2016/07/15 09:11:52
James Leave a comment

Female Strength Training - Triceps & Biceps

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2009 edition
Weight training has many benefits as we know, including increased strength and bone density, enhanced immune system and improved confidence, women are starting to realise this and do not fear that it will make them 'big' and masculine. Women also have lower levels of testosterone, the anabolic hormone that contributes to increased muscle mass so making it harder to gain mass, weight training actually facilitates positive changes in body composition for example, lower body fat, tighter looking muscles and improved strength.

Any new female trainer when asked says they want to improve the muscle tone of their arms, get rid of their 'bingo wings' but not get too 'big'. Any regular trainer will tell you how hard it is to put that muscle on!

Arm exercises are fun to do because you can really see the muscle working. People like to train the biceps together with the triceps; although they are both arm movements, they involve muscles on opposite sides of the body that perform entirely different functions. You can train the biceps first and then the triceps, or the triceps then the biceps, or you can alternate them, doing first a biceps and then a triceps exercise or adding them on to a different body part, depending on your training split.

Outlined below is an example training routine:

Tricep Dips - Using either parallel bars, but preferably a dip machine (assisted if needed), press yourself with arms extended, chest up and feet crossed behind you. Lower your body by bending your elbows until your upper arms are above parallel to the floor, keeping your stomach muscles tight with your head up, this will place the emphasis on the triceps rather than the chest. Aim for three sets; 8-10 reps or to failure.

Seated Hammer Curls - Targeting the biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis. Sit on a bench and hold the dumbbells with a palm-in grip. Contract the biceps to curl the weights towards the shoulders. Hold and squeeze at the top. Aim for 3 sets; 12-15 reps or to failure.

Preacher Curls - Emphasis is on the short head of the bicep, with top of the preacher bench under your armpits; use an underhand grip, shoulder-width apart on the bar. Raise the bar as high as possible, keeping your elbows on the bench. Contract your biceps at the top of the movement then return slowly to the start position. Aim for 3 sets; 12-15 reps or to failure.

Close grip Push-up - Targeting the triceps and the chest. Start in a push-up position with your back straight then move your hands inwards so they inside shoulder width. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your body until your chest is almost touching your hands, then slowly return to the start position. Focus on your triceps during the move. Again aiming for 3 sets, to failure.

The biceps muscle has two tendons that attach in different places and also two different muscle heads that arise from these tendons. The tricep originates from three tendons and has three different heads that join together for a common tendon insertion on the elbow. Because of the different origins of the heads, you need to train these muscles using different exercises and angles to emphasize each head so try to vary your training routine every few weeks to ensure you are maximizing the results. Hopefully we will see more women gravitating towards the weights area!
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2016/07/13 21:07:34
James Leave a comment

Lime and Chilli Marinated Tuna

This article was written by Chef Paul Elliott & was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2009 edition
150g tuna loin fillet (yellowfin)
2 passion fruit, pulp required, or 2 tbsp juice
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium hot green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tsp caster sugar
3 tbsp finely chopped coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Push the passion fruit through a sieve to extract the juice. Stir in lime juice, olive oil, chilli, sugar, coriander, salt and pepper. Sear the tuna in a non stick griddle or frying pan, until only just cooked (rare). Put tuna onto a plate. Spoon mix over tuna and serve with steamed basmati rice or similar.

More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
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2016/07/13 13:42:29
James Leave a comment

Classification of Carbohydrates

This article was written by James Collier & was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2009 edition
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient along with fat and protein, and we use carbs for energy. If you're very active, play a lot of sport or are bulking in bodybuilding they should form the bulk of your diet. The main types are as follows:

Sugars are the simplest form of carbohydrate and are the building blocks of complex carbs. Monosaccharides, such as glucose, fructose and galactose are single unit sugars. Disaccharides, such as sucrose (table sugar - two glucose molecules) and lactose (milk sugar - glucose and galactose) are made up of two monosaccharides, joined together.

