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From Hollywood to Your Home: 5 Tips From Celeb Trainer Paul Vincent

Not long ago, we went, well, nuts for this recipe from Paul Vincent, a Hollywood trainer who’s worked with celebrities like Chris Pine, Ryan Gosling, and Harrison Ford. And while we do love that seasoned almonds recipe, we wanted to hear a little more from him. Like, oh, what it’s like working with Han Freakin’ […]


Not long ago, we went, well, nuts for this recipe from Paul Vincent, a Hollywood trainer who’s worked with celebrities like Chris Pine, Ryan Gosling, and Harrison Ford. And while we do love that seasoned almonds recipe, we wanted to hear a little more from him. Like, oh, what it’s like working with Han Freakin’ Solo. Happily, Paul obliged!

I’ve been on numerous movie shoots like, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to help my clients prepare for big roles. Something I learned very quickly is that I needed to train actors in the same way that I trained my athlete clients in their competitive seasons. Oftentimes, shoots can last up to five months and include grueling schedules, night shoots and 3 a.m. calls. I’ve included five tips below that I use to help my celebrity clients get through these intense months — and that can help you push through any challenging workouts:

1. Focus on nutrition. Since many of the roles in movies like “Star Wars” are both physically and mentally draining, it’s important to eat foods that allow you to remaining energized for long periods of time. I always recommend that my clients focus on foods with protein for sustained energy. An easy example of this is an almond milk protein shake with MCT oil, greens, almond butter and some berries.

2. Avoid boredom. Luckily, every celebrity I’ve worked with has been incredibly motivated and committed to their training. However, even the most motivated celebrity can get bored preparing for the same role for months on end. To keep it interesting, I like to train the actor in the same way their character would train. For example, if the character is a warrior and wields a big sword that they pull from behind them, a lot of our training will be pulling weights from behind their shoulders. This not only helps them prepare for the character, but keeps it more interesting than basic shoulder exercises. Though most of us aren’t training for warrior roles on a daily basis, it helps to vary your training and keep it interesting and specific to your interests. Many people find that they push themselves harder on a hike than on a treadmill because the hike stimulates more of their senses and keeps their mind off the actual workout.

3. Strengthen the core (and stretch!). Preparing an actor for a role in a movie gets tricky because no two days are the same. One day they could be in a fight scene, the next day they could have a car crash scene and the third day they could have a shirtless scene. What I’ve done to prepare these actors for any role is to make sure that they focus on strengthening their core and stretching to ensure there are no potential issues for injuries that could hold up the shoot. I would recommend that anyone incorporate core strengthening moves into their workout routine and always remember to stretch. Though stretching is something that we tend to forget, that five- or 10-minute stretch could be the difference between a great workout and a pulled hamstring (or other issue).

4. Manage stress with healthy snacks. When stress builds up in our bodies, we often use food to give us a momentary reprieve. I always make sure my clients have healthy snacks to grab when they need to lower their stress levels or simply grab a bite to eat between takes. I recommend grabbing almonds as a delicious and healthy snack for when you’re on the go or, if you have more time, making a small salad with olive oil, avocado and sliced almonds.

5. Create positive associations. A trick that I like to use with all my clients is associating any discomfort you experience while challenging the body with a positive association. For example, if the actor is doing squats, their body will send signals of discomfort to stop. The body does this because it wants to conserve energy and prevent what it thinks is damage to the muscle tissue. I tell my clients to associate the burn in their glutes with the idea of stronger glutes instead of simply discomfort due to exercise. Once the client recognizes the discomfort as a good thing, they’re more likely to take on the challenge versus shying away from it.

Kind of cool to know that the next time you’re hitting that deep squat and using that positive association trick, you’re basically being just like Captain Kirk, right? —Kristen



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Workout Resistance Bands Loop Set CrossFit Fitness Yoga Booty Exercise Band 5pcs

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Price : 8.79

Ends on : 3 weeks

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Supplement Company Of The Month: RedCon1

In military terminology, RedCon1 refers to a heightened state of readiness. When you’re at RedCon1, you’re on full alert, ready to move, and ready to fight. You don’t give a supplement company a name like this by accident. Armed with supplements such as Total War pre-workout, Cluster Bomb intra-workout, Breach Ballistic branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), […]


In military terminology, RedCon1 refers to a heightened state of readiness. When you’re at RedCon1, you’re on full alert, ready to move, and ready to fight. You don’t give a supplement company a name like this by accident. Armed with supplements such as Total War pre-workout, Cluster Bomb intra-workout, Breach Ballistic branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), and Grunt essential amino acids (EAA), you’re ready to demolish PRs, get big, and get strong.

Aaron Singerman traces his journey from bodybuilding fan to competitor to founder and owner of one of the fastest-growing supplement companies on the market today.

Aaron, thank you for giving us a glimpse inside RedCon1. Let’s begin with how you started the company.

RedCon1 got started after my former business partner and I decided to go our separate ways in April 2016. Within days of the split, RedCon1 began to take shape in my mind. I brought over some of my key employees from my previous company, Blackstone Labs, hired people from varying industries, and off we went.

By June 2016, we had already moved into a South Florida office space as the team began to come together. That summer I convinced the late Dallas McCarver to move from Tennessee to be our featured brand athlete. We started off selling apparel, but by the fall we were ready to release a full line of supplements. Things moved very quickly!

Our priority was, and still is, to provide the public with free informational and entertaining content, while developing top-quality supplements and cool apparel for the health-conscious and fitness-focused individual.

How did you get into the supplement industry in the first place?

I’ve been a bodybuilding fan almost my entire life. Some of my early jobs were at nutrition stores and gyms. I’d read bodybuilding magazines from cover to cover, and listen religiously to bodybuilding podcasts. Even during some of the hardest times in my life, I still found time to work out. I’ve even competed a handful of times.

My first big break in the industry came when I served as editor-in-chief for RxMuscle.com, a bodybuilding website. I formed many great industry relationships while traveling the globe covering IFBB pro shows for the site. After my transition from the media side of the industry to the supplement-business side, I owned several popular supplement companies before starting RedCon1.

What makes RedCon1 different from other sports-nutrition companies?

RedCon1 isn’t just another sports-nutrition company. When we were starting out, we made a conscious effort to build a brand that people would be drawn to and want to be a part of.

The biggest advocates of the brand are our employees. From our tier operators [aka brand ambassadors], to our diverse group of athletes who compete at the highest levels around the world, to the staff who work in Florida at our headquarters, we are a family that demands results.

We also take pride that our supplements deliver the results people are looking for, and that what you see on our labels is what you get in our supplements. We always strive to maintain the highest level of quality and assurance.

Over the years, what have been some of RedCon1’s top-selling products?

When we launched, we came out with an aggressive pre-workout, Total War. Our formulator and vice president, Eric Hart, insisted on a multiflavored attack that featured better ingredients than any other product on the market. We followed that success with MRE, our whole-food meal replacement. MRE grew from three to five flavors and was such a hit around the world that we expanded the sub-brand to also include MRE Lite and MRE Bar.

MRE Bar’s reception has been nothing short of phenomenal: We sold out in our first three weeks. There really is nothing like the MRE family of products on the market. They’re all animal-based, whole-food products with a taste that rivals a cheat meal. That’s a hard combination to beat.

What are some of your newest products?

We just launched Grunt, our EAA formula that comes in three flavors. GI Juice is a delicious fruits-and-greens formula. I take both of these daily. We also relaunched our Med Pak vitamin supplement box and renamed it Med Kit. These daily packets are incredible. They contain fish oil, ubiquinol, and several key vitamins and general health supplements. I take Med Kit every day, too.

I’ve already mentioned MRE Bar and MRE Lite, but those are also new and doing great with our customers. We plan on adding more flavors to both of these product lines soon. And that reminds me: Total War launched five new flavors this month!

Are you coming out with any exciting new products in the near future?

At RedCon1, one of our major goals is to keep the product pipeline full and to continually innovate. We have a sweat/water-loss product and a natural anabolic due out this summer. And expect new MRE Bar flavors to be available this summer, too. Plus, all of our new apparel launched this week, so make sure to look for those on RedCon1.com and @RedCon1 on Instagram.

Does RedCon1 perform its own research? How much will science guide your future?

We research each ingredient and how ingredients work synergistically. To date, we haven’t conducted third-party research studies on our finished goods.

Science will play a role in guiding our future. As the regulatory climate changes, science will be key in combining Dietary Supplement Heath and Education Act (DSHEA)-compliant ingredients to ensure that our supplements deliver the greatest benefit to our customers. We also think science will play an increasingly important role in how consumers use supplements, including new developments in delivery systems and product formats.

Let’s say a customer is just starting a fitness regimen and can afford only one product. Which one supplement do you recommend?

This is an easy one: Start with MRE, a whole-food meal replacement and one of the most versatile supplements we offer. MRE contains only real-food sources, very little sugar, and no junk or fillers, so there’s nothing inside to upset your stomach.

Each four-scoop serving contains 525 calories, 47 grams of protein, 75 grams of carbs, and 4 grams of fat. Each seven-pound container provides 25 servings of pure muscle-building nutrients! If you’re new to training and fitness, consuming the appropriate amount of high-quality calories should be your number-one goal, and MRE will take you there without any hassle.

Who are your sponsored athletes?

We have more than 20 sponsored athletes and more than 4,500 tier operators around the world. Like I said before, we’re one big family—and growing day by day. We’re always recruiting new tier operators and on the lookout for our next sponsored athlete. If any of your readers are interested in learning about how to become involved with RedCon1, I invite them to contact our customer-service operators.

Dallas McCarver was a RedCon1 athlete at the time of his tragic passing. What are your thoughts on his legacy?

Dallas was more than an athlete: He was family—one of the original members of the RedCon1 team. As I said, I called Dallas back in 2016 and asked him to be the face of this then-nameless company, and I told him about my plan to start a new company based on providing value to customers with free videos, podcasts, and articles. I told him the only way we could do it right would be if he left his home, family, and friends in Tennessee and relocated to Boca Raton, Florida. Without a moment’s hesitation, he agreed. Dallas accepting my offer so quickly and doubtlessly made me know I had the right guy.

Dallas was a great friend and an incredibly hard worker. I think he’d like his legacy to be just that: Someone who pursued his dream with single-minded commitment, who was the hardest worker in any room, and who never quit.

Dallas’ birthday just passed. He would have been 27 years old. Literally thousands of people posted pictures of him on social media and sent messages to him “up there.” If that doesn’t speak to the impact he had on so many people, nothing does.

Thanks for your insight into RedCon1’s past, present, and future. So, one final question: What do you want your own legacy in this industry to be?

Legacy is something I think about a lot these days. With three young sons, I ask myself how they’ll think of me when I’m gone, and that provides the litmus test for my decision-making. It wasn’t always that way, and I’ve been guilty of short-term thinking, just like many other people. Now, when I make life choices and business decisions, I always make sure to look at them through a long lens. I ask myself, “Is this something my family would be proud of?”

