Build Muscle with Quality Contractions

May 10, 2010 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

Hello Stayfitbuggers!

It’s time to get back to building muscle (although no one has actually stopped) and the first thing I’m going to remind you of is something that I have talked about before.

Performing exercises properly and fully contracting your muscles… in order to grow!

We are in the business of growing muscles here… right? If not… BUGGER OFF!

But Shaun, why are you repeating yourself, since you’ve told us about this before, ?

Because I like being a broken record!

……….

Well, not really.

The reason I feel I need to repeat myself this time is because I simply keep on seeing people making the same mistake, over and over again.

  1. Not fully contracting their muscles during exercises
  2. Struggling with lifting heavy weights (One reason why they struggle – probably to look cool, who knows?)

Which leads them to perform the exercises incorrectly. Which means no growth in muscle mass.

Some of you may already know the solution to the above, some of you may not. And I know that some of you are victims to those above scenarios. But today I’m going to take you back to bodybuilding school.

Below are what I consider the 3 most important things to do in your exercises to make sure that you,

  1. Perform the exercise properly
  2. Build muscle mass

Bend Your Elbows

Now, this is all about balance. We all know that you need to increase the intensity in your workouts in order to grow. Which means to make things more difficult. That’s all good and dandy. But what you don’t want to do is sacrifice good form for increased difficulty. So what you need is balance.

Example

The Lateral Raise


This is one of my personal favorites when it comes to lifting weights. Just look at my shoulders for proof (If I didn’t have shoulders I’d probably look puny and pathetic!)

Anyhow, performing this exercise will always be a challenge, for newbie whipper snappers and seasoned oldies. But it’s very easy to start cheating with this exercise… by bending your elbows.

Bending them all the way in = Easy

Bending them all the way out = Hard (Almost dangerous)

What you need to do is bend them slightly. This will force your pecs and delts to start working much harder, without sacrificing good exercise form. Just know that doing so will equal supreme upper body chisel!

Squeeze and Fully Contract

I first gave this tip back in the build a bigger butt post. This requires you to squeeze your muscles and hold them for a few moments at the top of every rep. However, this technique will work for almost any exercise that you perform. Not just for your butt muscles. This technique will probably kill you the first few times that you do it, but doing so will pay off in the long run.

(Go on… give your muscles a shocker already :))

Crawl Before You Can Walk and Lift Light (Rome wasn’t built in a day)


We all want overnight success, in almost anything that we put our minds to. Deep down we know that won’t really happen, but we always seem to dream for it to happen (Dumb humans).

That is the reason why you see some people jumping to heavy weights waaaaay to early in their progression to building a better body. Yes! You must,

  • Up the ante
  • Increase the weight (Before your muscles get too comfortable)
  • And perform less reps

If you want to build muscle mass

But please take it slow!

Move at the pace of a tortoise but at the speed of a hare!

Jumping up in weights too quickly will NOT help you grow. It will only slow you down, and will result in bad form and injury. Do yourself a favour and start with light weights. Practice your form and then increase the weight the better you get. Hence, take it slow.

Combining all 3 of these pointers will put you on the right track for speedy (And safe) muscle growth. Like I said, some of you may already know this, some of you may not. But from what I’ve been seeing in the gyms of late would suggest that I need to keep playing my part in providing the masses with my knowledge. It’s either that, or you all suffer from memory loss (Must be all that alcohol you’ve all been drinking – Ive seen the survey results!)

Anyhow, get cracking already and build that muscle properly!

See you in the comments.

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The Chisled Chest Workout Routine

May 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Bugs Workout Routines, The Fitness Bug

I hope you are all enjoying the bank holiday weekend, where ever you happen to be located. This gives you plenty of time to rest OR workout. If you are going to spend time doing the later, then slip this chest workout routine into your programme.

The Target = Isolation and lower chest muscles

Decline Dumbbell Flyes


  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8-12
  • (Increase the weight after each set)

Bent Arm Barbell Pullovers


  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8-12
  • (Increase the weight after each set)

Machine Bench Press

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8-12
  • (Increase the weight after each set)

Just an intense variation to add to your workouts.

See you in the comments.

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Relax Your Muscles With Radox Herbal Bath Muscle Soak After A Workout

April 13, 2010 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

Relax Your Muscles With Radox

I’m actually quite shocked at myself that I haven’t written a post about this sooner. After all, repairing muscles is a vital key in the muscle building process in this bodybuilding game.

