4 Principles to Get MASSIVE Legs

LEG DAY.

My favorite day.

For most people — especially guys — it’s not. In fact, the opposite is true. Every other day besides leg day is a good day.

Why?

I think it’s because it’s hard. Working out your legs is hard, and doing movements like squats and deadlifts takes a lot out of you. This makes many people develop an aversion to it, so they skip it.

What happens, however, is that lots of gains are being left on the table, even for your upper body movements. You can only go so far before your arms and shoulders stop picking up the slack that your legs could be helping you with if you were stronger in the lower half.  For instance, being able to use leg drive and have a strong core for pressing is paramount. Have strong legs helps you have that since that is what you are training. Your legs and core. They go hand-in-hand and skipping it is not the best option.

So, what do you need to do?

TRAIN YOUR LEGS.

Start training your legs for mass and strength, and you’ll be surprised at how much your lifts will start to increase across the board. Your pressing and pulling will be better because with stronger legs you have a stronger base. Your legs are part of your foundation and without it you’ll likely experience plateaus and, perhaps, greater chance for injury since you likely have a tendency to compensate more when lifting. Take a barbell row. If you don’t have a good posterior chain your lower back will take over right away. Instead of your lats being the center of attention, your lower back becomes the star. Not good. All because your legs aren’t strong enough to provide support.

How can you avoid this?

Train you legs?

But, how?

Simple.

I’ll give you 4 BASIC PRINCIPLES that will help you build your legs to get BIG and STRONG.

  1. Squat, squat some more, and don’t be afraid to go heavy

There’s just no getting around it. To build massive legs you’ve got to squat, in some way. Leg curls, extensions, and leg presses only go so far. Look at anyone who has massive legs and you will find that they can squat, and largely, squat heavy (relative to their size at least).

Why?

Because the squat if the “KING” of leg exercises. There is no exercise that hits your quads better, and throw in variations, like box, front, tempo, chain, and goblet squats, you’ve got a powerful combination to grow HUGE legs that don’t neglect the hamstrings and glutes either.

The squat will also teach you to use your core better, and make it super strong to handle heavy-ass weights that lead to thick, strong, and powerful legs. If you want to run faster, jump higher, and have defined legs, then you have got to squat in some way. Obviously, the back squat is the go-to lift and it’s what we mean when we say “SQUAT.” That said, squatting is a fundamental movement that all of us need to do, and without it, you’ll have a damn hard time creating the legs you want.

BUT, what if you have bad knees, a messed up back, and bad ankles?

BIG DEAL. Find a way to squat.

I believe you should be able to squat down your entire life, given you have legs and no extraordinary physical impairments. It’s a fundamental movement for everyday living and if you can’t squat what really is your quality of life like, let alone your “GAINS” in the gym? Probably nothing to be proud about. Therefore, find a way.

If you can’t do load on your back, for instance, think about doing a belt, goblet, or Bulgarian split squat instead. All those don’t stress your back, are largely easier on your joints, and allow extra stress with dumbbells, kettlebells, and other weights. If you can’t do those because of bad knees or ankles, SCALE an exercise to where you can do it. For instance, if you have a hard time doing an air squat, do it with a box. Progress and work from there and you might be surprised on how quickly things start to improve.

So, squat and then squat some more, and don’t be afraid to go heavy every now and then too. Just be sure to periodize and plan your training (linear, undulating, de-loading, etc.) to continually challenge your legs as to not over-train and destroy your central nervous system (CNS). This way you will keep making good progress, and avoid plateaus and injury as much as possible.

Rule #1: FIND A WAY TO SQUAT AND SQUAT

NOTE: If you need some help listen to the “Rhino” Stand Efferding in his 10 minute walk videos about fixing his bad knees and back that may help you.

Stan’s Knee Rehab

Stan’s Back Rehab

Also, check out Trevor Bachmeyer and his incredible channel with endless ways to heal every part of your body, including your knees and back.

  1. Deadlift heavy and add variation

Deadlifts are arguably the best full body exercise, and they never seem to stop from beating you up. It seems they are a battle every-time you do them, and if you do them right they’ll reward you with a strong body.

That said, the debate whether or not to do deadlifts on leg day or back day remains high. In my opinion, I believe deadlifts are much more a lower body exercise, than back exercise, even with conventional.

Sure, you have got to have a strong back, but if you do them right your legs will be beat up.

My preferred style is sumo, which naturally places more emphasis on the legs. That’s obvious. That said, don’t forget that conventional will toast your hammies if done right. That is why some sort of deadlift variation is a must do on leg day.

What is important is that you factor in your intensity for the day, as far as if you are squatting heavy that day or not, which will dictate the intensity of any deadlift you may do. If heavy squats, then it’s probably a good idea to at least to do a deadlift accessory, even if you’re not powerlifting training.

For example, if you went heavy in the squats, then a variation deadlift would do just fine. The easiest variation to do is the opposite of your preferred style of deadlift. For example, if you’re preferred style is conventional then try sumo. It’s that easy. Make sure to do more volume with it too, at a lighter intensity. Throw in stiff-legged, deficit, or paused deadlifts and you should be smashing those legs good.

Rule #2: DO SOME DEADLIFTS. Your legs will thank you.

  1. Effectively periodize volume with intensity

Doing the first two things – squatting and deadlifting – will do wonders for your legs. That said, being able to periodize and structure your training, to attain enough volume/hypertrophy work with strength/power work, will take you to that next level of size, mass, and strength for your legs.

As you may know, powerlifting great, Ed Coan, did blocks of hypertrophy work throughout the year. A large reason for this was to allow his body to get more blood-flow to all his muscles and tissues to aid in the recovery process, and make sure his muscle mass – what he calls his engine – was there.

