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18 Ways to Build FREAKISH Strength!

It doesn’t matter what circle you roll in whether it’s bodybuilding, powerlifting, Crossfit, or pretty much any sport with the exception of yoga (not really a sport), everyone seems to be on a quest for more strength.  If you’re in the gym and you’re moving weight, you’re trying to get stronger in some way, shape, or form – or at least you should be.

Continue reading “18 Ways to Build FREAKISH Strength!”

40 Nutrition Tips for Optimal Health and Performance..

Training to become the best possible version of yourself requires time, dedication, persistence, and just plain hard work.  To get the most out of your training, regardless of your goals, you need to get a stronghold on your nutrition.  That doesn’t mean you need to be a Nazi and never indulge in anything outside of mineral water and steamed broccoli,  but you certainly have to demonstrate some discipline and recognize the red flags when they’re placed right in front of you at the dinner table.

Nutrition can sometimes be like a chess game with its complexity, numerous choices, and the need to constantly adjust according to your current situation.  However, with experience comes wisdom.  Just like a savvy chess player, you learn what moves set you up for the greatest chances of success, you make fewer mistakes, and you start to win most of your battles.

To simplify the nutrition game, make more sensible choices, and get better results out of your training, I’ve laid out some tips that I apply to my daily routine as well as others that I’ve learned through years of research.

Let’s take a look at nutrition tips for optimal health and performance:

1.”When it comes to fat loss,  genetics may somewhat ‘load the gun’ but you don’t have to pull the trigger and reload it twice.” I love this quote.  Don’t use bad genetics as an excuse to eat poorly and not make an honest effort to get in shape.  The power to transform your body is in your hands, the question is how bad do you want it?

2. Never be hungry, never be full – Somewhere in the middle is just right.  When your body is in a comfortably fed state, your blood sugar levels don’t spike causing you to store excess fat nor do they plummet causing you too burn valuable muscle for energy.  Think of it this way, when you’re stuffed after a big meal how do you feel? When you’re starving because you haven’t eaten in over 6 hours how do you feel? Neither is a good feeling.  Aim to feel good all the time.

3. If it’s comes in a box or a can it’s not worth eating – Man has created many marvelous things to improve our lives, unfortunately food is not one of them.  Most foods that come in a box or can are highly processed and contain very little real food.  Stick to fresh, whole foods as much as you can. This gives a whole new meaning to “keeping it real.”

4.  “All You Can Eat” is a bad idea – Buffets provide great value but you are pretty much guaranteed to go overboard on your portions.  Especially for those trying to lose fat, this is the last place you want to be.  “All You Can Eat” might be light on the wallet but heavy on the waistline.

5.  Don’t fear fat – There’s a lot of misunderstanding surrounding fat in the diet.  Your body needs both saturated and unsaturated fats to function optimally.  Healthy sources include eggs, fish, avacados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, and lean meats.   The key is to keep your fat intake in the right proportions relative to your protein and carbs.  Depending on your goals, fat should be make up 25-30% of your total intake.

6. Replace your starches with more colorful veggies – With the exception of sweet potatoes and yams, you want to moderate your consumption of starchy carbs especially if you are trying to lose fat.  Colorful vegetables are more nutrient dense and cause less inflammation and bloating than refined starches like bread, pastas, and other grains. As long as you consume adequate protein, you can still build and preserve muscle without a lot of starch.

7.  Don’t drink your calories – It’s pretty easy to start the day with a latte with whip cream followed by a soda or fruit juice to go with your afternoon snack.  These empty calories add up quick and before you know it, you’ve consumed an extra 750-1000 calories and you’ve got nothing to show for it except 2 extra inches around your waist.  Stick to water, dilute your fruit juices if you drink them, and remove all pop including the diet stuff (which is probably more poisonous).

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the calories add up faster than you think!

8. Cut out sugar – There’s not a whole lot more to say about this other than sugar is public enemy #1.  With the exception of fresh fruit, you want to avoid processed and refined sugar as much as you can.

9.  Avoid gluten if it affects you – There’s a lot of buzz surrounding gluten these days but it only needs to be avoided if you have an intolerance to it.  For the rest of you, consume moderately and get on with your life.

10. Gluten Free isn’t always healthier – To further elaborate on #9, unless it never had gluten to begin with, like meat and vegetables, then that food is most likely processed and contains minimal nutritional value anyway.

11.  Keep your carb intake highest around training – The body best utilizes carbohydrates during intense workouts and post workout.  This means it’s OK to consume carbs prior to training to make sure you’re fueled properly and fast acting carbs should be consumed post workout to replenish glycogen stores and maximize recovery.

12. Drink more water – Most of us are far too dehydrated which impairs our ability to function and perform in the gym. Start the day by drinking 300-500ml of water.  Depending on your activity level, muscle mass, and water content of the foods you eat will determine how much water you need each day.

13.  Learn how to cook – Eating meals prepared at home will be far healthier than eating out at restaurants.  There are lots of quick and simple recipes that you can use to make healthy meals that actually taste good! For quick and easy recipes click here.

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Robert Irvine knows his way around the kitchen and the gym!

14. Shop the perimeter – It’s safe to say that 75-80% of the foods in the grocery store aren’t designed for human consumption.  Sure they taste great but that doesn’t negate the fact that they’re highly processed and put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and any other diseases that haven’t been named yet.  The perimeter of the grocery store is where all of the fresh produce and lean meats are found and this should be where you spend most of your time.

15. Prepare meals in advance – “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Having your meals prepared at least a couple days in advance is the best way to avoid impulse eating.  If you work long hours, having  dinners prepared in advance saves time and reduces the likelihood of ordering greasy takeout.  Packing healthy lunches will save you a few trips to the drive thru as well.

16. Eat enough protein to support muscle mass – There will always be a debate about low carb and low fat diets but no one ever got great results on a low protein diet. Whether you’re training to get leaner or to build muscle, you need to keep your protein intake in check to support the cause.  At least 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight will be sufficient.

