as lean as possible. I have found the best way to fidget while at work is to either tap your feet or bounce your legs while you are at your desk at work (but not in meetings, you don’t want to be that weird person). I spend about 4 hours a day sitting in my desk and if I spend that entire time tapping my feet, I will probably burn an extra 400 or so calories a day.
I have been experimenting with this for the past week or so and to be honest at first I often forgot to tap my feet when I got back to my desk. My solution was to listen to music. I turned on Pandora and it became really easy to just keep tapping my feet. I have no scientific way of measuring the impact of me adopting this fidgeting program but I do believe this it is making a difference. If you rarely have the time to get to the gym or are trying to accelerate your weight loss give fidgeting for weight loss a try.
Some persons no matter how hard they train they just can’t seem to build any more muscle. If you are one of those people it might be frustrating but nonetheless a sign that you are doing something or many things wrong. Here are three (3) reasons why your muscles fail to grow:
#1 Overwork If you are constantly working out your muscles without setting aside sufficient time for them to recuperate then they will not grow. The muscle fibers you break down in the gym needs time to rebuild so they can be stronger and larger than before. This is why it is not advised to work out a particular muscle group more than once per week. For example, if you work out your chest this Wednesday you should wait until next week Wednesday before you target your chest once again. Small muscle groups such as the biceps are easy to over train since they are involved in almost every exercise in the gym. This is why on your arm days you do not need more than two exercises. In weight training less is usually more.
#2 Faulty Diet Weight training takes a lot out of you and if you are not providing your body with sufficient nutrients then your muscle fibers will not have the raw materials necessary to rebuild. Protein is the building block of muscle cells so this is important to regenerate new muscle tissue. Along with protein you need other macro-nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats if you are to set the conditions necessary so that your muscles can grow. If you are not able to get the necessary nutrients from your diet then you should consider taking supplements like whey protein, creatine or glutamine. Weightlifting can result in more harm than good if you do not repair the damage inflicted on your muscle tissue by providing your body with sufficient nutrients and getting enough rest.
#3 Incorrect Technique Incorrect technique can cheat you from muscle gains so you should always seek out professionals to advise you as to whether you are performing a particular exercise correctly. A common mistake is to use momentum when lifting weights instead of the intended muscle. For example, when performing bicep curls you might use your shoulders to help to bring up the weight thereby cheating your biceps from full stimulation necessary to induce hypertrophy. Whatever exercise you perform ensure that you use slow, controlled movements to stimulate the intended muscle as much as possible so they can grow.
Don’t Blame You Genes! The reason for the failure of your muscles to get larger usually falls under one or more of the mentioned categories. It’s no use blaming your genes as no matter how difficult it is for some persons to build muscle as long as they train and eat right they can gain muscle albeit at a slower rate than someone more genetically gifted.
Chris is a 25 year old fitness enthusiast who blogs at Gain Build Muscle.
You can follow him on twitter.
Today I will be focusing on body weight exercises for the back and biceps. Your back muscles are critical for building strong muscular physique. The lats help create the triangular upper body look for men and a sexy hourglass shape for women which is ideal. Wide lats make the waist look slimmer.
Pull Up and Chin Up
The pull up and chin up are two of the most well know body weight exercises for the back. They are very similar exercises, the only difference being the grip. In the chin up your palms face you, in the pull up your palms face away from your body. Both exercises do a great job working the back, but the chin up works your biceps more so I tend to prefer chin ups. Because you are able to use your biceps in a chin up, it is slightly easier than a pull up, so I like to use a weight vest to make it harder.
For most people, even doing one pull up is difficult. Don’t worry there are ways to build up to doing pull ups. One of the best ways to build the strength required for a pull up is to do negatives. Jump up to the top position in a pull up and lower your self back down as slowly as possible. Keep doing this exercise until you can do a pull up. It may take a few weeks to build up the strength. Losing weight also helps make pull ups easier.
The inverted row is another great exercise. I find it is easier than a pull up so working on this exercise will help you build up to doing a pull up. The inverted row is the opposite of a push up. You work your back and biceps during this exercise. The easiest way to do this exercise is to use a squat rack and set the bar around waist level. My doorway pull up bar “The Perfect Pullup” can unhook from the top position and rotate down so you can do inverted rows. I highly recommend “The Perfect Pullup” bar because it is inexpensive, stable and allows you to do inverted rows, unlike the trashy iron gym pull up bar. For those of you who are already in incredible shape, the standard inverted row may not be challenging enough. You can make it harder by adding a weight vest or by elevating your feet with a box or chair.
