Bodybuilding.com Signature Vitamin C
Recommended by Jeff O’Connell, editor-in-chief
As far as antioxidants go, Vitamin C packs a wallop. Antioxidants are critically important because they clean up what are called free radicals, the potentially dangerous byproducts of various metabolic processes in the human body. Intense exercise, while overwhelmingly healthy, does temporarily increase the production of these free radicals. So does stress. So, how do you access this health-supporting micronutrient? You could slug down a glass of orange juice, but in the process you’d also take in 33 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving. As a result, I’m partial to the supplement form. This new offering from Signature is no-frills, no-nonsense, and an inexpensive investment in your long-term health.
The Muscle Donut
Recommended by Hobart Swan, senior content editor
The first thing that pops into my head when someone says “donut” is the warm, feathery kind you get when they switch on the “fresh” sign at the local Krispy Kreme. But cake donuts take a close second—as long as they’re not too big and heavy. Muscle Donut is a company close to Bodybuilding.com’s headquarters in Boise, Idaho, that sells its protein donuts at the local farmers market. These days, I grab a cup of coffee and a couple very tasty Muscle Donuts (maybe one with some icing and sprinkles that I’ll work off later, right?) and head for the nearest shade.
But what if you’re not fortunate enough to live in the City of Trees? Muscle Donut also sells protein donut mix, gluten-free protein donut mix, protein pancake mix, and a protein donut kit that includes a silicon donut pan to make the baking process a breeze. Ten grams of protein per donut, lots of fiber, low sugar and carb, mix made from scratch, naturally sweetened, and no added fats makes this a guilt-free way to start—or survive—the day! Muscle Donut ships fresh donuts too, but you’ll have to move to Idaho to get in on that sweet deal.
Green Giant Riced Beets
Recommended by Shoshanna Cohen, content editor
Rice, in case you haven’t heard, is now a verb. Food companies have wisely realized you can “rice” just about anything and sell it at a markup, meaning a whole new world has opened up for people like me who fervently hate meal prepping. These juicy beet bits are absolutely nothing like rice, but they’re super tasty and, once thawed, ready to go right out of the bag. I love mixing them into an epic chopped salad with veggies, cooked ground chicken, and mashed avocado.
The Load Trainer by Rogue
Recommended by Jason Appelman, content editor
The Load Trainer by Rogue is a simple, practical take on the traditional “backpack full of rocks” for overland training. It uses standard Olympic plates, sits securely on your shoulders, looks badass, and was designed by a naval special warfare operator. What more needs to be said? Hooyah.*
*Editor’s note: “Hooyah” is a word used in the United States Navy to build morale and signify verbal acknowledgment, as opposed to “Hooah” in the US Army and “Oorah” in the US Marines. Just something to think about while lugging those plates around.
Extreme Ab and Arm Wheel
Recommended by Nick Collias, executive editor
Serious lifters and athletes have known for years that the ab roller is the ultimate cheapo strength gimmick that actually works. Strength coaches love it (when you do it right), helping it land on our 10 Best Muscle-Building Ab Exercises list. You’ll also find it in numerous popular workouts like the One-Month Six-Pack Program and Kizzito Ejam’s Chiseled. Heck, even notorious equipment-avoider Al Kavadlo is on board with the roller.
So why would anyone want to improve on the original? For one, the grip on the standard store version can be a little narrow and dicey for people with bad shoulders. Even without a bad shoulder, I find myself holding the outside edge of a standard roller for comfort.
This is where the Extreme Ab and Arm Wheel comes in. It’s the first neutral-grip ab roller I’ve encountered, and the instant I did, I wondered why they weren’t all built this way in the first place. Basically, the grip is both a bit wider and 90 degrees more upright than the standard ab roller. But the real game-changer is the neutral grip, which provides more strength and stability as your torso nears the ground, where the real ab roll-out magic happens.
Yes, it takes a little practice to get used to this new version but, ultimately, I found myself feeling the strain right where I wanted to feel it, and not where I didn’t. Isn’t that kind of the point? The old ab roller will still get the job done, but the Extreme Ab and Arm Wheel works better. If you’re someone who already knows the power of the roller, consider it for your arsenal.
Motiv Fitness Tracker Ring
Recommended by Heather Eastman, content editor
Available in trendy his and hers slate gray and rose gold, it seems the makers of the Motiv ring have done the impossible: created a compact fitness tracker with the wearable, day and night versatility hitherto only seen in spy gadgets, and cleverly transformed a mundane symbol of matrimony into a fun electronic toy your spouse will never misplace again.
So, what do you get for your not-cheap-for-a-fitness-tracker-but-cheap-for-a-wedding-ring investment of $199? For one, an optical heart rate sensor, which is a first for a ring. It also synchs seamlessly with a phone through Bluetooth, either automatically or on demand. It also tracks all the standard fitness stuff like steps and calories burned, as well as more specific stats on activity duration, intensity, and type. And it’s also waterproof. With a three-day battery life and quick recharging, this sure feels like a next-level fitness accessory.
