Training

More action with Stronger Legs

Alternate quads and hamstrings for maximum growth

A good pair of legs is as important to the body as a good set of wheels is to a car. But like a quality set of wheels, strong, healthy legs come at a high price. So, don’t take the following powerful exercises—especially the sissy squat—lightly. Because this is an incredibly intense workout that will turn your thighs into killer wheels. Serious focus and intensity are required.

barbell

BARBELL SQUAT

TARGETS:
Quadriceps and hamstrings

SETUP:
Stand with a barbell balanced across your traps. Your feet should be wider than shoulder width apart. Before you continue with this exercise, make sure that the bar is placed symmetrically.

ACTION:
Once you feel comfortably balanced, contract your quadriceps and gluteal muscles and lower your body slowly. When you reach the point where your upper legs are just below parallel to the floor, push back up to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight to protect your lower back, and keep your head up and your eyes fixed ahead as you perform this exercise.
SLED HACK SQUAT

TARGETS:
Quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes

SETUP:
Step into a hack sled with your feet shoulder width apart and positioned near the top of the foot plate.

ACTION:
Starting in an upright position (without locking out your knees), contract your quadriceps muscles and slowly lower into a squat position. Once you reach the bottom movement (where your upper legs are just below parallel to the platform), press the sled back to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your lower back planted firmly against the rear padding to avoid a back injury.

power

STIFF-LEGGED BARBELL DEAD LIFT

TARGETS:
Hamstrings and glutes

SETUP:
Grab a barbell with a grip that’s slightly wider than your shoulders.

ACTION:
With your back straight and your upper body rigid, contract your hamstrings slowly and ease the barbell off the floor. Bring your body up and stand up straight. Without resting, return to a position where the barbell is slightly above the floor; repeat. Keep your knees fixed and slightly bent throughout the movement.

 

1 WORKOUT + 4 REPS = 2 BIG BICEPS

Scratching the surface to build bigger arms

In hardgainer territory, the muscular landscape is like a dry, barren field. Even after months of committed care and cultivation, only the smallest growths sprout from terra firma. And your biceps can be the most stubborn area of all: Adding an extra inch to your guns can be more difficult than getting a rose to bloom in Death Valley.

The following program is a “scorched earth” strategy to develop bigger biceps. It calls for unleashing the whole stockpile of warheads and hitting those unresponsive fibers from all angles using a multitude of different weights and every conceivable rep scheme. It’s a whirlwind of stimuli that will leave your biceps with only one choice: grow.

GANG OF FOUR

This no-holds-barred quest for growth is based on the principle of four: performing four exercises and adding four extra reps to each exercise after the first. Because each lift changes the area of the muscle that receives the most stimuli, the ever-increasing reps shift the demands of the muscle from strength to hypertrophy to endurance to a skin-stretching crescendo that flushes the muscle and celebrates the pump.

Change is never easy, and this workout is no exception. While this program can be performed on the same day that you train your back (preferably after your back regimen), the full-spectrum demands that it places on your muscle will require at least a week of recovery between attempts.

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FOUR PLAY

This four-rep system isn’t limited to biceps training; it’s an equal-opportunity growth stimulator that can be applied to any muscle group. Using triceps as an example, the basic program might work like this.

EXERCISE 1

Perform a basic exercise that recruits plenty of muscle fibers, as well as your stabilizer muscles.

Example: Lying French press x 4 reps to failure

EXERCISE 2 

Move on to another basic movement that further limits the assistor muscles and begins to isolate the principal muscle.

Example: Overhead dumbbell extension x 8 reps

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EXERCISE 3 

Narrow the focus even further with a true isolation exercise.

Example: Standing single-arm cable extension x 12 reps

EXERCISE 4 

Flush the muscle with an exercise that delivers a wide range of motion but allows for some control as your extremities get pumped with blood.

