Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ultimate Guide to Maximizing Strength


Who doesn’t want to be stronger? Strength isn’t just helpful in the weight room, it’s also a necessary part of your day-to-day, allowing you to complete functional activities such as picking up groceries, gardening, and playing sports with your friends. Let’s take a look at how you can maximize your strength with this complete step-by-step guide.

Step-By-Step Strength Training Workout

Are you ready to start building strength and seeing real results? I’m going to walk you through everything that you need to in order to prepare, execute, and recover from a proven strength-focused workout.

Pre-workout Supplements

I’m not big on pre-workout supplements. I wouldn’t recommend using stimulant-based products but I completely understand if you’re someone who needs to, especially after a long day at work. If you’re going to use a stimulant based pre-workout supplement such as caffeine-based or yohimbine-based, then you should consider cycling off for a few weeks once you finish a 4-week supply.

The reason that I suggest this is because your body can become adjusted to the caffeine content, requiring more and more to get the same energy buzz. If you consume too much on a daily basis, you may suffer from adrenal fatigue, which will leave you fatigued and unmotivated to perform the workout that follows.

As for the pre-workout supplement that I would recommend: This is completely optional but if you’re interested in preparing your body for the workout that’s going to follow, I personally take the following:


Why do I recommend these products?

First, the kosher beef-based gelatin is going to do wonders for your joints and connective tissue. Strength workouts aren’t your typical and casual run through in the weight room. These types of workouts can be rough and put a lot of stress on the muscle tissue, joints, and connective tissue. I can’t stress enough how important it is to care for your connective tissue.

Muscle tissue fully heals in about 90 days. Connective tissue takes around 270 days to fully heal. If you injure your knee or ankle, it’s going to impact the rest of your workouts for months! There are two ways in which you could injure your joints and connective tissue: 

The first is obviously through performing an exercise incorrectly and/or with too much weight. As long as you’re sensible and responsible with your form, this isn’t a big concern. The second way you can damage your connective tissue – and the way I’m more concerned about for my readers – is through over-training.

As I mentioned before, strength training put a lot of stress on the connective tissue and the nervous system overall. This is why recovery is key. Aside from getting plenty of sleep each night, you need to support your body with the right nutrients. Beef-based gelatin is one of those nutrients.

Beef-based gelatin is packed with protein, amino acids, collagen, and other nutrients that have been shown to improve joint health and protect connective tissue. (1)

Second, strength workouts will take a lot out of you. As you sweat out electrolytes, you get closer to burn out. Taking a trace mineral supplement can help keep your electrolyte levels high during your workout so you can make it through without crashing.


Foam Roll

Once you arrive at the gym, the first thing you’ll want to do is foam roll. Foam rolling is important to help loosen and prepare the muscles for the workload ahead. If you are working out from home, you’ll need a high quality foam roller.

Why do I recommend foam rolling?

Think of foam rolling as a deep tissue massage without the price tag. Foam rolling allows you to slowly work out any knots or tension in trouble areas. If you have notorious tightness in the hamstrings, for example, this could negatively impact your squats or deadlifts. Foam rolling can help to break up that tightness and allow you to achieve full range of motion.

Personally, I foam roll before and after almost every workout and I can’t say enough about how it has changed my performance and how I feel throughout the day. Regardless if you’re training for strength, muscle mass, or fat loss, I would still recommend foam rolling.

While there are conflicting studies on the subject, foam rolling may also reduce muscle soreness post-workout and enhance recovery.

Warm-up

All loosened up? Great! Now, it’s time to warm-up. Don’t worry, we aren’t doing any boring static stretching, which has been shown to be less effective pre-workout. Don’t get me wrong: Static stretching is useful but it’s best suited after a workout, not before.

Instead, we’ll be performing a form of dynamic stretching with my guided Mobility Workout.

  • Take between three to five minutes to perform the mobility workout
  • Focus on moving at a comfortable pace, getting the muscles warm and ready for the real workout to follow

Why do I recommend warming up?

