Unlock Shoulder Growth This Month!

How many clichés highlight shoulders? “The weight of the world is on his shoulders.” “I’m shouldering the load.” “That guy has a chip on his shoulder.” You get it.

The shoulders are popular in our vernacular simply because of their endless strength and aesthetic potential. Think about it: Of all the possible muscles to describe carrying the weight of the planet, we chose shoulders.

It’s time to pump those often-overlooked arm cappers up to their full potential! If you want to build shoulders that will impress people, this is the guide for you.

Do these two workouts every week for a month. Try to give yourself 3-4 days of rest in between workouts so you can be ready to hit it hard each time. Neither shoulder workout looks like a lot, but since you’re doing two a week, keeping them short and sweet is best for recovery and growth.

Warm-up

The impressive range of motion shoulders have is what makes them such a versatile muscle group—it also makes them very prone to injury. Before every workout, warm up for 5-10 minutes with range of motion movements and light sets, so your elbows and rotator cuffs are primed and ready to work. Do this before you start either workout, using lighter weights and resting 20-30 seconds between sets.

Rest for 2 min. between sets.

Shoulder Growth Workout 1
Rest for 2 min. between sets.

The purpose of this first workout is to go as heavy as possible. The focus is on straight power. Don’t go so heavy that you sacrifice form and put yourself at risk for injury just for the sake of lifting a few extra pounds—a bruised ego heals a lot faster than a torn rotator cuff.

Unlock Shoulder Growth This Month

But, if you find you’re able to do more reps than the workout calls for, challenge yourself by increasing the weight. You can always use wrist wraps and elbow sleeves to protect these weaker areas, as long as you know you’re lifting a weight you can handle.

Rest two minutes between sets so you can fully recover and give your all to the next set.

Shoulder Growth Workout 2

Your first shoulder-building workout was all about power and strength. This one is the polar opposite. The priority here is to feel the muscles working, and the amount of resistance is secondary. You might be able to do the seated Arnold presses for 10 reps using the 60s, but you’ll feel the muscles working more using the 40s.

Unlock Shoulder Growth This Month

For each exercise in this workout, go with a weight that’s a little bit lighter than you’d normally lift. This allows you to focus on feeling the muscles work and emphasizes the time those shoulders spend under tension. Shifting your focus to less weight and higher burn will pay off in the end.

With that same mindset, remember, you’re not trying to set a speed record here. Time under tension (TUT) is the name of the game, so take 3 seconds to perform the negatives for each movement. When you perform the next rep, pause for a second to feel that muscle contract. TUT is what makes the difference between good shoulders and great shoulders.

Your rest periods for this workout are 45-60 seconds, max. Get right back to work as soon as you can for each set to keep that pump going and get the best growth possible.

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How Top Athletes Meal Prep For Success

It’s tough to make meal-prepping a steady habit. It takes at least a couple hours to shop, plan, and prep, and who’s got time for that, except on the weekends? Plus, who wants to spend their precious free time preparing the same meal over and over again? Even if you can commit to that, one busy weekend with no time to cook can send your entire meal-prep system off the rails. And what are you supposed to do during vacations and holidays?

If you’re struggling to make the prep habit stick, take inspiration from athletes who chalk up their success, at least in part, to their meal-prepping ways. If all that stands between you and your goals are a couple hours of prepping, let their experience point the way ahead.

Autumn Calabrese

Autumn Calabrese is a Beachbody Super Trainer who credits her fitness success to strict adherence to her prep regimen.

“Being prepared isn’t half the battle, it’s the whole battle,” Calabrese says. “Meal prepping keeps me on point with my nutrition so I can reach my goal to stay strong, lean, and healthy. For me, that requires eating every three hours. If I don’t have food already prepped, it’s easy to end up behind on my nutrition.”

Just think about how many meals that means she has to have on hand! If Calabrese eats every three hours from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., she has to eat six meals a day, including several on the go. So we’re talking about someone who can prep as many as 30 meals at a time. It sounds tough, but this Super Trainer swears it’s not as bad as it seems.

“Your meal prep doesn’t have to be extravagant,” she says. “Keep it simple. You can roast three or four different veggies in one pan. Grill up chicken and fish at the same time. Mix and match from there.”

Tim Hightower

Meal prepping isn’t just for physique athletes and fitness trainers, it’s for athletes of all kinds, including NFL running back Tim Hightower, who last played for the San Francisco 49ers. He follows a diet based on his blood type. This specialized eating plan recommends foods that decrease inflammation while naturally increasing hormone production. With such a precise diet, Hightower can’t just swing through a fast-food joint every time his stomach growls.

“Meal prepping provides consistency and convenience for me,” Hightower says. “Whether I need to eat after a workout, practice, or [football game] film study, I need to have the right food on hand. By being good about my meal prepping, I can avoid compromising or giving in to my cravings.”

Just don’t expect Hightower’s Instagram feed to be full of identical chicken-broccoli-rice Tupperware shots. On the contrary, the meals he prepares border on gourmet.

“One of my favorite go-to meals is ground bison spaghetti with black bean noodles,” he says. “I throw in spinach, kale, and onions on the side, and maybe sweet potato chips cooked in coconut oil and an avocado.”

