Tout dans la vie est une question d'équilibre d'où la nécessité de garder un esprit sain dans un corps sain.


Everything in life is a matter of balance therefore one needs to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.


E. do REGO

Friday, February 27, 2009

3 reasons your workouts aren't working

Your time is valuable, and for each precious moment you put into your workouts, you want to ensure you get the best possible return on your investment. So, are you getting the results you want? If your body isn't as lean or toned as you'd like, it may be that you're committing some key training mistakes, which can sabotage the efforts of even veteran exercisers.

Of course, you probably know the more obvious mistakes to avoid. For instance, skipping your warm-up may cause you to fatigue early, preventing you from realizing your potential. Furthermore, leaning on the stair climber or elliptical trainer may allow you to stay on longer, but it drastically reduces the challenge to your lower body as well as the number of calories you burn. But what about the less obvious errors you may be making? Here, we'll discuss some of the more subtle -- yet no less serious -- faux pas of fitness and the strength-training exercises most frequently flubbed, and show you how they can be fixed with nearly effortless corrections.


People make small but costly mistakes when exercising every day, and one tiny change can have a huge impact on their results, says Los Angeles–based trainer Ken Alan, a spokesman for the American Council on Exercise. Thanks to Alan and the panel of training experts who weighed in on these faux pas and fixes, you'll error-proof your exercise and see tremendous payoffs, and the time you invest in your workouts will be smart and well-spent. We begin with five errors often made in your approach to exercise, then we'll take a look at five moves frequently flubbed.


1. The faux pas Getting married to your strength routine
The facts If you do the same routine over and over, your muscles will simply adapt; you're likely to hit a plateau because each exercise stimulates only a limited number of muscle fibers. However, if you challenge your muscles from a variety of angles by adding or alternating moves periodically, you'll get significantly more fibers into the act and develop more tone and strength.

The fix For each muscle group, learn an additional 2 or 3 exercises, trying new angles and equipment. (If you can't get instruction from a trainer, there are plenty of books and videos organized by routine for each body part.) For instance, if you usually do the dumbbell chest press on a flat bench, try it at an incline. If you normally use the chest-press machine, try the dumbbell chest press or the bench press with a barbell. Expand your repertoire enough so that you can change your entire routine every 6–8 weeks.

2. The faux pas Performing your reps too quickly
The facts If you zoom through your repetitions when strength training, you'll be using momentum instead of muscle power. You won't get the same stimulus for muscle building, and you won't burn as many calories. You'll also be more susceptible to training injuries such as torn muscles or connective tissue.

The fix Take 6 seconds to perform each repetition: 2 seconds to lift the weight and 4 seconds to lower it. (Since you have gravity to help you lower the weight, you need to slow down even more on this phase in order to give your muscles a sufficient challenge.) Our experts agree that slowing down is the single most significant change you can make to get better results from strength training.

3. The faux pas Exercising too hard, too often
The facts If you don't rest enough between hard cardio or strength workouts, you'll stop making progress and may even lose some of the fitness you've gained. You're also likely to burn out on exercise.

The fix To keep your muscles fresh and your motivation high, alternate shorter, tougher cardio workouts (for instance, 20 minutes) with longer, easier days (40–60 minutes). Don't go all-out more than twice a week. Keep in mind that the more intensely you train, the more time your body needs to recover. It's a good idea to do a couple of tough workouts and take 1 day completely off each week. On the strength-training front, take at least 1 day off between sessions that work the same muscle group.

7 more reasons your workout isn't working can be found here.

Read More

What's the Best Diet? Eating Less Food

Low fat, low carb, high protein - there's a diet plan of every flavor. And if you're one of the millions of Americans who struggle with weight, you've probably tried them all, likely with little success. That wouldn't surprise Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of a new study published in the Feb. 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, whose findings confirm what a growing body of weight-loss evidence has already suggested: one diet is no better than the next when it comes to weight loss. It doesn't matter where your calories come from, as long as you're eating less. (Read about environmentally friendly food.)

"We have a really simple and practical message for people: it's not so much the type of diet you eat," says Sacks. "It's how much you put in your mouth."

In the analysis of 811 obese patients from Massachusetts and Louisiana, participants were randomly assigned to one of four heart-healthy diets: low fat or high fat, with either average or high levels of protein. All four regimens also included high amounts of whole grains, fruits and vegetables and substituted saturated fat, found in foods such as butter and meat, with unsaturated fat, found in vegetable oil and nuts. The participants were encouraged to exercise 90 minutes a week. (See the top 10 food trends of 2008.)

On average, the study participants lost about 13 lb. after six months of dieting, or about 7% of their starting weight, regardless of which diet plan they followed. At the one-year mark, the dieters had regained some of the lost weight, and after two years, average weight loss was about 9 lb. Only about 15% of participants were able to lose 10% of their body weight or more. Across the board, however, patients lowered their risk of diabetes and reduced blood levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and overall heart health.

Catherine Loria, one of the study's co-authors and a nutritional epidemiologist with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which funded the study, was encouraged by the findings. "People do have to choose heart-healthy foods," she says, but "I think the beauty of the study is that they have a lot of flexibility in terms of the dietary approach."

But that's where the trouble begins. It's hard enough to figure out what to eat. Eating less of it is even harder. Researchers had hoped to get study participants to eat 750 calories less than they expended each day - an objective that proved unsustainable. Dieters adhered to the initial plan for the first several weeks, but by the six-month mark, they were consuming only 225 calories less than they expended - about a third of the goal - according to a calculation based on overall weight loss. "It's very difficult to reduce your calories enough to really sustain a lot of weight loss," Loria says. (See pictures of facial yoga.)

One failure of most diet plans is that people get hungry and quit, says Sacks, who acknowledges that the sudden reduction of 750 calories in his study was perhaps too steep. "I think what that teaches us is that maybe it's better to make a more gradual change in intake," says Sacks. "That's what I recommend to my patients: let's try to pick a gradual or realistic reduction in calories that's not going to make you really hungry a lot and that you can sustain day after day."

But eating less, however simple it may sound, is hardly a one-man job. Some nutrition experts argue that the balance of responsibility needs to fall more heavily on society at large. Martjin Katan, a professor of nutrition and health at Amsterdam's VU University, wrote an accompanying editorial that analyzed the merits of the diet study. He suggests that focusing on individual diet plans of any kind may be misguided, and that only community-wide change will truly be able to stem the tide of obesity. He points to a small town in France that tapped all of its residents to solve the problem - building more outdoor-sports facilities and creating walking routes, hosting cooking classes and even intervening with at-risk families. After five years, obesity among children was down to 8.8%, less than half the rate of neighboring towns. That success, he writes, "suggests that we may need a new approach to preventing and to treating obesity and that it must be a total-environment approach."

