If you ask a lot of guys what their ideal physique would be,  I’m pretty sure a lot of them would choose the physique of a sprinter. Sprinters that run the 100 and 200 meters and to some extent the 400m generally have very muscular, powerful and lean physiques. This has been achieved through years of training using a combination of weights, sprinting and diet. Now, just because you may not have aspirations of being the next Usain Bolt, it doesn’t mean you can’t  incorporate sprint workouts into your fitness regime to help boost muscle gains, fat burning and help improve your overall conditioning.

 

Sprint to build muscle and burn fat

By sprinting I mean running as fast as you can for a period of 10 – 30 seconds, having a rest and repeating again. That’s it; it really is as simple as that. Why should you sprint? Well, sprinting is one of the most functional exercises you could possibly do. When you sprint, not only are you using your legs but also the majority of your upper body muscles including your arms, back, shoulders, abs and even chest.  As well as this, sprinting allows you to work your muscles in way that isn’t possible by just lifting weights. You may find that hard to believe, but trust me, after a sprint session you will really feel it in your whole body.  

Sprinting will also help you become leaner. If you don’t think this is true then just take a look at the examples of 100 meter sprinters physique compared to that of a long distance runner. Not only do sprinters generally have more lean muscle but also tend to have lower body fat too.

Sprint anywhere

The great thing about sprinting is that you can do it anywhere. If you’re lucky enough to have a local track nearby that’s great but any open space such as a field or even a hill would do. Actually hill sprints are great too for some added resistance if you feel up to it.

Sample Sprint routine

Try incorporating the following routine into your workout regime once or twice a week. If you don’t have the time to sprint on separate days then you could do it immediately after your weight training. I’d try to avoid sprinting the day before you train your legs though as that wouldn’t allow for enough recovery time. Also, if you’ve never sprinted before you could reduce the distances or amount of sets you do and slowly build up. Remember the routine below is just a sample to give you an idea. Feel free to experiment with the distances, rest periods and number of sets. Also note that for simplicity I’ve used a conventional 400 meter running track in the sample. If you don’t have access to a track just do the same thing on a field.

Warm up:  1 – 3 laps of gentle jogging to get warm and loose. It’s really important to get warm and loose before going into the sprints to help avoid getting injured

Warm up: Perform some dynamic warm up exercises such as jogging on the spot and really focusing on lifting your knees high and pumping your

Warm up: Perform some light stretching of your hamstrings and quads

Warm up: Run 30 meters at 50% pace and just concentrate on pumping your arms and getting high knee lift. Perform this 2 – 3 times.

One you are warmed up it’s time to get into the sprinting.

Sprint:  100 meters x 5 –  Sprint 100 meters as fast as you can, then walk back to the starting point and repeat again 4 more times. Feel free to take a longer rest in between sets if you need to.  Once your fitness levels improve you can increase the number of sets to 10 or you can try sprinting for 200 meters and then jogging for 200 meters for 5 sets.

Warm down: After your sprint sets have finished, warm down by doing a couple of fast paced walking laps of the track to help alleviate some of the tightness that may have resulted from the sprints

Static Stretches: Finally, spend some time stretching at the end of the workout to once again, help to avoid tightness and also aid recovery.

That’s it really, it’s as simple as that. It doesn’t take long at all. Just be sure to warm up properly before you sprint. So, try to fit in some sprints as part of your workout and start to build muscle and burn fat!

High protein muscle building chicken sandwich

Lifting weights is only one part of the equation when it comes to building muscle and strength. The other two parts which are just as and if not even more important are quality nutrition and rest. Basically, when you lift weights you are tearing your muscle fibres and it’s only when you’re resting that your body rebuilds the muscle using the food that you’re eating. Eating enough quality calories to build muscle and strength isn’t always easy though.  A clean diet can be a bit boring. There is only so much grilled chicken, tuna, brown rice and veg a person can look at! But with a little bit of planning and effort you can make some really good tasting meals and snacks that are packed full of the nutrients you need to build muscle and strength.

Here is one of my favourite snacks that is really easy to make and tastes great.  

Ingredients

Chicken fillet –  8oz / 226 grams (marinated in any way you want)

Sliced onion

Tomato slices

Cucumber slices

Low fat cheese slice (optional)

2 slices of thick wholemeal granary bread

Mayonnaise (optional)

Garlic and Herb sauce (optional)

Instructions

Now , this is so easy I really don’t think it needs describing but I’ll do it for completeness.

1)      Grill the chicken fillet. I use a George Foreman grill but you can use a griddle pan or even put it in the over. I prefer the George Foreman grill because it only takes about 10 min.

2)      Once the chicken is grilled, toast the granary bread.

3)      Spread some mayonnaise on one of the slices of toast

4)      Put the cheese slice on the toast

5)      Cut the chicken breast so that it fits neatly into the toast and place it down

6)      Put the sliced onions, tomatoes and cucumbers on the chicken.

7)      Spread the garlic and herb sauce on the top slice of toast and put it on top to complete the sandwich

8)      Enjoy!