Just look at him.

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Tell me he ain’t jacked? His legs are like tree trunks – massive and thick with great strength and power.

What Eddy did was rotate his training. He made sure to include hypertrophy/volume work to keep or build his muscle mass, especially in his legs.

That’s why it’s important to periodize (rotate) your training with specific blocks and cycles of training, over the course of weeks, months, and even years.

There are so many programs out there, and, really, all of them work as long as you stick to it. That said, balancing out specific modes of training, such as bodybuilding or powerlifting, is essential. For instance, factoring specificity in your training can help you zero-in on a particular goal. If your main goal is strength, for instance, then less volume and higher intensity, overall, will be better for you. That said, however, if you have no base – no engine to produce that power you want – then you have got to do some hypertrophy/volume type of training, like Ed Coan did, to build your “engine” to have the muscle capable of producing the strength and power you want when training for strength.

From there, it is all about effectively loading (increasing your intensity over-time) and de-loading (decreasing your intensity) with the appropriate volume, as based on your specificity for that period of training (what your main goal is: strength, hypertrophy, endurance, power, etc.).

A simple periodized training for strength and mass might look like this:

Month 1 – Volume/Hypertrophy at moderate intensity

Transition 1/2 Weeks – Slight peak/followed by slight de-load

Month 2 – Strength Based at moderate to higher intensity

Transition 1/2 weeks – Slight de-load/followed by slight peak

Month 3 – Repeat month 2 with slight increase in intensity as needed

Transition 1/2 weeks – Slight de-load/followed by peak

Month 4 – Repeat month 1

Learn how to do moderate your volume and intensity somewhat effectively, like following the above outline for block periods out of the year, and you are going to like the way your legs look.

Rule #3: ROTATE AND PERIODIZE YOUR TRAINING

  1. Always do some form of unilateral work, no matter the goal

It is important that you do some form of unilateral work to get great, strong looking legs. Not only that, but you are reducing the risk of injury because you are working on correcting imbalances by working only on one leg at a time.

That is what unilateral work is: working on one side (or leg) at a time.

Will it cure everything? No, of course not. But, what it will do is provide an opportunity to spot weaknesses and start addressing them, and that’s BIG.

Furthermore, if you are an athlete it is a requirement. No questions asked. To be able to cut, jump, juke, lunge, and do whatever else you need to do, you need to have superior single leg strength. Practically everything you do as an athlete will be on one leg. Thus, you must be strong when on one leg.

And, if you are not an athlete in sport, it will help your longevity in lifting by helping prevent injury because both legs will be equally strong, or close to it, reducing the need for compensations that lead to irregular movement patterns (leaning to one side in a squat, for instance), which promote excessive pressure on joints. This will promote overall integrity and health of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, connective tissues, muscles).

What are some good unilateral exercises for legs?

Pick from the list below. That will get you started.

  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Any type of lunge (forward, reverse, lateral, with weights or without)
  • Banded work (hip abduction/adduction, glute kickback, clamshell, lateral walk, etc.)
  • Single leg Romanian deadlifts (RDLs)
  • Single leg box squat or pistol squat (if capable)
  • Skater jumps
  • Single-leg jumps

Also, even though I am not a big fan, you can definitely add in machine work, like leg curls, extensions, kickbacks, leg presses, and so on. Just don’t make them your focus when it comes to unilateral work, but they do provide value, like if coming off an injury, or working on that mind-muscle connection to understand how certain muscles (hamstrings, abductors/adductors, quads, glutes, etc.) work when you’re doing a squat, deadlift, or anything else.

Rule #4: DO AT LEAST ONE UNILATERAL MOVEMENT EVERYTIME YOU HIT LEGS

Conclusion

LEGS are often overlooked in training because they are a hard area to hit and work effectively. Often times when people do legs, it’s only the quads doing the work, with compensations happening every-where (leaning on your toes, back rounding, hitching, etc.). This leads to inefficient movement, leading to poor gains, increasing the chance for injury, and no one wants that. What you need to do is make leg day your new favorite day, and focus on what you really are doing.

Having the awareness to know what you are doing will go a-long-way, especially with your legs.

Following the 4 BASIC PRINCIPLES OF BUILDING YOUR LEGS and you will have a good opportunity to start making MASSIVE GAINS in your LEGS.

PERIOD.

So, let’s start hitting legs.

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Wanting GAINS in and out of the GYM for the New Year? Fix This and You Can.

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It’s 2018 and here we go again.

New Year’s resolutions, goals, and aspirations for a better you.

It’s a little annoying since it happens every year, and all the new people crowding my gym making it hard for me to get my pump on; but, I do love the premise behind it.

I love it because it is a time where almost everyone reflects on the year they just had, so they can do better in the new one about to happen. It’s where everyone is all about self-improvement, whether they like that sort of thing or not, which makes me excited because that’s what I believe we should all be doing — progressing and improving to do life better, or MAKING GAINS.

No more is this more noticeable than in the realm of FITNESS.

(Click HERE for making better goals and HERE for what type of goals are superior).

As a personal trainer, I see many people come and go after high hopes with motivation to lose weight, pack on the muscle, and look good. They’re gun-ho in the beginning, but quickly fizzle out within 2 to 4 weeks. Usually, I can tell with high accuracy whether or not someone will really stick with their “resolution”  and change their life for the better in the first few moments of meeting them.

WHY?

Because I can read people and pick up on their level of internal commitment to the process that dictates their success.

It’s great to have external, or extrinsic, motivation to get you going, but without intrinsic motivation, drive, and commitment to something, especially your willingness to do the things necessary to drop fat and add lean muscle to your body, there’s no point. You have got to want to do it because that where your success will happen.

