By now you have made sure you know what you’re doing in the gym. You’ve figured out your goals, challenged the PT’s routine and are doing what it takes to build muscle and burn fat. But the question is, what are you eating and when are you eating it? After I started this blog, a few people asked me for fat loss tips. It turns out, you can get stronger that’s not the hard part. The hard part is to lose the family pack that you’ve developed over the years sitting on your backside without even starting a family yet. This post is going to help anyone lose fat fast.

A lot of people crib about how difficult it is to have the coveted beach body look with the six pack abs flashing. The first thing to keep in mind is that everyone is not a bodybuilder. Bodybuilding is a sport and a tough one. In order to get ripped and shredded and look fabulous on stage with no fat on their bodies at all bodybuilders have to go through a tough time and it certainly isn’t easy, so quit cribbing. Another fact about 6 pack abs is that not everyone has the required genes to sport a 6 pack. One can be as lean as 10% body fat and still not have a 6 pack. I know it sounds demotivating but let me tell you about myself. I used to have one goal – 6 pack abs. And it never happened. I have long stopped thinking about it or even working towards it. My goal is to be fit and strong. As I have pointed out in the previous blog post celebrities are able to flaunt their beach bodies with certain photographic aids. Hence it is pointless to try to emulate them.

Coming to point now, this post is about fasting. Don’t close the window just yet, I am not talking religion here although someone must have unknowingly included the fasting ritual in religion for health benefits.

I have been doing intermittent fasting for about close to a year now. I eat the first meal of the day after 12 PM, sometimes as late as 3 PM. And I eat the last meal of the day before 9 or 10 PM. This enables me to eat in a window of about 8-9 hours. Now I can imagine a lot of you would be thinking that it is unhealthy to starve for such a long period of time; in my case 14-16 hours a day. After all, the fitness and nutrition experts of the world want you to eat 6 or even 8 meals a day! And they are dead wrong. And why would one miss the most important meal of the day – breakfast. Please see below my progress photos just 3 weeks apart. The one on the left is right before I started fasting and the one on the right is 3 weeks after.

leangains

The difference in fat from before to after is very clear. Now I have been doing this for a year, so my strength would have gone down right? Because I am skipping the legendary breakfast. To give you some perspective, I started out on Stronglifts 5X5 with an empty bar on most lifts in September 2012. My current personal bests are as follows –

Squat – 210lbs (5 sets of 5 reps)

Bench – 155lbs (5 sets of 5 reps)

Deadlift – 315lbs 1 rep max

Overhead Shoulder Press – 105 lbs 2 sets of 5 reps

Pendlay Row – 155lbs 5 sets of 5 reps

When I first started fasting and told my friends I was doing it, some of them laughed; some said I was crazy and I was going to get an ulcer. Let’s go back into the past. When humans were still uncivilized and did not have enough resources to feed themselves 6 times a day, we were still living. Turns out the human body is designed to fast. Quoting from Eat Stop Eat “A lion only hunts when he’s hungry”.

Today the amount of food which surrounds us is tremendous. We eat a meal and 2 hours later we are hungry again and we go snack hunting then. We never actually experience true hunger. True hunger is the feeling when you haven’t eaten anything for days. That is true hunger. However, not eating for a few hours or a day in a week is not hunger and would not lead to starvation. I am living proof of that. To add to that, I am more alert and get more work done in the morning when others are busy satisfying their snack cravings.

If you really want to lose that stubborn belly fat, fasting is the way to go. See this  for more scientific details on fasting. And read the book Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon. Shoot me questions if you have any, I’d be more than happy to help. As I said, stop cribbing and get to work.

One of the biggest things to miss out on life is to explore what you’re own body is capable of. A lot of people will die without exploring their own limits and I feel that is very sad. Why wouldn’t someone want to know their limits? Isn’t it a part of self assessment and exploration? This post however is about the different perspectives of beauty in the world.

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I write this to all the women in the world (doesn’t mean men shouldn’t take notice). The media and paparazzi of today has created an image of the perfect woman. This perfect woman is slim and that supposedly makes her sexy. I urge you to look at the photos above and tell me which pair of legs looks sexier? The one on the left which is markedly slim or the one on the right which appears firmer and stronger? To be honest, the lady on the left is clearly not eating enough food.

In my opinion a woman should be strong too. With the advent of modern technology, the need for strength is losing its value among people. It used to be expected of men to be strong physically as they had to protect their family and support it. Now the only support required is financial. This is one of the reasons why we have diabetes, heart disease, obesity and all of this is just because of a lack of awareness. But women need to be strong too. A woman undergoes many stages in her life which requires a lot of strength; childbirth being one. A woman needs to have legs strong enough to carry herself when she has a life inside of her. Do you think the lady on the left has legs strong enough? A woman also needs to be strong enough to pick up her child and walk around with it all day if required. Mind you that is not a measly task and it requires strength.

