Elderberry: Nature’s Cure for the Flu


Across the world, elderberry has been part of many cultures and traditions throughout the ages. For example, in Celtic tradition, elderberry was held in quite high regard. One would carry elderberry to protect themselves from evil or to remove negative spells. Its oil was used in rituals of blessing, and many used it to bring about vivid, intuitive dreams. Others would sleep underneath the plant to dream of faerie land. More practically, it was used to keep skin light when mixed as a face wash.

Many believed that the Elder tree was considered sacred by the vegetation goddess, Hylde Moer, which led to many virtually worshipping the trees, planting them around homes for protection.

Gypsies would often use the wood to produce instruments they felt were pleasing to the spirits. It was considered bad luck to burn elder wood in a fire, and the gypsies took the wood’s burning properties to be somewhat of an omen, with its loud burn of hisses and crackling and its quickness to burn. Offenders were thought to be hunted down by the goddess and cursed with bad luck. In fact, when removing its branches or cutting it down, a ritualistic prayer was made as way of asking permission. From Russia to Scotland and Italy, elderberry’s initial purpose was to protect.

Early Christians, however, viewed the elderberry quite differently. Its history in Christian folklore is quite dark, with many legends claiming that the cross upon which Jesus died was made of elder. Its meaning was even darker for those who believed Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus before his death, hung himself from the branches of an elder tree.

Early legends show one of the initial medicinal uses of elderberry was to help with toothaches, which were often thought to be the result of evil spirits. Less mythological origins point to elderberry being used early on as a skin treatment. Skin inflammation, allergies, rashes, bug bites, acne and sunburn were treated with this. By 1644, a book of over 230 pages was translated from Latin to English, revealing that elderberry could be a treatment for any ailment, including strangulation and sore throats. Shockingly, it was even a remedy for the plague. 

One of the largest differences between ancient use of elderberry and modern day uses, however, is how the “cures” were administered. Many early remedies involved rubbing branches onto ailments to “transfer” the illness to the tree, or lying down under the tree during the first attack of epilepsy to be cured. Today, remedies are usually consumed or applied topically.

What it Does

Today, Elderberry is said to reduce the duration of flu by up to three or four days. Lozenges are juices are both effective for this. In women who are postmenopausal, daily doses can reduce the risk of heart disease. It has also been suggested that it can prevent or help treat cancers, nerve pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV/AIDS and a number of other ailments. Also, taking dried elderberry capsules three times daily for an extended time can also reduce cholesterol.

It is also suggested as a way to slowly relieve fever, with scientific evidence backing this claim quite clearly. It helps inflammation and general immunity as well. It is commonly used for sinus infections and bronchitis, although more research is needed to sufficiently determine its effectiveness in this area.

Scientific Studies

The Department of Virology at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem found interesting effects when they studied influenza A and B patients. Sixty patients were symptomatic for at least 48 hours, ages 18 to 54. The study, which was double blind and placebo controlled, took place in Norway where patients received 15 ml of elderberry or placebo four times daily for five days. Using a visual analog scale, patients recorded their progress, and those using elderberry averaged feeling relief four days sooner than those receiving the placebo.

A similar study was done by Immunology Laboratory for Tumor Diagnosis at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem. Using a black elderberry based product called Sambucol, the double blind placebo controlled study found the methods to be effective in treating up 10 strains of influenza. It also reduced duration of symptoms by anywhere from three to four days, and patients showed higher antibody levels after consuming the elderberry product.

The same department further studied Sambucol, and even found it to reduce fevers in two days among 93.3% of some patient groups with influenza, and many complete cures were reported within 2 to 3 days.

Suggested Usage

When taking for ailments, it is important to take elderberry within 48 hours after symptoms are noticed, or as soon as possible. This is when the supplement can be most effective, reducing flu duration and symptoms quite dramatically. Particularly for flu or severe colds, the recommended dosage is one tablespoon of extract syrup taken four times daily. Similarly, lozenges marketed with zinc can be very effective when taken as directed.

It is important to note that raw elderberries themselves are poisonous, as well as other parts of the tree. Because the product cannot be directly consumed, there are many products, such as Sambucol, marketed for the immune system that have been shown to be effective in scientific studies. Other similar products are made under the names Nature’s Way, ViraBLOC and HerbalScience. These products can be taken as directed for maintenance. In addition, there are many teas that contain supplements such as elderberry paired with zinc for an immune system boost. This is an easy and effective way to add elderberry to your health routine.

The Top 5 Best Pilates DVDs for Home


Pilates is a type of exercise that was conceptualized and developed by Joseph Pilates after he invested a lot of time studying human anatomy, Zen Buddhism, yoga, and ancient Greek and Roman workout routines. It has emerged as a very popular form of exercise and it’s for everyone – men and women, young and old. If you wish to know what all the fuss is all about but you don’t have ample time and money to enroll and take a Pilates class, you’ll need something more practical and inexpensive, like the best Pilates DVDs available in the market today. There are many different ones so we did the hard work and hand-picked the top 5 for you!

1) Pop Pilates Total Body Workout with Cassey Ho

This workout DVD makes it to the list mostly because of the fact that Cassey Ho is a superb instructor and will inspire you to keep going. It’s an excellent Pilates DVD and can help anybody get in tip-top shape in just a matter of weeks. Cassey designed the DVD to work out the entire body and make sure that you end up with a lean and toned physique. It is an hour long Pilates workout that will tone your glutes and thighs, sculpt your arms and chest, chisel your legs, and turn your flabby stomach into rock-hard abs. But what’s really exceptional about the Pop Pilates Total Body Workout is that Cassey specifically designed it with fun in mind, which is a huge factor when it comes to having that motivation to work out on a daily basis.



