Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Who Says Summer Snacks Are Unhealthy?

It's Summer. It's hot. What's better than sitting poolside, muscles glistening, having a nice cold fudgesicle? (Besides legs day of course!).  Pick up a box at your local grocery store and you're looking at a fat and carb encrusted stick flavored chocolate.  One example I saw today had 20g sugar to a measly 3 grams of protein! Well, I've got the solution for you! Protein fudgesicles.

This was my first batch (yes I used bent straws - I didn't have anything else but you can/should use popsicle sticks).

Making these protein filled delicious wonders was simple. Take a box of Jello pudding mix with skim milk. Halfway through mixing throw in however many scoops of protein you want. I used 2xWhey and 1xCasein.  Freeze, eat, get jacked.

I just pulled the first out of the freezer.  Not quite frozen but I couldn't wait anymore. THESE ARE DELICIOUS! Better than store bought. Better than chocolate ice cream.  It was almost frozen but not quite, so thick and cold and very very rick chocolate flavor.  Almost tasted like expensive chocolate cheesecake.  Who'd have thought It's actually good for you?

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Ever Heard of JackedPack? If not pay attention! Who doesn't like the "try before you buy" mantra? Do you really feel comfortable walking into your favorite supp shop and paying through the nose for something you've never tried before? Me neither. That's where JackedPack comes in handy. They send a monthly box full of samples ranging from pre-workouts to thermos to protein. I've already found multiple supplements I've upgraded to full size with (ANS DILATE for example). Sound good yet? It gets better.  When you like something from your box you can buy the full size from the JackedPack site for considerable cheaper than elsewhere! I'm a subscriber and I love JackedPack. Click this link and you can be too.

P.S.: Arnold Likes JackedPack.

Friday, March 15, 2013

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Spring Cutting Season

Many of you I'm sure are in that "cutting phase" in preparation of the beach days of summer.  Because you're on a site with the word powerlift in the name, I'm guessing you don't want to look like a little Bieber twig after either (if you do, this may not be the right site for you). Cutting properly can be tricky.  Decreasing your adipose tissue while maintaining or increasing muscle mass requires planning and lots of hard work.  No supplement in the world will change you from a big strong Vince Wilfork to a big, strong, lean Arnold.  That requires work. LOTS OF WORK.  Supplements do, however help you make your cuts without destroying your muscle mass.  Below I outline the elements of my cut routine that may be of use to anyone in this position.

Many people will tell you physique is 80% diet and 20% gym.  That is true for bodybuilding, NOT POWERLIFTING.  Follow the above mantra and watch your gains vanish right before your eyes.  Instead flip it with 80% gym 20% diet, or find some comfortable middle ground.  The higher the percentage of gym work the more WORK you need to do.  There is no slacking here.  No days off.  You can be what you want to be, but you must MAKE yourself that.  It isn't going to happen on its own.

Lift Heavy
I'm coming off a good 9 month bulk phase.  During which I experienced unparalleled gains in muscle size and record setting strength gains. You can bet your precious protein stash I don't have any intention of letting that vanish to the wind.  My workout is still 5x5 based.  Emphasis is on compound lifts with as much weight as possible.  The difference is sets 4 and 5.  During these I drop the weight a bit and bump up to 8-10 reps to achieve maximum PUMP.  Remember, more muscle leads to a leaner physique!

During a bulk cardio is the enemy. My cardio then was running to the squat rack so somebody else couldn't take it.  During a cut it is both friend and foe.  Properly executed cardio is an important tool in your arsenal. Make sure to stay within AEROBIC ranges.  Many pieces of cardio equipment will identify this through your heart rate.  Choosing "fat burn" will tell the equipment to do this.  Aerobic range means your cells are utilizing oxygen, important as fat catabolism is impossible in the absence of oxygen (carbs and protein used then). You will probably feel that you're not exerting yourself 100% - and you're NOT. This is for good reason. Push yourself to the point of heavy breathing and cramps and you begin anaerobic respiration where your body begins eating away at the ample protein stores in your blood or muscles.  Your body (and hopefully your mind being that you're still reading this) would much prefer protein to be used structurally - building and repairing muscle.  Only as a last resort should it be used as an energy source.

