Workout of the Week: Pyramid Power

Doing the same, straight-set formula over and over for your workouts will kill your momentum and lead to plateaus. Your muscles won’t have the stimulus needed to grow without different challenges. Because they offer a couple different principles at work — pre-exhaustion (to an extent), plus variable rep ranges — pyramid sets are a great way to put together a workout.

p90x-womenSo named because you work your way up toward heavier weight but fewer reps (ie, 20 as your pyramid “base” and 4-6 as the top), pyramid sets provide you the opportunity to work both on hypertrophy and strength. You’ll be under the bar for heavier weight than normal for your shorter sets. It also gives your body a new test: strength under fatigue, which is part of the pre-exhaustion principle that can help lead to bigger gains.

Below is a standard leg workout, followed by the pyramid version of it. If you’re stuck with the same routine, you should definitely consider throwing in a few weeks of pyramid-style lifting to shake things up.

STANDARD LEG ROUTINE

Squats, 4×8

Romanian Deadlifts, 4×12

Leg Press, 5×12

Hamstring Curls, 4×8

Seated Calf Raises, 4×15

Now, take this routine (or yours) and give it the pyramid treatment, going through five sets and starting with high reps to medium-range to short-and-heavy. You’ll note we removed deadlifts; on a day this intense, you’ll want to split up deads and squats whenever possible. And remember to challenge yourself as you lower your rep ranges — throw on as much weight as you can to get the next number of reps.

PYRAMID LEG ROUTINE

Squats: 20, 15, 12, 10, 8

Leg Press: 20,15, 12, 10, 8

Leg Extensions: 25, 15, 10, 12

Hamstring Curls: 15, 10, 5

Calf Raises: 25, 20, 20, 25 (the calves are a bit different — they need high reps for stimulation.)

Functional Fitness: Training to Move

One of the most overlooked aspects of fitness comes in the gym. As we focus on fitness and yearn for a six-pack or less body fat or bigger biceps, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of aesthetic fitness — exercising in a way that will shape how you look, while ignoring your body’s need for mobility, strength and function.

Our concentration this week is on small steps you can take to ensure you’re training for a body that will not only look good, but perform, whether it’s in pick-up basketball games or just a casual hike. The body was designed for functional movement, so train it that way.

AGILITY

How easily you can move around without discomfort or stress is pretty much the name of the game with agility; many people think this aspect of fitness is unimportant simply because they are not competing athletically at a high level. Twists, turns, fast change of direction — why bother?

You don't have to be as agile as Barry Sanders in the hole — but being mobile enough to get in and out of the car without grunting is nice.

You don’t have to be as agile as Barry Sanders in the hole — but being mobile enough to get in and out of the car without grunting is nice.

Well, as we get older, this becomes more and more important. You don’t need to be able to possess amazing skills with a football like Ronaldinho or burn through the cone shuttle like Jamaal Charles. The simple act of getting in and out of a car without grunting (ask your dad if you don’t believe us) is valuable. Being able to enjoy a dance with your partner without crushing her poor toes is valuable. Feeling mobile, light and responsive — agility, again, is valuable.

So how do you get more agile? You pretty much have to move more, and do it in an athletic stance. We wish there was something more complex to it than that, but that’s the goal. Include lateral training into your gym sessions (when was the last time you did, or saw anyone doing, lateral movement at the gym?). Jump rope, do jumping jacks, do box squats and pronounce every movement explosively. Your body is not a machine, with creaky pistons and gears; slow, methodical, one-plane training has only limited benefits. There are responsive muscle fibers and joints and tendons in there that will get stronger as you work them. So work them.

A few examples of lateral training are below. Find the basketball court or get outside on a field somewhere.

Lateral Lunge (Strength)

  • Position yourself in an athletic stance (knees bent, low center of gravity).
  • Perform a lunge step to the side while keeping your lead thigh parallel to the ground as you descend.
  • Return to starting position and perform a lunge step to the opposite side.
  • Back and forth is one repetition.
  • Always remember to keep your body balanced and under control throughout the execution of this movement.
  • Rest up to 60 seconds between sets and perform 2-3 sets of 6-12 reps per leg.

