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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

De la vitamine D pour garder le cerveau alerte?

26 mai 2009 – La carence en vitamine D pourrait être associée au déclin des facultés cognitives chez les aînés, selon une étude d’observation1 menée en Europe.

Les résultats indiquent que les hommes qui ont les taux les plus bas de vitamine D dans leur organisme sont aussi ceux dont les habiletés intellectuelles s’amenuisent le plus en vieillissant. C’est ce que l’on nomme la déficience cognitive, un phénomène relativement fréquent chez les personnes de plus de 60 ans. On pense qu’environ 12 % des personnes de cet âge en souffriraient.

Les chercheurs de l’Université de Manchester en Angleterre ont analysé les données provenant de 3 133 hommes de 40 ans à 79 ans vivant dans huit pays d’Europe : Italie, Belgique, Pologne, Suède, Angleterre, Espagne, Hongrie et Estonie. Chaque participant a subi un test pour déterminer son taux sanguin de réserves de vitamine D dans l’organisme (25 hydroxycholécalciférol - 25(OH)D). Puis chacun a été soumis à divers examens neuropsychologiques visant à mesurer ses habiletés intellectuelles.

Ceux dont les taux sanguins de 25(OH)D étaient les plus élevés ont obtenu les meilleurs résultats au chapitre des performances intellectuelles. L’association était particulièrement manifeste chez les hommes de 60 ans et plus dont les taux sanguins de vitamine D descendaient sous la barre de 14 ng/ml2 de 25(OH)D : ils étaient les plus atteints par la déficience cognitive. Rappelons que l’on considère qu’il y a carence en vitamine D dès que le taux sanguin de 25(OH)D passe sous 20 ng/ml.

Des résultats similaires

Plus tôt cette année, une autre équipe de chercheurs britanniques arrivait à des résultats similaires dans une étude3 menée auprès de 1 766 personnes de 65 ans et plus, hommes et femmes. Les chercheurs prévenaient tout de même qu’il fallait s’abstenir de conclure qu’un apport accru en vitamine D pourrait contribuer significativement à prévenir la déficience cognitive chez les personnes en bonne santé. Ces résultats indiquent seulement que cette affection, comme bien d’autres, pourrait être associée à des carences nutritionnelles, notamment en vitamine D. Ce qui n’établit pas nécessairement un lien de cause à effet et ne garantit pas d’effet clinique significatif.

Pierre Lefrançois – PasseportSanté.net

D’après Radio-Canada, BBC et EurekAlert!

1. Lee DM, Tajar A, et al. Association between 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and cognitive performance in middle-aged and older European men. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2009 May 21.
2. Milliardièmes de grammes de cholécalciférol par millilitre de sang.
3. Llewellyn DJ, Langa K, Lang I. Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Concentration and Cognitive Impairment. J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 2009 Feb 4.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dark Side of Bodybuilding by Chris Colucci

Ask a baseball fan to name a lineup of the all-time greats at each position, and he might sprain a lobe trying to choose among Mays, DiMaggio, and Mantle in center. Boxing fans could easily name a dozen great fighters of yesteryear, throwing out names like Louis, Dempsey, and Marciano. I'm sure hockey fans could name ... some important hockey guys from 60 years ago.

But ask fans of bodybuilding to name some key figures who were around before the 1960s or '70s, and chances are they'd draw a blank once they got past Sandow and Reeves. Bodybuilding may not be a traditional sport like baseball, boxing, or hockey, but it's something we're all passionate about, and it has a rich history going back to the "physical culture" boom of the early 1900s.

Randy Roach's ambitious text, Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors: Volume One, aims to correct that mistake. Roach spent more than five years interviewing, reading, researching, and tracking down 500 cited references' worth of details to explain the origins of bodybuilding, including a look at the earliest supplements, the magazines, and, most important, the basis for nutritional practices still used today.

MS&M, at 594 pages, is just the first of three volumes; the other two are well underway. But perhaps the most amazing aspect of the project is that the 49-year-old Roach went blind halfway through writing the first volume. He'd had impaired vision since he was 2, a result of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, but his vision failed permanently in 2005.

I caught up with Roach — a computer programmer by trade — by phone at his home in Waterloo, Ontario, where, despite his visions problem, he trains himself and clients in the fully equipped gym in his basement.

Testosterone Muscle: You set out to research the roots of the iron game, and to figure out who first did the things that we all still do today. Why was that important? Why'd you take on such a huge task?

TM: One of those rabbit trails is the conflict between Bob Hoffman of York Barbell and the Weiders. It was really a battle for the soul of strength training. Hoffman advocated training for performance, and the Weiders catered to guys who wanted to train for shape.

TM: But by starting Muscular Development in 1964, Hoffman did eventually cater to bodybuilders.

TM: Let's talk about those early supplements.

TM: I was caught by surprise by the emphasis on eating uncooked food among some bodybuilders. Armand Tanny, who passed away recently, was a raw foodist. You're also a raw-food eater, right?

TM: Another topic you cover is the argument over full-body training vs. body-part splits. We think it's a relatively new argument, but in your book you show that lifters were fighting over this 50 or 60 years ago. When did split training come about? Did it start with the steroid era?

TM: It seems like some people were writing about steroids in the '40s, but it wasn't until the late '50s when they were introduced to athletes.

