BEATING GYM INTIMIDATION

It’s unfortunate, but plenty of people feel intimidated at the thought of joining a gym. Walking into a huge open room with hundreds of mysterious machines is tough and what’s worse is that the members seem to be in great shape and know exactly what they’re doing. It’s not hard to see why so many people think they’re too out of shape to join a gym.

The good news is that there are many choices for how and where you workout and each gym offers a different type of atmosphere. The trick is to find one that feels welcoming to you.

Why Gyms Can Be Intimidating 

Navigating the gym can throw anyone for a loop, even experienced exercisers. It’s normal to experience those fears when you join a gym and it’s not hard to see why when you look at how some health clubs are set up.

  • Open spaces – If you’re looking for privacy during workouts, joining a large gym may not be for you. In many health clubs, the workout areas are open with cardio machines lined up behind one another and weight machines sprawled out across the floor. Some group fitness rooms may be lined with windows so people can see in and some find this uncomfortable when just getting started with exercise.
  • Confusing machinery – Treadmills, bikes, elliptical trainers, balls, bands, weight machines…all that equipment can be very confusing if you’ve never used them before. The fear of looking stupid is something we all experience when trying new things and the overwhelming choices can add to that fear.
  • Aggressive salespeople – Working up the courage to visit a gym can be hard for some people and, if you’re shy, an aggressive salesperson may intimidate you even more. Not all health clubs are like that, but many do put pressure on you to sign up. Many people find themselves signing over their firstborn without even being sure they want a membership at all.
  • Hardcore exercisers – Every gym has regulars and some can be a little intimidating if you make an honest mistake (like taking too long on a machine or not putting your weights back in the right place). Though you’ll find most members are helpful and nice, not all gym-goers are patient with newcomers and it can be scary to navigate the gym with these types of people.
  • Comparing Yourself to Others – Though there are a wide variety of gym-goers, big and small, there are always going to be those people that seem to have “perfect bodies.” Many newbies can be intimidated when they see this, not remembering that everybody starts off as a beginner at one point or another, and that comparing yourself to others isn’t a fair thing to do.

Find the Right Gym for You

If you tend to be intimidated by gyms, but you still want a place you can work out, there are some other options out there for you. All it takes is a little time and research to find the right place for you.

Choosing Your Health Club 

There are many factors to consider when choosing a health club, from location to membership fees and contracts. But none of that matters if it doesn’t have the right kind of atmosphere.

When looking for a gym, you want to find a place where you feel comfortable and that might not always be at the nearest chain such as 24 Hour Fitness, Bally’s, Gold’s, or Lifetime Fitness. Although these types of gyms usually offer a wide range of services and classes, the large spaces and sometimes aggressive salespeople can make it uncomfortable for some. For more individualized and caring attention as well as a welcoming atmosphere, check out some of these ideas.

The YMCA 

The YMCA is a non-profit community service organization focusing on family health and wellness. Though each one is different, most offer a relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and a great place for families to exercise and play together. Check into your local YMCA to see what kinds of programs they have to offer, both for kids and adults.

Jewish Community Centers 

The JCC is another family-friendly place offering everything from gym workouts to group fitness classes. Like the YMCA, they also offer plenty of camps and programs for kids as well as daycare services. And you don’t have to be Jewish to join.

Local Recreation Centers 

Many cities and towns have a Parks & Recreation Department offering fitness classes (for adults and kids), fitness centers, kids programs and more. These types of places are often casual and relaxed rather than ‘hardcore’ like some other types of gyms. You can often join fitness classes (like yoga or tai chi) without having to pay a gym membership and it’s a great place to meet your neighbors without feeling like you’re in a competitive atmosphere.

Check with your local parks department to find out what’s available in your town.

Hospital-Based Gyms 

Many hospitals now offer gym services, which is a great choice whether you have a medical condition or not. The staff at these types of gyms are usually very well-trained and, of course, you have access to medical advice if you need it.

Women-Only Clubs 

These types of clubs (like Curves) usually offer 30-minute circuits that combine strength and aerobic training in one workout. Because they’re women-only and no-frills, many women feel comfortable working out in this type of environment.

One drawback is that doing the same workout for too long can lead to weight loss plateaus and boredom.

The hydraulic machines preclude any weighted eccentric movements (the lowering of the weight). Although Curves claims this is safer and reduces injury, this actually means that muscles aren’t being trained functionally. Muscles need to be able to handle the weight (whether it’s with machines or picking up a child) through a full range of motion. Still, this can be a great place for beginners, especially if you stay month-to-month.

Personal Training Studios 

Many personal training studios are small and a bit more homey than big gyms. You may find it more comfortable to work out in this type of environment and you may even be able to schedule private sessions with a trainer. The only downside is that you usually can’t use it as you would a gym (i.e., showing up at any time for a workout) but only for individual sessions with your trainer.

Build Your Confidence at the Gym 

If you decide to join a gym, there are some things you can do to make the experience easier and more enjoyable:

  • Set up an orientation. Many gyms offer new member orientations where a trainer shows you around and teaches you how to use the machines. This service is usually free and once you know how the machines work, you’ll feel much more comfortable about showing up for your workouts.
  • Hire a personal trainer. A personal trainer can set you up with a full workout based on your goals. He or she can also educate you on good form, teach you how to use the machines and be your support as you learn new activities.
  • Workout with a buddy. It’s always easier to do something with support and walking into a gym is much easier with a friend along. Find a friend or relative with similar goals to join a gym with you, if you can.
  • Choose less busy hours. Most gyms have busy times such as early morning, lunchtime, and after work. To avoid the crowds, you can schedule your workouts for mid-afternoon or even late at night, if that works for you.

It’s important to know that the gym isn’t for everyone, so you shouldn’t feel you have to join one to get a great workout. You can easily set up your own home gym, use workout videos or take your workouts outside. You can also hire in-home personal trainers to get one-on-one instruction without the distraction of other exercisers.

