Archive for abs

Supplements…What to Choose?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

It’s a loaded question…I don’t know your goals. The supplements you take and the food you eat should obviously go hand-in-hand with the workouts you are doing to help fulfill your goals. Period.

With that being said, there is a good chance that these supplements will cover most people’s goals and should therefore be included your daily routine/regimen.

The biggest thing to understand about supplements is that a very large part of the industry is built on deception, not a good thing for the consumer who cares. There are so many companies offering a wide variety of products, that all claim to have made a BETTER VERSION. Why would any logically thinking human being think that this is reasonable?!?!?!

So here is the gameplan…find a company that is trustworthy and stick with them. You may pay a little bit more than your friends, but you know it works. There is a lot of value in that. Some companies with great products include Cytosport, Rivalus, MusclePharm (for the most part), AllMax, Dymatize. I’m sure many of you have a bigger list than that, but I like to make sure the products are clean and effective, so I don’t need more options than this…

Now onto the products that work. This is by no-means an exhaustive list, but will provide plenty of options for a well-rounded supplement protocol.

PROTEIN POWDER

This is a no-brainer for a few reasons. Firstly, protein ingested immediately post-workout is very important for increasing muscle-protein synthesis; that is the creation of new muscle mass. Secondly, anyone looking to improve their body composition must understand that they need a steady dose of protein throughout the day. This can come from a variety of sources, but a good protein powder is a great weapon to ensure that you can get your servings even when your outside of your routine. Whey Protein, Whey Protein Isolate, Casein Protein, and a vegetarion source like Brown Rice Protein are all good choices for purchase.

CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

If you have been trying to get huge, then you probably already get your fair share of creatine. If not, you probably think it is somehow illegal, or makes you bloated. The term ‘water weight’ gets thrown around quite a bit, without much evidence to support it. The truth is creatine is very beneficial for increasing high-intensity work capacity, for muscle hypertrophy, and lately has been shown to be extremely beneficial for your cognitive health (YOUR BRAIN!!). All the while, myths about cramping, bloating, or water retention have been refuted in the research. It is cheap and flavourless, so just drop 10g a day in one of your workout beverages and you are good to go!

BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)

BCAAs might have to be the favourite supplement out there for most people who train regularly. It has a long list of benefits, including decreasing ratings of perceived exertion (difficulty/fatigue of the workout), increased muscle protein synthesis, decreased muscle breakdown, preservation of glutamine levels, and symptoms of DOMS. It has been shown effective before the workout, during the workout, and after the workout as well. While I don’t suggest replacing a protein shake after your workout, the consumption of BCAAs around your workout could make the post-workout shake redundant. If you aren’t looking to ADD a significant amount of lean mass, the BCAAs may be your top priority.

VITAMIN-MINERAL COMPLEX

This is the general blanket pick. There are so many factors that affect the level of your micronutrients, and the last thing you want is to have your progress stunted because of a deficiency. Take a vitamin-mineral complex that ensures you have a good variety of nutrients regardless of your diet, but don’t believe that you can eat garbage because of a convenient once-a-day.

BETA-ALANINE

A similar concept as creatine, beta-alanine just uses a slightly different mechanism to have its main effect. When ingested, beta-alanine is converted to carnosine, which is a compound that is used by your body to protect against a drop in pH. Specifically, carnosine buffers hydrogen ions, keeping the environment in your muscles from becoming acidic and function being impaired. This means when you are operating anaerobically (typically between 30 seconds and 3 minutes of strenuous exercise) taking beta-alanine will help delay fatigue and increase work capacity. Beta-alanine has also been shown to help increase lean muscle mass, so again provides the double whammy. Combining beta-alanine and creatine does not cause a conflict of any sorts so it should be encouraged! It’s a little bit harder to find beta-alanine alone but it is found in many pre-workout mixes.

CAFFEINE

Should you drink coffee? Should you avoid it? Here is the deal. Get some caffeine in you and reap the benefits. Tea, coffee, energy drinks, pre-workout cocktails, and anhydrous caffeine pills are all great ways to get some juice in your system. The truth is, it is one of the best supplements out there for improving performance. Increases in performance of endurance exercises, as well as strength-power work, repeat sprint performance, agility, reactive times, and game day performance are all found in the literature.  Don’t avoid caffeine because you think it’s wrong. It might be wrong if you need a constant supply to get through your day, but using it to enhance your workouts is just a great idea! Anywhere from 200mg to 400mg should provide a great jolt to your lifts, and allow you to complete a few extra sets or reps.

The moral of the story is that as long as you become educated, you can use nutritional supplements to your advantage to help your performance and reach your goals. There are many products designed to maximize your physiology or mentality, so don’t be afraid to try some out!

It’s About Getting Better!

Razor’s Edge Performance

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Grip it and Rip it!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

As you’ve probably noticed, many of the articles I write come from real world examples. Something in the gym or on the street which tells me that the public is dying for certain information. In this case, this article was sparked by some guys I saw training in the gym the other night. No, not the guy who was doing Barbell Military Press in the squat rack on a Bosu ball, that’s not worth an article; it was the 2 guys working hard but wearing lifting straps for their ENTIRE workout. Are lifting straps bad? Not necessarily, but they can have their place and are definitely not needed. They aren’t making you better as an athlete.