While you may be excited to jump into your workout, warming up is an important part of preparing the muscles for the workload ahead. Pushing a muscle group to execute an exercise using your maximum weight threshold while cold, or unprepared, is going to significantly increase your risk for injury.

Warming up may help you avoid unnecessary strain or injury. I know warming up isn’t the most glamorous part of a workout, that’s why I perform a mobility warm-up as it’s active, fun, and energizing. Click on the video above to let me walk you through a quick and simple mobility workout.


Reverse Pyramid Training

Now that we’ve covered everything you have to do to prepare for the workout, let’s jump into it. You should perform the following workout three days per week. I recommend having a rest day in between each day since this workout can be tough and tiring. For example, perform the following workout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I’ll cover what to do on your rest days below.

Quick Tips
  • Rest for 30 seconds between each set
  • Make sure you stay hydrated throughout the workout with electrolytes such as the Trace Minerals supplement I mentioned above
  • Sleep between 7 to 9 hours each night while performing this workout
  • Listen to your body: If it’s telling you to stop, then stop and rest – You don’t want to push yourself too hard with these exercises as it may result in an injury



  • 12 repetitions at 35 lbs.
  • 9 repetitions at 45 lbs.
  • 7 repetitions at 50 lbs.
  • 5 repetitions at 60 lbs.



  • 12 repetitions at 125 lbs.
  • 11 repetitions at 150 lbs.
  • 8 repetitions at 170 lbs.
  • 6 repetitions at 190 lbs.



  • 12 repetitions at 100 lbs. 
  • 8 repetitions at 150 lbs.
  • 3 repetitions at 200-300 lbs.



  • 12 repetitions at 35 lbs.
  • 11 repetitions at 40 lbs.
  • 8 repetitions at 50lbs.
  • 6 repetitions at 60lbs.



  • 12 repetitions at 35 lbs.
  • 11 repetitions at 40 lbs.
  • 8 repetitions at 45lbs.
  • 6 repetitions at 50lbs.



  • 16 repetitions at 25 lbs.
  • 12 repetitions at 35 lbs.
  • 10 repetitions at 40 lbs.
  • 9 repetitions at 45 lbs.



  • 12 repetitions at 25 lbs.
  • 11 repetitions at 30 lbs.
  • 8 repetitions at 35 lbs. 
  • 6 repetitions at 40 lbs.



  • 12 repetitions at 25 lbs.
  • 11 repetitions at 30 lbs.
  • 8 repetitions at 35 lbs. 
  • 6 repetitions at 40 lbs.

Optimizing Recovery 

What did you think about the workout? Feeling sore? Let’s get you on your way to recovery. Below are the steps that I take to speed up my recovery and make it more effective.

Stay Hydrated

The simplest, yet one of the most important things that you can do is to stay hydrated. Make it a point to be sipping water throughout the day. I would recommend drinking half of your bodyweight in ounces every day. This is especially true when you are supplementing with creatine, which I’ll talk more about below.

Why do I recommend staying hydrated?

When you are performing these tough strength workouts, you are using up a lot of water. Sweat is just one way your body will use water. It also needs to remove toxins and lactic acid build-up; not to mention the dozens of other processes.

If you want to perform and recover at your best, you need to stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to a number of complications including confusion, fatigue, and fainting. Use water, coffee, tea, and sports drinks to keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.

Also, it’s very important to replenish those electrolytes. When you drink nothing but water, you flush out electrolytes that are important for maintaining the powerful communication systems within the body. When you’re running low on electrolytes, you may experience dizziness, fatigue, and confusion. Use a sports drink or the Trace Minerals supplement that I mentioned above to replenish electrolytes during your workout and throughout the day.

Supplement with Vitamin D3

I am not a fan of the multi-vitamin approach to daily supplements as I think it puts you at risk for taking too much of one nutrient in particular. Single mineral or single vitamin supplements are okay if you are taking them to match your fitness goal. In this case, vitamin D3 is the ideal vitamin to take alongside your strength-focused workouts. I recommend taking 5,000 I.U. of Vitamin D3 each day.

