Let's be honest, when it comes to physical attraction, women often look for men with a little meat on their bones. Muscles represent resilience, toughness, and—again with the honesty—sexiness! During college, there was a reason why my roommate would always demand that we "go where the biceps are." Why? Because biceps are hot. And they're an easy muscle to show off. In fact, I'll bet that you've been "showing" your strength by flexing your biceps—even those string bean "biceps" that you so valiantly rocked back in sixth grade.
But, biceps aren't just for the boys. Ladies, if you want lean, sculpted arms like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, or Cameron Diaz, working your biceps is absolutely essential. Slimming down your arms by lifting weights will make you look that much more amazing in your tank tops, little black dresses, and your bikinis on the beach this summer! Oh, and don't be concerned that you'll "bulk up." You will build muscle, but as muscle is denser than fat, you'll look lean and toned—not Hulk-like.
However, biceps aren't just about beauty. The biceps are important for many common functional movements—from loading the dishwasher to hauling heavy boxes.
Most people work biceps in isolated exercises, working only one muscle or muscle group at a time. Isolated exercises improve the looks of these muscles as well as their overall strength, but it's important to train for function too. Functional movements—also known as compound exercises—are movements that help you train for the motions you perform in everyday life. They are multi-joint movements that work several muscles or muscle groups at a time. For example, when you pick up your child, you are not only using your legs and your core, but you are also working your biceps. All together, this is a functional movement or compound exercise.
Do these 5 exercises—some isolated, some compound—to build the biceps of your dreams. We recommend doing these exercises 2 to 3 times a week, allowing at least 48 hours of rest time between biceps workouts for maximum recovery and results. All of these moves can also be done with dumbbells, which can force you to put more emphasis on good form to keep each arm equal.
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And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.
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Do you want to get more done? Getting more done in less time so you have more time to do the things you want to do is alluring, and not that hard to do. These 25 life-hacks are designed to help you do just that so you can streamline your life in order to have the time to reach your personal and professional goals.
Prioritize in Terms of Dread
Schedule your day so that you get your worst task done first. That leaves you the ability to proceed without it hanging over your head, like when you haven't changed your burnt-out bathroom bulb yet. Dread of any task can slow you down. Get it done and feel accomplished at the start of your day!
Techno-Supersize Your Lists
Stop trying to remember everything, and use an app like Wunderlist to keep your tasks in order. These apps also store tasks complete with due dates and details so you never forget all the details of a project.
Set a Timer
How distracted are you during the day? Try an app like RescueTime to keep track of your time. The free version automatically tracks how much time you spend on certain sites, how much time you spend emailing, and how much time you spend working, and then it presents you with the results in handy graph form. Really want to focus? For $9, you get extra features—including the ability to block yourself from being able to go to those distracting sites that pull you away from what you need to focus on.
Just Start It
There's a reason why you feel compelled to check Facebook® instead of tackling that large project at work or putting together those eight billion pieces that will become your entertainment center. That reason is known as the Zeigarnik Effect, a psychological process that causes you to feel disturbed by an incomplete task. To avoid this uncomfortable feeling, your brain fills your time with "small tasks." But, if you can force yourself through ten minutes of your project, your brain will "flip the switch" from interest in menial "tasks" into desire to work on the larger project.1
Don't Stress Your Flow . . .
Don't stress about deviations to your plan as this can cause the "Oh, what the heck!" effect, which can compromise your whole plan. In a 2010 study at the University of Toronto, researchers found that those who had thought they'd accidentally blown their diet "testing" cookies ate over fifty percent more cookies than those who weren't dieting!2 Further research found this "Oh, what the heck!" effect was even stronger with short-term goals that weren't diet-related.
"The flow," as defined by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi (say that 10 times fast), Director of the Quality of Life Research Center, is the state in which we are seemingly effortlessly and acutely productive. Although Csíkszentmihályi has found that we cannot get into "the flow" by sheer willpower or force, we are more likely to enter this rapturous state of joyful productivity when we throw ourselves completely and utterly into a task. It's also known as "giving 110% percent." To find out more on the flow, check out Csíkszentmihályi's book, Finding Flow, or watch his TED talk.
In studies, multitaskers got less done that those who focused on one task at a time. In a 2009 study by Stanford University professors, the researchers found that our brains aren't as capable at shifting quickly as we maybe had thought, or wished. Multitaskers failed significantly in both memory and achievement, because when they moved between tasks, their brains were still attached to the thing they weren't doing.3 To be more productive, complete one task and then move onto another. (Need practice? Stop texting your friend right now and focus on finishing this article.)
Are you hoarding all your tasks to make sure they are done "right"? Don't be afraid to delegate. And don't just leave delegating for work projects. Self-made millionaire Erica Douglass has often advised that you should value your time. Determine your hourly worth and if you can hire someone to clean your home, do your yard work, or tackle a chore for you for less than that rate, save yourself the hours. What about for small tasks like picking up your dry cleaning? Check out TaskRabbit®, a site that helps you find trustworthy folks nearby you to do them!
