The Best Way For Women (and men) To Get Stronger

how women get strongerIf you want to gain strength and bigger muscles then this article will tell you how to do that using a technique not many people use (surprisingly).

Negative accentuated exercises:

Negative accentuated exercises means going slower during the eccentric (negative) portion of an exercise. The negative portion is also called the lowering phase, examples are:

  • lowering a barbell from the top of the curl position to the bottom (arms straight)
  • lowering the bar from the top of the bench press exercise down to your chest
  • during a pushup – when you lower yourself from the top position to the ground

Look at most people and they totally neglect this portion of the exercise with sloppy technique:

  • during bicep curls – they let the bar fall from the top to the bottom instead of controlling it on the way down
  • during bench press – they let the bar fall to their chest and sometimes let it bounce off to make the next rep easier

You are actually stronger during this phase of an exercise (the negative/lowering phase) than you are during the actual lifting of the weight.

  • In a bicep curl – you can lower more weight than you can curl upward
  • in the bench press – you can lower weight than you can push up from your chest
  • etc, etc…

If you are stronger during the negative phase this means that there is the potential for more size and strength gains if you focus on that phase of the movement.

this holds true for any exercisethis concept (negative accentuated exercise) is one of the most important in all of weight training, whether you are trying to gain size, strength or increase the number of reps you can perform in a particular exercise.

For now just concentrate on lowering the dumbbell/barbell slower during the negative phase of all exercises. You will find that you won’t be able to perform as many reps but your muscles will be more exhausted after a set. In a later article i will go into more advanced negative accentuated techniques.

Don’t get carried away: start out slow with negatives, they place increase strain on ligaments and tendons, therefore don’t do a bunch of them the next time you workout out, do a few sets per muscle group where you really focus on the negative phase then perform the rest of your sets as you normally would. Eventually all of your sets should be done in the negative accentuated manner. You should notice some soreness the day after if you do them correctly.

 

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How to increase intensity in your workouts

When someone tells me that they’re eating good but are not seeing the results they want (usually fat loss), the first thing I do is watch them workout… because when it comes to results, what matters most is effort and the amount of work that is actually done during a workout. Many times a competitor may think they are training hard, they talk about how hard they are training, how many hours they spend in the gym… and even tell others how to train… but in reality they should be working out much harder themselves.

Take a look at the video below. The first few reps of the squat rows look ok… but in reality Laurie could lift heavier weight, which would give her a much better workout.

When Laurie increases the weight from 55lbs. to 140lbs for the last 12 reps, this greatly increases the amount of work she is doing.

Let’s compare the two:

  • 12 reps with 55 lbs = 660 lbs
  • 12 reps with 140 lbs = 1,680 lbs
If Laurie does this exercise twice a week for 3 months in prep for a figure competition she will have lifted 120,960 total pounds using 140 lbs on the weight stack… but she will have lifted only 47,520 lbs, if she only used 55 lbs on the weight stack. That’s 250% more work done in the same time period of time. You can see why some competitors have to work out for 3 hours a day, when someone else (working with higher intensity) can get better results in half the time spent in the gym.

Imagine the difference in someone’s physique if they used the heavier weight for 3 months, instead of the lighter weights. This is why I always tell figure competitors to put their work in early in competition prep because there is no making up for lost time …. you can’t catch-up if you slack (at the lower weight) for 11 weeks and think that there is some magical trick that will ‘bring it all together’ the last week before a show –  sorry but it’s not going to happen! So train hard everyday so you get the results you want …and so that you don’t have to spend all day in the gym.

Nope! You Still Gain Muscle and Lose Body Fat at The Same Time… Sorry!

personal training buffalo ny terry stokesOne of the biggest misconceptions in physique sports is that it’s possible to build muscle and lose body fat at the same time. Sorry to go against all of the ‘experts’ out there, but this is impossible to do! Whether it’s a trainer telling a client, someone selling a book or someone repeating what they heard another person say, it’s just not possible.

Basically in order to lose weight you need to take in LESS calories than your body needs to maintain it’s current weight. The exact opposite is true of someone trying to gain muscle/weight: you need to take in MORE calories than your body needs to maintain it’s current weight.

Can’t count the number of time I’ve read something online about someone losing body fat and gaining muscle at the same time….. STOP please! This sport is filled with nonsense – from competitors believing that if they aren’t champion material by the beginning of the final week before a show, that there are some secret prep-week tricks that will get them into championship condition by show… uhhh No! Or the 110lb figure competitor who thinks dehydration will make her look leaner before a show – in actuality she will become a 105lb figure competitor who will look flat onstage because she just sucked the water out of her muscles! ….I could go on for hours!

Back to muscle building and fat loss: I just don’t understand why this simple concept is not more easily understood among those in this field. Sometimes you just have to tell the truth to clients/competitors: “No you will not be gaining any muscle while losing body fat, what you can do is maintain your existing muscle as you lose body fat by doing resistance exercises.” It may not be what a client or competitor wants to hear, but it’s the truth, and you should never lie just to attract or keep clients.