Where exactly?

YOUR DAILY ROUTINE.

THE DAILY ROUTINE THAT YOU HAVE, OR DON’T HAVE, WILL DICTATE ANY RESOLUTION, GOAL, OR VISION YOU HAVE FOR YOURSELF.

If you are familiar with this it is related to something called the “COMPOUND EFFECT”. It says that the daily actions you take, especially those that happen everyday without little thought, add up over-time giving you some sort of result. That could be a positive result or negative, but a result nonetheless.

For example, if you have two people with one drinking a can of Coke every night and one who does not, all things being equal, the COKE drinker will be 15 to 20 pounds heavier in a years time. That’s the power of the compound effect.

Your daily routine will allow you to unlock your success that you have always been wanting to have, especially dropping those “LBs” or anything else. For myself, I used much of 2017 to experiment with powerlifting. In this endeavour I have come to understand, even more, that, yet again, how true this COMPOUND EFFECT is in my daily routine.

My daily rituals and habits of meal prep, consistent sleeping schedules, stretching, and training days has helped me  increase my squat and deadlift by 50lbs while at the same weight in a years time*. That does not sound like much, but given it is more than I would ever thought of when I first started lifting and taking this seriously, I’d say it’s pretty good.

(*Starting squat 355. Ending squat 405. Starting deadlift 455. Ending Deadlift 500 — all RAW at 183lbs body-weight).

Now, imagine you adding an extra 50lbs to any lift you do, or dropping 50lbs to lean out and have your muscles start bursting out of your skin? I’d say you would be pretty dang happy about that, right?

Of course, you would.

The thing is is that we can’t really see any of these mundane rituals that we do (or not do) give us much return until long after we do them. Only then, do far too often of us regret and say something like, “If I only have stuck with it I might be better off.”

That’s why your New Year’s Resolution should be FIXING YOUR DAILY ROUTINE.

Your daily routine is like interest that pays you back exponentially the more time goes on. For us to see that positive return we have got to make it a priority, so we see those positive results we seek come to fruition. Thus, COMMIT to the routine and the routine will give you much of what you want.

It may sound too simple or too boring, but are results boring? No they are not. They are awesome. We all want results, and what will give you results? Consistent and purposeful action found in your daily routine.

So, what makes a good routine, fitness or not?

Below are some thoughts.

  • Have a consistent sleep and wake time
  • Prepare your food for the day
  • Write out when you will exercise and what you will do each day
  • Spend 5 minutes the night before or morning of prioritizing your most important tasks of the day
  • Take a minute to stretch 
  • Have a moment of silent time to pray and/or give thanks

You do those daily actions everyday…for a year…and I GUARANTEE that you will have at least some success you could not have thought you would have before in the things you want to do.

From there keep feeding off the momentum you create, and continually refine your routine and the power of belief in yourself that you can lift that weight, lose those pounds, or do whatever else you intend.

Let’s go do it.

(Photo Credit)

Ketogenic Update: 4 Months In and Still Making Gains

Have you ever done 4 months of anything with purpose?

If you haven’t then you are missing out on some incredible things. My first 4 months on the KETOGENIC DIET has proved that and it’s worth talking about.

When I first started  the KETOGENIC DIET (August 6, 2017) it was more of an experiment than anything. I was going to participate in the diet for a full 30 days, and do it right.

And…I did. 

I kept track of all my macros and calories, and made sure I hit my percentages every single day.

What happened?

I felt better than I have ever felt in a long time. I mean A…LONG…TIME.

Once I finished, I thought: Why not keep going?

So, I did, and now here we are four months later, training harder than ever in the GYM.

I hit two of my STRENGTH GOALS I made for the year back in mid to late October. I squatted 405 pounds and deadlifted 500 pounds while on the diet (also with no belt). This is all-while doing the ketogenic diet and keeping up with my powerlifting based training regimen.

I can say I feel stronger than ever, and have little to no aches and pains. Overall, my body is feeling great and I’m hopeful of what more I can do while on the diet. Over the next two weeks I am set to max out, as per my training routine from Mr. Eyebrows himself, Jonnie Candito, and his 6 week strength program.

I did it once already and that is where I achieved two of my strength goals in the squat and deadlift, like I just mentioned. That being said, I plan on upping my deadlift and squat again this time around by another 30 pounds in the squat, and maybe an extra 10 to 20 pounds in the deadlift.

AGAIN, all while I am on the KETOGENIC DIET.

The biggest difference is that I am CONSISTENT WITH BOTH THE DIET AND MY TRAINING.

With the exception of getting a cold last week, I have maintained my training schedule and workload, and never deviated from the diet. Well…with the exception of Thanksgiving. I went ahead and had my fair share of brownies and cookies. My stepmom made them and I had to partake, and I don’t regret it.

As soon as I did, however, I was back on the diet and back into KETOSIS within 3 days after. That said, I did have some cravings for those sweets longer than I thought I would. But, again, I just stuck to the diet and within a week I was back in it full go and feeling great.

Moving forward, I will go off the diet occasionally, but just based on that experience during Thanksgiving, I will do better in my rebound from a “CHEAT DAY” making sure to fast the next day while doing a HIIT workout to accelerate my progress back into KETOSIS to burn through my stored glycogen.

Recently, it has been interesting doing more research about the diet, and recently listening to a recent Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Dr. Shawn Baker who does the CARNIVORE DIET. As you might guess, it is a diet completely composed of all meats. Eggs and cheese too, but completely no fruits or vegetables.

Again, all KETOGENIC, but in a different style.