Vitamin D3 supports levels of the nutrient that many men and women are lacking, especially during winter as we are exposed to less sunshine. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin responsible for a number of key benefits including hormone health, bone health, and muscle recovery. (2-4)

Why do I recommend supplementing with Vitamin D3?

Strength workouts involve moving heavy weight. What’s more, you may be doing so at maximum speed. This places the bones, connective tissue, and muscles under a higher rate of impact. Providing key nutrients for repair and recovery is going to help in a big way. What’s more, Vitamin D helps to regulate hormone health, especially testosterone, which is an anabolic hormone that can support strength gains.

Don’t worry, ladies, Vitamin D3 isn’t going to turn you into Arnold. The reason Vitamin D3 can help promote an anabolic (growth) environment for men, in particular is because it promotes the body’s natural levels of testosterone. Since men have more testosterone, they are going to see more muscle mass. Women don’t have the same levels of testosterone as men; therefore, no reason to worry as a woman’s testosterone levels won’t increase.


Supplement with Creatine

This inexpensive and highly effective supplement can help to restore ATP (adenosine triphosphate) levels in the body while boosting recovery. I recommend using 1/4 teaspoon of creatine monohydrate twice a week on your resting days. For example, if you train on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then take creatine on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Just remember that it’s crucial to stay hydrated when taking creatine.

Why do I recommend supplementing with creatine?

The preferred fuel source for muscle mass is ATP. Creatine is converted into ATP once ingested. Strength-focused workouts burn through your ATP stores rapidly and while the body will naturally produce about a gram of creatine per day, this isn’t going to be enough to support your workouts. 

Creatine supplementation has been shown to increase workout performance and gains. What’s more, creatine can help with muscle tissue recovery. Again, make sure that you drink a lot of water when supplementing with creatine so you don’t risk dehydration. (5)

Soak in Epsom Salts

While human studies are lacking when it comes to soaking in Epsom salt baths, this may be one of those practices that gets a pass as plenty of people use it to help sooth sore muscles.

Whether it’s as soon as you get home or in the evening, draw a hot bath and place a half cup of Epsom salts in the water. Swirl it around until they dissolve then jump in.

Why do I recommend soaking in Epsom salts?

As soon as I get home from the gym after a tough strength workout, I jump right into the tub to soak in Epsom salts. When I do, my muscles feel looser and that post-workout tightness goes away. What’s more, I notice that I seem to recover faster, especially after really tough workouts.

Manual Manipulation Therapy

There are three forms of manual manipulation therapy that I highly recommend you take part in once per week:

  • Graston Technique
  • Cupping
  • Active Release Technique massage
  • Choose one to do each week – Not all three per week

Why do I recommend manual manipulation therapy?

If you are serious about optimizing recovery, avoiding injury, and feeling amazing, manual manipulation therapy is a must for all fitness populations. All three of the methods that I list above have been proven to be effective for releasing tension, eliminating knots that can impact performance, and restoring proper length-tension relationships between muscle groups.

These three forms of manual manipulation therapy have made a dramatic difference in my own life. I personally use one each week and I’ve never felt better. If you’re not able to perform one of these methods once per week, then do it every other week.

Stay Active on Rest Days

Resting days are the time when your body recuperates after the grueling workout session from the previous day. It’s important to give your body a break but you still need to stay active. This doesn’t mean jumping into another strength workout. What you want to do is something active, fun, and light. I provide three great options below of rest day activities.

Why do I recommend staying active on rest days?

You want to keep the body moving so that proper circulation, waste removal, and nutrient delivery is encouraged for your muscles. This is going to significantly boost your recovery and how you feel overall. I make sure to do one of the three activities below on my rest days. It helps me stay loose and limber while alleviating muscle tension and knots.

Rest Day Activity Options



  • 10 yards 
  • 5 times 



  • 12-16 minutes



  • (workout listed above under Mobility Workout)
  • 10 minutes

Diet and Nutrition 

Diet and the right nutrition seems to be the most difficult aspect of any fitness goal. When you want to increase your strength, you have to eat for recovery. That means providing your muscle tissue with nutrients that trigger muscle repair, anabolism, and waste removal.