CALF GAINS

Band-resisted Calf Flexion

Sit on a mat with your legs extended out in front of you. If, in this position, it’s difficult for you to keep your back straight, elevate your hips by sitting on bench or yoga block. Place an elastic resistance band around the balls of both feet. Keeping the knees straight, point and flex the foot forward and upward, maintaining tautness in the band throughout the movement.

Single-leg Standing Heel Raise

Stand on a step with one foot, with the heel hanging off the edge. Make sure the ball of the foot is securely on top of the step. Slowly lower the heel of the standing leg below the edge of the step and then raise the heel as high as possible while keeping the knee straight. Complete all repetitions on one leg before moving on to the opposite side.

Seated Heel Raise

Sit on a chair or weight bench with both feet on a step and the heels hanging off of the edge. Place a dumbbell or plate weight across the tops of the thighs. Make sure the balls of the feet are securely on top of the step. Slowly lower the heels below the edge of the step and then raise them as high as possible.

Plié Squat with Heel Raise

Adopt a wide stance while holding a dumbbell in each hand in the front rack position. The feet should be turned out, but only to the point at which the knees can track in alignment with the toes. Do not allow the knees to cave inward during this movement. Lift the right heel off the floor, but keep the left foot flat. Perform squats with the left foot flat and the right foot balanced on the ball of the foot. Complete all repetitions on one leg before changing the foot position to the opposite side.

Double-leg Standing Heel Raise

Stand on a step with both heels hanging off the edge. Make sure the balls of the feet are securely on top of the step. Slowly lower the heels below the edge of the step and then raise them as high as possible while keeping the knees straight.

QUAD BLAST

One of the biggest barriers to getting healthy and fit is information overload.

If you’ve Googled just about anything related to losing fat, gaining muscle, and getting strong, you know what I mean.

You quickly realize that you’ve entered a circus of umpteen experts and “gurus” in a free-for-all melee to get your attention and money.

Well, I have good news:

Out of all the quads exercises you could do, a small handful stand head and shoulders above the rest.

If you simply focus on progressing on these superior  exercises, you’ll have no trouble building fantastic quadriceps (and legs).

Before we talk exercises, though, let’s talk equipment…

Why You Should Stay Off the Smith Machine

quad workouts

When it comes to working out, assume the following:

The easier something is–an exercise, workout, routine, etc.–the less effective it is.

There are exceptions, of course, but this holds true more often than not.

Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that research shows that the Smith Machine produces smaller gains in muscle and strength than free weights.

The main reason the Smith Machine is easier than (and inferior to) free weights is the fixed, vertical path that the bar travels on.

This simplifies the movements and reduces the need for stabilizing muscles to keep the bar level and balanced.

The quadriceps workout given below is going to call for free weight squatting. If you’ve been squatting exclusively on the Smith Machine, get ready for a rude awakening.

I used to squat on the Smith Machine and worked up to a rather meager 235 pounds for a few reps. When I moved to the free weight squat, I struggled with 185 pounds.

(I’ve since worked up to something respectable: 365 pounds for 2 to 3 reps on my back squat and 275 pounds for 2 reps on my front squat.)

If you’re worried that you’ll be increasing your risk of injury by making the switch, you won’t be.

You can free weight squat just as safely with the right setup (and without a spotter).

The key piece of equipment is the Power Rack.

How to Safely Squat Solo in the Power Rack

When you’re lifting, you don’t have to go to absolute muscle failure every set.

(Generally speaking, you want to end your sets one rep short of failure, which is the point where you struggle to get a rep and aren’t sure if you can get another without help.)

This is why a squat stand doesn’t work well for solo training.

With a stand, there are going to be times where you could have squeezed out another rep or two if you knew you weren’t going to get stuck without a way out.

Well, the Power Rack is the perfect solution.

It allows you to squat (and bench press) by yourself without having to worry about whether or not you’re going to get pinned under hundreds of pounds of weight.

Here’s a high-quality (and affordable) Power Rack made by Rogue, which I highly recommend:

squat-rack-for-sale

I WANT THIS

The key feature of the Power Rack is the safety arms, which you set to catch the weight if you fail.

Here’s how it works:

Your Barbell Matters Too

While we’re talking equipment, let’s talk barbells.

You might think a barbell is a barbell, but I recommend you pony up for a high-quality bar with sleeves that can spin independently of the bar.

That is, the plates should be able to rotate without torquing the bar, which can put a lot of strain on your wrists when you’re bench pressing.

I like Rogue’s Ohio Bar personally:

quad exercise barbell

I WANT THIS

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s now go over the best quadriceps exercises.

1. Barbell Back Squat

If you’re not doing at least some form of squatting, you’re not really training your legs.

And out of all the squat variations you can do, the plain old barbell back squat is hard to beat.

It’s has earned the reputation as the single most effective exercise you can do for building strong, muscular legs, and rightfully so.

It goes further than that, really, because it’s actually a whole-body exercise that involves every major muscle group but your chest.

That is…if it’s done correctly. And as you’ll see, it’s often not.

The biggest mistake people make in their squatting is failing to achieve proper depth.

This is a problem because the shallower the squat, the less effective it is.

Here’s what I mean by proper depth:

proper squat

There are several things to highlight here:

That’s the position you want to achieve with every rep.

Here’s an in-depth discussion on how to squat properly:

Now, before we move on to the next quads exercise, let’s take a moment to talk full (“Ass to Grass”) squatting.

First, here’s what it looks like:

“ATG” squatting is kind of a “thing” these days, with some people claiming it’s the only “real” way to squat.

That’s nonsense.

There are benefits to full squatting–it makes the legs and butt work harder–but there are downsides too:

  1. It requires quite a bit more lower body mobility than most people have.
  2. It requires more technical skill than parallel squats, which means your form is more likely to break down as the weights get heavier.

This is why I generally don’t recommend that people full squat unless they’re experienced weightlifters that are fairly flexible and familiar with proper form.

If that’s not you, don’t worry–the parallel squat will give your quads more than enough of a beating.

And while we’re talking lower body mobility and flexibility, I should mention the most common reasons people can’t squat properly:

Fortunately, these issues can be corrected (and prevented) with a simple squat mobility routine, like this one.