Hightower says he’ll usually have a cup of tart cherry juice with it, for a complete meal that gives him plenty of fat, protein, and healthy carbs. That said, he’s quick to point out that everyone’s body is different, and that part of meal-prepping is planning meals that are appropriate for your tastes.

“Pay attention to what foods give you energy, make you bloated, and are harder to digest,” he says. “The more you know your specific nutritional needs, the better you can efficiently create meals and snacks.”

Terry Rady

Becoming the 90-kilogram World’s Strongest Man requires consistency, not only in the gym but, according to Terry Rady, in the kitchen, too.

“To compete at your highest level, you need to be as consistent as you can, especially with your nutrition,” Rady says. “If you’re missing meals because you have a demanding job, that’s one thing. If you’re missing them just because you didn’t prep, you’re not putting in the work.”

Unlike Hightower, who makes sure his meals are as delicious as they are nutritious, Rady prefers efficiency above all else.

“Between my full-time job, training, clients, and school, my life is constant chaos,” he says. “I have zero time for elaborate meal prep, so I eat for fuel, not taste—although a little hot sauce and peppers can make just about anything taste good.”

Rady agrees that meal prep doesn’t have to be difficult, especially with tools like slow cookers and rice cookers. All he has to do is schedule it so his food cooks overnight and can be easily divided into containers in the morning. For him, meals are mostly about chicken, broccoli, and rice. Specifically, he preps 5.5 ounces of chicken breast, 250-grams of brown rice, and a cup of raw broccoli with a little olive oil for most meals.

“It’s easy to prepare, it tastes good and, more importantly, it fuels my workouts,” he says.

Rady also suggests seeking out opportunities and solutions to make your meal-prepping easier.

“If you’re able to, find a local meal-prep company. I like Herculean Meal Prep in Indianapolis. If you’re an elite athlete, you might be able to find a meal-prep company to sponsor you.”

Allison Warrell

Allison Warrell is a Nationally Qualified Women’s Physique competitor who also happens to be a little person with Dwarfism. In fact, she’s the shortest person to ever compete in NPC. As with Calabrese, Hightower, and Rady, her ability to consistently prep her meals is a cornerstone of her training.

“Meal prepping frees up my mental energy, especially when I’m going through contest prep for a bodybuilding show,” Warrell says. “It helps that I’ve accumulated things that make prepping easier.”

Her best advice is to invest a little bit in the right tools. “Buy a scale, find easy recipes, and get a bag, like a Six-Pack Fitness bag, you can carry all day long to keep your food cold and fresh.”

Like Rady, Warrell’s go-to meals mostly consist of chicken, rice, and veggies. She’ll also throw in some high-protein snacks, like B-Up bars, for easy on-the-go snacks. But unlike some preppers, Warrell breaks up her cooking into a twice-weekly affair.

“I cook food on Sunday and Wednesday evenings,” she says. “Doing it twice a week allows me to make adjustments to my diet depending on what’s going on in my week.”

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3 Warm-Up Hacks To Skyrocket Your Strength

The “why” of warming up is well established in research and in the trenches. It helps to turn on the muscles you’re about to use and reduces the chance of injury. But if you’re using your warm-ups solely to “get loose,” you’re probably wasting valuable minutes and missing out on the potential for surprisingly huge gains.

Depending on your level of training, these warm-up tricks can help maximize gym time and improve overall strength and performance.

Overshoot Your Working Set

A classic strength-building hack is to ramp up your low-rep sets beyond your working weight. When you come back down to your working weight, it’ll feel like a feather!

Example: Let’s say you’re building up to 3 working sets of 5 reps in the bench press, a classic strength-and-size protocol I talk about in my article “A Better Way To Deload.

  • Do a few low-weight ramp-up sets.
  • Now, do singles at 90-95 percent of your max. Don’t shoot for a PR here—this is a warm-up, so you don’t want to kill yourself doing it. Just shoot to trick your nervous system into thinking your working weight is super heavy, when in fact it’s not.
  • Drop down to your actual working weight, which now feels like nothing!

Add Accommodating Resistance to Your Warm-ups

Bands and chains can be added to a variety of barbell and machine exercises. They are a common resistance accessory for heavy lifters, who often use them on a specific, power-focused lifting day. But, anyone can use this hack to play with the nervous system during warm-ups!

Example: For squat gains, add bands to each end of the barbell, locked at the bottom of the cage with band pegs or looped into a knot. Here's how this works:

Example: For squat gains, add bands to each end of the barbell, locked at the bottom of the cage with band pegs or looped into a knot. Here’s how this works:

  • Make sure the integrity of your band is solid, then attach it to the bottom of the cage, either through built-in pegs or by looping the band into a knot around the bottom of the rack.
  • Once your weights are stacked, attach the top of each band to each end of the barbell.
  • Perform your warm-up sets. As you lower into the squat, the band tension will assist you; as you power upward, the band tension will resist you. Essentially, you’ve now reversed your body’s expected resistance, causing the squat to feel easier going down and tougher going up.
  • Remove the bands to squat at your regular working weight, which should now feel easier and more controlled!

