13 Tips For Guaranteed Weight Gain – The Skinny Nerd Manifesto

So you’re a skinny nerd.

DayoftheTentacle

If this were an RPG, you’d be an elf.  If this was Maniac Mansion, you’d definitely be Bernard. In the fitness world you’re called a “hardgainer.”  You weigh 125 lbs., you eat whatever you want, and you still can’t gain weight.  You’re ready to bulk up, build some muscle, and get strong like a mofo…but you have no freaking cue what you’re doing.  Luckily, you’ve found this site, and I’m here to help (I used to be a skinny guy too).

Here are 13 tips for you to get started:

  1. Eat a lot – This sounds much easier than it really is.  Whatever you’re eating now, you should probably double it.  If you eat three meals a day, instead eat six.  You need to be eating every 2-3 hours, and each meal needs to be the size of a normal meal.  This is going to be difficult for a few weeks, because you’ll often have to force yourself to eat even when you’re not hungry.  500 extra calories a day = 1 extra pound gained per week.  Whatever you’re eating now, add an additional 1000 calories (spread throughout the day), and you’ll put on 2 lbs a week.  Not just any calories though…
  2. Eat a lot of good things - You need to eat a ridiculous amount of calories (probably 3500+ per day) if you want to gain weight, but you want to make sure most of those calories are GOOD calories.  You could easily get 3500 calories eating Taco Bell and Twinkies, and drinking Mountain Dew, but that will just make you fat.  If you want to build muscle, you want to eat healthy calories that are loaded with good protein, good carbs, and healthy fats…which brings me to my next point:
  3. Protein = building block for your muscles. Chicken, fish, meat, eggs, milk, almonds, peanuts.  Eat lots of this stuff, all the time.  Read more about protein here.
  4. Carbs will help you put on weight, but it won’t be muscle – pasta, brown rice, wheat bread, oatmeal, etc. will help you put on weight, but a lot of that weight will be fat.   Every meal should have vegetables and fruit.   If you just eat protein, your body will resort to using it for energy rather than building muscle.  I learned this the hard way in college; four years of exercising and three protein shakes a day got me NOTHING.  Unless you’re eating tons of good fats (almonds FTW), good carbs (fruits and veggies), and protein, you won’t be gaining weight.
  5. Keep track of everything you eat - Sign up for a site light dailyburn.com (it’s free), input your stats and start to track every one of your meals.  It will tell you if you’re eating enough calories, enough protein, and enough carbs.  This site has helped me put on 15 lbs since last fall.
  6. Compound exercises are your friend– Concentrate on complex, compound exercises that recruit as many muscles as possible: bench presses, dumbbell presses, squats, deadlifts, pull ups, chin ups, and dips.  Do these exercises, and concentrate on lifting as much weight as possible.  Don’t worry about triceps extensions, shoulder shrugs, bicep curls or crunches.  All of the compound exercises listed here use every muscle in your body, and when you overload your body with calories and protein, those muscles will grow.  Don’t worry about isolation exercises until you’re up to your goal weight and ready to tone down.  Read about squats here, deadlifts here, and pull ups here.
  7. Appearance is a consequence of fitness – This is the mantra of the actors of who trained for the movie 300 – would you be okay looking like a Spartan?  Concentrate on being really strong and lifting heavy weights, and your body will follow suit.  It doesn’t matter if you can only bench press 10 lb dumbbells right now.  Wherever you’re starting out, concentrate on being stronger each and every time you exercise.  Push yourself, get stronger, lift more, and before you know it you’ll be ripped.
  8. When exercising, keep your rest between sets to a minute or less, and don’t do more than 12 reps in a set – Keep your range of reps between 6 and 12, and try to keep the time you rest between sets to a minute or less.  Example: incline dumbbell chest press – 12 reps of 50 lbs, wait a minute, 10 reps of 55lbs, wait a minute, 8 reps of 60 lbs.
  9. Let your muscles rest - never exercise the same muscle two days in a row.  Your muscles get rebuilt (larger) during your days off, so never exercise the same muscle before it’s ready.  I usually wait at least 48 hours before I hit the same muscle again.
  10. Sleep – you need to be getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night for maximum gains.  Your body is doing nothing but lying there and building muscle while you’re sleeping.  If you are only getting 6 hours or less, you’re not going to get all the benefits of your exercising and diet.  I know it’s tough, but those 3AM raids on Runnyeye need to be put on hold for a few months.  SLEEP.
  11. Cardio is your enemy – Running long distances isn’t going to help you.  If you’re going to run, do sprints or run up a hill.  Think about it: would you rather look like a sprinter or a marathon runner?  Keep your distance cardio to a minimum if you want to put on some pounds.
  12. Make it part of your routine - It’s okay to skip a workout here and there, but it is NOT okay for you to skip a meal if you’re serious about weight gain.  You need to be always eating.  It sucks, it’s practically a full time job, but it’s what you have to do.  Eat.
  13. Realize you will put on some fat – with all of this eating, you are going to be putting on some fat along with your muscle.  That’s okay!  Figure out what your goal weight is, and then add another 5-10 lbs on top of it.  Once you get to that weight, cut back on the carbs in your diet, do more sprints, and keep exercising: you’ll shed the fat quickly and be left with a killer figure.  Eat all the vegetables you want, but cut back on breads, pasta, rice, and oatmeal.