Example: Overhead rope extension x 16 reps

Make your Chest Bigger in No Time

The reverse-pyramid workout for the man on the go

Arguably, the most impressive part of the male body is the chest. Think back to the old Charles Atlas ads: He puffed his chest out. What about Arnold? He was known for his chest development. While you may not be looking for a chest of similar size, if you’re like most guys, you want to make an impression.

But wait:

You’re no bodybuilder. You’re pressed for time. Well, we have you covered. This chest workout has been designed to get you in and out of the gym in just 20 minutes while giving your chest a workout that even Atlas and Schwarzenegger could appreciate.

HOW IT WORKS:

This program is designed to manipulate repetitions for each exercise. You’ll do three sets per exercise, decreasing the weight while increasing the reps on each successive set. For the first set, do six to eight reps, then go to eight to 12 reps for the second set, and finish with 12 to 15 reps on the final set. This reverse-pyramid progression allows you to nail the strength, muscle-growth and capillarization components of each movement, ensuring complete development in an elegant time-saving workout. Remember that the first set of each exercise is always the heaviest, so make sure to warm up thoroughly before moving on to your first working set. When performing dips, do as many reps as you can per set. Rest for only 45 seconds after each set.

flat
FLAT DUMBBELL CHEST PRESS

SET-UP:
Lie down on a flat bench, extending a pair of dumbbells above your pecs, palms facing your feet. Plant your feet flat on the floor and keep your back slightly arched.

ACTION:
Lower the dumbbells toward your chest, keeping your upper arms perpendicular to your torso. When the dumbbells reach the plane of your pecs, press your arms back up to the starting position explosively. Make sure that you lock your elbows out each time. Hold for a second, contract your pecs and repeat.

incline

INCLINE BARBELL PRESS

SET-UP:
Lie on an incline bench with your feet flat on the floor and your back slightly arched. Reach up to the bar and grab it with your arms shoulder width apart. Use a palms-around grip.

ACTION:
Slowly lower the bar to the top of your chest and explosively press it up toward the ceiling. Hold for a second, squeezing the muscle, and repeat.

dips

DIP

SET-UP:
Position yourself between two parallel dip bars, with one hand on each bar. Lock out your elbows.

ACTION:
Bend your knees and allow your body to lean forward to ensure that you perform your reps at an angle (repping vertically will engage more triceps muscle—an action you’ll want to avoid when you’re training your chest).

crossover

CABLE CROSSOVER

SET-UP:
Position cable-crossover pulleys midway on the posts and attach D-ring handles to the ends of the cables. Grasp a handle with each hand, thumbs pointing toward the ceiling, and stand between the posts, extending your arms to the sides at chest level. To maintain a stable exercise position, stagger your stance.

ACTION:
 Bend your elbows slightly and pull your arms together in an arc (as if you were hugging a tree). Bring your knuckles together as close as possible. Squeeze the chest in the contracted position, slowly return the handles to the starting position and repeat.

Best Tips to Power Up Your Legs

Alternate quads and hamstrings for maximum growth.
A good pair of legs is as important to the body as a good set of wheels is to a car. But like a quality set of wheels, strong, healthy legs come at a high price. So, don’t take the following powerful legs exercises — especially the sissy squat—lightly. Because this is an incredibly intense workout that will turn your thighs into killer wheels. Serious focus and intensity are required.

Barbell Squat

Target: Quadriceps and hamstrings.
Setup: Stand with a barbell balanced across your traps. Your feet should be wider than shoulder width apart. Before you continue with this exercise, make sure that the bar is placed symmetrically.
Action: Once you feel comfortably balanced, contract your quadriceps and gluteal muscles and lower your body slowly. When you reach the point where your upper legs are just below parallel to the floor, push back up to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight to protect your lower back, and keep your head up and your eyes fixed ahead as you perform this exercise.

double-gains1

Sled Hack Squat

Target: Quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes.

Setup: Step into a hack sled with your feet shoulder width apart and positioned near the top of the foot plate.

Action: Starting in an upright position (without locking out your knees), contract your quadriceps muscles and slowly lower into a squat position. Once you reach the bottom movement (where your upper legs are just below parallel to the platform), press the sled back to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your lower back planted firmly against the rear padding to avoid a back injury.

