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Recent Blog Entries


The Best Six-Pack Ab Exercises
Mar 2nd, 2010 - written by Stephan in Strength Training (0 comments)

At first glance, the best and most effective six-pack ab exercise won´t be recognized as abdominal-specific, because it isn´t the classic and very popular exercise like crunches, leg raises or sit-ups that I´m talking about. Obviously, even crunches don´t offer a really functional core training, hence there are much smarter ways to train and shape the center of your body.

Six-pack Abs Requirements

To get six-pack abs, you have to meet two essential requirements:

MusclesStrong core muscles are the basis, not just for good-looking abs, that is nothing more than a pleasant side-effect, but for a pain-free back, a good posture and an outstanding training performance, which requires the core muscles to be as strong as possible.
Body FatMen need to have a body fat percentage of 10% or lower to show a six-pack ab. Otherwise they remain hidden below a layer of body fat. That, however, means no functional disadvantages at all, you simply don´t have visible abs.
Therefore you have to keep your body fat as low and core muscles as strong as possible.

Complex Training vs. Isolation Training

Currently, the most popular ab exercises are isolation exercise that involve certain rolling-in movements of the upper body, which is no functional way to train your abs. The main purpose of all core muscles is to stabilize the trunk against external forces. Beside stabilization, the obliques serve as torso rotator. Let me summarize:

Isolated core training through upper body roll-ins or side-bends is a meaningful act, but does not provide a functional and natural way of core strengthening.

Also the percentage of body fat, as the second important pillar for a six-pack abs, can be influenced more effectively by doing functional and complex exercises, since you activate a large number of muscles simultaneously. This leads to an increased hormone secretion and increased fat burning. A reduction in body fat requires a certain amount of active muscle and an adequate diet, which leads to insight number two:

The more muscles you activate simultaneously during an exercise and the more muscle mass you own, the higher your potential for burning body fat. Therefore you have to do complex exercises, requiring a signficant and functional participation of your core muscles.

The List: The Best Six-pack Ab Exercises

I will divide this list into two categories:

  • Ab Exercises whose target muscles are mainly abs.
  • Non-Ab Exercises that activate a large number of muscles and put high demand on your core muscles.

Ab Exercises

Exercise NameImage and LinkComments
Crunches, Seated

It is a very effective crunch variation. You can easily adjust the training resistance to even hard levels. The advantage over crunches is the nonexistent external pressure on the vertebral bodies.

Plank is an easy-to-do stabilizing exercise. Beware to keep your abs tensed and to avoid any hyper-extension of the lower back.
Side Plank

Side planks train you obliques. It relates to planks and involves many other muscles to keep up the position.
Russian Twist, Seated

It is a great exercise for obliques while abdominals serves as stabilizer. Remember to avoid any lower back hyper-extension throughout the motion.
Mountain Climbers, Floor Sprint

Das eigentlich Anziehen der Beine wird allein von der Hüftbeugemuskulatur realisiert, die einseitigen Lastwechsel und das Beugen des Oberkörpers aktivieren jedoch sehr stark die schrägen und geraden Bauchmuskeln. Die Liegestützposition erfordert eine Anspannung beinahe aller Muskeln der Körpervorderseite.
Reverse Crunch

The upper back fixation combined with the hip pull up results in a significant abdominal workout while relieving the lower back.

Non-Ab Exercises

Exercise NameImage and LinkComments
Front Squat

Front Squats are a fantastic leg workout that requires your torso to be kept as upright as possible, which on the other hand implies high stabilizing effort of your abdominal muscles. The large number of participating muscles makes front squats one of the most effective exercises ever.
Suitcase Squat

It is a squat variation that, depending on the level of resistance, will train your complete muscles, especially obliques.
Overhead Squat

Holding the barbell above your head is a real challenge for your upper body muscles, while the lifted center of gravity put more emphasis on stabilizing the trunk. Like front squats, it is one of the most effective exercises.
Renegade Row

Balancing the side-to-side load changes really train all core muscles, especially obliques. At the same time the dumbbell pull-up movement and push-up position hit all back, chest and arm muscles, which makes it an extremely demanding exercise.
Barbell Deadlift

Deadlift, as one of the classic power lifting and strength training exercises, focuses on training your thighs, lower back and traps. Thus, it is one the best six-pack ab exercises, because he use of relatively high workload enforces a very complex muscular activity

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tags: six pack |  exercises |  advice |  strength training | 

How to Do Shoulder Dislocations
Mar 1st, 2010 - written by Stephan in Flexibility (0 comments)

Shoulder Dislocations are a great dynamic flexibility exercise to stretch your chest and front shoulder muscles, to correct the posture of the upper torso, to prevent you from shoulder pain from working out and to improve the flexibility of your shoulder articulations, which is increasing your overall upper body training performance.

Why You Should Do Shoulder Dislocations

If you spent plenty of time in seated position, whether it is in the car or at the desk, your upper back will sooner or later have the tendency to develop a hyper-kyphosis, caused by shortened chest and shoulder muscles weakened upper back muscles. The same is true for almost anyone who is doing a regular strength training for chest and front shoulders. Non-balanced shoulder joints are one of the main sources of shoulder pain.

