The World has Gone Crazy – but I don’t need to tell you that!

So Gym’s, pubs, clubs and all meeting places have been shut down, and it is really for our own good, after all you don’t want the corona virus do you? the issue with this is that although life is changing in an unprecedented way it appears (through the front window) to be normal, peaceful and quiet, meanwhile the TV sounds and looks like the plot of a Hollywood movie, so it is difficult to get a handle on the reality of the situation.

The gym I attend was shut this week and fortunately for me they have taken the generous step of “hiring” some equipment out so I do have a bar and some 20k plates at home to train with, but before we knew that was going to be a thing I first went out and found myself a log, yes, a log, and I intend to find more, you see we have become so ingrained with the convenience of gyms and facilities that we have forgotten the very basics of why we can build muscle, Adaptation the muscle doesn’t care if you are deadlifting with an ivanko bar or a tree trunk, it reacts to something you can’t do by growing bigger and stronger in order to allow you to do it, your body is your greatest ally.

What the hell do I do with a Log ?

Here are my suggestions and the muscle groups this will use, remember that you are now working within “functional strength” so there is very little in the way of concentration movements but as well all know by now, when you recruit the vast majority of your muscle groups in a movement the effects on the body are increased, with elevations in BMR and testosterone production as well as growth hormone release.

  1. Lift above your head – Starting from the ground grip the log and lift so it is above your head horizontally (obviously balance will be a big thing here) and then pass it from shoulder to shoulder in an arc over you head, this will involve back and leg muscle as well as front delts to get the log in position and then delts and triceps as well as forearms to pass it from side to side.
  2. Bent over row – Easier with some grips but you can use rope or chain to wrap round the log to get a grip, I used chain, place the chain around the log taking great care to place the chains at the point the log is balanced, this way when you pick it up you will get even load distribution, then simply carry out your bent over rows.
  3. Squats – While not conventional these are easily achieved by picking up the log and rolling it along your arms until it rests on your upper chest, by slightly leaning back and opening up the chest cavity you will place the load in a balanced position then squat, for the squat monsters out there you may have to up the reps in order to compensate for the lack of weight.
  4. Deadlifts – same as bent over row really just deadlift it instead !
  5. Lift / Carry – with the heaviest log that you can carry, do just that, pick it up with your arms round it and walk, this is an amazing full body exercise and will help with core strength as well.

These are just a few examples and I have set myself a little challenge, rather than come out of this situation having to start again, I want to go back to the gym in better shape than when I left, remember the gym is the best place to build muscle it is just not the only place, and when this is all over these businesses will need us to go back as soon as possible, because while all this is going on they still have to pay the bills.

Boost Testosterone and build muscle naturally – at any age.

Ok so any age may be an exaggeration, we are looking mainly at men in the 30 to 55-60 range, which is typically when we all the majority of us start to have our second wind at the gym following the jibes about the ‘Dad Bod’ we are now sporting, unfortunately many of us go back to the gym and do not realise that (as sad as it is) the original flushes of youth have left us and our bodies do not react to training as they used to, infact from age 30 it has already started CHECK THIS LINK, but it definitely does not have to be this way.

Discussion

After 30 testosterone starts to decline, this means that where once in our teens or mid twenties we only had to look at a weight in the gym and grow, we now have to think things through and adapt to our the way our bodies need to be trained, more stimulus is required for the same effect and more nutrients are required due to less efficient metabolisms, and this is just taking into consideration natural decline, it is not factoring in any lapse in physical activity that may have crept in due to work commitments and families and so on, The task is to find a way of training, a method that can be applied that would maximise returns, actively boost growth hormone, testosterone production and sensitivity to nutrition, I give you Strongman Training, or large compound movements that require co-ordination from all muscles in the body.

Studies

Studies have been conducted on the subject and the results are nothing less than staggering as far as I am concerned, one study found that after a prescribed set of traditional strongman event exercises there was a 54% increase in salivary testosterone in a group of sixteen men between 24 and 44, even allowing for the small sample size of the study that is an astounding result, and it is backed up by many studies both scientific and anecdotal, as with most of these things the budget for study is limited so they are are never huge, but if you think about the occupations that mimic these types of movements, you see solid fit men well into their 50’s and 60’s, I am thinking about in the construction trade, farmers and road workers, I know that these occupations generally bring their own issues but these are more of a result of the extended period of exertion as opposed to the type of exertion.

