Open Your Hips Up With The Frog Stretch!

Do You Have Tight Hips?

Have you been working from home since the current pandemic put the world in a state of lockdown nearly a year ago? Do you often find yourself to be inactive during the day? If you squat, do you feel pain in your hip flexors? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions then you probably have tight hips.

Tight hips, as hinted at above, are caused by prolonged periods of inactivity. If not addressed, your major hip flexors, including your Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL, not a Starbucks drink) and your Psoas will will become weaker, leading to tightness and ultimately pain. And if you squat in the gym (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be!) then this will negatively impact your mobility and stability. The more you ignore this problem, the closer you are to getting hurt, especially as the load increases.

Enter The Frog Stretch

The Frog Stretch (or Mandukasana if you practice Yoga regularly) is a great hip opener I briefly alluded to in a recent article. The benefits and carryover of the Frog Stretch include:

  • Improved Hip Flexibility
  • Improved Squat Stability and Mobility
  • Decreased Pain In Key Areas Of The LHPC Including Hips and Lumbar Spine

How To Perform The Frog Stretch

Before you get started you might want to have with you a foam roller and especially a yoga mat, and make sure it’s long. You will want to warm up before performing the Frog Stretch because trust me when I tell you this will hurt like hell; therefore I prefer either taking a hot shower or placing a foam roller under your adductor muscles, rolling each side 10 – 15 times. Performing this stretch on a bare floor of any kind may put too much pressure on your knees, so placing a yoga mat underneath you will greatly reduce any shearing forces. If you’re in a gym and you happen to be wearing knee sleeves, those work fine as well. All of this is optional, but highly recommended.

  1. Get down to your hands and knees. If using a yoga mat, be sure to fold the ends up and place your knees on the folded sections. Be sure place your forearms parallel to the floor, inside your legs, your spine neutral, your head looking forward.
  2. Breathe in and out as you slowly move you legs more and more outward, leading with your knees. If you feel tightness, stop and hold where you are. This is where the move will become painful.
  3. Hold in areas of tightness for about fifteen seconds before trying to move further. If it’s too difficult to do so, you may stop, and take a thirty second rest before trying again. Repeat this for as many times as necessary. Do not forget to breathe.
  4. Once you get to a point where your body is as low as it possibly can go, at which point your stomach should be a few inches from touching the floor, you can either hold that position for as long as you like or you can slowly rock your hips back and forth. This clearly turns a static stretch into a more dynamic movement.

Never force your legs to go farther than they physically can, especially if you are new to this move. It will take a little bit of time to attain enough flexibility here. The first few times I tried the Frog Stretch were absolutely painful, as well as a wake up call in terms of just how tight I really was. You might not ever like to do the Frog Stretch (and I sure wouldn’t blame you!), but I find it to be absolutely necessary for anyone, especially any squatter, who’s lacking in hip mobility from sitting all day, also making this an excellent corrective exercise.

You can perform the Frog Stretch any time you wish. I personally prefer to do so after my initial warmup and directly before I perform any major compound movement, in-between squat sets, after I’m finished training and before I go to bed at night. Performing the Frog Stretch in-between sets is probably not that necessary for most of you, but I feel better knowing my hips are staying fully opened before the sets begin to get heavier.

Remember that when I do this I’m going by instinct; training should equally be as instinctive as it is organized. Try the Frog Stretch today and see where it fits best in your own routine. But I do promise you that you will thank me. Your hips might as well.

ZMA’s: Do They Work?

The following article is not a paid advertisement, nor am I sponsored by any supplement companies to promote their products.

ZMA’s have been a bit of a hot topic of discussion for a while now. Some kingpins in the fitness industry as well as lifters of all kinds swear by them. Others think ZMA’s are a joke, and are unnecessary so long as your diet is on point. So what the hell is this pill that’s all the hubbub?