  • Slouching Shoulders
  • Upper Back Hyperkyphosis
  • Shoulder Pain
ReasonIncorrect Seated Posture
ExamplesOffice DeskCar


ReasonStrength Training
ExamplesPushing Compound ExercisesPushing Isolation Exercises


How to Do Shoulder Dislocations

Shoulder Dislocation Equipment. You need one of the following things. The use of flexible equipment like towel or belt allows more convenient wrist angles. However, if you want to use a rigid stick, go for a wooden broomstick or PVC stick.
  • Broomstick
  • Rope
  • Towel
  • Belt
Shoulder Dislocation Technique. Choose an adequate grip distance and hold, let´s say, the broomstick on front of your thighs. With arms straight lift it above your head and move back behind you down until the broomstick reaches your hips. Return and repeat several times.
  • Grip Distance. It is important to begin with a wide grip and to gradually decrease the grip distance as your shoulder joints become more flexible.
  • Straight Arms. Keep your arms as straight as possible throughout the complete motion.
  • Chest and Back Muscles. Squeeze your back muscles and pull your shoulders together. Keep your chest muscles relaxed.
  • Tense Your Core and Hip Muscles. Tense your abdominal muscles and your glutes to prevent your lower back from hyper-extending.


Common Mistakes

  • Range of Motion. Choose an adequate grip distance. If you can´t perform the full motion, widen your grip.
  • Overall Posture. Don´t hyper-extend your lower back. Tense abdominals and glutes to keep your torso as upright as possible.
  • Execution Speed. Don´t go too fast. Concentrate and on an error-free movement.

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tags: shoulder |  dislocation |  flexibility |  stretching |  exercises | 

Bench Press Video Tutorial | Training Technique | Tips and Tricks
Feb 27th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Strength Training (0 comments)

Finally I had the opportunity to create a Youtube video out of the Bench Press Tutorial video files. Have a look!

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tags: bench press |  video |  youtube |  exercises |  advice |  technique | 

Effective Muscle Building and Fat Loss #2: Increased Metabolism
Feb 19th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Health (0 comments)

The Metabolism in Top Form

The secret of a slim and attractive body lies in the very personal metabolism of every human being. Those who are gaining weight from a (suspected) lettuce can assume that their metabolism is not running at high levels, meaning all body processes slow down and their physical energy and performance are low. A high metabolism causes a high basal metabolic rate, which means the daily energy need of the body increases.

Symptoms of Low Metabolism

  • increased need for sleep
  • weariness
  • decreased energy
  • often cold hands and feet

Very seldom it is "bad genes" that have a negative effect on the metabolism. Rather, the behavior and habits of everyone figure it. Building muscles and therefore burning excess body fat is directly linked to a good metabolism. Any kind of sufficiently intense physical but also mental activity has a positive influence on it. Besides physical activity there are a few other factors playing an important role in this game. Here are the most successful strategies on the way to a good metabolism.

Strategy 1: Physical Activity | Fitness and Everyday Life

Daily exercise is the best way to control your own body weight. A good combination of targeted and non-targeted exercise is the most effective way to increase your metabolism.

Targeted Exercise (Training)Non-targeted Exercise
  • Strength Training
  • Endurance Training
  • Flexibility Training
  • Sports
  • Walks
  • Cycling
  • Gardening / Housework
  • Climbing stairs
Targeted training is of priority, since the degree of intensity is higher, but works best when combined with less intensive regular activities of everyday life to increase metabolism and energy consumption long-term. In addition to the intensity a balanced timing of your workouts plays a crucial role. The following charts illustrate why:

Training Frequency| Metabolic TrendExplanation

Very punctual (although long) training session, e.g. only on weekends, with several days of rest have only little positive effect on the metabolism, it is stagnating.

Regular workouts of 30-60 minutes a significant increase of the metabolism. Have a strength training on at least two non-consecutive days.

Strategy 2: Calorie Intake | Nutrition

One of the most successful strategies to increase the basal metabolic rate is a smart diet. It is by no means about counting calories or living very ascetically. On the contrary, a sensible and intelligent handling of this issue creates enormous scope for culinary delights.

Basically, there are the following three options:
  • Losing body weight, caused by energy deficiency,
  • Keeping body weight, caused by energy balance,
  • Gaining body weight, caused by energy surplus,
but what seems so simple is difficult to control because no one can determine the own daily energy intake and consumption accurately. Fortunately, it is unnecessary, because there is a direct connection between metabolism, basal metabolic rate and caloric intake, as the following graphs show:

Calory Intake | Metabolic TrendExplanation

Energy Balance: To keep up your body weight, it is enough to adjust the average energy intake and consumption. This, of course, should of course happen at a high level.

Energy Surplus: An increased energy supply causes a higher metabolism. If this generates an energy surplus, the body weight increases, which is highly desirable at least for building muscles.

