Build a Bigger Back

Do you feel like you’re blowing your back out by trying to blow it up? Here’s how to build a bigger back

Your back is made up of several muscle groups, big and small, that contribute to the overall size, aesthetics, and performance of your back. In fact, powerlifters often cite back strength as more critically important than arm strength when it comes to their bench press. When it comes to back workouts here’s what you want to do:

1. Keep the basics

Pull-ups, chin-ups (yes there’s a difference), deadlifts, and rows are too important to neglect if you’re trying to build a bigger back. The back fly machine is not going to give you the results you want, but it is useful for supplementing back exercises.

2. Target every muscle

Your back consists of your lats, traps, teres minor, teres major, infraspinatus, rhomboids, posterior delts, serratus, and more. Pull-ups alone won’t isolate all of these muscles and place enough stress on them individually to make them really show.

3. Mix in a variety of angles

A simple turn of the wrist can be the difference between isolating your rear delts and recruiting several larger back muscles for an exercise. For example, you can hold a dumbbell in a neutral, supinated, or pronated position for a dumbbell row and completely change the feeling of the exercises.

Here’s a back workout to try:
*Each exercise pair reflects a superset.

Deadlift: 4 sets x 12 reps
Barbell Row (Palms facing up): 4 sets x 10 reps + a rest pause set

Lat Pulldown: 3 sets x 10, 8, 8 reps + drop set

Bent Over DB Fly: 4 sets x 15 reps
Weighted Pull-Ups: 4 sets x 8 reps

Straight Arm Rope Pulldown: 5 sets x 10 reps
Barbell Shrugs: 5 sets x 20, 15, 15, 10, 8 reps

Trigger Point Roll for recovery: 5-10 minutes.

Check me out on Instagram for more workouts!

Fitbit Blaze Review

Everything you should know about the Fitbit Blaze!

 

Fitbit Blaze
Fitbit Blaze

I just got the Fitbit Blaze as a gift and I love it so I thought I would share all of the features, pros and cons of the Fitbit Blaze. Wearable technology is still new and improving and while I didn’t see the point at first, getting the Garmin Vivofit 2 shifted my paradigm and now the Fitbit blaze has me hooked. Wearable technology is awesome for so many reasons:

1. Step Tracker

I’m not big on tracking steps but it has it’s advantages. No one of any inspiring physique has ever credited their success with walking extra steps every day but monitoring your steps does give you hard data to look at on your lazy days. If you usually walk 10,000 steps every day and today you only walked 6,000 then you know it’s time to get up.

2. Heart Rate Monitor

Again, I didn’t really care about this feature until I used it. Now I check my resting heart rate and my heart rate during cardio and weightlifting. It’s proven to be a huge advantage in my training so being able to have a heart rate monitor built into the watch is fantastic.

3. Daily Stats

You get your average steps, resting heart rate, hours of sleep, how much you toss and turn in your sleep, how often you get up from your chair, how long you exercised for, etc. Getting a detailed report of your daily activity is another big game changer because you know exactly what you need to work on (again, totally overlooked this benefit).

4. Fit Star

Fit Star alone is a phenomenal feature for people unlike me who don’t have 500+ exercises memorized and can do a home workout on a whim. Fit Star gives you 20+ minute bodyweight workouts. It’s essentially a Personal Trainer that you wear on your wrist. Your money can’t really go further than that.

5. Alarms

Set your alarms on your watch. I really only use one to get up at 5 am but having it on my wrist is definitely easier than trying to get my phone to turn off my alarm at 5 am. Point, Fitbit.

6. Sync Text Messages & Calls

Any text messages or phone calls show up on my Fitbit Blaze. I don’t believe there’s a feature that allows you to talk directly into your watch to voice text or participate in a call directly through the watch. It’s more of a “pager” in that respect. Probably something to look forward to in the future though.

7. Responsive touch screen, multiple watch faces

Unlike the Garmin Vivofit 2, the Fitbit Blaze has a touch screen (because everything should have a touch screen in 2016) and is responsive, as in it can sense when you’re turning your wrist to check the time and then turns on the screen to show you. You can change the face to an analog clock, digital clock and a few other options.

8. Interchangeable straps and frame

This is another game changer in the wearables world. Being able to swap out the rubber/silicone strap for a classy leather, or stainless steel strap is a big step forward for wearables by introducing them to the professional world.

What’s Missing?