TM: You mentioned Irvin Johnson. Aside from his expertise in nutrition and early supplementation, he also created Tomorrow's Man, a physique magazine aimed at the gay male audience. Was that what motivated Joe Weider to start magazines like Adonisand Body Beautiful? Was he trying to capture a part of the gay market and compete with Johnson? And is this one of the reasons why Bob Hoffman went after Weider with such personal venom?

TM: Does your research give you some insight as to where things are going in the next decade or two?

TM: What surprises are we going to find in Volume Two?

TM: I think all the behind-the-scenes politics is something the average fan never really expects, but when I interviewed Dave Draper and Robby Robinson recently, they both mentioned it. A lot of it literally involved politics, especially when it concerned Sergio Oliva.

TM: When will Volume Two come out?

TM: Thanks for taking the time to put it all together, and thanks for sharing your time with TMUSCLE readers.

Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors can be purchased at or at Randy Roach's website.

The Dark Side of Bodybuilding The Dark Side of Bodybuilding

Bob Hoffman, who sponsored the world's best Olympic weightlifters at York Barbell, disagreed with Joe Weider at every turn.

The Dark Side of Bodybuilding

The October 1956 issue of one of Joe Weider's gay-oriented physique magazines.

The Dark Side of Bodybuilding

The bigger the athletes got, the less appeal the sport of bodybuilding had to genetically gifted young lifters.

The Dark Side of Bodybuilding

Like the leopards that inspired his posing trunk, bodybuilding champion Armand Tanny ate his food raw.

The Dark Side of Bodybuilding

Vince Gironda, an early advocate of a low-carb, high-fat diet for bodybuilders, was a fan of raw eggs and unpasteurized milk.

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

Overeating to blame for U.S. obesity epidemic

Fri May 8, 2009 5:11pm BST

By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The major reason for the obesity epidemic that has gripped the United States in the past three decades is increased food intake, not reduced physical activity, according to a study released Friday at the European Congress on Obesity in Amsterdam.

The study is the first to quantify the relative contributions of food and exercise habits to the growing number of Americans with bulging waistlines.

"In the U.S., over the last 30 years, it seems that the food side of the equation has changed much more than the physical activity side," Professor Boyd A. Swinburn, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, noted in a telephone interview with Reuters Health.

Weight gain in the American population seems to be virtually all due to the consumption of more calories, with declines in physical activity playing only a minor role, Swinburn explained.

"We absolutely need to continue to promote increased physical activity and a healthy diet because they are both obviously beneficial factors in terms of obesity," he emphasized. "But when it comes to placing priorities, I think it needs to be on reducing energy intake. It's particularly important for policymakers to focus on the energy intake side of the equation."

In the study, Swinburn and his colleagues calculated how much adults need to eat in order to maintain a stable weight and how much children need to eat in order to maintain a normal growth curve.

They then figured out how much Americans were actually eating, using national food supply data from the 1970s and the early 2000s. This information allowed them to predict how much weight Americans would be expected to gain over the 30-year study period if food intake were the only influence.

Next, the investigators determined the actual weight gained over the study period using data from a nationally representative survey that recorded the weight of Americans in the 1970s and early 2000s.

In children, according to Swinburn and colleagues, the predicted and actual weight increase matched exactly, which indicates that the increases in energy intake alone over the 30 years studied could explain the added pounds, they say.

In adults, the data predicted that they would be 10.8 kg (23.8 pounds) heavier, but in fact they were only 8.6 kg (18.9 pounds) heavier. This finding, Swinburn noted, "suggests that excess food intake still explains the weight gain, but that there may have been increases in physical activity over the 30 years that have blunted what would otherwise have been a higher weight gain."

"To return to the average weights of the 1970s, we would need to reverse the increased food intake of about 350 calories a day for children (about one can of fizzy drink and a small portion of French fries) and 500 calories a day for adults (about one large hamburger)," Swinburn noted in a statement from the meeting.

"Alternatively, we could achieve similar results by increasing physical activity by about 150 minutes a day of extra walking for children and 110 minutes for adults, but realistically, although a combination of both is needed, the focus would have to be on reducing calorie intake," he added.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Big Lats by Nick Tumminello

TMUSCLE recently ran a terrific article on how and why to do pull-ups. In this one, I want to tackle a subject that's related, but different: how to build bigger, stronger lats.

If your lats have a natural propensity to grow, you don't need to know much more than whatever you learned the last time you picked up Flex: do a lot of pull-ups, pulldowns, and rows, and make sure everyone can see your "intense" face when you do them.

The rest of us have to give the matter a bit more thought, which is where I come in.

I want to start with a look at what the lats actually do, including the fact that they're a misunderstood and underappreciated part of your core. Next I'll show you some tweaks that will make pull-ups and pulldowns more effective. And then I'll get into some of my favorite lat exercises, which are effective and fun to do.

Too Big to Fail

Given how big these muscles are, and how important they are to a bodybuilder's physique, you'd think the latissimus dorsi would get a lot more attention than they do. Instead, back-training articles tend to focus on neglected muscles like the middle traps and rhomboids, which until recently few of us considered as major contributors to strength, performance, or appearance.

Certainly, those muscles are important, but now it's the lats that seem to be too small a part of the conversation.

No other muscle has as much of a mechanical effect on as many joints as your lats. If you look at how the lats originate and insert, you'll see that the lats are connected to your upper arms and your hips, with numerous attachments to your lumbar spine and ribs in between. It's the only muscle with connections to your upper and lower body.

