I wore a Waist Trainer for a month. Here’s what happened

I wore a waist trainer for a month.  Here’s what happened

I’m not particularly proud of it, but it’s true: I wore a waist trainer.  For a whole month.

I’m always learning, so I’m often experimenting, trying and testing out different things that are fitness related.  The whole concept of waist trainers had me curious, so I figured “hey, what have I got to lose?”

What is a waist trainer?

For those who don’t know, when I say “waist trainer”, I am referring to what can only be described as a modern-day less-extreme version of a corset!  (Yes, I know I am only damaging my reputation even more here by telling you that I was basically wearing a corset!)

waist trainer

Essentially a waist trainer is a tightly worn belt that compresses your midsection, and it is to be worn for long durations of time daily, over periods of months or longer. I wore a waist trainer for most of the day for one month.  Albeit a shorter time period, I figured it was enough time to notice any changes that might occur.  Note, that I did not wear it whilst working out.

I am NOT referring to one of those compression belts made from neoprene.  Those are in my opinion a complete waste of time.  All they do is make you sweat from your abdominal area. They do not make you burn fat from your belly.  The only way to burn fat is by creating a calorie deficit, through diet and exercise. And even then, you can’t pick and choose the areas you lose fat from!

However, I must say that waist trainers (and corsets too), also do not make you lose belly fat.  You’ll need to be eating in a calorie deficit and exercising consistently to lose fat!

What are waist trainers meant to do?

Waist trainers are theoretically meant to make your waist “narrower”.  Obviously, they are unlikely to make your waist narrower from a front view.  You cannot change the size of your pelvis – this is determined by bone structure.  Though there is the possibility of waist trainers “atrophying” (making smaller) your oblique muscles (the core muscles that run down the outer sides of your midsection).  If this were to occur, then yes, to a degree, it could make your waist appear narrower from a front view.

More likely though, waist trainers are meant to force you to keep your stomach “sucked in”.  Thus, making your waist appear smaller from a side view, overcoming any stomach distention.  Basically, this means they are meant to encourage you to tense the Transversus Abdominis muscles – the abs muscles used to perform a stomach vacuum – read more about that in my posts HERE:

What did I do?

As mentioned, I wore a waist trainer every day for a month, wearing it for the most part of each day. I made sure to wear it tightly too, to ensure effectiveness (if it were to actually do anything, of course!)

I didn’t wear it while working out, because I found it restrictive to move in or to breath as deeply as necessary to perform hard exercise.  Also, when performing exercise, I need my core muscles to be fully engaged.  I was wary that the waist trainer might make it more difficult to fully engage my core muscles.  This is because it would act similarly to a tight lifting belt, and take away the need for my core muscles to tense as hard as they normally would whilst exercising.

waist trainer

What happened?

Nothing happened, to be honest!  I got fed up of wearing it, because it wasn’t very comfortable.  Though out of stubbornness, I did continue to wear it each day for a month.

But no, my waist size remained the same.  I didn’t see any changes in how far I could perform a stomach vacuum either (i.e. how far I could suck my gut in).  In fact, if anything, I think my core muscles (including my Transversus Abdominis muscles) got weaker, so making it harder to do stomach vacuums to suck my gut in. This is probably because those core muscles got “lazy”.  I guess that after a while, they got used to being supported by the waist trainer.  I’ve seen the same thing happen with people who unnecessarily wear a lifting belt all the time whilst exercising.

The take home message

Save your time and money. Don’t bother with waist trainers. No, they don’t encourage you to burn body fat anyway.  The only way to burn fat is by creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise. And even then, you can’t pick and choose the areas you lose fat from!  

Extra sweating from your midsection isn’t very helpful either.  This also doesn’t encourage fat loss!

You may possibly (though I think unlikely) be able to make your waist “smaller”.  But I think for that, you’d have to wear an actual corset. It would have to be VERY tight fitting, which would be VERY uncomfortable.  And I imagine that you’d have to wear it for the most part of each day, probably over a period of years!  In my opinion, this is definitely NOT worth it!

If you want to make your waist “smaller”, then continue to diet and exercise to bring your body fat down. And, also perform resistance training to make your shoulders and lats “bigger”, giving you a nice “V-taper” and creating the illusion of a smaller waist!

