Archive for October, 2013

How to Build Muscles

If you’re looking for info on how to build muscles then one of the best tips you will ever get is to focus your efforts on compound exercises. Compound exercises are those movements which use more than one joint. For example, the bench press is a compound exercise because both the shoulder and elbow joints move. A bicep curl on the other hand, is not a compound exercise since only the elbow joints move.

Compound exercises allow for the use of heavy weights and they stimulate a large amount of muscle. Because of these factors the use of compound exercises in your training program allows for fast and efficient muscle building.

If your goal is to build muscle as fast as possible, then I highly recommend basing your program around compound exercises. Some good ones to start with are squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, and bench presses. With these 4 exercises alone you will have stimulated most of the muscles in the body.

If you feel the need you can throw-in some curls, tricep extensions, calf raises, ab work, etc. But the base of your program should include a heavy emphasis on compound exercises. This is especially true for beginners.

Compound exercises alone are all most people really need, especially early-on in your training career. You can build an impressive pair of arms just by increasing your bench press and chin-up. And, as a bonus, you will also have increased the size of your delts, lats, and pecs. This is the efficiency of compound exercises at work. Improvements in compound exercises will give you more bang for your buck than improvements in isolation exercises.

As always, any training program must be combined with a solid nutrition program to get the best results. If you are unfamiliar with the science behind successful training and nutrition programs then it is always best to consult a professional, especially if you are struggling to put on muscle as quickly as you want.

Learn about muscle building and how to build muscles in our FREE report.

Everyone knows the squat is an effective leg exercise, but is it bad for your knees and back?

Like the deadlift, the barbell squat is one of the most powerful exercises you can do, involving the strength and coordination of over 200 muscles in your body.

But, also like the deadlift, it’s avoided by many due to the fear that it’s bad for your back and knees.

The fact that many sports doctors say these things doesn’t help the squat’s cause. Consider, however, that these doctors specialize in treating people with injuries, many of whom should not be squatting in their current conditions. These people are not representative of the average, healthy gymgoer, however, and the advices that apply to those undergoing rehab don’t apply to everyone. Just because barbell squats can exacerbate a knee injury doesn’t mean it helps cause one in a healthy person.

Another common reason why these squat myths linger is even less scientific: just like how heavy, strenuous deadlifts look like they’re bad for your back (when they’re not, when performed correctly), intense squats look like they’re bad for your back and knees.

Well, to get to the bottom of these myths, let’s look to the anecdotal evidence of decades of weightlifters, and the scientific evidence of published literature.

Why Serious Lifters are in Love with the Squat

When it comes to leg training, there are usually two types of people.

The first loads up the Leg Press with every plate in the gym, and goes through an intricate ritual involving tourniquet-tight knee wraps, a weight belt cinched to its tightest notch, and pre-lift announcements and cheers. He then wiggles into the sled and grinds out a few excruciating half-reps, ending with an ear-splitting yell and high-fives with his buddies.

The other type? Well, he was in the corner with the squat rack—you know, the loneliest place in the gym—quietly going about his business with deep, heavy squats. No wraps, no belts, no swagger—just a bar bending across his back, loaded with a “measly” few hundred pounds, and a puddle of sweat on the ground.

Who’s the winner, in the end? Who will consistently get bigger and stronger, and who’s the least likely to get hurt? The latter, of course.

While many people will do anything for legs before putting the barbell on their backs, they’re missing out on what many of the top strength coaches in the world consider the absolute toughest and rewarding exercise we can do.

To nobody’s surprise, squatting strengthens every muscle in your legs, which in turn helps you not only lift more weight in the gym, but run faster, jump higher, and improve flexibility, mobility, and agility. As if those aren’t reasons enough to squat, it’s also an incredibly effective core workout.

That said, the biggest fears that keep people from including squats in their workout routines are worries of back and knee injuries. Are these valid concerns?

How Your Back and Knees Can Love the Squat Too

The myth that squatting is bad for your knees started with work done in the 1960s. Research concluded that a properly done squat stretched the knee ligaments, increasing the risk of injury. These findings spread like wildfire through the fitness world. Some US military services even cut squatting movements out of their training programs.

It was noted that the studies had serious flaws, including the choice of subjects and researcher bias (for instance, one of the studies was done with parachute jumpers, who often hurt their knees due to legs getting caught in parachute lines and violent impacts when landing), but that wasn’t enough to stop the uprising against the squat.

Well, much research has done since then, however, and a much different picture has emerged.

A rigorous study conducted by Duke University involved the analysis of over two decades of published literature to determine, in great detail, the biomechanics of the squat exercise and the stresses it places on the ankles, knees, hip joint, and spine.

Highlights from the study, and many others reviewed within, set the record straight on how the squat affects our bodies, and teach us a lot about proper squat form:

– While most of the attention is given to the knee, hip, and spine, ankle strength plays a large role in power generation during squat performance. Research has shown that ankle weakness actually causes faulty movement patterns during the squat.

– The hamstrings counter-act the pull on the shinbone, which helps neutralize the shearing force placed on the knee, and alleviates stress on the ACL.

– Sit back into the squat during descent and resist the urge to bring the knees beyond the toes, as this increases shearing force placed on the knees.

– Even in extreme cases, such as powerlifters lifting 2.5 times bodyweight, the compressive forces placed on the knee and its tendons are well within its ranges of ultimate strength.

– Stress placed on the ACL is negligible considering its ultimate strength (in one study, the highest ACL force recorded when squatting was a mere 6% of its ultimate strength). Highest recorded PCL forces were well within natural strength limits as well.