2. Barbell Front Squat

The front squat is a squat variation that emphasizes the quadriceps and core and requires less flexibility to achieve proper depth.

It also creates less compression of the spine and less torque in the knees, which makes it particularly useful for those with back or knee injuries or limitations.

Mechanically, speaking, it’s very similar to the back squat, but you hold the bar differently.

Here’s how it works:

3. Dumbbell and Barbell Lunge

The lunge is a simple but effective leg exercise that everyone should have in their repertoire.

It build strength, muscle, and balance, and because it’s a single-leg movement, it can help address muscular imbalances as well.

If you’re new to lunging, the dumbbell lunge is the place to start.

Here’s how to do it:

The barbell lunge is a more difficult variation but it allows you to load heavier weights:

4. Leg Press

Some people like to think that the leg press is just an inferior version of the squat.

I disagree.

It not only requires less technical skill (making it more newbie-friendly) and stabilizing muscles (allowing you to load heavier weights), it also is fantastic for building hip strength (due to a larger range of motion in the hips than the squat).

Here’s how to do it on an angled press (which I prefer):

And here’s a seated press:

5. Hack Squat (Machine)

I don’t use many exercise machines but am a big believer in the value of this one.

Like the leg press, it emphasizes the quadriceps but requires less technical skill and stabilizing muscles than a free weight squat, meaning you can safely handle heavier weights.

It’s particularly useful for sets that you plan on taking to absolute muscle failure because if you get stuck, you can sit the weight down without risk of injury.

Here’s how to do it:

6. Dumbbell and Barbell Step-Up

Like the lunge, the step-up is a great single-leg quadriceps exercise.

In fact, it’s so great that decades ago many strength coaches in Bulgaria and the Soviet Union had their athletes do it in place of the back squat and saw even better results.

As with the lunge, the dumbbell step-up is the place to start.

Here’s how to do it:

As you get stronger and need to continue increasing the weight, you’ll graduate to the barbell step-up:

7. Sprints (Bonus!) 

If you’re surprised to see this on the list, I’m going to assume you’ve never done all-out sprints before.

They destroy your quads. (They’re great for high-intensity interval cardio as well.)

If you’re going to sprint, you might as well learn a bit about how to do it right.

Here’s a good summary:

Remember–Progression is the Key to Muscle Growth

quad muscle exercises

That’s it for the best quadriceps exercises. Those are all you need to build deep, sweeping quads.

Your goal isn’t to just do these exercises, though–it’s to progress on them.

And when we’re talking building muscle, the most productive type of progression is “progressive overload.”

This refers to increasing tension levels in the muscles over time and the easiest way to do that is to add weight to the bar.

This is why your primary goal as a natural weightlifter is to get stronger.

So…build strength on the exercises above and eat enough food and you will make gains.

The Ultimate Quadriceps Workout

quad exercises for mass

Before we look at an actual quadriceps workout, let’s talk workout programming.

First, the obvious question:

Why bother with a hamstring/quadriceps split? Why not just do all-inclusive “leg workouts” instead?

Well, there are several reasons why you might want to train the hamstrings and quadriceps on different days:

1. You’re an advanced weightlifter that is having trouble adding size to your legs.

A hamstring/quads split allows you to maximally overload each muscle group both in terms of individual workouts and weekly volume.

2. Your quads or hamstrings are under- or over-developed.

A hamstring/quads split allows you to work harder on your lagging muscle group while maintaining the other.

3. You like it more than traditional leg training.

In many ways, the best workout routine is the one you can stick to.

How much you enjoy a workout programdoes play a role in your overall results with it.

Now, if you’re new to weightlifting or your legs aren’t imbalanced and you don’t particularly like splitting your leg workouts into two, then you don’t have a reason to do hamstring and quadriceps workouts.

You can just stick to traditional leg training and make tremendous progress. (That’s what I do personally.)

So, with that in mind, let’s look at how to get the most out of a hamstring/quadriceps split.

We recall that your quads workouts will train your hamstrings as well, and vice versa.

This is why I recommend that you do just one quadriceps and hamstring workout per week, and that you put 3 days of rest in between the workouts.

(Many people like to train one of the two on Mondays and the other on Thursdays.)

This will ensure your legs have enough time to recover before you train them again.

There’s no particular benefit to doing one or the other first in the week, so whichever you start with is up to you.

My favorite type of quadriceps workout contains at least one big, compound movement and one or two additional exercises to target the muscle group.

Furthermore, the quadriceps can benefit from higher rep work, but you have to emphasize the heavy weightlifting if you want to avoid plateaus.

The workout below is a great introduction to this training philosophy and it’s equally applicable to both men and women.

That said, you’ll see that I recommend different rep ranges for each.

This is mainly because most women haven’t done any heavy compound weightlifting before and can’t comfortably work with weights in the higher ranges of their one-rep max.

As they get stronger, though, they can and should start including heavier work in their training. (I talk more about this in my book Thinner Leaner Stronger.)

If, however, you’re a woman that’s well-acquainted with heavy weightlifting, then I recommend that you follow the heavier recommendations for men.

So, do the following workout once per 7 days for the next 8 weeks, and I think you’ll be very happy with the results.

Barbell Back Squat

Warm up and 2 sets of…

Men/Experienced Women: 4 to 6 reps (~85% of 1RM)

Inexperienced Women: 8 to 10 reps (70 to 75% of 1RM)

Barbell Front Squat

Men/Experienced Women: 4 to 6 reps (~85% of 1RM)

Inexperienced Women: 8 to 10 reps (70 to 75% of 1RM)

Dumbbell/Barbell Step-Up

2 sets of…

Men/Experienced Women: 4 to 6 reps (~85% of 1RM)

Inexperienced Women: 8 to 10 reps (70 to 75% of 1RM)

Leg Press

2 sets of…

All: 8 to 10 reps

That’s it. And trust me–it’s harder than it looks.

