how fit are you?

You know exercise is good for you. You look for ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine, and you set aside time for longer workouts at least a few times a week. But if your aerobic workouts aren't balanced by a proper dose of strength training, you're missing out on a key component of overall health and fitness. Training with weights, you will....

■Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
■Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently — which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
■Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle protects your joints from injury. It also helps you maintain flexibility and balance — and remain independent as you age.
■Boost your stamina. As you grow stronger, you won't fatigue as easily.
■Improve your sense of well-being. Strength training can boost your self-confidence, improve your body image and reduce the risk of depression.
■Get a better night's sleep. People who commit to a regular strength training program are less likely to have insomnia.
■Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.
Consider the options
Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Consider the options:

■Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment — use your body weight instead. Try push-ups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches and leg squats.
■Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes in nearly any sporting goods store.
■Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools. You can also try homemade weights, such as plastic soft drink bottles filled with water or sand.
■Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can also invest in weight machines for use at home.

Three Steps to Strength and Stamina

Sets and reps get old. This routine builds muscle and endurance through pyramid repetitions.

After the warmup (No. 1), do one rep of exercise pair No. 2, then two reps, then three, then four, and then work back down to one rep. Repeat with exercise pair No. 3. Do as many rounds as you can in 15 minutes.

1. Boxer's Punch + Dumbbell Squat

With a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand, throw 32 punches, alternating lefts and rights. Then let your arms hang loosely at your sides and place your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend at the hips and knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and then press back up. Complete 16 squats. Repeat the sequence once.

2. Push-Up + Prone Row

Push-up: Place two six-sided dumbbells on the floor and grip them while you do a full push-up. (Lower in two seconds, push up in one.)

Prone row: In the up position of the push-up (still holding onto the dumbbells), bring your right-hand weight up to your armpit and squeeze your shoulder blade back. Lower the weight and repeat the move with your left arm. (Take one second to raise the weight and two seconds to lower it.)

3. Jump Squat + Curl

Jump squat: Assume a squat position as you hold dumbbells at your sides, your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Press through your heels to explode up quickly. Then land softly on the balls of your feet and sink back onto your heels.

Curl: After landing, let the dumbbells hang at your sides. Without moving your upper arms, curl the weights up. (Take one second to raise them and two seconds to lower.)

Overtraining: When Pushing Hard Is Harmful

With so much emphasis placed on increasing physical activity, we hear very little about overtraining. For competitive athletes and some recreational athletes, however, overtraining can be a serious problem.

The definition of overtraining is personal. It is the point at which an athlete is training so hard and for so many hours that recovery does not occur with usual periods of rest. Athletic performance demands a balance of extreme effort and recovery. The athlete must expend a tremendous amount of energy on some days and also determine an adequate, but not excessive, number of days off, to be spent either resting completely or exercising with less intensity.

Many recreational and competitive athletes tend to think that more exercise and effort is always better. Even if they are aware of the facts, the tendency is to want to exert themselves a little longer and little harder during the next workout.
Symptoms of overtraining

Fatigue is one of the earliest symptoms of overtraining. Some experts call the earliest symptoms, those that resolve quickly if you just decrease the workout intensity on every third or fourth day, overreaching rather than overtraining.

If you continue overreaching without recovery, you may experience some of these symptoms of overtraining:



Decreased appetite

Restless sleep

Loss of sexual desire

More aches and pains

Declining athletic performance

In the more severe form of the overtraining syndrome, the following can occur:


Menstrual irregularities in women

More significant sleep problems

Prolonged muscle soreness

Markedly diminished athletic performance

Shock your body into torching fat & building muscle.

Most of the time your body needs a break between workouts (it's during those rest periods that big changes actually happen). But a few times a year, it's smart to put yourself through back-to-back H.I.G.T ( My high intensity group training ) workouts.

Overloading your muscles will keep them guessing, helping you break through any plateau. During this push, work every muscle three or four days in a row, performing sets with little or no rest in between.

Try it: Do my fast-paced circuit (exercises listed below). Complete 12 reps of each exercise (except for the plank—hold it for one 60-second set—going from one move to the next without rest). Repeat the entire circuit up to three times, resting for two minutes at the end of each circuit.

