Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Muscle Soreness - Eccentric Contraction

We have all felt that muscle soreness feeling a day or so after training yet many of us do not know what it is and what impact it is having on our body.

The official term for this muscless soreness is actually "Delayed onset muscle soreness", it is called this because the soreness can occur up to three days after training. The sore feeling that occurs can be local to the area you have trained (the chest after bench pressing for example) or can be felt on multiple muscle groups (back and legs after deadlifts for example).

Scientists previously thought this sore feeling was due to a build up in lactic acid within the muscles that were trained but this theory has been pushed aside by a new theory on muscle soreness. The reason that this theory does not hold and was pushed aside is because lactic acid does not last long in a specific area and disperses not long after exercise.

The new theory is that the muscle soreness a weight trainer (powerlifter or bodybuilder) may feel is due to pushing the body slightly further than the accustomed training levels it is used to. This causes tiny tears in the muscle fibres through something called eccentric contraction.

What is Eccentric Contraction?

When lifting a weight that produces greater force than that of the muscle lifting it (in laymans terms lifting heavy weights you find difficult to lift) the tension causes the muscle to elongate.

What this means is that as you're lifting a weight your muscle is not only lifting the weight. By elongating itself the muscle is acting as a decelerate for the joint so towards the end of your lifting movement the joint is not pulled by the muscle contraction, but rather protected as the muscle controls how you position the weight.

Example: Squat

When you have moved in to the squat position then move to stand up again your muscle elongates towards the end of the movement to compensate for the heavy load you are lifting and act as a decelerate for the joints to stop them being pulled in the direction of the muscle contraction.

When muscles are put under extensive eccentric loading, as caused by weight lifting, small tears occur in the muscle fibres which causes your muscle soreness.

What does this mean to me?

What this means is that the soreness you are feeling is positive as you have pushed your body and now it is going to repair stronger, in essence this is what a weight lifter is trying to achieve. Every time you train you are tearing your muscles slightly and they rebuild stronger.

What this does mean is that you should not train the muscle group that is sore until the soreness subsides as you could overtrain causing a negative impact on the muscle. This means breaking up your training schedule to compensate (train one day, have a day off the next for example).

When you first start weight lifting in the gym you will expect to feel sore for the first few times you train as your muscles gets used to the movements you are doing. Over time you will not feel the soreness as much as the muscles know the movements so will not get delayed onset muscless soreness through eccentric contraction so easily.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Good High Protein Foods

As mentioned in a previous post protein is a very important part of your nutritional requirements when carrying out any weight lifting exercise in the gym, without good sources of protein in your diet you will not see the gains you want.

Although it is great to know and understand how much protein you need to take in on a daily basis many people do not know what are high protein foods that are good and healthy for their diet.

Many people who are new to training either jump straight on the fatty junk foods like hamburgers and fried chicken which are high protein foods but also high in saturated fats. Some people actually do the opposite and just live of leafy salads with no protein intake at all.

I have collated a short guide to the food types that are high protein foods and still good for any diet because they are also low in saturated fats. Whether you are trying to bulk up, maintain your weight or cut up by shedding those pesky pounds of fat these are the right protein foods for you.

High Protein Foods

(please note these figures are estimated, look at the nutritional labels on the food you buy)

Chicken breast - 100 grams (30 grams of protein)
Turkey - 135 grams (32 grams of protein)
Tuna (Tin) - 170 grams (34.5 grams of protein)
Fillet of Fish (Fresh) - 100 grams (22 grams of protein)
Beef steak - 170 grams (40 grams of protein)
Kidney beans - 125 grams (7 grams of protein)
Butter beans - 125 grams (7 grams of protein)
Flaxseed - 100 grams (18.5 grams of protein)
Nuts - 30 grams (7 to 10 grams of protein)
Ham - 100 grams (17 grams of protein)
Egg - large (6.5 grams of protein)

There are other high protein foods that can really support your diet when weight training, the above is just a small sample of what is on offer. You can always supplement your protein intake with protein shakes or home made protein bars too.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Powerlifting Vs. Bodybuilding

Many people start off in the gym and say they are training, weight lifting, getting fit, but how many of you want to progress further?

Quite a few I imagine yet I bet 90% have heard phrases such as "I am a power lifter" or "I am a body builder" yet do not know the difference between power lifting and bodybuilding.

It's interesting to note that if I was to take a powerlifter and a bodybuilder and we compared them you would notice quite a huge difference. The reason for this is because of how they train their bodies.