The media paints a very dazzling picture of how a woman should look and we, like sheep, follow what they say. Here are a few examples of how the media dictates our perception of beauty.

Case of Disappearing Muscles of Celebrities

Photoshop makes Celebs look brighter more appealing

We all know what happened to Beyonce at the Superbowl. She sported her strong muscular legs and this is what they did to mock her.

The media needs to stop the campaign of defining feminine beauty. The campaign is more anti-women than it is pro-women. The women of the world need to wake up and realize what the media has done to them in terms of their food habits and everything else. And the first step has to be taken by us. We as responsible inhabitants of this planet have to tell the media to go to hell and boycott the airbrushing of celebrities.

In the first link above there is a picture of Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton. When she saw her exposed back with the muscles, she was proud because she put in a lot of hard work to achieve that. And what did the media do? The retouched her muscles to make her look feminine. Women are also human beings. And all human beings have muscles – around 600-800 in all. It is very natural for women to have them as they are the same species as men. Now they don’t have the hormone testosterone in as much quantity as we men do. That makes their muscles smaller in general than their male counterparts. But it certainly doesn’t mean that a female cannot have muscles. In fact having more muscle mass is beneficial for longevity and health of any individual.

I hope someday people will wake up and help me change this perception of female beauty. Women with legs like the lady on the left in the picture don’t need praise; they need help.

 

No one is perfect. Even the biggest of celebrities, the best of philosophers and the strongest of athletes have their own imperfections. As promised, I am going to write about my visit to the chiropractor this last week, and how it helped me to identify my own imperfections.

imbalances - chiro

I was a little apprehensive going for a visit to a chiropractor for the first time. I told her what I thought could have been wrong with my body; the alignment of the top vertebra – atlas. I continued by narrating my experiences while lifting weights and finding that one side clearly produced more force than the other as if amount of nerve cells on one side was greater than the other. She listened to me and went on to do an assessment. There was a thermal and an EMG test to determine small temperature and current differences between the two sides of the body. The chart which you see above is the result.

On the left side you can see white lines all over the spine. The white lines represent balance between both sides. On the right side is what my back looks like. There are a couple of whites which is good, a few greens which stand for low level imbalances. And then there are blues which stand for moderate level imbalances. The reds stand for high level imbalances and the black ones are “off the chart” imbalances.

As I had suspected, there is something really wrong with my atlas which can be seen with the colorful top vertebra. Another thing which I had suspected was the right hip, notice how the two black lines branch out from it. After my assessment, I was made to lie down in a prone position. The first thing which the chiropractor did was to examine my leg lengths. She told me that my right leg was a little over an inch shorter than my left leg. She then proceeded to crack a couple bones in my back; which is called adjusting the spine. She then said I had a week left knee, which I was expecting as my left knee has given me trouble in the past. She proceeded to crack my neck and answered a few of my questions.

I came back thinking of whether it helped at all. I put on my chuck taylors and squatted down in a body weight squat and surprisingly felt better while doing so.

Yesterday I was squatting 180 lbs when something struck me.

muscle imbalances

On the left you see a normal pelvis. And on the right is my pelvis which is tilted toward the left. This makes my right leg shorter than the left and when I squat, it results in a lot more force on the right side and the left side just does the supporting due to a lesser range of motion. And this prompted me to do something which I had never ever advised anyone else to do; neither had I tried it myself. I extended my left leg a little out to the side to widen my stance in a staggered way. What this did was to adjust my pelvis to be normally aligned and distributed the force of the weight on my back evenly between the two legs. I felt the difference instantly and my right hip which had been taking a grinding over all those ruthless training sessions felt a lot better.

Now my overhead press is a similar case, I feel a lot more muscle activity on the right side and the left side just does the supporting. So I slid my right hand a little wider than my usual grip hence lengthening the range of motion on the right side. This would in turn cause the weight to distribute evenly between the two sides and it did! I was in awe. I had just found the answer to the most difficult problem I have ever faced in training. And now I am really excited to try a similar thing in my bench press and hopefully my bench pressing woes will go away too.

Do let me know what you think of this and stay tuned for more training adventures!

muscle - nervous system

I know that the post title sounds funny. Muscle virus is actually a termed coined by Elliot Hulse, strongman and strength training/fitness/health guru. I was watching a short video series yesterday when I realized that I might have a common deformity which might impact my weight lifting.