For those of you saying that is suicide for that man, may I point out that man is a physician for over 10 years and an athlete for over 25 years of his life. He is 6 foot 3 and 240 pounds. Anecdotal, yes, but given that there are whole communities of people who participate in the carnivore diet — AND CULTURES — I would assume there may be something to that, despite being told from the MAINSTREAM that meat, especially red meat, is horrible for you and causes heart disease. Maybe, but I think the impact carbs, especially simple carbs and sugars have on the body, is much more harmful than red meat in the long-run.

I’m not here to debate which one is right, but my point is that you should not be so CLOSE-MINDED in your approach to diet, and that is what 4 months doing KETOGENIC RIGHT has taught me.

It’s also taught me that everyone operates at their best with a diet that is unique to them. Whether that is high-carb, low-carb, ketogenic, vegan, carnivore, paleo, slow-carb, IIFYM, or anything in-between, you have to find what works and doesn’t. For me, a ketogenic diet works really good, and the best part is that my body is really adapting to perform classic glycolytic and ATP based training, like powerlifting and HIIT, which is the majority of my training, really good without carbs.

I have kept my muscle mass, improved my vascularity and muscle tone, and I’m starting to get pumps just as good as I was with carb-based diets. I think the body is an amazing organism and it will start to adapt and find ways to perform when it is forced to.

Just like how you train with heavy ass weights to get BIG, you can train your body to operate at more efficient levels of performance if you stick with something and do it like how it is intended. That’s what a good diet is supposed to do for you. OPTIMIZE your HEALTH and PERFORMANCE in the things you do.

So, for me, 4 months following a KETOGENIC DIET has been great and I plan on doing it as my base diet for the foreseeable future.

If you’d like to ask me any more in-depth questions about the ketogenic diet don’t be afraid to ask with a comment down below.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

Using Salt for More Gains

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Creatine. BCAAs. Pre-workout. Test-boosters.

These are just some of the supplements in the fitness arena that aim to give you that edge during your workouts that will help you perform better in the gym to increase your GAINS.

A lot of those supplements have credence to giving you an extra “boost” to how you perform in the gym. However, there is one physical supplement, if you can call it that, which will give you a bigger performance boost than all of those combined.

What is it?

SALT.

Yes. You heard me right. I said SALT.

But isn’t salt bad for you?

Yeah maybe if you have hypertension, bad kidneys, or consume 10 teaspoons of salt at once. Then yeah. In that case, it might kill you…literally.

BUT, using SALT as a performance enhancing supplement will give you boosts to your performance in the gym that you may have yet to realize.

Why?

Because our body needs and demands it to perform at its best.

Salt’s Impact on Physical Performance

As I’m sure many of you know when you sweat you lose more than just water. You lose electrolytes, namely SODIUM (a.k.a. SALT). When this happens with vigorous training, like lifting, HIIT, or endurance training, your body loses lots of salt. Lose enough, and you start to feel weak, fatigued, and perhaps get dizzy and begin cramping up.  Not good. What can fix that problem? Making sure you supplement with an appropriate amount of SALT before and during your workout.

Taking a simple sport salt tablet, which will often include POTASSIUM and MAGNESIUM in addition to SALT, will make sure you have proper amounts of ELECTROLYTES for your body to PERFORM at its best. Also, sprinkling a dash (no-pun intended for the DASH diet) of some natural sea salt in your water during your workout will make sure that your performance elevates and lasts.

Other benefits include:

  • Increases blood volume for better oxygen use and enhanced pumps
  • Allows muscles to hold more water for increased strength potential
  • Influences nutrient absorption and digestion
  • Helps maintain cell membrane integrity for better muscle contraction and cardiac function

(Source)

If you need more proof, listen to the prestigious and powerful Stan Efferding below.

Did you watch the whole video? What did you think? Are you convinced?

Maybe and maybe not. If not I get it. So, lets dig deeper.

Why Salt Gets a Bad Name

Almost every nutritional authority, from the World Health Organization to Harvard Medicine, says SALT is much more bad than good. Basically, you should limit SALT as much as possible because it’s just about in everything you eat and leads to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension (high blood pressure), among other health maladies. On the surface this seems clear-cut, and ever since the experiments of Lewis Dahl in the early 1970’s it was made a fore-gone conclusion that SALT IS BAD…or IS IT?

Not so fast. Digging deeper, Scientific American points out that Dahl’s rats, which were the subjects of his salt experiments, were given an equivalent of 500 grams of sodium a day. Really? The average American consumes no more than 8 grams of salt per day. How can you compare those numbers and say salt is what is causing our health problems? That’s like consuming 50 liters of water in a day and saying it’s bad for you. Ridiculous in my book.

Furthermore, other studies, like the 1988 INTERSALT study claimed it supported Dahl’s results. BUT, upon further inspection, we discover that outliers were used in their methods of data examination and that resulted in confirming Dahl’s results.

Salt is being demonized for something it, in the BIG PICTURE of things, is probably not really doing that much harm to, or, at the very least, is inconclusive on whether it has a significant and positive impact on contributing to CVD, obesity, Type II diabetes, and so forth.

Going deeper, if we look at salty foods, where do we find them?

In PROCESSED FOODS.

What are processed foods?

They are any form or derivative of McDonald’s hamburgers, Krispy Kreme donuts, Doritos chips, Ritz crackers, Hershey chocolate, and any prepared meal, including Lean Cuisine. These foods are designed to taste good, and are centered around simple carbs and sugar, often paired with high fat (including trans fats) with salt added to complete the flavor.

Here’s another fact though. Even though these foods may have salt, why has our salt intake for the past 50 years in America stayed relatively the same?