I was definitely a skinny guy, but managed to go from 162 lbs. to 185 lbs. following these principles.

We have recently written a MASSIVE post on how to gain weight properly, which you can read here: “The Skinny Guy’s Guide to Getting Bigger.” 

Now go eat something!

-Steve

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How to Do a Proper Pull Up, and Why You Need to Do Them

UPDATE: I’ve written an updated article on “how to do a pull up” that is a must read.

So you want to do a pull up, eh?
wrk_pullups

When many people think of fitness and the gym, they picture meat-heads doing countless arm curls, staring at themselves in the mirror.  Sounds about right to me.  As I stated in a previous blog, I have yet to see a single person in my gym do a deadlift, and I’ve probably only seen a handful of people (in a year and a half) doing legitimate pull ups.  As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not doing deadlifts, squats (going all the way down to parallel!), and pull ups and you want to “build muscle,” you’re just wasting your time.

When preparing for their roles in the movie 300, all the actors went to train with Mark Twight, who had them train by emphasizing “athleticism by combining compound movements, lifting, and throwing. Primitive tools – medicine balls, Kettlebells, rings – were used instead of machines. Each session was competitive, with a penalty-reward system tied to performance and results posted daily for all to see.”

Appearance is a consequence of fitness

That’s right, these guys weren’t training to have bulging biceps and chiseled abs.  Their motto, “appearance is a consequence of fitness,” meant that these guys worked on getting in the best shape possible – doing deadlifts, running sprints, Olympic ring push ups, doing pull ups until their arms fell off, etc. – and then doing it all over again.  This type of training really struck a chord with me, because I’ve always been fascinated with turning myself into an absolute machine; if I happen to look good as a side effect, awesome.  There’s a reason you need to do 50 pull ups to complete the 300 challenge: only the fitness elite can attempt such a thing.

You can read Mark’s article on 300 training here. It’s fascinating and highly recommended.

Proper Pull Ups

Personally, I believe pull ups are one of the most important exercises in a routine and I recommend them to anybody that comes to me for advice.  Forget bicep curls; show me a guy who can do 25 pull ups and 25 chin ups and there’s no WAY his arms aren’t well-developed.

Find a bar that will support your weight, anywhere. I don’t care. Just find one. If you have a gym membership there will be pull up bars all over the place.  At your house you might have “the perfect pull up” in your door way.  If you have neither of these things, find a local playground and use their monkey bars.  This is one piece of equipment that NEEDS to be in your arsenal, so find a way to get one.  No excuses, play like a champion.

  • A PULL UP is when your hands are facing away from you.  This will work your back and biceps.
  • A CHIN UP is when your hands are facing towards you.  Although this also works your back, it has more emphasis on your biceps.

Grab a bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width, with your hands facing away from you.  Hang all the way down.  Pull yourself up until your chin is above the bar.  Slight pause  Lower yourself all the way back down.  Go up, and really concentrate on isolating your back and biceps.  Don’t swing!