It's a useful lesson for American adults, two-thirds of whom are overweight or obese. Long-term weight loss has proved frustratingly elusive for many obese individuals, but study after study has shown that community and peer support help people take off weight - and keep it off. In this study, the participants who took advantage of group and individual counseling offered as part of the diets had far greater success than those who chose to go it alone. Over the course of two years, participants who went to at least two-thirds of the counseling sessions dropped about 22 lb., 13 lb. more than the average of the entire study population. "Losing weight and sustaining it for two years is difficult," Sacks says. "To help people do that, they need some level of support to keep their motivation and focus."

But the bottom line, according to most obesity experts, is to set realistic goals. Expect what is achievable: a 250-lb. person isn't likely to slim down to supermodel proportions in her lifetime, but she may be able to lose 10 or 20 lb. A moderate 5% or 10% reduction in body weight can significantly improve health, by lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. For many doctors who work with obese patients, the goal is not thinness but well-being - and, ultimately for the patient, self-acceptance.

As for the secret to losing weight? There is none. "It's basic physiology," Loria says. "Eat fewer calories than you expend."

See 9 kid foods to avoid.

See pictures of what makes you eat more food.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

21 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

Live Better

billaday on

We know stress affects the immune system in a negative way, and many times we hold up during stress only to let down on vacation and get sick.

Use the following food strategies to boost your immune system for any trip:

Add Extra vitamin C to Your Diet

Adding extra vitamin C to your diet two or three days before you leave helps your immune system fight viruses before they make you sick and helps breakdown stress hormones.

It is best to double what you normally do. This can mean taking supplements or by eating the proper foods.

Foods packed with vitamin C include:

  • Red bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Citrus
  • Sweet potatoes

If you have been taking a vitamin C supplement, double the amount and try to choose a supplement with flavonoids for optimal absorption.

Mine for Minerals

Activate your immunce system with beta glucan-, zinc- and other mineral-rich foods such as:

  • Mushrooms
  • Barbanzo beans
  • Squash
  • Deep greens (turnip or beet greens are the best)

Add Color to Your Plate

To help nourish the thymus gland, which is responsible for much of the immune-system function, eat two servings a day of foods rich in carotenes. Foods high in carotenes include colored vegetables and dark greens, such as:

  • Yellow and orange squash
  • Carrots
  • Yams
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Berries
  • Garlic

Boost Your Digestive Tract with Bacteria

The live active cultures of friendly bacteria in the following foods boost your digestive-tract health and are very helpful to the immune system:

  • Yogurt or Kefir

Let Protein Power Your Weight Loss

Unhindered by talent on flickr

The heavier you are, the less efficient your body burns fat. That’s why it’s important for overweight individuals to eat protein-packed meals, according to a new Australian study.

The research states that people with higher body fat burn blubber better after consuming high-protein meals than when they skimp on the dietary component. Dr. Marijka Batterham, M.D., the lead researcher, suggests consuming about one third of your calories from protein and another third from carbohydrates.

In the study, which concentrated on breakfast and lunch, the protein-rich meals contained low-fat dairy, lean meat and eggs, along with bread and vegetables as carbohydrate sources.

Experts recommend that people looking to bulk up the protein in their diets choose their sources carefully—passing up bacon and butter in favor of foods like fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, beans, and nuts.

Stronger Thighs, Healthier Knees

Sorry, having arthritic knees is no longer an excuse for skipping training sessions. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have recently found that bolstering your thigh muscles can relieve knee pain.

In a study of 265 people with arthritic knees, the researchers found that greater quadriceps strength protected against cartilage loss behind the kneecap, with individuals in the top third for quadriceps strength at 60 percent lower risk of losing cartilage. Study participants with stronger quadriceps also had better physical function and less knee pain.

The study’s authors suggest swimming as a great way to build up your thighs without harmful impact on your joints.

The Secret to Long-Term Weight Loss

Ed Yourdon from

You’ve cut those unwanted pounds from your frame. Congratulations! Now what? Decelerate your diet and accelerate in the gym, suggests a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Researchers had 125 young adults who had just lost more than 8 percent of their total weight follow one of three maintenance diets. One provided a moderate amount of fat, the second called for 20 to 30 percent fat, and those on the third took in 35 percent of calories as fat. Interestingly, all the dieters regained up to 8 pounds within six months.

The bottom line: If you’ve just lost weight, don’t rely on diet alone to keep those unwanted pounds at bay. It's simply not enough, no matter what kind of maintenance diet you follow.

The simple and effective way to keep burning fat is to closely chart your caloric intake and then determine how much you should exercise in order to maintain your goal weight, or exercise more to boost your metabolism and burn more fat.

Ab Exercise

Hard Abs Made Easy
Five steps to a rock-solid six-pack
By: Mike Mejia, M.S., C.S.C.S, Photographs by: Beth Bischoff

The crunch is the most popular ab exercise for one reason: Anyone can do it. Trouble is, that doesn't mean it's the most effective ab exercise. After all, would you rather be using the abdominal workout of an out-of-shape housewife or the ab workout of an Olympic gymnast?

Enter the hanging leg raise. Consider this movement the gold standard for all ab exercises, just as the pullup is for your back. Although most gymnasts have probably never bothered with a crunch, they've been performing variations of the hanging leg raise for decades. It works like this: As you hang from a bar, you curl your hips and knees up to your chest. Sound hard? That's because it is. Proper execution requires strength, endurance, and flexibility (of your abs, back, and hips), and a strong grip. Which is why few men can do even one with perfect form.

But don't let that discourage you. We've created a five-step plan to eliminate the weaknesses that prevent men from benefiting from the world's greatest ab exercise. And here's a secret: The process of building the strength and flexibility to perform this movement is nearly as effective as the exercise itself. Follow along and you'll soon realize why the guys with the best abs in the gym always seem to be the only ones doing the hanging leg raise.

1. Test Yourself

See how many repetitions of the hanging leg raise you can do with perfect form. If you can't do at least one, follow the instructions in steps 2, 3, and 4. If you're able to do one or more repetitions of the exercise, proceed to step 5.

Hanging Leg Raise

Grab a chinup bar with an overhand grip, your hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Simultaneously bend your knees, raise your hips, and curl your lower back underneath you as you lift your thighs toward your chest. Pause for a second when the fronts of your thighs reach your chest, then lower your legs and repeat.

3 Most Common Mistakes

1. Using momentum. Try staring straight ahead at all times--it will help your body stay upright.

2. Simply bending your knees and lifting your legs up. Instead, imagine scooping your hips up and forward.

3. Leaning backward. Your shoulders should remain in place or round forward slightly.

2. Bolster Your Grip

As its name indicates, the hanging leg raise involves hang time. To measure yours, grab a chinup bar with an overhand grip and hang for as long as you can. If you can hold on for at least 30 seconds, skip to Step 3. Otherwise, strengthen your grip with fat-bar holds (below). This exercise ensures that a weak grip doesn't limit the amount of work your abs can do. Do it at the end of your regular workout two or three times a week for 6 weeks. (Note: The exercises in Steps 2, 3, and 4 can be done in the same workout.)