One Handed Chin Up
One handed pull ups and chin ups are extremely hard, very few people are able to achieve this, probably less than 1% of people. Personally I am not there yet but I am working on it. One exercise that will help you build the strength to do a one handed chin up is the one handed assisted chin up. In this exercise you only use one hand with the palm facing you (I have tried it with palm facing away and it feels very awkward and uncomfortable). Your other hand grasps the wrist of the hand holding the pull up bar. Then Do a chin up as normal. This variation uses mostly the one arm that is grasping the bar but a small amount of strength from the assisting arm. The reason this is much easier is because the second hand stabilizes and positions your body so it is easier to pull you up.
Other Challenging Pull Up Exercises
If you are looking for harder pull ups to challenge yourself try some of these. The corn cob pull up starts like a normal pull up with you pulling yourself up. When you get to the top you pull your whole body over to the left, then pull your body over to the right, back to the center then let yourself down. This is way harder than a normal pull up because your body is up for so long.
You can also try chest ups. A chest up is similar to a pull up except instead of pulling yourself up so your chin is just above the bar, you pull yourself up until your nipples are at the bar. You really need to explode up to get this. I do this exercise to help try to train myself to do a muscle up.
If you know any other interesting pull up or chin up variations, share them in the comments.
For those of you who are already in incredible shape, normal body weight exercise won’t challenge you. Here are some video for more extreme exercise which you can try.
The first exercise is called the Aztec Push Up. It is a push up where you jump into the air and you touch your hands and feet together. It is very difficult and if you try it you run the risk of doing a face plant and injuring yourself. I can do an Aztec push up but it is still pretty ugly so I will post a video of someone else doing them.
The muscle up is an extremely difficult variation of the pull up. It requires a huge amount of strength and a low body fat % to complete. I have been working towards doing a muscle up but I am not quite there yet.
The front leaver is another challenging body weight exercise. It requires a lot of upper body strength and an insane amount of core strength. I can only do the single leg front leaver, check out this tutorial.
Here is a video that I created that will teach you how to do the break dancing push up and the jumping clap push up. The break dancing push up combines cardio and strength while the jumping clap push up will help you build explosive strength.
When it comes to body weight exercises to work out the chest, we all know the number one exercise, the push up. Push ups are a great exercise for working the chest, but it is important to have proper form. To do a proper push up, put your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, with your body as straight as possible. Don’t stick your butt high up in the air or let your body slouch down. Tighten your abs and butt muscles. For timing, pause for a second at the top and bottom of each push up so that you don’t use momentum to make the push ups easier. Your feet should be as close together as possible.
If you are having difficulty with the standard push up, then you can work up to it by doing push ups from your knees.
One Handed Push Ups
The problem with push ups is that you can quickly work your way up to doing a lot of push ups, then they are no longer useful for building strength or adding muscle mass. The ideal rep range for building strength is 3 to 8 reps. Personally I can do more than 50 push ups in a row, so I can’t use a normal push up to build strength, only endurance. This is where the one handed push up comes in. They are more difficult for two reasons:
- You need to lift your whole body weight with only one arm instead of two, so it is the equivalent of twice the weight.
- You have significantly less stability while doing a one handed push ups, so it works your core muscles a lot more.
When doing a one handed push up you should have your feet slightly wider than shoulder width to give you some stability. Keep your body parallel to the ground and put your other arm behind your back. One handed push ups really work your core and stabilizing muscles.
If you have difficulty doing a one handed push up at first, don’t worry. There are ways to work up to it. One possibility is to do a negative. Get in the starting position for a one handed push up and very slowly lower your self until you touch the ground. Then use both hands to get your body back up and do another rep slowly lowering yourself with one hand. This will build up your muscles for the exercise.
Your second alternative is the assisted one handed push up. Get in the position for a one handed push up, but at an arms length away have a push up handle (or a stack of books) to rest your other hand on. This will help stabilize your body and will reduce the weight you need to lift slightly. This is a really great exercise and will help you build up to a one handed push ups in no time.