Stiff-Legged Barbell Dead Lift

Target: Hamstrings and glutes.

Setup: Grab a barbell with a grip that’s slightly wider than your shoulders.

Action: With your back straight and your upper body rigid, contract your hamstrings slowly and ease the barbell off the floor. Bring your body up and stand up straight. Without resting, return to a position where the barbell is slightly above the floor; repeat. Keep your knees fixed and slightly bent throughout the movement.

Sissy Squat

Target: Quadriceps.

Setup: In case the name of this one throws you off a bit, be warned that this exercise is definitely not for sissies—and you might be sore for a few days after you’ve done it. First, hang on to something fixed, like a squat rack, to keep steady during the exercise. Stand on the balls of your feet with your feet positioned slightly wider than shoulder width apart. If you have trouble keeping your balance, put a couple of five-pound plates under your heels. Keep your upper legs and torso in a straight line, from your shoulders to your knees.

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Action: Start by leaning back slightly—this is the top position of the movement. Next, break your knees slowly and lower your body as far as you can without falling backward. If you feel like you’ve gone too far, you can use your supporting hand to pull yourself back up. Once you reach the bottom of the movement, push yourself back up to the top without “locking out” and repeat.

Intensity Tip: Once you’ve mastered this exercise, try holding a light weight (a little goes a long way here) on your chest with your free hand. To avoid injury, take your time and use caution when learning and performing this advanced exercise.

Seated Leg Curl 

Target: Hamstrings.
Setup: Sit in a seated leg curl machine and place the back of your lower legs (slightly above your heels) on the roller pads. Tightly position the thigh anchor over your thighs to avoid upper-leg movement during the exercise. Keep your knees slightly bent at the top of the movement to avoid injuring your knee joints.

Action: Contract your hamstrings while pulling the foot pad toward your body without jerking. When you reach the end of the movement, return to the top and repeat. Take time to adjust the machine to fit your body to ensure optimum performance and functionality.

Safety First: Use a spotter and machine safety guards whenever possible. Perform a light warm-up set before each exercise. Take no more than one set of each exercise to the point of momentary muscle failure.

 

Build Thicker and Strong Shoulders

Make your body bigger with these three shoulder exercises.

 

If you want to improve your shoulder width, prioritize this workout, swapping it for your regular shoulder sessions every third deltoid workout. Or, depending on present development, do it every other workout as needed. Use the sequence of exercises prescribed here: Their purpose is for progressive prioritization, from heavy weight for strength and muscle-group size to higher reps for isolated muscle size and deltoid striations that draw the onlooker’s eye to those points located at the maximum width of the shoulder girdle.

Dumbbell Overhead
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Targets:
The entire shoulder girdle, including overall width and all three deltoid heads.

Setup:
Brace your back against an upright, seated bench, feet planted firmly for pressing power. Hold a heavy dumbbell on top of each deltoid, palms facing forward, dumbbells level (not tilted in either direction) and elbows out to the sides in lateral alignment with your shoulders.

Action:
Maintaining the above position, press the dumbbells overhead at arm’s length. Resist the weight on the negative movement, tightening your shoulders, grip and body to generate potential energy for the next repetition.

Progression:
Your first working set should be difficult for eight reps but not to failure. Pyramid the weight upward through two more sets, the last to failure at six reps.

Cambered Bar Upright Row

combine-exercises-muscle-training-29062011

Targets:
Anterior and posterior deltoid heads, lower middle head mass, trapezius and shoulder thickness.

Setup:
Stand upright and hold a cambered bar at arm’s length in front of your thighs. Use a medium grip so that your hands are at chest width. Tighten your abs to stabilize your torso.

Action:
Pull the bar upward to chin level, keeping it close to your body, elbows pointed straight out to the sides (not angled upward or to the rear). At the top, your elbows and hands should be at the same level. Lower slowly. Do not arch backward, drop the weight or jerk it upward.