Since when I was a small kid, I have noticed that my neck is slightly tilted to one side. The tilt is so small that I never noticed it in the mirror, neither did my parents. However, when I used to go to the studio to get my picture clicked, the photographer always asked me to straighten my face. And I never understood why he said that. Over the years I came to realize that it was there and I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. I had never even thought the kind of impact it could have in my life.

I read many fitness articles and watch tons of videos everyday. And I learn something new everyday. In this video series, Elliot talks about the various muscle imbalances that might be preventing the guy from lifting heavy weights without injury or pain. In the video he talks about Atlast adjustment. So I did some research and found this video of his. Here he gives some more details about muscle imbalances and how they might be related to the nervous system. He talks about how a certain set of vertebra in the body (Atlas) floats and can be adjusted. This vertebra directs the function of the rest of the spine and hence the whole central nervous system.

The picture above shows the detailed muscular anatomy of a human (forgive me for using a male as an example, I am not chauvinistic). It just so happens that your left shoulder, lats, traps are linked to your right hip, low back muscles and both of these as a group are linked to your left leg muscles as pointed in the picture. So, if you’re stronger in the right hand side of the body, it is very likely that your left hip is stronger than your right. I didn’t know this and now it makes so much sense to me. This is the reason why I feel as stable as a rock when I kick a football with my right leg; because my left (stronger) hip keeps my body stable while I execute the motion.

Elliot Hulse calls this a muscle virus. In simple terms it is just how the muscular and the nervous system overlap. So what do you do if you find that you have such muscle imbalances or a tilted Atlas? I am going to the chiropractor to see what they can do. Other than that, in today’s lifting session I tried hard to focus all my strength on my weak side. It actually felt good and my right (weaker) hip is sore now. I would also recommend yoga and lots of stretching combined with a lot of foam rolling. Foam rolling has done so many wonders for me that I can’t even count them on my fingers.

Will update about how my session with the chiropractor goes and the wealth of information I get from there. Until then happy lifting!

Who Am I?

Posted: July 4, 2013 by Savvy Saver in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

As you guys would have guessed, I am a tube light. It takes some time for me to realize stuff. So after writing four posts about strength training, I decided I’ll write a little bit about myself and how I got bit by the iron bug.

There comes a point in your life when you realize that you’ve been doing everything wrong. It is at that moment that you decide to shuffle things up and pick up the trash. For me there have been quite a few moments like that.

At 19 years old, I was 5’10” weighing around 55kg (121lbs). I was leading a sedentary life wasting my youth away. I thought I was normal, heck everyone thinks they’re normal. It was then when something hit me hard. It was the glass door of the mess. I had lost my senses of vision and hearing and ran into the glass door and fainted immediately. The doctor said I had low blood pressure – 95/60. It wasn’t too shocking for my deluded brain. It was what happened afterwards was what changed me. I had to rely on other people to do routine stuff. Someone had to bring me food from the mess. If I had to go somewhere, I’d need someone to go with me so I don’t fall down and faint again. And they’d have to carry my stuff because I was so freaking weak.

old college

This is me in 2006

I decided that things had to change for the better when the doc told me that I had iron levels less than a girl’s normal levels. I started eating healthy and started going to the gym. I had no idea of what I was doing, but at least I was trying.

A couple of years ago, I came to the United States to pursue higher education. When I looked around at the Indian population, I saw pot bellies and sagging double chins. These were people who were barely in their twenties.

I remember I had gone for bootcamp one day and I was the only Indian there. Guess what I found? The American girls had more stamina and strength than myself.

In the country I call home, people like to eat good food and enjoy. But this doesn’t mean that you don’t take care of yourself and let your belly go beyond your toes. Oh, and you don’t need two chins; one is enough. People in the west think that we Indians are only good at math. They think that we are weak physically because we never show up on the scene in sports like Football. This is not their fault. This is our own fault for being lazy and not being conscious about our own selves.

I started training seriously in September 2012. After about 9 months of training I look like this today.

progress2

My purpose is to change the world’s perspective about India and Indians. I want to show the world that we Indians can be strong and fast. I want to create Usain Bolts and Rafael Nadals in India. And then I want to look at the people of the world as they look in awe at us Indians.

Deadift

Posted: June 29, 2013 by Savvy Saver in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

In the words of the great Jon Pall Sigmarsson, “There is no reason to be alive, if you can’t do the deadlift”.

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If you are reading this and you are new to the world of fitness, you are going to discover the holy grail of strength training – the Deadlift.

If I were to enumerate the benefits of this lift, I would need a week. If the squat is the king of strength training, deadlift is the queen. And if you’ve played chess, you’d know that the utility of the queen is much more than the king.

Let’s start listing the muscle groups which get activated during the deadlift. Let’s start from the head.

