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Well, it turns out, getting adequate sleep each night can lead to increased productivity throughout the day. A study found that participants who regularly slept the recommended seven to eight hours per night were almost 20% more productive than individuals who slept five to six hours per night. And participants who slept less than five hours per night experienced a 29% drop in productivity.

Sleep also plays a major role in muscle growth and recovery. One study found that good sleep quality is associated with greater muscle strength, while short sleep duration may be a risk factor for decreased muscle strength. So, if you’re truly committed to maximizing your muscle gains, you better start prioritizing your sleep. 

How Does Muscle Growth (Or Loss) Happen?

Muscle growth is achieved through a combination of resistance training and protein intake. After you work out, muscle protein breakdown occurs, leading to a loss of protein. That’s why athletes often increase their protein intake immediately after they lift weights in order to enhance muscle protein synthesis, which is a natural process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage. 

The ratio of muscle protein synthesis to muscle protein breakdown ultimately determines whether muscle tissues are built or lost. So, if muscle protein synthesis occurs faster than muscle protein breakdown, then muscle growth is achieved. However, if muscle protein breakdown outpaces muscle protein synthesis, then the opposite occurs.

One way to make sure that your system doesn’t break down more muscle than it builds is to eat 30 grams of protein half an hour before bed. Your body will then have adequate amino acids for your muscles to use for their repair work.  

Why Is Sleep Crucial For Muscle Recovery?

Sleep enhances muscle recovery through protein synthesis and human growth hormone release. Muscle protein synthesis produces protein to repair damaged muscles, while sleep and your circadian rhythm (aka your body’s internal clock) play a vital role in regulating the production of numerous hormones, such as melatonin, growth hormone, cortisol, and leptin and ghrelin.

Melatonin helps to promote sleep. Growth hormone supports bone and muscle development. Cortisol is part of your body’s stress response system. And leptin and ghrelin help to control your appetite. Your hormone levels will also fluctuate during different sleep stages, and the quality of your sleep may also affect daytime hormone production.

How Do Different Sleep Stages Impact Muscle Recovery?

The sleep stages are divided into two main categories – non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) and rapid eye movement (REM).

Non-REM Sleep

Non-rapid eye movement sleep has three stages. The first stage of non-REM sleep occurs right after you fall asleep and usually lasts for less than 10 minutes. The second stage lasts for about 30 to 60 minutes and your muscles start to become more relaxed. The third stage is deep sleep, which lasts about 20 to 40 minutes. During this deep sleep stage, crucial muscle-building growth hormone is typically secreted. Your body repairs and grows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens your immune system, as well.

REM Sleep

As you sleep, you typically progress through the three stages of non-REM sleep first before entering REM sleep, which is deeper than non-REM sleep. During REM sleep, most of your muscles are paralyzed in a condition known as atonia. Your brain paralyzes your muscles so you don’t act out your dreams since you do most of your dreaming during REM sleep. However, your respiratory and eye muscles stay active during REM sleep and your eyes and eyelids will flutter.

REM sleep is extremely important because it stimulates the areas of your brain that help with learning. REM sleep is also associated with increased production of proteins. Your non-REM and REM sleep cycle usually repeats three to four times each night.

Muscle soreness

What Happens If You Don’t Get Sufficient Sleep?

Without sufficient sleep, the production of growth hormone is impaired, which may lead to tense muscles and muscle soreness when you wake up. Growth hormone deficiency is also associated with loss of muscle mass and reduced exercise capacity.

lack of sleep may also lower your sensitivity to insulin, which can result in the muscle fuel source glycogen not being replenished adequately. Without a regular restoration of glycogen, athletes are less likely to be able to train as strenuously or as frequently as they could have otherwise. In general, sleep-deprived athletes may experience a reduction in cognitive and motor performance, reaction times, and mood state/emotional stability, according to Strength and Conditioning Journal. Long-term inadequate sleep can also lead to the development of chronic pain.

As you can see, adequate sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and growth. So, if you want to change your body composition, increase your muscle mass, and/or improve your athletic performance, you need to let your body rest, recover, and work its magic every night while you sleep.

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To help him come back from a hamstring tear earlier this year stronger and faster than he’s ever been, MuscleTech’s Chief Creative Director turned to physiotherapist Freddie Murray of London clinic Remedy, whose resumé includes elite athletes from a wide array of professional sports – plus Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.

