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Tips to Avoid the Endless Cycle of Bulk and Cut

Tips to Avoid the Endless Cycle of Bulk and Cut

If you pursue the traditional route to bulking up, you end up dealing with an endless cycle. First, you consume all of the calories you need to support muscle growth, ultimately adding fat along the way. Then, you cut back on calories, ramp up the cardio, and try to burn the fat.

While this initially sounds effective, the cutting phase also causes a decrease in muscle mass. To combat the muscle loss, you start the cycle over. You spend all of your time going around and around, never really reaching a steady point that you can simply maintain.

If you want to end the cycle of bulking up and cutting down, then use these tips to help you bulk up the right way.

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Eat (and Drink) the Right Way

To add bulk, you need to make sure you are consuming an appropriate amount of calories. However, this doesn’t mean you can ignore the nutritional value of those calories. If the type of calories didn’t matter, you could fuel yourself on pints from the local pub, but that isn’t how it works.

Building mass requires a mixture of nutrients; this includes a healthy mix of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Vitamins and minerals are also critical to the process. Additionally, you want to get all of these nutrients from high-quality sources.

Instead of focusing solely on the calories, pay attention to your overall nutrition. You should be getting your calories from a range of foods and beverages. You should be including lean meats, fresh produce, and healthy fats. Avoid excess sugars, especially added sugar, and foods that are overly processed. Most importantly, not all sources of protein are created equal.

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Some supplements may feature a large amount of protein, but from less popular source. These may be harder for your body to use as fuel, and could lead to wasted effort. Since there are a variety of weight gain supplements on the market, make sure to choose the best options available. Then, you meet your nutritional goals while bulking up without sacrificing on quality.

If you prefer to know precisely what is going into your foods and drinks, you can also try a homemade weight gainer to supplement your regular diet. A homemade solution gives you the highest level of control, as you can choose exactly what is and is not included.

Burn That Fuel

Now that you have the right fuel coming into your body, it is important that you burn it off. Regardless of the quality of your nutrition, if you don’t burn the calories, you will add fat along with the muscle.

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If you have just started your workout routine, you may see results very quickly. This is because you are challenging your body with your workout. As time passes, and you gain more mass, your body will become more efficient. Moves that initially brought you newly sculpted arms and shoulders won’t have the same impact. Not only that, but you will also not burn as many calories performing the move.

It is important to continuously challenge your body in new ways to keep your calorie burn high enough to keep fat stores at bay. This includes regularly adding heavier weights to your foundational moves and trying new ones that work your muscles in different ways. If it ever begins to feel easy, it is time to ramp it up.

As the amount of muscle on your frame increases, you will automatically burn more calories by simply existing. Some estimates suggest that you may naturally burn up to an additional 50 calories a day per extra pound of muscle. However, you must continue to work out to keep the muscle well developed.

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Stick With It

Persistence is truly the key to success. Even if you do not see results quickly, the results will come. Re-evaluate your diet to see if your nutrition is lacking while making sure you consume enough calories to support muscle growth. When in doubt, focus on high-quality lean proteins and a variety of vegetables first. This can help make sure you have the right building blocks in place to achieve the body of your dreams.

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Published on July 18, 2019

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

11 Best Core Strengthening Exercises to Do At Home

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, chances are you wouldn’t mind a little more definition in your midsection.

Whether you have a six pack or a beer belly, those abs could probably be a little bit sharper. Not to mention developing better core strength is hugely important when it comes to improving your overall strength and athleticism, as well as protecting you from injuries.[1]

The good news? Your abs and core muscles can handle a lot of training.

While most of your muscle groups do best with just two training sessions per week,[2] you can hit your abs every other day to great effect. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Here’s my guide to the 11 best core strengthening exercises you can do at home with no equipment.

1. Planks

Let’s start with the mother of all core-strengtheners, the plank.

Planks not only work your abs and obliques, they challenge those core muscles deep inside your body that help promote stability and power. They can also reduce back pain and improve your balance and posture.

Get down into pushup position, feet behind you, hands under your shoulders. Lock out your arms and legs, squeeze your core muscles, and hold your body stiff (like a plank!) for as long as you can.

For a more challenging variation, try a forearm plank with your arms out in front you. Lay your forearms on the ground for support, with your elbows under your face rather than aligned with your shoulders.

2. Side Planks

To hit your obliques even harder, try this challenging variation: the side plank.

From plank position, rotate onto one side. Prop yourself up on your elbow and one foot with your body straight and stiff.

Don’t forget to squeeze your core as you hold this position for as long as you can.

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Switch sides and repeat to avoid creating muscle imbalances.

3. Reverse Crunches

The regular stomach crunch is a fine exercise, but when it comes to abs and core strength, you’ll want to opt for moves that are a lot more challenging.

