Best Supplements for Beginners: Fill in the holes in your diet!

Question: Supplements. Do you need them?

Answer: If you are serious about reaching optimum health and achieving the body of your dreams then ABSOLUTELY!

I hate to break it to you but the modern Western diet is crap! Not to sound too harsh…but most of our food supply is severely lacking in the nutrients that are needed to support a healthy, active lifestyle. Often times the choices that we are given have been mostly stripped of all the vital things that make our bodies function at their best.

I could write an entire book about this topic. In fact, there are many good books that go into detail about just how bad things have become. For the purposes of this post I will just focus on the three main supplements that you need in order to create a stronger, leaner, better functioning body. In the future I will also write about other supplements that are more geared towards specific goals such as mass building, cutting fat and improving athletic performance. While all of these supplements are naturally occurring items, you should take a good health inventory before introducing any new product into your body. Ready? Great!

1. Multivitamins: Generally speaking, a multivitamin is a supplement that contains several vitamins and minerals. A good multivitamin will always contain Vitamin C, B Complex, A, E, D & K along with the minerals Zinc, Calcium, Magnesium and Iron. Multivitamins are important for providing people who don’t have the best diet with all of the daily nutritional needs that they are lacking.

Chances are, you are one of these people. You’re probably not getting your recommended daily nutritional requirements. If you are a physically active person (which I hope you are!) then you definitely need to be taking a multivitamin. There are several great “multi’s” on the market today and they are even available upon level of activity. For the average person I suggest a name brand multivitamin like Centrum. It will provide everything that you are lacking in your diet. For a hardcore athlete or weightlifter I suggest the Optimum Nutrition products or Animal Pak by Universal Nutrition. They offer basic supplementation as well as extras to support muscle growth and endurance.

universal animal-pak multivitamin

2. Whey Protein: For all of you out there attempting to build and tone muscle I cannot stress the importance of Whey Protein. Current daily dietary suggestions for anyone who is engaged in weight training are for 1 gram of protein per lb. of bodyweight. This is a minimal suggestion. For those people who are trying to gain muscle, 1.5 grams is more appropriate. For example, on a perfect day a 180 lb. man should eat 6 meals with 30 grams of protein each. This can be a difficult task for a busy person. A great way to quickly get extra protein is to scoop some Whey into your morning oatmeal. Or better yet, take a couple of scoops in a mixer cup and drink it during the day. 5 minutes and you’re done!

I’ve tried many Whey Protein brands and for most of you there will be little difference between brands. However, because I am a serious weightlifter, I prefer to have Whey Protein that also contains Branch Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs). BCAAs are a precursor to protein and work to fuel the body with the raw building blocks that it needs immediately after intense weight training. If you are a looking to gain lots of muscle I suggest you look for a brand that has BCAAs also. Optimum Nutrition makes 100% Gold Standard Whey, which I consider to be the “Rolls Royce” of all protein powders!

Optimum 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein3. Probiotics:  I tossed around many choices for my #3 “must have” supplement like Creatine, Thermogenics (fat-burners) and Natural Caffeine. But all of these are really “extras” for the hard training, highly active athlete. I settled on Probiotics. Probiotics are absolutely necessary for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. The dictionary describes probiotics as naturally occurring live microorganisms that are beneficial to the host (You!). These little guys are miracle workers. Their proven health benefits include: the easing of bowel disorders and lactose intolerance, reduction of inflammation and even the possible reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol.

Common “Probiotic” foods are: yogurt, soy yogurt, Greek Yogurt, dark chocolate and pickles. They are also supplied in supplement form. I prefer to get my probiotics in the form of Greek Yogurt (which also has amazing protein content). But, if I were to use a probiotic supplement I would recommend the Align one-a-day brand. It promotes overall digestive health and is relatively inexpensive.