Niranh Saniranh was a skinny, acne-prone kid who felt alone in the world and awkward at school. Then, at age 17, he started lifting weights. The change was immediate and positive. With each bit of muscle and strength gains came matching gains in confidence, but also in spirit. Whereas he’d once lived in a dark, isolated mental spot and was an easy target for other kids, Saniranh quickly came into his own.
By 18, he had transformed his body and was already prepping for his first competition, and he hasn’t stopped since. A classicist at heart, he follows the exact programs of iconic, 1970s-era bodybuilders. He likes their simplicity, technique, and of course, their results.
But it’s more than just technique and momentum driving him forward. Saniranh and the weights have “become one,” he says.
Today, Saniranh is one of our brilliant customer service representatives, a first responder to the calls for supplement guidance and training and nutritional help. Here’s what he had to say about working with his Bodybuilding.com team, working out by himself, and learning alongside our customer base.
Snapshot: Niranh Saniranh
- Height: 5′ 11″
- Weight: 175 lbs.
- Occupation: Customer Service Representative
- Location: Boise, Idaho
- 2015 NPC Idaho Cup: Men’s Physique, 4th place
- 2018 NPC Idaho Muscle Classic: Men’s Physique, 3rd place, and Classic Physique, 4th place
When did you get into fitness?
I was athletic when I was a young kid, playing basketball all the time, but when I got to high school I had a hard time with my physicality for a while. I was really skinny, I had bad acne, and people made fun of me, so of course I became introverted and shy, which made everything worse. I had a really hard time socially. I didn’t fit in, and I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror every morning. Things were rough.
But when I was 17, a junior in high school, I had a friend encourage me to work out. He told me that gaining muscle would change a lot of what I was dealing with, that it would make me feel better about myself and would also put my mind in a better place, and he was right. I started going to the YMCA with him, using his guest passes and then buying day passes, and I got bigger really quickly. After a few months, I joined a Gold’s Gym and I haven’t stopped working out since.
Has your fitness regimen changed over the years?
It hasn’t much! In the first few months of working out, my arms got really big and people at school were like, “Dude, your arms are huge, like a bodybuilder.” Because people were saying that, I would go home and look up bodybuilders on the Internet. I found Ronnie Coleman, and I was just fascinated by the lifestyle. I started watching videos nonstop. I fell in love with the sport, and was kind of addicted. I’ve been doing what bodybuilders do ever since.
Maybe one thing that’s different today is that I really like to work out by myself. I put in my headphones, clear my thoughts, and it’s just me. It releases all the stress.
And there’s a sort of next-level connection I have with the actual weights themselves. Something happens when I pick them up. It’s hard to explain, but me and the weights have a connection. I owe thanks to them because they saved my life, and I’m in touch with that when I lift them.
I don’t know if anyone ever says that, but it’s a spiritual experience, you know? It’s like Bruce Lee says, something like, “Empty your mind, be formless. If you put water in the cup, it becomes the cup.” That’s kind of how I feel when I pick up the weights, that the weights and I are one.
When did you start competing?
I signed up to do my first show at age 18, actually. I’d gotten really big in the past year. I weighed 185 pounds, so I had to diet down. I actually got under 150 and was pretty shredded, but I got scared. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to win, and if I couldn’t win then I didn’t want to do it. I don’t know what that was about. Just fear and nerves, I guess, so I backed out.
Then, when I was 23, in 2015, I finally did my first show, the NPC Idaho Cup, and I placed 4th in the Men’s Physique class. This year, I did my second show, the NPC Idaho Muscle Classic, and placed 3rd in Men’s Physique and 4th in Classic Physique.
What’s it like working for Bodybuilding.com?
It’s awesome man, because you see pretty ripped and jacked people walking around, and it motivates you. Since I’m on the phones, I’m talking about fitness, nutrition, and supplements constantly, so it helps me stay on the right path, and to stay with my regimen. It’s a really good environment.
What are your co-workers like?
My co-workers are like friends and family, to be honest. It’s one of the few places I’ve worked where everyone has a really good vibe and aura, and we all just mesh really well. Nobody freaks out when you’re eating tilapia every day, stinking up the kitchen, because everybody just gets it, and it’s nice to be somewhere people really get you.
What’s your favorite feature on the Bodybuilding.com site?
I like the articles. When I’m working with a customer and they ask me something I don’t know off the top of my head, like maybe they want a product to help with shuttling or nutrition partitioning, I’ll look it up on our site and find an article and learn about it with the customer. I actually learn a lot that way, from customers needing to know something I might not know, and we have all the articles that help with that.
What’s in the big picture for you?
When I was younger, like I said, I wasn’t happy with my image, and I got made fun of. When you’re that young and you don’t feel like you fit in, you go to a really dark place. But bodybuilding improved my confidence and improved my personality, and I just want to support that message and use my influence to tell people that living a healthier lifestyle really does help your overall life. It really does improve a lot of things. I want to spread that message.