Don't Work Overtime
Working less hours a day can actually make you more productive. Carmaker Henry Ford famously discovered that his employees were actually getting more done in eight hours a day than when they put in overtime. Research by the Business Roundtable discovered that 40-hour-maximum workweeks are best for productivity.4 It prevents burnout, exhaustion, and with less time to get those projects done, you're less likely to goof off.
Look at the Adorable Kitten Meme. No, Really.
Yes, the Internet is a huge time suck. But, Japanese researchers recently found that subjects who looked at pictures of cute, fluffy baby animals were more productive than those who didn't. But not any pictures will do. Those subjects were more productive than those who looked at adult animals or "pleasant foods."5 Bonus points if they're playing a keyboard.
Take 2 Minutes for Meditation
You might be skeptical, but meditation can improve your memory, productivity, and focus. Don't have a clue how to start? Go to Calm.com for guided sessions lasting from two to twenty minutes.6
Designate a Life Coach
Being accountable to someone can motivate behavior. Make an agreement with a friend to check in on each other to see how goals are coming along. If you prefer an app to a human coach, apps like Unstuck™ for the iPad® can help you get moving and accomplishing those bigger projects.
Are you using automatic bill pay options or auto-ship options, like Amazon's "Subscribe and Save?" Whether it's contact lenses, pet food, or medication, you can make sure you receive the products you purchase each month without having to go online and reorder them. Beachbody® offers an auto-ship option as well with Home Direct so that you don't have to reorder products like Shakeology® or Results and Recovery Formula® every month.
Calm Your Racing Brain
Can't sleep because your mind is racing? Simply breathe deeply (deep breathing slows the heart and respiratory rate which can help you sleep) and write down those thoughts. Once they're on paper (or in your phone), your brain will stop working so hard to remember them.
Your Bedtime is Non-Negotiable
Who knew it was awesome that our childhood bedtimes were enforced? Both the structure and the sleep will do you well. Sleep is one of the most important factors in being productive in your intellectual, physical, and emotional life. Experts have found that a regular "bedtime" is one of the most effective ways to stay productive.7
Healthy Fast Food
Find your favorite delicious and healthy meals that reheat well (and that you'll want to eat a couple times a week), and make a larger version of the recipe on your least busy day. This way, you'll have leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. It will save you time grocery shopping and prepping during the week. And knowing you have a yummy meal waiting for you will help you stifle the impulse to succumb to the convenience of unhealthy fast food.
Don't Skip Breakfast
It's not urban legend—breakfast is actually the foundation of your day. Not only do people who eat breakfast have healthier weight and better cholesterol numbers than their breakfast-skipping peers, they also had more energy and sharper minds.8
The Three Ps
The "Let's Move" program launched by First Lady Michelle Obama advises to plan, purchase, and prepare. This means knowing your weekly menu and budget. Then, once you've gone shopping, cook those meals in large batches so you can freeze, reheat, or combine the leftovers into another dish. The combination of these three Ps allows you to save money and time.
Stop Wasting Your Citrus
When cutting your citrus fruits, don't trash or compost that peel! Zest it and save it in a container in the fridge to have at the ready. Use them to add depth to a dish (like those leftovers you're eating midweek) or leave some out to dry by the heater for a couple of days to add fragrance to your home. For that purpose, we recommend orange peel as it's an aromatherapy favorite for anxiety and stress reduction.
Make Salad Bags
You can pre-make your favorite salads in bulk using three bags. In one set of bags, put your lettuce base and veggies, in another, put in your meat and cheeses, and then, use a mason jar for the salad dressing so your dressing doesn't get soggy. If you love salad (or are trying to eat more of it), prepping these bags ahead of time so you can merely pour them into your bowl makes eating healthy fast and easy.
Ice Cube Trays for Small Food Storage
Your ice cube trays can do way more than just store ice. Each slot holds about two tablespoons, so use them for portion-controlled bulk storage of sauces, gravy, and soup stock (nothing that contains cheese, though). You can also pour in any leftover coffee in your pot to enjoy an iced coffee drink at home. And, you can use them to store herbs too! Just add a small amount of water to lock the herbs in before freezing.
High-Intensity Interval Training
Want to get the best results in the shortest amount of time? Try High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT).9 This type of training—used in TurboFire® and other Beachbody programs—can boost fat-burning and athletic conditioning by safely maximizing the amount of time spent above your anaerobic threshold. In other words, by pushing your body to its limits in a controlled, temporary way, you teach it to operate more efficiently.
Chow Down on Protein
To get the most out of your workout, you need to fuel your body with fats, carbohydrates, and protein. How much protein do you need? According to the University of Colorado's Nutrition Education Specialist Janice R. Hermann, .8 grams of protein per kg (or .4 g per pound) of body weight.10 If you're looking to build muscle, you can roughly double that number. Yoga Booty Ballet's Gillian Clark enjoys three hard-boiled eggs within thirty minutes of waking every day and eats "something light like fruit, whatever is organic and local, and comes from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), 'Farm Fresh to You'" just before her workout.
