Bar Path: the most important squat cue

There are many cues being given out by personal trainers, online coaches and fitness enthusiasts when squatting, with most having a good reasoning behind them. But one thing that is often over-looked by the majority of novice and intermediate lifters is keeping the bar path straight. Before you continue reading this post, a word of warning: things are about to get physic(s)-al. If you would prefer not to read all that and cut to the chase (I do not blame you), feel free to scroll to the summary.

In physics, work is what we do when we apply a force to an object (e.g. when we lift things) and can be summed up using the following equation:

Work = F (cos x) D

If you look at the equation, you notice the symbol “D” which stands for the distance through which the force acts. Force (F) in this equation, is the push or pull exerted on an object, often resulting in a change in motion of that object and is given by the equation: F= M(A) – Newton’s Second Law – where M is the mass of an object and A is the acceleration (which is linked to velocity and speed).

This is where bar path comes into play. If you keep all the other variables constant and have two lifters squatting the same amount of weight but with person A having a straighter bar path than person B, it would be person B who would be doing more work and thus struggling more, as the bar path would be longer. And with respect to a straight bar path, the more vertical, the better.

Screen Shot 2015-05-24 at 21.52.01Now time for some more (fun) equations. If the lifter above had made use of bar path C as opposed to A, it is possible to draw up a triangle (with the base being the ground) and use Pythagoras’ theorem:

A*2 + B*2 = C*2

to find that despite both being straight bar paths, the distance travelled would be greater for path C than A, thus meaning more work would need to be done to lift the same amount of weight.

This is where one common squatting cue has one of its main flaws: always make sure your knees do not travel further forward than your toes. Although, this was based on interpretations of the findings of a study in the late 60s-70s that suggested that travelling forward with your knees whilst squatting may make you more prone to injury (which I shall talk about in another article), it may be impossible for some to maintain a straight, vertical bar path whilst doing so.

SUMMARY:

– Keeping a straight, vertical bar path when squatting is optimal in decreasing the workload and difficulty of lifting the weight (hence helping you to lift heavier – happy days!)

– Ensuring your bar path is vertical can be done via checking with a friend/personal trainer or recording yourself from a side angle.

– Do not fall for the “Never allow your knees to travel further forward than your toes” squat cue and sacrifice a vertical bar path in doing so.

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MAIN REFERENCES:

Physics in Biology and Medicine – Paul Davidovits

The Physics Classroom (http://www.physicsclassroom.com/)

The Physics Hypertextbook (http://physics.info/work/)

The truth about Occlusion Training

Every now and then a new “revolutionary” training programme, a new supplement that “works wonders” or a new diet that supposedly helps you shed pounds instantly pops up. More often than not, these tend to have no actual substance behind them and most are able to realise this. However, within the past year or so a new training style that goes by the name of “Occlusion training” has come to the fore.

Occlusion training, aka Blood Restriction Training, involves using wraps or belts to restrict/obstruct blood flow to the veins which in turn should lead to the buildup of blood flow into your target muscle, recruit fast-twitch fibres and lead to lactic acid buildup, all-in-all increasing the pump you get whilst working out. Now obviously it would be hard to completely wrap and restrict the blood flow to areas of your torso, so it is often used in your peripheral areas such as your arms and legs.

Now when I first saw this, I simply laughed it off and disregarded it but now a year later I still see people using this. What’s even worse is that many athletes with a large following have been advocating this, hence the reason for me writing this article. So let’s look at just a few things wrong with it:

1. No ADDED Benefits

When looking at the reasoning behind the madness, it is pretty much based on the idea that an individual is able to get just as much hypertrophy results as they would normally but lifting less than half the weight. Note how you get the SAME results. Not any more. Just the same.

2. Having to use lighter weight

But if I am able to lift less weight and get the same results, is that not an easy shortcut to muscle growth for me to exploit? Not necessarily. It is well speculated that lifting heavy weights increases your bone density, with many studies of powerlifters finding a link between the two. Even with the likes of osteoporosis; a condition where the bones are weakened and frail, strength training is often recommended.

Likewise, the same relationship can be seen with lifting heavy and building up your connective tissue; the heavier the weight, the more strain you put on the connective tissue and thus the bigger and stronger they get! And bear in mind this is what holds your bones together (ligaments), your muscles to your bones (tendons) and connect different muscles together (fascia).