We all know that the relationship between your shoulders and hips is essential to your function and athletic performance. So strong lats are one of the big keys to improving your game as well as your appearance.

Because the connective tissues of your lats attach to your pelvis and lower spine, the lats are part of your core. If you train the upper- and lower-body functions of the lats simultaneously — as I show later in this article — you'll end up with a stronger and more athletic middle body than you'd have if you focused your core training on abdominal and lower-back exercises exclusively.

Add Some More Pull to Your Pull-Up

If you've ever spent time looking at an anatomy chart, you've probably noticed the fibers of the lats run diagonally. And yet, exercises like pull-ups and lat pulldowns load the muscles in a vertical vector. There's nothing wrong with that, of course — your lats are still doing the work even if the angle of pull doesn't mimic the fiber orientation precisely.

But there's a way to add a horizontal vector to the vertical line of pull, with the combination creating the equivalent of a diagonal. (I explained all this in "A New Angle on Cable Training," my first article for TMUSCLE.)

Pull the bar apart.

You can't do this literally, of course. But if, while doing your pull-ups, you apply a force as if you were trying to pull the bar apart, you'll add an extra challenge that should increase recruitment of your lat muscles.

When doing lat pulldowns, you can take a wide grip, holding the angled parts of the bar. Your lats will then pull your upper arms to your sides in a diagonal trajectory that lines up pretty well with the muscle fibers.

The Double-Duty Lat Pull — The Compound Row

Let's return to the discussion of the lats as part of the core. Because the lats insert at the iliac crest — the top of your pelvic girdle — they play a role in back extension. And when you extend your back, you're almost always tilting the top of your pelvis forward at the same time, exaggerating the arch in your lower back.

A lot of guys incorporate and exaggerate back extension when they do seated close-grip rows. That is, they bend forward on the negative and then lean backward on the concentric part of each repetition. My guess is that few TMUSCLE readers do this, because more advanced lifters know that it puts unnecessary stress on the lower back, while at the same time taking work away from your upper-back muscles.

But there is a way to combine back extension with a close-grip pull without so much risk to your lumbar spine. It's called the standing compound row.

Put the triangle extension on a high cable pulley, stand a few feet back with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, and bend forward at the hips so your torso and arms create a straight line with the cable. Straighten your hips as you pull the handle to your lower chest.

Because you're standing, your lower back doesn't go into as much flexion as it would if you were bending forward on a seated row. Plus, standing movements like this are always more functional. In sports, the actions requiring upper-body strength and power are almost always dependent on coordinated action with the core and lower body.

The Hardest Rollout in the World

Most of you are probably familiar with the rollout, and its many variations. (If not, Mike Boyle has a great introduction in this article.) And you probably know that the lats are involved in the exercise; when you pull the wheel or barbell back from the rollout position, you're using your lats, triceps, and various shoulder muscles along with your core.

The heavy medicine ball roll uses the same idea, but it's much, much harder.

You need a heavy, sand-filled medicine ball — 30 pounds or more. The heavier the ball, the harder it is. Start on your knees, with your hands on the ball and the ball beneath your shoulders. Walk it out as far as you can, then walk it back. That's one rep. Do 3 to 6 sets of 5 to 8 rolls.

Fit to Fight — The Fighter's Pulldown

Combat sports feature movements that aren't seen in other sports. So when I train fighters, it makes sense to employ some specialized exercises. The fighter's pulldown is one of my favorites because it mimics positions that are unique to martial arts: overhooking an arm, blocking a body strike, or getting an opponent into the plum clinch position.

If you have a dual-pulley lat pulldown station at your gym, you can alternate arms, as shown in the pictures to your right. If not, attach a D-shaped handle to the single pulley and work one arm at a time. The action is the same: you want to pull your elbow all the way down to your hipbone, combining the pulldown with a side crunch.

And if you're not a fighter? Do it anyway. It's a fun exercise to try, and it's one of the few exercises you'll do that incorporates lateral core training into a more traditional strength movement.

I like to use higher reps on this one. Try 1 to 3 sets of 12 to 20 reps per side.

The Primal Movement —The Pivot Prone Pulldown

Before you were born, you gestated with your knees up toward your chest and your spine curved. It gave you great leverage to kick your mother from the inside, and of course she appreciated that. So one of the most important movements you learned as an infant was how to extend your back and elongate the muscles on the front of your torso so you could push yourself up and look around at the world.

To do it, you had to pull your shoulder blades together, using your rhomboids, while lifting your arms to the sides with your elbows bent. If you hadn't adducted your shoulder blades, you wouldn't have had the strength to pull it off.

As adults, most of us spend so much time typing on keyboards with our shoulders hunched and arms forward that we start to lose strength and endurance in our rhomboids and lower traps — the muscles that pull our shoulder blades together and down.

That's why my colleague Morgan Johnson, owner of Evolution Sports Physiotherapy in Baltimore, uses an exercise called the pivot prone pulldown, shown in a picture to your right. He uses it for injured clients and athletes, while I use it as a prehab exercise to keep my clients' shoulders healthy.

You'll need a dual-pulley lat pulldown machine for this one. Sit up tall, grab the handles with your hands facing out, pull your shoulder blades together, and then pull straight down to your sides. Since the low traps are predominantly endurance oriented, I like to use high reps, at least 12 per set.

