Shari Duncan

Natural Bodybuilding

Is Your Time in the Gym Time Well Spent?
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by on Aug.10, 2013, under Fitness, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

How balanced is your training program?

Are you training chest and back as  frequently as legs?…  How much recovery time do you allow between workouts?…  Are your fitness goals written out and  are you progressing towards those goals?…  How do you know if you are getting in enough cardio hours… do you designate time each week for stretching, ab and core work?…
What about time management? Do you pace yourself,  and give enough time to recover in between sets, or perhaps spend too much time socializing with other gym goers?
This is why keeping a training journal can be most helpful.  Workout logs are beneficial for beginners as well as seasoned lifters.  I’d say they are essential if you are serious about achieving your fitness goals.

Why keep a journal?

  • Motivation. Looking back at where you come from is inspiring.
  • Awareness. You get an understanding of what works for you.

    Training logs provide accountability, progress, and motivation for your training sessions.

  • Experience. You learn from your errors: injuries, etc.
  • Confidence. You’ve got a plan when you go to the gym.

The process of writing down your loads, sets, reps, etc.  helps you to better remember the workout.  It’s nice to be able to flip back and see what weight you used and how many sets and reps you did.   The process of keeping a log enables seasoned lifters to critically analyze their programs and see if they’re truly delivering results.

Also, use your log to jot down important notes such as machine settings, how the set felt; (light, heavy), how you felt that day (energized, fatigued, hungry, sore).

Keeping a journal accelerates the learning process.

By writing down your workouts you are taking an additional few minutes to process what you have learned, repeat the concepts and terminology to yourself, and ingrain it into your brain.

If you are a beginner it is likely you will be able to beat previous efforst every week for several months. As you establish new routines, it is helpful to know what you did your previous workout and to have a specific goal for each training session. Logging workouts helps you remember the appropriate weights to use. Beginners struggle most with remembering not only which exercises to do, but in which order, how many sets, reps, etc.  because everything is new to them.  They’re not yet familiar with the names of exercises, the loads they used, etc. so training logs for beginners are essential.  I have been  journaling  for several years now and still write notes in the margins to remind me of proper set-up and/or form on certain exercises.

Tracking results and being able to check your progress lets you know if what you’re doing is or isn’t working.   If you make notes about your workout, you are also less likely to spend time chatting between sets or resting too long.   Seeing your gains on paper will reaffirm that you are progressing, and as a result motivation will likely increase or stay high.

The basic benefits of journaling

  • Faster learning
  • Remembering weights
  • Having information to analyze
  • Tracking progress
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Mental Strength… Do you Exercise your Mind?
Shari

by on Mar.10, 2013, under General HEALTH, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Do you Train your Brain to be as Tough as your Body?

Some may argue that toughness is found in soul, spirit and mind…  and not in muscles.

Never underestimate the power of your mind…whether it is in sports, in business or in life.   Becoming mentally stronger may be the one factor that determines whether you realize your goals; or not.  It may be the one single factor separating you from being a champion or a runner up.

When life gets hard, we tend to want comfort, not change.  Those who have learned the secret to mental toughness have learned that comfort now may mean pain later, but a little pain now can yield great rewards in the future.

MIND POWER--Train your mind as well as your body

When it comes to training; having mental strength is one of the most important pieces of sports equipment you will ever own.  Your physical workouts will strengthen you body,  but mental strength training provides the necessary conditioning to fortify your mind.  It provides you a psychological edge that enables you to be consistent; to maintain focus and determination to not only finish but perform at your maximum potential,  despite any difficulty or consequences.   More simply put: To Never Quit.   Being mentally strong directly affects your confidence.  As mental strength rises, so will your confidence.    If you want to become mentally stronger, you have to become tough about what you think.  What you think determines how you act.  Replace weak thoughts like “I can’t or I’m too tired” with positive ones;  I feel great; my body is strong.”

Regardless of your fitness goals or where you are in your training you will be challenged many times to keep moving forward to achieve your desired goal.   Here are some common traits that make up mental toughness:

Be resilient:

Learn to bounce back from adversity, pain, or a disappointing performance. Realize and admit a mistake, understand a missed opportunity, embrace the lesson and quickly move on and refocus on the immediate goal ahead.

