Abs: How Often Should You Work Your Abs?

six pack abs
How important is it to train the abs frequently if your goal is "visible abs"?

There is no shortage of opinions on this topic. People can succeed (and fail) with all sorts of abdominal training programs. Besides, great abs have been found on many people that train them religiously each day, but better abs have been found on athletes that do no formal abdominal training at all!

The most important factor in developing eye-catching abdominal muscles (the "6-pack") is decreasing the body fat in that area, plain and simple. As for training techniques, almost everyone should train this area as you would any muscle group. Why spend 20 minutes per day doing endless crunches when 5-10 minutes every other day (or less!) will accomplish the same results? Only athletes (or back pain rehabilitation patients) may need additional abdominal work to assist their core stability in sport (or everyday function).

While most individuals in the gym believe that daily, high-volume training is optimal, there is nothing special about the abdominal muscles to suggest that a greater training frequency is required. Muscle biopsies have determined the rectus abdominis to be composed of 46% slow-twitch fibers, not unlike the vastus lateralis of the quadriceps (Johnson et al., 1972). As mentioned earlier, a more important aspect in developing a well-muscled midsection that can be shown off at the beach, is the reduction of as much body fat as possible.

To be precise, in order to have visible abs you must decrease your body fat to 10% or less. Test your body fat monthly. Have the same skilled professional do the testing each time in the same manner under the same conditions (i.e. same time of day, pre-workout, same day of the week, same diet pre-test). You would be surprised how small fluctuations in these variables can influence the outcome of body fat estimation tests.

Fortunately, the greatest body fat reductions are not achieved through multiple sets of high repetition abdominal exercises and therefore there is no need to waste your precious time performing endless sets of abdominal crunches. In fact, your time is better off spent including compound resistance exercises (exercise using many of the body's large muscle groups; i.e. the squat, bench press, pull-ups, deadlifts, etc) and performing strategic anaerobic interval and aerobic training.

When you perform compound exercises and interval training you will realize that more muscles are working and more metabolic effort is necessary in comparison to a simple abdominal crunch. Remember that when you head back to the gym!

Compound exercises should be the best choice for helping to maintain muscle mass while shedding body fat. Anaerobic interval training promotes the expenditure of energy (fat) long after you have left the gym, thus helping to shed the body fat while you are no longer exercising. Aerobic exercise is beneficial for individuals with a lot of fat to lose (i.e. if you test at greater than 15% body fat). However, if you only have a little fat to lose before the muscle stands out, then dietary manipulations and more anaerobic training (intervals and resistance training) are the priority changes.

As for specific abdominal training recommendations, isolated abdominal training 1-3 times per week is sufficient. Abdominal training should be brief and to the point (i.e. 2 exercises, a handful of sets, and a high-intensity of training). This will require passing on the basic lying abdominal crunch and instead use exercises that incorporate resistance. Like any other muscle group, the abdominals can be trained in a rep range of 6-15 per set. This will help build optimal abdominal strength for sport and daily function and will be of greater benefit in attaining abdominal musculature "definition".

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit via one of the ads on this blog. 

31 Exercises You Can Do at Home

Many people don't have time to consistently go to the gym and want to workout at home. But how many exercises can you do in your workouts at home with dumbbells? I have put together some training options you can do at home. The options include dumbbell workouts and exercises that need no external resistance. I have provided many options so that even a home workout can have variety.