Putting It All Together

If you do all of your upper-body pulls on one training day each week, you can put together these exercises in a program like the following:




1) Wide-grip pull-up or lat pulldown



2) Dumbbell bent-over row (1 or 2 DBs)



3) Compound row



4a) Heavy medicine-ball rollout



4b) Pivot prone pulldown or fighter's pulldown



If you're doing an Ian King split, with horizontal pulling one day and vertical pulling another day, you can do the compound row as a horizontal pull, and on the other day incorporate the wide-grip pull-up, pivot prone pulldown, and/or fighter's pulldown. Then you could do the medicine-ball roll with your core exercises.

And if you're doing total-body workouts, like a Waterbury system, do one of the pulling exercises each day.

But whatever you do, by all means show your lats some love. Give them challenges commensurate with their size and importance to your physique and athletic performance. Add exercises that incorporate their function as part of your core, without cutting back on work for their primary function: pulling your arms down to your sides.

The reward is a bigger, wider, thicker, and stronger back, and a more bad-ass overall physique. And if you don't want that ... well, let's just say you're unique among TMUSCLE's readers.

Big Lats

This anatomical chart prove how the lats are part of the core.

Fighter's pulldown

Big Lats

Pivot prone pulldown

Big Lats

About Nick Tumminello

Big Lats

Nick Tumminello, the director of Performance University, is a nationally recognized coach and educator who works with a select group of athletes, physique competitors, and exercise enthusiasts in Baltimore, Maryland. Go to his new website to get your free "Smarter & Stronger" video course.

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

High Rep Overhead Squat

A Weekly Dose - April 6th 2009

To build total body strength, there are few exercises better than heavy overhead squats. However, if you're an athlete with poor shoulder endurance or if your a non-athlete with poor overall mobility, Chad Waterbury suggests incorporating high rep overhead squats with a lighter load.

Start with a weight that allows you to do 25 reps with perfect form. Don't be surprised if this means you're using an empty bar. Every 48 hours, repeat the exercise and add a few more reps. Your goal should be 50 reps with precise, textbook form.

Once you can get all 50 reps, increase the load slightly, drop back down to 25 reps, and repeat the process. This is an excellent way to build shoulder and back endurance while also enhancing shoulder, back, hip, and ankle mobility.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Running Stairs - The Most Badass Fat Loss Conditioning Drill… Ever!

Ever since I was a kid I remember being very winded when I had to climb up to the top of my building. And since lately I’ve been strapped for time, I decided to start running stairs when get home. I’d just run up to the last floor and take the elevator down to my apartment. There are very few people that run stairs and also very few people that don’t get winded when they climb a 8-9 storey building.

running stairs
[Working the stairs makes girls trim and sexy and the dudes lean and mean. This is why bodybuilders, soccer players, Shaolin monks and even Victoria's secrets models keep their conditioning up with this drill.]

But many athletes such as basketball and soccer players, track athletes and martial artist include this drill in their conditioning. And for good reason. Running stairs kicks ass! It melts fat and conditions you to be efficient at short distance sprinting such as running to catch the bus, scrimmaging on the basketball field, or rushing to get to class on time.

Running Stairs Technique

  • Step on every other step. I’ve found that it’s best to run stairs by skipping every other step. This manner of running ensures proper stride frequency and speed of running
  • Use your whole body. running and climbing are whole-body movements. Engage all your muscles - not just the legs.
  • Use the quads. Climb stairs by pushing with your thighs. Make sure not to completely extend your legs - this puts too much strain on your knees. Instead, run by keeping your legs semi-flexed throughout.
  • The role of the posterior chain. The muscles of the back of your legs - calves, hamstrings (back of your thighs) and glutes (your butt) are responsible for most of the movement that occurs in running and jumping. Don’t make the mistake to push through your knees only. Instead, try to use your posterior chain and extend your hips. Here is a post I wrote on this subject: Glute Activation.
  • Run on your toes. Just a quick note here - when running try to step on your toes or more specifically the place between your toes and your mid foot. That’s how all animals run - they step on their paws and on NOT their heels.
  • Use your arms. Make sure to use your arms to help you with the movement. Keep your elbows in, shoulders down (not shrugged) and your arms semi-flexed (like a sprinter).

Progressive Overload

  • Climb more stairs. The simplest way to increase the difficulty is to climb more storeys.
  • Run more rounds. A better option is, instead of climbing more storeys, to increase the number of times you climb the stairs.
  • Climb faster. Still better is to increase your speed. This will not give you more fat loss benefits, but will improve your conditioning level.
  • Climb slow but with a backpack. Another option - for hardcore guys or gals only - is to climb slowly but with a weighted vest or backpack on.

Stair Climbing Action Plan

  • Start small. Don’t rush it. Start with onle a few stairways and gradually increase your speed.
  • Increase difficulty once you get fitter. You will soon adapt and climbing the stairs will get easier. At this point increase the difficulty so that you continue getting fitter.
  • Add climbing stairs to your daily routine. I like to focus my training around my life and not the other way around. So evening when I get back from walking my Lab Lucky we sometimes go for a sprint up the building stairway. I don’t think he appreciates having to climb a nine storey building LOL.

[Here's a documentary showing the hard training Shaolin monks have to go through every single day. Running stairs is a staple of their routine.]

Mythbusters Vol 5 by Nate Green

In Mythbusters Volume 4, our panel of experts put the kibosh on dangerous, demented, or just plain dumb myths that keep us from building lean, muscular bodies.

