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By now, you should know the importance of tracking your progress and building a motivating and challenging environment for you to make great strides towards your fitness goals; if you are not sure about this importance, I’ll be sure to talk specifically about this in more detail in the near future. Once you understand how tracking progress on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis can help you, then it is time to pick a platform and/or methodology to use that best fits your needs. With the advent of enhanced and expanding technologies, many of the best and most convenient platforms are available via your smartphone or laptop.
Today, I want to briefly compare two of the platforms that I have used in recent months and years, Fitocracy and DailyMile! I like both; while neither is currently the one-stop solution for my every fitness progress tracking need, each has its advantages and disadvantages. Here is what I have found thus far:
According to their site, “Fitocracy’s mission is to make fitness a more fun, more addictive experience. Play Fitocracy to beat challenges, push your boundaries, and show your friends who’s boss. Get addicted to your fitness.” From my experience, I really find this site to be just that. It takes a gamification approach, and it really does a nice job of encouraging others to track their fitness progress. Here is what I find thus far in my experiences on Fitocracy:
- Very social – others can comment and give props (likes) on routines; also, we can all share
- Has mobile app for added convenience and flexibility
- Utilizes Gamification techniques (through levels, challenges, and point values) very well to motivate you get fit
- Ability to build routines to save for convenient usage later
- Tracks Personal Bests
- Easy to add groups for friends to join
- Integrated Knowledge Center blog area that is full of tips and recommendations
- No routine description or title area
- No hashtag functionality
- Maneuvering between days can be difficult
- Difficulty moving workout to a different day if typed incorrectly
- Not too easy to add supersets and giant sets (and other customized routine work)
- No consideration for the overall time spent on a workout
Similar to Fitocracy, DailyMile is a social network for fitness-goers. According to the site, “dailymile is a social experience for active people. We’re a community of people just off the couch to ultramarathoners alike, who encourage and inspire one another as we achieve our goals. Together we’ve shared over 12 million workouts. Each of them tells a story. Share yours.” I find this site to be a bit more focused on cardio-fanatics, but here are my thoughts.
- Easy to add entire workout summary and share with others- Easy to share with Facebook and Twitter friends
- Solid leaderboard – great for challenging others
- Great for mapping out running/biking routes
- Training log provides various visualization of weekly progress/activity
- Great community section where people can post local fitness-related events (races, etc.)
- No native mobile app
- Leaderboard only considers cardio miles and not weightlifting aspects of fitness
- Costs extra to really enhance the in-house social functionality
- Friend cap at 1,000 people
- Struggle to switch popular tags
Overall, I find that both platforms offer some great features. However, since I have not found a solution that meets all of my needs, I continue to post my workouts on both sites. Of course, I’m hopeful that such a need will diminish in the coming months, but I’m unsure if either will grow and expand its feature list enough. I certainly hope that one of them does! Which platform do you track your fitness progress on?
As noted numerous times before, I am a huge Cellucor fan. In addition, most people within my various social circles know that I have not quenched my thirst with a carbonated beverage since Christmas of 1999. Recently, I was on a 12-hour road trip to Michigan [through the dark of night] for a family wedding. While we had three drivers (total) available, most of us were very tired leading up to the trip. After a long day of work, I took the first two hours up I-75 before turning over the next three hours to Elaine. Mom was traveling with us, so she took the next hour but was very tired, so I took the last leg – 6 hours in total.
Planning Ahead & Experimentation
I knew that I would be driving the last leg of the trip because I knew that winter conditions would probably be tougher as we drove further north. As we planned the trip upon receiving the wedding invitation, I knew that we’d have to drive at night and after I had a long day of work. Hence, I started to think of ways to both get more sleep leading up to the trip and find a way to stay awake in the event of getting really tired. Since I’m not one to drink carbonated beverages, I wondered if some pre-workout supplement could and would assist me when I needed it most. So, with a little extra C4 Extreme in the supplement cupboard, I set off to give it a go!
