Are you looking to work on your cardio but you need to give your legs and knees a rest? A couple of years back I had an accident which rendered my left leg pretty much unusable for about 2 full months. Obviously, I won’t be able to do my regular workout routine like jogging and using a stationary bike. The good news here is that I found out about arm bikes during this period.
Arm bikes are, as the name suggests, bikes for your arms. This exercise machine is designed to get your heart pumping while allowing your lower body to rest. This machine was mostly found in rehabilitation centers but is now available for commercial consumption. Ever since the injury to my left leg, it hasn’t really been able to return back to 100% which is why I’m quite thankful I have an arm bike as an alternative for my cardio exercise. Many articles about exercise can be found on Fitboot.
MagneTrainer Exercise Bike
designed specifically for arms and offers some nifty features and an up to date technology.
Additional features include a ‘Quiet’ functionality that can allow you to go full throttle without generating any noise.
Drive Deluxe Exercise Peddler
This arm bike is foldable which allows it to be bought anywhere and takes up very little space in storage
Sleek and compact but filled with features you could shake a stick at
It is basically designed specifically for that type of individual.
Isokinetics Inc. Pedal Exerciser
Another affordable arm bike that offers solid quality and performance. The Isokinetics Pedal Exerciser is one of the most surprisingly durable mini bikes I’ve used.
It is also great for those who prefer equipment that is ready to use out of the box.
The Isokinetic does not require any assembly which is nice for those who are not that confident when it comes to building relatively complex machines
Now, let me give you a couple of examples as to why the arm bike is something you might want to check out. Especially if you are currently nursing a leg injury, the arm bike is one way to keep the blood flowing even when you are resting comfortably in a chair. Here are some of the benefits arm bikes are known to provide…
It Can Help Burn Calories
Similar to stationary bikes, arm bikes are a great way to burn calories using a cardio workout. While not on par with the calorie burning found in a high-intensity bike exercise, arm bikes managed to record about 86% of the maximum calories burned in a 30-minute session. While not a full replacement for biking, it manages to do a decent job when it comes to being a cardio workout.
A Good Alternative if You Have an Injury
For people who are injured or are disabled permanently, an arm bike can provide the cardio training you require to stay fit and improve your overall stamina. As I have stated earlier in this article, I was nursing a leg injury for about 2 months and using an arm bike helped me maintain my body weight while allowing my leg to properly recover.
Can Be Used for Cross-Training
An athletes’ body is put through rigorous training to achieve peak physical performance. This isn’t to say that they have a lower risk of injury when exercising. In fact, athletes must take extra care when training. They can’t overwork their body to the point where it breaks down.
Using an arm bike can help an athlete maintain their daily cardio exercise while allowing their legs to take some much-needed rest.
Improves Upper Body Strength
The arm bike primarily focuses on your upper body muscles like your arms, chest, back, and shoulders. It does this without requiring any weights. It can improve your upper body strength without requiring a separate exercise dedicated to your cardio. Basically, hitting two birds with one stone. This is why arm bikes are also recommended for individuals whose daily activity mostly focuses on exercising their legs rather than their upper body and core strength. For example, jobs that require you to walk or stand most of the day will have an imbalance when it comes to upper and lower body strength.
Offers a Change of Pace
For those who follow a strict daily training regimen, adding an arm bike exercise every now and again can help break the monotony. I still incorporate arm bike exercise from time to time to break the daily routine that I have in regards to working out. Also, since my left leg never truly healed back to 100%, letting my legs rest during workout sessions is greatly appreciated.
In order to choose the right arm bike you need to ask yourself the following questions:
Does it offer a comfortable grip?
Similar to how you choose an exercise bike, it is important to have a pedal that is easy and comfortable to grab. You will be using this for at least half an hour a day, so make sure spinning the pedals with your hands will not cause undue strain or even injuries.
Does it have an adjustable resistance?
The resistance of an exercise bike is important as it can help improve your strength and stamina. If you find the current resistance level to be quite easy, you can switch it up by increasing resistance. This will make spinning the pedals harder but that will result in higher calories burned and improved muscle development.
Is it noisy?
A noisy exercise bike is a no-no, especially in today’s day and age. While it is rare to find a mini exercise bike that squeaks or slides around the surface, it is best to check it out first before purchasing. You should also look for arm bikes that have rubberized legs which will prevent it from sliding across the table when you are using it.
Does it feature a tracking display?
While not essential, it will make tracking your progress during workout more convenient and easier. Most exercise bikes have this feature installed and are still relatively affordable. I suggest you go for ones that do have displays as can make exercising extremely convenient.
Is it well-made?
I have encountered a couple of exercise bikes, both for legs and arms that needed to be re-adjusted more often that I would want. Avoid low-quality exercise bikes that offer inaccurate resistance or arm bikes that wobble. You might get them for cheap but they are not worth the trouble and will not be able to deliver optimum results during your exercise routine.