Fat-Bar Holds

Wrap a hand towel around a chinup bar, then grab it with an overhand grip. Hang--arms completely straight--until your grip gives out. Rest for 1 minute and repeat two times. Aim to increase your hang time by at least 5 to 10 seconds each workout. If you can hang for 20 seconds, for instance, go into your next workout thinking that you won't settle for less than 25 seconds.

3. Improve Your Flexibility

Raising your legs toward your chest requires flexible lower-back muscles and hip flexors--the muscles on the front of your upper thighs. When tight, these muscles lose range of motion and the ability to generate force. Check your flexibility with this simple drill: Stand with your back against a wall, your feet about a foot in front of you. Make sure your upper back, shoulders, and hips touch the wall, then slide your hand between the arch in your lower back and the wall. If you can fit only a couple of fingers in the space, go to Step 4. If your whole hand fits easily, you're tight. To fix it, do the overhead reverse lunge five or six times a week, either before your workout or on rest days.

Overhead Reverse Lunge Grab a light barbell or broomstick with an overhand grip that's twice shoulder width. Holding the bar overhead with straight arms, step back with your left leg and lower your body until your right knee is bent 90 degrees. Push back up to the starting position and repeat, this time stepping back with your right leg. That's one repetition. Do two sets of 12 to 20 reps, resting for 30 seconds after each set.

4. Build Your Strength

The key here is to do exercises that strengthen your abs and hip flexors as a unit without requiring you to arch your back, which can exacerbate tightness. Use the 6-week training schedule below to work up to the hanging leg raise. Once you can do at least one repetition with perfect form, move on to Step 5.

Flat-Back Leg-Lowering Drill

Lie on your back and raise your legs over your hips, with your knees slightly bent. Press the small of your back into the floor to eliminate the arch in your lower back. Keep your back in this position as you take 3 to 5 seconds to lower your legs. Upon reaching the lowest point at which you can still keep your back flat, bring your legs to your chest. Try to lower your legs more with each repetition.

Hanging Single-Leg Raise

Hang from a bar or position yourself in a vertical knee-raise station. (Don't allow your back to press against the pad.) Now lift your right leg up. Maintain an upright torso (don't swing forward) and keep your left leg down. Once you've raised your leg as high as it will go without allowing the other leg to pull forward, pause momentarily, then lower it back to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg. That's one repetition.

Weeks 1 and 2: Perform only the leg-lowering drill 3 days a week. Do two sets of six to 10 repetitions, resting for 30 seconds between sets.

Weeks 3 and 4: Do both moves 2 days a week. Perform two sets of six to 10 reps of the flat-back leg-lowering drill. Then do two sets of six to eight reps of the hanging single-leg raise. Rest for 30 seconds after each set.

Weeks 5 and 6: Do one set of 8 to 12 reps of each exercise before resting for 30 seconds. Then repeat one time, for a total of two sets of each exercise.

5. Boost Your Endurance

Do as many hanging leg raises as you can, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat three times. That counts as one set. Do two or three sets--resting for 60 to 90 seconds after each--two or three times a week. Each week, shorten your within-set rest by 5 seconds until you can do 10 reps straight. Then you'll be ready to challenge your abs with the exercises below.

Hanging Pike

This is performed just like a regular hanging leg raise, except that you don't bend your knees as you bring your legs up. So, in the top position, your toes should nearly touch the bar you're hanging from. Start with two sets of four to six repetitions--resting 90 seconds between sets--and increase your repetitions as your strength improves.

Hanging Windshield Wiper

Begin by performing a hanging leg raise. Hold the top position and rotate your lower body to the left by bringing your right hip toward your right armpit, then repeat to the other side. Return to the center, then lower your legs. Refer to the hanging pike (above) for set and rep protocol.

Eat a Rainbow

by faeryboots on

Be sure to eat a rainbow of colors often. Every meal should include fruits and vegetables because of their fiber and nutrient densities. Typically, every meal plate should include colorful, high-fiber vegetables.

Remember your proteins and carbs will most likely be brown, beige or white.

Add veggies like red and green peppers, carrots, green beans to get your color quotient up.

NFL Combine Secret # 4: Increase Your Vertical

Image by Scott Wachter

Most athletes dream of having a 40-inch vertical leap that would enable them to spring from the ground and fly through the air like slam dunk champ Nate Robinson. When football players arrive at the NFL Combine in February, their vertical leaps will be measured, which might seem odd given that football is played mostly on the ground.

But for the most part, NFL scouts aren’t looking to see which players can jump the highest, though such a skill comes in handy for wide receivers, as well as for linemen looking to bat down passes, punts, and kicks. Instead, scouts are trying to determine the explosion and power players can generate from their lower bodies, which applies to any football position, as well as any athletic endeavor or everyday life.

“Jumping higher is not the concern so much as it is having muscles that stay really springy, protecting yourself from injury and making you more efficient at everything else you do,” says Athletes’ Performance founder Mark Verstegen.

If you’re ever called upon to perform a vertical jump, consider the advice of LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith: “The key is getting everything from your heels through your glutes firing,” he says. “Get a nice bend in your knees and explode as hard as you can through your heels and glutes.”

Here are a few drills to improve your explosiveness, and bring you closer to slam dunking in the process:

This training staple is one of the best at generating explosive power. “When you think of what makes an athlete, the glutes and the hamstrings, the overhead squat is the best exercise in the weight room,” says Andy Barnett, who trains combine athletes at Athletes’ Performance in Gulf Breeze, Fla.. “Whether it’s with dumbbells or a light bar, you get great bang for your buck.”

Squats jumps and other “elasticity” exercises create explosive power in your hips and legs. Here’s how it works: Sit your hips back and down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Your back is erect, tummy tight. Jump, exploding from the glutes and quads. Extend your ankles, knees, and hips in a straight line and land in an athletic position.

Another staple in Core Performance programs, the lateral bound will help you move more explosively from side to side. Squat slightly with your right leg, then use your leg and glutes to jump laterally. Extend your ankle, knee, and hip and land on the opposite leg only, maintaining your balance. Repeat to the other side. Hold for a three count on each side.

Think you know pressure? See how athletes thrive under stress in the last installment of our 5-part series on the NFL Combine.

Q & A: How can I gain weight without losing my quickness?

Q - I am a basketball player, 5-11, 175 pounds. My goal is be 185-190 by July without losing my quickness. I do interval training instead of running long miles. Is that right? What suggestions do you have to build my foundation again for basketball competition? - Michael

image by Scott Wachter

A - For your intervals, aim for each sprint to last 12-15 seconds, walking for 1 to 2 minutes betweeen sprints. Then, twice a week, do a long aerobic "flush" workout on an elliptical machine or bike. Spend your other days playing basketball to improve your conditioning. Mix it up like this:

  • Day 1 - Basketball conditioning
  • Day 2 - Interval training
  • Day 3 - Aerobic flush
  • Day 4 - Basketball conditioning
  • Day 5 - Interval training
  • Day 6 - Aerobic flush
  • Day 7 - Off

Take note that every conditioning session should begin and end with a 5-minute warm-up/cool-down.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Le régime méditerranéen protégerait le cerveau contre le déclin cognitif

20 février 2009 – Le régime méditerranéen pourrait protéger les personnes qui ont des troubles cognitifs légers contre la maladie d’Alzheimer, selon une étude américaine1.

