2015/11/22 06:12:57
James 11 comments

Which direction are we going?

(This article was written by Michael Iurato aka MT member Capri200 & was originally published in The MuscleTalker December 2004 edition)

I was sitting on my couch the other night watching the re-run of this year's Mr Olympia. A little while later I popped in my 25th Anniversary Edition of Pumping Iron. I was left with many confusing question marks.

In a sport that is grossly getting dominated by 'Freakish' size, it is no longer concentrating on the perplexity and the beauty of the human anatomy at peak conditioning. Why are we so fascinate by sheer size when the classic physiques like Arnold and Zane seemed to be perfectly sculpted works of art? What happened to the beauty of posing like 'The Master' Ed Courney as he graced us with his flawless string of poetry in motion? Isn't that what it's about? I'm afraid that we have taken a turn down the wrong street. A sport that produced the fathers of iron is now producing men with growth gut, protruding heads, horrible skin, bitch tits and the most unhealthy people on earth. Why is bigger better? Why are we so intrigued by Ronnie Coleman's frame? It is horrible! There is nothing appealing about his frame. He has a huge blocky waist that looks like he is bearing triplets. Is he huge? Hell yes! But whose frame would you rather have? Arnold or Ronnie? Danny Padilla or Lee Priest?

My point here is that even though they were juice heads back then too, the dosages and types were far different than today. It still had a window that you were able to see the genetics of these men. Now genetics are altered in a way not imaginable. These men are walking chemicals in which participate in a game of suicide. I love this sport but it is not going in a good direction. We are going to continue to see bodybuilders disappear from the sport if we continue to elevate our expectations year in and year out. How much bigger? How much more juice? How far will these men go to become the next generation of 'freaks'? Hopefully not too much farther. We want people to look at our sport like we are the poster boards for the perfect, muscular and symmetrical body. Not the people that are looked at like we are apart of a circus freak show. Hopefully the future turns back the clock a little bit and allows history to repeat itself. God Bless to all.

2015/11/22 06:09:42
James Leave a comment

Powerlifters' Weaknesses

(This article was written by MT member help2001 & was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2004 edition)
Everyone has a weakness, world champion sprinters, Olympic level gymnasts, top level hurdlers all have weaknesses, as do I, and I'm willing to bet that even you do!

Here is a rough guide of what I have found to be some rough proportions for a powerlifter's different lifts. The figures have only been worked out using a small pool of 20 or so people so are not 100% accurate. Don't think of this as something you have to adhere to; use it to get a rough idea where your weakness could be. For example, if you can't improve your bench press which has been stuck at 200kg for a while but you can only close grip bench 100kg for one rep then you are likely to have a tricep weakness assuming your technique is fairly sound.

** Lower body
-Raw squat (belt only) - 100% (which all the others will be based on) squat with knee wraps and belt - 107.5 to 112.5%
-Good morning done to as near parallel without the back rounding - 65% front squat done to lowest depth possible - 60% deadlift - see note later
(These figures are based on a wide stance squatter as that's how I train the people I work with due to its mechanical benefits)

** Upper body
-Bench press with no shirt - 100%
-Close grip bench with no big arch - 75 to 80%
-Bent over row - 75% to 80%
-Strict overhead press - 65%

** Deadlifts
In my opinion some people are just natural deadlifters and some people struggle with the exercise. Nevertheless there are some things to consider: Unless you are squatting 600+lbs and benching 500+lbs then your deadlift should always be at least equal to your best raw squat. If not then you need to work on your technique.

If you pull conventionally then here are some suggested problems and weaknesses and possible solutions:

1) Unable to get the bar off the ground - probably weak lower back and hamstrings. To cure this I recommend standing on a block that raises you about 3 inches off the ground and pulling. Also, work on your good mornings and do plenty accessory movements for the posterior chain.

2) Weakness when the bar is near the knees - suggests weak lower back, hips and possibly poor technique. I recommend working the lower back and posterior chain and also do some rack pulls with the bar set to just below your sticking point.

3) Weakness locking out the bar/mid thigh - suggests weak upper back and hips. Concentrate on getting the bar as close to the hips as possible and doing lots of shrugs. Try and be able to shrug at least 85% of your deadlift 1RM for 5 reps

If you pull sumo-style, here are some suggested problems and weaknesses and possible solutions.

1) Weak off the ground - hips and glutes. Do lots of glute ham raises and try and rock the hips in towards the bar when pulling keeping the body upright.

2) Weakness at the knee - same as in the conventional deadlift.