If I’m able to maintain that standard for myself, then I’d like my legacy in the fitness industry to be that I created the biggest sports supplement brand in the world—and did it the right way. I treated my customers the way I would want to be treated, and made products I’d personally want to take.



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Team Bodybuilding.com Athlete Profile: Courtney Gardner

Courtney Gardner grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon, but went to college at Boston University, where she studied photojournalism and ran track. Befitting her relocation, she also ran cross-country. And, she had the coolest internship ever, as a photographer for the Boston Red Sox. Now a sales rep for Dell EMC, a technology […]


Courtney Gardner grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon, but went to college at Boston University, where she studied photojournalism and ran track. Befitting her relocation, she also ran cross-country. And, she had the coolest internship ever, as a photographer for the Boston Red Sox.

Now a sales rep for Dell EMC, a technology company, the 5-foot-9, 136-pound Gardner earned a spot on Team Bodybuilding.com with a fourth-place finish at the 2016 Bodybuilding.com Spokesmodel Search at the Los Angeles FitExpo.

Her fitness and professional journeys are “very much separate,” she says. “I’m unique in that way. Fitness is a very important part of my life, but I just do it for fun. It is not how I make my living.”

“Be yourself” and “love what you do” appear to be Gardner’s mantras. As she talks about the two very different facets of her life, the 28-year-old is brimming with enthusiasm for both.

You started in Oregon and went all the way to the east coast for college. Why Boston?

I grew up in a small town. I would not trade my childhood for anything, but I was really ready to “get outta dodge,” experience something different, and get an amazing education. Also, Boston is the ultimate college town!

Did you have plans to be a photojournalist?

Actually, I thought that I was going to be premed. I went to the first orientation meeting, looked at the prerequisites, and said to myself, “I am way too social for this.” I also didn’t want to be in school for 10 years. On a whim, I took a photo class for fun, and then I found out that Boston University has the best photojournalism program in the country. So, I dove in. I was a teaching assistant, and loved it.

What was it like interning with the Boston Red Sox?

It was the best summer. It was incredibly fun. I had access to all of Fenway Park, except the locker rooms. I wasn’t just taking fan photos. I was down on the field, taking shots of game action, pregame ceremonies, and all kinds of special events. Fenway is a magical place.

You didn’t become a photojournalist though. How did you land in your job at Dell EMC and come to Los Angeles?

After my internship, I was trying to figure out what to do with my life and my career. The field of journalism, in general, was in a major transition. A lot of things were becoming geared toward freelance, and that terrified me. I found my way to my current company in Massachusetts, and the company moved me to Los Angeles.

I honestly love my job. I sell two of our enterprise solutions to media and entertainment customers. It challenges me every day. I use my brain. I get to work with amazing people, many of them leaders in their field. I love having a career outside of my fitness life. This way, fitness stays fun for me.

What got you to the gym?

I didn’t lift at all in college because I was a distance runner, and it wasn’t in our routine. Then, I tore my meniscus running the Boston Marathon in 2013, and anything cardio-based hurt.

Athlete Profile: Courtney Gardner

I was going crazy because working out had always been an emotional outlet for me. If I had a great day, I’d go on a run. If I had a bad day, I’d go on a run. So, I decided that, even though I couldn’t do cardio, I had to move my body.

Instagram was very new then. I used it to put pretty filters on pictures I didn’t know anyone could see. Eventually, I stumbled upon a few fitness women on Instagram and decided that I wanted to look like them. They looked so good, and they looked strong, and I wanted to be strong, too.

I found Bodybuilding.com and Jaime Eason‘s beginner-oriented workouts, and I sat in the gym, and followed them to a tee, exercise by exercise, and taught myself how to lift.

How did you get into competing?

I knew a few people who had done fitness competitions, and I was curious. Somehow, then, my best friend arranged for Paige Hathaway do a workout with me for my 25th birthday, and Paige told me about the Bodybuilding.com Spokesmodel Search. She said I was perfect for it. I lifted with her for three hours then went onto BodySpace, created an account, and applied for the contest.

It’s such a big contest. What did you do to make yourself stand out?

At the end of the day, there are a lot of people that have beautiful bodies, and I knew that I’d be competing against people who had large social media followings—and I didn’t. I think I had 1,200 followers at the time. So, I decided to just be myself. I didn’t watch any of the other videos. I sat down with my best friend and wrote down questions like, “Why do I want to do this? Why do I go to the gym every day?” We wrote down all the reasons that I should be picked, mixed in some serious ones with some funny ones, and put them in my video. I guess that worked, because it got me to the top five.

You did an NPC bikini contest around the same time, and you won your class, correct?

[Laughs] I did, somehow. I also did the Los Angeles Championships in July 2017 and got second in my class! So, I’m nationally qualified now.

As a Bodybuilding.com team member, you need to be in shape year-round. What’s your approach to diet control?

Everything in moderation. I track macros, but with time I’ve learned to eat intuitively. What I focus on is eating food that makes me feel good. That food is usually very clean. I eat gluten-free, as well. I’ve gotten to the point that, when I don’t eat clean, I feel awful.

Athlete Profile: Courtney Gardner

How do you balance a busy 9-to-5 job with the demands of hitting the gym and staying fit?

I had to change my schedule. I love to work out in the morning, but I am mentally sharpest in the morning, too, and I really need to optimize my mental capacity for work. So, I get up and start working at 6 or 7 a.m., and then I work out at night, instead. It’s hard, but I need to prioritize that way. Are there days when I don’t want to go? All the time. But I show up and push through it. And even if it’s a quick workout, at least I moved my body, and it feels better than sitting on my butt at home.

How many days per week do you go to the gym?

I typically lift five times a week. Depending on what I’ve got going on or what my next goal is, I’ll throw in a day of cardio, or I’ll do cardio in the morning and lift at night.

What are your tips for busy people who want to stay in shape?

Put your workout on the calendar. Schedule the time and treat it like an appointment. Also, if you’re a busy person, things will run long and things will run late, and that leads to skipping meals, which leads to poor food decisions down the line. So, prepare for the unexpected—meaning, always have a healthy snack with you, so you can eat that instead of a crap snack when you get hung up somewhere.

Athlete Profile: Courtney Gardner

What’s a healthy snack for you?

Typically, something that’s high protein and high fat to curb my hunger, but also relatively clean. There are some clean protein bars, but I’m wary of the ones that are full of sugar. A packet of peanut butter is good; it doesn’t go bad, it’s easy, and it typically gives me about 200 calories—carbs, protein, fat—all in a quick shot. Almonds are another good one and, depending on the time of day, hardboiled eggs are good. Sometimes I put a scoop of protein powder in a baggie. I can throw it into some water when I get hungry, and it will hold me over until I can have a real meal.

What do you like to do in your spare time, if you have any?

Hang out with my family, travel, and go shopping. I also still do photography on occasion.

How many followers do you have on Instagram now that you’re a celebrity?

I wouldn’t go that far [laughs]. I believe that I just hit 150,000 followers on Instagram.

Athlete Profile: Courtney Gardner

What would all those people be surprised to learn about you?

That I’m a giant nerd. I sell technology for a living, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that.

You have said that your number-one reason for wanting to become a spokesmodel was to inspire others. Have you achieved that goal?

That’s a hard thing to evaluate, but I like to think so. I do get emails from followers. My favorites are the ones that come from women who have intense careers. They tell me things like “Thank you. I feel alone in what I do, and it’s awesome to see someone else be successful in accomplishing their career goals and their fitness goals at the same time.” Those are the best emails to get, for sure.



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Podcast Ep 78: RAD Experience Fitness Expert Robbie Ann Darby

Ever wished your workout felt more like a party? (Haven’t we all!) Well,  get ready because today we’re talking with Robbie Ann Darby, an actress, dancer, and fitness expert who hosts a series of RAD fitness events where, as she puts it, “event planning meets fitness.” However, her personal journey has had its rough moments beginning […]


Ever wished your workout felt more like a party? (Haven’t we all!) Well,  get ready because today we’re talking with Robbie Ann Darby, an actress, dancer, and fitness expert who hosts a series of RAD fitness events where, as she puts it, “event planning meets fitness.”

However, her personal journey has had its rough moments beginning with an eating disorder which began between middle school and high school. The pressure to stay thin and popular, as well as Robbie’s admitted perfectionism, created the perfect storm for disordered eating that lasted well into grad school. She’s vocal about her struggle as well as her recovery in the hopes that she can help others face their issues in a more positive way. 

After years of therapy, Robbie now serves as a role model for women, and especially women of color, who are struggling with their own food and self-image issues. The L.A.-based actress/model/fitness instructor is passionate about this mission, but she also gets pretty darn excited about the best mascara and lip stains to last through a workout session. Plus, in this fun ep, she also talks about filling her wardrobe with colorful athletic gear — years in New York City created an almost all-black wardrobe that needed some sprucing up!

Speaking of athletic gear …

Did you know that FBG now has a pair of exclusive leggings made by Four Athletics? They’re available for purchase now (and they are so cute and they have amazing pockets) — but only until April 25. So! Be sure to grab a pair (you can get them right here) while they’re still available!

Our favorite RAD quote from the interview …

Podcast Ep 78 Highlights With Robbie Ann Darby

  • How eating disorders are not just a “white girl’s disease”
  • The origin of her eating disorder and how it cropped up again while she was in grad school
  • How hard it is for women of color to talk about body image and depression
  • Her journey from being a gawky, awkward preteen to a popular high school student — and how that messed with her sense of self
  • How most films that cover the subject of eating disorders do a disservice to their audience
  • Her favorite beauty products and why she loves to look glam while getting in a sweat session
  • The differences between New York and Los Angeles in fashion and fitness (plus the secret way all of those celebrities really get to those award shows!)
  • Plus, the FBGs are super excited about our new pair of leggings created especially for us and our followers by Four Athletics.  

Get the episode with Robbie Ann Darby here or below!

Get more info on our podcast here and be sure to subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode!

What are your favorite fitness fashion brands? —Margo

Want to sponsor the show? Yay! Drop us a note at advertising@fitbottomedgirls.com and let’s make the world a healthier place together!



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The Fourth Powerlift: Your Gateway To Massive Gains

I’m a lucky guy. Earlier in my training career, I had the luxury of seeking my strength goals in private sanctuaries, instead of having to fight for space at the commercial rack. Ok, I did most of those workouts in my garage, but I also had access to some very nice private gyms. Due to […]


I’m a lucky guy. Earlier in my training career, I had the luxury of seeking my strength goals in private sanctuaries, instead of having to fight for space at the commercial rack. Ok, I did most of those workouts in my garage, but I also had access to some very nice private gyms.

Due to life events (i.e., children and work), I’ve been forced to train at an LA Fitness gym in Tucson, Arizona, for the past 10 years. In that time, I’ve seen it snow in Tucson more often than I’ve seen anyone at that gym perform “the fourth powerlift,” the bent-over barbell row. That’s a shame because these classic rows can pave the way to major PRs.