Work Your Core Muscles
Your core muscles (abdominals, obliques, etc..) require resistance training like all other muscles. Sure you could do a trillion crunches, but that's not going to give the textured abs your looking for.  Not to mention a strong core leads to stronger squats and deadlifts while reducing back injuries.  I highly recommend searching youtube for Sylvester Stallone's ab workout from his Instone video and supplement series.  Key to remember here is that core muscles require resistance training just like your biceps and quads.  Reps are not always better than weights here.  Also bear in mind that cardio and core go hand in hand.  Everyone has a six pack, it's just a matter of enhancing and enlarging it with core workouts, while uncovering and enhancing definition with cardio.

Too many people treat supplements like a magic bullet.  Just like drinking 10 protein shakes a day isn't going to do anything but make you fat if you lay around all day, cutting supplements won't do anything without being paired with the right work. Think of supplements as a magnifying glass.  Use them to magnify the work you're doing rather than as a foundation for your plans.

Carbs are the enemy of burning fat, right? Wrong. Your body cannot live without carbs.  Your brain can metabolize one unit of energy to produce ATP and operate: Glucose.  No carbs, no glucose, you get the picture.  Secondly, carbs assist in the burning of fat.  Fatty metabolism is most efficient when one unit of sugar (glucose) and one fatty acid are metabolized together.  When fat is burned in the absence of carbs, you produce ketone bodies which accumulate and are toxic.  Ketogenesis, as it's referred to is very apparent by the strong odor of nail polish remover in the breath. If you're at this stage, you're doing this way wrong and need carbs ASAP.

So it's been established that carbohydrates are essential.  Like my previous article on protein, not all carb sources are created equally.  Look for whole food sources of complex carbs.  An example I like to use is an orange candy vs. an orange.  Both are loaded with carbs, but the candy is refines simple carbs such as sucrose, whereas the orange is loaded with natural complex and simple carbs along with fibers and vitamins. Obviously the orange is ideal here.  Timing is also essential.  I like to get a good dose of natural carbs such as an orange within the golden 30 minutes after a workout.  This piggy-backs off the workout induced insulin spike and drives the carbs to the muscles.  The sooner after training the better.  Carbs in the muscles lead to quicker recovery, stronger muscles, and higher intensity workouts.

Protein is King.  You know that already.  During cutting season it is no different.  The training routine I described above involves lots of heavy compound lifts which should not only maintain, but build muscle.  This requires lots of protein.  GNC has a good link to a protein calculator to get an idea of what you need.  They calculate seemingly for those lifting less intensely than powerlifters.  I always go higher with lean proteins Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey and Casein powders, and currently with Nutrex's delicious whey-casein-egg protein blend, Muscle Infusion.  Muscle Infusion has the 7 different units of the proteins mentioned before.  This allows quick, intermediate, and slow digestion ideal for muscle recovery, growth, and sustenance.

PRO TIP: I recommend GNC's protein calculator above, but unless your get a great sale, buying your protein from them is a rip-off.  Even with gold card prices and shipping included, it's almost always cheaper to purchase online from the likes of bodybuilding.comAllStar Health, or even Amazon(especially if you have prime!).

You're trying to burn your excess fat so you may not immediately thing consuming fat is a great idea.  You're half right.  Fat comes in at a whopping 9kcal/gram compared to 4 for both protein (when used for energy) and carbs.  That being said dietary fat is essential, in moderation!  Keep your fat intake low - I strive for about 10-15% of caloric intake when cutting.  Of this fat the more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats the better.  Saturated fats are bad but in very small moderation are acceptable.  Trans Fat is synonymous with run and hide.  Stay away from it!  Dietary fat is essential for the digestion of certain lipid soluble vitamins
(A,D,E,K).  It is also the source from which your body produces testosterone.  This is a fine balance point.  Bodyfat stores excess ADEK vitamins as well as many toxins.  Be careful not to over do it with these vitamins, as they can become dangerous and cause overdose in excess.  Excess bodyfat also actually decreases testosterone levels even though it's dietary cousin is the source of testosterone production!

