Archive for December, 2016

What a crappy day today in NYC.  It was around 38 degrees and raining out when I woke up and in the afternoon it was just clowdy out and cold.

Also, the bad part of winter hasn’t really started yet.  I better not get used to these 38 degree days because its going to get a lot colder out in the next several weeks.

Most New York’ers like to complain about the winter and everyone says they are looking to move down South, but I actually try to embrace the winter.

Winter is good for you.

Most importantly, the winter gives you something to look forward to.  I appreciate having different seasons in NYC and experiencing different seasons makes nice weather just that much more enjoyable.

I remember several years ago traveling to California to visit a friend in March and it was 75 degrees out and sunny in Santa Monica.  Although it felt great compared to the freezing cold weather I had just left in Brooklyn, I noticed something weird.

The people were not excited.

When you are used to beautiful weather all year-round, your mood doesn’t change much.

When the first 70 degree days of the year appear in May and June in NYC, almost everyone goes outside.  The streets are packed and the mood is extremely upbeat.  It almost makes this crappy weather tolerable.

If I lived in Aruba year-round, I wouldn’t appreciate having a nice day.

Cold weather is also good for bodybuilding.  Since I know that I dont have to take my shirt off for several months, it is the perfect time to lift heavy and eat extra calories.

As the weather improves I will start to cut down, but now that it is 39 degrees out and raining, I am going to bench press heavy weights and eat steaks all day long.

Crappy weather is good.

It is a good time to lift heavy

It is a good time to study for exams

It is a good time to work on a side business

Sometimes you need some bad to appreciate the good and I am ready to embrace the horrible weather that is coming.

-John

Most bodybuilders focus on the main body parts when they are working out, such as the chest, quads, back and calves.  But there some smaller body parts that are often overlooked and are very important.

Two muscles that come to mind immediately are the triceps and the hamstrings.

If during your bulk up you injure your triceps, your presses will be in trouble.  That goes for the bench press, shoulder press, dumbbell press, military press or any other press that involves using your upper body.

The triceps are not necessarily a small muscle group, they are larger than the biceps, but their importance can sometimes be overlooked.

As I am getting close to hitting my winter goals of 315 for the bench press and 100’s for dumbbell shoulders, I noticed that my triceps are really starting to get sore.

Last week I worked out with 75’s for shoulder dumbbell, which at this point should be an easy weight, and I noticed something odd.   Although the weights were coming off my shoulders without much of an effort, I was starting to stall on the lockouts.  My shoulders have obviously been getting a lot stronger, but unfortunately, my triceps have not been able to keep pace.

When I am lifting heavy,especially when I am power lifting, I usually don’t train my triceps separately.  I know that most bodybuilders give their triceps individual attention but I actually try to rest them as much as possible.  Between heavy bench press and heavy dumbbells for shoulders, my triceps are already getting a lot of work in.

Another overlooked muscle group are the hamstrings.  Most bodybuilders spend a lot of time on their quads and calves, but in reality, it is the hamstrings that provide most of your speed.

I ran 3 years of High School track and one year in College, and whenever I started a new sprinting season, I noticed that my hamstrings would start to get sore.

Similar to the triceps, if you ever strain or injure your hamstrings, forget about running fast.  It is close to impossible.

Right now I have 8 more weeks of heavy lifting before I start to diet down for the summer.  I am not going to lose the body weight right away, but in late February I will start tightening up my diet and reintroduce the cardio workouts.

I believe I should be able to reach my winter lifting goals soon, and before you know it, Spring will be here and time to start getting cut again for the summer.

-John

I know that my blog is called “Workout and Travel”, but all that I have been writing about recently is working out.

In my defense; it’s freezing cold out in NYC and my wife is 5 months pregnant.

We can do some traveling of course, but to be honest, we have started making the slow transition to becoming parents and we don’t plan on traveling much until after child-birth.  We are also in the process of moving to larger apartment and purchasing a new car soon.

Getting ready for a child is a lot of work and we don’t plan on going anywhere major next year until the summer.

My life was very different before I got married.  Before I got married I was traveling almost once a month and I was starting to visit Europe on a regular basis.  To my surprise, some of the places that I visited were actually very “kid friendly”.

Here is my list of vacations that are surprisingly appropriate for children:

  1. Kentucky Derby:  I told my wife I want to take our future kids to the Kentucky Derby and dress them up.  The infield isn’t great for kids, but the grandstand is fine.  Kids like watching the horses.
  2. Oktoberfest, Germany:  I actually have no idea what I am talking about because I have never been, but two of my friends swear to me that it is surprisingly kid-friendly.
  3. Mardi Gras: People think that I am crazy when I say this, but if you stay away from Bourbon Street, the Mardi Gras parades are actually really cool.  I plan on taking my kids there eventually.