So although using the occlusion training method to get as much muscle hypertrophy in your skeletal muscle with lighter weight, you are pretty much turning a blind eye to the aforementioned aspects which are arguably as equally important in both powerlifting and bodybuilding.

3. The increased risk involved

This is my, and should be your, biggest problem with the whole blood restriction training trend. So the whole point of wrapping your arm/leg is to stop blood from leaving that body part, which means that you basically want to be blocking off your veins. FLAW 1: But your arteries and veins follow a similar distribution pattern around your body, so by blocking blood flow out of the muscle part, you will also be blocking blood flow IN – which makes even less sense given that this blood flow is what is carrying the oxygen, nutrients etc. that your muscle needs!

FLAW 2: So let’s just say, for argument sake, that you were somehow able to isolate and restrict the blood flow OUT of the targeted body part without affecting blood flow INTO that same body part. This could potentially lead to hypovalaemia, where there is a decreased blood volume circulating round the rest of your body, leading to dizziness, nauseousness, thirst and can be fatal in extreme scenarios!

4. You look like an idiot

ID-100290698

Don’t think I need to add anything to that.

So there you have it, my understandably one-sided take on occlusion training. Whether or not you decide to follow it is entirely up to you, but for your sake, please do some research before jumping on the bandwagon regarding revolutionary training ideas force-fed to you by fitness “models”.

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Step up your shoe game

Since I started my cut about a year ago and dropping my body fat percentage to a definitely commendable level, I have been guilty of spending at least a couple hundred pounds on gym attire and other tight-fitting apparel for everyday use. Why not, right? Might as well show off all the hard work that I have put so far into this bodybuilding project! But until now, I had paid little attention to what could be considered one of the most important things you wear at the gym: your shoes. In this post, I shall hopefully help you identify what to look for when buying a gym shoe, why it’s important and give you a few recommendations of my own.

1. A hard sole

When trying to perform any of the big four lifts – squat, bench, overhead press and deadlift) – one of the big cues to follow is to drive with your legs. Think of your body as a tree and your legs as the roots; without a strong base, no matter how strong/big the rest of your body is, your weight-lifting performance will suffer.

IMG_0174

If you look at the descriptions for a number of running shoes, most of them pride themselves upon having a cushioned sole that provides shock absorption. Whilst this may be beneficial for running, it has a rather detrimental effect when weight-lifting. With a cushioned/padded shoe, like the pair of Nike Air’s above, the sole can be compressed, which disperses or “dampens” the force that you applied directly to the ground, thus decreasing your ability to drive upwards when squatting. Long story short, look for a pair of shoes with a relatively non-compressible sole.

2. Elevated heel

This is probably the most noticeable thing about weightlifting shoes and what makes it stand out when compared to their flat-soled counterparts. The point of an elevated heel is to improve your ankle mobility, which is particularly important when squatting. Now in the interest of maintaining your interest and not boring you with the particulars of dorsiflexion etc., poor ankle mobility makes you more prone to injury, changes the way in which you perform a squat (by limiting your range of motion) and ultimately reduces the amount you’re able to lift.

Poor ankle mobility is not all too uncommon, mostly due to tight calves from our calves working hard in a limited range of motion (walking around, for example).

With that being said, there are other (more cost-effective) alternative ways to help solve your ankle mobility issues such as foam rolling your calves (something I highly recommend), using bands to mobilise the joint and squatting with small (2.5kg) plates under the heel of your shoes. All this will help improve your technique and maintain an upright torso, which is key when performing the lift, for at least half the price!

3. A tight fit

Like with a lot of recent “fashion” trends lately, it confuses me seeing guys (and girls) at the gym working out with loose laces or shoes way too big for them. Forget all that. If you look at the comments of most weightlifting shoes, reviewers often recommend buying a size lower than normal. And for good reason too; having a tighter fit limits intra-shoe movement, thus creating a more stable base a preventing your ankles from collapsing when squatting.

My recommendations

For those of you serious about weight-lifting AND able afford it, olympic-lifting/weight-lifting shoes such as the Adidas Adipowers and Nike Romaleos are a great buy! However, for others looking for a cheaper alternative, Vans, Chuck Taylors and the relatively new Reebok Crossfits (do not worry they are great for people outside of crossfit), amongst many others, are adequate.