Well, I am pleased to say that C4 really helped me. Since it was a longer trip and did not expect it to work for 12 consecutive hours, I did not use it at the beginning of the trip. After my two-hour driving shift to start the trip, I was able to get a few hours of rest, but I was a bit tired when I got back behind the wheel as we were just south of Dayton, Ohio. So, I had my C4 Pink Lemonade handy and started off with just water to drink. About 40 minutes later, I could sense that I might grow more tired, so I took 2 scoops of C4. Before you knew it, I hit the Michigan line, and I was merely 2 hours away from our destination. Around 8:30a.m., we pulled in to Grand Blanc, Michigan. Yet, I was still energized. I did not crash once I got to the hotel. Certainly, I got more sleep that next evening, but C4 worked! Have you ever tried using a pre-workout supplement in lieu of a traditional energy drink to help you stay awake?
For those of you who know me well, I am a foursquare machine. I check-in just about wherever I go. In fact, I’ll be the first to admit that I often volunteer to run to the store or restaurant to pick up things for others because it will allow me to gain an extra check-in or two. So, call me crazy! But, one thing is for sure; foursquare can help you get fit, so I recommend that you give it a try.
Here’s my reasoning…
The Gym Rat Badge!
Foursquare has something called badges, and these badges are available for users to earn. Often, it is exciting to gain a new badge, especially when they are not easy to earn. Foursquare offers a badge called the Gym Rat Badge, and it is given to a person when he or she checks in at one gym at least 10 times in any 30 day period. Of course, only one check-in per day will count, so that means that you have to get to the gym more often to earn this coveted fitness-focused badge. I have heard that they will be converting the gym rat badge into an expertise badge, wherein people who’ve already earned the badge can level up when they continue to check-in at different gyms. Also, from time to time, foursquare’s partners will offer a badge that is fitness-focused.
Mayorship Motivates You To Check-in At Gym
For the person who checks into a venue the most over a revolving 60 day period, he or she is declared the mayor of that venue. For more popular venues with many check-ins, this becomes quite a challenge… a competition between fellow foursquare users! If you check-in at the gym, there is that pride involved in your results. Of course, you have to put the time in, even on those days when you lack the motivation. With foursquare, I find that I can peel myself off of the couch much easier because I know that I am either aiming to regain the mayorship at my gym or sustain the title of mayorship. My goal is to be the mayor, but I can only honestly do that if I keep going to the gym.
So, what are you waiting for? Give foursquare a try, and use it to help motivate you to get your gym workouts in more frequently! Before long, you’ll be reaching your fitness goals!
We arrived at the 25th Anniversary edition of the Arnold Classic with one main question in mind – will anybody prevent Dexter “The Blade” Jackson from tying “Flex” Wheeler for the all-time record for most Arnold Classic titles (4)? Personally, I was expecting Toney “X-Man” Freeman to at least take second place and potentially challenge for the title, but it appeared that nothing was going to stop “The Blade” from winning on this night! On a Saturday evening in Columbus, Ohio, Dexter was in top form, riding some great bodybuilding competition momentum from recent major wins in recent months. You can’t deny the motivation and hard work that Dexter puts in between competitions. This competition was his to lose, and he showed up in good form.
Photograph by Edward Sanders
Thoughts on the X-Man!
Living in Atlanta since 2009, I’ve had the privilege to meet Toney and workout out beside him. He is no joke. At a young age of 6, he appears ageless. I really want to see the X-Man capture this title, but [apparently] it was not in the cards. In fact, even though he grew stronger as the competition and evening went on, Toney somehow slipped down to third place. But, he continues to have a positive attitude as he refocuses on the rest of the competitive season. Then again, the $50,000 third place paycheck doesn’t hurt, huh?
Disappointment in the Field…
While I am not here to take away anything from the strong field of competitors, it was a bit shocking to see only a few of the top elite bodybuilders vying for this title. Branch Warren (2-time and defending Arnold Classic champion) pulled out – as did a bunch of others. It seems like the top three guys (Phil Heath, Kia Greene, and Jay Cutler) are holding out for Mr. Olympia each year. Certainly, I understand the importance of that for them, and they still put on a number of guest poses . They do not want to have to peak more than once per year and hence risk losing placement at the Mr. Olympia, but that is very frustrating as a bodybuilding fan. I’m now wishing that the powers that may be would somehow tweak the point system a bit more to sway other top bodybuilders to step on stage at the Arnold Classic. I mean… this is the ARNOLD!