Places that are not kid friendly:

  1. St Patrick’s Day Everywhere.  Dublin, Philadelphia, NYC, Boston. etc. I would not recommend bringing your children to any of them.  Too crowded, too much drinking and too much fighting.
  2. Key West, Florida: One of my favorite cities, but not much going on for kids.
  3. Preakness Stakes: Preakness is more of a drinking party than the Kentucky Derby.  I don’t believe I would take them there.
  4. Las Vegas:  Leave the kids at home for this one.

Any suggestions?

There is a big difference between being in great shape and looking great.  Don’t get me wrong, I have always said that if you train like a freak and eat like a freak, you will look like a freak. But being in good shape does not necessarily mean you will look good.

What do we consider good shape?

  • 400lb bench press?
  • 4:30 mile?
  • 35 Chinups?
  • Top crossfit competitor?

You can usually tell how someone lives their life just by looking at them:

  • You can tell if someone has smoked cigarettes for 30 years
  • You can tell if someone is a drug abuser
  • You can tell if someone is an iron worker

 

Usually, your “look” will mirror how you live

But bodybuilding is a weird sport.  You can’t just bench press 400lb’s and expect to look great, although benching 400 lb’s will help.

Several years ago I tried to focus only on performance and less on my diet.  I figured that if I can bench press 315 lbs at a low body weight of 165, my chest would look good and I could ignore everything else.

I also made the mistake of thinking that if I could run 3 miles at 6 minutes per mile instead of 7 minutes per mile, I would also look better.

It didn’t work.

If you look at all of the best athletes in the world, they usually have a little bit of body fat.  Whether they are the best running back in football, or leading the league in home runs, they usually aren’t going to have a  “bodybuilders” 6-pack . To reach peak performance in most sports you will need some extra calories.

Although there are some sports that may lead to a better physique, such as soccer or sprinting, there is a dirty little secret that most bodybuilders don’t like to reveal.

“IF YOU AREN’T WILLING TO ACCEPT THE PAIN AND DIET LIKE A FREAK, YOU WILL NEVER GET YOUR BODY FAT LOW ENOUGH.”

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So remember, performance isn’t everything.  Schwarzenegger wasn’t the strongest and he definitely wasn’t the fastest, but he is most likely the greatest body builder of all time.

Focus on a combination of diet, cardio and weight lifting and determine the best routines that work for your body.

-John

Plateau’s are a major problem in bodybuilding as well in many other sports.  Most people will experience rapid gains when they start a new training activity but eventually those gains will come to an end.

They might not stop completely, but they will at least slow down.

Going from a 95lb bench press to a 200lb bench press is pretty easy and can be accomplished within a year, but going from 350 to 400 can take 10 years.

Running a 7 minute mile is easy after several weeks of training, while running a 5 minute mile takes a whole different level of committment.

This season I started my bulk up season in Mid September and for the last couple weeks I have been increasing my strength rapidly.

My goals this season are a 315 lb bench press and 100 lb dumbbells for shoulders.  As of today, I am up to around 300 lb bench press and 95lb dumbbells for shoulders.

Although I am getting close to my winter goals, the problem is that my gains are starting to slow down.  Any gains from now on are going to be a lot tougher.

So how do I keep gaining in strength?

  1. Increase the calories: I need to gain weight and I need to take in extra protein.  It’s close to impossible to get stronger if you aren’t taking in enough calories.
  2. Less sets/More intensity:  Often I see beginners starting to add extra sets to blast through a plateau, but in reality, they should be doing the opposite. Cut down on the sets and focus on taking your lifts more serious.
  3. Improve your speed: Many people don’t realize the importance of speed.  If you want to press heavy weights, you need to lift it fast.  Trust me, if you think you are going to deadlift 500-600 lbs slowly, you are joking.  Bench presses need to blast off your chest, dumbbells need to blast off your shoulders and barbells need to blast off the floor to deadlift it.

The other problem I am having, is that my body is not used to the heavy weights yet.  My muscles are starting to quickly adapt, but my joints and ligaments are starting to hurt.

It takes months and even years of consistent hard lifting to get really strong and if you think you can do it fast you are kidding yourself.

But if you work out consistent, lift heavy and eat right, anyone can build up a solid physique.

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-John

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To be fair, I have lived in Brooklyn for  over 34 years and only 2 years in Staten Island. My only break was for 6 months in Albany, NY during college and In my early 30’s I spent 2 years in the Rockaways, Queens.

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(South Beach, Staten Island)

Although I have lived in 4 different area’s, I am officially “FROM” Brooklyn. Not be confused with the tens of thousands of people who moved to Brooklyn in the last 10 years.  I was born in Brooklyn, went to public school in Brooklyn and I got married in Brooklyn.