Energy Deficiency: A reduced caloric intake provides an energy deficiency, to which the metabolism adapts quite rapidly. First, the body weight decreases, followed by the basal metabolic rate, until you again reach a point of energy balance or surplus. That is why no diets will ever work without strength training.

Weekly Energy Balance: To occasionally surprise and stimulate your metabolism, get your weekly energy in balance, meaning that you can vary between daily energy surpluses and deficiencies. Consequently your metabolism increases along with the chance for regular days where you will have an energy deficiency. A very enjoyable way of keeping or even losing body weight.

Strategy 3: The Right Timing of Meals

Since the body needs energy on a regular basis, it should also be supplied this way. You body will reward a constant energy supply by an autonomous reduction of body fat. On the other hand, skipping meals for long periods of time leads to a decreased metabolism as it prepares itself for further possible shortages. At the same time you body increases readiness to store any energy supplied as fat. It just does not know better... A constant supply of energy is as important for weight loss as for the increase of body mass. To not produce the exactly unwanted results by mistake, you have to comply with the following rules:
  • Never Fill up Completely, unless you want to gain weight. It doesn´t make sense and may even be counterproductive to eat large quantities at once, because you will have to have a meal every 3-4 hours.
  • Eat Slowly and With Intention. Food eaten too fast is not digested correctly. A lack of concentration leads to unconscious food intake, and inadequate self-control.
  • Drink a Lot. Drink about two to three liters of water per day to maintain the body´s metabolism and detoxification capabilities. Add another liter per hour of exercise.
  • Prefer Whole Foods. If you are unsure what exactly to eat, remember to keep it as simple as possible. Avoid any industrially processed food. Instead, eat fresh, natural foods, and prepare your own meals from them.

    Example Daily Schedule

    06:00 am1. BreakfastIn the morning you should eat particularly easily digestible carbohydrates from foods such as cereals, bread, fruit or fruit juice spritzer. That will wake you up and saves the coffee. As source of proteins choose little sausage, fish or dairy products. In general: do not eat too much and too heavy, because that will promote fatigue and will make it difficult unnecessarily to start the day. In the morning it is particularly important to drink a lot of water, because it will support the still ongoing detoxification processes of the night.
    09:00 am2. Breakfast or SnackAs with each snack you should avoid hard to digest and fatty foods. Otherwise, there are no limits. Dairy products such as yogurt and some fruits and vegetables are a good choice. Again, remember to drink some water.
    12:00 UhrLunchFor most people lunch is the largest meal. Avoid high concentrations of fats and abandon the idea that lunch has to be a warm meal. Heat kills most vitamins, enzymes and takes away all vitality. Of course, some foods need to be cooked or fried to be made edible, but overcooked vegetables only suit as lifeless stomach filler. Drink a glass of water before and after lunch.
    15:30 UhrSnackIn the afternoon most people use to have coffee and cake or other sweets with plenty of sugar for desserts. A great idea if your intention is to feel tired and weak as soon as the blood sugar level returns to normal values. Again prefer fruits, nuts and a healthy source of protein, and drink some water.
    19:00 UhrSupperExcept on training days, avoid significant amounts of carbohydrates in the evening. Instead eat combinations of vegetables, e.g. as a salad, or fish and meat. It is perfectly okay to eat a little more of that in the evening, because hunger has a negative impact on sleep quality. Drink enough fluid.
    22:00 UhrLate SnackWhoever goes to bed very late or wants to build muscle mass, should have a late snack that in best case is content-wise related to the supper.

    Under the condition of maintaining the distance of about 3-4 hours between meals, the times listed here must be adjusted to the individual possibilities and requirements.

    Also read part 1: Effective Muscle Building and Fat Loss #1: The Basics

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tags: fat loss |  muscle building |  nutrition |  advice |  metabolism | 

Effective Muscle Building and Fat Loss #1: The Basics
Feb 16th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Health (0 comments)

The long-term goal of effective muscle-building and fat loss is to get your own body weight in a desirable area and to keep it there, which requires a daily confrontation with your actions and habits. There are really no secret tricks or weapons on the way to the body you want to have. Any success is based on your personal behavior and the understanding of the functioning of your body and your metabolism.

Why Should I Lose Weight?

Normalizing your body fat level entails very significant benefits for both, your body and your feeling of well-being:

Improved Cardiovascular PerformanceObese people suffer from a permanently overstressed cardiovascular system, because the extra body fat needs to be supplied with blood and to be carried around. Each pound of body fat has about 8.5 miles of capillaries, which are the smallest of the body´s blood vessels. The consequences are high blood pressure, many of cardiovascular and other lifestyle diseases and premature death. In particular, the excessive intake of animal fat leads to a high concentration of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, one of the main causes of strokes. Reducing body fat by a healthy diet and activity leads to a significant improvement in physical performance.
Relief of the Musculoskeletal SystemExcess of body fat is a major burden for the body´s passive structures such as bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Consequently the untrained muscles and tendons cannot withstand the load, which ultimately leads to joint pain as another reason to not move at all.
Decreased Risk of DiabetesThe risk of developing diabetes increases with each pound of excess body fat. Studies have shown that the number of diabetes patients in a country is directly linked to the number of overweight people.
Decreased Risk of Premature DeathCommon sense alone is enough to know from that obesity and healthy living even in older age very seldom go hand in hand. The average life expectancy of overweight people is about 8-15 years below the normal levels. In addition to that it results in an enormous loss of quality of living, especially in the last third of life, when the overall physical performance declines and excess body fat becomes an even higher burden.

