Monday, August 31, 2015

What Are the Best Exercises for;

Notes on a previous article:  I ran an article in July called “The Myth of Steady State Cardio”. You can review it here

I found the results of a recently published study worth mentioning. In “Obesity Society Journal” researchers studied 10,500 men who either regularly lifted or regularly did cardio over a 12 year period.
In the end they found that men who regularly did cardio had nearly twice as much belly fat as the lifters.


I love this question. Partly because I can get three different posts and only have to write one! The best exercises for increasing strength are also the best exercises for gaining muscle mass (Hypertrophy) and the best for shedding fat.

In short, the best exercises for gaining strength (or gaining mass or losing fat) are compound lifts.  Almost all other exercises are called “isolation” or “supporting” movements.

Compound lifts are simply lifts that involve more than one joint and/or muscle group. They work several muscle groups at one time. But using compound lifts goes far beyond just being efficient. Your muscular system is just that-“a system”. It’s not a bunch of individual muscles operating in a vacuum. The whole system is connected by your central nervous system, your endocrine system (hormones) your cardiovascular system (which carries hormones, nutrition, oxygen, water, minerals, and everything else) to all cells of the body.  When your endocrine system produces more testosterone or human growth hormone (HGH) or insulin it goes to all cells in your body. The more you involve the large muscle groups or large groups of muscles the stronger your entire body gets. Compound lifts create the largest change in body composition in the shortest time.

Too many people shy away from compound lifts in their program for various reasons.

·        “Compound lifts are hard work”. (Have you ever heard me say getting fit was going to be easy?)

·        “They look a little scary”. What’s scary about picking stuff up and putting it back down? You do it every day outside the gym.

·        “I can’t do what those big guys over there are doing”. Why not? Nobody is saying you have to have a 600 pound dead lift or a 400 pound squat. With compound lifts it’s the quality of the movement not the size of the load.

·        “They are too complicated”. Learn the basics with light weight and work up from there. They don’t get technical until you get into some serious loads. There are even machines now that mimic the major compound lifts and remove most of the risk that people (incorrectly) associate with the big compound lifts.

Compound lifts, especially the “big three” should be performed at the beginning of your workout when you are least fatigued.

The Big Three

Dead Lift-Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? It’s not.
The story goes that the dead lift was developed by a Roman general because he was seeing too many injuries to his soldiers while they were removing the dead from the battlefield. I can’t vouch for that story. I’m old but not that old!
But think about it. You’ve been told your entire life “lift with your legs, not your back”! That’s what the dead lift is all about. The legs and hips are the key to the dead lift. Not your back. If dead lifts make your back sore you are doing it wrong!

You do “dead lifts” all the time; lifting groceries, furniture, your kids or grand kids, cleaning out your garage and a thousand other things all involve the dead lift. It’s one of the most functional exercises you can do. It will add more strength, burn more calories, and build more muscle than any other single exercise. The dead lift involves practically every muscle group from your toes to the top of your head.

Not everyone can do a conventional dead lift in the beginning. The main culprit is the lack of hip flexibility usually caused by a sedentary life style and a work environment that has you sitting for most of your life. That can usually be fixed.

There are also a number of variations of the dead lift that allow for the initial lack of hip flexibility; Sumo lift, rack pulls, block pulls, trap bar dead lift, etc.


Squat-The second most effective exercise you can do and the king of all lower body exercises. You are working your quadriceps (the largest single muscle group in your body), your hamstrings (the second largest muscle group) and your glutes (the third largest muscle group in your body) and an array of secondary muscles.

The most common excuse for not doing the squat is “I have bad knees”.  Good! That’s why you should be doing squats.

From a previous post regarding my knees:

I’ve had knee surgery 3 times. One was so bad that I’m told it’s in a medical text book somewhere.

 I’ve seen my share of knee rehab. In every case at some point the surgeons and therapists had me doing squats. Squats are not bad for your knees. Improper squats are bad for your knees.

As with dead lifts, not everyone can do a conventional “back squat” in the beginning and usually for the same reasons (hip flexibility). Again there are alternatives; front squat, box squat, Zelcher squat, hack squat, goblet squat, sumo squat….

Bench Press- (In all it’s variations) Everyone probably knows the bench press. Tell anyone you lift weights and the first question is usually “How much do you bench?”