I am not a transplant, I am FROM Brooklyn.

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Although I’ve never hung out much in Staten Island prior to moving here, I’ve been to the Island hundreds of times growing up, because one side of my family lives on the South shore.  My experience growing up was several weekends a year to visit relatives, many trips to the Staten Island mall and in my mid 20’s I went to graduate school in Staten Island (St John’s)

So let’s get down to the comparison:

People:  Edge Brooklyn.  In my opinion, the people are a lot more humble and approachable in Brooklyn (except the hipsters).  Brooklyn has a much higher density and diverse population, so growing up in Brooklyn you are forced to interact with other people.  Some people in Staten Island are very nice, but overall they seem to be very wary of strangers.  Many people moved to Staten Island to  “get away” from the rest of the city, and it’s no surprise that Staten Island has the highest gun ownership in NYC.

Commute: Staten Island.  The people in Staten Island complain about the commute, but they don’t know how good they have it.  The traffic in Brooklyn is BAD and getting worse.  Driving downtown or anywhere near the Barclays center is a nightmare, Coney Island is getting worse and parking across the borough is becoming nonexistent.  If you work in Staten Island you can park almost anywhere., meanwhile,  Brooklyn is slowly turning into Manhattan.

In Staten Island, the only time it gets bad is if you live out on the South Shore and have to commute to Brooklyn or Manhattan.  But with that being said, the train to the ferry is the best deal in all of NYC.  My wife picks me up and drives me to the ferry for work, so I commute to Manhattan everyday for FREE (Minus gas, insurance and repairs)

Gyms:  Staten Island has a huge gym culture and so does parts of Brooklyn.  I would probably call this a tie.  Staten Island on average has more bodybuilders and power lifters, but Brooklyn has more gyms.  In Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where I grow up, they have 5 or 6 gyms in walking distance from my house, in Staten Island most people have to drive.

Parks: The parks in Staten Island parks are extremely underrated.  Clove lake park, Silver lake park and South Beach are all great areas.  Further out, Great Kills Park and Wolfe’s Pond Park are also great and so are the trails on the green belt and Todt Hill.  Brooklyn has Prospect Park and Coney Island of course, but again, parking can be difficult and they have become super touristy.  To be fair, Prospect Park is my favorite park in NYC, but Staten Island has many more options.  Staten Island Wins.

Bars/Restaurants: Staten island has really good pizza/Italian food, but the borough loses on every other category.  For bars, Staten Island has maybe 10-15 decent places, but they mostly attract a neighborhood crowd.  In Brooklyn you get the neighborhood crowd and also a little bit of a tourist crowd.  Brooklyn has more business turnover, so there are always new places to try.   Brooklyn wins food and bars by a long shot.

Price: Staten Island is generally less expensive, but historically the homes have not appreciated  in value like they have in Brooklyn.  This is a tie. Prices are lower, but if you buy something, it doesn’t go up as much (historically).

Overall winner: It’s hard to say, since they are both very different.  If you are just moving to NYC from out-of-state and you end up in Staten Island, you will probably be disappointed.  Staten Island doesn’t have the culture or diversity as the other boroughs and its generally more of a suburb than an urban city.

But if you are already familiar with NYC and you know the places that you like, Staten Island can work for you.  For myself, my commute to Manhattan is a breeze compared to when I lived in Brooklyn and it’s also a 10-minute bus ride to my parents house in Bay Ridge. I  also found a gym that I like and there are several parks that I use for my cardio.

So overall, if you are between ages 18-28, I would not recommend living in  Staten Island.  Brooklyn has more bars, restaurants, diversity and population.  If you are more established or raising a family, I would consider giving Staten Island a chance.  I’m not leaving.

-John

This year, I am bulking up very quickly.  I went from a low of 149 lbs in July and now I am  already into the mid 170’s.

In the last week, I am finally starting to look a little bit chubby and I plan on slowing down after New Years.

Since I was super skinny only 5 months ago and now I consider myself fat, I can describe some of the obvious body changes between being super ripped and slightly stocky.

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(Getting Stocky but extra calve work is starting to show)

  • I can’t stay awake.  Around 9:30-10pm at night I am just exhausted.  When I was really cut in the summer, I would stay up to midnight without a problem.
  • My strength is tremendous.  My bench press is up 30-40lbs already and I am up almost 20lbs in shoulder dumbbells.  The weights are feeling really light and I have been going up consistently every week.
  • My feet have been killing me.  I am going to have to purchase new sneakers this weekend as my feet as constantly hurting and swollen.
  • I am out of breath.  My breathing is noticeable labored.  That is a big reason why I believe you should continue cardio workouts throughout your entire life.
  • My appetite never ends.  It takes a ton of extra calories to fulfill my appetite.
  • It is easier to concentrate.  At work and in my private life, I feel like I have been able to concentrate a lot clearer.
  • I am in a better mood.  Low-calorie and low-carb diets often put me in a horrible mood.
  • My wife said I look better.  Interesting.  I definitely fill out my shirts a lot better, but my cuts are nonexistent.

