Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The ULTIMATE Beach Body Exercise...

The ULTIMATE Beach Body Exercise...Back-Off-Bench Dumbell
Press to hit your chest, arms and abs in one shot!
By Nick Nilsson

The bench press...a key movement for your chest that, ironically enough for some people, doesn't even work their chest all that well!

THIS version of the dumbell bench press is going to force continuous tension on your chest while placing TREMENDOUS tension on the abdominals as well... (you'll see why in a second).

The Back-Off-Bench Press is a unique movement for the chest that LOOKS like a standard dumbell bench press...until you look a little closer. You'll be doing the bench press with your upper back hanging off the end of the bench!

And while it is true that you'll be forced to use less weight than in a normal bench press, I found this technique basically FORCED the pecs into continuous tension. I got a GREAT pump using lighter dumbells and hit the core at the same time (and especially the rectus abdominus six-pack muscles).
This exercise is really the ideal beach body exercise...chest, abs and arms all in one shot :)

Don't let that "beach body" thing fool you, though...this exercise is VERY tough and actually very valuable. It's definitely one I'm going to be including in my training more often.

To perform this one, you'll need a few things for the set up...dumbells (they don't need to be heavy), a bench and something to brace your legs under. I used a power rack with a loaded barbell set on the rails to brace my legs on and that worked perfectly (Smith machine will actually be useful for this). You can also use just about anything else you can think of that you can brace your legs under...even a partner pushing down on your knees, if that's what you've got.

Here's what my setup looked like...a flat bench inside the power rack with the barbell set in the rails at about hip height. You'll need to adjust the bench position under the bar, depending on how it feels when you're doing the exercise. I've got the bar basically over the midpoint of the bench.

The first time you do this, start with LIGHT weight until you get a feel for the exercise. If you're using the rack setup, just set a couple of plates on the bar to keep it from coming up.

This is one of the ONLY times I'll ever recommend you set your feet on a bench for bench pressing...in a normal press, you need the stability of your feet on the floor. In this version, your knees will be locked under the bar, giving you stability there.

Grab your dumbells. Stand up and set the dumbells on end on your thighs. Sit down on the bench then shuffle yourself forward so that your hips are a bit closer under the bar. Again, you'll need to experiment to get the position right for you.

Raise one leg up and brace it under the bar. Then get the other leg up. If you've got a partner to hand the weights to you, this will be even easier - just get into position on the bench first, then have them hand the dumbells to you.

Lay back on the bench and feel for where your upper back is. With the moderate weights I'm using, I had the end of the bench right in the center of my shoulder blades. Make sure you have at least that much of your upper back off the end of the bench.

Now bring the dumbells back and into position for the bench press. THIS is where your abs are going to fire HARD and stay contracted HARD for the duration of the exercise. It's also the reason why the pecs are going to be contracted continuously...your back has nothing to brace on, therefore even at lockout, the pecs are forced to contract to stabilize and hold the weight. Taking the back support away places HUGE demands on the entire upper body.

Now press up. Do this exercise at a moderate pace, under control the whole way. You're using lighter weight so go for FEEL with this one and squeeze the pecs at the top. Your abs will contract no matter what you do here :)

The first time you do this, the weight will be something you'll need to adjust. Go up to about half of what you'd normally use for a heavy set of dumbell bench press and do 6 to 8 reps with it. When you're done, you can either just drop the weights to the floor (which most gyms don't like), or move them back up onto your thighs then use your knee-bracing to do a sit-up. Then just stand up and set your dumbells down and you're good.

That's the exercise!

Like I said, try it with a lighter weight the first time you do it but definitely give it a try if you've got the equipment to do it - I was very impressed with how strongly this targets the pecs and the core.

It's a nice alternative when maybe your joints are a bit beat up for doing heavier benching and you still want a strong pec workout or if you want to get the incredible abdominal work you'll get from it without the repeated spinal flexion of a crunch or sit-up movement.

