Quick Bicep Workouts

Bigger biceps are a status symbol, a symbol of personal physical power, and every bodybuilder spends a fair amount of time working to achieve the best biceps they can build. Unfortunately time isn’t always on our side, so for some workouts we need a quick bicep routine like this one…

Use Incline Dumbbell Curls To Better Isolate The Biceps And Reduce Momentum When You Curl

Now, we don’t want to take a lot of time, but we don’t want to waste what little time we have either, right? So do a quick warmup set of curls if you haven’t already warmed up your biceps while training other bodyparts. Don’t overdo it – one set of 10 – 15 reps should suffice to get blood into the muscles and loosen up the joints, tendons and ligaments. Now choose a pair of dumbbells you can manage safely for 10 or 12 reps with strict form.

Note that these aren’t reps you can cheat up with plenty of momentum and ‘body English’, but rather good, strict reps at a temp of 1 second up (concentric) and 3 – 5 seconds down (eccentric). For 2 of these 3 exercises you’ll be taking body motion out of the equation entirely, so you need to choose weights that are challenging but manageable.

Do each of these three biceps exercises for 3 – 5 sets (depending on your available time), with 10 – 12 reps per set. Focus on keeping to your tempo, not trying to race through each set.

Incline Dumbbell Curls
Set the back of your bench to a 30 – 45 degree angle, then sit on the bench laying back against it with the dumbbells hanging at each side. Perform your curls through the full range of motion, finishing a full rep with one arm before repeating with the opposite arm. Keep your body flat on the bench throughout and don’t let your elbows travel forward as you raise and lower the weights.

Dumbbell Scott Curls or Dumbbell Preacher Curls
Depending on the equipment you have available, you can do these as Scott curls or preacher curls. If neither bench is available, you can also stand behind an incline bench and rest the back of your upper arm down the padded back. Use a sitting or standing position that has you leaning forward from the waist with your armpit snug to the top of the pad. Resist the urge to lean backward as you raise the weights – the reason you’re using the bench is to prevent yourself from ‘cheating’ the rep by involving your bodyweight. Curl the weight to the top, squeeze your contracted biceps hard for a second or two and then return it, under control, to the extended position.

Standing Dumbbell Curls
To finish off this quick bicep workout, use standing dumbbell curls. On the first exercise your elbow was behind the plane of your body while on the second it was ahead of your body, and this time you’ll keep your elbows at your sides. Raise the weights one arm at a time, pronating your wrist at the top, rotating it to bring your baby finger closest to your chest & shoulder, before lowering it again at a controlled pace. Do not just let it drop back down, stick to the 3 – 5 second pace.

By the end of this quick bicep workout you should be able to tell the muscles have been well-worked, and flexing them should reflect a good pump. If timing is too tight even for this short routine, you can shorten it even further by doing one set of each exercise with no breaks in between, resting for one minute and then repeating the 3 sets until you’ve done your 3 – 5 cycles.

Either way, re-rack your dumbbells and smile – your biceps know they’ve had a great, fast workout!


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Building Muscle – The Best Shoulders Workout

Shoulders are a smaller muscle group with 3 heads, so the best shoulders workout has to hit all 3 together and separately. To hit the front deltoids, side delts and rear delts with an eye to building muscle, this workout will include 4 sets each of 5 exercises, done as a superset followed by a triple set. It’s important to use proper form and weights light enough to ensure you focus on your shoulders and involve your chest and arm muscles as little as possible.

For Building Muscle, The Best Shoulder Workout Starts With A Superset Of Behind-The-Neck Presses And Upright Rows.

This workout can be done in your local commercial gym or just as easily in your home gym. Start by setting up your bench so that your back is supported about 10 or 15 degrees short of vertical – you want to be leaning back just slightly. Place the bench just in front of your rack so the bar is easy to lift out when seated.

Start with a light warmup set or two of seated overhead press – use just the bar or load it lightly. Remember the idea is to avoid pre-exhausting the muscles but rather just to fill the area with blood and work the shoulders just enough to warm them up. Be sure to use a full range of motion so they get a mild stretch as well.

