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2016/05/30 15:43:15
James Leave a comment

Training in Reverse

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker September 2008 edition
To maximise your muscle growth, you need to work all the muscle fibres in the muscle and this can be achieved by incorporating training with a different grip, like a reverse grip, into your current routine to ensure all the fibres are being targeted. Hitting the muscles from a different angle by reversing your grip will alter how the muscles are utilised and this simple training method can be applied to most upper body exercises.

A good example is back. By changing your grip from an overhand to underhand grip you will be placing more emphasis on the lower lats. The change of grip forces your elbows closer to your sides and increases the range of motion behind your back making your lower lats work harder.

Suggested exercises:
  • Reverse-grip barbell row
  • Reverse-grip pulldown
By changing your grip when training shoulders, particularly presses, you will be working the front deltoids harder. Again the positioning of your elbows resulting from the underhand grip targets both the front delts and the upper pecs.

Suggested exercises:
  • Dumbbell reverse-grip shoulder press
  • Barbell reverse-grip shoulder press
When training triceps, changing to an underhand grip places greater emphasis on the medial head of the tricep. However, with the bicep you are going from an underhand to an overhand grip, unlike with other body parts. This puts more stress on the deeper brachialis muscle (between the bicep and tricep) aswell as your upper forearm. It also works the bicep's long head more than the short head. If you are looking to add thickness to your biceps, these exercises should be added to your routine.

Suggested exercises:
  • Reverse grip barbell curl
  • Reverse grip preacher curl
  • Reverse grip triceps pressdown
  • Cable reverse-grip lying triceps extension
By changing your grip on chest presses you will be working the upper pecs more than the middle and lower pecs. I would recommend a spotter when doing these though as it is easier to loose your grip this way round!

Suggested exercises:
  • Barbell reverse-grip bench press
  • Dumbbell reverse-grip bench press

It is always a positive thing to change your training around to keep making the best possible gains. By including some reverse-grip training moves in your routine you should be improving your muscle growth.
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2016/05/27 18:38:30
James Leave a comment

Linseeds / Flaxseeds

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2008 edition

Linseeds, also known as flaxseeds, and are available in golden and brown varieties, both with similar nutritional profiles. The cheaper variety are the brown ones which are often found sold as bird seed in pet shops, but can also be found in high street health food stores. Golden linseeds are the type most often found in supermarkets. Linseeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fats, so those who do not eat oily fish, can get their intake of omega 3 oils by consuming flaxseed oil or linseeds. The seeds have a subtle nutty, slightly earthy flavour and are a cheap superfood that everyone can include in their diet. They are available whole, split, ground or as flaxseed oil. Flaxseed oil is a very popular food supplement however it is expensive and has only a short shelf life, so many people are now moving over to the seeds themselves.

Linseeds have a fibrous seed coat which swells-up when wet and passes through the gut undigested. Therefore in order to get the benefit from the protein, omega-3 fats and minerals, the seeds need to be ground before consumption. This can be done by a pestle & mortar, blender or a coffee grinder. The powder is great to add to smoothies, cereals or salads, although never cook with linseeds or their oil, as the heat will render them unstable. Another good way to get the best from them is to soak them first. Put one heaped dessertspoonful of seeds into a glass, cover with water and leave overnight. Add the swollen seeds and water to a drink such as fruit juice or a smoothie, or to your cereal or yogurt, or drink it on its own.

Although whole linseeds will keep at room temperature, once ground, keep them refrigerated in an air-tight container to minimise oxidation of the exposed fat and never use the oil or the seeds for cooking. They are fine sprinkled over hot food as long as the food is eaten shortly afterwards. Oxidised flaxseed oil tastes bitter and has lost any health benefits it had when fresh.

Linseeds are also fairly high in phytoestrogens, which may help to reduce high levels of oestrogens. This may be of an advantage to bodybuilders. There is also ongoing research into the benefits of including phytoestrogens in diets aimed at preventing cancer.

As men are much poorer converters of alpha-linolenic acid (the omega-3 fatty acid in linseeds) into the longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids than women, men may need to eat approximately 50g of ground linseeds per day and women need to eat approximately 25g per day. The suggested daily amount of flaxseed oil for men is 20g and the daily amount for women is 10g.
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2016/05/21 16:59:40
James 2 comments

Bodybuilding and Hypnosis

This article was written by Jon Rhodes LLB Hons Dip (Hyp) & was originally published in The MuscleTalker October 2008 edition
Building muscle is just as much a mental activity as it is physical. The mind controls the body. If your mind does not want to go through hard and heavy workouts, your body will not want to either. You will end up solely going through the motions and training without the intensity required for maximum gains.