Also, I want to compete as a professional men’s physique and classic physique bodybuilder. I’ve got a long way to go, but I think there’s only one road for me right now. I think that I just want “Plan A,” you know? So, all the way to the end on that one, for me.
What’s your diet and supplement regimen?
I’ve been doing intermittent fasting for about three years now and it has been effective for helping me build muscle and maintain low body fat. Alongside this, my body reacts really well to carb cycling. So, I will normally fast 4-5 days out of the week with carb cycling. I fast for about 16 hours and have an 8-hour feeding window. If I have more fat to lose, I like to up my fasting time to around 18-20 hours with an eating period of 4-6 hours. I keep protein intake to around 200-250 grams, carb intake to 50-100 grams on low carb days, 150-200 on moderate days, and up to 400 on high carb days. I tend to keep fats at under 100 grams.
My main sources of protein are chicken, tilapia, salmon, lean ground turkey, and eggs. My main sources of carbs are white rice and brown rice. I like to get my fats from places like peanut butter, almonds, avocado, and coconut oil.
I don’t take too many supplements, as I believe more in perfecting my diet. However, I do like to take creatine and a whey protein, and I like the Bodybuilding.com Signature supplements for those.
What’s your training split like?
I’m really into following the old-school bodybuilders. Right now, I’m big into Serge Nubret, a French bodybuilder who was in his prime back in the 1970s. His training split is a little different than what’s considered normal today. Basically, I work out six days a week. The first day is mainly chest and quads, the next day is back and hamstrings, then shoulders and arms the next day. And then it’s a repeat, with a rest day breaking it up on the seventh day.
I’ve been doing it like this for the past five or six months, but even before Serge Nubret’s training, I have always liked to do opposing sides of the body in one workout, like chest and back on the same day or quads and arms.
Nubret’s main goal was to force as much blood into the muscle as possible for as long as possible. I try to do moderate weights, and, with every workout, I’ll do 3-4 exercises for each muscle group, 6-8 sets, and 10-12 reps. Since I’m working with moderate weight, my rest time is cut down to 30-45 seconds.
Here’s a breakdown of my week:
Monday and Thursday: Quads, Chest, and Abs
Tuesday and Friday: Hamstrings, Back, and Abs
Wednesday and Saturday: Shoulders, Arms, Calves, and Abs
Sunday: Rest (abs only)
On ab day, I will do sit-ups, bicycle crunches, and leg lifts for 30-45 min
No matter where he travels to promote his blockbuster films, Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson always finds time to work out. This unwavering dedication to his physique has millions following this lifting legend on social media every day, hoping to learn his secrets.
While we can’t all be blessed with The Rock’s herculean genetics—or frankly, his sheer awesomeness—we can all get pumped up by the same fearsome playlist. He shared another playlist last year for the release of WWE 2K18, but we know that there are two things our readers can’t get enough of: bumpin’ workout tunes, and The People’s Champ. So, enjoy Dwayne Johnson’s playlist “Iron Paradise Airwaves.”
Turn it on, and turn it up. If it doesn’t make you want to lift something heavy, you need professional help (and a better pre).
For years, Brandon Waggoner chased big numbers on the big three lifts and ate only with the goal of getting bigger and stronger. Was it healthy? Probably not, but for his sport, it worked.
After an injury put him on the shelf, he realized just how much he’d let his body get away from him. Waggoner decided to focus on what he ate, not just what he benched.
Now 40 years old, Waggoner is leaner and more focused than ever before. He’s set foot onstage to compete in both physique and classic physique, but more surprisingly than anything, he says he’s now stronger than ever before!
Snapshot: Brandon Waggoner
- Age: 40
- Height: 5′ 10″
- Weight: 215 lbs.
- Occupation: Assistant Vice President at State Street Corporation
- Location: Kansas City, Missouri
- 2018 NPC Muscle Mayhem – 2nd & 3rd Place
When did you get started with lifting?
I have been weight training since I was in high school. I always had an aptitude for strength training, so in my 20s and early 30s, strength is what I chased. Big numbers on the bench, squat, and deadlift—that was the goal for a long time, and I’d eat whatever it took to facilitate lifting heavy.
I became very strong, but strong came with a price. My body was unhealthy from my “whatever it takes” method of bulking.
Even knowing how harmful my approach was, the light didn’t really come on for me until after I had a moderate shoulder injury in a work-sponsored powerlifting meet. Following that injury, I was unable to lift heavy and could no longer scratch that competitive itch by focusing on strength alone. This is when I finally began to watch my nutrition.
How did you change your diet and training approach?
To start, I just tracked what I was eating on a daily basis and began to realize how many garbage calories I was really taking in every day. I approached a trainer in my gym about a simple weight-loss nutrition program, which she happily provided.
I started down the path of eating cleaner foods and working on my appearance instead of just my strength. I realized quickly what a huge mistake I had been making in my youth and how beneficial this process of adjusting my nutrition was going to be.