Once you can do a single pull up, work on doing them in sets. Do one pull up, then wait a minute or two and do another one.  Then wait a few more minutes and do another one.  A few days later, try to do two in a row, and do a few sets of two.  You need to start somewhere, but as soon as you can do one, you can find a way to do two.  After that, find a way to do three, and so on.  Remember, don’t cheat yourself by only going halfway down and not going all the way up.  Straighten your arms out at the bottom, and get your chin over the bar!

Want big biceps? Do close-grip chin ups.  I guarantee if you’re banging out 3 sets of 12 at the gym, maybe even hanging some weight around your waist, your arms will be built like cannons.

Remember, appearance is a consequence of fitness.  Pull ups are a true test to somebody’s level of fitness, so where do you fit in?  For those of you who follow the blog, you know my obsession with Ninja Warrior on G4tv.  Here’s a video of a guy on stage 3, which is extremely back-intensive.  I guarantee this guy trains like crazy and as a result has one of the most chiseled frames I’ve ever seen:

Ninja Warrior

Happy Friday!

-Steve

Are You Better Than Yesterday?

Word Count: 795 NF Difficulty: Beginner

Work has been kind of hectic in a good way, so I didn’t get a chance to start thinking about today’s blog until late yesterday afternoon.  I had no idea what I was going to write about when the perfect concept literally dropped itself into my email inbox.  Tim Ferriss, life hacker extraordinaire, had just posted a blog with the same title (HIGHLY recommended reading by the way) as the one I chose for today.  Hopefully he doesn’t mind, but I stole his blog title simply because it’s something you should be thinking about every day.  “Level up your life” isn’t this blog’s motto for nothing.

Are you better than yesterday?

If you can find at least one thing about yourself to improve upon every day (fitness, diet, work, health, family, video games, starting a company, etc.), then you will always go to sleep a better person than you were the day before.  As long as it’s something, no matter how small, you get to enjoy a small victory and build upon that success for the next day.

How about your diet? If you decided to throw out everything in your fridge and switch to 100% fruits, vegetables, and nuts, you’re probably going to freak out and quickly give up because you’re used to eating frozen pizzas, big macs, and cupcakes.  However, if you try every day to eat just a little better – drink one less soda than yesterday, make one less trip to the vending machine, bring in a healthy lunch once a week rather than going to Firehouse Subs – in a few months you’ll have a completely different diet and probably a different pant-size.  No more COSTCO sweatpants for you!

Picture 1If you’re a programmer and you come across bug-riddled software, you make a list of what needs to happen to fix the problems, and then you slowly move down the list and check things off.  Eventually, no matter how small the corrections are each day, you will have a solid, bug-free program.  What are the bugs in your life, and what are you doing to troubleshoot them?  Do you have a list?

I used to play Everquest 2 with my buddies; for those of you who don’t know, EQ2 is a massive multi-player online RPG (like World of Warcraft).  Between working a full time job and exercising regularly, I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to playing (which is probably a good thing).  Luckily the game is set up so that I could log on and play for 20-30 minutes, finish a few small quests or kill some mobs and after a few days level up my character.  Life is no different.

Just saying “I want to get in shape” is far too vague and won’t give you any direction.  You need to give yourself quests and goals to accomplish.  Decide at what point you get to declare yourself You 2.0.  What accomplishments and achievements do you need before that happens?  Maybe something like this:

  • I want to lose 50 lbs
  • I want to do 10 pull ups in a row
  • I want to run a mile without stopping
  • I want to look down and see my toes.

Make your goals as specific as possible so you can measure yourself to make sure you’re getting better.  If you want to do 10 pull ups in a row, you’re going to have to increase your back, bicep, and forearm strength.  If you can only do two now, that’s fine.  Next week, go for three.  After that? Go for four.  If you eat right and work on being just slightly stronger than yesterday, eventually you’ll be doing 10 pull ups with ease.  Baby steps, son!

