Iron Made Arm Workout


I know there’s a lot of stress right now with the election so what better way to simmer down and relieve stress than with a solid arm workout! Stop watching the news all day, take a break and get out of the house to enjoy the weather. Get some exercise, eat healthy food, practice some meditation and yoga. This is a simple way to relive a little stress that may be coming up.

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I put together a video you can watch while you workout so you can see form, sets and reps. I also included exercise tips on the video!

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Barbell curls 5×8

Tricep rope extensions 5×15

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Barbell skull crushers 4×12 

Hammer curls 4×8

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Bodyweight skull crushers 6×10-15

Seated curls 6×15

Band pushdowns 6×20

My Deadlift Warm up

The deadlift is one of the most taxing exercises. With tons of variations that can be down, it can make it easy to be injured if you don’t warm up properly. I have seen a lot of injuries due to not warming up, so lets break down the warm up for your deadlift in todays article.

Why warm up?

The warm up and cool down are crucial for your workout. Without an efficient warm up, you are opening up your chances to injury. Without cooling down, you are increasing your chances to what is called venous pooling of blood in the lower extremities. This can cause you to be light headed and also cause dizziness especially in higher intensity workouts.

What should your warm up look like?

When I discuss warm ups with someone, I take into account what kind of workout they are getting ready to perform. I also look at a few other factors such as the clients health, previous injuries, age, equipment around the gym and more. That is how important the warm up is and it should be thought of as so.

It would take a long time to go over how your warm up should look if I listed every possibility so that is why I will be talking about warming up for the deadlift.

Every good warm up should have you breaking a very light sweat or right on the edge to start sweating. Starting off on a cardio movement such as a bike, treadmill, elliptical, etc. would be good to start with. Again depending on the workout listed, would vary the warm up time but 3-10 minutes should do in most strength workouts for the cardio. I would like to also list that it should be down at a low intensity such as a 50-75% speed in most machines.

Next I look at performing a self myofascial release method such as foam rolling. 5-10 minutes could be spent here if needed. I like this because this followed up with some dynamics will allow an increase in blood flow in the areas worked. This will help increase mobility for the time being, warm up that muscle and allow a decrease in chances of injury.

Dynamics are next on the list. A dynamic movement is typically described as a movement allowing a full range of motion, in turn giving a light but efficient stretch to the muscle.

I do not typically perform static stretches because this tends to relax the muscle as where the dynamic stretches can ready the muscle to fire for our strength movements.

After dynamics, I work my weakness areas to wake the muscles up to fire properly. This is where the warm up can sometimes be very specific and specialized to the individuals needs. Lets say you have low back pain, or your back is a little tight on a day we are scheduled to deadlift. I would incorporate a couple exercises like the reverse hyper, walking lunges, and back extensions or band good mornings. This would allow more blood flow into the back and assisting muscles to increase the stability for the low back. This portion can be different for everyone most of the time.

Last we have what I call “pre activation work” which is very similar to the strength movement we will do. This may also look like the weak areas we hit depending on the individual. Since we are on the subject of the deadlift, I like to incorporate stiff leg deadlifts, goblet squats, and sometimes a couple sets of pile squats to wake up the adductors (inner thigh muscles) if we have a sumo deadlift day.

I also want to mention that when doing any strength movement, especially the deadlift, START LIGHT and do a couple warm up sets to check technique and get the right muscles firing.

My deadlift warm up routine

Bike

Foam roll

Leg swings

Hip circle walks – front, back, sides

Stiff leg deadlift w/ dumbbells

Iso Glute raise with band pullovers

Start with lighter weight to check technique

That sums up the majority of the things needed to be covered today but if you have any questions on warming up, please reach out to me and ask some questions! I hope you all have a great day and enjoy this article and video!

-Alex Costa-

5 Of My Favorite Arm Exercises (Workout Included!)

Summer is around the corner which means the t-shirts and tank tops will be making an appearance. Let’s start working on those arms to make sure you’re looking good by the pool!

