“Meditation is like giving a hug to ourselves, getting in touch with that awesome reality in us. While meditating we feel a deep sense of intimacy with God, a love that is inexplicable.” Paramahamsa Yogananda
What is meditation? Well, it is defined quite simply as a devotional exercise of or leading to contemplation. It has a great many benefits such as increased focus, self-discipline, stress reduction, memory, creativity, compassion, and many more. According to a 2011 Harvard study, meditation rebuilds grey matter in the brain in as little as 8 weeks!
So, How can it help you to improve your physique? It’s very simple. The increased focus and self-discipline will result in improved workout quality and better dietary choices.
So, how should you meditate? Well, I find that to get the most out of meditation, much like anything else, you need a simple routine. This should ideally be tailored toward your schedule.
Many people find that meditation first thing in the morning allows them to be more present throughout the day, but some schedules don’t permit that.
Truth be told, you can meditate at any time of day, though it’s easier when you are already in a relaxed state, such as first thing in the morning, or before bed.
Fifteen minutes is ALL you need. Simply find a comfortable place to sit. Somewhere you’ll be uninterrupted, set a timer for 15 minutes, and close your eyes.
Breathe naturally, through the nose. Relax your entire body, starting with your toes, and working your way ALL the way up to the top of your head.
To do this, mentally say to yourself, I’m relaxing my toes. Then, feel them relax. Repeat this with every part of your body. Next, observe your breath.
Watch it go in, and come out. From time to time, your mind will begin to wander. When this happens, bring your attention back to your breath, again and again.
As time goes on, your thoughts will become less and less prevalent, before ultimately ceasing ALL together. This, is the meditative state. You may not reach this state for days, weeks, or months, but it will come sooner or later.
Don’t become discouraged, it’s ALL part of the process. The mental presence required to focus only on the breath is a skill that takes time to develop. Eventually, this skill will give you super-human focus.
Apply this to maintaining absolute focus on each and every rep and it’s easy to see why meditation can help you to take your physique to the next level.
If you find that you enjoy the process, add a second meditation later in the day. I find that first thing in the morning and before bed are good times to meditate, but you’ll have to find what works best for you.
Remember, the things we do outside the gym reflect our results every bit as much as the things we do inside of it. I hope this has inspired you to give meditation a try if you haven’t, or if you have, I hope that it can reinvigorate your practice.
To train abs or not to train abs? That is the question. Whether tis nobler to have abs that a maiden could wash her clothes on, or to have a shapeless, blocky midsection, capable of frightening small children at a glance.
There are several schools of thought when it comes to training the abs. Some people say there’s no need. That to have great abs is simply a matter of proper dieting. Others say that the abs get all the stimulation they need from heavy compound movements such as squats and deadlifts.
The theories are endless. All of them have valid points, so where does that leave you, the reader? Often it leaves you pretty damn confused. Well worry not my good friend, by the end of this article you’ll be confused no more.
Before we dive into training protocols, let’s discuss exactly what we are talking about when we say abs. We are actually talking about are several different muscles that make up the midsection.
They are the rectus abdominis( the muscles that make up the six pack), obliques, serratus, and intercostals which all make up the muscles on the sides of the abdomen and last but certainly not least the tranversus abdominis( the muscle behind the rectus abdominis, which is responsible for core strength and a flat stomach).
When someone is at a relatively low bodyfat level, you can see these muscles. That’s where the belief that diet is ALL that matters comes in. On compound movements all of these muscles are engaged to stabilize the body.
That’s where the belief that compound movements are enough for great abs comes in. Then there’s the silly belief that it’s ALL about genetics. In my 17 years of bodybuilding I’ve come to one conclusion through not only personal experience, but also observation.
It’s this. The people with the best abs all train abs often. Usually a bare minimum of twice a week. Some even train them every day. I personally believe that you shouldn’t condone something unless you’ve tried it yourself.
This way, you can give an honest assessment of how it works from first-hand experience. This is exactly why throughout the years, I’ve tried all of these protocols, to find out for myself, exactly what works and why.
I’ve discovered a few golden nuggets that I’ll share with you now.
1. Abs recover much more quickly than other muscles and can therefore be worked every day.
2. The most effective ab routines are short and intense ones, with very brief rest periods.
3. Weighted ab movements can enlarge the waist over time, giving the torso a blocky look.
4. In order to really etch the fine details into the abs, squeeze at the top of each rep and hold for 1-2 seconds.
Now for the fun part. Let’s put those protocols together to create a basic ab routine. What I’ve found is that while the abs can be trained every day, they respond just as well to every other day training, and it isn’t so monotonous.
That day of rest in between is critical for maintaining your enthusiasm long term. As for the workout duration, you want each ab session to last for about 10 minutes, with very little rest, about 30-60 seconds between sets.
Decrease rest period duration as you are able. Pick two movements targeting different parts of the abs and superset them. Supersetting is performing two movements back to back without rest.
For example, perform hanging leg raises which emphasize the lower abs, and follow them immediately with swiss ball crunches. Due 2 regular crunches, and then one twisting to the left and one twisting to the right. This will emphasize the upper and middle abs, along with the obliques and intercostals. Keep repeating this until failure. Rest 1 minute and repeat the superset 2 more times.
Then pick two more movements and superset them with a minute of rest in between. Do this for 3 sets just like before. Follow this with a plank to failure for the transversus abdominis. Now you’ve trained the entire midsection in 10 minutes.
There is NO need to train the abs any longer. Remember, with the abs, you want to hit it and quit it. Due this every other day, changing up the movements every so often if you desire.
Obviously, if your bodyfat isn’t low enough you won’t be able to see your abs regardless, so remember to eat sensibly. Either way though, your core will be stronger and firmer, which will benefit you in several ways from lessening and preventing back pain, to being stronger in compound movements.
