Two of the most important lifts you can perform, for any reason — be it strength, muscle mass, or even just better all-around athleticism — are the squat and the deadlift. You probably already knew that.
But should your legs day include both of these elite compound movements? You should be doing both, after all. Perhaps not on the same day, however.
The question is not so much whether you can handle the workload (if you can, that’s one heck of a workout). Some lifters’ legs day might actually include just the squat, deadlift and some other auxiliary lifts. But if you’re trying to train to get stronger in each lift, you should definitely split up your legs days into quad-centric and hamstring/glute-centric days, and that could mean up to 3 legs days per week. This is a good thing!
The biggest reason for doing this type of split is that it allows the largest muscle groups to get the most work while getting ample rest between workouts, and still allows for enough overall energy to perform at a high level with every session. Strength training isn’t about maxing out every time you train, but you certainly will be using heavier weights than you would if you were solely concentrating on hypertrophy with a bodybuilding-style emphasis.
It’s highly recommended that each of your legs days starts off with either the squat or the deadlift, to get the most physically taxing lifts off the table first without sacrificing the strength and support of stabilizing muscles. In practice, this makes enough sense — you wouldn’t hit your abs or fire off a bunch of lunges before getting under your squat PR, or hammer the middle back with rows and shrugs before you tried to pull your best deadlift. Same concept applies to doing both the squat and DL in the same session: Because both lifts activate so many muscles, whichever one you do second will inevitably suffer if you are aiming to get stronger with it (and there is really no practical reason to deadlift, in particular, for reps). So let’s avoid that.
Splitting these lifts into separate workouts gives you the opportunity to focus on hammering the quadriceps and also training the posterior chain. An example of this alternating split would look like this, if you were performing a legs day every other or third workout and training 5-6 times a week (exercises listed in order of execution):
Legs Day 1 (Squat Focus): Squats, Power Cleans, Forward Lunges, Box Jumps, TRX or Swiss ball hamstring curls
Legs Day 2 (Posterior Chain): Deadlifts, Power Cleans, Backward Lunges, Deep Goblet Squats, Calf Work (Jump rope or raises)
Note that power cleans, which are tremendous for building from-the-ground all-around strength, are included in both workouts — they have the power to complement both the squat and deadlift, but can be performed with relatively light weight and still have a big impact for explosive strength. You’ll also note that each workout has an antagonistic exercise included; that is to say that the quad-focused day has some hamstring/glute work and vice versa. This is to help allay any imbalances as the workout progresses.
Squats and deadlifts are both important parts of a strong athlete’s training plan, so do them — just consider giving each lift its proper attention when it comes to crafting your workout sessions.
Those of us who are naturally more thin and lean and have trouble adding and maintaining weight of any kind are called “hard gainers,” and we’ve got the workout and supplement plan for you!
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.
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:
BCAA SPORT. Around the clock, your body needs amino acids to prevent catabolism, where the body feeds on muscle storage for energy.
N’FUZE — Abundantly researched and shown to increase muscle volume and strength, there is no reason to pick a low-quality version of creatine 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.
ANITEST, ARABOL, AUGMENT, 1-XD and HGH-191 are outstanding options to get your body back to growing, the natural way. Hard gainers are 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.
Pre-workout products like N’SANE, NOX-P3, ANX-P3, STANCE 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.
THE TRAINING PLAN
MONDAY (Chest and Back)
5 Supersets: Wide-grip pull-ups (failure)/barbell bench press (x12). Clear the bar with your chin and lower yourself all the way down; likewise, on bench, pull the bar down to your chest and, without bouncing it, drive it back up. Perfect form is the biggest key.
5 Supersets: T-bar rows (x12)/dumbbell incline press (x12).
5 Supersets: Seated cable rows (x12)/dumbbell flys (x12).
TUESDAY (Legs and Abs)
5 Supersets: Wide-stance squats (x12)/narrow-stance leg press (x12). On the leg press, keeping your feet close together, toes pointed straight forward, will target the upper leg’s outer sweep more, while a wider squat with the toes pointed slightly outward allows for a deeper, more engaging movement.