The bench press works the chest, shoulders, triceps. The most common limitation when performing the bench press is the shoulder joint. But, as with other lifts, there are alternatives; incline, decline, dumb bell, cable stations, etc. 

These are the top three compound lifts you should be doing. But there are also a number of other compound movements you should be doing.(in no particular order)

·        Pull up/chin up- Yes, the kind you had to do in grammar school P.E. - Lats, rhomboids, biceps, forearm
·        Dips-chest, tricep, back
·        Seated rows/bent over rows/upright rows-traps, rhomboid, lats, posterior delts, biceps,
·        Farmers walk-calves, abs, rhomboids, spinal erectors, forearms, biceps, traps, lats and grip( and close runner-up to the Big 3)
·        Lunges- quads, hamstring, glutes

The compound lifts take a little practice and some are a little more complicated than single joint lifts. But if you want to gain the greatest benefits in strength, mass or fat loss in the shortest amount of time they are well worth the effort.

Compound lifts should be part of every exercise program regardless of the goal.

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO If I don’t have an answer I’ll  find someone who does.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Thursday, August 27, 2015



I’m always looking for ideas for content. And specifically content that is relevant to the greatest number of people. So help me help you better!

I want to answer your questions but you have to ask them first.

So use the email address at the bottom of each post or under my “Contact” tab on  . Or just leave ma a comment. I answer your questions directly to you or in a future post (without using your name in the post).

Be sure my email, is in your trusted contacts list so it doesn’t go to your spam folder.


Steve Carroll

Below are some of the most common questions: 


This post is to address several recurring questions. The ones included today won’t be of interest to everybody but they are SOME the most frequently asked.

Should I use a weight belt?

Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of a weight or lifting belt is not to support your back.
The purpose of the belt is to give your body’s core muscles (Rectus abdominis-the “6 pack”, transverses abdominis-the abdominal muscle behind your “6 pack”, obliques, and spinal erectors) something to push against so that these muscle groups are better able to stabilize your spine and other areas.

Some experts believe the use of a belt prevent these muscles from developing to their fullest potential thus making your core weaker than it could be. From a “functional” standpoint they may have a point. If, for example, you have a very strenuous occupation involving heavy lifting outside the weight room or, if you engage in other activities with similar risk.

Others believe that if the belt aids you in lifting more weight more often that the strength of those muscles is not adversely affected and may actually become stronger. And you will definitely become stronger overall. The other side of that coin is if you are injured you may miss time in the gym.

I have not seen any scientific studies on the subject or other evidence supporting either argument.

My opinion:
I usually do not use a belt until I reach a weight approaching about 85-90% of my max. Or if have any soreness or discomfort in my back or other core areas.

Should I use Lifting Straps?

Like the question regarding the use of a weight belt, opinions are split.

Your grip is usually the weakest link in any pulling movement. Some say using straps limit the strength gains for your grip thus limiting your total capacity for the lifts.

Others say using straps removes the weakest link from the lift allowing you to lift more weight thus increasing overall strength.

My opinion: Don’t use straps until your grip fails.  Then, grab the straps and continue raising the weight.
As an example, the dead lift works practically every muscle group from your scalp to your toes. The dead lift is the single best exercise for adding strength. Why would you let one weak link limit that potential?
Sure, you need to strengthen you grip. But there a myriad of other exercises that can do that and do it more efficiently.
I follow the same logic on all pulling exercises. Though there are only a few where the issue comes into play. (T-bar row, heavy dumbbell row, heavy farmer’s walk).  But only use them when a lift fails solely because of your grip.
Using straps on every pulling exercise won’t add grip strength. Plus, you’ll look like a tool!

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Is it OK to be average?


Maybe you’re thinking; “I’m pretty much in line with most of my friends. I’m pretty much average. “ Are you happy with that?

Consider this:

·         69% of all Americans are overweight

·         35.1% of all Americans are obese, 40% of those between 55-64

·         One third of all Americans have high blood pressure, 51% of those between 55 and 64

·         Almost 1 of every 8 Americans are diabetic, 1 in 5 of those between 55 and 64

·         1 in 3 people have pre-diabetes and 90% of them don’t even know it!

·         Just under one third have high Cholesterol

·         Obesity is the Number 2 cause of death in the U.S. and within 2 to 3 years may replace tobacco as the Number 1 cause of death

·         Excess weight and obesity cause :
       -Heart Disease
-High blood pressure
-Sleep Apnea
-Kidney stones
- Osteoarthritis
-11different kinds of cancer

Still OK with being average?