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Arnold definitely ate enough protein

17.  Take a greens supplement – Although I’m not a huge advocate of supplements without a balanced diet first, a greens supplement can provide a lot of nutrients to improve energy and gut health.  Start the day with a tall glass of water with some greens.  Who knows, before you know it, you’ll be a morning person.

18.  Supplement only what you can’t get from real food – As mentioned in #16, supplements should be taken when the rest of the diet is in order.  There’s no point in drinking 3 protein shakes a day if you’re pounding potato chips and Pepsi between meals.  Having said that, it can be tough sometimes to always get in enough nutrients from food so supplementing can help to make up the difference.  Don’t get too caught up in buying the “latest and greatest” products, you can’t lose with real food.

19.  Eat Breakfast – There is some debate nowadays about the importance of breakfast but I can say confidently that it has been the most important meal of the day for me.  A high protein breakfast with healthy fats provides you with loads of nutrients to start the day plus you are more likely to eat healthy throughout the day if your first meal is healthy.  Scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions and a side of sliced bell peppers is how I like to get things started.

20. Eat the whole egg but skip the toast – The nutrients the egg yolk provides far outweighs anything you get from 2 pieces of refined toast.  Try a side of avocado or raw veggies instead.

21.  Never leave home without a healthy snack – Like your wallet or cell phone, you should always carry a healthy snack with you.  A piece of fruit or some mixed nuts are easy ways to tie you over until your next meal.  The last thing you want to do is starve then binge on comfort foods.

22.  Avoid dairy – What I like to refer to as “the unnecessary evil.”  Don’t be fooled, there’s nothing in a glass of milk you can’t get from less inflammatory foods.  Again, if you’re trying to lose fat, this is a high calorie food group you can do without.

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so right yet so wrong all at the same time..

23. Avoid grains – Speaking of inflammation, grains are a primary culprit.  Bloating, allergies, and lethargy are just a few things to look forward to.  With the exception of steel cut oats and wild rice, there isn’t a lot of value in these foods.

24.  Avoid artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols – Found in a lot of “diet” foods and drinks, these are deceptive chemicals that the body doesn’t really like.  Try to get most of your sugar from fresh fruit. If you want to sweeten things up try stevia.

25.  Breakfast cereal is fast food – Breakfast is the most important meal of the day when it’s not a bowl of Count Chocula.

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I guess I can thank my mom for never letting me have this as a kid

26.  Everything in moderation – If 90% of your eating habits are favorable then you can afford to indulge from time to time in the things you enjoy.  The further away your are from your goals the more strict you have to be.  Don’t always use junk food as way to reward yourself.  Looking better, feeling better, and performing better are the rewards.

27. Eat more raw veggies – Cooking food kills a lot of the nutrients so try to get a good dose of raw veggies on a regular basis.

28.  Eat more locally grown foods – The next best thing to growing it yourself is to eat from a local farm.  The fresher and less preserved the better.

29. Paleo isn’t perfect but it’s a great start – There is no perfect diet for everyone but the Paleo diet sends people in the right direction.  Less processed foods, more lean meats and vegetables and no sugar.  For the majority of the general public, I’d say that’s a great start.

30.  Use more spices and herbs instead of sauces – Cooking with herbs and spices like pepper, basil, garlic and tumeric provide lots of flavor without the preservatives and empty calories of bbq, teriyaki, and soy sauces.

31.  Black coffee and green tea are great engine starters – Jumpstart your metabolism, burn more fat, and have more energy for your workouts with coffee or green tea.  Nix the cream and sugar though.

32.  Avoid seed and vegetable oils – Seed and vegetable oils are highly processed and are high in omega 6 fatty acids which can lead to a number of health issues.  Stick to olive, coconut, and palm oils for cooking and dressing foods.

33. Avoid trans fats – Another highly processed fat that will do nothing for you except increase your risk of cancer.  Instead of margarine, use grass fed butter or ghee.

34.  Bulletproof your coffee only if your diet is bulletproof – Bulletproof coffee is as trendy as a foot long hipster beard.  That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing (the beard or the coffee).  You have to keep in mind that bulletproof coffee is high in calories (400-450cals) and provides very little nutrients other than fat.  It may keep you full longer but unless you are eating a lot of high quality foods the rest of the day you may be sabotaging your gains.  The safer route would be black coffee and a protein rich breakfast.

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it’s debatable which is trendier..

35.  Bacon is Paleo but that doesn’t mean it should go on everything – Bacon gets a lot of love since it qualifies as Paleo.  This is another example of how the majority of food you eat must be high quality if bacon is going to make the cut.  High fat, high sodium, and filled with nitrates, bacon should be consumed sparingly.  You don’t need to have it with your eggs, on your burger, in your cookies, AND in your salad.

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HONESTLY??!!

36.  Focus on food quality rather than counting calories – Not all calories are created equal.  Just like not all exercise is created equal, the type of calories you consume are just as important as how many calories you consume.  100 calories from a bag of potato chips will be metabolized far differently than 100 calories from a sweet potato.  Learn and understand the types of foods that give you the best bang for your nutrient buck. Eat more of those foods and less shitty foods and you’ll never have to count calories again.  Does a stalk of broccoli have a food label on it? How about a bunch of bananas?  There’s a reason why whole foods require less scrutiny than fruit juices, low fat granola bars, and frozen yogurt.

37.  “Diet” and “Low Fat” aren’t healthier – When a food has been modified to reduce calories or fat it generally means that it has been replaced with artificial sweeteners or refined sugar to make up the difference.  You’re better off eating a smaller portion of the real stuff since it will wreak less havoc on your metabolism.

38. Speed and nutritional value are inversely related – With the exception of raw fruits and veggies, the faster it can be prepared the less nutritional value it has.  What takes longer, baking a piece of cod in the oven or deep frying it? Making a bowl of Wheaties or scrambled eggs with a side of spinach salad? The “slow food” industry is a niche market reserved for the patient and disciplined.  Another example of the tortoise and the hare perhaps?

