Legs Day for Athletic Performance and Strength

It’s that time again — Leg Day! Go hard!

Check out the workout below, or simply print out the .pdf for easy gym reference.

Warm-up: 1×10-15, light Romanian Deadlifts.
Sumo Deadlifts: 5, 4, 3, 3, 3. Go progressively heavier. Stretch the hamstrings well after each set.
Parallel Squats: 3×10.
Split Squats: 3×10 per leg.
3 Supersets: 5 Box Jumps/10 Jump Squats
Lateral Shuttle: 4 sets, 20 feet each direction as fast as you can. Once you’ve done a run to the right and left, that’s one “set.” Stay in a low, athletic stance.
3 Trisets: :45 planks, 20 BOSU crunches, :15 extended side planks, per side

The Complete Hard-Gainer Plan

For some of us who are taller, longer-torsoed and leaner, building and maintaining muscle is a constant process, throughout the year, one that doesn’t have a “cutting phase.”

Because we know not everybody is looking to simply lose weight, we have the Complete Hard-Gainer’s Plan — a comprehensive plan of attack for adding muscle size with the proper gym, diet and supplement strategies.

We’ve included a sample diet and supplement plans here for easy reference, with an updated workout guide to follow for the next four weeks. Again, you’ll go four days on and three off, leaving ample time to recover.

EATING FOR HARD-GAINERS

If you’re reading this, it more than likely applies to you: Hard-gainers are classified as “longer” body types, with typically fast metabolisms, lean frames, smaller joints (narrow wrists and ankles) and narrow waists. Usually, hard-gainers are longer-limbed and taller than our stockier gym friends. That’s OK — many find the “lifeguard” body type to be the most desirable. If you fall into this category, where you find that you simply can’t eat enough to ever get fat or, sadly, gain the muscle fast enough, you’re a hard-gainer.

The bottom line for you if you want to add muscle is this: YOU MUST EAT. Many hard-gainers make the common mistake of under-eating because they don’t want to gain body fat, a reasonable concern. However, take into consideration that you are skinny for a reason! You’re blessed with a fast metabolism and the amount of calories will almost never be an issue as long as the quality of calories is premium. If you’re serious about adding muscle, your workouts will be so intense and you’ll gain enough muscle that you won’t gain significant levels of fat, and that just leaves you with the task of using food for building material. Muscle just doesn’t come from thin air — new tissue needs to come from a source. It’s food, in the form of quality proteins, fats and carbs.

Three meals a day ain’t gonna cut it anymore. It’s time to eat with a purpose and a plan. And here is that plan:

BREAKFAST (within 30 minutes of waking):

5-6 whole eggs, spinach, tomato, piece of fruit (grapefruit, orange, banana, apple, peach, etc.), 1 c milk, 1 c instant oatmeal with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter.

SNACK (2 1/2 hours after breakfast)

Protein shake in milk, peanut butter/banana/honey sandwich on whole wheat bread

LUNCH (3 hours after first snack)

Tuna* or chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread, sliced apples with peanut butter, greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

SNACK (2 1/2 hours after lunch)

Two string cheeses, handful of almonds, banana.

DINNER (3 hours after second snack)

1 serving meat (lean beef — filet mignon, loin steak, etc. — salmon, tilapia, shrimp, ahi*, etc.), 1 leafy/green vegetable (broccoli, spinach), 1/2 C brown rice or whole wheat pasta OR a sweet potato/yam. Avoid white potatoes.

BEDTIME SNACK

1/2 C cottage cheese, 1 slice whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

*Because of potentially high mercury levels in fish, do not eat tuna more than 3-4 times per week.

There obviously is some wiggle room for variety, which is the way you want it, but the important thing is to notice the approximate ratios of proteins, carbs and healthy fats with each meal and emulate it as closely as possible.

TRAINING FOR HARD GAINERS

Next, it’s time to come up with a plan to put all that fuel to use. The goal every time you hit the gym should be hypertrophy — the increase in muscle volume. To achieve this on a lean frame, you won’t be able to simply use a generic workout plan. Like all lanky guys experience when we clothes shop, you need something a bit more custom-fitted, tailored to you. Forget three sets of 10. We need to reach deep muscle fibers, building the slow-twitch ones larger and the fast-twitch ones stronger. To do that, we’ve set up this workout plan that will not only add size, strength and endurance of strength, but will provide just enough of a calorie burn to ensure that you’re not storing up fat.

Follow this plan for 4-6 weeks, and DO NOT cheat yourself — make every workout, do every set and get every rep. Anything less than full effort is a failure! It is a four-day split, with three rest days, ample time to get both physical and mental rest before you’re back in the gym, so there are no “burnout” excuses here. This is all about soaring rep ranges and mental toughness — trisets and light weight will be your path to gaining!