Better yet, why don’t we look at the Japanese who are notorious for their salty foods. The graph below sums up their daily consumption over the past 40 years or so. Relatively consistent, yet they are often praised for how good their cardiovascular health is. Based on these pieces of evidence, it appears normal salt consumption, between 3 to 7 grams a day — which is higher than the RDA of 1.5 to 2.5 grams — does not play a significant factor in determining whether you develop obesity, Type II diabetes, and CVD, or at least inconclusive.

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Furthermore, obesity, Typee II diabetes, and hypertension, all have gone up during that time. If salt was a significant contributor to those diseases you would think that salt intake would increase too? In fact, Italian researchers in the late 2000’s looked at people with heart failure and determined their insufficient salt intake was a contributor to their premature death, as states in the the New York Times. 

What has gone up instead? Our consumption of processed foods filled with simple carbs, sugars, and poor sources of fat. Then why is salt getting such a bad name if this is the case?

I don’t have an exact answer for you, but if you read more into salt from Dr. DiNicolantonio, author of The Salt Fix, it’ll tell you more into maybe why that is. You’ll also come to understand in his book how slightly increasing your salt can have various benefits, including reducing your chance of developing insulin resistance, obesity, and enhance your sleep, energy, and fitness performance.

Huh…isn’t that interesting.

What to do about SALT?

Eat more salt! That’s what you should.

Now, before you come running at me with fire and pitch forks, let me caveat that by saying adding more salt is based upon your current intake. If you are getting less than 2 to 3 grams of sodium a day that is probably not in your best interest if you want to make more gains in the gym, on top of just giving your body the amounts it needs to live optimally.

Chris Kresser, an M.S. who specializes in ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine, suggests as long as you are within 3 to 7 grams of sodium a day (1.5 to 3 teaspoons) you should be good. The more active you are the more salt you will need on that spectrum, and the less active you are the less you need. Simple.

Experiment with different levels of salt intake, especially around your workout, and notice how well you perform, whether better, worse, or the same.

That said, it is important to consume the best salt available.

Going for the cheapest salt may not be your best option. For instance, typical table salt like Morton’s often include extra stuff like anti-caking agents, which may include “cyanide” or another version that is apparently used for road salt called “E554 sodium aluminosilicate.” That being true, it may be in your best interest to look for natural sea salt like pink Himalayan sea salt. This salt is a lot more purer in form without, or minimal, contamination, as well as having an abundance of trace minerals, like boron, zinc, magnesium, sulfur, and iron.

HimalaniaHimalayan Fine Pink Salt

(To learn more about the contaminants of salt click HERE).

This adequate salt intake will give you everything your body needs and the chance to make better gains in the gym. What we are all looking for.

From personal experience, especially while on the KETOGENIC DIET, I can tell you first hand that this is 100% true. Anecdotal? Perhaps, but given the facts and the evidence, it seems in correlation with what is out there that salt is a performance enhancing supplement and needed more than we are told it is.

But, let me know what you think. Do you agree with the evidence presented? Or, do you think I’m a shill for “Big Food” because I am saying you should probably eat more salt? I hope not, but I value your opinion, so comment below.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

3 Simple Steps to do Keto Right Outside and In the GYM

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I’m 10 and half weeks in the KETOGENIC DIET and I have to say I’m quite happy about it.

Going in I was nervous and hesitant to make that commitment because I was worried my gym performance would suffer and all “my gains” would go away.

For a time they did, and I was frustrated (Click the following links to read about my updates: 3 Days In and 30 Days in KETO).

However, pushing through that trough paid off. My body soon adapted by week 4 and I was feeling stronger than ever. I kept my programming up (I’m using Jonnie Candito’s 6 week strength program), and kept making all kinds of gains. And, just last week, I achieved one of my STRENGTH GOALS: squatting 405lbs raw. I did it, and that was coming off 2 and half days of being sick. All while on the KETO DIET and INTERMITTENT FASTING.

Why have I been successful so far and still feel strong today?

It’s because I’m refusing to use a KETO DIET as an excuse that I can’t train in powerlifting, and for strength overall, like I want to. I heard many say a KETO DIET is basically suicide for strength gains, and if you want to become weaker than go for it. The outside the gym benefits, such as increased and more consistent energy throughout the day, were not that debated, but for the gym, oh yeah.

So, starting this experiment with myself, I wanted to do it right. I did my fair share of research and listened to authorities on the diet, like Dominic D’Agostino, and people like Mark Bell and his “War on Carbs.” I settled on some things to help me, and so I’ll break down the most important points to hit to ensure you are doing the KETOGENIC DIET right.

Let’s take a look at 3 main “TO-DO’s.”

THE 3 ITEM CHECKLIST TO DO KETO RIGHT

1. HIT YOUR MACRO SPLITS

This is by far most important because if you do not hit your macronutrient ratios — fats, carbs, and protein — then there is no point of the ketogenic diet. You will feel extra crappy, and your workouts will suck because your body doesn’t know what fuel to use — carbs or fats? You will break down muscle, and feel as weak as a mouse. We don’t want that so make sure you hit your splits.

What are your ratio splits?

Simple. Check ’em out below.

  • Fats: 70% or greater
  • Protein: ~20%
  • Carbs: <10%

For those that need a visual here is a STANDARD pie chart for KETO.

Related image

As you can see, you have to get a lot of fats.

Where do you get them from?

The list below will give you an idea.

FAT SOURCES:

  • Butter or ghee
  • Avocados
  • Coconut, avocado, olive, and MCT oils
  • Fattier nuts and seeds (including their butters) like walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, chia and flax seeds, and brazil nuts
  • Fatty fish (preferably cold water and wild caught), like salmon, tuna, halibut, and cod
  • EGGS
  • Cheeses (preferably hormone/antibiotic free) like cream cheese, feta, cheddar, parmesan, and swiss
  • Heavy cream and sour cream (free from added sugars and organic if possible)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Animal fat on meats

Generally speaking that is where your FATS should come from.