Types of Exercise Suggested

As previously stated these are all big gesture compound movements and taken to failure, which is also easier to do with these exercises as opposed to say, Bench Pressing where failure can mean you are trapped under a bar waiting for somebody to let you out !

  • Farmers Walk
  • Chain Drag
  • Atlas Stones
  • Keg Carry
  • Tire Flip
  • Over head Press

These are just a few and I completely understand if you do not have the facility to do these at your gym, but there are ways to simulate the movements, you could use dumbells for the Farmers walk, and a squat bar for the frame carry, also concentrating on squatting and deadlifiting as opposed to leg press or bent over row, basically you are looking to engage the largest amount of muscle participation you can in a movement, it may feel odd after doing a lot of concentration exercise, but you can always put those in at the end, and benefit from the added hormone boost as well.

Conclusion

I have switched to this way of training now (being a man of a certain age) and I have to say that initially it has been brilliant, after a workout I am actually more energised, my sex drive is through the roof and I am normally jumping around like tigger, it doesn’t always make me popular with the wife but all in all it has been a success for me and something I am going to continue, I have added some links below and I am going to do some articles on the different movements in the future, so happy training and remember as cliche as it is age is just a number, there is no reason why we should grow old before our time and start to slow down before we are ready to, with adaptation (a human quality we are all born with) we can continue living how we want to for almost as long as we decide.

Links

Photo by Binyamin Mellish from Pexels

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.

This is What Your Overactive Brain Needs to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/this-is-what-your-overactive-brain-needs-to-get-a-good-night-s-sleep?utm_source=pocket-newtab

During all the activities we undertake to increase physical well being, financial gain or simply to educate ourselves further the one thing we need on our side is cognitive function, sleep is by a long way the most important aspect of this.

Now one thing that does annoy me and I assume annoys or at best confuses others is the sheer dichotomy of advice that is given, we have people shouting that the only way to get ahead is to stay up and work 20hrs a day and people shouting that you need 7 to 8hrs sleep a night, well the maths just doesn’t work, the good thing about this article is that it goes into ways you can improve the quality of your sleep, this really is the only way we can satisfy the best happy medium of the two messages, so enjoy and I hope that it helps at least a little bit.

You dont always have to increase your output if you can make it so much more effective, and improving your ability to solve problems and be creative will definitely improve your chances of success.

Till next time……

Cardio Increase Slowing Down Metabolism ?

So I recently increased my Cardio work, I was previously walking 5k every morning and burning (according to Strava) around 700 calories, this was good, so in the vein of more is better I decided to cut down the distance (as I am not ready for 5k runs) and increase my pace, but this has had an opposite effect, instead of the steady 3 or 4lbs a week loss I have stopped, completely, my weight, despite running being the only change has refused to budge from 17st 11lbs, so I have been looking at why this may be.

Additionally and quite worryingly I have started to run out of energy at the gym, my strength has increased and I am able to work harder at the start of the workout but hit a wall about half way through feeling dizzy and faint, this is obviously not good.

I have come to the conclusion that I am not taking in enough Calories or Carbohydrate to fuel my workouts and so I plan to increase these using clean sources such as boiled brown rice and pasta, potatoes and using Tuna and lean Beef for protein.

I have been giving some consideration to body types as well as this seems to be one of the areas that I have not spent too much time researching, I am a classic endomorph as I gain muscle easily but I also have a propensity to gain fat, so for the meantime I will be eating clean as above and doing some research into metabolic typing as it relates to my diet and exercise routine.

The takeaway from this is that you need to constantly monitor your progress, not everyday as that is impractical, I would say more like looking for consistent results over a period of about two weeks, this way you see the week to week change which may go up or down but the overall momentum over the 14 days will give a more accurate picture of the effectiveness of your training routine.

Picking up the cardio pace

Check out my activity on Strava: https://strava.app.link/vqFsfyjkeY

I do cardio first thing in the morning so it is time limited, as the 5k walks were getting easier I had to find a way to increase my output, so went faster! But initially for less time and distance, however this will pick up and I will pass my previous calorie expenditure in no time, proving that sometimes to move forward you have to take a little step back.