These are short chains of monosaccharides - 3-20 units long. Some pass through the small intestine into the colon, where they are digested by the so-called 'friendly bacteria', helping them to survive and multiply in the gut. For this reason, some oligosaccharides, e.g. FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) are known as prebiotics. As many oligosaccharides taste slightly sweet but are not absorbed, they are used as bulking agents in low calorie granulated sweeteners.

These are commonly known as complex carbohydrates and are large molecules of many hundreds of monosaccharides, joined with different bonds creating unique structures. Glycogen is a storage carbohydrate composed of many glucose molecules in the muscle and liver as an energy store, to be broken down when energy supplies are required. Starch is the plant equivalent of glycogen, and is a major nutrition source in people's diets.

There are numerous methods of classifying carbohydrates, depending on their structure or digestibility and absorption, the most well known is the glycaemic index or GI. The GI measures the reaction of the blood glucose levels to consuming a carb-containing food when compared with glucose, which has a GI of 100. Low GI foods, below about 55 cause glucose levels in the blood to rise only slowly and over a long time period, compared with high GI foods of over 70, which lead to a rapid but short lived rise in blood glucose. In practical terms, a low GI food with its more sustained release of glucose into the blood will keep you feeling fuller for longer compared with a high GI food that will satisfy hunger only for a short time period. The situation is complicated by the fact that consuming different foods with one another will alter the GI. For example, eating high GI white bread with butter will lower the overall blood glucose response, so lowering the glycaemic load. Fat and protein both act to slow the absorption of glucose from carb-containing foods, reducing the glycaemic load of the meal.

Another relevant method of classifying carbohydrates is by the insulin index or II. This describes the response of blood insulin to consuming all foods, not just one that contains carbohydrate. Some meats and other low carbohydrate foods evoke an insulin response without a glycaemic response.

High GI carbohydrate foods include all sugars, cakes, confectionary, white bread, white pasta and some breakfast cereals. Medium GI foods include wholemeal bread, some types of potato and some high fibre breakfast cereals. Low GI carb foods include sweet potatoes, small new potatoes, basmati rice, quinoa, granary bread and oats.

Digestible carbohydrate, in whatever form is ultimately broken down into short chains or single units and absorbed into the bloodstream. Monosaccharides may then be converted to glucose and used immediately as an energy source. Alternatively, they will be stored (associated with water) as glycogen in both the liver and muscle. This energy store can be quickly mobilised to supply the muscles and brain (which relies solely on glucose as its energy source). The capacity for storing carbohydrate is limited, so if excess carbohydrate is consumed beyond what our body needs, it will be transformed and stored as adipose tissue (i.e. fat).

Carbohydrate foods add calories (i.e. energy), they provide valuable vitamins, minerals and fibre, and they ensure that muscle recovery is swift and effective following training. The basis of a fitness enthusiast's diet should be low to moderate GI carbohydrates, to keep blood glucose and hence insulin levels stable. The pre-workout meal should contain sufficient amounts of low GI carbs to ensure the training is adequately fuelled. For hard exercising people, fast acting, high GI carbohydrate, immediately post training is important to promote re-fuelling.
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2016/06/28 06:55:20
James Leave a comment

Stripping Body Fat for the Summer

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2005 edition
With the summer months fast approaching, many of us are looking to get lean and ripped for our holidays or those beach and BBQ days out in the sun! How do I do it, you may ask? I don't want to loose all the hard earned muscle I've trained for over the winter!

Too true! Lets look how to strip that fat and keep the lean body mass. Well respected training and diet specialist Tom Venuto assess the strategies available for effective cutting (2004). He looks at how effective each method is in relation to how risky they are for losing muscle. Weight reduction is easy enough; body fat reduction is another matter.

Should we do cardio first thing on an empty stomach to strip the fat? In theory this is the perfect situation for fat burning, blood sugars are low and glycogen levels are also low after a fast, but cortisol levels are also high which is perfect environment for muscle loss. Therefore, although there is a perfect environment for 'fat burning' there is also a perfect environment for muscle loss, something which we bodybuilders quite rightly fear!