5 Supersets: Romanian deadlifts (x12)/wall sits (x15 seconds).
5 Supersets: Hamstring curls (x12)/seated calf raises (x20).
3 Supersets: Hanging leg raises (x8)/decline crunches (x10)/planks (x30 seconds).
5 Trisets: EZ Bar Curls (x6)/French triceps press (x12)/Reverse-grip curls (x6)
3 Supersets: Weighted dips (to failure)/preacher curl machine (x25)
3 Trisets: Hammer curls (x10 per arm)/V-bar cable pushdowns (x20)/incline dumbbell curls (x10 per arm)
THURSDAY (Shoulders and Abs)
4 Supersets: Arnold Presses (x12)/Upright rows (x12)
Standing overhead press: 4×12
5 Supersets: Lateral raises (x15)/front raises (x15)
3 Trisets: Hanging leg raises (x10)/decline crunches (x12)/planks (x30 seconds)
Training antagonistic (opposing) muscles groups has been touted for years as one of the more efficient, effective ways to work out. It provides great blood flow and “pump” to the target muscle groups, enhancing growth and recovery. One of the more unrecognized benefits is that it can be used to train functionally in an extremely effective manner.
To some degree, many antagonistic muscle groups work almost in unison, with one flexing or working while the other stretches or relaxes. Consider a bicep curl: As you lift the weight, the biceps get tight, obviously, and at the same time, the triceps get a break; switch up this movement, to, say, a triceps pushdown, and the biceps become elongated and nearly taken out of the equation, only returning to flexion at the very top of the triceps movement.
To apply this to a big-muscle group, consider a push-pull workout, which targets the chest, shoulders and back functionally when done properly. Supersets are a great way to get through these workouts, as multiple muscle groups can mean prolonged exercise sessions. The chest, triceps, shoulders and core all benefit from pushing movements; pulling movements strengthen the biceps, core, back and parts of the shoulder as well.
3 Supersets: 12 DB Bench Press/12 Bent-Over DB Rows. If you’re feeling like you really want to move, you can use the exact same dumbbells for both movements, never setting them down.
3 Supersets: 12 Incline BB Bench Press/12 Wide-Grip Pull-Ups. If you can’t do 12 pull-ups, either use an assisted pull-up machine (if you can’t do even 6-8) or go to failure.
3 Supersets: 10 Plyometric Push-Ups/12 Medicine Ball Slams. If you don’t have access to medicine balls (or the gym doesn’t like you slamming them into the ground), you can sub in Wide-Grip Standing Cable Pushdowns.
3 Supersets: 10 DB Flys/10 Inverted Rows. Perform your inverted rows on a Smith machine by lowering the bar, then simply pull yourself up, belly up and body parallel to the ground.
At NUTRISHOP, much of our reputation for helping people achieve higher levels of fitness comes from our physique competitors — bodybuilders, bikini contestants and the like. It’s true that we do love helping these athletes hone their craft and shape their bodies. But we help with much more than simply how an athlete looks!
The body is all about movement and function — what can it do for us, and how can we help it perform better? Even those who don’t necessarily compete or exercise, who just want to feel better and be healthier in their day-to-day lives, make up a big part of our clientele.
To that end, we’ve come up with a list of the best products to use for athletes, specifically in endurance-dependent sports, those who might not be interested in getting on a stage to show off their muscular development but who would rather put their gains to functional use in competition, like races or athletics. We’ll be going through them with this running blog this week, two at a time.
The first two on our list are old standbys — frankly, they’d be great supplements for anybody.
1. PRO7EIN SYNTHESIS/FORZA PRO. Anyone who’s depending on muscle development and maintenance will find a need for protein in their diet; the problem is that it’s awfully tough to fill in with lean sources of protein throughout the day without loading up on calories. That’s where protein powders come in. PRO7 and FORZAPRO are some of the best-tasting, highest protein-to-calorie ratio supplements you can invest in.