The most common supplement used directly for cutting is the thermogenic.  These products boost your metabolism, magnifying the effect of any work you do in terms of energy use.  In english, you burn more calories, more fat, with the same work.  My favorite so far is Cellucor's Super-HD. Like most thermogenics, it's loaded with caffeine.  Studies on caffeine have shown that it may directly cause your body to turn to fat for energy more often.  The most definite effect is an increased heart rate.  Be very careful here if you have any heart, liver, or kidney problems (only a doctor can tell you if YOU are healthy enough for vigorous exercise and supplementation!).  A heart pumping faster is a heart that needs more calories.  When you do cardio, this bumps and sustains a higher HR, thus burning more calories.  It also works a bit like an energy drink minus all the sugary crap.  Dosage on Super-HD is 1-2 in the morning and 1 in afternoon.  I work it out so my 1-2 serve as my "morning coffee".

Super-HD comes packed with loads of water soluble B vitamins.  Don't worry that the label says it has 4167% of your daily value of vitamin B12.  B vitamins are water soluble, meaning you use what you need and the rest hitches a ride in your urine out of your body.  The downside to that is you need to replace it daily, there is no storage for later.  B vitamins are essential for burning fat.  They are a coenzyme required to harness the energy locked inside fat molecules.  Without B vitamins, you will not burn fat, or protein, or carbs.  In other words, you need B vitamins.

The final ingredient bundle is the SuperHD ThermoSculpting Blend.  This is made of various plant extracts such as capsaicin extract from hot peppers. These ingredients have been shown to promote fat burning for energy as well as inhibit fat storage.

I'm going to include Fusion Bodybuilding's FUBAR in this category as well.  It was designed as a preworkout capsule, containing various forms of caffeine allowing for sustained release.  I have found it to be the best pre-workout for cardio days, as it seems to produce the longest energy rush.  The caffeine should also perform the same as the caffeine in the Super-HD. I substitute FUBAR for the afternoon dose of Super-HD on cardio days.

Nutrient Partitioning 
This is a niche category with only one product that I am aware of, USPLabs Anabolic Pump (AP).  I love USPLabs for always pushing the envelope and finding these new niches.  AP promises to increase insulin sensitivity in your muscle cells (probably all of your cells) causing them to absorb all the carbs in your blood rather than letting them be converted to adipose tissue.  This is similar to the insulin spike post-workout.  I've only been taking this for about a week now, but already I notice a difference.  Extra stored energy in my muscles to harness in the weight-room, as well as amplified physical effects from my workouts. One very important note: The instructions say take 15-20 minutes before a meal containing 60+ grams of carbs.  PLEASE listen to this.  I haven't personally strayed, but I have read other reviews of people taking their AP and then forgetting or getting delayed in eating.  That could cause you to go severely hypoglycemic and have very serious medical consequences.  As with all supplements, FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS!

BSN's AminoX reigns supreme here.  The taste (fruit punch) is out of this world.  Tastes more like a casual beverage than a powerlifting supplement.  BCAA's are high in the amino acids leucine and isoleucine.  These are very important for inducing an anabolic state in the muscles.  BCAA's also play a role in preventing muscle catabolism.  Muscles are catabolised during cardio when there is a need to use amino acids for energy.  By having a BCAA shake before beginning said workout, there are ample BCAA's available in the blood to protect the muscles.  On days I am lifting followed by cardio (ALWAYS lift before doing cardio!) I take one AminoX shake before lifting, and mix another to consume as I am doing cardio.  It's all about protecting the gains!

Another great BCAA supplement is Fusion Bodybuilding's Agent-M.  I love the ingredient profile and mixability of this product.  The reason I raved so much above about AminoX rather than Agent-M is purely flavor.  AminoX has many flavors to choose from (fruit punch being the best!).  Agent-M comes in any flavor you want as long as that flavor is grape.  I just so happen to hate artificial grape flavoring. Besides that this product is great with all the benefits of AminoX and then some.  On an interesting note I just found out that Fusion is making this in caplet form.  Great idea!  That is something I would be very interested in.

Moral of the story: work hard, eat right, and magnify your gains with proper supplementation.  NOTHING can replace the hard work, but proper diet and supplements can magnify your results.  Stick to heavy lifting, but mix in some higher reps every now and then along with cardio and core workouts.  WORK HARD! The results will follow!