RECOMMENDED: to best understand how to perform and get the most out of this exercise, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the pictures and video of it in action...click the following link now to see it!

Click to the video


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Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 20 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including "Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass", "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss," "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of," "Gluteus to the Maximus - Build a Bigger Butt NOW!" and "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of", all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick's 30-day "Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST," available at this CLICK

Monday, June 27, 2011

How To Do a Chin-Up If You've NEVER Done One Before

How To Do a Chin-Up If You've NEVER Done One Before
By Nick Nilsson

Performing your very first bodyweight chin-up is a GREAT goal to have.
But it's a goal that not many know exactly how to achieve. Learn
how to build the strength to do your first chin-up here!

If you've never done a full bodyweight chin-up before, don't worry! With the right training, just about anybody can work themselves up to performing one or more full range chin-ups. In this article, you'll learn all the steps and progressions you need in order get from zero to one!

And it's NOT going to require pull-downs OR self-spotting machines like the Gravitron (I'm not going to take ANY resistance away from you!).

So first off, we need to distinguish between a chin-up and a pull-up. A pull-up is generally done with a wider grip and an overhand grip on the bar. This is actually a HARDER exercise to perform than the chin-up.

The chin-up is done with a close grip on the bar (hands only a few inches apart) with an underhand grip.

The reasons the wide-grip pull-up is harder is that first, the biceps are not able to contribute as much to the movement because your arms are directly out to the sides. Second, the lats (the muscles of the back) don't have as good of leverage with the arms out in this position.

The chin-up places the lats in a better position to contract and allows the biceps to contribute more to the movement.

And this is what we want, because to do that first chin-up, you're going to need ALL the muscle power you can get!

The first consideration to look at when it comes to chinning is your overall bodyweight. If you're carrying a lot of extra weight, it's going to make it that much harder to perform a chin-up because obviously, you're going to have to lift that extra bodyweight up, too!

Dropping extra weight is definitely going to help you achieve your goal of that first chin-up, though it's not 100% necessary...it just means you'll have to build up that much more strength in order to perform the exercise.

When it comes to building up strength for that first chin-up, I prefer to do it over the long-term rather than trying to get there all at once.

The only thing I ask is that you NOT try and perform a full chin-up until I tell you to. That's it. I don't want you trying and failing and getting discouraged. So take it step-by-step, build the foundations...I'll let you know when you're ready.


So the first step you're going to take is one that is very simple and straightforward...you're going to grab the bar and just HANG from it for as long as you can. That's it!

The reason? I find that a lot of people simply don't have the necessary GRIP strength to perform a full chin-up and building it up with a very specific drill like this helps tremendously.

So at the beginning of every single workout and at the end of every single workout you do (NOT just back workouts but EVERY workout), you'll stand under the chin-up bar, reach up and grab it with a close, underhand grip, then just hang at arms-length for as long as you can until your grip gives out.

This is going to help you get used to supporting your entire bodyweight on the chin-up bar and it's going to build up that very specific grip strength we're looking for.

Repeat this drill until you're able to hang from the chin-up bar for at least 30 seconds before your grip gives out. Once you can do that, you're ready for Phase 2.

** One tip I find very useful is to cross your feet when doing any chin or pull-up related exercise. For some reason, this locks your body into the position more and gives you more pulling strength.


The second phase of training is going to be partial reps in the bottom range of motion of the chin-up.

Now that your grip strength is built up enough that you can support yourself on the bar for a good length of time, we're going to start adding in movement.

Assume your hanging position. Now pull yourself up 2 or 3 inches and hold for several seconds. Lower yourself back to the hanging position then immediately pull back up a few inches again and hold for several seconds.

Repeat this until either your grip gives out or you can no longer pull yourself up those few inches. Remember, it's a VERY short range of motion but we want to hold that position for at least a few seconds to get target stress on the muscles.

You'll do one set at the beginning of every workout and one set at the end of every workout you do.