L’étude a été menée auprès de 1 393 sujets en bonne santé et 482 individus atteints d’un déclin cognitif léger (perte de mémoire ou difficulté à se concentrer, par exemple). Les participants, âgés en moyenne de 77 ans, ont rempli un questionnaire sur leurs habitudes alimentaires au cours de la dernière année.

Selon les résultats, après un suivi de quatre ans, les individus atteints d’un déclin cognitif léger qui suivait modérément le régime méditerranéen voyaient leur risque de souffrir de la maladie d’Alzheimer réduit de 45 % comparativement à ceux qui le suivaient peu ou pas.

Parmi ceux qui appliquaient avec modération le régime crétois et qui n’avaient pas de trouble cognitif léger, le risque d’en être atteint diminuait de 17 %, et de 45 % pour la maladie d’Alzheimer. Pour ceux qui le suivaient à la lettre, cette proportion était de 28 % pour le déclin cognitif léger et de 48 % pour la maladie d’Alzheimer.

Selon les auteurs de l’étude, il est difficile d’expliquer comment le régime méditerranéen, qui est principalement composé de fruits, de légumes, de poisson et d’huile d’olive, peut aider le cerveau à rester en santé. Mais, ils rappellent que cette diète permettrait de réduire certains facteurs de risque, comme des taux élevés de cholestérol et de sucre, souvent associés à des troubles cognitifs légers.

Carole Boulé – PasseportSanté.net

D’après Reuther Health et Yahoo actualités.

1. Scarmeas N, Stern Y et al. Mediterranean diet and mild cognitive impairment, Arch Neurol. 2009;66(2):216-225.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mythbusters, Volume 1 by Nate Green

Let me be clear about one thing: with the possible exception of anything that comes out of Larry King's mouth, there are no unimportant interview questions. Every question or comment serves a purpose, whether it's to get the interviewee to open up, show emotion, unleash new information, or just get back on track. Everything matters.

But I recently learned that sometimes I should just let the guy ramble. If he wants to rant, my job is to shut up and make sure the tape recorder keeps rolling.

Most of the guys I interview are great at going off on tangents. And while the resulting transcript is often a jumbled mess of opinion, applied research, and hard-earned experience, occasionally I get something unexpected: an idea for a completely different article based on the unrelated information or opinion. To paraphrase Rod Stewart, every tangent tells a story.

This is a collection of those tangents and tidbits from Dave Tate, Chris Bathke, Matt McGorry, Eric Cressey, and Craig Weller.

Whether they're debunking long-held myths by citing specific research, drawing from personal experience, or just making an educated guess, their comments are sure to make you put on your thinking cap.

Myth: You shouldn't work a muscle you've just hurt.
Mythbuster: Dave Tate

If you hurt a muscle and then neglect it, you're not addressing the problem. It's like fighting with your girlfriend over sex. The problem isn't the sex; it's the fact you can't communicate well. So the problem isn't necessarily the hurt muscle, it's that you fucked up somewhere else.

Take the beginning of a pec strain. Obviously, it's going to start with tightness. First things first, you have to get your mobility back. You want the range of motion to be equal on both sides.

You should obviously avoid doing shit that aggravates the injury, unless you're training for a meet and have to take that risk. But if you avoid any exercise for the affected muscles, you're making a big mistake.

I'd start with some loaded stretching, like lat pulldowns with a wide grip. Just put a little bit of weight on the stack, grab the bar, hold the stretch at the top for 10 seconds, and do four reps. You can also do some very light machine flies to pump as much blood as possible in there. I like machines for this type of training because you can't fall out of the groove. With free-weight exercises, there's more of a stability challenge, and more risk of damaging the muscles you're trying to heal.

After the loaded stretching, I'd do something like a reverse band bench press with the bar weight equal to whatever the tension of the band is. So if you've got a green band, you'd want to load the bar with 95 pounds so it just floats on your chest. From there, you'll do partial presses, trying not to flex your triceps and lock out the reps. At the top of each of these partial reps, it'll feel like 65 pounds or so.

You want to do 100 consecutive reps, trying to put as much blood as possible into your pecs, triceps, and shoulders.

If you're trying to rehab a muscle, the movement that's going to help the most is the same one that probably hurt it. That's because the blood knows exactly where to go. Just don't be an idiot and push yourself too hard, because then you have a good chance of hurting it worse.

Myth: Back squats are better than front squats for gaining mass.
Mythbuster: Chris Bathke

Unless you're training for powerlifting, front squats are a better choice in terms of lower-body muscle recruitment and back health. In fact, I rarely have clients do back squats anymore.

The latest issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has a University of Florida study with this conclusion: "The front squat was as effective as the back squat in terms of overall muscle recruitment, with significantly less compressive forces and extensor moments."

The study also found that back squats had "significantly higher" spinal-compressive forces and greater torque on the knees. Another point for front squats is improved hip mobility. Since they force you to keep an upright position, you're allowed to achieve a greater range of motion. This means your glutes, hams, and quads are working harder.

So if getting jacked and staying jacked for a long time is your goal, front squats are the only squats you need.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength

It's the right exercise.

Myth: A "comfortable" deadlift setup is best.
Mythbuster: Matt McGorry

Chances are, with a few weeks of focused training, you could improve your deadlift PR by a whopping 30 to 50 pounds. How? By changing your stance, which is often the limiting factor for novice and intermediate lifters.

A shoulder-width stance is too wide for most people, yet it's where many settle. If your knees are buckling in even slightly on your near-max lifts, that's a sign that you need to narrow your stance.

Hip-width is ideal for most lifters, as it allows you to get your hips lower, keep your chest up, and maintain a better arch in your lower back. It may feel awkward at first, but it'll improve your leverage, an extremely important factor in moving heavy weight.

I came to this realization thanks to a digital camera. After years of watching my form in a mirror, I thought it was pretty tight. I changed my mind after I saw myself on video. (Eric Cressey helped me out as well.) Once I narrowed my stance, I improved my PR by 40 pounds in eight weeks.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength
Best Exercises for Size and Strength

Narrow stance, big results.

That said, some people do better by going the other direction and pulling sumo. You can figure out if you're one of them by matching your squat and deadlift numbers to the following chart:

Squat PR Deadlift PR
Level 1 1xBW 1.5xBW
Level 2 1.5xBW 2xBW
Level 3 2xBW 2.5xBW
Level 4 2.5xBW 3xBW

As you can see, your deadlift max should be greater than your squat max by about half your body weight at each level.

But let's say you're a 200-pound lifter who squats 300 (1.5 times your body weight) and deadlifts 350 (1.75 times your weight). Your squat is at Level 2, but your deadlift is in between levels 1 and 2.

Assuming you've been training the two lifts more or less equally, the fact your squat is stronger could mean you'd be better off deadlifting sumo-style, allowing you to take advantage of your thigh strength.