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Sorry Mike, I DID NOT have my Wheaties this morning!

39. Avoid high fructose corn syrup – High fructose corn syrup is like the Justin Bieber of food. It’s toxic, annoying as hell and it’s everywhere!

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Be careful, be very careful…

40.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – Don’t get too caught up in trends and fads if you are getting the results you want with your current eating habits.  Some of you might be eating more carbs than fats and vice versa and that’s totally fine IF IT’S WORKING!  Having said that, if you aren’t getting stronger, building muscle, getting leaner, or even feeling better then to put it mildly “your shit is broken!”  Take a step back and make small tweaks until you are headed in the right direction.

Hopefully these words of wisdom will help you take one step closer to reaching your goals.

If you haven’t already, subscribe below to download a copy of The Special Nutrition Report. It’s FREE so why not!

 

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Having Trouble Gaining Muscle? 19 Reasons Why You Can’t Get Jacked!

Hittin’ the gym can be one of the most rewarding experiences if you enjoy it and are achieving what you set out to do.  On the flip side, the gym can be a daunting and frustrating place if you’re injured, you’ve hit a plateau or you just don’t know what you’re doing wrong.

For most, building strength and putting on muscle is the primary reason for training.  There are many factors that will determine whether or not you are successful.  I can speak for myself when I say that having pretty good genetics helps but that just gets your foot in the door.  To build muscle and transform your physique requires a detailed look at every aspect of your training and lifestyle.  If you feel like something’s missing or you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere don’t stress, I’ve made many mistakes and I’m still learning as I go.  The good news is you’re probably making a common mistake that won’t take long to fix.

If you’re having trouble packing on muscle, here are 19 reasons why you can’t get jacked:

1. You’re a skinny bastard – Well, technically you’re an ectomorph.  This means you genetically have a slender, leaner body type.  The good news is you are one of those guys that can eat pretty much whatever they want and not gain weight (we all know those people and we can’t stand them).  The bad news is YOU CAN EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT AND NOT GAIN WEIGHT! Sucks to be you!  I’m exaggerating a little but you guys have a hard time packing on muscle because your metabolism burns more fuel than a formula 1 race car.  The trick for you guys is to keep your caloric intake high and a relatively lower caloric output during exercise to sustain a caloric surplus.  Focus more on big lifts, minimal conditioning and lots food. You could probably get away with training less frequently too (3-4 times/week).

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they both burn fuel at an alarming rate!

2. You’re a fat bastard – I’m coming from a good place when I say this, really I am.  You are what’s known as an endomorph and you unfortunately have the natural capacity to store more fat.  You guys know who you are.  If you even look at a box of doughnuts you gain 5 pounds. The good news is  you don’t have a lot of trouble building muscle and getting strong but you struggle to get lean enough for anyone to see all your hard work. You need to eat more nutrient dense foods, keep your caloric intake lower and activity levels higher.  Focus more on interval training for conditioning to preserve muscle and burn more fat and watch your intake of starchy carbohydrates.  You will have to train a little more frequently (4-5 times/week) to keep your metabolic rate up. Don’t despair, there’s still hope for you, you just need to be more disciplined in the gym and in the kitchen.

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3. You’re too young – I’m not talking about your biological age here, what I’m referring to is your training age; the number of years you’ve spent under the bar. If you’ve been lifting less than 5 years it’s pretty hard to build a strong muscular physique unless you have some freaky genetics and some good drugs to go with them!  Muscle, like most other highly sought after things in life, takes time to acquire. If you want to walk around at 200lbs with less than 12% body fat you better put your hard hat on and go to work!  Get in the trenches and start moving some serious weight.  Light, medium, heavy, high volume, low volume – JUST LIFT! Any program will work as long as you stick to it and put in a solid effort.  After you’ve got 5 years under your belt you can come talk to me about what to do next.

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get a few more years under your belt then come talk to me

4.  You’re not getting enough sleep – Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep or an afternoon nap for that matter.  Sleeping is your body’s prime time to produce testosterone.  Both muscle building and recovery are enhanced with quality sleep.  Aim for at least 7-8 hours per night and if you can fit in a short nap every now and then that would be even better for your gains.

5. You’re using the wrong rep schemes – When you’re lifting you have to be conscious of both the loads and reps you are using.  To make your workouts more effective, you need to train for both strength and hypertrophy (increase in muscle size).  Strength rep ranges are anywhere from 1-5 reps and hypertrophy ranges from 5-15 reps generally.  Shocking the body with ultra high reps (15-25) is a great way break through plateaus and stimulate growth.  The key is to keep changing it up so you always have something to adapt to.  Alternating every few weeks between strength and hypertrophy phases is the best way to keep things fresh.

6.  You’re not eating enough protein – Your protein intake is critical to your muscle building endeavor.  Think of protein like a passport, without it you ain’t going nowhere!! Aim for at least 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.  Try to get most of your protein from whole foods like lean meats, fish, and eggs.  Use supplements if you find it tough to get your daily intake from food alone and post workout for quick absorption.

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protein is your passport to getting jacked!

7.  You’re not eating enough carbs – Yes, you need to eat carbs if you expect to pack on any muscle whatsoever.  Protein and carbs go hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly when it comes building muscle.  Carbs are needed for glycogen replenishment (the fuel your body uses during intense workouts) and to ensure that you aren’t using protein for energy instead.  Without proper carb intake, your energy levels will drop, the intensity of your workouts will suffer and your muscles will look flat and deflated.  Aim for 55-60% of your daily intake to come from carbs.  I’m talking about high quality carbs not the refined and processed stuff that will  give a beer belly or cancer.  I’m talking about good clean sources like yams and sweet potatoes, fresh fruits, and colorful veggies.

8. You’re not squatting enough – To get big, you’ve got to lift big.  Squatting is one of the best exercises for overall strength and muscular development. Your testosterone and growth hormone levels will get a huge spike which sets the stage for growth in every muscle in your body. Try to squat 1-2 times per week.  Mix up your weight, rep ranges, and variations (i.e back, front, goblet) to prevent overuse injuries.  Whatever you do, just squat. To get more out of your squat click here.