ZMA is really just a combination of two minerals and one vitamin that, while crucial to your diet, can still be lacking: Zinc (Z), Magnesium Aspartate (MA) and Vitamin B6. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of each individual mineral as pertains to the purpose of this supplement:

  • Zinc – required for cellular growth, nervous system maintenance and a strong immune system. Since the body does not produce zinc on its own, we need to increase the zinc in our bodies with food. Main food sources include: red meat, poultry and seafood, in particular oysters.
  • Magnesium – required for bone strength, calms nerves and relaxes your muscles, which also proves beneficial for loosening your stools.
  • Vitamin B6 – may reduce depression symptoms and improve your mood. Food sources include: poultry, salmon, potatoes and bananas, making it pretty easy to obtain enough of this Vitamin throughout the day.
Oysters are considered to be a main source of Zinc. Too bad I won’t touch ’em!

There’s also a lot of talk regarding the potential benefits of inclidung ZMA’s in your own regimen. These include:

  • Improved Sleep (Magnesium)
  • Increased Testosterone Levels (Zinc)

The jury however, is still on the fence about ZMA’s, as mentioned at the beginning of this article. According to a randomized controlled trial, going all the way back to the tail end of 2004, forty one healthy, injury free males between the ages of 18 and 50 were split into two groups with each group being assigned to take either a dextrose placebo or a commercially available ZMA supplement 30 – 60 minutes before going to sleep for eight weeks. According to the results of that study “Results of the present study do not support contentions that ZMA supplementation increases zinc or magnesium status and/or affects training adaptations in experienced resistance trained males with normal zinc status. These findings are in contrast with the notion that ZMA supplementation can increase zinc and magnesium status, anabolic hormone status, and/or strength gains during training”.

According to another, more recent study using a similar RCT format, eighteen football players between the ages of 18 and 25 were also assigned to take either a ZMA or a placebo for eight weeks. It’s important to note that their diets were designed by a nutritionist. In the end, the testosterone levels in both groups saw a similar increase. This led to the conclusion that “extra doses of the micronutrients present in the ZMA do not bring any additional benefits, either in the body composition or in the hormonal levels in subjects under adequate diet”.

So what about this pill’s supposed ability to help you sleep? After all, for every person who claims to have wild dreams with spin off episodes, there are just as many that’ll tell you it’s all in your head. Just remember what I mentioned earlier about Magnesium acting as a muscle relaxer. Taking Magnesium before you sleep will help you fall asleep much faster.

The Verdict

In terms of whether or not a supplement as controversial as ZMA works, I can only speak from my own personal experience. I began using ZMA via the suggestion of a powerlifter once I realized that taking melatonin before bed post workout would no longer work (a story for another time). So I brought the True Athlete brand and, upon going to bed after my next day of training I proceeded to ingest three pills as instructed. It was one of the deepest sleeps I’d had in a long time.

Ok so it wasn’t this deep of a sleep. But I definitely can say I’m out or the count!

To address that claim of having wild dreams: it’s true as far as I’m concerned! My dreams have been a little too vivid at times. All too real. And sometimes that’s not a good thing, believe me.

What’s important to remember is that ZMA is a supplement. While most supplements are mere snake oil, I feel like it can be beneficial, especially for those who don’t or cannot get enough Magnesium or Zinc on their diets for any number of reason. Zinc and Magnesium are found in Oysters and Salmon, respectively, and I for one do not eat seafood. Also, for some who might be reading this, certain foods, such as red meat can be a a little expensive.

In regards to increases in my testosterone; I don’t know that taking these increased my strength levels. Any alleged testosterone booster won’t do that anyway. But I might’ve noticed changes elsewhere upon waking up. I’ll just leave it at that.

As for it’s ability to help you sleep. Let’s get this clear now: ZMA is not a sleep aid. However, with a dosage of 450mg for men and 300mg for women (if you take the True Athlete brand), you’re taking in just over the Recommended Daily Amounts (RDA) per gender. That’s more than enough to relax you just before bed.

To finish this off, while I don’t believe that ZMA is ideal as an strength booster, I do believe it helps me relax after I’m finished with my training sessions. However, at the end of the day, you should be your own judge and see for yourself if you wish. I speak as someone who really doesn’t rely on supplements the way I did when I was younger. But if you’re lucky, you might have a good night’s sleep.

