Tag Archives: Gym Technik

Do You Know How to Contract Your Rectus?

<NOTE>–<You will  also find this as the FEATURED ARTICLE on the #1 Mobile Fitness site in the world-Gym Technik>

So you want a set of rock hard abs?  You’ve figured out how to diet and lowered your bodyfat to single digit levels.  But for some reason, you don’t have a visible “6 pack” of your Rectus Abdominus?   Honestly, getting to ultra low bodyfat levels is hard enough let alone figuring out how to create “visible abs”.  So what’s going on?

The Austrian Oak definitely understood how to contract his Rectus

The Austrian Oak definitely understood how to contract his Rectus

The reason most people never attain this condition is because they don’t understand how to contract their rectus.   Don’t believe anyone who tells you your fiber typing will prevent you from ever developing a strong visible set of abs.  Anyone can have them.  You just have to learn how to get them and then continue to train them for life productively.

I can walk into any gym and watch people perform rep after rep of sit-ups and crunches and never once see them contract-squeeze and hold their Rectus to produce results.  There are people who can perform 100 sit ups in quick fashion and barely even give their abs a workout due to strong hip flexors and momentum taking over. Strong hip flexors and psoas muscles overpower their abdominal musculature and along with the momentum of rocking up and down, they never isolate their Rectus in correct fashion

It’s hard for me to explain proper technique in words but many-many trainees don’t know how to relax their spine into a neutral position and then curl with only their abdominal musculature performing the concentric and eccentric portion of the movement.  We’ve added a video and photos below to better demonstrate how to perform this movement. In addition to viewing the video, you can also observe professional caliber physique folks or consult with a quality personal trainer to show you how to execute the movement.

The best way to start out is by lying on the floor and practicing a simple Knees up- Hands to the side -Elbows up- Ab Crunch.

Knees up- hands to the side -elbows up-Neck and Shoulders slightly off the floor

Knees up- hands to the side -elbows up-Neck and Shoulders slightly off the floor

Try and focus keeping your upper shoulders/back off the floor slightly and maintain a neutral position of your spine to the floor.

Notice how my neck and shoulders are slightly raised and spine is neutral to the floor

Notice how my neck and shoulders are slightly raised and spine is neutral to the floor

Now focus performing the movement only using your midsection to crunch upward, hold for a count of two squeezing the rectus and then lower in the same controlled fashion.

The Apex of the Movement-Counting to 2-Squeezing the Rectus and then back slow without shoulders or neck touching the floor keeping spine neutral to floor

The Apex of the Movement-Counting to 2-Squeezing the Rectus and then back slow without shoulders or neck touching the floor keeping spine neutral to floor

Now watch and listen to the video as Jay demonstrates how to effectively recruit the Rectus Abdominus.

If you are doing this right and actually feeling the movement and squeezing the muscle, you shouldn’t be able to perform a lot of reps.  Especially if you are a newbie.  I’ve seen 15 year advanced lifters fail at 12 reps due to their midsection being weak and failing to ever isolate and contract their rectus correctly.

Trust me, this movement is not something you can just learn thru observation.  You will need to practice the movement and develop your abdominal musculature over time. When working on your technique, remember Commandment #8 of theMind Muscle Connection.  Visualizing and feeling your Rectus being activated before performing the movement.   

Once you are able to understand how to recruit your rectus, you will be amazed at how much faster you’ll develop a strong-functional set of abs.  And even more amazing will be that every Ab Exercise your perform will be more productive due to your body understanding how to contract and feel your abs in every rep and set.

Lastly, one very important thing to stress is the “Progressive Overload Principle”.

Your abs are muscles like any other, and to make them stronger-harder and denser, you need to force them to work harder under more weight or resistance.  As you progress, choosing exercises that require heavier resistance will definitely force your abs to grow harder-thicker and stronger and eminently more visible and defined.

There are numerous ab exercises when done with correct technique that will provide excellent results.

The Muscle Couple always tries to train abs in a 3 prong method.

  1. The whole abdominal musculature(Rectus Abdominus)
  2. The lower Abs(Psoas)
  3. The side(Serratus and Obliques).

We usually perform abs at the end of every workout making sure every different workout allows us to focus on one of the 3 different areas.