Focus

Focus in the face of distractions and unexpected circumstances.   Don’t avoid situations or make excuses for less than perfect conditions.  When your are dead tired, hurting and want to quit is the time to dig deep and focus.  Tell yourself to keep moving forward.

Trust:

Have faith in yourself   Trust that your body will know what to do when it is time to perform.  Trust in your training and your plan. Trust in your coach. Believe in yourself, even if there is no one nearby to boost your confidence.

—-BE POSITIVE:  TALK TO YOURSELF: VISUALZE:

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE: BE PREPARED—

“Strength does not come from physical capacity.  It comes from an indomitable will”  Mahatma Gandhi

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Eat MORE Protein: For Fat Loss AND Muscle Gains.
Shari

by on May.26, 2012, under General Nutrition, Natural Bodybuilding, Weight Loss, Whey Protein Recipes

The human body is built and rebuilt everyday from and by proteins.

Protein plays an important role in any fat loss program. To lose weight you must restrict the number of calories you consume. However, when you cut down on what you eat, the body starts using muscle protein as energy – so it’s important to get enough protein from your diet to cover these losses. Among other important functions, protein is essential for

Eat protein with every meal.

stimulating cell growth and helping to repair body tissue.  Foods rich in protein help the body build lean muscle and can be converted into glucose for energy.  Because this method of

energy is more time consuming for the body, the body burns more calories digesting proteins, and does not convert as readily to stored fat. (As with food rich in carbohydrates and

fats)  This is one reason why high protein, low carbohydrate diets are popular for those attempting to lose weight and build muscle. And protein does a better job of filling  you up and keeping you full longer than carbohydrates or fats.

Any type of exercise or physical training increases the body’s need for additional protein which is why athletes and those with very active lifestyles generally consume a higher daily intake of protein. Since protein is the building blocks for new muscle tissue, it is a staple for anybody (or any body builder) wanting to pack on a little (or a lot) of mass. Training alone will not make the body grow.  And a lack of quality protein will result in a loss of muscle tissue and tone, as well as reduction in the function of your immune system, a slower recovery rate, and a lack of energy. If you fail to get enough protein on a daily basis, you’ll quickly lose strength and slow down your metabolic rate.  The body will also breakdown

muscle and conserve protein for basic, life sustaining needs and may not perform other duties such as healing and immune function if protein intake is not sufficient.

Protein Shakes make an excellent snack or meal replacement.

Proteins are found in all varieties of foods; however, some forms of protein are more healthful and beneficial than others. Choose foods that are complete proteins and do not contain high saturated fats or sugars. Fish and poultry are excellent choices of high protein foods, as are foods in the legume family including: beans and lentils.  Eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt (and other dairy); as well as various nuts and seeds are also protein rich choices.  Red meats contain a great deal of protein, but take care to choose lean cuts of meat, avoiding the extra fat.

A Whey protein shake makes for excellent snack  or a meal replacement for those trying to lose weight. Most protein powders mix easily with milk, water or juice and will quickly add 25 or more grams of protein a day. And shakes are easy to make and very portable, making it simple to get your protein on the go.   Here is a “recipe” that combines 3 of my all time favorite flavors:  Chocolate, Coffee, and Coconut!

Coco- Mocha Protein Shake

1 scoop chocolate whey protein

1 tsp instant coffee granules

~8 oz of coconut water (or unsweetened coconut milk)

ice (3-4 cubes)

Blend all ingredients for 1-2 minutes in a personal blender :  AWESOME!!

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Empower and Challenge yourself with Push-Ups!!
Shari

by on Mar.04, 2012, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Because sometimes the most basic exercises are the most effective.

Push-ups are among the all-time great total body workout exercises.  They incorporate the triceps, shoulders, chest, abdominals, back and core.  They can be made easier or harder. They build strength and stamina.  They force the heart to work harder and the blood to pump faster. This increases metabolism and helps you burn more calories.
And, they can be done anywhere, anytime, by anyone regardless of fitness level.

No space?…   No equipment?…   No time?…    No Problem.

NO  MORE EXCUSES!

If you cannot do one push-up today, begin with wall pushups or by standing about 2 feet away from your kitchen counter and pushing away for 3 sets of 15. Gradually work to

Decline Push-up on Stability Ball -For added core stabilization and tricep involvement.

something lower as your strength increases. Once you build up arm and core strength, “graduate” to the floor,  and begin by holding yourself up in a plank position with your chest off the ground.  Start on your knees, with hands wide. (Wider is easier).  Don’t worry if cannot go full range yet. .. In time you will.

