5/3/1 strength program: how to get consistent results

5/3/1 strength training

In this article, we will explore the 5/3/1 training program.

Strength training is almost an art.  Sure, you can pick up heavy weight in any shape or form and move it around – and (because moving any weight requires muscle power and repetitive heavy weight training leads to adaptation that makes any muscle stronger) you will, no doubt, get some results.  Those results may be especially impressive if you are just starting out – at that point you may not even care much about how structured your exercise is.

But, remember – we are not after just any gains at any cost.  We are after the best possible gains we can get using the least amount of effort and time in the safest way possible.  Inevitably, then, after most people settle on which specific exercises to do – they start wondering how exactly to structure their training sessions.  The number of sets, reps and weight increments are all very important variables that serve a specific purpose.  They are somewhat interdependent, but finding the right equilibrium for your specific goals is key to making sure you keep improving.

This is why you might want to follow tried and true protocols created by people who understand how tweaking each of the variables influences your results.  You, on the other hand, do not necessarily need to understand why or how they work – you just need to find an effective protocol and apply it to your training.

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What to bring to the gym: 10 gym bag essentials for better exercise

10 gym bag essentials

As a gym-goer, you may worry about many things – what to wear to the gym, whether it’s easier to exercise at home, how to stay motivated.  etc.  But if one of your dilemmas is what to bring to the gym – with our list of 10 gym bag essentials below you can now have one less thing to worry about.

With so many gyms offering so much equipment and additional services – why would you ever bring anything other than a change of clothes?  Well, the items listed below – despite their affordability and usefulness – are typically not offered widely at commercial gyms, although there may be some exceptions.  Some personal trainers may have and use a few of these with their clients, but if you do not have a personal trainer – you may be out of luck.  Most of the time any of these 10 gym bag essentials – because they are small, personal items – have to be purchased by you.  The good thing is that they are easy to get from your local sporting goods store or online – and relatively inexpensive.

These 10 gym bag essentials are not absolutely crucial for getting results.  You can go your entire life without them and still progress notably.  If you ask me, however, rather than worry about color-coordinated trendy clothes or some latest fitness shoes (most of the time these are useless for serious lifting anyway), or worse – what expensive wireless headphones you show off while you exercise – I would rather worry about these basics, as they can significantly improve your experience and give you that slight edge.

Keep these items in your gym bag all the time – and you will always be ready for the best workout.

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How to get back in shape: the ultra-simple diet and exercise plan

how to get back in shape

“I have never exercised in my life – how do I start?” – this is the question a lot of people ask when what they see in the mirror becomes unflattering and they start wondering how to get back in shape.

We all know – life happens.  You grow older, get married, have kids, get a desk job, settle down, and get busier with life, but less physically active, nevertheless.  You quickly grab whatever food is convenient and quick as opposed to what is good.

Modern technology makes basic tasks that previously required active participation (like shopping for anything you can imagine) possible with a tap on the screen of your smart device.  Machines removed the need for physical labor.  Social media often serves as a substitute for outdoor activities where you might meet (and play with) real people face to face.  Figuring out how to get back in shape (and stay in shape) under these circumstances may be difficult.

Even if you were fit at some point as a teenager, the question of how to get back in shape becomes more and more relevant as you grow older.  Current statistics, highlighting sedentary lifestyles and less than stellar dietary habits, are not very reassuring – more than 80% of adults in the US do not meet physical activity guidelines.  More than one third of US kids – who often carry their habits into adulthood – are getting a significant proportion of daily nutrition from fast food.  In Canada only 17% of men and 14% of women engage in the recommended amount of physical activity and about 69% of Canadian adults are sedentary. Europe is not far behind – 6 in every 10 adults above 15 years of age rarely or never engage in any sport and more than 50% never engage in any physical activity, with the trend going down, not up. European Commission reports that 52% of European adults are overweight or obese – mostly as a result of the same bad dietary habits.

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Are Separate Arm Workouts Worth It?

Strong arm workouts

Why arm workouts are so popular

No matter what objectives you have with your training, arm workouts consistently remain a popular topic for weight lifters, bodybuilders or competitive team athletes.

This is because having muscular and strong arms is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally beneficial.  Not only are large arm muscles pretty much synonymous with strength and masculinity (one of the first things an amateur gym enthusiast does is start doing biceps curls to look better in a T-shirt), but well-developed and strong arm muscles assist and provide stability in larger compound lifts and help in various sports.

Understandably, arm workouts are very popular among athletes of various degrees of experience.  How do these fit into the philosophy of big lifts and mostly compound body exercises?

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Skinny Fat: When Losing Weight is Not Good

skinny fat parade

The very first time you hear “skinny fat” – it almost sounds like an oxymoron.  Except – it isn’t.  It actually describes a condition that is quite common, especially among young individuals.  Sure, there is a medical term for it that you might prefer – MONW (Metabolically Obese Normal Weight), but “skinny fat” is a term that, like a harsh wake-up call, shakes you out of the blissful ignorance and actually highlights everything that is wrong with this condition, instead of hiding behind scientifically sounding terms.

So what is “skinny fat”?  Simply put, it describes a body type that is slim and “low-weight”, but with high proportion of body fat to lean muscle tissue.  On the outside, the problem is not very visible (unless you know what to look for) – skinny fat people can fit into normal-size clothes, eat small portions of what they consider “healthy food” and display no obvious signs of obesity you would typically expect – such as large flabs of body fat, big baggy clothes and heavy mass – so everything seems just fine.