MONDAY (Chest and Back)

Four trisets, 12 reps each: DB Bench Press/Incline DB Press/DB Flys.

Four trisets, 12 reps each: BB Bench Press, Cable Crossovers (alternating top arm), Incline DB Flys.

Four trisets, 12-15 reps each (aim for 15, but get at least 12): Various grip pull-ups (overhand, underhand, neutral, overhand)/DB Pullovers/Seated Cable Rows.

Four trisets, 12-15 reps each: Standing wide-bar cable Pulldowns/Bent-Over Rows/Lat Pulldowns.

Be sure to stretch the pecs and lats before and after!

TUESDAY (LEGS AND CORE)

Three trisets, 12-15 reps each: Barbell Squats/Front Squats/Leg Extensions

Three trisets, 12-15 reps each: Romanian Deadlifts/Hamstring Curls/Directional Lunges (forward, backward, lateral for sets 1, 2 and 3, respectively. For the lateral set, do 16 total – 8 left, 8 right).

Two supersets (very light!): 4 power cleans/4 split squats (per leg)

Planks: 4×30 seconds.

Cable wood chop and raise: 4×5 each.

Stretch!

WEDNESDAY (ARMS)

6 Supersets: Cambered barbell curls x 8/Overhead Single Heavy DB Press x 8

1 Superset: Incline Seated Dumbbell Curls x 12 each/Cable Pushdown with V Extension x 30 (perfect form)

3 Supersets: Hanging Dips x 15/30 Preacher Curl Machine/15 bench dips

THURSDAY (SHOULDERS AND ABS)

5 Supersets: Overhead Press x 12/Machine Upright Rows x 12

5 Supersets: Lateral Raises x 12/Front Raises x 12

Planks: 3x 45 seconds

Side Planks: 3 x 30 seconds per side

SUPPLEMENTS FOR HARD GAINERS

If you’re a hard gainer, we can assume a few things about you: 1) You need a lot of calories, 2) your existing muscle mass is difficult to maintain and 3) your body naturally isn’t inclined to grow much more. None of these are complete roadblocks; rather, they’re just small speed bumps you can get over with some help. Now, we can address the first issue with the diet plan we’ve put in place, but really, you’ll need more. The supplement plan that works best for hard gainers is one that addresses the need for a calorie surplus, muscle recovery and rebuilding and even hormonal issues that aren’t as uncommon as you might think.

Absolutely, if you’re a hard gainer trying to build muscle fast, we recommend:

  • High-quality gainer shake. GAINER7, MASS COMPLEX or MASS FUZION are all effective at delivering quality calories in a hurry post-workout.
  • BCAAs. Around the clock, your body needs amino acids to prevent catabolism, where the body feeds on muscle storage for energy. Go with BCAA SPORT or IBCAA by Katalyst.
  • Creatine. Abundantly researched and shown to increase muscle volume and strength, there is no reason to pick a low-quality version anymore — it’s mostly a very affordable supplement. Kre-Alkalyn is a buffered form of creatine that ensures nearly 100 percent of this product goes to the muscles and doesn’t get converted into useless creatinin. N’FUZE and KRE-ALKALYN COMPLEX by VitaSport are great options.
  • Pro-testosterone products. Hard gainers are, well, hard-wired to simply not produce much muscle mass. This can be changed with more natural testosterone production. As many lean guys can attest, during puberty there was one massive growth spike where we got taller and filled out (at least as much as we were going to). Natural testosterone, which caused that spike, decreases dramatically as men get older, leading to increases in body fat and decreases in muscle  mass. We simply can’t afford that! ANITEST, ARABOL, AUGMENT, 1-XD and HGH-191 are outstanding options to get your body back to growing, the natural way.
  • Pre-workout products. A supplement that increases your body’s nitric oxide production is a supplement that will flat-out increase your workout quality, and the stronger you feel and the more endurance you have, the better your results will be. Imagine how much benefit you’d get from just two last reps at the end of a set, or from using a heavier weight. Pre-workout products like N’SANE, NOX-P3, ANX-P3, and THERMOVEX deliver more energy, both of mind and body, for the most high-quality workouts you can get. Plus, the increased blood flow means your other supplements are working more efficiently. Remember, to gain muscle as a skinny guy you’ll need to be working with heavy weights, and doing a lot of reps. Focus and energy are absolute MUSTS. New preworkouts include: ERRATIC, BLUEPRINT, KARBOLYN, each of which has its own unique benefits. For hard-gainers, we especially recommend KARBOLYN, either as a pre- or post-workout product.KARBOLYN features a high-performance carbohydrate unlike any other carbohydrate sources because it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream like a simple sugar but without the typical spike or crash caused when your muscles run out of fuel. In fact, Karbolyn®, a “homopolysaccharide” (relatively complex carbohydrate), is suggested to be absorbed 18.21% faster than pure Dextrose (a simple carbohydrate). Yet it still promotes the sustained energy of complex carbohydrates. Karbolyn® is 100% Sugar and Gluten-Free, mixes instantly with NO clumping or gelling and is designed with a “Sustained-Release” Mechanism for over 2 hours of stimulant-free energy support! Unlike most unprocessed starches available in supplements today which are not optimized for rapid glycogen loading and nutrient absorption, Karbolyn® uses a proprietary, multi-stage, enzymatic milling process to reach optimal molecular size. This yields a bio-engineered carbohydrate for rapid gastric emptying so it’s easier to digest and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream.

