Armed and Fabulous

Sculpt killer bi’s and tri’s with this six-move regimen.

Arms don’t always get the attention they need. They tend to be tacked onto the tail end of another bodypart, when you’re already a bit fatigued and not necessarily ready to go at them as intensely as you should. This workout — meant to be done as a stand alone day in your training split — provides three challenging moves each for bi’s and tri’s.

The workout: You’ll pyramid up your weights on the first two exercises for each bodypart, choosing a weight that you fail right around the 10th rep on your last set of the exercise. You’ll finish up with sets to failure of bench dips for triceps, and dumbbell preacher curls for biceps — the former is a bodyweight move, and for the latter, pick one weight that you can only get about 10 or so reps with and use it for all four sets.

Tip: Each time you do this workout, switch which bodypart you lead off with — so, for example, do triceps and then biceps (as listed) the first day you try the workout, then flip bi’s and tri’s next time.

The Exercises: Your How-To Guide For Each Move

Lying Dual-Dumbbell French Press

Setup: Lie face up on a flat bench with your feet on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward. Extend your arms straight up over your chest, then angle them back toward your head so they’re at a 45-degree angle.

Action: Squeeze your triceps as you slowly lower the weights on either side of your forehead until your elbows make about a 90-degree angle. Pause for a moment, then strongly extend your arms to return to the start.

Dumbbell Kickback

Setup: Place your hand and same-side knee on a flat bench and grasp a dumbbell with your palm facing inward with the other hand. Raise your upper arm and pin it to your side.

Action: Hold that upper arm in place as you extend your elbow and press the dumbbell up in a smooth arc until it’s straight and parallel to your torso. Don’t allow your elbow to drop as you return your lower arm to the start position.

Bench Dip

Setup: Sit sideways on a flat bench with your hands on either side of your hips, fingers forward. Your knees should be bent and feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart. Press into your palms and lift your bum off the bench, sliding it forward so you’re supported between your hands and feet.

Action: Bend your elbows to lower yourself straight down as far as you can go, or until your elbows make 90-degree angles. Then press through the heels of your hands and extend your arms to return to the start.

Standing Barbell Curl 21s

Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a barbell with a shoulder-width, underhand grip, arms extended toward the floor.

Action: For the first seven reps, curl the barbell from the bottom and stop at the halfway point of the rep, when your forearms are parallel to the floor. For the second seven reps, start from this midpoint and curl the bar to the topmost position, where the bar approaches your shoulders. For the final seven reps, use full range of motion, starting at the bottom and curling all the way to the top.

Tip: Start with less weight than you can handle for regular standing curls because of the added reps and the challenge of doing partials through the upper half of the ROM.

Alternating Dumbbell or Kettlebell Curl

Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides, arms extended, palms facing forward.

Action: Maintaining ad upright posture, contract your biceps to curl one weight toward your shoulder, keeping your elbow at your side. Hold and squeeze the contraction at the top, then slowly return the dumbbell along the same path. Repeat with the opposite arm.

One-Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curl

Setup: Grasp a dumbbell and place one arm over a standing or seated preacher bench, palm facing away from you.

Action: Keeping your shoulder down and wrist rigid, raise the dumbbell in an arc toward your head, stopping just short of bringing your forearm perpendicular to the floor. Squeeze your biceps to get a maximal contraction, and then return to the start position, making sure to stop just before full lockout elbow extension (to avoid hyperextending your elbow).

Tip: No preacher bench — no problem! An incline bench will work in a pinch. Just adjust the bench to about a 45-degree angle and place your arm over the back of it.

Salmon and Avocado Quinoa Sushi

This healthy take on sushi is nutritious and delicious.

Ready in: 25 minutes

Makes: 1 serving

Tip: Can’t find sushi-grade salmon? Substitute with smoked salmon instead.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz fresh sushi-grade salmon
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • Dash sea salt
  • 2 nori (seaweed) sheets
  • Wasabi (optional)
  • Low-sodium soy sauce (optional)

Instructions

  1. Slice avocado lengthwise into 1/4″-thick pieces and salmon lengthwise into approximately 1/2″-thick pieces. Set aside.
  2. Combine quinoa, rice vinegar and salt in a bowl.
  3. Place 1 sheet of nori on a sushi bamboo mat (or a table placemat protected with plastic wrap) and spoon half of the quinoa mixture on top. Spread, evening out with clean hands and leaving a small edge at the top and bottom of the nori.
  4. Line half of the avocado and half of the salmon in the center horizontally over the quinoa.
  5. Roll the edge closest to you over the salmon and avocado, then grasp the mat and roll it over the sushi to make sure it’s rolled tightly. Wet the other edge of the nori with water to stick it to the outside of the sushi roll. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make second roll.
  6. Slice the rolls carefully into 1/2″ pieces with a large, wet knife.
  7. Serve with wasabi and low-sodium soy sauce (optional).