Build Core Strength

In addition to building upper body strength and gaining more power in the arms, shoulders and hands, pushups done with the proper form will help build the core muscles in the middle of your body. To do pushups properly, your elbows must be fully extended at the start and end of a pushup, your toes should be on the floor and your legs, hips and back should be straight.

There are dozens of variations of push-ups out there.

Wrist-Friendly:

If you find that push-ups put strain on your wrists, try placing your hands on a set of dumbbells (or a push-up bar) to keep your wrists in a more neutral position.  According to Oxygen Magazine author Pam Mazzuca, performing pushups in this manner also increases core activation as well as engagement of the back, triceps and rear deltoids.

Angled, Medicine, Stability Ball, Bosu Pushups:

Push Up on Dumbbells to reduce strain on wrists.

By altering the angle that you perform push-ups, you also change the emphasis of the muscles worked. Doing pushups with your feet on an incline work the shoulder and upper chest muscles a little bit harder than a standard pushup does.    If you really want to challenge yourself, place your feet on a stability ball instead of a stationary object. This forces you to balance your body at the same time that you’re working your pushups, offering a tough variation.  Incorporating an unstable, movable surface such as a medicine ball uses more core strength, increases difficulty of the exercise and engages more core and triceps.

As you continue to progress try:  plyo, staggered, deficit, diamond, handstand pushups… just to name a few .

Walk-out pushups are one of many ways to incorporate pushups into your overall total body workout routine.  Check out this short DEMO:

Walk Out Push-up Demo

Start your own push-up challenge today and watch as you impress yourself as you gain not only strength but confidence!

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Weightlifting and Joint Pain?
Shari

by on Feb.04, 2012, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training, Supplementation

Working out with weights will not cause joint pain.

Improper technique, insufficient rest, or poor nutrition might be contributing to your grief.

Joint pain is one of the most common problems among strength athletes.  It’s something younger lifters rarely think about when lifting and too many seasoned lifters wish they had when they are forced to stop lifting due to years of stress on joints.  Joints require mobility, stability, and motor control.  Proper weight training has been found to  improve joint health, return functionality and decrease pain. Regular exercise of the joints replenishes joint lubricants and builds cartilage.  Stronger muscles from weightlifting exercises offer more support to the joints.

Joint pain can be a slow progression over a long period of time. Repeated injuries can lead to chronic joint pain.  If you are experiencing pain from your weight lifting routine, you are probably doing something wrong.  Chances are one or more of these factors can be attributed for your pain:

  • ü  Insufficient warm-up prior to lifting.

    What's the cause of your joint pain?

  • ü  Over training. They train too long and/or too often
  • ü  Using overly heavy weights/low reps more often than they should
  • ü  Insufficient rest/recovery time to allow joints, tendons, muscles to recuperate from intense work.
  • ü  Poor form and less than perfect technique during heavy lifts
  • ü  Inadequate vitamins and  nutrients.
  • ü  All of the Above.

So let’s say that you are not guilty of the above 7 mistakes but still experience joint pain.  It could be bursitis, tendinitis, arthritis or the like causing aching joints.

Briefly:

ARTHRITIS: Osteoarthritis, by far the most common to bodybuilders and athletes is caused by wear and tera on the joints.  It is characterized by a deterioration of the cartilage at the ends of the bones. The once smooth cartilage becomes rough and causes more and more friction and pain.

BURSITIS: Joints contain small fluid filled sacks called bursae. The bursae assist in muscle and joint movement by cushioning  the joints/bones against friction. Inflammation from various causes (See above 7 mistakes!) results in a chronic pain called bursitis.

TENDINITIS: Tendonitis occurs when tendons around a joint become severely inflamed from overuse, micro-injury, etc.  It is probably the most common cause of pain to bodybuilders and other athletes and also the easiest to treat.  But if left untreated, as when people just try to “work through the pain”, it can lead to much more serious problems.

Many medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or treatments like cortical steroidal injections, address only symptoms and not the cause of the problem.  In fact, research has shown just the opposite; by merely masking symptoms, they may do more harm than good in the long run .

