Beginner Plyometric Workout

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A great way to prepare for a plyometric program is to jump rope for a couple of weeks — especially if you’ve never done plyos before.  Jumping rope helps condition the body and muscles for those quick muscular contractions I was talking about in the last post.

The next step, believe it or not,  is to learn how to land.  The idea is to learn how to land soft and in an athletic position.  Coincidentally, once you find your proper landing position, this is the same position you should be squatting in.  To learn how to land soft, you can start with drop jumps.  Find a step or platform about a foot high and step off the platform (do not jump).  The goal is to land as softly as possible and try not to even make a sound.  To do this properly, you will need to land in an athletic position and absorb the shock as you land.  Do this for another couple of weeks to help make the neuromuscular adaptation (the brain muscle connection) — making the response automatic for your muscles.

So yes, take about a month to prepare.  You must do this to perform beginner level plyos.  To be able to do intermediate level plyos, you should have done the above and be able to squat your body weight.  For advanced plyos, the same as before, but you should be able to squat 1.5x your body weight.

Here’s a sample beginner plyo program:

  1. Squat Jumps 2×5, rest 1 min between sets
  2. Medicine Ball Chest Throw 2×5, 1 min rest
  3. Jump to Box 2×5, rest 1 min
  4. Medicine Ball Incline Chest Throw, 1 min rest

Add this into your workout program even once per week to get amazing benefits (I wouldn’t do it more than twice). And make sure to change it up after no more than 4 weeks.

Don't Believe The Hype

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Hey, that’s more than a great Public Enemy song, it’s something you need to be careful of in today’s fitness industry.

I’m amazed at how people can turn fitness into a flavour of the month. Every week there seems to be a new program or plan out there that uses some new type of training methodology. I was catching a morning show the other day and they had a guest on that was claiming something like “evolutionary training” was the way to get fit. Apparently they had their clients move the way our ancestors did and that was the best way to get fit. You mean to tell me our ancestors moved differently than us? Well actually, the clients were crawling around the gym floor (with awful lower back position I might add as well). I couldn’t help but be amused – and the media thought this was newsworthy!

All of it is just marketing hype. Something they claim to be brand new and different, when it’s usually not, or it’s so different, it’s sometimes laughable. All they’re looking for is sales. And hey, if you never quite reach your goals, you’ll just have to keep paying, won’t you?

Another thing I can’t stand is when someone takes common knowledge and just decides to call it something more catchy, and then put a trademark on it to look official.

Average people think it’s the next greatest thing and continue to get frustrated because frankly, they’re being taken advantage of. They just don’t know what to do anymore. And personally, I think it’s unfair, and outright insulting to you.

Some marketers (and I call them marketers, not trainers, or strength coaches) take science, and actually play with it to make it look like something it’s not.

My inbox has been bombarded lately with promos for a new program that has completely mashed real science. (Yes, I’m on other people’s lists) It’s nothing more than pseudo-science, or hype. They’re claiming their program helps develop a type III muscle fiber, but really there’s no such thing. I scoured scientific journals, and couldn’t find any real evidence of their claims. And after further research, I found an article where the program author himself says this, “Type III muscle fiber is just a cool name for a hybrid type II muscle fiber that takes on traits of a type I fiber. It’s nothing new. It’s just something a lot of people haven’t heard about.” So why the hype? Why not just say it is what it is?

Now, to be honest, the program itself might be great … I haven’t seen the actual product, but knowing they’re claim is less than factual makes me distrustful and skeptical.

These people seem to spend more time on their marketing efforts, rather than emphasize their practice. I hate it, because it makes all of us look bad, especially when all it is is taking advantage of people that don’t know better and are desperate to change their lives.

To give you another example, a friend of mine has been going to this bootcamp, and just because she sweats and feels like she’s going to puke she thinks she’s had a great workout. Hard work doesn’t always make a great workout. The type of training she’s doing does not match her goals, and she keeps getting more and more frustrated. She’s paying all of this money, and giving up her time, just to work hard. But people can very easily be influenced by something that seems good, and is new and different. After all, people that want to be fit bad enough are the easiest to influence (brainwash?) because they want it so bad – they’ll believe anything. I’ve tried to convince her otherwise, but she won’t listen. I’m frustrated for her.