And as always, the fancy legal stuff: All of the above are based on my experiences and research and are for informational purposes only.  Workout and consume supplements at your own risk and remember, always consult with a doctor before beginning a workout routine or drastically changing your diet.  Be Careful. Stay Safe. Lift Heavy. Be Strong!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Year New Thoughts

It's a new year so here's some new thoughts:

This post is to those who have been working hard and steady and to those who just began a New Year's Resolution.  Quick word to the latter group: I read somewhere that 98% of New Year's resolutions end withing 2 weeks.  Congratulations, its been over 2 weeks; you're in the 2%.  Don't let yourself fail.  Get up and push yourself harder each day. Be who you want to be.

And now for the substance:

I mixed up my workouts a little this year, largely to accommodate a more intense academic schedule featuring the likes of human anatomy and exercise nutrition.  Gone are the 2-a-days and in are high intensity daily workouts divided every-other-day between upper body (chest, arms, shoulders, etc...) and lower body (LEGS, back, etc..).

The last year was a very successful year for me.  Each of my workouts grew immensely, I acquired the ever-improving best shape of my adult life, and most importantly, I became addicted to heavy weight training. Some notable milestones:

  • Bench press up to 250lbs despite my nagging left shoulder rearing it's ugly head and dislocating itself again in rugby this year
  • Deadlift up to 450lbs and growing 5-10 lbs per workout
  • Squat to 595lbs. With my newly healed shoulder, I am pushing past 500 again on my way to bigger and better things.
  • Vastly improved cardio performance and endurance preparing for Hockey and Rugby seasons.

 My focus in this new year is on intensity and pushing the bounds of my performance.  I plan to come in to each workout focused and determined to improve myself with each and every minute spent in and out of the weight room.  The next few months will be dedicated to further improving my strength through my custom 5x5 based program while also concentrating on decreasing body fat percentage through the development of more lean muscle mass.

No matter how hard you work you're not going to accomplish your potential without giving your body what it needs!  That's where supplements come in.  The following are my thoughts and reviews based on my experiences the past few months.


Lets start out with the new "magic elixir" in my bag that works beyond my wildest dreams.

I have nightmares of going a day without this stuff.  First impression: it's delicious!  I have the fruit punch flavor.  Mixes very easily and even self-carbonates.  Tastes like no supplement I know of; heck it's even better than any fruit punch I've ever had.  But hey taste isn't really that important (if it was I sure wouldn't rave about Jack3d!).  What I really love about AMINOx is how well it works.  I take it roughly 30 minutes pre-workout.  It has noticeably reduced my muscle recovery time as well as initiating what I call "anabolic mode" in my body. No matter what I do with this stuff I seem to build strength and muscle.  Worried about losing your gains if you do cardio? Take this and sleep easy it almost seems like cardio is ANABOLIC with this!! Insane right?  Nevertheless when threw a sample of this in my last order it was the begging of a new era in my workout supplementation history.

     2. Optimum Nutrition PlatinumPRE

A rep from Optimum responded to my last article where I mentioned excitement to try PlatinumPRE and kindly sent me a tub.  If you are reading this: THANK YOU.  Now to the good stuff.  PlatinumPRE is a very good tasting pre-workout (especially relative to much of its competition!).  It also seems to me to be one of the healthiest, safest, least controversial of the pre-workouts.  As far as I know it contains nothing banned or frowned upon by the NCAA, FDA, etc... It's not just not bad for you but it seems to be good for you.  A pre-workout with BCAA's??? Why is this a new idea? It's a brilliant idea!