I talk more about training for bigger shoulders in my post HERE:

I talk more about training for wider lats HERE:

To find out more about my Online Coaching Services, please click the link HERE!

Post Workout Protein and the Anabolic Window

I remember it so well. Every time I would pack my gym bag before heading off for a workout, I would always be sure to include my post workout protein shake.  It would be ready mixed in my shaker bottle, ready to be slammed back as soon as I finished the session.  And on the odd occasion when I forgot to pack my protein shake, I would be horrified!

I would hurry home as fast as I could, to quickly get my protein down as fast as possible.  My eyes would be on my watch, as I raced the clock to consume my post workout protein shake within 45 minutes of finishing my workout.  Because if I didn’t get my protein in time, that gruelling workout I had just put myself through would be a total waste.  It would result in no muscle gain if I didn’t have protein within the 45-minute post workout anabolic window!  Little did I know that I had nothing to panic about!

The 45-minute post workout anabolic window

It used to be treated as gospel that in order to maximise muscle gains, you have to consume protein within 45 minutes of completing a resistance training workout.  This time frame is known as the “anabolic window”.  We now know that the “anabolic window” isn’t anywhere near as small, or as important, as we first thought.

Yes, post workout protein can help your muscles recover and grow.  And logically, since we know that protein is used by the body for growth and repair, it sounds like it makes sense to fuel your body with nutrients after having broken your muscle tissue down through hard training.  But still, this 45-minute period of panic isn’t the drastic affair we first believed.

It’s all about total daily protein intake

A meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al considered23 high-quality studies on protein timing.  They concluded that the total amount of protein consumed each day was a lot more important for muscle growth, as opposed to “when” that protein was consumed.

The anabolic effects of protein last 5 – 6 hours

There is evidence to show that the muscle building effects of ingested protein actually last for 5 to 6 hours.  

Let’s put this into a real-life scenario.  

You have lunch (which includes a healthy serving of protein) at 1pm.  Work finishes at 5pm and get to the gym for 5.30pm, to workout for an hour.  You finish your workout at 6.30pm.  In this case, it would make sense to have a post workout protein shake, since it would have been 5 and half hours since your last protein intake.

Post Workout Protein

But, let’s look at another example.

You wake up, slam down a protein shake, and head straight to the gym for an early morning workout before work.  Say you have your protein shake at 7am, get to the gym for 7.30am, and finish training at 8.30am.  There would be no need to necessarily have a post workout protein shake immediately. You could simply wait up until lunch at 1pm, which is 6 hours after your morning pre-workout protein shake (as long as your lunch includes a healthy dose of protein).

Protein shakes aren’t necessary

Note that protein shakes are certainly not necessary either, they simply can act as a convenient means of meeting your protein requirements.

And off course, how frequently you consume protein throughout the day is entirely up to you.  Whether you have just 3 meals, or decide to have 6 meals, it is your choice.  As long as you go no longer than 6 hours without ingesting protein, your body will still have protein “in your system” to build muscle!  Just focus mainly on getting enough protein in total over the course of each day. Don’t fuss over “having” to necessarily take in protein immediately after working out.

How much protein do I need each day?

Research suggests that, if you are looking to build muscle and you are regularly resistance training, you should aim for at least 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day.  So basically, aim for 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight each day minimum.  It still seems to be unclear what the upper limit for daily protein intake is.  But we do know that there is no proven harm in taking in “extra” protein.

post workout protein

The take home message

  • Focus on consuming “enough” protein in total, over the course of each day.
  • Aim for at least 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight each day in total.  But more protein than this is fine too.
  • Protein will continue to have anabolic (muscle building) effect for 5 – 6 hours after consuming it.
  • Having protein immediately after working out, i.e. the 45-minute anabolic window, is not necessary.
Post Workout Protein

References

International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition
Alan A. Aragon, Brad J. Schoenfeld,Robert Wildman, Susan Kleiner, Trisha VanDusseldorp, Lem Taylor, Conrad P. Earnest, Paul J. Arciero, Colin Wilborn, Douglas S. Kalman, Jeffrey R. Stout, Darryn S. Willoughby, Bill Campbell, Shawn M. Arent, Laurent Bannock, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan and Jose Antonio
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201714:16
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y
©  The Author(s). 2017Received: 25 May 2017Accepted: 30 May 2017Published: 14 June 2017

Lou Schuler and Alan Aragon, “The Lean Muscle Diet: a customized workout plan – eat the food your love to build the body you want and keep it for life”, Men’s Health, Rodale Inc.(2014).

de Souza R, Bray G, Carey V, Hall K, LeBoff M, Loria C, et al. Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(3):614–25.