With all this being said, no matter how good your shoes are, your technique, stretching and foam rolling routines are at least 10x more important.

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Personal Updates: 3. Trying out something new – Wendler’s 5/3/1

As you may or may not know, most of my fitness goals for this year are heavily based on the numbers that I am able to lift (Refer to http://cakestoweights.com/2015/01/jadesh-updates-2-2015-year-numbers/ ).

To help me in achieving this, I have decided to change my training split to something more strength-orientated. Wendler’s 5/3/1 is a relatively new split that has become immensely popular with both powerlifters and bodybuilders alike in the past year or so. Aimed at solely building strength in the “big four” (deadlift,squat, bench and overhead press (OHP)), the programme consists of a short four week cycle. There are 3-days-per-week and 4-days-per-week variants but what is common for both is the use of percentages to calculate how much you perform/lift on each particular day.

Week 1: Warmup followed by 3 sets of: 75% x 5, 80% x 5, 85% x 5

Week 2:. Warmup followed by 3 sets of: 80% x 3, 85% x 3, 90% x 3

Week 3:. Warmup followed by 3 sets of: 75% x 5, 85% x 3, 95% x 1

Week 4: Deload week – 3 sets of: 60% x 5, 65% x 5, 70% x 5

This is what swayed me into using this training regime as it recognises the impossibility to gain strength optimally when you’re constantly trying to test your one rep max and instead suggests using fluctuating cycles to do so. The aforementioned percentages are each based on a 90% value of your 1RM and the idea is that after each cycle your theoretical 1RM should go up 10lbs (4.5kg) for your squat and deadlift, and 5lbs (2.25kg) for your bench and overhead press. Meaning, THEORETICALLY, a 130lb gain and a 65lb gain respectively in a year!

Alongside this I will be doing bodybuilding accessory movements, as advised in the programme, as this continues to be my primary long-term focus. In terms of these accessory movements, Joe Wendler leaves these primarily up to you; you can even choose just to leave after the three working sets of each lift, which makes sure that the workout regime is still enjoyable and customizable to each individual.

I shall be trying this for at least a good few months, and shall hopefully report to you guys soon on what I make of it any the progress made by then. In the meantime I would encourage all those curious about it or wanting to gain strength to try it out themselves and give your feedback on the routine. But remember: STAY BIG!

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Personal Updates: 2. 2015: The Year of Numbers

“New Year. New Me”. How many times have you come across the saying? To be honest, I am all for New Year Resolutions, for example, this time last year it was my goals for 2014 that led me to go on my six month cutting transformation.

Now that I have gotten one of my biggest achievements in terms of fitness out of the way, it is hard to set the bar as high this year. But after much thinking, I believe I have come up with a few demanding yet achievable ones;

1. Squat – 140kg. This was and still is my PR that I had set more than 12 months ago, but since losing about 20kg one that I have struggled to come back to in the past year. I feel now, with my current best standing at around 110-120kg for 4 reps that at least by the end of this year, if not by summer, it is time to push on. Although matching a PR would not be considered ambitious, in my opinion achieving this at a much lighter bodyweight and a much healthier body fat level would be great.

2. Deadlift – 180kg. Ah deadlifts; my Marmite. Despite loving this compound lift for how its “manly” feel (it’s hard to explain), I have been stuck at just being able to shift just over three plates on either side for over a year now! To try and push on from this, I have already started incorporating more accessory movements to compliment with this lift and from now, may try to test my max once every 2-3 weeks.

3. Bench – 120kg. My bench has followed the same pattern as my squat: when it was up, it was up and when it was down, it was down (and when they were only half way up, they were neither up or down). As such I shall attempt to match my old bench PR whilst being lighter and to be honest will not be changing my routine much in trying to do so, apart from being more patient.

4. BW – close to 80kg. My ultimate goal is to weight 180lbs, around 82-85kg for us metric unit users, whilst being as lean as possible. Currently on a lean bulk, aiming to gain no more and no less than 0.3-0.7kg a month, I shall be crawling ever closer to this target weight before going on my next cutting/dieting phase.

Despite being a recreational bodybuilder, where the (wo)man in the mirror is more important than the weights you push, having these numbers as targets in my head will make it easier for me to make sure I am heading in the right direction and to track my progress as the year goes on.