To make sure you are hitting your FAT numbers, I recommend tracking your calories for at least 3 consecutive days, if not a week, to ensure that you are consistently hitting your numbers and begin to understand what it feels like to be on a KETOGENIC DIET.

If this is brand new to you, then it is a MUST to keep track of your calories.

(I use my FitBit app to log all my calories, but MyFitnessPal or the Keto Diet App are great too).

If you read my Keto updates (click here for Part I and Part II) you will know that I kept track of my calories for a month straight. I did it everyday to ensure that I was hitting my numbers; both my total calories overall (for me around 2,800 to 3,000/day) and my ratio splits.

This is vital because how can you make sure that you are in a healthy caloric intake for what your goal is — maintaining weight, losing weight, or even gaining weight. Tracking your food and understanding how many calories you consume is essential.

The last thing you want is to be throwing darts in the dark where you don’t know if you are hitting your splits. There is no sure way to know if your body is heading and will remain in KETOSIS if you don’t measure and track it starting out. The whole point is to put your body in KETOSIS. If you are not hitting your numbers everything else is for not.

YOU MUST HIT YOUR SPLITS TO DO KETO RIGHT SO TRACK IT, and BE FULLY COMMITTED TO THE DIET. YOU’RE EITHER ALL IN OR NOT, SO BE ALL IN.

2. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER AND GET YOUR ELECTROLYTES 

Number TWO item to take care of is drinking plenty of water and getting your electrolytes.

THIS IS A MUST FOR THE GYM

Any time you’re on a low carb diet, especially KETO, your body is going to excrete more fluids. When this happens you may become dehydrated, which is not good. As a result, your body will often excrete more essential electrolytes than usual, namely SODIUM, POTASSIUM, AND MAGNESIUM. This is horrible, especially for the GYM, and thus must be addressed.

To make sure you are getting your electrolytes I recommended putting some sort of salt, like Himalayan Sea Salt, in your water throughout the day, and supplementing with sport salts 30 minutes prior to your workout. This will help you perform and feel better through your training, and throughout your day.

I use the following sport tablets below.

Pure Planet Sports Salts 30 Veg Caps

They are vegetable capsules filled with SODIUM, POTASSIUM, AND MAGNESIUM. That’s it. Regardless of what brand you take, make sure it has those 3 electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium) in it and make sure it is free of any added sugars and carbs.

Making sure you get your electrolytes and water will help you avoid the “KETO FLU.” The “keto flu” is a term used to coin the way you feel when your body is transitioning to KETOSIS. You will often experience “flu-like” symptoms, like a headache, runny noise, excessive fatigue, poor mood, and insomnia.

Taking adequate amounts of your salts and electrolytes will help you significantly minimize these symptoms and make the transition much more smooth. Be sure to take them.

3. EAT ENOUGH VEGETABLES

The third item you need to take care of is that you are getting your vegetables! More specifically your non-starchy vegetables.

In case you don’t know which ones to choose from look at the list below:

  • Kale, spinach, and mixed greens
  • Swiss Chard and Bok choy
  • Lettuces and radicchio
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Kohirabi
  • Celery and cucumbers

Eating more of these vegetables will help you get your MICRONUTRIENTS on the ketogenic diet, and all the necessary FIBER to keep your digestive system flowing properly to ensure a healthy gut. It also helps your transition which avoids the KETO FLU as we discussed in “item 2.”

Feel free to cook them anyway you want, and if you do, cook them in oils like grass-fed butter or coconut oil. This will help keep your fats where you want them, especially if you don’t have the appetite to eat more solid food.

Regardless, make sure to eat your fair share of veggies while doing KETO.

Wrapping Up

Following this simple 3 item checklist will help you ensure that you are doing the KETOGENIC DIET right.

This 10 item list also breaks it down quite well.

Image result for ketogenic diet gym

Without hitting your ratios you’re finished before you even start. Make sure to hit your splits. Second, be sure to drink plenty of water and supplement with salt and sport salts to get your vital electrolytes. Finally, making sure to eat tons of veggies will help you get your micronutrients and fiber to ensure your digestive system is working properly.

On top of this, it is already assumed that you are doing other lifestyle habits to ensure you OPTIMIZE KETO. For instance, getting your proper sleep and exercise will enhance KETO’s postive effects, especially WEIGHT-LOSS.

The great part is that your appetite will often be surpressed because your insulin levels are much more consistent throughout the day and you can avoid stuffing yourself with snacks, like potato chips and sweets. This will cut calories in an appropriate way to MAXIMIZE weight-loss and OPTIMIZE muscle retention and/or muscle gain.

Speaking from personal experience, I feel much more leaner than ever, and stronger than ever. I will continue doing KETO moving foward for however long I want, and, perhaps, have certain modifications or “cheat days” where I break it up every now and then.

Hopefully this was resourceful to you in your effort to do KETO right.

If you have any questions please comment below.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

Want to Get Bigger? Value Strength Over Aesthetics.

Image result for heavy ass weights

I hear it all the time…”I WANT TO GET BIGGER.”

I want bigger arms…I want a bigger chest…I want my shoulders to pop out of my shirt…the list goes on.

What do most people do?

They start bodybuilding.

Newbies start by doing as many curls as they can, and make the bench press their passion. It’s arm and chest day everyday of the week, and getting enough protein becomes an obsession. Results quickly come about because of “newbie” gains.