Obviously, that's a general guideline, and there could be other reasons why your deadlift isn't as strong as it should be, relative to your squat. Chances are, though, your stance is at least part of the problem.

Myth: Unstable-surface training doesn't serve a purpose.
Mythbuster: Eric Cressey

Yeah, go ahead and laugh about Bosu balls and balance discs. The reality is that they work for those of us who've suffered ankle sprains.

The most common type is a lateral/inversion sprain (shown below), in which your foot twists to the inside, stretching or tearing the ligaments on your outer shin. The telltale signs of an inversion sprain are pain, swelling, and eventually discoloration on the outside of the ankle.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength

Your peroneals — muscles on the outside of your shin — are in charge of preventing inversion. If they're working properly, they'll contract fast enough and powerfully enough to straighten the foot before the ankle rolls and your ligaments stretch or tear.

Once you've suffered an ankle sprain, you're going to have functional ankle instability unless you follow a good rehabilitation program. In this area, the research has shown over and over again that training on unstable surfaces — wobble boards, Bosu balls, balance discs — can correct this proprioceptive delay and get rid of functional ankle instability.

That's why unstable surface training (UST) is a great rehabilitation tool.

Myth: Unstable-surface training works for everybody.
Mythbuster: Eric Cressey

While UST works for people in the rehab setting, a lot of trainers assume they can apply the same techniques to healthy athletes and prevent ankle sprains, improve balance, and enhance performance.

This makes perfect sense. We talk about "prehab" all the time when it comes to back and shoulder joints, so why wouldn't preemptive ankle training help you avoid sprains?

But then I dug into the research for my master's thesis, and what I found there surprised me: There's no evidence that UST reduces injury risk or improves performance in healthy, trained athletes.

When I conducted a study of my own, I had the good fortune to use one of the country's best Division I men's soccer teams as my subjects. Our results were published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in August 2007.

My study showed that replacing 2 to 3 percent of overall training volume with UST didn't improve performance. But I also discovered something even more important: UST minimized improvements in jumping, sprinting, and agility tests. Put another way, the subjects who weren't doing UST made bigger gains in power, speed, and agility.

So just because something works in rehab doesn't mean it's useful for healthy athletes. In fact, if it takes the place of something else in their training, the opportunity cost seems to make things worse.

Once the study was finished, I invested a lot of time creating a framework for this type of training. One goal was to show the appropriate uses for UST, and there are some. But I also wanted to show an overall progression model for true instability training in healthy athletes.

A lot of people choose the binary route — either "it sucks" or "it's awesome" — but by the time I finished the 100-plus-page report (which you can purchase here), the answer turned out to be a lot more interesting and complex than those two extremes.

Myth: You know how much stress your body can take.
Mythbuster: Craig Weller

During Special Operations selection training, you're subjected to a brutal series of physical and mental tests. Depending on the program and the time of year, between 60 and 90 percent of candidates won't finish. Fun stuff.

But it taught me something important: Pain does not stop the body. There's nothing that hurts so badly that you can't keep going just a little longer.

Extreme and continuous stress teaches you to break daily life down into short, measurable goals. You make it to breakfast, and then you focus on making it to lunch. Sometimes your mind refuses to project beyond the immediate future: running one more step, swimming one more stroke, grinding out just one more push-up.

Everybody hits bottom at some point. You get to a place where you'd do anything to make the pain stop. If your mind breaks first and you stop running, or wave for a support boat on a swim, or raise your hand during a beat-down to say that you're done, you're officially "weeded out." You've quit. You're part of the majority, but you still feel like a loser.

Fortunately, there's a loophole: If your body breaks first, they won't hold it against you. Every guy in my squad had the same perverse thought at some point: "If I can just push myself hard enough to black out, I'll crash in the sand, take a nap, and wait for the medics to revive me. I'll get a nice little break, and then rejoin the pack."

So we ran harder. We pushed. But we hardly ever got those naps. (I was one of the "lucky" few, an experience I described in this article.)

I remember being on a run, soaking wet and covered with sand. We'd just gotten back to our feet after calisthenics in the surf and a series of sprints up and down a sand dune. Then the instructors took off sprinting again.

I didn't think I could make it any farther, but I knew I could never live with myself if I stopped running. So I put my head down and sprinted as hard as I could through the soft sand. Pain surged through my body, and the only conscious thought I can remember was that the air I was gasping into my lungs had turned to fire.

I focused my eyes on the heels of the instructor. The pain was getting worse, but I kept going. I could hear another member of my class behind me, struggling to keep up with the pack while puking between strides.

Guys who went through the training with me had similar experiences. They'd hit bottom one day, and think they could finally reach their breaking point if only they pushed a little bit harder. But it never worked. The agony would only increase. But so would their capacity to keep going. Pain, in other words, never actually broke our bodies.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength

Special Forces training: not nearly as much fun as it looks.

Which isn't to say we weren't incapacitated from time to time by hypothermia, hypoxic blackout, hypoglycemic shock, or some other things you find in the dictionary a few pages past "hell." But passing out was acceptable. Quitting wasn't.

I'm a civilian now, running a facility and training people. Every now and then, I hear someone say, "I can't."

Frankly, that's bullshit. Next time you're tempted to say you "can't," remember that what you're really saying is, "I don't want to."

Your Turn

Have any myths you need busting? Click on the "discuss" button and let us know.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

How Sweet It Is: Coming to Grips With America's Sugar-Heavy Diet

By Jennifer Huget
Tuesday, February 24, 2009; HE03

In her 1835 book "Little House on the Prairie," Laura Ingalls Wilder described in awed tones the joy of receiving for Christmas a single stick of peppermint candy, which she licked sparingly. There wouldn't be another until next Christmas, at least.

I remember reading the "Little House" books curled up in my beanbag chair, often stuffing myself with candy (most memorably Bonomo's Turkish Taffy), wondering how a kid could get so worked up over one little candy cane.

In the century and three-quarters since Laura strolled the prairie, American sugar consumption has shot sky-high. In 2007, our per capita intake of caloric sweeteners (refined cane and beet sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and others) was more than 97 pounds per year, up from nearly 85 pounds in 1970, according to USDA data. Our taste for sweets has grown to encompass artificial sweeteners, which have expanded our opportunities to keep sweet flavors in our mouths day in and day out.

Is it too late to turn back, to wean ourselves from sweet foods and drinks so that they once again become special treats, not mainstays of our daily diet?

Humans are born with an affinity for sweet-tasting substances. Neal Barnard, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at George Washington University and author of "Breaking the Food Seduction" (and president/founder of the pro-vegetarian Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine), points out that in nature, sweet taste signals that fruit, for instance, is ripe, at its nutritional peak, tempting people to eat it just when it's best for them. Sugar may also release opiates in the brain, he says, and it has analgesic qualities; babies given sugar water before getting heel-sticks cry less during the procedure, he notes.

Sugar -- and even high-fructose corn syrup, now the main caloric sweetener in the American diet -- isn't inherently evil. At just 16 calories per teaspoon, both could in moderation be part of a reasonable, balanced diet.