I believe one of the best diets to promote a high level of recovery would be the ketogenic diet, which focuses on healthy fatty acids and lean proteins with a low level of carbohydrates.

Want an easy-to-understand grocery list to take with you on your next shopping trip? Check out my ketogenic friendly grocery list that will allow you to buy exactly what you need to support your strength gains.

Conclusion

You’re now armed with the entire procedure from start to finish on how to maximize your strength. Remember that while the workouts are important, you should be as dedicated to resting and eating the right nutrients. As you go through this program, keep me updated. Let me know your progress or if you have any questions in the comments below.

References

1. Moskowitz RW. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Oct;30(2):87-99.

2. Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, Kuhn J, Dreier J, Obermayer-Pietsch B, Wehr E, Zittermann A. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1269854. Epub 2010 Dec 10.

3. Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, Joanne Kouba, PhD, RD, Mary Byrn, BSN, RN, and Carol Estwing Ferrans, PhD, RN, FAAN. Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2010 Jun; 31(6): 385–393.

4. Lars Rejnmark, PhD. Effects of Vitamin D on Muscle Function and Performance: A Review of Evidence from Randomized Controlled Trials. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2011 Jan; 2(1): 25–37.


5. Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Work at a Desk? Get Walking, Increase Mobility for a Better Life


If you’re like most of the workforce, there’s a good chance that you are sitting behind a desk and typing away on a computer. The ease and comfort of desk jobs have come at a steep price for most people. Sitting on average for 8 to 10 hours each day is a recipe for trouble. Let’s take a look at the dangers of staying sedentary along with the simple ways you can reverse the damage.

What’s the Problem with Sitting All Day?

Sitting feels great after a long day of running around or a tough workout but like all good things, it should be done in moderation. Remaining sedentary has been shown to have a number of serious health consequences that can impact your day-to-day living along with your risk of mortality.

Muscle Overcompensation

Do you suffer from lower back pain? Did you notice that you suddenly were experiencing more headaches, neck pain, and tightness in your legs after starting a job that requires you to be sitting? It’s no coincidence that those people who work at a desk job visit their doctor or chiropractor to report pain in the back, neck, and shoulders.

When you sit all day, key muscle groups are becoming weaker because they aren’t being used. As a result, stronger muscle groups will begin to take over for them during certain movement patterns. For example, sitting all day notoriously makes your glutes (butt muscles) weaker. As a response, when you go to do an exercise like the squat, the glutes aren’t activated because other muscles like the hamstrings are taking over for them. What could go wrong? Over worked muscles are at a higher risk for strain, tearing, and injury. Sitting weakens muscles while overworking others and this dramatically increases your risk for getting hurt.

Weight Gain

Obviously if you’re sitting all day, you aren’t being active and this can have big consequences on your weight and waist line. When people take up office jobs where sitting is required, they stop being active but continue to eat the same number of calories as before. What’s more, if you work in an office, you know only too well how ordering fast food a few times a week quickly becomes an office habit. Combine a lack of movement with high calorie eating choices and you have a recipe for weight gain.

Higher Risk for Disease and Death

Continuing with the point above, as you gain weight, you also increase your risk for certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Studies show that those who sit to work have a dramatically higher risk of preventable diseases. What’s more, sitting is so bad for your health that it’s been compared to smoking.

A popular study published in Annals of Internal Medicine confirmed that those adults who sit for one or more hours without getting up had a significantly higher risk of mortality than those people who made sure to get up every hour to move and stretch. Some experts go so far as to say that even exercise can’t offset all of the damage you’re doing.

Best Ways to Improve Mobility

Let’s say you’ve been working at a desk job for year, is it too late to reverse the damage done from sitting? Not at all. Let’s take a look at some simple tips to improve mobility and overall health.

Move Throughout the Day

I’m not suggesting that you up and quit your job in order to improve your mobility. We all have to work but there may be little changes you can make in your daily routine to reverse the health consequences of sitting. First is to simply move more. You don’t need to break out a pair of resistance bands at the office (although that is a great idea) but you should be standing up to move and stretch once or twice per hour as your schedule allows.