But, generally speaking, “obesity” is a condition where a person has accumulated so much body fat that it might have a negative effect on health – and for the skinny fat, given the relative proportion of such body fat to bone and muscle mass – the definition still holds true.   And even if super skinny people may look healthy, atrophied muscles and low-density bones – coupled with other negative metabolic effects of their chosen lifestyle – significantly elevate the risk of chronic diseases.

Are you skinny fat?  Do you know how to spot the signs?  Let’s see why this is so bad and how to fix this.

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Building muscle after 40 (Part II)

building muscle after 40

Although you cannot change your chronological age, you can control, to a large degree, your biological age – which reflects how well you feel, how well your body functions, how resilient you are to common ailments and the overall quality of your life, including continued ability to participate in the activities you participated in when you were 19. The best way you can do that is to work on building muscle after 40.

In Part I, we saw how detrimental muscle loss can be.  But how do you prevent it?  Should you just accept this and slowly wait for your physical (and mental) demise justifying it by “normal process of aging”?

Not at all – sarcopenia may be a common symptom, but common doesn’t mean “natural”.  And although you may not be able to completely eliminate it, you can – and should – have a big impact on its rate by building up (and maintaining, as much as possible) sufficient reserves of functional and strong muscles.

Even though some evidence suggests that loss of muscle mass may affect even active adults, when you have more muscle mass and better muscular strength to start with –you are in a much better position, because you could, technically, afford to lose more without it affecting your day-to-day function (that’s not to say that you should).  A person like Arnold Schwarzenegger – even with 60% loss of muscle mass accumulated before late 20s – will still be much further ahead than an average adult.

So how do you keep (or even start) building muscle after 40?  Let’s look at a few contributing factors individually.

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Fit at 40 and beyond – Part I (losing muscle mass)

Fit at 40

Can you afford not to be fit at 40 and beyond?

Can you still be fit at 40?  How about 50?  How about when you are older?  Not only you can, but you should – perhaps even more so than during your younger years.  After all, science says that by the time you turn 40, your body starts losing muscle mass and muscular strength, as a result of a condition called sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss.  Annual rates of muscle wasting and strength loss range from around 1% at 40, to as much as 2.5%-4%, as you approach the age of 70.

Given that the overall body weight often does not change (while the body composition does, as it accumulated more lighter-weight fat and sheds less heavier muscle), the loss of muscle mass is often hard to notice – until it’s too late.  That, by the way, is one of the reasons why you never measure success in reshaping your body in terms of “weight” and focus instead on size and muscular strength.

The true mechanisms of sarcopenia and age-related loss of muscle mass and muscular strength are somewhat unclear and probably include such factors as mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, a pro-inflammatory state, metabolic inefficiencies, changes in levels of hormones and vitamin D – but physical inactivity is probably the most important contributing factor.

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10 ideas to increase productivity and get more done

Imrprove Productivity

“How do I increase productivity?”

“How do some people get so many things done?!”

“24 hours in a day is not enough!”

“I’m so busy that I don’t even have time to sleep!”

How many times have you heard people say those things?  Perhaps you are making the same statements and asking the same questions?

Achieving better productivity seems to be on everyone’s wishlist.  But very few people actually get to master the science of productivity and get things done on time and with little stress. That’s why knowing how to be productive will get you ahead of most of them.

Today’s article will offer you 10 ideas on how to increase productivity that you can implement immediately.   It doesn’t matter what you are trying to achieve and in what area – it could be in sports, work or personal life – the principles are all the same.  Make a few simple changes – and you will be amazed to see how much your productivity surges and how much you will get done!

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Nutritional Ketosis, Part III – Health benefits: ketogenic diet, cancer and more

ketogenic salmon recipe

Let’s revisit health benefits of ketogenic diet.

In Part I and Part II you learned how effective ketogenic diet can be in shedding extra body fat and making you perform better – both mentally and physically.  You have also learned that although it does not make you hungry like some calorie-restricted diets do, strict ketosis is, nevertheless, difficult to maintain because it eliminates some of your most favorite foods and leaves a limited number of ingredients that you can safely consume without shutting down ketogenesis.

So why would you subject yourself to this seemingly restrictive practice if you do not need to lose weight?

The answer is – because ketosis has several profound therapeutic benefits.

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Nutritional Ketosis, Part II – Ketogenic Diet in Weight Control and Sports

ketogenic diet - bacon-eggs-avocado

(Continued from Part I)

Ketogenic diet and weight loss

One of the primary benefits of ketogenic diet – and also the one that is easy to track – is improved body composition.  Once again, we are not interested in total “weight loss” per se – what we are interested in is reducing body fat, while maintaining lean muscle mass.  Both have profoundly positive effects on health, longevity and quality of life.

Why is ketogenic diet so effective for getting rid of body fat?  Why is it more effective than, say, “low-fat” or “low-calorie” diets, popularized and promoted in the last several decades and still prevailing in the minds of most dieters?

The dogmatic belief that “eating fat will make you fat” is very far from truth.  Not only restricting fat is not the preferred method of weight control (because fats maintain the integrity of your cells, serve as precursors to important hormones – including testosterone, which accelerated lean muscle synthesis and fat burn – and because restricting fats almost inevitably means increasing carbs if you don’t want to starve), but also – restricting fat does not prevent the dreaded cardiovascular disease (because quality fat rarely causes one to begin with) – quite the contrary.

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