Friday, September 30, 2016

Here's What Works....

"People get strong and build impressive bodies with many different training philosophies.But they all have one thing in common; they bust their butts.
Working hard works. Period. Don't forget that part"
-Chris and Dani Shugart

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Your Backside is Dragging


In early December of last year I did an article entitled The Best Way to Gain Muscle Mass that few People Ever Use

You need to go back and read it if you missed it the first time and even if you didn’t. It explains that the fastest way to add muscle mass is to train your lagging muscle groups.

Well, for most people, those lagging muscles will be part of the “Posterior Chain”. That’s your backside. The posterior chain contains some of the largest muscles and largest muscle groups in the human body Especially the lower part of the posterior chain.. And you are probably neglecting some, if not all, of them. If they don't show in the mirror most people neglect them.
Have someone take pictures in your shorts; front, back and each side and you'll see what I mean.

So if need to add muscle mass for aesthetics, athletics, strength or weight loss you need to give your backside a lot of attention. From the article back in December you should know that most people need to do about twice as much pulling as you do pushing exercises.

How much mass can you add? I’ll reprint a paragraph for the December article:

As a point of reference:
·        The average “untrained” upper leg muscles (1 leg) in a 160 pound male contain 10.5 pounds of lean tissue. The average for a “trained”170 pound male is 23 pounds of lean tissue (each leg). For a female, the averages are slightly higher with the average weight of the females being 136 pounds.
·        For the calf (1 leg) the numbers are 4.75 pounds untrained and over 6 pounds for trained.

See my point?

Want to run faster?- powered by the glutes and hamstrings.
Want to be stronger pushing or pulling a load-powered by the gludes and hamstrings.
Want  better deadlifts or squats or Olympic lifts- powered by the glutes and hamstrings.
Aesthetics- Do you want to look like the backside of the saints atop the Vatican? (yes, they are flat on the back)

Or would you rather look like this?

By the way, guys. Women don't like flat glutes on you either. By some polls the glutes are the number 1 muscle women admire the most.

Though squats and dead lifts will help, they are both quad dominant with the glutes and hamstrings being secondary and only when coming “out of the hole” at the bottom of the lift.
No, I am not telling you to take dead lifts and squats out of your program. Both are 2 of the best movements ever invented. Dead lifts especially are great for building your upper back. But here we are trying to isolate the hamstrings and glutes. 

Here are some of the best moves that will really bring up your lagging backside:






Work these exercises in your program 2x per week until you get the lower body backside up to par.

And do twice as much pulling as pushing exercises for the upper body.

Thanks to for the videos

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Should Women Train Differently from Men?

Yes! But Not for the Reason You Think…
The fact is, women are better at training than men.

Before we get into the reasons and the science we need a short discussion on how a person (male or female) gets stronger or builds muscle or loses fat.


Volume is defined as weight x reps x sets. As an example, let’s say you lift 100 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps. Your volume for that lift would be 100 x 3 x 10=3000.
Your volume for that exercise would be 3000 pounds.

You can discuss muscle damage, metabolic stress and 20 other variables but in the end, volume trumps everything. Volume lifted relates to greater strength, size and more work performed which equates to burning more calories for fat loss.

The goal in training is to increase the volume a little each week pushing your body to adapt (adaptive response).

Can the average woman do more total volume than the average Man?

Of course not. A 200 pound man squatting 300 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps is going to do more total volume than a woman who squats a 1 Rep Max (1RM) of 155 pounds. Everyone’s volume is going to vary due to genetics, training age, prior injury and a host of other factors. But, in terms of Relative Volume, women are better. Relative volume is measured in terms of a percentage of their 1 Rep Max (1RM).

In studies, women have been found to tolerate heavy load training better than men. And they improve relative strength better than men using the same routine.
Where a man might struggle to knock out 3 sets of 5 reps at 80% of their 1RM, a woman might be able to hit 6 or 7 reps on 5 sets at 85% of their 1RM plus women recover faster than men needing less rest between sets.

The Science
Studies give us several reasons for this female advantage.

Range of Motion

Women generally display a larger range of motion than men. The better the range of motion the more stimulus to the working muscle.


Men have from 10 to 30 times more testosterone than women. Testosterone is anabolic meaning testosterone aids in building muscle mass. The lack of testosterone is why it’s virtually impossible for women to get “bulky”.