I've found this high-frequency approach to work extremely well because it allows your body to gradually adapt over time. You don't set giant goals that you get spooked about and don't think you'll ever achieve - you set small, achievable, repeatable goals that build on each other to get you to the end result.

Once you can do at least 10 reps of this partial-range and pause training, then it's on to Phase 3...


Now we move on to Negative Training. You may have heard of this before...now you're going to put it to use!

We've built up a foundation of grip strength (which is HUGE) and a foundation of pulling power in the strongest range of motion of the exercise (the bottom few inches). It's time to test yourself against gravity.

Set a chair, bench or box in front of the chin-up bar. Ideally, it should be a height where you can stand on it and put yourself into the top position of the chin-up (chin just above the bar) while still standing on it.

Because what you'll be doing next is gripping the bar, getting into position then lowering yourself down slowly. This is called a "negative rep."

But here's the key that a lot of people miss when it comes to Negative Training...

The idea is to not just passively lower yourself down...the idea is to ACTIVELY FIGHT GRAVITY all the way down!

So when you take your grip on the bar and take your feet off the bench, I want you to try your darndest to pull yourself UP, even though gravity is pulling you DOWN.

This generally will result in a slow downward rep, with you fighting it all the way. When you get to the bottom, let go of the bar, climb back onto the bench and repeat.

In your negative set, perform reps in this fashion until one of two things happens...

1. You grab the bar, take your feet off the bench and can't slow your descent at all, dropping right into the position within a second or two.

2. You get to 6 reps of this negative training in your set.

What do those guidelines mean? In the first one, it means your muscles aren't actually doing any more work and there's no reason to continue.

In the second, when we hit 6 reps, that's plenty when it comes to negative training. If, on that sixth rep, you can still control your descent, you're doing well!

So here's the deal...in your workouts (again one set at the beginning and one set at the end of every single workout you do), do this negative training. This will probably amount to 3 to 5 times per week, depending how frequently you're in the gym.

Keep going in this fashion until you are able to do 6 negative reps and on the SIXTH rep, you can still pretty well control your descent and don't just crash down.

Now, for one calendar week, NO chin-up training. You're going to give your muscles a break from the specific training and allow them to recover.


The last step before hitting chins on your own is the Flexed Arm Hang. Now that your muscles have recovered from the Negative Training, we're going to set that bench back up and get you into the top position of the chin.

Take your feet off the bench and HOLD that top chin position for as long as you can. Hold it until your arms start to straighten and your lats start to give.

Now FIGHT that all the way down until you're hanging at arms-length on the bar. That's it! Just one set and one rep, done ONLY at the beginning of each workout (when you're strongest), not at the end.

Repeat this procedure (one set of hanging at the start of each workout) until you can hang for at least 30 seconds before you start to lower down.

Once you can do that, it's SHOW TIME!


Give yourself a few days off from the Flexed Arm Hang phase before doing your first chin. You want to be fully recovered and feeling strong!

Grab the bar (at this point, you will be so used to grabbing the chin-up bar that there will be NO fear associated with it, as there may have been before). You'll KNOW you can do this.

Tighten your grip, tighten your muscles, then PULL!

Because of all the background work you've done, I have a feeling you're going FLY right up!

Heck, when you get the first one, if you feel good, try a second one!

And finally, if you do go through this chin-up program and WHEN you do your first chin-up, send me an email and tell me your story! I want to hear from you!


Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including "Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass", "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss," "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of," "Gluteus to the Maximus - Build a Bigger Butt NOW!" and "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of", all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick's 30-day "Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST," available at Secret Program

Got No Chest? How to Feel Your Pecs Actually WORK When You Do Chest Training

By Nick Nilsson

If you have a hard time feeling your chest working when you do chest
exercises, THIS is the information you need. I'll give you my best
techniques for ensuring maximum activation of your pecs with
every set and rep you do.

One of the most comment training questions I get with regards to chest training is simply not being able to feel the pecs working at all when doing chest exercises!