I’m a meathead at heart so of course I always have some workouts ready for an extra arm day here and there. There are a couple main things I have learned about training my arms that have made a huge difference.

  1. Using a progressive overload method will almost always win in the long run.
  2. It’s not always about the pump, but the pump is nice to see and motivates you.
  3. There is a time to heave the weight up and arm training is about 90% the opposite. Make sure you work form strictly.
  4. Don’t be afraid to hit arms heavy here and there.
  5. Increase frequency to increase size and strength.
  6. Don’t forget the triceps!! The triceps take up about 2/3 of the arm.

I will write an article on arm training and include these but for now lets get to what you want… the exercises and workout!

Exercise #1 The cheat curl

This is a classic exercise used back in the golden era bodybuilding days to really create some mass. I have learned a couple twist and tweaks to make it even better!

Start with a straight barbell and load it to a desired weight. Take an underhand grip right outside shoulder width and unrack it. Curl it up, as the bar gets a little heavy, you can use your body to get a little momentum helping the bar go up. (Don’t over extend your lower back, that is how you can hurt yourself.) Once you get the rep to the top, squeeze your bicep and when you go to let the bar down, we are going to take it down nice and slow, preferably about 4 seconds on the way down. The muscle damage happens during the eccentric portion of the lift or in this case, when you lower the weight.

This is an exercise I usually try to work a little heavier in weight with. This will really help build some mass for your biceps.

Exercise #2 Close grip bench

This in my opinion is almost the same effect for your triceps as the cheat curl is for the biceps. This is another exercise I tend to work a little heavier in to overload the triceps.

Set up on a bench just like a standard bench press, except instead of taking your normal grip width, bring the grip into about shoulder width. (Picture of my setup shown below) Take the bar and wrap your hand around it, unrack weight and bring it down just like a bench press. The main difference is that your grip will be closer and your elbows will come down by your sides closer than a normal bench. You can do touch and go reps or pause reps if desired.

My close grip bench setup

This is a great exercise to add some size to your triceps and add strength to get a stronger bench press.

Exercise #3 Bench dips

This makes my list because I love loading up with weight to increase the difficulty. Standard dips can be a little stressful on my shoulders at times so this is another variation that you can use to hit your triceps.

Start by going to a flat bench and sit on the side. Bring your hands in to your sides so that your thumb is right underneath the butt when you are sitting down. That is the width I use to really target the triceps. From there, walk out your legs or put your legs on another bench a few feet away from you. This will leave you in a starting position with your body being held up by your arms. Your arms will start to bend and you will descend into a dip. Don’t go to far forward during your dip as this can stress the shoulders. Think about keeping your back sliding along the side of the bench as you go into your dip. When you get your arms to about 90 degrees (depending on your mobility) you will use your triceps to push yourself back up to complete the rep.

I have always noticed that when I include this exercise, my arms look more defined and my bench is stronger than usual.

Exercise #4 Overhead tricep extension

The tricep anatomy. Picture is from http://www.physio-pedia.com

The overhead tricep extension is a great exercise that has a solid purpose. Your tricep is composed of three muscles, hence “tri”. One of the muscles called the tricep brachii or the long head of the tricep connects to the scapula. (Shown here with a circle) That is important to remember when we use the tricep to function. We can really hit the long head when we lift the arms overhead for an exercise like this when we use an extension of the elbow.

I love using this exercise to hit the tricep and add some nice looking definition to my arm.

Exercise #5 The preacher curl

I couldn’t do this list and not add this exercise. This is one of the main exercises a lot of people do in the gym just because the machine is there and easy to use. I love this exercise because it can really help you isolate the bicep without cheating the rep. This adds a lot of stress to the biceps, in a positive way.

This exercise hits what is called the brachialis and the biceps brachii. This exercise can put immense tension on the biceps so be sure to warm up with lighter weight for 1-2 sets before adding anything heavier.

You can add this in for a finisher at your gym if it is a machine and switch weight a lot faster!

