Make no mistake: Eating for muscle is just as important as lifting for muscle. The foods you grab in the morning on the way to work, the meals you pack for lunch and mid-afternoon, what you put into your body immediately following your workout, and your final meal of the day impact your results as much as, if not more than, the number of reps you squeeze out at the end of a set. But in reality, it can be tough to stick to a "clean" diet when you're busy. We know that adding another layer of complexity to life in the form of reading food labels and studying ingredient lists just isn't an option for most of us. Not to mention actually preparing all those healthy meals.
Prolonged sitting and activities like running or cycling can lead to tight hip flexor muscles and a variety of skeletal imbalances. Think: if you only cycle for exercise, certain muscles in your legs will get stronger (in a lot of cases you overwork these muscles) yet your core and outer hip muscles might get weaker from lack of engagement. So what? Well, these muscle imbalances often lead to skeletal imbalances and injuries down the line. If you have particularly tight hip flexors, your body will start to create an anterior pull on the pelvis (anterior pelvic tilt). You can identify an anterior pelvic tilt if your belly protrudes slightly in the front while your butt sticks out in the back (what some people refer to as “duck butt”).
Take note to see if the thigh rests down parallel to the ground (Picture 2) or if it stays up in the air (Picture 1) (You will need someone to be nearby to see what your leg does). Perform on both sides and compare. If the thigh does not stay raised up in the air then there is no true hip flexor tightness and stretching does not need to be performed. If one of the thigh/legs stays up noticeably higher than the other, then stretching will need to be performed. If your leg is able to hang down comfortably parallel to the ground or lower then you passed the test!
From a standing position on your left foot, hinge forward from your hips keeping your back flat and right leg in straight behind it, and core braced. Reach your right hand toward your left foot. Then, engage your glutes and hamstrings on your left leg to drive yourself back up to standing and swing your right knee up and through toward your chest. Stand as tall as possible and hold that end position for 2-3 seconds before repeating. This entire exercise is about “sticking” the knee drive hold at the end, so don’t rush through it. Repeat for required reps, then switch sides.
The G-med and G-min perform similar functions, depending on the position of the knee and hip joints. With the knee extended, they abduct the thigh (out to the side away from the opposite leg). When running, they stabilize the leg during the single-support phase. With the hips flexed, they internally rotate the thigh. With the hips extended, they externally rotate the thigh.
But how do you actually know if you have weak glutes? A good way to test them is to do a single leg squat as low as you can go, says Brian Schulz, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, CA. “Knee flexion to 90 degrees is a good sign that the gluteal muscles are strong enough,” he says.
After all, if you’re doing more reps in a set, the weight would obviously be lighter and the intensity level lower. If you’re doing fewer reps in a set, the weight is obviously heavier and the intensity is higher. In addition, how close you come to reaching failure – aka the point in a set when you are unable to complete a rep – also plays a role here.
Although muscle stimulation occurs in the gym (or home gym) when lifting weights, muscle growth occurs afterward during rest periods. Without adequate rest and sleep (6 to 8 hours), muscles do not have an opportunity to recover and grow. Additionally, many athletes find that a daytime nap further increases their body's ability to recover from training and build muscles. Some bodybuilders add a massage at the end of each workout to their routine as a method of recovering.
Too much sitting: You probably know it can contribute to serious health problems like obesity and osteoporosis. But did you know it also contributes significantly to back woes, including lower back pain in yoga poses? Fortunately, you can use your yoga practice to offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, relieve associated back pain, and set the stage for safe practice of intermediate poses like backbends.
I know this goes against the recommendations you often see in stereotypical bodybuilding routines (i.e. the ones that involve having a single “chest day” or “arm day” or “shoulder day” once a week), but that’s just one of the many reasons why those types of routines suck for us natural, genetically-average people, and work best for steroid users with great genetics.
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