But women have many times more estrogen than men. Estrogen may not be as anabolic as testosterone but estrogen is anti-catabolic (meaning it keeps muscle from being destroyed). Estrogen improves muscle recovery, aids in metabolism and helps strengthen bones, joints and tendons.

Muscle Fiber Type

Men have a higher proportion of Type I muscle fibers. Type I fibers are responsible for explosive and powerful movement But the energy of Type I fibers is expended quickly. Women, on the other hand, have a higher proportion of Type II muscle fibers that are used for endurance activities. Women, therefore, are capable of doing more reps and recovering faster than men (meaning shorter rest times between sets).

Pain Tolerance

I’ll keep this short as to not embarrass my male audience. But any woman who has ever had a male companion with a cold knows that women have a higher tolerance for pain than men. Women, therefore, are able to push through the discomfort and get more reps and sets at a higher % of their 1RM.

How to Train Like a Girl

In order to get stronger, add muscle and burn fat you have to:

·        Use a higher % of your 1 RM (and show up your male counterparts) At least 5% more.
You can physically test your 1 RM but until you have spent a few months under the bar and attempt to lift heavier with good (if not perfect) form you can us a 1RM calculator. Look in the Calculators/Resources tab at the top of the page. The calculators aren’t perfect but they are close enough for this purpose. You’ll find they are closer on some lifts than on others.
·        Push for a couple more reps than you planned for
·        You can plan for shorter rest periods between sets
·        Use a full range of motion on every rep
·        Get out of your comport zone
·        Progress on every workout- more weight, more reps, or more sets
You only improve in any type of training by progressing on every workout. You have to subject your body to stimuli it is unaccustomed to to get the necessary adaptive response or progress will stop.
·        Recovery
You don’t get stronger or gain muscle in the gym. Your workout just provides the stimulus. You get stronger during recovery. Get 7-9 hours of rest every night.
·        Get the right nutrition
No matter how hard you work in the gym, you cannot out train a bad diet

Other Articles of interest:
The Myth of Steady-State Cardio (Must Read!)

Throw Away Your Scales

Ten Mistakes Women Make in the gym

7 Lies About Women, Fitness and Diet

Others can be found by using the search box in the right column-key words "women", "ladies"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


If you said barbell bench press, you’re wrong!

If you tell anyone you lift their first question will usually be “how much do you bench”?

There are several reasons for that question:

·        The bench press is the first lift they learned or the only one they know.
·        The bench press is one of the “Big Three” lifts used in many strength contests (along with the dead lift and squat) outside the Olympics.
·        They’ve been told they have to do the bench press.. It’s sort of like “you have to eat your spinach”

There is no doubt the bench press is a fantastic exercise and one you should be doing. But the barbell bench press is actually better for building strength than muscle mass.

But here are the reasons the barbell bench press is not the best exercise for building muscle on your scrawny chest:

1.     The barbell bench press is a compound exercise involving the pectoral  (chest muscle), anterior deltoids, triceps, forearms and, for some people ,even the back and legs.
This is about as wrong as wrong can get

It is impossible to isolate the pecs doing the barbell bench press.

2.     It’s impossible to get a full range of motion on the pecs doing a barbell bench press especially on the stretch(bottom)  portion of the lift.

3.     The other muscles involved with the bench press will exhaust before the pecs preventing the pecs from getting maximum stimulation.

4.     While the pectoral muscle is essentially one large muscle, it covers a lot of area and connects in several places. And it is possible to stimulate different portions of the pecs more than others. The bench press limits the areas and angles you can use to stimulate the pecs.

The best exercises to build the pecs: (in no particular order)

The first two exercises may surprise you. But they are excellent for building pec muscle.

1.     Pushup
The best variation to build the chest is the “triangle” hand position. Place you hands together flat on the floor with your fingers and thumbs forming a triangle between your hands. Keep your elbows in close to your sides.This moves most of the stimulation from your triceps to your chest.
For the best chest stimulation, do the pushup with you feet elevated above your hands and/or add weight. Use a weighted vest or have a training partner stabilize plates on your back
Progress by adding weight or increasing the height of your feet above your hands.

2.     Weighted Chest Dip
The Dip is normally associated with building triceps. But, instead of keeping your body upright as you would for triceps, lean forward as much as possible. Use a dip belt (made for the purpose) to add weight or just hold a dumbbell between your feet. Progress by adding weight.