Many professional bodybuilders and top athletes already use psychological techniques to give them that 'edge'. Arnold Schwarzenegger used to visualize his muscles growing bigger and bigger, until they literally "filled the room". The record breaking and 400 meter Olympic champion Lee Evans owes some of his success to visualizing every stride of the race. His strategy is to "search out and correct weaknesses in every step I take". Tiger Woods' mental coach, Jay Brunza, hypnotizes him to block out distractions so that he can focus purely on his golf.

There is one hidden reason why many people fail to build muscle or improve their physical attributes. That reason is that their unconscious mind will not allow them.

Bodybuilding requires supreme amounts of personal discipline in the face of temptation. It demands discipline over the mind and body as you face pain and fatigue at each training session in an attempt to surpass yourself. It demands discipline to keep working and moving towards your goals for many years. There is a saying; 'the will gives up before the muscle'. If you can increase your will with mental techniques, then you can increase your training intensity, and thus increase your gains.

Bodybuilding also requires mindfulness. You must be mindful about the foods you eat and how this will affect your mind and body.

Being present in the moment when training, and being mindful about what you are doing turns weight lifting into a meditative pursuit. Focusing on the muscle as it contracts and relaxes creates a powerful mind-body connection. This allows you to move and squeeze your muscles in a way that maximizes your growth potential.

Every time you lift a weight, your mind must lift it first. You must see yourself lifting it, and believe that you can lift it. I have seen many times someone accidentally picking up a heavier weight than they intended and complete their training sets with it. They thought they could lift it, so this removed the mental block that they previously had.

You sometimes hear people say they want to achieve something to only then follow it up with excuses, such as "I just don't think that it's possible" or "I don't have the genetics." They have already defeated themselves mentally. Lots of people compare their talent to someone else's, and when they see how far away they are from achieving this, they give up. The person who believes - achieves. How can you achieve anything without the belief? You will simply go about it half heartedly, if at all.

Hypnosis can help you improve all these mental approaches. Hypnosis can help you establish your goals clearly through visualization. You can also rehearse and practice with visualization. Hypnosis can also help you believe you can achieve your goals, and keep you motivated to stick with your plan. There is also some evidence to suggest that through hypnosis, you can direct your body's energies to places you wish to develop. Arnie was simply telling his body to build up his muscles when he visualized them growing bigger and bigger.

It is also widely documented that hypnosis can increase emotional responses in the body. These can be harnessed to release testosterone, which can further help muscular development. If you are serious about increasing your muscular, or indeed any other sporting abilities, then hypnosis could help you unlock your potential and go that extra yard you need for success.
2016/05/20 12:31:14
James 3 comments

Red Rice Yeast - can it really help cholesterol?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2008 edition
Red rice yeast is a nutritional supplement also known as Cholestin and has been available in the Western World for a couple of decades. Its claimed benefits are that it can favourably control blood cholesterol levels. Although fairly new to the West, it has been around in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years however. Unlike many supplements, where the claims are faddy, red rice yeast can actually help lower high cholesterol levels and this has been backed up by studies.

Natural red rice yeast contains the active constituent lovastatin. Yes, this is the very same lovastatin prescribed by doctors as a drug to control cholesterol levels; it's one of the statin drugs, the clinically proven most effective cholesterol-lowering agents used in medicine today, which were originally derived from yeast products. It's true to say that if the Chinese had never discovered red rice yeast, then it's likely we wouldn't have statins today. There is very strong evidence demonstrating both lovastatin and natural red rice yeast in reducing total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, due to the effect of lovastatin on inhibiting an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase which is responsible for cholesterol production.

This all seems too good to be true doesn't it? Red rice yeast is a natural powder supplement which will help improve heart disease outcome? And it's clinically proven to do so?... Yes, I'm afraid it is too good to be true! Here we have a supplement with 'drug-like' effects, so in 1999 the US FDA regulated it and red rice yeast cannot now be sold, in its natural form, in health food stores.

You will still see red rice yeast available on the shelves of health food stores, but this is new stuff that is now apparently fermented using a different process, and apparently (though it is in fact extraordinarily difficult to find out what dietary supplements do and do not contain) does not contain lovastatin. Therefore, as the active ingredient has been removed its ability to lower cholesterol levels is probably nil.