Does it utilize straps?
Straps should help keep your hands and feet in place. They usually use Velcro to secure your hands or feet to the pedal. Again, while not an essential aspect, it will make using the mini stationary bike easier and more convenient.
Does it come with a warranty?
Whenever I’m about to spend a good amount of cash on anything I always look for a warranty. Warranties help ensure that the product you are buying is a quality one. It also shows the confidence of the manufacturer in their product. You can easily find one-year warranties on mini bikes from reputable brand names. If this is your first time buying then I highly suggest you choose an arm bike that has a warranty.
The MagneTrainer ER is designed specifically for arms and offers some nifty features and an up to date technology. It utilizes magnetic technology to provide the resistance and can reach up to 200% resistance which is a rare feat for mini exercise bikes to accomplish. As you would expect, this one is designed for both rehabilitation and for serious workouts.
Additional features include a ‘Quiet’ functionality that can allow you to go full throttle without generating any noise. The magnetic resistance also allows you to adjust to the perfect tension better compared to arm bikes that utilize dials with a preset resistance level. It is also ergonomically designed and the pedals are designed with a handlebar appearance.
Sleek and compact but filled with features you could shake a stick at. The Drive Medical Deluxe offers a lot to the table while maintaining a fairly reasonable price. This arm bike is foldable which allows it to be bought anywhere and takes up very little space in storage.
It also comes with a display that tracks your progress during a workout. You can check for the calories burned, time, revs per minute, and pace with a press of a button. If you plan on moving around a lot you might want to check this arm bike out. It is basically designed specifically for that type of individual.
Exerciser is one of the most surprisingly durable mini bikes I’ve used. It is also great for those who prefer equipment that is ready to use out of the box. The Isokinetic does not require any assembly which is nice for those who are not that confident when it comes to building relatively complex machines.
This is a simple and easy to use arm bike that is well-made and offers what you need. While it does not come with the additional features that the previous two offers, it does a good enough job in giving you a good cardio workout as long as you follow the workout plan.
Arm bikes are not only great alternatives to exercise bikes, but they can also offer you a way to keep your upper body to stay fit. As I have noted at the beginning, for those who are currently nursing a leg injury, the arm bike will give you the exercise your body needs to maintain its cardio. This is a helpful exercise machine that will allow you to do high-intensity cardio exercise while allowing your lower body some time to rest up.
When it comes to weight loss and muscle gains, one of the most effective ways to speed up the process is with a protein powder. This supplement helps promote lean muscle development and will significantly improve one’s gains after every workout. However, many would agree that protein powders do not have the most inviting of tastes. While you can learn to ignore the chalky texture and unpleasant aftertaste, wouldn’t it be better if we have something to considerably dampen the impact of its bad taste?
Well, there are now protein powders available that offer the same results but are presented in a more flavorful and smoother packaging. It manages to eliminate the unpleasant taste of standard protein powders and replace it with something you would actually enjoy drinking.
One of the most popular brands and something that I have personally used is Optimum Nutrition Flavor. If you are looking for a protein powder that actually tastes good and comes in a variety of flavors then you should definitely check what Optimum Nutrition Flavor has to offer. Many articles from Fitboot offers good knowledge to reach your desired goal.
I must confess that I tend to be quite fussy when it comes to what I eat. When I was a kid, if a food is not appealing to me both in taste and smell, you will never be able to make me eat it no matter how healthy it is. While I did manage to shake off that mentality as I grew older, I have to admit that tasting protein powder for the first time caught me off guard. Let’s just say that after that, I opted to lose weight and gain muscles the old-fashioned and natural way.
Fortunately, flavored protein powders were introduced to the market which helped dampen the blow to my taste buds. However, they never truly made me enjoy drinking my protein shake. That is after I discovered Optimum Nutrition Flavors. This protein powder comes in a variety of flavors and each flavor tastes almost identical to what is stated on the label. This is something of a rare occurrence in you are familiar with the protein powder industry as other brands will only offer a hint of flavor. This is not the case with Optimum Nutrition.
They actually manage to imitate actual flavors like chocolate, mocha, and even banana while still maintaining all the nutrients you need to achieve those gains. I actually enjoy drinking it now compared to when I first started drinking standard protein powder shakes which felt more like a chore. I also found that Optimum Nutrition mixes well with other ingredients. I’ve tried it with my pancakes and smoothies and it definitely adds a fuller and richer flavor.
Now, before we head on the list of the best Optimum Nutrition Flavors I would first like to clarify how this list was compiled. Basically, it needs to have high accuracy rating with the flavor stated on the label, it also needs to taste just as good when mixed in plain water, and finally, it needs to actually taste good. The third one is more of a personal preference of mine but worries not, I won’t let it cloud my judgment.