Our favorite ab exercises are Hanging Leg Raises(Lower Abs-Psoas), Decline Bench Crunches with a twist(Obliques-Serratus and Rectus Abdominus)and Cable Crunches(Rectus Abdominus).

Now that you have a better understanding how to recruit and effectively train your Rectus Abdominus, the abs you’ve always wanted are within your grasp.

Make it happen!



Form Is of the Essence

After 20 years of resistance training and progressing from a newbie to intermediate and now advanced lifter, I can honestly say nothing is more important to building a solid physique than practicing perfect form on all your lifts.     

Visualize, Concentrate and Control

Visualize, Concentrate and Control

I can walk into any gym today and immediately point out 75% of the trainees executing lifts with poor form.  Lack of bend in the knees, arching back and shoulders ,improper stances and grips, too much weight on the bar, will all hinder and prevent you from ever building a structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing physique. 

It’s very difficult to learn and execute proper form due to the stress of peer pressure.  Many lifters see their friends lifting heavy weights and quickly develop a “more is better” mindset always trying to add more weight to the bar instead of focusing on their technique in executing the movement.  What comes next are major muscle imbalances most noticeably over rotated and extended front deltoids.  This often results in a misshapen upper body.  Walk into any gym and notice the guys who appear to walk around with their shoulder girdles in a state of constant flex and you will know exactly what I’m describing.  😉  It’s very commonplace but easily corrected with a changed mindset of visualization, concentration and controlling the weight in perfect form.

How does one learn to execute perfect form? 

There are many ways to learn, but the tried and true way is thru continuous practice in the gym.  The Muscle Couple learned from watching others execute lifts who had physiques we admired and constantly reading commentary and books from Exercise physiologists.  It doesn’t hurt to ask questions and consult folks in your gym about form and technique.  And depending on your finances, you can always hire a personal trainer.  You have to be careful as many trainers get into a rut of going thru the motions and not concerning themselves with your form.  There are also plenty of places on the web to watch videos of trainees executing correct form including Gym Technik.

Lastly, let’s analyze my earlier statement: 

Executing perfect form in a lift requires VISUALIZATION, CONCENTRATION and CONTROLLING THE WEIGHT.

Visualization requires you to picture yourself executing the movement beforehand and allowing your mind to truly see and feel the exercise before  you perform it. 

Concentration requires you to eliminate all distractions and focus 100% of your energy on finishing your exercise/set

Controlling the Weight requires you to use a weight you can control , executing each rep and set in perfect form.

<NOTE> These principles are discussed in the “Mind Muscle Connection” in commandment #9 in my 10 Commandments of Physique Improvement

Nobody will learn or execute perfect form when exercising on the first day they enter a gym.  It will take months and sometimes years of consistent and focused training to perfect your form. 

If you try and remember the acronym V-C-C (Visualize-Concentrate and Control)and make it a focal point when performing your lifts,  you will be well on your way to attaining the physique you seek.

Happy Training!

<Note>You will also find this article at Gym Technik along with a library of others.



“Ladies-Build Your Bones”

<NOTE>You can also find this article Here at the global leader in online fitness tracking Gym Technik.

There is nothing more important for independent living and a vigorous life than strong bones.  They provide structure, protect your organs and anchor your muscles.   Because women lose calcium and minerals regularly thru Menstruation, they are fighting a constant and lifelong battle in preventing Osteoporosis.

There is nothing worse for an aging woman than weak bones and a frail body.  How will you get in and out of your car, carry groceries or even lift and carry your grandchildren?  The best way to combat this is by smart-focused and consistent resistance training. 

Bones get stronger when they are continuously forced to adapt and especially when subject to weight bearing loads.  The more forceful the stress, the stronger your bones become.  Over time with more weight and more intense training, your body will respond in tune by becoming stronger and with harder denser bones.

The best activities for strong and healthy bones are full body compound movements such as Squats, Lunges, Standing Overhead Lifts and Lower body pulls and plyometrics-(specifically bounding, leaping, stepping  and other ballistic movements that force your body to grow stronger from the stress.)  Plyometrics should only be used by advanced trainees and are not for elderly people or beginners.

It’s also incredibly important to take a High Quality Calcium Supplement.  The Muscle Couple uses Bone Up from Jarrow Formulas.     

