How Essential Amino Acids Work

Man Drinking Workout Supplement
CasarsaGuru / Getty

The Question

 What are “essential amino acids,” and what can they do for me? 

The Answer

Essential amino acids (EAAs) are amino acids that cannot be produced in the body; they must be obtained from your diet. In fact, EAAs are the only dietary macronutrient that you must eat to survive. If you get enough EAAs from eating, either in the amino acid form or more commonly as a component of dietary protein, the rate of protein synthesis can match or even exceed the rate of protein breakdown. This is one of the reasons why I believe that, in the years to come, EAAs will become the most important nutritional supplement to affect human health and disease.


After decades of research and more than 20 human clinical trials, a finely calibrated, patented ratio of EAAs was devised by Robert R. Wolfe, Ph.D., of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The formula, which has recently been applied in the field of sports nutrition, has been shown to be three times superior to whey protein and 32 times more efficient at building lean muscle than BCAAs. (Learn more at In the right combination, EAAs can provide unparalleled benefits in terms of muscle mass and strength. Most important, there are no adverse effects from EAAs. 

–Greg Grochoski, founding member of and chief science officer at Twinlab Corporation.



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10 Kettlebell Rules to Follow for Maximum Gains

Man Swinging Kettlebell
Corey Jenkins / Getty

“Kettlebells are popular because they are extremely effective and efficient and don’t take up much space,” says Max Shank, a fitness author and the owner of Ambition Athletics (

Shank’s love affair with kettlebells isn’t unfounded. Ask a room full of fitness experts why they like kettlebells so much, and you’re bound to get a host of overlapping answers, ranging from their ability to build strength, power, and mobility to their versatility as a fat-burning, physique-carving wonder tool. But to get those benefits, you have to make sure you’re utilizing this Swiss Army knife of gym equipment properly.

Get the most out of the kettlebell with these 10 commandments below, and check out these effective kettlebell workouts that cater to every level of fitness fanatic.

Kettlebell Commandments

1. Avoid “squatty” kettlebell swings, in which the swing looks more like a squat than a hinge.

2. Similarly, when doing KB swings, drive the bell with your hips, rather than lifting it with your arms.

3. Make sure your setup is technically sound. Start with the bell away from you, hinge at the hips to move it, and keep your arms in tight.


4. To generate the most power during two-handed KB swings, use a bell that is about a third of your body weight.

5. Be self-aware: If your form looks and feels ugly when you’re doing it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

6. Focus on single-kettlebell exercises and workouts before jumping up to double-kettlebell moves and routines.

7. Maintain a well-aligned, neutral spine as you perform bending-pattern moves, such as swings, cleans, and snatches.

8. Always stay in control of the kettlebell.

9. Don’t progress to the “cool” lifts too early. If you can’t perform a solid kettlebell swing, you’re not ready for double-KB snatches.

10. It’s “kettlebell.” One word.



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Muscle & Fitness 2018-07-16 11:08:00

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Muscle & Fitness 2018-07-16 09:49:00

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When to Wear a Lifting Belt for Deadlifts

Woman Deadlifting
Rob Hammer / Aurora Photos / Getty

The Question:

Should I wear a weight belt for deadlifts, and if so, when?

The Answer:

A weight belt can help reduce the stress on your spine when you’re lifting weights. You may see a lot of people at your gym wearing the belts, but if you’re just starting to lift heavy weights, hold off before cinching one around your waist. “Spend your first couple of months learning how to do the deadlift without a belt. This will help you gain awareness of how to brace your core without assistance,” explains Sean Collins, C.S.C.S., head powerlifting coach and co-owner of Murder of Crows Barbell Club in Brooklyn, NY.

“To brace effectively, take a deep breath into your belly, not your lungs, as if you’re filling your stomach with as much air as you can. Hold that breath, and then begin the lift, leading with the chest throughout the range of motion.”

Many people think the belt helps support your back due to adding extra padding, but that’s not quite right.