Body Weight Lateral Speed Slide (Speed)

  • Position yourself in an athletic stance.
  • Mark out a distance of 5 to 10 yards away from your starting position.
  • Perform a lateral speed slide as fast as possible while staying under control to the marker, and back to your starting position.
  • Rest up to 60 seconds and repeat for desired reps.

Body Weight Lateral Crossover Step Drill (Speed)

  • Position yourself in an athletic stance.
  • Mark out a distance 10 yards away from your starting position.
  • Execute a lateral crossover step as quickly as possible to the marker, and immediately change direction and crossover step back to your starting position. Concentrate on staying low in your athletic stance and allowing your hands and arms to quickly move in front of you (think “wax on, wax off” movement) to keep your balance.
  • Rest up to 60 seconds and repeat for desired reps.

Strength

heavy-squat

Heavy lifting = strength. Period.

For example, one can get big muscles with very light weight, relatively speaking, and a high volume of reps. Only at the end of these long sets will strength truly be a challenge, as the longer, “slow-twitch” muscle fibers are recruited the entire time and the shorter fast-twitch ones (associated with explosive strength) typically do not come into play nearly as much. On the other end of the spectrum, powerlifters who focus on one or two reps at a time experience a much more powerful push, with more energy exerted from short muscle fibers to move heavy weight — but there is less cellular energy (ATP) in these fibers than their higher-capacity slow-twitch counterparts and it is more quickly exhausted in lifting like this.

All this is to say that, to some degree, the thought that a big muscle is a strong one, and vice versa, is not universally true. Those training aesthetically, to create bigger muscles with the goal of wearing a T-shirt better, might have a different approach than those training for the function of strength, especially in short rep ranges.

EXPLOSIVENESS

The difference between being strong and being explosive is subtle, but definite — a strong athlete can squat 300 pounds, or bench 1.5x his/her weight; an explosively strong athlete can move the bar faster, and maneuver his/her body faster through space. It’s a combination of fast-twitch strength and agility that makes the difference between sheer strength and athleticism.

This is all to say that, while we love strength training, explosiveness training deserves a place in your workout plans at some point. Plyometrics are fantastic for achieving fast-twitch strength, as the focus is, again, on moving the body or objects through space as quickly as possible. Many high-level athletic programs use a Tendo Unit, which is a device that actually measures the velocity of the weight being moved. You can train your favorite all-time lifts explosively, too — start with the weight at the “bottom” of the range (so, if you were benching, with the bar on your chest), and simply move it as fast as you can through the rep.

Plyo push-ups, with a clap mid-rep, are probably the most popular explosive training that’s easy to do. There are pull-up variations as well, and of course leg training offers myriad opportunities for speed and explosiveness training: box jumps, cleans and snatches, to name a few.

Pre-Workouts, Stimulants and How They Help You

Not every pre-workout formula is created equal. While many share similar nutritional profiles and contain ingredients that give them similar effects, there are big differences from one to the other that make each one at NUTRISHOP unique.

This week, our running blog will focus on the stimulant levels of our most popular pre-workout supplements — not only reviewing the product profile that makes each one great, but also examining the caffeine levels in each and parsing out the advantages between them all.

anxp3Since “zero” seems like a good place to start, we’ll lead off with the one non-stimulant pre-workout that can and should be stacked with all others: ANX-P3. Not only is ANX-P3 perfect for a morning workout after you’ve already had your coffee (since it has no caffeine or other stimulants), but it can be safely used in conjunction with other products.

The story on ANX-P3 is this: Most pre-workout nitric oxide boosters are taken immediately before exercise to achieve the full effect. This is OK. But research has shown a better way, and the best part is that it can be combined with the existing NO products out there for a maximum benefit.

