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Author: admin 25.02.11

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Supplementation for Maximum Growth!

Author: admin 20.02.11

By: Hugo Rivera

When it comes to gaining muscle, most people think that supplements are

the most important part of the equation.

However, this could not be any further from the truth.

Supplements are just additions to an already good nutrition and training program. Nutrition and training are the most important components of a bodybuilding program, with rest and recovery next to them. Once all of those aspects of your program are maximized, then you can start thinking of adding supplements to your program.

Please understand that supplements do not make up for improper training, or lack thereof, or a low quality diet. Supplements only work when your diet and your training program are optimal.

Why Use Supplements?

Nutritional supplements are good because they prevent us from getting any nutritional deficiencies. The increased activity levels from your new exercise program will make your body have greater demands for vitamins and minerals, which will increase the probability of you suffering a deficiency without supplementation. Even a slight nutrient deficiency can sabotage muscle growth.

Can’t we get all the nutrients we need from food alone? We cannot rely solely on food nowadays to provide us with all the vitamins and minerals that our body needs because the processing of foods before they get to the supermarket, cooking, air, and even light have already robbed your foods of most of the vitamins that they have to offer. If you are deficient in one or more nutrients your body may not be able to build muscle and burn fat properly.

Not all supplements are created equal though. Some your body always needs, others are more dependent upon what your goals are and what your budget looks like. Below you will learn what the different categories of supplements are and which ones you need to use at all times:

Basic Supplements

These are the supplements that you always need year round in order to gain muscle. If you have a limited budget, these are the only ones that you need to concern yourself with.

1 – Multiple Vitamin And Mineral Formula

Essential to insure that your body will operate at maximum efficiency. Why? Because on a very simplistic level, without vitamins and minerals it is impossible to covert the food that we eat into hormones, tissues and energy.


Vitamins are organic compounds (produced by both animals and vegetables) whose function is to enhance the actions of proteins that cause chemical reactions such as muscle building, fat burning and energy production. There are two types of vitamins:

      1. Fat soluble vitamins – they get stored in fat and therefore if taken in excessive amounts will become toxic such as A, D, E, and K.

      2. Water soluble vitamins – they are not stored in the body such as the B-Complex and Vitamin C.


Minerals are inorganic compounds (not produced by either animals or vegetables). Their main function is to assure that your brain receives the correct signals from the body, balance of fluids, muscular contractions and energy production as well as for the building of muscle and bones. There are two types of minerals:

      1. Bulk minerals – Which are called this way as the body needs them in great quantities in the order of grams such as Calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and phosphorus.

      2. Trace minerals – Which are needed by the body in minute amounts, usually in the order of micrograms such as chromium, copper, cobalt, silicon, selenium, iron and zinc.

Where Can You Get Vitamins and Minerals From?

I like simplicity and because of that I tend to get most of my vitamins and minerals from multiple vitamin/mineral packs.

The ones I personally use are the Prolab’s Training Paks, which are loaded with potent levels of essential nutrients and bioactive compounds.

You have to be very careful with what type of vitamin and mineral formulas you choose as some don’t always contain what the labels claim (thanks to unscrupulous manufacturers) and some come from such poor sources that they are not absorbed very well by the body.

Other Reputable Companies On The Market That I Have Used Include:

2 – Protein Supplements

Because of hectic schedules it is impossible to eat the six perfectly balanced meals that are required to get in shape a day. Therefore, these supplements can be used as “fast food”. They are easy to prepare (if it is a protein bar then no preparation is required) and most of the formulas that are available on the market today pay close attention to taste.

Having said that, there are many categories of protein supplements, so we will cover each category and discuss the correct way to use them. However, before we cover the different categories of protein supplements, let’s talk about the different sources of protein found in these supplements.

Protein Sources

There are many sources of protein from which protein powders or bars are made of. Protein quality is measured by Biological Value (BV). BV is a value that measures how well the body can absorb and utilize a protein. The higher the Biological Value of the protein you use, the more nitrogen your body can absorb, use, and retain.

As a result, proteins with the highest BV promote the most lean muscle gains. Whey protein has the highest BV value, rating at 104. Egg protein is only second to whey rating as a 100 with milk proteins being a close third rating as 91. Beef rates as an 80 with soy proteins a distant 74. Bean proteins, due to the fact that are plant-based proteins, only rate a 49.

Now that we have discussed BV values, let’s discuss each protein source in more detail.

Whey Proteins (Whey Concentrate/Whey Isolate)

I feel that whey protein is a great protein source for the following reasons shown in a growing number of studies:

        • It improves sports performance because it reduces stress and lowers cortisol levels (hormone that destroys muscle).

        • Improved immunity by increasing glutathione (GSH), which is a water soluble antioxidant found in the body.

        • Improved liver function in some forms of hepatitis.

        • Reduces blood pressure.

        • Can help fight HIV.

        • Helps reduce overtraining (which is linked also to low levels of GSH).

In addition to the above, we need to mention that whey proteins are highly digestible and have a better amino acid profile even than egg whites. So in other words, whey protein has the highest biological value (value that measures how well the body can absorb and utilize a protein) of any protein.

Having said this, whey is not the steroid-like substance that many advertisers would like you to believe, but based on the research I’ve looked at and on my own use of the product; I feel it is a valuable addition to one’s diet for the reasons outlined above.

Also, you need to understand that all whey is not created equal. The whey that will give you the benefits described above has to be micro-filtered. Otherwise, it is just the garbage left after pasteurizing milk. Micro-filtration than has to be done at very low temperatures in order to allow for the production of high protein contents with no undenatured protein, minimum fat, minimum cholesterol and minimum lactose.

Isolates & Concentrates

In addition, there are whey isolates and whey concentrates. Whey isolates are sub-fractions of whey that are absorbed much more rapidly into the system. This is a good thing for post workout nutrition as at this time the body is in dire need of amino acids.

However, whey isolate makes a poor choice for during the day supplementation as if the body does not have a need for all of the amino acids that are released into the bloodstream, then it will use them for energy production as opposed to muscle building.

Also, it is important to mention that whey isolate does not have many of the health enhancing properties that are described above, as the expensive process required to produce whey isolate destroys many of the health/immune system enhancing sub-fractions such as the lactoferrins, beta-lactoglobulins, and immuno-globulins.

Therefore, for during the day use, a product consisting mainly of whey concentrate is your best bet while for after the workout, a whey isolate product would be a better choice.

Egg Protein

Egg protein is a super bio-available protein second only to whey, as previously discussed. It is a slower released protein than whey, which makes it perfect for throughout the day use.

One thing that I like to do is mix some egg and whey protein for the most bio-available protein shake in the planet!

Milk Proteins (Calcium Casseinate/Miscellar Casein)

Milk proteins, just like egg proteins, are a highly bio-available protein source (slightly less BV than egg) that is slowly released into the blood stream.

Calcium Casseinate & Miscellar Casein

Calcium Casseinate is the regular protein that is found in regular milk and other dairy products.

Miscellar casein is the natural, undenatured form of casein found in milk. It is separated from milk by means of ultrafiltration, without the use of chemicals, which increases the amount of bioactive milk peptides that support immune function as well as enhance muscle growth.

A property of micellar casein is that it may have the ability to provide a steady release of amino acids into the blood stream, which makes it an excellent choice for a long lasting anti-catabolic (muscle protecting) protein.

Beef Proteins

Beef proteins are slow released proteins that rate an 80 on the BV scale. While I don’t know of any protein supplement in powder on the market that is made from beef proteins, there are beef liver tablets out there that do provide the benefits from beef proteins.

Beef proteins are abundant in blood building iron and also on B-vitamins, all factors that contribute to better nutrient utilization and energy production.

Soy Proteins

Soy has been shown to exhibit positive health benefits for both men and women. Studies have shown they may reduce the risk of hormone-dependent cancers (breast, prostate, etc), and other cancers as well. Soy’s primary health benefits include reducing high cholesterol and easing the symptoms of menopause (due to the fact that it contains estrogen like substances called phyto-estrogens).