“Belts are best used when you can increase the amount of intra-abdominal pressure by expanding the core area with a deeply held breath,” Collins says. “This, in turn, helps protect the lower back.” Start using a belt only after this bracing movement feels second-nature and you’ve worked up to a weight that seems challenging by the last rep of your working set.



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Olympia Legend: Sergio Oliva

Olympia Legend: Sergio Oliva
Courtesy of Weider Health & Fitness

There was a reason people called him the Myth and perhaps nobody captured it better than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who recounted his first encounter with Sergio Oliva in his autobiography, Education of a Bodybuilder: “Then for the first time, I saw Sergio Oliva in person. I understood why they called him the Myth. It was as jarring, as if I’d walked into a wall. He destroyed me. He was so huge, he was so fantastic, there was no way I could even think of beating him.”

The Cuban weightlifter defected to the U.S. via the 1962 Central American and Caribbean Games in Jamaica. After a short stay in Miami, Oliva relocated to Chicago, where he remained for the rest of his life. He placed a respectable third in his Olympia debut in 1966, but his outlandish physique—which combined jaw-dropping muscle mass (even by today’s standards) atop a skeletal structure that seemed more suited for a ballet dancer than a bodybuilder—was a sign of the inevitable, and in 1967 beat the men who had placed ahead of him the year before, Chuck Sipes and Harold Poole, to win the throne vacated by Larry Scott.

Oliva defended his title unopposed the following year, and it seemed as if he could go on being Mr. Olympia for as long as he wanted—until a 23-year-old upstart named Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had given the champ a run for his money in 1969, stopped him in 1970. The two met for their final rematch at the 1972 Olympia, a contest many consider to be the most controversial in the show’s history as an all-time best and almost inhuman Oliva took second to Schwarzenegger.

Oliva competed in rival federations until his return to the IFBB at the 1984 Olympia, where he placed eighth. His final contest was in 1985, when  he again placed eighth. The 71-year-old (conflicting reports of his actual birth date have him older) died on Nov. 12, 2012. The former king—and his hands-over-head pose that has never been equaled—is a reminder to all who saw him in his prime that even though there was bodybuilding before Oliva and after Oliva, there will never be an equal to the man known simply as the Myth.



  • BORN: July 14, 1941 
  • DIED: Nov. 12, 2012 
  • HEIGHT: 5’10”
  • WEIGHT: 255 pounds 
  • MR. OLYMPIA: 1967–69

“My favorite triceps exercise is the French press [a.k.a. triceps extensions]. Don’t let your upper arms move; your elbows should remain pointing directly upward. Always lock out the movement at the top for a peak contraction. The descent should get slower as you go, really feeling the weight stretch your triceps as you resist.” ~ Sergio Oliva


  • Barbell Curls | SETS: 6 | REPS: 8
    • superset with Standing Barbell Extensions | SETS: 6 | REPS: 8
  • Cambered-Bar Preacher Curls | SETS: 6 | REPS: 8
    • superset with Cable Pushdowns | SETS: 6 | REPS: 8
  • Dumbbell Preacher Curls | SETS: 6 | REPS: 8
    • superset with Cable Kickbacks | SETS: 6 | REPS: 8

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2019 Arnold Sports Festival South America


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Winners of the 2018 IFBB Vancouver Pro

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Watch: Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley Do Next-level Deadlift Box Jumps

Watch: Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley Do Next-Level Deadlift Box Jumps
Joe Robbins / Harry How / Getty

It goes without saying that New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley are insanely fit, but the pair took their athleticism to the next level when they combined two tough exercises to create one explosive move

In a video of a workout with trainer Travelle Gains, Barkley and Gurley knocked out some trap-bar deadlifts immediately followed by box jumps




It’s a brutal combination of exercises, fitting for a pair of NFL running backs, but we don’t recommend you try this at home. There are a myriad of risks involved, from the bar rolling and hitting your ankles to you failing on the jump and landing on the bar. 