If the L-Arginine NO Synthase pathway, used primarily in standard pre-workouts, is the fastest way, consider what we’d call the “scenic route”: The Nitrate-Nitrite-Nitric Oxide Pathway (or, for our purposes here, the N3O pathway). It takes longer, but you’ll be glad you went this way, too! Arginine Nitrate uses this pathway, and FORZAONE has created ANX-P3 as an answer to all the short-lived nitric oxide boosters out there.

Arginine Nitrate is the newest approach to nitric oxide boosters, utilizing this secondary pathway for a more sustained, long-lasting effect. You might be wondering the difference between these two pathways, and it’s this: While the first depends on oxygen for its effectiveness, the second does not nearly as much. The takeaway for the consumer is that during intense exercise, in the middle or toward the end of your workout when your body is low on oxygen anyway, the L-Arginine NO Synthase pathway is much less effective, and NO production won’t last as long. You’ll have a great start to the workout, but it may not last. The N3O pathway, accessed by Arginine Nitrate, doesn’t rely on oxygen nearly as much, meaning a longer, sustained effect that will last through your final reps.

You might be wondering why Arginine Nitrate is important, or what it does. First, we’ll start off with pure L-Arginine, an essential amino acid that plays a big part in many important bodily functions, including immune function and muscle building. But it’s also an immediate precursor to nitric oxide, and as a peer-reviewed article in Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy points out, this makes it crucial when vasodilation — the expansion of blood vessels for better blood flow — is needed. Bonded with a nitrate, this provides improved blood flow to and from the heart, maximizing that sought-after pump and vascularity.

With improved vasodilation and blood flow over a longer period, the end product for the athlete is the highest possible nutrient delivery during the workout. This is important because of the muscles’ desperate need for vital nutrients to recover, rebuild and sustain strength and endurance.

Because it contains no stimulants and uses a different pathway for Arginine Nitrate, it’s recommended that ANX-P3 be stacked with other, stimulant-based pre-workouts for a superior pump.

NOXP3_HdlnThe next-lowest caffeine level among NUTRISHOP’s quality pre-workout supplements is NO-XP3. With 100 mg of caffeine, it’s about equivalent to a cup of coffee, making it a solid choice for your mid-morning workouts even if you’ve had some actual coffee earlier on. Specifically, NO-XP3 has advantages over other, more stimulant-dependent pre-workouts, namely vasodilation.

What you’re looking for with a nitric oxide supplement is a product that will improve your body’s ability to deliver nutrient-rich blood to the muscles — that’s the “pump” effect we’re talking about. The problem with many products is they don’t actually dilate the blood vessels to do this; instead, they constrict them, providing a higher heart rate and a fake pump. That’s NOT what you’re after — you actually want the blood moving!

Five blends in N.O.XP3 are designed to help promote the pump and gains in strength, size, vascularity and workout focus:

Pump Blend: This is the crown jewel, so to speak, of N.O.XP3! This blend is aimed at increasing blood flow, not just simulating it, with a specifically dosed blend of L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate (AAKG), Citrulline Nitrate and GlycoCarn, among others. Citrulline Nitrate (more on it later this week) is an important, natural precursor to nitric oxide, AAKG helps to metabolize nitric oxide faster and also helps in protein synthesis, and GlyoCarn is quite simply one of the best nitric oxide boosters available.

Power Blend: With Beta-Alanine and Kre-Alkalyn as some key players in this blend, your system gets a shot of ATP-boosting creatine to improve muscular strength and endurance during your workout and the benefit of an energy “buffer” in Beta-Alanine, which will also help provide energy and strength.

Performance Blend: A Modified Glucose Tri-Polymer Blend, along with Phenylethylamine HCI (PEA) and Caffeine Anhydrous, make for the energy-boosting effects needed to have outstanding focus from a pre-workout product. PEAs are well-known for mood-boosting properties and non-liquid-form caffeine is effective for focus as well.

Recovery Blend: L-Taurine and L-Glutamine AKG are amino acids that help rebuild your muscle tissue AS you work them — not many pre-workout formulas can also help you DURING your lifts! Your muscles need high-quality recovery acids to build and keep you anabolic if you want to grow and prevent injury.