1. Traps (Trapezius)

2. Lats (Latissimus dorsi)

3. Rhomboids

4. Small muscles between vertebrae

5. Serratus muscles of the back

6. All of the rest of the upper and lower back

7. Abs (obliques as well as rectus abdominis)

8. Quadriceps

9. Hamstrings

10. Glutes

11. Forearms

Now try and remember one exercise or one workout you did which involved or activated so many muscle groups at the same time. There’s hardly anything in the body which is not in action during a deadlift.

A lot of people are scared of this lift because it requires the use of the back and back injuries are the worst. Well if you go on a hunting trip and start treading barefoot towards a lions pride, no wonder you’d get eaten. Moral of the story is to start with light weight and move up slowly.

Let us now go over some quick tips on how to deadlift.

The first thing that you have to make sure before deadlifting is that the weight should be as close to your body as physically possible. This means that when you’re pulling the weight up, the weight should graze your shins before you lift and lockout. If your shins are soft, wear khakis/sweat pants while training.

Keep your back straight at all times. Your lumbar spine should always be tight and not curved. As long as your spine is straight, you will not hurt yourself doing this Godly lift.

Use your legs. Even though it might seem like an upper body dominant lift, quads, hams and primarily glutes have a very important role to play in the deadlift. When pulling the weight up, a cue which might help is to imagine pushing the floor away with your feet.

Chest up, head in line with torso and back straight. Also make sure your arms are not bent at the elbows. That would put the load on the biceps. Biceps being a smaller muscle group than the triceps aren’t usually accustomed to take heavy loading. If you don’t want a bicep tear like this, make sure you’re keeping your arms extended straight.

If you’re still short of reasons or scared to do deadlifts, go here. Enough talking, go deadlift some weights already!

The very first time that I squatted was on the Smith Machine; biggest mistake of my life. If you want to be as strong as an ox, read on about how the Squat can help you with your goal.

The squat is probably one of the most controversial exercises in existence. If you ask me, or any of the best powerlifters/ olympic lifters/ strength coaches, they’d tell you that a perfect squat is one in which you go down till your hip bone is at least in line with your knees. Here is an excellent article about how you can work on your depth.

Now the question, why is the depth so important? Well, if you load up the bar and unrack it only to go half way down before coming up, you’re not working most of the muscles involved in a squat. This is something which I like to call half squat (or quarter squat, depending on the depth). You’re probably just working a little bit of your quads and maybe a little bit of your core. The squat is meant to be a full body exercise. If you want bigger arms, you know what you should do: that’s right – heavy squats. And unless you do it completely, you’re not going to reap the benefits associated with it.

There are two kinds of back squats, the low bar back squat and the high bar back squat. As explained by Rippetoe in this video, the low bar back squat enables you to lift more weight. If you want to know how to low bar back squat, buy your copy of starting strength here or check out the resources on the stronglifts page or just shoot me an e-mail and I might be able to help you figure it out.

Now, a lot of people argue that deep squats (parallel and below parallel) will blow your knees. Let me put a counter-argument about bench pressing here. If you study the mechanics of bench press, it is quite similar to the squat. The lever joint in the squat is the knee while in the bench press, it’s the elbow. Would it be a valid point to say that benching heavy weights will blow your elbows? I am sure you get the point. However, you can injure yourself if you load up the bar heavy quicker than you should or squat with improper form.

I have had my own issues with the squat. I broke my fibula (ankle) a few years ago so my right ankle isn’t as flexible as it should be. And then there’s muscle imbalances. But I haven’t yet hurt myself on the squat bad enough to stop squatting. The key thing to keep in mind is to squat with flat sole shoes or barefoot. This way you have a solid base to push the weight off the floor, also your feet stay flat which enables you to keep the weight on the heels as opposed to squatting in running shoes.

Another key point to keep in mind is that the squat isn’t supposed to be just knee bending and sitting down. One needs to push their hips back far enough and sit back as if sitting in a chair (try doing this and finding the analogy). As far as I think, you don’t need to go all the way down to the ground. That is impossible for many due to mobility issues and is controversial too. Go down deep enough so the hip bone is in line with the knee, make a video of yourself squatting if required.

Oh, and don’t forget to keep your core tight. Imagine yourself flexing your abs in the mirror or getting ready to get punched in the gut. Your core should be as tight as it would be in any of those cases. This helps keeping the spine neutral and reduces shear forces on the back. If you cannot do this yourself, get a belt. Remember, the belt is not support. It just helps you to push against it and keep your core tight.

Remember to start light and move up slowly while focusing on form. If you have questions, there are tons of resources out there both good and bad. Shoot me an e-mail and I’d point you in the right direction.

Have fun squatting!