4 Reasons Why You Should Work Out in the Morning

This article was originally written for STACK.

The best time of day to work out is first thing in the morning.

There, I said it.

No, it's not because you'll burn more fat in the morning than you would later in the day. And no, it's not because you'll build more muscle than you would with an evening workout. In fact, I have no scientific evidence to back my statement (none that I researched, anyway). \

My reasoning has nothing to do with physiology, but everything to do with psychology. I can't definitively tell you that a morning workout will give you a stronger body, but I can tell you that it will make you a stronger person. Let me explain.

Strengthen Your Discipline

Waking up early is hard. Waking up early to go to the gym and get under a heavy barbell is even harder. So why do it? You do it because it makes you a more disciplined person.

Self-discipline, itself, is like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. Therefore, the more you do something that challenges you, the easier other challenging tasks become. So by facing small bits of adversity every day—like rolling out of bed and heading straight to the gym—the more prepared you will be for the curveballs that life is bound to throw at you later that day or in the future.

Start with a Win

Momentum has an enormous effect on the outcome of our day, and ultimately, our weeks and months. One good thing leads to another, then another, then another, and pretty soon all the dominoes start falling. The compound effect begins to take place, and the positive momentum starts roaring like a freight train with no breaks.

Working out every morning is a surefire way to guarantee that you start with a win and get that positive momentum working in your favor.

Think about it, if you complete a workout first thing in the morning are you going to pick up a few donuts for breakfast on the way to work? I doubt it.

Instead, you'll opt for the eggs and oatmeal. That positive momentum will most definitely spill over into other aspects of your life as well, making you more task-oriented, productive and engaged.

Competitive Advantage

By waking up early to work out, you set yourself apart from the crowd. The roads are quiet and the gym is empty. Your "competition" is still tucked in bed. But not you. You're going to work.

If you're able to complete a full workout before your peers or co-workers even open their eyes, then you're already having a more productive day. You're winning.

While they're still at home making their morning coffee, trying to force themselves awake, you're wide-eyed, full of endorphins and ready to take on the day. At first, that extra hour or two may seem insignificant, but over time, the gap between you and them will widen.

Fewer Distractions and Excuses

Here is a list of things that don't happen at 5 a.m.: traffic, crowded gyms, staying late at work to make a deadline, happy hour, anniversary dinners, your child's tee-ball game, Monday Night Football—Need I go on? All of these excuses, many of which I've taken from personal experience, can sabotage an evening workout. But those excuses don't exist in the morning.

Morning workouts eliminate the possibility of any work, family or social distractions getting in the way. Throughout the day, good or bad, things will happen. Those things often turn into "I can't work out today because…" or "I don't feel like it today because…". Morning gym-goers don't open themselves up to those excuses. Get your workout in first thing every day, when the rest of the world is still quiet and when you can give your full attention to the task at hand.

There you have it. That's why you should work out first thing in the morning. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, morning workouts don't have any secret anabolic properties or significant fat burning effects. And ultimately, the absolute best time to work out is whenever you can make it happen consistently.

However, morning workouts do have the ability to create positive change in other aspects of your life. They will make you more disciplined, more productive and more engaged.

So set your alarm an hour or two earlier and give it a try. Before you know it, you'll be a morning person too.

This Simple Mobility Complex Is the Only Warm-Up You'll Ever Need

This article was originally written for STACK.


Mobility work is a key component of any well-rounded workout routine. Good mobility can prevent injuries, increase longevity and improve lifting mechanics. Unfortunately, mobility is severely overlooked by most of the population.

When it comes to the gym, most people want to get in and get out. They walk in, full of motivation (and caffeine) and immediately begin to knock out reps of their first exercise. They load up the bar before doing a single mobility drill. They don't have the time to spend 20 minutes flopping around on a foam roller and touching their toes, and I don't blame them.

Mobility drills don't have to be a half-hour precursor to every workout. That's overkill. Instead, find a few key movements that effectively warm up and open up trouble areas.

Here's an awesome catch-all mobility complex that combines 3 stretches—Inchworm, The World's Greatest Stretch, and Deep Squat to Hamstring Stretch—into one fluid movement.

This super effective combo unlocks the hips, hamstrings, and thoracic spine while also warming up the glutes and quads. It's the perfect start to your lower body day, and drastically improves positioning on the Squat and Deadlift. This mobility drill is also great after a long day of sitting behind a desk, driving in a car or traveling on a plane.

Here's how to do it:

  1. With legs straight, bend over to touch your toes, and walk your hands out in front of you as far as possible.

  2. Bring one foot forward to the outside of your hand, and drop the opposite knee to the floor.

  3. Lift your hand off of the ground and rotate inward, then outward, until your hand is pointing to the ceiling.

  4. Bring your hand back to the inside of your front foot, and rock backward to stretch the hamstring.

  5. Bring the other foot forward, grab your toes, and sit into a deep squat.

  6. Straighten out the legs, hold, then repeat Step 1.

  7. Find a stretch of open floor and shoot for 10 reps on each leg.

Can Your Handle This 1,000 Rep Plate Workout?

This article was originally written for STACK.

Short on time? Low on equipment? Or just want to get in a great full-body workout?

Then I've got good news for you. This 1,000-rep workout hits every muscle in your body, and all you need is a plate.

This workout is great because you can do it virtually anywhere. I've done it multiple times on vacation while stuck in ill-equipped hotel gyms, or even at home when I need to get off the couch and break a good sweat. It's perfect for "active recovery," as it pumps blood into all the muscles without targeting one body part too intensely.

Here's how it's done:

  • Guys (or advanced lifters): grab a 45 lb. weight plate.

  • Girls (or beginner lifters): grab a 25 lb. weight plate.

Perform 100 reps of the following 10 exercises as fast as possible. You must do all 100 reps before moving to the next exercise.

  • 100 Floor Presses (Chest)

  • 100 Bent Over Rows (Back)

  • 100 Squats (Quads)

  • 100 Overhead Presses (Shoulders)

  • 100 RDLs (Hamstrings)

  • 100 Curls (Biceps)

  • 100 Overhead Extensions (Triceps)

  • 100 Reverse Lunges (Quads, Hamstrings, Glutes)

  • 100 Sit-Ups (Abs)

  • 100 Russian Twists (Obliques)

You can break the reps up into sets (Ex: 10x10 or 5x20), or simply perform as many reps as you can before gassing out. Take as few breaks as possible and keep form strict.

Record your time and try to improve every time you do it. And if you want an even greater challenge, go all the way back up the list for a 2,000-rep, full-body workout challenge. It's brutal!

This Suspension Trainer Workout Builds Strength, Power and Core Stability

This article was originally written for STACK.

Suspension equipment is incredibly convenient and effective tools for delivering a great workout. Suspension exercises are very scalable, so they can be used by beginners and advanced trainees alike. They require nothing more than the straps, a place to anchor them, and your body weight.

Here are five key exercises that can be combined to create a challenging full-body suspension trainer workout.

Quads: Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat

This unilateral lower-body exercise hammers the quads while also working glutes and hamstrings. It strengthens the core, too, as you have to brace to stay tight and upright while moving. It is similar to the (also effective) Bulgarian Split Squat, but requires more strength and balance because your foot is not anchored to a fixed object.

Perform 4 sets of 10 reps each leg with 30 seconds between sets.

Glutes, Hamstrings: Leg Curl

This exercise looks pretty basic, but it's one of the most brutal posterior chain movements out there. It builds the glutes and hamstrings better than most weighted exercises, and can be used by athletes of all levels. This movement is also great for preventing, or rehabbing from, knee injuries.

Perform 4 sets of 15 reps with 45-60 seconds between sets.

Chest: Chest Fly

The Suspension Chest Fly is a step up from the standard Chest Press. Because your hands travel farther from your body, the movement requires a ton of core strength and shoulder stability. While a standard Dumbbell Fly is more of a chest isolation movement, this variation still requires support from the triceps and shoulders.