1) You can’t access any apps on the Fitbit Blaze. This is where the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S2, and other wearables win. You’ll pay a premium with those watches but if you’re looking to essentially wear your phone on your wrist + the fitness tech, it might be worth it to dish out the extra money.

2) I’d love to have more than 4 watch face options. Imagine how amazing it would be to swap out the rubber strap for a leather strap and then change the face to an HD graphic of a Rolex, Hublot, Audemars, or Movado face.

3) No microphone, speaker, or high-powered laserbeams that can cut through steel walls.

10 Cardio Exercises That Are Better Than Running

Tired of running? Try one of these cardio exercises instead.

Don’t get me wrong, running is a great way to get back in shape but it comes at a cost. Running is a high impact activity that over time may cause joint pain. Also, depending on the type of running you do you may find better metabolism-boosting effects with these exercises:

Cardio Acceleration Supersets for Fat Loss

1. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swing intervals are a great way to torch fat while also developing explosive thrusting strength, building the legs, core, and shoulders. Perform 5 sets of 30-60 second intervals with 30-60 seconds rest in between. This form of HIIT training will help you burn fat, build muscle and keep your metabolism boosted for up to 48 hours.

2. Mountain Climbers

Try adding 30-60 second sets of Mountain Climbers in between your lifting sets (instead of taking a break) to pump up your heart rate and burn fat in place of your resting sets. All of the cardio benefits of running without the joint impact.

3. Jumping Jacks

This classic exercise incorporates your core, hip adductors and abductors, calves and shoulders making a great way to warm up vs. jogging for 15-20 minutes. Do a few sets of jumping jacks to warm up your muscles and joints before you turn up the intensity.

4. Burpees

Speaking of turning up the intensity…any time the word “burpees” is mentioned in a group exercise class I hear a collective, audible “UGHHHH”. These aren’t for the weak of heart. Burpees are a combination of a push-up and a jump squat. At your own pace, do 5-10 burpees in between your lifting sets or for several intervals for a full-body scorching cardio and resistance workout.

5. TRX Row

Give your legs a break. Build up your back and arm strength with TRX Rows. Perform 5 sets of 25-30 reps in between weight lifting sets or superset them with a lower-body cardio workout for a full-body workout set.

6. Step Ups

Target your quads, glutes, and core by doing knee-level step ups, meaning the platform you step up on should be at your knee or slightly higher to hit your glutes harder.

7. Body Squats

Body Squats can be done any time, anywhere. Build explosive quad strength while you elevate your heart rate and develop better balance and posture. Try doing 5 sets of as many perfect reps as possible in 30 seconds.

8. Stepper Switch Foot

Set up a stepper with 4 risers (2 on each side). Place one foot on top of the stepper and the other foot slightly behind you. In one motion, explode off your back foot switching positions so the foot that was on the stepper is now behind you and the foot that was behind you is now on the stepper. Repeat for 30 seconds as fast as possible.

9. Kettlebell Goblet Squat

Kettlebell Goblet Squats are a level up from regular body squats. Holding a kettlebell under chin while squatting allows you to place more resistance on your quads, engage your core more, and place extra stress on the biceps and delts.

10. Row Machine

This underrated piece of cardio equipment is probably abandoned in the corner of your gym somewhere. Several sets of high resistance rowing for 60 seconds or 250 meters at a time is a sure-fire way to burn massive amounts of calories in only a few minutes.

3 Mistakes People Make When Cutting Carbs

If cardio feels like a chore that you keep putting it off then try mixing up these cardio exercises. If you do each one of these cardio exercises for 1 minute and take 60 seconds of rest in between each set you will have done a 20 minute, full body cardio workout that is guaranteed to burn more calories and burn more fat than 20 minutes of jogging on the treadmill.

How Much Protein Should You Eat?

The amount of protein you should eat per day is a widely debated topic. See what the experts say.

On Instagram you may see bodybuilders eating 2, sometimes 3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Your workout buddy might tell you 1.5-2 grams per pound of bodyweight. Who should you listen to? I tend to listen to the experts (dietitians, sports nutritionists) who back their numbers with research. The amount of protein you should eat depends on your dietary needs and activity level. Check it out:

What is your current bodyweight?

It’s hard to know how many grams of protein per pound of bodyweight you should be eating if you don’t know your bodyweight. In fact, most experts measure grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Let’s start there.

What is your activity level?

Dietitians look at activity level (as well as other factors) to determine the amount of protein you should consume. For people of very intense activity levels, HIIT training & resistance training 5-6 days per week, 1-2 hours per day, you’ll need much more protein than the weekend warriors.