Soy has also been shown to help with osteoporosis by building up bone mass. Because of this, I like to recommend 1 serving of soy protein per day for women but only for its health benefits.

However, in the muscle building department, I don’t feel that soy is very useful, especially for men. First of all, its BV value is a distant 49, and second of all, since it has estrogen like substances, it could potentially reduce the utilization of testosterone through the binding of phyto-estrogens to the testosterone receptors.

Protein Supplements

Now that we have covered the main proteins present in protein supplements, lets discuss the different types of protein supplements on the market.

Weight Gainers

Weight gainers are protein shakes whose protein source consists mainly of whey proteins (mostly concentrate with some isolate as well). Some also include other proteins such as milk proteins and/or egg. These products are characterized by their extremely high carbohydrate content; typically in the form of maltodextrin (a high glycemic complex carb) and fructose (simple sugar originating from fruits).

Weight gainers were very popular back in the 90s but their popularity has died mainly because most people do not have the fast metabolism of a hardgainer; so as a result, a high carbohydrate diet applied on a person with over 10% body fat typically leads mostly to fat gains instead of muscle mass gains. For hardgainers however, and bodybuilders who are below 10% body fat, these products be very useful for getting in the amount of quality calories required to gain quality muscle.

They are best when used for the mid-morning, mid-afternoon and post workout meals as the carbohydrate content is of a fast released nature. They can be mixed with fruit juice or skim milk, and in order to increase the calorie content the use of flaxseed oil and fruits is invaluable.

My favorite weight gainers on the market are:

This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but rather a list of the products that I know are good. The fact that a product is not on this list does not mean that it is not a good one.

Meal Replacement Powders (MRPs)

These powders are lower in calories due to the fact that they have way less carbohydrates than weight gainers. They were created after the realization that most of the population does not have a weight gain problem and therefore the weight gainers on the market were of little use to them.

Protein-wise, most are composed of whey proteins but there are many new formulas now on the market that consist of a protein blend of whey and milk proteins. Typically, the carbohydrate component used to be maltodextrin, yielding around 25-27 grams of carbohydrate per serving, but the newer generation formulas consist of slower released carbohydrates like brown rice and oats in order to make the product lower glycemic in nature.

Also, essential fatty acids have been added as well as a vitamin and mineral profile. While these products are too low in calories for most Hardgainers, they can use these as long as they add other ingredients such as fruit, skim milk and essential fats in order to increase the caloric base.

My favorite MRP on the market, by far, is Prolab’s Lean Mass Complex, as it is instantized (you can mix with liquid and a spoon), and has a unique cinnamon oatmeal flavor.

In addition it contains essential fats, a slow released carbohydrate matrix and a protein blend of whey proteins and miscellar casein. Other good products I like are are:

Any of these products can be used throughout the day in between meals or after the workout.

Protein Powders

Protein powders are just powders that consist mainly of protein (typically whey protein is what is sold these days but you can also find blends). Typically, they contain no more than 5 grams of carbohydrates per scoop and 20-25 grams of protein (per scoop). Calorie wise they consist of anywhere from 100-125 calories.

Good sources of these powders are:

The powders just mentioned are mainly whey protein concentrate. The best isolates in the market are:

My favorite blends in the market of whey proteins with slower released proteins are:

I love protein supplements because of the many uses that they have. For instance in the morning I like to have oatmeal with Cinnamon flavored protein powder. One can also use them to add more protein to either a meal replacement powder or a weight gainer. Alternatively, one can also use them for creating a home-made weight gain formula.

So now, which protein product should you choose? If trying to gain weight then a weight gainer for sure. If you are looking to have a full meal consisting of carbs, proteins and some fats then an MRP is your best bet. If on a budget then the best way to go is to buy a 5-lb tub of protein powder.

Protein Bars

These are bars made out of any of the protein sources listed above. The carbohydrate mix is usually a combination of glycerin (which is not really a carbohydrate but a sugar alcohol) and sugars.

They are low in calories compared to a weight gain shake and typically contain less than desirable fats. If trying to lose fat, then limit their use to once per day at the most.

If doing a competition then I would not touch them. The ones I like most in the market today are:

Beef Liver Tablets

These tablets are a great source of beef liver and bodybuilders have been using them for decades in order to obtain the values offered by beef proteins. The key thing for liver tablets to be useful is that they need to be manufactured with the highest grade of beef liver and they also need to be purified from the fat, cholesterol and other impurities that are contained in the liver.

When it comes to beef liver tablets the best ones in the market, in my opinion, are Beverly International’s Ultra 40 because they contain the highest grade of beef liver and have been purified and processed to contain forty-five times the nutritional amount of whole beef liver.

The way to use them is to add 3-4 tablets per meal. Each tablet adds an additional 2 grams of protein from beef liver to your meals.

3- Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids, Alpha Linoleic Acid (Omega-3s) and Linoleic Acid (Omega-6s), are fats that need to be consumed through one’s diet as the body cannot manufacture them. They are most important as they are involved in several key body functions such as energy production, fat burning, brain and nerve tissue development, mood regulation, insulin metabolism, hemoglobin production, etc.

In addition, these fats have some interesting properties such as anti-inflammatory properties, anti-lipolitic properties (prevention of extra calories being stored as fat), reduction in allergies, and immune system strengthening.

Where Can You Get EFA’s From?

So having said that, where can one find EFA’s? Salmon and flax seeds are high on the Omega-3s. If you do not consume any of these items, then either flax seed oil, flax seed oil capsules or fish oil capsules would be a good idea to add to your supplements program. Omega-6 fats typically do not need to be supplemented as they are easily found in poultry, eggs and whole-grain breads. Typically, one’s diet is abundant on the Omega-6 but lacking on the Omega-3’s.

My favorite EFA product is manufactured by a company called Pride Nutrition which has a blend called Premium EFA. In addition to Essential Fats, this blend also has CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and GLA (gamma linolenic acid). These two fatty acids are showing very promising studies for weight loss and joint lubrication.

What I like the most about this product is the fact that they added the Lipase enzyme, which helps with the absorption and digestion of the fats. This product is the only one I have ever tried where you do not end up burping the oil a few minutes after you take the capsules.

Other products I like are Serrano Labs Alpha Omega-3s, which is also an excellent product. For CLA only capsules I like Prolab’s Enhanced CLA which also has some flaxseed oil in order to provide some Omega 3’s.

4- Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that improves your immune system and helps you recover faster from your workouts by suppressing the amount of cortisol (hormone that kills muscle and aids in the accumulation of fat) that is released by your body during a workout.

This is the only Vitamin that I recommend to be taken in mega doses quantities. Remember that since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it will not get stored by the body. Research shows that if taken an hour before a workout (1000mg dose) it significantly reduces muscle soreness and speeds recovery after a workout.

I recommend a total of 3000 mg per day of Vitamin C. If your multiple vitamin pack already has 1000 mg, and you take this in the morning, then all you need is an extra 1000 mg at lunch and 1000 mg at dinner.

A good Vitamin C that comes in 1000 mg capsules at a super awesome price (250 caps at $10.49) are produced by Higher Power Nutrition.

5- Chromium Picolinate

Chromium Picolinate is a mineral that may enhance the effects of insulin, the hormone that pushes amino acids (protein) and carbohydrates into the muscle cell. As we have previously discussed, insulin is one of the most anabolic hormones in the body; it determines if the food that you eat is going to be used for muscle production, energy production or fat production. When insulin is secreted in moderate levels, it aids in muscle and energy production.

In excessive levels it only promotes fat storage. Chromium Picolinate may upgrade insulin’s capability to produce muscle and energy by making the cells in the body more prone towards accepting this hormone (in other words, enhancing insulin sensitivity). In doing so, it may help you to gain muscle and lose fat faster as insulin will now be able to deliver the desired nutrients to the muscle cell.