– Don’t let your knees bow inward at any point during the squat. Keep them in line with your toes.

– Squat depth matters–a lot. The deeper you squat, the more work your legs and butt have to do. (I recommend either full squats or parallel squats, but not half squats.)

– Full squats cause more muscle activity in the butt than lesser squat depths (you hear that girls?). (Use a wide stance too if you want to hit your butt even harder!)

– If you maintain a neutral spine position while squatting (instead of a rigidly flexed position), you greatly reduce the shearing force placed on your vertebrae (your spine is better at dealing with compressive force than shearing).

– Maintaining a posture as close to upright as possible further reduces this force, as does increasing intra-abdominal pressure, which you can create by holding your breath while you squat, and gazing straight ahead instead of down.

– Squatting rapidly doubles the amount of shearing and compressive forces placed on your knees. Keep your reps at a controlled pace to avoid this (I like a 2:1:2 pace—2 seconds down, pause, 2 seconds up).

– Avoid exaggerated rotation of the feed inward or outward, as they don’t make the exercise any more effective, and can potentially cause undesirable knee movements.

– While the low-bar squatting position produces less torque on the knees than the high-bar position, the magnitude of both forces are well within tolerable ranges, making neither position “better” than the other in this regard. Use whichever squatting position is most comfortable for you.

– The front squat produces significantly lower knee compression and low-back stress in comparison to the back squat, and thus can be a viable alternative for those suffering from various knee and back problems.

– Squatting while you’re fatigued can cause poor form, and is likely a contributing factor in both short- and long-term injuries. (This is one of my gripes regarding Crossfit, wherein participants are often urged to squat and deadlift heavy weights while fatigued—an injury just waiting to happen).

In closing, researchers concluded that the squat “does not compromise knee stability, and can enhance stability if performed correctly.” Furthermore, any risks of spinal injury can be avoided by simply minimizing the amount of shearing force placed on the spine.

Let’s Get Squatting

According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association:

“Squats, when performed correctly and with appropriate supervision, are not only safe, but may be a significant deterrent to knee injuries.”

So rest easy: as long as you use proper squat form, the squat does not put your back or knees at risk of injury.

Oh and as a final note, don’t bother with the Smith Machine Squat. It forces an unnatural range of motion, which can actually lead to knee and back injuries, and research has shown it’s far less effective than the free weight, barbell squat.

What’s your take on the squat? Absolutely vital or overrated? Completely safe, or still a risk? I’d love to hear from you at my site,!


I’m Mike and I believe that every person can achieve the body of his or her dreams, and I work hard to give everyone that chance by providing workable, proven advice grounded in science, not a desire to sell phony magazines, workout products, or supplements.

Through my work, I’ve helped thousands of people achieve their health and fitness goals, and I share everything I know in my books.

So if you’re looking to get in shape and look great, then I think I can help you. I hope you enjoy my articles and I’d love to hear from you at my site,



Women: Health benefits of lifting weights

In the past, weight lifting was something that was thought of as being a strictly masculine form of exercise. The very idea of it instantly conjured up images of bulging biceps and Conan the Barbarian, but the truth is that weights aren’t just for men anymore. Over the past 20 years, more and more women have been adding weight training to their exercise routine and living healthier, more active lives as a result. Women don’t tend to develop large muscles from weight lifting, due to the fact that they produce far less testosterone than men do, but there are many other benefits associated with even basic weight exercises that make them an essential part of the health-conscious woman’s fitness routine.


Weight training not only strengthens muscle tissue, but tendons and connective tissue as well. It also encourages bones to become stronger, thicker, and denser. Stronger tendons and muscles are far more resistant to common injuries and a stronger skeleton means bones are less prone to breakage and deterioration. Working with weights regularly also eventually results in benefits such as increased flexibility, better balance, and more energy.


The more you work with weights, the more muscle tissue your body will develop. Muscle tissue requires more caloric energy than fat tissue does, so the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn even when you’re not actually exercising. Every extra pound of muscle you develop adds up to approximately 50 extra calories burned each day, helping you stay slim, trim, and strong so that you can feel and look your best.


Since weight training helps build bone density, it helps a woman guard against the onset of osteoporosis – especially after menopause when her level of estrogen production decreases. Since weight training also helps prevent obesity, a woman lowers her risk of developing breast cancer, diabetes, and other serious conditions for which obesity is a major risk factor.

You can get started by adding a few simple weight lifting exercises to your routine at first. If you have a gym membership, they can be done with the help of some of the equipment or with the help of a trainer, but these exercises can also be done at home with dumbbells. Don’t overdo things at first. The idea is to do enough reps so that the muscle begins to feel fatigued. You can increase the weight of your dumbbells and the number of reps as your strength increases.


Lie flat on the floor or exercise bench, making sure the soles of your feet are flat against the surface. Next position your arms so that the dumbbells are at your shoulders. Your palms should be facing forward, and your elbows should be forward of the shoulder line at a 45 degree angle. Press dumbbells upward, using a smooth, fluid movement.


Begin by holding a dumbbell in each hand with your arms straight down. Your palms should be facing inward toward your body, and you should be standing with your feet slightly apart. Bend elbows to bring the dumbbells up toward the shoulder, rotating your arm as you lift so that palms face the ceiling. This can be done either by alternating arms or by doing the exercise with both arms at the same time.


Stand with feet slightly apart and hold dumbbells at your upper chest with your palms facing down toward the floor. Lift the dumbbells over your head, extending your arms fully, but taking care not to lock your elbows suddenly. Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position and repeat.

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