Progression:
Your first working set should be difficult but not to failure for 10 reps. Pyramid the weight upward through two more sets, the last to failure at eight reps.

Cable Laterial Raise

Targets:
 Medial deltoid head, lower medial head mass and upper deltoid cap.

Setup: Stand between the cable stacks of a crossover apparatus with the front of your body just behind the plane connecting them (so your body doesn’t get in the way of the cables crossing each other). Cross your arms, each one grabbing the opposite stirrup handle attached to its floor-pulley cable (your hands should face the respective stack). Stand erect, chest high and head aligned with your body (not crooked forward or backward). Hold your shoulders low—don’t shrug.

Action:
Keep your arms almost straight and elbows not quite locked. Raise the handles straight out to the sides and upward to only a couple of degrees above shoulder level without rotating your hands (do not pronate or supinate). Palms should face downward throughout the move. Leading with your elbows, lift only with your deltoid muscles, not with your traps or upper back. Resist during the descent to the starting position. Make sure that the movement is controlled and consistent from the beginning to the end of the set.

Progression:
Do three sets with the same weight, all to failure. This is a burnout exercise, which means that you must keep the reps going through the pain until your eyes water, your teeth crack from your grimace, you whimper pathetically and your arms no longer twitch. Now you’re good.

 

10 Ways to Boost Your Workout Fast

This list of 11 workout strategies can help you build your own super-functional, head-turning body, one that makes people wonder how your victory evolved.

 

You may marvel at the guy in the squat rack using his rock-solid lower body to grunt out perfect sets at 275 and then 315 pounds. You may be awestruck by the perfectly proportioned upper torso — every muscle group exudes power, functionality and aesthetic integrity — of the guy slicing through the water as he swims laps in the gym pool. But before you pull out the genetics card about how they’re lucky, consider this: The real accomplishment you witness lies in the unseen — the accumulated knowledge and consistent discipline it took to build such physical prowess. It’s the culmination of one good workout after another, where wasted effort and half-hearted strategies aren’t likely to be found. This list of 11 strategies can help you build your own super-functional, head-turning body, one that makes people wonder how your victory evolved. And your goal needn’t be to squat 315 or bench 305 — these are simply metaphors for the power of smart tactics applied consistently behind the scenes.

  1. Make Cardio Different

Hate cardio? You’re not alone. While taking a class may be the easiest option for you, consider an entirely different form of cardio. You can swim laps, run bleachers, jog on an outdoor track or hiking path, go for a 25-kilometer bike ride, and so on. Ask a friend to do the activity with you to generate a competitive spirit and additional calorie burn. “Instead of spending time doing an exercise you hate, pick a cardio that you like doing,” says Joy Jure, CSCS, sports performance director at The Office, a sports performance center in Anaheim, California. “There are a lot of choices when it comes to increasing your heart rate. If fat burning is a goal for you, don’t make cardio the part of your fitness you dread most.”

  1. Change Your Style

So many gym-goers tend to fall in love with a particular method of training: 5×5, pyramid training or circuits, for example. But switching things up may provide a welcome jolt to tonight’s workout. “Enjoy high-volume workouts? Try one-set to failure HIT for a day,” says Rob MacIntyre, WWE strength and conditioning coach. “Do you lift explosively? How about super slow reps.” These drastic departures from the norm will challenge your muscles to respond in kind. Tomorrow’s soreness will be proof enough of that.

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  1. Alternate Opposing Muscle Groups

It’s arm day and you want to hit your biceps and triceps hard. But instead of doing all of your exercises for one muscle group before moving to the other, you might want to try alternating them. Research shows that a muscle group will be stronger if it’s trained immediately after its antagonist (opposing) muscle group. It also floods more nutrient-rich blood into the tissues for a substantially greater pump than you could achieve training each muscle group on its own. You can get good use out of this type of training with chest and back, hamstrings and quads, biceps and triceps.

