How To Make A Decline Bench – (GYM HACK)

GYM HACK💥

Want to target that lower chest? A decline angle is a great way to start. However you may be in the gym and the decline bench is taken, but need to get going. Take some bumber plates if available and set up a mini stack. I would not do more than 3-5 plates depending on how it is set up. Place them under the lower half of the bench to set up a decline angle.

This is also a great technique for if you have a flat bench at home and want to switch it up. The couple things you need to watch and check are safety factors. Make sure the bench is stable. I typically test this by pushing the bench at that end and sit on it and perform the movement WITHOUT weight first to ensure it will not slide. If you have rubber gym flooring and rubber bumber plates, you should be good. PLEASE use caution when doing this. I would try to get a spotter to help by spotting the weight and have the spotter also keep an eye on the bench to make sure it doesn’t slide.

Share with a friend and get to work! 

-Alex Costa-

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The Ultimate Christmas List For The Fitness Lover

It’s almost time for Black Friday! Which means Christmas is already around the corner. When shopping for someone that’s into fitness, there’s a couple things to pay attention to. 

Some people can be very picky. Not because they are a picky person but because of different factors that are involved in their training. Some things to keep an eye on and maybe ask if you aren’t sure is:

1. What kind of fitness are they into? 

Bodybuilding, CrossFit, powerlifting, yoga, etc. This can really help so you look in the right direction.

2. Supplement favorites?

Are they sensitive to caffeine, does whey protein mess with their stomach, do they have a flavor they can’t stand?

*DO NOT JUST TAKE A STAB IN THE DARK AND GRAB THE FIRST THING AT WALMART.

This can be an area where you might just want to avoid unless you have a really good idea what they use and like.

3. Do they have access to a gym?

This can decide whether to get some items or accessories for the gym or home.

4. Do they have this item already?

If it’s a supplement or subscription box then thats okay because it’s an investment that is made consistently. However if it’s a set of bands, do they have this set already? Do they need another set or should we grab something else?

So what makes the list?

Whether you have a family member, gym friend or you’re doing a random acts of kindness for someone into fitness, I plan of having you walk away knowing exactly what to pick for them! I have created a list of 10 items that you can’t go wrong with! Lets get started!

1) Fitness subscription box

Iron Crate

Every fitness lover finds monthly fitness subscription boxes super exciting! Think about it.. it’s basically a fitness Christmas each month! I love my monthly box I get from Iron Crate. We keep it exciting and fresh each month. We include the most trustworthy and highest quality products on the market. We also include workout programs to keep you busy in the gym and even throw in items that you can use such as shakers, gym accessories and fresh gear to wear!

Why try shopping for stuff and end up getting something they may not like when you can take out the middle man. We hand select the items each month and create a unique monthly Crate for our customers. We even take care of shipping too! 

The best thing about Iron Crate is that the retail value adds up to anywhere from $80-$130 each month but the monthly subscription customers only pay $39.99 a month for a box full of fitness goodies! So you can get up to $130 worth of fitness for only $39.99!

Go grab an Iron Crate for you, a family member or a gym buddy to make their Christmas! You can save 15% off your first Iron Crate with using the code “CRATE15” at checkout! 


Iron Crate

2) Healthy snacks

Healthy snacks are such a great choice! The best part is that it fits all categories of fitness! Iron Crate has you covered again. We also carry amazing snacks packed with protein that make great treats for any fitness enthusiast. One huge favorite is the protein candies we carry from MusclePharm. They taste just like M&Ms but without all the sugar that will affect your blood sugar levels. They are also a great source of protein and the taste is out of this world 🤤 I snack on these all the time when I’m craving chocolate.. which is almost everyday. Grab some items and fill up a stocking for your fitness lover this Christmas!


3) Vitamin D

Out of all vitamins, this one is going to be a huge seller this year. Most of us are deficient in vitamin D. They say that this specific vitamin may help protect against becoming infected with, and developing serious symptoms of COVID-19. 

Healthline.com saysA new study that looked at 216 people with COVID-19 found that 80 percent didn’t have adequate levels of vitamin D in their blood

That is going to be one thing right off the bat that increases sales on this vitamin. Let me explain why this is a great gift idea other than that. Vitamin D is known for helping to have healthy muscles, bones and teeth. It can also help keep your immune system healthy, regulate energy levels and aid in brain health. The benefits of this vitamin are a tool most of us need, making it the perfect item to throw on the Christmas list this year.


At home gym equipment

It’s 2020.. the gyms have been closed down once. Let’s be honest, it won’t hurt to have a couple things at the house just to be safe.

Here’s a list of home gym items I would go with.

4) Yoga mat

This is a good option because for most fitness categories, you will typically want some kind of mat or padding on the floor. This can protect the weights, floor and the lifter.

5) Glute resistance band

Glute resistance band from Ironcrate.co

Let me explain why I LOVE these and think everyone needs one. Our glutes are naturally weak. Especially if we sit at school or at a desk all day. This can cause low back pain and issues with the hamstrings. This glute band can help increase strength in the glutes and hips.