Use A Thick Grip for Warm-ups

Hands and forearms have more to do with your pressing strength than you realize. If you want to trick your body and lift even more weight, do your warm-up sets with an oversized grip accessory, like Fat Gripz. You’ll see huge gains in your pressing power once the grips are removed.

Fat Gripz

Example: Beforebenching, add Fat Gripz or other grip wideners to the barbell for your warm-up sets. Here’s what happens next:

  • With Fat Gripz, do your bench warm-up as usual, or even using one of the additional hacks mentioned in this article. You can start with an empty bar, working through every warm-up set. You can even do this at your working weight, if you choose.
  • After the barbell contacts the body, “squeezing the bar hard” as you extend upward—the classic bench-press assist—will be that much harder. The muscles in your hands and forearms will be forced to activate at greater intensity that usual.
  • Remove the Fat Gripz for your working weight. Your hands and forearms, already activated to peak performance, will have a much easier time, and the bar will feel easier to lift!
  • Even using Fat Gripz at your working weight is hugely beneficial to increasing grip strength for other exercises, as well as increasing forearm strength and size.

Note: For more tips like this, check out my book The Warm-Up: Modern Methods for Strength Training.

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Pump Up Your Training With Bands!

Weightlifting is the backbone of any good fitness program. Resistance training builds muscle, strengthens bones, and improves overall endurance, speed, power, and agility.

Yet as every lifter knows, there comes a point where barbells, dumbbells, and machines seem to fall short. When that happens, it’s time to change things up, even just for an occasional break in your routine.

Many fail to recognize the benefits of using bands in their training because these lightweight accessories seem too flimsy to build real strength.

Many fail to recognize the benefits of using bands in their training because these lightweight accessories seem too flimsy to build real strength. The truth is bands are a beneficial and versatile addition to almost any training program.

Bands provide dynamic resistance in multiple planes of motion, act as a safe assistance for challenging lifts, and provide the extra resistance to shock your muscles into growth. If that’s not enough, here are a few more reasons why bands are so beneficial:

Benefits of Bands

  • Provide dynamic resistance
  • Add variety
  • Build explosive speed/strength
  • Easily modifiable for any fitness level
  • Cost effective
  • Can be used alone or in conjunction with weights
  • Take up very little space
  • Great for travel
  • Can be used virtually anywhere
  • Warm up muscles prior to training
  • Help activate and target specific muscles
  • Exhaust muscles at the end of training (burnout)
  • Force your knees outward during squats, hip thrusters, etc.
  • Add stability to unsteady movements
  • Helpful for physical therapy and rehabilitative exercises
  • Add safe resistance to plyometric movements
  • Assist in stretching for better mobility

Not too shabby for some measly rubber tubing, huh?

Use bands on their own to warm up, stretch, help activate the muscle to fire better during exercise, or to exhaust a muscle as a finisher to your workout. Use bands on their own or add them to your favorite lifts for extra dynamic resistance.

Dynamic Strength with Bands

You already know switching up your training is essential to prevent adaption. Bands offer dynamic resistance throughout each movement, providing more and more resistance the farther they stretch. This is different from traditional weight training and offers a new stimulus for your muscles.

Using resistance bands may offer a break from the monotony of a steady weight-training program. Bands also add an element of functional training to your workouts. Free weights only provide resistance in one plane of motion—up and down. Bands provide resistance in virtually any direction, allowing you to add resistance to a variety of athletic and functional movements. Bands can also assist with many traditional exercises, or add an extra level of resistance to help you overcome your plateau.

Using resistance bands may offer a break from the monotony of a steady weight-training program.

I prefer to use bands during my glute days (yes, always trying to grow!) because they allow me to add resistance in a variety of directions to hit every angle of the muscle. I also use https://www.bodybuilding.com/store/sling-shot/grippy-hip-circle.htmlbands to assist me in my pull-ups, and as a finisher to burnout or to completely exhaust a muscle.

Tiffany Lee Gaston’s Bands-Only Workout

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HIIT Training For Strength Athletes: Do It Without Losing Gains

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a familiar workout style. HIIT uses repeated high-intensity exercise bouts interspersed with brief recovery periods to improve endurance and efficiently activate fast-twitch muscle fibers. But what if you’re a bodybuilder who avoids cardio because you’re afraid it will burn away all those hard-earned gains? Can HIIT work for you?

In a word, yes! In a 2017 study, men 25-70 years of age who performed 12 weeks of HIIT along with strength training experienced increases in VO2 max, insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial function, fat-free mass, and muscle strength. HIIT improved the oxidative capacity, or efficiency, of mitochondria regardless of age—as long as study participants did strength training and HIIT together. Participants who did strength training alone didn’t experience these benefits.[1]

HIIT: Something for Everyone

If you’re a bodybuilder, HIIT can help you with quick fat loss for a more shredded look. If you compete as a strongman or woman, you can use HIIT to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers to excel at atlas stone carries, yoke walks, and log cleans. Powerlifters can use it to beef up their initial pull for the deadlift.

HIIT

You can make these improvements by using a variety of exercises while doing short HIIT workouts in the middle of or after your weightlifting program. All you need is your body weight, some space, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, some simple equipment.