Electrolyte Blend: The four ingredients in this blend are all about keeping your most important cells hydrated during your workout so as to maximize their function.

vasocorThe next substantial boost in caffeine in the NUTRISHOP line of pre-workouts is found in VASOCOR, which has about 175mg. The beta-alanine in this product is actually included in one of its blends, the pH Correction Strength and Endurance blend, where it works with L-taurine AKG and kre-alkalyn to keep the carnosine levels high in the muscles. But VASOCOR also has a nitric oxide precursor blend, complete with GlycoCarn and citrulline malate, plus ingredients designed to imitate anabolic hormonal releases that will boost strength and power output.

Move beyond VASOCOR and you’re into the big-boy realm of pre-workout products, with HEMOVEX and ERRATIC at 300mg and N’SANE beyond even that. These are for the workouts you really need to pump up intensity and focus — perhaps you’re an early riser and the first thing in the morning is your workout. You’ll definitely want to take these early in the day, and not after coffee!

Hemovex

Hemovex

HEMOVEX: 

It’s true that many nitric oxide boosters also have creatine in them, but many times it’s micronized monohydrate in small doses that don’t get absorbed nearly effectively enough. HEMOVEX gets around this with a more modern approach, using creatine magnapower and citrulline nitrate to boost strength and muscular endurance during the workout. We’ll look at these ingredients and show why they’re important, and how you can take advantage of them:

  • Creatine Magnapower: Known to lab nerds as creatine magnesium chelate, a completely different compound form of creatine that delivers the vital supplement to the muscles in a different way. Typically, creatine monohydrate and even Krealkalyn reach the muscles in a very specific pathway, with Krealkalyn being a much more stable option between those two. However, creatine magnapower delivers it via a different pathway. The upshot: You could theoretically stack two forms of creatine at once and increase the amount of it in the muscles, creating more strength and power.
  • Citrulline Nitrate: During the absorption process, it’s converted into nitric oxide in the body. The immediate result is an increased blood flow due to expanded blood vessels, and better delivery of creatine throughout the system. This is one of the most effective vasodilation products around.

erraticERRATIC:

ERRATIC begins with its proprietary blend, the P4 Complex: Beta-Alanine (Carnosyn), Arginine Nitrate, Citrulline Nitrate, Agmatine Sulfate.

Beta-Alanine (Carnosyn): Beta-alanine is one of the most important pre-workout ingredients around; if it’s not in your pre-workout, well, you need a new one. A pre-cursor for carnosine, a protein building block that bonds with histidine (another amino acid), beta-alanine is shown in studies to reduce fatigue in athletes while increasing total muscle work and power.

Arginine Nitrate: Arginine Nitrate is backed by some pretty heady research. It was found by a 1999 study in Cardiovascular Researchto be a bona fide precursor to nitric oxide; German research from 2003 indicates that it plays a role in wound-healing and recovery; in 1998, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that arginine can even stimulate growth hormone secretion.

During intense exercise, in the middle or toward the end of your workout when your body is low on oxygen anyway, the L-Arginine NO Synthase pathway — the more common route for typical pre-workouts — is much less effective, and nitric oxide production won’t last as long. The effect of this process is usually seen early in the workout, when energy and stored oxygen levels are high.

Citrulline Nitrate: Citrulline is an amino acid that does a few things, including helping support L-Arginine in the body and also serving as a precursor to nitric oxide production. Imagine there is a line of dominos that has to fall before the effect of nitric oxide can take place — the presence of Citrulline is one of the first dominos. The end result of taking a Citrulline Nitrate product is gains in strength, endurance and faster recovery. Recent studies have proven that citrulline helps to relax the blood vessels, making it an essential ingredient  in any vasodilatory (blood-flow increasing) supplement.

Agmatine Sulfate: Basically arginine with the carboxylic acid end removed, agmatine produces several byproducts directly involved with cell growth. Many see it as an exciting new ingredient, particularly for its potential as a “novel neurotransmitter,” according to one scientific review.

