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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

Spinach

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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2017/10/01 09:48:28
James 1 comment

Cheat to Beat Mind Games

This article was written by Aaron Hallett & was originally published in The MuscleTalker March 2011 edition
 
Everyone at some stage in their life goes through a period where they want to reduce body fat, lose that belly, drop a few dress sizes, find those ever elusive abs or even diet down for a bodybuilding show.

For everyone who has dieted and managed to keep the ball rolling by dropping weight each week and seeing results, that alone can inspire and motivate to keep on plugging away. However, as you start looking back at the number of weeks spent working hard, your head starts playing games just when you thought your mind and body were on the same team.

Now, some cravings can be ignored and dismissed but when that is all that occupies your mind, opposed to the original goal which was supposed to occupy that cranial space, this is when some fall off the wagon. Sometimes people fall so far off the wagon they end rolling for a mile in the gutter and the wagon is now a distant dot on the horizon. Many never even attempt to rejoin the wagon, the psychological effect of remorse and guilt is too much to go through every time they give in to temptation.

A way to control these cravings is to sometimes give in to them, allow them, enjoy them and look forward to them. If you are staring back at the weeks of dieting gone by and the prospect of many more in front of you, how will you fare if all you think of is getting off the diet?

Having a planned cheat meal, not cheat day, a cheat meal, can be the needed carrot (or carrot cake) on the end of a stick you need, it also removes the forbidden fruits scenario where you only want it because you can't have it.

On the last meal on the last day of the week, allow yourself one hour to enjoy a meal of your choice with a desert of what ever you fancy. You can still accomplish your goals with that meal in there; many people have cheat meals staggered throughout their dieting and continue to lose weight, remove the guilt, look forward to it and enjoy it!

It's placed on the last day of the week because you will be spending the week physically and mentally working hard to earn that reward and will start the new week afresh. It's the last meal because it will remove the temptation to extend it further into your day. It will be a welcomed psychological break you sometimes need to avoid dieting burn out, it will also reinsert a dose of normality back into your life when you can sit with friends or family and all enjoy a meal together.

Dieting is never easy but you can make it that little bit more bearable.
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2017/09/13 17:02:52
James 11 comments

Pork

This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2011 edition
 
Although pork is the most commonly consumed meat in the world, forming the staple in many countries, it is not a meat that is commonly thought of as a bodybuilding staple food, and it is a good question to ask why. If we discount any conspiracy theories involving Joe Weider and the US Beef industry then we have to look at its nutritional content.

Of course pork is not just one meat, it is a variety of different cuts, and the nutritional content varies significantly by cut. For example 100g of belly pork contains 258kcal, 19g protein and 20g of fat, while a pork chop weighs in with 227kcal, 15g protein, and 18g fat. However, this is not the whole pork story. Pork fillet is lean; containing 147kcal, 22g protein and 6.5g fat, whereas chicken comes in with 148kcal, 32g protein and 2.2g of fat.

With 10g of protein less than chicken and a similar price it becomes easy to see why pork fails to make a regular appearance on the bodybuilders table. When choosing meat both chicken and lean beef (steak) are simply better, and if you want to increase your fat intake, fish trumps pork due to the high saturated fat content of pork compared to the more desirable fats found in oily fish. In bodybuilding terms, pork is the guy that doesn't train legs, looks good for a while, but ultimately isn't complete.

Of course, variety is a good thing too, and pork can find it way onto your plate now and again, not only in the off season bacon sandwich.
 
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2017/09/11 16:32:28
James Leave a comment

Spotting: The Dying Art

This article was written by Micky McKay Dip PT & was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2011 edition
 
Today we have endless courses, for the better I might add, about training with weights: WABBA, BAWLA, YMCA, Fitness First, to name but a few. I, myself, have greatly benefited from these courses giving me lots more knowledge about weight training and exercise in general.

One major problem that seems to have been forgotten on these courses, though, is the art of spotting. It's all very well being shown how to lift a weight correctly, but what if, half way through the lift, problems are encountered? For example a person is bench pressing and takes the bar to his/her chest but has miscalculated the weight and cannot get it back up? Easy you say, lean over and pull the bar back up. But, what if the weight is 400lbs and the person is physically exhausted? These are the times when proper spotting methods should be employed. If you feel the weight is too heavy, get a spotter you can trust either side of the bar, then you have full control, and the trainer can perform as many reps as they can knowing they have the safety of you all there. It is only a minute of their time to be asked to assist you in spotting; not a great deal to give up!

There have been a few fatalities in gyms in recent times; accidents will unfortunately happen, but when you are spotting someone, you are in charge, you dictate how many reps the person can do in a safe manor: their trust is in you, don't let them down! Be vigilant at all times during the set.

The main thing to remember when spotting heavy weights is to have a person either side, with you at the rear. This is the safest method. Make sure the people either side know their job; it's a team effort so run through what you expect prior to the set. It's no good after as the damage could already be done. Remember, it only takes a second for accidents to happen, try to make sure they don't happen in your gym. Make people aware of the importance of spotting and create a safer environment around you.
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2017/09/05 16:31:20
James Leave a comment

Are you Eating Enough Fruit and Veg?