In Volume 5, Clay Hyght, Craig Weller, Nick Tumminello, and Matt McGorry get medieval with a new list of suspect beliefs that are commonly held by modern muscleheads.

Myth: Steroids make all the difference.
Mythbuster: Clay Hyght

As a TMUSCLE reader, you're savvy enough to know that many elite athletes in a variety of sports use ergogenic aids like steroids and growth hormones. However, I'm willing to bet you don't know how big of a role these aids really play. It's far less than you may expect.

Remember the first time you took creatine, and your weight and strength went up quicker than ever? Multiply that by two or three, and you get a rough idea of what you could expect by taking steroids. It's an advantage, sure, but it's not the kind of boost you hear about in locker rooms and Internet forums worldwide.

First, an analogy.

Let's say you and I go to the dog track and we decide to play a friendly game where we bet on a dog without seeing him first. All we know is that Dog One has been taking stanozolol (Winstrol) for two years and clenbuterol for a few months, all while training and eating perfectly. Dog Two has also been training and eating perfectly, but hasn't taken any ergogenic aids at all.

Which dog would you put your money on? Dog One, right? It's a no-brainer.

But what if Dog One is a Chihuahua, while Dog Two is a greyhound? Knowing this, would you still bet on the first dog? Not unless you're a fool eager to be parted from his money.

You can extend that analogy in any direction. Just as no amount of drugs would give that Chihuahua a chance in hell against a dog bred specifically for speed, he'd get his ass handed to him in a fight against a drug-free pit bull, or in a sled-pulling contest against a husky with clean urine samples. Genetic advantages rule.

The point I'm trying to make is that those who are at the upper echelons in any sport are the greyhounds, pit bulls, and huskies of the human species. It doesn't matter if we're talking about bodybuilding, track and field, football, or any other sport in which size, strength, and power are the primary tools required. The top athletes in those sports have that big-dog potential with or without steroids.

You think Ronnie Coleman won eight Mr. Olympias because he took more drugs, or better drugs, than everyone else? Hell no! In fact, he won his first bodybuilding titles when he was still drug-free.

He never misses a workout, trains as if his life depends on it, and eats every scheduled meal every single day. It was his hard work and dedication that allowed him to capture eight Olympia trophies. Sure, steroids played a role, but if it hadn't been for his freaky genetics, hard work, and consistent focus, the pharmacology wouldn't have mattered.

A guy with average genetics and a mediocre work ethic could take all the steroids in Bulgaria and still not win the novice division at a local bodybuilding show. But give me a drug-free guy with good genetics who's willing to work hard and eat right, let me put him up against a lazy juicer, and I guarantee my guy will win.

If I told you the steroid protocol of some of the top pros, you'd be amazed at how little they take. The best and most consistent pros typically take less gear than most wannabe bodybuilders. That's because they (or their coaches) are smart enough to know that more is not necessarily better. If you can't grow on 600 milligrams of Testosterone a week, then you're not going to grow by adding any more drugs. It's your diet and training that's the problem.

Just like over-the-counter supplements, ergogenic aids help by enhancing protein synthesis, encouraging lipolysis (aka fat burning), increasing energy, and/or helping you recover from workouts faster and more completely. And those are all tremendous benefits, all else being equal. Give me two greyhounds from the same litter, train them both to race, and I'd put my money on the one that's using drugs over the one that isn't.

That said, I believe ergogenic aids, as often as not, are a crutch. I've seen users who won't diet properly or do cardio without taking clenbuterol. As if you can't burn fat without it! Want to know how to lose fat just as quickly but without drugs? Do 10% more cardio.

Meanwhile, a lot of non-users attribute everything to steroids as a way to excuse their failure to get bigger, leaner, faster, or more competitive in their chosen sport. If you've been training diligently for years and you're at the top edge of your genetic potential, okay, maybe the guys ahead of you got there with steroids. But if you haven't trained hard enough to max out, attributing your failures or someone else's success to steroids is just an excuse.

Me, I don't care if you use ergogenic aids or not. It's your choice. As long as you work hard, you've got my respect either way. Just don't convince yourself that drugs are a replacement for that hard work. Willpower doesn't come in a pill or syringe, my friend.

Myth: It's easy to overtrain.
Mythbuster: Craig Weller

During Naval Special Warfare training — which I had the pleasure of taking part in a few years ago — you must undergo a variety of physical performance tests. Just meeting the standards isn't enough, however. If you run the obstacle course in eight minutes, set a new personal record, place toward the top of your class, but don't look like you're in abject pain when you're done, you'll be marked as a slacker and hazed accordingly.

It's not so much about beating other people as it is about putting forth everything you can at each opportunity. We call it "putting out." (It's a term that's heavily ingrained in me, but that I can no longer use in civilian life. "She really puts out" is not generally taken as a compliment, no matter how much respect I have for the training habits of the person in question.)

The catch with this is that you're expected to improve upon your previous standard throughout training. At each run, swim, or sprint through the obstacle course, you must not only exhaust yourself, but exceed your previous performance. The eight-minute time you had last week is unacceptable this week. This is an important distinction. It's not even enough to wreck yourself each time. You must also get better and stronger each time. Regression or stagnation is unacceptable.

A single day might consist of a four-to-six-mile run in soft sand (generally wearing boots and cammies); a two-mile swim in either the ocean or the pool; an hour on the obstacle course that is, in effect, 60 minutes of pull-ups, dips, and rope climbs; and a ground-based strength routine.