The Ideal Body Weight via the BMI

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a tool to decide, whether the average adults relation of body weight and body size is in an acceptable range.

Calculating the BMI

Metric SystemAmerican SystemBritish System
BMI = weight (kg) / height² (m²) BMI = 703*weight (lb) / height² (in²) BMI = 6,35*weight (stone) / height² (m²)

Calculating the Body Mass Index does not meet the requirements of athletes, because it does not consider the body composition, e.g. an increased level of muscle mass. It is generally preferable to have a look at the body fat percentage.

The Body Fat Percentage

The body fat percentage is expressed as a percentage, indicating how many shares of the body are consisting of body fat. The following figures are averages. For athletes the normal range can be lowered by up to 5%.

Nominal Body Fat

Based on the percentage of body fat one can calculate nominal amount of body fat as follows.
  • Weight Body Fat(lb) = Body Fat Percentage(%) * Bodyweight(lb).
The ideal range of the nominal weight of body fat is almost the same for men women.
  • 20 lb < body fat in pounds < 30 lb,
i.e. values below 20 lb as well as values above 30 lb are unhealthy.

Somatic Intelligence

Regular and consciously executed training does not only improve your physical performance, but is especially increasing the awareness of dealing with your own body, which is an intelligent and perfect system, but that is only capable to respond to actions and circumstances according to its possibilities.

An excessive food and thus energy supply.arrow_green_left_rightGrowth of the body's energy stores, the fat cells.
Consuming unhealthy food and dead calories.arrow_green_left_rightPoisoning and weakening of the body. Reduced performance.
Too little fluid intake.arrow_green_left_rightDecreased metabolic functions and poisoning of the body.
Lack of physical activity and sport.arrow_green_left_rightLoss of muscle mass, growth of fat cells and decreased metabolism.

The reasons for being overweight, underweight, sickly or not having enough energy can ver rarely be excused with bad genetics or "heavy bones". Our body is nothing but a mirror of our own expectations for ourselves Train and move (use ) it regularly, befriend with it and your body begins to tell you what it is doing well and what does not.

Self Awareness

It is important to have an exact picture of yourself, but don´t take it too seriously or compare with others. Realize your strengths and weaknesses, without apologizing for it, it makes it easier to give life a new direction. You are overweight? Great! Accept it as a result of your recent actions and ways of thinking and change it. You are not motivated and do not feel strong enough to do so? Get up and move you. The more energy your body and mind demand, the more they get. Open the windows, take a deep breath and do 20 squats, take a brisk walk around the block once and drink a liter of cold water. (and then please continue reading...)


How does a piece of coal happen to become a valuable diamond? It is two crucial things: pressure and time.

Transforming your body also needs regular pressure (training) a lot of time (patience). Time is especially important because the organism has to adapt to the new situation. Rapid changes, as the media often praises them to get you to buy useless products, are medically questionable and the results usually are not long-lasting. It is unrealistic to expect the perfect body within a few weeks of training. That´s one of the main reasons why so many people fail: they give up, because their expectations do not fit into the concept of their present life.

Expect a lot, but do not expect a convenient way!

Also read part 2: Effective Muscle Building and Fat Loss #2: The Metabolism

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How Magnesium Can Prevent Muscle Cramps
Feb 10th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Health (0 comments)

Almost any athlete is familiar with cramps within the active muscles during physical exercise. It usually affects runners, but also other intense physical activities such as swimming, squash or ball sports can lead to these painful muscular contractions. However, with the right diet you can prevent cramps.

What causes Muscle Cramps

Mainly an insufficient concentration of magnesium in the blood is responsible for cramps. Magnesium itself is a vital mineral that we take in by the food we consume. A deficiency can occur due to low supply or through an intensive excretion of magnesium, such as sweating, which results in a more spontaneous responsiveness of the nerves that are responsible for the contractions of the muscle, especially within calf and thigh muscles. If cramps happen very regularly, put your diet to a test. Eat more foods that contain large amounts of magnesium.

Magnesium Sources

Magnesium Rich Foods

The daily need of magnesium is about 300-600 mg. The following table shows foods that are very good magnesium suppliers.