The Mocha Cappuccino flavor is definitely a good choice for coffee drinkers. While it is not a 1:1 recreation of a mocha cappuccino taste, it does a pretty fine job replicating about 80% of its rich flavor. This is expected as this is basically whey protein but it is also surprisingly close. However, if you prefer your coffee with more than a few teaspoons of sugar then this might not be to your liking. The mocha cappuccino protein powder tastes closer to a non-sweetened coffee.
This is one flavor that I did not expect to actually like, but it managed to do so nonetheless. You can look at the Banana Cream flavor to be an underrated variation of Optimum Nutrition Flavor. It is there but is mostly ignored. Which is doing yourself a disservice as this is one of the more surprising variations of Optimum Nutrition. It is quite good terms of taste accuracy and is something that you should definitely be checking out if you want to experiment a bit with deliciously flavored protein powder.
Now, does it actually taste like a banana? The fruit? Not so much, but it does feel like a banana flavored candy, which if you like sweets, would definitely pique your attention. If you like eating banana then you should definitely try this one out. You can also mix it with other food to spruce up the flavor department a little. This is actually what I mix in my pancakes which gives it a sweeter and fuller taste.
Do you love chocolate but can’t satisfy that sweet tooth because of your diet plan? Optimum Nutrition has you covered with a variety of chocolate flavored variations, such as the Rock Road flavor. Rocky Road is basically ice cream with a mixture of chocolate, marshmallow, and nuts. While the Optimum Nutrition Rock Road Flavor does not have these ingredients, it does a great job of emulating that flavor.
If there is one thing the Optimum Nutrition has proven of being able to do quite well, besides being a quality protein powder, it is their ability to capture the taste of chocolate. The Rocky Road flavor is delicious and creamy. It even has a tinge of marshmallow and nuts which is even more prevalent in its aftertaste. This will be the first of many chocolate-based flavors in this list.
For chocolate lovers who want a little twist in their protein powder smoothie, this flavor uses the classic chocolate and mint blend. I have to admit that this isn’t really my ‘cup of tea’ but it is quite popular with some of my friends. Based on their reaction, this variation captures that unique rich flavor with a cool and refreshing aftertaste that they enjoy so much in chocolate mints.
I have tasted this once myself and I do give it points for capturing that chocolatey taste with a refreshing kick of menthol afterward. Again, not my favorite but based on our scoring system and its popularity amongst health buffs, the Chocolate Mint flavor earns its spot in this list.
Now, you would be forgiven if you initially think that this is a typical cookie and cream smoothie on your first try. That is how accurate the taste is when compared to actual cookies and cream. This is also one of the most popular Optimum Nutrition Flavor and delivers that rich and creamy taste you would expect from cookies and cream dessert.
The thing is that it might have captured that flavor too close. You should be aware not to drink too much of this protein powder if you want to avoid spiking your macros level way up. Simply put, I found this flavor to be quite addicting. You can decide for yourself whether that is an advantage or disadvantage.
The standard measuring stick when it comes to flavored chocolate flavored protein powders. This is Optimum Nutrition’s flagship in regards to this market. Chances are you have already tasted and tried chocolate flavored protein powders from other brands and I can assure you this can easily surpass most of its competition.
As the name implies, this truly is a rich and creamy chocolate-flavored protein powder. That silky smooth consistency of a chocolate drink is perfectly captured here. Flavor-wise, it tastes like chocolate milk. Sweet and satisfying with a refreshing aftertaste that really hits the spot for chocolate lovers. The Double-Rich Chocolate flavor can also be mixed with anything you can think of. Tired of making a smoothie? Mix it in with bread and pastries, dealer’s choice.
While Double-Rich might be the original, Extreme Milk Chocolate pretty much perfected the formula. This protein powder brings the chocolate goodness to new heights. If you think their Double-Rich Chocolate flavor is sweet then this might give you a sugar rush.
Personally, this is my favorite as I do admit to having an insatiable sweet tooth. Optimum Nutrition’s Extreme Milk Chocolate can even be compared to other popular chocolate milk powder brands. Except, of course, this one is designed to promote leaner muscles. Sweet, delicious, rich, creamy, and goes with everything. The Extreme Milk Chocolate from Optimum Nutrition Flavor takes the proverbial cake.
Protein powder doesn’t have to be tasteless, or in worst case scenarios, unpleasant tasting supplement drink. Optimum Nutrition has proven that it can be a delicious treat that will also satisfy your cravings for sweets. They offer their product in a variety of flavors, flavors that we weren’t able to touch upon in this article as we mostly focused on the best ones.
Check their website for a full list of flavors like strawberry and vanilla, to name a few. As you can see, we can still lose weight get those ‘gains’ properly while still being able to enjoy the sinful taste of chocolate. Many helpful articles from Fitboot can help you reach your body contour.