A few odds and ends:

WINTER BEACH BODY

With Christmas dinner looming on the horizon, and the threat of endless festive parties ready to eat and drink your carefully-honed summer beach body away, it’s more important than ever to keep on top of your fitness. To ensure that, by the time summer 2018 rolls around, you’re still looking trim, we turned to Toby Huntington-Whiteley, Max Lowery and Matt Roberts – masters in their field of personal fitness – for the best exercises, tips and techniques to keep you ticking over this winter.

Dumbbell Clean to Press – “This exercise is perfect if you are short of time and still want to work your whole body. It works multiple muscles and is great for both your power and strength. In addition, this exercise is an excellent fat burner by increasing heart and metabolic rate.”

1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder width apart.

2. Bend your knees slightly pushing your hips back whilst keeping a neutral spine and lowering the dumbbells just below your knees.

3. In one smooth movement drive your hips explosively forward, engaging your glutes and legs. By shrugging your shoulders and bending your elbows you can bring the weights to your shoulders. 

4. Once you are stood up with the dumbbells on your shoulders, slightly dip your hips back and then drive up to standing. Using this momentum press your arms straight above your head.   

5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders and then to your hips. Then repeat the sequence.

Push-up to Renegade Row – “I love this exercise it hits your shoulder, chest, back and core. I put this at the end of my upperbody workouts as a finisher, alongside a cardio exercise like mountain climbers or burpees. Putting a finisher at the end of your workout is a great way to maximise the calories you burn and increase your metabolic rate.”

1. With two dumbbells come into a push up position with your hands gripping the dumbbells on the floor. 

2. With your core engaged lower yourself to the ground and push back up.

3. At the top of the push up, keeping your core tight, pull one dumbbell to your waist and slowly lower it back down and then repeat on the other side. Then repeat the sequence.

The Classic Burpee – “One of the most effective exercises you can do for full body muscle activation and cardiovascular intensity. I like to do 5 rounds of 20 Burpees with a 1:1 work to rest ratio. So, if it takes me 30 seconds to do 20 burpees, I will get a 30 second break!”

1.  in a standing position, then jump into the air.

2. As you land on your feet, move your hands towards the floor and hurl your legs back so you are in a press- up/plank position, making sure your back isn’t sagging towards the floor.

3. Jump straight out of that position by bringing your feet back under your hips and then extending your legs and your torso upward, leaping into the air in one movement. Repeat this movement as fast as possible. 

The Hollow Hold – “This is my go to exercise to build functional abdominal strength. The hollow body position is fundamental to a gymnasts training, and gymnasts have THE strongest cores of any sport. As with all exercises, quality is key. Once you can do 5 sets of 60s with your legs as low as possible you can start to add weight in your hands and between your feet.”

1.Start at on your back, placing your hands behind your head and bringing your knees in towards your chest.

2. Lift your chest off the floor using your abdominal muscles, and extend your legs straight up towards the ceiling or sky. Lock your knees and point your toes.

3. Keeping your chest lifted off the floor using your abs, lower your straight legs down towards the floor, making sure your lower back does not arch. (The lower your legs go the harder your abdominals have

to work; if your abs aren’t strong enough, your back will want to take the strain.)

4. Find the angle in which you can hold this pose without your lower back arching, all the time lifting your chest off the floor to create the hollow body position.

CONCENTRATION CURL

The concentration curl is an old school move that can produce real results, but only if you’re ready to buy in and work with perfect form. You wont be able to mindlessly shift and swing your body to help to lift the dumbbells, like some people do during standard standing curls—so be prepared to be humbled by the weight if your form is sloppy. Top-level trainers like Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and Don Saladino use the exercise to build major league biceps.

“The strength of the concentration curl is in how it helps eliminate any excess shifting at the shoulder joint during biceps curls,” says Samuel. “When you do standard biceps curls, it’s easy (and convenient) to let the elbow shift forward and stop keeping your upper arm perpendicular to the ground. That momentum takes the emphasis off the biceps very briefly, but just long enough you sometimes miss the sustained biceps contraction needed to really build your bis.”

You can’t even cheat during the concentration curl if you wanted to, due to the positioning. Instead of standing upright with your elbows free, you’ll bend at the torso and keep your arm at an angle perpendicular to the ground. You can do this the classic way, seated on a bench with your arm resting on your inner thigh, like Samuel and Saladino, or you can bend over and support yourself while you’re still on your feet, like The Rock. The important thing is that your arm only moves when you squeeze your bicep to lift the weight. 

“You’re driving your upper arm into your inner thigh, and doing so will keep your upper arm perpendicular to the ground,” Samuel says. “That takes your shoulder out of play and lets you focus on squeezing your biceps. That also makes the very top of the concentration curl, which can become a position of rest if your elbow has shifted forward, into a position of work; squeeze the heck out of your biceps when you’re at the top.”

Samuel’s last tip is a subtle one, which is easy to do if you’re focusing as you should—but if you’re lazy, you’ll miss the benefit: “Make sure to supinate hard when you do concentration curls, turning your pinky toward the ceiling as much as possible,” he says.

Use concentration curls as your second or third exercise in a biceps training day. Try them for 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps. If you really want to get a pump, set a timer and do as many reps (with perfect form, of course) as possible for 30 seconds on one arm, then do the same on the other arm. Alternate back and forth for three sets.

MONDAY: CHEST DAY

Why the first day in the working week is International Chest Day.

1. It gets a large muscle group out of the way early in the week. 

Unless you trained over the weekend, Monday is often the start of a new training cycle and starting your week with a larger body part can be a great idea. On Monday, you often have more energy because, psychologically, you know that you have to make it through the rest of the week and you want to make this first workout count. Also, if you’re someone liable to skip training sessions later in the week, you don’t want to waste one of your workouts on a smaller body part, such as arms or shoulders, especially since bench press will hit those as well as your chest.

 2. The other alternatives are uninviting. 

Related to the first point, consider the alternatives if you’re not doing chest on Monday. Legs? Hmm, maybe later in the week. Back? Ditto. On a Monday, you might still be feeling the strain from the weekend and don’t want to attack one of the big two: legs and back. You also don’t want to run the risk of potentially wiping out the rest of your training week. As already mentioned, arms and shoulders feel like a waste with Monday prime gym real estate. Better make it chest.

