There are tons of tricks and tips you can learn from this web site, magazines and books. But in order for any of these tips to be truly effective, they must be combined with an entire program. One that addresses, your natural hormonal balance, a variety of exercise routines, your body’s natural adaptation response, your diet and nutrition, muscle recovery, fat burning, muscle toning, strength building, injury avoidance, cardiovascular fitness …the list goes on and on. Many nutrients and techniques are worthless if you do not use them under specific guidelines along with a specific diet and exercise regiment.
Defining objectives & customizing a routine
Determining number of sets and repetitions
Different muscles require different types of sets
Muscle-toning and endurance-training workout
Increasing difficulty once comfortable
Alternating muscle groups
Keep your Back straight
Natural range of motion
Never let tendons or ligaments bear the weight
Maintain balance at all times
Avoid using muscles the exercise is not meant to target
Vary your exercises for each muscle group
Using time efficiently
Holding for added effectiveness
If you feel any sharp pain or discomfort, stop
Avoid taking anabolic steroids
Building muscular and skeletal strength using various exercises and equipment. Strength training also can offer improved coordination, control, balance, and spatial judgment. Strength training can be further divided into categories based on the objective...
is a sport in which participants compete to lift the most weight possible in various events.
is a sport in which participants compete to build the most muscle mass while also creating definition and a proportionately balanced physique. The participants are then judged during a flexing display of their muscles.
is exercising muscles using weights for a specific objective, such as to improve physical condition, health or performance in a sport.
to workout continuously hopping from one exercise to the next to improve strength, aerobic fitness, and flexibility all in one workout.
You first must decide what it is you want to accomplish. Do you want to be chiseled with terrific muscle definition? Do you want to have intimidating muscle mass? Do you want to have incredible strength for short bursts of energy? Do you want to have incredible endurance say for team sports or triathlons? Each of these objectives requires different exercises. You probably want a combination of 2 or 3 of these objectives. Bruce Lee had incredible flexibility and strength to improve his martial arts abilities and the muscle definition to make it believable and more impressive on the movie screen. He wasn't looking for muscle mass, only functionality. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a bodybuilder. His main objective was to gain muscle mass and create terrific muscle definition that would help him compete in bodybuilding competitions and allow him to appear impressive and intimidating in Hollywood movies.
Once you figure out what it is you want to accomplish, you can tailor an exercise program for yourself using the following guidelines.
To understand the following guidelines you must
understand these terms...
Reps or repetitions: the number of times you perform a given task (such as lifting a barbell). A rep can also refer to a single performance of a given task (one lift of a barbell).
Set: A group of repetitions. A set can consist of any amount of reps - from say 1, to as many as you can complete within a minute. For any given exercise you can perform from 1 to 5 sets. The more sets you do, obviously the more total reps you do during a workout.
Strength & muscle mass = more weight with less repetitions
Endurance = less weight with more repetitions
Definition and toning = Isolation exercises with less weight and more repetitions
Performance and strength = compound exercises (exercises targeting 2 or more muscles) that resemble motions used in the sport or activity you're training for. Bruce Lee believed that exercises using two or more muscle groups were more beneficial. He wanted harmony among all his muscle groups, so they could generate power together to perform a single action like a kick, dodge or hand strike. His strength training routine exercised muscle groups collectively to lay down neuromuscular pathways that would accustom certain groups of muscles to work together.
One type of set won't work for every muscle group in your body because different muscle groups need different benefits. Your stomach may need to be toned. Your legs may need endurance for running. Your upper arms may need more strength. Different muscle groups can handle different amounts of stress. Your lower back is vulnerable and relatively weak, so it should not be exposed to the types of sets and weight that your chest is exposed to. For each exercise targeting a certain muscle group, decide what improvements that muscle group needs and what stress those muscles can handle. Determine the number of sets and repetitions and weight according to the benefits desired. The following are more specific suggestions...
Option 1: 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps each, resting for 20 seconds to a minute between sets. (If you're not used to strength training, do 2 to 3 sets of equal reps (either 8, 10 or 12) using a constant weight. Once your body is used to the exercises, increase the number of sets to 3 or 4.)