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/phys-ed-does-ibuprofen-help-or-hurt-during-exercise/

And the ever popular “stay off of it “ advice just does not fly with highly active  people.  The good news is that natural compounds and other dietary supplements may be helpful in supporting joints before, during and after lifting sessions.  If you are a lifter, joints require optimal nutrition to help you perform and recover.

Supplements to Consider:

GELATIN: A growing number of studies  now show that just 10 rams of hydrolyzed gelatin a day is effective in greatly reducing pain, improving mobility and overall bone/cartilage health.  Knox (the Jello people) have a product out called  NutraJoint.  It contains hydrolyze gelatin, calcium and vitamin C.

  • Diets rich in Vitamin C, D, and Calcium are important for optimizing joint health.

FLAX OIL: (Omega 3 Fats.) One of flax oils many, many benefits are those to improve overall joint health.  Flax oil is high in essential Omega 3 fatty acids.   Omega-3 fatty acids, from fish, flax, etc., have been shown in scientific/medical literature to reduce chronic  inflammation of any kind.  The recommended dose is 1-3 tablespoons/day.  Boost your intake with fatty fish (tuna,salmon,etc. ) walnuts, and flax.  If you can’t get it through food, supplement with 1-3 g of EPA/DHA per day from fish oil.

WATER: Drink more water.  Water helps to lubricate the joints.  Aim for ½ – 1 oz per pound of body weight per day. Or at least aim to drink 5-6 20 oz bottles of water per day.

FIBER: Focus on high fiber foods, and whole grains with at least 3g of fiber per serving.  Fiber controls blood glucose and therefore helps to control inflammation.

GLUCOSAMINE/CHONDROITIN SULFATE: Researchers  have found both effective for promoting joint health . Found in the body naturally, glucosamine is a form of amino sugar believed to play a role in cartilage formation and repair. Chondroitin sulfate, on the other hand, is a large protein molecule or proteoglycan that gives cartilage elasticity. Numerous studies have shown that regular use of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate offers pain relief similar to that offered by anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, but minus the gastrointestinal upset that may accompany long-term use of these medications. A daily dose of 1,200 mg has been shown to reduce joint pain.

It is never too early to take good care of your joints so that you are able to work out longer and more importantly remain pain free. Always begin your workout with range-of-motion exercises or an aerobic warm-up .  Lift with perfect form.  Ice your joints following exercise to reduce pain and swelling.

Joint pain should not go untreated. Don’t try to self diagnose.  Be sure to get an opinion from a trusted sports doctor first to determine exactly what your problem is.

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A New Perspective…. “From The Dark Side”
Shari

by on Nov.20, 2011, under Family News, Fitness, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.

–A couple weeks before my last Body Building competition in 2009, I weighed 100 lbs with a body fat ~11%.  I was hungry and exhausted from extreme dieting for  over 16 weeks. My entire life revolved around insanely meticulous calorie and nutrient counting and timing.  I spent HOURS every week preparing, carefully weighing and packing each meal, and was (many would say) obsessive about eating the exact calculated ratio of proteins, carbohydrates and fats at precisely the right time of day.  As my weekly caloric intake decreased, so did

INBF Natural Atlantic Coast Oct. 2009

my energy and I had less to put into my training or more importantly … to my family, friends and work.

—Today, I weigh 115 lbs and maintain a body fat of ~16%.  Eating healthy is still a top priority in my life.   I do not allow my diet to control me, although I am quite strict and careful about what I put into my body. .. but it is a process that still requires self control and discipline.  And YES, I still carry my cooler with me almost everywhere I go… (Some habits never die!)   These days however, I enjoy a variety of foods, and feel freedom to experiment with new recipes and ingredients without depriving my body of the nutrients it needs… or worrying that I may eat too many carbs or not enough protein at any given meal. I go to restaurants, and cook-outs and cocktail parties again.

After each body building season, I was nervous about gaining too much weight….I liked looking lean and muscular. But what I learned was this:  All this new energy allowed me to focus more intensely on my lifting.  … AND I quickly found out:

More Energy = More Intense workouts = EVEN MORE MUSCLE

Yes, I know, this is NOT rocket science. But initially I was so worried about that damn scale. Just like SO MANY of us.   Why do we so obsess over the scale? What exactly is “too much weight” … We need to stop focusing on the scale but on our own unique body composition. Today, I weigh more than I have in years, but I wear exactly the same size clothes, though I have stronger, more athletic physique.  My body fat percentage is in the excellent range for someone who is almost 50 years old.  My energy and my disposition are better than ever…  I feel (and look) healthier than I have in a long time.  (Most days) I am not obsessed by the mirror, or the scale.  And as I get stronger and continue to build more muscle…. I continue to burn unwanted body fat.