I hope this has inspired you to think and create some goals for yourself this year, and I wish you the very best in trying to achieve them. Happy New Year!

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Coping with the Festivities

‘Tis the season to be jolly, spend time with your loved ones, unwrap gifts and most importantly take a few days off counting macros and eat to your hearts content. Well that is what I, like most, will be doing this Christmas holiday (mostly due to the fact that I’m trying to follow a lean bulk for the next few months). However, this festive period may also mark the start of a cutting or dieting phase for some as they look to get in shape and lean in time for the summer holidays. After all, it is much more realistic to start now than to start in the late weeks of May.

For these (unlucky) few, especially for those doing it for the first time, these holidays may seem quite disastrous. But alas, fear not, for Santa Manivannan has you covered. Here a three strategies you can use to help you get through this and future holidays without beating yourself upa few days later about the extra weight you’ve put on.

1. Prepare Beforehand

Arguably the most obvious and simplest strategy is to prepare for the massive cheat day(s) that lies ahead by preparing your diet or overall calorie intake/expenditure the day before. This can vary from consuming a set amount less than normal or working out and being more active than normal (often via a few extra minutes doing cardio). Then when it comes to the day itself, you can sit back and enjoy the meal with the feeling that you’ve “earnt” it. However, the biggest problem with this is, if you’re like me, you tend to overestimate things and while this may seem like a good thing, you can often end up losing quite a bit of muscle with the fat by being in an extreme calorie deficit.

2. Cook Yourself

One for the culinary experts. If you are in control of your food and what/how much you consume, what’s stopping you from being able to continue dieting whilst pigging out on a traditional turkey?! However, be warned, what’s to say your guests are enjoying the vegetables and the lack of a Christmas pudding with custard as much as you are.

3. Let it Go

My personal favourite. In my honest opinion, one or two days of letting yourself go and enjoying the company of family and friends every now and then will not set you back too much. As great an impact bodybuilding and fitness may have on me, there is no point stressing out over counting macros when the time could have been spent enjoying yourself with loved ones. And if the added weight will affect you mentally, the consequences can be dealt with the few days after.

So there you have it, my own two cents on dieting down during the holidays. Now obviously there are a number of factors that would come into play, for example whether or not you’ve had experience dieting down before and how long you’re holiday/cheat day was planned for. Having tried two out of the three above options (unfortunately my family, along with a few friends, don’t trust my expert cooking), I definitely know which I prefer, and as I write this post, I weigh currently three kilos over my lean bulk target for this week!

Happy Holidays and may the grind continue soon after!

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Dieting Tips and Tricks: Vol. 2 Meal Timing

Dieting. Arguably the most dreaded word associated with bodybuilding and fitness. So many people want to lose the pounds but are unwilling to give up the juicy hamburger and fries pick-up after work. Nor the curry from the local Indian takeout that has become a Saturday night staple in our diet. Nor the tub of ice cream you’re probably gorging on as you read this! But don’t fret, for I was in this situation too! The biggest issue I faced when it came to starting my diet last January was misinformation. It’s often all too easy to get caught up with the pseudoscience constantly floating around the gym. Claims such as “Aim for 6-8 meals a day” and “chicken, spinach and rice only man” are all too common. You know they sound way too authoritarian, but why would you ever doubt anything that comes out of a personal trainer’s mouth? Or even the “knowledge” passed down from the biggest guy at the gym, whom you’re sure takes something else along with those “10,000 calories a day”. I for sure am definitely not going to claim that I know everything regarding nutrition, but here’s my take on dieting and its associated myths.

6-8 MEALS A DAY

I, myself, as I’m sure a lot of you guys reading this have all been told at one point that in order to lose weight (and even gain mass) it’s ideal to have small meals 6-8 times a day, every 2-3 hours. As a food lover, sure that is something I would be willing to do, but as a University student with a packed timetable, on top of finding time to workout, running a blog page and recently getting a job, it seems way too much of an inconvenience. And that’s even considering taking time to prepare meals beforehand. So what’s the logic behind this claim?