Step One: Shoulders Superset
This best shoulders workout starts with a superset of seated overhead presses and upright rows. If your shoulder mobility allows it, do your overhead presses behind your head, but if not then bring the bar down in front. The idea to using behind-the-neck presses is to avoid involving the chest in your lift, but it will still work nicely for your shoulders if you need to bring the bar down in front. Have your training partner or spotter stand just behind you to ensure you don’t go too far back at the top of the lift and to help you re-rack the weight if necessary.

When you finish your set, immediately stand up and do a set of upright rows with that same weight. Only raise your arms until your elbows are level with your shoulders to avoid impinging your rotator cuff – your grip should be wide enough that your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle once your upper arms are parallel to your shoulders.

Most weightlifters will find they’re stronger on the upright rows than the overhead press, so you’ll find you can do a few more reps on those. Start your superset with a lighter weight that allows you to do 12 reps of the press and 15 reps of the rows, then over the 4 sets increase the weight slightly each set, ending with a final set of 8 presses and 12 rows. Be sure to maintain strict form throughout to avoid injury, and use a cadence of 1 second to lift and 3 seconds to lower the weight on both exercises. Limit your rest between sets to 30 to 45 seconds, then after your last set rest for 3 or 4 minutes before moving on to the triple set – remember to hydrate during the break!

Step Two: Shoulders Triple Set
Now that you’ve recovered from the two big compound shoulder exercises it’s time to isolate the 3 heads and hit the rear, side and front delts individually with a shoulders triple set. Grab a pair of dumbbells you can handle easily and start with rear delt flyes. Lean forward about 15 degrees from the waist – if you’re not sure how far to lean, look to your side in the mirror and see how far to lean forward to engage your rear delts when lifting your arms to shoulder height. Bend your elbow just slightly and then lock your arms in that position, raising them to the outside to shoulder height and then returning them back down in front of you. Don’t worry about lifting the weights to shoulder height – your delts are only involved in moving your upper arms, so just focus on getting your elbows up to that height.

Immediately following your rear delt flyes, stand up almost straight, leaning forward just enough to allow the dumbbells to hang freely in front of your body. Keeping that slight bend in your elbows raise your arms to either side, again until your upper arm is in line with your shoulders. Lower them back down slowly and under control, then repeat until you’ve finished your reps for this set.

Again without taking a break, start into your front raises. Maintain the slight bend in your elbows and start with your palms facing your thighs, then raise the dumbbells out in front of you to shoulder height and back down again. You can do both arms at once or alternate one then the other based on your own preference. By this point in the triple set your energy will be flagging but don’t let your form slip – avoid the temptation to lean back and swing the weights up, keeping to a controlled raise and descent.

Each cycle through the 3 exercises is one set, and after each set take about a 60-second break before starting the next set. Start with light dumbbells you can maintain strict form with for 12 reps of each exercise on the first set then increase the weight slightly each set, doing your 4 sets with 12, 10, 8 and 6 reps. Try to maintain a cadence of 1 second up, 1 second hold at the top, 3-4 seconds lowering the weight and no rest at the bottom of each rep for all 3 exercises.

By the end of the best shoulders workout you’ll definitely feel the pump in all 3 heads and know that you’ve worked them fully. Avoid the tendency to speed up the reps so you can go heavier – remember that your goal is to build muscle so you want to maximize your volume, intensity and time-under-tension. Because the deltoids are relatively small muscles they heal fairly quickly with proper nutrition and rest, so this workout can be repeated two or three times per week on non-consecutive days. At first they may be a little sore the next day but that will fade as time goes on and as you grow your shoulder pumpkins you’ll soon agree this is the best shoulders workout for building muscle!


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How To Gain Strength Naturally

If you glance through weightlifting magazines on occasion, you could be forgiven for thinking it takes all kinds of pills and potions, legal and otherwise, to build any true strength. But there’s good news if you’re trying to learn how to gain strength naturally… Progressive-resistance exercise, proper nutrition and plenty of rest are all that’s really required.