Remember, your core is the center of everything, and as such, it should be kept healthy. That’s it guys, I’m off to train. Don’t forget to hit those abs, I’ll be watching and counting your reps.
“Veganism which results in a decreased demand for animal products, is much more than a matter of diet, lifestyle, or consumer choice. It is a personal commitment to nonviolence and the abolition of exploitation.” Gary L. Franclone
Veganism has many stigmas, not the least of which being that vegans can’t build muscle. Thanks to the increasing popularity of a growing number of vegan athletes, that stigma is falling by the wayside. However, as many stigmas as there are about veganism, rawveganism is even less understood.
Very few people understand rawveganism and even less have any idea how to build muscle on a rawvegan diet. With this article, it is my intent to show that not only is it possible to build muscle on a raw vegan diet, it’s also fairly simple.
First, let’s talk a little bit about why someone would want to go raw. Plant based foods have a higher amount of energy in them than the dead flesh of animals and are loaded with nutrients like fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
When we cook our food, we are killing it and destroying some of the nutritional content. We all know this to some degree. That’s why we strive to eat as many raw fruits and veggies as possible. Going raw is just taking that to the next level.
It can be a bit intimidating though, especially when your goal is to build muscle, but allow me to show you why there’s no need to fret. With a bit of know how and a few simple tools, essentially anyone can build muscle as a raw vegan!
Tools You Will Need:
A High Speed Blender. While these can be highly expensive, there are some great options in the 70 to 100 dollar range.
A Dehydrator. You can get these for as low as 30 dollars or so, but if you can, I recommend getting a bigger one. It’s much more convenient.
A Spiralizer. These are super cheap. Around 10 dollars or so.
That’s it. Those are your basic tools. If you can’t get them all at once, simply get each one as you are able. The high speed blender is for making smoothies, raw nut butters, fresh juices, etc.
The dehydrator is for cooking your food at 118 degrees Farenheit or less. When you cook food above 118 degrees you kill the enzymes in it. Having a dehydrator also allows you to make raw versions of many popular foods such as pizza, breads, burgers, and virtually anything else you can think of.
The spiralizer is for making noodles from things like zucchini, sweet potatoes, squash, cucumbers, and more. These three tools may not all be absolutely necessary, but they certainly make life more fun as a raw foodie.
Let’s talk about food. The foods you eat can vary depending on if you’re on a tight budget, or if you have plenty to spend on groceries. If you have an abundance of money(which you should be speaking into existence) you can get creative and try many different things, whereas, if you’re on a budget your staple foods are a bit limited.
Staple Foods For Those On A Budget:
Bananas. Being cheap, filling, and nutritionally dense make bananas an obvious choice.
Peanut Butter. Besides being delicious, peanut butter is cheap, high in protein, and packed with calories.
Beans. Beans are super cheap, high in protein and fiber, and go with virtually anything. Instead of cooking them, sprout them. This dramatically increases the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Yams or sweet potatoes. Many people don’t know it, but you can actually eat these raw. These are fairly cheap, and they also offer variety as you can spiralize them or put them in the dehydrator and make them as crispy as you want!
Nuts and seeds of all kinds. When you are on a budget, go for cheaper ones like peanuts, and if your budget permits, you can go for more decadent choices.
Greens. These are some of the healthiest things you can eat, and you should aim for a pound of leafy greens each day. Don’t feel bad if you don’t get that much every day though. Simply aim for a pound and get as close as you can.
Any fruits and veggies that go on sale. Sometimes you can catch a great deal and stock up on fruits and veggies that wouldn’t typically fit your budget.
Spring water. Often overlooked, water is the most important thing we ingest. Every cell in our body needs to be well hydrated in order to function properly.
Other fruits and veggies. This can include any fruits and veggies that fit your budget, and will allow you to have variety. Things like bell peppers of all colors, onions, cucumbers, zucchini and more give you distinct flavors that will take your meals to the next level.
Wild Rice. This is the only rice that be eaten raw. Simply rinse it, put it in a mason jar with 3 parts water to 1 part rice, and throw it in your dehydrator.
Quinoa. Quinoa, like beans, can be sprouted. It is high in protein and adds great texture to many dishes.
Avocado. Avocados are loved by vegans everywhere, and for good reason. They go with virtually anything, taste great, and are loaded with calories and nutrients.
When you need a quick and simple meal, throw 5-10 bananas in your blender with some water or plant based milk and blend. Add any other fruit that you’d like to, such as berries, pineapple, mango, etc. A banana has about 100 calories, so 10 would give you about 1,000 calories.
Have 2 of these shakes a day and you can easily get 2,000 calories. That’s how easy it is to get sufficient calories on a raw food diet. When it comes to solid foods, you have infinite options.
I won’t go into recipes in the interest of saving time, but if you combine some of the foods listed above, you can make some simple and delicious meals.
For instance, a great raw meal for building muscle would be wild rice, sprouted beans of your choice, avocado, onion and bell pepper, seasoned up just right, with a kale salad on the side. YUM!
A great snack would be raw cacao nibs, berries, and nuts. Or chia seed pudding. All of these are Super simple to make and taste delicious. You can get as creative as you’d like, use your imagination.
Please note that some beans are toxic unless cooked. These beans should be avoided if you are raw: Lima beans, pinto beans, navy beans, and red kidney beans. There may be more, be sure to do a quick google search if you are unsure.
It really is as simple as that. I promise anyone can build muscle on a Raw vegan diet, even You! If you have been thinking about giving it a try, I hope this article will encourage you. With all the information available, it really is a wonderful time to be vegan! Until next time, that’s all folks.