An example is that you could take a bodybuilder who is say 186 centimetres in height with a weight of 250lbs (113kg) against a powerlifter who is 180 centimetres in height with a weight of only 190lbs (86kgs) , the powerlifter will more than likely be able to lift more than the bodybuilder.

What is Powerlifting

Powerlifting is all about seeing how much weight you can lift with the more you can lift the better, this is determined by the one rep max (the total weight that a person can lift with one repetition). As a powerlifter is interested in the weight they can lift they are not bothered about their body size or the weight they are because this is not their goal.

To make huge strength gains powerlifters only carry out up to six reps on each exercise they do, the reason for this is that the muscle is fatigued and broken down without the blood flow in to it, this makes the body to change so it can be stronger and withstand the weight it is being asked to lift.

Powerlifting centres around three exercises, these are the deadlift, bench press and the squat. The reason these are the main exercises in powerlifting is because they are all compound exercises that use a combination of muscle groups and joints in the movement.

Brad Gillingham - Powerlifter

What is Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is all about getting big and sculpting the body to look like an adonis, a bodybuilders goal is to be as big as possible and as defined as they possibly can. To become so big and defined a bodybuilder has to work over a long period of time and really watch what they eat. You would generally see a bodybuilder having a much lower body fat percentage than a powerlifter.

Bodybuilders work on lifting between eight and twelve repetitions for each exercise they carry out, this is because this is the optimum amount of repetitions for blood flow in to the muscle giving the nutrients the muscles need to grow.

Bodybuilding combines compound exercises with isolation exercises as the bodybuilder wants to be able to increase their strength while also being able to target certain muscles so they can sculpt their body how they want.

Ronnie Coleman - Bodybuilder


What you need to decide is which of these training styles interest you. Do you want to get big and look great on the beach or do you want to be like a super hero and lift a scary amount of weight?

The decision is up to you!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Upright Row Exercise

The Upright row exercise is a great exercise for working the shoulder muscles and should be included in any shoulder exercise workout. As well as working the Deltoids (shoulders) the upright row works the Trapezius and to a lesser extent the biceps.

The upright row is actually a compound exercise as it utilises several muscle groups and joints during the movement. Compound exercises are very important in any training program so the upright row is a great exercise to incoorporate in to your workout.

For some the upright row may seem like a difficult move to master but this is only due to your body having to get used to the movements you are carrying out. At first it is beneficial to start on a low weight and get used to the movement you are carrying out then increase the weight when you feel more confident.

It should not take long (4 to 6 weeks) to start seeing great strength gains after performing this exercise in your workout.

Upright Row

Equipment - Barbell bar and weights

Preparation - Hold bar with an over hand grip just less than shoulder width apart, the bar about waist height so your arms are in front of you and your feet about shoulder width apart.

Movement - Stand straight and raise your hands with the bar towards your chin so the bar finishes in line with your shoulders.

Reps/Sets 8 to 10 reps for 4 sets

Below is a video of the upright row being performed correctly

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Current Training Update - Eastern Europe

Training is going well although I do admit I have taken a week off, but for good reasons I may add. I have travelled to Eastern Europe and I am currently training in Bulgaria, I am here for two and a half weeks and I am already finding it a good learning experience.

We all know that the Eastern Europeans are the kings of weight lifting. For some reason their genes or a secret regime they have seems to produce huge men on a scale only seen in a production factory.

After a few training sessions with these big boys it seems evident that they dont have any special "Extras" on us weight lifters or bodybuilders from the Western block, in fact I have made a huge discovery.

The discovery is that the Eastern Europeans use no frills gyms unlike many of their Western counterparts, also they seem to not bother with alot of exercises that we deem important and keep to the basics. Its all about free weights here in Eastern Europe, none of these resistance machines, they keep it simple yet effective.

I am going to monitor their training regimes more closely for the next couple of weeks and see what I can bring back to the UK with me to alter my training and make some serious gains.

Monday, 21 April 2008


Flaxseeds are of the low cost, small yet significant nutritional foods all those that train with weights in the gym should use. Flax seeds are an amazing little food type that offer so much, yet many who visit the gym on a regular basis no nothing of their nutritional value.

What are flaxseeds?

Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds originate from the flax plant, this plant grows in India and the Eastern Mediterranean, among other places, and grows to around 1.2 metres in height. The Flax plant grows very small blue flowers that are no bigger than 25mm in diameter and also has a small fruit which is a dry capsule containing a small amount of flaxseeds.