What's your excuse?

Ref: Harvard School of Public Health and National Heart, Lung and blood Institute and The Centers for Disease Control

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO  If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015



SO you are new to the gym world (or it’s been a long time since you were in a gym) and you’re feeling a little uneasy about being in a new situation and new surroundings. Maybe the last time you were in a gym they didn’t have all these fancy machines and other equipment. You were expecting old fashioned barbells and dumbbells, maybe cable station or two. Surprise! Ever seen an adjustable dumbbell or barbell? Cardio equipment the size of some automobiles?

There is a lot to take in and a lot to learn. Where do I go? What do I do now? Am I doing this right?  What are the rules around here?

Relax. The gym will provide you with a staff member or trainer to get you familiar with all the equipment and how to use it. Ask lots of questions; kick the tires, so to speak. They will also usually provide you with a list of the gym’s rules and safety precautions.

What about those often unwritten rules of gym etiquette? Almost everywhere you go there are unwritten rules of etiquette. Schools, restaurants, parties, stores, movie theaters….

The gym is no different. The more you know about the rules the more comfortable you will be. Don’t forget, everyone was new here at one time or another. Most are just plain common sense.

Actually, there are a lot of old gym rats that could use a refresher ………


·         If you are sick stay home. No one wants your germs
·         Don’t wear cologne or perfume or scented lotions.
·         Do use deodorant and/or antiperspirant
·         Wipe down the bench or machine you used. Many gyms provide antibacterial wipes located throughout the gym. Always carry a small gym towel if they don’t provide wipes or towels. It’s not a bad idea to wipe off the bench or machine before you use too.
·         Don’t spit in the water fountain, the floor or anywhere else in the gym


·         Report any broken or malfunctioning equipment to the staff immediately. Also report any spills, broken bottles or anything else that could be a danger.
·         Don’t approach or interrupt anyone in the middle of their set
·         Don’t walk within five or six feet of anyone in the middle of a lift or set
·         Don’t use any equipment for any purpose other than what it was designed for

·         Never sit on a bench or machine and text or talk on your phone
·         Unless it is vital, leave your phone in the car or secured in your locker. If you must have it put it on vibrate
·         Dress appropriately
·         If you must have your phone do not leave it on a bench or equipment or on the floor unless you have it insured and you really, really, really want a new one.
·         Do not rest between sets sitting on the machine or bench
·         Don’t sing out loud with your IPOD. You’d be surprised how much this happens and the offender doesn’t even realize they are singing out loud!
·         Obey the time limits posted on the cardio machines
·         Keep your gym bag in your car or secured in your locker. They represent a safety hazard sitting on the floor and may also be perceived as a security hazard in this day and age. Take only the equipment you need to the floor.
·         Re-rack your weights. This includes dumbbells and plates and any other gym equipment. If you could pick it up to use it you can damn well put it back in its proper place
·         Never give unsolicited advice
·         Don’t offer to spot anyone unless they ask you to. And learn how to properly spot another lifter
·         Don’t mark your territory. Leaving a towel or anything else on a piece of equipment DOES NOT hold a space for you
·         Never interrupt or attempt to talk to someone in the middle of their set
·         Don’t walk between anyone performing a set and the mirror. Mirrors are there for form and safety
·         Don’t try to start a conversation with anyone wearing head phones or ear buds. Wearing either is the same as a “Don’t talk to me “sign. If you must address them, get their attention visually from in front of them.
·         Don’t train within 5 or 6 feet of a weight rack. Don’t block access to others to the equipment
·         Don’t hog the equipment. If someone else is waiting for the equipment you are using offer to let them “work in” (the two of you alternate sets)
·         Respect the areas of the floor designated for various kinds of exercise. Don’t put your mat down near dumbbell rack. Don’t take weights to the yoga mats. Don’t do pushups in the isle between cardio machines. The areas are not always marked but it’s usually pretty obvious.
·         Honor the new guy.
·         Don’t be a “Creeper”. There are sometimes some very attractive people in gyms. Sometimes it's hard not to look. But there is a difference between an admiring glance and acting like a stalker.

You will undoubtedly see other people in the gym making the mistakes listed above. Maybe they haven’t been educated in proper etiquette, maybe they are just jerks. Some may ever look like long time gym rats. That’s no excuse. The rules of common sense and courtesy apply to everyone.