3) Weakness locking out the bar/mid thigh - same as with the conventional deadlift. Work on lockouts but use a close stance as it's harder!

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2015/11/21 11:09:00
James 26 comments


(This article was written by me & was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2004 edition)
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is currently one of the most controversial supplements around. Is it a supplement or is it a drug? Is it banned or isn't it?

GABA is a natural substance and a neurotransmitter. As a supplement it became popular after the gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) scare, a drug used as a growth hormone releaser and subsequently a recreational drug, due to the fact that GABA is found in the same chemical pathway as GHB.

GABA is still available in the UK, but its availability becoming increasingly limited. It remains very popular as a supplement and has been used with mixed reports of its effectiveness. Taken before bed it gives deeper quality sleep, hence more growth hormone is released and you feel better the next day. Some people like to use it pre-workout and claim it gives them a 'buzz' during training; but many have tried this and claimed it made them feel 'odd'. The increase in GH release hasn't been verified scientifically, but it certainly does improve sleep quality; it has been said you can get 8 hours worth of sleep in 6 hours - useful for the busy-lifestyle bodybuilder. Note that GABA will not make you sleepy; it merely improves the depth of sleep.

Watch out for its extremely unpleasant side effect of shortness of breath about 10 minutes after ingestion which lasts about 5 minutes. This can be scary if unexpected.

Officially in the UK GABA's production and sale as a supplement was banned last autumn by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). It can still be produced for scientific analysis work. Many companies are still selling it, but I am certain this will be short lived. It is also banned in many other countries including the USA. GABA is not classed as a 'drug', merely its sale prohibited because the MHRA claim it to be 'body altering' (a claim which stirs up huge controversy with a wide range of supplements).

People who do use GABA before bed are urged not to use it too often, so as not to rely on it. The good thing in this respect is a tub will last months, and, compared to other supplements GABA is relatively cheap.

2015/11/20 07:29:27
James 2 comments

How To Build Bigger Biceps In 3 Easy Steps ANYONE Can Follow!

(This article was written by The "Muscle Nerd" Jeff Anderson - Author of Optimum Anabolics & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2004 edition)
Clint Eastwood wouldn't have been a very intimidating Dirty Harry if all he pulled out was a little .22 calibre pistol to make his point. He knew that to really make the bad guy's knees shake and the lady's legs quiver, a .44 Magnum was the weapon of choice! So when it comes to bicep development, why should you settle for second rate pea-shooters when you can pack some really big guns?

Let's face it, all men want big biceps. They're the easiest muscle to show off without getting undressed, women love to wrap their arms around them when walking down the street, and they're small! Whoa, hold up there … I didn't mean YOURS were small! I simply mean that compared with other muscles of the body, like your chest, back, and legs, your biceps are a relatively small muscle. That's good news for you and me because it means that it's much easier to target your biceps for growth than it is to take on larger, more complicated muscle groups.

So why aren't YOURS the size of softballs yet? One quick look around any local sweatbox and the answer becomes clear … most guys have absolutely no clue how to effectively work their arms! But these 3 EASY STEPS are guaranteed to make sure you don't end up on the 'loser list'.

**Step 1: dial the right 'frequency'
Because the biceps are a smaller muscle, and because they're used in compound exercises when working other muscle groups, your arms are more prone to overtraining than any other muscles of the body. I'm sure you understand by now that your muscles grow when they're at rest, rather than at work. So if you keep your biceps at work by targeting them more than once a week, you're setting yourself up for major disappointment! This is where the 'more is better' crowd will lose every time! Stick to only one targeted arms workout per week and you'll give them the much needed recovery time to pack on new muscle.

**Step 2: upgrade your ROM
No, I'm not talking about your computer; I'm referring to your muscle's range of motion. If you ever want to grow your bis to their full potential, you must concentrate on hitting all of the muscle fibers. The only way to do this is to take the muscle from full 'pronation' (arm extended, palm facing body) to full 'supination' (arm curled, pinkie turned in toward body). You're not impressing anyone, especially that cute red head over by the water cooler, by stacking up the EZ curl bar with massive weight and flopping your body all over the place like a hooked bass, your arms barely lowering the weight to full extension. You must start every single repetition with your arms fully extended. (I know this makes the exercise harder, now grab a tissue, wipe away the tears, and get back to work!). A little trick to help you accomplish this is to first briefly (like a split-second) flex your triceps before raising the weight each rep. Since the only way to do this is to fully extend your arm, you'll know you've begun each rep in the optimum starting position to stimulate new muscle growth.