What nutritional value do flaxseeds hold?

Flaxseeds have huge nutritional value for their size, they offer so much for the weight lifter and any one else who is trying to get fit.

Flaxseed contains important fatty acids like Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 plus important proteins and Zinc.

Flaxseed nutritional values

100 grams of Flaxseed
534 calories
42 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated)
29 grams carbohydrates (27 grams dietary fibre)
18.5 grams protein

The recommended daily amount of flaxseed you should add to your diet is around 25 grams to 30 grams. Flaxseed has a slightly nutty taste and goes great on top of bread or added to a salad.

What does this mean for me?

Flaxseed does all of the following...

  • Helps promote cell growth
  • Helps with muscle repair
  • Increases production of Proteins
  • Supports those with a lower immune function
  • Increases stamina and energy
  • Improves recovery time in muscles
  • Improves the metabolic rate
  • Supports and in some cases improves the functions of the liver

For any bodybuilder, weight lifter or power lifter this is a great reason to start adding flaxseed to your diet.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Supine Row

The supine row, also known as the inverted row looks like the reverse to a pressup when you look at it, truth be told in essence this is what you could say the supine row is.

The supine row is a great exercise to work the upper back muscles. By completing this exercise you will work the Lats and the Trapezius and see a huge improvement in strength and muscle size.

I normally complete the supine row as my last exercise in my back workout.

Supine Row

Equipment - Fixed bar (I use Smith Machine) and bench if desired

Preparation - Lay on the ground with the bar at chest height then hold the bar with a wide over hand grip. Put your legs and feet together.

Movement - Pull your body towards the bar (till your chest is no more than one inch from the bar) keeping it straight at all times through the movement before returning to the starting position and repeat.

Reps/Sets 8 reps for 3 sets

Below are two videos showing you how to perform the supine row, one is performed with a bench and one is performed without a bench.

Supine row without a bench

Supine row with a bench

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Beginners Back Workout

So we have talked about different exercises but we haen't put them together in a training schedule. Today we are going to build a beginners back workout that will give you massive gains in a short period of time.

When first starting at the gym it is normal for people to work on exercises that isolate certain parts of the body, but if you know a good back workout then you will know that it should include some compound exercises as you are about to find out.

This workout is for those who wish to build bulk and should be carried out once a week to see the biggest gains on your back.

Narrow Grip Pullups - 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Seated Row - 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Barbell Shrugs (Using Smith machine) - 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Dead Lifts - 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Dumbbell Bent Over Row - 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps
Supine Row - 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps

If you complete this beginners back workout for 12 weeks and eat correctly then you are sure to see massive gains in muscle and strength that will make you look like an extra out of the film 300!

I used to carry out this back workout myself and saw my strength increase by around 60% to 70% in 12 weeks alone.

Disclaimer - With any workout please only lift what you physically can, its more important to lift lighter and correctly than lift heavy and damage yourself.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is a supplement used by many athletes, including weight lifters, body builders and power lifters. The reason why many weight lifters and power lifters use creatine is because it is an energy source for the muscles.

Whats surprising is that it was in 1912 that researchers found that taking creatine orally equals an increase of creatine in the muscles but it was not until around 1992 that the use of creatine as a sport enhancing supplement was made popular.

Creatine monohydrate is the most common form of creatine supplement taken by weight lifters, power lifters and body builders.

What can creatine do for you?

Creatine can marginally increase your performance in the gym by increasing your phosphocreatine levels by up to 20%, this is a big deal as phosphocreatine is an important energy source for the skeletal muscles. Due to this creatine will increase your power during explosive exercises such as lifting weights.

Research has also proven that creatine improves the workload of satellite cells which support the body in muscle hypertrophy....every body builders wet dream!

It has been noted that creatine does also cause a higher amount of water retention, but this supports the bulk you will gain from this wonder supplement!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

The Deadlift

The deadlift is a powerlifting exercise that really shows the strength of a person as it is a compound movement encompassing so many muscles in the body, not only this it is also one of a very few lifts that use a dead weight being lifted from a lying state on the floor.

The deadlift actually utilises all the muscles in the legs, abdomen and lower back with the main emphasis being on the Erector Spinae (lower back), quads, hams and gluteus maximus (bottom).

