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Doubling Your Reps for Shocking Muscle Growth
By Inbox Fitness
9/24/2014 10:40:00 AM  
Doubling Your Reps

In athletics, as with life in general, there are certain trade-offs. You want to run really fast? You won't run really far. Want to eat junk food seven days a week? Don't expect to outperform someone who's eating clean for six. You want to train with heavier weights? You're not going to be doing higher reps. It's this last example, however, that we'd like to revisit.

What if we told you that you just might be able to lift heavier weights — for more reps — the next time you go to the gym? Cool trick right? Read on, and you can try this technique with your current workout plan, or try it with one of the programs in our blog.

We call this training technique Double Reps, and it's more of a neuromuscular trick than a biomechanical advantage. But if it works even for just a few weeks, why not use it, and then move on to a different method of shocking your muscles into growth-mode.

How To Do It

The concept is quite simple: Do your reps two-at-time, with no break between the two, and then pause for a brief moment before repeating the process until you reach the intended number of reps for that particular set. The rhythm is similar to a heartbeat, where there are two contractions (the diastolic and systolic) in succession, then a momentary pause, followed by two more beats. Another way of looking at it is like doing mini-sets of 2 reps until you reach the desired number of total reps.

Let's use a set of bench presses as an example. Say you are targeting 8 reps for the set, and you are using 80% of your 1 rep max. Some days you can eke out 8 eight reps — other days you can only manage 7 reps before you hit failure. Using the Double Reps technique, the set would go like this:

Unrack the weight, lower the bar to your chest, and then immediately press the weight up to the starting position. Immediately lower it again, and when the bar touches your chest, instantly begin pressing for a second time. Upon completion of this rep pair, take a quick breath, and with no more than one- to two-seconds pause, repeat the process until you complete 8 reps. "But what if I only get 7 reps," you say? Simple: with the help of your spotter, rack the weight, wait 5- to 10-seconds (maximum) then attempt another pair of reps. Whether you get one more, two more, or none, that completes your set.

We have found this technique primes our psychological machinery for seemingly shorter, more intense "chunks" of work, and we particularly like this for sets that range between 8 and 12 reps. One drawback to the Double Reps technique, as pointed out by our tough-as-nails friend, Steve, in the gym a few weeks ago, "It won't work for odd-numbered sets." Yeah, there is that... but for anyone willing to consider even numbers, give Double Reps a try and you'll be surprised how this minor tweak can deliver big gains.


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The Fast and Furious Workout Experiment...that Worked!
By Inbox Fitness
9/17/2014 8:21:00 AM  
Furious Workout Experiment

The Fast and Furious Workout Experiment...that Worked!

What do you get when you mash up a musclehead and a computer geek? Well... us, actually. And as a result, we are always looking for smarter ways to train, faster ways to build muscle, and better ways to make being an athlete fit into a working-stiff's schedule. So, when the debate arose about which method of training was more effective, unilateral movements or bilateral movements, we read the studies and opinions, we shuffled our workouts around for a few weeks, and we put together a program that is one of the current favorites around here. It can be a quick workout when you're crunched for time, but it allows you spend all the time-under-tension you need to stimulate serious muscle gains. Try it for yourself and let us know what you think.

For starters, bilateral movements are those where both sides of the body work to move the load symmetrically through the range of motion. Think barbell curls: the right and left arms move the weight from starting position to finishing point, together simultaneously — the resistance distributed evenly between each arm. By contrast, unilateral movements, such as a one-arm dumbbell curl, are those where a muscle group on one side of the body moves the load independently from the opposite side — and not at simultaneously with the opposite side.

In fairness, the debate is not so much over which type of movement is superior (because they are both effective components of any well-rounded training regimen), for us the discussion was more about how to best use the two methods given their unique advantages — and given the specific goals we were trying to accomplish.

Factor #1: Pretty much everyone at our office likes to train, likes talking about training, and a bunch of us even train together. During the week however, we also work some fairly long hours, and our families and personal commitments take a top spot in our daily schedule too, so we don't always have as much time to work out as we like. Sound familiar? Weekends provide more time for working out, but we're not going to build the muscle strength and size we want by only hitting the gym two days a week.

Factor #2: No training program works forever, and we like to change things around to keep the gains up, and the bored down — and while most of us will try any reasonable workout plan, we do expect to get a serious return on our investment. Something new, that works, is a good score around here.

Factor #3: Studies such as the one by Dr Keijo Hakkinen et al reported in the journal Acta Physiologica — along with our own personal experience — suggest that bilateral training builds more overall strength in a muscle group (e.g. upper arm) than unilateral movements. That study also indicated that unilateral exercises were more effective at increasing strength in a specific muscle (e.g. bicep) than bilateral movements. And when it come to forging that "mind-muscle-connection" that's often discussed among top physique athletes, most agree that unilateral exercises have a distinct edge.

Factor #4: Some muscle groups, like chest for example, present a bit of a challenge when it comes to finding unilateral exercises that are safe and effective. For example one-arm bench presses (both with a dumbbell and on a Smith machine), are awkward at best. One-legged squats on the other hand, are a legit hardcore exercise ...when done with good form.