Nutrients per serving: Calories: 360, Total Fats: 17 g, Saturated Fat: 2 g, Trans Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 62 mg, Sodium: 157 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 24 g, Dietary Fiber: 6 g, Sugars: 0 g, Protein: 27 g, Iron: 3 mg

Super Gains With Supersets

Here’s a quick and dirty way to train your flip side.

Second only to legs, your back probably takes the most out of you when it comes to training. But unfortunately, you don’t always have tons of time to dedicate to working this massive muscle group. In those instances, a superset workout are your best bet, and this superset packs six moves and 13 sets into a turbocharged 30-minutes-or-less format.

Warm up for five to 10 minutes with some light cardio and dynamic stretching that focuses on the shoulders, upper back, lower back, hips and neck, then begin your first superset. Do the superset moves back-to-back and rest no more than 60 seconds between to fast-track your workout duration and your calorie burn. Use a light to moderate weight for your first superset, then aim for a moderately heavy weight for the rest of the moves. Keep your reps pretty high to increase your time under tension, which boosts muscle development.

Barbell Good Morning

Setup: Balance a barbell across your shoulders and traps and grasp it lightly with both hands. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders down and back, and focus forward.

Move: Moving your upper body as one unit, fold forward with a straight back — hinging at the hips — and lower your torso toward the floor. When you’ve come nearly parallel or as far as you can, reverse the move and rise to the start.

Tip: If you have tight hamstrings, bend your knees slightly to allow for a greater range of motion. Also, if you have lower-back problems, perform these with a very light weight and move slowly and deliberately with each repetition.

Wide-Grip Pull-Up

Setup: Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands spaced wider than your shoulders in an overhand grip. Bend your knees and cross your feet behind you. Look up toward the bar and lift your chest.

Move: Retract your shoulder blades, then drive your elbows down and back to lift your chest toward the bar. Pause at the top, then slowly lower to the start under control.

Tip: Change your hand placement to hit different parts of your back. Try a close grip, underhand grip and flip grip (one hand over, one hand under).

Beginner Tip: If you’re not yet proficient with pull-ups, use a pull-up band to assist or enlist a training partner to spot you until you develop more strength.

Reverse-Grip Dumbbell Row

Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a set of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing forward. Keeping your back flat, hinge at the hips and fold forward about 45 degrees. Let your arms hang straight down toward the floor with your head neutral.

Move: Drive your elbows up and back, keeping your upper arms in close to your sides and pulling the weights in toward your rib cage. At the top, pause and squeeze, then lower to the start.

Tip: Alternate these week to week with a regular dumbbell row to hit your back in different ways.

Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullback

Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a dumbbell at your side in an overhand grip. Fold forward from your hips with a flat back and allow your arm to hang straight down toward the floor. Place your opposite hand on your thigh for support.

Move: Keeping your arm straight, lift it in an arc alongside your body and up until it is parallel to the floor. Pause at the top, then lower slowly to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tip: Keep your back straight and your shoulders square throughout this move to properly isolate your back muscles.

Dumbbell Bent-Arm Pullover

Setup: Lie faceup on a flat bench with your upper back and shoulders fully supported and hold a dumbbell with both hands over your chest, elbows slightly bent.

Move: Slowly drop the weight in an arc back over your head toward the floor, keeping your arms in close to your ears and your elbows slightly bent. When your elbows come level with your head, reverse the move and return to the start.

Tip: Keeping your arms slightly bent helps alleviate pressure on your elbows.

Stability-Ball Hyperextension

Setup: Lie facedown on a stability ball so your hips are supported, and extend your legs behind you with your toes digging into the floor. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows flared.

Move: Keeping your back straight, lift your upper body until it comes in line with your legs and pause, squeezing your glutes at the top. Lower slowly to the start and repeat right away.

Tip: To make this move more challenging, hold a small plate with your arms extended straight out by your head to create a longer lever arm and amp the intensity.