To Gain Strength Naturally, Increase The Weight You Lift At Regular Intervals Consistently

In the freeweight area of any gym you’ll find 3 types of people: powerlifters training for strength, bodybuilders building for size and powerbuilders aiming for a combination of both. They may be doing the same exercises, especially the multi-joint compound exercises like squats and deadlifts, but each follows a different path in the gym.

If your goal is to get stronger naturally, you’ll be emulating the powerlifters most closely. Your exercise program will be built mostly around compound exercises, but instead of just the deadlifts, squats and bench presses the powerlifters focus on you’ll also be adding exercises for your shoulders, triceps and biceps. The standing or seated overhead press, narrow-grip bench press and standing barbell curls are all common choices.

The Workouts:
Strength training involves lifting weights closer to your maximum ability, so longer rests between sets and exercises are necessary to let your strength, heart rate and breathing return closer to normal before starting the next set. Aim for a break of 1 – 2 minutes between warm-up sets and about 3 minutes between your heavy sets. For each exercise, start with one or two warmup sets with lighter loads to warm up the joints and muscles, then do your working sets. Five sets of five reps is common for those starting out in strength training, while more experienced lifters may go to 10 sets of 3 reps.

For a 5×5 workout, your working sets should be with a weight that allows you to do 5 reps on your first 3 sets, 3 or 4 on your fourth set and 2 to 3 on your fifth set. The weight stays the same for all 5 sets. If you can’t get 5 clean reps on the first 3 sets the weight is too heavy for you – dial it back a notch. At the opposite end, if you get all 5 reps done in all 5 sets, raise the weight A BIT starting at your next workout. Don’t go for huge jumps and risk hurting yourself – you can always go up again on the next workout if you get all 25 reps in again. For best results, aim to do 2 or 3 full-body workouts per week at first, on non-consecutive days. By your 2nd or 3rd year you’ll be lifting heavily enough you may want to do split routines, doing the whole body over 2 days, but by then you’ll know your body and it’s abilities well enough to make your own decision on that. And make no mistake – skipping workouts will hold back your progress more than just about any other reason.

The most important thing to remember is to stick very strictly to proper form on every workout – injuries, especially severe injuries, are usually the result of not performing the exercise optimally. Don’t be tempted to cheat on your form for those last few reps to try and get there faster – an injury can set you back for months, years, or even permanently. Observe all standard safety precautions, and always train with a partner/spotter.

If you’re new to weightlifting you’ll probably be able to increase the weights you’re using regularly, but over time you’ll find the gains take longer and may even stop for a while. If and when you reach a plateau like that and you’ve had no increase in strength for a few months, take a week or ten days off to let your body heal fully and then start back at it with a drop of about 20% in the weights you lift. Don’t worry, you’ll gain that 20% back fairly quickly and most likely continue on right past that former sticking point.

The Nutrition:
You’re asking your body to constantly face progressive resistance, lifting heavier than you ever have before as you gain strength naturally. For that to be possible you have to give your body what it needs – enough protein, carbohydrates and dietary fats. The amounts and ratio of them vary from person to person, so do prudent research into it or hire a registered nutritionist to help you set up your meal plan. For the purpose of this article, just realize that you’ll most likely need to eat more of each – protein so your muscles can strengthen and grow in strength, carbohydrates to power your workouts and daily activities and clean dietary fats to protect and lubricate your joints. Being deficient in any of the 3 can impede your progress, so learn to eat clean, eat well and eat enough!

The Recovery:
In the gym you’ve tortured and torn your muscles (micro-tears) to make your body repair them and make them stronger. You’ve also taxed your ligaments and tendons extremely. So once you leave the gym after each session you need to give your body time to heal. This is why you don’t train the same bodyparts on consecutive days, and why you’re following better nutritional guidelines. But it goes well beyond that…

Most of the repairs are done by the night crew – in other words, while you’re asleep. For maximal recovery that means getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night every night. In today’s world it’s often almost impossible to do that every night, but aim to get that much sleep as many nights a week as you can. It CAN be done – skip a TV show, shut down on social media earlier, etc. And you most likely won’t have trouble getting to sleep at night – your body will be screaming for it!

