2017/11/18 15:06:39
James Leave a comment

Shoulder Training

This article was written by Darran Stanesby, disabled bodybuilding and strongman champion & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2011 edition
Many of us, me included, have gone through the 'monster weight theory', chucking dumbbells around which are just too heavy to perform true and productive reps. So, before we go anywhere when you perform this routine, pick a nice weight which you can perform as near a perfect rep as possible.

Seated Barbell Press with a fixed barbell not Smiths machine - 4 x 20
Press a steady pace to the front and then to the back of the head - that's back of head, not neck; don't go too deep! Keep the pressure on the delts at all times.

Dumbbell Side-Laterals - 4 x 20
Put the barbell down in front of where you are sitting and go straight into dumbbell side lateral raises. Again this is about style so sit up right: no flapping like a bird, keep the reps strict and the dumbbell weight manageable.

Use these two exercises as a superset; i.e. one set of shoulder press to front and back and straight into strict side dumbbell lateral raises, but still do 4 sets!

Seated Front Raises with a Kettlebell - 4 x 20
Sitting on the edge of a bench, use a kettlebell of moderate weight, your grip should be both hands over top of bell handle. Keep a slight bed in your arms and raise slowly till arms are parallel with your chin, then lower slowly.

Seated Bent-Over Rear Delt Raises - 4 x 20
Again stay on the edge of the bench, dumbbells of a moderate weight and perform these in a strict style; no whipping action from your back. If you're doing this, the dumbbells are too heavy!

You can also use these two seated shoulder exercises as a superset, alternating between front raises then straight into strict side lateral raises.

Cables Cross Over for Rear Delts - 4 x 20
When you perform this exercise, ensure you stand tall and only use your shoulders to control the movement; you should feel your rear delts especially, so don't lean forward!

Dumbbell Shrugs - 4 x 20
Use a good weight and raise the dumbbells with your traps. Perform this in front of a mirror so you can actually see your traps working. Performed properly with a good weight, you should see great pump within your traps.

As before, you can always use the Cable Cross Overs and Dumbbell Shrugs as a superset together and, if you choose to do this full routine as a superset shoulders day, you should really know you've trained hard!
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2017/11/18 10:10:19
James 1 comment

Supplements: Miracle or Placebo?

This article was written by Tom Daly aka MuscleTalk Member geneticallyjacked & was originally published in The MuscleTalker May 2011 edition
There is a lot of division within the bodybuilding community regarding supplement use. The vast majority of bodybuilders, as well as powerlifters or strongmen, will have a favourite supplement brand or product. There are a plethora of products from simple proteins and weight gainers, to test boosters and nitric oxide pre-workout energy boosters.

The major question is "how many of these supplements actually work?" I would like each of you to recall the various products you've tried over the years. How many are you still using? Not many, I'd imagine. Yet we all, me included, will be excited and eager to try a new product which promises ungodly strength and mass gains.

The benefits of protein and creatine are well established by science; these two have a part in every serious athlete's stack. However, even within these groups there is some derision. Should I use hydrolysed whey protein, liquid beef protein extract, casein, egg, soy, goat's urine? Ok, I made up the last one but you get my point. The question is the same for creatine, should I use creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester (CEE), creatine phosphate or creatine citrate? These questions are common on any bodybuilding or weightlifter forum. An arm chair expert will explain at length how CEE is the only creatine worth buying as it won't cause the bloating associated with creatine monohydrate; or that one is wasting their time with regular whey protein powders because hydrolysed whey is easier to absorb. Are any of these questions necessary? Who cares? This is not brain surgery and it's not as complicated as some deluded 160lb arm chair bodybuilders make it seem. The difference between these compounds is miniscule. Anecdotal reports from various test subjects suggest there is no difference at all, except hydrolysed whey is more expensive.

What is my point you may wonder? Simply that we should concentrate on our training and proper diet and results will follow, supplement with protein powders and creatine but don't be fooled into emptying your savings for false promises and catchy slogans and shiny ads.

The Placebo Effect
A placebo is a simulated medical intervention. This practice is often used by the control group in case control studies in order to judge the efficacy or safety of an actual medical intervention. Placebos can, however, have a surprisingly positive effect on a patient who knows that the given treatment is without any active drug, as compared with a control group who knowingly did not get a placebo. This effect is explained by the power of our own minds and attitudes to influence or body. A positive mindset has been known to produce miraculous results. Arnold Schwarzenegger's rise to movie star and government is a prime example.