One other thing; the only thing that will make you look more like a rookie than violating the rules of etiquette… Showing Off! Or I should say thinking you are showing off when actually you just making yourself look like a fool. 

Example: A few weeks ago on a Saturday morning two very large men (and one very large woman) showed up at one of the gyms where I train. They proceed to try to max out every machine. All the while grunting, yelling and high-fiving each other.  Finally they loaded all four of the bars on a vertical leg press with 45 pound plates. (probably 2000 pounds or so) Everyone glanced in their direction expecting to see a show.

They each then took their turn and with much fan fare and grunting, yelling and high-fiving proceeded to move the carriage AN ENTIRE SIX INCHES!  We all had a good snicker and went back to our workouts. The moral of the story; DON”T BE A TOOL!

SEND YOU QUESTIONS TO  If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Resistance training over 60


I could have titled this article “RESISTANCE TRAINING PAST 50” or even “RESISTANCE TRAINING PAST 40”. I’ve even seen articles entitled “LIFTING PAST 30”!  I’M CALLING B.S. ON THE PEOPLE THAT WROTE THESE ARTICLES!

Sure, your body changes as you age. Sure, you aren’t as flexible as you were at 18. And you probably have accumulated more injuries than you once had. Many of us sat behind a computer screen in a poorly designed chair much of our working lives, we gained weight and we ate the wrong foods and probably drank the wrong beverages. Worse still, we listened to bad advice on nutrition and exercise.
But come on, 30? Really? There are many body builders, strength athletes and power lifters who don’t hit their prime until well into their 30’s and 40’s.  Anyone want to tell Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) he’s over the hill at 43?

Forties and Fifties? I’ll cut the authors a little slack. But not much. By age fifty there is more of a difference in how you need to train. But the differences are not huge and it’s not that hard to do.
At fifty I could still squat and dead lift almost two and half times my body weight. I gained almost forty pounds lean muscle mass in a little over two years. I am not genetically gifted and I have a multitude of old injuries and/ or medical problems.

Due to a number of factors, work and injury among them, I was out of the gym for more than ten years. I started back at age 64. I was told directly that I was wasting my time. That there was no way I would be able gain muscle mass at my age. WRONG! In less than one year I added over 15 pounds of lean mass.  

But I didn’t do it by training like I was eighteen or even like I did when I was fifty. And I didn’t train more than sixty to seventy minutes per day four or five days a week.

And no, I don’t use steroids. (But thanks for asking!). And I’m not genetically gifted! Far from it.

I learned to adjust my nutrition, workouts, and recovery. And I learned to work around old injuries. And now, so will you.


I always begin with nutrition because the simple facts are you can’t out train bad nutrition.

The best exercise is three sets of STOP EATING SO MUCH CRAP!

I’m not going to go into exactly what your nutrition program should be. That’s a whole series of articles all by itself. And I don’t know what your diet looks like now so I have no starting point. But the basics are the same for almost everyone.

·         Stop eating junk
·         Eat more whole foods
·         East less packaged/processed food
·         Don’t go on any extreme diets. Don’t go on any extreme low fat diet and don’t go on any extreme low carb diet.
·         Don’t go on any meal plan you see advertized on TV or on the cover of magazine in the supermarket
·         Never, ever watch Dr. Oz!!


Rest. With a good workout program you need to get at least seven to nine hours sleep each night. If you are I like me you went for years on about six hours sleep per night. I used to feel groggy if I slept more than six hours. I had to train myself to sleep more.

With any workout that is going to do you any good at all you’ll need to let your body recover. Your body improves itself by rebuilding. Without proper recovery time you’re wasting your time or, at best, your progress will soon stagnate.

Some muscle groups take longer to recover. Quadriceps  (thigh) are the largest muscles in your body. Recovery takes longer. Arms and calves are among the smallest and don’t take as long. In general, allow about 72 hours between leg training and about 48 hours for other muscle groups. Experiment with your own recovery needs.


“You are very unique…just like everyone else.”

We all have different strengths and weaknesses. We all have different physiological issues-injuries and medical conditions.  So a specific program has to be determined for each individual. But there are some general guidelines and suggestions that will be beneficial for those with a little snow on the roof.