When you can crank out 50 crunches without a problem, it’s probably time for something new.

The reverse crunch packs a wallop for your lower abs and can be done anywhere, anytime, just like the standard crunch.

Lay on your back with knees bent in crunch position. Place your hands flat on the ground by your side and lift your pelvis, bringing your knees up toward your face, then back down again.

Engage your lower ab muscles to do the work, not your back. Repeat for a few sets of 12-20 reps.

4. Flutter Kicks

The lower abs are a problem area for a lot of people, so we’ll want to work them hard.

If that sounds like you, flutter kicks are just what the doctor ordered.

Lay flat on your back in leg raise position, hands at your sides or pressed into the floor. Raise your legs together about 6 inches off the floor, then alternate lowering one and raising one a few inches in rapid succession.

It should look like you’re kicking the air, and it should give you quite a burn in your abdominal area.

5. Arms High Sit-Ups

Imagine a crunch, but way harder!

Lay down on the ground in sit-up position, knees bent, feet flat on the floor in front of you.

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Raise your arms up to the sky and keep them elevated as you perform a few sets of sit-ups.

Engaging your arms in this way makes the move extraordinarily difficult and taxing. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of this move versus traditional crunches.

6. L-Sits

The L-Sit is outrageously difficult to perform well, but if you can build your strength here, the benefits are phenomenal.

To perform an L-Sit, you’ll need a stable surface to press off of. You can do them on the floor, but it’s a little easier if you can elevate yourself on a pair of dumbbells, two sturdy chairs, or a similar apparatus.

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Lock your arms in place at your sides, palms on the ground or surface, and press. Bring your legs into the air, perpendicular to your upper body, using the tension from your locked arms.

Hold this position as long as possible for an intense strength building workout.

7. Stomach Vacuums

And now for something different!

It’s easy to work your front-facing abdominal muscles, but there is another muscle group in your core that’s frequently overlooked: The transverse abdominis.

This muscle isn’t visible through your skin, but it’s incredibly important in stabilizing your body, creating good posture, and holding your belly in tight to your spine.

To strengthen this muscle and get a flatter stomach, try stomach vacuums.[3]

Standing straight and tall. Exhale all of the air out of your body and simultaneously pull your belly in tight. Imagine sucking your belly button back into your spine.

You’ll feel the transverse abdominis engage. Hold as long as possible, rest and then repeat.

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8. Star Planks

Planks are too effective to not utilize multiple variations of them in your routine.

The star plank engaged similar muscles to the traditional plank, but is a lot harder to hold for time.

From the push-up or standard plank position, walk your feet out wide and your hands, as well.

Your body should form an X position. Elevate your core off the ground, squeeze tight, and hold for as long as possible.

9. Boat Pose

Yogis know all about core strength, so if you want a tighter tummy, you should take a page out of their playbook.

Boat pose is an extremely difficult isometric hold that builds exceptional balance and core power.

Star in sit-up position. Crunch yourself up toward your knees, then lift your feet off the floor until they’re about level with your face. Balance on your butt, squeeze your core, and hold this position as long as you can.

Your body should form a V with the only point of contact being your butt on the ground. Holding boat pose should be extraordinarily challenging!

10. Mountain Climbers

Ab work alone won’t shred stomach fat. But when you combine abs and cardio, that’s when you’re onto something magical.

Mountain climbers fit the bill if you’re looking to blast your core and also work up a good sweat.

Get down into plank position. With your arms locked and your body tight, drive one knee at a time off the floor, up toward your chest, and then back to its original position. Repeat in quick succession.

It should look like you’re climbing a hill, and it should exhaust you in a matter of seconds!

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11. Russian Twists

Finally, let’s give the obliques a little more love.

Get down into sit-up position and perform a crunch toward your knees. From here, lean back so your torso is at a 45 degree angle to the floor, clasp your hands in front of you, and twist side to side in rapid succession.

You’ll feel your obliques engage after just a few reps.

For a more difficult variation, lift your feet off the floor similar to boat pose while perform the move, or perform the twist using a heavy medicine ball for added resistance.

The Bottom Line

The biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to six-pack abs is a low body fat percentage. That’s best accomplished by sticking to a smart diet and building your fully body strength.

However, if you want to improve your athleticism, overall strength, or even your longevity, you can afford to work your abs a bit more frequently — 3-4 times per week is perfect.

If you hit them hard enough, you’ll probably see some great improvement in definition as well!

Cranking out endless crunches is one way to go about core training, but there are so many better and more challenging moves you can try without ever having to leave your living room.

Give them a shot!

Featured photo credit: Luis Quintero via unsplash.com

Reference

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