What is your goal?

Are you looking to gain weight, lose weight, or maintain your current weight? This won’t change your numbers too drastically but it’s important to think about. What are the odds that you’ll be able to put on muscle mass when your diet barely supplies enough protein to help you recover?

Is there a general rule to follow?

Generally, about 25-30% of your daily caloric intake should come from protein.

Xtend BCAA Watermelon Jello Recipe

Enjoy this fresh, summery sugar-free dessert chock full of BCAAs!

Jello Recipe
Photo from: www.scivation.com/xtend-watermelon-jello-2015-09

The only thing better than dessert is dessert that you can eat without worrying about putting on slabs of body fat. This BCAA watermelon jello recipe does just that. It actually goes one step further by providing 7 grams of branched chain amino acids to help curb hunger, burn fat, and build/maintain lean muscle. Here’s what you need:

Ingredients
1. A large watermelon rind.
2. 8 scoops of watermelon Xtend.
3. 1/2 cup unflavored gelatin mix.
4. 8 cups of boiling water.

Instructions
1. Cut a large watermelon in half and scoop out the pink flesh leaving only the green-yellow bowl-shaped rind.
2. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Pour the mixture into the watermelon rind.
4. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
5. Slice and serve.

Nutrition Info
Protein: 7 grams of BCAAs
Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrates: 0 grams

Full Disclosure: I did not create this jello recipe, I got it off of Scivation’s website. It looks awesome though and I’m definitely going to try it. I thought it was worth sharing with anyone looking to do fun new things with their BCAAs besides just drinking them.

How to Meal Prep Like A Pro

Trying to get your diet on track but don’t know where to start? Consider this your step-by-step guide to Meal Prep

Meal Prep
instagram.com/alexcurtisfitness

There’s no one way to meal prep. Your best bet is to find a routine that works best for your schedule. If you don’t have much time during the week to prep, you may want to make extra-large batches on Sundays. If your schedule is a little more free, you can get away with prepping your food on Sundays and Wednesdays. I also prep day-to-day by bringing mostly quick, easy meals to work. Here’s how you can start:

1. Large Batch Prep Your Protein

Your proteins will generally take the longest amount of time to prep so you might as well start by getting that out of the way as soon as possible. Use a crock pot and cook several pounds of meat in it for several hours, then separate each portion in tupperware. This is an easy, hands-off approach and requires very little attention. You can also bake or grill several pounds at a time which works just as well, it just requires a little more attention.

2. Large Batch Prep Your Carbs

Carbs are generally easier to prep. Oatmeal only takes a few minutes, you can buy steamable potatoes, rice, and bread requires almost no attention at all. Cook several cups at a time of your carbohydrates of choice and separate them into tupperware, or pair them with the proteins you’ve already prepped.

3 Mistakes People Make When Cutting Carbs

3. Keep an eye on fats

Prepping fat takes almost no energy whatsoever. If you’re using oil, just use a teaspoon or tablespoon and add it to your pre-prepped protein/carbs. Nuts can be portioned and stored in separate plastic bags, containers or in the same tupperware as your protein & carbs. Butters should be portioned using a teaspoon or tablespoon and added to each dish. Avocado is really the only fat that should wait until the very last minute before prepping because they spoil quickly.

4. Only prep the hard stuff (if you’re in a crunch for time)

I love cooking, but maybe you don’t. My advice is to only prep the “hard stuff” like meats, (lots of) vegetables, potatoes, etc. You can always pack some whey protein, a sandwich, Greek yogurt parfait, and quick, healthy snacks the night before you get up for work.

I personally prep the night before I go to work, about 4-5 nights/week and have a few large batch prepared meals ready. I usually bring 3-4 meals to work with me and most of them only take minutes to prep. Here’s an example:

Greek yogurt Parfait
Prepped the night before: Greek yogurt portioned in a tupperware container, high protein granola portioned in a zip-lock bag, 1 whole banana stored in my bag.

AB & J on Double Protein Bread, Protein Shake
Prepped the night before: Spread 1 tbsp. of almond butter and 1 tbsp. of preserves on 2 slices of double protein bread and place in a tupperware container or zip-lock bag. Store 1 scoop of whey protein in a small container.

Chicken, Veggies & Rice
Prepared a few nights before: Store 4-6 oz. of chicken, 1 cup of veggies, and 1 cup of rice in a tupperware container and place in the fridge or freezer until the morning before work. Then, I put the tupperware in my 6 Pack Bag and bring it to work.

