If you have a “show piece” muscle it’s likely to be the biceps. That’s the muscle everyone flexes when someone challenges them to “make a muscle.” The shape of this muscle can really contribute to the impressiveness of your arms even more than sheer size. Nothing makes your arms look better than a biceps peak.
Like any other muscle, it takes the right exercises to develop a biceps peak. These movements will focus more on a peak contraction as opposed to just moving lots of weight. Add one of these peaking exercises at the end of your biceps workout and watch that peak grow!
Concentration Curls – This is the premier movement for developing a biceps peak. You can perform it standing or seated. If you choose standing, bend over at the waist with your free arm supported on your leg. Hold a dumbbell in your other hand with the palm facing in so the wrist is supinated. Keeping your elbow stable and your upper arm perpendicular to the floor, slowly curl the dumbbell up to your shoulder, flexing your biceps at the top. Use an amount of weight that lets you focus on the muscle while still maintaining perfect form.
You can also do concentration curls while seated. Placing your elbow firmly against your inner thigh, bend over at the waist and slowly curl the dumbbell up. With this version, your arm is stabilized with the elbow of your curling arm against your thigh. The standing version requires more concentration.
Preacher Curls – Although the preacher curl exercise is known for developing the lower area of the biceps, it can be modified to focus more on a peak. Using the steep end of the preacher curl bench, drape your upper arms over top and curl the dumbbell or barbell slowly up, feeling the peak contraction in your biceps at the top of the movement. As with the concentration curl, use a moderate resistance that allows you to really feel the muscle peak contract.
Lying Cable Curls – Position a flat exercise bench under a cable apparatus with a straight bar attached. Grab the bar with a moderately close grip and lie on your back atop the bench. With the elbows of both arms facing the ceiling, slowly curl the bar down to your forehead. Maintain elbow position throughout the exercise to better feel the biceps peak contract at the completion of each rep.
Fish oil has become one of the most popular dietary supplements sold in the U.S., and a study published in the Nutrition Journal provides a pretty good indication why so many adults supplement their diets with the omega-3 fatty acids known as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Researchers had 40 healthy middle age and elderly subjects supplement daily with either 3 grams of fish oils or a placebo. After 5 weeks, they were given cognitive performance tests that included working memory and selective attention drills. Subjects who supplemented with omega-3s performed better on these metal tests than those given a placebo.
True Strength Moment: DHA and EPA are considered essential fatty acids, meaning your body cannot produce them. They can only be taken in through diet. If you’re not a fan of seafood, or can’t get fresh fish year round, consider supplementing your diet with fish oil. This study suggests it may be a smart move.
A single session of weight lifting can help you plan more effectively and improve memory according to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. To test the theory, researchers had 30 middle aged subjects perform 7 different weight training exercises, each for 2 sets of 10 reps, with the resistance set at 70% of one rep max. A control group curled up on the couch with a good book.
Before and after training or reading, all subjects took a well-known test used to determine mental abilities. Resistance training did a better job of enhancing brain power compared to reading. The iron pumping subjects took fewer moves to achieve a higher correct score than the book worms. Pick up the weights and pump up more than just muscle.
It’s reasonable to assume that training your abdominal muscles can help you jump higher. Many team sports athletes can benefit from enhanced jumping ability, and a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research takes a novel approach to training deep abdominal muscles.
A group of 14 elite college soccer players was separated into two types of abdominal training. Some subjects concentrated on ‘hollowing’ or drawing in the stomach area to train the transversus abdominis muscles, while the rest performed ‘bracing’ moves which mimic the tensing up reaction you’d have right before being punched in the stomach. After 8 weeks, the bracing group increased jump height by 8.8% and the hollowing group jumped an average of 16.9% higher.
True Strength Moment: In addition to sit ups, leg raises and bridges, try working some of these simple hollowing and bracing movements into your abdominal training routine. It could help you get a jump on competitors in team sports while building up an impressive six pack look.
Jump performance, including how well you can absorb energy from a landing, plays a critical role in just about any team sports competition. A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise suggests there are interesting physiological differences between male and female athletes.
Researchers measured lower body muscle mass along with the quad and hamstring strength of 70 active male and female subjects. They discovered that, from amount of amount of lean mass, you can predict how effectively the female knee joint will absorb energy on jump landings. Those lacking muscle mass can gain a performance advantage by developing maximal eccentric quad strength. Unfortunately, neither of these observations applies to men. For an interesting perspective on how men and women sweat during exercise, ready today’s Breaking News post atoptimumnutrition.com
In addition to increased media scrutiny, there have been high-profile municipal laws imposed on fast food restaurants. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports dramatic changes made in the menus of the nation’s top 8 fast food franchises. But a closer look reveals that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
An analysis of data from 1997 to 2010 showed a 53% increase in the total number of food items available at fast food restaurants. Over 14 years, your choices went from 679 items to 1,036. Instead of just 11 salads, you now have 41, and where there were no sweat teas available in 1997, 35 different variations are offered today. Unfortunately, a dramatic reduction in the number of calories in main entrées or drinks hasn’t happened.
True Strength Moment: Although the average calories in side items did decrease from 264 to 219 calories, main items on lunch and dinner menus average 453 calories apiece. So if you add a sweet tea and fries to that main dish, you’re packing on a considerable amount of calories. When you consider that 28% of American adults dine on fast food at least twice a week, it’s easy to see how we have a problem with obesity.
A very common misconception states: Whey Protein can harm the kidneys!
Bodybuilders frequently consume up to 500g of protein per day for months – even years. There is no scientific evidence that this high protein intake causes kidney problems. In other studies, animals with high protein intakes for more than half their lifetime showed no kidney damage.
High protein intake may be hazardous only for individuals with abnormal kidney function or kidney disease. For the disease-free individual, the most serious concern with high protein intake is dehydration, because it takes a lot of water to metabolize protein. This is avoided by drinking 8 or more 8 oz. glasses of water a day.
A new study just looked at the effects of a high protein intake on markers of safety in 20 healthy resistance-trained males. The subjects were taking 1.3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight 3.6 times greater amount than that recommended by the RDI. After 28 days the researchers concluded that the daily high protein intake had no untoward or negative effects on the immune system, renal and hepatic function nor did it induce ketosis or dehydration, thus it appears completely safe.
The results even found out that consuming this amount of protein left the subjects with lower fat percentage and a relatively flat weight change.
It’s that time of year when you’re more than likely to hear people sniffling or coughing at the gym. While it’s always a good idea to use a gym towel to wipe down anything you’ll be grabbing during your exercise session, a story published online at ScienceDaily.com offers some tips on working through an illness of your own.
Generally speaking, it’s probably okay to hit the gum if your symptoms are from the neck up. Like a sore throat or runny nose. Exceptions to that rule include if you’re running a fever or so congested you have trouble breathing. If you do decide it’s okay to train, take it easy. Your body is using energy to battle an illness, so don’t push your session the way you would if you felt great. Use the same approach when getting back into your routine after taking time off to shake a cold. Dial down the intensity as well as the duration of your workout.
True Strength Moment: Remember that first tip about wiping down surface areas your hands will touch? If you do go to the gym with a minor head cold, be considerate of the other people. Don’t take part in a group class or play team sports until you’re sure you won’t pass an illness on to anyone.
It’s been said that lifting weights in the range of 6 to 8 reps is ideal for building muscle. Ideally, after completing the eighth repetition, you shouldn’t be able to complete a ninth. This is what’s known as your 8 reps max (8RM). A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports tests this theory on 28 untrained men and women in their early 20s using 4 different weight training exercises.
After becoming familiar with each of the exercises, subjects performed 2 sessions of lifting with 2 to 3 days between workouts to allow for recovery. Researchers determined that setting resistance at 8RM was a reliable way for both men and women to build muscle using a variety of different exercises. It might take a session or two to determine your 8RM. In a couple of months, when that 8th rep becomes too easy, it’ll be time to recalibrate your 8RM. Keep in mind, the amount of weight will vary from exercise to exercise.
The average person eats when they’re hungry. If they get hungry at night, they’ll go find something in the refrigerator. Then when they wake up the next morning and don’t feel like eating, they’ll skip breakfast and head off to school or work.
Unfortunately, if you’re serious about change the look of your body, this pattern of instinctive eating isn’t going to work out very well. The body responds best to a tightly scheduled eating program. Consistency is the most important factor to apply to any diet when the goal is to lose fat.
When you commit to eating 6 small meals spaced approximately every 3 hours apart throughout the day, your metabolism remains stimulated. If you go off schedule and skip a meal or wait too long before the next feeding, blood sugar levels can drop. Then, when you eat that next meal, blood sugars can elevate too much and some of those calories might be stored as fat. Keeping a consistent eating schedule allows blood sugars to remain fairly stable.
Eating 6 meals a day, every day, and sticking to similar types of food providing a balance of quality proteins and complex carbohydrates will promote positive changes to your physique. Your metabolism will stay stimulated, helping to reduce body fat. The important point is to stay on schedule and keep your calories in check.
Flexibility improves joint range of motion. Although being more flexible can be a valuable performance attribute for all types of athletes, and flexibility can be developed through training, it remains one of the least appreciated aspects of fitness. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows how easily your flexibility can be improved.
Scientists from Chapman University in California had subjects stretch their hamstrings 3 times a week, holding each static stretch for 30 seconds. This modest program increased hamstring flexibility, and improvements remained 4 weeks after the program ended.
True Strength Moment: It turns out that women are generally more flexible than men, although both genders can realize about the same degree of improvement with this static stretching program. Even though enhanced flexibility can be maintained for quite a while after you stop stretching, working regular static stretching into your routine is the best way to optimize flexibility.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a great option when you’re pressed for time, because the intensity of the exercise lets you get in a full workout in about half the time you’d spend doing steady-state cardio. Research conducted at the Montreal Heart Institute found that 4 months of twice weekly HIIT can improve brain function while trimming your waistline.
Scientists recruited six middle aged adult subjects with a body mass index between 28 and 31, which is considered overweight to obese. In addition to HIIT these volunteers also trained with weights twice a week. The result was a slimmer waistline, decreased fat mass, improved cognitive function and greater insulin sensitivity.
True Strength Moment: Four months from now it’ll be late February, which is right about the time many people start regretting all that holiday feasting. If you’re wondering how to get cut down into swimsuit shape for summer, keep the results of this study in mind.
Whether you’re a football receiver, basketball forward or lined up at the net in volleyball, jump height can be a tremendous competitive edge. There are a couple of ways to develop this ability, and a new study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research offers a novel 3-week program involving a rapid increase in drop jump training load.
Active college aged men completed 9 sessions of drop jumps. In each session the number of jumps, height of drop and squat depth increased, and so did the load with the use of weight vests. This increase was most dramatic in the fourth and seventh of nine sessions. Three days after completing the program, the average jump height was 8% higher. After 17 days, subjects could jump 12% higher on average.
True Strength Moment: Just nine sessions of plyometric training produced a significant increase in jump performance. What else can you do to gain an advantage in team sports competition? Read today’s Performance Blog at ABBperformance.com for another interesting suggestion.