NOW…

I’m not quite sure what each and every one of your lifestyles are like in regards to going to and from the gym, but it’s probably one of the following two scenarios

Scenario no.1

  • Eat
  • 2 hours digestion time
  • Workout
  • Shower
  • Home and Relax

Or…

Scenario 2

  • Eat
  • 2 hours digestion time
  • Workout
  • Skip the shower then go home and do whatever

I prefer to do the later (unless I’m at a top notch gym). It’s not that I like to be stinky and nasty after I workout. It’s the fact that some gyms washing facilities are just that… stinky and nasty, even though it may not be visible to the human eye (who remembers gym etiquette?)

Any how, If you are like me, and your work sessions reflect that of the 2nd scenario, you now need to make it compulsary that you do what the title of this post says.

Relax your muscles with Radox herbal bath muscle soak after a workout!

Radox products have been around for years, and it was actually back in 1999 when I got introduced to this (From that same personal trainer/Athlete I spoke of in the Unique Bodyweight exercise Ebook!). Since then, I have been taking hot steamy bubble baths right after a workout, with this very product.

It’s always good to take a hot bath to relax your sore muscles after a workout, and a hot bath by it self will do just that. But like everything else you read on this site, it’s all about taking things one step further, and we do that by adding this liquid to the mix.

NOW…

I’m not a specialist in this area, I just know that what these scientist guys have produced works! When you lay in the bath, it does wonders for your skin (For your face go for King of Shaves products – trust me! It cleared up all the tiny spots I had on my forehead) without leaving your skin feeling too soapy when it’s time to get out. It smells damn good and it contains sea minerals (Which you will definitely sense once you inhale). The thing that is ment to be doing all the magic is clary sage and sea minerals, both of which are known for their soothing properties.

Again, I’m not an expert in this area, but these folks have done well for the consumer. That is

You buy THIS, you get THIS… with no crap talk in between.

I don’t know what EXACTLY is doing all the magic, from

  • The smells
  • The minerals
  • The Clary Sage

Or

  • The soapy effect on the skin

I just know that if you workout and want to stop feeling like crap, hours after the workout is done, jump in a bath mixed with this stuff, because it works. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Stay tuned for tomorrows post where guide you through the perfect after workout bathing session.

See you in the comments.

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Advanced Bodybuilding Shoulder Workout

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Bugs Workout Routines, The Fitness Bug

After all the fun and intensity this week, I quit the talking and began walking again, working on one of my strongest body parts.

Shoulders

This is another routine that I have listed in my training journal and draft and which proves quite affective. Feel free to slip this routine into your own journal.

Note: Don’t forget to work your triceps equally the same. If not, you may just end up with huge shoulders and tiny arms (It’s happened to me before). If you have long limbs like I do then throw in some Isolation exercises in once or twice a week to give your triceps a boost in size.

Standing Palms In Dumbbell Presses

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8-12 (Increase the weight after each set)
  • Rest: 3 minute rest between each set

Smith Machine Behind The Neck Presses

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8-12 (Increase the weight after each set)
  • Rest: 3 minute rest between each set

Reverse Flyes

  • Sets: 3
  • Reps: 8-12 (Increase the weight after each set)
  • Rest: 3 minute rest between each set

See you in the comments

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Increase Your Bench Press With Explosive Strength Techniques

January 29, 2010 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

I talk about increasing strength quite a lot on this site, as I think that should be your primary goal over trying to increase muscle mass. Besides, how are you going lift heavier weight without increasing your strength? Catch 22 right…

The main way to do this is by performing bodyweight exercises (sometimes with resistance). Over time you will build superior strength compared to most of your peers as long as you stick to your routines.

But one other way to do this is by using explosive strength training.

Scenario

  • You get into the bench press position.
  • Max out 2 sets of 3 perfectly.
  • 3rd set you reach a sticky point! You can’t seem to push the bar up (Which is now just a few inches above your chest).
  • You call on your spotter, he gives you a ‘slight’ assist and you carry on pushing just fine.

Sound familiar?

I already know it sounds familiar, because none of us were born Superman.

And I know you have all faced that at some point. This is the sticky point that usually requires the help of a spotter. But by using the explosive strength techniques that I’m about to show you, you can soon say ‘bye, bye’ to the spotter and blast through those sticky points and start setting some new personal strength goals.

Clap your hand push-ups

The routine

  • 8 sets of 3 reps using 50% of your 1 rep max (1 minute rest in-between each set)
  • 20 minutes – Once a week – For 3-4 months
  • Do not do any resistance training on this day (A good idea would be to perform them on your ‘off’ days from the gym)

Performing the routine this way allows you to develop force and speed, not so much strength. However, clapping your hands in-between each rep will ensure that you are using maximum speed and explosiveness. In fact, for those of you who will be just started out with this technique, you won’t necessarily need to do the ‘hand clap’ thing. The main thing is that you perform the exercise so explosively that your hands lift up from the floor.