Overall, I almost feel like a different person since I gained weight.  Different strength, different emotions, different attitude and different sleep schedule.

Both good and bad, I am an enjoying the differences that my body is going through during this years bulk up and hopefully I reach my strength gains soon.

I know this article is going to cause a decent amount of “hate”, but I DO NOT recommend using squats unless you are one of the following people:

  • Under 30 years old
  • Training for competitive sports, ex Football, track and field, skiing, etc.

For everyone else, you should probably just skip it.

So, why do I recommend that people avoid squatting?

Because 90% of people are using the wrong form.  When you use the wrong form during squatting you are either going to A) Get hurt or B) Not grow

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that squats don’t work.  They are probably one of the top 3 most effective exercises for putting on overall mass, but they are also the most dangerous.

Even squatting with only ONE spotter is dangerous.  I have competed in around 10-15 power lifting competitions in my life and when I start going heavy in squats I prefer to have 3 spotters instead of 1.

But if you aren’t an athlete and  you just want to add some size to your legs, I wouldn’t even waste my time with squats.  Squatting is too technical; from the placement of the bar, the leg width and most importantly, the execution.

Instead of squatting, you should focus on heavy leg presses.

With the leg press you can load the machine as heavy as you want and more importantly, you don’t really need a spotter.

Is the leg press as good as squats? No.  But since you are most likely not squatting correctly anyway, it might be better for you.

The form in the leg press is easy to learn, just go all the way down and all the way up, without bouncing off the bottom.  Surprisingly, I even see a lot of people using the leg press incorrectly and not going down low enough.

For myself personally, I gave up on squatting.  Every time I would start working up to a heavy weight I would either lose some of my training spotters or I would hurt my back and knees.  It’s a great exercise for adding mass and strength, but now that I am not competing, I just stick to the leg press.

My current routine for legs is 5 sets of leg press, 2 sets of leg extensions and 6 set of calves (twice a week).

That’s all I need to add size in my legs.  I’ve been taking my legs really serious this year, especially the calves, and I want to put on some serious size for next summer.

Remember, when you wear shorts the calves are usually the only part of your legs that are visible, so you really need to destroy them.

Check out my latest book on amazon.com!

-John

There is nothing, and I repeat, nothing more annoying than someone hogging the bench press.  The only thing even close in annoyance, would be someone hogging the squat rack.

Why is it so annoying?

Because you really can’t do any other exercise for chest.  Yes, you can use dumbbells, but it is still not the same.  The absolute best way to build a solid chest, is by lifting heavy weights on the bench press.

It’s also annoying because some gyms, like mine,  only have 2 bench presses.

If I was to open my own gym, I would have a minimum of 4 bench presses.  Anything less and you always have people waiting around to lift.

In most gyms, you can easily remove a ton of useless machines to fit in some extra bench presses.

Personally, I don’t someone spending a lot of time on the bench press, just as long as you ARE WORKING OUT HARD.

The gym I have been going to in Manhattan does not have many serious lifters and it is starting to get frustrating waiting for people to finish using the bench press.

TAKE IT SERIOUS!

Lift heavy, lift fast and get on with your day.  Nobody cares how many sets you do, especially if you are using light weights and it’s not going to help your physique.  You need to make an effort!

Today I showed up at the gym all psyched up to bench press and it took me 25 minutes to finally get on the bench press.  A guy taller than me, but a lot weaker, was doing set after set with really light weights.

That type of training isn’t going to do anything.  You aren’t going to get stronger, you aren’t going to get cut unless you change your diet and if anything, you are probably going to get weaker.

Finally I couldn’t wait any longer and I asked if I could cut in with someone.  After only 20 minutes, I warmed up with 2 sets of 135 lbs, one with 225lb and then a work set of 305.  After that, I was done with bench press.

Not only did this guy complete 6 sets before I asked to cut in, but he kept lifting after I was done!  He must have completed at least 10 sets with weights that he should be curling for biceps and not bench pressing.

So that is my rant for the week.  If you are going to use the free weights, stop wasting everyone’s time and get down to business.  A couple HARD sets and that’s it.

This isn’t endurance training.  If you want to have big muscles, you need to lift heavy.

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(Bulking up)

-John

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