Sunday, 29 June 2008

Seated and Standing Calf Raises

Calf raises is an exercise that works the calf muscles in the lower leg, these muscles are called the gastrocnemius and soleus (upper and lower calf muscles).

Calf raises are an important part of a leg workout and are muscles that people generally dont bother to train. When working the legs it is normal for people to put all the emphasis on training the larger muscles of the upper leg above the knee and not spend much if any time at all on their calfs.

Calf raises can be carried out in many formats but my favourite two are the seated and standing calf raises. Generally I have found that unlike other weight training exercises calf raises will not improve your muscle size and strength much by carrying out any less than six to eight reps.

If done correctly you will see a big improvement in your calf muscles within around 4 to 6 weeks.

Seated Calf Raises

Equipment - A slightly raised surface, a Barbell and desired weight

Preparation - Sitting upright comfortably put the balls of both feet on the raised surface so the back of your feet are not resting on anything, your legs should be at a 90 degree angle. Place the barbell with desired weight across your upper thighs just behind the knee.

Movement - Raise your heels as high as possible and you will feel your calf muscles tighten as they take the brunt of the weight then slowly move your feet back down as far as they can go, then repeat.

Reps/Sets 8 to 12 reps for 4 sets

Seated calf raises video

Standing Calf Raises

Equipment - A slightly raised surface, a Barbell and desired weight (Smithy can be used for stability).

Preparation - Standing upright place the barbell with an over hand grip about shoulder width apart with the bar held (not resting) just below the neck and your feet about shoulder width apart.

Movement - Raise your heels as high as possible and you will feel your calf muscles tighten as they take the brunt of the weight then slowly move your feet back down as far as they can go, then repeat.

Reps/Sets 8 to 12 reps for 4 sets

Standing calf raises video

Saturday, 28 June 2008

The Power of Pyramid Training

Pyramid Training

Many people train in a specific way, by this I mean that they lift eight to ten reps or six to eight reps on every set. What many people do not realise is that as you gain knowledge on weight training you will find there are other training methods available.

I currently train using the pyramid training method, this utilises a mix in weight and reps to give the person using the pyramid training method the miximal possibilities in increasing strength. This mix in weight and reps may seem a little too involved and confusing for a training session but it is really very easy. Below is a chart showing how many reps you should carry out and at what weight when using the pyramid training method.

Using the pyramid method will certainly maximise muscle strength/growth and is used alot by powerlifters, but this method does not maximise muscle mass as higher repetitions are required for this.

If you are thinking of using this method I will let you in to one of my secrets to aide you. My secret is that every week you need to add a minimum 2.5kg (5.5lbs) to your 1 rep max to keep pushing your strength boundaries.

By following the pyramid training method I have gained a strength increase of 16kg (35lbs) on my dumbbell bench press in two months, this is partly due to the fact that I add 2kg per dumbbell every week using my (not so secret) secret.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Arnold Schwarzenegger Bio

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most well known body builder of all time. Born in Austria in 1947 Arnold (also known as Arnie) is the son of the local Police chief in Thal.

From a young age Arnie was heavily in to sports very much like his father and lifted his first weight at the age of 13 years of age in 1960. The following year, 1961, Arnold decided that bodybuilding was the sport for him.

At the age of 14 Arnold professes to have started an intensive training program for olympic lifting by visiting a gym in Graz not far from where he lived. It was during this time that Arnold regularly visited the local theatre and watched films of many bodybuilding legends such as Reg Park and Steve Reeves thus fuelling Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to try bodybuilding.

By 1965 Schwarzenegger was enrolled to fulfil his one year of conscription to the Austrian army, something all Austrian men were expected to do. It was during his conscription that Arnold won the Junior Mr. Europe title. After winning the Junior Mr. Europe title Schwarzenegger wanted to compete in more competitions, something the army would not let him do.

Arnold went AWOL from training so he could compete in a competitionin Stuttgart, Germany. He won the title of "Best built man in Europe" which elated the young Arnie and made him famous. Unfortunately the Austrian army took a dim view of his antics and Arnold was put in Army prison for a week.