Weight Vest Push Ups
If you are trying to add a lot of pure chest strength (instead of stabilizing muscles and core) then you should try weight vest push ups. The weight vest can add significant weight and make the push up a lot more challenging. The problem with doing a push up while in a weight vest is that the vest gets in the way, so you can’t go down as far in terms of range of motion. There is an easy solution to this problem, use push up handles to add back some height which will allow you the full range of motion. To make the push up even more challenging you can put your feet on a chair. The higher your feet are, the more weight you need to push. Instead of using a weight vest, you can put several heavy objects in a backpack and wear it while doing push ups. Then you don’t run into the problem of the weight vest getting in the way.
Diamond Push Ups
If you are looking to work your triceps instead of your chest, try diamond push ups. Your feet should be shoulder width apart and your pointer fingers should be touching each other and thumbs touching each other so that your hands create a diamond, then do a push up. This push up variation really works the triceps.
It is possible to do a dip with nothing more than a chair or coffee table. This exercise works your triceps. Start with your hands on the chair at shoulder width apart, your fingers should be pointing forward. Your butt should be in front of the chair and your legs should be straight. Slowly lower yourself and raise yourself back without bending your knees. To make this exercise easier for those new to lifting keep your knees bent at 90 degrees the whole time. To make dips more difficult you can either add a weight vest or put your feet on a chair or bench. Similar to push ups, the higher your feet are the more weight you will need to be lifting and the more challenging the exercise.
If you are looking to build strong impressive shoulders then you need to include handstand push ups. Handstand pushups work your shoulders, triceps, lats and core muscles as well as all of the stabilizing muscles in your arms. When I started doing handstand push ups my shoulders started looking noticeably better.
Although handstand push ups are a great exercise, they are very difficult for all but the most physically fit individuals, so it is usually necessary for you to work up to them.
Beginner Handstand Push Up
To build shoulder strength, start out with the beginner handstand push up. Put your feet on a chair or bench and walk your hands back until your hands are as close to your feet as possible, then do the push up. This is easier because you don’t have as much of your weight to support and it is easier from a balancing perspective.
Basic Wall Supported Handstand Push Up
Once you can do 15 or so of the beginner handstand push ups you are probably ready to move on to a real hand stand push up. Start by standing around 4 feet from the wall while facing the wall. Lean forward into a push up position with your hands around 8 inches from the wall. Kick your feet up into the air until you are leaning against the wall. Then slowly lower yourself down and push yourself back up.
Full Range of Motion Handstand Push Ups
The basic handstand push up is a great exercise but it is limited by the fact that your head gets in the way so you have limited range of motion. This problem is solved by using a tall set of push up handles. I use a set that is an about 6 inches high and the significantly increase the difficulty.
If you are looking for an even greater challenge, you can try adding a weight vest or try doing handstand push ups that are not wall supported. While I think it is incredibly impressive to be able to do a non-wall supported handstand push up, it will not be as useful for building muscle. You will be spending more of you focus on balancing then you do and the actual pushing motion.
Today, day 2 of body weight workout week, I will post several aerobic body weight exercises. These are great when you want to get a cardio workout in but can’t go outside to run (like during Hurricane Sandy) or to the gym (cause they are packed). I also find that aerobic body weight exercises are more interesting than just pounding the treadmill for an hour.
Start in a push up position, keep one foot back but then position one foot up near your hand. Then jump with your legs while keeping your hands on the ground and switch your legs so the foot in the back is in the front near your hands and the foot that was near your hands in now back. Now jump again and switch your legs again. Each time you jump twice and get back to the original position, it is one rep. Start with a set of 10 reps if you are new, eventually work your way up to sets of 25 or more.
I actually couldn’t find what the actual name for this is but it is a great exercise that works your whole body. Start out on all fours with your right hand out front and your right foot all the way back. Your left hand should be as far back as possible with your left foot as far forward as possible. The result is your left hand and foot should be very close (though don’t put your left foot in front of your left hand) and your right foot and hand as far apart as possible. The first crawl you will move your left hand forward and at the same time your right foot forward so that now your right limbs are near each other and left limbs are far apart. Next you will move your right hand and left foot forward so you are in the starting position. Do the fitness crawl for ten yards rest for 30 seconds then crawl for another 10 yards. Teach yourself the crawl at a slow pace, it is very confusing movement at first.