According to the standard perspective on training volume — that the body can endure a limited amount of stress, and linear improvement in performance becomes impossible over time under a constant and highly stressful training load — it should've been impossible to do what we were expected to do. And yet, most of us did.

Overtraining, or central nervous system fatigue, or whatever you want to call it, is certainly possible, but occurs less often than today's gym culture would have you believe. People tell me all the time that they want to go climbing, play basketball, or do something else outside the gym, but they "don't want to overdo it." The truth is that they're nowhere near that point.

Muscle soreness is similarly overrated as a training obstacle. If you really want to, you can work past a substantial degree of soreness and still get the job done. It's more of a mental barrier than a physical impediment.

Most recreational athletes and gym rats have no idea how much stress their bodies can tolerate. And they don't always appreciate how well their bodies can recover and how quickly they can adapt.

In most cases, the body's capacity for physical punishment is not the limiting factor. The problems start when people vary their training volume and intensity with little regard to their recovery. The body doesn't adapt because it's never sure just what you're trying to accomplish.

So overtraining is hardly ever the issue. Few of us could exceed our bodies' true capacities even if we tried. The real concern is under-recovery — not eating enough, not sleeping enough, not treating minor aches and pains when they arise, and not following a sound training plan that allows for progressive improvement.

Take care of those things, and you'll be amazed at how much your body can take.

Myth: You need to "shock" your muscles all the time.
Mythbuster: Matt McGorry

Somewhere along the line, a lot of lifters confused training intensity with trying to smash themselves and their training partners into the ground as often as possible. The exercises, sets, and reps change randomly, and trainers and trainees alike try to outdo themselves and each other by coming up with new ways to brutalize their muscles.

Supersets aren't hard enough? I do trisets.

Trisets? They're for pussies. Wait'll you try my quintuple drop sets.

It would be one thing if this torture produced the hoped-for results. But in most cases, it doesn't. Just as Clay Hyght said that steroids are no substitute for hard work and discipline, and just as Craig Weller argued that "overtraining" should more accurately be described as under-recovery, so I find that extreme muscle-shocking protocols are a poor substitute for solid workout programs and exercise techniques.

Here's what I've learned about gaining size as a gym rat, a powerlifter, and a personal trainer:

• You need to eat more calories than you burn. Obvious? Sure. But if you haven't seen muscle growth in a while, then you aren't applying this basic principle. You may know it's true, but you aren't using this knowledge.

• You should get stronger as you get bigger. Unless you're an advanced bodybuilder, you need to focus less on how your training session feels and more on what your workout accomplishes. Numbers don't lie. Your training log should show consistent improvement in your strength and/or volume. More work in conjunction with a caloric surplus should add up to muscular growth.

• Not all growth is equally valuable. Gaining weight on the scale, even if it comes with increases in strength, isn't your only goal. Break out the tape measure and track your waist size and arm and leg girth along with your strength and scale weight. If your waist is growing proportionally faster than your arms or legs, you probably won't be happy with your weight gain.

And what about the times when you're trying to lose fat? "Shocking" the muscles is especially important here, right, since harder work produces a faster metabolism?

Let's look a little deeper.

As most TMUSCLE readers know, the diet is the first and most potent weapon in the fight against body fat. You need to eat fewer calories than you burn. Since that's the opposite of the strategy you used to build muscle, you're putting growth on hold in exchange for a leaner body.

This is the worst possible time to thrash your muscles. You won't have the nutrients you need to repair and refuel them. It's like demolishing your current house so you can build a new one, only without the materials you need to start the new construction, or the money to pay for those materials.

The key to stripping body fat in the weight room is to use your muscles to burn calories, not to destroy your muscles so they aren't good for anything.

Myth: Swiss balls are for pussies.
Mythbuster: Nick Tumminello

I take it very personally when Swiss balls get bashed within the hardcore strength-and-conditioning crowd. I'm not saying anyone should do crazy monkey shit on it, but just because a few people do doesn't mean it's not a good training tool, or that you should banish it from your programs.

If you're on the fence about the Swiss ball, here are four cool exercise variations to try.

Core exercise from hell

Think you have a strong core? Try doing a single-arm plank with one hand on a Swiss ball. It's incredibly humbling. Put one hand in the middle of the ball and try to squeeze the hell out of it. Make sure your feet are spread a little wider than normal, your body stays flat, and your hips don't twist. If you can hold this longer than a few seconds, you're a step beyond most guys.

Horrible hamstring circuit

My athletes haven't had a single hamstring injury since we started doing this circuit. That's not proof of anything, but I think these exercises have certainly helped keep my guys healthy.

Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight, your arms out to your sides, and your heels on top of the Swiss ball. Your calves should also touch the ball. Lift your hips up and bring the ball toward you for 20 leg curls. Your heels should be flat on the ball at the top of the curl. Don't let your hips drop.

On the final rep, hold the curl position with your heels flat on the ball, and do 20 hip lifts, squeezing your glutes at the top. Finally, in the same curl position, switch to the balls of your feet, and do 20 more hip lifts.

If you're not crying by the end of those 60 reps, color me impressed!

Improve your squat

Much of the time, a guy's pelvis will tuck under in the bottom position of a squat, which limits strength and puts the lower back in an unsafe position. To correct this, you can do this hip-mobility drill.