Our Favorite Calcium Supplement

Our Favorite Calcium Supplement

It’s also imperative Commandment #6 from The 10 Commandments of Physique Improvement for Men”  .85gms of Protein per pound of lean body weight is followed religiously to allow for adequate bone regeneration thru protein replenishment and turnover.

The Muscle Couple believes it should be a woman’s focal motivation as she ages to strengthen her spine and bones to prevent the horrible prone position evidenced frequently by older folks in society with severe osteoporosis.



Best of the Muscle Couple from the Last 3 Months

The Muscle Couple wants to thank our loyal fans and followers.  

Thanks to Keith at KCDesignz for Our Sick New Logos

Thanks to Keith at KCDesignz for Our Sick New Logos

Our site’s traffic and readership is starting to explode!  We thought we’d call out a couple of our favorite articles from the last 3 months as a quick summary for our new readers.

Remember you can follow our articles on your Blackberry thru Viigo:  <Interests & Lifestyle> – <Health & Fitness>- <Gym Technik-Mobile Fitness>-

You can also find our articles on the fastest growing  mobile fitness tracking website Gym Technik.  

If you use a PDA and aren’t using Gym Technik to record and track your workouts, you should be.  Check into it right away.  It has no peer.

Feel free to check em out in your spare time.

We encourage you to leave comments-suggestions or questions whenever possible.  Please sign up for our RSS feed to be notified in real time when articles post and the blog is updated.

We could not grow and improve our site without your help and feedback. 

We hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.   

Keith Continues to Impress with Our Border Logo!

Keith Continues to Impress with Our Border Logo!


The 10 Commandments of Physique Improvement for Men

The Male half of The Muscle Couple has read about and experimented for 19 years on improving his and others physiques.  He has tried a lot of supplements, training programs and belief systems.  After 19 years it’s safe to say he’s compiled a list that if followed consistently will help any guy attain the body they have always dreamed of.

These 10 principles will be briefly discussed and expounded on.  The end game goal is to stimulate more discussion around each one to try and make it apply to the individual users experience and lifestyle.

In no particular order, here they are:

Follow these Tenets and You Will be Good to Go!

Follow these Tenets and You Will be Good to Go!

  1. Post Workout Fast Digesting Protein and Carb Mixture within one hour after your training. See my recent articles to understand the importance of this.  Nothing will build a quality physique faster than making sure you do this after each and every resistance training session.
  2. Consistency of effort.  It really doesn’t matter what program or diet you employ.  What matters is that it becomes a lifestyle or permanent habit.  You will go nowhere fast if you can’t commit to making training and clean eating regular part of your life.
  3. If you Fail to Plan, you Plan to Fail. In all honesty, this is The Muscle Couple creedo.  If you want a new body, you have to visualize it first and then methodically detail the steps you will take to attain it.  There are no shortcuts only maps.  You must map out your plan and be as meticulous and detailed as possible to achieve greatness.
  4. The Best Workout is the one you’re not currently doing.  Let that resonate for a second.  The Human Body is an amazing and dynamic organism.  It continually adapts to it’s environment and training stimuli.  The only way you can continue to hone-sculpt and improve it, is by forcing it to adapt to new training programs.  Exercises, sets, reps-grips, rest intervals etc.  Regularly changing your program will continually force your body to progress over its lifetime of training.
  5. HIT (High Intensity)Low Impact Cardio is best for fat loss.   This has been debated and debunked for decades.  But after two decades myself of doing it, I know for a fact its easier to be lean by doing “Short-Frequent and Intense Cardio Sessions” versus long moderate or low intensity ones.  Plus it’s not as boring and most importantly, not tough on the joints or tendons over time.  Talk to anybody who is a hard surface runner in their 60’s and above to find out what kind of damage High Impact Cardio does to your legs over time.
  6. .85 or more Gms of Protein Per pound of lean body weight per day for life. Nothing is more important that giving your body enough protein on a daily basis.  It’s the key to strong bones, a fast working metabolism, a healthy endocrine system and an active mind.  Amino Acids are the building blocks of life and without constantly replenishing your bodies protein stores, your life will suck.
  7. For visible Abs, you have to understand how to Eat Clean-Diet with Thermogens and Contract your rectus abdominus. These are three very difficult things.  You can learn to diet and eat clean by reading this blog or any of the many knowledgeable authors on fitness.  Learning how to contract your rectus isn’t quite so easy.  80% of people fail to isolate the muscle when doing a common situp or crunch.  Soon we will offer a blog with video commentary and pictures showing how to perform the movement and isolate the muscle to minimize hip and adductor involvement.
  8. Vitamins-Minerals and Supplements are ABSOLUTEY NECESSARY to build a Champion Physique! Dismiss out of hand any Doctor or other person who tells you otherwise.  Normal food and exercise is not enough with rare exception to get to single digit bodyfat levels.(Pro or Elite Level)  There is no way either of us would look the way we do, if we didn’t take Vitamins-Thermogens, Protein Supplements and EFA’s.  PERIOD!  It costs money in our society to look great.  There are some genetic mutants with “OPTI GENES” who can drink Mountain Dew and eat Doritos all day long and be shredded with a fully visible six pack.  These people are genetically aberrant and the anomaly.
  9. The Mind-Muscle Connection is more powerful than any supplement, or resistance training program.  Reading about lifting, observing professionals train and practicing the techniques religiously will give you keen insight into visualizing and achieving the lifts before you do them.  I’m serious when I say I visualize performing a lift in my head and contracting the targeted muscles right before performing the lift.  It wasn’t always this way.  Once you understand the technique involved and have the confidence to perform it correctly, your continual progression will start and become permanent with consistency of effort.
  10. Balance in your Training-Nutrition and Rest is crucial to attaining lifelong success.  Many people have a tendency to think “More is Better”.  Trust me when I tell you it’s not.  To build a quality physique, you need to make sure your life is in balance.  You need consistent sleep(5-7 hours a night), consistent nutrition(4-6 Meals a day with Lean Protein-Complex Carbs and EFA’s)and 3-4 Weight Training sessions(30-60 Mins per session) and 3-5 Cardio sessions(HIT-Low Impact and No more than 20 Mins Per Session) per week.