The Workout

Time for the workout… We learned what each exercise does and how to do it if you watched the videos. Now let me go over a few important side notes to ensure you have a solid arm workout.

Cheat curls and close grip bench should be a little heavier but still make sure you have good form. For the overhead extensions, I want you to do 1-2 warm up sets to get the joints ready for the movement. After that I want you to start with a heavy weight that you can control for about 10-15 reps. Do your reps TILL FAILURE then rack that weight. Immediately pick up 5-10 pounds less and go till failure again. Now do that same thing 2 more times so you end up with a total of 4 sets right back to back with each other. This is a great arm finisher just make sure you either have a spotter or have a spot to drop the weight safely if you are able to do so.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I have enjoyed creating it! Please give me feedback and let me know how you liked this article and if you want to see more post like this!

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Have a great day!!
-Alex Costa-

3 Killer Low Ab Exercises You Need To Try

One of the most common areas I get asked about around this time of the year is the lower abs. This can easily be the trickiest part of the body to work for so many because a lot of us especially males tend to hold fat around this spot so it can sometimes be one of the last areas to have noticeable results. My advice is simple, eat in a caloric deficit, train abs often especially the lower abs with the right exercises like what I am about to show you and stay consistent with this because it will take time but it will be worth it!

#1 – Hanging leg raises


I watch a lot of Jeff Nippard’s YouTube channel and I believe he had an science explained video on abs. He went over how the lower ab exercise that hit the highest on the EMG scale was the hanging leg raise variations.

I enjoy this (not really) because this exercise, when done correctly really works core strength and makes those low abs start to pop. It can be a more difficult exercise for beginners so just start with low reps such as 5 and do as many as 5-10 sets until you start getting better at these, then start doing 10 or more each set.

#2 – Scissor kicks to a leg hold


This is one I started doing when I was in the gym experimenting with core work. I then implemented it with clients and got feedback. Of course they hated it so I kept doing it. They don’t pay me to take it easy on them. They love the challenge though! I like to do these towards the end of the workout to burn out the core. I will typically do 2-5 sets of 20 seconds on scissor kicks then straight to 10 seconds of leg holds. We will do this a few times without rest and then try to push out a couple more sets.

#3 – Hanging scissor kicks

This is one I came up with a while back and it burns the abs like a mo-fo. I like to just hold on to the pull up bar when I do these but you can also use the arm slings if it is more comfortable for you. I like to do these for 50 total reps or for 30-60 seconds. I will do about 3-5 sets of these.

Bonus AB Training Tip

Abdominal muscles are a little different compared to the rest of the muscles in the body because they are constantly firing and being used. I mean think about it, you drop your pen on the ground and go to pick it up and the first thing that fires is your core. With that being said, you can handle more training frequency with your abs then some of your other muscles so you could technically train them everyday, which has been a great tool for me. I have done it before and I know plenty of other fitness experts that have done it.

I would recommend switching the exercises up each day. Have a list of 10 ab exercise you want to hit for a couple weeks straight and split them up evenly through the week. Do a total of 100 reps all together each night for the exercises you picked.

You could also use my Iron Core Challenge to go off of. It is a month of different ab exercises that you do 100 reps each night. They can all be done at home by the way! It has videos and the lay out plan on that page. I loved it, and so did a lot of others around the world that tried it!

Something you could do with these 3 low ab exercises is set it up like the following:

Monday:

-Hanging leg raises 5 x 10
-Hanging scissor kicks 5 x 15 seconds
-Scissor kicks to a leg hold (15 seconds – scissor kicks, 15 seconds leg raises) 5 sets

Wednesday:
4 sets of 30 seconds each – no rest at all, get through it and you’re done for the day.

Hanging leg raises
Scissor kicks to a leg hold (15 seconds each)
Hanging scissor kicks

Friday:
As many sets as possible in 12 minutes

Hanging leg raises — 10
Scissor kicks to a leg hold –(20 seconds each)
Hanging scissor kicks –40 total reps – 20 each leg

Thank you for reading todays article, I hope you found it helpful! If you have any questions, reach out to me and I would be happy to help you out!