  • Top notch Pilates instructor
  • Takes an hour to complete the workout
  • Advanced Pilates workout
  • Inspires motivation
  • Full body workout


2) 10 Minute Solution: Rapid Result Pilates

The title speaks for itself: this Pilates DVD can get you fit, toned, and make you lose weight in just 10 minutes. It is the brainchild of Lara Hudson, a world-renowned Pilates instructor. She utilized a special power precision sequencing that effectively builds muscle and burns fat in no time at all. Her design of the routine is truly remarkable because it targets all parts of the body with five separate 10-minute workouts, with each one aimed at improving a different area of your body. The workouts consist of a full body blaster, flexibility component, a waist slimmer, a glutes and thigh workout, and an arm and shoulder exercise. The DVD is great because all the workouts were designed to keep you fit while wasting no time at all.



  • Perfect for people with busy schedule
  • Advanced workout not suitable for beginners
  • Workout targets entire body
  • Builds muscle and burns fat
  • Very motivational


3) Denise Austin: Shrink Your Fat Zones Pilates

This is a fantastic DVD that can tone muscles and quickly eliminate the fat zones in just 21 days! It features Denise Austin and was designed to make you sweat and get rid of unwanted fat within three weeks. It targets three specific problem areas namely the abdominals, arms and thighs. Each area receives 15 minutes of exercise, meaning you can tone your body in 45 minutes. Both beginners and experienced Pilates practitioners can use the DVD with ease.



  • Targets abs, arms and legs
  • Does not target all muscle groups
  • Designed to tone muscles and shrink fat
  • Fairly time-consuming
  • Comes with a custom workout option


4) 10 Minute Solution: Prenatal Pilates

Pregnant women have limited exercise options, but this is one of a handful that will keep expectant mothers and their babies healthy. It is a basic workout that won’t put much stress on the body but will still keep the muscles toned while keeping excess fat at a minimal level. This is an excellent pregnancy workout that can be performed during all 3 trimesters. The exercises will keep the core, buns, and thighs toned while also helping in maintaining flexibility. The DVD even comes with a section that can help in getting rid of belly fat after giving birth.



  • Targets all parts of the body
  • Designed only for pregnant mothers
  • Great way to stay fit while pregnant
  • Takes nearly an hour to complete
  • Not harmful to the baby
  • Tones muscles
  • Helps maintain flexibility


5) Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners

This is one of the best Pilates DVDs for beginners. It is an easy and low impact workout designed by Brook Siler, a certified instructor and writer of The New York Times best-selling book series, “The Pilates Body and Your Ultimate Pilates Body Challenge.” The workout is guaranteed to help you lose weight in no time. The DVD will teach you the basics so you can get a feel for Pilates. In addition, it has been conceptualized to maximize calorie burn so you can lose as much weight as possible. The workout will help strengthen and tone your muscles, specifically the abdominals and those in the hips and thighs.



  • Ideal for beginners
  • Not suited for advanced Pilates practitioners
  • Great introduction to Pilates
  • Takes almost 1 hour to complete
  • Involves some cardio workout
  • No need for equipment



If you haven’t tried Pilates before, it’s about time to do so as it is a superb way to maintain or increase strength, mobility and flexibility. It is also an excellent way to reduce the amount of excess fat in your body. If you don’t know how to begin, then start with one of the five Pilates DVDs that we have reviewed and chosen for you!

Can You Squat Every Day? Pros and Cons Evaluated


There is no other exercise for the lower body that delivers more definitive results than squats.  They are among the most basic movement patterns and is undoubtedly the most effective leg exercise for increasing muscle size and strength, while simultaneously burning fat.

Although squats are not ‘mandatory’ in terms of effectively sculpting your lower body, the benefits they offer certainly extend to different areas that fitness experts recommend including them in daily training routines as long as you are physically able to perform them. The results are definitely worth your time and effort, and here are some of the reasons why…

Increase in muscle size and strength

Squatting every day increases strength and power in different muscle groups of the lower body including the glutes, quads and hamstrings, which are the main stabilizers when you are in motion. Squats also boost hip extension power, which is important in increasing vertical leap. They also stimulate the production of anabolic hormones that strengthen the whole body.

There is just no other exercise in existence that will enable you to train and develop your lower body as effectively and efficiently as squats will. Because multiple muscles are activated, you can achieve progressive overload at a fast pace and this is the most important factor in terms of adding muscle size. This is particularly true if you are a beginner as it will allow you to add more weight every single week before reaching any form of strength plateau.

Get impressive definition in the butt and thighs

As aforementioned, squats target the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Squats deliver a basic movement that quickly builds lean muscle, which results in well-toned limbs. Moreover, it is a great fix for a flat butt. Bear in mind that your bottom is composed of muscles (the gluteals) and you need to add resistance to make them grow, pretty much the same way you would with any other muscle.

Improve mobility and flexibility

Full range of motion squats not only build different muscle groups in the lower body, they also improve mobility and flexibility by increasing the range of motion of your hips, knees, ankles, and even the lower back. This improvement will carry over to other types of exercises and day-to-day activities, thereby improving overall performance. In addition, squats are a safe and effective way to improve mobility without putting excessive stress on joints.

Strengthen and tone the core

Squatting everyday challenges the muscles of your core to work extra hard to stabilize the body and support the lower back throughout the whole range of motion. The transversus and rectus abdominis are engaged the whole time, resulting in a flatter and stronger stomach. The improvement in overall core strength will carry over to improved strength and enhanced performance on other compound exercises. It will protect your lower back from injury and stimulate growth in your abs and obliques.