Squats, burpees, lunges, sit-ups, and push-ups—and the dozens of variations of each—are essential parts of a HIIT workout. You can also incorporate sandbags, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, and resistance bands.

A Typical HIIT Workout for Strength Trainers

A typical HIIT workout has 5-8 exercises performed for 30-60 seconds each, interspersed with 20-30 second rest periods. While bodyweight exercises are all you need to get an awesome interval workout, strength athletes may want to use weights in at least half the exercises in their HIIT workout. Lifters should also have 2-3 exercises that target the upper body during HIIT, which tends to go heavy on the legs.

To make that theory real, here’s a sample, two-part, timed HIIT workout for lifters. Four of the exercises target your arms, two work your abdominals, and six hit your entire body. Get the fat-burning and endurance improvements from complex movements like the burpees and swings, while still getting a good pump from the curls and dips.

Timed Workout Part 1

Timed Workout Part 2

For a totally-awesome, leave-no-muscle-untorched day, fit one or two parts of this workout into your daily routine. With super-short rests between exercises, it shouldn’t take you much more than a half-hour to knock out all 12 exercises.

Making Your HIIT Fit

So, how exactly do you fit HIIT into your daily gym sessions? Say it’s chest day and you plan on starting with a barbell bench press before moving on to incline dumbbell presses, dumbbell flyes, and neutral-grip dumbbell bench presses. After the first four exercises, including the barbell bench press, do a 10-minute timed circuit of full-body exercises. You’ll improve your aerobic capacity and burn fat, all while making serious size gains.

Chest Day With HIIT

Barbell Bench Press – Medium Grip

5 sets, 12, 10, 8, 5, 3 reps


Incline Dumbbell Press

4 sets, 12 reps


3 sets, 15 reps


Machine Bench Press

3 sets, 15 reps


Low Cable Crossover

3 sets, 12 reps


Iron Cross

3 sets, 12 reps


In the above workout, do two exercises as straight sets, followed by a superset. Then, hop right into a 10-minute workout, where the goal is to do as many rounds of possible of three exercises, resting as needed during those 10 minutes. Once you finish the AMRAP, there’s another superset, followed by two cable cross-over variations. It’s all about getting optimal muscle growth while keeping your heart rate and calorie burning high.

References

1. Robinson, M. M., Dasari, S., Konopka, A. R., Johnson, M. L., Manjunatha, S., Esponda, R. R., … & Nair, K. S. (2017). Enhanced protein translation underlies improved metabolic and physical adaptations to different exercise training modes in young and old humans. Cell Metabolism, 25(3), 581-592.

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The Spark: James Holliman

As a young lad, James Holliman was a jock, both wresting and throwing discus for his high school teams. When he reached college, his interest in physical fitness continued. He became certified as a personal trainer and spent more time than ever in the gym working out with weights.

But like so many others, when Holliman moved on from college, he moved on from fitness, too. Years of taking clients out to eat, lots of business travel, and long hours at his desk took a toll on his body. Before he knew it, he looked in the mirror and saw it: the dreaded dad bod.

Age: 44 Height: 5’11 Weight: 248 Body Fat: 27%

Age: 44, Height: 5’11, Weight: 248, Body Fat: 27%

ge: 44 Height: 5’11 Weight: 195 Body Fat: 4.5%

Age: 44, Height: 5’11, Weight: 195, Body Fat: 4.5%

What made you want to transform?

I had three big reasons. One was the way I looked in the mirror. Whenever I took off my shirt off at the beach or pool, I felt self-conscious. I also noticed that my energy levels were way down, which is bad news when you have three sons who want someone to get down on their knees and play with them. Overall, I felt overweight, tired, and mentally dull.  

I was also having problems with high cholesterol. The doctor literally got in my face and told me I needed to get on statins and stay on them for the rest of my life. My father took statins for much of his adult life, which I don’t think was good for his health. I wanted to do all I could to not let that happen to me. I wanted to get in shape and lower my cholesterol the right way, through nutrition and exercise.

The third reason is a roundabout story. I decided to start my own gym. I wanted to provide a more service-oriented model for people like me who had demanding jobs but wanted hands-on support for their own transformations.

When I started building the gym, I was working full time in technology.

When I started building the gym, I was working full time in technology. I put in a lot of super-long hours and ate badly. Some of the personal trainers in my own gym were talking behind my back about how I was in such bad physical shape.

It came to a head when I was trying to help a couple of trainers write programs for interval-training classes. I noticed they didn’t really want to take my advice. I’m sure they looked at my size and didn’t think I knew what I was talking about. I’m a trainer. I like training people. I like helping people reach their goals. But when you don’t look the part, it makes it tough.

So, I had some good reasons to change, and jumped at the challenge to show people what the programs I was offering at my gym could do.

How did you start your transformation?

I started by looking at the past winners of the challenge for inspiration. When I looked at their before-and-after pictures, I thought to myself, “If these guys did it, I can do it.”

I started seeing results midway through the challenge—after I had been doing it for a little over a month. Interestingly, because even though I’d been working out with weights off and on for a long time, I had so much fat on me that I didn’t know what I looked like underneath it all.