Option 2: Our favorite! 4 sets of 12, 10, 8 and 6 repetitions respectively, increasing the weight by five to ten pounds after each set. If your muscles feel cold, you can use the first set of 12 reps to warm up with little weight. Then add more than 10 pounds for the second set to catch up. (If you're not used to strength training or if you're just rushed for time, forget the last set of 6 reps.)
For exercises like abdominal crunches or forearm developing exercises, where your main objective is to tone the muscle, do 4 to 5 sets of 15 to 20 reps each.
Add a 4th set
Allow yourself less rest
Once you're able to do 12 reps easily with 20 seconds rest, increase weight by about 10%
Always practice good form, not only when you're exercising, but also in between exercises when you're setting up dumbbells, stowing away weights, or positioning equipment. In fact it's a good practice to use proper form and posture in every single thing you do throughout the day, whether you're picking up a box or washing dishes. This way good form and posture become habit and you'll be less vulnerable to injury.
While lifting or using gym equipment, you always want to sustain good posture, because this is the position in which your body is strongest. Don't slouch. Keep your head above your shoulders and when possible face forward. Keep your back straight. Back pain is not curable, only manageable. That's why it's extremely important to avoid back injury and why the following section is devoted to keeping your back straight...
Many people don't know what it feels like to have your back straight so they end up unintentionally arching it, increasing the risk of injury. To avoid this, line up a yard stick or broom handle against your spine, and stand up straight so the stick touches your tail bone and your upper back with a gap in between for your lumbar curvature (in your lower back). This is the posture you need to retain. Now bend at the hips (not your waist) while retaining your back position. The yardstick should always be touching your tailbone or sacral vertebrae and your upper back vertebrae. This is how you need to move while lifting. Unless the exercise specifically involves twisting, such as some abdominal machines, always keep your body straight and your shoulders square, with your head facing forward and with good back posture. Twisting while bearing extra weight is never good. It leaves your back in a weakened state.
Don't hyper extend any part of your body Ð Some people feel they should get the fullest range of motion possible so they overextend their muscles. When lifting, make sure your range of motion always allows the muscle you are exercising to bear the force. You can tell the muscle is bearing the force if it is still bulging and flexed. In many exercises there is a point you should avoid, where the muscle being exercised collapses and the stress is transferred from the muscle to the easily damaged ligaments or tendons. To exercise safely you should avoid reaching or going beyond this point.
Example: when lowering the bar during bench press, only let your upper arms fall in line with your torso. Letting your arms fall below this point, results in a collapse of the pectoral muscles and unhealthy stress to be placed on the tendons and ligaments of the chest and shoulders. Many people bounce the barbell off their chest. This does not offer any benefit. You'll be getting a more efficient workout if you stop lowering the bar when your upper arms are in line with your chest (or slightly past this point). This takes more strength then letting the bar fall to your chest. Then you can use your strength to raise the bar from this point, instead of using the bounciness of your chest to start the work for you.
Whenever you're lifting, never fully relax your shoulders or other muscles that are bearing extra weight. This would require the ligaments and tendons to bear all the weight. If you need to relax put the weight down and then relax and stretch.
Example: Bicep curls
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Change just a few aspects of your diet & exercise to achieve a flat stomach
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Feet shoulder width apart when standing or using leg press. Hold a barbell with the weight equally distributed between both hands. Don't try any acrobatic balancing acts while bearing weight, or you will injure yourself.
It's easy to break form and recruit other muscles to help you complete a repetition. Don't fall into this trap. Most exercises are designed to target a specific muscle group. Recruiting extra muscles for the job causes you to use incorrect form, putting you at higher risk for injury. Recruiting extra muscles also makes it impossible for you to isolate and focus on the target muscles, decreasing the benefit to those target muscles.
Example: Bicep Curls
Good controlled technique: The body remains still. Only the forearms move. This isolates the biceps producing great results.