HOW IT HELPS YOU: The long story made short on the blend above is that each ingredient in the formula works in synergy to improve athletic endurance and performance, while providing a crazy, impressive pump you can see. Have you ever had a workout so intense — muscles swollen, veins popping — that you almost don’t recognize yourself in the mirror? That’s the pump — and the results you can expect with ERRATIC.

The second important blend in ERRATIC is the S5 complex, featuring instantized leucine, glycine, Betaine HCI, Kre-Alkalyn and Vanadyl Sulfate.

Instantized Leucine:  Leucine, an essential amino acid, is crucial because of its ability to activate key pathways in the body that lead to protein synthesis, which is proven to increase the amount of skeletal muscle hypertrophy, or growth. Leucine plays an important role in activating your muscle building processes, which prevents using muscle tissue for fuel during exercise.

Glycine: Some neat trivia on glycine — it’s the smallest of the amino acids. But it still plays an important role in protein synthesis, serving as a pre-cursor for proteins, which of course are key to muscle-building.

Betaine HCI: Betaine is an important vitamin derived from choline, a protein-and-fat-based dietary component that adds structural integrity to cell membranes. Naturally occurring in sugar beets, Betaine regulates the body’s levels of homocysteine, a potentially toxic substance that is a byproduct of meat digestion.

Kre-Alkalyn: Unlike creatine monohydrate, Kre-Alkalyn is a pH-buffered creatine which ensures the highest level of creatine availability delivered to muscles.  Studies show that nearly 100 percent of creatine from Kre-Alkalyn is absorbed and none is converted to toxic impurities and never biodegrades to creatinine.  This allows the highest level of absorption and utilization with levels up to 10 times that of other creatine forms.  Essentially, you need to take far less product, while saving your kidneys from excreting high levels of toxic creatinine.

Vanadyl Sulfate: Known primarily for its mimicking effect of insulin, it becomes clear why this ingredient is part of ERRATIC. Insulin’s role is to help quickly shuttle nutrients through the bloodstream to recovering tissues, and in the case of your workouts, this means your muscles. The result is faster recovery on the spot, and more energy.

HOW IT HELPS YOU: The S5 Complex, with its inclusion of energy-boosting creatine (which increases ATP, cellular energy) and vanadyl sulfate as an insulin-mimicker, obviously is a great way to improve energy and power for your workout, while amino acids in the blend help to preserve muscle tissue as you fatigue.

The final blend in ERRATIC we’ll go over is the E6 Complex, comprised of n-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine, Caffeine Anhydrous, Advantra-Z, and Pikamilon.

N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine: The body uses tyrosine to create the brain’s chemical messengers involving feelings of energy. It’s used to help treat people with depression, ADHD, sleep deprivation, narcolepsy, PMS and even Parkinson’s because of its ability to be converted into dopamine and norepinephrine. An article in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior revealed studies that have shown tyrosine to aid the body during times of stress or fatigue, both primary symptoms of adrenal fatigue.

Caffeine Anhydrous: One of the most popular fast acting stimulants. Caffeine Anhydrous acts as a central nervous system stimulant, increases the release of adrenaline, acts as a thermogenic agent (raises metabolic rate and core body temperature), increases the use of body fat for fuel, and spares muscle glycogen increasing endurance. Studies suggest Caffeine Anhydrous has significant effects on physiological response and performance of trained athletes. Caffeine Anhydrous is primarily used as a power and energy accelerant. This fast-acting substance delivers the right molecular structure to your energy systems for maximum energy and power output. Caffeine Anhydrous is fast-acting because it stimulates the central nervous system so you’re neurologically charged to increased levels of alertness and focus.

Advantra-Z: An extract of a citrus fruit that helps stimulate metabolic processes, favor uptake of amino acids into muscle, increase lipolysis (breakdown of fat) and exert mild hunger-suppressant effects. Advantra Z is the only patented thermogenic ingredient for weight loss and physical performance on the market today.

Pikamilon: Once in the body, it causes the release of GABA and niacin, and this ingredient serves two ways — first as a vasodilator, expanding the blood vessels for that insane pump we talked about earlier, and also as an anti-anxiety focus-enhancer.