Perform 4 sets of 12 reps with 45-60 seconds between sets.

Back: Inverted Row (Pronated to Neutral Grip)

The Inverted Row is ideal for building a strong and healthy upper back. A variety of angles and grip variations can be used to target different areas of the back and scale the exercise to make it easier or more difficult. This is the perfect substitute for standard Pull-Ups if you're not able to perform them, or if you have trouble reaching a prescribed rep range.

Perform 4 sets of 15 reps with 45-60 seconds between sets.

Core: Ab Layout

The suspension layout is not for the faint of heart. It will challenge your abs, obliques and lower back, and build real, functional core strength. This is one of the hardest core movements out there when done properly.

Perform 5 sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds between sets.

Build Full-Body Strength and Endurance With This Trap Bar Challenge

This article was originally written for STACK.

If you're in need of a grueling workout finisher that will push you to the limit physically and mentally, you've come to the right place.

This Trap Bar Deadlift/Carry Challenge will build punishing strength while burning a ton of calories. The workout combines two of the best bang-for-your-buck full-body movements into one dynamic, high-intensity, ladder-style exercise.

Here's how it's done:

  1. Load a trap bar with approximately 50-60% of your 1RM.

  2. Perform 5 Trap Bar Deadlifts, then immediately carry the trap bar 20-30 yards.

  3. When you reach the other side, perform 4 Trap Bar Deadlifts, then carry it back.

  4. Continue in this fashion for 3, 2 and 1 reps.

The full sequence should only take a few minutes, but it will leave you gassed. Your forearms, shoulders, upper back, core and legs will all take a beating.

This challenge is great for athletes because it combines elements of both strength and conditioning into a single workout. Heavy Deadlifts and heavy carries are two essential movements that benefit athletes of every sport. This challenge gives you all the strength benefits of these pillar exercises, while also delivering a short, high-intensity cardio session.

If you don't have access to a trap bar, you can also perform this challenge with dumbbells or kettlebells. If doing so, try using at least half of your body weight in each hand.

Do this for 3 sets at the end of your next workout with 2-3 minutes of rest between. OR, if you really want a challenge, start the ladder at 10 reps and descend all the way to 1. It's brutal!

Improve Posture and Shoulder Health With TRX YTWs

This article was originally written for STACK.

TRX YTW's are your one-stop shop for bulletproof shoulders and a jacked upper back.

This exercise combines three moves in one to target the rear delts and traps. Building these muscles will improve posture, performance and shoulder health. It's perfect for offsetting the effects of too much sitting throughout the day or too many pressing exercises in a workout program.

Best of all, you don't need any additional weight to perform this exercise. Your body weight will provide more than enough resistance.

Instructions

  1. Grab a pair of TRX handles, face the anchor, and lean back (the more vertical you stand, the easier).

  2. With your palms pronated (facing toward your body), raise your arms above your head to form a "Y". Don't bend at the elbows.

  3. Briefly pause and squeeze, then lower your arms to the starting position.

  4. With your palms pronated, bend the elbows at 90 degrees and rotate your hands upward toward your ears to form a "W".

  5. Briefly pause and squeeze, then lower your arms to the starting position.

  6. With your palms neutral (facing each other), raise your arms out to your sides to form a "T". Don't bend at the elbows.

  7. Briefly pause and squeeze, then lower your arms to the starting position.

Throughout the motion, avoid "swinging" your hips for added momentum. Keep your lower body quiet to keep the focus entirely on the upper back.

Try 4 sets of 15 reps (5 reps each way) toward the end of your next shoulder or upper-body day.

Try These 3 Landmine Exercises for Stronger and Healthier Shoulders

This article was originally written for STACK.

Has your shoulder routine gotten stale? Tired of doing the same shoulder exercises week after week, month after month? Are heavy barbell overhead presses leaving you broken and in pain?

Then I've got just what you need.

Here are three shoulder exercises using the landmine that are guaranteed to help you build bigger and stronger delts, pain-free.

Band-Resisted Landmine Shoulder Press

Overhead presses are crucial for building a set of broad shoulders. Unfortunately standard barbell overhead presses often lead to irritating shoulder and lower-back pain. The landmine variation, however, puts much less stress on the shoulder joints and is a great pain-free way to stack muscle onto the front delts and upper chest.

There are multiple ways to set your feet, but I prefer a split stance with the opposite leg of the pressing arm forward for the greatest stability. With Landmine Presses, the lift actually becomes easier as you reach the top of the movement. To add accommodating resistance, loop a band around the barbell and your back foot. This will not only make the lockout tougher, it will force you to slow down to control the eccentric portion of the lift, leading to greater hypertrophy.

Landmine Lateral Raise

The plane of motion on this exercise is unique and actually works all three heads of your shoulder (front, medial and rear) simultaneously. With a standard dumbbell, cable or machine lateral raise, you are raising the weight directly to your sides, specifically aiming to target the medial delt. The landmine lateral raise begins with a front raise and then curves outward to a lateral raise.

Stand perpendicular to the barbell with one hand holding the end of it on your opposite hip. Keep your arm straight as you lift and allow the natural arc of the landmine to guide the movement. And keep it light; the bar alone should be enough.

Landmine Reverse Fly

This exercise is great for targeting the chronically under-trained and neglected rear delts. It will also hammer the musculature of the upper back and even work the core.

Stand facing away from the landmine, hinge your hips and maintain a flat back. From there, simply raise the bar outward while keeping your arm straight. Again, the bar alone is plenty of weight. Choke up a bit if necessary to lighten the load.

5 Best Stretches to Reset Your Body After Sitting

This article was originally written for STACK.

The vast majority of us sit far too long each day. Whether you're an athlete in school or a weekend warrior who works throughout the week, you simply aren't standing as much as you should. This leads to many problems.

Muscles tighten up, joints become stiff and your posture gets all out of whack. This can lead to pain or even an injury if you're not careful. It's difficult to undo hours of sitting, but there are a few exercises that can help correct these problems.

Here are five moves that you can do each and every day to help maintain your body.

Couch Stretch

Target Area

  • Hips

  • Quads

Instructions

  1. Drop to half-kneeling position with your back knee on the ground, close to a bench, box, wall or other fixed object. The closer you are to the object, the more difficult the exercise will be.

  2. Make sure the front leg is in a stable lunge position directly in front of your body, with your shin vertical (knee over heel).

  3. Keep your mid line tight throughout the stretch. Do not over-arch your back.

  4. Squeeze your glutes and practice moving your hips forward to increase tension.

Do 2-5 minutes total each side

Elevated Pigeon Stretch

Target Area

  • Hips

  • Glutes

Instructions

  1. Lay one leg flat on top of a bench, box or other fixed object (approximately knee-to-hip height), perpendicular to your body.

  2. Keep your back tight and squeeze your glutes.

  3. Practice rotating your upper back and/or leaning forward to intensify the stretch.

  4. If you experience any knee pain, bring your foot closer to your body or let it hang off the object.

Do 2-5 minutes total each side.

Corner Pec Stretch

Corner-Pec-Stretch-654x543.jpeg

Target Area

  • Chest

  • Shoulders

Instructions

  1. Face a corner in a room where two walls come together at 90 degrees.

  2. Extend your arms to your sides at a 90-degree angle, and place your forearms and hands on the wall.

  3. Maintain an upright posture with your "chest high" as you lean your chest closer to the corner.

Do 2-5 minutes total.

Quadruped T-Spine Extension/Rotation

Target Area

  • Thoracic Spine

  • Shoulders

  • Lower Back

Instructions

  1. Get into the quadruped position (on your hands and knees with your hands directly below your shoulders and knees below your hips) and place one hand on the back of your head.

  2. Rotate your upper back inward so your elbow points toward your opposite knee.

  3. Briefly pause, and then rotate your upper back outward so that your elbow is pointing toward the ceiling.

  4. Keep your lower back tight and avoid rounding throughout the movement.

Do 3x10 each side.