Improve Posture

Squats are typically considered a leg exercise, but they also engage many other muscle groups, including those in your abdominal area, upper and lower back. Note that whether you are doing weighted or body weight squats, you will be activating the trapezius and rhomboids to help in stabilizing the body throughout the movement. This will strengthen the muscles responsible for maintaining proper posture.

The top squat variations that can help deliver strength and power to your game in no time:

Front Squat. You can do this by holding the weight (barbell / dumbbell) in front of your shoulders, then squatting. It is very effective in strengthening the lower back and tends to be easier on the knees if you keep your butt out as you squat.

Back Squat. If you’re trying this for the first time, it is recommended to start off and practice without any weight. Once you’ve mastered the technique, you can progress to using a barbell.  This will give you an excellent mechanical advantage, making the back squat a good option for working your quadriceps, glutes, abs and lower back.

Lateral Squat. This involves a side-to-side squatting motion and is superb for improving hip mobility and dynamic flexibility of the inner thigh muscles (adductors). Stand with the feet about four feet apart and then sit to one side. Keep the weight on the heel and keep your knee over your toe.

Goblet Squat. This is an excellent exercise if you’re learning how to squat. It is a compound exercise that targets the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and shoulders. Just hold a weight (dumbbell or kettlebal) close to your chest as you squat. This should be performed with a sturdy base and sound fundamentals.

Split Squat. This is the best variation if you wish to improve balance and isolated leg strength. To perform it, assume a staggered stance with one foot in front and the other behind (on a bench or a step) then squat by flexing your knee and hip to lower your body.

Drop squat. This is good for teaching athletes how to land properly after a jump. It can also be an excellent cardiovascular workout if you perform a series of drop squats in quick succession. To do it, assume the squat position while simultaneously pushing your arms out in front of your body, then stand quickly and repeat the movement.

Hack squat. To do this, hold a barbell against the back of your thighs. Keep your head and back straight, then squat until your thighs are parallel to the ground and continue until the barbell touches the floor before standing again. It may be an awkward movement but it puts little stress on your lower back, while strengthening the quadriceps.

Single-leg Squat. This one is tough to learn, but is great for improving balance, side-to-side stability and training your legs how to produce force in an isolated position. See to it that your back and knees are in proper alignment. You may put a hand out and touch a wall for balance as you practice this variation.

Ultimately, the squat is a fundamental movement pattern, and you must include some variations of it in your daily exercise routine. You can start with body-weight squats, then progress to the other variations discussed above. Do them properly and you are guaranteed results that will put a smile on your face!

6 Reasons to Add Jumping Jacks to Your Workout

Jumping jacks have been around since time immemorial. This form of calisthenic exercise certainly goes a long way back and you likely learned it in elementary school. It is a fundamental exercise that most people can perform and it can be modified to suit any fitness level. For a beginner, the jump can be eliminated, while for the more advanced athlete, a squat can be added along with increasing the height of the jump.

If you really think about it, jumping jacks are essentially a full body exercise that incorporates many of the characteristics of the multitasking philosophy that most people embrace nowadays. Jumping jacks get the entire body moving and it can be done as a warm-up exercise to get the muscles ready, or it can also be part of a full-body workout like high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

So without further ado, here are the reasons why you must take up jumping jacks and see the difference it can make to your workout:

Cardiovascular Benefits

Jumping jacks help reduce the risks associated with heart disease. In the United States alone, up to 250,000 heart-related fatalities are documented annually. Hence, making cardio exercises like jumping jacks an integral part of your daily fitness routine is a no brainer. In particular, it is most beneficial in the following ways:

  • It is capable of raising heart rate and blood circulation due to repetition of the exercise.
  • Improved blood circulation leads to weight loss and strengthening of the cardiovascular system.
  • As you breathe more and get more oxygen sent to your lungs, your heart will become stronger, more efficient, and therefore lessens your chance of developing lifestyle illnesses.
  • Your cardiovascular system is strengthened as more oxygen is pulled into the bloodstream. In addition, your cholesterol levels are kept in check.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) can also be prevented by decreasing the fat deposits in the walls of blood vessels.

Strengthening Benefits

Jumping jacks make all large muscle groups move, so it offers an excellent full-body workout. Just make sure you breathe deeply so you engage your core and target your abs as well. You may also modify how you perform the exercise so it becomes an intense activity that builds muscle.

If you do deep squat when returning to the standing position, you can target your abs, glutes, thigh and calf muscles. Do it at a fast pace so you can maintain the aerobic benefits of the workout.

Relaxation Benefits

One of the major benefits of exercising is the production of endorphins. When you do jumping jacks for an extended period of time, it triggers a chemical effect and your body will release endorphins, which are chemicals that relieve pain, provide a sense of relief, and help in promoting wellness by enabling you to regain lost energy. Accompany your exercise with deep breathing to help you free your thoughts so your mind becomes clearer and sharper. In order to maximize the relaxation benefits of doing jumping jacks, try to sustain an elevated heart rate for at least 20 minutes. If you can’t do jumping jacks for that duration, then alternate between jumping jacks and marching in place.

Burning Calories and Reducing Body Weight

One of the best benefits of jumping jacks is burning off calories that help lower body weight and protect against obesity. As aforementioned, jumping jacks can increase heart rate which infuses more oxygen to the bloodstream and to the muscles. When blood flow is increased, you’re more likely to burn off calories that will enable you to shed off those extra pounds. Your body actually gets warmed up after only about 10 to 15 repetitions, so the more jumping jacks you do, the more calories you burn off. If you include this simple exercise to a high-intensity interval circuit training, you’ll reap even more benefits. By simply increasing the intensity, you get rid of unwanted fat and replace it with muscle. According to a Livestrong article, a 150-pound person will burn approximately 276 calories for half an hour of intense and vigorous jumping jacks.