FoodMagnesium content per 100 g
Whole wheat bread82 mg
Whole grain pasta52 mg
Brown rice68 mg
Oatmeal140 mg
Fish82 mg
Sunflower seeds420 mg
Pumpkin seeds168 mg
Nuts270 mg
Sesame seeds340 mg
Potatoes30 mg
Greens90 mg
Bananas27 mg
Oranges14 mg
Mineral water10 mg

A balanced diet is a great prevention of muscle cramps. Compensating the fluid balance during or after physical activities with magnesium-rich mineral water is decreasing the risk of suffering from magnesium deficiency even more. Remember to drink one liter of water per hour of exercise.

Magnesium Tablets and Liquids

Another way to increase the magnesium intake is to consume magnesium tablets as a dietary supplement. These are usually available as an effervescent tablet to dissolve in a glass of water. A look at the packaging reveals the amount of magnesium per tablet; usually it is about 200-400 mg. In addition to that, you can get magnesium in liquid form in a special ampule. They provide magnesium ready to eat and usually contain 25 ml of liquid with about 300 mg of magnesium.

Further Action against Muscle Cramps


If a cramps occurs, stop the the current activity o be stopped to stretch the particular muscle. There are two options:
  • Active stretching by flexing the antagonist.
  • Passive or static stretching by applying external forces.
Stretching exercises for the leg muscles:Calves
Front Thighs
Rear Thighs


Then have a slight relaxation massages to relax the muscles even more. Here it is important to act cautiously and gently, because strong external forces can lead to further muscular contractions.

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tags: nutrition |  advice |  magnesium | 

Training Motivation: Obstacles, And How to Overcome Them
Feb 9th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Psychology (0 comments)

Regular training is the foundation for a successful development of one's body and one's skills in any area. Since there will always be reasons and excuses to interrupt this important routine, or even to not begin at all, you´ll now learn how to deal with the most popular obstacles and how to overcome them.

Street's disciples. Image credit by Laurent Filoche


Time is the only thing in the world that really unites all human beings. Everyone has every day of his life exactly 24 hours at his disposal, regardless of age, wealth, place of residence and all other circumstances, it is to the second exactly 24 hours. The key questions are:
  • How do I spend my time? Meaningful or meaningless?
  • Why are a lot of very busy and successful people able to keep themselves physically fit, while many others who have only a fraction of the workload do not have time for that?

Time Management

Knowing how to use the given time is an important reason for success or failure. I´m not talking about completely well planned days, because you still need room for spontaneous decisions. However, specific (training)goals can only be achieved with good time management..
  • Plan your days and weeks in advance. Things like training at the gym, running, squash, or other physical activities need fixed times in the calendar. Everyone, even the busiest people, are able to find a free hour for physical activity for 2-3 times a week. If it is not anchored in the course of a day, there is an almost 100% chance that something comes in between.
  • Use even small opportunities for physical activity. A short training during the lunch break is a perfect mental relaxation and, if properly done, provides new energy for the rest of the day. Use stairs instead of the elevator. Spend delays with short stretches.
  • Do things simultaneously. We live in a world today, where it is necessary for us to handle more and more activities at the same time. Therefore for most people it is quite simple to connect certain processes of everyday life with a bit of fitness. You can walk or cycle short to medium distances. Carrying heavy shopping bags even increases the training effect. Park the car spontaneously in a free car park a little further away and walk to your destination. Studies have shown that this actually saves time, because it spares the later search for a parking place. Get on a home trainer during long phone calls, while watching TV or while organizing the following week.
  • Train at home. If you can´t make it to the gym, you can exercise at home anytime. Even short workouts of 10-15 Minuit are better than doing nothing. A few dumbbells, an elastic band, a mat and an exercise bike is the perfect basic home gym and offers countless training options.
  • Sleep less. Most people spend way too much time in bed. An adult needs about 6-7 hours of sleep per day, whatever goes beyond that is a waste of life time. Also, if you sleep longer, you usually feel tire afterwards, because your metabolism decreases way too far. You even increase your risk for a heart attack by sleeping too long.


Motivation is a key requirement to stay on the track. Without a motive, which is a good reason, even small goals will be difficult to achieve. The following strategies are very effective motivational tools.
  • Set realistic goals. You need to have a long-term goal, such as fat loss, muscle-building, relief from back pain, etc., which has to be split up into medium-and short-term goals. Considered even achieving these smaller goals, such as running a new circuit, the increase of the current training weights or the next pound more or less on the scale, as great success and reward yourself.
  • Create enjoyable circumstances. Find out what kind of training you like most. There are endless possibilities. However, it should match your current training goal. If you want to reduce excess body fat, you need to do some strength training, whether you like it or not. You also have to revise your dietary habits.
  • Find a training partner. Fixed appointments for a joint training provide extra drive. He or she should, however, have about the same goals and basic conditions, otherwise you risk own under- or overload. It is important not to totally depend on your training partner. Train, even if he or she cannot make it.
  • Join a training group. There are training groups for almost any sport, where you'll meet people with same interests and where you receive helpful information about your favorite sport and finally your training and your level of motivation receive some extra momentum.
  • Adjust your training routine. Monotony is the most effective motivation killer. Regular changes of the training exercises and reps at the gym, new running routes or trying completely different sports are a new stimulus for your body and mind and offer new motivation.
  • Motivational media. Listen to (loud) music while exercising, no matter if you´re in the gym or on a forest path. It is okay as long as it pushes you forward and motivates you. Read professional magazines and books about your favorite sport. That usually generates new ideas and motivation.
  • Motivational affirmations. If you don´t receive external motivation, for example from a trainer, you have to motivate yourself. Create your own motivational slogan or rhyme that you keep repeating again and again while running or lifting weights. Shout it out loud, or at least do it in your mind.