I have found the deadlift to be a major component to any training schedule as it really does help build strength across a persons whole body. The reason many people seem to neglect the deadlift is because they do not know how to carry out the movement correctly and safely so they tend to stick to lifting movements that only isolate specific muscles.

Watch a deadlift being carried out below

Normally when carrying out deadlifts I do them in sets of 5 and start at 8 reps for the first set then keep adding weight until my final set I normally complete 4 to 5 reps on a higher weight.

When I first started deadlifts I was suprised at how difficult they can be, you have to remember they encompass more muscles than any other weight lifting movement. It is said that deadlifts are the oldest test of strength and dates back to the periods of time before Christ when lifting stones were the main show of strength for many cultures from Britain to India.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Muscle Hypertrophy

Those new to the weight lifting or bodybuilding world will at some point here the words muscle hypertrophy mentioned and wonder what hypertrophy actually is. Hypertrophy is a name given to the process of muscles gaining in size and strength.

What may surprise some people is the fact that muscle hypertrophy is actually a scientific term used by those weight lfiters and body builders.

How does muscle hypertrophy work?

Heres the biological reasons behind muscle hypertrophy. In the structure of muscle fibres there are many protein elements, the main ones of these are myosin and actin fillaments. Together myosin and actin create many cross bridges within the muscle fibers that create force. There are many thousands of these cross bridges within the muscle as they are extremely small, the more cross bridges a muscle has, the more powerful it can become.

Through specific training the myosin and actin fillaments increase in number and to a certain extent in size giving added strength and power to the muscle groups worked.

How do I get muscle hypertrophy?

This all depends on what you are training to achieve, to complicate things further there is actually two forms of muscle hypertrophy...

Myofibrillated hypertrophy - This type of hypertrophy is used by powerlifters, weight lifters and strength athletes. To gain this form of hypertrophy you will train your muscles at around eighty to ninety percent of your one rep max for between two and eight reps per set. An example of this is that I train two sets of eight reps and my last set on a heavier weight for three to five reps.

Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy - This type of hypertrophy is found in the bodybuilding world and is found in lifting weights that are not so close to the one rep max so the lifter can carry out between eight to twelve reps per set.


When carry out training in these manners people can usually see an improvement in lifting weight very quickly but may not see a large increase in muscle mass for up to two months. It is also important to note that hypertrophy through strength training is not something that everyone can gain, also nutrition and age play a big factor.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Pecs - Common Myths Unfold

Many people believe that varying the bench press from flat to incline or decline has a huge impact on the shape of their pecs....the truth is that this is a common weight lifting/body building myth.

The Pectoral (chest) muscles are double headed like the bicep, the two muscles that make up the pectoral are the pectoral major and pectoral minor. Due to being made by two seperate muscles many people think you can work one more than the other to build the overall size of your chest differently, this is untrue.

As the pectoral muscle is double headed like the bicep it means that both muscles have the same origin, even if they finish in different places, but this also means that when you complete any bench press exercise both pectoral muscles are involved.

The common myth is that the incline bench press works the upper chest, the decline the lower chest and the flat bench the mid chest....but as it is two muscles working as one to complete the same function you cannot do anything but work these muscles in tandom.

If you carry out the incline all you will do is take some of the emphasis from your chest and put it on the deltoid muscle (rear shoulder). The decline will do the same as the flat bench and work both the pectoral muscles in the same way.

The only time that the change in angle may have a significant difference is if you are of a very large size and every slight movement is making a big difference to your gains.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The Shrug Exercise

The exercise known as the shrug or shrugs is one that works the Trapezius. The Trapezius is two muscles located at the top of your back, they run from the back of the neck down the spine to the middle of the back and out to the rear of the shoulder.

The benefit from this exercise is that the Trapezius muscles will not only help sculpt your back to look big and strong, they also will give the impression of bigger shoulder muscles.

There are two forms of the exercise called shrugs, the first of these is performed with a barbell and the second is performed with dumbbells.

Barbell Shrugs

Equipment - Barbell bar and weights

Preparation - Hold bar with an over hand grip about shoulder width apart and your feet about shoulder width apart.

Movement - Stand straight and raise your shoulders in a shrugging movement so your shoulders come just below your ears, only move up and down do not roll the shoulders.

Reps/Sets 8 reps for 5 sets

Below is a video showing the correct form for this barbell shrug exercise

Dumbbell Shrugs

Equipment - Dumbbells of desired weight

Preparation - Hold the dumbbells by your side with your palm facing in towards your body, face forward keeping your body in an upright stance.