·         For most, I wouldn’t start out with more than two workouts per week per body part. Follow the recovery guidelines above. One workout per body part per week works best for many people just starting out (Chest, Back, shoulders, legs, arms). But increase the number of exercises and sets to elevate the volume of work. On a twice a week schedule per body part you might do 2 or 3 different exercises per body part. For one workout per week per body part you should do 5 or 6 exercises per body part and 3 or 4 sets per exercise.

·         Keep your workouts between 45 minutes and 70 minutes not including warm up and stretching.

·         Always warm up. Light cardio until you begin to break a sweat  warms up your muscles and helps lubricate joints

·         Learn how to properly stretch any problem areas.

·         Different repetition ranges give different results but start out with less weight and higher rep ranges and work your way up to higher loads and lower rep ranges if your goal is strength. Tendons and joints take longer than muscles to become accustomed to your new activity.

·         Machines are a good place to start. They are, in general, safer and easier on the joints. But don’t shun free weights. Free weights are the backbone of getting stronger. 

Here are a few alternative methods to get the same results while using less weight: 

-Tempo- Use a slower count while lowering the weight. Instead of your ordinary tempo, use a tempo of a count of 3 on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the repetition. This increases the time your muscle is under tension. You’ll find you’ll be able to perform fewer reps or have to use less weight at first.  The point is to work the muscle harder but put less load on the joints.
This is also a good work around for sore joints and or connective tissue.

-Increase the number of sets. You are increasing the volume of work performed without adding additional load. This is also a good way to continue progressing when the addition of another plate is too much of an increase. Say you hit your rep target on all 3 sets you have programmed. It’s time to raise the load. But you’re on a machine with only 10 pound plates and that’s too much increase. Increase the number of sets from 3 to 4 or 5 until you can handle that 10 pound increase on your 3 programmed sets.

-Shorten the rest time between sets. Say you are resting 2 minutes between sets on multi-joint lifts (squats, dead lift, bench press, etc) and 30 seconds between sets on other lifts. Reduce the rest time in half. You’ll do more work in less time. This also has the added benefit of increasing your cardio and raising your metabolic level.

-Unilateral lifts (one arm or one leg instead of two). This is one my favorite types of program for a variety of reasons.  It’s been shown scientifically to provide more muscle fiber recruitment when used over time. Mainly because you can typically move more than half the weight you can with both limbs. For example; if you are using a load of 100 pounds with both arms you can typically move about 60 pounds with one arm. More weight equals more muscle fiber recruitment.
It’s also a great work-around for a minor injury. You can use a lighter weight for the side with a minor injury or joint pain and give that side less stress without loss of muscle due to atrophy.  

-Alternative stance ,grip or angle of attack. If you are experiencing joint or muscle pain from an exercise don’t drop the exercise from your program too quickly. Especially if it has been working for you. First try changing a few minor things.
Change your grip to a little wider or a little narrower. Try the same thing for your stance on leg exercises. Changing the angle of your feet can also make a huge difference. My squat went up by 30 pounds simply by widening my stance and turning my toes outward more.
If a flat bench press hurts your shoulders try inclining the bench slightly. Keep trying higher angles until you find a comfort zone. Do the same for any other exercise. You’ll often find a minor change in angle eliminates some problems entirely.

-Partial Reps.  Reducing the range of motion (ROM) can also reduce discomfort in a sensitive area. An example would be the barbell curl. Though the exercise is primarily directed at the biceps it also puts considerable stress on the brachioradalis (forearm). Developing various forms of tendonitis in this area is a common malady. (Tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow)
Doing the barbell curl seated in an upright position so that the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement stops as the barbell reaches you knees while seated can still apply necessary work to the bicep but lessen the stress on the forearm. A full range of motion for any muscle is almost always best to obtain maximum benefit but shortening the ROM temporarily can allow work on the bicep to continue while giving the brachioradalis time to heal.

-Alternative exercises. Find what works best for you.  In my primary gym I can show you 18 different apparatus’ for chest exercises. How about 53 different movements just for your biceps?  Some I like and some I don’t. Some fit my goals and some don’t. But chances are you can find an alternative that works.

-Supports and braces. I often tell people that if I wore all my supports and braces at the same time I’d look like a Ninja named “Ace”. I’ve had my share of injuries, though no serious injuries from weight training.
Supports, pressure straps and braces can help mitigate or prevent many forms of minor injury from tendonitis and joint discomfort.
But if you need to wear all of them at the same time you’re doing it wrong! 