Avoid going to the gym on your scheduled rest days – in fact, try to avoid additional strenuous or taxing activities as much as possible – remember you’re in repair and recovery mode between workouts. Obviously most people can’t avoid it all, especially if your occupation requires it, but do the best you can if you’re seriously looking to get stronger.

If you don’t know it already, one thing you’ll quickly learn from looking into how to build strength naturally is that for those who get the best results it’s a lifestyle, not a hobby. As with most good things in life, what you get in results will depend in large part on what you put into it. Is it easy? No. But you’ll find it’s definitely worth it!


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Fitness For Seniors – Take Back Your Health!

Health and fitness are major concerns for most seniors, usually because they’ve spent decades ignoring those topics. If that includes YOU, at what age did you decide your fitness level wasn’t a priority? Fortunately in most cases it’s not too late – you can start taking back your health and fitness at any age!

Fitness For Seniors - Take Back Your Health!

From treadmills to exercise machines to free weight areas, more and more people over 60 are turning up regularly at gyms and working out regularly. Most marathons these days have athletes 60 and older joining them, and the half-marathons see even more seniors taking part. And golf courses, tennis courts and squash courts are often populated with seniors, both for their enjoyment and to help them get and stay fit.

But if your physical condition isn’t up to extreme senior sports, the good news is you can start much more simply. Health and fitness require proper exercise, nutrition and sufficient rest to recover fully. But seniors don’t need to jump into major changes to improve their lives – even small changes add up over time.

What’s your current activity level? If the bulk of your exercise is walking from your couch to the bathroom, taking a walk around the block each day would be a good start. If mobility isn’t an issue for you, how long has it been since you rode a bike regularly? If mobility is an issue, instead think about modest exercise – there are plenty of bodyweight exercises and stretches you can do at home without lifting weights.

Or maybe simple, no-impact exercises like yoga or Tai Chi would suit you better. Each can be performed at a very basic level by almost any senior, and you can increase your level as your body adapts. You don’t even need to join a class for either – there are plenty of online videos or DVDs available that you can follow along with at home. Once again, no equipment is necessary to get started…

Does your community have recreation centers? If they have a pool there you can easily enjoy yourself while working on your fitness level, and many have in-pool exercise classes for seniors as well. Any nervousness you feel about starting to exercise in front of others will most likely fade quickly as you experience the social benefits of exercising with other seniors from your local community. Socializing with a group of like-minded peers your own age will also help you stick with it and heighten your sense of accomplishment as you advance.

And remember, when you’re physically ready, the gym is always going to be there to welcome you! If you want to start lifting weights at home, it’s as easy as starting off with a pair of dumbbells bought at your local sports store or department store. If you’re feeling more adventurous, talk to the manager at any local gyms – more and more personal trainers are taking special training in working with seniors (thanks to the large baby-boomer demographics), and it will certainly help you get started on the right path if you hire one for at least your first few gym sessions. When lifting weights it’s best to start with shorter, lighter workouts and progress from there – you’re going to be asking your body to move and stretch in unfamiliar ways, so don’t overdo it in the early stages.

As you can see, fitness for seniors can take many paths, and all of them can be started easily and build from just a small initial effort. Take back your health starting today for a longer, happier life – the benefits to YOU are myriad!

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5 Hardgainer Tips For Skinny Guys Who Want To Be Bodybuilders

Ectomorphs are called hardgainers because, well, it’s hard for them to gain muscle. Having a taller, thin body with small wrist and ankle joints is a dead giveaway that your frame isn’t genetically-optimized for building and carrying a lot of muscle – but that certainly shouldn’t hold you back when it comes to becoming a bodybuilder, because EVERYONE can build and maintain lean muscle mass!