Conditioning and Endurance

Jumping jacks are always at the top of the list when it comes to exercises used to improve conditioning and increase endurance. This is precisely the reason why athletes and military personnel use this exercise as part of their regular training. By strengthening and tightening your muscles, you will be able to handle all types of physical challenges for longer periods of time. If you are just starting to exercise, you’ll notice feeling tired quickly, but with time and dedication, you can develop your endurance and stamina. This is important to your health because it improves muscle function and can therefore help with everyday activities.

Making Bones Stronger

Over the years, there have been lots of controversies about what form of exercise really strengthens bones. One way to achieve this is through weightlifting, but some experts suggest that quick jumping bursts can have the same effect. This means jumping jacks may be the ideal exercise for stronger bones and minimizing the risk of osteoporosis. What occurs is that the bones bend a bit with each jumping motion, inducing new cell development, thereby offering more support for the bones and strengthening them. The good news is that you don’t need to do a lot – just a little explosive activity can be enough to help in developing stronger and sturdier bones.


If you haven’t started doing jumping jacks, you can stop reading this article and make it a part of your workout regimen today! It is way too good of an exercise to pass up on for a variety of reasons. The benefits are virtually endless and it will make you a stronger, healthier, and happier individual.

FST-7 Big And Ripped Essentials: Upper Body

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Your 4-Step Nutritional Gainz Plan

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Your 4-Week Plan For Guaranteed Muscle Growth!

Anthony “Ant Gainz” LaVigne has put together a high-volume training program from hell. With hundreds of reps, multiple dropsets, pre-exhaust, and an all-out 35-repetition burnout, it will leave you feeling wrecked—especially if you’re not eating right. If you want to reap the “get big” benefits of this muscle-building blitz, buckle up and make sure every meal and scoop of powder is dialed in and intentional.

Step one: eat enough, period. You simply must be eating more calories than you burn—and you’ll be burning plenty with these workouts. So use a macro calculator, and fearlessly click “Muscle Gainz” under the goal tab.

I know, it feels risky. But you won’t put on enough body fat in a month to matter on this plan. You’ll be working so hard, you’ll burn through calories like a raging inferno.

Once you’ve got that dialed in, follow these four rules and you’ll be ready to explode.

Rule 1: Evenly Distribute Your Protein Intake Throughout the Day

Each day you do LaVigne’s workout, aim to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Pay special attention to how you distribute your daily protein intake throughout the day.

To maximize the muscle growth and repair response from dietary protein, you have to consume a minimum amount every few hours. Pay particular attention to the amount of the branched-chain amino acid leucine you consume.

Leucine is a component of the protein you eat, and it’s responsible for triggering muscle growth and repair at the cellular level. Most people need to consume at least 2-3 grams of leucine per meal, an amount referred to as the “leucine threshold,” to maximize muscle growth. This usually translates to 25-35 grams of high-quality protein every few hours.

Amount of Protein Needed for 2-3 Grams of Leucine

Source% LeucineAmount of Protein for 2g Leucine (g)Amount of FoodAmount of Protein for 3g Leucine (g)Amount of Food
Whey12170.75-1 scoop*250.75-1 scoop*
Milk9.82121 oz. (2.5 cups)3131 oz. (4 cups)
Egg8.6244 large eggs355 large eggs
Fish8.1253.75 oz.375.5 oz.
Beef8264 oz.385.75 oz.
Pork8264 oz.385.75 oz.
Soy8264 oz.385.75 oz.
Chicken7.5274.5 oz.406.75 oz.
  • Source: Whey
    Percentage of Leucine: 12%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 17g
    Amount of Food: 0.75-1 scoop*
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 25g
    Amount of Food: 0.75-1 scoop*
  • Source: Milk
    Percentage of Leucine: 9.8%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 21g
    Amount of Food: 21 oz. (2.5 cups)
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 31g
    Amount of Food: 31 oz. (4 cups)
  • Source: Egg
    Percentage of Leucine: 8.6%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 24g
    Amount of Food: 4 large eggs
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 35g
    Amount of Food: 5 large eggs
  • Source: Fish
    Percentage of Leucine: 8.1%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 25g
    Amount of Food: 33.75 oz.
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 37g
    Amount of Food: 5.5 oz.
  • Source: Beef
    Percentage of Leucine: 8%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 26g
    Amount of Food: 4 oz.
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 38g
    Amount of Food: 5.75 oz.
  • Source: Pork
    Percentage of Leucine: 8%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 26g
    Amount of Food: 4 oz.
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 38g
    Amount of Food: 5.75 oz.
  • Source: Soy
    Percentage of Leucine: 8%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 26g
    Amount of Food: 4 oz.
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 38g
    Amount of Food: 5.75 oz.
  • Source: Chicken
    Percentage of Leucine: 7.5%
    Amount of Protein for 2g Leucine: 27g
    Amount of Food: 4.5 oz.
    Amount of Protein for 3g Leucine: 40g
    Amount of Food: 6.75 oz.

*Depends on brand

Make sure that as often as possible, these 25-35 grams of protein per meal come from complete, high-quality proteins that contain all nine of the essential amino acids. Meat, eggs, dairy, soy, and even quinoa all provide your body with the amino acids it needs to optimize muscle growth and recovery.