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she’s got the right idea!

9. You’re not deadlifting enough – Much like the squat, the deadlift should be one of your go-to exercises.  Improved grip strength, upper back and posterior chain development, the deadlift should not be ignored.  Do your deads to build blue collar strength and the body of a superhero.  Try to give yourself a few days between squatting and deadlifting sessions to allow your legs and nervous system to recover.

10. You’re working out too many days in a row – Believe it or not, there is a fine line building muscle and simply destroying muscle.  It’s vital that you program recovery days into your training otherwise all your hard work might start to work against you.  Try to take at least one complete rest day and one active recovery day per week.  Give your muscles, joints, and nervous system a chance to recover so you can have more quality workouts.  You also don’t want your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) to get to high cause that will just leave you tired and beat up.  Like the saying goes “take one step back to take 2 steps forward.” Training is the step back and recovery is the 2 steps forward.  I know you’re anxious to get in the gym and pump iron but you won’t last very long if you don’t take your foot off the gas every now and then.  Take it from a guy who’s spent over 15 years in the gym; if you want to continue to improve you better start taking pride in your recovery.

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going too hard for too long almost never ends well

11.  You’re too weak – Have you ever seen a really jacked guy in the gym who lifted like a prepubescent school girl?  Like I mentioned in #5, if you want to pack on muscle you need a solid base of strength to build it.  The more you can overload your muscles, the more you can stimulate them to grow.  If you can’t bench press your body weight, squat 1.5x bodyweight or deadlift 2x bodyweight then you still have some growing to do. Remember, strength is the cornerstone of any effective training program.

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you gotta move serious weight to get jacked!

12. You’re not explosive enough – When you look at an NFL running back or an Olympic sprinter’s physique you’re looking at a body that is comprised of a shit ton of fast twitch muscle fibers.  It’s the fast twitch fibers that give you that “tone” or dense look.  Hill sprints, sled pushes, and plyometrics are just a few great ways to develop explosiveness and a body that belongs on the cover of Sports Illustrated. To learn more about how to develop power click here.

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Linford defined explosiveness!

13. You want instant gratification – Maybe you’ve always gotten what you wanted when you wanted it.  Maybe you’ve never had to struggle. Maybe everything you’ve tried has always come so easily to you.  I got news for you, getting jacked is a huge investment of time, energy, and discipline.  More time than most people are willing to put in.  There is no easy way, just hard work day in and day out.  Trial and error will be your most effective training strategy.  If you aren’t prepared to grind it out then you better take up jogging.

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14.  You’re too inconsistent – I’ve talked a lot about the role consistency plays in getting results but I can’t stress it enough.  The only way little things lead to big things is through deliberate, repeated effort.  Don’t train hard for 2 weeks and then take 3 months off.  Don’t jump from program to program. Don’t make excuses for why you couldn’t get to the gym. You can have excuses or results, NOT BOTH.  Stay focused, treat every workout like it’s your last and everything else will take care of itself.

15.  You don’t have a planClick here to find out why your workout routine ABSOLUTELY SUCKS!

16. You have too many injuries – Shoulder impingement? Sprained ACL?  Torn bicep? If you are constantly getting hurt or suffering from old injuries that never healed properly (you never took the time to rehab them properly) then you’re gonna have one hell of a time trying to make any significant gains.  Imagine trying to drive a car with a flat tire.  You could,  but you won’t be able to go as fast and it will be a really rough ride.  That’s what training with injuries is like.  Being able to train hard and pain free is a beautiful thing.  Take some time to work on your mobility and get some soft tissue treatment.  Trust me, training is way more fun when you’re healthy.

17. You don’t have any heart – If you want to achieve a goal like gaining 10lbs of lean muscle then you had better be ready to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to get there.  Some things can’t be taught or coached, one of those things being HEART.  Are you the first one to show up and the last one to leave?  This is an intangible that can’t be read in a book or taught in school.  Either you you got it or you don’t.  If you’re waiting for someone to come and motivate you then maybe you’re not cut out for this fitness gig. This is what separates the good from the great, the average from the elite, the bone racks from the chiseled.  “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.” 

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18.  Your workouts are too long – I know I said that you have to put in time if you expect results but I’m talking about QUALITY time.  Too often, people waste too much time socializing, resting too long, or doing exercises that aren’t really going to make them any better.  If you focus on quality movements and strict rest periods, 30-60 minutes should be more than enough time to get the job done.  A main lift, 1-2 accessory exercises and some high intensity conditioning and that’s all she wrote.  Stop floating around from exercise to exercise and get shit done!

19.  You’re unrealistic – You need to take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself  “can I really put on 30lbs of muscle in 30 days?” There’s nothing wrong with aiming high but don’t be delusional.  All that does is set you up for failure.  Set small goals to compliment your bigger, long term goals. For example, a short term goal could be to workout 4 times per week. A long term goal could be to gain 10lbs of muscle in 8-10months.  Slow and continual progress should be your main objective.  Ironically, effective training requires high intensity activities like sprinting but the overall process of building muscle is somewhat of a marathon.

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better get some Windex for that mirror..

Don’t despair, your goals are still within reach, you just need to make a few tweaks. When you’re finished reading this article, read it again.  Then share it with your other muscle hungry friends.

What’s your biggest struggle with trying to gain muscle? Drop a comment below!

Don’t forget to subscribe below to get my FREE e-book and join the community!

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27 of the Most Ridiculous Health and Fitness Myths Debunked..

Health and fitness is a booming industry and the demand to look, feel and perform better has never been higher.  With that, comes a lot of information and advice; some good, a lot bad, and some down right ridiculous.  This has made it next to impossible to decipher quality information from pure fallacies made up for the sake of telling people what they want to hear.