Taste, health; they're important but not what most people look at first with a pre-workout.  When I think pre-workout I think kick.  ON's PRE scores pretty well here.  First I will note it does not provide the type of focus you will find in the original Jack3d, but that comes courtesy of the controversial DMAA that ON and many others seem to be staying away from.  PRE is not meant to give that focus, it is designed to give the consumer a kick and that it does very well.  This kick comes courtesy of up to 400mg of caffeine if you do the 2 servings allowed. I have to confess this didn't hit me as hard as i may have hoped.  I have quite a high caffeine tolerance, always have.  When my workout buddies used it, however, they reported very strong kicks and responses and I observed much higher performance out of them compared to no pre-workout.  PlatinumPRE benefited me most through the 3.2g of Beta Alanine (nice and tingly!) and the 4 grams of citrulline (NO precursor).  These both allowed me to maintain high intensity during long workouts (especially important now that the gyms are swamped with New Years resolutioners!!) Other genius ingredients include 500mg of phytonutrients (antioxidants) which may help in muscle recovery, overall health maintenance  and cancer prevention.  There's loads of studies going on with these nutrients responsible for many of the health benefits of dark chocolate, red wine, and colorful fruits.  200mg of Vitamin C is included to help boost your immune system.  Let's face it we all workout better healthy and who knows what kind of pathogens are being spread at the gym.  Why this is new to the pre-workout world I don't know but I love it!  Lastly, there is encapsulated capsicum.  ON says this provides metabolic support (possibly thermogenic?) Capsicum is what makes hot peppers HOT!  It is known to increase heart rate and cause sweating leading to my suspicion of it's use as a thermogenic.  If I receive confirmation of this I will update this.  Just a fair warning, these granules are encapsulated so you shouldn't be exposed to the "hot effect".  That being said, they're not exactly water soluble so make sure to keep this well mixed and if you feel any lingering grains in your mouth DON'T BITE THEM, wash them down with another swig or some good old water.  Trust me, I did this accidentally.  Biting them compares to eating a suicide chicken wing (yes, I'm from Buffalo...).  But don't worry because if you don't bite them you wont notice!

Overall, I love this product.  It is functional and revolutionary!  So many of the ingredients are noticeably absent in the competition as of now.  Bravo Optimum Nutrition!  As usual, you failed to disappoint!
Optimum Nutrition PlatinumPRE PlatinumPRE

     3. MHP PowerPak Pudding

My largest workout inspiration is probably Sylvester Stallone.  When I found out that for a short time he actually had a workout supplement company called Instone, I started digging around.  Unfortunately that company no longer exists, but they were most famous for their high protein pudding.  I love that idea.  Mixing it up a little from the usual protein shake is a refreshing idea!  The pudding comes in 8.8oz steel cans (very convenient!) with pull tabs. lists the main active ingredient as whey protein, but looking at the label I suspect that is inaccurate.  Protein ingredients listed are Milk Protein Isolates and Soy Protein Isolates.  Milk protein is 80% casein and 20% whey.  Therefor, I treat this as mainly a casein protein and enjoy one before bed.  I am also under the impression from various internet research that the soy protein is minimal... I hope so.  I am a staunch opponent of Soy products.  They are a major source of phytoestrogens.  (Notably used as a natural estrogen replacement therapy in women...) That's not exactly what a powerlifter or bodybuilder wants.  In addition many studies hint that soy (largely due to it's phytoestrogens) may cause various cancers most notably breast cancer in men and women.  No thanks.  MHP if you're reading this PLEASE take out the soy!! My other grief with this product is the price.  Sold individually on a can goes for $3.99!  A six pack is currently $18.98! The price for convenience and market exclusivity is high, but fear not there are often sales so keep your eyes peeled and don't buy at full price!

So far you read my griefs with PowerPak puddings by MHP.  Don't be turned off, I have 6 cases of them right next to me as I type this.  If I didn't like this product would I have bought all these? I think not.  So what do I like so much?  First off it provides variety.  Shakes are great and convenient on the run or post workout but get dull after awhile.  This provides a healthy snack that feels like a snack.  Packing 30 grams of protein in the can is pretty impressive.  I recommend refrigerating this and buying the chocolate flavor as these help minimize the casein grittiness and aftertastes.  Do this and it tastes largely like Jello.  Very good!  As I said before, I suspect the protein content is largely casein.  Combine this with the complete lack of sugar and only 190 calories, and you have a great pre-bed snack.  Casein is strongly anti-catabolic and due to it's ultra slow digestion, will provide a steady stream of amino acids to your body as you sleep, thus preserving and restoring your muscles after a hard day's lift.  It's not ideal for on the run right after your workout but definitely nice to have for a nighttime snack! Overall I love this product, I love the concept, just PLEASE MHP DITCH THE SOY!
MHP PowerPak MHP PowerPak

     4. GNC Glutamine Chews

Glutamine is an amino acid used during strenuous weight training, and also necessary to the function of the immune system.  Many weight trainers may find themselves glutamine deficient and therefor immune compromised without supplementation.  I like GNC's chews as they provide a great tasting variety from the powder everything else seems to come as.  Relatively cheap, easy to carry around, great tasting, and convenient; GNC's chews are my glutamine source of choice.
GNC Pro Performance Glutamine Chews

There are a couple products I would love to try in the coming weeks:

1. Nutrex Research

Nutrex kindly sent me a sample tub of Chocolate Monster Muscle Infusion Black.  I can't wait to dig into this!  The mix of protein sources (THANKFULLY NO SOY!) and reputed excellent taste promises to combine to produce a great product and excellent results!