THE THERMOGENIC EFFECT

If you look online or even go the extra mile and look through published articles, you’ll find many long-winded explanations and definitions, but in short it is the amount of calories “spent” digesting the meals we consume. The basis of having 6-8 meals a day is that having more meals per day means burning more calories actually digesting the food. But the major flaw in this is that the thermogenic effect works as a proportion of what we consume, with it mostly just being around 10% of a person’s total calorie consumption (does vary between carbohydrates, fats and proteins calorie sources). If you’re lost, do not worry, it makes more sense using an example.

Let’s say we compare two wannabe Ronnie Colemans. one who follows the 6 meals a day rule and the other who just eats whenever he wants, often having just 3 meals a day. If we assume they both have the same amount of calories each day, for example around 3000 calories with person A splitting it into 6* 500 meals a day and B splitting it into 3* 1000 meals…

Person A uses up 50 calories a meal (10% of 500), which adds up to 300 meals a day (50*6)

Person B uses up 100 calories a meal (10% of 1000), which adds up to 300 meals a day (100*3)

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

At the end of the day, the amount of calories you have (and if you want to get into the fine detail, the sources of those calories) are what ultimately decide the calories expenditure on its digestion. In terms of meal timing and frequency, pick whatever suits you. For me, I like to stick to having three meals; a shake and a cup of coffee before my workout, a bowl of oatmeal and a banana after a day of lectures and a final HEAVY meal whilst I sit back and kick it with my TV at the end of the day. The great thing about this is you will be able to not compromise much in terms of living your life and carrying out whatever activities you desire whilst still enjoying the same amount of weight lost (for those of you cutting/dieting) as the deluded/misinformed Joe who swears by the “6-8” rule. WIN!

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Know what you want

Nearly every gym go-er starts off wanting to get as aesthetically pleasing as possible whilst being as strong as possible. But is it just the case of one or the other? Is it just the case of powerlifting OR bodybuilding? Am I forever going to be stuck benching weights as heavy as my overly large ego, whilst looking like I could get swept up at any moment from the slightest gust of wind? Or is there an actual middle ground to looking like a tank whilst being able to lift one? To answer this we really need to look at the fundamentals of each training type.

Disclaimer the following sentence has been pulled from the greatest information source of all time: Wikipedia. “Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift.” If that wasn’t simple enough; lift as heavy as you can. Period. This compares to Bodybuilding where the emphasis is put on how good your physique looks (like a beauty pageant with roided-up goats).

Now a few people will firmly be in one camp or the other, but for most they either want both or train dominantly in a style that suits one whilst wanting the other. So to help you out, I shall attempt to compare the two training styles and see if there actually is a middle ground.

Reps+Volume

Typically many would expect powerlifters to use a low volume, high intensity training programme to help test their one rep max out, whilst bodybuilders “should” be utilising a higher rep range and volume split to focus on the muscle hypertrophy. However, look at the likes of Dorian Yates and the great Arnold, bodybuilders who would either use powerlifting splits for growth and in the case of Arnie, actually compete in powerlifting shows!

The simple fact is the stronger you get, the more muscle you build. And the more muscle you build, the stronger you’ll grow!

Exercise Selection 

This is probably the only way in which the two properly differ from each other. With powerlifting, the emphasis is places heavily on “the big 3”, that is the squat, deadlift and bench. Because there is no need to attain a symmetrical physique to compete in strength competitions, you won’t see many (if any) hardcore powerlifters doing any accessory movements unless it proves beneficial to these compound lifts.

There’s also differences in the way some of these compound exercises are performed by powerlifters and bodybuilders, most notably with the barbell bench. As a powerlifter, you’re encouraged to keep your elbows tucked in and maintain an arch in your back to help lift as heavy as you can without putting too much strain on and injuring your shoulders, whereas for increasing muscle hypertrophy it is in fact more beneficial to have your elbows flared out without the arch to optimise chest stimulation.

The Middle Ground

Is there actually a middle ground? Definitely. The two training styles overlap heavily, and many powerlifting programmes actually utilise muscle hypertrophy splits for the first few weeks to build up a solid foundation. My first proper training programme that focused on increasing the stats of my big 3 last year had an initial 4 weeks of GVT followed by another 4 weeks of drop sets, both of which work within the “bodybuilding rep range” before stepping up the intensity and reducing the volume to test my one rep max. This has been adopted in other programmes too, with the phrase “powerbuilding” popping up as a new training style category.