Perform these on an exercise mat. That will help absorb the shock when coming back down to the floor.

The warm up

Ironically you will have to do push ups (The common warm up exercise) before performing the handclap push up routine.

  • Arm circles
  • Slow tempo push-ups

This will warm up your chest, shoulders and triceps. Then it’s time to start clapping!

Push up tip: Keep your elbows tucked in by your sides at a 45-degree angle from your torso at all times. This will put more stress on your triceps.

The reason why I’m giving you these tips is so that you maximize those strength gains, and possibly overcome some plateaus. Besides, bench press never was my strongest exercise and this technique helped me increase my bench press by 30kg within 4 months. But another reason is to satisfy the answer to that question you will inevitably get asked.

How much can you bench press?

It’s the ego, macho thing that all of us guys have. And I think it’s safe to say that we both know that answering the question with a ‘large weight’ and being able to show and prove that we can push the weight, will give us the big high 5 from our acquaintances.

Then the word will spread… time to go viral with the stats.

Explosive is the keyword here, and as long as you are just that, you will soon find your self to be unbreakable like our good old friend Bruce in the film with the same name.

See you in the comments.

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Weightlifting Workout Gear – York Adjustable Bench

November 19, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

Now… there is nothing too trivial or exiting about having a weights bench, but it does happen top be one of those stationary products that you must have (like a TV in the living room) and that must always work. Now when I think about the amount of weights benches that I have used over the years for a home gym, there hasn’t been many that have left a lasting impression on me after using them. For the most part I have just stuck with them to make them work regardless how good or bad the bench is. Common problems I find with weights benches.

  • Crappy material (rips apart and scratches your skin)
  • Dodgy adjustable height function
  • Not enough adjustable movements to perform a wide array of weightlifting exercises

But when I went out to get my own bench for my home gym, I actually did a bit of research. If it was to be like stationary furniture in my home, then it just had to be right. Kind of like the girlfriend that you bring home to your family… she just has to be right… right?

Well so far it seems like this bench has been a good choice and overcomes some of those common problems that I’ve mentioned above. This bench can seem a little intimidating to build when you lay all of the parts out on the floor, but once you have got the initial parts built it just becomes easy.

Now I know that you have all used a weights bench before, so let me just give you the highlights of why THIS bench made it into the stayfitbug.com weightlifting workout gear.

  • Plenty of room between head and bar even at highest incline level which can be a problem on other benches.
  • You can upgrade the bench with extra attachments.
  • Has a decline function. Not many benches have that, and for those of you who maybe fighting off man boobs or just want to work upper chest muscles, this is perfect for that.
  • Very sturdy! I don’t consider myself to be strength hungry when using fitness equipment, but most benches that I have used always seem to move around, even the slightest, which leaves me feeling like I have to always be on my guard should it just slip around and get me hurt. After using this bench for a few weeks, that feeling just seemed to disappear. I pushed this bench back with my feet while doing seated shoulder presses, and with force! But this bench just stayed in its place, making me feel like a weakling. But that’s what I wanted. All a part of good ergonomics testing eh.
  • Has plenty of adjustments. Enough to ensure that you can perform many of the exercises that I have covered over at the stayfitbug.com weightlifting workout routines.

It is a bit more expensive than your usual bench, but remember what I said in yesterdays post about being cheap? Simple… don’t be cheap. Spend that little bit more; you’ll be doing yourself a favour by doing so.

York Heavy Duty Bench

No product is perfect of course and the bench can be very space hungry, but I’m not going to bad mouth this bench, because like my Macbook pro… it just works, and that’s what I care about the most.

Got questions or comments… you know what to do in that space down below!

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Plateau Busters – The Chest Workout Routine

October 28, 2009 by  
Filed under The Fitness Bug

As you now know from yesterdays post, one of the first things you will need to do to overcome those dreaded weightlifting workout plateaus is to start alternating your weightlifting exercises. There are many ways to train each muscle group, but not even I ‘Fitbug Shaun’ can give you all of that information in one post. Besides, I’m sure that you would get bored of reading all of that after a while.

Over the past few weeks I have been bombarded with muscle heads complaining that they cannot increase the size of their chest muscles, and for me, that seems quite bizarre, as I find that the chest is one of the easiest places to build muscle mass. And that statement right there is the universal weightlifting dilemma…

There is no one weightlifting routine to suit everyone!