Conclusion: yes red rice yeast should be very effective at controlling blood cholesterol, but unfortunately the stuff that's available to us today, probably is useless, unless you can find a brand which does contain lovastatin.
2016/05/18 11:55:50
James 1 comment


This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker July 2008 edition
This spice has a long history, making more than one appearance in the Old Testament. Cinnamon or Cinnamomum zeylancium was a gift for visiting monarchs and potentates, and was commonly used in the funeral pyres of Rome. These days most of the World's cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka, with Indonesia producing 40% of the cassia variety.

There is more than one type of cinnamon; Moses was commanded to use both sweet cinnamon and cassia in the book of Exodus; these days cassia dominates the market and there is often little distinction made between the two. Although there are up to 250 different varieties depending on which botanist you talk to, it is cassia and Cinnamomum zeylancium that concern us.

Cinnamon is widely used as a spice for flavouring (great on oatmeal for example) yet it also has other useful properties. Cinnamon acts as a preservative for meat due to its phenol content inhibiting the bacteria responsible for spoilage. Herbalists value cinnamon for its curative properties. Its uses include treating; coughing, hoarseness, sore throats, nausea, vomiting. It has mild astringent properties which are recommended for diarrhoea (especially in children), and the cinnamaldehyde component is hypotensive, increasing peripheral blood flow. These medicinal properties are believed to derive from the high terpenoid content of cinnamon.

However, cinnamon has attracted scientific rather than culinary interest because of its interaction with insulin. Cinnamon enhanced the action of insulin in the test tube, and work progressed into studies on human subjects. Cinnamon has showed promise and has an adjunct treatment for those with type 2 diabetes, which is what makes this spice of interest to the athlete.

Work on cinnamon has shown that the phenol compound MCHP is responsible for the insulin potentiating action of cinnamon. MCHP mimics the action of insulin. This water soluble phenol is absent from the oil but is found in the spice, powdered and sticks. Thus an athlete looking for enhanced insulin efficiency could do a lot worse than have a daily cinnamon fix to help this grand-daddy of anabolic hormones strut its stuff.

Having discovered that cinnamon does more than help the morning oatmeal go down, it is time to stock up. Both varieties, proper cinnamon and cassia have the insulin potentiating effect; however cassia contains high levels of coumarin. Coumarin is toxic, and in high concentrations is known to cause both liver and kidney damage - best to stay within the 1g - 6g daily guideline from the cinnamon studies.

Coumarin is found in much lower levels in cinnamon zeylancium. The savvy shopper needs to look for cinnamon that is has a crumbly, fine texture. Cinnamon sticks should be easily ground by a coffee or spice grinder. Cassia is much harder with a dense woody texture and will damage a spice or coffee grinder. For those of a chemical disposition cassia produces a blue tint when tincture of iodine is added.

Nearly all powdered cinnamon is cassia, in the United States it is around 99% if what is sold as powdered cinnamon. Instead powder it yourself and look for a stick that has a fine rolled texture - resembles a cigar, rather than flakes of bark or a stick that resembles and oval straw - and you will be on track for a tasty and physique enhancing addition to your food.
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2016/05/12 08:59:22
James Leave a comment

Post-Tetanic Facilitation (PTF)

This article was written by Tony Schwartz & was originally published in The MuscleTalker July 2008 edition
Everyone wants a quick fix to their problems. Whether it's looking for a way to lose fat quickly or pack on muscle at an alarming rate, we are always on the lookout for the 'holy grail.' Unfortunately, it is rare that you find a product or technique that immediately accelerates your progress towards your goals.

Well, today is one of those rare times. Maybe you've heard of post-tetanic facilitation (PTF) before, but I'm going to re-introduce it to you today. If you haven't been using it in your training you are severely short-changing your strength and muscle gains.

In case you haven't realized it already, muscle size and strength are intimately tied together. I am sure we all know that one guy who is huge yet not that strong, or is small yet very strong. However, all things being equal (particularly nutrition), more strength leads to more muscle mass. If you need proof, look at some of the biggest guys on the planet, like Johnnie Jackson and Ronnie Coleman, both 800+ deadlifters. Sure, you can get somewhat bigger without getting stronger, but why wouldn't you want both? By using PTF you will increase your strength immediately, and will see size gains shortly thereafter.

What is PTF?
A tetanic contraction occurs when a motor unit (a motor neuron and all the muscle fibers it innervates) is maximally stimulated. In scientific studies this is often done with an isokinetic 1-rep max or with the help of EMS (electro-myostimulation).

As you may have guessed, PTF occurs after the tetanic contraction. PTF is the result of a variety of neurological processes that combine to make any subsequent work done with any of the motor units used during the tetanic contraction easier. You may have noticed this phenomenon if you have ever used the reverse pyramid system for an exercise. If you start with heavy weight and low reps, you will find that as you decrease the weight and increase the reps the weight will feel very light. PTF is also exploited in other loading schemes, such as wave loading.