Most people today don’t have time to hit the gym while juggling work and personal life. However, don’t let this stop you from attaining the body that you desire. Being fit is not about being able to hit the gym, it is all about dedication, control, and maximizing the tool you have at your disposal. For example, if you want to develop leaner muscles you don’t need to hit the gym. Of course, the gym can help in your training but you can also do that in the comfort of your own home and with the instructions of Fitboot can reach your desired goal.
Case in point, the triceps bar. This exercise equipment is a simple yet highly effective method to work those triceps and build up muscle. The good thing about the triceps bar is that you can use it in your home. No need to go to the gym or register for a membership. I’ve been using triceps bars for almost half a year now and it has significantly done wonders. If you are like me who is not comfortable going to the gym or simply don’t have time for it, the triceps bar might just be what you are looking for.
Titan Fitness Triceps Bar
The handlebars are threaded and are spaced just right to allow for optimum grip with your arms
It also has rotating sleeves which makes training flow more smoothly.
I do feel it might be too small for people with larger hands which might make hammer curls unnecessarily difficult
Power Systems Pro Tricep Bar
Power System Pro might just take the cake thanks to its high-grade rubberized grips.
The rubber handles also utilize a knurled designed which further enhances your grips.
It can hold up to 200 lbs. of weighted plates
CAP Barbell Triceps Bar
An ideal triceps bar for those who are looking to have a relatively moderate weight training experience.
It is still a solid choice for strengthening your triceps but for those who have a smaller stature, you might want to look for a triceps bar that has closer handles.
Sunny Health and Fitness Triceps Bar
The Sunny Health and Fitness Triceps Bar use a threaded sleeve design which means it will not be able to hold too much weight.
The threaded design on the sleeves allows this bar to completely secure plates without the need for a clamp.
This bar is actually designed to hold a limit of 150 lbs
Alder Sports Regular Triceps Solid Bar
If you prefer something that is relatively lightweight, the Alder Sports Triceps Bar just might be right up your alley
This larger space between the handles makes this an ideal triceps bar for larger individuals. Take note though that Alder Sports triceps bar is not compatible with Olympic weights.
The bar, on its own, weighs only 17 lbs. but is basically a full-sized triceps bar at 34-inches.
Obviously, triceps bars deliver most of its benefits in the form of developing and strengthening your triceps muscles. However, you would be amiss to think that is where the benefits end. Triceps bars are designed so that you can do other exercises on it such as presses, weighted lunges, weighted squats, and weighted sit-ups.
Triceps bars are also extremely easy exercise tools to use. It also offers flexibility as you can add or remove weighted plates to suit your needs. Tricep bars can weigh between 20 to 250 lbs., and this is just for one triceps bar. It is pretty much an advanced version of a dumbbell. As triceps bars are easy to use, beginners can pick this up and train with it with just a bit of practice. Experts will also be able to utilize this weight in their training regimen.
Another advantage of this impressive weighted bar is that it is quite affordable in comparison with other workout equipment that offers similar benefits. This is also compact which means you can easily store this anywhere at home and whip them out anytime if you feel like doing some strength training.
Triceps bars are quite affordable but like with any other purchase, it is best to know what to look for in order to prevent getting a bar that does not meet your needs and preferences. Before you buy a triceps bar, consider the following first:
What is its overall construction?
Triceps bars can come in all shapes and sizes but one principal aspect you should always look for is its frame. When it comes to weighted bars, it is always smart to look for ones made from solid steel. This ensures that it will be able to handle the significant weight without bending. Try to avoid triceps bars that are made from plastic or other materials other than steel. This is doubly true if you are planning on doing intense weight training.
How much weight is it designed to support?
This is another personal preference factor that will depend on what type of training you are planning on using it on. For experts who want a good challenge then a triceps bar that can support up to 250 lbs. is a must. For beginners or those who are just looking to do a lighter workout, a triceps bar that has a 100 lbs. limit should suffice.
The sleeves are technically where you place the weighted plates. There are two types of sleeves used in weighted bars: the Olympic and the Threaded sleeves. Olympic sleeves are basically just your straightforward bars that are cylindrical and smooth. This type of sleeve can support significantly more weight but will require a clamp to hold weighted plates in place. You have to be careful when buying clamps, it must be made from high-quality material and are as durable as possible.
The second type is the threaded sleeves. As the name suggests, this type of sleeve uses the threaded mechanism design. You will basically be screwing the weighted plates in place. This is considerably more secure than the Olympic sleeves but is not designed to hold significant weight.
Another important factor you should look for in a triceps bar sleeve is whether it rotates to support your movement. A static sleeve will cause some awkward resistance which can increase injury or discomfort. I suggest you look for ones that have revolving sleeves as these offer more convenience but at a slightly elevated cost.
Lastly, the grips should be able to fully accommodate your hands. Make sure that the grips are large enough to allow you a comfortable and secure grip. You should also look for grips that offer optimum traction and comfort. Avoid grips that are smooth as it has a higher risk of slipping off your hands or causing blisters.