So, let's add a 'protein only' meal in before we hit the cardio to reduce the potential loss of muscle. This reduces cortisol levels whilst keeping insulin levels sufficiently low for effective fat burning. This reduces the risk of muscle loss compared to the empty stomach method and still allows us to tap into those fat stores. Although the risk of catabolism (muscle breakdown) is still there, it is reduced significantly.

With this in mind, should we do cardio at night instead? As we'll be fasting afterwards whilst asleep thus increasing lypolysis (burning of fat)? The answer in short is 'no'. Not only is it possible that it will disrupt sleep but Venuto suggests reduced metabolism during sleep is not ideal and this fasted period may possibly also lead to the loss of muscle mass due to insufficient fuelling for a lengthy period. It therefore seems cardio done first thing in the morning after a small protein only meal is the way forward for optimal fat loss with minimal muscle loss.

This then brings us onto the question of the structure the cardio session: Long and slow or hard and fast? Again Venuto looks into the benefits of both methods.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) can be carried out for shorter periods with hard sprints followed by periods of easy pace recovery sessions. This method of cardio allows for high EPOC (excessive post exercise oxygen consumption) to occur and more calories are burned when the exercise has finished as metabolism is raised for the rest of the day, compared to steady state training. The session typically lasts 12-15 minutes opposed to 35-45 minutes. This is fine but many of us who are less fit may not benefit as much due to higher levels of fitness being required.

Should we go for moderate pace, moderate time (35-45 minutes)? Efforts in the 'target zone' as Venuto shows, allow for more calories to be burned during the work out, as it doesn't elevate the metabolism as high as HIIT training and therefore the NTOC (net total oxygen consumption) will not be as high in some cases due to lower EPOC.

This leaves us with long cardio sessions at a low intensity. Venuto suggests that although the risk is low in terms of muscle loss (work out durations of approx 1hour), the benefits of EPOC are not that high due to the low intensity of the session.

There is also the issue of time constraints. One hour of exercise at 6 am isn't often practical for those with a busy schedule!

So from the information provided it seems HIIT training, done after a protein only meal is the way forward.

Now, you ask me, how often should we do this? Well, in theory, the more we do it, the more calories we burn as it's calories in versus calories out that will determine weight loss. To a certain extent this is true, but seven days a week will possibly lead to over training, fatigue and burn out. Again this is true to some extent, but, frequent cardio will ensure that metabolic slow down doesn't occur as we are constantly 'revving' metabolism after each cardio session.

Therefore 5 times a week, with two days off seems to be a logical solution, enough time to recover without losing the fat burning advantage, as well as improving cardio vascular health.

To summarise, it seems that HIIT interval training approx five times a week after a protein only meal is the optimal way of getting that body ready for the beach this summer! This method will be effective for body fat reduction when combined with a well structured diet to support training and your lifestyle.

Venuto, T. 2004. Risk To Benefit Ratios of Extreme and Controversial Fat Loss Techniques. Fitness Renaissance
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2016/06/26 17:52:05
James Leave a comment

Spirulina - a superfood?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker September 2008 edition
The term 'superfood' has been thrown around a lot over the last couple of years. It refers to a type of food that is believed to have more significant health benefits than any other type of food due to specific constituents. Indeed some so called 'superfoods' may have certain qualities which do make them considerations for inclusion in your diet, but some claims are exaggerated and the word 'superfood' itself is being used as a marketing term to sell products. Fortunately from July 2007, legislation was introduced in the European Union making marketing of products as 'superfoods' banned, unless the claim can be supported by credible scientific research.

Spirulina is one such marketed superfood and it's very much in vogue at the moment. It is one of a few single-cell superfoods, and is the common name for a supplement derived from two types of cyanobacteria, namely Arthrospira platensis, and Arthrospira maxima. However some texts incorrectly refer to it as a blue-green algae supplement, which is in fact a different 'superfood'.

Marketing for spirulina suggests it has a multitude of wonderful potential benefits for the body, with little evidence backing up the claims or even justification for the claims, which is a shame as the lack of evidence does reduce the supplement's credibility; I will not rubbish this superfood completely as there are a few positive attributes worth mentioning.