When it comes to separating yourself from other athletes, you need to start focusing on the little things that can make a big difference. In this case, what is being lost by these two young lifters is their grip. Grip strength is essential in any sport or activity in which you need to pull on anything or at the very least maintain a hold on something. So basically, grip is important for nearly every sport out there. Another way I like to look at it is, your hands are your point of contact for many actions and thus are a necessity for transferring power. Look at any climbing or pulling activity, what will monster lats or scapular retractors do when you can no longer hold on or maintain a tight grip? Nothing. The importance of a strong grip can be seen throughout most major sports. As a safety in football, tackling was a big part of my game. There are many times when saving a touchdown means pulling a guy down by his jersey. A strong grip could be the difference between winning and losing; a weak grip and the guy scores, a strong grip and they’re forced to punt. So ask yourself, when’s the last time you focused on your grip training?

How does your grip compare?

Before I get into specific exercises you can introduce  for your grip, let’s first look at what you can do to your existing program to help your grip get stronger. First off, ditch the straps. The more work you do with straps, the more your grip will lag in the future. If you’re training pulling exercises, all the muscles along the chain needed to be working, especially your hands and forearms. Sure, your grip is going to suffer a little early on, but how much you can hold with your hands will demonstrate your applicable/functional strength. Sure you can row 200lbs with straps on, but can you grab a 200lb running back and pull him down? Probably not, which makes your training somewhat useless.  Do yourself a favour and ditch the straps and anything else that will give you an “aid”. Choose bars/grips/tools that will make your grip work harder. Whenever possible, use barbells or dumbbells over machines, especially for any pulling. Next, try to use a handle that will require more grip: fat bars, added grips, towels.

If you’ve already started making the most of your programming but still want more grip work, you can add more exercises. One of the most underrated exercises out there is amazing for grip – Farmers Walks. Just adding farmers walks once or twice per week at the end of your workout will work wonders for your grip. Grab two fairly heavy dumbbells and do 3 sets of approx. 20 metres.

Farmers Walk for Grip Strength

Other exercises include pull ups, Deadlifts, Romanian Deadlift, DB 1-arm row, heavy shrugs, and plate pinches. All of these excercises will place a tremendous amount of stress on your grip.

The last option to improve your grip is to incorporate new tools into your grip training.

Gripper – The first tool would be to use heavy grippers. I’m not talking about going to walmart and buying a gripper, I’m talking about Elitefts for some heavy duty grippers. Look for something between 100lb-300lb.

Rice Bucket – Find a big pail and add at least 10lbs of cheap white rice. Once or twice a weak go through a circuit of various grip exercises using the rice bucket. This is popular with strongman competitors and baseball players.

Thick Grip – These tools can be added to barbells and dumbbells to create a thick bar response without having to own multiple thick bars. Options include: Tyler Grips, Grip4orce, Fat Gripz.

Now all you have to do is take some of this information and build yourself a crushing grip!

It’s About Getting Better!

Abs vs The Core

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , on June 29, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

It’s really starting to heat up in Toronto, which means everyone forgets about function and starts focusing on their beach body. This is a good segway to broach the topic of core training and the mythical 6-pack.

First the 6 pack. Everybody has abs…so the determinant of how well they show is the amount of body fat on top. If you want your abs to show, get your body fat down. Abs don’t hypertrophy like biceps, so doing extra crunches won’t make them ‘pop out’ (not to mention crunches suck). I’m not saying core work isn’t important, I’m just saying there is no need for overkill. Do some sprints or jump some rope. If you are looking to see your abs, that is the way to get there.

Now the core.
This is an awesome piece of machinery when functioning correctly. It keeps our body in proper alignment, and is the bridge that transfers power through our limbs.
The core is made up of a slew of muscles that encircle your torso…I’m not gonna name them all, just think stomach, low back, abs, hip flexors, and you can also include lats and muscles that surround the pelvic girdle. You don’t need to know all of them, just know that when you do core work properly, you’ll hit the right spots!
When considering injury prevention think of the core as a bullet proof vest or a section of old medieval armor, it serves to keep your torso stiff, which protects the spine. This stiffness is also a great foundation for your body to produce movement. You would be surprised how many movement dysfunctions can be cleared up if the core is properly activated in the right sequence. Things we usually attribute to a lack of flexibility or strength of certain muscle groups is often caused by a lack of core activation.

One of the biggest mistakes I see, especially in athletes, is a lack of strength focused core work. You can do crunches til you are blue in the face, but they will not help you stay rigid against the application of high external forces. This is the true function of the core…maintaining rigidity despite external forces.

This is especially evident when you think of something like a heavy deadlift. Force application for the deadlift is through the feet, while the attachment to the bar is through the hands. If there is any level of disconnect in the middle of the system (your CORE), then you won’t be able to lift the bar off the ground with any semblance of good technique. Your goal as a lifter is to drive the weight straight up, but the bar is trying to pull you forward. A strong core allows you to resist a forward weight shift, and allow a smooth vertical lift of the bar.

While this is easy to see in weightlifting, it is twice as important to stay in a strong connected position during sprinting or sport performance, especially sports that involve physical contact.

How do we train it then? There are many different ways, and many more to be invented. The key thing to think about when you think core training, is whether you are trying to create movement or prevent it? Remember, the core is designed to prevent movement despite the application of external forces.

Serious Core Strength

My favourite simple core training exercise is the one-arm Farmer’s Walk. You take a dumbell in one hand, as heavy as you can hold, and try to walk a given distance with it. Key teaching points are ‘perfect posture’, ‘don’t let the weight rub against your leg’, and ‘don’t let your body tilt one way or another’. If you take a weight that is at least reasonable, you should feel one side of your core JACKED UP, while the other side is at least activated ‘sufficiently’.

Don’t be a fool. Train your core for strength. It matters more than any other body segment!
It’s About Getting Better!!!

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