Align brand probiotics

As you can see, supplements are vital for improving your body’s functionality and taking your game to the next level. However, they should not be used in place of good dietary practices! Once you have gotten your meal content and timing down pretty well then the next step is to see how you can use supplements to fill in the small gaps in your diet. If you are strict with yourself and stick to a well-rounded diet plan then you may find that you have little need for any supplement at all. If your fitness progress has tapered off though, yet you are still working hard then consider adding one or all of the supplements found in this post into your arsenal. That’s it for now…

Dream Fit. Live Fit.

Supplements are used to fill in the holes of our diet. We should only use them after we have achieved proper meal timing and content!

Supplements like Multivitamins, Whey Protein and Probiotics are used to fill in the holes in our diet. We should only use them after we have achieved proper meal timing and content!

Monster Mass Building Part III: Beastly Back & Biceps!

The Dragon’s Monster Mass Building Training Series continues this week with what may be the most intense workout yet. Today, we focus on the back and the biceps. That’s right. Consider this week’s post to be a “twofer”! This is easily one of my favorite workouts because of the insane pump that I get after doing it. Minutes after you finish you will probably curse me. Weeks after, you will thank me. Let’s get started.

The Back

Besides all of the great health benefits of having a strong back, an added bonus is the much admired “V” shape you will have. Combined with a trim waist, a barn door back will make you look like you have wings. It is a real head turner. Back workouts are typically divided into upper and lower, with most of the focus being placed on the upper back. Let’s take a look at the muscles that encompass the back:

  1. Trapezius: This large diamond shaped muscle is mostly trained with the shoulders and has been already covered here in part II.
  2. Latissimus Dorsi: Translated as “broadest muscle of the back”, the Latissimus Dorsi (AKA “lats”) are the key to having a wide wingspan. They run parallel to and outside of the Trapezius muscle. They are large and mostly flat and are responsible for extending the arms outward and upward. The most effective exercises for these muscles are pull-ups, lat pull-downs and bent over rows.
  3. Teres Major & Teres Minor: This is an “unofficial” third part to the upper back.  These “synergists” (AKA helpers) are responsible for rotating and helping the lats to move the arms outward from the body.

The back consists of:
1. Latissimus Dorsi
2. Trapezius
3. Teres Major / Teres Minor

The Dragon’s Bicep Workout immediately follows the Back Workout. During your back workout your biceps will be getting a warm-up for the work that is to come. They will become a bit “pre-fatigued” by the pull-ups and close grip lat pull-downs. By the time you end the Bicep Workout you will definitely feel a deep full burn. Now let’s learn a bit about them:

  1. Biceps: Biceps are rated the number one muscle that people associate with strength. They are the epitome of “manliness”. When you ask someone to “make a muscle” what do they do? They show off their arms. The key to obtaining bowling balls for biceps is to hit them from multiple angles and focus on a wide variety of rep ranges. Let’s get right into it after this brief introduction to the Biceps muscle. The Biceps Brachii or simply, “Biceps” is a two headed muscle that stretches from the shoulder to the elbow on the front side of the arm. It’s primary function is to bring the lower arm toward the body (flexing). Take a look….

The Bicep Brachii (or simply “Bicep”) Muscle consists of 2 heads. A variety of exercises need to be performed to effectively train both heads.

Now, let’s leave the classroom and go to the gym so we can do today’s workout.

The Dragon’s Beastly Back & Biceps Workout:

Workout #1:

  • Pull-Ups: 3 Sets x 10 – 12 reps
  • Seated “Lat” Pull-downs: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 4 Working Sets x 8 – 10 reps
  • Close-grip / underhand “Lat” Pull-downs: 3 Sets x 10 reps
  • Bent over Barbell Rows: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 4 Working Sets x 8 – 10 reps
  • Bent over 1 arm Dumbbell Rows: 4 Sets x 10 reps

Biceps

  • Standing EZ-Bar Curls: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 4 Working Sets x 8 – 10 reps
  • Concentration Curls: 3 Sets x 5 – 7 reps
  • Hammer Curls: 3 Sets x 10 reps
  • Chin-Ups: 2 Sets until failure