Burpee (aka Squat Thrust)
The Burpee is one of the best, and most hated, aerobic exercises. It is pretty challenging and gets your heart rate going. Start out standing up, then squat down until your hands touch the ground. Then kick your legs back so you are in a push up position and then do a push up. Jump your legs forward so you are back in a squat position, then jump up as high as you can and land back on your feet. At this point you will be back in the starting position, this is one rep. At first even doing 10 burpees in a row will be a challenge but eventually you can work your way up to doing sets or 20 to 25 reps.
Take it to the Next Level
If you are already in great shape and can do more than 25 burpees then these exercises by themselves may not challenge you. Don’t worry, I have more extreme versions for you to try. For the fitness crawl, after you crawl your first 10 yards, instead of taking a rest, do 10 push ups. Then crawl another 10 yards and do 10 mountain climbers. Keep doing this until you collapse in a puddle of your own sweat, it shouldn’t take long.
If you have mastered the normal burpee then I have an alternative which will hit every muscle in your body and have you gasping for air. Do the standard burpee except you will be doing the burpee underneath a pull up bar. When you jump, jump up and grab the pull up bar and do a chin up. For this you need a high up pull up bar, not like the crappy type you can put in your door frame. The door frame pull up bars aren’t high enough nor can they support your weight from the jump. This super burpee will not only work your lower body, chest, shoulders and triceps like a normal burpee but will also work your back and biceps as well.
Since I plan to avoid the crowded gym as much as possible for the next month or two, I am dedicating the next week to body weight exercises that can be done at home.
Body Weight Workout Week Day 1: Pistol Squat
The pistol squat (aka one legged squat) is a very challenging but effective exercise. It mainly works out your quad but it hits all of the supporting muscles as well including your glutes and core. This exercise will also help you improve your balance.
Start out by picking a leg, keep the other leg off the ground and in front of you with your hands out in front of you as well. Lower yourself as low as you can go keeping your hands and other leg in front then slowly raise yourself back up.
This is a very difficult exercise, do not feel bad if you are unable to do this when you first try. Instead you can build up to the pistol squat. One alternative is to find a place to practice the pistol squat where you can hold on to a handle and balance yourself. This allows you to build the leg strength without having to also focus on the balance.
Your second alternative is the single leg split squat. It is identical to the pistol squat except your other leg is behind you stabilizing yourself on a chair or bench. This exercise is somewhat easier than the pistol squat and allows you to slowly work up to doing a true one legged squat.
A good goal for the pistol squat is to be able to do 10 on each leg. Once you get to that point, start adding weight using dumbbells or a weight vest.
It is January and you know what that means, all the out of shape slobs head back to the gym to try to drop a few pounds. Back in November I warned you all that the gyms would be crowded in January so you should start on your fitness goals early. I went to the gym on Wednesday and I could barley find a cardio machine. In my experience the January gym rush can last as long as 4 months at some gyms. So get ready to be frustrated for a while.
Now that the gym is crowded, what can you do to get in your workout with minimal interruption?
- Work out in the morning or in the middle of the day. Most people work out between 4 pm and 8 pm. If you can find the time to workout any other time then the gym won’t be as crowded.
- Work out at home. January is a great time to do more body weight workouts at home. There is never a line to do push ups or pull ups in your basement.
- Be flexible with your workouts. If you see that a lot of people are using the equipment that you want then get in a different workout than you originally planned.
- Buy enough equipment to have your own personal gym.
Personally I will be trying to do a combination of 1, 2 and 4, I am never flexible with what body part I am working out. I carefully plan out my entire week to get the most out of my workouts. So I will try to lift at non-peak hours when I absolutely need to go to the gym. I will be doing a lot more bodyweight exercises, which is why I bought an 80 pound weight vest. I also bought my own exercise bike so I can do cardio at home.
If you have any advice for dealing with the January rush, leave a comment.
Hi Everyone. Lately I have been pretty sick and just spending time with my family and friends over Christmas break. Unfortunately I forgot that I had some posts I had meant to write and were scheduled. They posted as titles and a few lines even though I hadn’t finished them. Sorry for the lack of professionalism.
I plan to take a few more days off and get back to healthy but will be back again next year.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is chemical used to create hardened plastics and epoxy resin which is the protective lining in metal food and beverage cans. We are all exposed to BPA every day, it is in our water bottles, plastic food containers, water pipes and even flooring. Should you be concerned about the high level of exposure to this chemical? Yes because BPA is a known hormone disrupter that mimics estrogen in our body.