If you are an athlete, this tool can aid you like no other. It can help pre-activate the glutes which essentially turns them on to increase strength during your workout. This can increase overall strength and lead to more muscle activation for bigger muscles and better performance.

I hear the girls in my gym talk about this all the time.. They want better and bigger glutes. This band WILL help if used properly.

I use this band for me and my clients before all of our lower body days in the gym. It is one of my favorite investments and I believe you will be just as happy as I was when you get one.

We sell these for an amazing price on Ironcrate.co , just click the button below and it will take you to the item on my website so you can pick one up before we sell out.

6) Adjustable dumbbells

Going with the adjustable ones compared to the ones that are coming already set at weights will save moolah. It also saves space which is a plus. You can get a good pair from places like Amazon or even Walmart. I would get a set with some kind of iron weights compared to the plastic weights. That is just my personal preference though. If you are on a surface where you need to take care of it, then plastic might be a better idea.

7) Resistance bands

This is a great gift idea. It is highly utilized by many fitness categories and has many functions making it a good tool to have at home.

There are 2 main bands that will pop up when you type this into the search bar. The ones on the left are great for exercise variety. If you don’t have dumbbells or any weights then this may be a better decision because it will give you more options. The bands on the right are very popular for other things. They do not have handles like the other set and are a closed band as to where the other set is open. These are great for athletes that do explosive workouts. It is also a great tool to have added in if you have a squat rack or bench set that can add band resistance. They will typically have pegs for bands on the bottom.

8) A good pair of wireless headphones

Notice I didn’t say Air Pods or Beats? This is one I would ask about if you think that person is picky because just like supplements or flavors, this can be one of those gifts that the person may want a specific pair. If you have the budget, I think Air Pods or Beats are the higher quality ones on the market. However, one of my brothers and sisters has a set of headphones that look just like Air Pods and operate at just about the same level, so if that person isn’t picky, those are a better option if you have a lower budget in mind.

This is personally one of the items on my list this year. I like my normal headphones but I find myself always in a hassle messing with the cord. I do a lot of work involving my headphones and don’t always want to carry my phone on me so I like the thought of not worrying about the wire getting in the way or getting stuck on everything.

9) Shaker bottle custom to their favorite interest

The shaker bottle companies have been changing the game lately with their special series they are always dropping. They have bottles with teams, super heroes, food items and yes even some with avocados working out on them.

As someone that loves a lot of different fitness categories, there is something about having a flashy shaker bottle or one that is custom to what your interest are that makes you feel some type of way. Remember that feeling when you got that fresh new Scooby lunch box back in 1st grade, and you couldn’t wait to show it off? Yea that feeling. So take note of what their interested in and search it up.

10) Smart Watch

Apple, Fitbit and Fossil have amazing smart watch products. No matter what category your fitness lover is into, the watch makes working out so much fun!

This is also a great gift to get a beginner because it can really keeps them motivated by little things like “filling the rings” on the watches. Basically it sets goals for you such as walking distance, calories burned, time standing, etc. As you accomplish the goals, it fills up rings on your watch. This is like checking off something on a to do list. It gives a great sense of accomplishment!

Lets WRAP this up, get it.. Christmas.. gifts..HA, not funny, I know

There are a lot of amazing products out there that are going to be brought to your attention due to high marketing around the holidays. This doesn’t mean you have to get the 1st thing you see on the commercials. Next thing you know, you’re getting a shake weight for your grandson that is into powerlifting. So trust me, this is a good list that can really meet expectations for all fitness categories.

Wanna see another list for a specific category such as athletes, cross fit, runners, etc? Leave me a comment below and let me know what you want to see! Also let me know if you have any items that you think should be added to the list!

Have a safe and fun Thanksgiving this week!

-Alex Costa-

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

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/

How To Make Healthy Stir Fry

Im am bringing you a recipe from the kitchen today! Stir fry is a popular food option but it can be made with high sodium levels and not be as healthy. I am showing you a recipe from scratch you can do at home within 20-30 minutes!

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The thing I really enjoy about stir fry is that you can personalize it to your favorite foods, at least to an extent if you’re trying to be healthy. 

You can do things such as add pasta noodles, rice, beans, etc for carbs. You can do this with thinks such as chicken, shrimp, beef, steak, turkey and more for a protein source. You can also add a nice variety of veggies for more micronutrients. It can be changed around to a different taste each time if wanted.

A few main Saftey points when preparing this meal:

  • Be careful cutting chicken, if you are a younger viewer then have a parent or guardian help you.
  • Wash your hands very throughly after dealing with raw products such as chicken.
  • Make sure you cook the chicken all the way to make sure any and all bacteria is out of the product.

I hope you enjoy this post and enjoy the video! Let me know how yours turns out! Post it on Instagram and tag me @costalottamoney1 or @ironstrengthandconditioning 

Have a great Monday!
-Alex Costa-