That said, to reach your goals does take hard work. But you also need to work smart. Train for your goals. Realize there is no magic 12-week fix. Can you make significant gains in 3 months? Of course, but don’t think in finite terms of time. I may have 4, 8, 12, or 16 week programs, but those are designed to be just a piece of a large puzzle. Not the whole puzzle itself.

I promise you’ll always get the straight goods from me, with no hype. I’m just not creative enough anyway to come up with the next “greatest thing” anyway.

I will say, some highly marketed products I’ve seen are actually well designed. But my point is for you to be skeptical.

Don’t believe the hype.

The Two-Exercise Workout Plan

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Here’s a workout plan that will have you in and out of the gym in no time.

All I’ve done is separate 2 days into pushing and pulling movements, and in each of those workouts I have  a lower body and upper body exercise.  In total, four movements — knee dominant, hip dominant and upper body push and pull.

Here’s how it goes:

Day 1

  1. Knee Dominant Variation (Squat, Front Squat, DB Squat, Prisoner Squat, etc.) – 3×5
  2. Upper Body Push Variation (Bench, DB Bench, Overhead Press, Pushup, etc.) – 3×5

Day 2

  1. Hip Dominant Variation (Deadlift, RDL, Glute-Ham Raise, Stability Ball Leg Curl with Hip Raise, etc.) – 3×5
  2. Upper Body Pull Variation (Pull Up, Chin Up, Barbell or DB Row, Inverted Row, etc.) – 3×5

Make sure to perform a dynamic warm up before the workout and use a couple of direct warm up sets before getting into the 3x5s.  Rest no more than 2 minutes between sets.

If you are absolutely pressed for time, try super-setting, keeping the rest time between sets the same.

Remember, a workout doesn’t have to be long to be effective.

Hydration For Exercise And Performance

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Water and hydration is an important part of any workout program.  Water is most important for helping to regulate our body temperature during intense exercise.  Water also helps to lubricate our joints for movement and it helps prevent cramping.  It is essential in the production and use of raw energy in the body’s cells.  What’s more, with less water in the body, our blood volume actually decreases causing the heart to work much harder.

Rehydration After Exercise - For these reasons, among others, replacing fluid loss is important after exercise.  Sport drinks like Gatorade are quite popular with athletes and they contain electrolytes like sodium and potassium which are lost through sweat.  Sodium and potassium are responsible for helping nerve and muscle cells work they way they should.  They also contain glucose for a quick energy boost, meaning they are often high in calories (but now they have G2 — a lower calorie version of Gatorade with less sugar), and they are all expensive.  In addition, the formula may not be suitable to your type of exercise and your particular needs.

3 Types of Replenishers – As athlete’s needs become more specific, — it could depend on the sport they are training for, or even the phase of training they are in — so can their hydration needs.  The most elite of athletes will have their post-exercise hydration planned by their dietitian.  So here’s a small idea of some different ways to replenish your fluid stores after exercise.

  • Isotonic Replenisher – Is usually made of 80% water and 20% juice concentrate (glucose and/or fructose source).  This replenisher will help athletes replace fluids quickly during and after exercise, but will also give a boost to help replace some energy. This is usually the most common type of replenisher.
  • Hypotonic Replenisher - (Kind of like G2) Is usually made up of 90% water and 10% juice concentrate. This will help replenish fluids fast — useful in hot weather training — but won’t give much of an energy boost.  It can be used during and after less intense exercise, and before training to help prevent dehydration. You can also use this to keep fluid levels high and maintain your glycogen (stored glucose) levels.
  • Hypertonic Replenisher – (Similar to regular Gatorade) Is usually made of 70% water and 30% juice concentrate.  This formula provides more energy replacement and can be used after intense exercise to replenish lost energy stores.

Homemade Recipes – You can save a ton of cash by making your own homemade sport drinks, and you can match your formula to your specific training and caloric needs.  Each of these recipes will give you a 1 litre serving.