Antonio J, Peacock C, Ellerbroek A, Fromhoff B, Silver T. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:19. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-19.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Orris S, Scheiner M, Gonzalez A, et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women–a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:39.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Peacock C. The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition–a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:3. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0114-2.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Tamayo A, Buehn R, et al. A high protein diet has no harmful effects: a one-year crossover study in resistance-trained males. J Nutr Metab. 2016;2016:9104792. doi:10.1155/2016/9104792.

The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201310:53
https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-53
©  Schoenfeld et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received:22 September 2013,Accepted:20 November 2013

“Metabolic Damage”

Last post I spoke about “starvation mode”.  If you missed it, you can read it HERE

Basically, I spoke about how “starvation mode” (at least the version most of us know it as) is a myth.

In this post I want to talk about a fairly similar topic: “metabolic damage”.

You may have heard this term thrown around lately, as it seems to be the latest fad within fitness circles.

What is metabolic damage?

So, the theory goes something like this…

You follow a calorie-controlled diet for a prolonged period of time.  You workout regularly and consistently (particularly doing a lot of cardio, too). Over the weeks and months you manage to drop body fat and maintain or even build muscle mass too.  But what happens next?

It appears that all of that dieting and training negatively impacted your basal metabolic rate (slowed your metabolism).  Your body starts burning less calories than it should. And this ultimately brings your fat loss to a halt.  It has “damaged” your metabolism, i.e. “metabolic damage”.  Now the only way to fix it is by following a super complicated far-out bunch of witchcraft type diet techniques.

Not true.

Is metabolic damage real?

No, metabolic damage is not real.  End of article.  Just kidding! Keep reading.

As discussed in my post on “starvation mode”, when you are in a prolonged calorie deficit, it is true that processes do take place in the body to prevent further weight loss.  But it won’t “stop” you from losing fat.  And there are some external factors at play too when dieting.

So, it is true that:

 – You naturally tend to feel more tired and move less – i.e. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) levels decrease (fidgeting, pacing, walking, etc).

– Also, it is true that your metabolism begins to slow down after consistent dieting (this is adaptive thermogenesis), meaning your body will burn less calories while at rest.

What may be classed as external factors, are:

– TEF (thermic effect of food) levels decrease, probably because you’ll be eating less food due to dieting.  So, your body will burn less calories through the process of digestion.

– You will burn less calories during exercise, because your body adapts to become more efficient at carrying out exercise while saving energy.  Plus, it may very well be that you are not training as hard as you think you are, if energy levels are declining from dieting.

But no, your body does not enter a “mode” where it refuses to drop body fat!  Nor does your metabolism get damaged.

The Minnesota Experiment

I want to refresh your memories from my last post on “starvation mode” POST,and again mention the Minnesota Experiment.

You can read more details about this in my previous post. To summarise, an experiment was conducted on starvation.  The participants were genuinely starved (extremely low calories) and forced to perform hard physical activity every day for six months.  The findings of this dangerous study were that the participants lost 25% of their bodyweight on average.  And, despite being starved and worked to exhaustion, the participants’ only saw a fairly small reduction in their basal metabolic rate (metabolism).  Furthermore, this decrease in their basal metabolic rate was significantly remedied after twelve weeks of following a normal diet again.

The take home message: their bodies did not suffer metabolic damage.  They continued to lose weight over the duration of the experiment.  And their metabolisms pretty much returned to normal afterwards.  If this is what happened to these guys after six months of torturous conditions, do you really think it will be different for you? In comparison, your diet of a slight calorie deficit , with workouts a few times a week is a breeze!

And another metabolic damage study

Still not convinced?  OK, here’s another paper.  They concluded that “the theory of permanent, diet-induced metabolic slowing in non-obese individuals is not supported by the current literature”.

The rate of weight loss did slow down, but it never came to a stop.  And participants continued to lose weight for the duration of the study.