The Titan Fitness Triceps Weight Bar is my personal top choice. I’ve been using this for a couple of months now and I have to admit that I am not disappointed with it yet. The handlebars are threaded and are spaced just right to allow for optimum grip with your arms.
While designed for hammer curls, people with larger hands might find the handlebars too small for comfort. It also has rotating sleeves which makes training flow more smoothly. This triceps bar is designed to be compatible with most weighted plates. The clamps are also durable enough to ensure that the weights stay in place at all times.
As for the total weight, it can support, the Titan Fitness Triceps Bar can hold up to 200 lbs. plus the overall weight of the bar which is 25 lbs. This is my personal pick as it is ergonomically designed, well-made, and comfortable to use. However, I do feel it might be too small for people with larger hands which might make hammer curls unnecessarily difficult.
In terms of handling and optimum grips, the Power System Pro might just take the cake thanks to its high-grade rubberized grips. Not only does the grips provide maximum traction on your palms, but it is also quite comfortable to hold. The rubber handles also utilize a knurled designed which further enhances your grips.
It has a solid steel construction which makes it ideal for those who are planning on doing intense weight training. It can hold up to 200 lbs. of weighted plates. It is also coated with zinc plating which is rust-resistant, giving this triceps bar longevity as well.
An ideal triceps bar for those who are looking to have a relatively moderate weight training experience. This triceps bar can also hold up to 200 lbs. of weighted plates. You will notice that space in between the handles is visibly larger compared to other triceps bars. This makes it an ideal bar for hammer curls.
It is still a solid choice for strengthening your triceps but for those who have a smaller stature, you might want to look for a triceps bar that has closer handles. This one appears to be designed for larger individuals.
The handles are also comfortable to use thanks to its knurled design. The sleeves also revolve making it easier to do various training exercises. This is a good all-around triceps bar, especially for those who have a larger build.
The Sunny Health and Fitness Triceps Bar use a threaded sleeve design which means it will not be able to hold too much weight. This bar is actually designed to hold a limit of 150 lbs. of the weighted plate. The threaded design on the sleeves allows this bar to completely secure plates without the need for a clamp.
The solid steel construction significantly enhances its durability. The chrome finish also gives it a scratch resistant coating helping it retain its shiny appearance longer. The handles are designed so that your hands can easily wrap around them. It is also coated with a specially made texture that strengthens your grips.
If you prefer something that is relatively lightweight, the Alder Sports Triceps Bar just might be right up your alley. The bar, on its own, weighs only 17 lbs. but is basically a full-sized triceps bar at 34-inches. The handles have an 8-inches space between them which is slightly wider than your standard triceps bar.
This larger space between the handles makes this an ideal triceps bar for larger individuals. Take note though that Alder Sports triceps bar is not compatible with Olympic weights. You need to buy standard weighted plates for this one. It also comes with two 1-inch spring collars.
There is also an issue with the knurled designed grips. The knurled carving is a little too shallow to offer optimum grip. Still, as long as you are planning on using this for a light to moderate weight exercise then knurled grips issue can be overlooked.
The Impex Marcy Threaded Triceps Bar might not offer the same premium quality as some of the more expensive brands in this list but as a beginner’s triceps bar that offers practicality, this will do. It uses standard weighted plates so if you already have a couple of those lying around then this will be a financially smart investment. Well, Impex Marcy is quite affordable as well so you won’t have to spend too much on it.
The overall weight of the bar is only around 15 lbs. which makes it one of the lightest choices. The bar appears to be well built. Joints are all welded efficiently and it also comes with caps that are used to hold the weights in place. Just make sure you place them in there properly as they can slowly become loose during weight lifting.
The Impex Marcy Threaded Triceps Bar also do not have a rotating sleeve which can put some pressure on your hands if working out using heavier sets of plates. With that, I would recommend this if you only do light to moderate strength training.
The Body Solid Olympic Weight Bar features an impressive design that allows it to be used without any obstruction. This triceps bar is designed for optimum mobility and comfort and gives you a variety of triceps exercise to choose from.
This incorporates the rotating sleeves which makes weight training easier on your hands. The handles also feature a quality knurled design which is diamond finished for a completely detailed and ergonomic grip.
The ergonomic design of the Body Solid Olympic Triceps Bar makes it easy on the wrist and elbows. The spacing between the handles are also pretty good and should prevent the bar from lowering the level of mobility you can do during weightlifting training. This triceps weight is designed to support up to 200 lbs. and is compatible with Olympic plates. The collars located on both sleeves also help secure and stabilize the plates.
Buying the correct triceps bar is actually quite simple as long as you remember the key factors to look for. For those who are looking to strengthen their upper body muscles, specifically the triceps, the triceps bar is a great and practical alternative to hitting the gym or using large exercise machines.