Chromium may also keep blood sugar levels stable, thereby preventing insulin levels from going high enough to begin promoting fat storage. Again, chromium only works if we follow a proper diet. Also, while it is not the magic bullet that it was claimed to be for building muscle back in the early 90’s I still feel that it is useful for ensuring that our insulin sensitivity is at its peak.


Again, I like Higher Power’s Chromium Picolinate due to the quality and awesome price.


200 mcg with the post workout meal and with breakfast on days off.

Supplement Recommendations Summary

Essential To Take

Until next time, take care and train hard!

About The Author

Hugo Rivera is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, Sports Nutrition Specialist and Computer Engineer graduate from the University of South Florida. Hugo is owner of, an informational, free fitness and nutrition website.

Hugo is author of a self published bodybuilding e-book called Body Re-Engineering geared towards the natural bodybuilder and co-author of one of the most popular Men’s Health book in the country (according to Barnes and Noble) called The BodySculpting Bible for Men and the very popular BodySculpting Bible for Women.

Hugo also just released his new book called The Hardgainer’s Handbook of Bodybuilding in March 2005 and also serves as a nutrition consultant to several professional football players and other elite athletes. Hugo serves as business consultant to many personal training studios as well and offers personalized diet and training programs through his website.

Hugo continues to publish several articles on the subject of health and nutrition in several magazines and websites and has been with Prolab Nutrition for over three years. Hugo competes as drug free NPC athlete at the National Level and his core supplementation has always consisted of Prolab products.

All rights reserved. Learn more at

By Nick Nilsson

Normally, when you think “muscle,” you probably think “low reps”…but I’ve got three ways to use HIGH reps to slap the muscle on you FAST.

When I say “muscle building,” I’m sure the first thing that jumps into your head is NOT high-rep training!

In fact, when trying to build muscle, most trainers will actively stay FAR away from anything resembling high reps (and when I say high reps, I mean anything more than 13 to 15 reps per set).

Here’s the thing…that can actually be a HUGE mistake!

Just like heavy weights and low reps, the higher rep ranges can be a VERY valuable and even ESSENTIAL tool in your muscle-building arsenal.

I’ve got three high-rep training techniques I want to share with you right now. And I’m going to explain EXACTLY why each one is critical to your muscle-building success.


1. Very Light Weight, Very High Reps

Yep, I know this sounds absolutely CRAZY. How can light weight and very high reps do ANYTHING for building muscle? Here’s a hint…it’s not about resistance…it’s about physiology.

In order for a muscle to grow, first you’ve got to stimulate growth by overloading it with resistance – no argument there. But AFTER you’ve stimulated the growth, you’ve got to supply NUTRIENTS to the muscle cells to help them rebuild.

What if your blood supply is poor to the trained muscle? Got a muscle group that doesn’t pump up very easily? It’s probably one of your hardest muscle groups to develop. Poor circulation means fewer nutrients get to that muscle for recovery and rebuilding, leading to reduced growth.

THAT is where light weight and very high reps come into play. You see, VERY high reps have the effect of increasing capillarization in muscle tissue (simply defined, capillaries are the tiny blood vessels where blood cells release their nutrients to the rest of the cells in the body).

Bottom line, you do a set of 100 reps and your body responds by increasing capillary density in the targeted muscle, which SETS THE STAGE for future muscle growth.

The high reps sets don’t directly CAUSE muscle growth (the resistance isn’t high enough), they just improve blood circulation to the target muscle so when you DO train heavy and for lower reps, your target muscle gets more nutrients and can grow and recover more easily.

Want to put this tip to work?

Pick a “hard to pump” muscle and at the start of EVERY workout you do for that bodypart (e.g. every time you train biceps), do a single set of 100 reps with a VERY light weight. Basically, pick an exercise and just CRANK out the reps. Do this EVERY time you train that bodypart and you soon will start to notice a difference in how easily that muscle pumps up and how well it grows.


2. Moderate-Weight, High-Rep Training

This sure sounds like an oxymoron. After all, how can you use moderate weights when you’re performing high reps!

As a matter of fact, you CAN. In fact, it’s one of THE best training techniques you can use for building muscle FAST. It’s a technique even elite powerlifters (who normally train with VERY low reps) use to increase muscle mass.

There are definitely certain exercises that lend themselves more to heavy-weight, high-rep training. Squats, for example, are the best example for this technique (you may be familiar with the popular “20-Rep Squat” program),

This moderate-weight, high-rep training has many of the same circulation benefits of the VERY high rep training but with the advantage of increased resistance, which will help directly stimulate muscle growth in addition to helping improve circulation.

Using myself as an example, I used squats with this technique and worked up to performing a set of 40 reps with 315 lbs (believe me, THAT was fun…). I’ve also managed a set of 25 reps with 225 lbs and a set of 70 reps with 135 lbs on the bench press.

This technique can be used with any exercise, really. You’ll find some exercises work better for it than others but basically, you’re taking a weight that is a bit lighter than your normal working weights and you’re just focusing on cranking out the reps.

Like the previous technique, I find this is best done at the beginning of a workout when you’re still fresh. You’ll be able to get more reps out of the exercise that way. Some trainers like to use it as a back-off set (powerlifters generally use it this way), doing the high-reps with moderate weight after finishing with the heavier stuff.

So next time you’re about to do squats, put a moderate weight on the bar and just see how many reps you can crank out! Forget about what you’re going to do on the rest of your sets – just get as MANY as you can. Your legs will be hit with a whole new muscle-building stimulus!

3. High-Rep Partial Training

This final tip brings us into an interesting area. High-rep partial training actually allows you to do high-rep training with HEAVY weight! In fact, you will be AMAZED at how much weight you can use with this style of training.

We’re going to be getting the benefits not only of the increased circulation that I mentioned with light-weight, high-rep training, but we’re also going to get the substantial muscle-building benefits of using HEAVY weights at the same time.

Another benefit…because you’re using heavier-than-normal weights, you’re going to be working your connective tissue very effectively as well. And, because you’re using high-reps, you’re going to be forcing a LOT of blood into that connective tissue, which is notorious for its normally poor blood supply. This helps immensely with strengthening and healing.

High-rep partial training is fairly straightforward to perform. It’s best done in a power rack, where it’s easy to adjust the range of motion. For example, using bench press, you can set the safety rails to a few inches below the lockout position.

Working in only that top range of motion (which is the strongest segment of the range of motion) means you can use a LOT more weight than you normally could for the full-range exercise.

So you set up the bench, set up the rails and add some weight. Now you just perform as many partial reps as you can! To give you an idea of weight and reps, I’ve done sets of 50+ reps with 315 lbs on high-rep lockout partial bench press.

High-rep partial training can be done at any point in your workout, as an addition to your “normal” training (1 or 2 sets) or as the complete bodypart workout on its own.

The Final Word

Overall, I’m a big fan of high-rep training for building muscle, when PROPERLY used. These three techniques are VERY effective for not only setting the stage for muscle growth but actually building the muscle itself!

If you’re interested in a program that makes use of ALL of these techniques, definitely check out my latest book “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass.”

I make use of each one of these techniques during various phases of the program. When it comes to building muscle FAST, I’ve not found a program that works better:

Check out this great feedback I’ve received from one of the users of the “Muscle Explosion” program:

“I finished the last workout of ‘Muscle Explosion’ yesterday. I’ve gained close
to ten pounds during the month of workouts.
Not bad at 45 years old! I
had the feeling this was going to be a tough system, and I was more than a
little afraid of the five-days-in-a-row of heavy deadlifts. But I stuck with the plan,
endured the feelings of physical shock during the workouts, and the soreness

Nick, you’re really on to something here. I don’t think I could personally continue
at this intensity week after week, but what a fantastic growth spurt method.

I love the way you’re ‘pushing the envelope’ and refining and advancing the art
and science of natural bodybuilding. You don’t just rehash the great ideas,
you turbo-charge them!

– Tim Lauber

Here’s that link again:


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!

By Nick Nilsson

If you want to maximize chest development, bench pressing is obviously high on the list. Using the Swiss Ball has a LOT of advantages over the flat bench…I’ll tell you what they are and the BEST way to get into position to do the exercise with maximum weight.