  • Isotonic Replenisher – Add 200ml of juice concentrate (orange and grape work well) to 1L of water, then add a pinch of salt.
  • Hypotonic Replenisher – Add 100ml of juice concentrate to 1L of water, then add a pinch of salt.
  • Hypertonic Replenisher – Add 300-400ml of juice concentrate to 1L of water, then add a pinch of salt.

You could even add a scoop whey protein for a decent post-workout drink.

So there you go, a little background on the how and why of hydration and a little tip to help you customize your training plan on the cheap.  Enjoy!

The Truth About Supplements

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Supplements

Open up almost any kind of fitness magazine, and it’s loaded with advertisements for supplements.

Supplements are a massive, multi-billion dollar business, and most people don’t know that many of the magazines they buy are owned by supplement companies. The supplement companies use their magazines to push their own products on you.

And most of these magazines give you just enough crappy articles and workout programs to keep you buying each month.

You read the magazines, see the fitness models, and crave the quick fix to look just like them. Then on the next page, you’ll see an ad for a magic potion supplement that promises amazing  fat loss and lean muscle in just days. And in that ad, are the before and after photos that were most likely taken within minutes of each other. Only in the before photo, there’s no grease or spray tan, they’re sticking out their gut, and have a sad look on their face! Minutes later, they’re greased up, have probably done a quick workout to pump up, and they “pull everything in” to look 100% better.

Regardless of the shape you’re in right now, I know you can make yourself look better and worse with these little tricks.

Because of the heavy advertising push, lots of you think that supplements are a must if you want to get back in shape.

But the truth is, very few people need any supplements at all. In fact, unless you follow the “90% Rule” of nutrition, you shouldn’t be taking ANY supplements at all.

With a proper diet, you should be getting everything nutritionally to help you reach your goals, no matter what they are, with no need to supplement.

What Supplements Are

So before you consider supplementing your nutrition (and really, that’s exactly what supplements are for – to SUPPLEMENT your diet), make sure you have your diet in check first. You can follow the AW Nutrition Plan, and make sure you comply with at least 90% of your meals before adding supplements to your diet.

Having said that, for some of you on the go, you may need to supplement from time to time with a meal replacement, or a protein shake, for convenience to ensure you are complying with your nutrition plan a full 90%. And that’s absolutely fine, as long as the majority of your diet is coming from whole foods.

Even more, following a proper nutrition plan 90% of the time, with a proper training program (like the AW Training Plan) will give 90% of you all the results you could ask for – without supplements.

When To Use Supplements

Still, there will be some of you that are looking to reach that next level. This is where supplements have a true place in a fitness program.

Even with a good nutrition and training program, some of you may need to supplement to make sure you are getting all of the nutrients you need to achieve your goals.

Supplements To Consider

There really are only a few supplements I would recommend the average guy or girl take anyway. Here the list of supplements I use, with a little information about each one:

Whey Protein
A proper diet will provide a more than adequate amount of protein for most people. But whey protein is a great alternative for those meals you can’t eat, or cook a whole food protein source. Just try to limit your whey protein servings to once per day. Whey protein may also be used to concoct the perfect post-workout shake.

BCAA’s
BCAA’s may help with muscle recovery, and may also help to improve metabolism and decrease appetite.

Creatine
Creatine may help improve power and performance during high-intensity training by speeding up recovery between sets, and creatine may also help promote muscle growth.

Fish Oil
May help to reduce inflammation in the body along with numerous other health benefits such as the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Greens Supplement
Greens may help increase energy, recovery, and bone health. Greens may also help neutralize acid build up in the body from both intense exercise and a high protein diet.

If you do choose to use supplements, make sure you use a reputable brand, and always check labels to make sure there are no additives, and that you are actually getting what you need, and no more.

Final Thoughts

For the next week, leave the caps on your supplements. Keep a food journal and check your compliance at each meal with the AW Nutriton Plan.

Only with solid compliance to your nutrition plan should you consider supplementing.

Remember, supplements are not supposed to replace a good nutrition plan; they are supposed to supplement a good nutrition plan.

Note: Image courtesy of tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hill Training For Speed and Conditioning

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Training on hills or stairs is a great way to increase your running speed and anaerobic conditioning. Hills, as opposed to running on a level surface, increases resistance, like adding weight in strength training.