Dead Hang

Target Area

  • Lats

  • Shoulders

  • Upper Back

Instructions

  1. Hang from a pull-up bar or other fixed object with your arms fully extended.

  2. Keep your head straight, core tight and shoulders up by your ears.

Do 3-5 minutes total per day

Get Strong for MMA With Loaded Carries

This article was originally written for STACK.

Loaded carries are one of the best bang-for-your-buck exercises for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors, MMA fighters and grapplers of any kind. They strengthen the core and build an iron-clad grip. They improve posture and correct underlying imbalances. Most of all, they challenge mental toughness.

Core

When it comes to strengthening the core, adding resistance is critical. Most athletes settle for endless bodyweight exercises and stationary Planks to get six-pack abs, but once you graduate past a beginner level of fitness, those things do almost nothing for you.

Loaded Carries are optimal for building the core, because they allow you to load heavy—and they simulate scenarios that you would actually encounter on the mat or in the real world. In order to maintain an upright posture when performing a heavy carry, your abs, obliques and lower back must all be engaged to stabilize your body.

Grip

The ability to hold, control and pull opponents is obviously extremely important in grappling.

It doesn't matter how strong your legs are or how polished your technique is if you can't get a solid grasp on your foe. Your hands are the first point of contact in a match, so training them is vital. A strong grip also enables you to lift heavier on other key exercises such as Deadlifts.

The prescription is simple: Grab something heavy and walk with it.

Posture

Many fighters suffer from a head-forward, shoulders-rounded posture due to the positions they frequently take while training and competing. Many of these athletes also sit at school or work for a significant portion of the day. On top of all that, common daily activities such as driving and texting put a strain on the neck and shoulders.

So what's the solution? Carry heavy stuff.

The proper position for a loaded carry is head up, eyes forward and shoulders back. A great cue is to "put your shoulder blades in your back pockets."

Loaded carries using correct posture stack muscle on your traps and upper back, and they work wonders in pulling your shoulders back into alignment.

Muscular Balance

It's very common for grapplers to have strength imbalances, many of which go unaddressed for some time.

Think about it: How often do you explode off your left leg for a takedown versus your right? Throw over your left hip versus your right? Left jab versus right hook?

These differences may seem subtle, but over the course of weeks and years they can add up to a significant disparity. The solution is not to train your "weak" side more often and neglect your "strong" one. Instead, load them equally, but individually. Carry an object in one hand or on one side of your body for a period of time or distance, then switch to the other.

Mental Toughness

Loaded carries are hard. They work nearly all of your muscles and truly challenge your conditioning. You'll get blisters on your hands, sweat in your eyes, and cramps in your stomach. Your forearms and traps will scream in pain.

The only question is, despite all of that, are you still going to hold on?

In many ways, heavy loaded carries are a test of will more than strength. Of course strength is a factor, but I've witnessed tons of athletes who are physically "weaker" outlast those who are superior simply because they are willing to endure the pain. They just want it more.

How to Perform a Loaded Carry?

Pick up something heavy and walk.

Seriously, it's that simple.

Dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, medicine balls, groceries, or even a wheelbarrow—they all work. Carry for distance or for time, and continue to load heavier, in different positions, or with different objects as you progress. Remember: Head up, eyes forward and shoulders back.

Start implementing loaded carries today to immediately improve your performance on the mat.

4 Supersets For Arms

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

Supersets are a great way to intensify your workouts and add volume to your sessions without adding time. A superset is done by alternating between exercises of opposing muscle groups with little to no rest between.

For example, performing a triceps movement immediately followed by a biceps movement. Doing so allows one muscle to rest while the other works, and prevents you from wasting any time sitting around at the gym.

Here are 4 supersets using 4 different pieces of equipment to build bigger arms.

Barbell: Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press + Standing Barbell Curl

The close-grip bench press is an excellent mass builder for your triceps and is a great accessory movement for improving your regular bench press. The standing barbell curl allows you to really overload the biceps and build serious size and strength. Because these movements can and should be performed using a relatively heavy weight, do them first (or toward the very beginning) of your arm workout for 4-6 sets of 6-8 reps each.

  • Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press: Put your feet up on the bench or hold them in the air at 90 degrees to eliminate any leg drive and put full tension on the upper body.

  • Standing Barbell Curl: Once your biceps are fatigued, use your hips to slightly assist in “cheating” the barbell up, and then very slowly lower the bar back down (3-5 seconds).

EZ-Bar: EZ-Bar Skullcrusher + EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

The EZ-Bar skullcrusher targets the two largest heads of the tricep- the long and lateral heads. The EZ-Bar preacher curl puts direct emphasis on your biceps by keeping your elbows at a fixed position and eliminating the possibility of any momentum or assistance from other muscle groups. This superset should be performed toward the beginning or middle of your routine for 4-5 sets of 8-15 reps each.

  • EZ-Bar Skullcrusher: Vary the “touch point” on every set. For example, bring the first set to your chin, second to your nose, third to your forehead, and fourth behind your head.

  • EZ-Bar Preacher Curl: At the end of each set, perform a few partial reps (lift the bar only ¼ or ½ of the way up) to fully fatigue the muscle.

Dumbbells: Incline Dumbbell Tate Press + Incline Dumbbell Curl

The incline dumbbell tate press (or elbows out triceps extension) is an excellent exercise for building the lower triceps, which play a huge role in compound movements such as the bench press and overhead press. The incline dumbbell curl targets the long head of biceps, the most visible portion of the biceps. These isolation exercises should be done in the middle of your workout for 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps each.

  • Incline Dumbbell Tate Press: Keep the dumbbells touching throughout the movement until the very top near-lockout position.

  • Incline Dumbbell Curl: Fully rotate your wrists at the bottom “hanging” position between each rep and fully supinate your wrists at the top (pinky finger to the ceiling).

Cables: Straight Bar Cable Pushdown + Straight Bar Cable Drag Curl

The cable pushdown is a staple of almost every arm routine and can be done using a variety of attachments including the straight bar, rope, V-bar, and even a band. The straight bar cable drag curl keeps constant tension on the bicep from the bottom of the movement all the way to the top. This superset should be used toward the end of your routine for 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps each.

  • Straight Bar Cable Pushdown: Use the ¼ rep method- push the bar all the way down, but rather than coming all the way back up, only raise the bar ¼ of the way and press down again. Then raise all the way up. That’s one rep.

  • Straight Bar Cable Drag Curl: Run the stack- once you reach failure (or 20 reps) with your starting weight, immediately drop to the next highest weight and go until failure (or 20 reps) again. Do so until you have reached the lightest weight on the stack.

*Bonus Finisher: Bodyweight Skullcrusher + Underhand Inverted Row

This bodyweight superset is much tougher than it appears, and can be used as either a warm-up or killer finisher for your next arm day.

Using a Smith Machine, start on a relatively low setting (where the movements are harder) and perform 10 reps of each exercise. After each set, raise the bar to the next highest setting and perform another 10 reps each. Continue doing so for 5 total sets – 50 reps each.

Take Home Message

Supersets such as these will make your next arm workout much more effective and efficient. These pairings save time by using the same piece of equipment and create a massive pump by eliminating any excess rest periods. Try this workout in the order above, or take bits and pieces to make your next arm workout your best yet.

Fats You Should Be Eating!

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This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.


For decades, high-fat foods were the black sheep of the fitness industry. It was believed that “fats make you fat”, and as a result they were avoided like the plague.

The logic was simple- fats have 9 calories per gram while protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram. Therefore, fewer fats equal fewer calories which equals weight loss.

Unfortunately, these once-popular “low-fat” diets neglected the fact that the removal of healthy fats often meant the addition of heavily processed, sugary carbs. These fads were also based on the concept of operating at a pretty major caloric deficit over long periods of time- simply eating less, not eating healthy.