Build the Ultimate Chest with 2 exercises

Recently on Quora I had a question about which exercise was better for building a big chest, Bench Press or Dips, and I had to stop for a moment and think, you see the big thick chests of the late 70’s Bodybuilders were built with both, as this was the way of things, in fact it was common practice to warm up with Bodyweight exercises like dips and pull-ups before heading onto the weights, additionally Dumbells were seen as finishing exercises or “concentration” and were normally left to the end, the question was interesting though as I have always thought of the Barbell Bench Press as quite an inefficient exercise as it tends to recruit a lot of help from the Triceps and Shoulders to complete the movement, but it cannot be denied that it is the exercise of choice and if anybody is going to lift weights you can be fairly sure that it will figure in their routine.

To decide what is best, we first need to understand in where the muscle is anchored as this will give us some idea of what movement it is bio-mechanically suited to performing, the whole idea behind all these new and strange looking machines that came out of late are all trying to move the resistance through the best possible motion to load the target muscle directly, there is a trade off with this though, when we do this we isolate the muscle completely and build it in size and strength, but if we concentrate solely on that type of isolated movement we do not bring the other supporting muscles up with it, and you can at best start to look a little odd as you have large major muscle groups with nothing behind or at worse you could liken it to hanging a chandelier from a thick heavy chain from a plasterboard ceiling with no extra support, sooner or later it will pull loose from the ceiling and the roof will come in, this what gives powerlifters and strength competitors that solid thick look it is all the muscle groups growing together regardless of aesthetics to create the strongest individual possible.

So the pectoral muscle has two parts the Pectoralis major and minor, the muscle we are all referring to when we think of this is the major as this is the most visible, this is anchored under the anterior Deltoid and attached like an open fan to the sternum it’s major function is to draw the arm across the chest and is used to push things away from us, the minor is also anchored under the anterior Deltoid but this is attached to the Ribcage and is activated by drawing the arms back over the head this would tend to be activated along with the Latissimus Dorsi and Serratus muscles.

Pectoralis Major

  • Bench Press
  • Flies
  • Dips
  • Cable Cross Overs
  • Dumbell Press
  • Cross Bench Dips
  • Press-ups

These all have an Incline / Decline variant and as discussed previously Bench Press can be done with Dumbells as well as a Barbell and in fact when training on your own it is probably advisable to do it that way to avoid dropping the weight on yourself!

The best way to determine which exercise is best is to try them, and variations of them, but I would say that as an integral part of a chest routine they should both exist, in fact I would go out on a limb and say that a routine consisting of just these two exercises would be sufficient to build a good think chest, I will explain.

Bench Press

Laying flat with your feet flat on the floor grip the Barbell evenly at just beyond shoulder width and by that I mean that the inside of your thumb should be just outside the line of the shoulder this will help to reduce the activation of the Triceps, there are several schools of thought on the arched back situation you often see but I will offer my opinion, a small arch that you could just about slide a flat hand into is fine any more than that and it is too much, lower the weight slowly and under control, do not bounce the weight at the bottom as this could cause damage, push straight up and do not lock out, it is bad for your elbows and besides it just rests the weight on your Triceps as they fight to keep your arm straight against the weight.

Dips

Traditional Dips at a dip bar are very difficult to get wrong as the body is suspended and pretty much just follows it’s own pattern, the trick here is concentration, mind – muscle connection plays a big part in this movement as you are concentrating on moving up by squeezing the pectorals together rather than simply straightening your arms, you will know when you have got it right because your chest will pump up instead of you triceps just feeling like balloons!

Flies

Done with Dumbell in a flat position keep your arms just shy of straight and put a small arc into the movement so instead of simply going straight up and down move your arms from the open position as if you were going to cross them over your chest but obviously stop as they meet at the top of the movement the best way to imagine this is to think about pulling from under your shoulder and toward your sternum as that is the path the muscle will want to naturally take.

Cable Crossovers

These are done on a cable crossover machine (surprise) and are easy to get wrong, it seems that some people are trying to replicate a pressing movement by literally closing and opening the arm at the elbow, this really makes it a Tricep exercise and at best the Pecs just had a stabilising support, You need to imagine the same movement and intent as the Fly but stood up, this exercise also targets the Pectoralis Minor due to you bringing the arms down and across from overhead, once performed right you will know because the resultant pump from both the Major and Minor muscle groups is huge and you will notice it.