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 4.18.52 PM


3. People like training chest, so it motivates them for the rest of the week.

A lot of people train chest more than other (some might say more important) body parts, so they get good at it. We like to keep doing what we’re good at, so it only stands to reason that we’re keen to throw ourselves into Chest Day when it comes around. Starting your week off with chest often motivates you into sticking with your training for the whole cycle. (And with chest out of the way, the bros are free to work arms and abs every other day of the week!)

4. People stick with what they know.

A lot of people, when they start going to the gym, learn bench press very early on. It’s very comfortable to start your training week doing the first thing you ever learnt in a gym. Additionally, many beginner’s programs often start with chest and most people like to stick with what they know. Some people even do the same thing week-in, week-out and never change up their split. (Think back to when you first joined the gym. How different is your program from when you started?)

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 4.28.59 PM

5. Everyone else is doing it.
Many beginners start at the gym and look around to see what others are doing to get an idea for themselves. It’s human nature to look at a bunch of people training chest on a certain day of the week and think it must be the best or right thing to do. It’s social proof: everyone else is doing it — it must be right.

But for real, it doesn’t matter which day you train your chest. Or any other body part for that matter. Some might actually advise against training chest on Mondays specifically because it’s become known as International Chest Day; it’s so popular, you’re more likely to find a free bench on another day, after all. (Though you could always change up the time of day you train; get up early and hit the gym at 6 AM on a Monday — guaranteed you’ll find lots of free equipment.) There are upsides and downsides to training no matter which day you go. The most important thing, in the end, is that you do get into the gym and put in the work.

Happy training!

BICEP WORKOUT

EXERCISE 1: BARBELL CURL

Barbell Curl

The first biceps exercise to perform is barbell curls, which will also allow you to overload those biceps with a heavy weight. Most trainees are slightly stronger when lifting a barbell versus a set of  dumbbells, so this is a great one for maximum strength development.

When doing the exercise, the primary thing to focus on is that you’re not cutting the movement pattern short at all, and that you’re not allowing momentum to cause you to lean backward as you hoist the weight upwards.

This is one of the most common mistakes with this exercise—momentum performs more of the work than your muscles actually do. If you perform it in a slow and controlled manner, that should reduce the chances of this happening significantly and allow you to place a higher intensity deep within the muscle fibers.

EXERCISE 2: INCLINE DUMBBELL CURL

Incline Dumbbell Curl

The second exercise to add is incline dumbbell curls. This exercise is one of the best to help prevent that momentum issue from happening as we just discussed, since it essentially restricts the movement of the back.

When doing this exercise, you will feel maximum tension on the biceps muscle belly, so don’t be surprised if the weight is slightly lower. As long as you’re pushing yourself hard, using the lower weight but maintaining proper form will be the way to go for results.

EXERCISE 3: STANDING BICEPS CABLE CURL

Standing Biceps Cable Curl

If you’re looking to target the deep-tissue muscle fibres, cable curls are a good bet. Since the pattern of movement is less stable with this movement, due to the constant tension provided by the cable, you will call all the stabilization muscles surrounding the biceps into play as you execute the exercise.

You can use a variety of different attachments to perform the cable curls including a rope, a straight bar, or rotating cable handles that allow you to work a single arm at a time.

EXERCISE 4: REVERSE-GRIP BENT OVER ROW

Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row

After you’ve included regular straight rows within the program, you may also want to consider adding reverse grip rows as well. These are going to place a slightly greater stress on the biceps muscles as opposed to straight rows, so they will be a better exercise for strictly targeting the biceps.

Depending on what muscle group you think of contracting as you bring the weights up to the body (the biceps or the back), that too will impact the nature of the muscle stimulus.

EXERCISE 5: CONCENTRATION CURLS

Finally, the last of the exercises to consider to blast your biceps into growth are concentration curls. When done while sitting, these will also limit the degree momentum plays in the execution of the exercise and place all the emphasis right on the biceps muscle.

Concentration Curl

There will be no helper muscles called into play when doing concentration curls (when done properly), so this is a good one to add in at the very end of your workout when you’re really looking to finish off the biceps and fully exhaust them

TRAIN MMA

So you wanna be a MMA fighter? The road to MMA fame and fortune isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds. There are millions of people just like you who want to fight on ESPN for the UFC. However, only a few hundred of those million make it to the big leagues. MMA is different from most sports, as in it’s still constantly growing. MMA is actually the fastest growing sport today, with more and more people heading to their local MMA gym to sign up for classes.

The MMA lifestyle isn’t that much glamorous, many fighters have to pay for their own training and diet plan leading up to fights. Even professional fighters still struggle to make enough money to continue proper training and a strict diet regiment. However, the base salary for fighters in the UFC has risen substantially over the year, this is all in thanks to the popularity of fights such as Conor McGregor.

Best Age to Start Training MMA

Truth be told, there is no “perfect” age to start training MMA, Muay Thai, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. In other sports such as Baseball and Football, it’s always seen as “the earlier, the better.” However, this belief isn’t always true when it comes to combat sports such as MMA. Just as most studies show that it’s actually better to fully develop your body and muscles before strength training, the same holds true for MMA training as well.

During a recent study, we found that the best age to start training MMA (or any other combat sport) is around the age of 15-16. The best age to start MMA is when you’re a teenager and your body is fully or almost fully developed (assuming you want to one day become a professional MMA fighter). The reason I chose the 15-16 age range is that this will allow you time to train and get a few amateur fights before you turn 18 years of age. The major MMA organizations such as the UFC usually won’t sign anyone until they’re 18 anyway.

young mma fighters

SAGE NORTHCUTT STARTED FIGHTING IN THE UFC AT JUST 19 YEARS OLD.

If you’re in your twenties and want to train MMA to become a professional it’s still possible. This doesn’t mean that you’re too late by any means, no matter the age MMA is still a growing sport which means there’s tons of room for opportunity. Many professional MMA fighters are continually progressing even while competing on the highest stage (UFC).