As always, ask your health professional is you are healthy enough to exercise

SEND YOUR QUESTIONS TO  If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Eleanor Roosevelt


There are a lot of strong women to admire. And there are a lot of things to admire about strong women.

One of my favorites was a lady who looked a lot like someone’s grandmother in most of her public pictures. A rather unassuming figure without special good looks or special talents that were readily visible.  But, behind the scenes, she was the favorite adviser to one of the most influential men of her time.

There are a number of quotes attributed to her. Several directed toward women (but many also apply to men).  Many can be applied to anyone’s personal goals, including fitness.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

“ I am who I am today because of the choices I made yesterday”

“ You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to stare fear in the face……Do the thing you think you cannot do”

But my favorite:

“ Do something every day that scares you!”
                                                       Eleanor Roosevelt

SEND YOU QUESTIONS TO  If I don’t have an answer I'll find someone who does.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

In the Old Days

IN THE OLD DAYS,..........

once you hit 45 or 50 years old, you were toast – feeble, mottle-skinned, moldy toast with weevils in it. Your kids put you in the garage when friends came over. If your equally moldy wife wanted to have sex with you, it was just so she could time a soft-boiled egg.

Weightlifting, though, is the true fountain of youth. A long-time lifter in his forties or fifties is pretty much as strong as a lifter half his age. Sure, he's not as quick or agile, but strength wise, there's just not that much of a diminishing return.
For the most part, a veteran lifter can punch out some punk just as well as a 25-year-old lifter, only the veteran's scarred up knuckles leave more abrasions on the butthead's face.

So it's almost better.

Because of weightlifting, you're starting to see this weird phenomenon where for the first time in human history, you see old guys with bodies that look the same as those of young guys: same muscle size, same muscle tone, and often the same definition.

Sure, the older guys can't do much to young up their faces and they have to shave their backs more often, but you can't have everything.

Thanks to TC Luoma at T-Nation for this insightful description of the benefits of weight training for older men.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Healthy Foods that aren't Healthy


A personal note: As I began writing this post after considerable research (credit Muscle and Fitness Magazine for much of the content along with numerous studies) that I come off sounding like a health nut and somewhat of a conspiracy theorist.
I am neither. I work hard at fitness but I am able to eat, within reason, pretty much what I want.  But other people are not so lucky. And I realize that many people need this information to help them with their fitness and health goals. But some of the information is a little scary, even to me.

Referring to the food industry,  The British Journal of Sports Medicine  likened the actions of the food industry as “chillingly similar” to those used by the tobacco industry .(in their methods)

Here’s a secret the food industry doesn’t want you to know: Many foods labeled and sold as “healthy” aren’t. Some have little nutritional value, some contain harmful chemicals and some are downright bad for you.

Forget the fancy packaging  and look at the ingredients. And challenge the myths.


Of Americans who eat breakfast, 31% have a bowl of cereal with milk. Yet many cereals that claim to be “healthy” such as Honey Nut Cheerios , Raisin Bran and others, contain as much sugar as Fruity Pebbles.
To make those little flakes of corn, the makers destroy most of the original vitamins and minerals. They then add synthetic ingredients to fortify the cereal.

Low fat Milk

Ditch the low fat milk options to have with your cereal. Have whole milk instead.

While low fat and skim milk do have fewer calories, whole milk has more saturated fat and monounsaturated fats that keep you feeling full and support metabolism. Skim and low fat milk also contains less vitamins like A,D,E and K.

Worse yet, producers add powdered milk to skim milk to improve the consistency because skim milk doesn’t even resemble real milk. That process introduces oxidized cholesterol which damages your arteries more than regular cholesterol.

The health claims of low- fat milk and non-fat milk vs. whole milk are unsupported. Research has correlated low-fat and non-fat milk with higher obesity levels in children when compared to whole milk.

Skip synthetic oils (Crisco, margarine, etc)

The rise in popularity of these products arose from the myth that fat makes you fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat. A bad diet and lack of exercise makes you fat.

Unfortunately, food companies hydrogenate many of the fake oils you buy to maintain shelf life and keep them solid at room temperature. This process, however, makes the oil harder to digest and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. The oil is then bleached and artificially flavored.