There’s a reason Monday is “Chest Day” in most gyms…it’s a HUGE priority for most guys (and many gals!) and they want to do it when they’ve got the most energy fresh off a weekend.

Well, here’s a bit of bad news…that flat barbell bench press you’ve been doing is NOT the best exercise for building a great chest. I reserve THAT title for the Dumbell Bench Press.

  • It’s easier on the shoulders because you have more freedom of movement
  • Neither side can take over the movement because each arm operates independently
  • You can’t mess up your grip spacing (actually a BIG problem with a lot of people on the barbell bench press)

There are other advantages but bottom line, in my opinion, the Dumbell Bench Press is absolutely superior to the Barbell Bench Press for chest development.

Now, if you’ve read any of my articles where I talk about the Dumbell Bench Press, you know I’m a BIG fan of doing the exercise on the Swiss ball rather than on an actual flat bench.

The reason is NOT because of the instability of the ball – that’s incidental to me (though it is useful from a core-training perspective). The reason is because of the SHAPE of the ball (round, in case you were wondering… :)

With a round ball, you can wrap your back around the ball and better expand your rib cage. This helps keep your shoulders back, putting your pecs in a much better position to perform the exercise. If you can’t feel much in your chest on the flat barbell bench, you need to use the Swiss ball NOW.

This tip is an explanation of how to best get the dumbells into position to do the exercise. I’ve been doing this exercise for a LOT of years and this is the best way, by far, I’ve found for getting the dumbells into position and performing the exercise.

Another good thing about the ball…I find it MUCH easier to work with heavy dumbells when on the ball. One thing you DEFINITELY want to make sure of before doing any heavy dumbell work on the ball is that you have a GOOD ball – no Wal-Mart el-cheapo “toning” ball here.

You want something that is thick rubber and anti-burst (meaning if it leaks, it’s not going to pop – it’ll just leak slowly, giving you time to set your weights down). Nothing good happens when a Swiss ball pops while you’re under a big load.

So make sure your ball is good quality. Get yours from an actual training equipment like “Resist-A-Ball“. I got my ball from SportSmith (that link goes to the exact ball I’ve got – you’ll notice it’s anti-burst).

Another good one is available through Power Systems, called the Power Versa Ball (rated to 2000 lbs).

So, once you’ve got your ball, grab some dumbells. Start with lighter dumbells at first – once you get the technique down, you can really get into some heavy weights. I’m using 125 lb dumbells in the demo here.

Set them a little in front of the ball and stand in between them.

Squat down and grab them like you’re about to do a dumbell deadlift (which you are).

As you stand up, rest the ENDS of the dumbells on your thighs.

Now sit on the ball with the dumbell on end on your thighs.

Kick your right leg out until it’s almost straight then kick your left leg out.

Now comes the FUN part…you’re going to very quickly and forcefully roll yourself forward on the ball so that you’re laying back. As you’re forcefully laying back, lock your elbows so that you bring the dumbells with you as you lay back.

Continue their backward momentum and swing your elbows out to the sides until you’re in the bottom position of the bench press.
Very quickly press the dumbells to the top, converting some of that backwards momentum into upwards force. You don’t want to get stuck at the bottom.

Now you’re at the top and ready to start your set! Do as many reps as you want to or are able to do.

When you’ve completed your set, you’re ready to set the dumbells down again. Bring them in towards your chest (beside your chest, basically).

Now set them on the ground like you’re doing a negative dumbell curl. Control the drop but don’t try and actually do a real negative with heavy weights like this!

You’re done! Simple and effective and, in my opinion, a whole lot better than doing them on a flat bench. Perform 3 sets of 5 to 7 reps with this exercise and don’t be afraid to go heavy. For me, the Dumbell Bench Press on the Swiss Ball is a MUCH better chest developer than Flat Barbell Bench Press.


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!

By Nick Nilsson

The humble gym towel can actually be an extremely effective training tool! When you get done putting these quick and easy methods to the test, you’ll never look at your towel the same way again.

The towel is your friend…

And to prove it to you, I’ve got 10 ways you can use your gym towel to get a great workout (not counting mopping up sweat, of course).

1. Towel Chin-Ups

Throw a towel over the chin-up bar and grip the ends. Now pull yourself up! Gripping and holding your entire bodyweight up on a loose towel is GREAT for the grip and will activate a lot of muscle fibers in your lats because of the instability.

2. Towel Calf Stretch

Lay on your back on the floor and loop your towel around the forefoot area of one of your shoes. Now pull HARD towards you, stretching the calf. This technique works extremely well because you can very easily adjust the tension of the stretch. Forget fancy stretch straps – just throw a towel over!

3. Abdominal Sit-Ups

This is a GREAT abdominal exercise…roll up a towel, lay down on the floor and slide it under your lower back. Now do a sit-up. The rolled-up towel braces your lower back so that instead of using hip flexors and putting stress on the lower back, all the tension of the exercise goes directly onto your ABS.

Be sure your not pulling on your head – you can also make it easier by holding your arms across your chest or at your sides.

4. Towel Bodyweight Tricep Extensions

Throw a towel over a railing or something else a few feet off the ground. Now hold onto the ends. Set your feet back a few feet. Now, keeping your body stiff, bend at the elbows ONLY then extend back up. The instability of the towel grip will set your triceps on fire!

These pics show the exercise done on a bar – just loop a towel over the bar and grip the ends. Move your feet closer to make the exercise easier.

5. Towel “Fat” Bar/Handles

Thick bar and thick handle training is GREAT for the forearms and grip strength. You can accomplish this cheaply by simply wrapping a gym around the bar or the dumbell handles and then gripping around THAT as well.

The padding and “squeezability” (I sound like a toilet paper commercial…cripes) of the towel around the bar activates a tremendous amount of muscle fibers in the forearms and hands.

6. Towel Pushdowns and/or Pulldowns

The easiest way to set this up is to attach a single handle to a high pulley then loop a towel through that. Grip on the ends of the towel and do a pushdown or pulldown (depending, of course, on what exercise you want to do)! It’s just like using a rope attachment but without the solidness of a rope (or the knots on the end to brace your hands).

7. Towel Pull-Up Rows

This exercise gives you some excellent options for training your back in pretty much any situation you find yourself in. As long as you can loop a towel around a solid object, you can grab the ends and perform a rowing movement…two hands on the ends or even one hand gripping both ends to do one arm at a time rows.

8. Towel Cable Face Pulls

This is a great rear-delt exercise. Attach the single handle to a high pulley and loop the towel through. Use a light weight to start with. Grip the ends of the towel then take a couple of steps back so your arms are directly forward, out in front of you.

Now, pull the cable towards your face, bringing your hands out to the sides of your head, trying to pull the towel ends out to the sides as you do so. This one is excellent for the Rotator Cuff.

9. Towel Cradle Sit-Ups

Lay on the floor with the towel end held in your hand and with the towel itself across your upper back (like you would hold it if you were drying off your back with it).

Now perform a sit-up…instead of trying to pull yourself up using your abs, though, pull yourself up using the TOWEL. Come up and to the right by forcefully pulling on the RIGHT end of the towel, while bracing with your left. You’ll be surprised at how strongly this hits the abs.

10. Neck Training

Using a towel is a great way to do isometric training for your neck. Basically, you just put the towel around your head (any direction – front, sides, back) and pull on the ends, resisting that pull with your neck muscles.

And that’s just the beginning! Take these techniques and try and think of other ways you can take the common gym towel and come up with multiple uses for it.

I told you you’d never look at your gym towel the same way again!


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!

By Nick Nilsson

The upper chest is a MUST to work if you want complete chest development… and the incline barbell press is a key exercise. I’ll show you my favorite technique for getting maximum results from this exercise!

Male or female, training the upper chest is extremely important for overall balance in the upper body. Critical, in fact! And the Incline Barbell Bench is one of the primary exercises for working the upper chest.