  1. Post-Activate for Big Gains

Post-activation potentiation is a training concept — currently real hot and at the core of the new P90X2 system — that can immediately spike your training. Basically, a few reps of an explosive exercise can have an impact on the movement to follow. For example, doing a handful of explosive jump squats a few minutes before doing heavy dumbbell lunges or getting under the bar for a heavy squat, you “wake up” more power-producing motor units, giving you the ability to push through those heavy sets for more reps than you normally could. Likewise, a few near max-load lifts — 90–95% of your 1RM — can make you stronger on the lighter-weight sets that follow, as you might in a reverse pyramid scheme where you do 1–3 heavy sets, and then progressively lower the weight and increase reps on each successive set.

  1. Train Heavy, Rest Short

When you lift heavy, the instinct may be to take more rest. But if you’re concerned with building strength and burning fat, you want to do the opposite of that. Numerous studies show that lifting heavy — think 6–8 reps to failure — elevates metabolism higher and for longer than 12-rep sets. Another study out of New Jersey showed that men who rested just 30 seconds between sets of bench presses burned 50% more calories during the workout.

  1. Drop to a Century

Sometimes, muscles just need a good, old-fashioned throwdown. Guillermo Escalante, ATC, CSCS, co-owner of SportsPros Physical Therapy & Personal Training Center (4sportspros.com) in Claremont, California, likes to have clients take on 100 “burnout” reps, drop-set style, following their heavier work. 8284_forza1_zoomUsing the leg press as an example, you’d crank out 20 reps to failure, then immediately reduce the weight and do 20 more reps. Repeat in this manner until you reach 100 reps. Rest briefly if you must, but keep in mind that you can only reduce the weight each time you’ve churned out at least 20 reps.

  1. 7. Observe the Negative

If you like to go heavy in the gym, chances are that getting the weight up on each rep is the focus of your set. But more attention can and should be paid to the pace of each rep, particularly the negative, also know as the eccentric or lowering portion, of each move. “More muscle breakdown occurs from the eccentric or negative portion of the lift, so try to take a full four seconds on that part of the rep, then explode through the positive,” says Phil Gephart, MS, CSCS. This simple change can lead to greater growth over time.

  1. Do Cardio After Weights

If you’re going to do weights and cardio in the same session, do the weights first. Your body responds better when you’re lifting the heaviest weights possible within a given rep range, and performing cardio first can compromise your strength levels. Besides, doing cardio second will provide more fat-burning benefits; your body, in a carb-depleted state from weight training, will have to tap into fat stores for fuel earlier.

 

  1. Stretch Before, Only if…

Research shows that stretching preworkout can acutely diminish strength on the work that follows, so it’s best left to do after your training. But there are exceptions to every rule. “If you can’t do a full range of motion from a muscle in a specific exercise, you won’t get maximum results,” says Phil Gephart, MS, CSCS, a Newport Beach-based (California) trainer (newportfit4life.com) and exercise science professor. In cases like these, he says, it’s okay to perform some light stretching ahead of your specific warm-up for a lift because it’ll ensure a productive range of motion during exercise.

  1. Use a Single Arm (or Leg)

Try subbing all your two-handed moves — like seated rows, lateral raises and pressdowns — with the one-arm version. Truth be told, in some exercises you’ll actually be substantially stronger, perhaps as much as 20% more. Studies show that unilateral training makes the working limb recruit more total muscle out of necessity to complete a lift, which means more force generated and more muscle broken down. Get in the habit of getting out of your habit and trying single-leg extensions and one-arm machine presses, which can better help those target muscles.

  1. Max Out (bonus tip)

Everyone wants to be stronger. So, for today, “Find out how strong you really are,” says Rob MacIntyre, WWE strength and conditioning coach. “Max out on every exercise you do, whether it’s the bench press or dumbbell curls. Or have an impromptu powerlifting (squat, bench, deadlift) meet with some regulars in the gym.” This will not only help you adjust your benchmarks for weight loads on key lifts but it’s likely to motivate you to implement more pure strength training.