While eating next to nothing will make you drop a few pounds right off the bat, it’s not sustainable and will ultimately result in gaining all (if not more) of the weight back.

The Resurgence of Fats

Luckily, fats have had a major resurgence in recent years thanks to the Paleo Diet, Ketogenic Diet, Bulletproof Diet, and other higher fat proponents. Healthy fats coming from whole, unprocessed, natural sources can not only help you lose weight, they have the ability to:

  • Regulate hormones

  • Reduce inflammation

  • Increase libido

  • Improve brain, heart, bone, skin, and eye health

  • Raise HDL (good cholesterol) levels and reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) levels

  • Strengthen the immune system

  • Reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases

Best of all about fatty foods – they taste great. Here are 5 fatty foods that you should add to your diet immediately, how to implement them, and their macronutrient breakdown:

Avocados

Considered a “superfood”, the avocado is one of the healthiest things you can eat. While most fruits are high in sugar and carbs, avocados are low in sugar and high in monounsaturated fat. They’re packed with essential nutrients such as potassium (more than a banana) and fiber.

Avocado makes just about any meal better. You can spread it on toast, mix it in a salad, or smash it up to make guacamole. Three delicious ways to incorporate avocado into your regular diet are:

  • Sliced on top of an egg and spinach omelet

  • Diced with ground beef and sauteed veggies

  • Whole, with cottage cheese and Sriracha (a perfect snack before bed)

Macros

  • Calories = 120

  • Fat = 10 g

  • Carbs = 6 g

  • Protein = 1 g

*Per 1/2 medium avocado

Unsalted Nuts (and Nut Butters)

Nuts are an easy, go-to snack. At a gas station, on the golf course, or at the baseball stadium, nuts are a healthy option in not-so-optimal situations. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and more provide a solid dose of healthy fat along with essential minerals like iron, zinc, and selenium.

While nuts in their standard form are great, nut butters (like peanut and almond butter) are also incredibly healthy. With either option, just keep an eye on the sodium and sugar content. Here are some ways to eat more nuts:

  • Pecans sprinkled on top of plain Greek yogurt with some berries and honey.

  • Almond butter mixed with oatmeal and protein powder (overnight oats).

  • Peanut butter, protein powder, and banana smoothie.

Macros

  • Calories = 160

  • Fat = 14 g

  • Carbs = 7 g

  • Protein = 5 g

*Per 1/4 cup of unsalted mixed nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachios, pecans)

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil has been regarded as one of the healthiest foods on Earth for centuries, dating back to the days of ancient Greece and even before. A cornerstone of the popular Mediterranean Diet, olive oil is loaded with powerful antioxidants that do everything from reduce inflammation to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Always use extra-virgin, as other types of olive oil are not nearly as healthy. Olive oil can easily be added to your diet by:

  • Using it as a dressing for salads.

  • Cooking with it

  • Adding a serving to a protein shake for extra calories

Macros

  • Calories = 120

  • Fat = 14 g

  • Carbs = 0 g

  • Protein = 0 g

*Per 1 tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil

Grass-Fed Beef

Grass-fed beef should be a staple item for anyone trying to gain muscle and lose fat. It has a ton of protein and contains all 8 essential amino acids. In addition to vitamins and minerals like zinc and iron, grass-fed beef is rich in CLA and creatine.

A lot of people nowadays have a misinformed notion that red meat is unhealthy, and that to build muscle and lose fat they must eat only white meat. This is simply untrue, and those who don’t eat beef are missing out on a host of benefits not found in chicken or turkey. Stick to grass-fed beef options like these for a powerful dose of protein and healthy animal fat:

  • Steak (loins or rounds)

  • Lean ground beef (85% lean or better)

  • Beef pot roast (slow cooked in a Crock-Pot)

Macros

  • Calories = 240

  • Fat = 17 g

  • Carbs = 0 g

  • Protein = 21 g

*Per 4 oz. grass-fed ground beef (85% lean)

Butter

Butter IS good for you. There, I said it. I’m not talking about margarine. I’m not talking about that stuff they pour on your popcorn at the movie theater. I’m talking about raw, grass-fed, straight-from-the-cow butter. The real stuff has lots of fat-soluble nutrients including Vitamin K2 (heart health) and butyrate (anti-inflammatory).

Butter was the main antagonist in the “fat is evil” tirade of the past, but thankfully it’s beginning to have a resurgence. Consider this: In 1910, butter consumption was 18 pounds per capita and heart disease rates were below 10%. In 2000, butter consumption was less than 4 pounds per capita and heart disease was the cause of nearly 1 in 4 deaths. So lose the butter-phobia and add it back into your diet like this:

  • Put it on steamed vegetables.

  • Melt it on steak.

  • Add a scoop to morning coffee.

Macros

  • Calories = 100

  • Fat = 12 g

  • Carbs = 0 g

  • Protein = 0 g

*Per 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter

Take Home Message

The age of fearing fat is over. Quality fats from natural sources help maintain a strong physique, functional brain, and healthy heart. Be sure to eat fats in moderation. As previously mentioned, fat has 9 calories per gram, so a little bit goes a long way. A couple hundred calories-worth of nuts could quickly turn into a full blown meal if you’re not careful. But as long as you control your portions, these fats are a great addition to any diet.

How To Build Your Delts

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This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

Nothing makes a physique look more impressive than pair of broad, round shoulders. Big, wide shoulders fill out a t-shirt and give the body that universally admired V-taper shape. Here are some training tips, exercises, and advanced methods to build massive delts.

Hit the Shoulders From All Angles

Deltoids can be broken down into three specific muscle areas: anterior (front) delts, medial (middle) delts, and posterior (rear) delts.

To build impressive shoulders, you must train all three muscle groups evenly. Hitting the delts from all angles- including overhead presses, front raises, lateral raises, bent over flys, and more will keep the shoulders healthy and ensure that no area gets left behind.

Use A Variety of Rep Ranges

The deltoids respond to all rep ranges, from low to high, and should be trained as such.

For example, heavy overhead press variations can be performed in lower rep ranges (<8) to build size and strength (primarily in the anterior delts), while the medial and rear delts respond better to moderate to high reps (8-20). For a complete shoulder workout, use a varied approach.

Maximize Time Under Tension

Shoulders respond extremely well to longer time under tension – that is, the amount of time a muscle is under direct stress during a set.

There are a number of ways you can extend time under tension (aside from just adding more reps) including tempo reps, isometric holds, drop sets, supersets, trisets, and giant sets. All of these methods are excellent for increasing muscle growth in the delts.

Train the Rear Delts Daily

In today’s society, most of us are sitting at desk, driving in a car, or slouched over while texting and watching TV for a vast majority of the day. This, along with a ton of heavy pressing in most bodybuilding programs, results in bad posture and puts the shoulders at a greater risk of injury. To offset these circumstances, train the rear delts daily with light weight and high reps. A few sets of band pull aparts or face pulls during your typical warm up or cool down will work wonders.

Deltoid Exercises

Behind-The-Neck Press

The behind-the-neck press is a superior alternative to the typical overhead press because it targets all three areas of the shoulder more effectively (the overhead press primarily only works the anterior delt). To perform this exercise safely, lower a barbell behind your head to ear level and press back overhead.

Do not attempt to lower the barbell to your neck or use momentum to “bounce” the bar back up. Practice slow and controlled reps without fully locking your elbows to keep constant tension on the shoulders.

Arnold Press

The Arnold Press was made famous by legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. The exercise is similar to a dumbbell overhead press, except you start the movement with your palms facing inward with your arms in front of your body. As you press up, you rotate your hands until your palms are facing outward at the top of the motion. This variation has more range of motion than the typical overhead press, resulting in more time under tension, and puts an additional stress on the front delts.

Cable Face Pull with Rope

The cable face pull using a rope attachment is a great rear delt builder because it allows you to use more weight than most other exercises for this body part. You can grip the rope using an overhand or underhand grip, and can vary pulling to either your forehead, nose, or chin. Keep your elbows up and drive them backward as you pull while really squeezing the shoulder blades.