The basics of using PTF for strength gains involve using a heavy load prior to using a lighter load. It is important to use as many of the same motor units in the heavy set as you will in the lighter set.

First and foremost, this means that your heavy and light sets should be the same exercise. For example, doing a heavy set of bench presses before a light set of bench presses will be much more effective than doing a heavy set of dips before a light set of bench presses. Similarly, I have heard others recommend simply holding a heavy weight prior to a lighter set. For example, taking the bar out of the racks in the bench press and holding it for a few seconds before doing a lighter set of bench presses. This will not work nearly as well since not all of the necessary motor units will undergo a tetanic contraction.

Now, I know what you're thinking, 'Sure, this is a cool trick, but aren't the strength gains just temporary?' In a way, yes. You are getting a temporary strength increase, but since PTF allows you to lift a lighter weight for more reps than usual, you will cause more muscle breakdown in different muscle fibers than usual. If your recovery protocols are where they should be then these muscle fibers will hypertrophy. This hypertrophy will lead to more strength gains which will allow you to use PTF with larger weights in the future.

Give PTF a try on your first exercise at your next training session. Warm-up and work-up to a single at 90-95% of your 1RM. You don't want to work up to a true max because the fatigue created will negate some of neurological benefits. After your heavy set wait 4-5 minutes and then go for your lighter set. To get the greatest benefit you will want to use 70-80% for your lighter set. Expect to get 1-3 more reps than usual.

Learn more scientific muscle building info and get a free report on "The 13 Reasons You Suck at Gaining Muscle" at
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2016/05/08 10:47:44
James 4 comments

CLT Supplement: Bodybuilding's Best Kept Secret

This article was written by David Barr from & was originally published in The MuscleTalker July 2008 edition

Sometimes a supplement comes along that just sounds too good to be true. Actually these products seem to crop up every week, but every now and then there's a rare find. A keeper, if you will. One that is so good that you'll probably be using it for the next 70 years of your life. We may just be on the verge of such a find and there's a good chance that you've heard of it. Let's look at why, based on emerging research, you'll want to give carnitine a second look.

The Updated Information
Carnitine isn't new by any stretch of the imagination. It's been used for decades for fat loss with some success. After all it's part of the machinery that transports fat into our cells to be burned as fuel. However, over the past decade or so, evidence has emerged that makes this supplement more about performance and muscle growth than just fat loss. In fact, there is research to show that carnitine may even have a positive effect on overall health.

Muscle Growth: The New Flavour
Some of the most exciting data shows that carnitine can actually improve training performance. By simple extrapolation it's not difficult to see that the ability to train harder will be associated with greater improvements in body composition, whether it's muscle growth or fat loss.

What's more exciting is that carnitine may have an even more of a direct way of stimulating muscle growth: testosterone. Unlike most traditional 'testosterone boosters', which have a quick rebound affect and subsequently mild efficacy, carnitine has been shown to increase the number of testosterone receptors in muscle after training. This means that there are more docking sites for this anabolic hormone to bind with and deliver its message. That message just happens to be growth and repair, which is exactly what we're all after regardless of your goal.
  • More Receptors
  • More Signal To Muscle
  • More Growth/Recovery
Perhaps even more importantly, carnitine may even be able to affect our neural recovery. This repair of our nerve cells that cause muscle contraction is felt to be the limiting factor in strength recovery, and would be indispensable to athletes. Although the details warrant a full article of its own, it is clear that testosterone itself increases neural repair and size, and other neuroprotective effects are seen with carnitine. Could there be a connection? Time will tell.

Considering the impact of CLT on muscle it shouldn't be surprising to learn that it has one of the highest Anabolic Index Scores available. This means that relative to other supplements CLT is on the 'must have' list for anyone looking to build muscle.

New Information. New Data?
The data supporting carnitine use have been around for several years. In fact there are numerous studies supporting its efficacy, so why haven't you heard of it? It may be due to the fact that the carnitine studied in this research is called carnitine-l-tartrate (CLT), which has emerged as the big daddy of carnitine products.

This type of carnitine is found to be stable (a rare commodity) and is also the best most quickly absorbed type. That is not to say that other 'types' of carnitine won't do the same job, it's just the version that's been studied the most. In fact, there's little reason to think that other carnitines are devoid of the same effect, after all it's the carnitine that's doing all of the work.