Long Live The Blade

I’d like to use this space to congratulate Dexter Jackson on his recent retirement following last month’s 2020 Mr. Olympia contest, which saw the coronation of Big Ramy as the new Mr. Olympia. After 21 years, multiple Arnold Classic championships, multiple top placings in several Mr. Olympias over the years and, of course, his long deserved 2008 Mr. O win, it was time for the Blade to call it a day. But why am I using this space to discuss a competitor in a category I don’t usually discuss? Because his physique offered the one component that his biggest rivals didn’t bring: consistency.

Official Muscular Development Magazine - Massive Biceps & Triceps - Dexter  Jackson's 8 Great Exercises---> http://musculardevelopment.com/training /15376-massive-biceps-triceps-dexter-jackson-s-8-great-exercises.html#.WusdXJch3QU  | Facebook

It was the fall of 2008. The Mass Monsters were the most popular of bodybuilders going back to the early 90’s. You know who I’m talking about. These guys set the bar pretty high in terms of size and conditioning. But they also set the bar low, in my opinion, in symmetry, taking away any kind of balance.

Balance. While I’ve never tried my hand at a bodybuilding competition, I’ve always viewed Bodybuilding competitions as more of a living art display than a sport. And if you’re going up there to be judged on your physique, that physique ought to be well proportioned. It should be as lean as it is muscular. And the bubble gut? It boggles my mind that some bodybuilders won the Olympia with that crap! But that’s a story for a another time.

Battle of the Bubble (gut) who wins it?? : bodybuilding
This is gross. Change my mind.

So I was surprised when I read the Mr. Olympia Report in Flex Magazine, where I learned that after years of consistently placing in the Top 5, Dexter Jackson beat defending Mr. O Jay Cutler to win what would be his sole Sandow trophy. This win was automatically different than other Mr. O wins of the better part of the last two decades. At just 5″ 6′ and a contest weight of 215lbs, this was the man to beat a much larger behemoth in Jay? It was surreal.

In an age where size was everything, Dexter brought back the total package of size, conditioning, and symmetry.

But more than that, it was a breath of fresh air for once.

The moment Dexter Jackson broke the glass ceiling placed atop the Bodybuilding world nearly two decades earlier.

Dexter’s win over the much larger Jay Cutler, someone who aside from his size had those stereotypical American looks, gave me hope that just maybe the focus in Bodybuilding as a whole would revert back to the aesthetics and symmetry reminiscent of an era gone by. In the same way the a wrestler like Bret Hart made wrestling the main focus in the WWF following the Hogan/Steroid Scandal, just maybe Dexter Jackson could usher in a new era on substance over flash in Bodybuilding. Dexter had broken the proverbial glass ceiling after all.

Of course, that wasn’t to last. Jay Cutler came back with a vengeance the next year to reclaim his Mr. Olympia title. But I still didn’t like it, I didn’t care how much leaner he was this time around. But there were two things that neither Jay Cutler or most bodybuilders had during this time. Balance.

Balance is why Dex was able to compete at a high level for years, always placing in the top 5 in high profile events all the way up to the age of 51. Dexter could’ve easily settled for the Men’s Physique Division, where symmetry and balance are king over all else. He’d probably win 1st Place every year. But Dexter was about defying the odds. Dex, to me, is comparable to Rich Gaspari in the 80’s. He wasn’t nicknamed the Dragon Slayer just for fun. At just 5″ 9′ he not only beat out much larger competitors, he also placed 2nd behind Lee Haney in three consecutive Mr. Olympias.

Lee Haney vs. Rich Gaspari - 1987 Epic Olympia Showdown - YouTube
At one point during Lee Haney’s record breaking eight title reign, his biggest threat was the smaller Rich Gaspari.

Dexter Jackson was a legitimate throwback to the previous era because, much like those bodybuilders, he returned to the stage at every competition with the same delivery. Every time. His proportions, his low bodyfat (no bubble guts here!), his penchant for perfection. I like to think that there’d be no Phil Heath without Dexter Jackson.

Arnold Classic 2015!!!