Effects of BPA for Your Health
BPA has been linked to increase in fat accumulation, especially in the abdomen, and glucose intolerance. BPA also puts you at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, liver abnormalities as well as problems with brain and hormone development. BPA can also increase breast cancer cell growth and lead to male sexual problems including erectile dysfunction and decreased sperm count. BPA is especially bad for pregnant women and children because it adversely affects the growth of the baby or child in their hormone development. High prenatal exposure to BPA can permanently affect a child and damage thyroid function leading to obesity later in life.
Reduce your Exposure to BPA
Given all of the health risks of consuming BPA, we should all strive to reduce our exposure to BPA. Here are some tips to reduce your BPA intake:
- Eat fewer canned foods – The epoxy resin lining of canned products can leach into your food. Acidic foods such as tomato sauce are especially bad and leach more BPA. Try to get glass containers when buying tomato sauce.
- BPA Free Water Bottles – Water bottles are popular these days. Given how much use we get out of a water bottle it is worth making sure that you buy a BPA water bottle.
- Glass Containers – Whenever possible use a glass container instead of plastic.
- Use a Plate – When reheating food in the microwave use a porcelain plate or bowl instead of a plastic container. Heating plastic causes it to release more BPA.
- Choose the Right Plastic – All plastic containers have a recycle number. Number 7 has the highest levels of BPA, avoid using them and instead use number 1, 2 and 4 are safer and do not contain BPA.
Some of the best exercises for building muscle are bodyweight exercises, including push ups, pull ups, dips and handstand push ups. Unfortunately as we get stronger and/or lose fat, bodyweight workouts cease to be a challenge and no longer help us to put on additional muscle, only improve muscle endurance and blood flow.
Workouts become Intense with a Weight Vest
Luckily there is an easy solution to this problem, your workouts will become challenging and intense again with a weight vest. On Sunday I was able to do 50 push ups, clearly my own body weight is not enough to build muscle fiber for my chest, but with an additional 80 pounds of weight strapped to my chest that will change. Currently I can do around 22 pull ups in a row with just my body weight. With a 40 pound weight vest on that number drops to 7 reps which is in the perfect range for building muscle.
Not only will wearing a weight vest help you build muscle, it can also help you improve or maintain bone density. Weight vests are used to help people with osteoporosis maintain their bone strength.
Weight Vests Help to Burn More Calories
If you are trying to lose weight then you can wear a weight vest while doing cardio to significantly increase the number of calories you burn. I highly recommend you stick to walking, hiking or the elliptical trainer for weight vest cardio workouts to avoid the extreme impact of running with a weight vest on. The added weight puts more strain on your joints and back during impact and can lead to injury.
What to Look for in a Weight Vest
Weight vests can be expensive, so it is important to buy the right one the first time. When choosing a weight vest you want to look at 3 things: maximum weight, adjustability and quality. For most people an adjustable weight vest is the the best option because they won’t want the same weight for every exercise. An adjustable weight vest also allows you to slowly build up the weight for an exercise.
Weight vests are very heavy, so it is important to buy a quality weight vest that will last a long time during intense workouts. Try to buy your vest from a vendor that gives customer ratings, buy a vest that gets a high customer satisfaction rating.
Picking the right weight for your vest is very important. You don’t want to spend too much money getting a heavy vest you won’t fully use but it is frustrating to realize after a few weeks that you need more weight and you maxed out the vest you bought. I recommend you buy 1 size larger than you expect to need. This way you give yourself some room to grow. I was thinking about getting a 40 lb or 60 lb weight vest, but in the end I decided to buy an 80 lb vest so I wouldn’t need to buy larger vest in the future.
How Much Will a Weight Vest Cost?
I did a lot of research looking for the best prices. I found that Amazon had the best prices for weight vests. I would have paid $120 for a 40 lb weight vest in Dicks or Model’s but it costs around $80 on Amazon. Amazon also has a lot more variety and give customer quality ratings. I was able to find 60 lb and 80 lb weight vests which are difficult or impossible to find in a retail sporting goods store. The 60 lb vest would have cost $120 and the 80 lb vest I ultimately bought cost $200. All of the prices that I quoted from Amazon were including shipping costs which were very high.