Though the connection seems obvious, nobody has definitively linked increased intake of sweeteners to the rise of obesity; that rise may have more to do with increased portion sizes and overall caloric intake than with any single food. In fact, the most compelling argument the USDA makes against sugar in its 2005 dietary guidelines is that it might contribute to dental caries, or cavities, among children (though even that's questionable, because the kids who eat tons of sugar may be the same kids who don't brush their teeth enough). The guidelines even note that adding sugar to such items as breakfast cereals might lead to more kids' consuming the wholesome grains they need.

At the same time, the guidelines recommend eating nutrient-dense (i.e. low-fat, low-sugar) foods: After the day's nutrient needs are met, there aren't many discretionary calories -- just about 150 to 200 per day -- left over to be consumed through extra fat, sugar and alcohol.

But a single 12-ounce can of Pepsi has 150 calories, and a plain old 1.55-ounce Hershey milk-chocolate bar has 210. While those sweets are relatively easy to keep track of, caloric sweeteners lurk in all kinds of commercial products, from ketchup to bread and almost every baked good on the shelf. Add up all those hidden sugar sources and you'll blow through those 200 discretionary calories in no time. Barnard observes that sugar is a "Trojan horse": Sugary foods such as doughnuts, cakes and pies are often also filled with high-calorie fats.

Still, Barnard's not arguing against sugar: He suggests people decide for themselves whether sugar is exacting enough of a price in their lives that they want to cut back. Once they come to that point, though, Barnard offers a few suggestions:

· Gird yourself against cravings by getting plenty of sleep and maintaining level blood sugar, choosing low-glycemic-index foods such as oatmeal, beans, pasta, fruit and vegetables to keep your blood sugar stable.

· Don't throw the baby out with the bath water: Continue to eat fruit even as you seek to eliminate other sweet-tasting foods.

· Enlist friends and relatives in your quest. "We tend to eat like those around us," Barnard says. "We need to get those people on our side."

· Get plenty of exercise, which helps by making you feel better mentally and physically, tiring you out (see "getting plenty of sleep," above) and providing a distraction. "You can't eat a doughnut while riding a bike," he notes.

Barnard cautions that, unfortunately, moderation doesn't work for most people. "So many people ask, 'How do I moderate these things [that I crave]? I want to enjoy them, but I want to be in control.' "

People don't like hearing his answer, he says. "For almost everyone, it's easier just to get them out of your life. You crave today what you had yesterday. You might just have to say, 'I'm just not doing chocolate [or sugar in general] anymore,' " he says.

But Chicago dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner thinks you can temper your sweet tooth by using those discretionary calories wisely. Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says you can reframe your relationship with sweets by adjusting your ideas about snacks vs. treats. A snack, she points out, has some nutritional value and can help tide you over between meals in a healthful way. A treat, though, is a food for which we have no nutritional expectations, an item that feels like, well, a real treat, pure and simple.

"We've made it okay to 'treat' ourselves to sweets all day long," Blatner says, by snacking on sweetened foods. Shifting sweets to the "treat" category can be a way to limit consumption and make sweets seem special once again.

Check out today's Checkup blog post, in which Jennifer reports on whether moderation or quitting cold turkey is best for breaking a food habit. Subscribe to the weekly Lean & Fit nutrition newsletter by going to and searching for "newsletters." Go to the Wednesday Food section to find Nourish, a new feature with a recipe for healthful eating every week. And e-mail your thoughts to Jennifer at

Monday, February 23, 2009

Olympic Lifts Are Overrated! by Joe DeFranco

Olympic lifts are the only way to get explosive, right? Wrong!

Most people say they perform the Olympic lifts because they're "explosive." The truth of the matter is that any lift can be explosive! By incorporating the dynamic-effort method with sub-maximal weights into your program, you can turn any lift into an "explosive" lift.

A Weekly Dose - February 23rd 2009

For example, if a man who can box squat 500 pounds were to train with 275 and focus on accelerating the weight, the box squat would then become an "explosive" lift. This example can hold true for many other exercises as well. By training with weights that represent 50-60% of your 1RM in a given lift, science has proven that the weight is heavy enough to produce adequate force, yet light enough to produce adequate speed. And we should all know that speed times strength = power.

Another reason I feel the Olympic lifts are overrated is that they take a long time to teach and most athletes are horrible at them. After all, Olympic lifting is a sport in and of itself! Olympic weightlifters spend their entire lives practicing these lifts and some of these athletes still never perfect them!

The reason that most non-Olympic weightlifters aren't great at the Olympic lifts is usually because they aren't strong enough in the right places. After assessing an athlete's power clean or power snatch form, I usually conclude that their technique flaws are due to a lack of hamstring, glute and low back strength. This assessment usually means that I end up prescribing more deadlift variations, reverse hyperextensions, glute-ham raises, pull-throughs, etc.

This is called the training economy. Getting stronger in the deadlift, reverse hyperextension and glute-ham raise will improve your power clean, but it doesn't work the other way around. Basically, I choose the exercises that give my athletes the best "bang for their buck." Another benefit of my "economical" exercises is that they're much less stressful on the wrists, elbows and shoulders compared to the Olympic lifts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What a heart attack looks like

Feb. 13: Do you really know what happens inside your body when you have a heart attack? Take a look.

Cholestérol : vous pouvez manger vos oeufs en paix

19 février 2009 – Une consommation régulière d’oeufs aurait peu d’effet sur le taux de cholestérol sanguin et par conséquent sur les risques de maladies cardiovasculaires, conclut une nouvelle étude britannique1. La plupart des gens n’ont pas à restreindre leur consommation d’oeufs, soutiennent les chercheurs.

Malgré les nombreuses études2 sur le cholestérol qui ont innocenté les oeufs, ces dernières années, la croyance que leur consommation doit être limitée à trois par semaine est encore bien répandue, déplorent les auteurs de l’étude.

Leur analyse des résultats de plusieurs études démontre que même si les oeufs sont riches en cholestérol3, ils contribueraient très peu à l’accumulation de lipides sanguins. En fait, seulement un tiers du cholestérol sanguin proviendrait de l’alimentation, en grande partie des gras saturés et des gras trans. La cigarette, le surplus de poids et le manque d’activité physique influenceraient davantage l’accumulation de cholestérol sanguin.

De nombreuses instances, telles que l’Association britannique des maladies du coeur, reconnaissent maintenant que les oeufs font partie d’une alimentation équilibrée. Ils recommandent plutôt de limiter la consommation de viandes et de produits laitiers riches en gras, de même que de gâteaux et de biscuits.

Selon l'American Heart Association (AHA), manger un jaune d’oeuf par jour peut être acceptable, même pour des personnes hypercholestérolémiques, si la consommation des autres aliments riches en cholestérol, tels que les fromages, la crème, le beurre et les viandes rouges, est limitée.

Toutefois, les personnes diabétiques devraient limiter leur consommation d’oeufs, selon une étude publiée en 20084. Le risque d’infarctus serait plus élevé chez les diabétiques qui consomment beaucoup d’oeufs.