Here are 5 hardgainer tips for skinny guys and girls who want to be bodybuilders:

Hardgainer Tip #1: Have Realistic Expectations
Ectomorphs will never win the Mr. Olympia title – but neither will 99.999% of other bodybuilders either. All over the world there are bodybuilders working hard in the gym for a thousand hours a year while eating right, sleeping right and taking all kinds of supplements and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) – and at that level you need everything to be on point – including your genetics. But building muscle, have a great body and looking great in the gym or on the beach can be achieved by hardgainers, even without the genetics of a gorilla or truckloads of PEDs.

Most likely you already have one major advantage over other bodybuilders – very little bodyfat. Typically a hardgainer has a fast metabolism and is no more genetically predisposed to carrying much bodyfat than he or she is to building muscle. So as you visualize the body you want to build, picture yourself with a bit less bodyfat than you’re currently carrying and with more muscle mass. How much more? That’s going to depend on YOU – how relentless you are in your pursuit of a bodybuilder physique.

Hardgainer Tip #2: Train Smart In The Gym

Hardgainers - skinny guys and girls - can build muscle using these 5 tips...

As a skinny guy trying to build bigger muscles, you have to train smart and stick to the proven principles. Make sure the bulk of your workouts are focused around the big compound lifts – squats, deadlifts, bent rows, bench press and overhead presses. Yes, you’ll want some isolation exercises for arms, abs and calves, but keep the bulk of your energy & time focused on the lifts that are the proven-best muscle mass builders.

And keep your ego in check – constantly trying for new personal record lifts (PRs) will hold back your gains. Endomorphs and some mesomorphs might gain noticeable muscle size from powerlifting workouts, but most ectomorphs will simply get a lot stronger without getting much bigger from that style of training.

Instead, aim to do 5 to ten sets for each exercise, with 8 to 12 reps per set. Don’t rush through your sets, but instead do each of your reps using a count of 1-2 seconds on the concentric portion of the lift and 3-5 seconds for the eccentric portion. (You can always tell which is the concentric portion for any lift – it’s the part where the muscle you’re working is getting shorter and contracting. Consider the upward motion of squats, deadlifts, rows, etc, and the downward motion of triceps pushdowns, etc.)

Rest between sets is important too. You’ll see a lot about time-under-tension (TUT) that suggests you keep intra-set breaks to 30 or 40 seconds max, but that’s not always the best advice for true hardgainers – resting 30 seconds between sets burns 50% more calories than 3-minute rests according to Dr. Jim Stoppani. While a high volume of sets and 3-minute breaks per set would take way too long, aim to get about a minute rest between sets.

Keep your form strict, and use weights that let you get 10 or 12 reps on your first few sets without breaking form, but that only let you get 6 to 8 reps on your last couple of sets. If, on those last couple of sets you can’t get 6 reps then the weight is too heavy. Conversely, if you still get to ten reps on your last set keep going to failure on that set, then increase the weight for your next workout til you’re back in that 6-8 rep range for your last set.

In many, if not most cases, hardgainers’ fast metabolisms allow their bodies to repair themselves fairly quickly. Because of that, be sure to work each bodypart at least twice per week – in fact, a full-body workout on 3 non-consecutive days is often ideal.

Hardgainer Tip #3: Eat Clean, Eat Healthy & Eat MORE
Anyone trying to be a bodybuilder needs to consume plenty of calories every day – and hardgainers need to consume a LOT more clean calories than others would. Yes, you have tons of energy. That’s courtesy of your faster metabolism and it’s habit of burning glucose, glycogen, carbohydrates and protein to keep you supercharged. But let go of the concept that you ‘can eat anything’ – that’s a common myth amongst hardgainers because they don’t put on much bodyfat from a poor diet. You need to understand that too many simple carbs on a regular basis can dull your insulin receptors. Not only can that lead to Type 2 Diabetes down the road, but insulin is the main transport for glucose into the muscles where that glucose is stored as glycogen and is used to fuel muscle activity.