Acting can be a surprisingly tough gig – especially if you insist on doing your own stunts like Henry Cavill does. To help him come back from a hamstring tear earlier this year stronger and faster than he’s ever been, MuscleTech’s Chief Creative Director turned to physiotherapist Freddie Murray of London clinic Remedy, whose resumé includes elite athletes from a wide array of professional sports – plus Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl.

Even by pro sports standards, the role of an actor is “quite a demanding job”, says Murray. Long days of shooting would force Cavill to get up at 4:30am to fit in his training. “But the thing about Henry is there’s no more dedicated professional than him,” says Murray. “I’ve never worked with anybody as diligent.” Cavill’s also “very intelligent” and understands the body – his body. He questions why he’s doing things. “That challenges us,” says Murray. “But it hopefully also makes us better.” And Cavill, who’s now working on a high-level strength and conditioning programme “like an elite athlete would”.

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According to The American Chiropractic Association, at any given time, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain. From time to time, I am a part of those 31 million sufferers of this debilitating issue. It can affect your work, your family and your life. Not to mention it’s kind of hard to perform exercises at the gym. Many things can cause lower back pain (strains, irritated joints, ruptured/bulging discs, nerves being pinched). As far as training goes, improper/non-existent warm-up and cooldown, improper form while performing exercises and not enough rest are the main culprits. Here are some stretches I do within my own warm-ups/cooldowns that help with relieving pain.

1. Scorpion Stretch

  • Lay flat on your stomach with your feet together, your arms extended outward to form a T, your palms facing down and your forehead on the ground.
  • Squeeze your right glute, bend your right knee and lift your right leg as high as you can.
  • Twist your hips and reach your right foot over to touch the ground on the outside of your left leg. Try to keep your arms and chest on the floor. Reverse the movement to come to the starting position, then repeat with the left leg for one rep.

2. Lying Knee Twist

  • Lay on your back with your legs extended straight out.
  • Bend your right knee up and cross it over the left side of your body.
  • Hold in a position that allows you to feel a gentle stretch through your back and buttocks muscles for 20 seconds.
  • Tighten your core muscles and rotate back to center.

3. Yoga Cat/Cow

  • Start this move by kneeling on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips.
  • Exhale and gently arch your spine. Inhale, tighten your core muscles and round your back, like a cat.
  • Move slowly between movements and hold in each position for 5 to 10 seconds.
Group of people performing a child pose

4. Child Pose

  • Position yourself on the floor, on your hands and knees with your knees just wider than hip distance apart.
  • Turn your toes in to touch and push your hips backward, bending your knees.
  • Once you reach a comfortable seated position, extend your arms fully forward and allow your head to fall forward into a relaxation position.
  • Hold this pose for 20 seconds and slowly return to your starting position. Repeat three times.

5. Samson Stretch

  • Interlace your thumbs and raise your arms overhead.
  • Engage your shoulders and shrug them up toward your ears.
  • Step forward into a lunge with the knee of the rear leg touching the floor.
  • Stretch your hands up toward the ceiling as you sink into the lunge and push your hips forward as your arms reach back behind you.
  • Stand up out of the lunge and repeat on the other side.
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Fasted Cardio and Breakfast ? ?

You’ve probably heard the term ‘fasted cardio’ used when cardiovascular exercise takes place without consuming any food since the previous evening. The idea is to use the body’s fat stores for energy, but a study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests this might not be the best approach.

Researchers at the University of Bath tested the blood glucose and muscle glycogen levels of 12 healthy male subjects after an hour of cycling. On one occasion, they ate a bowl of oatmeal prepared with milk 2 hours before the workout. On another, they didn’t eat anything.

Eating breakfast increased the rate carbohydrates were burned during exercise. Not just the carbs consumed at breakfast, but also carbs stored in muscle as glycogen. Having breakfast before exercise also increases the rate food consumed after training is digested and metabolized.

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Caffeine Quickens Triathlon Performance

If you’re someone with modest daily caffeine intake, the equivalent of a couple cups of coffee a day, a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests a supplementation strategy for potentially improving Olympic-distance triathlon performance.