It’s no wonder so many people struggle with reaching their health and fitness goals; they’re too confused to make any progress! Drink 8 glasses of water per day.  Lift light weights to get ripped and toned.  Crunches are the best ab exercise to get a six pack. These are just a few of the most common myths looming in the fitness industry today.  It’s time for the hard truth and to put some of these myths to rest.  Here are some of the most common and RIDICULOUS  health and fitness myths debunked.

1. You can turn fat into muscle – Muscle and fat are two separate tissues that cannot be converted into one another. Both fat and muscle can be increased or decreased depending on diet and activity levels. Muscle is muscle and fat is fat.

2. Crunches are the best exercise to get a six pack – Getting a six pack is more a product of eating a clean diet and reducing body fat than any ab exercise you do in the gym.  If you want to see your abs, you need to get lean and that starts in the kitchen. Oh, and crunches are a shitty exercise by way.

3. Squats are bad for your knees – If this were true, I don’t think toilets would ever have been invented.  If squats were food, they’d be raw broccoli.  The truth is squats performed incorrectly are bad for your knees.  When done right, its hands down one of the best exercises in the gym.

4. Deadlifts are bad for your back – Another controversial exercise but again the danger lies in having shitty form. If deadlifts were food, they’d be spinach.  It doesn’t get any more functional than being able to pick an object up off the ground.  Another gem of an exercise once you get the right form.

5. Crossfit is dangerous – I love this one.  So is race car driving. So is NFL football. So is downhill skiing. People have suffered far more serious injuries from these activities but there never seems to be any controversy surrounding them.  Crossfit can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t use appropriate progression but the same can be said for learning any athletic activity.  Not exercising for 10 years, eating and drinking excessively, and working a high stress job – THAT’S DANGEROUS!

6. High rep Olympic lifting is dangerous – This method of training is quite popular in the Crossfit community and has got the general public in a complete state of paranoia. Come on people, smoking is dangerous, drinking and driving is dangerous, high rep Olympic lifting is just hard.  Just because something is hard and requires some skill and athleticism doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.  ANY exercise performed for high reps and under a state of fatigue will increase the risk of injury. There is no evidence that high reps are doing the body any harm. In fact, one could argue that it’s having the opposite effect as evidenced by the everyday participation in Crossfit boxes across the globe.

7. You can’t get strong doing Crossfit – Crossfit sure does get a lot of press.  Contrary to popular belief, there is a great deal of strength training in Crossfit. All you have to do is look at the top performers and you’ll see some pretty impressive numbers.  500+ lb deadlifts, 400+ lb squats, and 300+ lb clean and jerks! Most people will train their whole lives and never hit those numbers.

8. You can’t put on muscle doing Crossfit – Last word on Crossfit I promise.  The ability to get big and strong doing Crossfit is definitely in the realm of possibility, it’s all in the programming.  There’s more to it than just endless burpees and kipping pullups. 9 times out of 10, you’re doing something with a barbell and that provides a lot of opportunity to get jacked!  Ironically, most guys that go to the gym are training to hopefully one day have the body of a Crossfitter.

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the real danger lies in standing on the sidelines

9. Lifting weights will make you bulky – If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one I’d already be retired.  The truth is ladies (yes ladies I’m talking to you) you don’t have enough NATURAL testosterone to build muscle mass the way men can.  In fact, lifting weights is the most effective way to  burn fat, increase bone density, and sculpt your body.  The body you want is just a few squats and deadlifts away.

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ladies, there’s no shame is moving some weight!

10. Use lighter weights for toning and getting ripped – Let’s put an end to this “toning” thing right now.  There is no such thing as toning.  You’re either building muscle or you’re not.  Your muscles already have tone, that’s what makes them muscles.  What you’re after is definition and that comes from reducing body fat.  As far as using light weight goes, this does not help you get ripped any faster.  Getting ripped is about getting lean and getting lean is all about what you do in the kitchen regardless of how heavy or light you lift at the gym. In fact, lifting heavy will help you to better preserve your muscle mass as you start to cut weight.

11.  Muscle weighs more than fat – What weighs more, a pound of concrete or a pound of feathers?  Don’t answer that.  Time for a little physics lesson.  Muscle does not actually weigh more than fat, muscle is more DENSE than fat.  Density is the weight of an object relative to its volume.  This means that a pound of muscle is smaller and takes up less space than a pound of fat.  This explains why a 200lb person with 10% body fat looks smaller than a 200lb person with 25% body fat.  Who says you never use physics in real life?

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muscle is more DENSE than fat!

12. Carbs are bad for you – Ridiculous. I’m not even sure when this phobia of carbs even began.  Your body’s main source of energy during intense exercise, GLYCOGEN, comes from carbohydrates.  What’s bad are shitty, processed carbs that provide no nutritional value.  Quality sources from fresh fruits and vegetables are optimal for health and nutritional balance.

13.  You can eat whatever you want as long as you workout – Sorry to break the news, but just because you workout doesn’t give you a free pass to eat whatever you want whenever you want.  In fact, exercise increases your appetite and if you’re making crappy food choices, you could end up putting on excess weight and body fat.  Eating sensibly will actually help you reach your goals faster with less effort in the gym.

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not exactly the ideal post workout meal

13.  Jogging is the best form of cardio – Jogging is certainly the most CONVENIENT form of cardio but hardly the most effective.  Now, it certainly beats sitting on the couch eating a bag of baked Lay’s (at least they’re baked right?) but it’s a far cry from the best form of cardio.  Long distance running can be quite catabolic (muscle wasting) reducing your ability to burn fat and increase the risk of chronic injuries.  Shorter and more intense forms of cardio such as interval training are more effective at increasing cardiovascular endurance, reducing body fat, and preserving lean muscle tissue.

14.  Stretch after you workout so you don’t get sore – There actually isn’t any scientific evidence that stretching reduces muscle soreness. Muscle soreness is actually a product of microtears in the muscle fibers as a result of the stress that was put on them.  Stretching can provide temporary relief of stiffness and increase blood flow but does not reduce the level of soreness experienced after a workout.

