Monday, January 16, 2006

Effectively Building Tricep Muscles

The key to building the tricep muscles is not turning the workout into a marathon. Efficiency and productivity are the keys to building tricep muscles. Actually, those are the keys to building any muscle.

Well-built triceps are essential to upper body strength. Not only that, there's something pretty awesome about a powerful, well-defined pair of triceps busting out of the sleeves of your shirt. Strong tricep muscles are important to building chest mass, since the triceps play such a big part in all chest work.

You need to continually make gains in tricep size and power if you're going to handle the heavier weights that are required for chest training. That's also true for shoulder work. Without strong tricep muscles, you'll have trouble training shoulders with maximum weight and intensity.

When building the tricep muscles, you only need 2 or 3 exercises to get results. You want to pick exercises that not only help you build muscle in that area, but ones that do not put any undue stress on the joints of the elbows.

One of the best exercises for building the tricep muscles is the tricep pushdowns using a cambered bar on the cable machine. Stick with 2 or 3 warm up sets, followed by 2 or 3 heavy sets of tricep pushdowns.

Another great exercise for building the tris are lying tricep extensions with an EZ curl bar. The key to these are to lower the bar a little behind your head, not directly to the forehead. Bringing the bar down to the forehead puts too much stress and strain on the elbows.

Close-grip bench presses are probably my third choice for building the muscles of the triceps. In fact, even if you stuck with these 3 mass builders, your triceps would be ahead of most peoples.

You can also use 1-arm pushdowns on the cable machine as well as 1-arm tricep extensions using a dumbbell and lowering it behind the head. Tricep kickbacks are probably my last choice for building triceps. They don't allow you to use a lot of weight, so the overload capabilities are limited.

Master these tricep exercises and try to use more weight and intensity when doing them. I can assure you, if you do that, you'll start building your tricep muscles faster than anything else you do.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Can You Build Muscle While Training At Home?

One question I'm asked a lot is whether or not my programs can be used to build muscle at home. And without a doubt, the answer is yes.

Working out at home can be very effective for building muscle, increasing strength, and losing fat. The truth is, you don't need some fancy gym or high-powered machine to see results.

I know of many championship physiques that were built at home, with nothing more than a set of dumbbells and a utility bench. The key to training at home effectively is, well, actually working out. I know people who have good intentions of lifting at home, but are then easily distracted by the kids, by the need to cook dinner, or by their favorite TV show.

If you're serious about building muscle and getting the body you've always wanted, you can't let anything stand in your way. That's why it's important to establish a set time to work out. Make it an appointment that you must keep. Don't let anything come between you and this time.

Try to set up your home gym away from all distractions. Me, I have a completely separate finished room in the basement to train in. It's away from all the noise and distractions.

Next, all you need to build muscle at home is a good set of dumbbells, in which you can keep adding weights to. Also, a straight barbell would come in handy, so you can do bicep curls, shoulder presses, and back rows. You also want additional free weights you can keep adding to it.

And finally, a good utility bench that you can do presses and other exercises on. Total set up should cost no more than $200, which is less than the cost of a 6-month membership at most gyms. So, not only is the cost minimal, the amount of space you need to store it all is minimal too.

The biggest factors in weight training to build muscle at home are:

1. Making sure you do it when you're supposed to. Set a time each night and stick to it.

2. You need to have enough weights so you can keep adding resistance to what you have. Since you build muscle and gain strength by lifting more weight over time, you must be able to keep adding weight to your equipment. If you can, you're all set to train at home. If not, run down to your local Walmart or other department store and head right to the sporting goods section. Everything you need to build a lean, muscular physique can be had right there, for under $200.

3. Even if you're main goal is to build muscle, I'm sure you don't want to add fat. So you'll have to do cardio. For your cardio, you can either walk or run outdoors. If you have a treadmill, bike, or other cardio equipment at home, you have everything you need to train effectively.

So don't delay working out and getting in shape, just because you can't make it to a gym right now. Bring the gym home to you!

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Machines Are Still Okay For Building Muscle

If you've read my past blog entries or articles, you'll know I'm a big fan of using free weights when working out to build muscle. But the thing is, even if you only have access to machines, you can still pack on some muscle size.

Just because you don't have access to free weights doesn't mean you should give up on your muscle building goals. After all, to a point, resistance is resistance, no matter if it's from machines or free weights.

You need to lift progressively heavier weight, over time, if you're going to build muscle. And this can still be done using machines.

Some times, the gym is nuts with a ton of people and you can't get near the free weights and all that's left to use is the machines. Instead of giving up and going home, start cranking out your exercises on the machines.

One reason machines are not as good for building muscle as are free weights is because the machines isolate the muscle too much. When a muscle is isolated, it will not be able to lift as much weight, so the overload is reduced. Less overload to the muscles means less muscle growth as a result.