Nutrex also sent me a few packets of Hemo Rage Black.  This pre-workout could shake up the market.  The jury is still out as 2 servings is far from enough to base a review on.  With any luck I will have more information shortly.

2.'s platinum series has a few products that excite me.  Namely Scream and Protogen.  Scream looks to have potential in the pre-workout market and Protogen is encouraging as a more-than-Protein post-workout shake.

3. Fusion Bodybuilding

Fusion Bodybuilding is one of those companies that seems to have the right mentality on everything.  While I have yet to sample any of their products, just about everything in their lineup seems encouraging to the workaholic die hard bodybuilder/powerlifter.  I hope to sample some of their products soon!

Remember supplements only work if you do!  Hit the weights! Work hard and reap the rewards!

Just the fancy legal stuff: All of the above are based on my experiences and research and are for informational purposes only.  Workout and consume supplements at your own risk and remember, always consult with a doctor before beginning a workout routine or drastically changing your diet.  Be Careful. Stay Safe. Lift Heavy. Be Strong!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Strong-Arm Your Way to Strong Arms

Everybody wants huge arms.  I'm no exception.  So how do you get arms like Stallone and Schwarzenegger? I hope you're in it for the long haul because it's not easy!

You probably already know this, but to grow muscle you need to damage muscle.  The trick is to do the most damage without actually injuring yourself.  When you do a proper arms workout, your arms will feel like lead when you leave and you'll have the wonderful feeling of soreness and success in the morning.  If you don't have that feeling you need to push harder.

So the method to designing a killer arms workout.  Different workouts hit different parts of a muscle.  For example using a V-Bar for triceps on the cable machine seems to hit higher than using a rope.  Pick the workouts so that there's at least one hitting each key area of your arm.  Some key things to remember:

  1. ALWAYS do no more than 5 sets of 5 reps of the absolute maximum weight you can do safely while maintaining good form.
    • Failing part way though the 4th rep is better than doing 5 of a weight you could do 6 or 7 or 10 of!
  2. Emphasize form over weight!
    • I'm not one to tell you that you need to absolutely lock up every other muscle in your body during your set, but good form leads to good results better than bad form with higher weight.
  3. Alternate pushing and pulling!
    • Do a series of sets of a pulling workout (curling for example) followed by a set of pushing (tricep dumbbell press).  This helps to ensure that your muscles grow in sync with each other and aids in joint health (especially shoulder)
  4. NEVER be that guy who is curling in the squat racks.  
    • That's a quick way to draw the hate of everyone in the gym who is now unable to squat because of you.  If you're curling heavier weight than you can pick up off the ground then you need to concentrate on squats and deadlifts.  
So that's the basics.  Here's an example of my arm workout.  It's the second of my daily workout, 3 days a week.  Start at the top of the list one day and the bottom the next day.