16.  Lifting weights makes you slower – If this were true, the strength and conditioning industry would cease to exist.  Name a professional athlete (a good one) that doesn’t do any strength training. You can’t because there aren’t any. Lifting weights is actually one of the most effective ways to improve speed due to increased force production from stronger muscles.  Carrying excess muscle mass can make you slower simply because you have more weight to carry around.  However, an effective strength training program can make you bigger, stronger, AND FASTER!

17. Yoga and Pilates make you strong – If we’re talking about spiritual or emotional strength then maybe, but if we’re talking about good ol’ fashioned strength that allows you to lift heavy shit then it’s a hell no!  Yoga and Pilates have many benefits but strength is not one of them.  Without sufficient overload (resistance on your muscles), it is next to impossible to build any sort of notable strength. Pump some iron if you want to get strong.

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nobody ever got strong from just doing the “downward dog”

18.  Low fat is better for you – Sometimes.  Low fat versions of foods can sometimes be higher in sugar which spikes your insulin levels and will cause you to store more fat.  Eating high quality fats like avocados and fish are better for regulating your blood sugar levels and keeping you lean.  Read food labels carefully and watch out for excess sugar.

19. Milk does a body good – No it doesn’t.  One of the biggest farces in the health industry today.  There is nothing in milk that is a necessity in the diet that can’t be found in other foods.  In fact, most people, with the exception of those from Eastern European descent, are somewhat lactose intolerant.  We are the only species that drinks milk beyond infancy so that should tell you how “vital” it is to our diet.

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20.  Eating late at night will make you fatter – What time of day you eat isn’t as important as the total amount of food you’ve eaten throughout the day.  If you have already met your daily caloric limit then eating late snacks will push you over the edge. The excess calories is what causes you to store fat not eating them late at night.

21. Longer, slower cardio burns more fat – This is only partially true.  When you work at low intensity, a larger percentage of the calories you burn come from fat.  For example, when you are sitting on the couch watching TV, you are burning almost 100% fat! We all know how effective that is don’t we?  Even though you burn a larger percentage of fat at low intensity, the OVERALL calories and fat burned is more at higher intensities.  For example, if you burn 500 calories going for a 45 minute jog and 75% of those calories came from fat, you burned 375 fat calories. However, if you burned 700 calories from 45 minutes of interval training, and 60% of those calories came from fat, you would have burned 420 fat calories. More calories and more fat can be burned at higher intensity and you can preserve more lean muscle tissue.

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hill sprints trump jogging any day of the week

22. Women need to do different exercises than men – If there’s one arena where men and women should be treated equally, it’s in the gym.  What’s good for the dudes is good for the gals.  The only difference between men and women when it comes to training is the adaptation to training. This is due mostly to differences in hormones and the distribution of muscle mass.  High quality exercises will serve both sexes equally well.

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what’s good for him is good for her

23.  Machines are safer than free weights – Universal exercise machines were created to make exercise more convenient not more effective.  They serve more as a marketing tool to attract naive customers to join their gyms.  In fact, if you don’t know what you’re doing, machines can be just as dangerous, if not more, than free weights.  Using improper form and/or too much weight can put you at risk for serious injury. Proper coaching and instruction is the key regardless of the equipment you’re using.

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you can never go wrong with some good ol’ iron

24. Drink 8 glasses of water a day – I’m not sure where this one came from but I do admire the intention to keep us all hydrated.  The truth is that everyone’s hydration needs are different depending on a variety of things including your food intake, activity level and muscle mass. A more active and muscular person will need to drink more water than a sedentary person who is half the size.  Also, the food you eat also contains water and that is never factored into your daily intake.  Using your thirst and the color of your urine are good measures of your hydration.  8 glasses may be a good starting point but it’s hardly an exact science.

25. Egg whites are healthier than egg yolks – Unless you are on a very restricted diet, there is more than one good reason to eat the yolk.  There are loads of vitamins and minerals found in the egg yolk including vitamins A, B12, and D as well as calcium and omega-3s.  The egg yolk provides far more nutritional value despite the extra calories (16 cals in egg white vs 71 cals in egg yolk).

26. If you aren’t sore, your workout wasn’t hard enough – Muscle soreness is definitely a sign that you stressed your muscles and they will need some time to recover but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  You can have a great workout and have little to no muscle soreness and that is completely acceptable.  Depending on how long you’ve been training, you may not experience as much soreness as a beginner.  Use progress as your measuring stick for the quality of your workouts.

27. Cleanses are great for weight loss – You know what’s great for weight loss? Eating less and exercising more.  You can lose a couple of pounds from a cleanse but that is usually water weight that is gained back once you start to eat regular food again.  The body is actually quite efficient at cleansing itself with the kidneys and other antibodies.  Eating nutrient dense foods, staying hydrated and limiting your intake of processed foods will be way more beneficial than any cabbage diet.

I hope this sets the record straight.  Your path to greatness should now be a little more clear.  Train hard and enjoy the ride!

What other issues do you struggle with when it comes to fitness? Drop a comment below!

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DECK THE HALLS! – 9 Ways to Stay Fit During the Holidays…

It’s that time of year again! The holiday season is officially upon us – LET THE GLUTTONY BEGIN!  Chocolate, egg nog, cake, cookies, gravy, mashed potatoes, wine, beer, you name it – BRING. IT. ON.   Studies have shown that the average person gains 5-10lbs over the the Christmas holiday season.  This would be a pretty impressive stat if they were talking about muscle.  With busy schedules filled with corporate parties, and dinners with family and friends combined with little to no physical activity makes the body a prime fat storing facility.

The good news is the holidays don’t have to derail your training or destroy your physique.  With a few simple tips and a little bit of discipline you can avoid the holiday bulge and actually make some gains during this festive time.  What better gift could you give yourself than a stronger and leaner physique?? I can’t think of one.  Enough semantics, let’s get down to business and take this holiday season by storm. Here are 9 tips to stay fit during the holidays.

1. Keep working out – If you already go to the gym, now is definitely not the time to take a break and if you don’t there’s no better time to start. Maintaining a regular training regimen is key to keeping your metabolism revved up and maintaining that precious muscle tissue.  Programs like the Pure Payne Method can definitely help you stay on track.  Things can get hectic during the holidays but staying consistent with your training will save you a lot of headache come January.