Frustration often results in lethargy. And lethargy in turn creates more frustration. Avoid this vicious circle. Be realistic, but ambitious, when it comes to your goals. Any progress takes some time. Concentrate on the long-term goal, do the necessary steps but don´t get used to it. Once a strategy is not working, update your knowledge and ideas and change it. And whatever happens, stay in motion.
  • Track your progress. Take regular control of body weight and body fat percentage. Measure important body circumferences / sizes like hips, waist, chest / back, upper arms, thigh, etc. at about every 2 months. If you don´t make any progress, adjust your program, preferably under supervision of a trainer.
  • Track your performance. A training diary is part of a targeted training, as well as regular fitness tests. If there is any stagnation or even regression, change your strategy.
  • Distractions. Always keep the long-term goal in mind, regardless of external circumstances. Life changes constantly, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. These completely normal processes are no acceptable excuses or reasons for the loss of motivation, because that ultimately causes an even more negative development.
  • Fatigue. A physically active body usually knows exactly what it needs and it tells you so. Often it´s just a lack of time or interest, why people don´t listen to their body. If you feel weak and exhausted, try the following:
    • Steadiness. Usually training should preferably take place at the same time of the day. Your body adapts to it and can then carry out better performances. Also one's own sleep patterns and the timing of meals should remain relatively constant.
    • Enough sleep. For most adults 6-7 hours of sleep are enough. Whoever gets much less than 6 hours of sleep over a long period, risks health problems, a lack of regeneration and performance issues. A short nap of 20-25 minutes provides a very good balance for short nights.
    • Avoid over-training. If your performance level drops, it usually is a sign of over-training. In that case you have to reduce the training volume or rest or a few days. Alternatively do some active recreation, including aerobic endurance training, stretching exercises and gentle fitness exercises.
    • Eat light.Consuming hard digestible foods may also be a cause of fatigue. Eat light and energy-rich foods such as fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, light cereals, vegetable fats and, very important, drink a lot of water. Eat small portions or snacks and don´t eat anything for 1-2 hours before training. After training you have to take in adequate amounts of carbohydrates and protein for an adequate recovery.

Work and Stress

The best and most effective antidote to stress is physical activity. It brings body and mind back in balance, increases metabolism and oxygen supply and stimulates creativity, effectiveness and self-confidence. The challenge is to unify work, everyday life and exercise under one roof.
  • Effective time management. If possible, you should train either directly before or after work. Once you get home and on the couch, it is very hard to get out of it again. As mentioned, schedule your training times as a kind of important meeting with yourself, which must not be disturbed by anyone.
  • Exercising before work provides many benefits. Get up an hour earlier to go for a run or to the gym before you can even think about ridiculous excuses such as bad weather or darkness. Your training or running-clothes should already be ready, which increases own motivation and provides some extra time. After training, as the rest of the world begins to wake up, you already accomplished your first challenges, you are lively, balanced and motivated and you can fill the rest of the day with work and leisure.
  • Train during working breaks. Many companies today have very flexible working hours policies, some even have their own fitness area. Take training clothes with you and work out while your colleagues consume greasy cafeteria food or have a cigarette break. You can go for a short run or a training session at the gym. A tight walk is another great workout; it even saves the otherwise necessary time for showering and changing clothes.
  • Evening workout. Most people train in the evening. As mentioned, this should happen right after work to not let the body rest until you worked out.


Often the closest relatives keep us from training. It does not happen in bad faith. It is their lack of training experience, and thus the understanding of such activities. Now communication become important.
  • Avoid misunderstandings. Announce timing and duration of your training, if possible, bring it into line with family responsibilities.
  • Share your goals. To clarify the importance of your training, you have to share your own goals with your family. Not all of them will meet sympathy, but the family´s willingness to support you will increase.

Holiday and Travel

During vacations or business trips, it is almost impossible to follow the usual training routine. Here are some tips for an active yet relaxing holiday.
  • Available training opportunities. Inform beforehand about training possibilities at the destination. Book hotels with its own fitness club, pool, etc., or ask for a gym in the area.
  • Bodyweight and free exercises. Maybe take some small weights, elastic bands or a skipping rope with you. In any case, you should know a few basic bodyweight exercises that you can do almost anytime and anywhere.
  • Be curious. Explore the new environment while running or cycling.
  • Be creative. The stairwells of large hotels are the ideal training area for a tough cardiovascular training, independent of darkness, weather or local knowledge.