The best way I’ve found to gauge your success is to keep track of EVERYTHING.  Take a picture of yourself every Monday morning; write down everything you eat, and keep track of every single set, rep, and amount of weight for each exercise.  How are you going to know if you’re better than the day before if you don’t remember what you did?  Day to day it’s tough to see small changes.  However, if you find a way to better yourself every single day, I guarantee you’ll see major changes over time, as long as you keep track of where you started.

Are you better than yesterday? Hang this phrase on the back of your bedroom door.  Set your Google calendar to ask you every morning at 8 AM.  Add it to your desktop background.  Do whatever you need to, but find a way to remind yourself to be better today than you were yesterday; then, find a way to be better tomorrow than you are today.  Level up your life, one day at a time.

What are you going to do today to become You 2.0?

-Steve

NF Mailbag 7/29: I want awesome abs, help!

Word Count: 504 NF Difficulty: Beginner

mirrorReader Homer asks:  I know you need to work on abs to get a nice 6 pack; can you give me an abs only workout plan that focus on upper abs, the middle section on the abs and finally lower abs (which are hard to work on) so I can get the nice 6 pack. Thanks again Steve!

Steve answers: Hey Homer.  As far as ab exercises go, I don’t do a lot of ab work.  Do you do deadlifts and squats?  Both of those exercises work your abs like crazy, and will really build your core.  A strong core (abs, obliques, and lower back) keeps you safe from injury and as a result you will certainly have a solid six pack.  My guess is that you already have abs, you just can’t see them because they’re hidden under body fat.  I realize that everybody wants a washboard stomach – it’s the reason there are hundreds of ab machines for sale, “as seen on tv!”, that are an absolute waste of time.  You could use every one of these machines for 10 hours a day, but if you’re stuffing your face with donuts while watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia reruns (which I highly recommend: it’s one of the funniest shows on TV), those abs will never see the light of day.

You can do 1000 situps a day, but unless you have a body fat percentage below 10%, you’ll never see them. If you REALLY want to get the fat out of there, you’re going to need to get down to like 5% body fat – which means cutting out all unnecessary calories from your diet, eating lots of vegetables and protein, staying away from added sugar and sodas, and exercising like crazy.  Going from 30% BF to 25% is much easier than going from 10% to 5%, so it will require your complete dedication.  Ryan Reynolds got down to like 4% for Blade Trinity, and then immediately added some pounds after filming because it’s close to impossible to maintain a body like that.  You need to find a happy medium.

Want a quick ab exercise that will help with those ‘lower abs’ you’re after? Stand straight up, contract your abs, and then jump and tuck your knees into your chest/stomach.  Try to keep as vertical as possible through this whole thing, and jump as high as you can.  For each set of 10, jump immediately for your next rep right after you land.  Do 3 sets of 10 at the end of your workouts, two or three times a week.

Want another? Do crunches on an exercise ball; this gives you an extra range of motion (beyond parallel like when you do crunches on the floor), give your abs extra work and giving you a more efficient workout in the same amount of time.  I guarantee crunches on a ball when you fully extend your back on the way down will have your stomach working much harder than just a normal crunch on the floor.

-Steve

Go Primal: So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on the Paleolithic diet, the Primal blueprint, and other sources that promote a more natural form of weight training, diet, and lifestyle.

Essentially, the plan is to follow what our 10,000 year old ancestors used to do, because it was that form of living in those terrible conditions that allowed them to thrive and make us who we are today.

If you’re interested in trying out this lifestyle, I would highly recommend reading this introductory article over at Mark’s Daily Apple.  I’m a big fan of the KISS principle (Keep it simple, stupid!), so this whole primal living thing is right up my alley.  Something about getting in touch with your primal side, and just lifting heavy stuff, running fast, and being awesome (without having to wear loin cloths and fight off saber-tooth tiger attacks) just gets me going.

Mark promotes a lifestyle that would make Bonk from Bonk’s Adventure very happy: simplify your lifestyle, your exercise, and your diet. Eat lots of healthy meat, vegetables, nuts, and berries, and stay away from over-processed foods, excess sugar, and bad trans fats.  Fresh produce is your friend.  Lift heavy weights (free weights, not machines), run sprints, get lots of sleep, exercise outside, and have fun.  By following this blueprint, you’ll end up being more “healthy, energetic, happy, lean, strong, bright, and productive,” because we’re genetically predisposed to being more efficient with this type of behavior.  It worked for Bonk – not only he he smiling and full of energy, but he’s got a huge brain in that big melon of his.  I’d guess he’s a big hit with the cave-ladies.