If you’re someone in your thirties or higher it’s never too late to train MMA for self-defense either. MMA, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are all great workouts and can be very useful for many real-life situations you might find yourself in. The best thing about training Martial Arts is that it’s completely judgement free!

Is MMA a Safe Sport to Train?

Many parents worry about the risk factors (concussions, injuries, etc) when their child competes in MMA. However, recent studies have shown that MMA is actually a lot safer when compared to sports such as Boxing and Football. We actually wrote an article on this topic alone, “Is Boxing or MMA more Dangerous?” and the results may shock you.

It’s proven that there’s much more brain damage occurring in sports where you have headgear to protect you. Headgear in sports actually allow your brain to take even more damage than it ever should, allowing repeated blows which are actually much more harmful than being struck without headgear on. However, I will say that headgear can be useful for situations where you don’t want to endure any facial lacerations or nose/ear damage.

The main dangers of MMA is when you start sparring heavily and competing at a higher level. There are also many dangers of studying martial arts under “phony” martial arts instructors. Which is why you should always be skeptical before joining a gym, especially if there aren’t many good reviews online about it. However you shouldn’t have to worry about that too much, in this day and age good MMA gym’s aren’t too hard to come by.

Choosing your Martial Art

It’s okay if you’re still unsure of which Martial Art to train first. Many people struggle finding their true passion when beginning their combat sports training. If you’re someone who is looking to become a professional fighter, then you need to be much more serious about your training, as compared to someone who is training Martial Arts just for fun.

Not all martial arts are the same, especially when it comes to the best fighting style for MMA fighters. If you’re serious about your UFC dream then I suggest training both Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as taking a few Boxing and Wrestling classes in your spare time. The best MMA fighter is a well rounded fighter, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. You should be well rounded so that your opponent can’t identify your weaknesses easily.

choose your fighter

IF ONLY CHOOSING YOUR MARTIAL ART WAS AS EASY AS CHOOSING YOUR FIGHTER IN MORTAL KOMBAT

It’s okay to train MMA for fun, there are many reasons to train Martial Arts other than the fact you can make millions of dollars doing it. Many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players train to stay in shape and many Muay Thai fighters train for self-defense reasons.

There never has to be a particular reason for training Martial Arts, sometimes it’s nice to do something because you enjoy doing it. You shouldn’t feel the pressure to become a MMA fighter because it looks cool on TV, you’re only seeing the end result.

Joining a MMA Gym

This might seem like common knowledge, however, many people don’t realize that it’s always best to learn from instructors who are familiar with the specific types of Martial Arts that are used in MMA. I recommend looking for a good Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or Boxing gym (which ever martial art you’re interested in). You can always join an “MMA gym” that combines all of these great martial arts into one. Many Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms offer a combination of both classes as well.

It’s always best to compare all of the MMA gym’s around your area and compare prices to come up with the best option for your specific training. Training MMA isn’t the most inexpensive thing in the world however, the average cost of a MMA gym membership is around $100 or more a month. This doesn’t take into consideration all of the gloves, shin guards, and other gear & equipment you may need to train with.

Using the Right Gear & Equipment

The last thing you want to do is start training MMA, Muay Thai, or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu without the proper gear. Not only is it unsafe to not wear the proper training gear & equipment, but it’s also something that most MMA gym’s won’t allow. Most MMA gyms stress safety when members are training, especially when sparring.

I remember when I first started training Muay Thai, it was always stressful for me to find the right gear. I was always worried about whether or not my training partners would laugh or judge me for buying certain types of Muay Thai shorts. However I eventually got over my fear and found a comfortable pair of Muay Thai shorts that I enjoyed training in.

I love Muay Thai so much that I wanted to help other beginners out as well, that’s why I created the Ultimate Guide to the Best Muay Thai Gear & Equipment so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Help, MMA Gym’s Don’t Work with my Schedule!

This is a common problem that people find themselves in, especially if you tend to work odd hours or have a random school/work schedule. I have actually found myself having this problem throughout my college years when the closest martial arts gym was over an hour from my apartment. This is the moment in my life when I had to improvise and create my own MMA gym at home.

The best thing about building a MMA gym at home is that you can workout around your busy schedule! It’s actually relatively inexpensive to create your own MMA home gym. We created a step-by-step guide to creating your own MMA gym at home as well. As long as you have a little money to invest and a weekend’s worth of time, you can create your own MMA gym at home!

Although it’s always better to learn from experienced instructors, it’s not too hard to learn some basic fundamental moves at home. We’ve created a MMA workout at home that you can try after you create your home gym. Working out at home can be very beneficial as well, it’s much more quiet and you can focus a lot more on your technique at your own home gym.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu players can also train their skills at home. There are many ways you can improve your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at home, most of which is completely free. Many people would be surprised that you can learn even more about Jiu-Jitsu off the mats. Many books and informational videos are completely free online. This type of content can help you become a much better BJJ player for when you do have time to start training in the gym again.

HOT TO SUP

 A woman carries her stand up paddle board towards water

Stand up paddle boarding (SUP) offers a fun way to play on the water, with the added benefit of a full-body workout. And, since you stand at full height on your board, it gives you a unique vantage point for viewing what’s down under the water and out on the horizon.

Before you head out on the water for the first time, it’s helpful to know a little bit about SUP gear and basic technique. To get started paddle boarding, you’ll want to learn:

  • How to get geared up to SUP; you’ll need your board, of course, plus just a couple other essentials.
  • Basic SUP paddling techniques; just a few skills will ensure you don’t end up paddling in circles.
  • A few helpful tips for your first SUP outing (hint: try to make wind your friend).
     

Find SUP Classes & Events 

 

 

Video: Paddle Boarding Basics

 

 

Get Geared Up to SUP

Good news: You need just a few key pieces of equipment to enjoy stand up paddle boarding.

 
stand up paddle board (sup) gear illustrations

Stand up paddle board: Your first time or two out, you may want to rent gear or borrow from a friend. After that, if you decide you love to SUP and want to do more of it, consider buying your own. Your board choice is determined by a combination of paddler weight and skill, your intended use and the local conditions. Different boards excel at different disciplines, such as recreational paddling, surfing, touring, racing and SUP yoga. If you’re renting, the staff at the rental shop will help guide your choice. To learn more about boards, see Stand Up Paddle Boards: How to Choose.