**Step 3: recruit your 'main squeeze'
To get your biceps to become bigger, you first have to show them what it's like to be bigger. Here's how it's done: At the very top of your curl, when your bicep has peaked, squeeze the muscle hard for approximately 1-2 seconds. Your curl will make the muscle contract, effectively setting up a 'road block' in your bicep. That final squeeze you add will literally force blood, water, and lactic acid into the contracted muscle, causing an intense pump. In response, the muscle cells themselves begin to thicken, the capillaries within the muscle grow in number and size to hold more fluid, and stem cells split off to form new muscle fibers, already pre-programmed for growth.

Well, there you have it … but now comes the hard part, and no, I'm not talking about picking the weight up and starting your curls. The hard part will be forcing yourself to actually decrease the weight you currently use because, chances are, you've been padding your ego by working too heavy, while sacrificing the most effective ego-booster … BIGGER BICEPS! But trust me, the growth you'll get from incorporating these 3 principles will more than compensate for your initially bruised ego.
2015/11/19 15:35:31
James Leave a comment

Protein Requirements of a Bodybuilder

(This article was written by former MT moderator Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2004 edition)
Pretty regularly someone asks 'how much protein do I need to consume?' What ensues is pretty predictable - a range of recommendations ranging from the 0.4g per kg body weight right up to 1.5g per lb. There will more often than not be a few studies or articles backing up the various figures and no real consensus.

So why is this? The short answer is no one really knows for sure how much protein a bodybuilder needs. There have been no studies on strength athletes and weightlifters who, although similar, have very different training protocols and demands from their training. This leaves the field wide open for all sorts of speculation, and more importantly complete confusion.

The important thing to do then is try and clear the fog. Before arriving at a figure of how much protein a bodybuilder needs we need to consider what this protein is being used for. Firstly repair: the repair of every cell in the body - this is going to happen anyway; then there is the repair of muscles broken down during training. The most important two fates for protein for a bodybuilder are growth and the creation of an anabolic environment (which I suppose could be one big thing).

From this little list we can see there are some very variable variables, which doesn't really help us in our search for an answer. However, it introduces a very important consideration: insurance. The concept of insurance is a basic tenet of bodybuilding; you find it in every facet from supplementation, to diet, to training routines.

So how much do I recommend to cover all those bases? 1.5g per lb body weight (or 3g per kg body weight). With the qualification that over 15% bodyfat you calculate lean mass and use that figure for your calculation.

It is at this point a helpful soul points out the deleterious effects of excess protein associated with high intakes - really is not very helpful at all. Firstly look at the statement which talks about three things: A high intake - but in whose opinion, what determines what is high? And secondly excess - who says that 1.5g is going to create an excess given the uses to which a bodybuilder's body is going to put that protein? And the third, and by far the most important point, if your kidneys are going to be put under unacceptable strain by that protein intake you need to see a doctor right now - in fact you should be under medical supervision right now as you are far from a healthy individual. Bodybuilding in all its aspects assumes a certain level of health that this individual is nowhere near. This person needs to discuss with their doctor all aspects of training and diet.

So back to the 1.5g per lb: Why this figure? It is higher than the studies for strength athletes and a lot higher than general recommendations. Well remember all the destinations for protein plus insurance - that is how we get the figure. Plain and simple - and not a lot of science behind it!

However this is not the end and this is a baseline figure; there are circumstances when this can and should be changed. I f the individual is trying to add muscle mass in a serious bulking program then they can push up to 2g per lb if they are a natural to make the most of the anabolic environment they are creating. If this individual is drug enhanced, then the body's increased ability to process and utilise protein means that intakes of up to 3g per lb could be beneficial.

One final note - this protein intake has to be part of a structured nutrition program because at the end of the day excess calories will be turned into fat whatever they started off as.

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2015/11/19 14:39:54
James 8 comments

Top Ten Training Errors

(This article was written by Gavin Laird & was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2004 edition)

1. Eating like a pigeon
This really is very, very simple. If you do not have a surplus of calories in your diet then you will not grow any new tissue. If you are not gaining weight then you need to eat more food; not just more protein but more carbohydrates and more fats as well. The tiny amounts of food eaten by most would-be athletes stem from a fear of gaining weight, but what they fail to register is that muscle tissue weighs a lot! I am sick to death of hearing from guys and gals who want to carry a reasonable amount of muscle but refuse to gain weight. Do you really think that there is a special low-density muscle tissue that will accrue on your body if only you had the right program? Give me a break! If you are eating enough to gain muscle tissue you will also be gaining weight. The number on the scale is irrelevant - look at the performance indicators of your sport, if your performance is improving then you are doing the right thing.