This is encouraging and soon after their interest elevates and they start to explore methods to maximize their gains. They start to understand the importance of squeezing the muscle through the “Mind Muscle Connection” in order to  focus on the contraction of their muscles. This helps them learn movement patterns more effectively and optimize the range of motion to get more gains.

Once they start putting heavier weight on the bar they’re hooked, and the obsession to “GET BIG” ensues.

Typically this is a common theme of progression for most in lifting, especially for those starting out, whether young or old.

Bodybuilding, or hypertrophy training, is how this process of lifting to get BIG starts.

The only thing is that it starts and ends at bodybuilding. They only progress within bodybuilding for far too long, and most do not pursue other training styles or modalities that will maximize their potential.

The gym to them is squarely for bodybuilding.

Is there anything wrong with that?

NO.

And does it work to get BIG?

Absolutely.

BUUUTTT, there is a better way and long-term vision for you to ensure you get BIG, stay BIG, and also perform BIG.

What is it?

You have to value strength, over aesthetics.

Why Strength is Superior for Mass than Bodybuilding Alone

Look at anybody you see who you consider strong and aspire to in the realm of physique. Disregarding genetics, for the moment, what do they have in common?

To start, they have a hard work ethic, drive, discipline, and passion to be the best. All ingredients for success in any endeavor, especially your fitness and physique. HOWEVER, in terms of training, there is also a common ingredient. It’s their pursuit of strength that sets them apart from others in building lean, dense muscle on their bodies.

Look at someone in the NFL, like former All-Pro safety for the Philadelphia Eagles Brian Dawkins. You see him in uniform and you know he’s jacked.

Image result for jacked nfl players

 

What about the NBA, NHL, an Olympic wrestler, or even a PGA golfer like Rory McIlroy?

Image result for jacked golfers

Rory does not need to squat heavy. He can John Daly it up and have a beer belly. But, to perform like he wants he squats heavy. Result: strong swing and not a bad looking body.

 

Why are athletes like these so much bigger now more than ever?

Because they value STRENGTH as their top priority.

Strength requires emphasis on PERFORMANCE. This may be lifting a certain amount of weight, or being able to have a certain level of strength endurance over the course of a game.

If you are not strong you cannot perform like you want. Training for STRENGTH allows your body to become shaped in a way that leads to massive amounts of muscle being added to your frame to deal with the stress of training and the game to be played leading to good aesthetics and/or massive size.

Don’t get me wrong. I know I am taking the extreme of athletes at the highest level. BUT, if you want to look like someone in the NFL, or an athlete in general, why wouldn’t you practice the same sort of training they do?

It makes no sense.

Why do endless bicep curls, skull crushers, and cable flyes to get big when you can try bench pressing 350lbs and do weighted push-ups with a plate on your back for 50 reps? Which pursuit would you think would give you a massive chest and upper body like you want not to mention performance boosts?

I’d say the latter.

Bodybuilding is great and it’s something a lot of people enjoy, including myself. It often introduces us to lifting and pumping iron. But you don’t get a big chest from doing endless cable flyes alone. You get BIG because you start pressing heavy and do training that prioritizes strength performance first, and aesthetics come secondary.

Even Arnold himself benched above 3 plates and squatted 4+ plates during his day for reps along with Franco Columbo. They were bodybuilders but they were also STRONG.

They knew that to get BIG you had to put some emphasis on strength and performance.

Ronnie Coleman did bent over rows with 600-700lbs on the bar. Bodybuilder, but strong as FUARK.

He said it best…

Image result for ronnie coleman heavy weights

Bodybuilders (besides Ronnie) will disagree with me, and that’s okay. I’m not here to bash bodybuilding and not say you can’t build a massive body with lighter weights.

Yes, you can do that.

What I am here to say is that prioritizing strength first will lead to more gains in lean muscle mass than hypertrophy training alone.

It’s great to be someone like Phil Health, but if you asked him to do what he did in his collegiate basketball playing days he couldn’t now because he does not train for strength. His muscles don’t know how to perform like they used to, in a sense.

Again, nothing wrong with that.

I’d just rather be able to move while being “BIG” at the same time.

That’s what focusing on strength does — it allows you to perform better.

Strength Unlocks Your Potential

Focusing on strength over aesthetics keeps your performance high in things other than the gym. And, what is muscle good for if you can’t do something with it?

Why heavy squat or deadlift?

Because it helps you run faster and jump higher.

Don’t believe me?

Then ask Ryan Flatherty. He is the Senior Performance Directory at Nike and trainer/coach for top pro and Olympic athletes.

His whole mission is to get them to run faster. He recommends many things, but at the focus is getting strong. His central piece of that is the trap, or hex, bar deadlift. This helps people sprint faster. Period.

Listen to him speak on Tim Ferriss’ podcast and you will understand.

Sprinting is needed for sport and STRENGTH is at the center piece of that.

Side-effect: massive muscle GAINS.

But, don’t squats ruin your knees and don’t deadlifts wreck your back?

They can that’s for sure, but typically only when you haven’t dedicated time to really learn the movement and understand proper technique. From there your ego gets in the way and you have a recipe for bad knees and snap city.

Trust me. I’ve been there.

If you check out my article on “Why I stopped powerlifting” you will come to understand that I injured myself. As a result, I blamed powerlifting and didn’t take an personal accountability.

To be honest, that is probably the worst article I’ve written on this website, at least in my opinion. It’s garbage because it’s not true.

For one, I wasn’t really training for powerlifting I only thought I was. I did that type of training style, but was too naive in my pursuit believing that I didn’t need any coaching or guidance.

BIG MISTAKE.

Two, if you learn the right form for the squat and deadlift for your body type, there is no shearing or undue stresses on your knees or back that will cause significant problems.