So, what can we learn from the illustrious career of The Blade? That the best path to success sometimes is the road less travelled, to kind of quote Robert Frost for a second. That all it takes sometimes is your own individuality to break the glass ceiling, thus giving others like you a chance. Dexter Jackson’s legacy will be that, in a world filled with Mass Monsters, a true total package broke the mold and reminded everybody about all of what’s supposed to be good about Bodybuilding as not just a sport, but as a spectacle. And for that Dexter, I thank you.

Can Hardgainers Squat Successfully?

Here’s an argument I’ve seen and heard for a while regarding tall or lanky lifters and their ability to squat:

Can they do it??

And depending on who you talk to or which article you read the answers will vary. Some will suggest that it can be done. On the flipside, of course, there are some popular trainers saying that it can’t or at least shouldn’t be prescribed to clients at all unless they’re aiming to be a powerlifter. Some will argue that, unless the lift in question is the Deadlift, multijoint, barbell exercises probably shouldn’t be performed at all. I say that unless these people are trainers experienced with lifters of all builds, or are lanky or tall themselves, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Read that last line again so it sinks in.

Yes, we tall and lanky lifters have the odds stacked against us. Our longer arms and legs increase our range of motion, forcing our bodies to work harder as we try to push ourselves out of the hole in the Squat, as we try to push the bar away from us in the Bench Press. This in term makes it harder for us to put on any kind of size. This is what makes us “Hardgainers”.

So does this mean that squatting is impossible for guys like us. Unless you’re suffering an ankle or knee injury, the short answer is: Hell no! As Rocco Lampone told Michael Corleone in the Godfather: Part 2 when asked to try and kill Hyman Roth, knowing deep down he’d never make it out alive, it’s “difficult, not impossible”. All we need to do is make a few modifications to make squatting easier on us, and here are a few suggestions on how to accomplish this:

Use A Wider Stance

I want to make this clear before I go any further: this article as whole doesn’t just pertain to powerlifters. Regardless of your own goals, you should always perform any exercise in a manner that’s practical and safe for you. Also, when I say you should try squatting in a wider stance don’t just assume you’re being expected to squat like a geared lifter straight out of Westside Barbell. In fact, there’s a simple way to determine your individual squat stance.

While standing with your feet shoulder width, your toes out about 30 degrees and your palms together with your elbows out, squat down. Once you’ve squatted as far down as you can go, use your elbows to shove your knees out as much as possible without tearing your hip flexors. Once your shins have reached a vertical position and aren’t bowing, you’ve found your proper stance. I’d recommend practicing it a few times before your squat sessions for mental reinforcement.

If you’ve done this and determined that a wider stance is best suited for your build, here are a few things to remember:

  • A wider stance will help prevent you from squatting too low. You can hit parallel or even slightly below, but you’ll feel more of a stretch at that point. With the reduction in range of motion, you not only will reduce the chances of having butt wink, which would only stress your lower back, it will also assist you with a proper ascension with using relatively heavy weights.
  • Your posterior chain will do most of the work. As I’ve said in the past, most “hardgainers” will rely on their hamstrings and glutes naturally, and thanks to their longer femurs. This is not a bad thing. Yes, your quads will get work when you squat with a wider stance, of course. You will grow muscle there. But in our case, the stronger our posterior chains are, the more that carries over into other lifts.

Squat In The Low Bar Position

Being that I’ve squatted exclusively in this position for more than five years, I’m just a little biased towards this style. Their are a few reasons why I essentially have a man crush on the Low Bar Squat, all of which I’ll explain in a future article. What’s important here is what it will do for you as a long legged lifter. The downside to squatting in a Low Bar positioning for those of you that are new to this is that, thanks to the bars placement on your scapula instead of your trapezius, you will find yourself leaning more than you’re accustomed to with a traditional High Bar Squat. The upside is that the change in bar positioning will allow your hips a wider range of motion (the one time range of motion is advantageous) to help you sit back in the bottom portion of the move. This alone will, much like with using a wider stance to squat, activate your posterior chain.