Hills provide more resistance than level ground; and of course, the steeper the hill, the greater the resistance. You develop greater push off strength and power in your running stride with hill training. By increasing your stride strength and power, you increase your running stride length.

This is important because running speed is made up of two factors, stride length (how long each step is) and stride frequency (how quick your turnover is, or how many strides you take in a given amount of time).

So, Running Speed = Stride Length x Stride Frequency

So, if you increase your stride length, you increase your running speed, making you faster.

Eventually, if you use sprinting as a mode of conditioning, you’ll achieve a point where you peak.  In other words, you can no longer complete an interval over a given distance in less time, or you can no longer cover more distance in a given amount of time.  When this happens, there is no way to provide an overload to your training.

At this point, consider adding hills to your conditioning program.  Even a slight incline will give you the overload or added resistance you need to break through a plateau. Conversely, on a stationary bike, you can increase the tension to add resistance.

When you add hills to your conditioning program, use the same principles as any type of resistance training. Start with minimal reps, and allow plenty of rest in between sets and workouts.

During your workout, you’ll need more rest time in between sets because you are working at a higher intensity than regular sprints. In strength training, if you use heavier weight, you’ll perform less reps and need more rest between sets. Use the same common sense for running hills.

Distance runners use hills to increase their speed and anaerobic power, usually one day per week, and focus on their aerobic endurance the rest of the week. They also use gentle slopes to help increase aerobic power by increasing the runner’s workload. Sprinters use hills, stairs, sleds, etc. to increase their strength and power by using them as resistance, much like weight training.

Hill running will help you run faster and help your anaerobic and aerobic conditioning. Give it a try.

Why You Need to Include Plyometric Training in Your Workout Program

Posted by & filed under Featured, Training.

PlyometricsWhile most people probably think plyometrics are only for athletes like basketball and volleyball players, there is a real-world application for including plyos in a regular program as well.

Plyometrics are a type of training that uses very quick muscular contractions designed to develop and increase muscular power.

In sports, plyos are a great way to increase performance by developing strength and power specific to an athlete’s sport. Using the example above, basketball and volleyball players use plyometrics to increase their power so they jump higher. Football players will use both lower body plyos for speed development, jumping ability and upper body plyos to help with shedding and making blocks.

So considering this, why would it be useful for the average guy to include plyos in their training?

Well, first, plyos help develop power. And power is much more useful in any type of daily physical activity than any other fitness component. When you move anything, power is required to get it done. What’s more, it’s power that lets you get more work done in a shorter amount of time. That’ll sure come in handy on those Saturday chore days!

Even more, developing power will in turn help you be able to lift more weight, increasing your strength — more strength, means more muscle.  Bigger muscles allows you to develop more strength, and more strength gives you the ability to develop more power.  So really, it becomes a cycle, leading to great benefits for you.

Second, pylos have been proven to increase Type II muscle fiber size(1). Those are the muscle fibers that help you build muscle and are your strength and power muscle fibers. This means that plyos will give you more benefit for your effort. Not only will plyos make you more powerful, they’ll help you get bigger as well.

Third, they help you become faster, quicker, and more agile (on top of being more powerful). Any guy that still plays any kind of pick up game and has that competitive edge will love this. Imagine being out on the field or court, and running circles around those younger guys. I mean, c’mon, no matter how old we get, us guys like reliving those glory days. Plyos will help.

Fourth, plyos are a great alternative to the Olympic lifts like power cleans.  The Olympic lifts are very technical, and take a while to develop the proper technique.  There are great benefits in doing the O-lifts, and for people that haven’t yet got the right technique to do them regularly, plyos are a great substitute.

Last, they’re just fun to do. Admit it, that little kid in you loves jumping around and moving in crazy ways. No I’m not saying you should be moving in crazy ways doing plyos, but the movement patterns are probably like those you haven’t done in years.

As a bonus, it helps add variety to your training, and just might give you another goal to work towards.

So give plyos a try. And studies show that it only takes 1 session per week for the average guy to get great results(2).

And stay tuned for some sample plyo workouts here at AthleticWorkouts.com.

1. Potteiger, J.A., et al. Muscle power and fiber characteristics following 8 weeks of plyometric training. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 13(3):275-279. 1999.