After the first year of this program, I was under 10 percent body fat. I also discovered the healthy foods had actually made me stronger in many areas. With this new approach, I could lift more than I did when I was recklessly consuming an abundance of calories. This was 1-2 years ago.
I then took my nutrition up a notch, broke down my macros and started to experiment with how my body reacted to different levels of carbs and fat to effectively build muscle and control fat.
What made you decide to compete?
After about six months of what I would call “lean bulking,” I decided I wanted to take a swing at getting competitive again and do a show. I hired Scott Schultze, a local IFBB physique pro and prep coach, to train me.
Once again, the learning process exploded for me. He immediately added—yes, added—calories to my diet and upped my training volume. Knowing his credentials and trusting the process, I dug in and did everything he said.
Two weeks later, I had gained 2 pounds and gotten leaner—I couldn’t believe it!
What was your first competition prep like?
There are many, many times when you second guess yourself. For me, it felt like I doubted myself more than normal because I was doing my first show at 39 years old.
I would always ask my coach questions and try to learn why we were doing certain things, like subtracting particular foods as we got closer to the show.
I tested my body fat about one week before the show, and was just over 5 percent, the leanest and best I had looked in my whole life. And this was right before turning 40.
I got onstage at 195 pounds, and competed in both physique and classic physique. I competed in the novice, open, and masters events for both divisions, and I received second and third place in my classes.
How did you use BodySpace during your prep?
I was very proactive about using the BodySpace tools to track my progress with my weight and body composition changes. I actually set and achieved the goal I was shooting for pre-prep.
For me, BodySpace was also very important as a motivational tool. I could always ask people on the site for feedback. I would go to my coach for specific questions about my program and diet, but I visited BodySpace every day for inspiration and motivation.
Some days I’d see people doing more difficult things than I was and succeeding, so that would help me stay focused. Other times, just a few kind words on a post saying “great job,” “good luck,” or “keep it up” would make all the difference.
Do you think you’ll compete again?
At first, I was frustrated that I didn’t nationally qualify by placing first in either division. I struggled to figure out what to do next.
After about a week of just recovering from the show and gaining perspective, I decided to take the judges’ feedback and attack the offseason. I did a reverse diet to get my metabolism back to normal, and I continued to train with the intensity that I had brought to my contest prep.
The rebound process from the prep was amazing. I gained a lot of lean mass quickly, which I credit my coach for helping me with. I am now sitting at 215, about 20 pounds up from my show week, and I might be stronger than I ever have been in my life.
Maybe I’ll do another show, maybe I won’t, but I’ll be ready either way.
What does your meal plan look like?
What does a typical week of training look like?
Day 6: Arms*
*If I have the urge to train, I do arms. If not, I rest.
During his late teen years, Joar Fällmar fell out of love with sitting around playing video games, and in love with moving the heaviest iron possible. But when a back injury put the sport of powerlifting out of reach, he switched gears and became a heavy-and-hard bodybuilder in the mold of his heroes Branch Warren and Johnnie O. Jackson. He discovered that his body loved the challenge, and he grew like a weed—although his studies took a hit.
“I was the other guy before. People didn’t look up to me, people didn’t compliment me. But I think people began to see me more like a role model, even though I didn’t go to all my classes,” the native of Jönköping, Sweden, says.
Now in his late 20s, and with several international competitions under his belt, this soft-spoken light heavyweight bodybuilder has set a new goal, which he shared in the video “Life of Iron” on the Bodybuilding.com YouTube channel.
“I want to be Sweden’s most freakish physique. I want people to be shocked,” he says. “I have my tunnel vision. Nothing is going to break it.”
Want to take your own physique to new freaky heights? Set aside the next 8 weeks of your life and commit to Hany Rambod’s grueling program FST-7 Big and Ripped: 8 Weeks to an Olympia-Winning Physique. It’ll hurt, but it’ll be worth it.
Nutrition Article of the Year | Main | Influencer of the Year
Two years into the Bodybuilding.com Podcast, we’re hitting our stride. Over the first 50 episodes, we’ve offered a robust blend of coaches and athletes, experts and up-and-comers, and plenty of “stop what you’re doing and listen” stories.
New to the podcast? Start with these four episodes, which our users said were their favorites!
Winner: The Science of Physique Enhancement With Dr. Bill Campbell
Did you even know there’s a Physique Enhancement Laboratory out there? Well, there is, and Dr. Bill Campbell heads it up at the University of South Florida. In recent years, he’s worked on a number of groundbreaking studies looking into the ideal protein intake for women, what makes flexible dieting or IIFYM work (or not work), and how you can essentially make protein “free calories.”
More than almost any other episode we’ve made so far, this conversation was totally packed with both fascinating research and real-world application. Load it up in the queue next time you’re about to do cardio!