The gateway to gains

It was Larry Pacifico, winner of nine straight IPF World Powerlifting Championships from 1971-1979, who added the bent-over row to the triad of bench press, deadlift, and squat to form his quartet of foundational powerlifting exercises. This version of the row was popular up through the 1990s, about the time when powerlifter Josh Bryant performed it as part of his training with Gary Frank, the first powerlifter to total 2,500; 2,600; 2,700; and 2,800 pounds.  

Bryant’s weekly training with Frank included one bench session, one squat-deadlift session, and one all-upper back workout based on the bent-over row.

Bryant has since popularized the seal row as a stricter version of the bent-over row, and one that minimizes lower-back stress. Given that Bryant has done more 600-pound raw bench presses than anyone competing in the game today, it might be worth checking out his seal row, too.

One of my early mentors in California was IPF Hall of Famer David Shaw. Shaw’s goal was to always be able to do 5 perfect bent-over row reps using 50 percent of his deadlift max. Shaw said he pulled what was at the time a world-record 854-pound deadlift because of the confidence he gained from rowing 465-pound sets of 5 reps.

When I look over my own training history, I can easily draw a straight line between my bent-over row sets and my biggest lifts. At my strongest, I totaled more than 2,000 pounds at the National Powerlifting Championships. At the same time, I was bent-over rowing for heavy sets of 5 reps with 405 pounds using a belt and straps, and doing it at the end of my squat workout.

When my deadlift pushed into the mid-700s, my squat exceeded 800, and I finally benched over 530. I attribute these feats to consistently doing heavy bent-over rows. My gains in upper-back strength created a bigger “pad” to squat from, a thicker torso to make my bench stroke shorter, and the static power in my upper body to lock out the biggest deadlifts possible.

The only time I suffered an upper-back injury (an aggravated left scapula while doing front-grip deadlifts) was when I had stopped bent-over rowing for a few months. Performed consistently, this “reverse of the bench press” will keep your upper body healthy and balanced.

Integrating bent-overs into your routine

When you’re doing bent-over rows for powerlifting gains, start by warming up with sets of 5 reps, then finish with a top set. Once the bar leaves the ground, don’t let the plates touch the ground until the set is over.

I prefer to cycle my bent-over rows. I do them heavy and for lower reps leading into a contest. In the off season, I’ll lighten the load and do them by touching the plates on the floor between reps, squeezing the weight back up with no momentum—just pure muscle. You can also vary your grip and the bar you use, including using a multi-grip bar so you can use a neutral grip.

I’m not against machines or any other tool that can get your stronger. In 2007 I won first place at CT Fletcher’s World Legion of Power contest by doing seven 45-pound plates on an Icarian chest-supported row. The row was easy, and I would have gone heavier, but there was no more room on the bar. How did I do that lift at age 39? I had spent the previous 25 years doing bent-over rows, that’s how!

Technique tips

Use the same grip for your rows as you do for your bench press. I position my hands so my pinky is just inside the outer edge of the knurling. I prefer an overhand grip and wear straps when I get over 315 pounds. I do these rows to build a bigger, stronger upper body, not test my grip. I also wear a belt so that I can push my stomach against it while I maintain tension in my lower back.

To start, push out against your belt and, with a slight bend in your knees, squeeze the weight off the floor. Maintain the bend in your knees for the entire set while holding your back at a strict 45-degree angle. Pull the weight up into your upper abs or lower pecs, whichever feels natural to you.

Maintain the bend in your knees for the entire set while holding your back at a strict 45-degree angle.

Return the bar to the hang, stretch your shoulders, then pull up the next rep. In my world, a little body English is acceptable. The truly strong realize that true muscle isolation is neither possible nor desirable.

Programming rows into a workout routine

Sometimes I’ll do bent-over rows twice in the same week, maybe after a heavy pressing workout, when I’m trying to build a thicker back and get some traction on my rotator cuff after all that press work. In the off-season, when I’m pausing the plates on the floor between reps, I concentrate on squeezing my scapulae and pulling the bar a bit higher into my body.

Start with a lower-body exercise such as squat or deadlift, one of which I emphasize every week. When you deadlift heavy, lighten up on your bent-over row. Conversely, when you deadlift lighter, row heavier.

Add the fourth powerlift to your next workout

I’ve always been a strength athlete with little concern for aesthetics, but I do notice that my traps are the biggest when I am bent-over rowing. And big traps can come in handy when I’m at LA Fitness and want to shield my ears from all the horrible training advice I hear.

If you work out at a commercial gym, you’ve probably noticed that there are usually more machines to train back muscles than any other body part. Hammer Strength alone must make a dozen lever-armed devices designed to turn normal backs into barn-door-sized fortifications between butt and neck.

But, if a big back is what you’re after, add these bent-over barbell rows to your routine. It may not be the sexiest lift in the world—you can’t load them up and dazzle the crowd like you can the other powerlifting mainstays—but if you’re looking for something practical and beautifully brutal, get rowing!



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Police Officer Tom DuPont Put The Cuffs On His “Dad Bod”

Tom DuPont is an Air Force veteran who became a police officer handling death investigations, domestic assaults, armed robberies, drug crimes, and everything in between. Since he was 12 years old, DuPont had been disciplined in the gym, earning a physique and the confidence to match. But police work became a heavier weight than he’d […]


Tom DuPont is an Air Force veteran who became a police officer handling death investigations, domestic assaults, armed robberies, drug crimes, and everything in between.

Since he was 12 years old, DuPont had been disciplined in the gym, earning a physique and the confidence to match. But police work became a heavier weight than he’d anticipated, and his physical discipline waned as the long hours, job stress, and minimal time off took their toll.

Around this time, he and his wife started a family, adding stress to their finances and disrupting their sleep. DuPont began to drink heavily, often knocking back a fifth of rum in one night.

Financially, he was heading toward ruin. He worked more than 60 hours a week, yet only made enough money to scrape by.

His nutritional habits didn’t help matters. “I ate anything I wanted,” he says. “Not fast food, but a lot of crock pot mac and cheese and comfort foods. Basically, anything with a lot of cheese.”

DuPont fell hard into the “dad bod” life. Yet he didn’t feel much like a dad—the strong provider and example he wanted to be for his kids.

He felt like the world was stacking the odds against him. An experienced fighter, DuPont chose to punch back and regain the world he’d wanted for himself and his children before things fell apart.

This is his story.

Snapshot: Tom DuPont

  • Height: 5′ 8″
  • Weight: 205 lbs.
  • Occupation: Criminal Targeting Specialist
  • Location: Burlington, VT

Contest Highlights:

  • Vermont NPC Championships, 2018

Social Links:

Tom DuPont Transformation Before

Age: 32, Height: 5′ 8″, Weight: 274 lbs., Body Fat: 30%

Tom DuPont Transformation After

Age: 33, Height: 5′ 8″, Weight: 205 lbs., Body Fat: 6%

What made you decide to embark on this transformation?

One day in February of 2017, I got out of the shower and was ashamed of what I saw in the mirror. My wife and I had been having problems, and drinking had been my only hobby. I thought, “No wonder she doesn’t want to touch me.” I didn’t even want to look at myself. I didn’t want my kids to be embarrassed by me. I was very depressed, and it was affecting my entire life and all of my relationships. I missed being happy. I missed making my family proud.

How did you go about accomplishing your goals?

After seeing myself in the mirror that day, I decided to commit. I quit drinking immediately. I put myself on a diet and began training again. When my diet first started, it was just about cutting out all the comfort foods. I got back to meat and quality carb sources such as vegetables. No junk food. No fast food. No alcohol. I would eat every 3 hours. From then on, I never once thought about quitting. There was no way I would let my kids see failure. I wanted them to see what hard work and dedication can do.

Tom DuPont Transformation

What supplements helped you through your journey?

What did your diet look like throughout the transformation?

  • Meal 1: Coconut oil, egg whites, whole eggs, spinach
  • Meal 2: Chicken, Jasmine rice, spinach
  • Meal 3: Lean beef, Jasmine rice, spinach
  • Meal 4: (Pre-workout) Rice cereal, peanut butter, protein powder
  • Meal 5: (Post-workout) Kids’ cereal, protein powder
  • Meal 6: Rice cereal, lean beef, salad

What training regimen kept you on track?

Training is the easy part for me, because I’ve been doing it since I was 12. I love throwing the weights around. During my transformation, I would do fasted cardio after waking up, then head to work. I’d do my weight training in the evenings six times a week. My cardio varied from 3-6 days a week.

Tom DuPont Transformation

For cardio, I have a spin bike at my house and I do anywhere from 35-45 minutes fasted. As far as the weight training goes, I train how I feel. If I feel strong, I go heavy. If I want a good pump, I’ll up the sets or perform supersets, dropsets, or anything else I want.

Here’s what a week typically looks like:

  • Monday: Legs (quad-focused) and calves
  • Tuesday: Chest and shoulders
  • Wednesday: Arms
  • Thursday: Legs (hamstring-focused) and calves
  • Friday: Back
  • Saturday: Shoulders
  • Sunday: Rest

What aspect of the process challenged you most?

Staying consistent with diet and training was the hardest part. Life, in general, makes this hard. It’s easy to miss that training session or grab that one fast-food meal. I made it very clear to my family that anything we do will be scheduled around training and I will bring my own food if we’re not eating at home.

It was also hard to look in the mirror and be critical, not yet seeing what I wanted to see, and to work through that frustration. On occasion it’s still hard for me to keep going.

I think I still see that fat guy from the past when I look in the mirror. I feel the embarrassment and the shame. No one has ever supported me until recently. Bodybuilding had affected my marriage, which eventually ended, and I really had no support from the rest of my family.

So, when you’re doing it all alone for so long, you think it’s because you’re not good enough. That’s a struggle I still have.

Tom DuPont Transformation

What are your future plans within the fitness world?

I have hired a bodybuilding coach who is helping me with a contest-prep diet. I am doing my first bodybuilding show, the Vermont NPC Championships, on April 21, 2018. I plan on continuing and going pro. It is what I’ve wanted for most of my life, and I’m finally in a position, and I finally have the mindset, to do the work.

What suggestions do you have for aspiring transformers?

Never quit. You can’t fake losing weight or becoming more muscular. You must get it into your mind that this is what you want, and then don’t stop until you achieve it. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired or hungry. Get your mind right and do the work!

How has Bodybuilding.com helped you reach your goals?

Bodybuilding.com has been a content resource and a place for me to buy my supplements for many years. The nutrition calculators are invaluable, and I’ve read numerous articles on new training ideas. Also, BodySpace has allowed me to speak with others and get their ideas on dieting and training methods. It can be very motivational when others appreciate the work you’ve put in.

Tom DuPont Transformation

Any cool or interesting facts you’d like to share before we sign off?