We hope you find this useful.  We encourage you to share it with your friends and family and to ask questions about it.  We can’t continue to grow the blogs influence without your help.

Within the next couple of days, we’ll add 5 More Commandments “specific” for Women.  Both of these posts will be featured articles on Gym Technik and on Viigo for Blackberry. 


Protein for Dummies-Part 2

Thanks for reading the first installment of this 3 Part Series “Protein for Dummies.  

In the 2nd installment, we’ll look at the most common types of protein and how they can be used relative to your goals.

There are numerous ways to meet your protein requirements.  

The key is to get quality protein regularly throughout the day.  A good rule of thumb is to consume some protein once every 3.5-5 hours.  

Remembering back to the first article, your goal is to get 1gm of protein per pound of lean muscle weight(dieting/fat loss)or 1gm of protein per pound of bodyweight (gaining muscle/bodyweight).  The amounts consume per feeding is dependent on your goals and body size. 

People often ask me how much protein can the body metabolize in one feeding.  It’s usually determined by your BMR(basal metabolic rate), your body’s unique biochemical individuality, your physical size and your training level or condition.   Some people can consume and properly metabolize 75 gms in one sitting.  I find most people can utilize about 20-40gms of protein per feeding.

In order to meet your protein requirements you need to consume the four basic types of protein.

  • Animal Protein
  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Egg Albumin

Animal protein is the protein found in most meats.  It’s usually referred to as “complete” because it contains all of the essential amino acids.  It’s much better to eat lean sources of Animal protein such as Turkey, fish, chicken and lean cuts of red meat.  Most of the protein found in lean meats is of high quality and will be used to build and maintain muscle.   Meat(fish) also can have high concentration of EFA’s(Essential Fatty Acids) needed by the body for neurotransmitter synthesis ie “brain fuel”.  It’s for this very reason that meat should be consumed a couple of times a day regardless of goal.

Whey protein is probably the most common protein you’ll find in Supplement stores or in advertisements in magazines.  It’s actually a bi-product of the manufacture of cheese and milk products.  It’s usually the #1 ingredient in protein powder formulations widely available.  It’s readily absorbed and digested by the body and has the highest value of BCAA’s(Branched Chain Amino Acids).  BCAA’s are crucial in building and retaining muscle tissue.  Whey protein is really the perfect protein supplement because of its wide application.  You can use it in shakes, when cooking, mixed in with oatmeal etc.   You can carry it with you in packets or MRP formulations for use on the go.   And due to its rapid absorption by the body, it’s used often immediately after training in post workout shake formulations.   Whey Protein can and should be used by all three goal sets defined in the first article.  I honestly don’t know of a cheaper more efficient way to add supplemental protein to your diet.