Jim Stoppani on Daily Full-Body Training, Fasting, and More
Everyone’s favorite jacked Ph.D. breaks his daily fast in conversation with Nick and Heather, sipping a protein shake and having some gummy bears (you know his style!) while discussing intermittent fasting, full-body training, and how to stay at single-digit body fat without doing cardio. Oh, and if you’re wondering whether BCAAs “count” when you’re fasting, your answer is here, too.
Charles Staley on How to Lift to Stay Strong and Healthy at Any Age
One of the great strength coaches of recent decades, Charles Staley, gives a master class on how to use strength training for the goals that matter most: feeling amazing, holding back the years, and adding muscle and strength. Programming, form tips, exercise selection—this is the stuff that really matters, and he gives the nitty-gritty details.
Dr. Dom D’Agostino on the Ketogenic Diet
One of the world’s preeminent experts on the ketogenic diet and its medical applications—as well as an admirable strength athlete in his own right—Dr. D’Agostino gives the deep science and the applicable details for anyone looking to make the most of keto. Wondering if you can periodically do a keto “reset,” or if ketosis is something that happens on a spectrum or is strictly black and white? What about adding more protein back in after you’re adapted—is that OK? Here are your answers.
Nutrition Article of the Year | Main | Influencer of the Year
Stack of the Year | Main | Workout Accessories of the Year
Having a good set or two of workout clothes is about more than just wanting to look good at the gym—not that there’s anything wrong with that! Nice gym gear can also motivate you to get to the gym more often and maybe work a little harder while you’re there. It’s good for your confidence—and for your motivation.
Of course, we’ve also been working hard at Bodybuilding.com to continue making shirts, shorts, and hoodies so cool and comfortable, you’ll make space for them in your non-gym clothing lineup as well.
Here’s what you chose as the “Clothing of the Year” on Bodybuilding.com!
Winner: Bodybuilding.com ‘Merican Muscle Tee
What makes one tee better than another? For most people, it’s how it wears over time. Some shirts get baggy, lose their shape, and start coming apart at the seams way too soon. The ‘Merican Muscle Tee just gets better and better with time and age, kinda like Old Glory.
One of our customers, letner1000, hit exactly what we’re going for when he wrote that this is a “great t shirt. I find that most of the shirts I buy here quickly turn into my new favorite shirts!”
Made of 100 percent cotton and weighing in at a scant 4.3 ounces, the ‘Merican Muscle Tee might be just the right thing for you, or someone you know. And yes, flexing while saluting the flag is allowed.
Better Bodies Women’s Fitness Hot Pants
Come on now! You’ve worked your butt off, so why not show it off a little, too? Better Bodies Hot Pants are a great way to rock through those lower-body workouts day after day, month after month. These shorts are thin—but sturdy. They hide panty lines, but breathe well and don’t get sweaty. And, hey, if you didn’t make it to the gym today, go ahead and wear them to the grocery store. Heads will turn!
JYM Supplement Science Long-Sleeved Hoodie
Made with 50 percent polyester, 25 percent cotton, and 25 percent rayon, JYM’s Long-Sleeved Hoodie is designed to last long and fit muscular bodies just right. Soft and comfortable, the hoodie goes wide to show off those boulder shoulders, then pulls in around your nice, trim waist (or your trim waist to come!). With a JYM logo stretched across your chest, you can walk into the gym feeling like a pro, then hit the weights hard!
GASP #1 Mesh Shorts
It’s the little things that make a good pair of shorts. These shorts are made from GASP’s thick, high-quality flexible mesh. The pockets (two in front) are deep enough to store keys and a wallet, but not so deep that your phone bounces around when you do cardio. Like Craig Capurso says in a short and effective review, these shorts are a “durable product made to be beaten up in the gym,” but rock it on the street, too.
Stack of the Year | Main | Workout Accessories of the Year
Transformation of the Year | Main | Nutrition Article of the Year
Whether it’s a front-row seat to an elite powerlifting competition, a good-natured rivalry between workout styles, or professional muscle-building tips from leaders in the fitness industry, this year’s top live stream videos are as entertaining as they are informative.
Whatever brings you to our channel, you’re sure to learn something. Here are the live stream video winners of 2018.
Winner: Mark Bell SuperTraining Classic Push-Pull Powerlifting Meet
Considering some of the big names featured in this unique powerlifting live stream marathon—Mark Bell, Brian Shaw, Stan Efferding, Jen Widerstrom, Furious Pete, and even Mobility WOD creator Kelly Starrett—it’s no wonder this 5-hour coverage of the SuperTraining Classic pushed its way to the top of our list.
This strictly push-pull contest requires all contestants to wear Mark Bell’s Sling Shot when they bench press, reinforcing ideal form and, sure, making them a little stronger in the process.
Using this device, Mark Bell and his fellow athletes put up some seriously impressive numbers on the bench in the first half, while 6-foot-8 Brian Shaw pulls over 400 kilograms off the floor to dominate the deadlift. This live stream captures all the action, giving you an exclusive front-row seat to marvel at some of the biggest names in strength sports.
