No other muscle group has elicited as much discussion as the muscles that comprise the abdominal region. The abdominal muscles consist of the rectus abdominis (main function of trunk flexion), internal and external oblique (main function trunk rotation and lateral flexion) and the transverse Read more
Losing excess body fat requires a number of aspects to be unified into one simple plan. The first of these is knowledge, knowing when, what and how much to eat. The second is desire (often called willpower or determination), being able to stick to the plan and resist temptation. The third and vitally important Read more
Having a matching pair of thick, square pecs are on every man’s wish list. It doesn’t matter if they always rank behind abs and butt in the most admired category, almost every gym goer strives to improve their cleavage.
The pecs refer to the pectoralis major, a large fan shaped muscle. It has two attachment points on the body. One of these is a continuous , expansive attachment from the collar bone, down through the breastbone onto the ribs. The other is on a small groove at the top of the long bone of the upper arm, the humerus. These attachments underline why the most effective chest exercises are those in which the upper arm is drawn towards the midline of the body, albeit from a range of different angles.
In anatomy (A) and body building (BB) the pec is commonly broken down into two major sections, the clavicular (A) or upper (BB) pec (where the muscle fibres attach to the clavicle), and the meatier sternal (A) or lower (BB) pec (where the fibres attach to the sternum). What part of the muscle you hit with an exercise depends largely on the angle at which the upper arm is in comparison to the torso. If you stand up and straighten both arms in front of you so that they are parallel to the floor, you will find that the angle between your upper arm and the torso is approximately 900. This is the same angle at which you would perform a flat Bench Press movement (barbell, dumbbell, machine). This angle utilises both sections reasonably well and forms the mainstay of most chest programs.
By changing the same angle to either greater or lesser than 900 it is possible to switch muscle activation to predominantly upper pr lower pec. Incline movements are well known to induce upper pec stress and when analysed it can be seen that the angle at which the upper arm forms at the torso is more than 900. Conversely an angle less than 900 will target the lower pecs more. Analysis of a decline movement or even a Chest Dip bears this out. The same principle can be applied to the Pec Deck exercise. By brining the seat down and pacing the arms higher on the pads a large angle can be created thus placing more emphasis on the upper pec. By adjusting the seat higher and bringing the arms lower the lower pec can be stimulated.
In your quest for pectoral perfection try this routine that will utilise the three angles of attack to work the entire chest area. Pick 3 chest exercises, one that works at an angle greater than 900, one that forms at 900 and one less than 900, from the list below
|Incline Dumb Bell
|Flat Dumb Bell
|Decline Dumb Bell
|Low Pulley Cable
|Pec Deck/Fly||High Pulley Cable
Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise but change the order of exercises every workout in this fashion: ABC, BCA, CAB. Complete 3 of these cycles then pick 3 new exercises for the same angles and repeat.
Protein’s biggest job is to build up, keep up, and replace the tissues in your body. Your muscles, your organs, even some of your hormones are made up mostly of protein. Protein helps your body in other ways, too. It likes to make sure things get around by making red blood cells that carries oxygen to every part of your body. It even makes antibodies, the cells that fight off infection and disease. The word protein is derived from Greek, literally meaning of first importance (pro – first, tein – important). Without enough our body starts to break down. One of the signs of anorexia is poor hair and nails, parts of the body that are also derived from protein.
Protein cannot be stored in the body, and so needs to be regularly eaten to maintain our levels. However, not all protein is the same. Protein foods are comprised of combinations from a pool of 22 amino acids. Eight of these are called essential amino acids, because unlike the other 14, they cannot be synthesized within the body.
Essential Amino Acids
Histidine (in infancy)
Protein quality is determined by the amount of essential amino acids the food contains and also the ratio of these amino acids. Protein values can be expressed as a PER (Protein Efficiency Ratio), NPU (Net Protein Utilisation) score or PDAAS (Protein Digestibility Amino Acid Score
Net Protein Utilisation
The NPU value of a protein describes how efficiently body tissue can be created from food protein. The higher the score of a food the more closely its amino acid pattern (both in quantity and ratio) reflects the amino acid pattern in body tissue.
