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Vitamin D and Calcium

This vitamin and mineral stack not only boosts bone health, but also testosterone levels.

Vitamin D
This fat-soluble vitamin is important for bone health and mental well-being, also benefits muscle strength and fat loss, and it may be critical for maintaining high testosterone levels. searchers at the Medical University of Graz (Austria) reported that subjects with sufficient vitamin D levels had significantly higher testosterone levels than those with less vitamin D.

In addition to its bone-boosting effects, calcium is also important for muscle contractions and it even aids fat loss. But calcium may boost testosterone, too. One study from Selcuk University (Turkey) found that subjects taking about 16 milligrams of calcium per pound of bodyweight (about 3300 mg for a 200 pound guy) had higher testosterone levels during workouts than subjects not taking supplemental calcium.

Take It Like This:
To increase your testosterone levels, take 1000-2000 interation units of vitamin D two or three times daily with meals and 500-600mg of calcium two to five times a day.

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Restricting Sodium – A Good Idea?

Sodium is a great mineral that helps to regulate overall balance of vitamins and minerals present in your body. It is a very common misconception that sodium directly leads to bloating. Sodium should be controlled not cut out. Especially when you are low on carbs, as it is responsible for muscle fullness and strong muscle contractions. Being low on carbs stops your muscles drawing fluid into the muscles, and you need sodium to help you keep hydrated. Going too long without it eventually leads to dehydration. Sodium does make you hold water, but when you are training for a contest, doing cardio, tanning and posing, you are losing an enormous amount of sodium in your sweat and urine. This should be replaced through dietary sodium or you will experience cramping, weakness and low blood pressure. Sodium is only your enemy about 24-36 hours away from your show.

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Static King

One of the best ways to improve your strength is by moving nothing at all.

If your goal is strength, putting a zero-movement strategy into your repertoire could be exactly what you need.

By way a review, a static contraction, also known as an isometric, is one which the muscular force equals the external resistance, producing no movement whatsoever. For example, you loaded up the barbell on the bench press with much more than your 1RM (one rep max) and began pressing against it with all your might, you would have a static contraction. Even if the bar didn’t budge, despite the lack of movement a ton of muscular activity would be going on inside the muscle.

Research confirms you can produce more force and strength statically than you can during positive contractions. How can this benefit you in terms of strength? You need to look no further than your nearest sticking point. A static-training plan can help you blast past those sticking points that usually act as roadblocks. The good news is that you can apply the technique to just about any exercise from the squats to overhead press even to bicep curls. Be warned, though: it is more difficult than it looks. Applying continual maximal effort without movement is brutal and effective.

Be Specific
One key factor to keep in mind is that, although strength increases are associated with static training, they are angle specific. When you train statically at a particular angle, you gain strength and size only at that angle. Take for instance the overhead press. If you worked statically at one particular point along the path of the ROM, you would gain strength there and nowhere else. The gain in strength is not necessarily distributed along the entire range of motion. For this reason, you need to apply static training at various places.

The Weak Link
So where do you start? Go straight to the weakest point of your range of motion, which is near the bottom of most exercises. If you are working on the bench press, set the safety bars to the sticking point and load up the bar. Forget about it being your “weakest point” and be sure to load more weight than you could normally move so that you are certain to have absolutely no movement. If you are working out at peak gym hours or you do not feel comfortable putting that much weight on the bar, you can work with and empty bar, but from underneath the safeties. Simply press the bar up into the safeties as hard as possible.

A couple of items to note: On your pressing movements be very careful not al allow your hands to slip. Using chalk during static training is a good idea, because if your hands slip, your wrists can sustain severe injury, second, for the pulling movements throw on some pulling straps to make sure your pulls are not hindered by your grip strength. If you do not wear straps, use chalk instead.

Adding a static day a couple of times a month into your routine across all bodyparts will help trigger serious strength gains. The better able you are to blast through sticking points, the more weight you will ultimately move during standard weight training sessions.

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Time Under Tension (TUT)

In the simplest terms time under tension, or TUT for short, is the length of time a muscle is under tension during a set, or rather the amount of time it actually takes to finish a set. As it turns out, how long your force yourself to complete a rep has heavy implications.

Strength In Numbers
Experts tend to agree that in the area of strength gains, the optimal time for a given set lies somewhere between 4-2- seconds from time of liftoff to the tick you rack the bar. Basically, TUT equals the sum of the amount of time (in seconds) for the descent and the ascent of the bar. So taking the squat as an example, it if takes 3 seconds to descend towards the floor and 2 seconds to explode back up to the start, that is obviously 5 seconds worth of rep time. A three-rep set at that pace would obviously be 15 seconds worth of TUT.