Terrible technique: Some people incorrectly use a whipping motion of the back to lift the weight while sacrificing posture and form. Their biceps are not receiving a workout. Even the back muscles they are recruiting are not getting an effective workout. Their balance is precarious. They look like a weight room rookie. They could stimulate more muscle growth, by lowering the weight and using correct form.
Exercise should always be done in a controlled motion. The motions for almost every exercise each consists of a positive section (moving against the weight), and a negative section (moving in the direction the weight wants to go). It's easy to concentrate on form during the positive section, and then forget to pay attention to your form during the negative section. Bear in mind that your muscles should be bearing weight no matter which part of the exercise you're on. The negative section should be an exact reversal of the positive retaining all aspects of good form and some resistance. Completely relaxing your muscles and letting the weight quickly fall, is dangerous. Always retain control.
Breathing out usually gives you more strength during the positive motion of the exercise.
The reason exercises are divided into sets is to give your muscles the rest they need to perform the exercises correctly. Weight training demands a great deal of energy. Once your muscles fatigue to a certain point, form and technique are sacrificed. The rest in between sets allows you to replenish your muscles with oxygen and energy in order to continue the exercise. Also, exercises should only be done every other day. A day of rest is absolutely necessary to allow the muscles to recover and to grow. Weight training works because it taxes the muscle, which stimulates growth. If you don't allow growth by giving the muscle rest, all you're doing is taxing your muscles.
Example: Bench Press
When exercising a specific muscle group, mix up the way you exercise it. There are many different ways to exercise each muscle in your body. Each exercise technique offers certain benefits and drawbacks. Some techniques provide great isolation, while others imitate a more natural movement. Some create more resistance in certain key positions, while others create a constant resistance throughout the exercise. Don't limit yourself to one way of exercising your biceps or one way of exercising your triceps, etc. To vary the exercise, you might try working the muscle one day using a barbell exercise and a universal machine exercise, and work the same muscle two days later using a dumbbell exercise, a hammer-strength machine exercise, and pull-ups. This way you will receive the benefits offered by all the exercises and machines as opposed to limiting yourself to the benefits of a single exercise or machine. Your muscle strength will also be more versatile and functional for accomplishing different objectives, as opposed to being efficient at only one specific motion.
Spending long hours at the gym can be tiring in itself. In order to get the most from your workout, you want to work efficiently, while still giving your muscles the rest in between sets that they need. Bruce Lee developed a strength-training program that lasted only 20 minutes per day while still achieving one of the most famous physiques in martial arts history.
One way to accomplish an efficient use of time in the gym is to alternate between two different exercises. Do one set of the first exercise, then immediately do one set of the second exercise, then immediately one set of the first, one set of the second, etc. until you've finished 3 or 4 sets of both. Make sure the exercises you pair together use different muscles so the muscles used in the first exercise can rest during the second, and vice versa (Bench press and leg extensions for example). To avoid having one of your stations taken in the middle of your workout, you can claim the station you're not using at the moment with a towel, or try alternating between two stations with a friend.
To avoid spending a grueling 2 or 3 hours at
the gym one day and zero hours the next, you can split all your
exercises into two exercise programs. You could then exercise for
a more reasonable period of time, alternating between the two programs
from day to day.
Example 1: Work one set of muscles (say your upper body) during program 1. Then, the next day work a different set of muscles (say your lower body) during program 2.
Example 2: Lift weights for strength during program 1, and aerobic exercise or endurance train during program 2.
A spotter is someone who stands adjacent to you, paying attention to your exercise and stepping in to lift the weight if needed. Spotters can also critique your technique and offer motivation.
When using free weights, use a spot if you're inexperienced. If you know from experience how much you can lift and you don't want help, make sure there are others in the room that are aware of you in case trouble arises.
A spotter's role depends on the type of repetition you're doing.
Positive repetitions are exercises in which your muscles exert a greater force than the force exerted by the weight you are lifting. This results in a positive motion. You are overcoming the force exerted by the weights and thus lifting the weights. This is how you see most people working out.