All of these meals are stored in the fridge the night before I go to work. The morning of, I put all of them in my 6 Pack Bag (Expedition 300) and bring them to work. Now I have 3-4 meals when I need them at work. I hope this helps you as you learn to meal prep like a pro. Once you start you’ll immediately see the advantages and understand why so many fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, and athletes meal prep.

Will Drinking Alcohol Make You Fat?

Questioning that second glass? Afraid drinking alcohol will make you fat? You may be surprised when you hear the real reason behind the beer belly

After my last post, Top 10 Healthiest Beers, people began asking me if beer can be healthy at all. Won’t drinking beer make you fat? Doesn’t drinking alcohol make you fat? The answer is pretty interesting. Here’s how drinking alcohol really affects your fitness goals:

1. Alcohol is the first nutrient to be metabolized.

Your body wants to get rid of the alcohol as quickly as possible, so it prioritizes metabolizing that first. “Fat, protein, and carbohydrates can wait…let’s get this poison out of us immediately”, is essentially what your brain is saying. If your body is focused on metabolizing alcohol first and everything else later, those nutrients have to go into storage (fat).

4 Ways to Cut Water Weight Fast

2. Taking in excess calories

Then, there’s the issue of the extra several hundred calories (assuming you’re having more than one drink). Unless you’re drinking straight liquor you’re probably also drinking a few servings of carbs per drink. Let’s say every drink you have has 15 grams of sugar and you have 4 drinks. That’s 60 grams of sugar and as we discussed in point #1, those 60 grams of sugar are more likely to be stored as fat until your body is done processing the alcohol.

Try to make low calorie, low sugar cocktails like Vodka Clubs or use unsweetened/sugar-free mixers.

3. Altered Appetite

I was going to say increased appetite but that isn’t necessarily the case for everyone. It is for me and it might be for you though. People who suffer from alcoholism generally have a lack of appetite. Nevertheless, alcohol can alter your inhibitions to choose healthy foods causing you to choose foods that are quick to make, or easier to eat (generally oily, sugary, and salty foods). Feel free to argue with me on this point but I’ve seen more drunk people at the bar gnawing on wings than eating carrots and hummus.

How to Keep Yourself from Binge Eating

 

So, does alcohol actually make you fat?

In short, no. In moderation, and by choosing your drinks wisely, alcohol is less likely to make you fat and may even have benefits in regards to heart health and lowering blood pressure. The problem is how we drink, how much we drink, what we eat (or don’t eat) while we drink, and how often we drink.

My advice

Try to eat 1-2 hours before drinking and choose drinks that are very low in sugar. Make sure you drink equal or greater amounts of water for every drink you have to stay hydrated. This is much easier to do when you drink healthier cocktails.

Egg Frittata Recipe

Like eggs? Load ’em up with veggies, meat, potatoes and pile on the cheese!

Egg Frittata Recipe
Frittata on my Instagram (alexcurtisfitness)

This frittata recipe is a phenomenal way to large batch prep your eggs and they’re also super easy to load up with veggies, meat and potatoes. This dish is baked so once you’re done prepping, just toss it in the oven, slice and serve. Here’s what you need for this frittata recipe:

Ingredients
6 whole eggs, 6 egg whites
2 cups of spinach
1 cups of sliced peppers
2 cups of diced potatoes
1 cups of diced onions
6 strips of bacon (cooked and chopped)
1 cup of reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions
1) Spray a large sauce pan with olive oil cooking oil spray and heat on a medium flame.
2) Add spinach, peppers, potatoes, onions, and bacon. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach is wilted and the onions are golden.
3) Add egg mixture and cook for 3-5 minutes.
4) Top with cheese and bacon, then place in the oven and broil for 4-5 minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

Nutrition Info Per Serving
Protein: 19 g
Carbohydrates: 13 g
Fat: 9 g

This frittata recipe is a great to make, slice, and store in either your fridge or freezer so you can have a quality meal on tap when you need it. It may take longer to prep a large batch like this instead of quickly making a few eggs, but you’ll save a lot of time in the long term.

Check out these other breakfast recipes:
Homemade Sausage Egg McMuffin Recipe
Easy Egg Scramble

Xtend BCAA Soda Recipe

This BCAA Soda recipe has 0 calories, 0 grams of sugar, 0 mg of caffeine, and is super easy to make!