Lastly, like anything, powerlifting can be taken to extremes, just like bodybuilding or any other sport and cause problems.

With bodybuilding it’s body dysmorphia. With powerlifting or strongman, it’s your joints. In the NFL, it’s your joints, concussions and CTE. With MMA, it’s everything.

I can go on and on, but I think you get my point. With anything you do to an extreme you’ll get negative side-effects.

BUT, in regards to the average gym-goer who wants to get BIG and STRONG learning how to squat and deadlift will take them far.

You look at any high school football strength and conditioning program, for instance, and they are learning how to squat, deadlift, and press heavy. On my bad high school football team, there were kids who squatted 500+ pounds when they were 18…heck 16 years old! Across the country that’s the norm. Those kids are not only STRONG but JACKED too! It’s because they lift heavy ass weight.

That’s why I don’t understand why it is such a mystery?

STRENGTH UNLOCKS YOUR FULL POTENTIAL FOR MUSCLE GAINS.

That’s why focus FIRST on STRENGTH and the AESTHETICS will come.

Final Thoughts

Bodybuilding is great and it has it’s place just like powerlfiting or strength training does.

Should you do any to an extreme? Not necessarily, but, prioritizing your training for performance and having that performance be STRENGTH will get you far.

In this regard, lifting heavy weights is one form of strength.

In contrast, watch any gymnast and tell me they are not strong as hell. They may not lift heavy weights, but because their strength is relative and not absolute, unlike powerlifting, they get freaking strong because they need to be strong.

The common ground between the two is STRENGTH. This is true in any other sports, especially stop-and-go, like basketball, baseball, and football.

The best is perk, is that you’ll get BIG and make the most gains you can.

Unlock your potential and make STRENGTH a focus of your training and see where it goes.

If you need some help I’ve got a beginner LEAN MUSCLE BUILDING PROGRAM for you.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Cover Photo Credit)

(Brian Dawkins Photo)

(Rory McIlroy Photo)

(Ronnie Coleman Quote)

Ketogenic Diet Part II: 30 Days In, Feeling Good, but Losing Gains?

Image result for ketogenic diet for strength gains

I’ve done it!

30 days of a continuous ketogenic diet.

How has it been?

It’s been great! In fact, really easy, at least for me.

The results?

Mostly good, and some areas for concern.

During PART I, you will know I gave my first few days experience on the diet. I relayed the astounding positive energy difference I felt, but the drop in gym performance, particularly feeling flat and not as strong as I normally do when I was on a carb-based diet.

This was my biggest concern continuing the diet, and curious of how exactly my strength would hold up, especially since I lost weight transitioning to the diet (about 8 pounds: 188 to ~180).

Well, I’m here to inform you that I’ve lost some gains. Yes, unfortunately, some of my strength has diminished and it’s been frustrating, since I’ve been progressing steadily as the year has progressed (mostly).

(Check out my STRENGTH GAINS series in PART I and PART II).

My number ONE PRIORITY during this past month was to MAINTAIN MY STRENGTH. This was my primary goal and I attempted to follow my programming (I was on 5/3/1 during the past month). I continued everything like normal, even though my diet had changed radically.

What happened?

Struggle! That’s what happened.

Struggle to maintain my strength, and struggle to maintain my endurance training (HIIT and circuit workouts, of course). I struggled to “turn it on” when the time came to lift the weight, and felt I had to exert so much more energy than usual to complete the lift and given set(s).

BUT, you know what?

I did complete the sets and reps I needed to at my required weights and intensities. Only thing, however, it didn’t always look pretty. My form often broke down more than usual because I felt fatigued at some points, but, as I mentioned, just couldn’t “TURN IT ON” like I used to. I’m referring to that slight controlled adrenaline rush you get when you lift that provides you that extra edge to complete the set (those who lift know what I’m talking about). This was at least what occurred for the first 2 and half weeks or so.

During the 3rd and 4th weeks I started to feel more of a “PUMP” and strong again. However, this return to optimal performance occurred in spurts, from one training session to another. One session I would feel great and have little time where I felt “weak.” Others times, though, I felt mediocre in my abilities.

What was the difference?

My best guess is time of day.

I felt better during my morning training sessions rather than my afternoon training sessions, despite fasting. From a previous article you will know I follow intermittent fasting as a pattern of eating, and have had great success over the past 4 years practicing it. You might think that I would feel worse, but NO. I felt and often feel better.

WHY???

I’m not completely sure, but maybe it’s my routine and my body is better prepared for the work (my guess, at least).

I did all the same things for my afternoon workouts as my morning workouts. I took my electrolyte supplements (I use this one), my pre-workout, and my enthusiasm (or lack there of, lol).

I’m not sure what it was, but it was a noticeable difference.

(NOTE: afternoon workouts have always been my least favorite. I prefer mornings and evenings if possible).

The good news is that it has gotten better as I continue on the KETO diet.

All the positive effects…

  • Significant increase in consistent energy throughout the day (no afternoon crash)
  • Better mood day-to-day (much more positive)
  • Enhanced mental performance and function (more creative and productive)
  • Clearer skin (brighter complexion)
  • Better body composition (less fat)
  • I can handle stress better (may be due to better mood, mental performance, etc.)

is just too much for me to call it “QUITS” for the KETO DIET right now. I want to keep going and will figure out the strength part of the equation as I continue.

Where there’s a will there’s a way and I’ll get to my strength goals.

HENCE, I WILL CONTINUE KETO.

As always, thanks for reading and stopping by. Comment down below with your questions, and be sure to stay tuned as I continue my KETO series and update my strength programming.

Until next time, be strong and be you.

(Photo Credit)