CrossFitter Learns to Pose Like a Bodybuilder
The rivalry between CrossFit and bodybuilding plays out here more lightheartedly than in the YouTube comments, as NPC Physique Pro Andy Swanson demonstrates proper bodybuilding posing to CrossFit competitor Cassie Smith. These two had a lot of fun bantering back and forth while working their way through the mandatory physique quarter turns at Bodybuilding.com headquarters.
“It takes a lot of balls to get onstage and have people judge you from 360 degrees,” she admits in the video. “It’s hard. Bodybuilding is hard.”
Score one point for bodybuilding!
Big Chest Routine: Flex Friday With Trainer Mike
Dymatize-sponsored athlete and certified personal trainer Mike Hildebrandt, aka “Trainer Mike,” is a fixture in the Bodybuilding.com live stream lineup, and his live big chest routine earned a coveted spot in this year’s top Facebook live videos. Starting with a flat dumbbell press descending pyramid and ending with back-to-back supersets to failure, Hildebrandt works his way through this killer chest workout and still maintains enough breath to answer viewer questions and offer plenty of his best tips to help you build your physique.
Jim Stoppani Live Workout
In this power-focused, full-body workout, Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., creator of Shortcut to Size and Jym Supplement Science, takes you through nine exercises, starting with jump squats and ending with bent-over rows, to demonstrate the proper way to develop explosive power and strength. This unique and athletic workout may not give you that skin-tearing pump of some Stoppani workouts, but it’ll definitely boost strength, power, and performance. Give it a shot.
Transformation of the Year | Main | Nutrition Article of the Year
All human beings have amazing potential. Unfortunately, few of us ever realize that potential to its fullest. This can happen for a number of reasons. Sometimes there are simply factors which are out of our control. Other times, however, people sabotage themselves without knowing it, preventing their own progress toward achieving their fitness goals.
If any of the following five things are causing you to get in your own way, here’s how you can stop yourself before it’s too late.
As a personal trainer, I listen patiently as people tell me about their fitness goals every single day. They’re going to lose 50 pounds, do a muscle-up, hit a triple bodyweight deadlift, or run a marathon. Those are all fantastic goals, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of the people telling me they want to reach them.
Sometimes, however, it’s the same person telling me that they expect to achieve all of those things…in the next six months. Usually they’re explaining this to me on their first day in the gym, while drinking a sugary sports drink.
While it’s great to dream big—and all of those goals are absolutely achievable—they are probably not achievable in your first six months of training. And probably not all at the same time, either. You’re often better off focusing on a single objective and dedicating yourself to that one target until you reach it. Then, you can move the goalposts back a bit farther.
Just make sure you set your sights someplace reasonable to begin with. If it’s your first day—or even your first month in the gym—the only real goals you should be focusing on are learning decent technique, and building the habit of exercising regularly.
It’s easy to watch workout videos on YouTube and think that 600-pound deadlifts and full planches are common occurrences. They’re not. What you don’t see is all the hard work that goes into reaching that point. Though it only takes a few seconds to watch one of those videos, it takes many years of hard work behind the scenes to perform such advanced feats of strength. And plenty of otherwise strong people never touch them.
The funny thing is, while those feats may only be achieved by about 1 in 100,000 people, the majority of the people who achieve them will post a video of it on the web. Can you blame them? I can’t. I’ve sure posted my share of show-off feats of strength over the years.
However, with billions of people in the world, that 1 in 100,000 starts to add up. You can find hundreds of videos of people doing one-arm pull-ups on the internet! But that doesn’t make it any easier to achieve. Years of hard work and dedication always have been, and always will be, the only way.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great to gain inspiration from these types of videos. The problem happens when we start to feel bad about ourselves because someone else is capable of something that we aren’t. Especially if that person makes it appear simple and effortless.
The solution, of course, is to only compare yourself to yourself. Are you stronger, leaner, faster, etc. than you were a few weeks ago? How about a few months ago? If the answer is yes—even a little bit—then you are on the right track.
Don’t worry about trying to be like someone else, just try to be a better version of you.
We’ve all been there: You set a goal to nail a personal record in a specific timeframe, and you’ve got the perfect program to get you there. You follow everything to the letter, yet still, things are not going as planned. You start to get frustrated that progress isn’t happening quickly enough and then you think, “Maybe I need to add more to my program?”
So you add more. And a week later, you’re feeling some minor pain in your shoulder, knee, or back. You think, “I’m hardcore; I’ll push through it. Besides, I’ve only got two weeks left before my deadline. If I don’t reach the goal I set for myself, then I’ll have failed, and I’ll feel like a failure.”
So, you push through. And after a few more sessions, that minor pain has become a full-blown injury. Now you have to take several weeks off from training in order to let it recover and rehabilitate.
The solution, of course, would have been to make sure you were getting enough rest all along—even if that meant taking longer to reach your goal than you had originally planned.
Rest is just as important as the training itself. Just make sure you don’t rest forever, which leads us to our next issue…
With more distractions than ever in the world today, it’s all too common for people to start things, but not see them through to fruition. Whether due to personal issues, increasing workloads, or just plain procrastination, the amount of people who start an exercise program is far greater than the number of folks who complete one.