Advanced Deltoid Variations

Dumbbell Lateral Raise – Run the Rack

Running the rack with dumbbell lateral raises delivers a monster pump and is a great way to keep the shoulders under tension for upward of 2-3 minutes. Grab a pair of dumbbells (let’s say 20 pounds) and do as many lateral raises as possible with good form. When you reach failure, immediately re-rack the 20’s, grab a pair of 15’s, and keep going. Do the same for the 10’s and 5’s. Try performing this sequence 2-3 times with minimal rest between sets.

Chest-Supported Dumbbell Y-W-T’s

This exercise is great for the rear delts. It will keep your shoulders healthy and can be used as a warm up or finisher. Get a pair of light dumbbells (10 pounds or lighter) and lie chest-down on an incline bench. Raise the dumbbells up and out in front of you so that they are in line with your spine to form a “Y” shape. Lower the dumbbells, and then raise your elbows (in a rowing motion) and rotate your shoulders (bringing the dumbbells near your ears) to form a “W” shape. Finally, lower the dumbbells then raise them out to your sides in a fly pattern to form a “T”. Try to do 10 of each without resting in between.

Take Home Message

The delts are a very complex muscle group. To build them, target them from all angles, use a variety of angles, and maximize time under tension. Emphasize rear delt training to offset the abundance of heavy pressing in training routines and the habits of everyday life. Use advanced training methods, such as drop sets and supersets to increase workout intensity and maximize growth.

4 Barbell Deadlift Variations

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

The deadlift is an absolutely essential exercise for anyone who lifts weights. It recruits more muscles than any other movement, targeting the posterior chain from the upper back to the hamstrings, builds the core, and strengthens grip.

Deadlifting is not strictly reserved for professional athletes and elite powerlifters. The casual gym-goer can massively benefit from this exercise, as well.

However, not everyone can deadlift the same way. Nor should they.

The conventional barbell deadlift is a great exercise, but it’s not for everyone. Those with a history of back issues or poor mobility may find it painful and unsafe to do the movement correctly. Doing the conventional deadlift exclusively also limits the potential strength benefits that come with other forms of the movement.

Here are 4 barbell deadlift variations to try for safer, more effective workouts.

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a variation that uses a wider stance and narrower hand placement to shift more of the work from your lower back to your hips and quads. Here’s how to perform:

  1. Set up with the bar close to your shins, feet wider than shoulder-width, and toes pointed outward.

  2. Bend down to grip the bar at shoulder-width. Your knees should be pushed out and track directly over your feet.

  3. Before lifting the bar off of the ground, take a deep breath, brace your core, and engage your lats.

  4. As you lift the bar upward, drive through your heels, keep your back flat, and thrust your hips forward.

  5. Briefly pause at the top, then lower the bar in the same manner you lifted it, keeping the bar close to your body at all times.

Benefits

  • Less stressful on the lower back

  • More hip and quad dominant

  • Shorter range of motion

  • Requires less mobility to properly execute

Snatch Grip Deadlift

The extra-wide grip on a snatch grip deadlift increases the range of motion and further engages the upper back and traps.

  1. Set up with the bar close to your shins, feet at (or just narrower than) shoulder-width, and toes pointed slightly outward.

  2. Grip the bar at, or near, the outer rings of the barbell.

  3. Before lifting the bar off of the ground, take a deep breath, brace your core, and engage your lats.

  4. As you lift the bar upward, push through your heels, keep your back flat, and thrust your hips forward.

  5. Briefly pause at the top, then lower the bar in the same manner you lifted it, keeping the bar close to your body at all times.

Benefits

  • More emphasis on the upper back and traps

  • Extended range of motion

  • Increases leg drive

  • Improves grip strength

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) requires a fixed-knee position to isolate the hamstrings and glutes. It is unique because, unlike most other deadlift variations, the the RDL does not start from a “dead” position on the floor. Instead, the RDL begins from the upright position with the bar in hand, and the first motion is the eccentric portion of the lift rather than the concentric. Because the eccentric portion of this movement can be emphasized, it is excellent for hypertrophy.

  1. Hold the bar at about shoulder-width, with your feet just narrower, and the let the bar rest on your thighs. Keep your knees slightly bent throughout the movement.

  2. Take a deep breath, brace your core, and hinge your hips backward.

  3. As your hips sit back, drop the torso, keep your back flat, chest up, and shoulders back.

  4. Lower the bar only as far as you can go without further bending your knees or rounding your back. You don’t have to touch the ground.

  5. Briefly pause at the bottom, then thrust your hips forward and return to the starting position.

Benefits

  • Increases hamstring, glute, and lower back development

  • Better for hypertrophy (muscle building) because of eccentric phase

  • Improves hip mobility and hamstring flexibility

Deficit Deadlift

A deficit deadlift is performed while standing on an elevated surface, which increases range of motion, ultimately making the lift more difficult. This variation is often used to help lifters improve their speed off of the ground and recruit more leg drive.

  1. Stand on a plate, box, mat, or other stable object (1”-3”) with your feet at, or just narrower than, shoulder-width.

  2. Set up with the bar close to your shins, and grip the bar at about shoulder-width.

  3. Before lifting the bar off of the ground, take a deep breath, brace your core, and engage your lats.

  4. As you lift the bar upward, push through your heels, keep your back flat, and thrust your hips forward.

  5. Briefly pause at the top, then lower the bar in the same manner you lifted it, keeping the bar close to your body at all times.

Benefits

  • Increases range of motion

  • Increases time under tension

  • Targets quads, glutes, and hamstrings

  • Strengthens conventional deadlift from the floor

Take Home Message

The deadlift is an important exercise that should be part of your training regimen. But remember there’s more than one way to do it. Using variations of the conventional barbell deadlift like the sumo, snatch grip, Romanian, and deficit deadlift will better ensure safety and improve your long-term progress and overall strength.

5 Cardio Exercises That Build Muscle

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

Cardio is an important part of any well-rounded training program. Unfortunately, the dreaded “C” word is avoided like the plague by meatheads and gym rats around the world.

Most fear that excess cardio will result in muscle loss (or they’re just lazy), so they tend to neglect it completely in their workout regimen. But not all cardio is out to “steal your gains”.

Here are 5 cardio exercises that burn fat and build muscle.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High intensity interval training (HIIT) consists of short, all-out bursts of work followed by brief, timed rest periods. The goal is to get your heart rate up to near max levels quickly, allow your body to recover, and then do it again.

HIIT can be used to target any muscle group based on exercise selection, and has been proven to preserve- and even build- muscle. This style of training is extremely efficient, and has a list of benefits including:

  • Increased metabolism

  • Increased anaerobic capacity

  • Increased natural growth hormone production

  • More fat burned after exercise than steady state cardio

HIIT is extremely versatile. You can use a variety of methods, exercises, and equipment to deliver a full fat burning and muscle building workout. Here are a few examples:

  • EMOM: Perform 10 burpees every minute on the minute for 10 minutes.

  • Tabata: Alternate 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times per exercise (4 minutes), for 4 different exercises (mountain climbers, jumping jacks, squat jumps, and plyo push ups).

  • 1:1 Hard/Light Intervals: On the stairmaster, alternate 30 seconds of max effort work (fast pace), followed by 30 seconds of low effort work (slow pace) for 15 minutes.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are a perfect blend of strength training and cardio, and correct so many health issues common in today’s society. They also increase metabolism and burn fat much more effectively than steady state cardio.

Most people have tight hip flexors, a weak core, and poor posture due to sitting behind a desk or steering wheel all day. Walking lunges stretch your hip flexors and actively engage the core, increasing flexibility and alleviating lower back pain. Most people also have an underdeveloped posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, back) as a result (again) of sitting all day and habitually emphasizing the “mirror muscles” (quads, chest) in training.