Workout #2:

  • Pull-Ups: 1 Set x 10 reps
  • Seated Cable Pull: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 4 Working Sets x 8 – 10 reps
  • T-Bar Rows: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 4 Working Sets 5 – 7 reps
  • Lying Dumbbell Pullovers: 3 Sets x 10 reps
  • Bent Over Reverse Flys: 4 Sets x 10 reps

Biceps

  • Seated EZ-Bar Curls: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 4 Working Sets x 8 – 10 reps
  • Standing Dumbbell Curls: 3 Sets x 10 reps
  • Seated Negative Rep Curls:  3 sets x 5 – 7 “negative” reps*
  • Chin-Ups: 3 sets 8 – 10 reps

*Negative Repetitions: Start at the contracted part of the rep (the end). Slowly lower your arm to the beginning position. Count very slowly as you lower your arm! Try to make it to a count of 50 for each rep.

Because this workout is lengthier and more intense than the previous ones it is important that you eat well so that you will have substantial fuel for both parts. Eat no more than an hour and a half and make sure you get plenty of complex carbohydrates. As always, be strict about your repetitions. Correct form far outweighs the amount of weight that you lift. No more time to waste. Go train hard and remember…

Dream Fit. Live Fit.

The Dragon’s Monster Mass Building Training Series III: Beastly Back & Bicep Workout

Monster Mass Building Part II: Shoulders of Steel

This week we continue The Dragon’s Mega Mass Building Training Series with a post dedicated to the shoulders.The shoulder complex doesn’t just include the Deltoid muscles but the Trapezius muscles as well. They come together to give your frame a wide, strong and dominant look. Let’s take a quick look at what these muscles do:

  1. Deltoids: The Deltoids are divided into 3 parts (or heads) that essentially handle all the lifting and rotating of your arms. What’s important for you to know is that these 3 heads are divided into Anterior (front), Lateral (side) and Posterior (rear) fibers. It’s important to train all three heads equally to have nice round capped shoulders.
  2. Trapezius: The Trapezius is a large diamond shaped muscle that attaches to your mid back, fans out to the back of your shoulders and collarbone and extends all the way to the back of your head. The “Traps”, as they are called, give the impression of a thick neck and tall shoulders. They help with neck rotation, back and forth motion and raising of the shoulders (shrugging). *If you want great examples of extremely well defined (borderline scary) traps, Google actor Tom Hardy and MMA / WWE Athlete Brock Lesnar.

The “Shoulder Complex” consist of Deltoids and Trapezius Muscles

Some fortunate individuals were born with big broad boulders for deltoids and perfectly symmetrical diamonds for “Traps”. These guys have to do very little work to maintain them. The rest of us, however, have to adopt a complex training routine in order to get our shoulders to stand out.

Now, let’s get to work:

The Dragon’s Shoulders of Steel Training Program

Workout #1:

  • Shoulder Press / Military Press: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 3 Working Sets x 5-7 reps.“Superset” with Lateral Dumbbell Raises: 4 Sets x 10 reps
  • Seated Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 4 Sets x 10-12 reps
  • Upright Rows (with curl-bar):  1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps.3 Working Sets x 5 – 7 reps
  • Dumbbell Shrugs: 4 Sets x 15 reps

Workout #2:

  • “Arnold” Dumbbell Presses: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 3 Working Sets x 5-7 reps
  • Front Dumbbell Raises:        1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 3 Working Sets x 10 reps
  • Reverse Cable Flys:              1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 3 Working Sets x 10 reps
  • Dumbbell Shrugs:                 1 Warm-up Set x10 reps.  3 Working Sets x 5-7 reps
  • Machine Shoulder Press:     1 “Failure” set: Do as many as possible until failure!