Everyone’s bodies will respond differently in methods of building muscle fast.

Because of the complaints that I have been hearing about people having trouble building up their chest muscles, I decided to focus on that first. Below are several things you can do to alternate your workouts with some chest exercises that you may already be performing in your weightlifting workouts.

Dumbbell bench press


Now, the default exercise to do when you enter the gym will probably be the bench press, which is great. But you probably perform the bench press exercise with a barbell. As I mentioned yesterday, that is fine and you can give your muscles a real shocker, which will promote muscle growth. But after some weeks you will notice that muscle growth may seem to stop, as you are only working on a few muscle groups and your muscles will no longer be challenged. They will scream at you saying,

‘Come on, this is boring, show me something new already’

What we do is introduce the dumbbell bench press.

Key benefits

  • Develops more muscle mass in the middle and outer pectoral muscles
  • Allows for a greater stretch at the bottom and more efficient peak contraction at the top of the lift compared to using a barbell.

This can be performed in 3 different ways, just like the barbell bench press.

  • Decline – Lower chest
  • Flat – Base chest
  • Incline – Upper chest

And this is how you do them.

  • Start seated on a bench with the weights resting on your thighs.
  • Lay back and swing the weights back to the point where the corners of each dumbbell are slightly touching your outer pecs.
  • Push the weight up, bringing them slightly closer together at the top of the movement.
  • Lower the weight back down slowly.
  • (Two seconds on the way down for every second on the way up is a good rule.).
  • Repeat.

Dips


This exercises is in my favorite top 5. However, there have been times where I have hit a weightlifting plateau with this exercise.

How do you know when you have hit a plateau?

When you first perform the dips exercise, it will be hard as hell to lift yourself to at least 10 reps. Once you have surpassed that and can perform 10-15 reps a set, you will have probably hit a plateau. If so, here is what you can do.

Add resistance with a dipping belt

Progryp 100% Leather Dipping Belt, One Size Fits All, Black

This was one of the first things I started to do when I hit a plateau with this exercise and this is one great way to keep performing the exercise while gaining muscle mass.

Chest focus movement

To increase the role the pecs play in this exercise, point your elbows outward.

Keep them tucked in and pointed back. This forces your triceps to feel the force of your bodyweight, but you first need to decide whether you’re doing it for your chest or your triceps.

Don’t whip out each rep at explosive speed by dropping down fast and pushing back up even faster. Keep to a slow motion movement.

Seated Chest Presses


With this exercise, you will use similar movements as you do with the bench press. However, because this exercise is performed on a machine, your movements will be stabilized and the weights will not be moving around. This is one of the rare times that I actually give praise to machine weights.

Having the weights stabilized means that you get a more focused workout for your pectoral muscles and avoid wasting energy stabilizing the weight.

How to do it

  • Grip the handles.
  • Push them forward in a controlled motion.
  • And don’t lock your elbows at end of extension.

Push ups

Many people seem to neglect push ups once they get their gym membership, but don’t let that be you. After a month or two, try doing push ups again. If you can do at least 50 straight in one set, then you really are doing something right, for strength and for muscle mass. If not, then you need to be including push ups as a part of your alternate weightlifting workout.

You can also vary your push up workouts by adjusting the positions of your hands or by adjusting the elevation of your feet. I’ll will cover that in the up and coming bodyweight workout ebook, but for the mean time have a read of unique bodyweight exercise pt.3 for an example.

To really challenge yourself stick a 40-50 lb plate, or weight plates in a back pack on your back. Then perform the exercise. That will bust your plateau for sure.

Close Grip Bench Press


Close grip bench press is a great way to help break a plateau for your flat bench press exercise. This exercise is exactly the same as the free weight medium grip barbell bench press except that you will use a closer grip when performing this exercise.

How to do it

  • Lie flat on your back and grab the barbell above you with a grip about 12 inches apart. Lift the barbell off of the rack and slowly lower it to about 3 inches above your chest Press the bar back to the start position.
  • Be sure that when you are lowering the bar that you do so in a slow and controlled fashion.
  • Also, when you press the bar upward, you want to do so in an explosive fashion.

That is the key method of doing this exercise, however, there are some things to note.

– Having your hands in too close can actually damage your wrists and shoulder joints. As long as your elbows are in and the grip is about shoulder width or slightly less, performing this exercise will actually begin to hit your triceps more.

– Turn your palms inward at the top. It gives a better contraction for your muscles.

Stay tuned for more plateau busters, and again, do share your experiences with the weightlifting plateaus that you have faced.

See you in the comments

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