Lunges activate the posterior chain and really fire up the leg muscles that are typically neglected. Lower body strength will go through the roof. Lunges also build the musculature around the knee and further protect you from devastating injuries such as ACL tears. Implement walking lunges into your routine today by doing the following:

  • 10 minutes of continuous walking lunges post-workout.

  • Lunge 400 m (one lap around a track) as fast as possible.

  • Between sets of any exercise, instead of a typical rest period, lunge to the end of the gym and back.

Sled Drags/Pushes/Pulls

The sled is an incredible tool for piling on muscle and cutting fat. Sleds come in all shapes and sizes, and you can push, pull, or drag them in many ways to target different parts of the body.

For example, pushing the sled forward works the glutes and hamstrings while pulling the sled backward fires up the quads. You can even attach straps to a sled and do rows (upper back), presses (chest), and more.

Sled training allows for maximum work with minimal recovery because there is no eccentric loading. With typical muscle building exercises, the eccentric portion of the lift is what creates the most stress to the muscle which leads to soreness. Sled exercises are also low-impact, and pose very little threat to joints and ligaments. Here’s how to use it:

  • Push a heavy sled as fast as possible for 20-40m, rest for 1-2 minutes, and repeat for 5 sets.

  • Push a heavy sled as far as possible in 10-20 seconds, rest for 1-2 minutes, and repeat for 5 sets.

  • Alternate pushing and pulling a moderately light sled 50m continuously for 10 minutes.

Loaded Carries

Loaded carries are an essential component of overall strength, and have a huge carryover to all styles of weight training and life in general. They can also be used for a killer cardio workout.

The idea is pretty simple. Pick up something heavy and carry it somewhere. You can carry it at your sides, overhead, or even in front of you. You can also use a ton of different equipment including barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, sandbags, and medicine balls.

Loaded carries build an iron-clad grip and a rock-solid core. They strengthen your forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, traps, upper back, abs, and obliques. Here’s how you can use them to burn calories while you build:

  • Carry a heavy object 50-100 m, rest for 30 sec-1 min, and repeat for 10 sets.

  • Carry a heavy object as far as possible in 15 seconds, rest for 15 seconds, and repeat for 10 minutes.

  • 10 minutes of a continuous loaded carry variation with a relatively lighter object.

Sprints

When you watch the Olympics, which athletes’ physique do you most admire? Most likely, it’s the sprinters.

Sprinting is extremely effective for building fast-twitch muscle fibers while burning fat. It’s also a great way to build strong hamstrings and glutes and get ripped abs and obliques.

Step off of the treadmill and get outside to sprint, preferably on a field or track. Or, find a hill with a gentle slope. Here are are a few sprint workouts that you can start doing today:

  • 5 sets: Sprint 50m-200m with a 1:4 work/rest ratio (Ex: Sprint 30 sec, rest 2 mins).

  • Sprint 50m, then jog 50m, and repeat for one mile.

  • Sprint up a hill, slowly walk down, and repeat for 10 rounds.

Take Home Message

Cardio doesn’t have to mean an hour on the elliptical or treadmill and it shouldn’t! Long bouts of steady state cardio have been proven to increase cortisol levels and break down muscle. Instead, opt for exercises such as high intensity interval training, walking lunges, sled drags/pushes/pulls, loaded carries, sprints that build muscle while burning fat.

Issues With IIFYM

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This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

IIFYM stands for “If It Fits Your Macros.”

IIFYM is a diet- or way of eating- that has gained enormous popularity in recent years due, in part, to people glorifying it on social media.

At it’s core, IIFYM is actually a pretty reasonable approach to dieting and has some practical applications. Unfortunately, people have taken the idea way too far and are practicing habits that could seriously endanger their health. Below, I’ll explain exactly what IIFYM is, some of my issues with it, and a more sound approach to nutrition.

What is IIFYM?

The foundation of IIFYM is simple: determine a daily caloric requirement for your given goal, break that number down into a designated amount of protein/carbs/fat (the three MACROnutrients), and eat food to satisfy those requirements.

This idea is based on the principle that weight loss or weight gain is based on calories in versus calories out. If you burn more calories than you consume (a caloric deficit), then you’ll lose weight. In theory, this is true.

IIFYM can technically fit any “diet”. Vegan, vegetarian, or paleo, as long as you hit your macro targets, you’ll lose weight. Your protein can come from black beans, chicken breasts, or hot dogs. Your carbs can come from fruit, vegetables, or french fries. If it fits, it fits.

That’s where things get ugly.

I believe IIFYM was originally created to allow people who follow strict diets a little more “wiggle room” to eat some comfort foods while still making progress toward their fitness goals. But now, people have taken it to the extreme and will eat just about anything if it fits their macros.

The Issues With IIFYM

Binge Eating

One of the popular approaches to IIFYM is saving the vast majority of calories for a major “cheat meal”. People will eat very little to nothing at all throughout the day in order to a fit pizza into their macros.

Neglecting to eat sufficient calories throughout the day and then going all out on one meal could cause some major issues. Your workouts could suffer, your mood could become unstable, and when it comes down to it, you put yourself in danger of habitually binging and over-eating.

Instead, practice a more consistent daily eating schedule. Eat regular meals comprised of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates throughout the day. You will stay fuller for longer and will be less likely to have an all out binge later at night.

Lack of Micronutrients

The appeal of IIFYM is usually the fact that you can eat a bunch of junk food and still “follow” the plan. Unfortunately, that train of thought completely neglects micronutrients.

People will track protein, carbs, and fat religiously, but totally fail to recognize the importance of vitamins, minerals, and fiber as part of a healthy diet. Disregarding these micronutrients not only negatively impacts the fat burning and muscle building processes in the body, it creates deficiencies that could weaken your immune system and leave you susceptible to diseases.

Plant and animal based foods are chock full of essential micronutrients, while processed foods are typically void of them. So even if you are following an IIFYM approach, make sure your meals are comprised mostly of vegetables, fruits, animal proteins, nuts, and seeds.

Obsessive Weighing, Counting & Tracking

As I mentioned earlier, IIFYM is based on creating daily caloric and macronutrient requirements and hitting those numbers consistently. And while this approach can work, that’s exactly what it entails- WORK.

You have to track every meal.

Measure all of your portions.

Add up all of your macros.

It becomes a lifestyle. A lifestyle that, I believe, is not sustainable for a long period of time.

Becoming obsessive with calories and macros is a slippery slope, and could become detrimental to your health and your social life. I mean, do you really want to have to pull out your phone at dinner with friends to find out how many wings you’re allowed to have?

I think the more practical approach is to simply eat real food 90% of the time. Vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and earth-grown starches will supply adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fat.

While you definitely can overeat any of these foods and gain weight, you’d be hard pressed to do it. I don’t know many people who got fat eating too much chicken and broccoli.

The other 10% of the time, eat whatever you want. A couple times a week, enjoy the occasional “cheat meal”. But leave it just at that.

Take Home Message

While it’s certainly possible to follow an IIFYM diet and live a healthy lifestyle, many of the characteristics associated with the approach are particularly dangerous. Binge eating, the lack of micronutrients, and the obsessive food tracking are just a few of the habits that could be a major detriment to your progress in the gym. Instead, follow a more realistic approach to eating by focusing on eating real food to fuel your body throughout the day.

The Best Posterior Chain Exercises

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

What is the Posterior Chain?

The posterior chain consists of the series of muscles on the back side of the body, including the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It is made up of some of the biggest and most powerful muscles in our anatomy. A well-developed posterior chain is not only vital for strength and explosiveness, it’s important for overall health and well-being.

Why Is It Important?

For athletes, the posterior chain is the driving force behind nearly all key movements.

Strong hamstrings and glutes propel the body forward when running to catch a pass, jumping to grab a rebound, and pushing off the mound to throw a pitch. In combat sports, a solid posterior enables competitors to both shoots for takedowns and prevent them. Powerlifters and weightlifters rely on accessory posterior chain exercises to bring up their numbers in the key lifts.