There is no bad weather, only the wrong clothes or the wrong attitude. It is virtually impossible to become a good athlete in a comfortable way.
  • Use functional clothing while running or cycling. Depending on the weather proper shoes, pants, underwear, hats, gloves or sunglasses are essential companions.
  • Bypass extreme weather like heat, cold or rain bypassed with an adequate indoor workout.
  • Accept bad weather as an exciting challenge, as a struggle against the forces of nature.
  • The body adjusts to unusual weather conditions of other climatic zones and is able to perform at comparable level as at home after a few days.

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tags: motivation |  training |  time management |  stress | 

Nutrition 101: How much Protein per Day
Feb 4th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Nutrition (0 comments)

The recommended amount of protein per day is a hot topic, especially among strength training athletes, that is steadily revived by confusing recommendations in so-called professional journals and other media. Meanwhile, there are studies, one I will look at here in detail, that support my personal experience in terms of training, nutrition and muscle-building. But before that, let me clarify a few terms and issues around the subject of protein.

Ei. Image credit by mac.black

What is Protein?

Proteins are usually denoted as the building blocks of life. They are composed of amino acids, which in turn are the basic building block of all cells in the body. In addition to the structure building tasks, amino acids are responsible for a variety of other bodily functions such as oxygen and iron transport in the blood, the formation of antibodies and the secretion of hormones. In short, no life without proteins. The continuous cell degradation and recovery processes in the body demand the daily intake of a certain amount of protein through diet. Even physically inactive people have to cover a basic need for protein.

The Daily Requirement

As the level of physical activity increases, through an intense strength or endurance training for example, the demand for protein is growing equally, since the related metabolic processes of regeneration and adaptation of the body to the higher level of physical activity ask for more amino acids. But the disproportionately large amounts of protein, which are particularly recommended by many athletes, professional journals and the nutritional supplement industry, cannot be justified by that.

The "How much protein should I eat per day" table:

Type of Physical ActivityDaily Amount of Protein per Pound Body Weight
Inactive0,5 gram
Endurance Training0,75 gram
Strength Training1 gram

These numbers cover the daily need. The significant and deliberate exaggeration of the recommended amounts of protein for the particular activity level as well the amount of protein served per meal offer, according to a study mentioned on www.medicalnewstoday.com the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, no significant benefits and even generate some unwanted side effects. “Most of the excess is oxidized and could end up as glucose or fat.”

The Right Timing and the Right Amount

Tests during this study have shown that the intake about 30 grams of protein per meal provides an ideal supply with amino acids to make sure the muscle synthesis. Among the volunteers who have taken up to 90 grams of protein per meal, no further increase in muscle protein could be demonstrated. Consequently the daily amount of protein has to be distributed fairly evenly among several meals throughout the day. Again, the researchers from Texas offer some interesting insights. Thus, the recommendation is to take in the first 30 grams of protein as early as breakfast and to cut the amount somewhat in the evening, as the synthesis of muscles functions most effectively during the day, while at night no significant amounts of protein can be processed.


Therefore the uncontrolled intake of large amounts of protein, especially in the field of strength training and bodybuilding, is just a curiosity. Replaced it by an intelligent handling of the own food and potential supplements. My own experiences has shown that an intensive weight training, which primarily targets developing strength and muscle density and not large muscular volume, is agreeable with a long-term protein intake on the level of an endurance athlete, that is below the mentioned 1 gram per pound body weight. Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/168876.php

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tags: protein |  nutrition |  advice |  muscles | 

Training 101: Machines or Free Weights?
Jan 27th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Strength Training (0 comments)


Basically strength training is done either with free weights, mostly dumbbells, barbells and several variations of the barbell, or with machines. A balanced training routine offers enough room for both, free weights and machines. However, for an effective muscle growth or strength training you should prefer the use of free weights. Here´s why?


Machines are designed to offer a pre-defined training direction and sometimes even range of motion. Stabilizing the training weight and the own body weight and is mostly taken by the machines. Consequently you train only the necessary muscles. This type of training is very specific; it is simple to do and bears only low potential for error and injury. The major disadvantage is the limited complexity and thus effectiveness. What does that mean? The degree of complexity of an exercise, in large part, determines the training effect. The more muscles you involve in a movement, directly or indirectly, the higher the overall training stimulus will be. Here three terms come into play:
Target Musclethe major group of muscles involved in an exercise
Synergiststhey support the movement directly
Stabilizerscontracting muscles with no significant movement to fixate joints or to maintain a certain posture

While training on machines, you usually involve only agonists and synergists, stabilizers play only a small role.

Free Weights

Unlike when using free weights. Here, too, in principle, each exercise follows a defined movement, but it is solely the responsibility of the athlete to do a correct technique, to fixate the body in an ideal position and to stabilize the training weight. Free weight training improves the co-ordination skills and body awareness, and represents a great physical challenge in its complexity in the interplay between directly and indirectly involved muscle groups, with greater potential for development.


As initially mentioned, the use of machines offers an entirely adequate training. However, when it comes to the basic development of strength and co-ordination or a balanced growth of muscle mass, the use of free weights is the smarter choice.