In this case, the spotter may help you lift the weight once at the beginning of the set into the proper starting position. Then the spotter monitors you as you perform the exercise. At the end of the set when your muscles have fatigued, the spotter may offer help. However, the spotter should not have to lift the weight for you more than once. If you cannot retain correct form you should not perform additional repetitions until you have rested or reduced the weight.
Negative repetitions are exercises in which the force of the weight is greater than the force your muscles exert against it. This results in a negative motion. The weight overcomes the force you exert against it. You must fight to control the descent of the weight.
In this case the spotter helps lift the weight into the starting position at the beginning of the set. You lower the weight under control as slowly as possible. After every repetition, the spotter lifts the weight back to the starting position and you repeat the exercise.
While spotting, make sure you yourself use correct form and posture when assisting another.
toward muscle growth and how to use it best.
Maximum contraction occurs when your muscles are working at their highest potential against a force. This means you are absolutely unable to increase the force you are currently applying. When your muscles have fatigued toward the end of a set and you absolutely cannot increase the speed at which you are lifting the weight, you are at maximum contraction. When you are resisting the descent of a weight as much as you possibly can during a negative repetition you are at maximum contraction. Maximum contraction plays a key role in the stimulation of muscle growth. Let us explain...
When you lift weights you are causing controlled damage to your muscle fibers, which stimulates muscle growth. This growth increases your strength and muscular size. The amount of growth stimulating muscle damage you cause depends on...
Increasing the weight you are lifting increases the growth stimulating muscle damage.
The muscle's strongest position is the most efficient position for causing growth-stimulating muscle damage, because this position utilizes the most muscle fibers at one time.
Operating at maximum contraction causes the most growth-stimulating muscle damage relative to other degrees of muscular contraction. As a result, the longer you operate at maximum contraction the more growth stimulating muscle damage you will cause.
Important: It is possible to cause too much muscle damage from prolonged periods of maximum contraction. It is also possible to not allow enough rest between workouts for the muscle growth to occur. So how do you know how long you should perform a maximum contraction in a given workout? How do you achieve the most muscle growth, avoid over doing it and allow enough rest?...
During a workout, you must add up the amount of time you spend in maximum contraction for any given muscle group. When doing a positive repetition strength exercise you only achieve maximum contraction for an average of 2 seconds per set. When doing a negative repetition strength exercise, you generally use 20% to 30% more weight allowing maximum contraction to occur immediately and to last throughout the repetition. 10 seconds per repetition is a good estimate for negative repetition strength exercises. As you can see, a single negative repetitions is about 5 times more efficient at causing growth stimulating muscle damage than an entire set of positive repetitions.
In any case, on a given day during a single workout, let's say you do bench press: 3 sets of positive repetitions and a single 10 second negative repetition.
2+2+2+10 = 16
Since each set of positive repetitions results in 2 seconds of maximum contraction and the negative repetition is 10 seconds long, you would have done a total of 16 seconds of maximum contraction.
Now, For each muscle group, there is an optimal total time of maximum contraction recommended per workout, for a specific period of rest between workouts.
Take for example a 3-day split routine
Every 3 days you repeat this cycle. This schedule allows 2 days of rest for each muscle group. For two days of rest, the following table represents the optimal total times of maximum contraction per workout.
To achieve a more intense workout, each time the muscle you are exercising is completely flexed, hold the weight in that position while flexing the muscle for a second or two before continuing to the next repetition. This will enhance just about any exercise you perform.
Example: cable crossovers
Once you've crossed the handles in front of your chest, flex your pecs and hold for 2 seconds, then return your arms to the spread position and repeat.
Example: incline press
Once the bar is raised completely, flex the upper pecs and hold for 2 seconds before lowering the bar and repeating.
Example: leg curls
Once your legs are completely bent, flex your hamstrings and hold for 2 seconds. Straight legs and repeat.
Always follow proper form and technique. If you can't retain proper technique you need to stop the exercise, decrease the weight or decrease the repetitions. Performing exercises with sloppy or incorrect technique is a waste of time producing little results.
Working through an injury such as this, will only aggravate it and make it worse. Do not do another repetition. Just move on to a different set of muscles, and avoid overestimating your strength or using improper technique.
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