Spirulina does have an unusually high amount of protein on a weight for weight basis, as much as 55-77% of the dry weight, depending on the source. The protein is complete containing all essential amino acids. Spirulina is also rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), gamma linolenic acid (GLA), linoleic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) which are all essential or conditionally-essential fatty acids. It is also rich in the vitamins C, D and E and some B vitamins, potassium, calcium and some trace element minerals. It's not so much the levels of these micronutrients which is important though, but the relative bioavailability of them in spirulina, i.e. the amounts that are actually absorbed, which is higher than from most other foods. It is also marketed to be high in chlorophyll, but the actual benefits of this plant pigment to humans are debatable.

Advocators frequently overstate the claims of spirulina's health and healing properties, even though there may be research upon which such claims are based. Many positive claims are based on research done on the individual nutrients that spirulina contains, such as GLA, the various antioxidants, etc, rather than on direct research using spirulina.

Some of the claims which have been made about spirulina are its ability to inhibit a number of viruses, including the HIV virus, by replicating the immune T-cells in the body, the inhibition of tumour growth, the reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever and helping to control the symptoms of inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis. These claims are based on poor research though, and need to be taken with a very large pinch of salt!

Spirulina may be a potentially good source of some nutrients. But there's nothing that can't be obtained from other foods. If the fact that it contains some of these nutrients means it can be called a 'superfood', then great, but it's doubtful that some of the claims could justify its use.
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2016/06/21 17:23:36
James 4 comments

Training Legs with a Bad Back

This article was written by Drew Price BSc MASc RNutr CSCS & was originally published in The MuscleTalker December 2008 edition
Many people suffer from a bad back but what do you do if you want to train legs and have a problem squatting and deadlifting? Obviously the first thing to do is to find out what the problem is and take measures to improve the situation, which usually means a trip to either the doctor or (sports) physio, then follow their advice.

However, there are things you can do to take the strain off the back whilst training and increase the training effect on the legs. Depending upon the nature of the problem, single leg movements may well be a good choice. By working one leg at a time you train the body as it naturally functions (remember walking and running are movements on one foot), you increase instability as well as also greatly reducing the load you need to carry.

A pistol is a squat with large range of motion but using only one leg. The aim is to squat down in a controlled fashion until your glute touches, or is as near as possible, to your heel. You then pause and squat up, avoiding a bounce. The unused leg is kept near straight and moves from a few inches out in front when at the top of the movement, to straight out in front when at the full squat position. In this way the heel of that leg slides a long a line a few inches off the floor. They are tough as they demand co-ordination, flexibility and a good deal of useful strength. These are great; no external loading of the spine and they are very very hard going. Remember if you do a pistol with your own bodyweight, this is like putting your bodyweight on your back and doing a normal squat.

In fact if you try it you'll see it's more like bodyweight plus 20% as one foot is less stable than two so you have to work harder. Balance is a problem and shifting you centre of gravity forward will help. You have three options here. The first is to pistol squat in a doorway using the frame for stability, this is a good starting place to learn the movement. Stand side on in the doorway with toe 2-4" away from the frame but in line with the wall. As you squat down your free leg will stick out next to the wall. As a progression from there you can also do it with hands out in front of you or also use a weight like a small plate, light dumbbell or kettlebell.

One leg squat
This is similar to the pistol but with the leg you're not using bent at the knee so at the bottom of the movement you have your knee/shin on the floor.

Unilateral deadlifts
These are copies of the deadlift movement on one leg. If you can use a weight as well then all the better. You can do either stiff-legged or traditional; just make sure you keep your hips nice and stable.

Lunges are often overlooked but when done nice and steadily they don't require much in the way of weight compared to squats and the like.

Split squats
These are like lunges but with the back foot on a platform or bench and are very tough. Remember if you can't use a weight go for depth and reps.