Press ups

Photo by Sabel Blanco from Pexels

I would (and do) use this exercise as a warm up, it is a brilliant one to warm up the shoulder joints and the elbows as well as the chest and when performed correct you even get a lot of AB activation as well as some Hip Flexor assistance, the right way to do this is with a flat straight line from your ankles to your shoulders and hands in the same shoulder width position as with Bench Pressing, slowly lower yourself to the ground so that the whole body touches at once not the face or tummy first, and then in one movement the whole body lifts back to the starting position, this is a little rough on the wrists though so make sure to roll them out after each set.

Conclusion

As you can see the two exercises that stand out as having the most activation on the Pectoralis Major are the Bench Press and the Dip as they naturally sit across the muscle girdle and move in the same direction as the muscle can pull, Cable Crossovers are a very close third as they also target the Minor and this will lift your chest up and make it appear bigger over time, I do not subscribe to the Incline / Decline theory because it is so easy to over do, benches just aren’t adjustable enough unless you are lucky, and tend to be too high on incline, moving the stress to the Shoulders and too low on Decline because you have to put one end on a step to achieve it and you end up pushing with you triceps, if it is possible to do so and you are determined to do it, then an incline or decline of no more than 2 inches would suffice more if you have shorter arms to allow for the lever effect, so in the end after being forced to think it through I realised that done correctly Bench Press is a very good exercise and has a good amount of activation across the chest, the trick is to get the hand spacing right and think about the movement rather than the ego boosting weight, because if you go heavy to soon you just recruit every other muscle and leave the Pecs just supporting.

Ultimate Pre-workout Drink

The supplement industry is full of pre-workouts, mostly containing caffeine to wake you up, beetroot to attempt a little vascular dilation to give you a better pump and usually a shed load of ephedra as they can’t use ephedrine any more the result is a buzz that makes you think you are full of energy but actually you are just over stimulated and one of the huge downsides to that is what goes up must come down and you will crash once the effect has worn off, sure some of them put more thought into the products but the cost of these rises exponentially and even the most expensive still lack what I believe to be a very important element, energy, fuel to burn when working out.

What do you need for a good workout?

When you are working out you need to be focused, alert, unrelenting and awake, and crucially you don’t want your muscles searching for energy when they need it most, to my mind it is futile to go into a resistance workout in a dieted state, then only thing to do when Carb or calorie depleted is cardio, that is when you want the body to draw on it’s fat stores while grinding out those long walks or Stairclimbs, but resistance training no, you want the muscle to be full and strong so you can break it down and when it recovers it repays you by lifting your BMR and helping you burn more calories at rest.

Bullet proof coffee ?

Well, no, to my understanding Bulletproof Coffee is traditionally made with Butter, putting aside my reservations about drinking Coffee with Butter in, it doesn’t contain the instant bio-available energy that we need for the workout and that comes in the form of good old Coconut Oil.

Recipe

Really simple, if you usually have a teaspoon of coffee when you drink it then use two, if you use a tablespoon (like me) then use two tablespoons, then stir in a tablespoon of Coconut Oil, or maybe two, I tried this around 30 minutes before arriving at the gym, now the texture takes a little getting used to but it doesn’t taste really bad due to the slight Coconut undertone, and of course only use cold pressed coconut oil, do not add milk as diary products such as milk can have a calming relaxing effect and that is the last thing we are trying to achieve.

Effect

Coffee (or more accurately caffeine) works by triggering a few responses but mainly it blocks adenosine receptors, this is what makes you feel drowsy, caffeine binds to the receptor in place of adenosine and stops this process, it increases brain activity and causes the pituitary gland to release adrenaline, as a result the body goes into flight or fight mode and is primed for maximum effort, then as the MCT’s in the Coconut Oil are shuttled into the blood stream suspended in warm liquid the liver does it’s thing and pushes sugar and ketones into the bloodstream giving the muscles immediate and long lasting fuel. and all for a fraction of the price of any half decent pre-workout drink.

What about the calories ?

It is a valid question after all Coconut Oil is saturated fat, at 117 calories per tablespoon it is my opinion that even if you use two tablespoons the only way you won’t use those extra calories is if you go to the gym and just have a bit of a sit down, Coconut Oil or more accurately MCT itself is directly linked to an increase in HGH (Human Growth Hormone) but this requires greater quantities to be consumed, this is something that I want to look at more and I suspect that managing your calorific intake around the extra calories would be required.

I can say that my experience of this is, greater energy, better pump, more focus and strength without the crash afterwards.

Give it a go and let me know in the comments how it went.

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