  1. Alternate Dumbbell Curls: Alternate one arm at a time slowly bringing the dumbbell from your side to your chest, rotating as you go.  Excellent for biceps and back.
  2. Dumbbell Tricep Press:  One dumbbell held in both hands behind your head.  Lift vertically and lower behind the head.  Hits middle of tricep.  I like to keep my feet back and squeezing the bench's supports for balance.  
  3. Barbell Curls: Keep your elbows pinned against the side of your abdomen and arms parallel to each other as you grasp the barbell.  Lift in arc pattern from waist to chest.  Do the most weight you can without significantly rocking your back.  Remember, this is an arms workout primarily.  You will target your biceps, and your back will benefit as well.
  4. Tricep Pushdown (V-Bar or Rope): Alternate by day between V-Bar and Rope.  Attach either one to the adjustable cable machine so that the ends of the handle are at neck level.  Pull the handle down and pin your elbows against your body.  FOR V-BAR: pull down bending only at the elbows in a forward arc pattern.  FOR ROPE: pull down in the same pattern, but at the bottom pull each side of the rope off to the side with your wrist.  Both hit triceps and shoulder, rope also hits forearm.
  5. Straight Bar Cable Curl: for this lower the adjustable pulley used above to about knee level or below. Attach a short straight bar.  (Bars without rubber grips and use of gloves is highly advised here.  Also make sure bar has a swivel and can spin free of the cable)  Like with Barbell curl, grasp the bar at about shoulder width so your arms are parallel.  Curl bar to chest careful not to rock your back.  This should burn more than the other curls as it ends up doing a little more vertical movement.  You can often do more weight as you have less balancing to do.  NEVER replace free weights with cable machines.  Struggling with balancing builds accessory muscles which benefit appearance and real world strength.
  6. Weighted Dips: Start with zero weight and then adjust based on your abilities. Either use a weight belt, or hold a dumbbell between your feet.  Wider grips seem to hit triceps more.
If you do this right you should be really feeling it during each set and after the workout.  Be careful to take care of yourself and never work a body part that is sore from a past workout.  Building with workouts like this requires vast amounts of protein.  Always try to take a protein shake and some carbs within 30 minutes of finishing the workout.

Just the fancy legal stuff: All of the above are based on my experiences and research and are for informational purposes only.  Workout and consume supplements at your own risk and remember, always consult with a doctor before beginning a workout routine or drastically changing your diet.  Be Careful. Stay Safe. Lift Heavy. Be Strong!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Get Pumped! Why Pre-Workouts are a Must-Have in Every Powerlifter's Bag!

If you've ever been in a GNC or looked at the front page of, I promise you that you have seen the shiny C4 containers, or the seemingly outrageous claims made advertising some pre-workout products.  I think most people know to take any product's claims with a grain of salt, but many of these pre-workouts are actually very, very effective.

How many times have you felt low on energy or unfocused in a way that caused your workout intensity to suffer, or even skip your workout altogether?  Most of you, like myself know that feeling all too well.  It's easy to make excuses: you had a hard day at work, you didn't sleep well, you're not feeling so great, etc..  That's exactly the feeling that got me into pre-workouts to begin with.  I was sick of essentially wasting time at the gym when I wasn't 100%.  Pre-workouts are great "distractions" from those thoughts and feelings mentioned above.  They provide energy, focus, and often a placebo effect giving you the "I got this!" mentality.

As I mentioned above, I got into pre-workouts for days that I wasn't feeling 100%.  Now, I take them almost every workout (be careful to follow directions about cycling and maximum daily servings!).  Even on days that I feel good, that little jolt of extra energy, extra focus, and again, placebo effect help push my workouts over the top.  If you've read my first article (CAUTION: Not for The Faint of Will), you know that my workout routine is pretty intense.  I go twice a day and always try to add at least 5lbs to each exercise from the session before.  Pre-workouts in addition to my high protein diet and other aspects of my carefully calculated sports nutrition plan have so far helped me achieve this.  For example in the past 2 weeks, my bench press (on an injured shoulder) has gone up 75 pounds!  I'm not saying this wouldn't have happened without pre-workouts, only that it would have likely taken much more time as there would be much more variance in energy levels and motivation from workout to workout.

I have personal experience using three different pre-workouts.  There are also a few newer ones to the market that I have not yet tried that I will touch on.

1. Jack3d by USPLabs
Jack3d will always have a sweet spot in my memory.  It was the first pre-workout I used, and part of what ushered me into hard core powerlifting.  There's a lot of great aspects of Jack3d.  For starters it is the first (and perhaps only) supplement I have ever taken that has done EXACTLY what is claimed of it.  Shortly after taking Jack3d I get a burst of energy, but unlike an energy drink it doesn't make me hyper or jittery. Rather, it makes me feel like I have an endless pool of energy and effort to tap into.  It makes that 4th and 5th rep more possible, and lets you increase the weights faster and push harder.  Courtesy of the now controversial ingredient DMAA, it creates a tunnel-vision effect.  I remember when I first started taking it, I would get so focused that I would lose track of time and even not notice lifting buddies trying to talk to me.  Your thought process slows to thinking about one thing at a time: getting that weight up, and then doing it again.