After the Air Force, I began a career in law enforcement. I graduated from the Vermont Police Academy in 2007 and became a police officer. Eventually I became a detective and did death investigations. I handled everyday patrol issues as well. I eventually earned a position as Special Reaction Team Sniper. I also performed normal Special Reaction Team functions such as search warrants, and active shooter and high-risk arrests. I was a use-of-force instructor, and I was awarded a Lifesaver Award for rescuing a family from a burning house.



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The 6 Grittiest Trap Exercises You're Not Doing

Let’s get a couple things clear right off the bat. First, when lifters talk about “building traps,” they’re usually talking about the upper traps, as opposed to the middle or lower traps. Those other portions often get lumped into upper-back training. This article is specifically focused on building that shirt-stretching yoke. Secondly, there’s no reason […]


Let’s get a couple things clear right off the bat. First, when lifters talk about “building traps,” they’re usually talking about the upper traps, as opposed to the middle or lower traps. Those other portions often get lumped into upper-back training. This article is specifically focused on building that shirt-stretching yoke.

Secondly, there’s no reason for me to go into detail about classic trap-building exercises like Olympic lifts, heavy deadlifts, and simple barbell or dumbbell shrugs. Suffice it to say, they all work.

This article is meant to provide you with some lesser-known, science-based, practical trap training techniques that you can use along with the staples in your programing to get more out of each workout.

1. Wide-Grip Barbell Shrugs

The general function of the upper trapezius is scapular upward rotation and elevation. So, loading those actions dynamically, like in all the exercises highlighted here, or isometrically like in a deadlift, is where the most bang for your buck is going to be found.

With this in mind, research has found that starting a shoulder shrug in 30 degrees of glenohumeral abduction—i.e., arms slightly out to the sides—generates greater upper-trapezius muscle activity in comparison to the shrug with the arms at the side.[1]

When translated to the gym floor, this means that performing barbell shrugs with something like a snatch grip may bring in just a little more upper trap than having your hands straight by your sides.

2. Single-Arm Angled Shrugs

You can apply the same concept of performing shrugs with your arms slightly outside your body to single-arm shrugs variations. These are great if you’re trying to focus on one side, or are wanting to inject some variety into your training. Here are my three favorite single-arm shrug variations:

Low cable angled shrug: These are best for higher rep sets, like 12 reps or more per set, because you can only go so heavy without being pulled off your feet.

Leaning single-arm dumbbell shrug: These allow you to use heavier loads than low cable angled shrugs, which makes them a great option for lower rep sets. Plus, this exercise gives you isometric trap work on the side you’re holding yourself up with. However, this can also be a limiting factor of this exercise because your grip doesn’t get a chance to rest since both holding yourself up and holding the dumbbell demand grip work.

Leaning Gittleson shrug

The video demonstrates a tweaked version of a single-arm shrug I originally learned from strength coach Mike Gittleson, which is why I coined it the “Gittleson shrug.” The only thing I’ve added to it is the slight side-lean, due to the research discussed in the previous section.

This is basically a seated version of the leaning single-arm dumbbell shrug. So, because you’re holding on with the other arm, you’re getting both isometric trap work and grip work on that side.

Also, because you’re seated, you have a great base of support to use heavy loads if you’d like. Of course, you can also perform this and the standing version for higher reps sets just as easily.

3. Wide-Grip Upright Rows

Rowing exercises have long been recommended for strengthening the trapezius muscle, and the science backs up their effectiveness.[2,3] But more specifically, upright rows have been shown to activate the upper traps to a greater degree than horizontal rowing exercises such as bent-over rows.[4]

That said, when performing upright rows with a barbell or dumbbells, as I recommend in my book “Your Workout Perfected,” you need to make some specific technique changes. First, use a relatively wide grip, and second, avoid pulling your elbows above shoulder height. Personally, I also find that using dumbbells instead of a barbell allows more freedom of movement.

Why these cues? A wider grip has been shown in studies to both increase deltoid and trapezius activity and reduce biceps brachii activity.[4]

In addition to maximizing recruitment of the muscle we’re trying to develop, we need to also consider exercise safety, and specifically, shoulder safety. This is why you should avoid pulling the elbows above shoulder height.

Research indicates that impingement typically peaks between 70-120 degrees of glenohumeral elevation. Even if you’re not someone with existing shoulder issues, keeping under 90 degrees, or shoulder height, is a good idea.[5,6]. In this case, don’t listen to the full-ROM police.

4. Low Cable Angled (Wide-Grip) Upright Rows

This is a combination of the wide-grip strategy discussed above, and the upright row technique I just discussed. This variation allows you a bit more range of motion that you’ll definitely feel in your upper traps, and some lifters who say that upright rows normally piss off their shoulders find they can actually tolerate these.

5. Full Range of Motion Shoulder Raises

Research shows that during scapular abduction (the scientific form for diagonally raising your hands up to a Y shape), upper trapezius activity differs throughout the range of motion. It increases from 0 (hands hanging by your side) to 60 degrees, then remains relatively constant from 6-120 degrees, and continues to progressively increase from 120-180 degrees, where your hands are straight overhead.[7]

It’s for this reason that, in addition to doing more conventional upper-trap exercises, I recommend lifters who are looking to build their upper traps increase the range of motion on front and lateral shoulder raises.

In practical terms, this means going all the way above your head, and stopping when your wrists are directly above your shoulders, instead of stopping when your arms are parallel to the floor.

It’s important to note that, when performing lateral shoulder raises, lift your arms in the scapular plane, at roughly a 30-degree angle to the torso, instead of out to the sides. Research shows that doing shoulder exercises in the plane of the scapula creates the same demands on the shoulder musculature, but reduces the unwanted stress on the rotator cuff tendon.[8,9] Work there, and you’ll not only torch your lats, but also provide serious coactivation of the trapezius and serratus anterior.[10]

6. Dumbbell Trap-Blaster Complex

This puts together several elements we’ve discussed here along with some other trap-activating movements, like overhead shrugs and bent-over rows, to finish off your traps and shoulders. Pick a weight you can press for at least 10-15 smooth reps, because you’re going to be holding onto that weight through at least four exercises!

Here’s what it looks like:

Complex: 2-3 rounds without setting the weights down between exercises. Rest as needed between rounds.

  • Dumbbell wide-grip upright row Up to 15 reps
  • Dumbbell shoulder press Up to 15 reps
  • Overhead shrugs Up to 15 reps
  • Bent-over row Up to 15 reps
  • Dumbbell shrug 15 reps, alternating 5 reps per side 3 times

References

  1. Pizzari, T., Wickham, J., Balster, S., Ganderton, C., & Watson, L. (2014). Modifying a shrug exercise can facilitate the upward rotator muscles of the scapula. Clinical Biomechanics, 29(2), 201-205.
  2. Hintermeister, R. A., Lange, G. W., Schultheis, J. M., Bey, M. J., & Hawkins, R. J. (1998). Electromyographic activity and applied load during shoulder rehabilitation exercises using elastic resistance. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(2), 210-220.
  3. Moseley JR, J. B., Jobe, F. W., Pink, M., Perry, J., & Tibone, J. (1992). EMG analysis of the scapular muscles during a shoulder rehabilitation program. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 20(2), 128-134.  
  4. Handa, T., Kato, H., Hasegawa, S., Okada, J., & Kato, K. (2005). Comparative electromyographical investigation of the biceps brachii, latissimus dorsi, and trapezius muscles during five pull exercises. Japanese Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine, 54(2), 159-168.
  5. Schoenfeld, B., Kolber, M. J., & Haimes, J. E. (2011). The upright row: Implications for preventing subacromial impingement. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(5), 25-28.
  6. McAllister, M. J., Schilling, B. K., Hammond, K. G., Weiss, L. W., & Farney, T. M. (2013). Effect of grip width on electromyographic activity during the upright row. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(1), 181-187.
  7. Reinold, M. M., Escamilla, R., & Wilk, K. E. (2009). Current concepts in the scientific and clinical rationale behind exercises for glenohumeral and scapulothoracic musculature. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 39(2), 105-117.
  8. Johnston, T. B. (1937). The movements of the shoulder‐joint a plea for the use of the ‘plane of the scapula’ as the plane of reference for movements occurring at the humero‐scapular joint. BJS, 25(98), 252-260.
  9. Greenfield, B. (1994). Special considerations in shoulder exercises: plane of the scapula. The athlete’s shoulder. Churchill Livingstone, New York, 513-522.
  10. Ekstrom, R. A., Donatelli, R. A., & Soderberg, G. L. (2003). Surface electromyographic analysis of exercises for the trapezius and serratus anterior muscles. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 33(5), 247-258.



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Forget Stretching: Alignment Is the Key

Wish you were more limber and flexible? Hey, us, too, which is why we’re sharing this guest post on how to really become more flexible from Rachael Schultz of Elev8d Fitness. According to her research, it’s not about stretching more … it’s all about alignment. And it’s so interesting. Credit: Elev8d Fitness Forget Stretching: Alignment Is […]


Wish you were more limber and flexible? Hey, us, too, which is why we’re sharing this guest post on how to really become more flexible from Rachael Schultz of Elev8d Fitness. According to her research, it’s not about stretching more … it’s all about alignment. And it’s so interesting.

Credit: Elev8d Fitness

Forget Stretching: Alignment Is the Key, By Rachael Schultz

After a long day at work or an extra hard workout, you probably stand up at some point to realize your legs, your back, your shoulders have become quite stiff. The solution you’ve been hearing for years? You need to stretch more. After all, it will help alleviate sore muscles, prevent injury during a workout, and help you move better, right?

Actually, you’re much better off re-aligning your body than stretching, says Pete Egoscue, Co-Founder of Elev8d Fitness.

But there’s more to it than just putting your shoulders back and sitting up straight. We’re talking about a daily practice of micro-movements and mini workouts that activate the key muscles, set your body into alignment, and, most importantly, increase your range of motion.

Why Range of Motion Is Key

“If your hamstrings are tight, that’s your body trying to tell you that the joints above and below this muscle — your pelvis, knee, and lower leg — aren’t able to run through their full range of motion,” Egoscue explains.

“Instead of stretching a tight muscle, we’d rather ask why is the muscle tight,” agrees Brian Bradley, fitness director of Elev8d. Sure, stretching may help relieve that tightness temporarily. But needing to stretch is actually a sign you have limited range of motion.

It works like this: We have four sets of load-bearing joints — the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles — and the function of each one is dependent on the function of the other three. “Our muscles are all connected. Everything talks to one another,” Egoscue explains.

When your core is activated, it tells your lower back to relax. When your hip flexors are engaged, it lets your glutes and hamstrings off the hook. But if your hips are out of alignment, it leaves your core and hip flexors sleeping, initiating a chain reaction: other muscles pick up the slack and peripheral muscles tighten. “Tight muscles are essentially doing what the non-activated muscle group should be doing,” Bradley says.