Steroids in Figure Competition

Steroids in figure

Steroids and the figure competitor

Over the past 12 months this issue has repeatedly been raised among newer competitors I meet. Figure competitors often want to know if they need to take steroids to compete in shows that are not drug tested. The answer is no. Many drug free figure competitors compete and are champions at every level. Do steroids give a figure competitor an advantage? If their goal is to gain muscle and lose body fat (depending on what steroids they take) then they absolutely will make it easier for a woman to achieve both of these objectives… but any competitor can gain muscle and lose enough body fat to compete, with time and hard work. Besides,  when it comes to figure competition, you don’t need a ton of muscle to do well.

I just had two competitors compete and do very well in the Arnold Classic both are drug-free and one made top 10. Where there bigger more muscular competitors there? Of course there were – but figure is about more than just size, so my competitors never really worry about whether a show is tested or not – I just tell them to go in to competition in their best possible shape.

Although steroids can accelerate muscle growth, larger muscle may not be what the competitor needs. I’ve seen competitors change their physique so much that they began to do worse in figure competitions and had to switch to bodybuilding or one of the newer fitness/physique body categories that require competitors to carry more muscle. So competitor’s need to take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to take steroids.

I tell competitors who are worried because they think a certain competitor is on steroids or because a show is not drug tested, that their goal should be to bring the best possible package to the stage. Muscle size is only a part of winning a figure competition…  symmetry, stage presence  and proper conditioning are much more important. Just look at the top figure competitors in the world… they range from hard/more muscular to softer/less muscular. It’s the total package the judges are looking for. Therefore you should never let what anyone else does discourage you from competing.

 

From 5th Place …to 3 Pro Cards to the Arnold Classic!

Laurie winning figure overallFor a few, figure can be a lottery hit the first time they step onstage… but for the vast majority it’s a longer journey requiring patience and the ongoing desire to improve. When I first met laurie she was soft spoken, humble, shy and amazingly nice. Three years and 3 pro cards later… she is still the same person. When she won her last overall (NPC) there was no big celebration, no fist pumping… just a nervous smile as they brought her the trophy. Afterwards, almost every picture she took she made sure her daughter, Paris, was in it… that’s because she has always kept everything in perspective. When she first started competing the victorys didn’t come easy… after finishing 5th in her first competition Laurie could have easily given up… but instead she used that as motivation to become the best she could be.

Now she is on her way to compete in the Arnold Classic in a few weeks!

Known for her intense training, Laurie is well respected by the other competitors she trains with. She’s so focused that she rarely talks during her workout. She finds a Laurie winnin NPC figure in buffalocorner in the gym, goes 100% during her workout, changes clothes… and goes home.

Precontest fat loss workout: A bunch of hard exercises done back-to-back with no rest… until she is ehausted. The idea is to work the entire body and burn as many calories as possible.

“Get Uncomfortable” – Laurie doesn’t feel she is getting a good workout until she  gets into her ‘uncomfortable zone’ – the uncomfortable zone is usually when most would stop and rest… her goal is to get into that zone and stay there. This is why she doesn’t have to do a ton of straight cardio to get lean… because she burns so many calories in her resistance-cardio workouts. What the uncomfortable zone really means to me is: “Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk because I’m trying to catch my breath… please go away!” Check out the short video clip of her showing me that she doesn’t want to be bothered.

Laurie is the tye of person everyone roots for. Just as gracious in victory as she had been in defeat. Never one to put other competitors down or brag on herself. I realized just how humble Laurie was when I went to her Facebook page looking for some good pitures (since I didn’t get too many good shots at the show), when I noticed that she had not posted one picture of herself… after winning a show she has been trying to win for 3 years! The only thing she posted were things about her daughter… I think that says it all! Congratulations Laurie! Oh yeah, and good job at the competition too!

Laurie performing one of her favorite exercises:

Competition Diets Destroy Metabolism

More and more I hear figure competitors complaining about how their competiton diet destroyed their metabolism. If you want to understand what really happens, just watch the video below:

 

Dangerous Exercises

I have to admit that my competitors do some pretty difficult exercises – but I’m seeing more and more exercises on the internet that I consider too dangerous because the chance of injury is too high. This one exercise I’ve seen numerous times is the squat jump to a pullup. I must also admit this exercise looks cool and can give you a great workout… But one slip from the pulllup bar and it’s a possible torn bicep. I’ve seen it happen and there’s nothing like seeing a bicep snap and curl up, like a Fruit-Rollup, toward the shoulder after being torn.