So now I look back on the last year or two with an entirely different perspective.  Body building gave me purpose and a goal and provided a direction and an accountability I needed in

APF Nationals Raw Power Lifting – April 2011

my life. It is a part of me but it doesn’t define me anymore.   I’m not saying that I am done body building; I honestly don’t know.  The competition circuit is amazing fun and has given me the privilege to befriend some really spectacular people.  I have great respect for the athletes and the sport. I appreciate how difficult the journey to the stage is.  So, it’s not so much that I have fallen out of love with bodybuilding but I’ve got a new itch.  I have fallen in love again… with power lifting.   The dark side, as some of my new lifting friends joke. I am a student again and I love all of it –from the scraped up shins to my overly callused hands.  You not only have to have physical strength, you have to be tough to be a power lifter.  There is no place for fear. You have to overcome your fears and your weaknesses. You have to not be afraid to fail or afraid of  pain because there will be many failed attempts and a lot of pain.  So here I go again pushing to my very limits, taking on new challenges, not only in body, but also in mind and spirit.  I’m on a journey again.   I am chasing numbers again, but this time around, the numbers I chase have nothing to do with counting carbs.  All I know is that while on this journey I’m determined to become the best lifter I can be…

Yes, I’ve fallen to the dark side.  And I’m all in. Some may even say I’m obsessed.

“The Iron never lies to you. You can walk outside and listen to all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. The Iron will always kick you the real deal. The Iron is the great reference point, the all-knowing perspective giver. Always there like a beacon in the pitch black. I have found the Iron to be my greatest friend. It never freaks out on me, never runs. Friends may come and go. But two hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds.”


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Opposites Attract: Train opposing muscles to achieve muscular balance.
Shari

by on Feb.06, 2011, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

… and build more muscle in less time with supersets.

Strength training is an important component of fitness, but when done improperly it can result in muscle imbalance and result in injury.  The effectiveness of a workout also depends on what you want to achieve in regards to your fitness.  There are many ways to combine muscle groups to get the most out of your workouts. One popular technique is to train opposing (antagonistic) muscle groups together especially if the goal is to improve muscularity (muscle tone) and endurance.

Opposing muscle groups are your chest and back or your biceps and triceps, for example. (Think front/back or inner/outer).  But because the triceps support the muscles of the chest, you could also consider the triceps to be a secondary opposing muscle group of the back muscles and train them together.  Other examples would include training quadriceps with hamstrings, or abdominals and erector spinae. (lower back) in the same session.

work lower back, when training abdominals to prevent muscle imbalance

PRIMARY ANTAGONIST MUSCLE GROUPS

1) Pecs/Lats
2) Biceps/Triceps
3) Quadriceps/Hamstrings
4) Abdominals/Lower Back

Opposing muscle workouts are most effective by doing supersets.

A superset is performing two exercises in a row without stopping (or with very minimal rest) for a prescribed amount of sets. An example of this type of superset would be doing one set of bench press (for your chest) followed immediately by a set of pull ups (for your back). When you first start doing these, you may find that endurance is a problem but stamina will improve with time.

Let’s say you choose to train your chest and biceps during one workout.   Because the biceps are involved minimally in exercises for the chest, you will not be pre-exhausting your biceps. The result is that you will be able to train both your chest and your biceps with the maximum amount of concentration, effort and weight and because each muscle group gets the maximum amount of rest in between sets, you may ultimately be able to lift more, and thus over time, increase strength.

Opposing muscle supersets are a very effective training technique for many other reasons too:

  • Saves Time
  • Offers a greater challenge than traditional workouts
  • Creates variety and encourages new muscle growth
  • Eliminates the natural tendency to rest too long between set

So when you find yourself crunched for time, instead of skipping exercises, or reducing the number of sets or even ditching your workout completely… opt for super-setting for a new challenge.  With super setting, you can complete the same 60 minute workout in 40 minutes… and with increased intensity!  You will recruit more muscle fibers, over different muscle groups, in a shorter period of time.  WOW!