(DB = dumbbell)
Leg Exercises
DB squat
DB lunge
DB step-up (onto bench)
DB split squat

Chest Exercises
DB Flat Chest Press
DB Incline Chest Press
DB Decline Chest Press
DB Flat Chest Fly
DB Incline Chest Fly
DB Decline Chest Fly
DB Pullover

Back Exercises
DB Row
DB Shrug
DB Row-Shrug Hybrid
Shoulder Exercises
DB Shoulder Press
DB -1arm Shoulder Press
DB Lateral Raise
DB Rear Delt Raise
Next is a bunch of leg exercises that will not require external resistance. They challenge you for leg strength, endurance, balance, and agility.
1-leg squat
1-leg deadlift
1-leg romanian deadlift

Push-up Options
Finally, the push-up is an upper-body exercise that is effective at building upper-body endurance and moderate levels of strength.
Pushups (kneeling for beginners)
Decline Pushups
Elevated Pushup (one hand eleveated 4-6 inches on a riser)
Spiderman Pushups (bring your knee to your elbow as you lower your body to the floor)
Close-grip Pushups
Ab Exercises
In our ab training, we try to avoid spinal flexion (i.e. rounding the back in crunches). So we stick with...
Side Plank
Bird Dog 
(these three are the most basic exercises to start with, and are great for people that need to improve abdominal endurance)

Then into more advanced ab exercises that still avoid spinal flexion:
Spiderman Climber
Mountain Climber

Whew, that's it, and should keep you busy with your workouts at home. 

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked home fat loss workouts have helped thousands of men and women with weight loss and fat burning in less than 45 minutes three times per week. Craig's home workout tipshelp you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment. Craig's home gym bodyweight workouts for fat loss help you lose fat without any equipment at all

Bodybuilding: Volume Manipulation - Overtraining for Over-Growth

"How often should I go to the gym"? This is one question that always comes up in consultation with individuals seeking improvements in size OR strength. Unfortunately the answer is far from simple, and even the recommendations from various strength coaches can be completely opposite depending on the philosophy of the training advisor.

One may suggest that training frequency be reduced in order to allow increased recovery and sufficient muscular adaptation following a training stimulus. Increased rest may also be planned to prevent OR avoid a training plateau (when performance no longer improves despite administration of a training stimulus). The opposing view is to increase the training frequency in order to apply a greater stimulus to the muscle and demand a greater level of adaptation. Therefore, basing a workout design solely on training volume is not optimal.

Certainly, it is important to design the program with sufficient rest and recovery intervals so that the optimal training adaptations will be obtained from the effort given in the weight room. In fact, at the end of a training session, an individual is gets weaker throughout the workout. It is the recovery period between training sessions where tissue adaptation occurs and enables the individual to return stronger and bigger for the next training session.

The training volume of each individual workout can also be manipulated to allow for greater recovery OR an increased training stimulus. A reduction in the amount of sets OR repetitions will decrease the volume in a given training session. In contrast, performing additional sets is the best manner to increase the overall training volume of a workout.

Training intensity is the final variable that can be manipulated in the training prescription. It may in fact be the most important factor in determining the neuromuscular response. As a detailed description of the adaptations to different training loads is an article in itself, let us generally consider high-intensity (>90% 1 RM) loads as most effective in training the nervous system and moderate-intensity (70-90% 1 RM) loads most effective in stimulating hypertrophy of the muscle fibres. An individual that has been lifting consistently at a single intensity most certainly would benefit by varying the load for a short-duration training phase (i.e. 3-6 weeks).

Lifters stuck at a plateau may need to consider alternative & novel program designs to elicit further gains in performance. A "novel" training routine could be followed for a short period (2-4 weeks) and would stress the neuromuscular system in a manner that it is not accustomed.

This may promote adaptations in the neuromuscular system that could enhance immediate performance OR future training sessions. Each of the above variables can be manipulated within a single training program to help achieve maximal results in the gym.

I theorize that a period of overstress followed by a period of reduced training volume and frequency will result in even greater adaptations than normally occur with regular training frequencies and recovery intervals. The program is based on "tapering" strategies used by elite athletes prior to important competitions.

Tapering is defined as periods of high-intensity training followed by a brief "unloading" phase. In theory this may enable complete neuromuscular adaptation to the training stimulus and allows for rest and recovery prior to competition.

The basic concept of the following program design is similar to the "tapering" concept as the trainee reduces the training volume in order to allow for maximal adaptation (whether it be muscle growth OR maximal strength development).