Although I’m not ready to give up grains and dairy quite yet, there are quite a few things I plan on taking from the Primal Blueprint and implementing into my lifestyle.  I know there are all kinds of body building supplements out there (some illegal, many legal) that will allow me to put on weight much faster and build muscle much quicker.

However, I’m not so sure how these supplements will affect my body in the long run, and I’d rather build a body now that is sustainable, healthy, and built for the future.  If it takes me six months longer to get to my goal body type, so be it.  When I get there, I know I did it right, without any help, in the healthiest way possible.

I challenge you to do the same. If you’re a big guy or girl, don’t resort to pills or supplements or weight loss tactics that aren’t safe.  Think about how long Hydroxycut was on the market before it was pulled off the shelves for being unsafe.  What about the ‘safe’ stuff you’re taking now?  What happens when you find out in 2020 that it’s been destroying your insides for years and they’re just discovering it now.  How about those crazy supplements you can buy to help you build muscle faster (one of which actually has a normal side effect of “tunnel vision.” holy ***)?  Is the reward really worth the risk?

I say better safe than sorry. Our primal ancestors have been eating animals, fruits, nuts, and vegetables for years and years and years and years.  They didn’t have blenders and pills and powders and injections to keep them healthy, fit, and strong, and they turned out okay.  They lived in caves, without modern medicine, without technology, without a supermarket, and managed to still become the most dominant species on the planet.  They’re okay in my book.  Here is how I plan on changing my diet:

  • More vegetables – I don’t really like vegetables, but there are a few that I really like (asparagus, for example).  I’m going to have to start buying these things in bulk and just eating like crazy.
  • More fruit – I like fruit, but I don’t eat nearly enough of it.  More apples, strawberries, blueberries, orange juice, and others.
  • More protein – chicken, meat, almonds, peanuts, etc.  I’ll still drink a protein shake or two a day to make sure I’m getting enough, but I’m just going to have to increase the rest of the good stuff I’m eating to get enough calories.
  • Less food from a box – I’m going to try and eat as much fresh food as possible and eliminate as much of the pre-packaged processed stuff as possible.

Anybody else trying to follow a similar style? Do we have any vegetarian or Vegan readers?  You’d be amazed what people are accomplishing these days eating only fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

Be more like Bonk.

-Steve

Do What You Love – There’s No Time For Anything Else

Word Count: 568 NF Difficulty: Beginner

what_puravidaLife is too damn short.

You want to get in shape, but you hate the gym.  You know running will help you lose weight, but you don’t even want to think about a 5k race.  Some sites might tell you that there’s a perfect blueprint to fitness; there really isn’t.  Sure there are certain essential characteristics of being ‘in shape’ (plenty of exercise and good diet) but life has so many variables that you can control just how and where you get that exercise.  Find something that works for you.

Nerd alert – here’s a video game analogy.  Some of you want to play FPS’s like Halo and Left 4 Dead.  Others love to play Starcraft.  You might be a World of Warcraft guy, or a Madden Football guy.  You play what you like.  Now, take a guy who loves Starcraft and force him to play Halo – not cool.  Take that same guy and tell him playing Starcraft every day will make him healthier (it absolutely won’t, this is just an example), and he’ll have no problem doing what he’s told.

Back to the real world – if you hate running and force yourself to run 10 miles every day, you’re going to dread every minute of it – you’ll probably give up at the first opportunity.  However, if you love running, it’s easy for you to get out there and do it every day because you actually enjoy it.  Hell, if you’re really crazy, you could be like this guy and compete in Ultraman competitions – 6.2 miles of swiming, 260 miles of biking, and a 52.4 double marathon run.  GOOD LORD.