Emmanuelle Bergeron - PasseportSanté.net

D’après Radio-Canada et BBC news.

1. Gray J and Griffin B. Eggs and dietary cholesterol – dispelling the myth. British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin. 2009. 34, 66-70 : [Consulté le 19 février 2009].
2. Pour en savoir plus sur les études au sujet des oeufs et du cholestérol, consultez notre fiche Oeuf.
3. Un oeuf moyen contiendrait environ 225 mg de cholestérol, soit 391 mg par 100 g.
Voyez à ce sujet notre nouvelle : Diabète : manger un oeuf par jour serait néfaste pour la santé.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Surprising signs of heart disease

Feb. 18: TODAY's Matt Lauer talks to NBC's chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman about the unusual signs of heart disease that men should look out for.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Best Exercises for Size and Strength by Tim Henriques

Walk into any decent gym and you'll have multiple choices for whatever movement pattern or muscle group you want to train that day. Should you do pulldowns or pull-ups? Bench presses with a barbell or on the Smith machine? Squats or leg presses?

If you think the answers are obvious, I beg to differ.

Exercise selection, clearly, is not the only important variable in a training program. You have to make intelligent decisions about volume, intensity, and frequency as well — how much, how hard, and how often you train. And, just as clearly, you can't make good choices in those areas unless you define your goals.

You can find lots of articles — entire books, even — that tell you how to adjust volume, intensity, and frequency when you're training for strength vs. hypertrophy. But what you rarely find is any guide to selecting the right exercises for those two goals. That, in my view, is a pretty big gap. Not all exercises are created equal, and some are better at yielding specific results than others.

For this article, I'm going to break down exercise selection into two primary categories: the best exercises for strength, and the best for hypertrophy. If you're interested in achieving both at the same time, you can just select the exercises that appear on both lists.

Certainly, there are other categories that I'm leaving out — the best exercises for fat loss, athletic development, mobility, muscular endurance ... the list could go on a while. But the two I listed are the big ones, the ones most of you are currently pursuing.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength

The squat makes you stronger, bigger, and most important of all, veinier.

Industrial Strength

I think everyone reading this understands that the size of a muscle affects its strength, up to a point. But we all know that bodybuilders — the biggest guys in the gym in terms of pure muscular size — aren't by any stretch the strongest. They're stronger than the skinny dudes on the Bosu balls, of course, but most of them would get smoked by the top powerlifters in their weight class.

That's because maximal strength — the muscles' ability to perform a single, all-out effort — depends on neuromuscular coordination as well as the amount of contractile tissue within the muscle.

So, when selecting an exercise for the goal of developing maximal strength, you need to choose one that allows you to lift the most weight and requires the most skill.

Both halves of that statement are important.

You already know you won't get strong unless you choose exercises that allow you to lift a lot of weight. You can't get strong with light weights, even if you're lifting from an awkward or unstable position.

So when I say the exercises you choose must require skill, I'm talking about lifts that require some technique and balance, not the ones that look like circus tricks. High-skill exercises are usually compound — involving action at more than one joint — and take place in multiple planes of movement, or at least have the possibility to do so.

Neuromuscular coordination is crucial because of the concept of the transfer of skill, or how your ability in one exercise crosses over to another. The key to understanding this concept is to remember that the transfer of skill flows downhill. Your ability to perform a higher-skill exercise, like a bench press, means you'll also be pretty good at a lower-skill version of that same basic movement, like a machine chest press.

Skill rarely flows the opposite direction. If you only trained on a selectorized chest-press machine, you wouldn't be commensurately strong on the barbell bench press.

Think of arm wrestling, a sport that requires a combination of strength and skill. A guy can have fantastically strong arms, as demonstrated by his ability to lift heavy weights in lower-skill exercises, but if he's never arm-wrestled before, not only is he going to lose his match, there's a good chance he'll get hurt in the process. He has strong muscles pulling on bones, tendons, and ligaments in an unfamiliar way, and that's a perfect formula for injury. (Ironically, a weaker arm-wrestling novice has less chance of injury. He'll just lose the match, without lasting damage to anything but his ego.)

Speaking of skill, you may notice when you get to the exercise lists that I don't include the Olympic lifts in this discussion. They obviously require skill, and they obviously allow you to improve strength. But because they emphasize speed, power, and coordination over pure strength, I think they're part of a different discussion. They wouldn't be first-choice exercises for pure strength or pure hypertrophy, although they'd certainly be in the mix if we were talking about training to improve speed and power.

Supersize Me

Here's the guideline to remember when you're trying to build maximum muscle size:

Choose exercises that allow you to lift the most weight andoffer the most isolation on the target area.

The first part — lifting the heaviest weights — is more obvious for strength, but applies to hypertrophy training as well. You need to lift a lot of weight to force the muscle to grow to its maximal size. The 10-pound dumbbells aren't going to build much size no matter how you use them.

But it's with the second criterion that things get interesting. Neuromuscular coordination doesn't matter much for bodybuilding. You don't need to worry about skill transfer. Instead, you want to make sure that a specific muscle, or muscle group, is doing the work.

That doesn't mean you'll rely solely on isolation exercises, but it does mean you should feel the muscle working during the set, and feel a difference within the muscle afterwards. You want to get a pump, to feel the burning sensation in the muscle (which we used to think was caused by lactic acid), and/or feel post-workout soreness a day or two later.

Those are all signs of effective muscle isolation.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength

We can probably assume this man's triceps are effectively isolated.

Conversely, when you're training for strength, you don't want to feel the muscles working, or to establish a mind-muscle connection; you just want to do the movement.

One more important point:

If you're a relatively new or inexperienced lifter, you need to establish a base level of strength before you worry about muscle isolation. It doesn't matter if your only goal is to get huge. You can't achieve that without the base. How do you know when you're ready? You should at least be at the "decent" level of strength in most of the exercises I described in this article.

If you aren't at least decent in the powerlifts — capable of using 1.5 times your body weight in the squat and deadlift and 1.25 times your weight in the bench press — you're going to struggle to add muscle mass with isolation exercises. Your body won't be able to handle heavy enough weights to make those exercises effective.

Starting at the "good" level is even better, but I know it's unrealistic to tell a guy who just wants bigger muscles that he should wait until he can squat or deadlift twice his body weight before he starts doing exercises specific to his main goal.

When you look at the list of exercises in this category, you're going to see several, like Smith machine squats, that many coaches at Testosterone Muscle would tell you not to do. Understand that I'm recommending these exercises for their specific purpose — to build size or strength. As a powerlifter, I don't do some of them, and as a coach I might not have my athletes do them. I'm just pointing out that they fit the two criteria I mentioned at the start of this section: They allow you to lift heavy weights while isolating the muscles you're targeting.

Exercises like that aren't likely to make you a better athlete. They probably won't help your vertical jump very much, and if you don't also do a lot of traditional squatting they won't bump up your 1RM much. They can be effective for building size, and little else. If that's what you want, they might be good choices for you.