If you want to build legs like a running back, try one of these five workouts geared toward lower-body strength and explosiveness.



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Tuna Sub

Recipe: How To Make Tuna Sub

Travis Rathbone

 CHEF’S TIP: Toasting the bun adds flavor and helps keep the tuna salad from squirting out onto the table (and your shirt).

Place tuna in a bowl and flake with a fork. Add yogurt, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix gently.
Preheat oven broiler. Slice hoagie rolls in half almost all the way through. Remove some of the doughy insides of the bread so you have more room for the filling. Place bread on a baking sheet and broil 30 seconds per side, or until toasted.
Spread mustard on tops and bottoms of rolls and layer bottoms with spinach. Top with tuna salad, olives, jalapeño, cucumber, and onion.

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Pepperoni Pizza

Recipe: How To Make Pepperoni Pizza

Travis Rathbone

CHEF’S TIP: Flatbreads, naan, and bagel halves can serve as healthier pizza bases. But if you just need an authentic experience, try hitting up your local pizzeria. Most will sell you a ball of premade pizza dough.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes.
Preheat broiler with oven rack about 6 inches from the top. Place pitas on a baking sheet, brush tops with oil, and broil for 90 seconds, or until golden brown on top.
Spread marinara sauce over pitas. Scatter on cheese, mushrooms, red peppers, pepperoni, and olives. Broil 1 minute, or until cheese has melted.
Toss arugula with olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Top pizzas with arugula.

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Limber Up

Limber Up
Kevin Horton



By constantly working muscles and strengthening your tendons through intense and heavy resistance exercise, you can significantly increase your overall flexibility. Being consistently active and engaging in exercises that include multijoint movements flush the soft tissues that surround joints with blood. This helps increase your flexibility.


Lifting heavy weights without stretching first can put undue stress on your joints and increase inflammation, leading to reduced flexibility. An increase in muscle mass—the addition of bigger and denser muscles hanging off your bones—may also limit your range of motion.


  • Performing weighted movements that use a full range of motion was just as effective at improving flexibility as a program that was focused solely on static stretching, says a 2011 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  • High-intensity strength training was shown to reduce joint pain and increase mobility, according to recent research that appeared in the Journal of Rheumatology.
  • Simply following a program that involves resistance training sans stretching was shown to increase flexibility compared with a group that did no stretching or lifting, according to a study published in 2002 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.


We recommend you stretch before lifting. But even if you didn’t stretch at all, you can still improve your flexibility with strength training by itself.


Be sure to add in more functional and full-body exercises, which take your joints through a full range of motion, to your routine to ensure that you’re getting the full flexibility benefits of lifting weights. You’ll be more limber and have healthier joints and an overall improved musculoskeletal system. 


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How to Deload Like a Pro

How to Deload Like a Pro

If you’re a guy who continually pushes hard, then the reality is that you’re going to eventually blow your training wad—no matter how invincible you think you are. To avoid full-body fatigue and crappy days in the gym, you need to start practicing deloading. Andrew Triana, a strongman coach and co-owner of the fitness community the Performance Vibe (, suggests implementing a deload week in between programs (or just in general) to allow your body to recover and prepare for the months of hard work ahead. Below, Triana outlines what a deload is and how to program it into your regimen.


“A deload is a reduced workload, for a day up to a week, which allows your body to recover from months of hard training while still getting work in,” Triana says. “We like to think of deloading as transitioning between programs. It’s more of a shift in training that paints a bigger picture of your goals to come.”


After months of intense training, your body is fatigued. A deload allows you to still tax your muscles while letting your central nervous system—your body’s control center—recover. It’s smart to deload before you start a new program or whenever you completely change your training goals.

Deload Gauge

According to Triana, you know you need to deload when…

1. Light weight feels heavy: “A sure sign that you need to take a deload is when weight that once felt like cake now feels much harder,” Triana says.