Improve Your Mobility

Are you leaning over when you squat, even after you adjust your positioning? Are you feeling tightness or even pain in your Psoas Major (Hip Flexors)? Is that tightness hindering your ability to squat to at least parallel? To bring your legs to an appropriate stance relatively pain free?

Your mobility is probably lacking. Not to worry, it’s pretty common, especially if you’ve been working from home since March. All you need to do is work on your ankle mobility and especially your hip mobility. There are many ways to do this and the equipment requirement would be absolutely minimal.

If the problem is with your ankles there are many explosive movements your can do to strengthen your ankles including even calf exercises. For hip mobility, one of my favorite drills is the Defranco Agile 8, an eight exercise drill generally used as a dynamic, pre-exercise warmup to loosen up your entire Lumbo Pelvic Hip Complex. It includes a lacrosse ball exercise, two foam roll exercises for the IT Bands and the Adductor muscles, several dynamic stretches and one static stretch. One stretch I’ve begun to use nearly every day is the Frog Stretch, a yoga stretch I’ll write about more in a future article. But what I will say is that, since I’ve incorporated it into my routine, my hips are largely pain free, which of course carries over into a pain free wide stance squat.

Conclusion

Biomechanics. They’ll never be on our side as “hardgainers”. But with a few modifications and some adjustments to our flexibility, there’s no valid reason to just skip out on the strength building, muscle building, calorie burning King of all exercises. So can you as a “hardgainer” Squat and do so successfully? Absolutely, so long as you learn how to work around your frame. Should you Squat as a “hardgainer”? Hell yeah!

Use This Simple Hack To Relieve Shoulder Pain!

The Resistance Band Pull Apart is a fantastic exercise I love to use frequently. It’s proven very useful to me as a prehab exercise to warm up my upper back and Posterior Deltoids before performing Squats or Bench Presses as well as reinforce neuromuscular efficiency in those areas. I also rely on pull aparts to reinforce proper posture both in myself and in my clients. They’ve very much come a long way since the Westside Barbell crew introduced them to the states decades ago!

But as always, too much of one thing is never good. While traditional pull aparts primarily target your Posterior Deltoids, they do indirectly hit your Anterior Deltoids, thanks to your hands being in a pronated (hands down) position. If you’re like me and many other lifters, you’re probably either using pull aparts to warm up with set sets or your supersetting pull aparts with your bench and squat sets. Benching indirectly hits your anterior delts and, if you squat in the low bar position as I do, those anterior delts are most certainly being stretched out. Needless to say, your anteriors are taking quite the beating when being worked through three exercises!

The Supinated Band Pull Apart

There is, however a way to reduce the stress and pain your anterior delts are receiving, and all it takes is one small adjustment with your pull aparts. There’s a reason why powerlifters tend to bench with their arms in a 75 degree angle: the angle takes the stimulus placed on the anterior deltoid and transfers it to their triceps. In that same manner, you can simply change your hand positioning as follows:

  • Brings your arms out in front you and shoulder width
  • Make sure your palms are facing up, your thumbs pointing outward
  • Without moving your arms, retract your scapula until the band touches your chest

With your palms now in the supinated position (palms up), the stimulus is removed from the anterior delts and, in turn, the posterior delts are activated more. And if you’d like to increase your scapular mobility, you can using one more simple hack.

  • With your palms still in a supinated position, bring your resistance band a few inches above eye level.
  • From here, begin to retract your scapula, while pulling down toward your bottom chest.

Tips

My biggest recommendation is that, if you’re new to this, go ahead and start of with just a single layer of a mini resistance band. Make sure you can consistently hit 15 reps before using both layers of the band. After you’ve consistently hit fifteen reps using both layers you may then use a light band and aim for up to ten reps consistently. After you can do so you can then try using a heavier band for an even lower rep range if you wish. I increase the band sizes and decreases the rep ranges when I superset Supinated Band Pull Aparts with either Bench Press or Squats.

This will not only help you to save your shoulders, but it will also increases your scapular mobility, which is so crucial, especially when you have a heavy bar on your back!