I recommend you check out the list of triceps bars that were listed above. These are highly recommended within fitness circles and I have also benefited from using the Titan Fitness Triceps Bars. Take into consideration your personal preference and the type of results you are aiming to be able to pick the best triceps bar possible.
If you want the guidance and motivation of a personalized, supervised fitness program, we offer the best in one-to-one fitness training for men and women, teens to seniors, beginners and experienced athletes.
Charla McMillian, creator of FitBoot and NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, has successfully designed effective, enjoyable, results-oriented total fitness programs for executives, students, active and veteran military, law enforcement professionals, and homemakers for more than two decades.
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Are you confused with all the ads, infommercials, and headlines about proper diet and amount of exercise necessary for good health and fitness?
Looking for the bottom line?
First, two things to keep in mind:
See if you recognize any of the following fitness myths I’ve heard often during the past two decades. Read the real scoop beneath each myth. These are just a few of the questions that folks routinely ask me. Follow some of the links to find more information about training, diet, and supplements (but remember to come back here and find out more about how you can get started on developing your ideal physique).
What the Surgeon General’s report (July 1996) actually said is that at minimum, a moderate amount of exercise daily is required to achieve health benefits. It gave some examples such as 30 minute of brisk walking or raking leaves, 15 minutes of running, or 45 minutes of volleyball on most, if not all, days of the week. The recommendations were intended to demonstrate the least that people need to do to modestly improve their health.
Because most folks look for an easy way around even minimum requirements where exercise and discipline are concerned, the Surgeon General and major sports medicine organizations like the ACSM tried to find ways to help Americans live longer healthier lives by just getting up and moving a LITTLE BIT during their average day. Completing some form of exercise for at least 10 minutes at least 3 times daily will cause some positive physical changes for the completely inactive person – ANY change is better than none.
In fact, in January 2005, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services finally updated these recommendations with the hard truth Americans need more exercise:
Many factors control how much and how quickly you will build muscle mass: genetics, pounds lifted and number of repetitions, duration of rest periods, training consistency, daily caloric intake, and quality of nutrients. Most people who express this concern, aren’t being realistic. If you lift weights that force you to perform no more than 8-12 repetitions per set, for 3-4 sets per exercise AND you consume no more calories than you can burn daily, bulking up to gargantuan bodybuilder proportions is not very likely.
Get to know your body and how it responds to exercise. Keep in mind that you must build some muscle in order to have any shape to that physique and that carrying muscle burns more calories than carrying fat (you’ll burn calories even while you’re resting!!) Once you see how your body responds to real training, you can modify your routine to get the shape and size you really want. You may choose to: use lighter weights that allow you to do no more than 15-20 repetitions per set (for definition); change exercises to emphasize different body areas; lift slightly heavier weights for 4-10 repetitions per set (for strength gains), add more sets, and/or moderately increase your calorie consumption to encourage more muscle growth.
This one is tricky because it’s been oversimplified and repeated ad nauseam in the sound bytes. The only possible processes involved when you use progressive resistance training (e.g., weightlifting) are: increasing muscular size (hypertrophy), increasing muscular strength, increasing muscular endurance, or increasing muscular power. If you lift weights in the appropriate rep range, you will always build some muscle. There is no physiological process known as “toning.” What people are referring to is emphasizing defined muscularity without excessive muscle mass. Lifting lighter weights in sets of 12-20 reps combined with a sensible fat loss program of proper diet and aerobic work will help you moderately increase your muscle mass while removing the layer of fat that hides the definition. But remember: you can’t shape the vase until there’s enough clay on the wheel. You have to build some muscle mass before you sculpt out the muscular definition you want.
Also, be realistic about what it means to use light weights. How many rail- thin, shapeless folks have you watched wasting hours each week doing endless reps with dumbbells about the size of an office stapler? This method is a big waste of time unless your office products give you a lot of trouble. Even if you’re “body-sculpting” you have to use weight that enables you to complete no more than 12-20 reps each set – if you can keep going with that weight you need to increase your resistance to force you back into that rep range. Otherwise, you’ll just get really good at moving staplers all day (muscular endurance). Remember to start by building a little muscular size with weight that forces you to complete no more than 8-12 reps per set for a few months before you start trying to shape that muscle with slightly lighter weights and higher reps.
Once and for all: muscle and fat are completely different substances. One cannot become the other anymore than you could turn lead into gold. But you’ve no doubt seen (or been) the muscular high school or college athlete who no longer hits the playing field but has kept eating at the training table. The muscle fibers shrink because they’re not challenged in the gym or in the game. But the body size hasn’t gotten smaller (in fact, maybe it’s a bit rounder?) because it’s moving all those extra calories to fat storage (now that they’re no longer being played off).
If you reduce your activity level, you must adjust your diet for your new level of activity. If you stop playing a certain sport or just want to buy a smaller sized wardrobe, reduce your daily caloric intake, reduce your weightlifting poundage, increase your reps, and/or increase your amount of aerobic activity.