2. Single factor training
Probably 99% of ordinary people in gyms are currently training according to single factor training theory, or the principle of super-compensation. Probably 5% of elite strength athletes are training this way and they are all bodybuilders. Now I know most people are not even aware of what dual factor theory is so here is a brief explanation.

Single factor theory treats fitness and fatigue as existing to the exclusion of each other. For example if you are tired and have sore muscles following a training session you should wait until you feel better and have fully recovered before training again. This fits in with super-compensation theory, which dictates that after training your fitness decreases slightly (because you are tired) and then rises back up again to a point just above where it was prior to the workout. At this point you train again with a slightly greater load and push up your fitness a little further and so on.

Dual factor theory looks at fitness, fatigue and preparedness as being separate but not exclusive to one another. Fitness is your long-term ability; it changes slowly and is not related to fatigue. Preparedness is your immediate ability i.e. what can you do RIGHT NOW and it is influenced by fatigue. According to dual factor theory you can train to the point of extreme fatigue, and have a terrible state of preparedness but still be making improvements in long-term fitness. In other words you DO NOT have to fully recover between workouts all the time and nor should you.

Dual factor training requires periods of stimulating (high) loads, retaining (moderate) and detraining (low) loads in the long term but it removes the need for an athlete to time each individual workout in accordance with fatigue levels. The reason that dual factor training is so unused by bodybuilders is next on the list…

3. Intensity, intensity
Bodybuilders like to train 'hard'. They boast of training to 'failure', doing 'triple drop sets', 'forced reps' and all kinds of other extremely fatiguing techniques. The problem with this is that although their musculature may recover from this onslaught in a few days their central nervous systems are absolutely fried. The CNS can take a week or more to recover from these kind of repeated efforts to failure training, which makes repeating the workouts with a similar or greater (stimulating) load impossible for quite some time. Why would anyone want to do this? Your muscles recover from almost any stimulus within 72 hours but if you have stressed the CNS so greatly that it can no longer apply any force then you will become detrained as the CNS recovers. By the time your preparedness is back up to a high level, the fitness gain from training has almost completely gone. This is OK in the short term but to train like this week in week out whilst attempting to increase poundage's or total load in a linear manner is a lunacy that literally forces you to reduce training frequency and total load to a minimal level. Frequency and total load are the key determinants of successful training for size and strength! Why would anyone deliberately minimise both of them?

4. Macronutrient fascism
"Carbs are bad?", "Eating fats will make you fat", "Only protein builds muscle so if you're not growing eat more protein"

Look, we all need protein, fats and carbohydrates in some fashion. The amounts and timing of their intake may vary from person to person and for different goals but to completely eliminate or isolate a macronutrient in a diet is foolish to say the least. Certain macronutrient combinations have certain effects and to completely remove one from the equation (e.g. no carbs or no fats) just isn't going to cut it. Personally I would take an isocaloric diet as being a good starting point for health and strength.

5. Lifestyle, what lifestyle?
If you're the kind of guy who trains biceps on a Friday night so he looks 'pumped' in a club then just let it be known that I would never tire of punching you! If you are going to get bigger or stronger, be it for bodybuilding or any other sport then you will have to take control of your whole lifestyle. All too often perfectly good training programs yield zero results due to the 'other' factors of training being ignored. I have touched on nutrition already but how many trainees pay anything more than lip service to rest, massage, hydrotherapy, proper training monitoring, keeping a diary, adequate sleep, autogenic training, myotherapy, trigger point therapy, active release, chiropractic and other training aids?

6. Eating after the event
It is a well-known fact that following training your body's ability to synthesise protein is enhanced. It is also pretty well known that post training muscle tissue becomes more insulin sensitive and simple carbohydrates are more likely to replenish glycogen than be stored as body fat at this time. This knowledge is in itself a great thing but it has lead athletes into the habit of eating after the event and ignoring their nutrient needs at other times. For example, you need carbs well before you train in order to get through the session. You need a high blood pool of amino acids DURING training to get the growth process off to the best possible start. These amino acids will come from the protein you ate hours before you trained, or in the case of whey at least 90 minutes beforehand.

Ditto for antioxidants. Take your free radical scavenging goodies before you train so they are actually in the blood stream having an effect at the time of greatest oxidative stress (during and immediately after training) instead of having them sit in your stomach digesting while your workout damaged body screams for some help.