Carnitine supplementation may not only assist with performance, muscle growth and fat loss, but it may also have a positive impact on health. Another type of carnitine called ALCAR (acetyl-l-carnitine) has been shown to have antioxidant properties and may even help with diabetes. With all of these research based findings it's not surprising that carnitine is the next 'too good to be true?' supplement.

Q. Where do I get CLT?
A. CLT is readily available online and is most commonly just called 'l-carnitine'. Take a look at the supplement details to make sure it's CLT.

Q. How do I use it?
A. Again this could be an entire article unto itself, but I'd start with a minimum of 1g day in divided doses. Many clients are having great success with 2g/200lbs bodyweight, although this is not extrapolated upward in a linear manner. I'm currently optimizing dosages with athletes over 240lbs.

Q. What brand do you suggest?
A. As a matter of policy I do not recommend brands outside of personalized supplement programs.

CLT is going to be a big supplement in the coming years, whether you're concern is performance, body composition, or even health. Only the details need to be worked out, but so far everything looks incredibly positive for this product. Stay tuned to MuscleTalk and my website for updates on carnitine and other effective strategies!

  • Kraemer WJ, Volek JS, French DN, Rubin MR, Sharman MJ, Gómez AL, Ratamess NA, Newton RU, Jemiolo B, Craig BW, Häkkinen K. The effects of L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance exercise and recovery. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Aug; 17(3):455-62.
  • Kraemer WJ, Spiering BA, Volek JS, Ratamess NA, Sharman MJ, Rubin MR, French DN, Silvestre R, Hatfield DL, Van Heest JL, Vingren JL, Judelson DA, Deschenes MR, Maresh CM. Androgenic responses to resistance exercise: effects of feeding and L-carnitine. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jul; 38(7):1288-96.
  • O'Bryant EL, Jordan CL. Expression of nuclear receptor coactivators in androgen-responsive and -unresponsive motor neurons. Horm Behav. 2005 Jan; 47(1):29-38.
  • Spiering BA, Kraemer WJ, Vingren JL, Hatfield DL, Fragala MS, Ho JY, Maresh CM, Anderson JM, Volek JS. Responses of criterion variables to different supplemental doses of L-carnitine L-tartrate. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Feb;21(1):259-64

David Barr is widely recognized as an industry innovator, most recently for his work on developing The Anabolic Index. As a strength coach and scientist, he brings a unique perspective to the areas of diet, supplementation, and training. His research experience includes work for NASA at the Johnson Space Center, as well as studying the effect of protein on muscle growth. He holds certifications with the NSCA as well as USA Track and Field, and can be contacted through his website:
2016/05/06 06:22:27
James 1 comment

Basmati Rice

This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2008 edition
Originating in the foothills of the Himalayas, Basmati rice is famed for its fragrance (its name when translated from the Hindi means 'queen of scents' or 'pearl of scents') and its long grains. Basmati rice elongates when cooked staying as separate grains because of its non-glutinous nature. The World's biggest producers are India and Pakistan, although it can be cultivated elsewhere, and has even been the subject of a patent battle in recent years. There are several different commercial strains of Basmati; however they are all packaged under the name of Basmati, although you may find the individual type of grain listed. Be wary of packets that list 'Super Kernel' as a single variety. These are actually two separate varieties 'Super' and 'Kernel', and the Food Standards Agency does not permit the use of 'super kernel' as a variety name.

Basmati is a great choice for cooking because of its distinct aroma and nutty taste, also because it retains its texture when cooked and doesn't clump or go starchy like other varieties. This grainy texture give Basmati a medium to low glycaemic (GI) rating; however the greatest nutritional asset of Basmati rice is that it requires so little processing before it reaches the dinner plate, meaning that it retains much of its nutritional value - unlike other varieties which need nutrients added back in. It is a particularly good source of iron, thiamine, niacin and selenium. A 200g serving comes with 205kcals made up of 4.2g of protein, and 44g of carbohydrate.

These properties make Basmati a great choice for the health conscious and the gourmet; a rich nutty taste that is easily enhanced by adding a little ghee to the cooking water (bulking only for that one!), it has a rich nutritional profile, and the brown variety has lots of fibre too. Because Basmati is packaged, buying it is about trusting your supplier. In 2003 the Food Standards Agency found not all Basmati was created equal - with some packets not being 100% Basmati, leading to the 2005 code of practice stating non-Basmati content must not exceed 7%.

Basmati is a breeze to cook - two parts water to one part rice, and boil until it's done to taste; some people will rinse or stand Basmati in water to reduce its starchiness, but for me it's only starchy when over done so I don't bother, and adding a little ghee really does make it richer and even tastier - if less considerate to the waist!
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