Now on to the crux of the matter: supplements classed as 'special' products. I can't name any companies or products for legal reasons, but you guys know the one's I'm referring to. Some major companies make several expensive products which promise results which seem too good to be true. They are. I'd wager many of you have tried these products. I'd wager more that few still use them. These products are based on science which is shaky at best. The studies never contain sufficient people to achieve statistical significance and are simply underpowered. The studies are often funded by the manufacturer and many of the amazing results such as "7 pounds of muscle gain in 7 days" are based on genetic freaks who may have never touched a weight before.

How can they get away with advertising these products in this way? The word 'may' is an amazingly ambiguous word; it suggests results are possible but doesn't promise anything and so, there is no legal responsibility. Do me a favour go to your local supplement shop and take a look at the product labels. How many contain the word 'may'? The vast majority.

Why do we continue to buy these products? After training for a number of years results are slow and training and chicken with rice become mundane. We want to believe a product can achieve wonderful things. I do too. They really can't. At best we 'may' gain .25lbs of muscle from this product. Is it worth the astronomical expense and constant search for the newest and best supplements? This is money which could be spent on red meat and chicken which will add much more mass. Guaranteed! I'd rather save my money for something important. I'm not telling you what to do; I'd just like people to think and not be too quick to empty your savings for a capsule full of sugar and promises. The placebo effect can be powerful but it doesn't last very long.

"Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing" (Voltaire)
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2017/11/11 22:38:56
James Leave a comment

Glucuronolactone: A Pre-Workout Supplement Essential?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2013 edition
Glucuronolactone (also known as D-Glucuronolactone, DGL, D-Glucurono-3,6-Lactone or D-Glucoronic Acid) is a key ingredient included in many popular stimulant energy and pre-workout drinks. It is a naturally occurring chemical produced from the metabolism of glucose in the liver and has been shown to increase endurance and improve reaction times at supplemental doses, making it an effective ergogenic stimulant and nootropic.

Stimulants like caffeine have vasoconstricting properties. Vasoconstriction is where the blood vessels narrow, increasing blood pressure and hotness which is one of the negative side effects from stimulant-containing drinks. One key ingredient in pre-workout formulas is nitric oxide - also known as arginine alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) - a vasodilator which helps give rise to those much sought after muscle pumps from a workout. Vasoconstrictor stimulants like caffeine cancel out some of the effects of AAKG, which is where glucuronolactone comes in: unlike other stimulants, it doesn't have any vasoconstricting properties. Thus it is often a preferred ingredient in stimulant drinks, like Red Bull as well as pre-workout drinks.

The exact effectiveness of glucuronolactone is unknown as previous research involves the study of energy drinks which also contain caffeine and taurine. It is therefore impossible to ascertain which compound was responsible for the enhanced benefits. However, there are a number of studies which demonstrate improved attention, reaction, speed and performance with the combination of glucuronolactone, caffeine and taurine.

Glucuronolactone is found in relatively small amounts, naturally. Red wine is perhaps the strongest natural source, with approximately 20mg of glucuronolactone per litre. Doses of as little as 0.5g have been shown to have an ergogenic effect, and doses of up to 1g are commonly found in supplements.

Glucuronolactone was said to be a carcinogen in larger amounts, but this has been dismissed as a rumour and debunked in the British Medical Journal and it is not restricted by the US FDA.
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2017/11/11 06:58:08
James 1 comment


This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2011 edition
Agave nectar is touted as an alternative to both sugar and honey, presented as 100% natural, often organic and even raw, on the face of it agave nectar looks like the perfect solution. With a lower glycaemic index and glycaemic load than other non-artificial sweeteners it is an attractive product.

Made from the same plant as tequila, agave nectar appears to have impressive credentials. From manufacturers' websites you are presented with the impression that agave nectar dates back to the Aztecs and is a traditional product, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Agave nectar dates back to approximately 1990. It is made in both Mexico and South Africa; its production varies slightly depending on the variety used. In South Africa only blue agave is used, and in Mexico blue agave is also often the dominant crop. To manufacture agave from the blue agave the pineapple like core is used, while for the agave salimiana the stalk is cut before it fully grows and the liquid that collects in the core is collected daily.