Zinchenko, Anastasia & Henselmans, Menno. (2016). Metabolic Damage: do Negative Metabolic Adaptations During Underfeeding Persist After Refeeding in Non-Obese Populations?. Medical Research Archives. 4. 10.18103/mra.v4i8.908.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312308214_Metabolic_Damage_do_Negative_Metabolic_Adaptations_During_Underfeeding_Persist_After_Refeeding_in_Non-Obese_Populations

Then why does it seem that fat loss stalls after prolonged dieting?

This question is actually very simple to answer.

  1. Fat loss tends NOT to be linear, especially after dieting for a little while.  This means that after a few weeks into a calorie-controlled diet, you may very well not see a pattern of regular fat loss each week.  You might lose 1lb one week, 2lbs the next week, no change for the next two weeks, and then 1lb the week after.  It’s not always linear!  You may think that your body is not dropping fat anymore, when in fact it still is. The process just may have become slower.
  • You may be gaining muscle mass whilst dropping body fat.  This is especially possible for those new to resistance training.  If you lose a lb of fat but gain a lb of muscle, then your body weight will not have changed.
  • You may be retaining water.  This can happen depending on:
  1. hydration levels,
  2. the time of day you weigh yourself,
  3. your stress (cortisol) levels,
  4. your menstrual cycle if you are female,
  5. or even due to how much food you have still in your digestive system.
  • The most likely solution – you are eating too much.  Even when you have the best of intentions in sticking to your diet, adherence becomes harder and harder over time.  Portion sizes slowly begin to creep up, whether you know it or not. The best fix for this is to weigh and log all of your food and drink.

OK, metabolic damage doesn’t exist.  But what should I do after I finish dieting so to prevent regaining fat?

The answer to this question is really simple: reverse dieting.  I talk more about reverse dieting in this post HERE from when I used reverse dieting myself after dieting.  To sum it up, it is exactly as the name implies.  It is the process of gradually increasing calories and / or decreasing exercise levels over a time period to give your metabolism time to adjust back to normal, without piling on body fat.

I hope you found this post useful.  Yes, your metabolism will slow down a little from dieting.  But you now know that metabolic damage simply just doesn’t exist, so is one less thing to worry about.

“Starvation Mode”

It is quite likely that you have come across the term “starvation mode” before.

If you are dieting and exercising, but you are not seeing progress, then a common self-diagnosis is that your body has gone into “starvation mode”.  In this post I am going to reassure you that this is simply not the case!  Read on!

Here’s a common scenario

You were trying to lose weight, so you decreased your calorie intake and stayed disciplined to your workout routine.  You were happy to see your bodyweight readings going down, and your physical appearance was beginning to look slimmer and leaner.  Then all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, all progress appeared to stop!

You didn’t cheat on your diet.  You didn’t skip any workouts.

So, you do what most of us do when we have a problem.  You search online.  You talk to your friends.

And you soon come to the conclusion that you are not losing weight because your body has gone into “starvation mode”.

Starvation Mode

What is “starvation mode”?

“Starvation mode” is the term used to describe the theory stating that when your body feels it is being deprived of food, a survival mechanism is triggered where the body will stop you from losing body fat.  So, the theory concludes that if you have been dieting and then all of a sudden, your weight loss stalls, it is because your body “thinks” it is being starved.

Sound legit?  Keep reading!

Is “starvation mode” real?

The short answer here, is yes, but not to the extent you might think.  Yes, it is true that processes do take place in the body to prevent further weight loss, following a prolonged restricted calorie intake. Though it won’t “stop” you from losing fat.  And there are some external factors at play too when dieting.

– You naturally tend to feel more tired and move less – i.e. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) levels decrease (fidgeting, pacing, walking, etc).

– Also, it is true that your metabolism begins to slow down after consistent dieting (this is adaptive thermogenesis), meaning your body will burn less calories while at rest.

What may be classed as external factors, are:

– TEF (thermic effect of food) levels decrease, probably because you’ll be eating less food when dieting, so your body will burn less calories through the process of digestion.

– You will burn less calories during exercise, because your body adapts to become more efficient at carrying out exercise while saving energy.  Plus, it may very well be that you are not training as hard as you think you are, if energy levels are declining through dieting.

But no, your body does not enter a “mode” where it refuses to drop body fat!

So, when dieting, you will feel more tired and less prone to move and burn energy spontaneously and unnecessarily (e.g. fidgeting).  And your metabolism will begin to slow, but this will not stop you from continuing to lose body fat.