2. You burn out quickly: If you’re using a relatively easy load but your muscles feel fatigued after two to three sets, then it may be time to back off.

3. You don’t want to hit the gym: “A lot of guys, especially FLEX readers, love to train,” Triana says. “So if chest day comes along and you’re feeling like, ‘Screw this,’ then that’s a sign that you should probably take your foot off the gas.”


There are two methods of deloading, or transitioning, that Triana likes to use at the Performance Vibe. One is called “Wearing Old Clothes.” The other: “Clean Linens.” Read on for a breakdown of both and decide which will work better for you.


As the name implies, this method has you select pieces of your previous pro- gram and train those at a lesser intensity. Triana suggests choosing parts that you want to improve on or that will help with your next competition (if applicable). “Train those pieces at an intensity that makes you feel better,” he says, “while keeping the goals of the next training program in mind.” 

THE PROTOCOL: Pick a few compound movements—like the deadlift, bench press, or military press—and adhere to the following set and rep scheme. “This is a client favorite,” Triana notes.

  • WEIGHT %: 50-60%
  • SETS: 20
  • REPS: 1
  • REST: 20 sec.


This method is all about starting fresh. If you want to totally overhaul your training goals—for example, if you were training for a bodybuilding com- petition, and now you want to train for a powerlifting meet—this is the path for you. In between training programs, take a week to, well, do whatever you want—provided you do something. “Something is always, always better than nothing,” Triana says. “If you want to pump out biceps curls and chest yes or run for miles, knock yourself out. Just don’t go overboard.”

THE PROTOCOL: As stated above, you can train whatever you like, assuming it’s not too much. Triana suggests following this plan:

  • BREATHING, MOBILITY, AND MYOFASCIAL RELEASE: Stretch and foam-roll for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • BALANCE AND UNILATERAL WORK: Perform high-rep sets for moves like single-leg Romanian deadlifts and single-leg box jumps for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep the rest minimal between sets, and focus on movement quality.
  • LOW-INTENSITY WORK: Do some light cardio. Keep your heart rate between 100 and 120 beats per minute for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • SPEED-EXPLOSIVE WORK: Perform moves like box jumps, broad jumps, and med ball slams. Keep it light, fast, and explosive. Don’t exceed 10 minutes of work.

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6 Row Variations for a Stronger, Thicker Back

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All About Low-Level Laser Therapy for Recovery

Anya Semenoff / Getty

What’s your favorite form of body therapy? Foam rolling? Sports massage? Maybe getting your sweat on in the sauna? Well, here’s a new one for you: using a freakin’ laser beam to boost performance, soothe aching muscles, and speed up recovery. And yes, we’re serious.

The Lowdown on LLLT

What it is: Known to lab coats as low-level laser therapy, or LLLT, zapping your muscle tissue post-workout has been used to improve performance for years, and the science is finally catching up. Those looking to partake can use full-body pods and wands to administer light, set to a particular wavelength, to their muscles. Laser lovers are counting on it being more ubiquitous in years to come.


The claim: It’s speculated that when applied, the light reacts with certain enzymes involved in the electron transport chain in mitochondria. The alleged results: reduced inflammation and pain and improved blood flow, soft-tissue healing, muscle recovery, and brain capacity.

The science: There have been multiple studies and metastudies that have found the following to be true with LLLT: a) faster muscle recovery due to the removal of blood lactate; b) increased muscle oxygen uptake, meaning you can train harder for longer; and c) improvements in memory capacity and metabolism function.

The verdict: LLLT is still a nascent concept, so it might be a while before you find light pods in your gym. But more believers are emerging. In addition to the Oregon Project at Nike, the Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Suns, and Utah Jazz use LLLT as a performance enhancement. Also, CryoUSA is installing NovoThor light pods at fitness facilities around the country, including CrossFit Garden City in New York. 