2. Lift heavy – There’s no better way to build and preserve strength and muscle mass than to simply lift heavy shit.  Further, this will make you more efficient at burning fat and fending off all those empty holiday calories.  You can’t go wrong with the bench press, squat, and deadlift to keep your body in check.

3. Use intervals – Keep your training intensity high with intervals so you can burn more fat in less time.  This is a great way to train if pressed for time and want to get more bang for your buck.  EMOMS are an effective way to get full body workouts in 15 minutes or less!

4. Eat a healthy meal before you go out – One of the worst things you can do is show up to your company Christmas party absolutely starving.  You don’t want to be that guy with his head buried in his plate shoveling food in his face like it’s the Last Supper.  This will certainly guarantee that you will over indulge pushing you over your caloric limit.  Having a small, healthy meal before hitting the town will allow you to eat more sensibly when you arrive and curb any temptations.  Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

5. Don’t have seconds – If you’ve followed #4 then this will be less of a problem.  Food quality is important but is meaningless without proper food QUANTITY.  9 times out of 10 having a second helping is never in your best interest.  Avoid the food coma and have ONE well balanced serving of food. That’s all your body really needs anyway.

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Even at the Last Supper there was portion control

6. Replace starches with colorful vegetables – An easy way to increase the nutrient density of your meals is to replace your starchy carbs with more colorful veggies. For example, replace mashed potatoes and gravy with a garden salad with a vinaigrette dressing on the side or replace pasta with steamed broccoli and bell peppers.  More nutrients, less bloating. Everybody wins.

7. Mix alcohol with soda or water – If you’re gonna drink, which you probably will, then reduce the damage by mixing your drinks with soda or water. This reduces your sugar intake which reduces the consumption of empty calories and the severity of hangovers.  Having less drinks overall will probably help the cause too.

8. Have only one dessert – If there was ever a time to demonstrate some self control, it would be at the dessert table.  Pick your favorite one, have a small piece and step away from the table. FOREVER.  Like I mentioned in #7, sugar will sabotage all of your hard work and effort in the gym.

9. Stay hydrated – an easy way to curb your appetite and suppress cravings is to simply stay hydrated.  Staying hydrated will help you to snack less and regulate your blood sugar levels. Keep a water bottle with you and sip periodically throughout the day.

A little common sense, discipline, and moderation will get you through the holidays unscathed.  This year is your chance to be in the small percentage of people that actually get FITTER in the month of December.  Make every meal and workout count this month and you’ll be laughing in New Year.

What’s your biggest weakness when it comes to nutrition? Drop a comment below! Don’t forget to subscribe below to get The Pure Payne Method and other great articles FREE!

 

 

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15 Ways CrossFit Can Build Muscle, Shed Fat, and Improve Your Life!!

I thought this would be a great time to express my thoughts and feelings about an underground phenomenon (well it’s actually pretty mainstream now) that is taking the fitness industry by storm. I’m talking about the “C” word.  Ok, I’ll just say it – CROSSFIT.  Nowadays, it seems there are 3 things that you don’t openly discuss: Religion, Politics, and CROSSFIT.  There are a lot of critics out there who have their reservations for various reasons (some warranted, some not), however, speaking as someone who is not a certified Crossfit coach, does not workout at a Crossfit gym, does not own or operate a Crossfit affiliate but has competed at a relatively high level in Crossfit (17th in Canada West Regionals in 2011), I think the training system has some merit. I would like to be one of the few (maybe even the first??) people who have no vested interest in Crossfit to speak out about the positive side.  Here are 4 reasons why I think Crossfit is a good thing:

1. For the first time fitness can be defined and measured – I’ve spent most of my adult life in the gym and managed to stay in pretty good shape for most of those years. The problem was, prior to Crossfit, I never really knew how fit I was. I could use different measures like body composition and various strength tests to get a rough idea but even then I would only be testing things that I was good at so it still seemed a little biased.

Crossfit is constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity and defines fitness as work capacity across broad time and modal domains. I think most knowledgeable and experienced fitness professionals would agree that functional movement and intensity are two key ingredients to getting results regardless of the clientele you are working with.

As far as work capacity goes, this is simply a measure of power (force x distance/time), which is a basic scientific formula. Essentially, do more work in less time. So for all the pundits who say that Crossfit has no scientific foundation, I strongly beg to differ. There are some who may disagree with this definition of fitness but I’ve yet to see or hear of anyone coming up with anything more accurate or effective. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe there are many ways to get in great shape without doing Crossfit but if you want a “TRUE TEST OF FITNESS” Crossfit seems to be the only objective measure.

2. The unique and effective blend of training modalities – If you want to get scientific, all the research says that high intensity strength training performed in a circuit fashion (i.e. “fight gone bad” – 3 rounds of push presses, box jumps, sumo high pulls, wall balls, and rowing performed for 1 min each) or high intensity strength training and plyometrics mixed with short bursts of high intensity cardio (i.e. “Kelly” 5 rounds of 400m run, 30 box jumps, 30 wall balls) are the most effective methods for building muscle and burning fat simultaneously. Sounds a hell of a lot like Crossfit to me. So what’s the problem? Exercise selection? Progression? These are all things to take into account whether you are a Crossfit coach or a trainer at Gold’s Gym. Crossfit is hard, there’s no disputing that but that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from it under the right programming. If anything, Crossfit has taken the most effective and challenging movements and allowed the general public to reap the benefits.

3. The Paleo Diet – There always has and always will be debates over the most effective training methods and nutrition is no different. Crossfit is the first strength and conditioning program that has taken a strong stance on the importance of sound nutrition to maximize the results of their training system. The Paleo diet, which some may find quite strict and difficult to sustain, points us in the right direction of what our everyday eating habits should be. To quote the infamous Crossfit Founder, Greg Glassman “Meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, NO SUGAR.”  Now is this diet ideal for everybody? Absolutely not.  Is it a huge step in the right direction? ABSOLUTELY!