Training opposing muscles may also prevent injuries.

This is because the muscles that work together are in balance with one another rather than one over powering another. Working opposing muscles combined with stretching the muscles that have been worked prevents one muscle from becoming significantly tighter than it’s opposer and thus injury is less likely. When a muscle is worked it becomes tighter and the tendons connecting those muscles to the bone also become thicker and stronger.  When muscle imbalance occurs it is important to strengthen the opposing muscle and also to stretch the tight muscles.  So if you want to prevent injury and keep muscles in balance, train opposing muscles and always stretch after exercise.

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The Competition Diet… A Little Art, A Little Science = A Lot of Lean.
Shari

by on Dec.06, 2010, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Weight Loss

GETTING LEAN:

Getting really lean is an art form…and a science. It is NOT about starving yourself. In fact starving yourself would be the worst thing you could do.

The months before entering a physique competition are extremely difficult and require plenty of discipline and perseverance.  Eating the correct foods in the proper proportions and at the appropriate time is vital to getting your physique  primed for the stage.

The information presented here assumes the reader has a certain level of nutritional knowledge.

HOW MANY CALORIES EVERY DAY?

Sculpting the physique for competition takes weeks of disciplined dieting

Sculpting the physique for competition takes weeks of disciplined dieting

Calories: A VERY general rule of thumb is 16 x your bodyweight. So if your goal is to weigh 125 pounds that would be 2000 calories a day intake to maintain a bodyweight of 125. To lose weight eat clean and eat with a slight calorie deficit, about 200 to 300 calories below your maintenance level.  Over time you will figure out the correct balance and will make adjustments accordingly.

PROTEIN: Eating the correct amount of protein is PARAMOUNT to helping you build and maintain a muscular physique, since proteins are the building blocks of muscle in your body. You should eat at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight EVERY day. Protein should be consumed at every meal.

CARBS: Fifty to sixty percent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates until about three months before your competition. At this point, carbohydrate intake begins to be cut  to 20 to 40 percent. Eating the right types of carbs will make all the difference in your physique. Whole-grain carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grains and quinoa digest slowly in your body. As weeks progress and the number of allowable carbohydrate grams is reduced, you will be getting more of your carbohydrate calories from veggies and limiting fruits to 2-3servings daily.

FATS: Fat intake will be reduced when preparing for a physique competition.  Most people can consume up to 30 percent of calories from healthy fats until about the three-month mark, then as weeks progress, gradually reduce fat intake to 10 to 20 percent.

You need to keep an eating log and record your food intake so you can make accurate adjustments. If you are very active you may have to eat more. If you are naturally obese and hold onto body fat easily you may have to eat less. The only way to really know (how a certain level of food intake will affect you) is keep an eating log and discover what effect eating a certain amount of calories for a month has on you. Ask yourself: Did I get leaner? Did I lose muscle? Did I gain fat? Then make adjustments.

** Remember metabolisms vary significantly from person to person – I am able to keep my healthy fats at ~25% during the leaning phase.  I focus more on gradually cutting carbohydrate calories, and increasing cardio sessions as the weeks progress.  I am also not as “carb sensitive” as some.

This basic template for macronutrient ratio’s works for me:   Protein: 35-40%, Carbs 35-40%, Fats 25%. As I begin to cut carbohydrate calories, I may gradually increase protein, (to keep calories up) depending on the progress I am making.

 Programs like Fitday.com provide online support for macronutrient tracking

Programs like Fitday.com provide online support for macronutrient tracking

Basic rules to lose body fat:

Eat every 3 hours. Six small meals a day. Avoid foods that spike your insulin levels (like bread, sugar, and pasta) or foods high in fat (bacon, cakes, butters, fatty meats). Focus on high fiber foods (vegetables, whole wheat, fruits) and protein foods (whey protein, egg whites, fish, lean chicken, low fat cottage cheese, and meal replacements).  This increases your metabolic rate. Remember to consume 200-300 calories a day below maintenance level. Also eating every 3 hours tricks your body into thinking YOU ARE NOT DIETING (constant blood sugar level) so it does not store fat (go into famine mode).

As weeks progress, gradually decrease carbs without cutting calories. Eat more vegetables and more protein. Low carb intake lowers insulin levels, you store very little fat, and activate fat burning mechanisms in the body. Keep the calories up though. As you begin to decrease carbs,  you will also increase cardio.