The sauce, cheese and mayonnaise are optional but it would be a pretty boring sandwich without them. Feel free to use any other choices according to your taste.

Nutritional Facts

I haven’t really worked out the exact macronutrients for this sandwich but based on the ingredients described above it should be approximately as follows:

Protien = 40g

Carbohydrates = 35g

Fat = 5g

Muscle and Strength program for beginners

Starting out on the path to building muscle and strength can be quite daunting for beginners.  I was there myself once. There is so much information out there it’s hard to decide what program is best for you. A common mistake a lot of beginners make is trying to follow the workout programs of professional bodybuilders found in a lot of magazines. The problem with this approach is that the workouts of professional bodybuilders aren’t suitable for beginners for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is that pro bodybuilders use a whole host of performance enhancing products that allow them to train and recover in a way a natural athlete simply couldn’t match.  In any case, even the pro bodybuilders themselves wouldn’t have started with these routines when they were beginners.  

Anyway, let me get to the point. Gaining muscle and strength for a beginner is pretty simple. You need a program comprising of the basic compound exercises, eat enough good food (proteins, carbohydrates and good fats) and get enough rest.

The Program

One of the most effective muscle building training programs for beginners and even more advanced trainees is a program that uses the 5×5 approach.  This approach is a tried and tested one that has been used by strength coaches with great success.  There are many variations of the 5×5 approach and the one below is a slightly adapted version of the routine used by renowned strength coach Bill Starr to help American Football players build muscle and strength. I can personally vouch for this approach as it’s helped me really increase my strength and put on quality lean muscle. I still run with this program from time to time to help increase strength.

So, the program consists of two full body workouts. Workout A and Workout B. It should be performed 3 times a week with a day of rest in between each workout and 2 days rest every 5 days.

Workout A

Barbell Squats = 5 sets, 5 reps for each set

Barbell Bench Press = 5 Sets, 5 reps for each set

Bent over Barbell Row = 5 Sets, 5 reps for each set

Optional assistance work

Pull ups = 3 Sets, 10 reps each

Dips = 3 Sets, 10 reps each

Workout B

Barbell Squats = 5 sets, 5 reps for each set

Standing barbell shoulder press = 5 sets, 5 reps for each set

Barbell Dead lift = 3 sets, 5 reps each. Ramp up the weight for each set with the aim of using the first 2 sets to warm up and the last set is going to be the heavy set.

Optional assistance work

Hanging leg / knee raises = 5 sets, 10 to 20 reps each

Example Schedule

If you train Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the program would be run as follows:

Monday – Workout A

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – Workout B

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Workout A

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Rest

Monday – Workout B

So, you get the picture. You train 3 days a week alternating workout A and B.  One week you will perform Workout A twice, and Workout B once and the next week it will be Workout B twice and Workout A once.

What weights should you use?

The whole aim of this program is to progressively allow you to get stronger and put on muscle. When you first start out you should use a weight for each exercise that you can easily do 5 reps on with perfect form. By this I mean that you should be able to do at least another 5 to 10 reps on the weight if you wanted.  For some people this may even mean starting with only the bar. Don’t be ashamed of this as the whole point is to gradually build your strength.

Each week, add a total 2.5kg to weight for bench press, shoulder press and barbell row. Add a total 5kg each week to the squats and deadlift.  The aim is to gradually increase the weight each week. You must complete all the sets and all the reps. If you fail on a set then don’t increase the weight next week. Only increase the weight if you can perform all the prescribed sets and reps.

To begin with, this program will feel easy. But in a few weeks, as the weights get heavy, you’ll really be feeling it by the end of the workout. Over time you will get stronger and as a result put on muscle.

Where are the bicep curls for big arms?

This is a full body workout. You’ll be using all the major muscles and you won’t need to do isolation movements like bicep curls. Your arms will grow big and strong as a result of the heavy pressing and pulling.

How long to use this routine?

I would recommend that you run with this routine for as long as you are making gains i.e. getting stronger. When you get to the point where you can’t increase weight each week, change it to increasing the weight every 2 weeks and eventually every month. Basically, stick with it for as long as you are getting stronger. After that you can start looking at other types of routines such and 3 and 4 day splits.

Key things to remember

1)      Make sure you use perfect form. Get instruction on how to perform the lifts properly if you need to. 

2)      Start light and gradually increase the weights. If you start too heavy you won’t make progress for very long.

3)      Make sure you are eating good quality food and getting enough rest.

Opposing muscle Supersets to supercharge muscle gains

One of my favourite muscle and strength building tactics is to use supersets in my training.  Super sets are a great way to boost your muscle gains, build endurance and also get more done in the gym in less time!  On some days, if I’m pressed for time due to other commitments I will base my entire workout around supersets using opposing muscle groups

What is a superset?

A superset is one where you perform two exercises one after the other without resting in between. It is effectively combining two sets into one.  Generally people tend use supersets towards the end of their routine and combine exercises targeting a particular muscle group. For example, many people will perform a superset for triceps using close grip bench press immediately followed with an isolation movement such as cable tricep extensions.