“If you stretch today, you come back tomorrow and you have to stretch again. But if you set your body into alignment and allow the range of motion in your body to come back — like magic, your hamstring tightness disappears — forever,” Egoscue says.

Credit: Elev8d Fitness

Why Alignment Is the Best Workout Warm-up

Skip the typical pre-run quad stretch or the lunge-and-hold when you’re at the gym. Static stretching does nothing before a workout, says Egoscue. In fact, a meta-analysis in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found stretching before a workout hasn’t been shown to reduce likelihood of injury, while other studies suggest static stretching before a workout may actually hurt performance, making you slightly slower and weaker temporarily after the workout.

If you go into a run with your load-bearing joints off-kilter and your major muscle groups asleep, you’re asking for trouble. “Many people don’t realize that tightness or contracture [shortening and hardening of the muscles] is usually secondary to a core weakness or muscle imbalance,” agrees Theodore Shybut, MD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

Take Iliotibial band friction syndrome (IT band syndrome). Your IT band is indeed sore because it’s tight, but the muscle stiffens up because you have deficiencies in the core or hip muscular endurance, says Shybut. These weaknesses result in poor running form, causing you to drop your pelvis which puts an abnormal strain on the IT band at the knee. “The treatment is not simply to stretch the IT band out — stretching alone will generally not be successful. A program of core strengthening that addresses the underlying deficiency and corrects running posture and mechanics will be much more successful,” he says.

Enter Elev8d Fitness

“If you have full range of motion, these joints are talking to each other and we have full muscle activation as we go through the day — we walk with symmetry, our feet point straight ahead, we have symmetrical arm swing,” Egoscue says.

And that’s the basis of Elev8d exercises.

One of the best go-tos after a long day or before a good sweat session is the GLAM sequence, which focuses on engaging your glutes and hamstrings. “The GLAM sequence is great because it helps activate your balancing mechanism by using your big leg muscles so your hip flexors can turn back on and your lower back and glutes won’t be firing all day or all workout,” Bradley says.

Give it a try and see what you think!

Find a new way to move. Sign-up for a 14-day free trial with Elev8dFitness.com — a total body postural approach to fitness and functional wellness. —Rachael Schultz



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Digestive Health Probiotics Men Women Dietary Supplement System Culture 2 Packs

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12 Signs That “Healthy” Is Becoming a Dangerous Obsession

We’ve recently recorded some POWERFUL podcast eps with women who have recovered from eating disorders. And, man, their stories are intense. And maybe the scariest part is that eating disorders, orthorexia, compulsive exercise and body dysmorphia are all on the rise … everywhere. It’s dangerous — seriously life threatening. In the upcoming pod eps you’ll […]


We’ve recently recorded some POWERFUL podcast eps with women who have recovered from eating disorders. And, man, their stories are intense. And maybe the scariest part is that eating disorders, orthorexia, compulsive exercise and body dysmorphia are all on the rise … everywhere. It’s dangerous — seriously life threatening.

In the upcoming pod eps you’ll get some good tips and thought-provoking discussion on this, but because they’re not live just yet (just a few weeks away!) we wanted to share this powerful infographic from EDCare that shares 12 signs that someone might be crossing from healthy behavior to a dangerous obsession. We also love the tips at the bottom for trainers and coaches — we know we have a lot of readers who work in the industry and we love how you’re helping others!

And, guys, did you know that NEDA also has a free hotline you can call or text? Get more info here. —Jenn



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Your Expert Guide To Phosphatidic Acid

If you want to build muscle, you have to train hard—no argument there. But how does hitting the gym actually translate to an increase in muscle growth? It is now well appreciated that the intramuscular signaling pathway, known as the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex, is required for promoting gains in muscle.[1] Every time […]


If you want to build muscle, you have to train hard—no argument there. But how does hitting the gym actually translate to an increase in muscle growth? It is now well appreciated that the intramuscular signaling pathway, known as the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) complex, is required for promoting gains in muscle.[1] Every time you hit the gym, you trigger the mTOR signaling pathway, which, in turn, allows for a robust increase in muscle protein synthesis.

Despite decades of research investigating this phenomenon, the exact mechanisms underlying muscle growth are not fully understood. However, phosphatidic acid (which we will refer to as PA for this article) has been shown to play an important role in this process.[2] And when that became clear, it wasn’t long before PA supplements started showing up on the market.

So, is there science to back this supplement? Let’s dig in and find out.

What is phosphatidic acid?

PA is a unique lipid molecule that acts as a direct regulator of mTOR signaling. In other words, PA effectively “turns on” muscle protein synthesis in response to resistance exercise. Given the apparent role of PA in mTOR activation, researchers have started to question whether simply increasing the amount of PA in the diet would exert a favorable impact on muscle growth and strength.

It is noteworthy to mention that PA can be found naturally in the diet, but only in extremely small quantities. PA is found in the largest quantities in vegetables such as cabbage, which contain 0.5 milligrams per gram.[3]

However, the small amounts found in the diet are negligible compared to the 250-750 milligram doses of PA administered in research studies.

What does the research say?

Can we effectively increase muscle protein synthesis by supplementing with PA? In a laboratory setting, PA has shown to increase mTOR signaling in isolated muscle cells.[4-6] Additionally, in a study done with rats, PA and whey protein sparked an increase in muscle protein synthesis. However, using them together actually blunted the anabolic effect of whey protein, indicating that there may be an interference effect rather than a synergistic effect on muscle-building.[7]

Surprisingly, researchers have not yet investigated whether a supplemental dose of PA actually increases mTOR activation or muscle protein synthesis in humans. Additionally, in order for PA to elicit an anabolic effect on muscle, the orally supplemented dose would need to be absorbed into the blood stream and taken up by the muscle.

Your Expert Guide To PA

These variables have also not yet been investigated. Therefore, the extent at which PA reaches the muscles and is absorbed by the muscle cells to elicit an effect following oral supplementation is currently unknown.

Is there a physique or performance application?

To date, there have been five research studies investigating the potential effects of PA supplementation in trained men. Unfortunately, the findings are mixed and require some interpretation.

The first pilot study was conducted in 2012 in which 16 resistance-trained men were randomly assigned to consume either 750 milligrams of PA daily or a placebo, during eight weeks of unsupervised training.[8] PA supplementation showed to have a likely, but not statistically significant, benefit on measures of hypertrophy and strength—basically, the equivalent of saying “eh, maybe there’s something going on here.” These preliminary findings were intriguing to say the least, and sparked some interest into this potential muscle-building supplement.

Another study employed a similar research design whereby 28 resistance-trained men were randomly assigned to consume 750 milligrams of PA daily or a placebo during an eight-week training program.[5] In this study, no significant differences were observed for bench-press strength. However, the PA group added more weight to their leg-press max and gained a significantly greater amount of lean body mass. In particular, they had a greater increase in leg muscle size.

Your Expert Guide To PA

Using a similar training design, a different study also showed that PA supplementation produced greater gains in measures of hypertrophy and strength.[9] However, the 750 milligram dose of PA was provided as part of a multi-ingredient supplement that contained other muscle-building agents including leucine, HMB, and Vitamin D3. Therefore, it remains unclear to what extent, if any, PA affected the results of this study. The addition of other ergogenic ingredients confounds the ability to draw conclusions on PA supplementation in isolation.

To investigate different doses of PA, a research team conducted an eight-week training study in 28 resistance-trained men; however, in this case, participants were randomly assigned to receive 250 milligrams of PA, 375 milligrams of PA, or a placebo daily.[10] Similar to the pilot study, no significant differences were found between groups for muscle size or strength after the supplementation period. However, likely positive effects were reported for some measures of muscle size and strength using an unconventional statistical procedure.

Most recently, my lab investigated the effects of PA supplementation on muscle thickness and strength following an eight-week weight-training program in 15 resistance-trained men.[11] We found that a daily dose of 750 milligrams of PA did not offer any benefit for increasing muscle size or maximal strength, compared to a placebo group.

The bottom line, for now

A considerable amount of research shows that PA is involved in the regulation of mTOR signaling, the master switch of muscle growth. The small number of well-controlled experimental research studies suggests that PA supplementation might be a useful dietary strategy to increase muscle size and strength during a relatively short and intense training period, like eight-weeks.

However, it’s worth noting that only one study has reported statistically significant effects of PA supplementation in isolation on muscular adaptation. Unfortunately, the current research findings are rather equivocal and it is difficult to answer whether PA supplementation would provide a competitive edge, or if it would be any more effective than just consuming lecithin and choline, both of which supply some PA, but also other phospholipids involved in the synthesis of PA in the body.[12]

More research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this muscle-building supplement before I would recommend it as a staple in your supplement stack. Finally, research investigating the safety and pharmacokinetics [what happens to a molecule when it is consumed] of PA supplementation is currently lacking. Although no side effects have been reported, safety data has not been collected alongside long-term supplementation.

That said, women suffering from the painful uterine condition endometriosis, or who may be prone to it, may want to avoid supplementing with PA. Research has shown that PA levels are significantly elevated in women with endometriosis, which may be for a number of reasons, including downregulation or upregulation of certain enzymes. But avoiding this supplement at that time is probably prudent.[13]

How should I take it?

Your Expert Guide To PA

Want to test it out for yourself? The currently recommended dosage is 750 milligrams of PA daily. The studies showing positive effects provided 450 milligrams of PA 30 minutes prior to training and 300 milligrams of PA immediately following training. On rest days, 450 milligrams of PA can be taken early in the day, and 300 milligrams of PA can be taken later. Given that there may be some blunting of PA’s effectiveness when taken with whey, it may be best to take it on an empty stomach and not with food.