Instead, plan to eat a cleaner diet with plenty of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Start by figuring your daily requirements using this simple formula: you want to consume 15 calories for every pound you weigh – so at 150 pounds you’d start with 2,250 calories per day. You want at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, and in our example that 150-pound person would eat 150 grams of protein, meaning 600 calories would come from their daily protein intake. Twenty to twenty-five percent of their calories (450 – 560 calories) should come from healthy fats, so that means the remaining 1,090 to 1,200 calories should come from carbohydrate sources like yams, brown, red or black rice, oatmeal and greens.

Remember, though, that your goal is to become a bodybuilder with plenty of lean muscle mass – which means you don’t want to stay at that 150 pounds. Once you’re nutrition is on point as detailed above, you can start adding in more calories. Start by adding 500 calories to your day and give it a couple of weeks to see the results. If you’re building muscle without adding belly fat, add another 500 calories the following month, etc. If you have trouble eating bigger meals, get the extra calories from adding a meal or two to your day – eat 4 or 5 times a day instead of 3 times per day.

In most cases, hardgainers don’t eat right and don’t eat enough. Don’t be that guy or girl – pay attention to proper nutrition and be sure to consume all your required calories every single day!

Hardgainer Tip #4: Get Enough Sleep
One great truism for bodybuilders is that muscles are worked in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in the bedroom – while you sleep. Not getting enough sleep will prevent you from every being a true bodybuilder – remember, as an ectomorph you need everything to be just right in your routine. There’s no sense to putting a ton of effort into your workouts and tearing down the muscles if you’re not going to feed the muscles right and then sleep long enough to allow your body to repair and rebuild those muscles, making them bigger to meet the anticipated progressive resistance they’re going to face in future.

In today’s real world very few people can get 8 or 9 hours of sleep every night, but you can certainly come close if your goal as a skinny guy or girl is to become a bodybuilder. You don’t NEED to be on social media for hours every night, you don’t NEED to be texting friends til all hours of the night, and you don’t NEED to hit the clubs every single weekend. A busy social life won’t get you the muscles you want – but smart training, proper nutrition and 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night will. It all comes down to how badly you want it, right?

Hardgainer Tip #5: Strategic Supplementation
Walk into ANY professional bodybuilding supplement store and you’ll find more than enough options to completely empty your wallet, melt your debit and credit cards and leave you in debt. Fortunately for you, hardgainers can skip all but 3 or 4 of them…

For example, chances are they have a large selection of pre-workout potions and pills. But with your fast metabolism and all the carbs you’re eating, you’ve already got more energy than you know what to do with, coupled with the determination that you’ll do WHATEVER it reasonably takes to pack on bigger muscles.

So just what SHOULD you consider?

First and foremost, find a good whey protein or whey isolate powder. I don’t advise getting one of the high-calorie weight-gain protein blends, since most are jam-packed with simple sugars. Instead, look for a good, clean source of whey, and choose a flavour you like. Mix it with water or 2% milk, and have one each morning on rising since your body has no dietary protein left at that point. Then have a protein shake an hour before your workout and as soon as reasonably possible after your workout. Remember that the bulk of your protein requirements should be coming from whole foods – chicken, eggs, turkey, fish, lean beef, etc. – so you’re just topping that protein up at the times when your body can make the best use of it.

Second up is Creatine. Creatine is probably the single most-studied bodybuilding supplement, and scientific study after study has shown it to be very a very effective muscle-building aid. Throw a teaspoon of Creatine into a glass of water and drink it down at some point during the day on rest days, and both before and after your workout on training days.

Rounding out the big 3 is Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), namely leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The purpose to supplementing with them is to help build your muscles, and they’re believed to also help keep your existing muscle mass from being cannibalized during intense workouts. Get the pills or powder and have them before, during and immediately following your workouts.

Bonus Hardgainer Tip:
Perseverance and patience have to be your guiding lights through your bodybuilding journey. As a skinny guy or girl it will take longer to build muscle mass, and you have to be consistent – while others may see gains while skipping workouts, straying off-diet, etc., you need to be reasonably strict with yourself. But fear not – follow the 5 Hardgainer Tips above and you’ll get the results you’re aiming for in due course.


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