For regular gym-goers, placing an emphasis on posterior chain training is crucial because it is typically neglected in bodybuilding-style training splits.

The Average Joe is notorious for habitually overtraining the “mirror muscles” (chest, biceps, abs, quads) and leaving the scraps for the posterior. Even on the dreaded leg day, most people prioritize quad-dominant exercises such as squats and leg presses over more hamstring and glute-dominant movements. This pattern creates a major muscle imbalance which not only leads to an irregular physique, it leaves people more vulnerable to injury.

For the average person, training the posterior chain can help alleviate the effects of a lifetime of bad habits.

The typical “desk jockey” sits for an average of almost 10 hours per day. Between typing on a computer, commuting, and watching TV, the majority of people’s lives are now spent sitting. Sitting for an extended period of time tightens and shortens hip flexors and causes inactive glutes, ultimately leading to lower back pain. Tight hips are also often the cause for bad posture and poor mobility. Posterior chain exercises can drastically reduce these issues by activating the glutes and opening up the hips.

As you can see, a well-developed posterior chain is extremely important for everyone. Here are three key exercises to build your backside to improve athleticism, strength, and posture.

1. Deadlift

When it comes to posterior chain exercises (or all exercises really), the deadlift is king.

No other movement is more functional and more all-encompassing than the deadlift. From shoulders and traps to lower back and core to hamstrings and glutes, deadlifting strengthens nearly every muscle in the body. World class powerlifters and the average-Joe at the gym alike can benefit from picking objects off of the ground with proper technique.

Best of all, deadlifting will never get boring. There are dozens of variations of this essential exercise to satisfy lifters of any age, gender, or experience level. Here are just a few options:

  • Conventional Deadlift (feet hip-width, hands outside of the feet)

  • Sumo Deadlift (feet outside of shoulders, hands inside of the feet)

  • Snatch Grip Deadlift (feet hip-width, hands extra-wide)

  • Trap Bar Deadlift

  • Rack Pulls (shorter range of motion)

  • Deficit Deadlift (longer range of motion)

  • Romanian/Stiff Legged/Straight Leg Deadlift (hamstring and glute emphasis)

  • Dumbbell/Kettlebell Deadlift

When deadlifting for maximal strength using heavyweight, stick to a low rep range (1-5 reps) and perform this exercise first on training day. If using one of the variations as an accessory exercise, use a moderate weight and a rep range of 6-15 reps.

2. Glute-Ham Raise

Warning! This exercise is TOUGH. But it doesn’t get much better than the glute-ham raise (GHR) for direct posterior chain development.

The GHR specifically targets the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and calves and is used by strength and conditioning coaches far and wide as a key accessory exercise. In addition to making athletes stronger and faster, this movement helps prevent injuries such as ACL tears and hamstring strains. Glute-ham raises also allow you to train the posterior chain without putting a heavy load on the spine (contrary to squats and deadlifts), so this is a great option for people with back issues.

The GHR is a staple of many speciality gyms but is often not available in the average commercial gym. Here are a couple of ways to simulate the movement if you don’t have access to a GHR:

  • Kneel backwards on a lat pulldown machine (facing away from the pulley) with the back of your ankles pinned below the knee pads. Lower yourself as slowly as possible until you reach the ground (or until you break form) and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

  • On a mat or padded surface, have a training partner hold the back of your ankles so that they can’t lift off of the floor. Lower yourself as slowly as possible until you reach the ground (or until you break form) and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

For beginners, start with bodyweight only or even use bands for assistance. Once you can comfortably do 10+ reps with good form, challenge yourself by wearing a weighted vest (or holding a plate) or doing super slow and controlled eccentric reps.

3. Hip Thrust

The glutes are the largest and most powerful muscle in the human body, and nothing lights them up quite like the hip thrust.

Hip thrusts activate the glutes at a much higher level than squats or deadlifts. Regularly incorporating this exercise into your training regime will not only improve the appearance of your backside, it will increase your acceleration and speed.

Hip thrusts can be done with bodyweight alone or with equipment such as:

  • Barbell

  • Band

  • Dumbbell

  • Kettlebell

Hip thrusts are extremely versatile and can be performed at low (3-5 reps) to very high (20+ reps) rep ranges. I particularly recommend using isometric holds on this exercise- that is, holding a “squeeze” for 2-5 seconds at the top of each rep. Feel the burn!

Take Home Message

The posterior chain is an extremely powerful group of muscles. Training it properly will improve athleticism, strength, and posture, and give you a more well-rounded physique. Incorporate these three exercises into your workout routine today to start feeling stronger and healthier!

5 Whey Protein Recipes

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

Whey protein is the most popular supplement in the world, and it can be used for much more than just shakes. Here are 5 quick, easy, and delicious recipes using only Myprotein’s incredibly versatile Impact Whey Protein and a few other items that you probably already have in your kitchen.

1. Protein Brownies

These protein brownies are perfect for satisfying that sweet tooth while on a healthy diet. They’re moist, rich, and have no added sugars or artificial ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 6 bananas

  • 2 eggs

  • 6 tbsp. of Peanut Butter

  • 3 scoops of Impact Whey Protein (Recommended Flavor: Chocolate Brownie)

Method

  1. Put all ingredients into a blender (or bowl) and mix until smooth.

  2. Coat a baking pan with olive or coconut oil.

  3. Pour the mixture into the baking pan.

  4. Bake at 350 F for approximately 15 minutes.

Macros

Calories: 200

Fat: 7 g

Carbs: 22 g

Protein: 13 g

* This recipe makes 8 large brownies.

2. Protein Banana Pancakes

Looking for a low carb and healthy alternative to everybody’s favorite breakfast food? You’ve come to the right place. Skip the trip to IHOP and make these pancakes at home with just 3 simple ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 3 bananas

  • 3 eggs

  • 3 scoops Impact Whey Protein (Recommended Flavor: Vanilla)

Method

  1. Put all ingredients into a blender (or bowl) and mix until smooth.

  2. Coat a frying pan with olive or coconut oil.

  3. Pour a moderate amount of the mixture onto the pan.

  4. Cook on a LOW heat for approximately 5 minutes per side (or until golden brown).

  5. Top with peanut butter and honey (in moderation).

Macros

Calories: 215

Fat: 6 g

Carbs: 20 g

Protein: 20 g

*Recipe makes 4 large pancakes. Macros do not include peanut butter or honey.

3. Protein Pudding

This little creation is perfect as a dip for fruit or even on its own. Pro tip: put this in the freezer for half an hour before eating to make an ice cream-like dessert.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt

  • 2 tbsp. peanut putter

  • 1 scoop Impact Whey Protein (Recommended Flavor: Chocolate Smooth)

Method

Just mix everything together and enjoy!

Macros

Calories: 420

Fat: 18 g

Carbs: 15 g

Protein: 50 g

*Recipe makes 1 serving.

4. Protein Overnight Oats

These overnight oats make for an ideal breakfast or replenishing post-workout meal. If you’ve never had your oats cold, now is the time to start!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup uncooked oats

  • 2 tbsp of Peanut Butter

  • 1 banana

  • 1 scoop Impact Whey Protein (Recommended Flavor: Salted Caramel)

Method

  1. Put all ingredients into a bowl with water or almond milk and stir/mix.

  2. Refrigerate overnight (or for 2-3 hours).

Macros

Calories: 540

Fat: 18

Carbs: 60

Protein: 34

*Recipe makes 1 serving.

5. Protein Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

These protein cookies are so good, you could serve them at a party and nobody would know any different. They’re great for kids, too!

Ingredients

  • 3 bananas

  • 1 cup uncooked oats – add more oats as necessary to get a lumpy consistency

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 2 scoops Impact Whey Protein (Recommended Flavor: Cinnamon Roll)

Method

  1. Mash bananas in a bowl, then add all other ingredients and mix well.

  2. Place about 10 medium-sized scoops of the mixture on a non-stick baking sheet (or foil or parchment paper).

  3. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes (or until golden brown).