This week should be characterized by 6 full training sessions. A typical "bodybuilder" routine of a 3-day split, perhaps as legs, chest & back, and shoulders & arms would be performed. The split would be repeated twice and followed by a rest day. The intensity (weight OR load) is moderate (8-12 RM) and the volume is high. Exercises would be predominantly single-joint to isolate the particular muscles.

Total training frequency is reduced by 1 session (~20%) and the training frequency of each body part is cut in half to a single session per week. Again, a typical "bodybuilder" routine is performed. The training split would be changed to 1 body part per day, for example, chest, legs, back, shoulders, and arms.
The training intensity in this week would be higher (6-8 RM) for the entire program. Total weekly training volume is lower due to the reduced frequency BUT/ daily volume is greater per muscle group due to the isolated training routine.

Four training days (2 total upper-body & 2 lower-body workouts). The intensity of this week should be slightly reduced from Week 2 for 1 of the 2 workouts per body split. For example, on Monday, a very intense lower-body workout (6-8 RM) may be performed, while a moderate intensity lower-body workout (10-12 RM) may be done on Thursday.
Multi-joint exercises should be performed to recruit many muscle groups to compensate for the lack of isolation exercises. In fact, no direct work should be performed for the shoulders OR arms unless time permits at the end of the upper-body training day.

A return to high-intensity training (6 RM) offset by the lowest frequency and volume of training over the course of the program. Three training sessions should be performed this week, in a similar split to WEEK 1. Allow for a full day of rest between each training session to provide the optimal recovery period.
This program borrows from scientific principles but also is based on several theories of recovery. It is merely a suggested training routine that is extremely safe and may prove to be extremely successful in developing strength and mass. However, slight variations in the program may prove to be more successful between individuals.
For example, a lifter may respond better to different lengths for each training phase. For example, some trainees may have greater success lifting in the high-volume phase for up to 3 week before entering a reduced-volume phase.

As well, one of the attractive attributes of the program is its flexibility. It should appeal to individuals that have varying levels of life commitments. For example higher volume phases OR increased training frequencies could be scheduled during relaxed times of a student's semester and then "tapering" weeks could be planned around exams to take advantage of an increased recovery time. Businessmen may consider overtraining prior to a business trip OR vacation.

It is important to maintain a distinction between tapering and detraining. Tapering permits the optimal adaptation to a stimulus while detraining indicates a loss in performance due to the removal of a training stimulus. It is important to reduce training stress only far enough that adaptation is allowed to occur at maximal levels, and not so that the organism returns to a pre-training state due to lack of stress.

It is important to determine exactly what length to time should be devoted to applying overtraining and how long should be committed to recovery emphasis. The length of the recovery period may depend on the training intensity just prior to the reduced frequency phase. As a rule, the final stage should be maximal intensity and the lowest volume.

The training program is certainly advanced in both theory and in the demands it makes of the trainee. It is not recommended that a lifter with less than 6 months lifting experience attempt this program. Certainly the first week of high-volume training at a high frequency will test the recovery system of even many advanced lifters.

The program was meant to provide a variation in the training stimulus, something that is generally recommended to occur frequently in an individual's resistance training regimen. The risk of injury in this training program is minimal provided proper exercise technique is followed. In fact, a study at McMaster University where subjects trained 6 days per week for 8 straight weeks resulted in only minimal minor overuse complaints.

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit www.TurbulenceTraining.com

The Science of Arm Training

By Craig Ballantyne. You know the world has changed when the average lifter wants a baseball player's physique. A big chest, a thick back, and jacked arms pretty much completes the wish list for most. Now whether or not all of these players achieved their results with steroids, I don't know. The fact is, they sure as heck didn't get those arms by training with kickbacks and concentration curls.

If your arms haven't grown since you thought baseball was drug-free, then it's time to make a change to your workouts. And I'm going to show you how to use efficient and effective exercises in a scientifically-designed plan that will add more size to your arms a week at BALCO labs.