References
  1. Gonzalez, A. M., Hoffman, J. R., Stout, J. R., Fukuda, D. H., & Willoughby, D. S. (2016). Intramuscular anabolic signaling and endocrine response following resistance exercise: implications for muscle hypertrophy. Sports Medicine, 46(5), 671-685.
  2. Hornberger, T. A., Chu, W. K., Mak, Y. W., Hsiung, J. W., Huang, S. A., & Chien, S. (2006). The role of phospholipase D and phosphatidic acid in the mechanical activation of mTOR signaling in skeletal muscle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103(12), 4741-4746.
  3. Tanaka, T., Kassai, A., Ohmoto, M., Morito, K., Kashiwada, Y., Takaishi, Y., … & Tokumura, A. (2012). Quantification of phosphatidic acid in foodstuffs using a thin-layer-chromatography-imaging technique. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 60(16), 4156-4161.
  4. Avila-Flores, A., Santos, T., Rincón, E., & Mérida, I. (2005). Modulation of the mammalian target of rapamycin pathway by diacylglycerol kinase-produced phosphatidic acid. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 280(11), 10091-10099.
  5. Joy, J. M., Gundermann, D. M., Lowery, R. P., Jäger, R., McCleary, S. A., Purpura, M., … & Wilson, J. M. (2014). Phosphatidic acid enhances mTOR signaling and resistance exercise induced hypertrophy. Nutrition & Metabolism, 11(1), 29.
  6. You, J. S., Lincoln, H. C., Kim, C. R., Frey, J. W., Goodman, C. A., Zhong, X. P., & Hornberger, T. A. (2014). The role of diacylglycerol kinase ζ and phosphatidic acid in the mechanical activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 289(3), 1551-1563.
  7. Mobley, C. B., Hornberger, T. A., Fox, C. D., Healy, J. C., Ferguson, B. S., Lowery, R. P., … & Wilson, J. M. (2015). Effects of oral phosphatidic acid feeding with or without whey protein on muscle protein synthesis and anabolic signaling in rodent skeletal muscle. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1), 32.
  8. Hoffman, J. R., Stout, J. R., Williams, D. R., Wells, A. J., Fragala, M. S., Mangine, G. T., … & Purpura, M. (2012). Efficacy of phosphatidic acid ingestion on lean body mass, muscle thickness and strength gains in resistance-trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 47.
  9. Escalante, G., Alencar, M., Haddock, B., & Harvey, P. (2016). The effects of phosphatidic acid supplementation on strength, body composition, muscular endurance, power, agility, and vertical jump in resistance trained men. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(1), 24.
  10. Andre, T. L., Gann, J. J., McKinley-Barnard, S. K., Song, J. J., & Willoughby, D. S. (2016). Eight weeks of phosphatidic acid supplementation in conjunction with resistance training does not differentially affect body composition and muscle strength in resistance-trained men. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 15(3), 532.
  11. Gonzalez, A. M., Sell, K. M., Ghigiarelli, J. J., Kelly, C. F., Shone, E. W., Accetta, M. R., … & Mangine, G. T. (2017). Effects of phosphatidic acid supplementation on muscle thickness and strength in resistance-trained men. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 42(4), 443-448.
  12. Bond, P. (2017). Phosphatidic acid: biosynthesis, pharmacokinetics, mechanisms of action and effect on strength and body composition in resistance-trained individuals. Nutrition & Metabolism, 14(1), 12.
  13. Li, J., Gao, Y., Guan, L., Zhang, H., Sun, J., Gong, X., … & Bi, H. (2018). Discovery of phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine as biomarkers for early diagnosis of endometriosis. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 14.



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Ask The Muscle Doc: How Does Creatine Help Muscle Gains?

Q: I’ve read enough at this point to know that creatine often helps increase muscle mass. But I haven’t seen an explanation of how. So, what’s the deal? This is a great question, because if you were to ask me for a single supplement recommendation when muscle growth is the goal, I’d say hands-down, no-brainer: […]


Q: I’ve read enough at this point to know that creatine often helps increase muscle mass. But I haven’t seen an explanation of how. So, what’s the deal?

This is a great question, because if you were to ask me for a single supplement recommendation when muscle growth is the goal, I’d say hands-down, no-brainer: creatine. An overwhelming amount of research indicates that supplementing with creatine predictably elevates intramuscular concentrations. And as you note, studies consistently show that this phenomenon translates into a greater ability to build muscle. Gains of several pounds of muscle are routinely reported when lifters supplement with creatine, over and above just performing resistance training alone.[1,2]

However, the mechanisms by which creatine builds muscle remain somewhat speculative. So, let’s look at the most plausible and research-backed possibilities.

Creatine and muscle: two major theories

You may already know this, but creatine does far more than just help muscle growth. It is also highly effective at producing strength gains—and that may be part of the answer. If you’re stronger, you’re going to be able to manage heavier loads in a given repetition range and thus generate more mechanical tension—a primary driving factor for hypertrophy.[3] That’s one explanation.

Muscle growth may be further enhanced by creatine’s volumizing effect. You see, creatine acts as an osmolyte, pulling water into the muscle. Not only does this enhance muscle size, but it also has been theorized that the associated cellular swelling contributes to hypertrophy.[4]

Specifically, test tube research shows that cell swelling increases muscle protein synthesis while decreasing protein breakdown—a hypertrophy home run! How this plays out in practice isn’t clear, but it provides an intriguing potential explanation for creatine’s effectiveness.

It’s worth noting, though, that we’re not necessarily looking at an either-or situation here. As I explained in my review paper “The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training,” cell swelling and mechanical tension both may play a role in muscle growth, as might muscular damage.[3] It’s entirely possible that creatine can positively impact two, or even all three, of those mechanisms.

Creatine for the long haul

One other reason that creatine is so effective is because it’s not a supplement you need to cycle, for either health or financial reasons. Keeping your stores perpetually elevated only helps to ensure maximal gains, and creatine monohydrate—the most science-backed form of the supplement—is among the cheaper supps out there per serving.

When I say that it doesn’t need to be cycled for health, what I really mean is that creatine has been repeatedly shown to be safe, even with long-term use.[5] The only reported issues are some isolated anecdotal claims of cramping, which have not been replicated in controlled research.

And contrary to popular belief, creatine doesn’t cause bloating, either; the increase in water is within the muscle, not beneath the skin. So, allegations that creatine will puff you up like a water balloon are nothing more than hot air.

It’s important to note that a relatively small percentage of the population, possibly around 20 percent, are “non-responders” to creatine, conceivably due to a combination of genetic and nutritional factors. Those who fall into this category don’t realize any additional benefits from supplementation.

My advice is to give creatine a try and see how it works for you, personally; if you don’t see results in a couple of months, you’re likely a non-responder.

How to take creatine

There are two basic strategies to take creatine. For fastest results, consume approximately 5 grams of creatine four times daily for a week—or if you want to be more scientific and tailor the regimen to your specific needs, go with 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight. After completing this loading protocol, consume around 3 grams daily.

How to take creatine

Alternatively, you can simply consume 3-5 grams daily, which will ultimately achieve the same saturation level as with loading within about a month.

Creatine supplements come in a variety of different forms. My suggestion is to stick with good old creatine monohydrate. Although a number of designer forms have been hyped as better muscle-builders, the current research shows no added benefits. Given their higher cost, the monohydrate form is your best bet.

Take it daily, train hard, and don’t be surprised if the scale moves in the right direction!

References

  1. Becque, M. D., Lochmann, J. D., & Melrose, D. R. (2000). Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 32(3), 654-658.
  2. Vandenberghe, K., Goris, M., Van Hecke, P., Van Leemputte, M., Vangerven, L., & Hespel, P. (1997). Long-term creatine intake is beneficial to muscle performance during resistance training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 83(6), 2055-2063.
  3. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872.
  4. Schoenfeld, B. J., & Contreras, B. (2014). The muscle pump: potential mechanisms and applications for enhancing hypertrophic adaptations. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 36(3), 21-25.
  5. Kreider, R. B., Melton, C., Rasmussen, C. J., Greenwood, M., Lancaster, S., Cantler, E. C., … & Almada, A. L. (2003). Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 244(1-2), 95-104



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The One Factor That, Quite Frankly, Is Make-Or-Break For Gym Success

You’ve see them in the gym every day: The people who seem to just wander from one machine to the next, one free-weight exercise to another, with no apparent plan. Hats off to them for showing up, but new research suggests that there can be a world of difference between just going to the gym […]


You’ve see them in the gym every day: The people who seem to just wander from one machine to the next, one free-weight exercise to another, with no apparent plan. Hats off to them for showing up, but new research suggests that there can be a world of difference between just going to the gym and going to the gym with purpose.

Researchers in England divided 369 sedentary adults among four groups and followed their progress for 48 weeks:[1]

  • Group 1 was given free access to a fitness center, received no instruction, but met once a month with exercise professionals to discuss their progress.
  • Group 2 received free gym access, had a custom exercise program designed for each member of the group, and also met once a month with an exercise professional.
  • Group 3 was not given access to a gym, but had the monthly meeting.
  • Group 4 received none of the above. They were the control group.

The researchers tested all 369 participants before and after the 48 weeks. The tests measured one-rep maxes for chest press, pull-down, and leg press; body-fat percentage; body-fat mass; and lean-body mass (muscle). Overall, and not unexpectedly, Group 2—the ones that received gym access, custom exercises, and guidance—did the best on most measurements. But, there were some surprises, too.

Whereas Group 1, the ones with gym access and guidance but no exercise program, reduced their body fat by 0.5 percent, Group 2 lost 2.5 percent. Members of the control group increased their strength by an average of 4.4 percent over 48 weeks, but Group 2 increased theirs by 16 percent. Both Group 1 and Group 2 had free access to a gym, but Group 1 actually lost almost a pound of muscle while Group 2 packed on five more pounds of it.

What was surprising about the study was that members of the control group—those who received no help—lost more body-fat mass than any other group and came in second for gains in lean-body mass. And then there was the fact that Group 1 had 48 weeks of free access to a gym and yet lost muscle mass.

Members of Group 2 were the only ones to both lose significant body-fat mass and gain significant lean body mass. Regardless of which group they were in, though, most of these 364 previously sedentary adults improved their strength, lost body fat, and gained muscle mass. The researchers noted that the normal procedure for getting sedentary adults on the road to increased activity is to start them on aerobic exercises. Results of this study suggest that if these people got involved in resistance training, they might be in a better position to age more successfully.

The One Factor That Quite Frankly Is Make Or Break It For The Gym

So, the next time you see one of these lost souls at your gym, direct them to a library of workouts—one of which might be just the thing they need to increase their strength, fight obesity, and maybe even extend their lives!

References
  1. Mann, S., Jimenez, A., Steele, J., Domone, S., Wade, M., & Beedie, C. (2018). Programming and supervision of resistance training leads to positive effects on strength and body composition: results from two randomised trials of community fitness programmes. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 420.



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This 30-Minute, Full-Body Follow-Along Workout Is Just About Perfect

There’s a time for a punishing workout that leaves you in a sweaty heap. And there’s a time for a workout that simply hits the sweet spot of intensity. Every muscle group gets turned on and woken up, and you heat up plenty but don’t melt down. You leave feeling, well, amazing. EMOM, or every […]


There’s a time for a punishing workout that leaves you in a sweaty heap. And there’s a time for a workout that simply hits the sweet spot of intensity. Every muscle group gets turned on and woken up, and you heat up plenty but don’t melt down. You leave feeling, well, amazing.

EMOM, or every minute on the minute, workouts can be perfect for finding this balance. What could be better? How about a completely follow-along video workout that you can do anywhere—like your living room—with next-to-no equipment? That’s the idea behind Home Body: Your 8-Week At-Home Fitness Plan in Bodybuilding.com All Access.

Your guide is Kym Nonstop, a YouTube fitness star, personal trainer, and pro bike racer. She’s funny, unpredictable, and willing to do the hard work and sweat right alongside you. So, give it a shot!