You know the cliché: The big box gyms stay in business because they sign up new members every day who never actually come to work out. If everyone who paid for a gym membership actually showed up three or more times a week, the facility probably wouldn’t even be able to handle it.
And even when you do finish a 30-day or 12-week program, that doesn’t really mean your work is done. Crushing a new PR or running one marathon won’t make you fit for life. Fitness is all about what you’ve done lately. It’s an ongoing journey, and that journey doesn’t end until you’re dead.
5. Expecting Too Much
When you go from leading a sedentary lifestyle to seriously dedicating yourself to fitness, it’s amazing how quickly you can see some progress. All of a sudden you feel great, look better, and the strength gains are like magic. But anyone who’s trained consistently for long enough eventually sees that progress flatten out.
It’s simply a matter of diminishing returns. Your second workout might feel a lot better than your first one, because two workouts is twice as much exercise as one workout. But your 200th workout might not feel much different from workout number 199, even though they are both only one more session than the previous one. Going from zero to one—nothing to something—that’s the big chasm. Everything after that makes less and less of a difference.
Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to affect change and get stronger for years to come, it’s just not going to happen as quickly when you’re a few years into the process as it did in the beginning. So, what’s the solution?
For me, the answer has been to forget the goal altogether and embrace the process instead. I train for the training itself. My advice to you is to exercise consistently, rest adequately, and stay with it for the long haul. If you can do that, all of your goals will eventually fall into place.
Take it one workout at a time. Good things come to those who train!
When Caryn Nicole Paolini was last profiled here at Bodybuilding.com, back in 2013, she was an elementary school psychologist in her native Chicago, on track for a successful career in that field. With a history of yo-yo dieting and eating disorders, though, the 4-foot-11, 95-pounder had turned to the gym to turn her health around and, in the process, discovered the joys of fitness. At the time of that interview, she’d been training for about 18 months and had just won the 2013 Bodybuilding.com Fit USA Model Championship.
Fast forward five years, and Paolini has dived even deeper into fitness—and has thrived in it. She now lives in San Diego, working as a professional bikini competitor, certified personal trainer, fitness model, psychologist, sports nutritionist, digestive health specialist, and entrepreneur.
“Fitness saved my life,” she likes to say—an idea many high-level fitness competitors echo. But fitness didn’t simply save Paolini, it also forced her to make some tough decisions—and eventually to remake her life. Today, her goal is not just to transform herself, but to help others do the same.
An IFBB bikini pro since 2014, the 31-year-old Paolini has competed frequently, finishing as high as second at the 2016 Musclecontest Pro. She was also runner up at the BodySpace Spokesmodel Search.
“Passionate” is a word she uses often as she describes her evolution. For Paolini, it’s all about how good you feel when you wake up every morning and face the day.
Five years ago you were in Chicago with a Master’s degree and a good job as an elementary school psychologist. How did your dream change?
I was very passionate about psychology and behavior change. I went to graduate school at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and got a job right away, so I was very blessed in that regard. But I can honestly say that from day one I didn’t feel the passion that I feel now when I wake up in the morning. I’m so excited about what I’m going to do for the day.
What made you realize you were missing that feeling?
Probably when my own fitness journey started taking off and I began experiencing new things that gave me fulfillment and genuine happiness. I got my pro card, received a sponsorship, and I became really passionate about nutrition and working with clients of my own.
At the same time, I struggled with the discrepancy between what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing. I had invested so much time and money into my education, and I was afraid that if I made a change, I would be wasting it all. I felt anxious and depressed, to the point where I had to seek therapy. It got to the point where the person who I was at work was not my most powerful and effective self, which eventually took a pretty drastic toll on my mental health.
I continued working at the school for about three more years. Finally, I reached a breaking point. My therapist recommended I take a leave of absence, which I resisted for six months, because it made me feel like I’d be a quitter.
Therapy helped me realize that taking that leave of absence was not me quitting, but me putting my mental and emotional health first. Showing up at the school without feeling fully present was a disservice to the children, my colleagues, and myself.
You’ve talked about how fitness saved your life. Is that an exaggeration?
No, it really did—in multiple ways! The reason I love working with my fitness clients so much is that I was that person: I was the girl who did each and every extreme diet, yo-yoed in weight, and never felt confident in my body. I dealt with those issues all through college and graduate school, to the point where I developed an eating disorder. I thought to lose weight I had to restrict calories and do all kinds of cardio. At one point I was consuming just 800 calories a day. It was pretty scary.
It wasn’t until right after I got out of graduate school that things changed. I just decided to put one foot in front of the other and start finding my way toward a career in fitness. I didn’t know anything about lifting weights, so I hired a personal trainer and worked with him for 12 weeks. I also did a lot research about nutrition. I remember downloading my first diet off Bodybuilding.com in 2011.