Personally, I hate long-distance running. I hate it more than Eric Cartman hates Scott Tenerman.  The thought of going out and running 10 miles right now bores the hell out of me and I’d do anything to avoid it.   However, tell me we’re gonna go do an obstacle course, lift weights, or play some basketball and I’m all about it.  Eventually I can’t wait to start practicing Capoeria (when I can afford it) and some Parkour (when I find a place to practice).  Who knows, I might even make it onto Ninja Warrior some day.

There is no blueprint to fitness for everyone. The correct form of exercise is the one that gets you off your ass and moving.  Basketball, running, biking, swimming, hiking, ultimate frisbee, kayaking, Wii Tennis, weight lifting, karate, surfing, Jazzersize, Tae bo, who cares!  Whatever it is that makes you happy, as long as it gets you sweating and your heart pumping, do it.  Obviously some exercises do burn more calories than others, but I’d rather spend an hour doing something I absolutely love than 30 minutes doing something I hate.  It’s not worth it.  Of course, you’re not going to look like Ryan Reynolds or Daniel Craig by jogging for 20 minutes a day, but if you’re just looking to get in shape and have more energy, start with the basics and have some fun with it.

Life is way too short to be stuck in a job you hate, hanging out with people you don’t like, and exercising in a way that doesn’t excite you.  Try out everything, find what you love, find what makes you happy, and do as much of it as possible.  Not only will you be happier, but I guarantee it will bump up your life expectancy as well.

What makes you happy?

-Steve

Want to Get in Shape? Tell The World.

Word Count: 424 NF Difficulty: Beginner

the_world_belongs_to_youSo, you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness for five months now (you loyal reader you), and you finally decided to make the plunge; you’re going to get in shape!  You went out and bought some new sneakers, you stopped buying the industrial size bag of Twinkies from Costco, and your new DVD from Richard Simmons just showed up in the mail.

You’re ready to go, right?  WRONG. The next step is to tell every freaking person you know that you’re going to get in shape.  And I don’t mean “I’m gonna get healthy,” I want you telling them exactly what you expect to accomplish, and when you expect to accomplish that goal.  Hang it on your cubicle wall, make it your away message, add it to your Xbox Live gamertag profile.  I want you to have specific goals like:

  • I’m going to run a marathon in 6 months.
  • I’m going to lose 30 pounds by New Years.
  • I’m going to bench press my weight by November.

Real, tangible goals.  Personally, I don’t mind letting myself down sometimes (eating fast food, skipping a gym session), but when I know everybody else will be let down if I give up, I am that much more motivated to stay in shape.  Hell, part of the reason I started this blog was to keep myself accountable and motivated.  I can’t run a fitness blog and not be in great shape; I need to practice what I preach, because I have you guys looking to me for advice, motivation, and support.  I won’t let you down, because I hate being a disappointment to anybody.  Step up to the plate, and put your reputation on the line.  Do you want to be known as the quitter?  No, then stick with it!

If you post on a blog, write a post about your goals and what you hope to accomplish.  If your best friends, family, girlfriend, and co-workers all know that you’re getting in shape, they’ll be more likely to offer support and less likely to ask you to eat the last piece of cake or get mad at you when you skip on out another round of Left 4 Dead to go exercise.

Know what you want, and make sure everybody else knows it too. If you don’t want to let them down, then you better keep yourself in line and get the job done.  Are you making the decision to get in shape?  Email me and let me know at [email protected] , and I’ll gladly help keep you accountable.

Go get it.

Steve

Deadlift – The Ultimate Exercise. Not Just For Zombies

Word Count: 652 NF Difficulty: Advanced

heavy-deadliftI’ve been going to the gym here in Atlanta for about a year and a half now, and you know how many people (other than myself) I’ve ever seen do a deadlift?  ZERO.

Not a single person in the entire time I’ve been in there has done a deadlift. I’m sure there are some that I just haven’t seen yet, but it’s pretty crazy to think that I have yet to run into somebody doing one, considering how often I’m there.  After all, it is the most basic, primal, mass-building, testosterone pumping, results driven exercise out there.  It’s the exercise that separates the men from the boys, the heroes from the chumps.  You’re not a chump, are you?