But if you’re like me, you may have a hard time getting results from this exercise…maybe all you get are tired triceps and sore shoulders, in fact!

If so, I’ve got the solution for you. It’s a very simple adjustment to the setup that you use for the incline barbell press and a simple adjustment in how you perform the exercise.

One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered with this exercise, in myself at least, is the tendency for the chest and rib cage to flatten out during the exercise, which takes the tension off the pecs and puts it on the shoulders and triceps instead.

In order for the pecs to get a good contraction, the shoulder blades need to be tight in together behind your back with the shoulders back and chest/rib cage expanded.

With each rep of the “normal” incline barbell bench press, when you’re at the top of the movement (especially when you unrack the bar), the full extension of your arms very quickly causes your shoulder blades to come forward and your rib cage to flatten out, taking the emphasis off the pecs and putting it on the shoulders (at the bottom) and triceps (at the top).

So basically, just by unracking the bar, you’re immediately putting your body in a poor biomechanical position to perform the exercise with emphasis on the upper chest.

Granted, in a lot of people, they will still get a decent amount of stimulation on the upper pecs, even in this situation…these are the people with more favorable anatomical levers, i.e. they’ll feel it in the chest no matter how they’re arms and shoulder blades line up.

But for many (me included), performing the incline barbell press in this position simply doesn’t work.

So how do you fix it?

It’s not hard to do! Instead of performing the incline barbell press in the bench designed for it, we’ll set up in the power rack using an adjustable incline bench.

Set the bench to about 30 to 45 degrees – you can experiment with what incline feels best to you – and set it inside the rack. Now here’s the part that’s going to take some trial and error…set the side safety rails of the rack to where you think the BOTTOM position of the incline press will be on you.

The first time you do the exercise, set the empty bar on the rack, just over top of the bench face then slide yourself underneath the bar to gauge the position.

Because the REAL key with this exercise (for those of us with unfavorable biomechanics) is to start from the BOTTOM and do SINGLE reps, resetting your body position each and every time you are about to press the bar up.

When I started doing incline presses with this technique, I was VERY surprised at how much better it felt and how it actually WORKED the upper chest. I had pretty much given up on the exercise as completely useless for me for quite a few years!

So back to our setup…with just the empty bar on the rails (and it should be a bit forward of where you’re laying on the bench…you can roll it back into position), grip the bar with a slightly narrower grip than you’d use for flat barbell bench.

The bar should be just slightly above your chest while resting on the rails at this point. We want a good range of motion but we also are going to be setting the bar down on the rails after each rep in order to reset the shoulder blades and rib cage, so we still want the bar to finish ABOVE the chest.

If the rail height isn’t quite right, adjust as needed then check again with just the bar. Once you’ve got the height right, load up the bar with a moderate weight…something you know you can do…then get back under the bar again. The bar should be a bit forward again when you lay on the bench…roll it back into position just over your upper chest.

Now here’s the next trick…grip the bar and pull your torso just slightly UP off the bench like you’re doing a pull-up row. When your torso is up off the bench, pinch your shoulder blades together behind your back (just like with a row!), puff and expand your rib cage up to meet the bar, then set your torso back down on the bench.

Notice how your shoulders are back, and your chest feels thicker? THIS is the correct position to perform the incline bench press…it’s also the position that you LOSE almost as soon as you pass the halfway point of the incline press!

Now, with a powerful movement (and striving to keep your shoulders down and back), press the bar off the rails and all the way up in a straight vertical line – there is no backwards arc in the incline bench like there is in the flat bench. It should be straight up and down.

Press it all the way up. You’ll notice how as you come to the top, you’ve probably lost that shoulder position and expanded rib cage. No worries! Lower the bar slowly back down and set it on the safety rails.

Now, RESET your torso, doing exactly what you did on the first rep! Pull your torso up off the bench, get your shoulder blades back, expand your rib cage then set yourself back down on the bench. Do your second rep the same as you did your first…power it up off the rails straight up then lower under control back down to the safety rails.

As for rep range, I find this technique lends itself better to lower reps…5 to 7 reps per set…because of the time it takes to reset yourself between each rep.

At the end of the set, when the bar is back down on the rails, just roll it forward on the rails so you have enough room to slide yourself out from under the bar.


This technique is a very effective one for ANY trainer, but especially if you’re not particularly biomechanically suited to the exercise. In order to really feel it where you’re supposed to, you MUST reset yourself into the best position for your body to perform the exercise…the position that is immediately broken with a conventional unracking of the bar at the top.

Here’s what this setup and execution will do for you:

1. Set your body into the best biomechanical position to perform the exercise on each and every rep, ensuring you’re working the actual target muscles.

2. Gives you short breaks in between each rep, which helps you stay stronger during set, which will allow you to perform more reps with a given weight.

3. Allows you to perform the exercise by yourself, with no spotter, in complete safety.

4. Builds excellent pressing strength out of the bottom because each rep starts from the bottom off a dead stop, with no elastic tension in the muscles.

Give this version a try next time you work chest! You’ll notice an immediate difference in strength and tension in the pecs.

For pictures and video of this exercise in action, click the following link:


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!

By Nick Nilsson

Yes, it seems like such a simple thing. Now consider this…HOW
you breathe during your training can have a HUGE impact on your strength and muscle activation! Breathe wrong and you could be throwing away results.

Breathing is one THE most often overlooked pieces of the puzzle when it comes to weight training…and it can have a tremendous impact on the results you get from your training!

Here’s the thing that a lot of people don’t know about breathing…different exercises require different breathing strategies.

Yep, how you breathe in a heavy squat is not even close to how you should breathe while doing a pulldown.

So here’s a rundown of how to breathe while doing some of the more popular exercises (I will assume your form is generally good – going in depth into proper form for each exercise would make this a book instead of an article!).

** Please note, if you have high blood pressure or any issues with holding your breath (e.g. you easily get light-headed), you’ll need to adjust these breathing recommendations accordingly. These instructions (for a few of the exercises, at least) are intended for those who don’t have issues with short periods of breath holding.

1. Squats

As you start the descent, inhale deeply so that you complete the inhalation by the time you’re about halfway down. Hold your breath from this point on, all the way to the bottom and then about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way as you come back up. Then exhale until you come all the way to the top. The reason you want to hold your breath like this is to maximize the stability of your abdominal region.

Breathing in or breathing out (especially out as you come up out of the very bottom), will destabilize the core area. To maximize strength and power, your muscles need a stable platform to work from. Keeping that solid core will also save your lower back from strain because more tension will held in the abs rather than being forced onto the lower back.

One of the key things I’ve found in my own squat is that core strength (in the frontal abdominal wall) is a HUGE part of successfully coming out of the bottom. If I breathe out at the bottom, I’m done. But if I save that exhalation until after I get past that point where I need maximum core stability, I’ll hit the lift and power through that sticking point.

2. Bench Press

Improper breathing on the bench press is one of THE biggest reasons people are weak on this lift. If you breath wrong, you lose that stability (just like in the squat) and don’t provide your body with a solid platform from which to move the weight.

This technique applies to heavier to moderate-weight benching – it’s not as critical on the lighter, higher-rep training to follow it as is because the load is a lot less.

Picture yourself at the top of the movement with the barbell locked out. Now lower the bar, inhaling a deep breath as you come down. Here’s the key…you should finish taking in that breath by the time you’re halfway down (around your sticking point). This is important for torso stability.

Hold your breath during the bottom phase of the movement, just like in the squat. If you start breathing out right at the bottom, you will not only destabilize your torso, which will change the leverage in your shoulders, it’ll also sink down your chest and flatten your shoulder blades out (which should be held in tight behind you during the whole movement to maximize leverage).

Once you hit your sticking point THEN start to exhale forcefully through pursed lips. At this point, it’s actually good to change the leverage in your shoulders. When the bar is on your chest, it’s not good, but when the bar is halfway up, it can give you a little extra leverage to get past that sticking point.