Home Body: What you need to know

Home Body is eight weeks long, and every workout is a full follow-along video experience. Stream it to your TV, prop up your phone in the corner, or blast it out of your tablet—it’s up to you! For the first four weeks, you’ll be building up your strength, endurance, and mobility with challenging upper-, lower-, and full-body workouts, cardio intervals, targeted band and booty training, and enough variety to help your brain and body stay excited.

This sample workout is a full-body EMOM workout, which stands for every minute on the minute. It’ll touch on everything: legs, chest, arms, back, and shoulders, and a little bit of abs. All you need is a bit of floor space and a couple dumbbells or other light weights.

Start each exercise exactly on the minute for the set number of reps, or do what Kym does and just try to get as many reps as possible in the first 30 seconds of each minute, using the remainder of the minute to rest and catch your breath.

Kym will lead you through the entire workout, including the warm-up, so you don’t need a timer, and you don’t need to worry about remembering what comes next. All you need to focus on is keeping up with Kym and getting your sweat on. Ready? Let’s do this!



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Ask The Super Strong Guy: How Do I Find My Best Deadlift Stance?

Q: I use a conventional deadlift stance and want to start competing in powerlifting. I watch great strongmen like Brian Shaw deadlift using a stance wider than my squat. Other famous powerlifters like Lamar Gant or Vince Anello have their heels nearly touching. How do I figure out what my stance should be? Every person […]


Q: I use a conventional deadlift stance and want to start competing in powerlifting. I watch great strongmen like Brian Shaw deadlift using a stance wider than my squat. Other famous powerlifters like Lamar Gant or Vince Anello have their heels nearly touching. How do I figure out what my stance should be?

Every person is unique, right? So foot placement for the deadlift will vary from individual to individual. The people you’ve mentioned have reached the pinnacle of strength sports, so clearly they’re doing something right—or, I should say, right for them.

Brian Shaw is not your ordinary guy. He’s 6-foot-8 and weighs about 420 pounds. He’s so big that if his heels touched, he would “crowd” the bar—not a good position for max deadlifts. He also competes in a world where “hitching” the weight up and hand straps are allowed, both of which change deadlift dynamics. Shaw is one the best at what he does, but he’s not training for powerlifting.

Vince Anello and Lamar Gant hit the deadlift genetics jackpot with their short torsos and freakishly long arms, both of which are tailor-made for success. They’ve both set numerous deadlift world records, as well as enjoying outstanding success in the bench press. But, they have their body types and you have yours. You must find your own way to your ideal deadlift stance.

It does makes sense to study how guys like this do what they do. Just keep in mind you may not have the same leverage—or the same goals—as some of the greats.

How to Find Your Own Best Deadlift Stance

I hear some folks preaching about using a shoulder-width stance for deadlifts, and others who pontificate about hip-width.

Here’s the answer: There is no one right answer. Great people have succeeded with either style.

But, there is a secret to finding out what stance is best for you. I learned it 10 years ago on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Russia. After attending a highly classified sports-science conference and hearing the brilliant Dr. Boris Popov speak, I took him out for a night on the town. As the vodka flowed and the caviar vanished, he dropped his guard for a moment and shared the results of his deadlift-stance research with me.

OK, I made all that up. I never met a Dr. Popov and have never been to St. Petersburg. But, I did hear from Bill Kazmaier that the method I’m about to share has been used for years by many Russian Olympic lifters.

Here’s the big secret: The starting position of a deadlift is like the take-off position of a vertical jump. Your body is smart. When you want to perform a max-effort vertical jump, your body will intuitively assume the most powerful position—exactly the position you need for a powerful deadlift.

I’ve used this method repeatedly with my clients and, in general, it works very well. But I have noticed that when I ask some people to position themselves for a vertical jump, they tend to spread their feet a little wider. Generally, their stances would be closer to hip width. When put on the spot, though, they tend to put their feet into a wider-than-shoulder-width position.

Back in the 1970s, my mentor, the late Dr. Fred Hatfield, had a great solution to this discrepancy: Jump off a bench and where your feet land is your deadlift stance. Simple!

Keep in mind, though, that as your body changes, your stance might change, too. So as you bulk or cut down, or if you just feel like you’ve lost your deadlift groove, try Dr. Hatfield’s test and see where your feet end up! With this reference point and repeated trial and error, you’ll figure out, in the words of Frank Sinatra, how to do it your way.



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Mix Weights And Body Weight To Build Maximum Muscle!

If you want to get the most out of the foundational movement patterns, you have more options than simply adding another heavy set of 8-10…and another one, and another. Contrary to popular belief, that so-called “hypertrophy rep range” is just one of many rep ranges that will get the job done. And, strategically stepping outside […]


If you want to get the most out of the foundational movement patterns, you have more options than simply adding another heavy set of 8-10…and another one, and another.

Contrary to popular belief, that so-called “hypertrophy rep range” is just one of many rep ranges that will get the job done. And, strategically stepping outside of it might be just the thing to help you add new muscle and develop strength, without wrecking your joints in the process.

One of my favorite ways to mix it up is using what I call “polarizing strength-stamina schemes,” or SSS. In this approach, you train the same movement pattern twice in the same workout, back-to-back, but with very different parameters.

Start off going hard and heavy in traditional strength-based loading and programming, then finish off with a fiery metabolic stress-based bodyweight finisher for one single balls-to-the-wall challenge set.

The result is both brutally tough, and still extremely joint friendly. And, it may be just the thing you need to break through muscle and strength plateaus while learning a little about your ability—or lack thereof—to push the pedal to the floor in your training.

Here are three of my favorite SSS protocols to push you hard and get you growing. Are you ready?

Rear-foot elevated split squat SSS

While the rear-foot elevated or “Bulgarian” split squat can be trained in many various set and rep schemes, many lifters avoid pushing loading down into true strength schemes between 4-8 reps. Why? It’s usually due to increased apprehension and a lack of overall coordination and balance in this unilateral setup. It’s time for you to get past that, and get strong in this movement.

If you can put your ego aside for a few weeks and start building up your capacity to handle heavier loads in more pure strength schemes, a strength standard to aim for is 5 reps per side with 100 percent of your body weight in your hands. That means a 200-pound man will have 100-pound dumbbells in each hand and will be able to complete 5 reps on the right, then immediately knock out 5 reps on the left.

Meeting that strength standard should vastly improve any imbalances or bilateral deficits you have.

But while you’re aiming for that standard, you can also use bodyweight contrast sets to get the most out of the move. Simply complete multiple sets of heavy rear-foot elevated split squats in the 4-8-rep range, wait 45-90 seconds after your final set, then dive into a bodyweight challenge set. Keep constant tension and control of this movement and shoot for 25 bodyweight reps on each side.

Push-up SSS

When you do it right, the push-up can be one of the most powerful ways to build muscle through the upper body. What’s better, it does it while integrating the core and allowing the shoulders to move authentically with the shoulder blades. That can’t be said for some other popular upper-body moves!

So how do you load the push-up adequately to get it down into a strength rep scheme to hammer those higher-threshold motor units? You have several options.

One is to utilize a stretch push-up position, either by elevating your hands on boxes or benches, or by using rings or a suspension system. This will put your pecs into more of a full range of motion. Alternately, you can keep your hands down on a flat surface, but alter the strength curve of the movement by adding accommodating resistance like chains or bands.

Just like with the single-leg squats, hammer a heavy variation in standard strength rep schemes between 4-8 for multiple working sets.

Then, after all the heavy loaded work has been completed, tack on a max-effort challenge set with body weight only, from the opposite position. In other words, if you did your low-rep work from a stretch, do the high-rep work on the ground—and vice versa.

This back-to-back approach will increase local metabolic stress throughout the upper body, while amplifying the training effect on the muscular players that may not have been fatigued fully in the opposite hand setup.

Being able to knock out 20-plus reps here with body weight, after loading the push-up heavy first, is a goal to shoot for.

Squat SSS

Back squats are one movement where lifters are guilty of thinking that more heavy volume is always the answer. The problem with this way of thinking is that even in the strongest lifters, the “weak link” that breaks first is their core and spinal position. As I explained in my article “Don’t Do High-Rep Squats, Deads, and Bench! Do This Instead,” the legs could probably continue to work, if only the bracing requirements of the spinal complex didn’t give out first.

What’s worse, every time you place a bar on your back and fight past the point of fatigue, it comes with a cost—and that cost is usually a pissed-off lower back that limits the rest of your training day and has you staggering through life for days afterward. That’s why fully exhausting the lower body through the squat pattern needs to be done from as spine-friendly a position as possible.

In order for the SSS to work properly, it’s imperative that you nail multiple hard working sets in the power or strength schemes of 2-6 before the challenge set. But that doesn’t mean sloppy reps. These need to be solid, picture-perfect reps. Then, once you get to the point where fatigue sets in and you’d be at risk of altering the pattern itself to continue, it’s time to move to your challenge set.

This is again extremely simple. Knock out your last set of barbell squats—any weighted variation from my article “The More Gain, Less Pain Guide to Squats” will work here—and then take a rest period before getting two feet under you and cranking out as many quality, constant-tension bodyweight squats as you can muster.

Want a number to shoot for? A majority of my athletes can do 50 quality reps even when pre-fatigued by the heavier loading that came beforehand. Remember, the goal is metabolic stress in a joint-friendly position. And cranking out these reps without axial loading on the spine is the recipe for long-term success.



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Bodybuilding.com Fit Employee Spotlight: Heather Eastman

Heather Eastman is not your average trainer. In the statues of Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel frescos, she sees the possibilities of the human form, carved and lineated to perfection, the weight of the body as equaled by the weight of the soul. There’s an elegance to functionality, a quiet strength to the graceful. These […]


Heather Eastman is not your average trainer. In the statues of Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel frescos, she sees the possibilities of the human form, carved and lineated to perfection, the weight of the body as equaled by the weight of the soul.

There’s an elegance to functionality, a quiet strength to the graceful. These are the requisites underlying Eastman’s training philosophy.

Like Michelangelo, we are in service to our bodies as a way of servicing what’s within. And to Eastman, strength is not just equaled by purpose—one quality simply cannot exist without the other.  

Snapshot: Heather Eastman

  • Age: 34
  • Height: 5′ 9″
  • Weight: 135 lbs
  • Occupation: Content Editor
  • Location: Boise, Idaho

Contest Highlights:

  • 2009 NPC Excalibur, Second Place

Social Links:

How did you get into personal training?

At UCLA, I wandered into a group exercise class. At the end of the class, the facilitator announced a course that would prepare students to be either a one-on-one trainer or group exercise leader. Eventually, he said, there would be a test. Everyone who passed the test would get their personal trainer certification. At the time, I thought that’s how all personal trainers got their certification: by taking courses, learning things through workshops, learning how to work with clients, and learning proper body mechanics.

Looking back, I love that. It’s very old-fashioned, in a good way. In reality, a lot of trainers just buy a book online, take a test online, and then get certified online. There’s no oversight, and there’s not a lot of passion for real learning.