So taking these and other factors into consideration, we assembled the following program that can be completed in 35 minutes on weekdays, and 50 minutes on weekends. Sure it's pretty challenging, but it's a real-deal muscle builder.

Day 1 (We do this on Tuesdays because the gym is less crowded than Mondays)
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8 - 12 Chest
Incline Bench Press 3 10 - 12 Chest
Overhead Barbell Press (Standing) 4 8 - 10 Shoulders
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 10 - 12 Shoulders
Cable Pushdown 5 10-12 Triceps
Hanging Leg Raise 2 15 - 20 Abs
Crunch 1 15-20 Abs
Day 2 (We do Wednesdays)
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Squat 5 12 - 15 Legs
Leg Press 5 8 - 10 Legs
Wide-grip Bentover Row 5 8 - 10 Back
Pullup 4 To Failure Back
Two-arm Dumbbell Curl 3 8 - 10 Biceps
Barbell Drag Curl 3 8 - 10 Biceps
Day 3 (Saturday)
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
One-arm Cable Chest Flye(Tip: Using the lowest position for the pulley makes this movement easier to perform with one arm) 3 10 - 12 Chest
One-arm Machine Press(E.g. Hammer Strength Chest Press. Tip: Load weight onto both sides of the machine and use your stationary arm to stabilize yourself by holding the grip/handle) 3 10 - 12 Chest
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press with Neutral Grip(palms facing each other) 3 8 - 10 Chest
One-arm Overhead Press with Dumbbell or Kettlebell 3 8 - 10 Shoulders
One-arm Cable Lateral Raise 3 10 - 12 Shoulders
One-arm Upright Row 3 8 - 10 Shoulders
One-arm Overhead Tricep Extension 3 8 - 10 Triceps
Reverse One-arm Cable Tricep Extension 3 10 - 12 Triceps
Decline Crunch 3 To Failure Abs
Hanging Knee Raise 2 To Failure Abs
Day 4 (Sunday)
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Front Squats 4 10 - 12 Legs
Dumbbell Reverse Lunge(Don't alternate — perform all reps on one side before switching to perform reps on the other side) 4 8 - 10 Legs
Seated Single-leg Extension 3 8 - 10 Legs
Lying Single-leg Curl 3 8 - 10 Legs
One-arm Bentover Dumbbell Rows 4 8 - 10 Back
One-arm Seated Cable Rows 3 8 - 10 Back
Wide-grip Pulldown 3 10 - 12 Back
Seated One-arm Dumbbell Curl 3 8 - 10 Biceps
One-arm Hammer Curl 3 8 - 10 Biceps
One-arm Cable Curl 3 8 - 10 Biceps

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No Gym? No Problem!
By Mike McErlane, CSCS
8/14/2014 3:14:00 PM  

Here's a complete out-of-gym workout that will build serious size and strength.

Are you one of the many people who cannot easily get access to heavy exercise equipment or to a gym membership? Do you feel like your fitness goals are going nowhere as a result? No matter your situation, NOT training should never be an option for you. Most folks don't need expensive equipment to make great progress, only a bit of knowledge and the right exercise program, and you can make gains as good as anyone, anywhere. With the following workout routine and a pair of dumbbells and a bench, you can get totally hard and ripped without breaking the bank — or leaving your house.

Follow this plan over the next 4 weeks and repeat again until you get the results you are after. You can easily alter this program based on your goals, and here are some suggestions on how you can tailor the workout to your individual needs:

Turn into a Strength Plan:

To do this Do Power/clapping Pushups in between every upper body exercise set and Body Weight jump squats in between every lower body and ab exercise for sets of 10 each time you execute. Use the example below:

  • Example Upper Body - Decline Press 3x10 (then in between each set do regular power or clapping pushups for a set of 10 reps)
  • Example Lower Body - Lunges 3x10 (then in between each set of lunges do Jump Squats for a set of 10 reps)

Turn into a Fat Burning plan- To do this Do jumping jacks or jump rope in between every set of upper body movements for 1 minute in between sets, and mountain climbers in between every set of lower body and ab exercises for 30 seconds. Use the Example below!

  • Example Upper Body - Decline Press 3x10 (then in between each set jump rope or do jumping jacks for 1 minute)
  • Example Lower Body - Lunges 3x10 (then in between each set of lunges do mountain climbers for 30 seconds)

Here is the workout:

Week 1 Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Push Ups 3 10 Chest
Decline Push Up 3 10 Chest
Incline Push Up 3 10 Chest
Dumbell Flye 3 8 Chest
One Arm Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8 Chest
Alternating Dumbbell Curl 3 12 Arms
Dumbbell Curl 3 6 Arms
Incline Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension 3 15 Triceps
Dumbbell Power Row 3 5 Back
Dumbbell Row 3 10 Back
Dumbbell Shrugs 3 12 Traps
Week 1 Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Dumbbell Lunge 3 12 Legs
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 8 Legs
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 10 Shoulders
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 8 Shoulders
Dumbbell Front Raise 3 8 Shoulders
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 3 8 Shoulders
Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullback 3 12 Back
Week 2 Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Push Up 3 12 Chest
Decline Push Up 3 12 Chest
Incline Push Up 3 12 Chest
One Arm Dumbbell Bench Press 3 6 Chest
Dumbbell Flye 3 10 Chest
Alternating Dumbbell Curl 3 8 Arms
Dumbbell Curl 3 12 Arms
Incline Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension 3 8 Triceps
Dumbbell Power Row 3 8 Back
Dumbbell Row 3 5 Back
Dumbbell Shrug 3 15 Traps
Week 2 Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Dumbbell Lunge 3 8 Legs
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 10 Legs
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 8 Shoulders
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 12 Shoulders
Dumbbell Front Raise 3 12 Shoulders
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 3 12 Shoulders
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 3 12 Shoulders
Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullback 3 8 Back
Week 3 Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Push Up 4 10 Chest
Decline Push Up 4 10 Chest
Incline Push Up 4 10 Chest
Dumbbell Flye 4 12 Chest
One Arm Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8 Chest
Alternating Dumbbell Curl 4 8 Arms
Dumbbell Curl 4 10 Arms
Incline Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension 4 15 Triceps
Dumbbell Power Row 4 5 Back
Dumbbell Row 4 6 Back
Dumbbell Shrug 4 15 Traps
Week 3 Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Dumbbell Lunge 4 8 Legs
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 4 12 Legs
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 4 10 Shoulders
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 4 12 Shoulders
Dumbbell Front Raise 4 12 Shoulders
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 4 12 Shoulders
Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullback 4 8 Back
Week 4 Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Push Up 5 10 Chest
Decline Push Up 5 10 Chest
Incline Push Up 5 10 Chest
One Arm Dumbbell Bench Press 4 8 Chest
Dumbbell Flye 4 12 Chest
Alternating Dumbbell Curl 5 10 Arms
Dumbbell Curl 5 5 Arms
Incline Dumbbell Lying Triceps Extension 5 10 Triceps
Dumbbell Power Row 2 15 Back
Dumbbell Row 3 6 Back
Dumbbell Shrug 3 15 Traps
Week 4 Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Dumbbell Lunge 5 8 Legs
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift 3 10 Legs
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press 5 10 Shoulders
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 5 6 Shoulders
Dumbbell Front Raise 5 6 Shoulders
Bent-Over Lateral Raise 5 6 Shoulders
Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullback 3 15 Back

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A Heavy-weight, High-volume Launching Pad for Muscle Growth!
By Mike McErlane, CSCS
3/13/2014 4:32:00 PM  
A Heavy-weight, High-volume Launching Pad for Muscle Growth!

Do a little spring-cleaning and launch your old workout out the door.

Nothing sparks new muscle growth like a fresh training program, and this plan will seriously challenge your muscles with hardcore tonnage and the kind of high-volume output that separates the chargers from the "also-rans." But gut out this hard 'n heavy program, and you'll be rewarded with phenomenal size and strength gains — plus you'll crank your fat-burning metabolism into overdrive too!

The 5-3-1 method of training is just the prescription needed to get back to what truly works when training. The concept behind this program is to maximize both volume (total sets and reps) and weight with the basic movements that are pretty much all you truly need in order to gain brute strength and a thickly muscled physique.

The 5-3-1 technique starts out with you doing 5 working sets of 5 reps, then moving on to 5 sets of 3 reps, and finishing off with 5 sets of 1 rep for each of the main lifts. By keeping the reps no more than 5 per set, you can focus on increasing the weight with each set. For example, start off the first set of 5 with a weight you know you can handle for 5-8 reps, and for each subsequent set increase the weight by 10 pounds. Do the same for the sets of 3 reps and the set of 1 rep.

Research has shown that focusing on heavier weight and fast, powerful reps actually helps speed up the fat burning process more than light weight with high reps. The research also shows that escalating the training poundage in this fashion increases your fat-burning metabolism for up to two days after the training cycle. So be sure to change it up this week with the 5-3-1 workout program, and you'll be on your on your way to getting bigger, leaner, and stronger than ever.

Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Barbell Squat 5 5 Legs
Barbell Squat 5 3 Legs
Barbell Squat 5 1 Legs
Barbell Front Lunge 3 6 Legs
Abdominal Crunches 3 20 Abs
Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Barbell Bench Press 5 5 Chest
Barbell Bench Press 5 3 Chest
Barbell Bench Press 5 1 Chest
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 5 10 Chest
Bent-over One-arm Dumbbell Rows 5 10 Back
Standing Dumbbell Shrugs 5 10 Shoulders
Day 3
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Barbell Deadlift 5 5 Legs
Barbell Deadlift 5 3 Legs
Barbell Deadlift 5 1 Legs
Good Mornings 5 10 Back
Leg Lifts 3 20 Legs
Day 4
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Standing Barbell Military Press 5 5 Shoulders
Standing Barbell Military Press 5 3 Shoulders
Standing Barbell Military Press 5 1 Shoulders
Pull-Up/ Chin 5 10 Back
Dips 3 20 Chest
Standing Two-arm Barbell Curl 5 10 Arms

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Muscle Building, Fat Burning HIIT Workout
By Mike McErlane, CSCS
3/6/2014 3:27:00 PM  
Cardio Acceleration

ACCELERATE YOUR FAT LOSS - Get shredded faster with a workout that combines the calorie-burning of cardio with the muscle-building power of weight training.

For all the lip service we may give to our love of a challenging workout, and how the journey to a ripped physique is as rewarding as the end result, admit it ... you'd love to drop excess pounds more quickly.

Yet, if you've been relying on traditional cardio methods — 30 minutes on the stationary bike here, an hour on the treadmill there — that fat loss may be coming at an excruciating slow pace.

If that sounds familiar, it's time to hit back. Or more specifically, HIIT back, with a revamped cardio regimen that can fast-track your shredding ambitions. Popularized by exercise expert Dr. Jim Stoppani, cardio acceleration is a form of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short.

In HIIT training, you intersperse low-intensity exercise with short bouts of high-intensity activity. The goal of HIIT is to spike your heart rate, and spur the body to flip on its fat-burning systems. Cardio acceleration, as crafted by Stoppani, intersperses aerobic exercise and resistance training movements over the course of a workout.

The key is to go heavy and hard as you can with the weights, then — instead of resting, as you would in a normal routine — you do cardio, anything from jumping rope to running on a treadmill. Your goal is to keep up the demanding pace throughout.

Research has shown that when you combine cardio acceleration tactics with weight training, you not only burn more calories and fat, but you prompt more muscle fiber recruitment. In short, you can ditch the long, boring cardio sessions, replacing them with a high-impact program that burns more fat while building more muscle. (We've provided a few samples below.) And hey, if you're one of those who love a challenging workout? Cardio acceleration has you covered there, too.

Sample No. 1 Cardio Acceleration with Legs
Exercise Sets Reps
Jump Squatsuperset with 3 12
Jump Rope 3 30 sec.
Leg Presssuperset with 4 8
Jumping Jacks 3 30 sec.
Barbell Front Lungesuperset with 4 5
Jump Rope 3 30 sec.
Lying Leg Curlsuperset with 3 12
Alternating Leg Dumbbell Step-Up 3 5
Sample No. 2 Cardio Acceleration with Back
Exercise Sets Reps
Lat Pulldownsuperset with 3 12
Run in Place or Treadmill 3 30 sec.
T-Bar Rowsuperset with 3 15
Run in Place or Treadmill 3 30 sec.
Back Extension 3 20
Jump Rope 3 30 sec.
Sample No. 3 Cardio Acceleration with Chest Exercise
Exercise Sets Reps
Cable Crossoversuperset with 3 12
Push-Upsuperset with 3 15
Jump Rope 3 30 sec.
Flat-Bench Barbell Presssuperset with 3 12
Jumping Jacks 3 30 sec.
Incline Dumbbell Presssuperset with 3 10
Jump Rope 3 30 sec.
Sample No. 4 Cardio Acceleration with Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
V-Upsuperset with 3 12
Treadmill or Recumbent Bike 3 30 sec.
Reverse Crunchsuperset with 3 15
Treadmill or Recumbent Bike 3 30 sec.
Crunchsuperset with 3 20
Treadmill or Recumbent Bike 3 30 sec.

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The Hardest Easy Workout You'll Ever Do!
By InboxFitness
12/31/2013 11:35:00 AM  
The Hardest Easy Workout You'll Ever Do!

It's January 1st, and everyone wants a new exercise program. One that will help you get into fantastic shape, but that you can stick with rather than falling off the workout wagon a week after getting on. The following advice has worked for beginners and advanced athletes alike, and I have personally used this method on six occasions with great results — but more on that later.

Success Tips for this Program

  1. Don't do more than required. One of the ways this regimen helps to instill discipline is by establishing an exact number of push-ups to do — and your job is to stick to it. Quite often, bridling your enthusiasm is harder than cranking out the reps. It's like eating just one potato chip — I dare ya!
  2. Use good form, but vary your hand positions to stress different muscle groups if you like. Try placing your hands wide or narrow. Elbows in. Elbows out. Rotate your palms so that your fingers point inward or outward. There are lots of different ways to perform this powerhouse upper body/core exercise.
  3. If something interrupts your training for the day, don't panic. Just add two push-ups to your tally on the following day and pick up where you should be on the calendar.
  4. If you hit a point where you can't go on, try this technique. Let's say you can do 60 push-ups but you just can't get 61. After your 60th rep, pause for 30 seconds, then do your last rep. The next day, do 50 push-ups followed by a 30 second pause, and then try to do 12 more push-ups. Continue this way for one week — each time adding one rep after the pause — and then try to do as many push-ups as you can before pausing if necessary. Whenever you hit that type of impasse, just subtract ten push-ups from the maximum you can complete, take 30 second pause and then finish with your remaining reps.
  5. If you start to think you are undertaking an impossible task, consider that the world record for non-stop push-ups is 10,507, set by Minoru Yoshida in 1980. Keep in mind this program is not about breaking records, but about forging discipline and improving fitness. The thing that truly matters is this: Did you push yourself further than you thought you could go? Did find yourself applying your newfound willpower to other areas of your life? ...Not bad for one simple push-up.

This article falls somewhere between workout plan and motivational tip. It spans the gap between novel idea and ancient concept, and simultaneously it's ridiculously easy and excruciatingly hard.

Virtually anyone can begin, and complete, this workout within the next ten seconds ...and yet a person who finishes the regimen to the end of its cycle is truly at an elite level of physical fitness and strength.

Alright, that's the set-up... now here's the program: Do one push-up. That's not a typo. Let me explain.

In the same way that 6th-century BC Greek athlete, Milo of Croton, purportedly built his legendary strength by lifting a newborn calf every day until it had grown to maturity, this program is going to start you off with one push-up, and add one more every day until you can't do any more — or until you can do 365 of 'em!

This is one exercise plan that really is as simple as it sounds. Today you'll do exactly one push-up; tomorrow you do two; the next day, three. Wash, rinse, repeat. If you start on January 1st you'll pass certain milestones as you progress throughout the year. On Valentine's Day you'll be banging out 45 push-ups before your big date. Come the 4th of July you'll be rocking 185. Make it to Halloween and the frightful number you'll be hitting is 304. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you'll be doing 331 push-ups — and you'll be able to eat as much pumpkin pie as you like without feeling an ounce of guilt.

If you attempt this challenge, an interesting thing happens along the way. Sure it's really easy at first, and very very difficult at the end, but somewhere around week six you get to look back and realize that you just exercised every day for nearly two months — and this is probably the biggest payoff for people who have had prior difficulty sticking to an exercise plan. Being able to drop and do 50 push-ups any time you want isn't too shabby either.

"Today you'll do exactly one push-up; tomorrow you do two; the next day, three. Wash, rinse, repeat."

A lot readers might be saying, "Hold on. I can do more push-ups than that right now." Great — we know that too. The first time I tried this, I was in pretty good condition. I could eke out 100 push-ups with a bit of effort. I was in the gym four days a week. If I went for a swim I wasn't embarrassed to take my shirt off. BUT, as I progressed through this regimen I started to notice I became more disciplined than ever before. Somehow, being a few hours away from having to do my push-ups, or having just done them, made it easier to pass up the junk food that seemed to be everywhere I turned. It became easier to remember to get in that extra protein meal. Those early-morning jogs seemed less arduous — in fact, even just getting up early became easier.

Now this program doesn't replace the need for other types of exercise, and if you're a competitive powerlifter this is probably not a regimen that you want want to follow, at least for very long. However, if you're looking for a challenge that will kickstart your willpower as much as your body, try out this plan starting right now. Drop and give me... ONE!


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Your New Year's Workout
By Michael Berg, NSCA-CPT
12/30/2013 3:26:00 PM  
The Hard & Fast Workout

Already in good shape? Don't let that stop you from resolving to get in even better shape in 2014! Here's a hardcore 7-day training plan that will jump-start your strength-gaining, muscle-building and fat-burning progress like never before! (For Intermediate-to Advanced-level Athletes)

Let's face it, anyone can make a resolution. Sometimes it's the post-party hangover talking, but people make themselves big promises: They'll start eating healthy. They'll lose pounds of fat. They'll build the strong, muscular body they always wanted.

Then mid-January arrives. Health clubs across the country, just two weeks before filled to capacity, start to empty out. By February, it's mostly back to the regulars, who never abandoned their posts — plus a few new faces whose steely determination has kept them from sliding backward into the abyss of broken resolutions.

But what about those who take training seriously, no matter what new digits we find atop the calendar? We want to kick things into high gear too, and since we have plenty of experience under our belts (though perhaps a couple extra holiday pounds), we can handle a training program that's more challenging than your typical Start-the-New-Year-Off-Right plan.

Enter the Inbox Fitness approach to meeting 2014 head-on. How about an intense week-long training plan that tests your mettle, jolts you past any workout rut you might currently find yourself in, and jams your progress into overdrive?

The following plan, as you've now been warned, is far from easy. It's a challenging concoction of high-impact power movements, CrossFit exercises and time-tested muscle-building fare. And they all come with a twist — variations in rep speed and a timing element that throws out the typical "sets and reps" approach.

Intrigued? Then try our workout plan. It's worthy of a New Year's Resolution made by all of you who embrace fitness ... not as merely a passing thought at the turn of every year, but a 24/7, 365-day commitment.

Instructions: Do the following three workouts on three consecutive days, then take one day of rest and repeat. On all three days, perform three sets of each exercise listed, or two sets if it's a "super-slow" series.

So, for instance, on the first day, you'll do three 45-second sets of bent-over rows, choosing a weight that will lead to failure by the end of that timeframe. (This will admittedly take some trial and error; if you fail sooner, drop the weight and continue). During the third 30-second rest period, you'll quickly move on to the next exercise, narrow-grip pulldowns.

In addition to the 30-minute workout time, you should also do a 5-10 minute warm-up before and 5-10 minute cool-down after, on the cardio machine of your choice. Just make sure to break a sweat — a warm-up is not a waiting-period, it is work.

The "speed" component tells you how fast to perform your reps. "Explosive" means a strong, fast move on the "up" phase, followed by a standard 2-to-4 second negative. "Standard" style is 2-3 seconds on the concentric (lifting) portion of the rep, and 2-4 on the eccentric (i.e., negative). And "super-slow" means you want to take 8-10 seconds on the concentric phase and 4-6 seconds on the descent. A note: While you'll watch the time, always finish the last rep you've started before terminating a set. Measure your progress by how much weight you can handle with perfect form.

As for cardio, add a long run (3 miles or more) on at least two days, and 30-45 minutes of interval training (all-out sprints interspersed with slower speeds) on three.

Because this week-long training protocol is physically and psychologically intensive, you won't want to do it week after week, or you may quickly find yourself in an overtrained state. Instead, depending on your fitness level, you may want to follow this with a lighter week of cardio workouts and toned-back weight training sessions before returning to your regular routine. But when you do return to your usual program, you will be tougher, stronger, leaner and, most certainly, resolved!

Day 1: Upper Body
Exercise Work / Rest (Seconds) Speed
Bent-Over Barbell Row 45/30 Standard
Narrow-Grip Pulldown to Front 30/30 Explosive
Hammer-Strength Row 60/30 Super-Slow
Smith-Machine Incline Press 30/30 Explosive
Standing Barbell Press 30/30 Explosive
EZ-Bar Upright Row 45/30 Standard
Cable Crossover 60/30 Super-Slow
Close-Grip Bench Press 30/30 Explosive
Standing Barbell Curl 45/30 Standard
Total Time: 29.25 minutes
Day 2: Lower Body
Exercise Work / Rest (Seconds) Speed
Walking Dumbbell Lunge 45/30 Standard
Barbell Squat 30/30 Explosive
Hack Squat 30/30 Explosive
Leg Extension 60/30 Super-Slow
Romanian Deadlift 45/30 Standard
Kettlebell Swing* 30/30 Explosive
Burpees* 45/30 Standard
Box Jumps* 30/30 Explosive
Standing Calf Raise 60/30 Super-Slow
Total Time: 29.25 minutes
Day 3: Power & Core
Exercise Work / Rest (Seconds) Speed
Hang Clean* 30/30 Explosive
Deadlift 45/30 Standard
Hang Power Snatch* 30/30 Explosive
Kipping Pull-Up* 30/30 Explosive
V-Up 45/30 Standard
Hanging Leg Raise 45/30 Standard
Decline Twisting Crunch with Medicine Ball 45/30 Standard
Ab Crunch Machine 60/30 Super-Slow
Back Extension 60/30 Super-Slow
Total Time: 30.00 minutes

* The starred exercises are meant to be Cross Fitness/WOD-style; for a primer on how to perform them, check out CrossFit.com.


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The Bookend Workout
By Mike McErlane, CSCS
10/10/2013 8:59:00 AM  
Bookend Training

What is Bookend Training?

Just like a bookshelf where you might find two identical, solid props to hold your literary collection in place, Bookend Training employs the same exercises at either end of the workout program for a particular muscle group, with other different exercises in between the two "ends."

Bookend Training is a training principle that is used when writing a workout program where you are looking to maximize blood flow and muscle fiber recruitment (building muscle). Every muscle group has a foundational lift, or exercises that allow you to maximize strength in that muscle group.

For instance the squat is the foundational exercise for legs, and typically is one of the first exercises you want to perform when training. Bench Press is the foundational exercise for chest. Barbell Military or shoulder press for shoulders, Lat Pull downs, Bent Over Row or Pull Ups for back, and so on. The other exercises are categorized as auxiliary lifts to emphasize one muscle, or parts of the muscles differently.

So with Bookend Training the concept is to start with a foundational exercises for a specific muscle group. Once completed you move onto the auxiliary exercises which still target the muscles you are working, and then finishing off the muscle group with the same foundational exercise you started with.

Why does it work?

Research has shown that because of the load (weight and force) that foundational exercises put on the muscles worked, you can significantly recruit more muscle fibers when you also finish off with the same movement once the muscles are fatigued after the auxiliary lifts are performed. In a sense, its similar to the overload principle that takes place when you do extended set training.

What this means is that by doing this technique your muscles work overtime to recruit more muscle fibers during and after your training is finished.

My advice is to attempt to use the same weight when you perform your final set of your workout as you did with that same exercise when you began your workout. Pretty challenging when you think about that way!

Do the workout program below each week for a total of 4 weeks to maximize your results from this technique.

Week 1

Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Barbell Incline Bench Press On Bench 3 8 Chest
Dumbbell Bench Press On Bench Both Arms 3 10 Chest
Laying On Incline Bench Dumbbell Flys Both Arms 3 12 Chest
Standing Mid Cable Flys Both Arms 2 15 Chest
Barbell Incline Bench Press On Bench 2 15 Chest
Standing Bicep Curl Barbell Both Arms 3 8 Arms
Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl One arm 3 10 Arms
Cable Concentration Bicep Curl 3 12 Arms
Standing Bicep Curl Barbell Both Arms 2 15 Arms
Hanging Leg Raise 2 6 Abs
Laying on Ground Abdominal Crunches Hands by Head 1 60 Abs
Hanging Leg Raise 2 60 Abs
Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Barbell Squat 3 6 Legs
Machine Leg Press Both Legs 3 10 Legs
Barbell Reverse Lunge 3 10 Legs
Seated Machine Leg Extension Both Legs 3 12 Legs
Prone Machine Leg Curl Both Legs 3 12 Legs
Barbell Squat 2 15 Legs
Standing Calf Raise 3 6 Legs
Seated Calf Raise 2 15 Legs
Day 3
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Standing Barbell Military Press 3 8 Shoulders
Standing Dumbbell Upright Row Both Arms 2 10 Shoulders
Standing Cable Side Raise One Arm 3 12 Shoulders
Standing Dumbbell Rear Delt Raise Both Arms 3 12 Shoulders
Standing Barbell Military Press 2 15 Shoulders
Standing Barbell Shrugs 3 6 Shoulders
Standing Dumbbell Shrugs 2 12 Shoulders
Standing Barbell Shrugs 2 15 Shoulders
Bent Over Cable Crunch 2 8 Abs
Reverse Crunch/ Leg Lifts 3 25 Abs
Bent Over Cable Crunch 2 15 Abs
Day 4
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Barbell Bent Over Wide Grip Rows Both Arms 3 8 Back
Pull-Up/ Chin 3 10 Back
Seated Cable Row 3 12 Back
Seated On Bench Cable Lat Pulldowns One Arm 3 15 Back
Barbell Bent Over Wide Grip Rows Both Arms 2 15 Back
Barbell Close Grip Bench Press with bands 3 8 Chest
Standing Cable Triceps Extension Both Arms 3 10 Arms
Standing Both Legs Over Head Tricep Extension Both Arms 3 12 Arms
Barbell Close Grip Bench Press with bands 2 15 Chest

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Professional Strength!
By Michael Berg, NSCA-CPT
9/18/2013 10:15:00 AM  
Professional Strength

A Hard-hitting Sports Performance Workout Even Pros Can Win With

Sports conditioning has come along way from the days when coaches and athletes actively avoided weight training for fear of becoming slow and less agile. Today's sports science completely embraces weight training as an absolutely essential component of every successful athlete's conditioning program. The only question that remains is: Which is the best sports performance workout? For most athletes at any level of play, I think the program below just might be the answer. It's not easy, but winning rarely is.

With the adoption of strength training by so many types of athletes, thousands of different workout regimens have been developed, ranging from highly-effective to practically useless (and sometimes even flat-out dangerous).

I have used the workout plan included here with great success, and I believe it is truly one of the best sports performance workout programs you will ever try — it is also one of the most challenging. This regimen emphasizes every possible area that is required to be trained in order to enhance overall performance. If you're unsure how to perform any of the movements, I have videos of most of them on YouTube so you can see proper exercise technique.

Performance can be defined differently for just about anyone. Some may see improving performance as being better at a particular sport, while some may see it as being better at simply walking up a flight stairs. In this particular case I am using the term performance to describe those who would like to be able to do just about any type of strenuous physical feat easily. If you want to improve your game, whether it's mud runs, jumping sports, field sports or anything that requires athleticism, then this is the workout plan for you.

This program is design to be done on five consecutive days followed by two days of rest. If your schedule or physical ability requires, you can insert a rest day after two or three workout days, and then resume with the workout plan for the remaining two or three days of the cycle, then take another day off. This workout plan is hardcore, but follow it for at least four weeks before making any changes, and you'll be on track to achieving world-class sport performance conditioning.

Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Machine Leg Press (both legs) 1 20 Legs
Adductor Side Steps 1 20 Legs
Standing Shoulder Press (both arms - with band) 1 30 Shoulders
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Jump Squat 2 10 Legs
Box Jumps 2 12 Plyometrics
Barbell Deadlift 4 3 Legs
Power Clean 4 3 Olympic Lifts
Barbell Squat 5 8 Legs
Barbell Straight Legged Deadlift (with band) 3 8 Legs
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Seated On Bench Barbell Military Press (with band) 4 8 Shoulders
Standing Dumbbell Side Raise (both arms) 4 6 Shoulders
Standing Barbell Upright Row 4 8 Shoulders
Laying on Ball Abdominal Crunches with a Twist (using band) 3 30 Abs
Russian Twists 3 15 Abs
Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Barbell Bench Press on Bench (with band)Super-Set With 2 25 Chest
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
One-arm Standing Chest Fly (with band) 1 20 Chest
Jump Rope 1 30 Cardio
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Barbell Bench Press on Bench 4 8 Chest
Dumbbell Bench Press on Bench (both arms) 4 10 Chest
Jump Rope 1 30 Cardio
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Standing Mid-cable Flyes (alternating arms) 3 12 Chest
Medicine Ball Push-Ups 3 15 Chest
Dips 3 15 Chest
Standing One-Arm High-Bicep Curls 3 12 Arms
Standing Kickbacks (both arms - with band) 3 12 Arms
Standing Cable Triceps Extension (both arms) 3 10 Arms
Standing Biceps Curl Dumbbell (alternating arms - with band) 3 15 Arms
V-Ups (with no equipment) 3 20 Abs
Prone Iso Abs (on ball) 3 30 Abs
Laying on Ball Abdominal Crunches (with hands by head - using band) 3 30 Abs
Day 3
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Adductor Side Steps 5 10 Legs
Step Ups Alternating Legs 1 20 Legs
Box Jumps 1 20 Plyometrics
Jump Rope 1 60 Cardio
Hang Clean 3 2 Olympic Lifts
Barbell Overhead Squat 3 5 Legs
Barbell Front Squat (with band) 3 10 Legs
Prone Machine Leg Curl (both legs) 2 20 Legs
Laying On Ground Dumbbell Prone Cobras 3 12 Back
Barbell Bent Over Wide Grip Rows (both arms) 3 6 Back
Seated On Bench Cable Lat Pulldowns (one arm) 3 8 Back
Jump Rope 1 60 Cardio
V-Ups (with wo equipment) 3 15 Abs
Laying on Ground Abdominal Crunches (feet up, hands straight up) 4 30 Abs
Prone Iso Abs (feet on ground, arms on ball) 3 30 Abs
Day 4
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Seated On Ball Dumbbell Military Press (seated on ball - both arms)Super-Set With 4 8 Shoulders
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Standing Side Raise(alternating arms - with band) 4 12 Shoulders
Barrel Throws (with band) 4 10 Shoulders
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Standing Cable Front Raise (both arms) 4 10 Shoulders
Standing Cable Upright Row (both arms) 4 12 Shoulders
Standing Dumbbell Full-Range Side Raise (alternating arms) 4 6 Shoulders
Machine Military Press (alternating arms) 3 10 Shoulders
Standing Bicep Curl Barbell (both arms) 4 12 Arms
Standing Triceps Extension (with both arms - using band) 4 15 Arms
Laying on Ball Bar Tricep Extension (with both arms - using band) 3 10 Arms
Standing Preacher Curls (one arm at a time) 3 25 Arms
Seated on Ball Bicep Curl (using band - with both arms behind) 3 15 Arms
Barbell Close Grip Bench Press (with bands) 1 20 Chest
Laying on Ground Abdominal Crunches Feet Up, Hands Straight Up (with band) 4 30 Abs
Day 5
Exercise Sets Reps Muscle
Jump Rope 3 30 Cardio
Adductor Side Steps 3 10 Legs
Standing Squat (with band) 4 12 Legs
Reverse Hamstring Curl (with band) 2 8 Legs
Barbell Squat (with ball) 3 8 Legs
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Barbell Incline Bench Press on Bench (with band) 2 15 Chest
One-arm Standing Incline Chest Fly (with band) 2 15 Chest
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Barbell Incline Bench Press (on bench) 3 4 Chest
Jump Rope 1 30 Cardio
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
Standard Grip Push-ups (feet on ball) 3 12 Chest
Wide Grip Push Ups (feet on ball) 3 12 Chest
Standing High Cable Chest Press (both arms) 3 8 Chest
Standing High Cable Flys (both arms) 3 10 Chest
SUPER-SET THE FOLLOWING 2 EXERCISES
V-Ups with No Equipment 3 15 Abs
Laying on Ball Abdominal Crunches - Hands Straight Up (with band) 3 20 Abs

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THE UPPER CHEST CURE
By Michael Berg, NSCA-CPT
9/11/2013 9:50:00 AM  
Upper Chest Cure

If you suffer from weak, shallow upper pectorals, this workout may be the perfect remedy.

Consider it the curse of the bench press: The popularity of benching through the ages has resulted in countless aspiring bodybuilders with large, meaty middle pecs, topped by a lagging upper chest.

If this describes you, not to worry. There is a fix, in the form of a training strategy aimed at adding size, thickness and definition to the upper chest area. It just requires a change of strategy, and a willingness to push yourself, lifting heavy and maximizing your intensity in every workout.

First, a quick review. The pectorals are fan-shaped muscles on each side of your upper torso. For training purposes, it's helpful to consider them as three different areas: the upper, middle and lower pecs, which all can be emphasized depending on your exercise selection. As you'd intuitively expect, incline movements hit the upper, flat-bench moves target the middle, and decline exercises emphasize the lower.

One common mistake is trying to do too much when training chest. This happens when you're only hitting pecs once per week, cramming in incline, flat and decline pressing moves into that one session. Do that, and you may be limiting your body's ability to develop.

That's where an upper-leaning program comes in handy. Try splitting your chest workouts into two sessions, starting the week with the following upper-chest workout, then coming back three or so days later for a session populated by flat and decline-based exercises.

The following upper-pec workout starts out with the incline bench, since the start of your session is when you're strongest and best able to recruit the "fast-twitch" muscle fibers — responsible for your short bursts of strength, those are the type that have the potential to grow the biggest and strongest.

Push as much weight as possible for the regular incline bench, pyramiding up the weight each set, down to three reps on the last set. The rest of the program includes supersets (two exercises done back to back with no rest in between), while the final movement is a reverse-grip incline bench press. Go to muscle failure with this exercise, which has been shown in research to hit up to 30 percent more of the upper-pec muscle fibers than any other barbell, dumbbell or machine incline option. It's a killer finisher that will ensure your upper chest has no choice but to step up and grow.

The Plan The Upper-Pec Focused Workout
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Incline Press 8 25, 20, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 3
Dumbbell Incline Presssuperset with 3 6
Dumbbell Incline Flye 3 10
High Cable Crossoversuperset with 3 12
High Cable Chest Press 3 12
Reverse-Grip Incline Barbell Press 1 30

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