Unlike the average gym member, the lifter that gets results trains with a plan (even on arm day). While my sets and reps scheme might be "out in left field" compared to what you are doing now, believe me, it's guaranteed to improve on most arm training programs. But if you insist on playing in the 10-15 rep range for every exercise then you are bound to plateau and have minor-league arms. Research shows that a wide range of repetitions (from 3 reps per set to 12 reps per set) can lead to big-time gains in muscle size.

Using low reps and heavy weights for your arm exercises might go against the grain, but the following outline will work for arms and all other body parts. But for now, this is all you need to know.

In the first exercise of this workout, you'll do 3 sets of 5 reps with a heavy weight (that allows you to complete all reps according to the guidelines below). The goal is to build absolute ("maximal") strength and muscle mass (obviously). Increasing your absolute strength will help you lift more weight in all exercises. And if you can lift more weight, then you can train the muscles harder. In response, the muscle will get bigger to keep up to the demands of the heavy weights.

In the second exercise of the workout, you'll use 4 sets of 8 reps. It just might be the optimal combination of intensity and volume for muscle growth and will work extremely well for lifters that have been stalled on higher rep sets.

In the third and final exercise of the workout for the arms, you'll do 3 sets of 12 reps to add more volume to the workout and to fatigue the muscle and deplete muscle glycogen (glycogen is the name for carbohydrate stored in the muscles). High-volume training and fatigue cause the muscles to "stock up" on carbohydrate stores in preparation for the next training session. And when your muscles stock up on glycogen, they get bigger and future training sessions can be more intense. At the end of the 6 week program you'll be blasting through these workouts with more intensity and strength than you've had in months.

One the trademarks of my strength-training programs, as you will see in the months to come, is to use supersets as often as possible (although there will be exceptions to the rule). With supersets, we pair two non-competing exercises together to get more work done in less time, without sacrificing strength or mass. Muscle size is not associated with how long you spend in the gym. The training goal is to get in, work hard, get out, pound a post-workout shake, get home, eat and grow.

Another way to increase the effectiveness of the training program is to focus on the tempo of the exercise. Tempo just means the speed of the exercise. For example and for our purposes, a 3-1-1 tempo means you'll take 3 seconds to lower the weight, then you'll pause for 1 second, and then you'll lift the weight back up in 1 second. A slow eccentric (lowering) tempo and a fast concentric (lifting) tempo will work your Type II muscle fibers the hardest - these are fibers that have the greatest potential for muscle growth. So you'll get your best strength and mass gains by using that general tempo arrangement.

You may have gone through a tempo phase in the past for a couple of weeks and then due to human nature you probably got lazy and forgot about using it. But for the next 6 arm workouts, I want you to stick to the prescribed tempo. You'll see and feel the benefits after the first workout.

Now all that remains is to choose the best exercises for building big arms. With the help of scientific research, experience, and some recommendations from Charles Poliquin, I've put together some of the most efficient and effective arm exercises for mass and strength.

After the 4-week arm assault I want you to cut back on your arm training for 1 week to allow your muscles to grow (and adapt to the training). If you regularly include an off-week in your training plan, take it here. Otherwise, skip your arm workout in week 5. You can return in week 6 with a new variation of this program. By the end of the program your results should be strikingly obvious and you might even be getting calls from major league sluggers for training tips.

Training Recommendations
Note: This program is for advanced lifters only. If you are a beginner, you'll need only 1 set per exercise for the first two weeks and only two sets in weeks 3 & 4.

Do this workout 6 times in 4 weeks.
Week 1 - Wednesday & Saturday
Week 2 - Wednesday
Week 3 - Wednesday & Saturday
Week 4 - Wednesday
Week 5 - Recovery week

Reduce the amount of direct shoulder training you do in the 4 week arm training phase.