Deadlifts work your legs, butt, back, arms, forearms, shoulders, traps, and abs. Not bad for one exercise!  Oh, and it also pumps up your whole body and can even release extra testosterone, which will help you in your muscle building.  If you’re a skinny guy looking to bulk up and you’re not doing deadlifts and squats (read my squats article here), you’re just wasting your time.

I think I have an idea why nobody else is doing deadlifts at my gym – because they’re scared of getting hurt. I was scared of deadlifts for a long time too; in fact, it probably took me a year of doing them (with light weights) before I realized that I was doing it wrong (using way too much of my back).  However, since I’ve studied the exercise and put in some time, I’ve seen massive gains in my deadlift maximum and it’s beyond exciting – I’ve added 50 lbs to my deadlifts in the past month and a half.

deadlift2Think about our ancestors: they didn’t have a weight rack to deal with, or a Smith machine to help them out – they had heavy rocks, logs, and carcasses they needed to move from one place to another.  Simple enough – you can either pick it up, or you’re too weak.  If you’re too weak, you might not have dinner for your family that night, or you might not have a place to sleep, so you found a way to GET strong enough.  Be more like the cavemen!

Deadlifts work your entire body. Forearm curls? Waste of time.  Shrugs with dumbbells? Useless.  500 sit ups? Why bother?  I guarantee you by the time you’re deadlifting big weight you’ll have massive arms and legs, forearms that you can hammer nails with, a crazy strong lower back, and abs that are beyond ridiculous.

Rather than explain it to you in 1000 words, I found a great video that shows great form and emphasizes proper technique.  After the video, I’ll describe the most important things to keep in mind:


Proper Deadlift Technique Video (1:30)

Things to keep in mind when doing deadlifts:

  • Don’t arch your back (or roll it in the other direction). Keep your abs tight the ENTIRE TIME, and keep your back straight (the guy in video does really good job with this).
  • Keep the bar as close to you as possible – almost roll it up your shins until you get to your knees, and then almost roll it up your thighs until you’re upright.
  • As you bring it past your knees, don’t think about pulling up with your back, thrust in with your hips (um, that’s what she said? COME ON)
  • Keep your head up and chest out as you lift - this will help you keep your back aligned properly.
  • As you bring the weight up, you want your legs to straighten out simultaneously as your hips come in completely - form a straight line at the same time with your hips, knees and feet.

Did this article help you? Was it enough of a motivator to get you to want to do deadlifts?  Let me know at [email protected] if it didn’t and let me know what I can explain better.

-Steve

Almonds – Make your Heart Happy and Lose Weight

Word Count: 574 NF Difficulty: Beginner

almondsLooking for a quick and easy snack that doesn’t require any preparation and is extremely good for you?  Almonds, my friend. Almonds!  Today’s post is short and sweet because I don’t think 1000 words on almonds would appeal to anybody….and I don’t really need 1000 words to explain them.

Let’s talk about why Almonds are so great for you:

  • High in Monounsaturated fats - Look at the nutrition label on a bag of almonds – high in fat, but extremely low in saturated fat (the bad kind).  What’s left?  Monounsaturated fat has been linked in multiple studies to a reduced risk of heart disease.  Heart disease is a real bummer, so any time you can eat something and reduce your risk of getting it, do it.
  • Lower cholesterol – When you substitute almonds in place of the bad fats (saturated and trans fat) in your diet, you can decrease your LDL-cholesterol (the BAD kind of cholesterol) as well.  Lower cholesterol and decreased risk of heart disease?  Flippin’ sweet.
  • High in Magnesium and Potassium - Magnesium is almost like Drain-o for your arteries and veins, keeping them clean so blood, oxygen, and nutrients can move throughout your body without a problem.  Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure.  Woot.
  • High in Protein, low in carbs - You know how important protein is to building muscle – 1/4th cup of Almonds has almost 8 grams of protein in it.  Not bad for something that’s ridiculously cheap at the moment and couldn’t be easier to prepare (step 1: open bag. step 2: eat)
  • Tasty – Seriously! Grab a handful and go to town.  Yum.
  • Curb your appetite – Studies have shown that people who eat almonds in moderation have experienced a decreased appetite, which is obviously great for losing weight.
  • Healthier Skin? Some say that almonds can also improve your skin quality!  I’m not sure on this one, but not a bad side effect to have if it’s true…better than “may cause your arms to fall off.”  That would suck.
  • Dozens of other health benefits – there are way more great thing about almonds that I won’t get into; if you haven’t realized they’re good for you by now, it’s a lost cause.