2. de Villarreal, ES., et al. Low and moderate plyometric training frequency produces greater jumping and sprinting gains compared with high frequency. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 22(3):715-725. 2008.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The 5 Minute Workout

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Burn fat and increase your fitness with this anytime, anywhere bodyweight workout. It will both increase strength and provide an aerobic and anaerobic benefit.

Workout Guidelines

  • Complete as many circuits as you have time for, up to 5 circuits.
  • Complete the dynamic warm-up, rest 60 seconds and then begin the circuit.
  • If you need to, you can take up to 30 seconds of rest between exercises, aiming to reduce your rest time each workout.

Equipment

  • None

Dynamic Warm-Up

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Marching High Knees 1×6 0 BW
1b. Marching Butt Kickers 1×6 0 BW
1c. Over/Unders 1×6 0 BW
1d. Inchworm 1×6 0 BW

Circuit

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Squat Jumps 1x60sec 0 BW
1b. Push Ups 1x60sec 0 BW
1c. 1-Leg Squats 1x60sec (30sec each leg) 0 BW
1d. Bird Dog 1x60sec 60 BW

 

Post-Workout Nutrition

Posted by & filed under Nutrition.

The benefits of post-workout nutrition is well documented. But where much of the information falls short is that it doesn’t inform people how much of a recovery drink to consume, or how to change carb to protein ratio according to your goals.

I see too many people reaching for cookie-cutter post-workout shakes or drinks. In some cases what they think is helping their program is completely derailing it.

Some pre-made post-workout nutrition shakes could be 500 calories or more. For someone whose goal is fat loss, this amount could be as much as one-third their daily caloric need!

I now make my own postworkout drinks with whey protein and Gatorade mix. When you mix vanilla protein powder with orange flavoured Gatorade, it tastes like a Creamsicle!

To help you customize your post-workout nutrition plan I’ve outlined three goals and the approximate carb to protein ratio you should be consuming post workout.

NOTE: These post-workout drinks should only need be consumed after intense exercise.

For each of the calculations below, you’ll need to find your weight in kg. If you know your weight in pounds, just divide by 2.2. So a 180 lb guy would weigh 82 kg.

You’ll also need to know your lean mass, or body fat %. If you don’t know how to measure your own, you can always head into a local gym and have someone measure it there. But don’t rely on the bioelectrical impedence scales some gyms use, or that you can buy at the store. They can have a +/- 5% error ratio. Calipers are the best way (without relying on more expensive methods), provided they come from a qualified practitioner. But if a scale is all you have, just understand it’s not the most reliable measure.

A 180 lb guy with 14% body fat would have a lean mass of 71 kg. (82 x 0.14 = 11 kg fat mass, 82 – 11 = 71 kg lean mass)

 

Fat Loss

Protein – Lean Mass x 0.6 g – For example 71 kg x 0.6 g = 42 grams of protein.

Carbohydrate – Bodyweight x 0.5 g – For example 82 kg x 0.5 g = 41 grams of carbohydrate.

Each gram of protein and carbohydrate is 4 calories. So 83 grams total carb and protein is 332 calories.

 

Maintenance

Protein – Lean Mass x 0.5 g – For example 71 kg x 0.5 g = 36 grams of protein.

Carbohydrate – Bodyweight x 1.2 g – For example 82 kg x 1.2 g = 98 grams of carbohydrate.

This recovery drink would be 536 calories.

 

Weight Gain

Protein – Lean Mass x 0.8 g – For example 71 kg x 0.8 g = 57 grams of protein.

Carbohydrate – Bodyweight x 2.0 g – For example 82 kg x 2.0 g = 164 grams of carbohydrate.

This post-workout drink would be 884 calories!

 

So next, you’d have to figure out just how much of your protein powder would match your suggested amount, as well as whatever carbohydrate you are using. You could use juice, maltodextrin, etc. Then throw everything in a shaker bottle or blender and away you go.

You could also even add in some powdered greens mix as well. Just avoid adding any kind of fats to your shake. Research suggests that it can slow carb and protein repletion to the muscle.

Make sure to have your post-workout shake within 30 minutes from the end of your workout for the most benefit.