OTHER TIPS FOR HARD GAINERS

  • Stay hydrated. Shoot for at least a gallon of clean, cold water a day.With the increased calorie intake and supplements, your liver and kidneys will thank you for keeping the system hydrated. On top of this all, it helps digestion, helps keep the body’s tissues healthy and ensures a flushed system that won’t bloat the body.
  • ALWAYS have snacks on hand. If you’re stuck in an office, running errands, or going on a trip, be prepared. Don’t let a lack of nearby food sidetrack your mission. Bring along jerky, string cheeses, fruit, trail mix, a shaker cup and Ziploc full of PRO7, whatever — just have food handy. You HAVE to eat. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll miss healthy meals — it’s nearly as bad as missing a workout.
  • Pre-cook. Most guys who need to eat a lot suffer the pitfall of being unprepared, especially if they live busy lives. Well, most of us have a least one day a week off — use that day to prepare for all seven. Cook up a week’s worth of chicken breasts and put it all in tupperware for salads, to mix in with pasta or beans, or even just to eat alone as a snack. Do the same with broccoli or squash, or even sweet potatoes and pasta. My fridge looks like I’m storing rations in preparation for a natural disaster — in a way, that’s exactly what I’m doing!
  • ALWAYS eat a complete breakfast. You are most susceptible to muscle-wasting at the only time you can’t do anything about caloric intake — while you sleep. Do not let it continue when you wake up! Even if it means waking up 30 minutes early to account for the time to make breakfast, you have to eat this meal.

The Strongman Back Workout

THE STRONGMAN BACK WORKOUT

This workout is from Chad Schmidt, a NUTRISHOP CDA Sponsored Athlete. He was Idaho’s Strongest Man in 2005, 2008 and 2009, and is competing again this year. This is one of his actual workouts, with his tips included. Enjoy!

Take this workout to the gym with you in easy, printable .pdf format. Print it out here.

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Deadlifts

  • I prefer 18 inch deadlifts from a squat rack/power rack.

  • Typically I work my way up to 5 sets of 8-10 reps. My warm-up sets typically are 15 reps and I go how my body feels that day.

  • Use straps on your heavy sets, because in most strongman comps they allow straps.

Pull Ups (use a band if you have to)

  • 5 sets for as many as you can, use bands for assistance on the last sets.

Barbell Bent Over Rows

  • 4×12 overhand grip (No straps at all).

Upright Barbell Rows

  • 4×12.

Face Pulls

  • 4×20 (these are an accessory lift and not a heavy movement at all).

Farmers Walk

  • Use a pair of lighter dumbbells holding to the sides of your body.

  • NO STRAPS — this is a great grip and core exercise.

  • 5 sets with a 200’ walk.

Dealing with Design: How to Strengthen the Rotator Cuff

No matter your fitness level, there is one constant when it comes to the way the body’s designed: the weak spot of the whole unit is, in almost all cases, the shoulder.

Why? Simply put, the way it’s built. The three deltoids get all the attention, and yes, when they’re well-developed they can certainly change the overall look of one’s physique. But even the biggest delts can’t overcome the shoulder’s true design flaw: the rotator cuff.

Even if you aren’t sure what it is, you know one thing about the rotator cuff: It’s prone to injury. The muscles that make up the rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, Teres minor and subscapularis) each have different roles, and, as you might expect, they’re pretty specific to what you can do at the shoulder, where the upper arm meets the shoulder blade. This is where athletes who train their shoulders (or other large upper-body muscles that depend on shoulder stability) can run into problems — the amount of force/weight/work necessary to encourage growth in large muscles often exceeds the capabilities of the muscles of the rotator cuff.