An extreme example here, but have you ever seen someone suffering from anorexia?  They still continue to drop body fat despite literally starving themselves, right?!

The Minnesota Experiment

The Minnesota Experiment is worth mentioning, just to emphasise my point.  So, let’s go back in history a little.

Towards the end of the Second World War in 1944, an experiment was carried out to see the best way to assist starving people to return to a healthy body weight.

36 soldiers participated in the experiment, in which for six months they were put through conditions meant to replicate a prisoner of war (POW) camp.  These men were made to do hours of manual labour each day.  Plus, they had to march for many miles, and were only given a diet of half the calories of their average daily calorie output. They were quite literally starved.

At the end of the six months, the men had lost on average 25% of their bodyweight.  Their metabolisms (basal metabolic rate) were estimated to be only 20% lower than they had been previously (not a great deal considering the circumstances!).

The men were put on a “recovery diet” over the twelve weeks afterwards, at which point their metabolisms were recalculated to be only 10% lower than normal.  Which isn’t such a great deal at all!

So, my point here?  If these guys were to be put under the most extreme circumstances of actual starvation, and yet:

  1. They were continuing to drop body fat
  2. Their metabolisms didn’t even slow down by a great deal, and their metabolisms recovered fairly quickly afterwards too…

…then it is safe to say that the average person following a conservative diet and exercise program has nothing to worry about!

Starvation Mode

Then why does it seem that fat loss stalls after prolonged dieting?

This question is actually very simple to answer.

  • Fat loss tends NOT to be linear, especially after dieting for a little while.  This means that after a few weeks into a calorie-controlled diet, you may very well not see a pattern of regular fat loss each week.  You might lose 1lb one week, 2lbs the next week, no change for the next two weeks, and then 1lb the week after.  It’s not always linear!  You may think that your body is not dropping fat anymore, when in fact it still is. The process just may have become slower.
  • You may be gaining muscle mass whilst dropping body fat.  This is especially possible for those new to resistance training.  If you lose a lb of fat but gain a lb of muscle, then your body weight will not have changed.
  • You may be retaining water.  This can happen depending on:
  1. hydration levels,
  2. the time of day you weigh yourself,
  3. your stress (cortisol) levels,
  4. your menstrual cycle if you are female,
  5. or even due to how much food you have still in your digestive system.
  • The most likely solution – you are eating too much.  Even when you have the best of intentions in sticking to your diet, adherence becomes harder and harder over time.  Portion sizes slowly begin to creep up, whether you know it or not. The best fix for this is to weigh and log all of your food and drink.

If you think that it is “starvation mode” that has brought your fat loss to a stop, then think again. I am almost 99% sure that “starvation mode” is not the reason!

How much steroids really contribute to muscle growth

Let me talk about steroids for a moment.

Now apart from occasionally having to speak out against a minority of naysayers to defend my natural status, this is a topic I don’t usually broach.

There are a few reasons for this.  But my main reason is simply that I don’t consider myself knowledgeable enough on the subject. I don’t have any personal experience of steroid use.  So, the only knowledge I have is based on what I see from others’ use, and from what I read.

However, this is an interesting study that I came across, and I thought it was definitely worth discussing.

steroids

For 10 weeks, 40 “normal men” (i.e. not bodybuilders / regular gym goers / athletes – originally there were 50 men, but 10 dropped out) aged 19 to 40 years old were assigned to one of four groups:

  1. No steroids, and no exercise 
  2. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and no exercise
  3. No steroids, and exercise (weight training 3 days per week)
  4. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and exercise (weight training 3 days per week)

Fat-free mass (i.e. lean muscle mass) levels and strength levels were measured before and after the 10 weeks.

Food intake of the participants was controlled throughout, with a diet of 36 calories per kilogram of bodyweight, and protein and at 1.5g per kilogram of bodyweight.  (Protein was surprisingly on the low side compared to most recommendations for muscle size).  Dietary intake was adjusted every two weeks according to changes in bodyweight.  The weight training sessions were controlled and supervised.

So, what happened?