Food Protein Source
Whole Egg (Hens)
Source: FAO/WHO Technical Report. Series
RDA for weight trainers of 2.0 – 3.0g/kg/bwt per day are generally well above the RDA for the general population of 1.0g/kg/bwt per day (WHO Technical Report Series 452). The main reasons for increased protein seem to be that
- weight trainers want to increase their size and mass in comparison to the average adult who wants to maintain their bodyweight, and
- rigorous workouts increase protein turnover and therefore dietary protein needs
What should I look for in a protein shake?
The top four attributes in no particular order are: 1. Taste – if you are going to consume shakes regularly, why not choose one that is enjoyable to the palette? 2. Protein quality – the main reason for having a shake is to replace ‘real food’, natural sources of protein, which should take preference if possible. Protein quality is determined by the amount of essential amino acids the food contains and also the ratio of these amino acids. Protein values can be expressed as a PER (Protein Efficiency Ratio), NPU (Net Protein Utilisation) score or PDAAS (Protein Digestibility Amino Acid Score). 3. Cost per gram of protein – many products contain the same base protein source, with added extras making a point of difference between competitors. Marketing costs also drive up shelf prices. Read the labels, get out your calculator and do your homework. 4. Mixability – nowadays It is common practice to take your powder and shake container to the gym or elsewhere and to mix on the spot. In these instances you are going to need a powder that mixes smoothly. Of course this is not an issue with pre-mixed shakes or the use of a blender.
Can you only assimilate 30g of protein from each meal?
This may hold true if you are an average person (male of 71kg) of average food intake and average activity status. The larger the person, the more you can assimilate. If you eat a diet with a higher percentage of protein than ‘average’ then your body becomes more adept at dealing with that intake by increasing the amount of digestive enzymes produced. If you create a stronger need for more protein by breaking down muscle tissue, your body will also be able to process more protein.
Fat is the body’s major form of energy storage. Many fats that people eat are really a combination of two different types of substances: saturated fatty acids and unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids mainly come from animal foods like meat, milk, cheese, and some oils that come from plants, especially palm products. Unsaturated fatty acids are different – they come from plants and fish and are also found in varying levels in most meat products.
Fat sometimes sounds like it’s always a bad thing that people should not eat, but actually our bodies need some fat to work correctly. Fat insulates our bodies from the cold and provides some cushioning for our organs. Fat gives our bodies energy. Some fats help to make up important hormones that we need to keep our bodies at the right temperature or keep our blood pressure at the right level. Fat helps you have healthy skin and hair. And fat is like your body’s very own storage and moving service: it helps vitamins A, D, E, and K get transported through your bloodstream when your body needs them.
Essential Fatty Acids
Just as the body requires some essential amino acids to function correctly it also requires two particular types of unsaturated fats called essential fatty acids (EFA’S). They are linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid) and linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid). The body uses linolenic acid to mke two other essential fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. These last two fatty acids are commonly found in fish oil. The best vegetable source of linolenic acid is either flaxseed oil or linseed oil. Good sources of linoleic acid are canola oil, safflower oil, sunflower and soybean oil. Generally we get enough of this type of oil through eating processed foods. Primrose and borage oils contain good amounts of both types.
EFA’s are necessary for the formation of vital compounds in the body called prostaglandins which play a role in blood pressure regulation, heart function, allergic response, inflammation, nerve transmission and even steroid hormone production. They have been shown to produce favourable blood lipid profiles (> HDL’s, < total cholesterol). Try mixing 200ml of flaxseed oil with 200ml of safflower oil and have 10ml 2-3 times a day with meals. Three capsules (1g) of evening primrose oil and fish oil taken 3 x daily will provide a similar dose.
Saturated fat when consumed in excess has been linked to unfavourable blood lipid profiles which can lead to heart and blood vessel problems. Restricting these to moderate amounts therefore, should be a goal for optimum health
Potato Chips (palm oil)
Red Meat (lean)
Saturated Fat g/100g
Fats are the most calories dense macronutrient, and are usually restricted in most diet regimes for this reason. One gram of protein or carbohydrate contains approximately 4 calories, while one gram of fat contains about 9 calories. Unfortunately, due to our evolutionary history, we are designed to crave the most calories dense foods for our survival – fats and sugars. It is against our natural desires to resist such foods.
Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred energy source. It takes less effort from our body to produce energy from carbs than protein or fats.Carbohydrates come in two forms, simple and complex. The difference is the number of bonds between molecules of the carbohydrate source. Logic would assume that simple carbs with fewer bonds would be broken down more quickly than complex carbs with more bonds and in some cases this is true. However, when enzymes (natures catalysts) and hormones are involved, the rules change.
The Glycemic Index (GI) gives us a much better idea of how quickly carb foods are absorbed. A foods GI score indicates how quickly that particular food is absorbed by the body and turned into glucose which then can be quickly converted to fuel. Most GI charts use glucose as the reference carbohydrate and that is assigned a score of 100, being utilised very quickly. Other GI charts use white bread as the reference carb. This can create problems as there are many variations and recipes of white bread around the world.
The aim for general food consumption is to choose foods with a lower GI score. The exception being post workout, when high GI foods are important for the immediate recovery process. A low GI food will be absorbed more slowly and therefore release its energy over a longer time, keeping you satisfied longer.
I must point out that a number of factors affect the GI scores of foods. Fat, protein and fibre all have an impact of lowering the GI. Meals that contain more than one food will have a GI that is a combination of those foods.
Below find some GI scores of selected foods.
The Glycemic Index
Grains & Cereals
Vegetables & Legumes
Everyone has experienced muscle soreness at some stage regardless of their fitness level. Occurring after unfamiliar or eccentric exercise the muscle fibres exhibit some damage at the microscopic level. This leads to loss of strength, decreased ROM and a temporary decrease in neuromuscular function. Read more
The Great Carbohydrate Debate
Diets come and diets go. The only thing that has some semblance of permanence is the amount of fat that we carry. Let’s face facts. Ours is a cosmetic society. How we look often governs the way we are perceived by others. A recent study done on facial symmetry (i.e. the left and right side matching) found that those people with better facial symmetry had higher paying jobs and even more numerous sexual encounters, irrespective of other more important parameters such as intelligence. It is of little wonder then, that when presented with a revolutionary method of eating to melt away body fat, most will embrace it with open arms.
The low or no carbohydrate diets promise to do what the food pyramid has been unable to achieve in recent times. That is, negating the need to answer the often fatal question, “does my bum look big in this”.
These diets restrict carbohydrate intake so that food selection is made from protein and fat sources. This depletes the body of stored carbohydrates (glycogen) and a state called ‘ketosis’ is created. Ketosis forces the body to burn stored fat for energy in the absence of carbohydrates. While fat is very calorie dense (one gram of fat has more than twice the calories of one gram of carbohydrate), the body’s ability to utilise stored fat is relatively inefficient. This leads to the production of ‘ketones’, small particles that can be used for energy. The presence of ketones is evidence that fat utilisation is proceeding at a maximal rate.
|Initial rapid weight loss.||Initial weight loss mainly due to water not being stored with glycogen.|
|Reduces insulin production.Insulin prevents the release of stored body fat.||Insulin is an anabolic hormone responsible for increasing muscle mass and BMR elevation.|
|Sausages, omelettes, steaks are allowed on the menu.||Other food choices very limited. Especially fruits, vegetables and grains which are the source of essential vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients.|
|Ketones effectively suppress appetite making easier to control hunger.||Lack of fibre increasing chance of bowel problems.|
|Ketones are able to reduce muscle loss during dieting and thus keep the basal metabolic rate (BMR) at high levels.||High protein diets have been linked to kidney stones.|
|By consciously using mono and polyunsaturated fats(olive and fish oils) blood lipid profiles may improve.||Increased consumption of saturated fats increases the risk of vascular disease.|
Does it work?
Unfortunately losing body fat is not an exact science. We are all individuals with differing body types and metabolisms. What may work for some, may not for others. The only sure thing with regard to dieting is this; to lose fat effectively you must expend more energy (BMR, activity and exercise) than you intake (food and drink). Any diet regime that does this by whatever method will prove to be successful. Numerous diets have been proposed through the popular media, scientific experts and celebrity endorsers which all seem to work. The very basic underlying principle is that, for whatever format the diet takes, energy intake is less than energy expenditure.