Get into a traditional crunch position with your sacrum touching the Swiss ball. Widen your feet out like a squat, put your hands behind your head, keep your chest high, and let your ass drop. Your tailbone should never lose contact with the ball. This will force you to keep your lumbar curve and enable your hips to mobilize.

The reverse plank

All of us spend too much time each day sitting at our desks, sitting in our cars, or sitting in front of the TV. So we need an exercise that helps lengthen the hip flexors and pec minor — the muscles that get shortened from all that sitting. As a bonus, the reverse plank activates the upper back and glutes.

Position yourself on the ball as if you're getting ready to do dumbbell chest presses. Your feet should be flat on the floor, your knees bent, your hips high, and your upper back on the ball. Externally rotate your shoulders, open your hands, and let gravity pull them toward the ground. At the same time, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Push your chin to your chest and hold it there. You've just activated your glutes and upper back while lengthening your hip flexors and pecs.

Bonus exercise: Grab a light dumbbell with one hand, get into the same position, and do one-arm chest presses. You've now added an anti-rotary component, turning it into a core exercise as well as a corrective movement.

Your Turn

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

The key to stripping body fat in the weight room is to use your muscles to burn calories.

Mythbusters Vol 5

Russian pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva: clearly the product of a good hamstring circuit.

Mythbusters Vol 5

Hip mobility drill. (Workout attire courtesy of Slumdog Fashion.)Mythbusters Vol 5

Reverse plank.

About Nate Green

Nate Green is the author of Built for Show: Four Body Changing Workouts for Building Muscle, Losing Fat, and Looking Good Enough to Hook Up, which is available in bookstores nationwide.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner by Josef Brandenburg

Chances are, you didn't notice the first time Gary Taubes rocked your world. It was 2002. Taubes, an award-winning science journalist, wrote a cover story for The New York Times Magazine called "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" The article was a follow-up to one published the previous year in Science magazine, called "The Soft Science of Dietary Fat."

Those two articles were so controversial, and so widely discussed, that they eventually led to a distinct shift in the way the media covered nutrition and weight loss, and the way the public talked about it.

Taubes scored a major book deal, and spent the next five years researching the science behind our commonly held ideas about nutrition, obesity, and public health.

What happened between 2002 and 2007 is instructive: Thanks in part to the new legitimacy bestowed upon low-carb diets by Taubes' articles, Dr. Robert Atkins' books sold by the millions. Some restaurants stopped serving bread with meals, and nobody had to apologize for ordering the juiciest steak on the menu. In 2003, during the same week that Atkins slipped on a patch of ice and suffered a fatal head injury, another low-carb book, The South Beach Diet, arrived in bookstores. That one was soon selling more than 100,000 copies a week.

While Taubes studied nutritional science from every angle, deploying a team of researchers to libraries across the U.S., the low-carb craze came and went. That helps explain why Good Calories, Bad Calories, which came out to mixed reviews in 2007, never got the attention it deserved. The battles over carbs and fat had all been fought, and the media was bored and ready to move on. (It helped that the media had a new star in journalist Michael Pollan, who published The Omnivore's Dilemma in 2006 and In Defense of Food in 2008. The latter book quotes Taubes extensively.)

After my first interview with Gary, I immediately put his advice into action. In 6 weeks I went from 198 to 203 while my waist shrunk by an inch! I didn't change anything in my workouts. (More about what I changed later.) Obviously, Gary was worth a second interview.

I caught up with the 53-year-old Taubes, who started out as a physicist with degrees from Harvard and Stanford before he turned to science writing, for a telephone interview.

Testosterone Muscle
: You started out writing on stuff like rocket science. How did you first get interested in obesity and public health?

Gary Taubes:

TM: Let's get to the most controversial point: You say that eating extra calories won't make people fat.


TM: Really?


TM: This sounds like some sort of semantics game. Isn't the problem just that they were overeating?


TM: So what's regulating the growth of the fat tissue?


TM: That's never been controversial?


TM: That carbohydrates make you fat?


TM: People don't just put those two ideas together?


TM: Everybody reading this knows somebody who has eaten a whole lot less, exercised a whole lot more, and lost a lot of weight. How do you explain that?


TM: So they would end up fatter.


TM: All the contestants?


TM: So what about the other option?


TM: Thanks for your time. How can people get in touch with you?



I cut out all fruit from my diet, but allowed myself as much fat and protein as I felt like eating, which meant more calories, lots more calories. Regular bacon became my new best friend, much to my Jewish fiancé's dismay. And, as stated, I went from 198 pounds to 203 pounds in six weeks, while my waist shrunk by an inch!

Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting LeanerEat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner

Taubes says to eat all you want, as long as you're not eating carbs.

Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner

In case you're wondering, these are "good" calories.

Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner

And these are "bad" ones.

Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner

Overeating helped make Yao Ming tall. Synchronized jogging helped make his four friends short.

Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner

Could achieving and maintaining leanness be as simple as making a relatively minor macronutrient adjustment?

About Josef Brandenburg

Eat Your Lungs Out While Getting Leaner

Josef Brandenburg is a personal trainer in Washington D.C. and author of The Body You Want. He specializes in helping normal, busy people create the bodies they want, in the time that they actually have.

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


Portion explosion!

You’ve probably heard that portions have gotten bigger over the years, but do you know how much bigger? Check out some of these popular foods and see how different things were 20 years ago than they are now.