Exercise descriptions: See the bottom of the article.
Warm-up: For a specific warm-up, perform 2 sets of each exercise in the first Superset. Start with 50% and then 75% of the weight you will use in your first "real set". Perform 8 repetitions for each warm-up set.

Each pair of exercises constitutes a "Superset". In each Superset, do one set of the first exercise (1A) followed immediately by the next exercise (1B). Rest 1 minute and repeat.

Use a proper weight for each exercise that allows you to get all repetitions completed with perfect form and the recommended tempo. It will require you to decrease the weights by at least 10% on most exercises.

Superset #1
Sets: 3
Reps: 5
Tempo: 5-0-1
1A) Close-grip Rack Lockout Bench Press
1B) Close-grip EZ-Bar Preacher Curl

Superset #2
Sets: 4
Reps: 8
Tempo: 3-1-1
2A) Decline DB Triceps Extensions
2B) DB Incline Curls

Superset #3
Sets: 3
Reps: 12
Tempo: 3-0-1
3A) Lying EZ-Bar Triceps Extension
3B) Seated DB Zottman Curls

Exercise Descriptions
Close-grip Rack Lockout Bench Press
o Move a flat bench into the middle of the squat rack.
o Set the pins 6-inches above your chest. You'll perform only the top half of a close-grip bench press.
o Keep your feet flat on the floor, legs bent, and upper back flat against the bench.
o Grip the bar using a shoulder-width grip & have your spotter help you take the bar from the rack.
o Keep your elbows close to your sides, lower the bar straight down to the pins according to the tempo.
o Pause briefly and then press the bar up in a straight line.
o Poliquin recommends that you keep a very small bend in your elbows at the top of triceps exercises in order to keep the muscles working at all times.

Decline DB Triceps Extensions
o Lie on the decline bench with your feet anchored appropriately.
o Press the dumbbells over your chest to the start position and turn your palms in so that they face one another.
o Start the movement by bending the elbow and lower the dumbbells down and beside your head.
o Pause and hold for one second and then contract your triceps to extend your arms and move the dumbbells back to the start position.

Lying EZ-Bar Triceps Extension
o Lie flat on a bench with dumbbells in each hand. Hold the dumbbells at arms length over your chest, with your palms facing each other.
o Bend the elbows and lower the dumbbells behind your head.
o Pause briefly at the bottom, and then contract the triceps and extend your arms back up to the starting position.

Close-grip EZ-Bar Preacher Curl
o Sit at the preacher curl bench with a narrow, palms-up grip on the EZ-Bar.
o Poliquin recommends that you set the height of the seat so the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor.
o Lean forward so that your armpits are at in contact with the top of the preacher bench and as you lower the bar your triceps are in contact with the padding of the bench.
o Lower the bar until your arms are stretched.
o Pause briefly and then contract your biceps to curl the bar back up to the top position.
o Poliquin also recommends that you keep your wrists cocked back throughout the full range of motion.

Seated DB Incline Curls
o Set the incline of the bench at 80 degrees (in an almost upright position).
o Sit on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms turned up.
o Lean back and keep your back and head against the bench at all times throughout the exercise.
o Perform alternating dumbbell curls with each hand. Keep the palm up throughout the entire exercise.

Seated DB Zottman Curls
o The Zottman curl is simply a dumbbell curl performed with a "palms down" grip as you lower the dumbbell and a "palms-up" grip as your lift the dumbbell. It's like doing a curl followed by a reverse curl.
o Set an adjustable bench so that the back is upright. Sit down and hold a dumbbell in each hand at arms length with your palm turned up.
o Contract the biceps and curl the dumbbell up to shoulder height.
o At the top of the movement, turn your palm down and lower the dumbbell back to the start position.
o Poliquin recommends that you keep your elbows glued to your sides throughout the lifting and lowering portion of the exercise.