Well, it was a great weekend of bodybuilding. Unfortunately, I was not in attendance, but I did monitor many of the blogs, social media accounts, and the free webcast to get the latest scoop. This year, Elaine and I watched the last few moments of the Arnold via a laptop at our favorite local Barnes & Noble, but we hope to make it up to Columbus, Ohio for the 2014 edition! Until then, we will look forward to the competitions between now and the Mr. Olympia contest!
Wow! Time flies by faster with each new year. I can hardly grasp that it is almost March. For those in the fitness industry and for those fitness fanatics, that can only mean one thing; this upcoming weekend marks what many consider to be one of the (if not THE) best fitness expos in the world. Are you ready for the Arnold Classic? Do you plan to attend the festivities?
Everything… and More!
The Arnold Classic has everything. For starters, the Arnold Classic is home to bodybuilding competitions. Outside of the Mr. Olympia contest, this is the top bodybuilding contest that everybody watches, attends, and shoots for! Next, the expo fills up with thousands of fans and numerous fitness celebrities. All of the major supplement and fitness-related companies will be in attendance. Outside of fitness and bodybuilding competitions and the expo, this event offers gymnastics, powerlifting, Zumba, CrossFit competitions, weightlifting competitions, mixed martial arts, and so much more!
The entire event, known as the Arnold Sports Festival, kicks off on Thursday night with the Expo opening its doors the following morning (March 1, 2013). As the weekend arrives, the competitions will commence, and champions will be crowned, including a new Arnold Classic champion. Will Dexter “Blade” Jackson win his fourth Arnold Classic? Or will Toney “X-Man” Freeman or Cedric McMillan steal the show? Even though he recently broke a wrist, Hidetada Yamagishi will be competing!
Personally, I have never attended this event, but I hear great things about it. Unfortunately, I will not be attending the events at the Arnold this year, but I look forward to checking this event out soon! As for the namesake competition, I’m hoping for a competitive battle between the “Blade” and “X-Man!” Lastly [if you are attending the events], I hope that you take the time to check-in to the two main venues [Arnold Expo & Arnold Classic Competition]! And be sure swing by Cellucor’s booth – tell them that Dwayne sent you! Well, the 25th Arnold Sport Festival [and Arnold Classic] will be another great hit. If you are going, I’d love to hear your plans for the event. If you have gone in the past, what parts of this event did you like the best? As for me, I plan to watch it unfold live on the free webcast!
Over the past couple of days and weeks, you probably heard about Deer Antler Velvet. It was reports that Two-Time NFL Super Bowl Champion Ray Lewis was rumored to have taken this supplement after tearing his right tricep muscle. It was immediately noted that one of the components within the velvet, IGF-1, is banned in professional and collegiate sports. Shortly after this story broke, Lewis denied ever using the supplement, but Vijay Singh, a popular and successful PGA golf professional announced that he had been taking it and did not know that it actually contained any banned substances. Then, the co-owner of SWATS [Sports With Alternatives To Steroids], Christopher Key, mentioned that he sold the same product to some members of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team during their 2012 National Championship Season; he noted that he even witnessed five of the players use the product! It seems that the rumor mill is non-stop about this product right now.
While this might provide insight to a potentially bad or illegal supplement, this controversial supplement is surely getting much more attention by the masses who are looking to get that edge in the gym. When the Lewis story first broke, I joked with some fitness friends about the supplements we take. As time progressed, more and more people brought up the whole deer antler velvet topic; some even asked me about if I have tried it or know where to get it. A few people mentioned that they even bought some online.
Who Comes Up With This Stuff?
Good question. Apparently, it was something that came from Ancient Chinese times. Some claim that this was the stuff that the Russian Olympians were using when most assumed they were on steroids. Experts appear to debate whether this stuff really works or not. Dr. Weil notes that there are conflicting studies, so it appears that the debate continues! Still, my biggest curiosity is… how did someone come up with the idea of testing various parts of the antlers of a deer to see if they had any positive effects on the human body? Who comes up with something like that?