And machines really isolate the muscle groups, therefore reducing overload to the muscles.

One benefit of using machines over free weights is that machines allow you to just focus on lifting the weight. With dumbbells, you have to struggle and use a lot of energy just to get them in position and ready to lift.

A machine you can just start the lift. You can lock yourself in position and focus all your strength and energy on moving that weight. This will allow you to overload the muscles, since you're able to use more energy on the lifting portion and not trying to get the weights up and ready.

Another benefit of machines is you don't need a spotter. You can hit the point of muscle failure and lift as heavy as possible, without worrying about your safety. The machines have built-in safety mechanisms in place, so you're less likely to injure yourself.

With free weights, it's just you and the weights, so if you get into trouble, you have to dump the weights yourself.

One technique for building muscle on machines is using burn sets. A burn set is when you lift a certain muscle group to failure and then, without resting, get a lighter weight and start doing more reps.

It's called a burn set because your muscles will literally burn with lactic acid build up. They're not something you want to do all the time for building muscle, since you can overtrain if you do too many burn sets. But once in a while, they're helpful for shocking the muscles into more muscle growth.

One other benefit of machines over free weights for building muscle is that of rehab and coming off an injury. Machines offer direct, localized overload to the muscles, without having to worry about stress surges against the muscle. You can go as slow as you need, with as light weight you need, to slowly build back the muscle that was injured.

So, the next time you hear someone say that machines are not useful for gaining muscle, take it with a grain of salt. All overload can help build muscle and machines are just another form of overload.

Include them in your muscle building workout from time to time and you're less likely to get bored any time soon.

If you have any questions about what machines to use or how to set up your workout to use the best exercises, reps, and sets for building muscle, check out my newest program "Muscle Building 101: A Beginners Guide to Weight Lifting and Bodybuilding:

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Compound Exercises For Building Muscle

Some exercises offer more stimulus for building muscle than others. Compound exercises are some of the best ones to use if you want to build more muscle in less time.

Compound movements use many muscle groups at the same time, which is why they are called compound. They are a combination of 2 or more exercises all rolled into one.

In fact, one compound exercise can work up to 10 muscle groups at once. And the great thing about them is, they allow you to train just about all of your muscle groups in a very short time.

In fact, you could do just 3 compound movements in your workout and complete all of your muscle groups in about 15 minutes. So if you're short for time but you still want to build muscle, you may want to start using these exercises.

Because compound movements are very intense and offer a lot of overload to the muscles, they are very effective at building muscle. And by working several muscle groups at the same time, your body will use more stored calories as fuel, so you'll burn more fat.

Compound movements pull your muscles together to accomplish a lift together, so they strengthen individual muscles and the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Here are some of the forgotten compound exercises you can use to build more muscle in less time at the gym. Remember to start light and get the feel for the exercise before deciding to use more weight.

Power Clean and Press:

This exercise works the shoulders, triceps, chest, back, abs, and legs.

What you do is, place a barbell on the floor in front of you, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bend and grab the bar with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder width.

Make sure your back is straight and shoulders are not arched forward. With your arms straight and head facing forward, slowly stand only using your leg muscles.

Your arms and back needs to be straight as the bar passes your knees and comes to rest against the front of your thighs. Then, swing the bar upward, bending at the elbows. until the bar is directly in front of your chest.

With your back straight, use your arms and shoulders to press the weight over your head, like you're doing a standing shoulder press. Then, using your ab muscles to keep your lower back tight, slowly lower the weight back to your shoulders, then down to your thighs, and finally to the floor.

The Power Clean and Press is very effective for athletes wanting to increase their explosiveness.

Super Squat::

This works the legs, butt, lower back, biceps, shoulders, triceps, chest, abs, and calves.

Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand, feet about shoulder width apart. Palms should be facing your legs.

Keeping your back straight, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Slowly return to the starting position.

Once you're back to standing up straight, curl both dumbbells towards your shoulders, so your palms are facing your shoulders.

Then, turn your palms outward so they face away from you and then press both weights overhead. Slowly lower to your shoulders and turn your wrists so your palms face you again.
Then curl the weights back to your side in the starting position.

Power Lunges

Works the legs, butt, calves, shoulders, back, biceps, and forearms.

Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your side. Keep feet about shoulder width apart, back straight, and face forward.

Take a step foward with your left foot until your leg forms a 90- degree angle and upper thigh is parallel to the floor. Then reverse the motion by pushing off with your left foot, until your back in the standing position.

Next, bend your elbows slightly and raise your arms out to the side, doing a side lateral raise. Raise them until they are parallel to the floor, palms facing down.

Slowly lower them back down and repeat the lunge again, this time using the right leg.

There you have 3 compound movements you can use to build muscle mass in less time, so if you think you don't have time to hit the gym, guess again!

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