But it’s not just the muscles that cause the problem; the cartilage and tendons connecting the cuff are also susceptible to injury, not just through singular, blunt force (i.e., lifting a weight too heavy), but also wear and tear (light or zero-weight movements with the shoulder at an elevated angle). And basically everything you do in the weight room requires you to lift your arm to the side, or forward, or backward, and you can’t move your upper arm without the rotator cuff getting involved.

This week is a look at the rotator cuff and how you can strengthen it to prevent injury and boost performance in other lifts. Athletes will find that often, too much dependency is hoisted on an area that can scarcely take it like the larger muscle groups can.

EXERCISES FOR STRENGTHENING THE ROTATOR CUFF

Internal Rotations: Set up a handle on a cable pulley at mid-chest height, and stand with it at your side. Keeping your elbow tight to your body with your shoulder blades pulled together, simply rotate the handle across your torso, focusing on using only the shoulder to do this. The weight should be very light.

External Rotations: Keeping the pulley at the same height as you did for the internal rotations, simply grab it with the opposite hand and rotate the handle toward the outside of your body.

Lateral Raises: The supraspinatus, just a strip of muscle under the lateral deltoid, bears a lot of responsibility for vertical scaption — your arms going up and down. By strengthening this muscle with lateral raises, keeping the arms as straight as possible, you can work up to heavier weights to target the delts without fear of straining the supporting muscles of the rotator cuff.

SUPPLEMENTS TO STRENGTHEN THE ROTATOR CUFF

When you stress your joints through repeated exercise or even just the act of getting older, inevitably they wear down. This, as we’ve mentioned already, is especially true in the shoulder. You can help protect and heal it with JOINT THERAPEUTICS, and here we’ll go into detail on it.

The advanced joint support formula in JOINT THERAPEUTICS is based on Synergistic Anti-Inflammatory Technology, on top of several key ingredients of pharmaceutical quality. It’s the best available option for joint health and function, and it also will protect your joints and help keep you pain-free.

This post’s goal is to break down JOINT THERAPEUTICS’s formula and blends to show you how it can help prevent and relieve not just joint pain, but wear and tear itself.

Glucosamine HCl: Your body naturally produces this substance in the cartilage, storing water and keeping the joint in good shape to provide strength and flexibility. As we age, however, the production of this substance slows down, leading to a less elastic quality of the joint itself (this is known as osteoarthritis). How well you can move around pain-free is hugely dependent on your joints. Glucosamine Hydrochloride is a molecule that restores the elastic qualities to your joints, helping preserve them. It’s composed of glucose and glutamine, and it works to stimulate the fluid production in the body’s cartilage — this helps with joint repair, the synthesis of connective tissue and more. Its hydrophilic (water-loving) profile means it will attract more water to the cartilage, improving elasticity and preventing brittleness that leads to pain and deteroriation.

Chondroitin Sulfate: Also naturally occurring inside your own body’s cartilage, this compound is known as an arthritis fighter with its ability to support cartilage tissue. Your body produces enzymes that help break down worn-down or injured joint tissue, and chondroitin sulfate helps regulate the balance of those enzymes in the joint itself. This means better ability for your joints to repair themselves. Chondroitin is very important — naturally, your body produces it specifically to help generate and maintain healthy cartilage — and helps joints and cartilage regenerate and renew themselves with new tissue, either repairing or replacing old, worn cartilage.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM): A sulfur compound that is formed naturally in in the body, MSM supports healthy joint tissue, promotes strong flexible joints and helps the body maintain strong connective tissue. Sulfur is necessary for the production of collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin and certain anti-oxidants — all of which are vital to healthy cartilage and overall joint health. MSM is believed by some to have multiple health benefits including anti-inflammatory, detoxifying and healing properties. MSM is also claimed to help with blood circulation, muscle cramps and free radicals.

Hyaluronic Acid: This is the normal lubricant in human joints. Its presence, even in well-worn joints and cartilage, can provide a cushion effect, thus relieving pain and friction. One of its primary functions is to lubricate movable parts such as joints and muscles by restoring the amount and viscosity of synovial fluid.

Anti-Inflammatory Complex: Inflammation — pretty much every kind of “-itis” is related to this symptom — is one of the body’s most common responses to irritation or injury. It usually includes pain and sometimes redness and swelling in the area of the damage. The pain relieving, anti-inflammatory ingredients in JOINT THERAPEUTICS are designed to support healthy joint function, assist in the healing of minor sprains, strains, muscle injuries, and the pain, swelling and tenderness that accompany sports injuries. Pain can slow you down, not just in the gym, but in your day-to-day life, and it’s often brought on by inflammation. The Anti-Inflammatory Complex helps provide relief to arthritic and sore joints as well as improve flexibility and mobility.