Movement - Stand straight and raise your shoulders in a shrugging movement so your shoulders come just below your ears, only move up and down do not roll the shoulders.

Reps/Sets 8 reps for 5 sets

Below is a video showing the correct form for this dumbbell shrug exercise

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Home Made Protein Bars

Protein is a very important component to building muscle, the problem is that when you are on the move it isn't always easy to get the protein intake that you require. One way I have found round this without great expense is to create my own home made protein bars.

Protein bars can be bought from shops but can be costly, to make your own home made protein bars costs relatively nothing. What is great about home made protein bars is the fact that they only take 30 minutes to make a batch and you can keep them in your fridge to grab on the go when your need a little protein boost.

Here is how you make home made protein bars


100g - Oats
100g - Peanut Butter
100g - Whey protein powder
4 Tablespoons of Honey
30ml - Milk
Raisins (If desired)

Making home made protein bars

To make your bars place the peanut butter and honey in to a bowl then microwave for around one minute until the mixture is soft. Place your oats, whey protein powder and raisins in to the bowl and mix. You will find that once you have got the mixture mixed well it is very dry so you can add a little milk (up to 30 ml) to give the mixture a little moisture and mix well until the milk is mixed in.

After you have mixed your ingredients well place it in a tray and flatten it out in to a large rectangle that is even in height. Place the mixture in the fridge for two hours or more until the ingredients have solidifed again then take the mixture out and cut in to 12 even shaped bars. Once all the bars are cut out individually wrap them in clingfilm and place them back in the fridge for when you want them....now you have home made protein bars.

To be honest they taste good although they may have a slight powder texture in places due to the protein powder used in the indredients.

Here is the rough nutritional breakdown by protein bar...

Serving Size 35g
Calories 119
Protein 8.9g
Carbohydrates 9.18g (Sugar 0.75g)
Fat 5.25g (Saturates 0.25g)
Fibre 1.65g
Sodium 0.05g

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Protein Intake

Protein intake when trying to bulk up is a hot topic as its just as important as the weights you lift in the gym, if you don't get enough then your muscles wont see so much growth but if you get too much it can actually put alot of strain on the bodies organs.

So how much protein do I need to take?

To get the optimum level of protein in to your body for increased muscle mass you should take in 0.75 to 1 gram of protein for every pound of weight you weigh, for those who convert in to Kilograms this is 1.65 to 2.2 grams of protein for every kilogram you weigh.


A man who weighs 185 pounds (84 kg) would need to take in between 139 and 185 grams of protein in one day.

How do I make sure I am not overloading my bodies organs?

Your protein intake should never exceed thirty percent of your total nutritional intake in a day (Protein, Carbohydrates and fats combined) as this is when it can impact on your body. If you eat correctly you should never have a problem, after all you still need to eat carbohydrates and fats.

Sources of Protein

The best sources of Protein are fish, chicken, pulses, red meat and dairy products but many people who wish to build muscle also take protein shakes to supplement their protein intake. Protein shakes are a great way to boost your protein intake without having to add many calories to your diet.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Back Muscles

Many people train their shoulders, chest and biceps as these are the vanity muscles that really look good when on the beach during those summer month but having a large back makes all the difference when your trying to look big!

When training the back their are three main muscles you will be working on, these muscles are the Latissimus Dorsi, Erector Spinae and Trapezius.

So what are these back muscles?


The Trapezius are two muscles that sit at the top of your back and run from your neck at the back of the head to the middle of the back and come out to the shoulder as shown below...

sometimes these muscles are known by the nickname the "Traps" by weight lifters and they are called the Trapezius due to their shape making them look like a Trapezium.

The Trapezius works while lifting weights when you are moving your shoulders in a shrugging motion.

Latissimus Dorsi

The Latissimus Dorsi is situated in the lower part of the thoracic region of the back and is triangular in shape as shown below...

The Latissimus Dorsi are known by the nickname the "Lats" and work during the motion of pulling down somethnig that is above your head or pulling something toward you that is situated in front of you.

Erector Spinae

The Erector Spinae is a muscle that many people in the gym neglect, but is very important. The Erector Spinae, commonly known as the lower back, is a muscle that is triangular in shape and runs from the spine just below the Latissimus Dorsi to the top of the Gluteus maximus (thats the bum to you and me) in what is known as the lumbar region....

This muscle supports your spine and helps to carry your weight!