Why Tall Lifters Should Worship The Deadlift

So let’s discuss anthropometric measurements! It was 2010 when I read an Iron Man Magazine article written (I think) by Ron Harris, in which he breaks down which compound movements were ideal for long limbed lifters in terms of specialization. He’d said that the Deadlift was ideal for that group, and, as someone with long arms and femurs, I understand why. I’ve spoken in the past about range of motion in regards to these lifts. Work=force X distance.

The longer your arms, the bigger a pain in the ass it is to Bench Press. The longer the legs, the bigger a pain in the ass it is to Squat. It’s not impossible, just harder. But with the deadlift, those long arms are actually your savior! Watch any short armed lifter pull in the conventional Deadlift style and the distance between the floor and the point where the bar stops traveling is longer, hence why guys like Dan Green have relied on the Sumo Deadlift to break several records including a few of his own. As a long armed lifter, that distance the bar travels will be significantly shorter. Look at Powerlifting legends like Lamar Gant, whose arms were longer than his 5’2″ frame yet he still pulled five times his own bodyweight. Or even a strongman competitor like Thor Bjornsson, who’s pulled 1,104lbs with long limbs and being 6″9′.

In fact, I imagine that the reason a lot of strongman competitors are so tall or lanky is because a lot of what they do requires them to pull or at least lift of the ground. Think the farmer’s carry or even lifting atlas stones. So if you’re a lanky lifter and you feel like there’s no hope for you, think again. I’d know, as I’m lanky and my best numbers come not from benching or squatting, but from pulling. It’s also those primitive lift anyone can do in the gym! And if you’re looking to learn this amazing feat of pure, raw strength, DM now or come see me at Strong And Shapely Gym in East Rutherford, NJ on Saturday, November 21st, where we can meet in person and discuss your strength and nutrition goals!

The Lying Banded Dislocation

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while (and thank you if you have been!) then you already know that I’m a big proponent of using resistance band exercises such as Pull Aparts and Dislocations not “just” because using bands is a convenient way to keep the shoulders loose during your training days, but it’s also a great way to help you develop better posture. That’s especially crucial if you sit at a desk all day, the worse thing you can do to your body.

However, once I started to train clients over a year ago I began to notice something happening with them that I didn’t notice when performing Banded Dislocations on myself. When their arms reached the halfway point, which would be up in the air, their lower backs would arch. The arch itself was not that extreme, but it did raise a red flag for me, as the spine should always be in a neutral position as much as possible.

The Lying Banded Dislocation

In order to still be able to use this exercise effectively, without causing any unneeded spinal problems, the following variation will help you to prevent a unnecessary back pain as well as still loosen up your shoulders. All you’ll need is a mini resistance band, and either a towel or a pillow.

  1. Take your mini resistance band (you can also use a dowel rod or broom stick if you wish) and make sure to hold it at shoulder width or even slightly over shoulder width.
  2. Lie prone on the floor, your arms out in front of you and elbows locked, your face down on your pillow or towel.
  3. Using either a slow or moderate pace, begin to raise your arms up and over your head until the band or rod touches your lower back, just like a standard shoulder location. Then bring your arms back in front of you. This is one rep.
  • Always make sure to retract your scapula when performing this variation.
  • You notice that the range of motion is clearly limited. Don’t let that deter you; even with your arms starting out in front of you this is equally as effective. The difference is that since you’re now lying on the floor, your stomach now has something to press against, preventing that unwanted lower back arch.

Hardgainer: A Death Sentence?

I think I know you. You were that skinny kid who couldn’t fill out like the other kids around you. Your siblings, while having not even the slightest clue about how the body works, shame you for not looking like everyone else. Your arms are long, you’re pencil necked, you’re chest is nothing more than a shell caging an anxious heart. But worst of all? You’re weak.

So you hit the gym for no other reason except you no longer are willing to be a pushover. But it isn’t as easy as it looks, is it? Everyone around you is making progress, while you’re toiling away on every machine, every station, relying on every 8 to 12 week cookie cutter program you can find and even wasting your money of supplements that do nothing for you. At some point, you’ve probably heard the term Hardgainer and wondered if that’s what you are, and perhaps what you’re destined to always be. There have been articles written on the topic; and with the release of one book, one man even made a career based on helping hardgainers.