All of that makes JOINT THEREAPEUTICS a great alternative to expensive prescription painkillers when it comes to treating arthritic joints. Specific ingredients in our Anti-Inflammatory Complex contain constituents that share pharmacological properties with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as Celebrex.

THE QUICK FORM FIX

One mistake thousands of gym rats make that eventually costs them shoulder soreness, pain or, even worse, serious structural damage, happens on the single-most common lift in the weight room: the bench press. When benching, the tendency is for the lifter to dramatically have the shoulder angle — the angle formed at the armpit by the upper arm and the torso — at about 90 degrees, with the upper arms flared out far to the sides. This puts an incredible amount of strain and torque on the rotator cuff, which is using those tiny muscles to stabilize the weight in the first place. Under the tension of heavy weight, this becomes problematic.

The fix: Keep the elbows tucked, at about 45 degrees. The benefits of doing this not only include protecting the shoulder, but also a stronger chest — which is why you’re benching in the first place. You might notice, at first, that you lose a little bit of strength when you take out the shoulders’ assistance, but soon, you’ll develop real explosiveness in the chest as you train it correctly.

Get Show-Worthy Shoulders

Our workout of the week this week comes from Nutrishop client and stage competitor Lindsey Martin — a challenging, complete shoulder routine!

  • Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Start with moderate weight for 12 reps, and increase the weight and number of reps by 2-3 with each set. Aim for 4-5 sets. For this exercise, try not to extend the arms all the way overhead. Instead, keep your elbows flexed at 90 degrees and touch dumbbells close overhead to isolate the delts.
  • Barbell Shoulder Press on Smith Machine: 5×8 negatives. Lower barbell to front of chest over 6 seconds.
  • Front Delt Raises with Dumbbells: Light to moderate weight, 150 reps total.
  • Side Delt Raises with Dumbbells: Light to moderate weight, 150 reps total. Fun to challenge your partner with these
  • Seated Bent-over Rear Delt Raise: At this point, you may have to use less weight after the front and side delt raises. Start with 2×12 and try to increase the reps by 3 each time thereafter.

Ensuring the Best Protein Absorption with AMINOGEN

For the hard-earned money you spend on supplements, wouldn’t it be nice to know that they’re getting properly absorbed?

If your protein powder of choice comes from NUTRISHOP — Vitasport’s PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS — then you can rest assured that you’re getting what you pay for.

That’s because PRO7’s formula includes the patented enzyme Aminogen, a naturally derived plant enzyme ingredient that helps the body naturally liberate free-form amino acids from food protein — much like breaking the links of a chain.

Consider that, when you consume proteins, your body must first break them down into amino acids, converting them into building blocks of muscle so that they can be metabolized properly. These amino acids are attached to the protein you consume by peptide bonds, which are broken down in digestion — but not always completely.

This is where Aminogen comes in. This enzyme ingredient seeks out protein molecules and breaks those peptide bonds, “unchaining” the amino acids from the proteins much more effectively than the digestion process would without it. This, in turn, makes it easier for the body to absorb the much smaller amino acids, rather than the larger protein molecules.

The upshot of Aminogen being included in PRO7 is ABSORPTION RATE. When you take a post-workout protein shake, the immediacy of the protein being delivered to your muscles is the most important part about it, because your broken-down muscles are crying out for repair and amino acids are the right tools for the job. Aminogen simply helps those aminos become instantly available for absorption and delivery to the muscle tissue.

Workout of the Week: Arms Like a Bodybuilder

NUTRISHOP CDA is proud to be a sponsor of personal trainer and bodybuilder competitor Talon Sullens. Today, he shares with us this sample arms workout!

Dumbbell Curls: 5 sets, starting at 10 reps. Each set, add weight and two reps. Example: 20 pounds for 10 reps, 25 pounds for 12 reps, 30 pounds for 14 reps, and so on.

Skull Crushers: 4×12. Use the cambered bar and lie flat on a bench. Keep your elbows tucked in and don’t allow them to flare outward!

Preacher Curls: 4×8. Go all the way down and up until just before the tension releases off the biceps.

Cable Pushdowns: 5×10 negatives. Push the bar down like you normally would, elbows tight, but then slowly control the bar on the way up on the negative portion of the movement.

3 Supersets — 30 Dumbbell Hammer Curls/12 Regular Curls.

Tricep Cable Extensions: 3-stage drop set — 30, 20, 10. Yes, you’ll be using small weight at the end. Yes, it will still burn like crazy.