I couldn’t decide which training course to take—group or personal—so I took both. Instead of two nights a week in these courses, I went four nights a week. I went to normal classes during the day, then went to work, and then at night I went and did these fitness workshops.

Where did you work at the time?

I worked for Sugar Paper Los Angeles, which is a boutique letterpress stationary company. It’s very beautiful, and I loved it, and I probably would have gone in that direction if I hadn’t found training.

The paper direction?  

The making-things-pretty direction! But I fell so in love with personal training. At the same time, my grandmother, who was sharp as a whip and had a very full social calendar, was starting to experience some physical deterioration. She lived in Los Angeles, too, and I watched her in that last 10 years of her life go from extremely active at 83 to sedentary and basically chair-bound until her death at 93.

What eventually killed her was that she got sick enough to have to spend a week in the hospital, after which she was too physically weak to get back up out of bed. One week without movement, and her body just shut down. I thought to myself, my parents are going to get older, I’m going to get older, my brothers and sisters—everyone I care about is going to get older and, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if someone could just show people how to stay strong and healthy for as long as humanly possible? It’s so much easier than most people think it is. In my grandmother’s case, just 20 minutes a day of strengthening her legs and strengthening her core could have prolonged her life for a few years.

So, I believe, like Rob Lowe’s character in Parks and Recreation, that maybe the first person to live to be 150 years old has already been born, and I want to be that person. My great grandmother lived to be 99, so it’s very possible that I’ll at least live into the 100s, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to do that sitting in a chair. For me, that’s the whole point of being a personal trainer: to teach the practical applications to people, and to adopt them myself. You don’t just live forever accidentally.

In a body-focused culture, that’s almost glaringly holistic. Where do you get that from?

When I was 24, in the prime of my life, I broke my hip. As a personal trainer, I’d also been in my prime, training clients 50 hours a week, training for a bodybuilding competition on my own, and also doing CrossFit. I was working out too much, overtraining my body, and ended up on crutches for six weeks. When you’re a trainer, that can be a career killer because you use your body to demonstrate. I had to figure out a way to show people how to perform without the advantage of mimicry. I had to figure out how to build trust with new clients, without the advantage of overt physicality.

On top of that, there was the mental game. I was suddenly in pain, my body wasn’t working, and I was scared that I might never recover. The doctors said I might never run again. I had built a no-excuses training philosophy, but at that moment, I realized that sometimes there are legitimate reasons why someone can’t work out. Suddenly, I understood all these people who were coming to me, saying, “My back hurts,” “My knee hurts,” “My shoulder hurts.”

In a body-focused culture, that's almost glaringly holistic. Where do you get that from?

When you’re a young trainer, you just don’t get that because you don’t feel that kind of pain yet. My own involvement with a true pain that could actually stop me from moving helped me to understand why other people felt the way they did, and why they couldn’t move. I think that experience more than anything else is what really made me as a trainer.

I stopped pushing myself so hard after that. I started to research ways to have the strength and the body that I wanted, with as little work as possible—not because I’m lazy, but because the body is a machine, and it’s put together with moving parts that can break. If you’re overworking that machine and you’re not taking care of it, it will fall apart. I don’t feel I, or others, need to work out as hard as possible all the time. Instead, I think in terms of, “What’s the minimum that I can do to keep this thing oiled and running optimally?”

You developed an empathy for injury, which, I agree is really missing from a lot of new trainers, people who get certified in two days and then promote themselves as fully educated when they have no knowledge of how injured bodies work or how a body ages, and they often have no knowledge of the human body in general. At their best, they’re ineffective for non-athletes. At their worst, those trainers are essentially training people to sustain long-term injury.

I agree. I felt horrible once I realized how naïve and unsympathetic I’d been to people who did legitimately hurt, to people who did have injuries. Once you are in that much pain, then you know. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. The best I could do was lie down on a very soft bed. Everything hurt. Getting into the car hurt. Driving hurt. Standing on my crutches hurt. That’s a real problem, but it doesn’t go away once you’re “healed.” To this day, I favor my other hip, so I’d be remiss to try to force others to power through what are very real limitations.

How did you get into competitive bodybuilding?

Well, my first love is training. I’m NSCA- and ACE-certified through UCLA. I also have my NASM certification and a spinning certification, and I got my CrossFit Level 1 certification three different times because I was addicted to CrossFit and wanted to refresh. I’m also certified in yoga trapeze. As a personal trainer here in Boise, I did my first year at Idaho Athletic Club and then I did four years at Gold’s Gym. Since then, I’ve worked on my own as Heather Eastman Fitness, most recently out of A2O Fitness, The Fitness Company, and now Verdant CrossFit.

How did you get into competitive bodybuilding?

When I began to train, like a lot of trainers who work in big box gyms, I got approached about competing, so I went to a few shows to check it out. In my art history classes at UCLA, we had studied proportions in the work of Michelangelo, of Leonardo. That’s how you learn to paint beautiful human figures. At these bodybuilding shows, I felt like I was looking at living statutes.

The bodies were beautiful. They were sculpted. But it was more than the sculpting that captured me. There was something so intentional, so purposeful. It felt like art. I was just enthralled. It appealed to me on a very visual level as something that I knew about before I even walked into that first competition.

Then, when someone said, “You could do this,” I was like, “No, I can’t.” But, I did it anyway. I competed for two years. I did two NGA shows and two NPC shows.

If you look at pictures of me before 2007 and pictures of me after 2008, that year of lifting and training to step onstage for the first time, my body completely changed. It’s never changed back. Even though I had already been a trainer, it took me training for a competition to really understand what lifting weights can do. I didn’t have arms and shoulders before that. I didn’t have a defined waist before that. I didn’t have quads or hamstrings before that. I was a runner, but I was just skinny. I had a butt and that was it. After training to go onstage, I understood that, if you’re willing to put in the time and willing to lift really heavy, you are sculpting with a higher intentionality. You’re following in the artistic tradition.

The root of this industry is health consciousness, but because it’s very body-centric as a natural extension of that, perceptions can get muddied. You wrote a great #MeToo-styled article for Bodybuilding.com about issues with sexual harassment that can arise between personal trainers, clients, fitness personalities, and the industry in general. It was a survey piece, not a personal one, but have you dealt with that on a personal level?

Gym culture is unique. You’re half naked, sweaty, and talking about your body. The humor can naturally get raunchy and there’s a lot of goodwill toward one another’s progress, but lines can easily get blurred after the humor and goodwill fades.

Sometimes a client might say, “Your butt looks great,” and I might say “Thank you!” because they meant it as a compliment, and I took it as one in the context of our conversation. Those same words spoken to me outside of the gym would be out of context and totally inappropriate. The social agreement in one space is different than the social agreement in another space.

So many women have had terrible experiences in the fitness industry due to people taking the social contract of gym life into venues outside of the gym. Or, of course, many people take liberties with another’s body due to the close-quartered nature of our industry. Touching somebody briefly to assist their movement is different than touching them and not removing your hand.

Personally, I have only had one bad experience as a trainer, with a client who exhibited stalking behavior, and I had one bad experience with a contest judge soliciting me outside of the contest. Both of those instances crossed lines that shouldn’t be crossed. But, I train a lot of men and there is usually a lot of respect for my authority in that space. They appreciate that I’m as strong as them and they also appreciate that I don’t belittle them when they’re in this vulnerable space of having come to me for help.

What’s your job here at Bodybuilding.com?

My job title is Content Editor. I edit and write articles for the site, I script-supervise the video shoots we do with athletes, I write a lot of the training material for our All Access programs, and I co-host our bi-weekly podcasts with Nick Collias, our Executive Editor. Lately, I’ve been writing the BodySpace Member of the Month articles, which is my new favorite thing to be working on because the articles are about real people who are excited that Bodybuilding.com cares about them and wants to feature them. I’m basically working at my dream job right now, spending every day being able to write about some of the things I care about the most.

What's your job here at Bodybuilding.com?

What are your co-workers like?

Everyone is fitness-minded. I don’t get dirty looks for heating up broccoli in the microwave. And, almost everybody in the primary departments I work with is snarky, sassy, and funny. Everybody is very supportive, and it feels like a little family.

What’s your favorite feature on the site?

Oh, for sure it’s the motivational stories. I think that, if Bodybuilding.com had to define why it exists, I don’t think we would say it’s for the athletes that are already experienced bodybuilders. I think we exist for the people who want to become bodybuilders. It’s great that we have big, beautiful, muscular people on our website, but underneath the body is the soul. To me, what we’re all about are those stories about the guy who came to us because he needed to change his life. That’s why I wanted to write for Bodybuilding.com to begin with. Interviewing top athletes is just a perk.

How has your own training evolved over time?

Rather than training for aesthetics, I now train for performance. I’m doing handstands and pull-ups, because it’s about functionality for me right now.

One year I might think to myself, “I want to be able to jump really high,” so I’ll spend that year training to get vertical. My training is always based on what I want to be able to do rather than what I want to look like. The aesthetics just naturally follow. To me, that’s way more fun!

Weekly, I train however I feel like training on a particular day. I don’t really like just lifting weights anymore, and I prefer to stay lean by eating healthy. So, I usually do something random like head down to the Bodybuilding.com gym in the middle of the day to practice handstands or test out a program for an article. One thing I try to do consistently is the yoga trapeze, because it is so good for my back. On Saturdays and Sundays, I hike, climb, or do aerial silks. Here’s what a week might look like:

  • Monday: Handstand practice, 30 min. of yoga trapeze, 30-min. walk
  • Tuesday: Handstand practice, maybe lift something heavy or do a few push-ups, 60-min. walk
  • Wednesday: Handstand practice, 30 min. of yoga trapeze
  • Thursday: Handstand practice, maybe lift something heavy or do a few push-ups, 60-min.walk
  • Friday: Handstand practice
  • Saturday: Handstand practice, definitely lift something heavy, go for a hike
  • Sunday: Aerial silks or yoga trapeze

What’s your diet like?

I’m a six-days-a-week vegan. On the seventh day, I eat whatever I want. I feel a little bit better and sleep a little bit better knowing that I’m not eating nearly as much meat as I was before, or nearly as much dairy.

I'm a six-days-a-week vegan. On the seventh day, I eat whatever I want.

Here’s what a typical week might look like:

  • Meal 1 (around 10 a.m. because I try to fast for 12-14 hours): 2 scoops MRM Elite Veggie protein powder mixed with water
  • Meal 2 (noon): Avocado “toast” (either rice cakes or sweet potato toast)
  • Meal 3 (2 p.m.): 1 large salad with vegan dressing plus 1 cup of rice, lentils, or black beans with 1/2 block of tofu
  • Meal 4 (4 p.m.): Carrots or broccoli dipped in hummus, or apple with a handful of walnuts, plus 1 scoop MRM Elite Veggie Protein Powder mixed with water
  • Meal 5 (7 p.m.): 1 large salad with vegan dressing
  • Meal 6 (8 p.m.): 1 glass red wine with apple or grapes



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