How it helps the athlete: Aside from inherently adding more lean muscle mass, an increased protein intake has myriad benefits, including body fat loss. When you’re moving your body around in athletics, every pound has to pull its weight, especially if you’re competing in a weight class! Muscle recovery and optimization are key for any athlete.
2. BCAA SPORT. Further broken down, proteins, at their base level, are essentially made up of branched-chain amino acids. Your body can and will use these for energy, and finds them from food and even within the body — many distance runners, for example, appear to be very skinny and lean because while their metabolisms attack fat stores for energy, they also will turn to muscle and the amino acids in them for fuel. Supplementing with BCAAs provides a buffer of sorts, as well as helping maintain and even build the muscle in the body.
How it helps the athlete: On top of protecting the lean muscle mass the athlete has achieved or is working to improve upon, BCAA SPORT is unique in that it also includes an electrolyte blend that keeps cells hydrated, crucial for any endurance athlete. What makes it stand out from other supplements is that BCAAs are metabolized in the muscle, not the liver, for faster uptake — this makes it perfect before, during or after a grueling workout. Some studies have indicated that BCAAs help fight fatigue as well!
3. BETABOL. Featuring HMB, a naturally occurring compound produced when our bodies metabolize the amino acid leucine, BETABOL is an excellent choice for endurance athletes who need recovery. HMB’s main role has been found to be the repair, growth and preservation of muscle tissue, as well as the capacity to burn fat. The body spends precious resources with muscle repair — each rep you do results in microscopic muscle-fiber tears; the regrowth of these tears puts a huge energy strain on the body. Leucine is the only essential amino acid with the capacity to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, but it is essentially used primarily to repair muscle damage incurred while lifting. When it is metabolized, HMB is produced as a natural byproduct and aids in recovery.
How it helps the athlete: What if you could “free up” the leucine in your body to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to develop NEW muscle, instead of merely repairing the damaged tissue? That is precisely where an HMB supplement like BETABOL comes in. An increase in HMB is designed to allow essential leucine to build new muscle tissue, in turn burning more fat.
4. KARBOLYN. A full dose of double patent-pending X-R3 Enhancement is designed to take your lean muscle gains to new heights by creating the proper anabolic environment for explosive power, strength, performance and muscle endurance as well as accelerating post-workout muscle recovery when used in conjunction with proper nutrition and a regular exercise program.
How it helps the athlete: The delivery of complex carbohydrates and Kre-Alkalyn (creatine) means more energy (via glucose and increased ATP), strength and power, on top of accelerated post-workout recovery. For someone needing sustained energy AND to promote muscle gain, like an endurance athlete, KARBOLYN is another solid choice.
5. GLUTAMINE. Glutamine’s properties as a recovery supplement help it target broken-down areas of muscle. This applies to weight lifters and athletes as a tool to reduce soreness by speeding up the process of muscle recovery. It is the presence of glutamine ITSELF in muscle tissue that is responsible for how sore you are after an intense workout. Even bed-ridden patients in hospitals are given excess glutamine to make sure their muscles don’t waste away while they’re off their feet. So, the more glutamine that’s available, theoretically, the less sore you will be.
How it helps the athlete: Any athlete who has been through the rigors of training and competition will tell you the value of feeling fresh and strong; it’s another thing entirely to have your immune system and muscles recovering at full optimization. Glutamine’s reparative properties make it a must-have for anyone who consistently exercises at demanding levels.
6. NATURE’S FUEL. On top of the main purpose of actually getting what you pay for, NATURE’S FUEL stands apart from knock-off or cheap versions of a daily multivitamin with other blends that make it a powerful addition to anybody’s supplementation schedule. For one, it contains amino acids — we know amino acids are building blocks of protein, and we know that you can rarely have too many of them. Their role in NATURE’S FUEL is to provide your body with a little extra recovery ability, joining forces with the many vitamins and minerals that aid in the same process.
How it helps the athlete: With an amino acid blend, greens blend and antioxidant blend, NATURE’S FUEL is a complete multivitamin designed to cater to the competitive athlete. Immune function, energy and digestion all are important facets of physical health.