Weights and loading
With the above you can use a little weight if it is tolerated. You can also wear a rucksack with the load on the (tight!) waist strap and the shoulder straps loose. In cases where there have been disc issues holding the weight up above the head can keep the back in a more preferable position but again do check with your doctor or physiotherapist before trying anything here.
2016/06/16 10:11:44
James 16 comments

Green Tea

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2008 edition
Camellia sinensis or as it is more commonly known: Green Tea

Lately it seems that green tea has the ability to cure all known ailments, and maybe even the credit crunch. With its properties regarded as the ability to cure cancers, help you lose weight, protect your arteries, lower LDL cholesterol, and even wake you up with a jolt of caffeine; you do have to wonder just how much of all the hype is true - and how much is dreams.

Apart from containing caffeine, green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful polyphenolic anti-oxidant, and it is the anti-oxidant properties of EGCG that give rise to the health claims. In addition to this, studies looking at populations where green tea drinking is common place, have shown that the incidence of diseases and conditions - cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease - are all lower in these areas. The combination of anti-oxidant properties and epidemiological evidence, have given weight and credibility to claims that green tea is a life and health giving brew.

The problem is the areas where green tea drinking is common; for example China and Japan, also have traditional diets low in saturated fat, higher in fish, with more fruit and vegetables than the traditional western diet. In short, all the diet factors we know help prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and obesity - no green tea required! However, that is not the end of the story for green tea; its anti-oxidant properties are real, and much greater than that of red wine which we know in 'moderate' amounts can confer some health benefits.

Reviewing the scientific literature on green tea reveals it is getting a lot of attention and deservedly so. The problem is that the hype has come a little too soon and has gotten way too excited. We can say that green tea and its extract certainly have health giving properties, but so do tomatoes. And we can say that green tea and its extracts are showing promise in the treatment of some cancers and the lowering of LDL cholesterol.

But, it is important to note studies are on green tea and its extracts - so not necessarily what you are drinking in your cup. Drinking green tea is not going to make up for a duff diet and an unhealthy lifestyle, but as a part of a healthy diet and bodybuilding lifestyle - definitely a good inclusion.

So the advice is, ignore the hype, and enjoy some green tea: both are very healthy things to do.
2016/06/14 20:49:32
James Leave a comment

Nitric Oxide Pump Supplements

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2008 edition
Nitric oxide has definitely been one of the main supplement pre-workout trends over the past couple of years. Nitric oxide is the much touted 'pump' supplement used before training. It is often correctly abbreviated to NO; however many articles about this supplement wrongly abbreviate it to NO2, which is actually the chemical nitrogen dioxide, a poisonous air pollutant!

Many users try a new supplement with appropriate caution, as they've been stung far too many times before - haven't we all? The problem with gauging the usefulness of many supplements is that you need to be using the product for a while, and this means that other factors can affect gains and you can't easily deduce if it's the product working or the whole package of nutrition. The advantage that we have with pre-workout supplements, like nitric oxide, is that the effects are short term, so you'll either feel the difference or you won't during one workout. After a couple of training sessions you'll have your conclusion and be able to decide whether the product is worth continuing with. Without a doubt most people who use nitric oxide do feel the benefits, which is an enhanced muscle pump. A better pump, whilst doesn't actually directly mean more energy to train, does give both psychological benefits (the muscle feels good and you looked pumped therefore you train harder!) and means more blood is pumped to the muscle which will help recuperation and nutrition.

In mammals nitric oxide is a signalling molecule which is involved in physiological processes in the body like muscle contraction. It's a neurotransmitter which tells your blood vessels when to contract and relax. Nitric oxide signals for more blood to be pumped to organs when needed; when your arms need more blood supply for movement or for warmth, for example, the brain signals the blood vessels in the arms to release nitric oxide. After a large meal, nitric oxide sends more blood to your stomach to help you digest the food. It controls blood pressure, giving more blood when you exercise, and reducing the flow of blood when our body is at rest. Nitric oxide is also responsible for the relaxation of blood vessels in the penis, causing the blood to pool which produces an erection. Anti-impotence drugs like Viagra work in much the same way.

As a pre-workout supplement, nitric oxide can improve blood flow, oxygen delivery, glucose uptake, muscle velocity and muscle power over and above natural nitric oxide levels produced in the body. This gives the sensation of a full muscle 'pump' - that thing we strive for during a workout.
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