Fourteen male and 12 female competitors supplemented with 6 mg of encapsulated caffeine per kg of body weight 45 to 60 minutes before starting the event. Compared to times without supplementing, caffeine helped subjects finish the swimming stage an average of 3.7% faster and shave 1.3% off their total race time.


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NitroTech Chocolate Protein Brownie Recipe

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If you’re a student of bodybuilding, you know that the concept of not just overload, but progressive overload, is critical to long-term success. That is, it isn’t enough to increase the demands on your muscle fibers. As they adapt by growing bigger and stronger, you have to continue increasing the demands made on them.

Still, there’s a looming setback none of us can escape called diminishing returns. Big-time gains you initially achieved when you first started a program become harder and harder to come by as the weeks and months roll by. Eventually, we all reach a plateau, a point in which further gains just won’t occur – no matter how hard we try.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that’s when it’s best to make larger-scale changes in your training: substituting out exercises, changing set-and-rep schemes, pursuing slightly different goals, adjusting rest times, among other factors. If you’ve reached a plateau in your own training, it’s safe to assume it’s time to stop doing what’s no longer working. (Notably, a poor diet can also moderate muscle and strength gains, so if you haven’t addressed that variable you’re only making the climb even steeper.)

There are innumerable ways to alter the training stimulus, and some have proven better than others at achieving particular goals, be it a focus on maximizing strength, muscle size, endurance, or even speeding fat loss. An easy one I use occasionally is to simply take my current routine and then alter just one aspect of each exercise.

That single change can relate to a repositioning of body, foot or hand placement, altering grip width or stance, pushing a heavier or lighter load to knock you out of your current rep range, substituting one kind of equipment for another, like cables instead of dumbbells, or simply changing a motion’s primary pathway. So, for instance, on leg day I could do a leg press with my feet on the upper edge of the sled rather than at the bottom. (That alone shifts some of the focus away from the quads and onto the glutes and hamstrings by decreasing the range of motion around the knees and increasing it around the hips.)

Small changes work the target musculature slightly differently by modifying the muscle-recruitment pattern. String a whole workout of them together and you create an opportunity to achieve a more significant (and even new) training stimulus. It also forces you to keep your mind focused, thinking about what you’re doing and what you want to achieve, and the different ways to make such small changes. So let’s go through a sample leg workout and see how this strategy can be implemented. Keep some of these ideas in mind when training other body parts, which can easily be refreshed with a similar approach.



Barbell Back Squats to Paused Back Squats

Make This Change: In a power rack, allow the bar to momentarily settle on the safety bars, which are set to a point just above the bottom of the range of motion.

One way to tackle what’s oftentimes the weakest point in the range of motion, which for the squat is near the bottom of the movement, is a strategy making you work harder over the lower third of the ROM. Clearly, bouncing out of the hole does just the opposite by making it easier. But you may not know about the assist you get from what’s called the stretch reflex.

As you descend in the squat (or any exercise) in a controlled fashion, elastic energy builds up much like a spring does when compressed, which assists you in the initial stages as you reverse direction. While normally you make a smooth transition from the eccentric to concentric phases with the assist from the stretch reflex, instead stop the movement at the bottom of the rep by allowing the bar to settle on the safeties for about two seconds. Doing so dissipates all that built-up energy. You’ve now made the movement harder to get the bar moving! Devote a few weeks to increasing your strength at this point in the ROM and you’ll ultimately see your squat strength explode. (Initially, realize that making a movement harder means you’ll have to use less weight or complete fewer reps, but when you go back to the old style you’ll really see the improvements.)

Training Tip: Do these in conjunction with regular squats, not in place of. Remember, let the barbell settle on the safeties to release the energy, but keep your body tight.


Leg Press


Make This Change: Shift your feet from a position high on the sled to low (or the opposite, if that’s normally how you do them).

Leg presses are an effective exercise to work the glutes, hamstrings and quads. As a machine movement, you can push yourself harder without having to balance the load, allowing you to work your muscle to failure or beyond more safely.

When you re-situate your feet lower on the sled, you effectively limit the range of motion around the hip joint while increasing it around the knees. That shifts some of the emphasis from the hamstrings and glutes to the quads (and vice versa if you go the other way). This allows you to selectively target a weakness or simply insert variety into your routine.


Training Tip: Foot position can also be adjusted from a close stance to wide, which alternatively emphasizes the outer and inner quads, respectively.