As with your chest workout, you should aim to work out your shoulders every 5 days. You must work them hard at least once per week in order to make them grow. Warm-up sets get your muscles loose and prepared for the heavy workload. Don’t skip them! Each “Working” Set should be at least 5 – 7 reps, at about 80% of your 1 rep maximum. Make each repetition strict. Squeeze those muscles and go slow. If you are able to lift 7-10 reps during each set then it’s time to add on more weight. Be sure to push yourself by resting no more than 2 minutes between sets. Finally, remember, the only way you will get big is to eat big! That means lots of lean protein and proper complex carbohydrates. Need help? Go here and send me a message.

Now get to it!

Dream Fit. Live Fit.

Actor Tom Hardy has very well defined Trapezius and Deltoid Muscles. Great exercises to develop your shoulders and neck include Military Press, Shrugs, and Dumbbell Raises!

Monster Mass Building Part I: Creating a Colossal Chest!

This week’s post begins the first of The Dragon’s “Monster Mass Building” Training Series. For the next four weeks I will provide a workout program designed to add tons of lean muscle onto your frame. There will be one program per body part consisting of 2 different workouts that you will do for 6 weeks each. If you’ve been feeling like you’re stuck with your workouts and you want to get bigger and stronger, be sure to follow each program consistently for all 12 weeks.

My very first program is geared toward developing your Chest. Ah, the chest. Besides your arms, nothing oozes masculinity like a well-defined voluminous chest. It’s a universal symbol of strength and what separates the men from the boys!

The human chest is composed of the two Pectoral muscles:

  1. Pectoralis Major: This is the “upper”  portion of the chest and covers most of it’s surface area. It attaches at the sternum (the breast bone) and the clavicle (collar bone) and stretches from the center of your body to your shoulder.
  2. Pectoralis Minor: This is the “lower” portion of the chest and covers approximately the lower 1/3 of the surface area. It also attaches at the sternum and the upper ribs and also stretches to your shoulder.

The two muscles of the chest:
Pectoralis Major
Pectoralis Minor

Each of these muscles can be worked together with traditional exercises like the bench press and push-ups. But to get a well defined, full chest you will need to attack it from all angles. Let’s find out how to make this happen…

The Dragon’s Shirt Destroying Chest Program:

Workout #1:

  • Bench Press:  1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 3 Working Sets x 5 – 7 reps
  • Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 Working Sets x 5 – 7 reps
  • Flat Dumbbell Flys: 4 sets x 8 – 10 reps
  • Push-ups: 3 sets x 10 reps

Workout #2:

  • Incline Bench Press:  1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 3 Working Sets x 5 – 7 reps
  • Decline Bench Press: 1 Warm-up Set x 10 reps. 3 Working Sets x 5 – 7 reps
  • Flat Dumbbell Press: 4 Sets x 8 – 10 reps
  • Dips: 3 Sets x 10 reps

You should aim to work your chest every 5 days. If that’s not possible you must train it at least once per week! The Warm-up set listed above is designed to get your muscles loose and prepared for the heavy workload. Each “Working” Set should be  5 -7 reps, at about 80% of your 1 rep maximum. If you are able to lift 7 reps during each set then it’s time to add on more weight. Be sure to push yourself by resting no more than 2 minutes between sets. Finally, be sure your diet reflects your new lifting habits. Remember, in order to get big, you gotta eat big!

Follow this program and chisel out the chest of A Greek God!

Dream Fit. Live Fit.

Girl Power! – Part Two: Your first month’s strength training program

Today’s post is a conclusion to last week’s: “Girl Power! Exposing the three biggest myths about women and strength training” article. This post is an introductory workout for women just getting started strength training. I will give you a circuit training routine to get you through your first month in the gym. Are you ready? Good! Let’s begin…

 

The Dragon’s “Girl Power! Beginners 4 Week Strength Training Circuit”

Directions: After your cardio warm-up , perform 8-10 repetitions of each exercise in a row. Choose a weight that is somewhat difficult but not impossible (i.e. 10 lbs. for lunges and squats and 5-10 lbs. for the curling & pressing movements).