Balance Your Physique With Deceleration Training

Do these skills and zigzag training drills to improve your ability to stop on a dime while burning fat and mega calories.

Everyone trains to go faster, bigger, harder, stronger — but once you’re going warp speed — then what? The ability to stop is just as important as being able to go from zero to 60, so unless crashing and burning is part of your plan, learning to slow down — decelerate — should be on your exercise to-do list. 

Deceleration is the series of movements that help you slow down, change direction or stop when playing sports. Like any skill, this needs to be trained, and teaching your body to control and dampen forces such as momentum and gravity can help prevent injury while improving overall performance.

“Improving the ability to decelerate is imperative for almost any athletic endeavor since one rarely runs in a straight line at a constant speed,” says Josh Bryant, CSCS, co-author of Jailhouse Strong Interval Training (Back Arms Publications, 2015). “And with over 200,000 ACL injuries a year, you should take advantage of the variables you can control — deceleration training being one of them.”

Bryant especially recommends deceleration training for women: We girls are actually at greater risk for knee injuries because typically our quad-to-hamstring strength ratio is imbalanced, with our quads typically being about 40 percent stronger than our hamstrings. “From a movement perspective, this means a female athlete is more likely to decelerate using the quadriceps first, resulting in greater knee instability,” Bryant says. “The good news is that this is a correctable issue.”

Use these drills and lifts one or two times per week to train for deceleration, improving muscular balance and power while helping prevent injury. “The gym moves should be blended into your routine to balance your physique and the power of your accelerating versus decelerating muscles,” Bryant says. “The drills can be implemented as part of a warm-up before a practice or game, or track workout.”

Skills Workout

When doing the skills workout, think about accelerating the bar or weight from the bottom-most position in an explosive manner.

Romanian Deadlift

Setup: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a barbell in front of your thighs with an overhand grip. Your back should be straight, your shoulders down and back.

Move: Push your glutes back and bend forward from your hips while maintaining the arch in your back as you lower the bar down along the front of your legs until it comes to about midshin. Extend your hips and slide the bar back up along your legs to return to the start.

Tip: Unlike a stiff-legged deadlift, this version works more of the hamstrings and glutes while minimizing the activation of the lower-back muscles. Your knees should be semi-bent for the entirety of the move. 

Tempo Back Squat

Setup: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a barbell across your upper back and traps, chest lifted, shoulders down and back.

Move: Kick your hips back and bend your knees, taking five full seconds to squat to the bottom, going as low as you can. Pause for a count of two, then drive up out of the hole, explosively extending your knees and hips to come to the start.

Tip: Keep your chest lifted and your weight back toward your heels to focus the majority of the work on your posterior chain — glutes and hamstrings.

Box-Jump Downs

Setup: Stand on top of a box that is at least 18 inches high.

Move: Step off the box with one foot, landing with both feet and bending your knees and hips into a half-squat to absorb the impact, arms in the ready position. Hold the landing for a count of two, then repeat.

Tip: Make your landing active versus passive. Think about “sticking” it like a gymnast — muscles and core tight, body ready for anything.

Barbell Bench Hip Thrust

Setup: Sit with your upper back and shoulders against a flat bench and position a barbell across your hipbones, holding it steady with both hands. Your knees should be bent and your feet should be wider than hip-width apart.

Move: Press your shoulders and upper back into the bench as you drive your hips upward until they come level with your knees and shoulders. Hold for a count of two, then slowly lower to the start for a count of five.

Tip: Vary the position of your feet to change the exercise emphasis slightly — wider, narrower, toes out.

Drills Workout

Flying 30s

Find a long length of straight track or large open field and mark it off in 30-meter intervals with a cone or a small rock.

Meters 0 to 30: Run, gradually building toward top speed while maintaining perfect running form.

Meters 30 to 60: Maintain this top speed.

Meters 60 to 90: Decelerate gradually, keeping your knees flexed, taking short steps, and keeping your center of gravity in front of your knees.

Forward/Backward One-Legged Hop and Stick

Stand on your left foot with your arms at your sides. Hop forward several feet and land, absorbing the impact, then freezing in the down position, holding the landing for one count. Then hop rearward on the same leg and again stick the landing. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Tips: Use your arms to help generate momentum forward and back. Keep your nonworking leg in tight to you for better balance.

Vertical Two-To-One Jump

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides. Bend your knees and hips and load up, then explode into the air as high as you can, reaching your arms overhead. Land on one leg, absorbing the impact and holding the landing for one count. Replace your other foot and repeat, alternating landing legs with each repetition.