Commercially produced vegetable oils are not much better.
They come from chemicals: Solvents and high heat are used to extract the oil. Later other chemicals are added to improve color and odor. All this transforms the vegetable oil into an unstable fat called polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). PUFA has a high ratio of Omega 6 fatty acid which can create inflammation, increased risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Protein Bars

Many protein bars are candy bars in disguise.  While the high protein content is commendable, many contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and artificial sweeteners.

Sports Drinks

Ultimate thirst quencher?  Better than water?

A study from the University of Oxford found:

        “There is a striking lack of evidence to support the vast majority of sports-related products that make claims related to enhanced performance or recovery, including drinks… Half of all websites for these products provided no evidence for their claims, and of those that do, half of the evidence is not suitable for critical appraisal. No systematic reviews were found, and overall, the evidence base was judged to be at high risk of bias.”
Along with electrolytes, a glance at the nutrition facts reveals lots of sugar and a lot of calories.


Breads labeled as “whole wheat’ or “whole grain” can contain as much s 70% refined flour. But because it contains some whole grains it can be advertised as whole grain. The same holds true for labels stating “100% Natural”

Worse, many contain partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives and even food coloring.

Fruit juice

Fruit juices do have some vitamins. But one 8 ounce of grape juice, for example, has about 170 calories, 42 grams of of carbs and 40 grams of sugar. That’s more calories and sugar than a 12 ounce can of soda. You can’t build muscle with that many empty calories and sugar.  Even the “all natural” juices may contain corn syrup and additives.

Low- fat and fat-free yogurt

Many contain high-fructose corn syrup, sugar and starch. Some have as much sugar as a candy bar, while others use artificial sweeteners which may spike your insulin. Avoid the yogurts with fruit inside-the fruit is either soaked in sugar or from concentrate. Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit.

Dried Fruit

Ignore how good it taste and think of it as candy with fiber. It contains a lot of sugar and chemicals to improve shelf life. Because it’s dried, it packs more calories per bite than a piece of fruit.

Remember, Read the ingredients and challenge the myths. You don’t need many fat-free and cholesterol-free  options because, in its  unprocessed form, fat doesn’t make you fat and cholesterol doesn’t clog your arteries.

SEND YOU QUESTIONS TO If I don’t have an answer I’ll find someone who does.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

FAQ Home Gym


“I have plenty of unused space in my basement and I’m considering using it for a home gym. Because of the cost I’ll have to do it over time but where should I start?All I have at this point is a used set of weights consisting of 1 Olympic bar and about 500 pounds of plates." C.J., Memphis, TN.

First, if you are married, try to hide the fact you have unused space anywhere in your house. Women, like Nature, abhor a vacuum and will do their best to fill it with something!

Obviously, you want to cover the basics first-items you’ll use the most regardless of your personal goals. As you get the basics covered, your choices will depend somewhat on your goals. Since you indicated you main goal was to gain muscle mass and you're relatively new to lifting my choices would be for the items you'll get the most use out of .

That being said, my first purchase would be a heavy weight adjustable bench with upright bar supports. Not something you would find in the sporting goods department at Sears but a bench rated to handle the kind of weight you’ll be handling. If you can afford to, go ahead and get the power rack mentioned below and you can get by without the uprights.
Adjustable Bench

Next on my list would be a good set of dumbbells. You can start with a set up to about 50 pounds and add to from there as need and money permit. (I'd recommend Rogue or York brands)

My third purchase would be a good quality power rack or squat rack. For a home gym I’d go with a rack with safety bars. Rogue Monster Lite racks can be used as power rack or squat racks.
Power Rack

After that the possibilities are enormous. I would throw in some auxiliary items:
A jump rope, a heavy bag and gloves, pull-up and/or dip bars and the like. 

And watch the catalogs for sales and free shipping specials.

Setting up a home gym is not cheap but it can be worth it the long time wasted  (or gasoline) in driving back and forth, no dues or initiation fees and you are less likely to talk yourself into skipping your workouts. 

Everyone likes to save money but don't skimp on quality. Pay a little more for quality and it will last for years and be much, much safer. 

Oh, and get some matting (even if it’s just thick carpet) on the floor so your wife doesn’t realize you have unused space in the basement. And buy some of that “spider web in a can” at the joke shop to put around the entrance!

Also be sure to read Dan John's advice on building a home gym here:Dan John article from T-Nation