Let’s say your goal is to get 30 grams of protein per meal, and your dinner menu for the night includes chicken with rice, broccoli, and almonds. Count only the high-quality protein in your chicken breast. Don’t include the protein you’ll get from the broccoli, brown rice, and almonds, which might include as much as 10 grams of protein. You want the full 30 grams to come from a high-quality source. During a bulking phase, that other protein is just gravy (well, not literally).

Rule 2: Eat Every Few Hours

To get all the calories you need, don’t rely heavily on liquid calories in the form of shakes and powders.

“Get the majority of your nutrition from whole foods, because whole foods give you the energy and nutrients needed to get though demanding workouts,” LaVigne says.

If your goal is 3,600 calories each day, you could eat six 600-calorie meals or three 1200-calorie meals. Eating the six smaller meals will help ensure you can comfortably take in the fuel you need. Eating three immense meals will just make you miserable.

Here’s another way to think of it: The muscle-growth response from eating protein lasts about three hours. By eating every few hours, you can provide your muscles with a nearly constant supply of the nutrients they need to grow. By maximizing this muscle-growth response six times a day instead of only once or twice, you create the conditions for maximum hypertrophy more often.

Rule 3: Drink Carbohydrates During Your Workout

LaVigne’s workouts combine high-volume and high-intensity techniques to break down every last muscle fiber in that day’s target area. If you want to be able to get through the workout and still have the mental and physical fuel to tackle his infamous 35-rep burnout set at the end, you’ve got to be very well fueled.

This workout will drain your glycogen (carbohydrate) stores. If you haven’t refueled them throughout your workout, you’ll feel as if you’re running on empty as you near the 60-minute mark. Lack of adequate fuel will compromise your intensity, reduce your total volume, and deprive you of optimum muscle growth.

By sipping on a fast-digesting liquid carbohydrate during your workout, you can provide your body with a readily available fuel supply that spares muscle glycogen. These carbs will help you avoid that empty-tank feeling so you can finish your workout with almost the same intensity you started with. Even more, sipping on carbohydrates during your workout will enhance focus and reduce muscle breakdown to improve recovery.

When you make your workout shake, pay attention to the amount of fluid you use versus the amount of carbs. For every 15 grams of carbohydrates, make sure you have 8 ounces of fluid. Making your shake too diluted or too concentrated can impair digestion and absorption, leading to under-fueled workouts and sick stomachs.

For more information on the benefits of drinking carbohydrates during your workout, check out my article “Your Guide to Intra-Workout Carbohydrates.”

Rule 4: Eat A High-Protein Bedtime Meal

When you finish your dinner by 6:30 p.m. and don’t eat again until breakfast, you may go nearly 12 hours (or more) without food. All of these hours without fuel mean you’ll spend significant time in what is known as a catabolic state, during which your body will break down more protein than it’s building. This is the enemy of muscle growth.

To reduce the time spent in a catabolic state, eat a protein-rich bedtime meal. In 2016, a review on pre-sleep protein feeding concluded that, “at least 40 grams of dietary protein should be ingested prior to sleep to elicit a robust stimulation of muscle protein synthesis rates throughout the night.”[2]

Some bodybuilding diehards will buy tubs of slow-digesting casein protein for the night, and whey for the day. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it’s definitely not the only route. A little cottage cheese—which is largely casein protein—plus a scoop of whey will be more than adequate to hit the 40-gram threshold.

If you want to make sure you’re supporting muscle growth and recovery all the time, make sure you consume all the high-quality protein you need from the first meal of the day through the final one.

Main | The Top 3 Supplements For Gaining Mass | Your 4-Step Nutritional Gainz Plan
Your 4-Week Plan For Guaranteed Muscle Growth!

  1. Kinsey, A. W., & Ormsbee, M. J. (2015). The health impact of nighttime eating: old and new perspectives. Nutrients, 7(4), 2648-2662.
  2. Trommelen, J., & van Loon, L. J. (2016). Pre-Sleep Protein Ingestion to Improve the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise Training. Nutrients, 8(12), 763.
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Lift As Strong As You Look

Take one look at Jesse Norris, and you might be tempted to think he’s just another ripped, symmetrical bodybuilder with more “show” muscles than “go” muscles. Resist that temptation, because you’d be dead wrong.

This Kaged Muscle athlete (and Bodybuilding.com employee) is an elite powerlifter who holds several raw powerlifting world records. We’re talking a 766-pound squat, 441 bench, and now-legendary 826 deadlift. All at a body weight of under 200 pounds. Pound for pound, he may be the strongest lifter in the world on any given day.

Norris is eager to share his tips with serious lifters willing to put in the time and dedication to achieving world-class strength. Because if anyone knows how to lift as strong as they look, it’s Norris.

Embrace The Long Climb

Norris wasn’t born with phenomenal strength and a chiseled physique—he earned it through years of hard work and dedication.

“Everyone wants to look and be strong,” says Norris, “but realistically, it’s not an easy goal to attain. Over my many years of training, I’ve had to consistently and slowly add on mass.”

Although he is not yet in his mid-twenties, Norris already has 10 years of powerlifting experience under his champion belt—and he is quick to point out success did not happen overnight.

“When I say I had to slowly add on mass, I’m talking about a pound here and there, not only in body weight but also weights I lift while trying to improve my strength.”

The frustratingly slow pace of gains deters many, but Norris learned early on there are no shortcuts—only hard work and consistency.

Don’t Fear the Rep

Pop quiz: How do you get strong? Low rep counts and heavy weights, right? Well, that’s part of it.

Follow Jesse on Instagram—something I highly recommend doing—and you’ll see him doing sets of 5, 10, or higher on the deadlift, even from a deficit. In a recent post, he did a bizarrely easy set of 10 touch-and-go reps with 585, after two sets of 12 with 495. Without a belt or straps, I might add.