Keep blowing out all the way to lockout. Then you can go right into your next rep or, if you need it, hold that lockout and take in a breath or two before starting the next rep.

3. All Versions of Rows, Pulldowns and Chin-Ups/Pull-Ups

Breathing during back training is, to be honest, completely misunderstood by most trainers…if you have trouble feeling your back while training your back, it’s generally your breathing pattern that is messing you up.

You have to breathe BACKWARDS when training back or your lats will never be in a proper biomechanical position to fully engage. I’ll explain…

Generally speaking, you’re told to exhale on the exertion and inhale on the lowering phase of an exercise.

But here’s the thing and where people get confused…in back training, the exertion LOOKS like the lowering phase of the exercise so THAT is when people tend to exhale! Instead, you actually want to INHALE as you perform the exertion. I’ll use the pulldown as an example.

When you perform a pulldown, you want to puff your chest to meet the bar and have an arch in your lower back to fully activate the lats. You don’t want a flat chest and a vertical torso position.

So when you pull the bar down, that’s the exertion. If you exhale (which you normally would do) this actually caves in the chest and straightens out your lower back. The moment this happens, it reduces lat involvement and puts more stress onto other muscles.

Switch things up and INHALE as you’re pulling down.

Now as you pull down, your chest is expanding and rising up to meet the bar, which instantly puts the lats in their best possible position to activate.

The difference is instantaneous and HUGE. If you’ve always had trouble feeling your back work, this will be a big eye-opener for you.

As you let the bar come back on the negative, THAT is when you exhale. It’s a bit of a mind-bender the first time you do it…I can promise you it’ll make a big difference in your back training.

You’ll now just apply that same principle to the rest of your back exercises (except the deadlift, which is a whole different animal…more akin to the squat in terms of breathing). When you row, inhale as you pull the handles or bar into your abdomen. When you chin, inhale as you pull yourself up.

4. Barbell Curls

Another very popular exercise is the barbell curl…you may have heard of it :)

One of the main problems people have in the barbell curl is they are entirely too loose. When doing ANY exercise with moderately-heavy to heavy weight, you should basically “solidify” your body, tightening everything up so that you’re operating from a strong, stable base.

Even a barbell curl should be done with a rock-solid body.

So at the bottom of the movement, start by taking in a deep breath, puff your chest up high and get your shoulders back. In my experience, I’ve found it best to keep your breath held until just after you get past the half-way point of the curl. To get past that sticking point, you need the most stability possible for your levers to operate maximally.

Once you get past that mid-way point, THEN exhale forcefully but not completely. You still need to keep some torso stability for holding the weight at the top of the exercise.

Hold at the top for a moment. At this point you have a choice…you can immediately start lowering the bar and inhale on the way down or you can hold at the top and take a quick breath in and out then inhale on the way down after that.

5. Deadlifts

Proper breathing for the deadlift is very similar to breathing for the squat…you want to have the most stable core at the bottom of the movement. In the case of the deadlift, this is the START of the movement.

So get yourself set up in front of the bar and get ready to lift. It’s important to note with the deadlift (and I will include a technique point here because I think it’s an important one), don’t try and pop the bar off the floor, especially when using heavy weight. You want to SQUEEZE the bar off the floor. A heavy bar has to bend and if you pop it off the floor, the weight will bounce up then down and pull you back down. So get the bend into the bar with your initial lift THEN pull the weight off the floor.

When you first start the lift, you’ll want to hold your breath during the first part until around the point where the bar has cleared your knees. I say “around” because if you’re using really heavy weight, it may take you a bit of time to get to that point and you may need to start to exhale a bit sooner in the range of motion, i.e. below your knees.

This bottom range is the most vulnerable time for your lower back and you want to keep the greatest stability in your core during that time. So do hold your breath a bit at the bottom…don’t start the exhale (through pursed lips, like you’re blowing up a balloon) until you get that bar at least a few inches off the ground and moving up.

Keep going to the top, then take a quick breath then lower the weight.

Personally, I prefer to hold my breath on the way DOWN as well, simply because lowering the weight is also a vulnerable time for your lower back, especially as you get near the bottom. So inhale at the top then hold as you get down to the halfway point.


Breathing plays a BIG role in proper lifting and in achieving maximum strength. It’ll also make your lifting safer and overall, more effective. Give these breathing tips a try in your training and you’ll feel the difference immediately!


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!

How I’ve Trained Around Injuries

Author: admin 16.02.11

By Nick Nilsson

Being injured doesn’t have to mean total rest and a loss of muscle, strength and results. There ARE good ways to train around injuries, as long as it’s done SMART.

So here’s the deal…an injury isn’t the end of the world! They happen to the best of us, sometimes no matter how careful you are. And THAT is what this article is all about…I’m going to give you examples of how I’VE trained around a few injuries I’ve had over the 18+ years I’ve been training.

Getting these injuries didn’t mean I had to completely stop every aspect of my training until I was fully recovered. In fact, continuing to train actually helped with recovery!

** Before we go any further, let me be VERY clear right up front. The examples I’m using here are from MY own experience and used only on myself. I’m not recommending you do ANY of these techniques.

I’m not a doctor (and especially I’m not YOUR doctor). I’m not a physiotherapist. This should NOT be considered medical advice. When you read this article, PLEASE use your own common sense and PLEASE consult with your doctor and get the all-clear to train if you decide to train around any injury.

Injury #1 – Twisted Ankle

The first injury I want to talk about is a twisted ankle. I was playing soccer and got my foot stuck in a hole in the field and at the same moment got spun around by another player. So basically, I tore up most of the ligaments in my left ankle.

I did all the rest, ice, elevation, etc and I went to the doctor the next day. He told me I had two choices…because the sprain was so severe I could either put it in a cast and it would get weaker, or I could just keep icing and elevating it.

I asked him if I could do other things in the gym while it was healing and he not only said “absolutely,” he actually encouraged me to start using it as soon as I felt I could put weight on it.

I was back in the gym that same evening, hobbling around and doing upper body training without any problems. The next day, I was doing one-legged squats on my RIGHT leg (the uninjured side).

By working the non-injured side, you can prevent a lot of the strength loss and atrophy that you often see when a limb is immobilized. This happens because of nervous system activation.

When the right leg is used and activated, the nervous system also activates the corresponding motor units of the OTHER side. This can help prevent a lot of the muscle-wasting you see with people who are in casts – if only they would have trained their uninjured side!

The key thing to note is that even though I was working my right leg, I wasn’t putting pressure on my injured side while I still had pain on it. As it healed and I was able to put pressure on it without pain, then I gradually worked it back into my training, with no loss of performance.

Injury #2 – Wrist Pain

This happened to me my very first year of training and I very quickly figured out exactly what the cause was: too much barbell curling.

Every time I picked up the straight bar to do curls, I would get sharp pains in my wrists. I even got to the point where I got a couple of wrist wraps to help ease the pain (which worked briefly).

How did I train around that injury? Easy. Dumbell Curls.

Once I figured it out, I immediately stopped all barbell training…curls, benching, rows, machines, everything that locked my wrists into position while training.

I still had some pain in my wrists while I was doing dumbbell work for several weeks after I got off barbells, but the wrist pain gradually went completely away on its own.

The key thing to note here – I had an injury as a result of getting “locked in” on barbells (especially straight barbell curls, which put a lot of pressure on the wrists, which in itself is the reason the EZ Curl bar was invested), and I immediately trained around that by switching to dumbells.

Problem solved, and I actually saw increased growth and strength because I changed things up.

Injury #3 – Pulled Tricep Muscle

This one will seem like a strange injury…I pulled the long head of my left tricep doing heavy SHRUGS. Yep, you read that right. Shrugs.

The reason I pulled the long head is because it’s the only head of the three-headed tricep muscle that crosses the shoulder joint. I had been doing high training volume (shrugs every session) and heavy weight (about 600 lbs) for a number of weeks and it caught up to me.

