No one likes a bragger. We know. But the fact is that M&F knows training and nutrition. We are out there - in the gym, in the lab, backstage - living and breathing this stuff everyday in order to bring you the most informative publication possible. Anecdotally and scientifically, we pride ourselves on bringing you the best information out there.
In order to get you off to a strong start in 2009, our editorial staff got together over coffee and protein shakes to put together a list of our best tips for the new year. Each tip here comes on the heels of a recent study or on that editor's personal experience. Use them all or just pick a few that speak to your specific goals. Either way, you'll be better of this year than last. To keep the progress coming, set us as your homepage and keep reading Muscle & Fitness each month.
1 DO SPRINTS
Joe Wuebben - Senior Features Editor
For most people, cardio gets boring after awhile. And when cardio gets boring, cardio gets less effective at burning bodyfat, since you're more likely to "go through the motions" than to push yourself hard when motivation is lacking.
The solution: Break away from the obligatory 30-minute steady state cardio routine on a treadmill or elliptical and hit your local track. Work sprints into your program 2-3 times per week at lengths of around 40 yards to 400 meters (one lap around a track). For the shorter distances (40-50 yards), work up to doing 10-15 all-out sprints with 30-60 seconds rest between each one. For the longer ones (400 meters), work up to 4-5 90% sprints with 2-3 minutes between each.
Mixing sprints of varying lengths in with your steady state cardio will ramp up your fat-burning efforts big time.
2 JOIN A BOXING GYM
Eric Velazquez - Senior Editor/Online Editor
There's nothing more cathartic than whaling away on a heavy bag after a long day at the office. But a crisply-landed jab-cross-hook combo does way more than just relieve stress.
Boxing gyms, which offer hour-long, group instructional classes, can burn anywhere from 400-750 calories in an hour. Boxing-related activities, such as jumping rope, medicine ball work and plyometrics can also help you tap into muscle fibers you forgot you had. Plus, you get to learn a skill. Sure beats the treadmill. Two of our fave boxing dives are Fortune Gym in Hollywood (www.fortunegym.com) and Gleason's in Brooklyn (www.gleasonsgym.net).
3 TAKE UP A SPORT...ANY SPORT
Jon Finkel - Staff Writer
Each month, our magazine provides you with countless workouts, nutrition tips and supplement advice to help you improve your physique. But even the most committed of us get bored. I know some people look at the start of a New Year and think about all the goals they can achieve, but sometimes I look at the start of the year and think, "crap, I have to work out all year again."
For some of you, avoiding that feeling will come from new goals: tighter abs, bigger arms, stronger legs, etc... For those of you who have been there and done that, I suggest you pick up a new sport or activity. I realize we're all iron heads at heart, and I'm sure whatever new hobby you pick up will include lifting, but don't underestimate the importance of lifting towards performance, as well as aesthetic goals. Make this the year you learn how to box (and lift like Vladimir Klitchko). Or the year you finally go Mountain Biking (and train your legs like Lance Armstrong). Or make it the year you decide to swim (and lift like Michael Phelps).
This way, when it comes time to wrap up 2009, you won't only look better, you'll have accomplished something else along the way - a new talent to show off.
4 KNOW YOUR QUEST
Mark Thorpe - Senior Editor
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it. Heck, who doesn't know why they're working out? You'd be surprised actually. "One of the keys to success is to know and set your quest," says Mark Allen, six-time Ironman World Champion and co-author with Brant Secunda of Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You. "Which really just means sitting down with yourself and saying, Where am I going and why is this important to me? It doesn't have to be a big psychological moment in your life." This may sound like some pretty basic goal setting, but knowing why you're in the gym, and specifically meeting weekly, if not daily goals, will increase your chances of building the body you want.
5 START THE YEAR OFF STRONG
Jim Stoppani (pictured) - Senior Science Editor
Many M&F readers are so focused on getting bigger that they keep training in the 8-10 rep range, rarely veering off that path. While that rep range is perfect for building muscle, if you stick only with that rep range, your muscle will get accustomed to that training impetus and will stagnate.