This same strategy should be brought to bear all day long. If you are going to be sitting on a chair for the next 3 hours then cut out some carbs and keep the protein high in your meal. If you have a gruelling leg workout coming up then get your complex carbs, a mix of proteins, plenty fluids and antioxidants in before you even set off for the gym. By all means continue to supplement your training with post workout specialist nutrition but do it as part of an overall nutrition strategy based on your upcoming needs.

7. Insanity
Most bodybuilders are actually insane. Albert Einstein defined insanity as 'Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'. This perfectly describes the dogmatic training and eating habits of most bodybuilders. Many times you will see a bodybuilder in the gym who has not changed his / her appearance one bit in several years and yet is perfectly content to continue on with the same training practices, nutrition habits, etc. If you are not making gradual progress in your chosen sport then you need to change something or you will look the same in five years as you do right now. Chances are pretty good that what you need to change is your training, if you've been at it long enough to have been stale for years then you had better have a good handle on your nutrition.

8. Self-delusion
Bodybuilders are the best athletes in the world at kidding themselves they are making progress simply because their sport has very little in the way of truly objective criteria for judging performance gains. In order to compensate for this every bodybuilder should have photos taken once or twice a year in the same light, in the same poses. Every bodybuilder should keep track of his / her muscular girths and have his / her body fat tested at least once a year also. In short, if you are gaining lean mass and / or losing body fat your muscular girths will increase whilst your waist will remain much the same. If you are not losing fat or gaining muscle then what the heck are you training for? Bodybuilding is a sport of large, lean muscles so if you are not getting bigger and / or leaner you are not succeeding in bodybuilding. Forget all the nonsense about 'increasing density', 'quality' or 'having enough size'. Every time I hear this I know immediately that that competitor is at a dead end in his / her training and nutrition and has stopped making gains. How many times have you seen a judging sheet in a bodybuilding contest where a competitor was marked down for carrying too much muscle and being too lean? So what must your objectives be? More muscle? Always. Better condition? Always.

9. Self-delusion ... AGAIN!
Rare is the day when a competitive bodybuilder admits to being well beaten by his competitors. All you ever see on the boards is excuses and bitching about who the judges were, whose partner organised the show and every other wild conspiracy theory that someone can think of to explain why there under tanned, badly presented and soft as Rowntree's Jelly physique didn't win the whole show. Once again this stems from the subjective way in which bodybuilding is judged, but it could be helped out a lot if judges were forced to take written notes on each physique along with scoring in each round. The competitors could then view these documents after the show and see what was lacking. If every judge at the table writes "Followed the Homer Simpson pre-contest diet" next to your name in the posing round then you would know what the problem was!

10. Genetic Predestination.
Ever heard someone say they have "crap genetics for bodybuilding" when they don't even look like they have ever been near a weight? This bothers me greatly. The truth is usually that these guys don't train sensibly, don't eat right and don't pay enough attention to recovery so how can they possibly expect to fulfil whatever potential they may or may not have? These guys them to think that because they are tall / skinny / fat / lanky / whatever NOW that they will always be that way. Not true!

Bodybuilding is a sport in which ones inherent genetic abilities (muscle fibre type and number, hormonal factors etc) play an extremely prominent role but it is important to realise that the immediate appearance of a beginning or intermediate bodybuilder has very little to do with his or her genetic predisposition to the sport. Often the champions are not the 'massively built before he even touched a weight' guys. You will never know if you have the genetic potential to be a great bodybuilder if you do not make the best possible use of the means available to you for an extended period of time (5 - 10 years) so get on with it and stop making excuses for the things you can't change.

2015/11/15 16:13:12
James 2 comments

The Benefits of Soya

(This article was written by former MT moderator Nicole Bremner aka Nikki & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2004 edition)

Soya (or Soy for the benefit of the Americans) products have enjoyed increased press coverage recently and, as a result, sales of soya milk alone have escalated in the US, growing from $1.5 million in 1980 to almost $550 million in 2001. The reasons for this astronomical growth are some of the benefits of soy including:

- decreased risk of breast and prostate cancer
- lower cholesterol
- fight high blood pressure
- assist iron deficiency
- alternate to HRT
- protect against osteoporosis
- increased fertility in females

Unfortunately for many bodybuilders soya is seen as a second rate protein source. The truth is that soya offers unique benefits not found in other proteins. These benefits result from soya's isoflavones, particularly daidzein and genistein. When daidzein was injected in rats (16 days at 30mg per kg of body weight per day), muscle weight rose and growth hormone, endorphin and testosterone levels all increased. Human tests performed on Romanian and Chinese athletes confirmed that supplementing with soya protein produced similar results with increased lean body mass, reduced body fat, and increased resistance to fatigue. With regards to cardiovascular health and fat burning, soya may be the best protein available because it increases the production of thyroid stimulating hormone and thyroxin, two substances that may increase your body's metabolism. So if you're trying to cut down while maintaining lean mass, soya may be the best protein for you.