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit www.TurbulenceTraining.com

Supersets & Drop Sets for Fat Loss & Muscle Gain

By Craig Ballantyne. For our purposes here, a superset is the completion of consecutive sets without a rest. The sets can be for exercises of the same, opposite or completely unrelated muscle groups. When performing supersets for opposing or unrelated muscle groups, there is an opportunity for one muscle to recover while another is worked, therefore allowing a heavy weight to be used for both exercises.

Because minimal rest is prescribed, try to arrange for exercises that can be performed within a close proximity of one another (i.e. a flat DB press and a One-arm DB row). Training opposing muscle groups in this manner ensures the development of balanced muscular strength. You can design an entire workout using multiple supersets OR you can add a superset at any point in the workout (i.e. such as the transition from chest to back).

An example of opposing muscle groups is the chest & back. Pick a back exercise that pulls the arms into the torso (a row) and balance that with an exercise that pushes away from the torso (flat DB press). You can also use supersets for the anterior and posterior heads of the deltoids (shoulders) which somewhat oppose one another.

An example exercise combination would be a front DB raise followed by a bent-over DB raise. Muscles of shoulder extension (lats) can be super-setted with the antagonistic shoulder flexors (deltoids) using a pulldown-shoulder press combination. And finally, for the ultimate arm superset, choose one triceps exercise and follow it with an exercise for biceps.

Supersets can also be performed using 2 successive exercises for the same bodypart. This has been referred to as "pre-exhaustion", where an isolation exercise is performed for a muscle group (i.e. a DB fly for the chest) followed by a compound exercise for the same muscle group (i.e. a bench press). The second exercise will be performed using a lighter weight than is normally used because the muscle group will have been previously fatigued.

A second superset method for the same muscle group is referred to as "drop-setting". In this technique, a set of an exercise is performed to failure at which time the trainee reduces the weight and performs subsequent repetitions with the lighter weight.

****A note on "drop-sets" and "muscle pumps"...

If the development of maximal strength OR size is your goal, these techniques are not mandatory for success. Let me explain:

First, a muscle "pump" is simply the result of blood and tissue fluid being forced into the muscle from the surrounding vessels and then accumulating within the muscle. While an increased blood flow to the area is beneficial, the pump lasts only for a short time (30-60 minutes). Unfortunately, this is too short of a time period to result in any significant physiological changes to the muscle, as growth and repair occur over a 24 to 48 hour (or more) time period following exercise.

Therefore, we should not focus our training time on achieving this "pump", although with training of the proper intensity, it will occur regardless. Most individuals desire the pump and if they do not achieve it, they feel as if the workout has been poor, however this is not the case. It is much more important to train at a proper intensity and with proper technique.

The "drop-set" method will not be effective if the training goal is maximal size and strength. While decreasing the weight to allow for more repetitions may provide a "burning" sensation within the muscle, the actual stimulus on the muscle fibers will be much less in comparison to a "regular" set (performed after a sufficient recovery interval).

Most physiologists agree that muscle appears to grow in response to a stress of sufficient intensity and duration. Therefore, by sticking to heavier weights and adequate rest intervals, the trainee can apply a greater stress in comparison to the "drop-sets" technique. The lighter weights used in a superset probably do not optimally stimulate the muscle at the level necessary to produce growth and strength adaptations in the muscle fibers.

Finally, the use of "drop-sets" may be detrimental in the effects that this technique has on energy reserves. The "drop-set" technique may rob the trainee of valuable energy that would be better spent in the performance of a regular set (a set at a higher intensity). Secondly, the "drop-set" technique may require additional calories to fuel the contractions, and this may then require a greater caloric intake on the part of the trainee in order to gain muscle mass, although this may not be significant. One thing in the favor of drop-sets is time efficiency because you can get a lot done in a very short time.

Therefore, the drop-set method does not appear optimal for acquiring both strength and size. You are best off to keep your training techniques plain and simple (heavy weights, moderate repetitions), unless a plateau in performance suggests otherwise. Overcoming a plateau may require more advanced techniques and program design that should be based solely on the individual, not through general recommendations. 