When your metabolism slows (from dieting), eat more for 1 to 3 days. Usually one day will do it. Exercise more (increase intensity) as well. Get your metabolism moving again. Usually 300 to 400 calories above maintenance will do it. Carb cycling works well for me when dieting.  I incorporate 1 – 2 “re-feed” days per week; with the 2 higher carb days falling on the most strenuous training days (eg squat, leg days). Having these 2 days also helps to restore depleted energy stores (physically and mentally!)

Water and Supplements

Water is one of the most important components of a competition diet and should not be overlooked.  Aim to drink at least a gallon of water every day leading up to the competition.  Avoid alcohol consumption. Certain supplements can aide you in the preparation phase as well.  Consider taking supplements such as a multivitamin and mineral; antioxidants, including green tea; branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s); glutamine and glucosamine.

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CORE LIFTS: The BIG 3
Shari

by on Oct.03, 2010, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Strength and Agility Training

Before incorporating “The Big 3” into your workout routine, first be assessed and monitored by a trained professional to ensure proper technique for safety and proficiency. Improper technique can cause an injury and will affect performance.

In regards to strength training, there are two basic ways to train. One is training with compound movements and the other is training with isolation exercises. Isolation exercises work single muscle groups as when using machines. Compound movements are bench pressing, dead lifting, squatting and using free weights where several muscles are involved and working together. If you want to improve your athletic condition, you need to perform compound movements by working more than one joint at a time during training.

The Bench

With a firm grip.. SQUEEZE the bar as if you are going to break it in two

With a firm grip.. SQUEEZE the bar as if you are going to break it in two

The primary muscles used in the bench press are the pectorals (major and minor), triceps, and deltoids. It will build upper body strength like no other, but if done with improper technique, can also result in injuries – especially shoulder injuries. For safety, be sure to have a spotter at all times.
Bench Press Setup. You need a strong base to press the weight from. Tighten your upper-back. Grip the bar hard: try to break it apart like breaking spaghetti. Squeeze your shoulder-blades before getting on the bench. Keep your shoulder-blades back & down at all times . This gives your body a solid base to press the bar from.  Keep chest up at all times; do not allow shoulders to roll forward.  Use a wide foot stance to increase stability on the bench. Feet flat on the floor, weight on the heels, lower leg perpendicular to the floor. This prevents extreme arching of your lower back.

EXECUTION: Keep the tight position during the Bench Press from start to finish. Squeeze the bar, keep your upper-back tight & your chest up. Unrack the weight with straight arms. Bench.

The Squat

Considered by many to be the most important athletic core lift, every muscle works when you Squat: your legs move the weight, your abs & lower back stabilize it, your arms squeeze the bar, etc. The Squat is NOT just a leg exercise, it’s a full body exercise. It is also a great tool for increasing lower body power which translates to increased speed and a higher vertical leap.

To avoid injury always Squat in a power rack. Set the safety pins so they can catch the bar would anything go wrong. The rest is technique – start light, add weight gradually, and remember form always comes before weight.

  1. Set the bar in a power rack at about mid-chest level.

    Always Squat with a Power Rack and  a spotter for safety

    Always Squat with a Power Rack and a spotter for safety

  2. Position your feet directly under the bar.
  3. Squat under the bar and put it on your back.
  4. Tighten everything and Squat up to unrack the bar.
  5. One step back with one leg, one step back with the other leg.

EXECUTION: Keep a low bar position, a tight upper-back, elbows back & wrists straight. Heels about shoulder width, point your toes out at about 30 degrees. Your toes must always follow your knees or you’ll get knee injuries. Practice and focus on technique.  The key to the Squatting correctly are your hips: you must have tension in your hamstrings at the bottom. Push your knees out as you squat down. Hit Parallel. Your hip joint must come lower than your knee joint. Ask someone to judge your depth or tape yourself. No Partial Squats

How to Squat Up. Your hip muscles will be stretched when in the bottom  position if you Squat correctly. Use that stretch to bounce out of the hole. If you Squat this way, you’ll be lift a lot more weight while keeping your knees safe.