So, who will benefit most from ERRATIC?  Basically, anyone wanting to gain muscle, get focused and energized for a workout, get a great pump, and lose body fat.  With the three aforementioned blends working as 1) a mood enhancer, 2) a way to increase blood flow for athletic performance and 3) a surefire way to get that coveted pump you only achieve on your best workout days. As always, the work you put into your training will be the deciding factor in what you get out of it — don’t leave your energy and performance up to chance with the same-ol’, same-ol’ pre-workouts. Deviate from the ordinary.

nsaneN’SANE:

A natural promoter of nitric oxide in your own body is L-Arginine AKG, and this compound is a primary ingredient in CellShock’s N’SANE, a powerful pre-workout formula designed to increase your focus and intensity during the workout as well as provide enhanced blood flow and vascularity. N’SANE aims to be the BEST pre-workout product available, and its 9.3 out of 10 rating on Supplement Reviews online indicates that it is a premier formula.

While “other” pre-workout formulas rely on inhuman levels of caffeine or stimulants alone to achieve this effect, N’SANE relies primarily on two patented compounds designed to increase not only energy and focus, but strength and muscle endurance itself:

GlycoCarn: Working in conjunction with the L-Arginine AKG also in N’SANE, GlycoCarn is a highly effective precursor of nitric oxide production in the system. Its ingredients signal to your body to increase the nitric oxide levels in your blood naturally, helping to promote expansion of the blood vessels for better circulation to the muscles. That means stronger lifts, the ability to have longer workouts and better training sessions, and an overall increase in muscular performance.

KreAlkalyn: Creatine is one of the most-researched muscle improvement supplements available, and one of the things all that research has shown is that in its normal form (creatine monohydrate), it is incredibly unstable and breaks down once its pH is altered within the body. Creatine is transformed into creatinine, a benefit-less byproduct, with most creatine products because of that instability. What KreAlkalyn does is provide a pH-buffered version of creatine, meaning that it will not break down the way normal creatine products would; instead, nearly 100 percent of it is absorbed to help increase muscle mass and strength.

With your body pumping blood more efficiently while also containing anabolic compounds, you can count on increased intensity in your workouts, stronger lifts, improved vascularity and a great pump.

 

5 Fitness Shortcuts That Don’t Work

Many people trying to get into fitness (or back into it, as it were), try to make things as simplified and fuss-free as possible. “Healthy food” on the go, quick and easy workouts. If this sounds like a crock, congrats: Your B.S. detector is fully functional.

We’ve heard doozies when it comes to shortcuts people try to take to get in shape, and this week we’re showing you five of the best (worst?) that simply won’t get you the results you want. You HAVE to eat clean, and you HAVE to train hard if you want to get results — period.

We’re counting down throughout the week. Stay tuned…

5. “I DON’T NEED A GYM MEMBERSHIP.” Somewhere along the line, it was determined that exercise was a chore and training was too time-consuming to fit into everyone’s everyday schedule, as if an hour out of the day spent bettering oneself was just unattainable. Because of this, we’ve seen countless people try to squeeze their fitness into their schedules with shortcuts: Home exercises, half-hearted training plans and, the worst, “I”ll just jog around my block a few times a day.”

Are all those things better than nothing? Absolutely. But they’re not real training. Unless you have a fully adjustable squat rack, Olympic bar and row of dumbbells at home, your home gym won’t cut it. Yes, you can get in better shape with body-weight exercises at home than you would if did nothing at all. Duh. But it’s not the most efficient use of your time. Forty-five minutes of intense, challenging resistance training is exponentially better.

And then there’s the mental aspect of the gym you just cannot emulate in the comfort of your own home. Just as you shouldn’t eat or watch TV in bed because your brain will stop associating it with sleep, you should have a specific time and place set for your exercise. Your living room is not where you will get in a mentally sound state of mind to get stronger — too many distractions abound, not least of all the subconscious feeling of “comfort.” Being at a place specifically designated for your training, with strangers and other like-minded people, can help put you in the proper mental zone. And hey, you might even make a friend.