Once I started losing the fat, I saw that I had a decent shape. I remember thinking to myself that if I could just focus on getting as lean as possible, I might have a good shot at doing well in the challenge. That’s when I cranked it up.

What differences do you notice after transforming?

It’s so rewarding to drop the fat and get in shape. I feel so much better physically and so much sharper mentally. It’s a great feeling. I’m happy to walk around and go to the pool or the beach without my shirt. My cholesterol levels are the best they’ve ever been, thanks in part to my reduction in body fat.

I was also able to reduce my visceral fat—the fat around my organs—which is a particularly unhealthy type of body fat. Anything at a 10 or higher is considered really bad. When I got my last body scan, my body fat was at 6.1 percent and my visceral fat level was at 2. I’ve come a long way.

It's so rewarding to drop the fat and get in shape.

When I was the most out of shape, I weighed 256 pounds. At the end of the challenge, I was at 195 pounds with 4.5-percent body fat. It had been a long time since I’d been under 200 pounds, and probably 20 years since I’d seen my abs. It was fun to see them come back out.

Egg Whites

Eggs

Spinach

Oatmeal

Peanut Butter

Protein Powder

Steak

Jasmine Rice

Turkey

Blueberries

Ground Turkey

Green Salad

Almonds

Protein Powder

What supplements helped you through your journey?

With Breakfast

Elite Casein

1 Serving
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With Lunch

Pre-Workout

Liquid L-Carnitine

1 Serving
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Amino Pro

1 Serving
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Creatine Micronized

1 Serving
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During Workout

Liquid L-Carnitine

1 Serving
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Amino Pro

1 Serving
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Post Workout

With Dinner

CLA

1 Serving
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Before Bed

Elite Casein

1 Serving
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High Protein Spread

1 Serving
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What training plan kept you on track?

I started with consistent weight training, focusing on volume training with limited rest between sets. Over time, I added high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and other forms of cardio. Gradually I increased the frequency and duration of my workouts to keep my body changing at a relatively rapid pace.

Over the 12-week challenge, I ramped up from a single one-hour weight-training workout per day to that session plus one daily one-hour HIIT class per day. By the end of the challenge I also was doing two one-hour cardio sessions per day.

I also took part in a 10,000-meter row on the Concept 2 Rower (crossfit.com challenge) and woke up every morning bright and early to shock my body with 100 straight burpees.

In the final month of the challenge, I checked my MyZone heart-rate monitor summary and discovered that I had been burning as many as 23,301 calories in a month of HIIT classes. That’s in addition to the number of calories I burned in weight training and regular cardio sessions that went on Monday through Friday.

I usually treated Saturdays as active recovery days with sled work, light cardio, and bodyweight exercises. I usually rested on Sundays.

What aspect of the program challenged you the most?

My biggest challenge was finding the time to do meal prep when I was already so busy with business and family responsibilities, as well as with the workouts themselves. I had to prioritize, and I had to ask for help. I dropped a few balls and made some diet mistakes along the way, but I always made up for it in some way. I didn’t beat myself up about it or let that hold me back.

My biggest challenge was finding the time to do meal prep when I was already so busy with business and family responsibilities, as well as with the workouts themselves.

I prepped food and weighed and bagged my finished meals in advance as much as possible. When I couldn’t keep up, I was fortunate to have Icon Meals close by. I could always go there to pick up healthy cooked meats by the pound, and even whole pre-prepped meals. When I didn’t have time to pick up meals or prep food for the day, I used whey protein to supplement my menu. But whenever I could, I focused on eating good, whole foods.

What’s next now that you’ve transformed?

As I was going through the challenge, more than one person said to me, “You have a pretty good shape. You should compete.” So now I’m planning on competing! My first event is in Fort Worth, Texas. If I do well there, I’ll take my chances in the Master’s Division Classic Physique at the IFPP North American Championships. I’m excited about giving competition a shot; we’ll see what happens.

I feel so much better now that I'm in better shape.

I feel so much better now that I’m in better shape. I think it comes out in the way that I look, the way I interact with people, and how often I smile. It’s had an impact on all aspects of my life. It’s a good feeling to have gone through this whole process and emerged a better person!

How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?

Looking at all the previous challenge winners inspired me! I studied their transformations,  reviewed their weight-loss stats, reviewed their fat-loss stats. I poured over all their before and after pictures. I concluded that if they could do it, I could, too! I just needed to commit and work hard.

Supplements helped, too. I picked up the majority of the supplements I used during the challenge on Bodybuilding.com. There was a special Dymatize discount available at the time, so I stocked up to save time and money during the challenge.

I also read a lot of Bodybuilding.com articles related to workouts, nutrition, supplements, and transformation. I’m on the email list, so I consistently received links to transformation stories, trainer workout tips, and nutrition tips. Bodybuilding.com is also a great resource for answers to a wide variety of fitness questions. Plus, there’s a bunch of articles and information available in the forum.

What advice would you offer aspiring transformers?

Don’t give up! If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up about it or let it hold you back from reaching your goals. Get back on your plan and continue to work toward your objective. It’s such an amazing feeling when you reach your fitness goal!