One way to prevent this is to change your rep range (and thus the weight you use to reach that rep range) at least every 6-8 weeks. I suggest you do this by starting the New Year with one of our strength programs that drops the reps down as low as 2-3 per set. Not only will this prevent the stagnation that you are bound to run into, but it will let you take all your lifts to a heavier weight so that when you do get back to training in the 8-10 rep range you'll be able to go heavier than you did before, which will place greater overload on your muscles and help to take your muscle growth to new levels. So start 2009 by getting stronger to get bigger.
6 DON'T COUNT CALORIES
Chris Lockwood - Editor-in-Chief
When leaning out and trying to increase (or at least retain) muscle mass, don't count calories; know your protein needs and carbohydrate limits. The old dogma of weight loss or gain being solely dependant upon caloric intake versus expenditure is as outdated as last year's calendar. Instead, you need to closely track your daily protein and carbohydrate intake as you work toward specific goals.
First, find a way to consume about six meals per day, evenly divided throughout and consumed at regularly timed intervals each day. Next, determine your goal body weight (in pounds) and then multiply that weight by 0.8, 1.0 or 1.36 depending upon your activity level (low-moderate, moderate-high, or high-intensity, respectively). The number you come up with is your total protein (in grams) per day. Divide this number by the number of meals you consume per day. This number represents the amount of protein you should consume per meal.
Next, multiply the protein amount per meal by 0.98 and 1.5. This is the range of carbohydrates you're allowed to consume per meal, relative to the amount of protein you're consuming. Stick to the lower number if you're female or trying to seriously cut body fat and minimize muscle loss; lean toward the higher number if you're trying to lean out and increase muscle mass. Combine the protein and carb quantities (in grams) per meal and multiply by 4. Take this number and divide by 0.7. Then, divide that number by 9. The value you come up with is the approximate amount of total fat you should consume per meal; the majority of which should come as mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, as well as from medium-chain triglycerides (a form of saturated fat). It's a bit of math, but we're assuming you're willing to do some calculating to get where you want to go this year.
7 ADDING PROTEIN AND FAT
Mike Carlson - Executive Editor
Start substituting protein and fat calories for some of your starchy carbohydrates. More and more scientific and anecdotal evidence is making it clear that carbs drive insulin, and insulin drives fat storage. Unless you are a marathoner or triathlete, you only need enough carbs a day to fuel your brain and a relatively short (but hopefully intense) workout.
Cut back on the rice, pasta, and bread and consume more vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts and oils. It will feel funny at first to load up on salad dressing, nut butters and avocadoes, but invariably your energy levels will steady out, your hunger pangs will calm down and, since dietary fat promotes the burning of stored fat, you'll start looking more ripped. As an added bonus, your antioxidant and vitamin intake will sky-rocket with the extra fruits and vegetables and your absorption will improve since many nutrients are fat-soluble.
Try this for a meal: a big green salad (the darker green the better) topped with chicken, chopped vegetables (tomatoes, onions, red peppers, broccoli) olives, avocado, sliced almonds, and dressed with oil and vinegar.
8 HOME GROWIN'
Jimmy Pena - Fitness Director
Maybe you're an avid reader but haven't been in the gym for quite a while and you don't want to step foot in the gym just yet. No problem. For the next four weeks, start off the year by rebuilding yourself through bodyweight-only exercises. From push-ups (incline, decline and standard) to sit-ups and reverse crunches, to jump squats, pull-ups and thrusters. There are countless ways to begin - or begin again.
And in fact, you can track your progress from day 1, then at the end of 30 days look back and see how far you've come. Beginning tomorrow, do 10 reps of each exercise. That's it. Then the next day, add 1-5 reps to each. Do that for 30 days, each day trying to add at least five reps to each move. If you can do more, great. Just make sure to log your progress each day. By the end of the month, you'll be scrounging through the top drawer for that membership card, as your muscles thirst for a feel of good old iron.