3.     Fly’s
There are a lot of variations on the chest fly;
Cable Fly-standing high cables fly. Standing low cable fly, seated cable fly, incline bench cable fly, decline bench cable fly, flat bench cable fly.
Dumbbell Fly- incline, decline or flat
Pec Dec

All of the above will give you a longer range of motion and stretch than the standard bench press and produce more growth. Use them all. Mix them up. Use all the different angles,

The incline variations will stimulate the upper pecs more. The declines will stimulate the lower pecs more.

Crossovers, a variation of the cable flys, will help stimulate the inner portion of the pecs.  Cross your forearms over each other as far as possible and hold the squeeze.

While iso-stretches (holding the load in the stretch position) will stimulate the outer pecs better.

The dumbbell fly, whether incline, decline or flat will give you a much better range of motion than the barbell version.

Even a dumbbell flat bench press will give you a better range of motion than the barbell press.

4.     Machine Press
The only advantage to using a machine press occurs when you have a machine available that allows a longer range of motion than the standard barbell bench press. There are several brands that have this advantage.

5.     Incline and Decline Barbell Bench Press
Both the incline and decline bench press will give you a slightly better range of motion than the flat bench and it’s harder to cheat. Incline will hit the upper part of the pecs and decline will hit the lower part of the pecs.

Keep the flat barbell bench press in your program. But remember that it’s a strength exercise (and a very good one) but it’s not the best option of building chest muscle.
A wider grip will stimulate the pecs more than a standard or narrow grip and give you a slightly better range of motion on the eccentric.

How to do a proper barbell bench press
Follow these guidelines for the safest and most effective barbell bench press

1.     Your feet stay flat on the floor. It’s ok to pull the feet slightly back under you to get better traction and push through the floor.
2.     Your butt stays flat on the bench
3.     Don’t flare out your elbows when lowering the bar. Keep them no wider than 75 degrees. Flaring the elbows out to 90 degrees will result in shoulder impingement.
4.     Lower the bar to mid-chest and raise the bar on a diagonal line to directly above your shoulders
5.     Don’t try to raise your chest up to meet the bar by arching your back. There should be no more than a slight arch in the lower back.
6.     Find you most effective grip width. It will depend on the length of your arms and the health of your shoulders. Too wide and you will have shoulder problems. Too narrow and you are shifting the stimulus to your triceps.

Turn on your sound

Monday, September 26, 2016



First we need to clear up what creatine is and what it is not.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in your body. It is similar to protein only in that is contains nitrogen. It can be obtained from the food we eat (mainly meat and fish).

Creatine is not a steroid, it is not a growth hormone (or any other type of hormone) and it has not been found to be a health risk in any way.

Creatine is the most studied supplement of all. If you do a google search you will find more than 7000 studies on creatine covering more than 40 years.

What Creatine does.

Creatine is a key player in the phosphagen energy system, the primary source of ATP (the main energy substrate in our body) during short-term, high intensity activities. Creatine functions as an energy storehouse to replenish ATP in muscles that are rapidly contracting. When your muscles run out of creatine your high intensity, short-term energy shuts down and your muscles can no longer produce force.

Supplementation with creatine is based on the theory that one can increase the saturation of creatine in the muscles through that supplementation. Increases of 10-40% in muscle creatine have been documented following supplementation with creatine protocols.

Studies have reported a significant increase in the quality of training, leading to 5 to 15% greater gains in strength and performance. Nearly all studies indicate an increase in mass or 1 to 2 kg in the first week of loading.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition position:

“The tremendous numbers of investigations conducted with positive results from CM (Creatine Monohydrate) supplementation lead us to conclude that Creatine is the most effective nutritional supplement available today for increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and building lean mass.”

Note: Creatine doesn't make you stronger or faster all by itself. You won't get stronger or faster by taking creatine and sitting on the sofa surrounded by an orange cloud of Cheeto dust. Creatine gives you the ability to train harder or faster or longer.

A couple of side notes regarding the most common questions/comments I get about creatine:

·        “I don’t take creatine because it make you retain water”- True. Your muscle cells will retain more water-about .5 to 1 kg  per 100 pounds of body weight. If you weigh 200 pounds you’ll gain about 3 pounds of water STORED IN YOUR MUSCLE CELLS which will make your muscles look fuller and speed the protein synthesis process. Creatine will NOT make you fat.

·        “Creatine doesn’t work on everyone so it probably won’t work on me”-True-About 5% of the population will not get the same benefits as the other 95%. What makes you special without even trying it?