Over the years I have helped many physique athletes achieve their desired look, that is, maximum muscle mass with minimum body fat levels. Even though you may not desire to achieve such extremes, the lessons I have learned can still be applied to any situation. They are to have balance, variety and consistency with food choices!
Balance– common sense should tell you that any diet regime that excludes one of the basic macronutrients cannot be practical. Some will argue that a low carb diet is more natural, citing the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our ancestors. In fact most anthropological studies show that ancient man indeed had a good balance between intake of fats, carbs and protein. If carbohydrates are so bad why is this nutrient the body’s preferred energy source?
Variety– nutritional science is constantly evolving. Discoveries are still being made with regard to essential phytonutrients responsible for maintenance of optimal health. The more variety of foods consumed the greater chance we have of ensuring that all our bases are covered. Imagine not being able to sample many of the culinary delights that multi-cultural Australia has to offer.
Consistency – like any endeavour, the ability to consistently reproduce sound behavioural practices, will get results. Any sports champion will attest to this. If you are overweight there is a high likelihood that it took some time for the excess to accrue. Similarly then, to expect it to disappear quickly, is unrealistic. Sensible eating over time is the only way to go.
A Guide to Improving Your Back
The back and its related musculature are difficult to see on one’s self and as such is often not trained with the same intensity of other more visible body parts. As a group the back is second only to the thighs in the amount of muscle it contains. When developed it gives the physique the much sought after ‘V’ shape and provides depth to the upper torso.
The back, unlike most other body parts is comprised of many different muscle groups, many serving a similar purpose. In the majority of back exercises, all of the back muscles will be utilised. What changes is the extent of involvement from each one, dependant on the actions involved in the movement (Pulldown vs Row for example).
For simplicity sake I like to divide the back into 3 main areas and then target each section with one key exercise per workout. The 3 are:
- The Middle Back comprising the powerful Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), the largest muscle in the region, which can be seen as the “wings” at the side of the body. They are responsible for bringing the upper arm towards the body from a variety of angles, and are heavily involved in any action where the elbow remains close to the torso. Most close grip rowing movements target this part effectively.
- The Scapula region containing (a) the Teres group (major and minor) lying directly under the rear shoulder and are often mistaken to be part of the Lats.(b) the Infraspinatus, along with the Teres muscles they attach the upper arm to the scapula . These muscles are the most activated when the elbows are out to the side and are brought from high to low. Wide Pull downs and Pull Ups are movements that are target these muscles.
- The Upper back, encompassing the Traps (upper, middle and lower) and Rhomboids (major and minor). These muscles bring the shoulder blades together and with the rear delt are responsible for the “chunky” look. Starting with the elbow at chest level in front of the body and continuing along the same plane to finish behind the body activates these upper back muscles . Wide Grip Rowing movements are best here.
|Wide Grip Pulldown||Close Grip Pulldown||Wide Grip Seated|
|Wide Grip Chin Up||Single DBell Row||Hammer Row|
|Hammer Pulldown||V Bar Seated Row||Wide Grip Barbell Row|
Perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise but change the order of exercises every workout in this fashion:
ABC, BCA, CAB. Complete 3 of these cycles then pick 3 new exercises for the same angles and repeat.
- Fat is metabolically inactive with one kilo burning about 22 KJ/day. In contrast one kilo of muscle burns about 340 KJ/day.
- Dietary fat contains more calories than either carbohydrates or protein. One gram of fat contains approx 38 KJ, 1g of protein approx 17 KJ, 1g of carbs approx 17 KJ.
- We are genetically Read more
According to conventional wisdom, the infamous “beer belly” iscaused by excess alcohol calories being stored as fat.
However, researchers from the University of California have shown that less than 5% of the alcohol calories you drink are turned into fat. Rather, the main effect of alcohol is to reduce the Read more
Keeping hydrated (having sufficient water inside our body) is crucial for us to perform at our best in the gym. Water loss of even 1% of body mass (700ml for a 70kg person) will see performance decline. Therefore we must be aware that our body is continually losing water that must be replaced. Read more