And when you can't feel the pecs working, you know darn well that actual muscle development is simply NOT going to happen.

So enough about the problem...how do you FIX it?

I've got a number of techniques for you to try out, some of which may work better than others for you.

But they should get you well on your way towards the chest development you're looking for.

1. Pre-Exhaust Training

When performing a movement like the bench press, the pecs are definitely involved but can be easily pushed into a secondary role by the front delts and the triceps.

So instead of doing a regular bench press movement, you will instead do 6 to 8 reps of dumbell flyes (an isolation movement for the chest) THEN immediately go right to the bench press.

The idea here is to "pre-exhaust" your pecs so that when you do the bench press, your pecs are the weakest link and the shoulders and triceps then push the chest harder than it would normally be pushed.

When you have to stop, it's going to be pec fatigue that ends the set while the shoulders and triceps are still relatively fresh.

2. Feeling The Flye

Now, the pre-exhaust training is all well and good...but what if you can't feel your pecs even doing FLYES? Pre-exhaust won't be much help.

The first thing you need to do is get off the flat bench and onto a Swiss Ball. Get into position on the ball and wrap your entire back AROUND the ball. Don't just put your shoulders on the ball and keep your body straight, like many people are taught with the ball.

To get the most out of flyes, you need to open up your rib cage and get your shoulders back (which helps focus the tension on the pecs instead of the shoulders). The ball is PERFECT for this position. So lay back on the ball, wrap your back around it and consciously force your shoulders back and down. THEN do a dumbell flye.

Imagine on the way down like you're trying to push your chest up to the ceiling. And imagine on the way up that you're wrapping your arms around a big tree.

When doing flyes, don't hold the dumbells perfectly parallel to each other...hold them at about a 45 degree angle to your body (thumb end in closer to the head - pinky side outwards). This takes stress off the shoulders and helps keep tension on the pecs.

3. Tilt the Dumbells

When doing dumbell presses (either on the ball or the bench), tilt the dumbells down and in...if the dumbells were pitchers or water, it would look like you're pouring them on yourself.

This tilt (and make sure and keep that tilt through the whole exercise) keeps tension on the pecs. If you keep them horizontal or tilting outwards, the tension goes to the shoulders.

4. Concentration Flyes

These are done standing, in a bent-over position, with light weight. They're a great exercise for developing that "feel" in the chest. They won't build a chest - just assist in getting that connection.

Grab the dumbell and bend over a bit. Now, keeping your arm slightly bent but stiff (no movement other than at the shoulder), bring the dumbell up and across your body as though trying to touch it to your opposite shoulder.

Because your arm is hanging down and the dumbell is coming across your body, it takes the front delt pretty much completely out of it, forcing the pec to do all the work. Hold at the top and SQUEEZE the pec hard.

Remember to go light on this one - it's not about building but developing that mind-muscle connection. And be absolutely sure you're NOT bending your elbow - the movement must occur only at the shoulder.

5. The Rolled-Up Towel Trick

This is a technique I came up with to force the shoulders down and back (as I mentioned with the flyes above) and get the pecs involved in the bench press. This is done on the flat bench.

Roll up a towel and lay it lengthwise down the centerline of the bench. Set it on the bench right between where your shoulder blades will be. Your head should be on a flat section and your butt should be on a flat section.

Lay down on the bench, feeling the towel run right down your spine. This elevation immediately forces your shoulders back and down (the proper position for benching and feeling it in your chest). It's not particularly comfortable but it's a great teaching tool to force your body into the proper position.

6. Stop Trying To Go So Heavy

Half the time, you're probably just trying to go too heavy on the chest exercise and you just lose the feel for the exercise. Back off on the weight and feel the pecs working rather than focusing on blasting up the weight.

When you load the exercise heavy, your body immediately turns to its strongest movers. If your chest isn't part of that A team, it won't be called upon.

7. Don't Grip So Hard

One of the things I've noticed with chest exercises is that the harder you grip the bar/handles, the more the tension gets moved to the shoulders and triceps.