Try to take rest no longer than 2 minutes between exercises. Perform the entire circuit 3 times.

  •  Warm-up: 3 to 5 Minutes of cardio on your favorite machine (treadmill, elliptical, or “jumping jacks (if at home)”
  •  Exercises (complete as a circuit) 3 rounds:
  1. Lunges: Each Leg x 10 reps
  2. Ballet Squat: 10 reps
  3. Dumbbell Chest Press: 10 reps
  4. Dumbbell Curl & Overhead Press: 10 reps
  5. Crunches: 20 reps
  6. “Plank” Position: Hold as long as possible.
  • Cool Down: 10 Minutes of moderately paced cardio on your favorite machine.

* Post Workout Stretch: The post workout stretch is extremely important to keep blood flowing to those muscles and to help you from getting too sore! Make sure you stretch after each workout. Refer to my recent post on stretching for instructions. It can be found here:

http://dragongatefitness.com/2012/07/23/stretc/ 

Stretches:

  1. Full body stretch
  2. Quad stretch
  3. Cross Arm Stretch
  4. Pec Stretch

Well there you have it. Do this workout 2-3 times per week, eat right and within 1 month you’ll notice a significant change in your body. Just look in the mirror and you’ll see everything get tighter and curvier! Stay motivated and remember...

Dream Fit. Live Fit.

“Welcome to the gym, Son…”

So you’re the “new guy” in the gym. You wanna get ripped but you really have no idea of how to do it. Maybe you’ve asked a few of the bigger guys what they did to “get swole” and they give you the typical answer: “I just lift heavy and eat everything not bolted down, bro!”. Or you went online and found an insanely hard program written by a bodybuilding champ. You try it and wind up feeling like a wimp for not finishing it.

Well, there’s hope! I’m going to set you up with a simple program that will take you through your first 6 weeks in the gym.

If you’re serious about building some muscle and ready to prepare yourself for serious growth then this is for you:

This program is designed to work all of your muscle groups and start you on the path to more complex routines. It is spread out over 3 different training sessions, ideally with at least 1 day rest between sessions.

 Day 1

Chest / Triceps:

  • Bench Press – 4 sets (warm-up set with bar, 12, 10, 8 reps). Increase weight each set
  • Incline Dumbbell Presses – 3 sets (8-10 reps). Same weight
  • Dumbbell Flys – 4 sets (8-10 reps). Same weight
  • Cable Triceps Push-down – 4 sets (12, 10, 8, 6 reps) Increase weight each set
  • Bent Over Triceps Kickback – 3 sets (10-12 reps). Use light weight and go slow
  • Triceps Dips1 set until your muscles fail!

                                                                 Day 2

Back / Biceps:

  • Pull-ups – 2 sets (5-10 reps)
  • Lat Pull-down – 4 sets (12,10,8,6) Increase weight each set
  • Bent over dumbbell rows – 4 sets (10,10,8,6) Increase weight each set
  • Seated EZ Bar Curls or Seated Curl Machine – 4 sets (warm-up set with bar, 12,10,8 reps). Increase weight each set
  • Seated Concentration Curls – 3 sets (8-10 reps). Light weight
  • Alternating Hammer Curls – 3 sets (8-10 reps each). Same weight

                                                                Day 3

Legs:

  • Barbell or “Smith” Machine Squat – 4 sets (warm-up set with bar, 12,10,10). Increase weight each set
  • Leg Extension – 3 sets (10 reps each). Increase weight each set
  • Lunges – 3 sets (10 reps each). Light weight
  • Standing Toe Raises – 5 sets (20 reps each). Same weight
  • Seated Toe Raises – 4 sets (10-12 reps). Same weight

Follow this program for six weeks and you’ll begin seeing weird bulges (muscles) where skin and bones used to be. Remember to squeeze on each rep.

Don’t cheat yourself!

Work hard each session and feed those muscles immediately after you lift. Now, no more talking. Go get to work and remember…

Dream Fit. Live Fit.