The general rule of thumb is that for every hour you spend sitting, you should be standing up, moving around, and stretching for 5 to 10 minutes. You can simply march in place or talk a walk around your office space to get water, drop off files, or make copies. It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you’re getting up from that desk and moving.

Get a Stand-Up Desk 

One of the easiest ways to increase your activity level, refrain from sitting all day, and improve posture is to get a stand-up desk. These desks have become extremely popular in progressive work spaces. A stand-up desk is an adjustable desk that allows you to move the desk according to your height so you can type, write, and take calls while standing. Most desks also come with an attachable stool for when you want to take short sitting breaks.

Start a Daily Mobility Workout

One of the best things that you can do to complement your current workout routine, improve your results, and reverse the damage of sitting is to adopt a daily mobility workout program. Focusing on a simple series of stretches will have dramatic results. What’s more, daily mobility exercises can reverse all of the damage done from sitting. You’ll be able to strengthen weak muscles, release tension from tight muscles, and reduce your risk of injury. Here’s a total body mobility workout that you can use each day:

Daily Mobility Routine

Below, I’ve included a complete mobility routine that you can do at home. I’d recommend doing this routine twice a day if you’re able. Once in the morning after waking and again in the evening before you go to bed. This will dramatically help you restore the length tension relationships in your muscles. 

  • Perform twice per day, preferably in the morning and at night.

Best Office Stretches for Mobility

Below, you’ll find five stretches you can do in the office. I’d recommend performing these five stretches once for every hour that you are sitting.

  • Perform for 30 seconds
  • Repeat if you’re able

  • Perform for 30 seconds
  • Repeat if you’re able

  • Perform for 30 seconds
  • Repeat if you’re able

  • Perform for 30 seconds
  • Repeat if you’re able

  • Perform for 30 seconds
  • Repeat if you’re able

Boost Recovery and Mobility Results

Keep Hydrated

The most important rule with stretching is to keep yourself hydrated. You don’t need to drink three gallons of water per day but you should be drinking clean and mineral-based water throughout the day. Yes, tea and coffee are okay to drink but don’t neglect actual water without the additives of flavoring or fake coloring. 

Collagen Hydrolysate

After you kickstart your day with a glass or two of water, you can enjoy your normal cup of tea or coffee. Within that tea or coffee, I’d highly recommend putting a serving of collagen hydrolysate. Collagen has become a very popular supplement within the last decade as studies highlight its benefits of improving connective tissue health while alleviating joint pain. Using collagen hydrolysate may improve your recovery and results from stretching.

Get Some Fresh Air and Go Hiking

When you aren’t working out in the gym, consider going on short hikes. The movement promotes recovery and emphasizes the muscles that are not used while sitting. What’s more, the sunshine will help to promote Vitamin D production. Vitamin D has been shown to be an effective recovery vitamin as it promotes healthy growth hormone production.

Foam Roll

After you get finished with your workout or your hike, I’d recommend using a foam roller. You’ve probably seen long pieces of Styrofoam in your local gym and you may have wondered what and how to use them. 

Foam rollers have received a lot of attention as of late as fitness experts are recommending them as a part of an effective stretching and tension release program. Just like when you get a deep tissue massage, foam rollers relieve tension and work out the knots in your muscle tissue. Best of all, it’s a fraction of the price of a massage.

Soak in Epsom Salts

When your day is all said and done, why not treat yourself to a nice bath? The hot water is great for promoting relaxation and blood flow in the muscle tissue. If you’re jumping in the tub, you should be using epsom salts

These salts are incredibly inexpensive and yet, they provide an immense amount of relief for sore and aching muscles. What’s more, they are an effective way to promote recovery after a stretching workout.

Conclusion

Do you stretch each day? What benefits have you noticed since you started stretching? Do you want to begin a stretching routine but you have questions on where to begin? Let me know in the comments below! 

References


1. Duration of Sedentary Episodes Is Associated With Risk for Death. Ann Intern Med. 2017 Oct 3;167(7). doi: 10.7326/P17-9045. Epub 2017 Sep 12.