·        “Supplements are too expensive”-False-Creatine Monohydrate can cost as little as $15-$16 for 200 servings. That’s almost a year’s worth. The standard dosage is 5 g. (about 1 tsp). Read the lable and make sure you are getting a good brand. it should contain nothing but Creatine Monohydrate. By the way, pure creatine monohydrate is colorless (when disolved), odorless and tastless.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Your Excuse is Invalid

From the archives...One of the most read posts from the last two years


I’m not going to tell you all the benefits of exercise/fitness. You’ve heard them all before.

The purpose of this post is not to motivate you to start a fitness program. The purpose is to get you to examine your reason(s) for not starting a fitness program.  A lot of people will use any excuse they can (real or imagined) to avoid exercise.

“I’m not able to do anything like that”, “I’m too old”, “I don’t have time”, “and I don’t want to get hurt”
Sound familiar?

“I’m not able to do anything like that”
Let’s start here. In one of the gyms where I train there are:
·         Two double amputees (legs)
·         One single amputee (right arm)
·         Several members in wheel chairs
·         A number of members on either scooters or walkers
·         One member, in his forty’s ,who has been on crutches since birth
·         One member missing his left hand and half his left forearm since birth

All these people are there several times each week. And this list includes only the ones who train at the same times I do. The gym is open 24 hours a day.

Sometimes you can work through a valid impairment sometimes not. But there are almost always ways to work around it!

“I’m too old for that”
In another gym where I train (I train in 3 different gyms), I am the youngest member. I’m 65 years old.
They do cardio, free weights, machines, swimming, tennis, pickle ball, and water polo. Some are better at their chosen form of exercise that I will ever be.

“I don’t have time”
This is the most used excuse of all. A one hour workout is 4% of your day! The average American spends more than 5 hours per day watching TV and more than 11 hours on digital media!

“I don’t have time is the adult version of “The dog ate my homework”.

There are many examples of fitness competitors with 3 kids and 2 jobs. So let’s cut the crap about you “not having time” to train, shall we? Dani shugart

“I don’t want to get hurt”
You are going to have muscle soreness, you are going to have occasional tendonitis, you may have some occasional joint soreness….until you body gets used to doing something besides lying on the sofa watching the “Kardasians”.

No pain, No gain is bunk. If you learn good form, good habits, and manage your workout properly and with some common sense you can avoid any kind of serious injury.

And then there are those sometimes called “Haters”.

Anytime you try to better yourself you’ll suddenly be surrounded by people trying to stop you. Action, it seems, offends the inactive. They’ll be subtle about it by trying to get you to cheat on your nutrition or skip workouts. They’ll express false worry, plant negativity. They’ll even get mad at you. You have unintentionally pointed out their weakness.   

There will always be people who will try to talk you out of doing that they think will make you better than them. There will always also be people who, because of their lack of understanding, will try to talk you down out of actual concern.
So far I’ve describing other people. Let’s get a little more personal:

·         I am 65 years old.
·         I have Plantar’s Faciatis in my right foot.
·         I’ve had a broken right ankle which locks up on occasion.
·         I’ve had knee surgery 3 times. One was so bad that I’m told it’s in a medical text book somewhere. My left knee still has the lateral stability somewhat less than Jell-o!
·         I’ve had 2 serious rotator cuff tears.
·         I have Polysistic Kidey Disease. Because of this I’ve had high blood pressure since my mid-thirties.
·         I’m a cancer survivor ( 6+ years now)
·         and I have emvazeyma.
·         I have scoliosis of the lower thoracic spine. Mostly caused from favoring my left knee all these years.

You should note:
  • That NONE of the injuries were the direct result of resistance training!
  • As a matter of fact, training has caused a marked improvement in each and every one of them! 
  • AND if I had been stronger at the time of the injury I might not have been injured in the first place!

And in each case the doctors had me in resistance training within days or weeks of the injury!

My current dead lift is over 1.5x my body weight and improving every week.
My current raw barbell squat is almost 1.5 x my body weight.

I was still a member of the 1000 Pound Club at age 53 at 1275 pounds. (The total weight in 3 lifts-bench press, dead lift and squat). At age 65 I’m a little below 1000 pounds for the time being but I’m working on it.

 Only you can answer these questions:
·         Are my reasons for not getting more fit real or imaginary? Be totally honest with yourself.
·          Or are they totally invalid?
·         Will my condition (if any) require a special program or work-around?
·         Is my medical professional  Ok with the program I have planned?