Opposing Muscle supersets

Now, same muscle group supersets are great, but if you really want to turn up the intensity of your workouts and build some serious overall muscle, try incorporating supersets using only compound movements that utilise opposing muscle groups.

Not only will opposing muscle supersets allow you to get more done in less time, they can improve the circulation meaning that muscles can work more efficiently with more oxygen. You’ll also get an awesome pump and even find you can lift more and do more reps on the second exercise. Many a bench press personal bests have been set even when it has been performed immediately after a set of rows! I personally find that I often feel stronger on the second exercise than if I had started with it.

My favourite superset at the moment is weighted Pull ups + weighted dips. This is an awesome superset that hits the back and biceps and the chest and triceps. Sometimes I do the pull ups first and other times I’ll start with the dips. But whichever order I start with, it really leaves the muscles pumped. Seriously, try super setting with opposing muscle groups. You will really feel it working!

Another favourite superset of mine is barbell row followed immediately by bench press or vice versa.  Here are just a few examples of great opposing muscle supersets.  Remember, as with all exercises, only use a weight that you can do perfect form with to avoid injuries and get the most out the workout.

Opposing muscle superset examples

1)      Bench Press + Bent over barbell rows

2)      Bench press + Pull ups

3)      Barbell rows + Dips

4)      Pull ups + Dips

5)      Standing barbell shoulder press + pull ups

6)      Bicep curls + tricep extension

The possibilities are limitless so why not include supersets into your workout and see yourself pile on the lean muscle, get stronger and burn fat.

Get Strong to Look Strong

I often get asked by people the best way to build a stronger, leaner and more muscular looking physique. It’s not just newbies but people who have been training for a long time with little success that often ask the same question. It’s worth noticing that in most cases the emphasis is always placed on the ‘look’ part. However, it’s surprising how often one simple fact is overlooked in the quest to look strong and more muscular. This simple fact is that, in order to look truly strong and muscular you need to first get stronger.

Now, you’re probably thinking that I’m just stating the obvious, and you know what? You’re right, I am. But as obvious as this is, I continue to see countless guys spending hours in the gym working on isolation exercises and machine weights. Don’t get me wrong, machine weights such as chest press and isolation movements such as bicep curls have their place in a well balanced muscle building routine, but relying on these alone will not allow you to develop a strong muscular body and burn fat.

So, what do you need to do in order to get stronger so that in turn you can build muscle, burn fat and ultimately look strong? Well, you need to have a muscle building routine that involves working multiple muscle groups. This means that the majority of your workout should consist of compound exercises using free weights. 

What are compound exercises and why focus on them?

Compound exercises are movements that require more than one joint and more than one muscle group to perform. They are the best way to build bigger and stronger muscles and are the most efficient use of your time the gym. For example, the barbell benchpress isn’t the just the best overall chest builder but also works your triceps, deltoids and requires stabilising from your back, biceps and abs.  So, if you have one guy who spends 1 hour doing bicep curls and tricep kickbacks and another guy who spends just 15 minutes performing barbell bench press, who do you think will make better overall gains? The guy doing the bench press of course! While the guy doing the bicep curls and tricep kickbacks might develop ‘big arms’, he won’t have the more complete development and strength as the one performing the bench press. The simple reason for this is that the compound movement works more muscles, causing more muscles to grow and get stronger.

So if you take the example above and apply it to the rest of the body and focus on getting stronger on the compound exercises, you’ll develop an overall stronger body that will inturn look more muscular, leaner and stronger.  I’ve listed the main compound movements below. Make these the main part of your muscle building routine and couple it with a good clean diet and rest, and you’ll be on your way to a strong, lean and muscular body.  In the following blogs I’ll include examples of routines that use these compound exercises to build strong lean muscle and burn fat.

Top strength and muscle building compound exercises to get strong to look strong

1)      Barbell Squat

2)      Barbell Bench Press / Dumbell Bench Press

3)      Barbell Bent over row

4)      Barbell Deadlift

5)      Barbell Standing Shoulder Press

6)      Pull ups (Body weight or weighted)

7)      Dips (Body weight or weighted)

One more thing to add is that if you look at the main exercises of any strong and muscular looking sports person, be it a pro body builder, rugby player or 100m sprinter, you will find that they prioritise the compound movements bacause these give the most bang for your buck and allow you to pack on the most amount of muscle in a shorter time.

Note: Please make sure you learn how to perform the above exercises with absolute perfect form. I can’t stress this enough as the last thing you want is to have an injury caused by bad form. Only use weights that you can perform the correct form with and don’t be afraid to start light and work your way up as you get stronger.

Good luck and get strong!

 

Strong Muscle Project

Posted: September 6, 2012 in Muscle and Strength Matters

Hi, welcome to the Strong Muscle Project. This is a blog dedicated to building a strong, lean, muscular and athletic body naturally.  As time goes by I’ll post updates about my training, muscle building meal recipes, training routines, tips and instructional videos. Watch this space!