With this in mind, some experts argue that this TUT factor is equally as important as the rep range itself, which for strength, is between 1-6 reps. As a rule it is always important to remember that a rep is only as good as the corresponding weight. In other words, to enhance strength, you need to make sure that the weight is relatively heavy to fulfil that rep range. You can not select a light weight and simply stop at say, 5 reps, when indeed you could have done 12 reps. That would indicate that you have selected an inappropriate weight.

Though you know the relationship between rep ranges, training goals and muscle failure, you may be short-changing the role of TUT. It is fair to say that when it comes to numbers, we typically factor in sets reps per set and the rest time between those sets. But there is a deeper way to view all that work, and that is where TUT comes into play. It breaks down the category of “reps” into its own spectrum – seconds. A given rep range should be spread over time if possible. The goal is to o=hold a muscle under tension at a given weight for various periods of time. If you can do so, using the bet range of 1-6 reps, over the best time to enhance strength, 4-20 seconds, then big gains in strength are inevitable.

The idea here is to configure a strength scheme that optimises both elements, which would seemingly give you the nest of both worlds. You would be working within a rep range that recruits the fast-twitch muscle fibres most responsible for strength while also submerging that target muscle under tension within the optimal spectrum of seconds. When it comes to fast-twitch fibres, the heavier weight and low-moderate rep schemes call them into play with greater success than the high-rep sets do.

Time To Get Strong
One way you might want to begin using TUT is to consider that as your rep range increases, the total time it takes to complete a rep decreases and vice versa. In other words, if your reps are low, then you might want to increase the time of both the eccentric and concentric portions of the repetition. This is not the only way to incorporate TUT, but it is a good place to begin.

So if you were doing 6 reps, your seconds per rep would be much less (around 2-3 seconds) than say a set of 2 reps of 6 seconds per rep, for example. You basically multiply the number of reps by the total time it takes you to complete a rep, with the goal to remain anywhere between 4-20 seconds total, regardless.

Increasing the amount of time it takes to move a very heavy weight is a phenomenon that few athletes ever attempt. Since the weight is relatively constant, 1-6RM, you can adjust the time per rep from one set to the next or from week to week. The end goal, again, is to spread out the reps in time between 4-20 seconds per set, which means you can perform any number of reps and time elements.

Because of the freedom from which to choose TUT schemes, it is advisable to keep a journal to follow your progression. Doing so will ensure you expose different loads to various rep speeds and total set times and will help you decide which combinations work the best.

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Lifitng Your Hips Off The Pad During Leg Presses

Leg Press

Excessive range of motion can contribute to lower-back soreness or injury.

Behind the Blunder
We have all made this blunder at some point or another, and many of you probably still do. When lifting the hips off the leg press pad, you are doing much more harm than good. First off, if you are stuck in this habit, you are probably not controlling the weight as well as you should. The key to any exercise is being able to completely control the negative portion of the repetition, since its during the eccentric path that much of the damage to the muscle fibres occurs. So you definitely don’t want to rush or waste this contraction in any way. In addition, if you use momentum or rush the weight on the downward phase by trying to bounce out of the bottom with your hips, you end up losing many of the benefits the exercise has to offer. Second (this might not resonate with younger athletes), if you allow your hips to rise, you could be putting too much stress on the disks in your lower back.

The Fix
Instead of allowing your hips to lift off the seat in order to target your hamstrings and glutes to a greater extent, raise your feet a little higher and wider to make up the difference. Then, as you slowly lower the weight, do not try and force knees to your chest, but gradually stop the momentum before that point, so you will not lose the tension in the quads. Finally, try lowering the weight just a bit, not all the way. Anytime you compensate form to accomplish a heavier load, the strict adjustment could be a shock, so take a couple of plates off and get used to doing it right.

Sit squarely in the leg-press machine and place your feet on the sled, shoulder-width apart. Keeping your chest up and lower back pressed into the back support, carefully unlock the weight from the safeties.

Bend your knees to lower the weight, stopping before your glutes lift off the pad. Smoothly reverse direction and then extend your legs to press the weight back up, stopping just short of locking out your legs. Squeeze your legs hard at the top then repeat for reps.

Leg Remedy: Leg Press Corrected
One thing to remember before climbing into the leg press is that there is no better exercise for the quads then the leg press, specifically for the teardrop (medialis). But you don’t need to bring the platform so far down to accomplish the machine’s best task. Stay controlled, stopping the momentum just before your hips are forced to rise upward. In fact, you even lose tension the further you lower the weight. So don’t worry, when you stop the weight before your hips lift off the bench, you are not stopping short on progress.