As trainers we must look at every exercise and weigh the risks and benefits. for example, I see a lot of trainers getting caught up in this Crossfit movement and having their clients doing movements that they should NEVER be attempting… or having them lift maximum poundages when the clients only previous workout experience was jogging around the local park, aerobics classes, Zumba or the occasional spin class (that had them sore for a week!). Neither trainers or trainees should get caught up in trying to do the most difficult exercises they can… it’s not necessary to reach your goals.

When you see someone in one of my videos doing a difficult exercise, it’s because I now they can do it safely.  Although there are others who can do the same movement, I know from watching them train that it may not be safe for them to do. They may even ask me “Why can’t I do that exercise?” and I explain to them the reasoning behind my decision… but i also explain how they can get great benefit from another exercise that may be similar but not as dangerous. Be careful!

 

How Figure Competitors Build Great Glutes

squatting glutes workoutWhen it comes to building glutes, figure and bikini competitors should be experts on what it is they need to do, to bring out this important asset. One of the main principle is that you must squat or lunge low in order to activate the maximum number of fibers in the glutes. In order to get out of  a deep squat or lunge, the glutes have to do a lot of work. Your quads do most of the work after that – so you must go low if you want maximum glute development.

SAFETY: A lot has been written over the years about the knees being susceptible to injury when you squat below parallel – this is nonsense! This ‘logic’ based on nothing scientific… or anything seen in the real world. You ever seen Olympic lifters? If anyone should have bad knees it should be you neighborhood Olympic lifter… instead it’s guys like me who did stupid things like play basketball on cement for many years and tackle football on concrete with no equipment… yup we were real geniuses back then. The “Squatting low is bad for your knees” came from the guys who had big upper bodies and little ‘chicken’ legs because they didn’t want to squat!

The great thing about most of the glute exercises is that they should be done under control and fairly slowly – especially in the low position. Therefore making these safe exercises even safer.

You want to really focus on contracting the glutes in the low position. If you have too much momentum you will loose this ability to focus and the quads will take over.

Supplements Don’t Work… Still!

Bogus Supplement Claims

Bogus Supplement Claims

I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with this post …but if you can show me some REAL research to back claims made by supplement companies then I will change my mind (don’t bother looking, you won’t find it).

I apologize to my friends who sell supplements… Sorry, but I gotta do, what I gotta do!

From the mouth of a well-respected (and well-paid) copywriter: “I get paid between $10,000 – $20,000 to write a great ad for a new supplement so that it sells like hot cakes, and when the public realizes in 6 months that it doesn’t work like advertised, the company will develop a ‘new and improved ‘  supplement and I will make another $10,000 or $20,000 writing an ad for that one also”

The above picture (from a presentation I gave) shows how marketers combine different words to come up with utterly MEANINGLESS terms that are slapped on labels to make products seem incredible and amazing. You can combine any word on the left side with any word on the right side and come up with some pretty cool… but meaningless product claims… try it!

The fact is that many supplements have overblown and unsubstantiated claims on their labels. Many people believe that if something is on a label, then the FDA has approved it. Actually, supplements are not approved by anyone before going on store shelves! It’s only after consumers report problems (ex. Ephedrine) that the FDA steps in and investigates. You… yes YOU could literally throw some sugar, dirt, talcum powder and pixie dust in a bottle, print up a nice shiny label and sell it in stores. You could then get some obscure piece of research and use it as ‘evidence’ that your ‘Metabolic Optimizing Muscle Exploder’ really works. Just watch this clip from the documentary “Bigger, Faster Stronger” if you want to know the truth:

Progressive Intensity Workouts for Fat Loss

 

As a figure coach I see women who have varying degrees of difficulty losing body fat, therefore it is important that I continue to try and develop new techniques to burn even the toughest body fat off figure competitor’s bodies. Here is one of my favorite techniques – Progressive Intensity

Progressive Intensity is a technique I use to raise the workout intensity level for figure competitors during precontest fat loss training.  There are a few ways to do this, the video shows my favorite version of Progressive Intensity…. increasing the reps with each successive set. The goal is to make your body do more work as your level of exhaustion increases.

Basically what happens is that as you go through your circuit of exercises (usually only 2 or 3 exercises) the reps will increase as you progress through the set. In the video, Laurie  (who holds several figure pro cards) begins set #1 with 5 reps of Db Duck Squats followed immediately by 5 Jump Squats.  Set # 2 is: 10 reps of each (duck squats and jump squats). Set #3 is: 15 reps of each exercise etc etc…. You can see how exhausted Laurie gets as she progresses through the set. The idea is to do this continously until the required number of sets are completed. Try to get to 30 reps of each NON-STOP. You can do this with practically any 2 or 3 exercises as long as you can switch quickly from one to the other. This particular example is tough because both exercises focus on the legs…. give it a try.

One round of this, at the end of your workout, is enough when first trying this out. Eventually you will be able to do an entire 60 minute workout in this manner

(CAUTION: a burning sensation in the legs, exhaustion and heavy breathing are side effects of this workout… ha ha).

Here is another example below. This is a hard one: