Do your Trapezius muscles suck?

Mine do, they are kinda there but not really and they have an annoying flat spot in the middle, I am literally going to the gym today to train back and it got me thinking, should Traps be trained with back or shoulders ?, traditionally I and many others would train them with shoulders, 4 to six sets of standing shrugs at the end of the shoulder workout and then off home for a well deserved protein shake, but hang on are they actually connected to shoulders in any way ? well from a movement perspective yes, slightly, they are attached into the base of the skull and out to the clavicle and then to the spine about midway down your back, this presents a problem when arguing for the mechanical movement of standing shrugs.

You see, looking at this picture, traditional shrugs actually only work a very small portion of the trap muscles, and are more likely to contribute to a slightly wider neck than the big blocks of muscle we are looking for, additionally they also seem to serve no purpose (other than stabilising the shoulder joint against the movement) in any deltoid activity as they are not overlapping in any way.

So I would consider that if we are looking for synergistic training they should in fact be trained along with the back muscles as they play a role in all back exercises, in fact as they are responsible for movement of the scapula ( the muscle fibres both pull back and down toward the spine ) it is fairly easy to see that these play a huge role in everything from bent over rowing to lat pull downs and chins as well as single arm Dumbell rowing.

How to best Activate them

As previously discussed the traditional straight backed approach doesn’t actually cut it for this muscle group as you are only activating a small portion of the muscle group, sure due to the nature of the muscle fibre it is easy to move a lot of weight over a small distance, but ultimately once you have fed your ego you must eventually move onto building some muscle, looking at the structure you need to draw the shoulders up and back to completely engage the large mid portion of the muscle ( the one that provides the size ) and for the lower portion of the muscle, you would try and pull down from only the shoulder, these exercises may look a little odd but once your traps start growing people will start to copy I assure you.

Concentration Movements

  • Shrug – Instead of the traditional standing shrug, you should bend slightly from the waist and allow your hands with the Dumbells in them to hang naturally down, obviously you should not lean to far over as you are looking to move the weight with the same shrugging motion just in this modified position, I would also take whatever weight you are using now for shrugs and halve it too, you only have one back let’s make it stronger not damage it completely.
  • Trap Pulldown – This is the one that will get a few odd looks as people will genuinely wonder what the hell you are doing, but seated on the lat pull down keeping your arms straight, you are looking to extend only at the shoulder and the shrug in reverse, so bring the shoulders down and squeeze to the back at the full contraction.

Compound Movements

As a side note and to further illustrate the point, the Trapezius muscles are also heavily involved in the following exercises / movements

  • Bent Over Dumbbell Rows – and to a lesser extent bent over Barbell rows due to the lack of mobility of your hands with the latter.
  • Cable Seated Row – again the pulling back of the arms and squeezing toward the centre of the spine activates the Trapezius.
  • Chin-ups – These hit the lower Trapezius along with their seated counterpart the lat pull down.

So I hope that has been informative and I am open to any questions regarding the above, always be careful when training and always be extra careful when changing a movement / introducing a new position into a routine, as there is only a small difference in the positions it may be easy to think that you can handle the same weight as previously but remember the idea is to concentrate on a muscle group more targeted than before and so this my cause injury if not used to it.

Update After Trying my Own Advice

So often people write these guides and you sit and wonder if that is how they train or if they have even lifted a weight in their life, and of course quite a few haven’t, or at least they do not follow the routines that they put out it is all just for money.

So this, and all other training tips are as a result of considered thought and trying to work out how to do everything as efficiently as possible to achieve maximum results in the minimum time, this the trainee superhuman after all!

So I have updated this post with the findings from last night (at the time of writing)

The action of bent over shrugs feels massively unnatural, this is mainly because we are always taught that we should keep the back straight, in fact the very action of leaning forward immediately puts tangible stress on the middle of the Trap muscles, the important thing to remember here is not to bend to far over, concentration exercises are all about putting the muscle group in a compromised position where they can receive little to no assistance from supporting muscle groups, once in the correct position though the feeling as easy to identify, and the significant drop in the amount of weight I could handle showed just how weak the muscle actually was compared to what I originally thought, the numbers are standing shrug 40 to 50kg for 12 to 15 reps, bent over shrug 24 to 32kg for 12 so as you can see it was significant, today the muscle actually feels sore, all the way from the top of the structure (at the base of the skull) down to the middle of my back and extending out to the scapula, so I am fairly confident that this has had the required effect, it has also occurred to me that the strengthening of this muscle group will counteract office back strain where we tend to sit hunched over a keyboard all day long, by strengthening this part of the Trapezius we keep the top of the back flatter and avoid shoulders naturally falling forward.

So again hope this has been helpful, please let me know if not, or if you have any comment or suggestion on other training routines.

Over 40 ? You need more Protein

I actually turned 40 sometime ago and have struggled to regain the growth of my youth with little to no success, you see the problem is that although we all age we don’t like to think that it has happened and therefore very few of us adjust our lifestyles and nutrition especially to accommodate the changes.

So when I set off back to the gym I was training and eating exactly as I did before, and the results were mediocre at best, the fat refused to budge and the muscle wouldn’t come back for love nor money, a lot of the reason for starting this blog was to share the learning process with like minded people as I try and work out some of the most difficult things to nail down if we are all to live free with happy lives.

Please take a look at my Protein page here where I have included the section on protein over 40 and how the requirement changes, it is truly my intention to educate and assist with my blog and site and welcome any questions at all, I will endeavour to answer them either through a post or as an update on the site.

Photo by Modernista Magazine from Pexels

Nature has an answer for everything – Fenugreek

If you have spent anytime pursuing any kind of sport you will have definitely been exposed to the myriad of pills and potions to help enhance physical performance, from sports drinks laced with sugar for running all the way through to steroids and growth hormone for bodybuilding, the supplement industry is a multi billion dollar industry and it is not difficult to see the motivation behind the glossy advertising campaigns and influencer posts.

Meanwhile for the vast majority of us the availability of the base ingredients of these hyped products never crosses our radar, sitting anonymously on a shelf in a health food store waiting for the inquisitive and informed person to notice just how much cheaper they are compared to the big company names pushed on us from any chosen publication as we pursue our sport.

One of the things I and men all over the world have to deal with is the decline of testosterone from the age of 30 and all the negative symptoms this brings, lack of energy, lack of sex drive, lack of intensity, and as a consequence lack of activity can increase bodyfat and without testosterone to keep the levels down estrogen will rise and cause more weight gain, this is a cycle that many men find themselves in and are looking for a way to increase testosterone without going down the slightly risky route of testosterone replacement therapy or even worse trusting the local dealer to sell good quality steriods.

So while researching testosterone boosting supplements I noticed Fenugreek came up over and over again and so I looked into it further, there is a plethora of information out there and lots of scientific studies proving the effectiveness of this herb (1) and the thing that caught my eye again was the dosage levels, this particular study cites 500mg of Fenugreek as an optimal dosage, most of the supplements I had seen were around 350mg, so far below, it is also widely accepted and shown in this study (2) that the combination of Fenugreek and protodioscin (Tribulus Terrestris) had a significant effect on testosterone, libido, strength and mental alertness.

So rather than purchase the sports manufacturer product that contained only one of the ingredients required and at a lower dosage level than is effective, I set out to buy them separately and see if I could get the results that the study showed.

I began with 600mg of Fenugreek and 300mg of Tribulus as these were the strengths that the tablets came in, and I have been doing this for nearly a week now, I can report with some confidence that my strength has increased and my focus at work has very much improved, one of the effects of higher testosterone is the reduction of bodyfat in general and I think I am seeing some changes but in fairness it is too early to really tell and as far as timelines is concerned I have only just started, I did go up to 600mg of Tribulus but I am not sure if i will continue this as I did start to feel a little odd but this could be just the body getting used to the new substance.

I will monitor my progress for 12 weeks and report my findings as I go, but it is looking really positive so far…

Nature truly does provide for nearly all our requirements, sure it takes more looking and the results are rarely instantaneous, this doesn’t sit well in our on demand society and so natural products often get overlooked in favour of synthetic drugs that hit the system like a steam hammer, but you should always balance the benefit you are looking to achieve, as there is nearly always a detriment to drugs and very rarely to normal dosages of natural products.

As always I will provide links to the products I am writing about, if you are interested and would like to buy through my link please do so, but if not simply google Fenugreek or Tribulus and you will find a whole load of places where these are available.

Protein – Building block of muscle

Further to my research on nutrition I have completed a page on Protein, it’s synthesis and how much we should be taking in, I have included a Bioavailability chart to help you choose your protein sources with a more informed mindset.

If there are any questions that anybody wants answered please leave a comment and I will endeavour to answer as soon as possible, I really want this site and blog to help as many people as possible cut through the marketing bull***t and build the lives they want quicker and easier,

Please Click Here for article

So enjoy and please forgive the post to introduce a page!

main Photo by Krisztina Papp from Pexels

5 Pillars of Nutrition

I despair about the training supplement industry, it isn’t necessarily that I think it is overtly evil or malicious, but I do feel that it is shallow and does take advantage of usually younger people trying to live up to their sporting idols and the ever increasing pressures of augmented social media profiles, it is as an industry worth billions on both sides of the Atlantic and it show no sign of stopping.

So I set out below my top five foodstuffs to help achieve fitness goals without spending fortunes on supplements, remember to use supplements for convenience not as a replacement for real food.

1 Water

A bit of an obvious one this one but, it is so often overlooked, people tend to drink a lot more water in the gym or during a hot summers day but not so much at other times, the fact is that the body is very good at drawing water out of the food we eat to keep us hydrated but it is still recommended to drink around 2 litres a day, the human body is approx 60% water so it makes sense to top it up, adequate hydration supports mental cognition, metabolism, and if you click the title link you will see how it has been linked to actually increasing calorie expenditure, drinking good clean water is absolutely essential not only for any fitness regimen but for life itself.

2 Protein

And I don’t mean the latest Protein Powder from the local supplement shop, although protein powders can be a good source of protein if you are running late or if you are struggling to take in six meals a day they should not be relied on, too often I see people with shakers in the morning and at lunch time, clearly substituting real food with a protein shake, these are normally laden with sugar or worse Aspartame to sweeten them and depending on the manufacturer (not always the price) can use low quality dairy protein that is no better than drinking a large quantity of milk, but of course the milk would be a lot cheaper, recommendations for strength athletes is around 1.4 to 1.8 grams per Kg of bodyweight and 1.2 to 1.4 grams per Kg of bodyweight for endurance athletes.

3 Carbohydrate

The recommended intake for Carbohydrate is roughly 45 to 65 percent of you daily calorie intake, that seems like a very ambiguous statement if you ask me and I also know that Carbohydrate is probably one of the most misunderstood forms of nutrition second only to the last pillar FAT, so there are low Carb diets and no Carb diets, low Carb would drop you down to the 25 to 45 percent range and then as you move lower you would start to work your way toward Keto type diets, and you would start to trigger Ketosis at a Carb intake of around 20 grams a day, the trick with Carbs is to select them based on what you are doing, there is no point taking in a large amount of complex Carbohydrate just before going for a run or too the gym, similarly loading up on simple Carbs just before sitting down for 8 hrs at work is also counter intuitive, one thing that is certain is that we need to take great care over the quantity of Carbohydrate as it is easy to over consume without realising it, especially as sugar is often added to fast foods or pre-packaged foods to make them more appealing.

4 Fibre

Fibre is essentially broken down into two types Soluble and Insoluble otherwise known as roughage, soluble fibre can be digested by the body and assists with lowering cholesterol and constipation, examples of soluble fibre are beans, bananas, and oats, whereas roughage cannot be digested and assists with bowel health and has been linked to reducing the risk of bowel cancer, this type of fibre can be found in wholegrains, cereals and of course bran, our recommended fibre intake increases with age from around 15 grams a day for 2 to 5 year olds up to adulthood at around 30 grams a day, also foods higher in fibre tend to help keep hunger at bay for longer meaning that you may end up snacking less and ultimately reducing calorie intake over the course of a day.

5 Fat

As stated above I believe fat is one of the most misunderstood of all the components of nutrition, until recent years it has also been the first thing that was cut out whenever anybody went on a “Diet” but as time has gone on we have started to learn more about fat and how it works in the body, consumption of the right fat is not only desirable but essential, the first type is Saturated fat, this is really pretty much all bad, it leads to an increase in LDL cholesterol which is linked to heart disease and strokes and most health organisations agree that if it cannot be avoided it should be limited to at most 30 grams per day for men and 25 grams for women, children’s levels should be lower, Unsaturated and Monounstaturated fats are responsible for an increase of HDL Cholesterol and lowering of the amount of LDL in our bloodstreams and lowering the risk of heart disease, these are much more preferable, but not simply a free for all and is recommended that in a typical diet they should be restricted to between 40 to 77 grams based on a percentage of calorific intake at around 20 percent, Omega-3 and 6 cannot be produced by the body and have been linked to a wide range of benefits to the body, everything from eye health, cancer risk reduction to helping prevent vascular diseases, and it is recommended that we take these fats in in the form of fish such as Mackerel, Salmon or Trout, or to use a supplement like cod liver oil, the last on the list is Trans-fats these are found in convenience foods, margarine and it is added to food to increase it’s shelf life, this Should be avoided at all costs it literally increases LDL and reduces HDL and as such no research I did managed to find an organisation that would put a “safe” or “recommended” level of intake on this, it is not avoidable completely in everyday life but make sure you read through the macros and avoid it where possible as well as partially hydrogenated fats, it is also worth considering that fat provides 9 calories per gram as opposed to Carbs or Protein at 4 calories per gram.

When used with thought and planned out correctly the above is all you need to build muscle, or reduce fat or both, bodybuilders are often revered for their ability to increase muscle mass while still reducing bodyfat levels and regardless of any chemical assistance this is largely due to the fact that the top bodybuilders study nutrition requirement and balance their diet accordingly, it is simple mathematics and with a little bit of time spent adding stuff up and thinking through what we take in we can all achieve great changes.

Main Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels

Bodybuilder Photo by Sabel Blanco from Pexels

Fat Burner V’s Bio Hacking

A healthy cynicism is required today as more and more people vy for your time and your Dollar, this is no more evident anywhere than in my two chosen points of focus currently,

Both the weightloss industry, or fitness industry as it also known and the financial freedom industry are absolutely overrun with what would have been referred to as “snake oil salesmen” back in the wild west.

And it is not difficult to see why as the fitness and weightloss industry is worth and estimated $18 Billion in the US and $5 Billion in the UK (which I personally struggle with because most UK gyms are, shall we say, lacking a little) and that kind of money attracts a lot of people just looking to turn a quick buck.

It isn’t necessarily just the odd cynical individual either big companies and businesses are doing the same thing, most Fat burners on the market today contain the same ingredients in greater or lesser amounts and there are food producers as well as dedicated supplement producers that will, for a price provide you with a white label, protein powder, or fat burner or vitamin supplement as well as all the other plethora of products available to buy.

But, should you use these products? and indeed should I ever advocate them? well the latter is easy to answer, I will never advocate anything that I have not tried and found to be of benefit, and of course the former is what this site / blog is all about.

In my experience there has been a few Fat Burners over the years that have felt like they are working, but this is because (and solely because) of the stimulant effect we assume that because we are warm it is thermogenisis and because we are feeling a bit frantic and like we cannot sit still that we have lots of energy and that this is coming from fat, but sadly this is more likely to be coming from the high dosage of caffeine than anything else.

You are much better off leaving the fat burners on the shelf in my opinion, or at the very least understand why a certain one should or should not work, in the book I read recently there was a parallel drawn between a VCR manual and life, the point being that anybody can buy a VCR and play videos, maybe record the odd thing or two, but only somebody who has read the manual and has digested it thoroughly can record a series at will, or have the TV turning over to the right channel when you switch the thing on, your VCR becomes much more powerful, and when you move onto DVD or Digital Recorders you are able to adapt almost immediately because you understand the nature of the thing.

Bio Hacking gives you the opportunity to do this, to look deep into your body and it’s chemistry, start to put on muscle at will and lose fat when you desire it rather than sitting wishing, and through that knowledge of how things work you can and will start picking supplements that you require.

Take the time to get to know yourself before blindly handing over money to somebody offering you the world in a minute, social media has given us all the impression that success and change is achievable overnight and people have pushed this message in order to turn a profit, it is rubbish, but you learn how the system works, any system and once you know it inside and out you can make it sing and dance to your tune.

Just to indicate that this was not merely a rant for the sake of a post, I did try taking a fat burner from one of the big supplement companies, one that manages to get it’s name in front of millions of people everyday, and after following the directions for 4 weeks exactly as directed with no deviation the results looked like this.

Fat BurnerIntermittent Fasting
Week 1 -0 -4
Week 2 -4 -3
Week 3 -1 -4
Week 4 -0Not yet weighed

It is important to know that my eating did not change other then to fast of course between the two and there was not a significant increase in exercise, simply a greater understanding of what to do in order to make my body respond how I wanted it too.