Standing Stationary Dumbbell Lunges to Bulgarian Split Squats

Make This Change: Using a split stance, instead of placing your rear leg on the ground, elevate it onto a bench.

When your rear leg is elevated onto a bench, more of the stress is placed on the forward leg. That makes the Bulgarian version a much more challenging movement. Descend to a point in which your rear knee is just above the floor. Ideally, your forward knee should not pass a plane coming directly up from your toes as it places more force on the knee joint.

Training Tip: Doing the movement on the Smith machine helps with balance. However, here you must ensure your body is perfectly aligned, so the motion is restricted to the vertical plane. The Smith machine is unforgiving and will force you to round your back if you’re in the wrong position relative to the bar.


Leg Extensions


Make This Change: Rather than position your feet straightforward, slightly rotate them inward or outward.

This single-joint exercise focuses only on the quads, making it a better choice for the end of your leg workout. While it’s impossible to completely isolate any individual part of the quads, you can shift the emphasis to the inner quad muscle (vastus medialis, aka teardrop) by rotating your feet outward. By turning your feet in, you better emphasize the outer quad sweep (vastus lateralis). Don’t turn your feet so extreme that you feel discomfort in your ankles or knees.

Training Tip: To be sure, it’s not just about turning your feet but rather the entire leg, beginning at the hip joint. Adjust the foot pad to a position from which it is comfortable to extend your knees.


Lying Leg Curls to Romanian Deadlifts


Make This Change: Switch from a knee-based single-joint hamstring movement to a hip-based one.

We admit, there’s more than a single change going on here, but for simplicity it boils down to a single-joint exercise that targets the hammies from the knees to one that hits them from the hips. That’s important because most likely you’re doing far more hamstring exercises that involve knee flexion (the opposite of knee extension, as seen in the leg extension above), so you may be leaving rear-thigh muscle growth on the table. To maximize overall hamstring growth, hit them from both the knee and hip joints!

Training Tip: RDLs, in which you bend over at the hips and push your hips rearward, are distinct from conventional deadlifts, a multi-joint exercise in which you also drop into a half-squat position and allow the bar to settle on the floor between reps. Know the difference: Your biggest danger here is implementing elements of each movement into a hybrid of sorts, a mistake all too many trainees make.


Seated Calf Raises to Standing Calf Raises


Make This Change: Instead of doing a bent-knee calf movement, focus on a straight-legged one.

If you know a thing or two about human anatomy, you know why this is important. In fact, the knotty gastrocnemius, one of the two main calf muscles, remains mostly relaxed during bent-knee calf exercises because it can’t fully stretch. You get that full gastroc stretch when your legs are straightened. That enables it to contract much more strongly. So, if you’re looking to build up that diamond in your calves, rely on standing leg raises, donkey raises, and similar movements, which target both major calf muscles, not just one.

Training Tip: Because of the higher density of slow-twitch muscle fibers in the calves – the ones less responsive to growing larger and stronger – consider a variety of rep and intensity schemes to trigger growth.
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The One-Change Leg Workout

Exercise Sets1 Reps2
Barbell Back Squats 3 6 to 8
Paused Back Squats 3 8 to 10
Leg Press (feet low) 3 8 to 10
Bulgarian Split Squats 3 10
Leg Extensions (toes in/out)3 4 10 to 12
Romanian Deadlifts 4 6 to 8, 6 to 8, 10 to 12, 10 to 12
Standing Calf Raises 4 12, 12, 20, 20

1Doesn’t include warm-up sets. Do as many as you need but never take warm-ups to muscle failure.
2Choose a resistance such that you approach or reach muscle failure by the target rep.
3Two sets each way.

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Unlock Shoulder Growth With This One Move

Written by Roger Lockridge

When you think of a muscle group, certain exercises quickly come to mind. For chest, it’s the barbell bench press. For legs, it’s the squat. And you can bet your last dollar that someone with a big back is no stranger to heavy barbell rows.

One classic move that used to be associated with big shoulders—but that has taken a back seat to more convenient and easier machine versions—is the standing barbell push press.

The push press used to be as commonplace as curls. Increasingly, however, pressing machines and dumbbell versions have replaced it. Nowadays, the only barbell push press you see is the momentum-driven version popularized by CrossFit.