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Remember, Greg Glassman is known for INVENTING Crossfit, not doing it!

4. The Crossfit Journal – The internet can be an overwhelming resource for information. The Crossfit Journal has proven to be a phenomenal one-stop resource for strength and conditioning. Want to learn proper technique for a power clean? Want to learn progressions for handstand pushups? Want to become a better runner? Want to build a kick ass home gym? The Crossfit Journal has it all and more! You can always expect the best as “specialists” from various fields including Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and gymnastics deliver the most up to date information. With articles, videos, and podcasts on wide range of topics, there’s always something to look forward to. For $25/year, the Crossfit Journal definitely gets an A+.

5. Crossfit Kids – We all know the youth of today are lazier and fatter than they’ve ever been. Teaching kids the benefits of regular functional exercise and good nutrition will help to build a foundation of good lifestyle habits that carry on well into adulthood. Not to mention, the potential for developing some fierce athletes. Kudos Crossfit for keeping our future healthy and fit.

6. The Crossfit Games – Not power lifting, not bodybuilding, not strongman, not triathlon, but the sport of fitness. I’m not taking anything away from the previously mentioned sports but the Crossfit Games is something to marvel. I’ve had the opportunity to watch the Crossfit games live on more than one occasion and it is one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. The atmosphere and energy are unmatched in any other sport. It’s the first time I’ve watched a sport where everybody was cheering for everybody! No booing, no trash talking, everyone wanted everyone to do well.

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if you’ve never attended the Crossfit Games add it to your bucket list

Crossfit has filled a void in the sports market by creating an entirely new breed of athlete. It is a tremendous feat to be able to run a sub 6min mile, deadlift 500+ lbs, and pump out 50+ unbroken pullups. With Reebok as the official sponsor, credibility and sustainability are becoming less of an issue. Through this, Crossfit has given me the opportunity to compete with some of the best athletes in Canada (even the world for that matter). At the age of 35, that level of competition is far and few between. Knowing that this level of competition is still within reach for me makes training that much more fulfilling.

7. High Rep Olympic Weightlifting – That’s right, I said it. High rep Olympic weightlifting can be extremely beneficial once a certain level of proficiency has been developed. This is probably one of the most controversial aspects of Crossfit.  Crossfit has done a great job of giving Olympic weightlifting more mainstream appeal. The strength, power and athleticism required to perform these lifts is what makes them so beneficial. No one can deny that taking a weight from the ground to overhead is a highly functional movement. However, performing a clean and jerk for a one-rep max is a completely different story than doing 30 reps for time at a sub maximal weight (i.e. “Grace”). The power output and metabolic conditioning this provides far exceeds any other compound movement. With proper progression, the Olympic lifts performed at high intensity can be your best bang for your buck!

Here’s a video of me doing some “high reps” and getting a killer workout!

8. Crossfitters work out with their shirts off BECAUSE THEY CAN! – Let’s face it, aside from leading a healthy lifestyle most people work out because they want to look better. Most guys want that lean and chiseled physique that carries just the right amount of muscle but not too much. Most women want just the right amount of curves and muscle tone without looking masculine. I think Crossfit pretty much hit the nail on the head with this one. Even though the focus was never on aesthetics, Crossfit has helped produce some of the greatest physiques in fitness. High intensity exercise coupled with good nutrition? Novel concept.

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Arguably, some of the most impressive physiques in all of fitness are a product of Crossfit

9.  The community – Everyone wants to feel like they are a part of something, a sense of belonging if you will. Crossfit has done a great job of creating a community that is both encouraging and supportive.  A Crossfit box is a lot like Cheers, “it’s where everybody knows your name.”  This definitely makes working out more fun and sustainable.

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minus the beer and excessive loafing, Crossfit is a lot like Cheers!

10. There’s a lot of barbell training – If most of your time in the gym is spent working with a barbell, you have no choice but to get big and strong!  Deadlifts, squats, shoulder presses, cleans, you name it and you’ll find it with Crossfit.  Don’t let the myths fool you, there’s a lot of strength and muscle to be gained.

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there’s no shortage of iron in Crossfit

11. There’s a lot of bodyweight training – The next best thing to pumping iron is effective bodyweight training.  With exercises like dips, pullups, handstand pushups, and muscle ups you are going to get more than your fill of great bodyweight exercises.

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the muscle up is a signature bodyweight exercise in Crossfit

12. There’s a lot of conditioning – There’s no shortage of heavy breathing and lactic acid with Crossfit.  The intensity of Crossfit is undisputed but with that comes elite conditioning and the ability to literally melt fat off your body.  The interval training and intense “metcons” make this an ideal choice for anyone trying to lean out.

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conditioning is inevitable with Crossfit

13. It’s easier on the body – If you’ve been training for a number of years then you know what it’s like to suffer from the aches and pains of repetitive stress.  Crossfit can take a toll on the body if you are competing at a high level but for the average meathead who benches 3 time a week the variety Crossfit provides will work wonders for your soft tissue health.  Rotating from heavy to light loading and from longer to shorter workouts keeps the body guessing and prevents the onset of chronic pain.

14. Competition brings the best out of everybody – If you’ve ever been an athlete at any point in your life then I don’t have to explain to you the feeling that comes from going head to head with your peers.  A surefire way to get one more rep is when egos and bragging rights are on the line. Even if you’re feeling tired that day, a little competition may be all you need to redeem your workout.

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competition is the cornerstone of human performance

15. You stay in shape all year long – No more “cutting” and “bulking.”  The well-rounded approach to the Crossfit methodology allows you to stay lean and strong year round.  No more restrictive dieting and arduous “cardio” sessions.

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not a bad physique to have 12 months out of the year!

These are just a few reasons why I think there are some serious gains to be made with Crossfit.  It’s certainly not perfect but what training program is?  Be open-minded and try new things, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Have you ever done a Crossfit workout? If so, what was your experience like? Drop a comment below!

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