Because of the nature of the injury, it meant some changes to my program. It meant no more deadlifts, shrugs or stiff-legged deadlifts. Also, I was off all rowing, chinning and pull-down movements. Ironically enough, I could actually do close-grip bench pressing and dips without any problem at all, which is strange for a tricep injury.

My tricep was injured but I could hardly do any BACK training because of it!

Training around it was relatively simple. I just avoided those exercises I mentioned. But that left me without many options for back training. For back, I used a bench press machine backwards, sitting with my chest towards the back pad. I then put my elbows against the bench handles and pushed back against them to get the back activated. This took the injured tricep completely out of the movement but allowed me to get in some decent back training.

Injury #4 – Strained Pectoral Muscle

This one happened to me doing VERY heavy weighted dips. I had 170 lbs hanging off my waist, had just done several sets with that weight and decided to finish with some high-rep, top-range partials to really overload the muscle.

It’s a technique I’ll never use again, because looking back on it, I was totally setting myself up for this injury. Very heavy weight on a stretch-focused exercise (which in and of itself wasn’t so bad) but then when I did the high-rep partials, it was like tearing the muscle repeatedly until it ripped even more.

The good thing is, the moment I felt the start of the strain, I dropped to ground immediately, so I didn’t get an actual muscle tear, thought I thought was pretty much done with chest training for at least a month.

Not even close…after swearing about it for awhile, I began doing one-arm dumbbell bench press (on the Swiss ball) on my right side to help keep the strength up on both sides. I avoided all exercises that caused any pain or stretch on the left pec (to give you an idea, I couldn’t bench press even a 10 lb dumbbell without pain on that side).

I kept up with the one-side pressing and within a month, I was back pressing 100 lb dumbells with both sides with no pain and no real loss of strength in the injured side.

The key here is that I focused on what I COULD do and not what I couldn’t. This allowed me to keep up with regular training and not see any drop in strength or mass, even on the injured side.

Injury #5 – Pulled Muscle in my Lower Back

This one I wanted to use as an example of an injury that I COULDN’T train around. I did this one to myself trying to stretch out my lower back with a twisting stretch. BAD idea. I was about do some incline barbell bench and I was sitting on the bench, rotating my torso and pushing with my right elbow against the outside of my left knee.

And then I felt and heard a “POP.”

And that was that. I was doubled over on the floor and could hardly breathe. No workout that day!

It took me about 4 times as long to walk home because I could hardly hold myself upright. Sleeping was no fun at all. Luckily at that point, I still owned a weight belt. I had to wrap it tight around myself and sleep with it on in order to not be in excruciating pain.

There was simply NO way for me to train around that one. Breathing, let alone training, was painful. I couldn’t support any weight. To this day, when I get lean enough, I can still see where the muscle popped through the fascia in my lower back.

A few days later, I was able to get back in the gym and do some light training but that was definitely something not to be trained around.


The key to remember here is to pick your battles. I’ve had injuries I could easily train around and which were more inconvenience than injury. I’ve also had injuries where discretion is the better part of valor and have had to take time off.

In all things, if YOU decide you want to try and train around an injury, PLEASE check with your doctor first. The last thing you want to happen is to self-diagnose and find out later there was more going on with the injured area than you thought.

Yeah, it stinks to have to take time off training, but the alternative could be a MUCH longer recovery time or even chronic re-injury and weakness.


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!

By Nick Nilsson

A hard-hitting look at the techniques that advertisers use to separate you from your hard-earned money. With this insider knowledge, you will never get ripped off again!

I’ll start with the bottom line: you don’t NEED supplements to burn fat or build muscle. The human body can function and make excellent athletic progress on nothing but quality food and proper training.

But you CAN use supplements to help the process along faster. The real key is knowing what works, what is garbage, and when an advertiser is simply trying to take your money.

Let me put it this way…in a recent muscle magazine, I counted 120 pages of full-page (in some cases 3 to 6 page), high-powered supplement ads. If you were to buy all these products, you’d be laughing all the way to the bank…laughing maniacally, because you’d have to rob it in order to pay for all those supplements!

There ARE good supplement manufacturers who make good products…they put in what they say they’re putting in and don’t try to fool you with advertising. But this article is about the BAD ones and it’s more fun to talk about them…

So what sneaky tricks do advertisers use to separate you from your money?

1. Unprovable Testimonials

How many times have you seen testimonials like “I lost 10 pounds in a week” or “I gained 20 pounds of muscle in a month.” These testimonials prey upon the desire in all of us for fast and easy results. Who wouldn’t want results this quickly? After all, if this person did it, I should get those same results too, right?

To me, this is like a car commercial that uses special effects to catch your attention then has an official disclaimer like “car should not be driven underwater” or “does not imply resistance to meteor strikes.” It looks and sounds cool but you know it’s just not real – you want to believe but…

And believe me, I would LOVE to think that results like this are possible with just a supplement. But how do you prove that those results even happened? You can’t. How do you prove it was due to that supplement? You can’t. How do you know the person wasn’t “on” something? You can’t. And how do you get your money back when it doesn’t work? You can’t.

About 10 years ago, I did an experiment on myself to see just how much weight I could gain in a week (keep in mind, I was just aiming for total bodyweight, which includes muscle, water and fat). By going on a very strict diet and training program for 2 weeks then completely reversing everything and loading up, I was able to gain 25 pounds of bodyweight in 7 days. And I owed it all to the incredible new supplement I was taking called Hydrogen Dioxide (a.k.a. H2O).

Here’s the full story on that:

How I Gained 25 Pounds in One Week

2. Before and After Photos

Before and after photos can be very inspiring and offer proof that a product works. Or they can fool you like the time Homer Simpson opened a can of beer that had just been in a paint shaking machine.

Here’s a before and after picture technique you can try at home:

Your Before Picture:

– slouch as much as you can
– let your gut hang out and down, push it out if you can
– bow your shoulders in, hunch your back over, and bow your knees in
– stand directly square to the camera so you look as wide as possible
– frown or look miserable
– have a messy, unflattering hairdo
– wear the most unflattering clothing you can find – make sure the clothes highlight every bulge
– don’t flex or tighten up anything – make yourself feel as flabby as possible

Your After Picture:

– stand up straight and tall
– suck in your gut and flex your abdominals
– keep your shoulders back
– look happy and wear a big smile
– stand slightly sideways (tilting your body at angle makes it look thinner)
– wear flattering clothing and have your hair neat
– flex all your muscles and keep everything tight

You can make quite a change in yourself pretty quickly!

3. Pay An Athlete To Get Fat Then Pay Them To Get Back In Shape

It is a little-known fact that some supplement companies have been known to actually pay well-trained athletes to stop training and get fat. Why? To get a really awful-looking “before” picture.

Then, when the athlete starts training hard again, eating right and, of course, taking their magic supplement, they get into great shape very quickly. The goal is to convince you that it was the supplement that was the key to the transformation, not the fact that it was a well-trained athlete in the first place. But an average person is NOT going to be able to make a transformation like this, no matter how good the supplement is.

When you’re already a well-trained athlete, you can make dramatic changes to your body extremely quickly (as evidenced by my own 25 pounds in a week weight gain I talked about above). To me, it’s like telling a professional boxer that he can only punch with his face for a few rounds. When he starts up with the fists again, he’s going to make a pretty rapid improvement!

4. 6 Page Special Ad Reports

Have you ever started reading an article in a magazine only to realize partway through that you’re being sold a supplement? These styles of ads are VERY common – informative enough to make you believe it’s the magazine itself writing the article but, lo and behold, the best solution to the topic in the “special report” is the supplement they’re trying to get you to buy.

Note to supplement companies: even a good product can be wrecked with too much slick advertising.

5. Misrepresenting Legitimate Scientific Studies

Here’s the set-up: take an ingredient that showed some positive results in an isolated scientific study that has nothing to do with actual weight training, e.g. malnourished toddlers in Lithuania showed an increase in lean tissue when given nutrient “X”.

Now assume that the same results will also happen in a 200 lb healthy male athlete. Tell people that nutrient “X” is backed by scientific studies. They know that you’re not going to actually READ those studies!