Personally, I have not taken the product. I am not sure if it contains any banned substances, but it does appear that those in collegiate or professional sports are prohibited from taking it. For me, the supplements that I take are working just fine, so I will not be trying out any deer antler velvet extract. In lieu of that, I will stick with my Cellucor pre- and post-workout supplements and strive to eat clean, remain dedicated and motivated in the gym, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of rest!
Have you tried deer antler velvet extract/spray? If so, have you found good results? If not, are you looking to try it out? As for me, I will remain on the sidelines of this one!
Somehow, 2012 passed right by us, and we are already at the start of the second month of 2013, and I realized that I have not shared my resolutions with you yet. Shame on me! I always find that sharing goals and motivations (along with routines and regiments) really help to reach for those goals. Part of this is because we can all help one another in the quest to reach these goals. The other part of this is that, by telling you and anybody else who is near and dear to me, I am adding accountability to myself. If I just keep these goals a secret, who will ever know if I am slacking or not reaching my projected milestones? So, with that, let’s get to my fitness aspirations for this year!
I start this year’s resolutions with a look back at my 2012 goals!
I find that I gained a lot of strength over the past year, and I put on some added muscle. Certainly, I am proud of this achievement, but I am not satisfied with everything. As a perfectionist, I expected more results on the bench press and a more-chiseled look in my quads. I stepped up my bicep routines, but I was not going for maximum weight levels after the fall started. As you recall, I gave the Body Beast workout routine a try, and I found it to be challenging but in a slightly different way. The routine provided me with new exercises to try and different challenges in the form of supersets, giant sets, and force sets, but, while I was pushing around semi-heavy to heavy weight, I was not doing 4-8 rep maximums, so my quests in that regard fell short.
So, where do I plan for 2013 to take me? Here are the highlights!
Upper Body Development
- 125lbs per arm on the Incline Bench Dumbbell Press x6 reps
- 125lbs per arm on the Flat Bench Dumbbell Press x12 reps
- 350lbs Flat Bench Press x2 reps
Looking back at 2012, I started to really step up my progress on the flat and incline bench dumbbell presses. I was able to reach 125lbs on the flat bench dumbbell presses and finally got my warm-up sets closer to 100lbs (per arm) for 10+ reps; as 2013 arrived, I was consistently pushing 90lbs or 95lbs per arm for 10 super strong and super slow reps, so that brought me great pleasure. However, I am looking to step up these figures this year. As my incline bench dumbbell presses have climbed, I am confident that these numbers can be achieved. I’m even confident that I could surpass these weights. Unfortunately, my local LA Fitness does not have dumbbell weights above 125lbs, so I cannot truly generate a goal that is not possible in my current fitness environment, but I will continue to look for ways to grow! The bench press goal is quite a stretch for me at this time, but I will slowly and persistently pursue this goal. I’m confident that 325lbs can be achieved by the end of summer, but 350lbs is where I set my sights on!
- Wide Grip Pullups x50 reps
- Weighted Wide Grip Pullups – +90lbs x20 reps
- Romanian Deadlift – 405lbs x10 reps
My back has continued to get stronger and stronger, but there is much work yet to be done! A few years ago, I was somehow able to do 43 consecutive wide grip pull-ups, but I have not gotten back close to that mark. Earlier in January, I started warming back up with the pull-ups at the beginning of the workout. I would do two sets of either 20 or 25 reps; on one occasion, I warmed up with one set of 30 reps. As a result, I know that 50 reps is not impossible, but it is going to take a lot of hard work, so stay tuned for updates on my progress!
Lower Body Development
- 350lbs Box Squats x4 reps
- 275lbs Squats x10 reps
- 2,000lbs Leg Press x4 reps
- 405lbs Deadlift x4 reps
Leg development is VERY important to me. Overall, I’d consider that my legs are really strong, but I am never satisfied. I want to grow the legs a bit more, get them to be a little stronger, and then be sure that I have that 3-D effect as well. The legs need to look good, showing off the strength that they contain today and will contain tomorrow! I have very lofty goals, but I’d determined to exceed my expectations.
In 2012, I did not do as much cardio as I would have liked. Part of that was planned while some of that was unexpected. As I get deeper into 2013, you will find me stepping up my running and cycling. Ideally, I will get back to going to some spin classes, and I will also look to add a running race later in the year. The goal is to gain stamina while maintaining my muscle growth!