In 1966 after leaving the army the young Arnold Schwarzenegger travelled to London to compete in Mr. Universe where he came second due to not having enough muscle definition. The following year, 1967, Arnold went back and won the Mr. Universe title at the age of 20 becoming the youngest ever Mr. Universe. Arnie won Mr. Universe another four times in his career.

Arnie used the Mr. Universe title as his ticket to travel to America where speaking little English and having a heavy accent he landed in California. Training out of Golds Gym under the patronage of Joe Wieder Arnold won the Mr. Olympia title in 1970 aged just 23. Arnie went on to win Mr. Olympia seven times in his career.

As many know Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the, if not THE most famous bodybuilder of all time who went on to become a famous actor and Governor of California.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Leg Press Exercise

The leg press is an exercise that works the legs, predominantly working the Quadriceps and Gluteus Maximus muscles and the hamstrings as a secondary muscle group.

Compared to other leg exercises such as the Squat the leg press lets a weight lifter lift much heavier weight as it does not lift the weight in a vertical movement and the lifter is seated in a stabilised position.

There are many people who profess to lift over 455kg (1,000lb) when using the leg press. While this is more than feasible as some famous bodybuilders and powerlifters can lift 909kg (2,000lb) to 1137kg (2500lb), the amount of weight a person lifts very much depends on the range of movement in their lift.

A true leg press requires a full range of movement which causes a person to lift alot less than a leg press of shorter movement.

By adding the leg press exercise in to your leg exercise you will see strength and size added to your quads and gluteus maximus.

Leg Press

Equipment - Leg press machine (free weights or cable)

Preparation - Sitting upright comfortably put both feet on the foot plate, your legs should be at a 90 degree angle. Choose a weight you can lift comfortably.

Movement - Using your legs push the plate your feet are on thus lifting the attached weight. Always ensure that you do not lock your knees so your legs are straight as this can cause injury.

Reps/Sets 8 to 12 reps for 4 sets

Leg Press Video

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Strength Training

Strength training is used in bodybuilding, power lifting and weightlifting. Strength training is the art of using weighted resistance to cause muscular contraction which builds the strength of the skeletal muscles so a person can lift heavier and heavier amounts of weight.

Although many of you are undoubtedly hitting the gym regularly to gain muscle can you hand on heart say that you know all the different types of strength training exercises and the benefits they give you?

Weight training

The most well known of the strength training groups of exercises, weight training uses dynamic exercises that combine the muscles and movement of the joints to lift different weights in different movements to oppose muscle contraction and cause the body to promote muscle growth. The most well known movements in weight lifting are the bench press, biceps curl, squat and dead lift.

Resistance Training

Resistance training uses dynamic exercises that combine the muscles and movement of the joints to use strength to overcome an opposing force whether this is stretching an elastic band, squeezing together levers that wish to be apart, bending something that wishes to be straight etc.

Resistance training can increase muscle size and strength while also toning the body.

Isometric Training

Isometric training consists of causing the static contraction of the muscles without any movement of the bodies joints. Examples of isometric training would be to press the palms of your hands together causing your muscles to work without any movement occurring or holding a weight in a specific position without moving it for a period of time.


Those who predominately use weight training to gain strength can benefit by adding some isometric and resistance training exercises in to their strength training regime.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Neglecting Lower Part of Body

Neglecting the lower part of the body is something a lot of people training in the gym seem to do. It seems that there are plenty of people out there that train their back, chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps but neglect their core and legs.

I get many people in the gym ask me how I can lift so much more compared to some of the men larger than me in size. To be honest there is no big secret, this all comes down to the fact that I work my whole body, including my core and legs.

If you think about it your core (abs, obliques etc) are important as you engage them in practically every lift that you do. Likewise the legs are extremely important as they give you alot of strength in the important lifts like the dead lift and squat.