Here’s the kicker… now include 10 mg of it in your product when the effective dose in the toddlers was actually 1000 mg!

And here’s a fun way to kill an afternoon: call up these companies and ask them to send you copies of the studies they’ve used to prove their supplements are effective. I’ve done that…they don’t stay on the line very long. Oh, they’ve sent me “studies,” but where I went to school, legitimate scientific studies don’t generally include price lists.

6. Name Your Product Similar to a Drug and Claim It’s “Almost Illegal”

Luckily for them, it’s not illegal to be useless. If the only thing a product has going for it is a mashed-up name similar to a drug, pack up your underwater car and go driving through a meteor shower. It’s going to be a long day.

7. Proprietary Formulas

I have no problem with people keeping the lid on the specifics of an effective formula to keep others from copying it. But when that is used an excuse to include next to nothing of the active ingredients that actually do anything…

You see, I don’t want to pay for a pill that is 95% methylbullcrapsomethingorother and 5% active ingredient. When the phrase “proprietary formula” is used, the manufacturer doesn’t legally have to say exactly how much of each of the ingredients is in the formula.

The best part is when the scientific study they used to prove their product works shows a dose of 5 grams is needed to be effective and their serving size/pill size is only 1 gram…AND they have 10 other ingredients listed as being in the pill.

8. Professional Bodybuilder Testimonials

Because I’m quite sure that a pro bodybuilder weighing 280lb at 4% bodyfat really gained all that muscle from a couple of scoops of some fruity powder that is supposed to give you a better pump.

9. The “Latest” Supplement

There was a time when the AMC Pacer and the Gremlin were the “latest” cars to come off the assembly line. Just because something is the “latest” doesn’t mean that it actually works.

The current craze: Nitric Oxide (a product that is supposed to increase circulation to muscles, resulting in a greater “pump”/blood flow to the muscles for increasing muscle growth). Let me put it this way…I’ve tried it, I’ve researched it and don’t waste your money on it.

The only way it’ll work is if you mix it with something else that DOES work (like creatine, for instance). Then you’re just paying extra for the privelege of combining the two supplements.

You want a better pump? Drink more water – that’s what blood primarily is. The better hydrated you are, the greater your blood volume will be. Need proof? One of the primary dangers of diuretic use for reducing water levels to show muscles better is thickening of the blood, which basically is reduced blood volume. The more water you have in your body, the greater your blood volume will be and the stronger your pumps will be.

Heck, if you REALLY want to build muscle, half your day should be spent sloshing around because you’ve drank so much water!

10. “Eat What You Want And Still Lose Weight”

Chances are, a product like this contains something to speed up your metabolism (most likely a herbal stimulant) and/or something to block the absorption of fat or carbs. You will probably lose weight but you may be a nervous insomniac with debilitating cramps and greasy diarrhea. What a great way to promote good health!


Bottom line, I have no problem with supplements or supplement ads that are legitimate. What I do have a problem with (and you probably gathered this from the article) is the way people are manipulated through clever advertising into spending their hard-earned money on useless products. It gives weight training a bad name makes even good products look suspicious.

You see, a supplement can only do so much – it can only SUPPORT what you’re doing with your weight training and nutrition. If your training program or nutrition don’t work without supplementation, no supplement is going to fix that.

I use supplements every single day. They can help tremendously in your training, especially when you use supplements that are effective and have proven to be so! There are plenty of good supplements and good manufacturers out there (more on that below)!


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!

By Nick Nilsson

Think proper nutrition is complicated? It doesn’t have to be.
Follow these simple principles and you’ll never go wrong.

 I would bet that without even thinking, you could name 4 or 5 diets or eating plans that are in the popular media…Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Atkins, South Beach, etc. Every time you turn around, there’s a fantastic “new” approach to eating. It’s enough to make your head spin!

But it doesn’t have to be that complicated. I’ve got some easy-to-follow nutritional principles that will help keep you on the right track. Beginner or advanced, these will work for you!

1. Focus your eating on natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible.

While I know it’s not always possible to get fresh fruit and veggies and other unprocessed foods everywhere you go, your body will always respond best when you feed it foods that are not altered through processing. Your body has evolved over thousands and thousands of years to process foods in their natural state – it’s only relatively recently that processed foods have appeared on the scene.

Your body has the digestive mechanisms for efficiently processing foods in their natural state. When you add in the fats, salt, sugar, additives, etc., your body starts having a hard time digesting and coping. Think of it like trying to put regular gas into a vehicle that runs on diesel. It may run, but it’s not going to be very efficient with the fuel and it could cause problems down the road (no pun intended!)

Bottom Line: Eating foods that are not processed allows your body to function more efficiently. You’ll lose fat without even trying.

2. Get plenty of good quality, lean protein sources in your diet

When you’re training, your body has a much greater need for protein. During weight training and endurance training especially, your body is constantly breaking down muscle tissue. Protein is required to rebuild it. By regularly feeding your body good protein sources, you’ll be able to hold onto and build muscle mass easier.

Good sources of lean protein include meats (look for leaner cuts like sirloin), poultry, eggs (while not lean, eggs will not shoot up your cholesterol as many worry), fish, low-fat dairy, soybeans, and various legumes (beans).

As far as how much protein your body needs, this will vary according to how much you weigh and your activity level. A level of around 1 gram per pound of lean bodyweight is a good guideline (we don’t count total bodyweight because fat is not metabolically active and doesn’t require protein to sustain it).

3. Don’t be afraid of “good” fats

Fats can be extremely beneficial, even when you’re trying to lose weight! Fats are important in a tremendous variety of bodily processes including hormone production, immunity, joint and organ protection, and even burning bodyfat. Without the “good” fats, your body will not function as well as it could.

“Good” fats include sources such as fish, nuts, flax oil, borage oil, and olive oil (there are many other good sources as well). Increasing your intake of these good fats can help keep you feeling good and burning your own bodyfat more efficiently.

Your total fat intake should be around 30% of your daily calories. A good way to go about getting this is to try and keep your focus primarily on low-fat foods while purposefully adding the “good” fats into your diet (like eating a few almonds every day or taking fish oil or flax oil capsules).

4. Carbs are fine

Despite all the talk about carbs being the enemy, it’s important to note that carbs and foods that contain carbs can actually be quite good for you! It’s generally the refined sugar added to foods that is the problem, not the carbohydrate as a nutrient on its own.

5. Non-nutritious foods should be minimized

This is an easy one. More than likely, you already know that you shouldn’t be eating Cheesy-Poofs or chocolate bars 3 meals a day. The calories you get from these foods don’t come with any actual nutrients. When your body is missing nutrients, it craves more food (not to mention the insulin response to the sugar in many of these foods) and you tend to eat more of the poor food that doesn’t have nutrients in it.

It’s ironic to think that many overweight people are actually malnourished! When you eat nutrient-dense foods, your body gets the nutrients it needs and functions much better.

5. Salads, fruits and vegetables will give you lots of fiber, roughage and nutrition

Eat plenty of salds, fruits and veggies every day. This is usually one that everybody already knows yet doesn’t normally focus on. The fiber in the foods helps keep you from getting too hungry and helps keep your digestive system clean.

6. Just do the best you can

It’s not always easy or convenient to follow good eating principles. There are plenty of tasty temptations to be found every time you turn around.

The REAL key to proper nutrition is to focus on trying to do well MOST of the time, not all of the time. It’s what you do most of the time that will give you the long-term results you’re looking for. Determining that you MUST be perfect all of the time is a sure way to set yourself up for disappointment when the time comes that you don’t eat a perfectly healthy food choice.

Sometimes, you just have to eat those Cheesy Poofs and not worry about it.


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including “Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass”, “Metabolic Surge – Rapid Fat Loss,” “The Best Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of,” “Gluteus to the Maximus – Build a Bigger Butt NOW!” and “The Best Abdominal Exercises You’ve Never Heard Of”, all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick’s 30-day “Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST,” available at!