Have a great Tuesday!!
-Alex Costa-

Workout Wednesday (Chest and Back Pump)

Welcome to another Workout Wednesday! Today we are hitting chest and back! We are going to use the “3 Bench Angles in 3 Minutes” technique that we saw in yesterdays post.

Start this workout with a good warm up. Here is an example warm up I would perform before this workout:

Bike – 5 minutes
Shoulder swings – 10 each way, 20 total
Band pull aparts – 2 x 15
Push ups – 2 x 10

Now that we have a warm up in, lets get started with 3 sets of pull ups till failure. If you can not do a pull up, do assisted pull ups if possible for at least 8-10 reps each set. If you have no access to assisted pull ups, do lat pull downs. Set the weight stack to your body weight and do as many as possible.

After that comes the dumbbell bench presses. If you haven’t read yesterday’s post on the 3 Bench Angles in 3 Minutes then check it out so it all makes sense for you. You will do 2-3 sets with 60 seconds of rest after a whole set is complete.

We are making our way to the cable machine after for some reverse cable flys to target our rear delts.

Picture was used from google images.

We will then hit seated cable rows with a close grip. We will start heavy and decrease the weight as the reps increase. The catch here is that after every set you complete, switch weight and get right back to work. This will pump the back up before you leave the gym.

All in all, this workout should be something you can complete in 30-40 minutes if you get to work and don’t get distracted. This will be a solid workout though, use your better judgment for the weights you pick. Do something challenging but nothing that will break down form.

Try this one out next time you go to the gym and let me know what you think! Have a good Wednesday!

-Alex Costa-

3 Bench Angles in 3 Minutes

Click here for the video!

I was in the gym experimenting with a few exercises and training methods these past couple weeks and I feel like I have struck gold with some of these. I want to share one of them with you today! I have tried this with some clients and they have a love/hate feeling for this one haha. I call it “3 Bench Angles in 3 Minutes”. If you are tight on your schedule then this could be a great tool for you to use or if you’re looking to add in extra volume or just get a solid pump, this will most definitely get the job done!

I am a huge fan of hitting a muscle from different angles but it can take up quiet some time during training if you are doing a few sets of 10 reps. Nothing wrong with that approach at all but here’s a method that can take far less time and increase the total work volume put in during your workout which in turn can create more muscle damage (in a positive way).

As you can see, to the left I have a picture of the pectoralis major muscle. I wanted to show you this so you can see how the muscle fibers run. The muscle fibers run laterally and insert into the top of the humerus. As we do our incline angle it will target what I have marked in the blue. As we take the bench angle down to a flat bench it will target more of the red area. Then the decline angle we finish with will help target the green area.

As you can see, we can manipulate this exercise to target different areas of the chest. After 1 set your chest will be begging for a break. If you think you can handle a little bit of a challenge try it for 2-3 sets total. Take 1 minute of rest after one whole set is complete. Afterwards I would target a different muscle to ensure to you do not overwork that muscle for the session.

Another key note to take into thought is to properly warm up the body and chest/shoulders to make sure your body is ready for the workout. This is a little more intense so if you are a beginner and have never lifted weights before, I would start off by breaking this down into 2 x 10-15 reps at each bench angle for a few weeks then start with 1 set of the 3 bench angles in 3 minutes and gradually increase sets to 2-3 as you get the feel for it.

I hope you like this one! Try it out and give me your feedback. Have an awesome day!

-Alex Costa-

3 Exercises For A Stronger Squat

When it comes to adding pounds on the squat, it can get very aggravating. It takes time, practice and a lot of work to develop a stronger squat. One thing that can help speed up the process is picking out the correct auxiliary lifts that will help increase muscle strength in those muscles that we use for the squat. In todays post, I will be covering 3 of my top exercises I use for my clients and myself when we need to add some pounds to the bar.