Also worth noting: He’s quieter with 585 than most lifters are with 225 or 315. He’s so under control at any rep range, it’s enough to blow your idea of “strong” out of the water.

Stop Bulking and Cutting

Bodybuilders adhere to strict cycles of bulking and cutting to achieve their perfect physiques, but Norris believes riding this kind of caloric roller coaster sacrifices long-term goals for short-term results.

“I’ve never entered a bulking phase or cutting phase,” says Norris. “It’s always been a clean diet and consistency in training that got me where I am today.”

Norris points out a lot of guys either want to get strong quickly or get cut quickly, and while that’s fine for them, he’s willing to wait for something better. Being strong and cut, muscular and lean—it’s a slow and steady climb, but not impossible if you have the patience to endure it.

Rather than getting caught up in quick-fix programs or short-term cycles, Norris believes the key is to focus on long-term goals. Bulking phases sound appealing for quickly adding size, and cutting is a viable option if you need to drop weight fast. But if your long-term goal is size and strength, the best thing you can do is tortoise the hell out of your program—because as Norris proves, slow and steady wins the race.

Make Every Training Day Count

Norris trains almost every day, and his split is pretty consistent. Here’s how it usually looks:

  • Monday: Deadlift, bench
  • Tuesday: Front squats and overhead press or push press, cardio
  • Wednesday: Accessories (mostly isolation movements), cardio
  • Thursday: Deficit deadlift, paused bench press
  • Friday: Accessories (mostly isolation movements), cardio
  • Saturday: Squat and bench
  • Sunday: Accessories (mostly isolation movements), cardio

There’s a lot you can learn from this approach:

  • If you want to get better at benching, do it more than once a week. Treat strength like a skill!
  • Do different version of the big lifts for well-rounded strength.
  • There’s room for curls and other isolation work in even the strongest lifter’s life. Toss them onto an “accessory day,” and you can give them your complete attention, while saving your other days for heavy lifting.
  • Cardio counts, too! Norris likes to push a weighted sled for his, sometimes in combination with things like heavy carries and hammer swings. Don’t have a sled? Jesse says to try pushing your car or truck instead.

Stay Focused, and Look Ahead

Are there setbacks to becoming an elite powerlifter and world record holder? Absolutely. Like any lifter, Norris has been injured—although not nearly as much as you might expect. But these setbacks are a necessary part of the process, he says. Success lies in keeping your eyes forward and working through the setbacks, because each one is an opportunity for growth.

Just because you aren’t deadlifting the metric equivalent of a small vehicle doesn’t mean you won’t someday. Achieving goals requires dedication and patience.

“Don’t lose focus by worrying about where you are now,” he says. “Everyone has to start somewhere.”

3 Bizarre Splits To Help You Break Your Plateau

How many of your weekly training splits look like this? Monday is chest (of course), Tuesday is back, Wednesday is legs or shoulders, Thursday is whatever you didn’t do on Wednesday, and Friday is arms. Oh, and somewhere in there you throw in abs.

If your splits are this predictable, chances are your muscles have figured them out, too—which is why you’re not seeing the results you want.

If you want to kick-start new muscle growth and start seeing serious results, you need to change things up and not be afraid to break away from tradition. Shock your system with these unique and unusual splits—and get on the path to better progress and bigger results.

Bizarre Split 1: Pair Upper with Lower

Some athletes pair up two muscle groups a day—which can be easier on a training schedule—but they usually only pair up groups that are close together, like chest and triceps or back and biceps. Splits are an opportunity to focus on specific muscle groups, so why not train a lower body muscle group along with an upper body?

3 Bizarre Splits To Help You Break Your Plateau

Your back is already prepared to work after deadlifts, so why not train back and hamstrings together so you can work the entire posterior chain? Quads are a big muscle group that take a lot of energy to train, so pair them with a smaller area like shoulders. Since you’re already fatigued, you can give your lower body a break and isolate the delts.

Give this weekly routine a try for a month and see if you notice the results. If anything, you’ll challenge your muscles to work together in different ways and earn a total-body pump in every workout!

  • Day 1: Quads and Shoulders
  • Day 2: Calves and Arms
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Back and Hamstrings
  • Day 5: Chest and Abs
  • Day 6: Off
  • Day 7: Off

Bizarre Split 2: Isolate the Lower-Body Groups

If you consider your lower body your weakness, pay attention. What do we do if we think an upper body group is lacking? We split up every muscle group and devote a special workout to it early in the split.

3 Bizarre Splits To Help You Break Your Plateau

Why not treat your legs the same way? If your legs are your weak area, break them up into three focused workouts and pair up all the upper-body groups on the other days.

Here’s what that split would look like:

  • Day 1: Quads
  • Day 2: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
  • Day 3: Hamstrings, Glutes
  • Day 4: Off
  • Day 5: Back, Biceps
  • Day 6: Calves, Abs
  • Day 7: Off

Bizarre Split 3: All About Abs

It’s true that abs are made in the kitchen, but you need to show them some love in the gym, too. Have you ever considered breaking your abs down into sub-groups like upper, lower, and obliques? This would help you commit more time to training this crucial area without spending a lot more time in the gym.

3 Bizarre Splits To Help You Break Your Plateau

Analyze your core and decide what needs the most work—your lower abs, for example. Train that area first in the week. Two days later, train another area, and before your off day, train the final area.