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Hunter Delfa's Sick Ab Workout

NutraBio-sponsored athlete Hunter Delfa seems like a cool, quiet, still-waters-run-deep kind of guy—that is, until he hits the gym, at which point all bets are off. He may not be one of those groaning, grunting lifters, but this teen sensation will take you through a world of pain nonetheless.

His six-exercise ab workout will have you crying “mama” when you try to get out of bed tomorrow morning—but that’s what it takes to grow some mighty abs.

Hunter Delfa’s Sick Ab Workout

Technique Tips

Hanging Leg Raise

Hnaging Leg Raise

Pay constant attention to your abdominal muscles. Keep your legs as close and locked together as you can. When you lift your legs, bring them up a little past 90 degrees.

Stiff-Legged Hip Raise

Start on your back holding a weighted barbell above your head, as if you were about to do a bench press. Keeping the bar in the air, sweep your legs together to the right end of the bar, then back around in a windshield wiper motion to the left end. Focus on keeping your legs together as you lift up your hips and lower back to get your feet as close as possible to the plates. Do 10 reps to the left and 10 to the right.

Hip Raise

Still holding the barbell above your head and keeping your legs together, lift from your abdomen to get your legs as high in the air as you can. Start each rep with your heels touching the floor. Finish each rep with your heels back on the floor.

GHR Sit-up

GHR Sit-Up

This exercise is a great way to get a full stretch at the bottom of the rep, and a full squeeze at the top. If you don’t have a glute-ham developer, do regular sit-ups or press sit-ups. Move as slowly as you need to. No need to rush.

Hanging Knee Raise

Perform this movement as you would a hanging leg raise, only bend your knees. Your knees should come in past 90 degrees on each rep, a little bit higher than they typically do on leg raises.

Rope Crunch

Rope Crunch

Distance yourself from the cable stack so that you can keep your back straight and your lower back tucked in as you pull down. Correct positioning enables you to fully engage your core. If you don’t feel this exercise in your abs, cough to immediately tighten them up. Maintain this tension throughout the exercise.

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Your Blueprint For Bigger Arms

Ask serious weight trainers which muscle groups they wish were bigger and it’s a very safe bet that the biceps and triceps would win by a landslide. Who wouldn’t want jagged-peaked biceps and ham-hock triceps bulging out of their skintight shirt sleeves?

But what are you doing to get those kinds of arms? Sure, you train them, but why haven’t they been growing? Just as driving around aimlessly rarely gets you where you want to go, mindlessly working your arms with whatever random exercises and techniques pop into your head won’t yield big gains—or big guns. You need a solid plan, and I’ve got just the thing.

Arm Workouts Come First

Improving a specific body part or muscle group is always a challenge when it just doesn’t respond easily or hasn’t responded with new growth in months—maybe years. Drastic measures must be taken, and the most effective solution is to give that area priority over the rest of your body.

So here’s the plan: For 10 weeks, you’ll work your arms directly twice every week. Day 1 will consist of a heavy arm workout, while Day 6 will feature higher reps, supersets, and rest-pause sets. You’ll hit all the other muscle groups just once a week.

Arm Workouts Come First

The plan only lasts 10 weeks because that’s about how long it will take you to reach a point of diminishing returns. At that point, overtraining becomes increasingly likely, and with it the risk of losing instead of gaining arm size.

Weekly Workout Split

  • Day 1: Arms (heavy)
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Chest and Shoulders
  • Day 4: Back                         
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Arms (lighter and pumping)
  • Day 7: Rest
Day 1: Heavy Arm Workout

Barbell Curl

2 sets, 15, 12 reps (warm-up)
4 sets, 10, 8, 8, 6 reps (increasing weight with each set)


Close-Grip Barbell Bench Press

2 sets, 15, 12 reps (warm-up)
4 sets, 10 8, 8, 6 reps (increasing weight with each set)


Dumbbell Alternate Bicep Curl

4 sets, 6-8 reps per arm


EZ-Bar Skullcrusher

4 sets, 6-8 reps


Machine Preacher Curls

4 sets, 8 reps


Seated Triceps Press

3 sets, 8 reps


Reverse Barbell Curl

3 sets, 8 reps


Dip Machine

3 sets, AMRAP


Day 6: Lighter, Pumping Arm Workout

Standing Biceps Cable Curl

4 sets, 20, 15, 15, 12 reps


V-Bar Pulldown

4 sets, 20, 15, 15, 15 reps


Standing One-Arm Cable Curl

6 sets, 10 reps per arm (no rest)


Dip Machine

6 sets, 10 reps (30 seconds rest between sets)


How To Get The Most Out Of This Training

Use good form until you can’t. Ironically, using both bad and good form can limit your gains.You can get the best of both worlds by using strict form in the first part of your sets, then loosening it up once you can no longer complete any reps in perfect form. In this approach, you’re using “cheat reps” to extend the set past the limiting point of good from. As a result, you have a chance to work the muscles harder.