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7 Little-Known Hacks for Bigger Arms

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Natural Metabolics: A Brand New Class Of Products

Boost Strength - Muscles
Sponsored Content

Almost daily, scientific breakthroughs announcing new ways to pack on lean mass, shred fat, and improve nutrition based on specific goals pop up. As the industry comes under the fire of stricter regulations, the demand for more natural, botanical-based compounds that also provide compelling results has become overwhelming. And thus was birthed the newest innovation to the fitness industry in years: Natural Metabolics.

Natural Metabolics arose as new scientific discoveries from the rainforests were used to fuse eastern and western health methodologies, creating the next generation in supplementation. Natural Metabolics are generally comprised of naturally occurring, plant-based compounds like ashwagandha and fenugreek. They are also designed to aid in the regulation or stimulation of a certain gland or metabolic process, hence the name.

What really makes Natural Metabolics a step up from the last generation is their fusion of both ancient and current technology, yielding lower risk of side effects than their synthetic predecessors while still delivering on results. Natural Metabolics can help to support and optimize the endocrine system, promoting fat loss, lean mass gain, and healthy metabolism. Because of their natural composition, they can potentially be stacked with other products for enhanced benefits, like Anafuse for muscle gain.

But the best part is the next gen of supplementation is already here: Natural Metabolics can be found at Strong Supplement Shop. Sergeant Steel, which can help stimulate testosterone production and lean mass gain, has been available for just over a year, already hitting the Top 10 in a prior category. Likewise, Corti Combat and Fit Throid hit the shelves over the last few months to unprecedented debuts, working in conjunction with the endocrine system to aid in fat loss reduction when it seems the last few stubborn pounds won’t come off.

With the continued breakthroughs and new discoveries taking place, Natural Metabolics is definitely a category to keep an eye on in 2018. Make sure you subscribe to updates on product developments and upcoming releases to be the first to know when new products are on the way.

This content is supplied and sponsored by For more information, visit


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The 10 Best Inner-Thigh Exercises for Toned Legs

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Mythbusters: Ice Baths Aid Recovery

Mythbusters: Ice Baths Aid Recovery

Cold-immersion therapy—colloquially known as cold therapy or ice baths—has long been a recovery method used by hardcore lifters, pro athletes, and ultramarathoners looking to initiate and enhance the healing process after a taxing training session. Trouble is, plunging neck-deep into a bone-chilling, testicle-shrinking tub of ice may not be so helpful.

In a study published in the Journal of Physiology, researchers asked 21 physically active men to begin a strength-training regimen two days a week for 12 weeks. About half the group withstood a 10-minute post-workout ice bath at a numbing 50 degrees, while the rest sidestepped the soak and cooled down by pedaling on a stationary bike instead. After three months, those who performed an active cooldown on the bike experienced greater strength and muscle gains than those who braved repeated ice baths.

A follow-up study confirmed the findings. In this one, men performed single-leg strength exercises, then took an ice bath or cooled down on a bike. After researchers took and analyzed muscle biopsies, they found that the ice baths stunted activity in satellite cells—essentially muscle stem cells—and in pathways needed to build bigger, stronger muscles.

“We found that cold-water immersion after training substantially attenuated, or reduced, long-term gains in muscle mass and strength,” said Llion Roberts, Ph.D., the study’s lead author.

The researchers surmise that athletes who regularly take ice baths after lifting weights will see less muscle growth and strength improvements than those who choose active cooldowns (like hopping on a bike), because the frigid water reduces blood ow to the muscles.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t go full Polar Bear Club after training. INSTEAD, WALK, RUN, OR CYCLE AT AN EASY PACE TO END YOUR WORKOUT— unless you want small, weak, half-frozen muscles. 


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Muscle & Fitness 2018-07-11 14:16:00

Courtesy of WWEKane and Daniel Bryan are far from the best of friends, but it’s hard to argue with results.
Last week, the duo had their first match in five years and made short work of former tag team champions The Usos. This Sunday at Extreme…

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