A word of warning; whichever path you pick as our main goal, make sure you follow the core principles behind it. Last January when the focus was on powerlifting despite using the hybrid split, progress was being measured on whether the numbers were going up. However, switching my emphasis onto bodybuilding required me realise the need to drop the weight and focus on the contraction. This is where knowing what you want comes into play; as ego-boosting as gaining an extra 10kg on my bench would be, I’d be happier looking like I bench 10kg more, and so like many should be measuring my progress on my physique rather than my numbers.

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Supplements 101: Creatine

The topic of supplementation can be one of the most daunting in regards to bodybuilding and training. For me certainly, I was being flooded with terms such as “Creatine Monohydrate” and “Whey Isolate”, which at the time I had no clue what they were, how they were supposed to work and whether or not I should be getting them. In the end, I purchased nearly everything, based on what I was being told by anyone I met at the gym – with they themselves plucking “facts” out of thin air. Eventually wisening up to this, I went to the local Supplement store and was left even more puzzled about certain products when being told their ability to work one type of way from the staff and. So, I’ve decided to go over and outline the main types of supplements out there, how they work and whether or not they’re worth purchasing. First up, Creatine!

WHAT IS IT? HOW DOES IT WORK?

The first time I heard about Creatine it seemed to be some sort of god-send product that would instantly help me put on quality muscle mass! But when I questioned trainers and staff at supplement stores about how it works, the best I could get was “It increases muscle mass”. I’ll try not to get too scientific with this. Basically Creatine increases ATP synthesis, a chemical form of energy which therefore does mean it improves performance when working out. We do naturally produce creatine in the kidneys and liver and it can also be found in red meats, but this amount is nowhere near how much we get from a regular 5g dose of the supplement.

With that being said, our “baseline” creatine levels (how much we produce) varies between individual to individual. This changes the effectiveness of the supplement, because although it may help all of us out in the end, a person who has a low natural baseline is going to see more of a result than someone who had a high baseline to start off with anyway and who appears to be non-responsive after continuous dosage. And before you go Googling ways to improve your “baseline” – it’s genetics!

Hopefully that did not confuse you guys too much.

WHAT TYPE SHOULD I TAKE? HOW MUCH? WHEN?

Like with all supplements, supplement companies have tried to take as much money as possible from you guys by selling Monohydrate, Esterate and other forms, fooling many to think that one works better/in a different way than the other. My advice would be to go for the Monohydrate form; the cheapest of the lot and funnily enough the one that’s most proven!

Another scam that most users fall into is believing the dosage regimen that some of the companies recommend. This usually follows a Loading Phase of around 20g a day for a set period, followed by a Maintenance Phase of 3-5g a day for 12 weeks and then a resting phase where you take some time off. In reality there is no need to have a loading phase and you can just skip onto the maintenance phase straight away, because the saturation you’re meant to experience from the loading phase will happen after a month on the maintenance phase anyway; It’s just a way of getting you to use the product quicker!

It really does not matter when you take your dose; you can take it with your shake, on its own or with a drink, whether in the morning, afternoon or evening. Creatine works in the long term, with improvements being seen around three weeks after your first dose when you reach your saturation levels. So the timing of your doses within a day will not have any significant impact.

SIDE EFFECTS?

Although I may not be aware of what rumours may be flying around at the moment, there were certainly quite a few misinformed bros when I first started spreading crazy “facts” about the side effects of creatine causing bloating, kidney failure, cramps etc. In reality most of these are either total rubbish or seem logical in theory but have not been proven conclusively by reliable studies or sources.

DID YOU KNOW?

Creatine has a number of beneficial effects outside of bodybuilding. and is used for “congestive heart failure (CHF), depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, diseases of the muscles and nerves, an eye disease called gyrate atrophy, and high cholesterol. It is also used to slow the worsening of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease), rheumatoid arthritis, McArdle’s disease, and for various muscular dystrophies.” Source:WebMD

So there you have it, a brief introduction to Creatine. Feel free to do your own research into it if you want; there are many videos and sites giving their take on the supplement. For those of you still unsure, considering there haven’t been any proven side effects, try it and see if you notice any changes, if not then stop!