Paddle: A SUP paddle looks a bit like a stretched-out canoe paddle with a tear-drop-shaped blade that angles forward for maximum paddling efficiency. The correct length paddle will reach up to your wrist when you stand the paddle up in front of you and raise your arm above your head. Read more about choosing and sizing paddles in our article, SUP Paddles: How to Choose.

PFD (Personal Flotation Device): The U.S. Coast Guard classifies stand up paddle boards as vessels, so if you’re paddling outside a surf or swimming area, you have to have a PFD on board. Adults don’t have to wear the PFD, but children must. Check your state’s regulations for age requirements. You can learn how to pick the right PFD for you in our article, PFDs: How to Choose.

Safety whistle and light: The Coast Guard also requires that you carry a safety whistle to warn other boaters. If you expect to be out after sunset, be sure to have a light on board.

 
stand up paddle board (sup) gear accessories

Proper clothing: During the summer months on a warm body of water, most people choose to wear some combination of a swimsuit, board shorts, and a short- or long-sleeved rash guard for sun protection. For cool conditions where hypothermia is a concern, wear a wetsuit or dry suit.

Leash: Typically sold separately, a leash tethers your SUP to you, keeping it close by if you fall off. Your SUP is a large flotation device, so being attached to it can be important for your safety. There are leashes designed specifically for surf, flatwater and rivers; be sure to purchase the correct one for your intended use.

Sun protection: Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing.

Shop paddle boarding gear

 

Basic SUP Paddling Techniques

With only a little instruction, most beginners are able to stand up and start paddling shortly after taking a SUP out for the very first time. To get you started, here are some tips on:

  • Standing up
  • Balance
  • Falling and getting back on

 

How to Stand Up on Your SUP

stand up paddle boarder starting to stand up on the board

Practice this technique for standing up:

  • Stand alongside the board in about knee-deep water (just deep enough that the fins on the board don’t hit the bottom).
  • Hold the board by the edges and work your way onto the board in a kneeling position, just behind the center point of the board (you can quickly locate the center of the board by finding the carry handle).
  • Keep your hands on the sides of the board to stabilize it and move one foot at a time to place your feet where your knees were.
  • Rather than standing up in one motion, start by raising your chest up while keeping your knees bent. Once your chest is vertical, extend your legs to stand up.

 

Staying Balanced on a SUP

a stand up paddle boarder's stance for maintaining balance while on the board

Once you’re standing, there are a handful of things you can do to maintain your balance on the board:

  • Position your feet so they are parallel, about hip-width distance apart, and centered between the edges of the board.
  • Keep your toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent and your back straight.
  • Keep your head and shoulders steady and upright, and shift your weight by moving your hips.
  • Your gaze should be level at the horizon. Avoid staring at your feet.

 

How to Hold a SUP Paddle

the correct way to hold and use a sup paddle

 It’s fairly common to see beginner paddlers holding their SUP paddles the wrong way. To avoid making the same mistake, here are two things to know when grabbing your paddle:

  • Make sure the tear-drop-shaped blade of the paddle angles away from you and toward the nose of the board.
  • When you’re paddling on the right side of your board, your left hand will be on the T-grip and your right hand a few feet down on the shaft. When you switch sides, reverse your hand positions.

 

Falling and Getting Back On

a stand up paddle boarder getting back on their board after falling off

Despite your best efforts to stay balanced on your board, you’re going to fall in the water at some point. Even experienced paddlers take the plunge from time to time, so if you’re feeling a little wobbly, don’t worry about it and remember that SUP is a watersport, so it’s okay to get wet.

For those inevitable times when you lose your balance:

  • Aim yourself to the side, so that you fall into the water and not onto the board. Falling onto the board is more likely to cause an injury.
  • Try to hang onto your paddle while falling. If you get separated from it, retrieve your board first and get back on, then paddle with your hands to get the paddle.

To get back on your SUP after falling off:

  • Position yourself next to your board and near the center.
  • Grab the handle at the center of the board with one hand.
  • Let your legs float up to the surface behind you, then kick your legs while pulling on the handle to slide yourself onto the board.

 

SUP Strokes

Here’s when the real fun begins. As a SUP beginner, there are three basics strokes that will help you get moving:

 

Forward Stroke

a paddle boarder illustrating the forward stroke on her sup

This basic stroke propels your board forward through the water.

  • Plant the paddle in the water by reaching about two feet forward, then push the blade all the way under the surface. Move the paddle back through the water to your ankle, then out of the water.
  • Keep your arms straight and twist from your torso as you paddle. Push down on the paddle grip with your top hand rather than pulling the paddle back with your lower arm. It’s helpful for some people to think of pulling the board past the paddle rather than pulling the paddle through the water.
  • To go in a reasonably straight line, you’ll need to alternate strokes on either side of the board. There’s no set number of strokes per side; try about three or four strokes on one side, then switch to the other.
  • The more vertical you keep the paddle, the straighter you will go.

 

Reverse Stroke

a paddle boarder illustrating the reverse stroke on her sup

The reverse stroke is simple to perform and can be used for slowing down, stopping and turning. It is essentially the opposite of the forward stroke.

  • If you’re paddling on the right, reach back behind you and plant the paddle in the water near the tail of your board. Make sure the blade is all the way under the surface of the water.
  • Like with the forward stroke, keep your arms straight and twist from your torso rather than pulling the blade forward with your arms.
  • Doing the reverse stroke on the right side of your board will cause the nose of your board to turn to the right and vice versa.

 

Sweep Stroke

a paddle boarder illustrating the sweep stroke on their sup

The sweep stroke is useful for turning your board while standing still or moving.