Tips: Make sure you land softly, knee slightly bent and muscles and core tight. Also, look forward, not straight down, because this will help you balance.

Lateral Cone Freeze

Line up a series of three to four cones with about a foot in between and stand sideways to the lineup at one end. Move laterally through the cones, performing high knees across and over each one, using your arms to help keep tempo. When you get to the end, stick the landing and freeze. Hold for one count, then repeat in the opposite direction to complete one rep.

Josh Bryant, CSCS, is the CEO and master trainer at JoshStrength.com, and he has written or co-written four Amazon.com No. 1 bestsellers, including Jailhouse Strong Interval Training.

Odd Object Training

Tires and sandbags and tubes, oh my! How odd object training could make you stronger, more balanced and fitter than ever.

With the popularity of events such as CrossFit and obstacle course racing comes a new kind of training protocol that looks, well, odd. It’s odd object training, to be precise, and it can use any non-barbell or -dumbbell piece of equipment from a water-filled tube or sandbag to a bucket of rocks or giant tractor tire. Awkward? Yes, but that’s the point: Your body is forced to deal with that awkwardness, recruiting muscles in new ways and forcing your body to work synergistically.

Force your muscles to work in new ways

“The brain thinks in terms of movement, not specific muscles, and odd object training can help us get strong in athletic ways that are more primal,” says Joe DiStefano, CSCS, director of training and fitness for the Spartan Race series. “Traditionally speaking, weight training is extremely controlled: The weights are premeditated, evenly loaded and perfectly balanced, and we move through a very thoughtful, strategic range of motion. However, the demands imposed during sports are totally unpredictable. By training with objects that are imbalanced, awkward or unstable, we can improve our ability to control the unpredictability stressors and demands we face in competition or in life.”

Odd object training works on several levels, building functional strength and improving neurological connections, ultimately making you stronger and more efficient. “Using a 50-pound slosh pipe full of water recruits a lot more muscles and develops a lot more neurological efficiency than does a 135-pound overhead barbell press,” says DiStefano. “This improved neurological efficiency increases the strength of the stabilizing muscles, bringing them up to match the strength of the prime movers. Suddenly the prime movers can push a lot more weight.”

And although it’s counterintuitive, training in an off-balance manner can actually bring you into balance: That same neurological conditioning that builds strength can help correct imbalances between your dominant and non-dominant sides, which ultimately helps prevent injury. “The athlete who spends a lot of time beating down his or her body with heavy loads is also a great candidate for odd object training,” adds DiStefano. “Working unilaterally, synergistically and athletically could be the very thing to help this athlete recover from overtraining and ultimately become more powerful.”

Get Odd

Blending odd object training into your traditional protocol is an easy way to jump in, adding four to six sets with a unique implement each workout. Try supersetting a conventional lift with an odd object exercise to train opposing movement patterns, DiStefano suggests. For example, pair a heavy, low-rep deadlift with a high-rep slosh tube overhead press, or a heavy bench press with a four- to six-minute bucket carry.

Sure, you could just use one dumbbell, kettlebell or weight plate in a unilateral manner to throw you off kilter, but why not get creative? Add a few of the fun toys below to your odd arsenal.

Cinder blocks: They’re awkward, bulky and frigging heavy; in other words, perfect. Do overhead squats, walking lunges with the block in one hand or maybe a Turkish get-up.

Sandbags: Go to your favorite home-improvement store, get a 25- or 50-pound bag of sand, sling it over one shoulder and do lunges, squats or step-ups.

Buckets: While you’re there, pick up a big, empty paint bucket. Add a few rocks, maybe some water, then carry it from point A to point B as best you can.

Beer Keg: Fill an empty keg with water to the desired weight and use it for bench pressing, carrying, squatting and rowing.

Slosh tube: Purchase one online or create your own with an 8- to 10-foot PVC pipe and end caps. Fill it with water to the desired weight, then use it for overhead work or front squats.

Oversized Tire: Go to a salvage yard and snag one for cheap (or free). Find a big empty space and flip that sucker for a total number of yards down and back.

Junk: Yep, you read that right: Look in your basement, backyard, shed or closet. Use that stump you never threw in the chipper like an Atlas stone, or fill that one-handled wheelbarrow with gravel and water and push it up and down a hill. Use your imagination, get odd and get to work.

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