After the 10 weeks, the changes in muscle mass for the four groups were:

  1. No steroids, and no exercise = no significant change in muscle mass
  2. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and no exercise = an increase of 3.2kg of muscle mass
  3. No steroids, and exercise (weight training 3 days per week) = an increase of 1.9kg of muscle mass
  4. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week),and exercise (weight training) = an increase of 6.1kg of muscle mass

The body fat percentage did not change significantly in any group.

Note that neither mood nor behaviour was altered in any group (I.e. “roid rage” is a myth – but this could be another topic of discussion in itself!)

But wait – there’s more!

The four groups also had the following changes in strength:

  1. No steroids, and no exercise = no significant change in bench press or squat 1 rep max
  2. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week), and no exercise = an increase of 19% squat and 10% bench press 1 rep max
  3. No steroids, and exercise (weight training 3 days per week) = an increase of 21% squat and 11% bench press 1 rep max
  4. Steroids (600mg testosterone enanthate per week),and exercise (weight training) = an increase of 38% squat and 22% bench press 1 rep max

So, what’s the big deal?

OK, so it was no surprise that group 1 (no steroids, and no exercise) saw no changes in muscle mass or strength.  And it is also not surprising that group 4 (steroids, and exercise) saw the biggest gains in muscle mass and strength.

But, how about the fact that group 2 (steroids, and no exercise) saw much greater gains in muscle mass than group 3 (no steroids, and exercise), and had almost the same strength gains too.  So, let me reiterate that the guys taking steroids but not working out had much greater gains in muscle mass than the guys who were working out without steroids.

steroids

Am I saying we should all start taking steroids?

The purpose of me discussing this study is not because I want to try to encourage people to take steroids.  Steroid use can often come with a bunch of negative health implications.  And if you are taking steroids while competing within a drug tested sport, then obviously you are straight up cheating.  Though I am not bashing steroid users here either.  To achieve maximum muscle size and strength, steroid users will still train hard and be dedicated to their nutrition.  Yes, the study showed that steroid users grew even without training, but they will never reach their maximum muscle size potential without hard training.

So, why am I discussing this study?  It is to promote a greater level of appreciation for those who choose NOT to use steroids. It is so much harder to build a muscular physique while drug free.  And I don’t think those who manage to do it always get the credit they deserve.  I am also trying to demonstrate just what a significant advantage steroids give in boosting physical performance.  Anyone who downplays the edge steroids give, saying “it’s mainly all about training and nutrition”, are very naive.

Don’t compare

Additionally, I want to emphasise the importance of those that train drug free not to compare themselves to those taking steroids.  It is important to manage your expectations.  Don’t expect to go to the gym, following the training program of a professional bodybuilder (usually obtained from a muscle magazine), and think that you’ll end up looking like them.

This brings me to my final point.  Drug free trainers can still build an impressive physique and can still gain muscle. No, you won’t put on mass comparable to a professional bodybuilder.  But by paying particular attention to getting body fat levels relatively low (through a good diet), you can still look awesome.  And remember, that when you are lean, with visible muscle definition due to having lower body fat, you actually look “bigger”.  So, don’t be disheartened.  You can still build an impressive physique without steroids.  But my recommendation would be to focus more on getting lean, rather than shooting for pure size (which you may never achieve drug free).

References

The Effects of Supraphysiologic Doses of Testosterone on Muscle Size and Strength in Normal Men
Shalender Bhasin, M.D., Thomas W. Storer, Ph.D., Nancy Berman, Ph.D., Carlos Callegari, M.D., Brenda Clevenger, B.A., Jeffrey Phillips, M.D., Thomas J. Bunnell, B.A., Ray Tricker, Ph.D., Aida Shirazi, R.Ph., and Richard Casaburi, Ph.D., M.D.
July 4, 1996
N Engl J Med 1996; 335:1-7
DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199607043350101

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199607043350101

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Wider Shoulders

It is my opinion that shoulder training should be a priority when training for an aesthetically pleasing physique. I’ve mentioned before that a wide set of shoulders are noticeable regardless of what clothes you are wearing!

shoulder training

These are some of the exercises I like to perform as part of my shoulder training, with a main focus on medial detloids (side delts) and trapezius (traps) development.

You also might want to check out my previous posts on Delts Training HERE
and on Traps Training HERE

Additionally, check out my YouTube Channel
https://www.youtube.com/danmarashi

Stomach Vacuum and Abs Training

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a big fan of practising the stomach vacuum as part of my abs training. This is not just for vanity reasons, in that it helps keep your midsection tight and prevents any stomach distention (plus it looks cool!). But also for the overall health benefits of training the Transverse Abdominis for a strong core and healthy lower back.