Lift quickly and lower slowly. To get the most from each rep, first do the concentric or lifting phase of the rep with explosive force to recruit high-threshold muscle fibers that have the highest potential for growth. Once you reach the midpoint of the exercise, squeeze or contract the muscle. As you do the eccentric, or lowering, phase, move the weight very slowly back into the starting position to increase the muscle’s time under tension. Lifting quickly and lowering slowly, with a squeeze in between, has been shown to provide maximum muscle-growth stimulation.

Your Blueprint For Bigger Arms

Eat and sleep well. Muscle growth does not occur in a vacuum. No matter how hard you train, your nutrition must support that growth. You need a steady supply of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and water, consuming them every 2-3 hours of every waking moment in your day. Make sure your meals before and after workouts are rich in carbohydrates, so your muscles have glycogen to fuel the contractions and pumps, and to replace that glycogen you used for fuel during the workout. Also arrange your day to get the sleep you need. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep to function at their best.

Use supplements to enhance results. Food absolutely should be the foundation of your nutrition plan. There are, however, some extremely useful supplements that can help you in your pursuit of huge arms. First, use a good pre-workout formulato increase energy and focus—one that contains nitric-oxide promoting agents to get you a better pump. For your intra-workout, gorge your muscles on BCAAs and fast-acting carbs. To cap off your workout, use a post-workout shake that contains whey protein isolate to build muscle, along with more of those fast-acting carbohydrates that will replace lost glucose and jump-start the recovery process.

Stretch your bis and tris after every workout. All of our skeletal muscles, including the biceps and triceps, are encased in a tough connective tissue known as fascia. Over the years, thousands of bodybuilders have found that aggressively stretching the muscle while fully pumped seems to loosen up the fascia and allow more growth to take place.

To stretch the biceps fascia, grab a racked barbell from behind and lean forward until you feel the biceps fully stretched. Hold this position for 30 seconds for the first 5 weeks of the program, then 45-60 seconds for the final 5 weeks. For triceps, hold a dumbbell with both hands up and behind your head with your elbows fully bent. You can also attach a short bar or rope attachment to a high pulley behind you and lean forward into the stretch. Use the same time limits as you did with the biceps.

Treat every workout like a last chance. Halfway efforts yield halfway results, so apply your full concentration and intensity into every rep of every set you do in the coming 10 weeks. Unless you’re a parent of a young child or have a job that requires you to be on call at all times, keep your smartphone in your locker while you train. Don’t get into socializing; get to work.

Give your arms no choice. Ten weeks is not a long time in the grand scheme of things. It’s certainly not much time to cause substantial muscle growth—under typical circumstances, that is. That’s why you’re about to embark on a program that hits your arms in ways they aren’t accustomed to, with more volume and greater frequency combined with different rep ranges and styles of tension. Faced with these kinds of stimulation, your arms will have no choice but to grow!

The Shock Factor

If you decide you love the results so much you want to go through the program again, wait at least 10 weeks before you start. This program works so well because it totally shocks your arms. That shock factor is imperative to the program’s success—but it also means you’ve got to give your arms a break afterward. In the meantime, get started and prepare to watch your arms blow the hell up!

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Stay On Track This Season With These 4 Protein Treats!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, according to a popular Christmas song. But tell that to someone watching their macros. In that case, the holidays can become a torturous journey through family gatherings and office parties, all seemingly designed to sabotage your diet.

Maintaining an iron will and abstaining from all holiday desserts sounds admirable, but it isn’t much fun, is it? These recipes allow you to partake in holiday festivities without blowing your waistline.

1. Candy Cane Delight Parfait

It’s in the name. This delightful protein parfait is bursting with peppermint flavor and holiday cheer. And with the double-protein punch of Gold Standard French Vanilla Whey Protein and the Opti-Bar Chocolate Brownie, it’s the perfect dessert treat before or after you hit the gym.

Click Here To See Recipe

2. Cake Donut Protein Cookies

As the weather turns cold, few can resist the warm and inviting smell of fresh-baked cookies. These protein cookies hit the spot when you’re craving a warm winter treat. A simple alternative to their gingerbread cousin, this is one dessert you’ll want to celebrate all year round.

Click Here To See Recipe

3. Birthday Cake Protein Pudding Dip

Be a hit at your next party with this diet-friendly protein pudding dip. Fresh fruit or graham crackers are the perfect accompaniments, or enjoy this delicious dessert all on its own! 

Click Here To See Recipe

4. Birthday Cake Protein Chow

We all love to snack, so why not nibble on something tasty and good for gains? The Birthday Cake Protein Chow helps you get that extra protein fix. Better yet, it’s something you can nibble on any time of day. Make a single serving for you, or multiply the recipe to feed the whole family!

Click Here To See Recipe

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Your Blueprint For Building A Bigger Back

Like they say in bodybuilding, “The show is won from the back.” Judges expect bodybuilders to have sculpted chests and arms, so it’s the person who pays attention to details in the back who stands out from the crowd. Size matters, too—big time. A small waist and wide lats might look great from certain angles, but if your back lacks thickness, you can lose valuable points when you do a full 180-degree turn.

Looks aside, a powerful back can prevent or speed recovery from injury, as well as improve your overall performance. If you’re involved in sports, you need a thick back to make a better block in football, a stronger takedown in wrestling, and a more dynamic punch in combat sports.