Try easing up on your grip a little - not to the extent that you make the exercise dangerous, but back off on the death grip and see if you feel a difference.

8. "Shocking" High-Rep Training

This is best done on the very first set of your workout with NO warm-up. You're going to just be using a moderate weight, so don't worry about not doing a huge warm-up. If you have a decent amount of training experience, you'll be just fine.

We're going to literally "shock" your chest muscles into responding here. Load the bar with (or select dumbells) a weight you'd normally be able to get about 12 to 15 "strict" reps in your regular workout.

Now lay down and CRANK OUT as many reps as you can with that weight as fast as you possibly can. Don't worry if your form isn't perfect...just hammer the reps out.

And when I say crank, I mean CRANK...don't bounce the bar off your chest or anything but you must quite simply EXPLODE out of the bottom of every single rep...and don't even think about slowing down to get the negative.

The idea here is very rapidly call upon every available muscle fiber worked by that exercise to contribute an emergency situation, especially the power-oriented type 2 muscle fibers.

And this emergency idea is why you're not going to do a warm-up...we want it to be a TRUE emergency situation where you go from zero to kablammo!

ONE set of this is all you need. Because once you do that first set, not only will the entire area be fatigued, you won't be able to get nearly as many reps and it won't have the same emergency effect on your body.

9. Static Contraction Holds and Pushes

This can be done on almost ANY chest exercise...though it doesn't work too well on dumbell flyes or presses. It works best on cable cross-overs or pec deck, where the tension is greatest at the top, when the arms are close together. It's also pretty good on barbell bench.

A straight static hold means just hold that contracted position for as long as you possibly can. Then fight the negative all the way to the bottom.

This systematically exhausts all the muscle fibers of the chest AND gives you time to really get your mind into the muscle, shifting your arm and body position during the hold until you really feel it targeting the pecs. By taking this time, you get to feel what you don't normally get during a standard exercise.

And those pushes I mentioned?

As you're holding that static contraction, have a partner push down on the weight stack (if you're on a pec deck). Just a quick push is all you need. This sets off a stretch reflex in the pecs, activating even more muscle fibers. It's basically another emergency situation.

When using cable cross-overs, have your partner put their hands in between yours and push outwards really quick. If you're doing a static hold in the top position of the barbell bench, have them push down on the bar really quick while you maintain the hold.

A couple of these pushes is all you need.

10. Cable or Band Push-Ups

This technique combines two type of resistance - a bodyweight push-up and direct outwards-pulling resistance of cables or bands. When you put them together, it's CRAZY how much tension you'll get on your pecs.

It's like combining a static hold with a dynamic exercise - two of tension, both targeted on the pecs.

For the cable version, set two handles on the low pulleys and use a light weight. Kneel down holding both handles. Now set your fists on the floor in the push-up position. Straighten out your body and start doing push-ups.

The cables will be trying to pull your hands directly out to the sides. Your pecs have to fight this outwards-pulling tension. When you add in the push-ups, you'll feel these even more in the chest than you usually would, simply because your pecs are ALREADY working by holding the cables in place.

It's a two-for-one exercise that will light your pecs FAST.

You can easily accomplish the same thing with bands by hitching a couple of bands to solid objects out to the sides of you. The just hold the bands in your fists or loop around your wrists, make sure you get tension in them, then do the push-ups.


I have to say, if you've not really felt your pecs before, these techniques should get you seriously moving in the right direction. I would recommend taking a few "chest" days and just trying all these techniques to see which ones work best for you.

For pictures and video of many of these tips in action, click on the following link:



Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including "Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass", "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss," "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of," "Gluteus to the Maximus - Build a Bigger Butt NOW!" and "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of", all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick's 30-day "Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST," available at Building Muscle

What Are The "Basic Exercises" and Why Should You Care?

By Nick Nilsson

"You've gotta use the basic exercises!" is one of the most common pieces of
muscle-building advice you'll hear...and it's because these exercises WORK.