  • If you’re paddling on the right, rotate your shoulders so that your right shoulder comes forward.
  • Reach forward and plant your paddle in the water, submerging the entire blade.
  • Sweep the paddle away from the board in a big arcing motion from the nose of the board to the tail by rotating your torso and using the leverage of your legs and hips.
  • Doing the sweep stroke on the right side of your board will turn the board to the left and vice versa.

 

Tips for Your First SUP Outing

a stand up paddle boarder setting out on their paddling adventure in calm water and winds

Before you grab your board and head to the water for the first time, here are some simple tips for planning your SUP outing:
  • Choose a small, calm body of water, like a lake or pond, that’s free of lots of obstacles like boats and buoys.
  • Look for a sandy beach or another place you can wade into the water to easily launch your SUP.
  • Choose a sunny day with little to no wind.
  • If your route requires that you paddle into the wind, do so on your way out so you can get a boost from the wind on the way back when you’re getting tired.
  • Go with a friend so you can keep an eye on each other.
  • Plan to paddle for about one hour on your first outing.

MALE BOOTY GAINS

Bigger, stronger glutes help you run faster and lift more weight in some lower-body exercises. Big booty men are also at less risk for lower back pain. Some people also find bigger glutes more aesthetically pleasing.

Glute Muscle Anatomy

When you refer to the glutes, you’re usually talking about the gluteus maximus, which is the biggest muscle in the body. It’s the visible muscle that makes up the bulk of someone’s rear-end. However, there are actually three glute muscles.

The gluteus maximus spans the backside of your hip bone and runs down into your femur. It also connects to the iliotibial band, which is a thick band of tissue that runs down the side of your leg. There are two more glute muscles: the gluteus medius and minimus.

The gluteus medius runs along the side of your hip and is much less visible than the maximus. The gluteus minimus also runs along the side of your hip bone and inserts into the femur.

Your glute muscles extend your hip and lift your leg to the side, a movement known as abduction. They also help rotate your leg. The gluteus maximus is the biggest and most powerful of the three muscles and the most important when it comes to things like running and lifting weights.

Advantages of Bigger Glutes

Sprinting requires hip extension, so much so that building up stronger glutes can actually make you faster. An August 2018 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine showed that some weighted glute exercises can help improve sprint performance. Sprinting is important in many sports, so men who want to increase their athletic performance should do glute exercises.

For male athletes, performance is important. However, you don’t need to be an athlete to benefit from glute training. If you’re a man who suffers from lower back pain, glute exercises can help. An August 2017 study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journaldiscussed the importance of glute strengthening exercises in managing lower back pain.

In the article, the authors explain that stronger glute muscles help you move and lift with less effort, reducing strain on your lower back. Stronger glutes can also improve your posture, which can help reduce lower back pain.

1. The Hip Thrust

To build bigger glutes, you should perform an exercise that activates the glutes and allows you to easily add resistance: the barbell hip thrust. A December 2015 study published in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics showed that the barbell hip thrust activates the glutes more than a barbell back squat. The latter is a well-known lower-body strength exercise, but the barbell hip thrust is better at specifically targeting the glutes.

  1. Use a bench or box that won’t tip over. It should be heavy or securely fastened to the ground. Whatever object you use should be 16 inches highand flat on top. 
  2. Sit in front of the box or bench with your mid-back resting on the edge. 
  3. Place a barbell on your lap. You can rest a pad on your lap between your body and the barbell, or use a bar pad that wraps around the bar. This will protect your hip bones as you’re doing the thrust. 
  4. Place your hands on the barbell. 
  5. Bend your knees and plant your feet flat on the ground. 
  6. Lean back and thrust your hips up, pressing through your heels. 
  7. Bring your hips up as high as possible. At the top, your body should form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Your knees should be bent at 90 degrees. 
  8. Relax and put the barbell down.

Tip

Try this exercise without a barbell if you’re not sure how much weight you can lift.

2. Other Glute-Building Resistance Exercises

While the barbell hip thrust is one of the best gluteus maximus exercises, you should switch things up and add variety to your booty-building workout routine.

Move 1: Step-Ups

Step-ups can be used as part of your glute-building routine. Use a box to step on and some dumbbells or kettlebells to add resistance.

  1. Place a box with a flat surface on the ground. 
  2. Put one foot on the top of the box. 
  3. Step up so that you’re standing on the box. 
  4. Step back with the same foot you used to step up. Switch sides when you’ve completed your desired number of repetitions. You can hold dumbbells or kettlebells by your sides to add resistance.

Tip

If this exercise is too difficult, use a shorter box or drop the weights.

Move 2: Barbell Back Squat

While it’s not quite as effective as the hip thrust, the barbell back squat can help you build your glutes. You’ll need a barbell and a power rack for this exercise.

  1. To start, put the bar over your upper back and grab it with both hands, wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Lift the bar out of the rack and take a step back. 
  3. Set your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes out slightly. 
  4. Squat down, keeping your feet flat on the ground. 
  5. Go as low as you can; then stand back up.

Tip

You can hold a light kettlebell in front of your chest to squat instead of using a barbell if the exercise is uncomfortable.

3. Unweighted Glute Exercises

Beginners or men suffering from lower back pain who aren’t ready to touch weights can use isolated glute exercises.

Move 1: The Clam

The clam is one of the best exercises for activating the glutes if you don’t want to use weights.

  1. Take an elastic band and place it around your knees. 
  2. Lie on your side with your knees bent and legs stacked on top of each other. 
  3. The bottom leg should be on the ground. Lift your top knee off of the bottom knee while keeping your feet together. Don’t turn your body to lift up, simply raise your top leg as high as you can. 
  4. Lower it back down slowly and under control; Your legs should look like a clam opening and closing its shell. 

Tip

Remove the resistance band if you can’t raise your leg with correct technique.

Move 2: Side Plank

To work the gluteus medius, you can do a side plankwith your top leg raised.

  1. Start by lying on your side with your forearm on the ground. 
  2. Lift your hips up so that you’re in a side plank position with your body in a straight line and legs stacked on top of each other. 
  3. Lift your top leg up and hold it in the air as long as you can and then switch sides.

Tip

Don’t raise your top leg if that makes the exercise too difficult.