I remember that day because that’s when I learned that I needed to eat more—not less—ifI wanted to transform my body.
What brought you to Southern California?
Even when I was a kid, I knew I wanted to live here someday. When I resigned from my psychologist position in Chicago, I realized in that instant that I didn’t really have anything holding me back, so I packed up and moved to Los Angeles and then to San Diego, which is where I live now.
It’s a little bit slower here than in LA, which I like, but I also live downtown, so I still feel some of that “city vibe.”
As an IFBB bikini pro, you’ve scored everything from second to sixteenth. What lessons do you take away from your ups and downs?
One is that the sport is so subjective. You could step onstage in front of one panel of judges, and win second place. Stand in front of another panel with the exact same package and come in 16th. It just seems to depend on what the judges are looking for at the time, and on who else is in your lineup. If I’m in a lineup with 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9 girls carrying a lot of muscle, little 95-pound me is probably not going to be in the top five.
People look at those lower placings as defeats, but I feel successful no matter how well I do. I’m onstage to compete at a professional level, not to get validation from a judge. I’m here to celebrate all of the frickin’ hard work I’ve put into my physique. As long as I’m improving, as long as I’m growing, I’m successful.
What do you work on the hardest with your physique?
I focus on building my lower half, making my glutes full. I lean out really easily, so I have to keep my conditioning right on point. I don’t have a lot of wiggle room.
Being naturally lean is a blessing, but it’s also a challenge because I have to struggle so hard to retain muscle on my lower half.
What exercises do you like best to build the lower body?
I do lots of different things, starting with compound movements, including those bigger lifts like squats and deadlifts. I steer clear of traditional squats because I have some sciatic nerve issues. Instead, I do half squats and reverse hack squats. I also do a lot of glute-isolation activities like barbell thrusts.
What are your competition plans?
I don’t have any at the moment. I went super hard as a pro for almost five years, which took a toll on my body. So right now, I’m focused on getting my health back to where it needs to be, and on my coaching business.
Right now my mind and my heart are into helping other women become their best selves. What makes me feel like I’m winning is when one of these women tells me I’ve changed her life, or that she’s finally feeling fulfilled, happy, and confident.
Do you train competitors or just regular people?
I do have some clients who are competitors, but the vast majority of them are your typical busy professionals and moms—women who want to feel their best from the inside out, and do so long term. A lot of them have gone through different cycles of extreme diets and are sick of it. I teach them an enjoyable, sustainable approach to fitness.
What does it mean to be a “digestive health specialist”?
It means I coach clients dealing with different gastrointestinal issues—anything from leaky gut to IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders. I’ve dealt with digestive issues myself, and it’s something I’ve become very passionate about. We all go through our own struggles. Once we overcome them, we can teach other people how to do the same.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to compete?
I don’t have anything bad to say about competition, but I do tell my competition-prep clients that getting there requires a slow, steady grind—and that preparing to compete is not necessarily healthy.
To be successful, they’ll have to go to the extreme ends of training and nutrition. I tell them their journey is going to require sacrifice, and then show them how to do it in the healthiest way possible.
I also always require my competition-prep clients to make a commitment to stick with me for at least eight weeks after they compete. I don’t want any of my clients dealing with post-show rebound. Jumping back too quickly to your “normal” diet can lead to rapid weight gain and GI problems. Give me that eight-week commitment, though, and I can put them on a healthy reverse diet that’ll slowly bring their metabolism back to maintenance level.
What is your own training focusing on these days?
When you’re training for a competition, your training is so incredibly structured. You have one style of workouts, bodybuilding-style. I did that for five years.
Since then, I’ve just wanted to have fun with my training. I still do bodybuilding-style workouts about three times a week, but I’ve been breaking it up with different things. At the moment I’m going to F45, a circuit-style workout that’s 45 minutes long without a break.
How do you fill your time outside of the gym? What’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?
I love being outside. I take lots of walks every day. Something about being outside helps me clear my mind. And I notice that if I’m not actually taking time for self-care, I sabotage my productivity.
Staying active comes easy to me because I have a big problem sitting still. It’s very hard for me to wind down and just relax. Some people do that by watching TV. I do yoga instead and listen to music and go to concerts. I’ve been boating my whole life, so I like to spend time on the water. I like to travel, too. My bucket list includes Thailand, the Amalfi coast in Italy, and Bali.
In five years you completely flipped your life. Where do you see yourself in another five years?
I love structure and having a plan, but it’s also important to allow yourself to follow your passion. If your interests change and the things you’re doing don’t resonate with you anymore, then change!
If you had told me five years ago that I’d be living in San Diego, working in the fitness industry, and taking my work breaks out on the beach, I would have said you were crazy. And yet, here I am.
Where do I see myself in another five years? I’m not sure, but I’m very adaptable. As long as I can pursue my goal of helping others find their ultimate happiness, I’m good. I believe the best way to find that happiness is through health, fitness, and a dedication to be our best selves. I’ll be happy if, in five years, I’m still helping people do that.