Boy, the American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, various physician organizations, and hundreds of trainers are sorry this one ever got out of hand. Of course Americans’ consumption of saturated fats became an obvious problem about 30 years ago, but despite our steadily decreasing average daily fat intake, Americans’ physical girth has steadily increased during that same time. One big reason: the preponderance of low-fat and fat-free foods that are loaded with sugar and sodium to disguise their lack of taste. Another reason: fat-free foods that have no nutritive value at all (so eating them makes you feel full but keeps you from eating real food). Recent statistics show we’re much more likely to consume twice as much food when we know that food is low- or non-fat. Yes, we’ve lowered our fat intake. But we’re promoting fat storage in our bodies when we consume more carbohydrates (usually processed sugar) than we can burn or when we consume empty calorie foods that reduce our appetite for quality nutrients.
Despite the possible short-term effectiveness of many fad diets that advocate mounds of fat-free foods without heed to overall caloric intake or breakdown, you will not get and stay in shape following this quackery.
You need some fat in your daily diet because several essential vitamins cannot be used by the body without it (the fat-soluble vitamins) and because your body learns to hoard what it gets denied, but there only TWO essential fats that must be consumed because they can’t be manufactured in the body;
Your body can make fat from almost any nutrients consumed in excess, so your daily dietary requirements are quite low;
If the fat-free food contains more calories than you can burn (probably from sugars added for taste), you will convert the extra calories to bodyfat;
Junk food with a fat-free label is still junk. The quality of your fuel controls your body’s performance and the quality of the shape-giving muscle it produces.
For starters, the low carb fad is back on the scene again, the only difference is that it’s finally found HUGE commercial success. The first one promoted commercially showed up in 1864 when a British undertaker named Willliam Banting got too fat to tie his own shoes; he followed advice from a friend of his, an ear surgeon named William Harvey, and went on a diet of very few carbs but plenty of alcohol. He lost weight and wrote about the miracle diet in his “Letter on Corpulence” which ultimately sold more than 100,000 copies although he never wanted it published. Banting lived another 14 years and managed to keep his weight in check. But here’s the part the low carb fanatics leave out when they cite Banting as a nutrition pioneer and the father of their movement: In the 1860’s, Dr. Harvey wrote that this regimen should not be carried on for too long, and Banting had completely altered his diet by simply controlling his portion sizes, reducing his intake of protein and fats, and resuming his intake of carbs. In other words, he learned to balance his nutrition and stop demonizing one nutrient more than any other.
In modern times, the low/no carb craze has emerged again and again:
Recent studies show that many people do lose weight on very low carb diets, just as they do on every diet, but the problems still greatly outweigh the short term benefits:
Do yourself a favor. Learn what each of the major nutrients does for your body and then use your common sense – you’re an omnivore for a reason. Get the proper fuel balance from quality food sources including every major nutrient. Nothing is magic and nothing is evil.
Nope. Although some elite athletes may practice several hours daily and rarely take a day off, remember that they’re working on physical strength, agility, and possibly mass building; improving their playing skills; cycling on- and off-season training time; and getting paid to do it. Keep your workout to 60-90 minutes in order to stay mentally focused on what you’re doing, and then give yourself at least 1-2 days rest each week in addition to plenty of sleep each night. Your muscles and heart get stimulated during the exercise session, but growth, strength improvements, and skill attainment actually occur outside the gym while you’re recovering. The body you want – while not available in the 15 minutes promised by some salesmen – is available for about 5 hours a week, consistently.
Again, time to separate necessity from desire. Depending on the quality of your diet and the training level you wish to attain, you may want to add a few supplements to your daily regimen. But for the average person who just wants to look better and perform well, you don’t need to buy out your local vitamin store.
The current DRI (formerly known as the RDA ) for most nutrients is insufficient to help you achieve significant muscularity, excellent endurance performance, or quality muscular definition. It’s barely sufficient to keep us alive. That’s the point of the DRI’s: minimum recommendations to keep a hypothetical population of sedentary people alive without poisoning them with any overdoses. In addition, the quality of our conventional over-processed foods grown in substandard soils or force-fed hormones and antibiotics also will not adequately fuel great physical performance.
So first, get the highest quality, minimally processed, drug- and pesticide-free foods you can afford
Then, at minimum, you should take a quality, potent multi-vitamin from a reliable source. I recommend Twinlab products because they are consistently rated some of the best in the world with quality ingredients whose presence consistently checks out in independent lab tests (if they say it’s in there, it really is).
You can check on the quality of other manufacturers’ products with an inexpensive annual subscription to ConsumerLab.com. These folks independently analyze many of the vitamins, herbs and other nutritional supplements you find on shelves and report on whether each one:
In addition, ConsumerLab also posts reports of FDA and Federal Trade Commission warnings, alerts and citations against the snake-oil salesmen and potion- makers who advertise bogus physique and performance enhancers and cure-all’s.