Once juice has been obtained, the juice is then either heated to hydrolyse the polysaccharides into simple sugars, or treated with enzymes to hydrolyse the polysaccharides into simple sugars or more commonly heated and treated with enzymes to hydrolyse the polysaccharides that occur in the plant into the simple sugars of the final syrup. The syrup is then filtered and clarified to produce the nectar on the shelves. In pure chemistry and food production terms the processes used to produce agave nectar are the same as used to produce high fructose corn syrup from corn starch, deploying the same genetically modified enzymes and chemical agents to convert the indigestible polysaccharides (mostly insulin) of the agave plant into fructose and dextrose units. Raw nectar products do not use heat in the production process.

Agave nectar, depending on how it is processed can be up to 70% fructose, which is a very high concentration indeed; higher than is found in fruit and without the fiber, vitamins, and other goodies a whole food product brings. Agave nectar is also higher in fructose than high fructose corn syrup.

Is it something for a bodybuilder? Personally, I don't think so at all. Fruit is something for a bodybuilder certainly, but adding a concentrated supplemental fructose with its specific metabolism that first replenishes liver glycogen and then gets stored as fat without any impact on circulating or muscle glycogen levels, is not a way to be lean in my book. This would be enough, but it appears that fructose in higher amounts causes appetite and hunger to be stimulated via the inhibition of leptin. For me the case against agave nectar is pretty well stacked when you consider that there are alternatives sweeteners and ingredients available, such as honey, maple syrup and even table sugar.
1 comment
2017/10/29 12:41:37
James 2 comments

Oven-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This recipe was originally published in The MuscleTalker October 2010 edition
  •     Pumpkin seeds
  •     Cooking spray, olive oil, or butter
  •     Optional: salt, garlic powder, onion powder, other seasoning

  •     Rinse the pumpkin seeds and remove the pulp. Spread on a baking tray and leave overnight to dry
  •     Preheat the oven to 120ºC / 250ºF (Gas mark 2) and line a baking sheet with foil
  •     Toss the seeds in olive oil or what you wish to use and sprinkle with chosen seasoning
  •     Bake for 1 hour, turning them every 15-20 minutes, until golden brown
  •     Once cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 months or up to a year in the fridge
 More great recipes available in our Muscle Menus ebook available for Kindle at Amazon.
2017/10/29 12:39:38
James Leave a comment


This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker October 2011 edition
Pumpkins are members of the vine crops family called cucurbits and originated in Central America. However, the name pumpkin comes from the Greek word for 'large melon': pepon. At this time of year there will be plenty in the shops!

Pumpkins grow all around the world and are produced for animal feed, ornamental sales and consumption. The biggest produces are the Untied States, India, Mexico and China. The US produces around 1.5 billion pounds (680,000,000 kilograms) of pumpkins each year!

The colour of this fruit derives from the orange pigments in them; the main nutrients are potassium, alpha and beta carotene and lutein, a naturally occurring cartenoid. Pumpkins are 90% water and are high in fibre.

Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
These are green, small and flat; most are covered by a white husk. Pumpkin seeds are a great snack either hulled or semi-hulled or you can roast them (see recipe). Pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein, zinc, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and phytosterols and are said to lower cholesterol. 1g of pumpkin seed protein contains as much of the amino acid tryptophan as a full glass of milk!

Pumpkin Seed Oil
The oil is produced from roasted pumpkin seeds. It can be mixed with other oils as it has a strong flavour and can be used for cooking or dressings. It contains essential fatty acids that help maintain healthy blood vessels and nerves.

So at Halloween, if you partake in the tradition of carving the pumpkins to make lanterns, think about what do to with the pumpkin flesh and seeds. Too much goodness to be thrown in the bin, make soups, vegetable juice and use the seeds too!
Oven-Toasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe
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2017/10/14 09:22:20
James Leave a comment

Dumbbell Chest Press - an Alternative Method

This article was written by James Collier & was originally published in The MuscleTalker April 2011 edition
Dumbbell chest press is both a great mass builder and shaping exercise for the pecs. Most of us like to pile on a lot of weight and bang out a few reps. But is this the most effective method of training for a bodybuilder?