This article was originally published in The MuscleTalker February 2011 edition
 
It's all too common to see people who are into bodybuilding shoving vitamin and mineral supplements down their neck thinking that, because they do this, they don't need to eat much fruit and veg. This is a major mistake; fruit and veg provide a whole load more than vitamins and minerals: they provide different types of fibre and numerous other antioxidants. Also, the vitamins and minerals they contain are often more bioavailable - i.e. we absorb them more efficiently - than those in pills.

You'll have no doubt come across the Government campaign of '5 a day' encouraging us to have at least five servings of fruit and veg per day. However, note the 'at least'; in reality five is the absolute minimum we should be consuming; studies have shown that for optimal health we should be having at least seven or eight servings per day. And, seeing as bodybuilders feel that we need higher amounts then everyone else shouldn't we really be aiming for a minimum of eight per day?

Hang on a minute: that does sound a lot, especially when most of us aren't even making the five. Home-made smoothies are really useful. Most of us consume a few protein drinks everyday anyway, so why not add protein powders to fruit smoothies? Make up a smoothie with three servings of fruit and divide this into two drinks to consume in a day.

Include two portions of different vegetables with your main meal and also one or two salads with your smaller meals each day. Then, with a couple of items of fruit eaten with your snacks, you've easily made the eight servings required, and it wasn't that hard.
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2017/08/24 17:08:16
James Leave a comment

Overcoming Mental Sticking Points: Resetting the Mind's Thermostat

This article was written by Aaron Hallett & was originally published in The MuscleTalker January 2011 edition
 
Everyone at some point during the course of their bench pressing has ended up left lying on the bench gazing up at the ceiling as the spotter re-racks the barbell after a failed set. We know that progression can never occur in a consistent linear line between each and every workout, but trying to remind yourself and understand that as you gasp for air doesn't ease the sting after a failed set, does it?

This however, wasn't the first time you have been humbled by this weight on the bar. Even though you have progressed to this point, for a few too many weeks now the weight has stayed the same and you are still a rep or two short of completing the set.

There are a multitude of methods to help overcome stubborn sticking points in our training ranging from changing the way we train to even changing how we eat. There is another area, however, changing how we think about our training. A typical example will be an individual who always fails on 100kg on the fifth rep of a six rep set. This has carried on for a number of weeks now and has almost become an expected occurrence. The first five reps go well without an issue, but on the sixth it is almost like a switch, similar to that of a thermostat on a boiler, is thrown, everything seems to shut down and he cannot lift without a spotter's assistance.

One method to help overcome a sticking point that is more mental than physical is to reset the point in which the 'thermostat' switch is thrown by making a large leap above the weight which the individual is stuck on and using a spotter to help grind out a full set with this weight for the normal amount of reps. For example, if you are stuck on 100kg, instead of attempting 100kg for six reps once the appropriate warm up is completed, place 120kg on the bar (ensuring the extra 20kg is easily removed). This set will be tough: you might be able to complete a few reps on your own but the spotter will need to assist through the remaining reps. However, the spotter must not make it easy and he has to ensure it is a complete struggle for the lifter. As soon as this set is completed, drop the weight by 20kg and immediately proceed to press 100kg, you will find that this 100kg feels lighter than it has done in the past; the shock of attempting to press 20kg above where your 'mental thermostat' switches is usually enough to reset it to a higher point and allow you to complete, in this example, the full six reps of the set.

Give it a shot, sometimes a plateau can be as much mental as physical and this can be used as one tool in the box to keep the progression moving forward. Although the above example uses the bench press, you can use this for other compound exercises where you can be easily spotted.
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2017/08/19 09:27:10
James 6 comments

Pre-Exhausting the Pecs

This article was written by Aaron Hallett & was originally published in The MuscleTalker December 2010 edition
 
At some stage most weight trainers use pre-exhaustion as a training method to try and improve the size of a lagging body part. The pectoral muscles are often trained using compound pressing movements where some trainers can feel that the chest is not being worked as hard as say their shoulders or triceps.

One successful method I have used in the past to help bring up what was at that point considered a lagging body part was to use the pre-exhaustion method shown below. After an adequate warm up of the shoulders find an available bench, lay back and complete a set of dumbbell flyes for 40 reps, (yes 40!), with good form.

Now the fun has only just begun!

Immediately after the set of 40 reps grab a heavier dumbbell and perform a set of 10 reps.

The weights used for both sets should be heavy enough to provide you with a challenge, although will take a session or two to perfect which weight to use. By the end of these two sets your chest will be pumped and fatigued in comparison to your shoulders and triceps which will remain fresh and unworked (providing you kept the form clean!).

You will feel any bench pressing movements more in the chest and should help to bring it up in size over time as part of your chest workouts.
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