Pump Up the Volume
Listening to music makes for a more effective workout. Brunel University in London's Costas Karageorghis went as far as likening music to a performance-enhancing drug. While listening to music, people biked farther, swam faster, and didn't even realize they were having a better workout by working harder.11
A study on the benefits of outdoor workouts pulled from the century-old work of biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson found that people had better and longer workouts when they did them outside.12 Strides taken outside differ little from those taken on a treadmill, so scientists are still unsure exactly why these outdoor workouts can be more effective, though theories suggest sunlight's positive effect on mood may be a contributor.
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According to a recent study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, the most effective route to healthy weight loss—as well as decreased cholesterol and risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers—may require a bit of gastric subterfuge.1
In other words, trick your stomach.
The study, conducted by the New York Chiropractic College and patterned on the Beachbody Ultimate Reset®, combined a diet comprised of low-energy-dense foods and a targeted supplement regimen over 21 days. Results showed significant weight loss and lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Low-energy-dense foods are those that maintain a high ratio of physical volume to calories. Examples of these foods include nutrient-rich leafy green and cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli, complex grains like millet and quinoa, and high-protein legumes like almonds and flaxseeds.
Consuming these low-density foods—especially those that are high in fiber—is as filling as eating high-density items like dairy, meats, and fatty processed foods, but with significantly fewer calories.
The result is meaningful weight loss; in this case an average divestiture of 8.7 pounds in three weeks. A fiber-rich diet is also associated with a host of additional health benefits, like lower LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels, decreased incidence of colonic diseases including cancer, and, of course, bowel health and regularity.
The piece that's often missing for many people looking to improve their health is simple nutritional awareness, according to lead researcher Dr. Mary Balliet. Considering that obesity rates have more than doubled for women and effectively tripled for men since the 1970s, she has a point.
"Many people are not familiar with such healthy, fresh vegetarian and vegan options," says NYCC's Balliet. "Learning how to cook these things and eat in this way, plus the supplements, makes a huge difference."
It's easy to see how a nation could lose its dietary way via eating energy-dense foods: they're cheaper. A study by France's Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers2 determined in 2004 that low-energy-dense diets are more expensive than those high in fat and low in fiber and water content, i.e. refined grains and sweets. Of course, when you hold these costs next to medical bills generated by our obesity epidemic, this point is moot.
For the NYCC study, researchers selected 36 female and 13 male participants from the school's faculty, staff, students, and community. Research on vegetarian, vegan, and Mediterranean diets reveals a link between low-energy-dense food like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and overall health and maintaining a healthy weight, so subjects were provided with mostly vegan prepared meals—similar to those in the Ultimate Reset—three times a day to the tune of 1,200 to 1,400 daily calories for the women, and 1,600 to 1,800 daily calories for the men.
Next, citing evidence that suggests a relationship between the microbial ecology of the digestive tract (the bacteria that live in your intestines, for example) and obesity, the subjects were given supplements formulated to remove toxins, regulate acidity, and restore the natural environment of the digestive tract before each meal. The supplements changed for each stage of the 21-day program, as in the Ultimate Reset.
In addition to the subjects' average weight loss of 8.7 pounds, in 21 days, blood pressure decreased from an average of 116/76 to 112/72, body mass index (BMI) was trimmed by an average of 1.4, waist circumference narrowed by an inch-and-a-half, and total cholesterol dropped an average of 30 points. In men, testosterone increased.
The conclusions of the NYCC study are expected to help healthcare professionals address issues of time, knowledge, and cost concerning the promotion of healthy eating. However, the findings of the study weren't without some drawbacks.
While fat mass decreased by over five pounds, an average of one pound of muscle loss was also recorded, underscoring the importance of adequate protein in a healthy diet.
Other adverse effects included headaches and fatigue typically associated with caffeine withdrawal and low-calorie dieting. Intense exercise is not permitted on the program, but up to 20 minutes of low-impact activities such as walking, yoga, or tai chi were allowed.
There was also no scientific control group, unless you compare the results to our sedentary, fast food–loving culture. However, without one, it's unclear how much of the health benefits experienced by the participants can be attributed to diet and how much to supplementation. Balliet believes both components are vital.
"It was the whole program that was effective. Everyone I've had do it since then has taken all of the supplements and eaten the food to results at least as good as in the study. Some better."
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"Summer Snack Attack! 23 Easy, Beach-Friendly Snacks Under 150 Calories"
(Makes 4 servings)
Tip: Zucchini can also be sliced on a mandolin; adjust to a very thin slice.
Nutritional Information (per serving):
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P90X/P90X2 Nutritional Information:
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†Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.
Please consult with a physician before beginning any exercise program.
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