As I said above, exercise selection is crucial when strength training to increase weight to the main lifts like the squat. When I first stated I would just do a couple sets on the quad extension and seated hamstring curl machine. Don’t get me wrong, those machines are good and have their purpose but I noticed I never really added much to my squat when I only did those exercises and a little bit of calves. As I furthered my knowledge and started experimenting with myself, I noticed a select number of exercises that I would do when my squat would increase. Then I learned how to hit weaknesses for the individual when I got into powerlifting which literally changed the game for me as a trainer. I will get into this in a different article, today I am showing some of the best exercises that will help you develop a stronger squat. So let’s get started.

My first one I have on my list is the GHD. Now not everyone has the luxury to have one in their gym, I didn’t when I was at my previous gyms in the past and I didn’t even have one at my private gym at first. When I researched how beneficial the GHD is and researched countless studies on strength, performance, speed, and injury prevention I knew I needed one in Iron Strength and Conditioning. I dropped the money and got one of the best on the market, the Rogue Abram GHD 2.0 for my private gym. This puppy is one of my favorite pieces of equipment not only for me but for a lot of my clients as well. With the GHD, you can perform glute ham raises, back extensions, side bends, crunches and a lot more when you start to get creative.

The GHD works so well because because it is essentially a bodyweight hamstring curl. It is a difficult move to get down at first if you’ve never done it but it’s worth the practice because this can be one of the best exercises to increase your squat and deadlift. As you get better at these, add more resistance by adding bands or holding a dumbbell.

My second exercise is another solid hamstring/glute exercise. I watched a video of Jeff Nippard’s YouTube channel that goes over a study with a different variation of this exercise being one of the top listed exercises for reaching the highest Electromyographic (EMG) level for the hamstrings. This is primarily due to being a movement that keeps the hips in an extended position which activates the glutes and hamstrings, then as you bring the ball in, it is a knee flexion motion which will active the hamstrings even more. A couple things to remember is to keep your glutes engaged and keep them extended so your butt doesn’t drop down, that will take tension off the glutes and lower back. I also think about digging my heels into the ball as I bring it in as if I were trying to pop the exercise ball. A way to increase difficulty is to do one leg or use ab slider for your feet.

My 3rd exercise I have for you is one of my favorite lower body exercises, walking lunges. I used to use these here and there in my leg training when I started, I would use a barbell variation and do them in the rack but the lunges changed when I learned more from Cory Gregory. I learned that you can use walking lunges as a form of General Physical Preparedness (GPP) which in theory is literally strength conditioning. It is a movement that will work the muscle and be used as a form of cardio when lengthening the distance. This will then lead to increased training volume and increasing weak areas and will have your squat going through the roof. These lunges aren’t just a 3 sets of 12 each leg type of deal, were talking some serious distance. 400-800 meters worth in one session. Yes like the 400 meters that make a lap around a track. Now if you are starting off with these, start with something like down and back a few times in your gym then try increasing to 100 meters, then 200, then 400 and more if desired. I have found that 100-400 multiple times a week worked best for me. I added about 90 pounds to my squat back when I did these just about everyday combined with a squat everyday program Cory came out with. It worked wonders for me, but find what works best for you and don’t be afraid to try new things. That is what has made me a better trainer and let me know my body better as far as what works for me and what doesn’t. I could add on to the lunges and write pages about how beneficial they are but I will save that for another post.

These 3 exercises are not the end all, be all theory that will save your squat but these 3 have been very beneficial for me and my clients I have trained. I have seen multiple clients add 30lb to their squat and even some that had 70-100lbs added in a couple months. That does not mean it will happen for you but this is a perfect example of trying new things because you never know when you will find the perfect list of exercises that will address weak points in your lifts.

I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me over the years, I appreciate you reading this post. Please try to share this with a friend, family member, teammate or coach to help others increase strength.

Have an awesome day!
-Alex Costa-

Workout Wednesday – Arm Pump


Happy Hump Day, time for another Workout Wednesday! Today we will be hitting arms. I did this a couple weeks ago and got a solid pump, one of the best arm workouts I have had in a little while. So give it a try!