One thing to keep track of: almonds are high in calories, so if you’re on a low calorie diet, don’t start eating two full bags a day.  Instead, take a look at your diet and see if an extra 200 calories (1 serving) can be spread throughout your day.  Remember, if you are eating too little, your body goes into starvation mode and your diet can actually backfire (read why here).  One of my friends is losing weight at the moment and is struggling to eat enough healthy calories every day.  Because he doesn’t want his body to go into starvation mode, he’s added a serving of almonds to his diet.

If you have a Kroger or Ralph’s Supermarket in your area, big bags of almonds are on sale for like $3.99.  Just make sure you buy the natural ones without extra stuff added (like sugar).  Try Almond butter (instead of peanut butter) or almond milk if you’re looking to mix things up.  Raw almonds too boring?  Try the dry roasted, unsalted kind (this goes for peanuts too).  As long as they were roasted in oil and covered in unhealthy stuff, you’re good to go.

Take the bowl of Skittles off your desk and replace it with a bag of almonds. You can thank me later.

-Steve

Monday Motivation – Mario Kart and Weight Loss

Word Count: 685 NF Difficulty: Beginner

mario-kart-64Last week, I received an email from a few NF readers who are on the bigger side of average and struggling to find the motivation to get healthy.  To put it in nerd terms, it’s like playing Mario Kart as one of the bigger guys (Bowser, Donkey Kong, Wario).  When you first start out the race, your acceleration sucks  (unless you time it right, but that’s besides the point) – because you’re a big dude, it takes some extra effort to get you started.  However, once you get going and your momentum kicks in you have one hell of a top speed.

Fitness is no different. When you’re overweight and you’ve been eating poorly and not exercising for years, it probably feels like you’re stuck at the starting line of DK’s Jungle Parkway.  You don’t know the first thing to do; you want to make a change but you don’t know how, and this fitness thing seems like a lost cause by now.  You’re wrong, you just need to step on the gas, dude.

Here are a few ways you can get started:

mario-kart-ds-20050515002459596Pick one of these things and do it.  Obviously the more of these things you do simultaneously the faster you’re going to accelerate, but as long as you’re moving towards the finish line, no matter how slowly, you’re going in the right direction.  Think of each small thing, each victory every day, as a step towards success.  It might not seem like much, but it’s sure as sh** better than sitting on your ass eating Twinkies.

I could go on and on and on about WHY you need to step on that gas pedal, but I know you’ve heard it all before: you’ll live longer, you won’t have to deal with things like heart disease and shopping at the fat man store, you’ll look and feel better, etc.  If you’re not interested in getting in shape, then you’re reading the wrong blog.  I’m can’t really help you out until you’re willing to help yourself.

Now, the first few steps and your first few weeks might be tough; the pounds won’t come off as fast as you like, you’ll start to crave a Mountain Dew because you’re used to drinking a case a day, and maybe you’ll really want that microwave pizza at 2 in the morning while playing WoW.  Think about it, if it was EASY then everybody would look like King Leonidas and Jessica Alba.  It isn’t easy, and people don’t look like that, so you’re going to have to work for it.  As you starting to pick up speed, those choices you used to struggle with become easier and easier.  Get there.

blueshell-702258Banana peel.  Red shell. Stupid blue shell with wings (wtf?) – You stay out too late one night partying and eat an entire pizza.  You get sick and take a whole week off from exercising.  You drive cross-country and all you can find to eat is fast food.  These things happen to everybody.  You can complain about how Mario Kart (life) is unfair, how your green shell blocked the red shell, how the computer cheats, OR you can play the hand your dealt and step on that gas pedal!

Always move forward.  If you hit a speed bump, get back on the kart and keep going.

Here are some other posts that might help:

If you’re a bigger dude and looking for some help, hopefully this post gives you the motivation and the direction you need.  Not enough? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll gladly help.

-Steve

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