But, you might ask, I've heard that soya contains phytoestrogens which mimic the effects of oestrogen in animals. And as a male bodybuilder, I don't want oestrogen in my body? However, there is no evidence that points to increased oestrogen levels in males with increased soya intake. If fact a study by the University of Texas showed that both oestrogen and testosterone levels remained the same in males who used soya. Furthermore, dihydrotestosterone (DHT - a metabolite of testosterone that has been associated with enlarged prostates, acne and male balding) levels fell by 13%.

This certainly doesn't mean you should waste your whey. The bottom line is that you should not rely in just a single source of protein. Sculpt your dream body by providing it with a variety of quality protein powders including whey, casein and soya protein isolate. Indeed the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Scoring (PDCAAS) method of grading protein quality, the one used by the World Health Organisation / Food and Agriculture Organisation (WHO/FAO) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ranks soya protein isolate as the best protein source.

How to get more soy in your diet:
- use soya milk in place of cows milk on your cereal and in protein shakes
- add a tablespoon of soya protein to your normal whey protein shake
- use soya yoghurt on cereal or topped with fresh fruit
- soya nut butter is lovely on whole wheat or rye bread
- eat a handful of soya nuts or soya crackers as a snack
- sprinkle soya nuts over salads
- tofu can taste great in everything from smoothies and ice cream to sandwiches and stir-frys
2015/11/13 19:29:35
James Leave a comment

Training - did I forget something?

(This article was written by former MT moderator Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2004 edition)
Does this sound familiar? Drive home slowly from work, praying the traffic will move. Get in, grab a shake and your gym gear and off to workout, or maybe you just crawl straight from work to the gym. Once you get there, you go 'great, chest today', jump on the bench and start pressing away, maybe throwing in a bit of a warm up. I know I have been guilty of this. Have you?

Remember the old adage: Fail to plan, plan to fail. Well, it applies to workouts too. No-one serious about their career would take such a haphazard approach, yet some of us bodybuilders will meticulously prepare 6 or 7 meals a day, set alarms so we eat on time and other ever so slightly obsessive things but will still pretty much go with the instinctual method when we get in the gym.

There is a better way. We obviously decide what body-parts we are going to work each day, but how many of us really plan our workouts? How many of us prepare properly for what we are about to do? Bodybuilders and strength athletes when entering the gym are about to lift heavy (for us) weights and engage in a mentally and physically demanding hour to hour and half. Yet we will spend the entire journey there thinking of everything else.

Time to hold up and start the New Year with a new habit. Use your training log and travelling time effectively. A training log should be more than a record of what you have done, it is there so you can plan and change your workouts systematically. Before you hit the gym look over last week's workout and decide what you are going to do. Using a leg workout as an example:

Last week leg extensions - 2 sets of 80kg x 4 reps
So this week I want 80kg x 5 for both sets. I write in my log above my record what I did last time, so I know exactly what I am trying to better. I write out the entire workout every set, and decide how many reps I want in each set before I leave for the gym. I set myself challenges. Like if I have done 7 reps with 180kg on the squat for 4 weeks solid this week, I am going to get 8 or I am going to add 2½kg and still get 8 reps. Whatever I feel I can do.

By planning your workout in advance and deciding what you are going to do you can also decide what you feel capable of. Sure you are going to push as hard as you can, but you had a bit of a cold or helped your friend move house all weekend and frankly you feel weak. So you don't challenge as hard and write a reminder to have longer rests between sets at the top of the page.

Once you have planned your attack its time to travel to the gym. My gym is about 4 minutes away from my house, so I don't have that long to prepare on the journey but I still use that time to get ready. I have a set of workout tunes I always play to get me in the mood. My favourite is Mission Impossible by Limp Bizkit - it seems very appropriate.

Take this time to focus and prepare mentally, relax and focus on the fun you are about to have. And put your stressful day behind you, leave it in the work's car park - the weights are calling your name and you gotta lift!

This year, try planning your workouts and preparing mentally before you go - it didn't do Dorian Yates any harm!
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