Here’s what that split might look like for you:

  • Day 1: Lower Abs and Back
  • Day 2: Shoulders
  • Day 3: Legs and Upper Abs
  • Day 4: Chest
  • Day 5: Obliques and Arms
  • Days 6: Off
  • Day 7: Off

What Every Bodybuilder Needs To Know About Running

Many athletes act like running and bodybuilding are mutually exclusive. Do one, and not only is it unlikely that you do the other, but it may be downright impossible. You’ll run away your gains, one side will tell you. The other side will swear that a muscular man on the road is like a fish out of water—and he’ll be gasping just like one in a matter of miles.

At the beginning of this year, I set out to disprove both arguments. While training for my first Ironman triathlon, which I’ve documented in the Man of Iron video series, I’ve continued to train like a bodybuilder. What’s more, I’ve continued to succeed with my bodybuilding goals.

This wasn’t by accident, though. Like most bodybuilders, I’m a lot heavier than the average endurance athlete, and I’ve had to adjust my training accordingly. In this article, I’m going to share everything I’ve learned about running alongside my bodybuilding lifestyle.

Lesson 1: Muscle Doesn’t Melt Away!

I’m living, lifting, running proof that with the right diet and supplement regimen, “having it all” is possible. Sure, if somebody does nothing but high-volume endurance running, neglects weight training, and follows a low-protein diet, it will cause muscle loss. However, my diet is as it’s always been: high in protein, high in complex carbohydrates, and moderate in fat. More than ever, I’ve paid attention to inflammation and gut health, reducing stress on my body, and heightening my state of recovery. And it’s paid off.

My meal frequency remains high with six solid meals per day, along with my Kaged Muscle Re-Kaged after every workout and supplementing with Kasein before bed. The former gives me a fast-digesting protein with added amino acids, making it the perfect post-workout recovery choice. The latter gives me the opposite: a blend of slow release amino acids, gradually feeding my muscles through the night.

The takeaway for you: If your nutrition is locked down, your body can thrive during all types of challenges.

Lesson 2: Running is Great for Gym Performance

Most bodybuilders I’ve trained with are strong, but they seriously lack endurance. This usually has a significant impact on their ability to break through the intensity barrier that I always chase. Endurance running has heightened my lung capacity and the efficiency of my heart significantly, and I find that it shows in the weight room!

The boost from my running—and cycling—is particularly helpful for recovery between sets while using higher rep ranges on larger body parts, such as legs and back. Arnold himself noted in the “Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding” that doing heavy squats is “like running a mini-marathon.” And after I walk out of the weight room, I find my recovery is also improved. My heart can pump blood to the damaged muscle fibers more easily, helping remove toxins and lactic acid while constantly transporting nutrients to the localized areas of damage.

Lesson 3: Running is Healthy

My goal is to live to 100, which requires more than aesthetics. On a regular basis, I get my blood work done, as well as food allergy tests, to assess how my current habits are affecting my health. I’m very pleased to say that since doing more endurance training in preparation for my Ironman, my health markers are better than ever.

Endurance running has imparted demonstrable health benefits to my heart, lungs, blood pressure, cholesterol, and even gut function. As someone who believes that health should always be the number-one priority, this got my attention.

Lesson 4: Running Has to be Done Right!

To me, the benefits of running are obvious. However, as somebody who is around 60 pounds heavier than a typical endurance runner, I’ve had to learn how to help my body cope with the stress—and specifically, my joints. It’s not enough to run, I must run correctly.

This means using a forefoot or mid-foot strike, rather than landing on my heels with each step, to avoid excessive stress on my Achilles tendons, knees, and calves. Since my thighs are bigger than the average guy, they are prone to fatiguing more quickly. This makes focusing on the correct foot strike even more important.

I have also added a lot of focus to building the strength of my hip flexors. The goal here has been to keep my legs moving forward as I run longer distances, instead of bouncing up and down through plantar-flexion of the calf. Every distance runner can probably benefit from having stronger hip flexors, but for me, it’s non-negotiable. I also complete most of my runs on trails and softer surfaces to lessen the impact.

But that’s only my bottom half. What happens above the belt matters when running, too. First and foremost, I avoid excessive arm movement. Instead, I like to pivot my upper body with my lower body in opposite directions with each stride. To ensure my posture remains upright, I visualize having a sphere in my stomach, which will fall out if I tilt forward or to either side. This means I simply can’t let my posture drop.

Don’t Run Away from Good Health!

There are so many benefits to endurance running that it’s a shame so many of my iron brethren don’t experience them. Let my journey enlighten you as to what’s possible, and become an all-around athlete who can move as well as turn heads in the gym. It’s better for your health, it’s mentally stimulating, and the challenge builds character!

How Six-Pack Nutrition Is A Different Beast Than Fitness Nutrition

Main | Craig Capurso’s Ultimate Abs Workout | The One Month Six-Pack Program | 5 Kick-Ass Supplements For A Summer Six-Pack | How Six-Pack Nutrition Is A Different Beast
Than Fitness Nutrition

“What’s a good ab routine to get a six-pack?”

That’s a question that’s been posed millions of times online and in life. Little do the inquiring minds know that it’s a trick question, because all the abdominal training in the world doesn’t matter if you have a layer of chub covering them up.

To burn that adipose tissue and reveal the abs beneath, there is no substitute for dieting—not just “eating well,” but eating for a very specific goal.

I’ve explained this to many a man yearning to show off a six-pack, and nearly all assured me, “I eat pretty good.” I imagine only a few of them were outright lying. The remainder were simply ignorant of just how they truly needed to eat if the goal is taking bodyfat levels down to the point where the abs stand out in bold relief.

Most of us who work out do eat better than the average person, to be sure. Yet there is a vast difference between eating to be fit and eating to be ripped. Let’s walk you through it.

Meal Frequency

The most significant distinction between those who eat well and those who have everything dialed in tight? How often they eat.