Of course, all information about whether or not the supplements are worth purchasing are my opinion, so it’s entirely up to you to decide based on the facts presented. My current supplement stack is pretty simple: A 5kg tub of Whey Protein Isolate and a small container of Vitamin and Mineral tablets!

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Bodybuilding on a Budget

Economics and Bodybuilding. As polar as they may seem, the reality is the two are a lot more closely linked than first thought. The costs do not just start and end with the monthly gym membership fee. The world of supplements, maintaining nutrition and the “compulsory” tight-fitting gym apparel amount to financial pain for the unlucky ones. As a student, I too was in that situation; in my second year at university, it was not rare to see the weekly grocery shop amount to over £100. To put that into perspective, it matched the grocery shop for the other four members that make up my family! To be honest, it would not surprise me too much to think of bodybuilding as one of the most expensive sporting hobbies.

Yet whilst looking at the demographics of you, my blog readers, the vast majority fall within the same age category as myself. And to those who don’t: “Every little helps”. Since second year to today, I have managed to cut my expenses on bodybuilding to just over £100 a month! And that covers supplements, grocery shops and my £20 gym membership. So since sharing is caring, I have decided to pass on some tips and tricks on saving the pounds that hopefully you can utilise.

Stick to the essentials

In a sport like bodybuilding it is often easy to get overwhelmed at first on choosing the “essentials”. Supplement companies, like any other company, will use any technique possible to get you to purchase their product, from sponsoring influential bodybuilding athletes to marketing products based on information from a proportionally small number of scientific studies. The truth is they’re SUPPLEMENT companies for a reason; the products they provide often are not needed and have minimal (if any) effect on your progress. Having fallen for this trap, I have gone from purchasing all types of products with fancy names to just using multivitamins, whey protein and creatine. In fact, out of the three, creatine can be argued as being the most beneficial and I only take the other two simply due to convenience. I could decide to get my proteins wholly from chicken and my vitamins from just fruit and vegetables, but in accordance with a packed timetable, that’s near impossible.

Likewise, many people get caught up with brand image. I can not begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked by friends to decide between two brands and name the differences. The difference that may exist between a top of the range brand to a slightly cheaper one, like Myprotein, will be have been claimed to significantly enhance performance, but in reality this is far from true. You can almost guarantee that if a supermarket chain was to make their own value brand of protein shake, I’d be one of the first in line to get them. Besides, the purpose of buying the shake was to provide a source of protein, so why pay an extortionate amount more for the micronutrients, which you’d be able to obtain from multivitamin tablets and food sources for a fraction of the cost?!

Look around

You would have thought that by saving up on the money previously spent on nights out in first year, my finances would have been much better off after getting involved in bodybuilding. But with such an expensive weekly shop, a large proportion of my student loan was gone by the end of term. But by looking elsewhere outside conventional supermarkets I have managed to live well off what was my weekly budget to what is now my monthly budget, with minimal changes in my diet and way of eating. A couple of months ago, I came across Muscle Food via a YouTube ad ( http://www.musclefood.com/hidden/?code=JM80618 ). And boy am I glad I did! Now imagine being able to get 5kg of chicken for just £25 and then on top being offered free delivery for orders over £75! Unfortunately for my flat mates, the fridge has been fully stocked up! Best thing is the quality matches, if not trumps, that of the well-known supermarkets.

These are just some of the ways I have managed to reduce my budget spent on bodybuilding. At the end of the day, bodybuilding is just a hobby for me, as it is for many of you, and should not be something that we have to hustle on the streets over, just to afford that extra month of membership at your local gym. I hope there’s a couple of pointers and lessons I have learnt and shared, that hopefully can help you guys in the future!


It’s only been a month since I started this fitness blog but since then I’ve already achieved posts getting up to 400 views each with blog readers coming from a wide variety of backgrounds (from the US to India).

This has not gone unnoticed and I have recently become affiliated with the aforementioned MuscleFood: an online store that specialises in providing domestic and exotic meats, from chicken breasts to crocodile meat, for low prices! Ideal for students like myself.

As a token of appreciation and to as a way of saying thank you for the continued support, I have managed to hook up a reference code, that once used gets you freebies (either chicken breasts, protein break, horse steaks, etc.) from Muscle Food on top of their already low prices.

Check them out if you want (www.musclefood.com) and use code: JM80618 before you check out to enjoy the benefits!