Time & Determination Will Tell
With 11 months remaining and growing determination in me each day, I look forward to these fitness and bodybuilding challenges. In addition, I hope to switch up the routines along the way and find ways to help others out, even more than I did last year. Come cheer me on, and let’s work towards our goals together! I’d love to hear about your biggest fitness goals, so feel free to share them.
If people think Dexter has been fading over the past few years, think again; “The Blade” is BACK! In this year’s highly-anticipated Masters Olympia competition, 34 competitors took the stage to compete for a top prize of $100,000. When the dust cleared and the scores were tallied, IFBB Pro Dexter “The Blade” Jackson took top honors. All in all, the event showcased the world’s top bodybuilders over the age of 40. In fact, a few competitors were in their fifties, sixties, and even seventies.
The Masters Olympia took a hiatus from 2003 until this year, so it is nice to see such a strong showing for this event. Certainly, as time progresses, I’d expect to see even stiffer competition in years to come as I’d anticipate participation by Jay Cutler and hopefully even Ronnie Coleman. Heck, let’s get Arnold out there too. Still, 2012 was Dexter’s year to shine, and his physique looks in top form. In fact, his form reminds many of how he was back in 2008 when he took the Sandow! “The Blade” overcame tough competition from Toney “X-Man” Freeman, Dennis James, Edward Nunn, and Ronny Rockel.
As more and more of our current IFBB Pro bodybuilders age and look to retire, let’s hope that many will reconsider and enter the Masters Olympia! So, there you have it, “The Blade” came out on top!
Recently, I was perusing the various fitness-focused YouTube channels that I subscribe to, and I found some back-and-forth debate (aka drama) about the topic of protein sourcing and which is truly the very best. According to Livestrong.com, “Whey protein supplies amino acids for muscle recovery and contains high amounts of the branched-chain aminos leucine, isoleucine and valine. Due to its high calcium and cysteine content, whey protein may enhance bone strength, increase fat burning and elevate antioxidant levels in the body!” I will get to my personal thoughts, but first, let’s discuss the online drama surrounding this topic.
The YouTube Drama
Just prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday, three of the popular fitness-related YouTube channels sounded off on the topic. It all started with the Hodge Twins. Apparently, one of their viewers emailed them a question about which protein source is the best. Of course, the Hodge Twins tend to add some laughter to their videos, and they are typically pointing out things that they find odd or dumb. The channel features them going back and forth on various fitness topics. Sometimes, I find a good laugh out of their videos. So, here is the video. I must warn you that they go off on a tangent about evolution for a minute in this video, and they use some profane language at times in their videos. So, here’s what kicked off the drama…
After that, Ian McCarthy (from popular YouTube Channel, LiftForLife) feels the need to provide his two cents. My biggest beef here is that, while he does take the time to go into more specifics about protein sources and that advantages of Whey, he takes just as long (or longer) to discuss how the Hodge Twins have it all wrong when it comes to The Big Bang Theory and Evolution. I was interested in his take on protein (something that he appears to be somewhat knowledgeable in) but not with his ideas about evolution and the Big Bang Theory; I would have done a search for those if I wanted to sharpen my knowledge about those concepts.
Lastly, I turned to Campbell Fitness’ YouTube Channel, and Brandon said it how it was. It appears that he shares my frustration with online drama. I got a good chuckle out of it, and then I moved on to watch his latest video or two! He is his thoughts on the matter [regarding online fitness YouTube drama].
My Personal Take… On Protein [Not Evolution]
I try to vary my protein sources a little bit, but I tend to stick close to the basics. That means that I do not intake a lot of soy protein, but I have my eggs from time in the mornings, and I lean a lot on Whey to do the job. While I am uncertain precisely how much protein I can intake and efficiently/productively digest at a given time, I do use conventional wisdom and spread out my protein intake throughout the day. I always strive to specifically intake Whey Isolate protein right after a workout in order to help ensure that the protein is absorbed very quickly just as the body is craving and needing it. Currently, I am taking Cellucor’s Super Sport or Max Muscle’s ARM protein right after my workouts. I do my best to limit protein intake to between 30 and 40 grams per sitting, and I strive to get about 1 gram of protein for every pound that I weigh. For many, 1/2 or 3/4 of a gram of protein for every pound of body weight would truly suffice. I recommend that you find proteins powders that do not have a lot of fillers it, and I normally stick with protein powders that have low amounts of sugar.