With the calories in these recovery drinks, there is no need to add any addition calories on training days. So, on training days, just eat to satisfy your daily caloric needs, and consume your post-workout drink to reach your training day total caloric needs (and it stays goal dependent as well). On non-training days, just eat to reach your daily caloric need.

I find this helps keep things simpler, rather than cycling calories for training days, non-training days, low carb days, high carb days, etc. Just by adding this kind of post-workout nutrition will automatically take care of that for you.

And, as the AW Nutrition Plan suggests, you can eat your starchy carbs the meal after your workout as well.

An Interview With Jason Ferrugia

Posted by & filed under Training.

Here’s an interview I came across with Jason Ferrugia, a highly sought after, world renowned strength and conditioning specialist originally based out of the New York/New Jersey area.

He’s trained more than 700 athletes from over 90 different NCAA, NFL, NHL and MLB organizations. He has also worked extensively with firefighters, police officers and military personnel as well as countless weekend warriors, Hollywood stars and entertainers.

Check it out:

**************************************

Most guys are being told to follow bodybuilding splits, train multiple times a day, and other non-sense training tactics that don’t work. What tips do you have for people looking to build muscle as fast as possible?

The key to making consistent size gains is making consistent strength gains (in a hypertrophy rep range) while eating enough food and allowing enough time for recovery. You need to constantly be doing more weight or more reps. The body will respond to any given stimulus one time and one time only. If you place the same demands on it a second time (like pressing the same weight for the same reps) nothing will happen. You must always be forcing it to adapt and thus you must always ask it do something it isn’t used to.

The easiest way to do this is add more weight or do more reps with the same weight.  Aside from making consistent strength gains the next most important thing to consider is training frequency. To improve anything in life you need to do it frequently. Building muscle is no different. So you want to train a muscle as frequently as possible, while it is in a fresh and recovered state. This means that you should be training each body part once every 2-5 days, and not once a week like a lot of the muscle mags recommend. That’s too little frequency. The more times you can stimulate growth throughout the year the better. Obviously 104 growth stimulating workouts per year for each body part would be a lot better than 52.

I have seen the phrase “stimulate, don’t annihilate” on your blog in reference to training. Can you explain what you mean by this and the relation to training volume?

To elicit a training response you need to present the body with a stimulus that it isn’t used to. This stress will cause the body to adapt. The body adapts by building itself up bigger and stronger.

Where people go wrong is that they think they need to annihilate the muscle in order to elicit any type of response. This is completely counterproductive. When you annihilate the muscle with tons of sets and reps and intensity techniques like drop sets you drastically increase your recovery time. And as I mentioned previously, frequency is very important. So when you increase your recovery time you have to decrease your training time. You’re shooting yourself in the foot.
The key is to do just enough to stimulate size and strength gains but not annihilate yourself so that it takes forever to recover, or worse- that you put yourself in a state of overtraining.

Triple Threat Muscle is your new program. What separates this program from all the others and can you tell our readers why you created it?

My Muscle Gaining Secrets program is specifically geared toward skinny guys, hardgainers and beginners. This is more of an intermediate/advanced program that is more athletically based. So while the main focus is still on building muscle there is also a shift toward a bit more speed work, mobility and conditioning in Triple Threat Muscle.
The new program was created for the typical weekend warrior or Average Joe who wants to look and train like an athlete but doesn’t actually have the time or recovery ability to spend more than a few hours per week in the gym.

I spent the last two years experimenting on a wide group of individuals to come up with the most effective and fastest way to do this. Triple Threat Muscle is the result of two years of hard work and is based on all of my findings.

And finally, what general tips can you give to our readers who want transform their bodies?

Strength train 3-4 days per week.
Lift heavy and keep most of your sets in the range of 3-10 reps.
Don’t go to failure.
Train each body part 2-3 times per week.
Don’t do more than 12-16 total sets per workout.
Always strive to get stronger.
Eat natural, organic foods and avoid anything processed.
Sleep 8-10 hours per day.
Minimize stress.
Get out in the fresh air and sun more often.

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more on Jason’s new program Triple Threat Muscle, check out http://www.triplethreatmuscle.com/