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tags: machines |  free weights |  strength training |  muscles | 

How to Squat in a Correct Way
Jan 22nd, 2010 - written by Stephan in Strength Training (0 comments)


Of all compound strength training exercises squats are probably most the effective way to strengthen legs as well as almost the entire body. Therefore everyone following an ambitious strength training routine should include squats regularly.

Squats are also one of the hardest-to-learn exercises. A proper technique is important to exercise safely and effectively and to protect the body from injury.

Besides the classic barbell squat, which I will explain more in detail below, there are several other squat variations that rely on the basic training technique.

Squat Benefits

Full Body StrengthSquats require the use of the entire body, especially when using relatively heavy weights. Leg and hip muscles experience a high dynamic impact while almost all other muscles serve as stabilizers.
Muscle BuildingThe simultaneous workout of many muscle groups leads to increased testosterone level in the body, which ultimately leads to increased muscle mass, not only in the legs.
StabilizationProvided a correct training technique, squats are very well suited to stabilize the knee joints, because the high level of muscular activity and co-ordination is strengthening all surrounding muscles and passive structures. Also squats are one of the most effective exercises for strengthening and stabilizing the trunk.

Squat Basics

FlexibilityProper squats require a high degree of mobility of the ankle and hip articulations. If the lowering of the hips in a correct fashion is not possible, I recommend have a regular stretching to improve the joints mobility beforehand.
SafetyFor heavy squats you have to use squat rack, a.k.a. power rack, which enables the positioning of the barbell at a proper height. In addition, most racks provide a lower dumbbell stack to catch the barbell in case of failure in the lowest point.

Squat Technique

Squatting Down
  • Grasp the barbell with your hands slightly more than shoulder-wide apart and place it on the upper back and rear Deltoids. When using heavy weights you have to stay inside a squat rack.
  • Then lift the barbell from the rack, place your feet about shoulder-wide apart and turn them slightly outside. Keep your body upright. Also keep knees slightly bent and tense the body.
  • Now bend your knees and lower your hips back as if you were sitting down until your thighs are about parallel to the ground. Your knees have to stay above your toes, pointing slightly out.
Squatting Up
  • Now press your hips back up. Firmly tighten your buttocks. Beware to move your hips up and not to front, otherwise your knees will be pushed beyond your toe tips.
  • Keep your body weight shifted to your heels, they are the basis for a powerful squatting up..
  • In the top position stand upright again. Your knees have to stay slightly bent.

    Here´s one of the few Youtube videos showing a very good squat technique. Just perfect.

    Squat Setup

    BarbellPlace the barbell on the muscles of the upper back and rear shoulders.
    StancePosition your feet about shoulder-wide apart while you turn your toes slightly outward, pointing toward the knees.
    Grip DistanceThe grip distance may vary. The closer the distance, the better the tightening of the upper back.
    WristsKeep your wrists as straight as possible. The back carries the weight while hands just stabilize the position.
    ElbowsLet the elbows point down behind to keep up a tight upper back.
    Head & NeckWhile squatting you have to permanently look ahead or slightly up to keep your back straight.
    Upper BackKeep all upper back muscles tight to provided a solid and safe base for the barbell.
    ChestWhen tightening your upper back, your chest move up. Keep it up to avoid any rounding of the back.
    TrunkTense all muscles to maintain a lower straight back.
    BalanceDuring squats move your body weight on your heels. You should be able to (in theory) permanently curl your toes off the floor.

    Squat Variations

    There is a variety of squat variations to intensify or to simplify this exercise, or to demand certain muscles in a different way.

    NameImageExercise Link
    Barbell Squat

    Barbell Squat, Full ROM

    Full Squat
    Barbell Front Squat

    Squat, Front
    Barbell Front Squat, Full ROM

    Full Squat, Front
    Barbell Squat, wide Stance

    Squat, Wide Stance
    Squat, Smith Press

    Smith Squat
    Dumbbell Squat

    One Leg Squat

    Squat, One Leg
    Overhead Squat

    Squat, Overhead
    Goblet Squat

    Goblet Squat

    Common Mistakes

    Bending the TorsoKeep your torso as upright as possible. It is important to push your hips up in a calm and focused way to avoid a delayed raising of the upper body.
    Looking DownThat leads to a rounding and instability in the back. Always look straight forward or slightly upward keep your back remains.
    Raising HeelsThe weight is shifted to the heels. Prevent them from lifting off. Shortened calf and thigh muscles can make it difficult to do the desired range of motion.
    Knees beyond toe tipsImagine sitting down on a chair. While lowering the hips move backwards. When squatting up, move your hips straight into upright position. Avoid any forward motion.
    Extended KneesNever lock the knees in the upper position. Locked knees shift much of the workload from the muscles right into the knees, causing an intermittent muscular tension and high pressure inside the knee articulations, which can lead to knee pain.

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    tags: squat |  technique |  leg |  training |  injury |  pain |  knee |