Personally, I will typically add some good carbs right after a workout, but I really do not sit there counting carbs. I just use common sense and try to have some carbs with my fats and proteins. Keeping it simple is what helps me keep things in line! And, if you are wondering about a specific diet or protein powder, I recommend that you read more than one source about it to get a better, more-informed decision on the mater. So, there you have it; drama solved… I hope!
So, you need some new weightlifting gloves! Or, maybe, you are brand new to training in the gym, so you have no clue about what kind of gloves best fit your needs. Picking the right gloves can make the weight training experience a lot better, adding motivation and comfort along the way. Here are four factors that you should consider before buying gloves.
When it comes to weight training, there are numerous gloves (and other related accessories) out there for gym-goers to select from. It is important to consider your routine and goals when selecting a pair (or two) of gloves. In my case, I find short-fingered gloves to be very comfortable for me. Those protect the critical parts of my hands and fingers while allowing my fingertips to be exposed and free. On the other hand, I resort to no gloves and/or wrist straps when I am deadlifting, one-arm rowing, and shoulder shrugging extra heavy weights. I do that because my grip will go out before my major muscle groups will, and my goal for those exercises is to challenge those muscle groups rather than lower reps even more due to grip fatigue. Now, there are other options available too. For starters, Bionic Gloves makes a full-fingered weightlifting glove; I hear that those gloves add extra grip. Additionally, you may want to look into some gloves with hooks or straps built-in. This option may provide the best of both worlds, allowing you to use a typical glove approach for the bulk of your training while having those built-in hooks or straps for easy implementation during those heavier lift sets.
Some people lift a lot of dumbbells and use the barbell a lot while other people tend to rely on lighter weight training using resistance bands and machine equipment. Once you figure out what type of training you are planning on doing most often, you then need to understand how much cushion you may need to properly protect your fingers and hands. For me, I tend to use a lot of dumbbells and various barbells, and I also tend to lift heavier weights, so, when I am concerned that my hands are not fully being protected, I will look for a set of gloves with added comfort and padding. Last year, I switched from a standard, less-padded pair of training gloves to a more comfortable and extra padded training gloves. And, when I go extra heavy, I will tend to use wrist straps in lieu of traditional gloves in order to strengthen my grip (as mentioned above), but, even then, I have determined that higher-quality materials in wrist straps in important to me if I am going to max out and lift heavier. Many times, you get what you pay for, and that leads me to the next factor – price!
You can find cheaper, less comfortable, and primarily feature-basic training gloves for around $10 to $15. Of course, you might even find some cheaper than that when they are on sale. On the flip side of the price spectrum, you could spend $30, $40, or over $50 on a higher-quality pair of weightlifting gloves that have extra cushion and comfort features built in. So, it is best to consider what your budget is and whether you are willing to pay an extra $10 or $20 more for a better pair of gloves. If you are willing to pay more, be sure that you are getting good value for the increased price. Sometimes, you may just be paying for the extra advertising and brand image, so do some comparison shopping, and check out some various reviews!
Lastly, if you are about to pay some good money for your new gloves, I’d highly recommend looking into the warranty that you get with that purchase. The Bionic short finger gloves that I bought last time apparently only have 60 days on the warranty, and that surprised me a little bit. I did not think to look into their warranty, and now I have a small tear in my gloves, and it does not appear that it is under coverage, so I have to reinvest YET AGAIN in another pair of gloves. So, the lesson learned here is to do your homework BEFORE you buy!
As you see, there are four main considerations that you have when looking to purchase weightlifting gloves. I recommend determining your workout goals before you go to the store. Then, think ahead [if possible] about what types of routines you have to do in order to achieve your fitness goals. By doing that, you are better prepared to figure out the type of gloves you should be shopping for. Doing some comparison shopping between brands and between retailers can help you find just the right gloves to meet both your needs and your budget!