Macros

Calories: 95

Fat: 1

Carbs: 16

Protein: 6

*Recipe makes 10 cookies.

Take Home Message

So here you have 5 great recipes to make the most of Impact Whey Protein rather than just putting it in a shake. Give them a try and be sure to let us know about your attempts by linking to the @myproteinus Instagram account for a chance of having your photo featured!

Nutrition Myths

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

In today’s crowded fitness space, it’s hard to differentiate fact from fiction.

Over the years, certain nutrition methods have become widely accepted as the “right way” without any direct reasoning or proof. Whether it’s something you read in some article on some website one time, or something you overheard in the gym locker room, you may have unknowingly adopted many of these false practices. Let me clear things up by debunking 4 of the most common myths in the nutrition world, and what you should be doing instead.

1. The Window of Gainz

The Myth: After a workout, you have a 30-minute “anabolic window” to drink a protein shake for recovery or your muscles won’t grow and repair as effectively.

The Truth: There is no magic time frame post-workout in which you must have protein to preserve muscle growth. Overall nutrient intake throughout the day is much more important than the timing of said nutrients. In fact, a study conducted by the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University found that protein synthesis is elevated for an entire 24-hour period after training. So you have all day to fuel your body, not just a 30-minute window.

The Takeaway: There’s no need to rush home the second you finish your last set to chug a protein shake. As long as you’re getting an adequate amount of quality protein throughout the day, you’re fine.

2. Small, Frequent Meals

The Myth: Eating 5-6 small meals per day increases your metabolism and burns more calories.

The Truth: Calories are calories. Similar to the previous point, it isn’t about frequency or timing, it’s about overall daily caloric intake. Smaller meals eaten more often throughout the day have been proven to have negligible effects on weight loss. So whether you have five 400-calorie meals or two 1,000-calorie meals, your body treats them the same.

The Takeaway: Do what works for you. Some people like the convenience of only three larger meals per day. Others like the variety of five smaller meals. Both can be effective. In the end, what you eat (and how much of it) matters much more than how often.

3. Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day

The Myth: Eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism (helping you lose more weight) and prevents you from overeating later in the day.

The Truth: Many studies have been performed recently to disprove the popular misconception that eating breakfast is essential to weight loss. In fact, breakfast could actually be detrimental to your progress. A lot of popular breakfast foods (cereal, bagels, toast, doughnuts, kolaches, pastries) are loaded with sugar and provide little to no nutritional benefit. Eating breakfast also creates a larger eating window (the number of hours in the day you’re eating food) which could actually cause overeating and the storage of excess fat.

The Takeaway: If you’re not hungry in the morning, then don’t eat. You could benefit considerably by fasting in the morning. If you do enjoy breakfast, make sure you’re eating some quality protein and fat to keep you satisfied for a longer period of time. Avoid the high-carb, sugary treats that will have you reaching for food in another couple hours.

4. Eating at Night Makes You Fat

The Myth: If you eat too close to your bedtime, your body will store the calories as fat and cause you to gain weight.

The Truth: Calories can’t tell time. They don’t know the difference between 5 PM or 10 PM. Your body breaks them down the same no matter what time they’re consumed. Once again, your overall caloric intake vs. caloric expenditure during the entire day determines whether or not you’ll lose weight. Eating at night is commonly associated with weight gain because it’s often when people tend to binge eat (or drink). It’s when you’re out at the bars, or at a movie, or on a dinner date. But as long as you maintain healthy eating habits, the timing of the meal doesn’t matter.

The Takeaway: If you’re hungry at night, eat. But don’t overeat. Stick to your typical portions and eat real, quality food.

Take Home Message

For many years, I believed all of these myths.

I took protein powder to the gym with me so I could down a shake as soon as I finished lifting. I carried Tupperware around and ate six times a day, fearing that any less would halt my progress. I had breakfast the second I woke up every morning, and I was scared to eat big meals at night.

I was hesitant to try anything different because for the better part of the past 10 years I had been under the spell of “bro science”. But now I see the light. After doing my research and experimenting on myself with Anabolic Fasting aka “The Unicorn Diet”, I’ve finally come to terms that all of these popular beliefs are indeed myths.

If you get anything from the article, I hope it’s that there’s no one-size fits all solution for nutrition. In the end, you have to find a routine that works for you. Find something that’s sustainable and enjoyable. If you can’t stick to it, then you won’t be successful. If you like having a shake post-workout or a big breakfast every morning, that’s ok. Ultimately, your success is not dependent on any one choice. It’s the sum of the parts.

Use Superset Workouts To Slim Down & Size Up

This article was originally written for MYPROTEIN.

If you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss or muscle building, look no further than supersets.

A superset is done by performing two exercises consecutively, with no rest between.

This technique has been used for decades as a way to increase training volume (more volume = more muscle) without adding hours to your time in the gym. By rotating between exercises with little to no rest, your heart rate stays elevated (burning more calories) and you’re able to complete more sets and reps in a shorter period of time.

Supersets have been a staple of my workout routine for years, and I use them with all clients no matter what their goal or gender may be. Here are a few ways I like to implement supersets into my training programs:

Antagonist Supersets

Antagonist supersets are done by pairing exercises for opposing body parts such as chest/back, quads/hamstrings, and biceps/triceps.

This method was a favorite of the G.O.A.T., Arnold Schwarzenegger. By performing exercises of opposite muscle groups back-to-back, you allow one side to rest while the other works. This prevents any one muscle from getting over-fatigued, and enables you to still lift reasonably heavy weight without ever truly resting.

Examples:

1a. Barbell Bench Press

1b. Wide Grip Pull Up

2a. Leg Extension

2b. Leg Curl

3a. Straight Bar Cable Curl

3b. Straight Bar Tricep Pressdown

Compound Sets

Compound sets combine two exercises for the same muscle group.

In contrast to antagonist supersets, this method is designed to push a specific body part to total fatigue. You won’t be able to lift quite as heavy, but you’ll attack the muscle with more exercises and intensity. Try to pair exercises that hit the muscle from different angles to get a complete workout.

Examples:

1a. Barbell Bench Press

1b. Dumbbell Incline Press

2a. Wide Grip Pull Up

2b. Barbell Bent Over Row

3a. Barbell Military Press

3b. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Tri-Sets and Giant Sets

Tri-sets and giant sets take compound sets to the next level by combining 3 or 4 (or more) exercises into one long, grueling set.

Rest as little as possible between these exercises. These mini-circuits are great if you’re short on time and need to completely destroy a specific muscle group.

Examples:

1a. Wide Grip Pulldown

1b. Underhand Grip Pulldown

1c. Straight Arm Pulldown

2a. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

2b. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

2c. Dumbbell Front Raise

2d. Bent Over Rear Delt Fly

Cardio Acceleration

Cardio acceleration pairs a typical bodybuilding exercise with a plyometric exercise, resulting in a full body, high-intensity workout.

This method will have your heart pumping and your metabolism on fire. Cardio acceleration cuts down workout time by integrating high-intensity cardio into your weightlifting routine. The combination of these two techniques turns your body into a fat-burning furnace long after you leave the gym.

Examples:

1a. Dumbbell Bench Press

1b. Jumping Jack

2a. Seated Cable Row

2b. Squat Jump

3a. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

3b. Tuck Jump

Take Home Message

Supersets were common practice back in the day, but have become a more and more infrequent method of training in recent years. Too often, I see people sitting around on a piece of equipment, swiping through Instagram, then lazily picking up the weights to begin an almost lethargic set.

I’m here to tell you that the “3 sets of 10 with 2 minutes of rest between” protocol is NOT going to get you results you want.

Incorporate methods like these supersets to really stimulate muscle growth and accelerate fat loss.