For those constantly on the run without the time or facilities to eat all of the small, frequent, quality feedings they should get, you may try meal replacement shakes or bars. The key: choose high quality products that aren’t filled with sugars, fats, (partially hydrogenated or tropical oils), or low quality ingredients. And be sure to control your serving sizes to fit your actual daily caloric needs. Check out bars by Luna, Odwalla, MetRx, Parillo and PerfectRx. Check out powders like Gainers Fuel, Mass Fuel, or Diet Fuel by Twinlab. Gainers Fuel and Mass Fuel provide very good meal replacement with good mixability, and you can simply reduce the serving size to meet your needs (thus stretching your dollar as well).
Some other supplements can help you achieve your specific goals, some provide some health benefits, some will not do any harm (but probably won’t do much good either), and some should simply not be used at all. Read reputable sources for information on the supplements you’re considering, check out the claims, read the science behind them (if it’s only studies allegedly performed by the manufacturer or their cronies, put it back on the shelf, it’s a joke), look at the results in people you meet who are using them and have goals similar to yours, and look for reliable manufacturers.
You can rely on ConsumerLab.com for some good reporting on the science behind many of vitamins, herbs and other supplements you might be considering. If a product contains everything the manufacturer claims but none of that stuff has been proven effective at anything you’re wasting your time and money.
Another good source is Muscular Development Magazine. It is published by the folks who produce Twinlab supplements, so there is some product bias and some long ads that are cleverly disguised as legitimate articles. They’re also on about the 8th change of format in the past few years, with the magazine currently looking more like men’s locker room drooling material than reputable science. But it does contain very high quality articles and is associated with heavy-hitting contributors from the internationally respected sports organizations and certifying bodies. They have always cited the sources behind all claims and all their products. You can then go find the research for yourself to get more information.
Be sure to get quality advice from a trainer or sports nutritionist who is familiar with your goals, physical history, current body composition, etc. But here are some basics:
Creatine monohydrate (provided you have no history of kidney problems) and a good whey protein powder supplement are essential for putting on quality muscle mass.
L-Carnitine is a good idea for aiding in recovery between training sessions (also the function of creatine) and for burning fat.
Chromium picolinate is a good idea for fat-burning y helping make your insulin drive more efficient, especially for those with a large amount of weight to lose
Read legitimate studies to find appropriate dosages, standardizations, and length of time for use.
Stay away from “miracle” promises like you see on infommercials and the gym juice bar, unnecessarily high dosages in many products called “mega”-something or other, useless sprinklings of herbs and spices added to make products seem complex (like in the Thermo-this-and-That and Metabo-something fat burners), and inexpensive “sports bars” available in the impulse buying aisle at the supermarket next to the candy. If you want to throw money away, just head for the casino – at least there’s a chance you’ll win.
No, it won’t. Practically every machine you’ll see in the gym or on TV was designed to imitate a free-weight or body-weight exercise. (There are a few exceptions such as leg curls for the hamstrings that are difficult to execute without a machine). Unless you require physical therapy, have problems with balance, have a condition which prevents you from making full use of both limbs, etc. most of the apparatus you find in the mall or on TV is superfluous.
In my experience, most weekend athletes and weight loss seekers will purchase an average of 3 pieces (over a lifetime) of miracle-promising equipment that will each become an expensive coat rack about 30 days after the date on the sales receipt. A 1997 survey found that half of all American households contain at least one piece of exercise equipment. At last count, only 1 in 4 were still in use in the home
Be honest with yourself and keep it simple. First work on the discipline to just get up and complete 30-60 minutes of body-weight exercises several times each week for several months. After all, if you won’t do pushups, crunches, dips, and some stretching where no equipment is required, you probably won’t do it just because there’s a brand new Health Climber under the bed.
The push to buy a machine that will shorten your workout doesn’t even make sense as a goal. We already know you need to train at least 30-60 minutes on most days of the week to make serious gains, so how could shortening the time you spend get you anywhere.
If training were easy, we wouldn’t call it a workout. The point of exercise is to challenge your muscles and your heart so that they rise to the challenge, grow and get stronger. Making training easier = no improvements.
As for reducing fat in those problem areas, you should know by now there is no such thing as spot reducing. Therefore, you can’t choose to burn fat in specific areas with or without a new machine. Losing inches will come when you reduce your total bodyfat by:
So why is it still a multi-billion dollar a year industry even though most of the products are shlock and most people don’t even continue using them? Two hints: 1) most people still cling to the false hope that there’s an easier answer than “get off your butt and train”; and 2) when was the last time you followed up on a money-back guarantee?
Email or call me with any questions or confusion you have. I’ll be happy to try to answer them or point you to the right source. And if I get more than a few of the same question I’ll post them here for easy reference
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