*If you don’t know how to do some of the exercises, I should have them all in my Vault of Gainz page on my website –>https://costafitness.org/workout-page/

Have a great day!
-Alex Costa-

How Music Can Play A Role In Your Exercise Performance

You ever have your tunes on shuffle and in the middle of one of your last sets, one of three things happen..

  1. music stops out of no where, maybe wifi is messing up in the gym or your app seems to want to make you mad by closing out.
  2. an ad from pandora comes on about weird random stuff.
  3. Taylor Swift comes on, and not that I don’t totally headband with some T-Swift but just not my jam when I am cranking out my heavier sets.

If this has happened to you, welcome to the club. Now obviously not all of us have our music on shuffle when we workout. We tend to have a favorite station, playlist or genre of music we like to listen to. What if I told you that the music that comes out of your earbuds could play a roll in your exercise performance?

There has been studies dated back as far as 1911 when Leonard Ayres, an American investigator noted that people that would cycle were moving faster when a band was playing compared to when it was silent. (This is from the source listed below at the bottom of this post)

Studies show that when we workout to music, we tend to ignore the pain and fatigue feeling that we get which in turn can lead to pushing through more weight, longer runs and more total effort in our exercise.

People that run tend to like songs with beats around 160-165bpm (beats per minute). That is probably cause it is natural for our bodies to want to move to a beat, and the faster the beat, the faster we tend to move.

WTF Fact of the day… I was listening to The School of Greatness Podcast with Lewis Howes and he had Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue, that show is the sheeet. He was discussing about how he would increase the bar music at his own bar from something slower, probably around 90-120bpm to about 140-160bpm. He would do this because he noticed a faster table turnover rate, meaning he could get more customers into his bar and out faster which in turn brings him more chedda. As you can see he is a very smart man when it comes to that but he uses the whole, more beats = more movement thing to actually make himself more money. Knowledge bomb, your welcome.

Back to the article.. as you can see, music can make a huge difference in many ways. But the bigger things we look at when it comes to exercising is that it distracts our pain/fatigue level and make us want to move more (exercise). So go back and make sure you got that playlist bumpin for your next workout!

Here are 5 of my top songs in my playlist currently. I am a huge fan of all music and I enjoy listening to podcast as well but when I need to juices flowing, I go to these 5 songs!

Have an awesome day!
-Alex Costa-

Sources:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/psychology-workout-music/

https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/10/20/can-listening-to-music-affect-your-workout/

Healthy Recovery Bowl Recipe

Healthy Recovery Bowl Recipe

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend! I had a little bit of a busier weekend with it being more of a birthday weekend, woot woot. I finished an ab workout on Sunday and wanted something with a little carbs but not too many, I opened up Instagram and saw a recipe on my guy Dustin Myers page (go follow him @coachmyers_gutcheck). Great guy and amazing strength and conditioning coach. Anyway, it was a little different than this but not by much so I threw my own thing together and it turned out amazing! Full of nutrients and nothing that was going to leave me “too full” whatever that means.

Here’s a quick throw together recipe you can do within 5 minutes! All you need is:

These are the ingredients I used here above in the picture
  • Oats (half cup)
  • Almond milk (about a half cup or full cup depending on preference)
  • Almond butter (1 tablespoon)
  • Chia seeds (1 teaspoon)
  • Blueberries (I did a mini handful)

First you can take care of the oats and milk by mixing them and throwing them in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes. After you take them out, let it cool for just a moment then place a tablespoon of almond butter on top. Afterwards, I threw the blueberries in on one side, then came the chia seeds to top it off.

This snack is full of vitamins, minerals and many other nutrients to kickstart your day and give you some energy! This was delicious and only took a few minutes to put together. Try it out and let me know how you like it!! Also feel free to throw in different fruits and toppings to match what you are craving!

Have a great Monday!

-Alex Costa-