Dumbbell presses are best performed on a small incline bench of about 30°. Make sure the chest is warmed up properly before starting. Begin with a light weight. Hold the dumbbells at the bottom and straighten the arms only to shoulder width apart. The pec-delt tie in is easily worked and after 4-5 reps there is no need to go all the way to the bottom, as this is just taking the emphasis off the main pec area: i.e. the area you're trying to build. So, for the first 5 reps perform from all the way at the bottom to shoulder width straight arms then, on rep 5, bring the dumbbells together at the top and squeeze the pecs as if you are flexing them. Squeeze for 1-2 seconds, hard. Then lower the weight, but only until the elbows are about 120°, i.e. you're only coming down about half way. Then straighten the arms and squeeze at the top as before; repeat until failure.

You want to be aiming for around 15 reps in total (including the first 5 which are not squeezed) with a minimum of 12 reps. If you can do more than 15 reps then great, but you may want to up the weight for the next set. Perform 4 sets. It's the squeezing and the reps which are important not the amount of weight you're using. You'll start the exercise feeling the weight is way too light, but as you start squeezing - and it's crucial that you squeeze hard - you'll soon fail.

Training chest like this is not about the ego, as you'll only be using light dumbbells and people will also think you're not doing the full movement as you're not coming down very far with the dumbbells. However, your pecs will feel a massive pump and you'll certainly have DOMS. Over the weeks you'll develop both mass and shape to the pecs.
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2017/10/12 17:51:19
James Leave a comment


This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker March 2011 edition

Spinacia Oleracea or Spinach is an edible plant from the Amaranthaceae family. Spinach is one of the more popular of the green leafy vegetables and used in many cuisines worldwide. This delicate green leaf is related to other popular foods like chard, quinoa and beet. Spinach is usually found in dishes that include 'Florentine' in the title. The term apparently came from Catherine de' Medici (born in Florence) and her love of the food after she had become Queen of France.

Spinach can vary in texture from flat-leafed to a more springy ruffled leaf and vary from a light bright green to a deep dark one. It can be prepared in a variety of ways and also be eaten raw when it's young and tender. Baby spinach is often added raw in salads and readily found in most food shops, often bagged and already washed, though it is a good idea to still give it a quick rinse before consuming. Don't wash spinach before refrigerating as it will go soggy. Leaving it to soak might also leach the water-soluble nutrients into the water and out of the leaf. With the slightly older and tougher spinach leaf, its taste will be bitterer and stems will be tougher. The stems can be trimmed before or after rinsing and the cooking will make it more palatable. Especially with the more ruffled leaves, be sure to repeat the rinse until the water in the bowl is clear as the leaves can be very dirty!

Spinach doesn't need much time to cook; feel free to steam, boil, sauté or chop up and add to soup or sauce. As spinach cooks it vastly reduces in volume due to the high water content, so you can really pack a punch with a relatively small portion of the cooked leaf! A touch of soya sauce and garlic can help taste-wise if you're not as keen with the natural bittersweet (and slightly metallic) flavour. Avoid over-cooking as it turns to mush and not as pleasant to eat, unless you prefer it that way of course...

When choosing spinach try to avoid any that is dull in colour, yellowing, wilting or looks wet (has slimy texture), it is also worth smelling as it should be nice and fresh-scented. Spinach is available throughout the year but it's in season throughout the spring months.

Spinach is nutrient-dense, rich in antioxidants and packed with fibre. The cartoon figure, Popeye, was given immense strength after eating spinach from a tin, possibly based on the belief that spinach had a relatively high iron content. Which it does, along with calcium; however, a lot of it is poorly absorbed by the body. Regarding iron and to quote the article here:

'There are two types of iron in the diet: haem and non haem, each with a different mode of absorption from the intestine. Haem iron is present in meat and meat products, non-haem iron is found in plant based products such as dark green vegetables, dried fruit, etc. Haem iron is more easily absorbed whereas the amount of non-haem iron absorbed is more influenced by the iron status of the individual.'

But there's no need to stop eating tasty spinach as it is still an easy way to pack in those nutrients and fibre! It's particularly rich in Vitamins A, C and folic acid. What you can do if concerned with the above is eat it alongside foods that enhance iron absorption.
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