BCAA Soda Recipe
Xtend Watermelon BCAA Soda

My BCAA soda recipe is so easy to make I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. You only need 3 or 4 ingredients to make a delicious, healthy soft drink loaded with amino acids to curb hunger, burn fat and build muscle. This is all you need:

Ingredients
1 scoop Xtend BCAAs
8-12 oz. Seltzer
1 cup of ice
1/2 lemon, lime or small orange (optional)

Instructions
1) Fill a shaker bottle with 1 cup of ice (or more if desired).
2) Add 1 scoop of any flavor of Xtend BCAAs.
3) Pour 8-12 oz. of ice cold seltzer.
4) STIR, don’t shake.
5) Squeeze 1/2 of a lemon, lime or small orange into the drink and drop in the rind (optional)
6) Stir again and serve.

Nutrition Info
Calories: 0*
Protein: 7 g amino acids
Carbohydrates: 0 g*
Fat: 0 g

5 Reasons You Should Supplement BCAAs

BCAA & Superfoods Recovery Smoothie

Scivation makes Xtend BCAAs in over a dozen flavors, with more on the way! Some of your options are:

  • Strawberry Kiwi
  • Blue Raspberry
  • Grape
  • Black Cherry (Xtend Perform BCAAs)
  • Mango
  • Fruit Punch
  • Watermelon
  • Pink Lemonade

And more! I’ll definitely be trying them all out, potentially mixing them with Polar flavored seltzer and adding fresh lemon or lime.

* 0 calories and 0 grams of sugar without fresh squeezed fruit juice.

10 Foods with Surprising Medicinal Benefits

These 10 foods may help prevent, alleviate or cure your symptoms because of their surprising medicinal benefits

medicinal benefits

Every vitamin, mineral, gram of fiber, protein, carbohydrates and fat play a role in your body. These 10 foods have amazing medicinal benefits that you may notice immediately after eating them. Learn how to incorporate them in your diet whenever you can.

1. Honey: Anti-Bacterial/Anti-Fungal

From soothing sore throats to potentially preventing infections, honey is the multipurpose, swiss-army knife sweetener. Honey now could mean you may not need antibiotics later. How’s that for a food with a surprising medicinal benefit?!

2. Ginger: Relieves Nausea & Stomach Aches

Ginger is a natural antacid, laxative and has chemicals that make it a natural indigestion medicine. Sprinkle ground ginger in your tea next time you’re suffering from indigestion.

3. Cinnamon: Anti-Bacterial, Improves Blood Sugar

Cinnamon is a natural antibacterial and also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, cinnamon is often paired with sugary snacks and desserts that DON’T help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Sprinkle some on your yogurt to get all of the health benefits without packing on the excess calories.

4. Flax & Chia Seeds: Lower High Cholesterol

Flax seeds are loaded with fiber and omega fatty acids which help lower cholesterol, protect against heart disease and cancer. Try sprinkling 1 tbsp. of flax or chia seeds in your yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, breadcrumbs, or anywhere else you can sneak them in.

5. Coconut Water: Dehydration

Coconut water is high in potassium and other vitamins and minerals making it a great option to prevent hydration. Try using it for smoothies, juices, or mix it in with your regular beverages to boost their nutritional content.

BCAA & Superfoods Recovery Smoothie

6. Coffee: Prevents Some Cancers and Parkinson’s Disease

Coffee is chock-full of antioxidants which fight cancer causing free radicals, and improves cognitive health.

Protein Packed Vanilla Cinnamon Cappuccino Recipe

7. Almonds: Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

Almonds are a fantastic source of healthy, unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, magnesium and other vitamins which help reduce the risk of Type Two Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and cancer.

5 Superfood Snacks to Boost Energy

8. Beets: Improve Blood Flow and Lower Blood Pressure

Beets are becoming a famous pre-workout staple in the bodybuilding world due to their ability to improve blood flow, lower high blood pressure and subsequently improve athletic performance.

Does Your Pre-Workout Have These Ingredients?

9. Peppermint: Indigestion, Allergy Relief

The natural menthol in peppermint leaves provides soothing indigestion relief as well as allergy symptom relief including sore throat, headaches, and sinus congestion.

High Protein Peppermint Patty Ice Cream Recipe

10. Peppers: Immune System Support & Wound Regeneration

Peppers are higher in Vitamin C than oranges and most other fruits. Everyone knows that Vitamin C supports healthy immune system function but most people don’t know that Vitamin C also helps regenerate connective tissue.

Can Vitamin C Help Heal Your New Tattoo?

Now that you know that these foods have surprising medicinal benefits, try to add them to your diet however you can. Why take medicine when you can eat delicious meals instead?