I also think they can be done with good form and without excessive injury risk. I wouldn't include them if I thought they were dangerous.

Bigger and Stronger

So what do you do if you're training for both size and strength? Or if you haven't yet achieved "decent" strength in the major exercises, and need to get strong before you can get big? Simple: Just look for exercises that appear in both lists, and build your programs around them.

Those are also the best exercise choices for those who play competitive sports and want a head-turning physique. Because they require some skill, they offer more transfer to sports performance, and perhaps lower your risk of injury outside the gym.

About the following lists:

By necessity, I arranged the exercises by muscle group. Not everyone categorizes exercises that way, but I had to use designations that would work for both goals. Because of this arrangement, many exercises could fit into multiple categories. For example, a barbell bench press is more than a "chest" exercise; it also builds the front of your deltoids and your triceps. (In fact, some of the best exercises for biceps and triceps might very well be exercises in the "back" and "chest" categories — chin-ups for biceps, close-grip bench presses and dips for triceps.)

For each muscle group, I offer a "testing" exercise. I recommend you work to develop at least decent strength in that exercise before you focus exclusively on hypertrophy, if that's your goal.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength

Some exercise choices defy categorization.



Testing exercise: barbell bench press

Decent strength: 225 pounds, or 1.25 times body weight

Best exercises for strength:

Barbell bench press (flat, incline, decline, close-grip, board press with 1-3 boards)
Dumbbell bench press (flat, incline, decline)
Floor press
Rack press
Dip (preferably using extra weight and/or on gymnastics rings)
Push-up (weighted and/or on rings)

Best exercises for size:

Barbell bench press (flat and incline)
Dumbbell bench press (flat and incline)
Smith-machine bench press (flat and incline)
Hammer Strength chest press (flat and incline)
Selectorized chest-press machines (flat and incline)
Power dumbbell fly, aka bent-arm fly (flat and incline)


Testing exercises: pull-up or barbell bent-over row (torso at 45-degree angle to floor)

Decent strength: 10 pull-ups with body weight; 225 pounds or 1.25 times body weight on bent-over row

Best exercises for strength:

Pull-up and chin-up (add extra weight when you can do 10 with your body weight)
Barbell or dumbbell bent-over row (torso at 45- or 90-degree angle to floor)
Dumbbell row
Hammer Strength plate-loaded back machines (but not the chest-supported-row)
Cable row
Lat pulldown (if you can't yet do sets of pull-ups and chin-ups with your body weight)
T-bar row

Best exercises for size:

Pull-up and chin-up
Barbell or dumbbell bent-over row (torso at 45- or 90-degree angle to floor)
Dumbbell row
Hammer Strength plate-loaded back machines
Cable row
Lat pulldown
Standing straight-arm lat pulldown
Machine pullover

Shoulders (deltoids and upper traps)

Testing exercise: standing barbell military press

Decent strength: 105 pounds, or 60 percent of body weight

Best exercises for strength:

Military press (barbell or dumbbells; standing or seated)
Push press (barbell or dumbbells)
Barbell rack military press
Arnold press
Handstand push-up

Best exercises for size:

Seated military press (barbell or dumbbells)
Smith-machine military press
Hammer Strength shoulder press
Arnold press
Selectorized shoulder-press machines
Lateral raise (dumbbell, cable, or machine; standing or seated; leaning or upright; Power/bent-arm or regular)
Power/bent-arm dumbbell rear-delt raise
Rear-delt machine


Testing exercise: strict EZ-bar curl

Decent strength: 80 pounds, or 40-50 percent of body weight

Best exercises for strength:

EZ-bar curl (strict, normal, or cheat)
Parallel-bar curl
EZ-bar reverse curl
Dumbbell hammer curl
Dumbbell alternating curl

Best exercises for size:

EZ-bar curl (strict, normal, or cheat)
Parallel-bar curl
EZ-bar reverse curl
Dumbbell hammer curl
Dumbbell alternating curl
Cable curl (all varieties)


Testing exercise: EZ-bar skull crusher

Decent strength: 70 pounds, or 35-45 percent of body weight

Best exercises for strength:

Skull crusher (EZ bar, cable, or dumbbells)
Overhead triceps extension (EZ bar, 1 or 2 dumbbells)
High-rack press
High-board press
Dip (body more vertical)

Best exercises for size:

Skull crusher (EZ bar and dumbbells)
Overhead triceps extension (EZ bar, 1 or 2 dumbbells)
Triceps pushdown
Cable skull crusher
Pullover (EZ bar, 1 or 2 dumbbells)

Legs (emphasis on quads)

Testing exercise: squat or leg press

Decent strength: 315 pounds or 1.5 times body weight for squat; 410 pounds or 2-2.25 times body weight for leg press

Best exercises for strength:

Squat (high or low bar)
Front squat
Box squat
Rack squat

Best exercises for size:

Squat (high or low bar)
Front squat
Leg press
Smith machine squat
Smith machine front squat
Lunge (barbell or dumbbells)
Leg extension (quads only)

Legs (emphasis on hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors)

Testing exercise: deadlift

Decent strength: 315 pounds, or 1.5 times body weight

Best exercises for strength:

Deadlift (conventional, sumo, Romanian, stiff-legged)
Glute-ham raise
Good morning
Reverse hyperextension

Best exercises for size:

Deadlift (conventional, Romanian, stiff-legged)
Glute-ham raise
Good morning
Reverse hyperextension
Back extension (weighted)
Leg curl (lying, standing, seated)


Testing exercise: weighted decline sit-up (weight held on upper chest)

Decent strength: 40 pounds, or 20-25 percent of body weight

Best exercises for strength:

Weighted decline sit-up
Hanging knee or leg raise
Cable crunch (standing or kneeling)
Ab-wheel rollout

Best exercises for size:

Weighted decline sit-up
Hanging knee or leg raise
Cable crunch (kneeling)
Machine crunch
Roman chain knee or leg raise
Weighted Swiss-ball crunch

Final Thoughts

I had to leave out as many exercises as I put in when I made these lists. Lots of perfectly good exercises for smaller muscles like calves and rear delts don't make the list, simply because there's someone training exclusively for strength probably wouldn't train those muscles in isolation for that goal.

Similarly, exercises used for prehab or rehab, or to develop mobility, endurance, or stability, got left out. They're great exercises for lifters with a variety of goals, but they don't lend themselves to the strength-vs.-size comparison.

If you take anything away from this article, I'd like you to remember the two most important points:

The other big point, which I hope you'll remember and incorporate, is that you shouldn't focus exclusively on size until you've achieved at least "decent" strength in the major exercises.

Finally, I'll offer the standard reminder that none of these exercises will work for any goal if you don't manage the other elements of your training program — volume, intensity, frequency — as well as what you do outside the gym. Without proper food and supplements, good sleep habits, and sensible recovery between workouts, it doesn't matter which exercises you choose.

That said, if you get everything else right, or mostly right, then matching your exercise selection to your goals could be the final piece of the puzzle.

About the Author

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.