20 years ago
: a bagel was three inches in diameter and had 140 calories.
Today’s portion: six inches and 350 calories.

Still a much better breakfast option than this 920 calorie breakfast burrito!

20 years ago: a cheeseburger had 333 calories.
Today’s portion: 590 calories.

And have you seen the new 4,800 calorie burger???!

20 years ago: a portion of spaghetti and meatballs used to have 500 calories.

Today’s portion: 1,025 calories. This includes two cups of pasta with sauce and three large meatballs.

20 years ago: French fries were 2.4 ounces and 210 calories.
Today’s portion: 6.9-ounces with 610 calories.

These Oven French Fries have 238 calories per serving and satisfy your craving for the real deal!

20 years ago: a turkey sandwich had 320 calories.
Today’s portion: a 10-inch turkey sandwich has 820 calories.

Even though I know portions are bigger, actually seeing these examples - which by the way, are from the National Institutes of Health - really brings it home. No wonder obesity rates are so out of control in this country.

Did any of these portions surprise you?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sorting Out Sweeteners: Agave, Corn Syrup, Sugar, and More

U.S. News

Sweetness travels under a variety of aliases. Just check out the label of your favorite cereal or beverage and you're likely to see the flavor show up many times, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, cane syrup, maple syrup, fructose, molasses, honey—and even agave, the latest caloric sweetener, which is derived from a plant native to Mexico. (These are all in addition, of course, to plain old table sugar, or sucrose.)

You might also find some food labels or manufacturers hinting that their source of sweetness is more healthful than the others. Since the concept of "healthy" can be awfully fuzzy, let's put it bluntly. "All of these are empty calories that offer you no nutrition," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. That doesn't mean they're forbidden, just that they should be eaten in moderation, she says.

And many of us are not moderate in our consumption of added sugars. The World Health Organization recommends that we cap our intake at less than 10 percent of our day's calories, yet the average American gets 400 calories a day from beverages, a lot of which come from sugar. (Many people, including obesity expert Barry Popkin, say one of the easiest ways to drop weight is to simply cut out all caloric beverages.) Assuming you take in 1,800 calories per day, a 10 percent limit translates to fewer than 180 calories, or 45 grams, of sugar daily.

So if you are following WHO's guidance and eating a moderate amount of the sweet stuff, does it matter what form it takes? Some hypothesize that fructose, one of the components of sucrose, is a particularly bad kind of sugar. It may not suppress hunger or stimulate the natural feeling of fullness, says Kathleen Melanson, an assistant professor of food and nutrition at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston. And there is also a concern that when it's consumed in very high amounts, fructose can't be properly processed by the body, which translates to a fatty liver or raised levels of triglycerides in the blood. It can also lead to higher levels of uric acid, which some believe raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, among other woes.

But those hypotheses have not been proven, emphasizes Melanson, and there's no take-home message for people in terms of the form of sugar they eat. Sucrose is about half fructose and half glucose, while honey is about 40 to 45 percent fructose, and high-fructose corn syrup is about 55 percent. The amount of fructose in agave nectar can vary, with estimates starting at about 50 or 55 percent (some say it's much higher, depending on the processing method).

There are tiny differences in the minerals in some sweeteners; the less processed, the more trace minerals, says Blatner. (Honey, for example, has some magnesium and calcium.) And there is some evidence that the levels of antioxidants in sweeteners can vary. One study, published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, found that among sweeteners, dark and blackstrap molasses had the most antioxidant activity. Maple syrup, brown sugar, and honey had a bit less, and refined sugar, corn syrup, and agave nectar had the least.

Still, it usually comes down to personal taste and preference, Blatner says. Some find agave so sweet that they use much less of it, which can mean fewer calories. Others find the taste of molasses vile. It's up to you. Importantly, you shouldn't let any fructose worries scare you away from fruit; while it's true that tree fruits and berries contain a large percentage of fructose, the absolute amount is quite low, Melanson says. And it comes packaged with plenty of fiber and nutrients, which is more you can say for your average sweetened cereal or drink.

Courtesy of U.S. News & World Report


Monday, May 18, 2009

Train Abs First by Tim Henriques

Conventional wisdom says to train abs last because they're stabilizers and we don't want our stabilizers to be fatigued during other exercises. Yeah, I buy that. But for me and a lot of my clients and students, training abs first flat out works better.

I don't really enjoy training abs, but I like to train everything else. Once I'm finished training the good stuff and just have abs left, I have nothing to look forward to. Plus, I'm tired from the workout and may not have as much time left as I'd like. So what happens? I either half-ass it through the ab workout, cut it short, or just skip it all together.

I started training abs first while I'm fresh so I can go hard on 'em. I still have something to look forward to after, so instead of not wanting to hit abs, I like doing them. Sort of like the kid who holds his nose and begrudgingly eats his veggies just to get to the ice cream. So basically, I never skip them now.

On top of that, my performance hasn't suffered at all; I can still bench heavy with tired abs. Abs recover super fast, and the more trained they are, the quicker they recover. Even when moving on to legs after training abs, I spend enough time warming up for squats that my abs are no longer fatigued. For example, I'll do abs, bike for five minutes, then do some dynamic stretches, and by that time my abs are fine.

If you have a super-heavy leg day scheduled, then don't train abs that day. But that's probably once a week, so you should still be able to train 'em with a pretty high frequency (I like two to four times a week). Plus, I've gotten better visible results doing it this way, so it's a win-win situation.