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit www.TurbulenceTraining.com

When is the Best Time to Workout

By Craig Ballantyne. In general, there is no best time to workout. Training in the afternoon should get you the same results as training in the morning, all other things being equal (i.e. nutrition, workout intensity, etc.).

Here are some important considerations for determining your workout time:
a) Are you able to train with at a proper intensity or are you tired?
b) Will you be able to eat properly before and after your workout time?
c) Will you stick to your workout program?
d) Will exercising in the morning be hard on your back?

Why do I bring up point "d"?
Dr. Stuart McGill, an expert in low-back disorders, recommends waiting at least an hour after waking up before engaging in any exercise that includes trunk flexion (i.e. traditional ab exercises such as crunches). Overnight, the discs between your vertebrae fill with fluid and are more susceptible to injury in the morning. That's the reason behind this recommendation.

So don't roll out of bed and start doing sit-ups (not that most people should be doing those anyway - and as you'll notice in my reports, I don't include sit-ups in the programs). If you choose to exercise in the morning, you'll be fine if you pay attention to your form and exercise selection (just as you should no matter when you exercise).

If you have soreness in the lower back, it is also a good idea to avoid bending over early in the morning (use another posture that is more back friendly when putting on your shoes, socks, picking up dumbbells off the floor, etc.). Always use proper lifting posture when training - no matter what time of day.

Basically, the bottom line is that you can still workout in the morning as long as you are extra careful of your back and lifting technique.

Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit www.TurbulenceTraining.com

Interval Training: The Fastest Way to Fat Loss

By Craig Ballantyne. Intervals: Efficient & Effective. Intervals are the single most results producing exercise that I've ever found for boosting your metabolism, helping you burn inches off your body, and giving you a tight, lean, strong shape.

Here's an excerpt from my latest article in Men's Fitness showing you how to use intervals for fat loss (Men's Fitness, Page 114, April 2005).

Interval training is the fitness world's equivalent of a visit to the in-laws. The shorter and more intense the visit, the better.

An interval is a short period of exercise performed at a given intensity for a specific length of time. Each interval is separated from the next interval by a short rest or lighter activity. There are no strict rules on how long or how intense the interval must be, however, changing the interval length or intensity changes the way your body works and responds to exercise.

Never sacrifice the quality of rest between intervals because this will only reduce the benefits. To succeed with intervals, you must first shake the mindset of traditional continuous cardio training.

No matter where you start with intervals, heed this warning. The high-intensity nature of the exercise can cause muscle soreness you'd associate only with weights, and can cause your legs to feel like j-e-l-l-o.

What most people don't know is that intervals are the best cardio method for fat loss. Most guys in the gym are hung up on doing excessive amounts of work, but shorter, more intense intervals get the job done better.

Intervals continue to burn calories and fat after the training session, and that's something you won't get from slower, longer sessions of cardio. When Canadian researchers compared interval training and long, slow cardio training, it was interval training that was shown to be more effective for fat loss.

Use this workout 3-5 times per week to blast fat.
Start with this beginner protocol:
Warm-up for 5-minutes.
Work for 30 seconds at an 8/10 level of intensity.
Follow that with "active rest" for 90 seconds at a 3/10 level of intensity.
Repeat for 3-8 intervals.
Finish with 15 minutes of traditional cardio for "transition" and cool-down.
As you become accustomed to intervals, progress to the experienced protocol:
Warm-up for 5-10 minutes.
Work at a 9/10 level of intensity for 30 seconds.
Follow that with "active rest" for 60 seconds at a 3/10 level of intensity. 
Repeat for 4-10 intervals.

Finish with 5 minutes of low intensity exercise for a cool-down.

Craig Ballantyne trains athletes and executives in Toronto, and writes for Men's Fitness magazine. His trademarked Turbulence Training workouts and his comprehensive workout manuals (including "The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout") are featured on his website Turbulence Training