Why only train upper parts of your body if you are looking to increase your strength, put core and leg routines in to your workout and you will see your strength increase and your body look more in proportion.

I remember when I first started in the gym and I was one of those that neglected my core and legs, all this changed after someone telling me that I looked out of proportion and that my legs looked like matchsticks. I decided that I should work on my legs and core just for vanity sake, it was then that I realised my strength was increasing in many lifts due to the change in training.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is a back exercise that predominantly works the muscles in the middle back but as a secondary muscle group also works the Biceps.

The lat pulldown is a great strength exercise that is also very versatile, you can carry out the lat pulldown with a two handed grip on a bar or a single handed grip using a cable column. The lat pulldown also lets you use different grips to hit different areas of the middle back muscles.

Wide grip

Hold the bar with a pronated (overhand) grip just past should width apart and pull the bar down to the back of the neck.

Narrow grip

Hold the bar with a supinated (underhand) grip about 4 inches (10 cm) apart and pull the bar down to your collar bones in front.

Lat Pulldown

- Cable column or lat pulldown resistance machine.

Preparation - Sit with a straight back and the bar/single grip in front of you at a height that requires your arm/arms to be straight.

Movement - Take hold of the bar/single hand grip with your chosen grip and keeping the back straight pull the bar/single hand grip to the required position (rear of neck or front collar bone as per grip) then return to your starting position where your arm is nearly straight in a slow and controlled manner.

Reps/Sets 8 to 12 reps for 4 sets (2 sets of each grip is desired)

Narrow Grip Lat Pulldown Video

Wide Grip Lat Pulldown Video

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Skull Crushers

Skull crushers, also known as lying tricep extensions or french extensions are a strength exercise used to train the Triceps.

Skull cruchers are probably the best exercise for training the Triceps as it hits every part of the Triceps from the Lats to the elbow giving you a full Triceps workout.

If your looking to support your bench press and also give your arms a bit more thickness then skull crushers are the exercise to do. If you carry out this exercise as part of your triceps workout then you are sure to start seeing an increase in size and strength in a short period of time.

Skull Crushers

- Barbell or EZ Bar of desired weight

Preparation - Lie flat on a bench holding your bar with an overhand grip and your elbows bent so the bar is above your head in roughly the 10:00 o'clock postion of a clock. Make sure your elbows are tucked in.

Movement - Bring the barbell/EZ bar down toward your forehead making sure that your elbows do not move throughout the movement. Once the bar is down near your forehead engage your Triceps to push the bar back to the starting position, again making sure your elbows do not move.

Reps/Sets 8 to 12 reps for 4 sets

Skull Crushers Video

Monday, 9 June 2008

One Rep Max Calculator

The one rep max is an important part of strength training, basically the one rep max is the heaviest amount of weight a person can carry out one rep with perfect form. Essentially the one rep max determines a persons strength.

The one rep max is used in Power lifting where power lifters are compete by lifting the heaviest weight they can for one repetition in the bench press, squat and dead lift.

One difficulty with the one rep max is that many people do not know what their max weight to lift is and are uncomfortable trying to lift alot more than usual even with the support of someone spotting them.

To help support your training I have built a one rep max calculator in Excel, this uses the most common of all formulas which is

but there are two other common formulas which return very similar results.

By understanding what the maximum weight you can lift is you can really get a better understaning of your training schedule and train for what you want to achieve (strength or physique).

Some that are new to training may find their one rep max is not actually as high as the calculator tells them, this will be because their body is not quite used to lifting heavy weight and will not respond well under the pressure of the heavy weights.

Click here to get your free one rep max calculator.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

The Importance of Essential Fats

Many people get confused when it comes to looking at fats in their diet, they think that there are no essential fats as its fat and will make you put on weight around the waist.

The truth is that there are different types of fats, some of these fats are only used as fuel and are not needed in your diet but there are also important essential fats that your body needs.

Essential fats are actually called EPA's or Essential Fatty Acids. These essential fatty acids make up important parts of the biological process within the human body yet cannot be constructed by the body so have to be obtained by our diet.