By definition, a Hardgainer is someone who simply finds it hard to put on any kind of muscle. But is that all there is to it? What really determines whether or not a person is a Hardgainer? And can this be worked around? The short answer is: of course it can be worked around! First off let’s tackle the decades old, somatotype that’s oft used to characterize the hardgainer, the Ectomorph.

The Ectomorph

Here are a few physcial traits of an ectomorph

  • Thin frame
  • Narrow hips, face, shoulders and shallow chest
  • Long arms and legs
  • Long muscle bellies

And that alone, thanks to stereotyping, goes hand in hand with the alleged emotional aspects of an Ectomorph:

  • Social awkwardness
  • Self-consciousness
  • Artistic tendencies
William Herbert Sheldon - Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia
William Sheldon PhD. I wouldn’t trust him to determine my physical potential. Neither should you!

All of these seem to make sense, even as I look at myself and my own personality. But therein lies one major red flag. The creator of somatotypes, William Sheldon, PhD, wasn’t a doctor who specialized in orthopedics, as most doctors who work with athletes are. He was a psychologist and you better believe that’s a problem. Psychologists of Sheldon’s era were the same people who used propaganda under the guise of Public Relations to feed us the belief that smoking cigarettes would make women thin, and that our wardrobe choices are what define our outer most personalities (ex: the music we listen to). Feel like a sheep yet?

All of this is just a psychological ploy. The skinny kid walks the halls in his school, gets laughed at and shamed by the other, far more developed looking kids, and becomes self conscious. See the pattern yet? And how do I know this? Because I, too, fell for this. And to think, all it took for me was to learn how to work around my not so great genetics, and to realize I had asthma; and before I knew it I was pulling off physical feats I once thought to be impossible thanks to a lifetime of psychological and emotional conditioning! So there are without question two components of utmost importance that must be understood in order for you to not just defy genetics, but meaningless, yet potentially harmful, psychological stereotypes:

Training

Maybe you’ve heard this before, I know I stress this point alot; but here are a few pointers that’ll help you realize your own physcial potential:

  • You must utilize full body workouts two to three days a week (less if your schedule doesn’t allow for optimal recovery time).
  • Each training day must include the basic compound movements and/or their variations.
  • Understand that Range Of Motion will not always be your friend depending on your goals and you will possibly have to make tweaks in your own training.

Nutrition

  • You should be in a caloric surplus while sticking to healthy options as much as possible. All. The. Time.
  • Increased macronutrient intake. The daily recommended protein intake for a sedentary person, for example, is 0.8g per kilogram (2.2lbs) of bodyweight. Yours should be anywhere from a gram to 1.5g per pound of bodyweight. Likewise, your carbohydrate intake should be anywhere between 2 to 4g per pound of bodyweight, which is crucial for glycogen storage both before and especially after your training is complete.
  • Sodium. Of its many benefits for training, the most important, as it relates to this article, is that it boosts intracellular water retention, just like Creatine, but minus the extra benefits I don’t have the time mention here.

I myself have stuck with these over the years, going from being told before a show I played with my band that my drumsticks where essentially an extension of my arms, to using those arms to deadlift more than double my bodyweight as well as pack on size like I only imagined in my wildest dreams!

August 2002, age 18, just before I started college. I was at most probably 140lbs if I was lucky, no meat on me. Hell, I was gross! Outside the venue before this gig my friend told me my drumsticks were basically an extention of my arms.
March 2020, age 35, just days before gyms were to shut down thanks to the current pandemic, and also with a 45lb increase in muscle mass.

There’s a 45lb weight difference between the two pictures presented here. All I did was pay close attention to how and how often I ate, as well as training consistency and intelligence. If I can add muscle to my thin frame and offer a handshake that makes most people weary of ever extending their hands to me ever again, you can as well. So is being a Hardgainer a death sentence? I’d call it a societal state of mind, and one that can be and must be reversed.