4. “I’VE EATEN CLEAN FOR THREE DAYS. CHEAT MEAL TIME!” Nobody’s perfect, and in fact, we’d be a little suspicious to meet someone who never indulged with a sweet treat or calorie bomb every now and then. But it should be just that — every now and then. Far too many people reward themselves with cheat meals (or cheat days, or cheat weekends) for several days of clean eating, when really it’s a lifestyle change that should be implemented.

Think of healthy eating as saving money, and then think of unhealthy eating as non-essential spending. Are you saving up to last a lifetime and protect your future, or are you just biding your time until the next paycheck so you can make a splashy, unnecessary purchase that won’t do anything in the long run? Don’t eat “paycheck to paycheck.” Build your health wealth, so to speak, and at the end of the week, celebrate a job well done with a (reasonable) treat.

How often should you have a cheat meal? In most cases, where you’re eating six times a day and making sure your macronutrient levels are on-point, the answer is one: one cheat meal a week, that you should enjoy wholeheartedly.

3. “7-MINUTE WORKOUTS.” We’re all for efficiency. There’s no reason most people should spend three hours in the gym to get a good workout in. But if that end of the spectrum is bad for being overkill, the other end is much worse for being lazy and, possibly more offensive, unrealistic.

Legitimate fitness training takes commitment, and the one often hardest to cope with is time. You can jolt up the intensity to get more bang for your buck. You can really shorten your rest periods, increase your work rate and hammer out the fastest sets possible while keeping good form, and these things will save you some time. But a sub-10-minute workout? Come on. One set of most exercises, done correctly with even mediocre rest periods, will take 4-5 minutes.

Countless money-grabbing programs and tapes have touted quick, easy workouts over the years (remember those terrible 8-Minute Abs/Buns commercials?). Again, they’re better than doing nothing. But the level of results you can expect from short, low-intensity workouts is commensurate to the time you spend. There’s no golden number of minutes a workout should last — some like to go long at the gym, socializing and taking their time beyond an hour. Others, like the author of this article, believe it’s possible to leave the gym wobbling with the sweet ache of a great workout in 45 minutes or less (and, in some cases, 30). But the micro-workouts have to go. There’s simply not enough time under tension to make them worthwhile.

2. SACRIFICING FORM. Squats are easier when you don’t go parallel to the floor. Bench press is easier when you don’t lower the bar to your chest. And you can do a lot more pull-ups when you don’t go through a full range of motion. None of these shortcuts actually will help you improve, though.

If you’ve decided something is worth doing, there is no point in doing it if you’re not going to do it right. You might think you’re saving yourself time, and in the short term, sure — you could leave the gym 5 minutes earlier than you would have otherwise if you’d taken the time to make sure your form was perfect, your range of motion full. In the long run, the number of so-so workouts you will have done will add up, and you’ll see the real waste of time was all that which you spent half-assing it.

Simply put, the failure to focus consistently on proper form isn’t a shortcut at all — it’s a dead end. Exercises are designed to work specific muscles in a specific manner; to do them otherwise is not only to risk injury, but to waste the opportunity to get results.

1. CRASH DIETS. The road to fitness is not a short one. It’s not always smooth. And the idea that one can accelerate through it solely with drastic calorie deficits is bogus. Do not think of the food you eat (or don’t) as a quick fix; it’s a lifestyle change that will help promote your health and fitness. The reason the quick cleanses and gadget diets are so popular is because they sound easy — drink nothing but lemon juice and syrup for three days? Replace breakfast with carrot juice? Pill meal replacements? Come on.

You can’t completely transform an unhealthy body to a healthy one overnight. It takes weeks, months, years of consistent, sound food decisions and training. That’s it. If you’re searching for an easy, tried-and-true formula, that’s the whole thing. You can’t cut corners; you can’t fudge the numbers, so to speak. Eat breakfast. Eat every few hours and make sure there’s some actual sustaining nutrients in the meal. Recognize a fad diet when you see it: If it says you will get results “in days,” be wary.