The essential fatty acids that you need in your body are called Monounsaturated fat and Polyunsaturated fat (collectively called Trans fats). To obtain the correct amount of these essential fatty acids you need to take in an estimated 15ml per 25kg (55lbs) you weigh.

Looking further in to essential fatty acids from a science point of view you will understand that trans fats can be broken down further in to Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids.

Dietary requirements show that the best ratio of taking Omega fatty acids is 50% Omega 3, 25% Omega 6 and 25% Omega 9 fatty acids although this ratio is not easily obtained on a daily basis unless really scrutinising your diet.

Below is a list of foods that you can gain your essential fatty acids from

* Fish (Tuna, Herring, Mackerel among others)
* Cereal
* Whole grain wheat
* Nuts (Peanuts, Walnuts, and other nuts)
* Oils (Olive oil, Sunflower oil and Safflower oil)
* Bananas
* Seed (Hemp seed and Flax seed among others)

So what does fatty acids actually do for my body and training regime?

* Enhance stamina by between 40% and 60%
* Improve muscular development
* Allow more frequent training
* Speed recovery from exhaustion
* Speed healing due to injuries
* Improve sleep
* Improve concentration
* Improve skin condition


Ensure that you are taking essential fatty acids in to your diet and that they make up 20% of your total calorific intake so you can maximise your gains.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

A Weak Week

First I wish to apologise for not posting all week, but this is due to me having a weak week. Yes this week saw me in the gym four times and each time I felt my energy sapped so I could not lift the weight I am accustomed to lifting.

I saw my bench press reduced by 10kg (22 lbs) and my barbell row down by 10kg (22 lbs) also, at first I thought it was down to the way I was eating but this seems to not be the case.

Sometimes you can have small periods where you don't have the energy physically or mentally to lift the weight you normally would, when this occurs you just have to try and train through it.

Luckily for me today I saw my rut end and I was able to bash out the weights as normal. I was training chest and triceps alone today as my training partner was not able to make it.

Im hoping that tomorrow will see me lifting well on my back and biceps!

Todays lifting min 8 reps

Decline Bench Press - 90kg (200 lbs)
Dumbbell Bench Press - 36kg (80 lbs) each hand
Pec Deck - 80kg (176 lbs)
Cable Crossovers - 22.5kg (50 lbs) each hand
Tricep Cable Pulldowns - 32.5kg (71.5 lbs)

I then finished off with core work.

Sunday, 1 June 2008


You may wonder why caffeine has been added to the supplement section rather than the nutrition section. The truth behind this is that even though caffeine is not a supplement from a store you buy it is still a supplement used for various reasons in weight trainnig.

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and is found in many food products but in its most natural form is found in Tea, Coffee, Guarana Berries, Kola Nuts, Cocoa and Yerba Mate.

Although foods with added caffeine may hold higher levels of caffeine in their ingredients compared to the list above, caffeine in its natural form is the best supplement to take.

For those who are unsure of caffeine levels in products, the average cup of coffee holds 100 milligrams of caffeine.

So how does caffeine works as a training supplement?

Lifting More

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) by activating the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), this branch of the central nervous system causes an increase in heart rate, an improvement in blood flow and blood pressure to the muscle as well as the release of glucose from the liver.

Due to the above some power lifters and body builders actually drink coffee while they are training to give them an edge. The edge is due to the increase in blood flow to the muscles which can help lift that extra few reps or that extra few pounds/kilograms in weight.

Fat Loss

Caffeine carries Paraxanthine which aids lipolysis through helping the body to use fatty acids as a fuel. Not only this, caffeine is also believed to suppress a persons appetite and also help with energy expenditure (burning calories) through the thermogenic effect.

Mental Alertness

As well as aiding fat loss and the potential for greater physical strength caffeine also improves mental awareness making a person more alert and improving reaction times. Given that a persons mental state of mind can also be a big factor in how much they can lift caffeine can give a person the mental strength to lift that extra rep due to feeling alert and awake.