Pulse By Legion Athletics

Disclaimer: The following are my views alone. I am not sponsored by Legion Athletics, nor am I being paid by Legion Athletics for this review.

To say that Mike Matthews has come a long way in the Health And Fitness industry would be a gross understatement. In the eight years since the release of his best selling men’s fitness book, Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, he’s parlayed it’s success into his own Fitness empire including his inaugural book’s women’s spinoff, Thinner, Leaner, Stronger, a blog featuring informative, science based articles, an online coaching service utilizing personal trainers hand picked by Mike Matthews himself, and of course his quality supplement line, all under the umbrella of Legion Athletics.

Pulse

Much like Mike Matthews himself, his products are the real deal. Each product’s ingredients and dosages are determined based on scientific, peer written reviews and journals. You will never find a Legion Athletics supplement containing any filler, artificial sweeteners or secondary bi products to help drive down costs. So don’t be too surprised if Pulse alone might be a tad pricey, but it’s worth it.

Here’s Pulse’s bare bones nutritional profile based on their recently revised formula:

  1. L-Citrulline Malate 2:1 (8g)
  2. CarnoSyn Beta Alanine (3.6g)
  3. Betaine Anhydrous (2.5g)
  4. Caffeine Anhydrous (350mg)
  5. L-Theanine (350mg)
  6. AlphaSize Alpha Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline(Alpha GPC for short) (300mg)

Just six ingridients make up this profile. But I’d like to turn my attention to Alpha GPC, the latest addition to Pulse’s profile. Replacing L-Ornothine completely and even reducing the amount of Beta-Alanine in Pulse in order to provide balance to this new formula, Alpha GPC, as explained even on Legion’s own website, increases the activity of a chemical in the brain known as acetylcholine, which is used by nerves to communicate with each other, and provides the brain with glycerophosphate, which can improve its health and function. This therefore carries over into:

  • Increase in Growth Hormone Levels
  • Increased Power Output
  • Decrease in age related cognitive decline

Caffeine Dosage

If you’re reading this then you certainly don’t need me or even Mike Matthews to inform you that Caffeine can increase alertness as well as increase the amount of energy your body burns throughout the day. But did you know that the 350mgs found in one scoop of Pulse is actually 20mgs over what’s found in a Starbucks grande? That part I learned from Legion’s website!

That’s personally the most caffeine I’ve ever ingested in any preworkout I’ve ever tried. So is it really necessary? I’d personally say it depends on individual preferences and needs such as your performance goals, the time of day you’re training and whether or not you suffer from anxiety. While some preworkout labels recommend you don’t take anything past a scoop, Pulse recommends that you take two scoops if you know your training is to last more than an hour. That’s 700mgs of Caffeine.

However, the generous dosage of L-Theanine evens out the playing field smoothly, reducing the mental stress that would result from the fight or flight response caffeine usually agitates. Having said that here are a few of the noticeable aspects of Pulse I’ve personally experienced since I began using it in the fall of 2018:

  • Increased Mood – after a long, stressful day of working with kids, followed by a long commute home, avoiding people and hitting the bed are all that matter. But within minutes of taking Pulse, and especially thanks to the 350mg of L-Theanine, I’ve felt nothing short of ready to do just about anything anywhere. I might or might not have become quite the chatterbox.
  • Increased Strength and Endurance – With feeling tired comes that feeling of weakness. It’s hard to progress in the weight room if you’re not feeling strong, or awake for that matter, especially if you train at night as I’d normally do. In fact I dare say I’d never be able to hit my first 400lb deadlift in spite of snowy weather last year without Pulse!
  • No Crash – In fact, I still feel nothing short of energetic even hours after I leave the gym. Although this could be a problem if you take more than a scoop and are training at least four hours before your bedtime.

Final Thoughts

Pulse is without question a preworkout I’d recommend to anyone. It’s the real deal, as I mentioned earlier. Its bare bones profile is the very thing that makes it so effective. It’s equal parts energy without the jitters and focus without the stress. If I had to make a recommendation or two, however, I’d suggest trying their stimulant free alternative if you happen to suffer from anxiety or if you cannot avoid training at night and struggle to sleep afterwards.