I can't speak high enough of Jack3d, but like everything it does have a few downsides.  For starters it tastes awful.  I couldn't stomach the tropical fruit punch, so I switched to lemon-lime.  This is at least drinkable, but its more of a chug, less of a pleasant drinking.  Secondly, Jack3d is becoming hard to find.  Last I checked no longer carries it and GNC has limited supplies in stores only (seems like they're just trying to sell off what's left.  Due to the controversy over the DMAA, and also some people's dislike of the tingling feeling of beta-alanine (personally, I love it), USPLabs has created Jack3d Micro without these ingredients.  (As of the time of this writing, there are rumors the FDA plans to ban DMAA, but nothing official yet.)

2. C4 Extreme by Cellucor
I was only recently introduced to C4 when a Cellucor rep approached me and offered me samples of various products to review.  I think my reaction in the locker room when I drank it for the first time sums up my feelings about C4.  It really is Extreme!  The energy kick of C4 seems much more potent than anything I have tried.  I have a high tolerance for caffeine and the other ingredients common to pre-workouts, so to get a kick like I did from C4 is pretty impressive.  That being said, for me it still wasn't a jittery or hyper energy. I use C4 regularly for one of my daily workouts, and its effect has not seemed to lessen.  Very happy with it, and the Icy Blue Razz tastes much, much better than any Jack3d I've tried.

3. PlatinumPRE by Optimum Nutrition
First off, I love Optimum Nutrition.  I have never known a bad product from them.  When PlatinumPRE was released, the hype was incredible.  Positive reviews were flowing in from left and right.  You can imagine my excitement when an envelope arrived in the mail from Optimum with PlatinumPRE samples!  My first impression: this is without a doubt, by far the best tasting pre-workout drink I know of.  It was actually delicious.  No chugging it down fast, I actually enjoyed drinking it as I sat in the locker room listening to some pre-workout motivation on my phone.  One other thing to know: C4 and Jack3d to a lesser extent stay relatively evenly mixed.  PlatinumPRE does settle significantly, so a quick shake before each drink is warranted.

Before I tried the PlatinumPRE I read through the ingredients.  Minus DMAA, it seemed to have the best of both worlds: almost a combination of Jack3d and C4.  My estimation was correct.  PlatinumPRE gives an insane kick, focus, and just to remind you it's working: the Beta-Alanine tingle that I love so much.  I also appreciate the inclusion of some amino acids and vitamins, as well as using L-Citrulline instead of Arginine as the NO precursor.  Citrulline is somewhat more potent, but more important to me: most NO products use Arginine and it's always good to mix things up to preserve effectiveness.  PlatinumPRE is not only effective, but it seems to be healthy as well.  It is the only pre-workout I know of to include potent antioxidants which help protect your body from free radicals released in large quantities when you work hard and expend masses of energy.

PlatinumPRE made quite an impression.  All the commentary on it comes from two uses.  Unfortunately the sample Optimum sent was quite a small one and unable to support a long term test.  If I can get my hands on some more I will certainly update this review with further impressions.

1. Jack3d Micro by USPLabs
Jack3d Micro is an alternative to Jack3d without the DMAA or Beta-Alanine (two of the ingredients I found most useful in Jack3d).  Looking at the ingredients, I am not exactly optimistic about the potency of Micro.  It is missing the two best ingredients of Jack3d original.  That being said, I have not had the opportunity to try it.  By all means, if you have tried it please leave a comment with your impressions.  If I have the opportunity to try some samples I will be glad to update this review with my impressions.

2. SCREAM by
I anticipate SCREAM being a fierce competitor with PlatinumPRE.  They share many common ingredients, with advantage perhaps to SCREAM.  I love the idea of putting 8 grams of BCAA's in a preworkout.  That helps ensure they are in the blood when most needed, immediately post workout.  Including creatine is a common, but appreciated decision as well as it eliminates or decreases the need to supplement creatine separately.  I am quite excited about SCREAM and hopefully will be able to sample and properly review it soon.

Just the fancy legal stuff: All of the above are based on my experiences and research and are for informational purposes only.  Workout and consume supplements at your own risk and remember, always consult with a doctor before beginning a workout routine or drastically changing your diet.  Be Careful. Stay Safe. Lift Heavy. Be Strong!