  • Hips Up. Drive out of the hole by leading with your hips, not your chest. Don’t let your knees travel forward at the bottom or you’ll lose power.
  • Squeeze Your Glutes. Power comes from the glutes. Squeeze them hard as you lockout the weight. It will also keep your lower back safe.
  • Grab The Floor. Grab the floor with your feet; it will help activate your glutes. Do NOT let your heels come off the floor.
  • Knees Out. Same as for the way down: don’t let your knees buckle in. Push your knees out as you Squat up.

*Always use free weights for Squats. Machines are not only less effective for muscle and strength gains because they balance the weight for you, they also force you into fixed/unnatural movement patterns

The Deadlift

To Build a Better Back: Push from the heels... SQUEEZE the Glutes

To Build a Better Back: Push from the heels... SQUEEZE the Glutes

The dead lift is a full body lift that focuses on improving strength for the back and lower extremity (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluts etc.), as well as forearm and grip strength.  Keeping

your back straight is critical to avoid injuries when lifting heavy objects from the floor. Deadlift by pushing from the heels, and bringing your hips forward. Not by pulling with your lower back.

Deadlifts start with the bar at mid shin level. Walk to the bar and position your feet under the bar with shoulder width stance, toes slightly pointed out. Chest up, shoulders back, look forward – Keep this position and your back will not be able to round. Keep arms straight, tighten triceps.

EXECUTION: If you Deadlift correctly, you’ll feel most stress in your upper-back, glutes & hams. Shoulder blades over bar, bar against shins.  Bring hips forward and PUSH FROM THE HEELS, squeezing the glutes hard. Keep the bar close to you, rolling over shins and thighs.  The movement is complete when knees and hips are locked.

To bring weight down, unlock hips first, then the knees. Chest remains up, shoulders forward and head up as you bring the weight down.

*There is no need to arch or shrug at the top of the movement.  Rolling the shoulders or hyper extending the back are dangerous and inefficient.  Extend your knees and hips and stop.

Source: Stronglifts.com

This video was taken  at the Battle of Honor in Pelion S.C.  250lb DL / 111lb Bodyweight.

This was my first meet.

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“Spot Training” Will not Whittle your Middle Away
Shari

by on Jul.18, 2010, under Fitness, Motivation, Natural Bodybuilding, Weight Loss

All of those ab crunches you’ve been doing will make your abdominal muscles stronger. But they will not whittle away belly fat.

Our hormones determine where we will store fat in our bodies.  Fat is lost in a pattern dependent upon genetics, sex and age. Overall body fat must be reduced to lose fat in any particular area.

We all have our trouble spots. For women this is typically in the hips and buttocks; the tummy; and/or the upper arms. Unfortunately, the first place we store fat is also the last place it leaves when we begin to diet and exercise.

But training one particular area of your body to reduce fat (also known as spot training) does not work.  So if you have a large tummy, then simply doing ab crunches and leg raises will not result in a flat stomach. Here is why. Fat loss occurs in the body as a whole. Unfortunately, the fat in a particular area isn’t governed by the muscles in that same area. So if you want to lose belly fat for example, you have to have a fat loss strategy that burns fat throughout your body.

Lose the OVERALL body fat to reduce fat in those trouble areas

Lose OVERALL body fat and you will reduce fat in those trouble areas


You must always treat your body as a whole which means changing your diet to a whole food diet (healthy eating) and exercising your whole body.

The answer is to combine weighted compound exercises that work all of the major muscle groups (like squats, rows, and presses to name a few) with high intensity cardio.

High intensity cardio releases fat burning hormones, and revs up the metabolism in a way that slow, steady state, and long duration cardio does not. Cardio raises the heart rate and determines how many calories are burned.  Strength training also helps to raise the metabolism, as well as build strong muscles. The more muscle you have, the more calories will be burned.  This is why strength and cardio exercise should be a part of your regimen to achieve the maximum fat burning results.
And if you’re serious about reducing your overall body fat percentage; you must incorporate a healthy and well balanced diet. This is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts and grains.  This does NOT mean to starve yourself. If you deprive yourself of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) you will be counterproductive in your efforts to lose weight and body fat.  Essentially, you’ll end up slowing down your metabolism and stopping your fat loss before it even starts.

So, if you are ready to lose that excess fat, you can’t spot reduce it away. Spot training does not work. Instead,  focus on fat loss in the body as a whole.  The best way to lose fat from one particular area is to lose fat overall, then concentrate on toning individual parts of your body

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