The basic exercises are your key to long-term success in training. They encompass every major muscle group in your body and many of the most common movement patterns you perform on a daily basis. If you want to build maximum muscle, you MUST use these exercises or variations of them.

So what ARE these basic exercises?

There are different interpretations of what, exactly, they are...but to me, the basic exercises are squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press, rows, and pull-ups.

If you did nothing but these six exercise, you've worked pretty much every single part of your body.

You'll notice curls aren't on this list...neither are pushdowns, tricep extensions, calf raises, flyes, leg extensions, leg curls or lateral raises. Every single muscle worked by these "isolation" exercises is worked by the basic exercises.

So what makes the basic exercises so great?

Basically, they involve the most muscle mass all at once. When you do a squat, you're working the legs AND the glutes, lower back, upper back, calves and core. Much of the benefits of the squat come from this "total-body activation."

You get the most bang for your buck as the energy you put into the basic exercises gives you a great return on investment in terms of strength and muscle mass.

A program should consist of at least 75% basic exercises...and the percentage should be HIGHER the worse your recovery capability is. To maximize results, you need to spend your energy on the exercises that will do you the most good.

That doesn't mean you have to do just those six exact exercises, though! The variations of these exercises are also extremely effective and will introduce plenty of training variety to keep you progressing and keep training fun and interesting.

Here are some samples:
1. Squats

Front squats, back squats, goblet squats, dumbell squats, hack squats, dumbell split squats, Bulgarian split squats, one-legged squats, box squats, belt squats, braced-leg-squats.

2. Deadlifts

Conventional, sumo, Super Deadlift Bar, snatch-grip, stiff-legged, Romanian, dumbell deadlifts, suitcase-style, one-arm straddle deadlifts, Jefferson lifts, one-side barbell deadlifts, one-legged glute deadlifts.

3. Bench Press

Barbell, dumbell, incline, decline, flat, close-grip wide grip, 1 arm, Swiss ball, machine.

4. Shoulder Press

Military press, dumbell press, seated, standing, push-press, clean and press, two-phase barbell shoulder press, W press, Arnold press, reverse alternating dumbell press, weight plate pizza press, javelin press, side-to-side barbell press, behind-the-beck press (not recommended).

5. Rows

Bent-over barbell rows, dumbell rows, one-arm dumbell rows, cable rows, close grip rows, wide grip rows, underhand, overhand, neutral grip, T-bar rows, inverted rows (pull-up rows), chest-supported rows, upright rows (not recommended).

6. Pull-Ups

Chin-ups, wide-grip pull-ups, muscle-ups, neutral grip, reverse grip, one-arm, two bar pull-ups, all variations of pulldowns, full-range pulldowns, corner rack pull-ups, behind-the-head (not recommended).

The list of variations is LONG and covers a lot of great exercises!

These six basic exercises should be a staple of every routine, no matter if your goal is muscle, strength or fat-loss. These six movements and their variations hold the key to truly effective training.

Even myself, being a "mad scientist" of exercises and training, work primarily with the basics and their variations...of course, MY variations tend to be a http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifbit more unique than many of the classic ones, but the same rules apply. This is the stuff that gets you the RESULTS.

You can find many of the unique exercise I mentioned above at the following links:

BetterU News Archive

Powerful Training Secrets Samples: To the Samples

Nick Nilsson has a degree in Physical Education and Psychology and has been innovating new training techniques for more than 18 years. Nick is the author of a number of bodybuilding books including "Muscle Explosion! 28 Days To Maximum Mass", "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss," "The Best Exercises You've Never Heard Of," "Gluteus to the Maximus - Build a Bigger Butt NOW!" and "The Best Abdominal Exercises You've Never Heard Of", all designed to maximize the results you get for the hard work you put into your training.

Be sure to grab your FREE copy of Nick's 30-day "Dirty Little Secret Program for Building Muscle and Burning Fat FAST," available at The Fitness-Site