While the academics sit back and debate whether eating every 2-3 hours each day actually does anything to “speed up” the human metabolism, the vast majority of bodybuilders just know that this approach works.

Why? For one, it gives you control over your food, rather than letting your circumstances control you. And if there’s any better way to meet an ambitious daily protein number, I haven’t discovered it.

Meal Frequency

“But I can’t eat/prep/afford that much food!”

I’ve heard this too many times to count. And yes, you can. It just takes planning and preparation. You will need to compare prices, shop for the increased amount of food, learn how to prep it, then cook and store it in multiple servings. And those are all timeless skills worth learning as early in your lifting life as possible.

Most bodybuilders and serious lifters will meal prep once or twice a week, baking and grilling all their chicken, turkey, fish, and lean red meat, as well as preparing their carbohydrate sources in bulk, such as baked potatoes and rice.

Make no mistake, it’s work. And work is what it takes to remove a significant amount of body fat. If anyone ever tells you it’s possible to get extraordinarily lean without any hard work or suffering, they are either lying through their teeth, ignorant, or trying to sell you something. Start cooking now if you want to show off a six-pack!

Truly Clean Food

A vast amount of people out there mistakenly believe they are eating “clean,” when they’re miles away from it.

For instance, two people can have chicken for lunch. One of them is eating a 6-ounce grilled, skinless chicken breast, perfectly seasoned but otherwise unadorned. The other is eating a chicken sandwich from a fast-food restaurant, deep-fried and slathered in mayonnaise, served on a bun. Let’s do a little comparison.

Chicken Breast VS Fast-Food Chicken Sandwich

Chicken BreastFast-Food Chicken Sandwich
Calories: 194Calories: 430
Fat: 4 gFat: 23 g
Protein: 36 gProtein: 14 g

It should be obvious that the nutritional profile of the chicken breast is vastly superior to the fast-food chicken sandwich. The chicken sandwich has more than twice the calories, more than five times the fat, and a pathetic 40 percent of the protein! Compared to the freshly-cooked chicken breast, the sandwich is garbage.

Yet a lot of people will justify it as a healthy choice, because relative to, say, a double cheeseburger, it probably is. Eating from these places on any sort of regular basis will prevent most people from ever seeing bodyfat levels low enough to clearly display the abdominals.

If you want to get strong, feel fit, and look OK, you can include something like this in your diet…sometimes. But if you want results you can see, you need to kick it to the curb for the time being.

Think Spices, Not Sauces

The other major difference between the level of clean eating required to see clear muscle definition as opposed to just looking “fit” is that there’s no room for error. You can quickly sabotage a six-pack diet with extra calories, fat, and sugar in the form of condiments, sauces, and dressings.

Nowhere is this clearer than in salads. Millions of people assume that a salad is a supremely healthy meal choice. Just as with that chicken breast versus a fast-food chicken sandwich, there is a world of difference in what you opt for.

Think Spices, Not Sauces

For example, take the same tossed green salad. If you flavor it with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette, you only add 15 calories and 0 grams of fat. If instead you dump a quarter-cup of Caesar salad dressing on it, as many people do, you just added 310 calories and 32 grams of fat! It’s easy to see how that would hamper anyone’s efforts to shed bodyfat.

Other people dump ketchup all over everything they eat, or drown their healthy proteins in barbecue sauce, not realizing that their once-healthy meal is now doing more harm than good.

Are you supposed to eat everything bland and without flavor? Of course not! Start learning about spices, seasonings, and marinades. These are much cleaner choices and, once you know what you’re doing, they can be every bit as tasty as sauces and condiments.

No “Cheat Meals”

If there’s one ridiculous concept that’s unfortunately been ingrained into the collective consciousness, it’s that training goes hand-in-hand with “cheating.” Even those with very large amounts of bodyfat to lose somehow believe that they are entitled to one or more totally unrestrained junk-food meals every week—or even every day—if they are following a strict diet.

If you can’t see even a blurry outline of your abs and you crave that washboard appearance, trust me: You have no business rewarding yourself with a pizza just because you ate well for a few days. All you are doing is taking steps back from your goal.

Learn to cook better-tasting food, stay the course, and keep eating clean until the fat is gone!

Chill Out on the Booze

Those of you who like to indulge in alcohol on a regular basis need to know that it’s completely at odds with ever seeing clear abs. There is a reason it’s called a beer belly!

A 12-ounce bottle of Corona gives you 149 calories and 14 grams of carbs. That’s more or less harmless on its own, but do the math and you’ll see that if you’re going through a six-pack of those, it’s enough to wreck a day of eating. And a few wrecked days in a short time period is definitely enough to keep you from getting a six-pack set of abdominals.

Chill Out on the Booze

Wine or mixed drinks, especially those containing fruit juice, can be even more laden with sugar and calories. No one is saying you can’t have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer every now and then, but if you go out and get hammered every weekend, rest assured that you are not going to be the lean, mean, beach stallion you could be if you didn’t.

Live For Your Goals, Love Your Life

Everything I’ve touched on here can be summarized in two words: patience and control. Those are the skills that make great lifters in the gym, and they’re what sets them apart in the kitchen.

Do you have to listen to me? Nope. But if you want to be one of the few truly lean guys or girls strutting around and displaying a degree of muscle definition that sets you apart from the herd, then try eating this way for six weeks. Then see if you turn back. I’m pretty sure you won’t.

Main | Craig Capurso’s Ultimate Abs Workout | The One Month Six-Pack Program | 5 Kick-Ass Supplements For A Summer Six-Pack | How Six-Pack Nutrition Is A Different Beast
Than Fitness Nutrition