We’ve said it a million times: The fastest way to losing body fat is through diet (or “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Take your pick). And it’s still true. Our estimate is that about 75 percent of the body fat you’ll lose has to do with what and when you’re eating. But that doesn’t mean that other 25 percent — your training — can’t figure in massively, too.
This week, we will examine four ways you can train to start burning fat: prolonged cardio, HIIT cardio, super-, tri- and giant-sets and skilled recreational training, plus we’ll provide a sample of each one and list the best supplements you can use to complement your fat-loss training. Each day, we’ll have an addition to this running blog with a way to burn fat through exercise. We’ll start today with No. 1: Distance cardio.
The most popular, long-touted form of aerobic exercise is about as simple as it gets: You just run around for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, and that’s your workout. You maintain a steady pace, focus on your breathing and keeping your legs and, sure enough, you’re beat when you’re done.
Is this our favorite form of cardio? No. But it can be effective in spots. Plus, some people really do find the run itself to be a time to decompress and think lucidly. A 2-to-3-mile jog has its benefits; runs that long definitely can start burning up fat, provided you allow your body to do so instead of catabolizing and eating muscle.
Our basic say on distance cardio wants you to follow just a couple rules:
HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING
We’ll come out and say it: This is the best cardio you can do for fat loss — our apologies if you just really love running long distances. The basic principle is that you bust your butt as hard as you can for a minute, then take another minute to slow it down or rest before cranking up the intensity again. The idea isn’t that you run a certain distance in a certain amount of time; it’s that you run for specific amounts of time at varying degrees of intensity.
Studies across the board show that HIIT is superior to prolonged, single-state cardio for fat loss, metabolic change and muscle support. It’s harder — you go for about 85-90 percent of what you can do given your state of fatigue in your “on” intervals — but it is much less time-consuming and much more effective. The calorie burn, additionally, can last up to 24 hours. A few notes on HIIT:
SUPER, TRI AND GIANT SETS
Not all fat loss has to come from running, swimming, hiking or other forms of cardio. In fact, many cardiophobes prefer this very method for that reason: You can still get your heart rate up and avoid traditional aerobic exercise with your weight lifting — it’s all about blood flow.
Super sets involve consecutive sets, with no rest in between (trisets feature three sets, and giant sets four or more). It’s particularly effective for rushing blood all over the body to mix an upper-body lift with a lower-body one; say, pull-ups and Romanian deadlifts. Other supersets depend on your goal, but none of them are bad for fat loss as long as reps are toward the high side (usually a minimum of eight reps per set; so 16 per superset, is what you want).
Versatility is one of the keys of this type of exercise; how you pair them can mean quite a lot. An explosive movement, like box jumps, could pair well with a heavy one, like deadlifts; likewise, you can get a great pump and build strength by working antagonistic muscles (a set of bent-over rows, paired with incline dumbbell press).
Finally, super-, tri- and giant sets are a great way to shake up your workout routine. I’ve always found that when things are stagnating a bit, throwing in a few supersets gets the blood flowing and energy going (plus, it saves on time).
Some people like putting in the time for cardio, but playing a competitive sport like basketball, soccer or football is an outstanding way to not only burn fat through exercise, but to have fun while doing it.
Basketball and soccer, in particular, are fantastic options because they offer a very similar approach to HIIT — lots of full-speed sprinting, plenty of endurance training and the added benefit of lateral and backward movement. Running and jumping competitively, for even short periods of time, provides an excellent aerobic workout, and when you add in things like body control and skilled movement — necessary in sports — it becomes even more challenging and rewarding. Other extremely underrated sports for fat loss (and, obviously, muscle gain) are wrestling, boxing and variations of mixed martial arts. If you can find a good trainer or gym, you’ll see just how hard of a workout these sports can provide.
Even if you’re not looking to play sports, you can train like an athlete would. Basketball wind sprints (“suicides”) are renowned for their HIIT style and can torch the fat in no time, and they’re a personal favorite of ours for in-the-gym cardio when you don’t want to give a bunch of time to aerobics.