Casein is the next most widely consumed supplemental protein type.  “Micellar casein” is a natural, undenatured milk protein separated from milk by means of ultrafiltration.  It has a unique ability to  provide a slow and steady release of amino acids into the blood stream.  This is of great help in preventing muscle tissue breakdown in times of dieting or extreme athletic duress.  You will find this type of protein in some of the more expensive protein formulations found on the market today.  It’s usually combined with Whey Protein and Glutamine for an ultra protein amino acid spectrum mix. It provides an anti-catabolic effect to dieters and hard training athletes/bodybuilders.  Casein should be used mostly by people who are looking to hold onto muscle when on severely restricted caloric intakes.

Egg Albumin is the protein found in egg whites.  It contains almost no fat.  Egg whites are rich in proteins of very high nutritional value.  You will get these from consuming eggs and actual egg white formulations found in supplement stores.  An easy way to get this form of protein is to crack 10 whole eggs and separate them from the yolks and cook up in a pan or in a microwave oven.    Egg white omelets are wonderful when you throw in greens, mushrooms and chicken or turkey.  When I’m dieting, I religiously will order this out at restaurants.

Now that you understand the forms of protein available to you, it’s time to discuss what I use and what I would recommend for folks relative to their goal.  In Part III and the final installment of “Protein for Dummies”, I’ll give a detailed analysis of my daily protein consumption and offer tips for choosing some high quality protein formulations found on the market today.

Thank you for reading.

Protein for Dummies-Part I

So you want to start increasing your Protein intake but you have no idea how to begin?

If you are into the fitness culture (presumably if you’re reading this article) you can’t go very far without seeing an advertisement for Protein supplements.  Whey Protein, Complex Protein, Casein Protein, Egg Protein, Protein with enriched Glutamine, BCAA’s, Amino Acid tabs et al.  The choices are seemingly endless. The directive of this series of articles is to summarize the best usage of Protein for a beginner to an advanced trainer/athlete. In Part 1, we’ll start with the basics and calculating daily protein requirements relative to goal.

You need protein in order to build and maintain muscle.  Heck, you need protein to stay alive.  Protein is made up of Amino Acids which are the building blocks of life.  Without going to go into an esoteric biochemical explanation of protein, just know it’s the most important macronutrient for performance and physique improvement.

So how much protein do you need daily?  Well a lot depends on your goals?   It also is determined by your genetics and your training levels.

The easiest way to summarize is by analyzing an average  6 Foot 200 pound mans needs based on their goal.  Let’s define goals as:

  • losing fat
  • gaining muscle
  • performance improvement(athletic skill event)

We first need to calculate body fat % in pounds to lean muscle weight.  Once we calculate how many pounds of lean muscle weight, we then use that number to determine how much protein should be consumed relative to the three goals.

When attempting to lose body fat you need an overall caloric reduction but enough protein to maintain lean tissue.  A rule of thumb would be to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of lean muscle weight.  So if average guy is 15% body fat he has 30 pounds of body fat and 170 pounds of lean muscle weight. This means he needs 170 grams of protein every day to maintain his lean muscle mass while he tries to lose body fat.

Now let’s analyze  his goal of gaining muscle.  A common misconception is that trainees can gain muscle while at the same losing fat.  This is next to impossible. The rule of thumb for gaining muscle will require him to consumer 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.  So 200 x 1.2 would be 240grams of Protein.  This also assumes a caloric surplus including higher carb amounts.

And lastly, the amount of protein needed for performance improvement.  This is a tough recommendation and totally relative to the sport.  If there are weight restrictions for the athlete, 1 gm per pound of lean weight is sufficient.  If not, 1 gm per pound of bodyweight should do.

Now that the amount of protein in grams daily is understood relative to goal, how does a trainee meet his/her protein thru the course of the day?  It’s not easy.  For most busy on the go folks, a combination of lean meat, egg whites and Protein Powders are  the easiest way to maintain your protein requirements.

In Part II of this series coming soon, we’ll discuss the various types of protein and why you should use one over the other relative to your goals.