I talk about this in a previous post here!

abs training

Normally I like to include stomach vacuums as part of my abs training. I mix vacuums in with each abs exercise I do, in that I hold a vacuum for a second or so after each rep. I try and do this daily if I have time.

These are some of the exercises I do.

Traps Training

Big traps are cool! In fact I’d say having big traps is freakin awesome! Abs are obviously cool too. But the problem is that unless you walk around all day without a shirt on, nobody will even know you have that coveted six pack!

But a big pair of traps on the other hand, are noticeable with or without a shirt on! Even while wearing a long sleeve shirt! I don’t think any other body part can get the same admiration and attention even while covered up!

Trapezius

By “traps”, I am of course referring to the trapezius muscle, that is visible on top of the shoulders, tying in the shoulders to the neck. In my opinion it gives the impression of a powerful strong physique!

traps

How to train your traps

The traps are hit INDIRECTLY through exercises like deadlifts and rows. And to an extent presses, pull ups, and pull downs. They are also used in back squats.

But to isolate and hit the traps DIRECTLY, this is best done through shrugging movements.

Monkey Shrugs

My favourite direct traps isolation exercise right now is “Monkey Shrugs”. This is demonstrated in the video at the top of the page. I find these are done best using dumbbells, where you shrug hard and hold the squeeze at the top, while simultaneous bending the elbows and raising the upper arms upwards. You will have to use a lighter weight than you would for standard dumbbell shrugs. But I find the contraction and trapezius activation from this exercise to be superior to anything else!

Shoulder Cable Complex

Why and When to do it

This is a shoulder cable complex I came up with a little while ago. Well to be honest I am a little reluctant to take full credit for this, since I am always keeping an eye out for new training ideas. So it is quite possible that I was influenced by something I saw someone else doing.

I have been using this lately either at the beginning of workouts for the purpose of “activation” of the shoulder muscles before beginning my main exercises. If so, I perform the exercises very slow and deliberately, focussing on concentrated contractions.

Or this serves the purpose of pre-exhausting the shoulder muscles before performing compound exercises. In which case, I will perform the exercises in more of a pump set fashion, emphasising controlled and constant tension.

Otherwise, I might perform the shoulder cable complex at the end of my workouts, after completing my main compound movements. If so, again it will be performed in pump set fashion as a “finisher”, with a focus on feeling the burn.

A Complex?

A complex is simply a series of exercises performed as a circuit back to back with minimal rest.

The exercises in this shoulder cable complex are to be performed for a minimum of 8 reps each, for a total of 3 to 5 circuits, using the same weight for all exercises. Don’t rest between exercises, but rest about 30 seconds between circuits.

At a cable station, remove the handles, and set the pulleys at the lowest setting. You’ll only need a very light weight for this. Grip the cables in opposite hands across the front of the body.

shoulder cable complex

The Exercises

There are only 3 exercises here:
1. Trap / Front Raises – grip the cables with the carabiners sticking out from the top of your hands (thumb side). Keep a neutral spine, with your scapula retracted, trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keeping your arms fairly straight, raise your arms out in front above your head, keeping those shoulder blades together, and engaging and squeezing your traps at the top of the movement. Hold the position overhead briefly, before lowering your arms back down to your sides. 8 – 15 reps

2. Bent Over Rear Delt Raises – change your grip on the cables so that the carabiners are now protruding from the bottom of your hands. Bend at the waist 90 degrees, keeping your lower back engaged, with a natural arch in your back. Keeping your arms fairly straight, thumbs facing each other, raise your arms out to the side inline with your ears. At the top of the movement hold the position briefly, contracting your rear deltoids hard, before lowering your arms back down. 8 – 15 reps.

3. Side Delt Raises – keeping your grip on the cables the same, stand up straight, neutral spine. Focus on keeping your scapula retracted, trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. With your hands by your sides, thumbs facing forward, and keeping your arms relatively straight. Raise your arms out to the sides to ear level. Hold the position and contract your medial deltoids, before lowering your arms back down. 8 – 15 reps. Rest about 30 seconds before repeating.