I’m not telling you it will be easy. I’m telling you it will be worth it!


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Happy Scale


No many how many times I say it or write about it (along with every other trainer or coach) you still do it. Admit it, you still step on the scales every day when you’re trying to lose weight. Its human nature I guess. But being part of human nature doesn’t make it good for your weight loss plans.

Stepping on the scales is probably the number one reason that people get discouraged and give up on their fitness goals. Even though Throw Away Your Scales is the most read article on this site over the last two years. Use the link above to read it again.

If you insist on continuing to step on the scales every day, even though you know you shouldn’t, at least check out a new app called Happy Scale.

You report your weight daily if you like but it plots it on a long term curve that allows you to see the big picture. It works on both iPhone and iPad in nine languages and only costs $4.99 (deluxe edition) in iTunes. It has a five- star rating on over 3,000 reviews. I understand Happy Scale is being developed for other platforms.
This is an unpaid endorsement

Happy Scale graph

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

“STIMULATE, DON’T ANNIHILLATE.” What does that even mean?

What does that even mean?

The quote above is attributed to Lee Haney. Lee retired at the age of 31 after winning 8 consecutive Mr. Olympia Championships (1984 through 1991) beating Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 7 win record. He trained Evander Holyfield in two of Holyfield’s title defenses as Heavy Weight Boxing Champion and a number of other professional athletes in several sports.
 Mr Olympia 1986 | Bodybuilding history | Lee Haney Olympia Winner 1986:

Lee is now 56 years old and has none of the aches and pains of most competitors and never had a major injury.

So when Lee Haney’s training philosophy was “Stimulate. Don’t annihilate” YOU SHOULD PROBABLY LISTEN.

Lee’s philosophy, put another way, was use as much weight as necessary but no more.

Train hard. Sure. But know your limits (or how to recognize your limits). Otherwise you’re killing your own gains.

Here’s Why….


Training is a double-edged sword. You need to create enough stress via overload to get a positive adaptation response from the muscle. But you don’t need to do it every day on every set. And you don’t need to add weight past your limits of good form.

Every time you lift a weight you are putting as much stress on your joints and tendons as you do on the muscle. Joints and connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) don’t stretch and flex like muscle. Lift too much past your limits and injury is an almost certain outcome.

Leave your ego at the door!


Hormone release is what underpins most of the physiological changes in muscle. The amount of training and the intensity of training is a balancing act. Physical and (mental) stress release hormones.

Some are anabolic, triggering protein synthesis.

·        Testosterone stimulates protein synthesis which is what builds muscle tissue
·        Growth Hormone stimulates muscle repair
·        Insulin aids in carrying glycogen (fuel) to the muscle

Some are catatonic meaning they break down muscle; the opposite effect of testosterone. The primary catatonic hormone is Cortisol. Create too much cortisol and it negates the positive effects of testosterone, GH, and Insulin.

All 4 hormones are released during physical and mental stress.

Though cortisol production can’t be eliminated, it can be controlled.

Outside the gym, cortisol can be minimized with:
·        Stress management (mental)
·        Getting sufficient rest and sleep
·        Limiting caffeine (or other stimulant) intake-(that includes sugar so don’t gorge on the free Tootsie Rolls at Planet Fitness!)
·        Improved nutrition especially before and immediately after your workout

But this article is about “Stimulate, don’t annihilate”

·        Use the weight you need to get the job done but not more.
·        Push hard but you don’t have to go “Beast Mode” on every set every day
·        Studies show 45 to 75 minutes should be the maximum length of your workout to keep cortisol under control
·        Chill out immediately following your workout. You don’t have to take a nap but try to do something relaxing for a few minutes. Cortisols (and other hormones) stay elevated for a while after your workout. Relaxing for a few will cut back on the cortisol and let the other hormones do their job.
·        Don’t rush your rest periods. Use the suggested rest periods. It’s ok to use shorter rest periods as a means of progression but don’t overdo it and don’t do it all the time. Let your body “downregulate” between sets.
·        ** A good way to judge if the length of your rest period is adequate is to use your heart rate. It will vary by individual, but rest long enough for your HR to return to 75 to 120 bpm (100 bpm if you are strength training)**

Too often, when we hit a plateau and progress stops, the response is to work harder. Often that’s just the opposite of what you need to do!