The reason the classic, strict push press has fallen out of favor among bodybuilders might be because this challenging lift has humbled many lifters over the years. But, as any diehard iron-hoister knows, challenges are worth conquering—especially when the conquest leads to great results.

Why You Should Use It

If you’re unfamiliar with the push press, I highly recommend adding it to your training plan. It is primarily a shoulder exercise, but it can incorporate muscles from the rest of the body. The legs have to provide a solid foundation, your core and back must be able to support the load as you try to press it, and your triceps are involved when you lock out at the top of the exercise.

Unlock Shoulder Growth with This One Move

By recruiting so many muscles at once, the barbell push press is a shoulder exercise you can add a lot of weight to, and lifting heavy weight leads to heavy mass. If you’re a bodybuilder looking to pack on serious shoulder mass, this exercise is a must for you. Lifting a single heavy object with both shoulders means you can work with more overall volume, and you’ll definitely see improvement in your upper arms as well.

If you’re a powerlifter or someone who wants to add plates to their bench, you should also consider adding the push press to your routine. Improving your overhead strength and lockout power will translate to greater strength and power under the bar.

How To Perform A Push Press

Here are a few pointers to help you get the most out of this exercise.

First, find a grip that you’re comfortable with as you’re warming up and before you load up a ton of weight. Start with your hands in the same position as you would when benching. Gradually adjust your hands in until you find the grip that works best for you.

A word of caution: Resist the temptation to use the so-called suicide grip, where your thumbs aren’t wrapped around the bar. Why “suicide?” Because if the bar slips as you’re pressing it overhead, you could be seriously injured.

Once you’ve settled on your preferred grip, take whatever precautions are necessary to ensure the rest of your body can assist with the lift safely. If you have back issues, wear a weight belt. Use wrist wraps and elbow sleeves if you have concerns about those joints. Start with a weight you know you can handle before increasing it, and always pay attention to how your body feels during heavy lifts.

If power is the priority on this exercise, start the press by lowering your hips slightly, as you would while doing a partial squat. As you return to the standing position, generate as much force as you can through your legs to help you start the overhead press. Use your shoulders and triceps to help you lock the weight out.

If it’s size and mass you’re after, do your best to use only your shoulders to start the press. Push up as high as you can until you feel the triceps take over. Don’t lock out your elbows because doing so would release tension from your delts.

Is Pressing Behind The Head Safe?

The push press normally starts with the bar in front of you at shoulder height. Some lifters prefer to start with the bar on the back of their shoulders in the same position as the back squat because it incorporates more of the side and rear delts. This can be a dangerous position, however, if you lack the shoulder mobility to control the weight, or if you’ve dealt with shoulder weakness or injury in the past.

If your shoulders are healthy and you feel the behind the neck position will benefit you, then go for it. But if you have shoulder issues, it’s much safer to stick to the front version. Remember, you’re lifting very heavy weight over your head, so if you are not 100 percent confident your body can handle this variation, don’t do it!

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Hydration is especially important to middle aged and older athletes how often have a blunted perception of thirst. Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles.

The benefits of exercise extend beyond physical attributes to include brain health. But these cognitive benefits can be suppressed by dehydration, according to research presented at the American Physiological Society’s annual meeting in San Diego, California.

 To test the cognitive impact of dehydration, researched determined the hydration status of 55 year old recreational cyclists before and after a riding event in 78 to 86 degree heat. 

Subjects who were adequately hydrated completed in a timed thinking skills test much faster after completing the race. The dehydrated subjects didn’t show much improvement at all. 

To ward off dehydration, Dr. Seifter says that healthy people should get 30 to 50 ounces of water per day (about 1 to 1.5 liters), but not all at once. “The kidneys lose some ability to eliminate water as we age. It’s important to stay hydrated gradually, throughout the day,” he says. He recommends drinking water or juices and eating water-rich foods such as salads, fruit, and applesauce. 

“An easy way to stay hydrated gradually is by getting fluids at meals, with medicine, and socially,” says Dr. Seifter. It’s possible to take in too much water if you have certain health conditions, such as thyroid disease or kidney, liver, or heart problems, or if you’re taking medications that make you retain water, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opiate pain medications, and some antidepressants. Dr. Seifter says for that reason, you should check with your doctor to be sure you’re getting the right amount.

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Are You an Ectomorph, Mesomorph or Endomorph?

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