In this guide, we’ll give you a general overview of the muscles in your back, explain which exercises are best for getting rid of or preventing back pain, and which exercises engage which back muscles.

Anatomy Of The Back

Your back is made up of bones, joints, nerves, muscles, and connective tissues. All these parts work together to keep the vertebrae in your spinal column aligned. The spine itself is divided into three parts: the cervical spine at your neck, the thoracic spine in your mid back, and the lumbar spine in your lower back. Improper bending and twisting while lifting heavy weight can damage the discs between the vertebrae. To build a bigger back, you must maintain good posture throughout your day—not just when you lift weights.

Anatomy of the Back

The muscles located in your back include the trapezius (upper back), rhomboids (upper back, underneath the trapezius), latissimus dorsi (widest back muscles), teres major/minor (underneath shoulder on your side), and the spinal erectors (such as multifidus and longissimus).

The muscles in the front of your body play a key role in back strength, too. The rectus abdominis (the six pack) and the oblique muscle (located on the side of your torso) stabilize the spine and help you lift, pull, and carry weights. Back exercises may recruit all or just a few of these muscles.

There will come a point in time where you’re able to control the appearance of your lats, where you can stand up straight and spread them apart at will. This is generally when you know you’ve made significant back gains.

The King Of All Back Exercises

Many bodybuilding aficionados consider the deadlift to be the king of all exercises for the way it builds mass in your back and strengthens so many major muscle groups. When you’re out to build a bigger back, the deadlift is your most important exercise.

The deadlift is a good teaching tool, too. Beginning lifters increase their overall strength not necessarily due to their deadlift rep schemes, but because of the improved neural efficiency that comes with learning how to move a heavy barbell through the deadlift range of motion. It is by teaching your central nervous system how to recruit each section of each muscle engaged in a deadlift that you build strength.

The King of All Back Exercises

After you’ve been lifting for a while—long enough to hit plateaus deadlifting in the 1-5 rep range—it’s time to start training for overall aesthetics. The ideal rep range for hypertrophy, or muscle building, is 8-12 reps with moderate weight. Moving into the 15-20 rep range, which of necessity means you’ll be using lighter weights, will improve muscular endurance but not thickness.

More Free-Weight Back Exercises

You can also add mass to your back with barbell bent-over rows, single-arm dumbbell rows, barbell or dumbbell shrugs, and rear deltoid dumbbell flyes. Barbell bent-over rows target the lats, teres major, middle trapezius, rhomboids, and posterior (rear) deltoids. Do these rows on a back day when you’re not deadlifting.

The single-arm dumbbell row targets the same muscle groups as the bent-over row and enables you to target each side of your back with moderate weight. Shrugs target the trapezius and rear deltoid muscles to give you a thicker upper back. Rear deltoid dumbbell flyes also target the upper back and, since you’ll use light weights for this one, you can really improve the landscape of your upper back.

Free-Weight Back Exercises

Machines Exercises For Back

Moving away from free weights, the lat pull-down, low-pulley seated row, and rear delt machine fly are machine exercises that target the lats, traps, rhomboids, and rear delts. Using a wider bar and grip for the lat pull-down and row machines can help increase the overall width of your lats. By using a narrow grip, you can increase your vertical range of motion, which can lead to added thickness of the entire muscle belly.

Using lat pull-down and row machines, both of which allow for single-arm variation, enables you to focus all of your efforts on increasing muscle size in one area at a time. A lesser known advantage to single-arm machines is the concept of negative training or eccentric training, where you increase the time spent or the actual weight lifted during the final portion of the rep.

Machine Exercises For Back

For example, if you’re working on your lats by using a D-handle on a lat pull-down machine to convert it to a single-arm lat pull-down, set the weight stack to 20 pounds and pull it down with your right hand. Then, with your left hand, switch the stack to 40 pounds and return the weight back to the start. Move it back to 20 pounds for the concentric again and add the 20 pounds for eccentric (bringing the weight back to the top). By focusing on the second portion of the rep, you’re stimulating muscle growth in a way your muscles aren’t used to, resulting in faster gains.

Bodyweight Exercises For Back

If part of your quest for a massive back is to improve your performance, then what good is it to row a bunch of weight if you can’t even move your body through space? Pull-ups, inverted rows, back extensions, and suspension-trainer rows are moves designed to build back strength and size in ways that engage your whole body instead of targeting a single muscle or muscle group. And you don’t need to limit yourself to your actual body weight when you do these “bodyweight” exercises.

For instance, once you’re able to do 3 sets of 10 pull-ups, increase the load by attaching a dip belt to your waist and looping a weight plate or kettlebell to it. If you can’t do pull-ups, start with the inverted row and suspension trainer rows to learn how to stabilize your core as you move your body upward.

The bodyweight exercises bird dog, superman, dead bug, and plank can help prevent injuries and speed recovery from lower-back pain. They can also help you post injury to regain strength and stiffen core muscles to improve sports performance in terms of both endurance and strength. Do 2-3 sets for 10 reps of all four of these exercises in the beginning or middle of a back workout. Do them at home on rest days to add longevity to your lifting career.

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