Dumbbell Chest Press on Ball
Crunches on Ball
Plank (60 seconds)
Dumbbell Front Raises
Dumbbell Side Raises
Dumbbell Bicep Curls
Walking Lunges
Squats with Dumbbells
Box Jumps
Everyone's different—find the perfect workout for your body type.

Slow down
Adjusting the tempo of an exercise stimulates the muscle differently. The longer your muscles experience tension, the harder they work. During an exercise, count to two as you raise the weight, and count to four as you lower it. You'll spend more time in the lengthening phase of muscle contraction, which is more challenging and brings better results: a higher calorie burn during and after your workout.

Try it: During a chest press, count to two as you push the dumbbells toward the ceiling, and count to four as you lower them. During squats, count to four while lowering toward the floor, and then to two as you stand.

Split the difference

Do a full rep of an exercise, then do just half of it at the hardest part of the move. You sneak in extra reps and increase muscle tension in virtually the same amount of time, It also pumps lots of blood into the muscles, which is excellent for enhancing definition.

Try it: Grab a dumbbell in each hand, arms resting at your sides, palms facing forward. Without moving your upper arms, curl the weights toward your shoulders, then slowly lower them halfway down; stop and raise them back to your shoulders. Lower back to start. That's one rep.

Step it up

Speed work isn't good only in cardio. Increasing speed during any exercise burns more calories. It also boosts power, which helps improve athleticism. My favorite, speed rope work. Skip rope as intensely as you can for 15-30 second intervals. Do this for up to 5-10 minutes.

Try this 20-minute ab workout, designed especially for women.

Try it: To fully tax muscles do fast reps of a bodyweight exercise after a version using weights. You'll recruit different muscles and break down more muscle fiber (which is good). For example, do a set of chest presses, then do 10 to 20 quick pushups; or perform 12 alternating lunges with dumbbells followed immediately by 10 to 20 body-weight squats.

Get off the ground

Plyometrics—think leaping, jumping or skipping—burns calories and builds lean muscle quickly. Working against gravity increases the load, and jumping incorporates different muscle fibers, which makes your workout more intense.

Try it: Add plyo drills immediately after an exercise that works the same muscle group to power up your muscle fibers and help you squeeze out every last bit of juice you've got. (If you jump before exercising, your muscles will have less energy to perform the workout.) After a set of squats, do 10 squat jumps: Starting in the squat position, jump up and extend your arms overhead. Land softly with your knees bent and your arms swinging behind you.

Mix in cardio

Keep your heart pumping hard by combining your cardio and strength routines. Doing cardio between sets of weighted exercises burns a higher percentage of calories from fat. Try the speed rope work, it fits in here great.

Lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks with this ultimate running guide.

Try it: Instead of resting after a strength exercise, do at least 30 seconds of intense cardio, such as speed rope of basic jumping rope. If you do less intense cardio, like jogging in place, go for at least a minute.

Manny just fights!

Pacquiao just fights. The world has never seen a happier, more contented pugilist. What's more, he's made history. A fighter who began at 106 pounds suddenly finds himself the welterweight champ. He is undefeated at 140 pounds or above, having ended Oscar De Hoya's career in nine rounds, demolished Ricky Hatton in two, and now, overwhelming Miguel Cotto, another formidable welterweight champion Mayweather managed not to fight.

At those weights, Manny is taking real risk every time he performs.

Then again, those merrily accepted risks are very much appreciated. Despite the recession, and a pricing scheme that asks $64.95 to see a fight in HD, I expects pay-per-view numbers for Pacquiao-Cotto to fall between one million and 1.5 million buys. Closer to a million-five, and that's with two non-Americans. Manny has drifted into everyone's consciousness. Big time boxing is back!

Seven cardio sins...

Is cardio the answer for fat loss? There are many different views on what type of cardio is best, as well as how long and how often you need to perform it if you’re trying to lose weight. And what if you’re trying to bulk up? Will cardio undermine your efforts? The number of theories out there is enough to make your head spin. Here are some common myths surrounding this controversial topic.

Myth No. 1: Steady-state cardio is the best way to burn fat.
The truth: Although you may be able to perform this “easier” type of cardio for a longer period of time, thus burning more calories while you are doing it, it is what happens afterward that is more significant. With high intensity interval training, which is cardio performed at a much more intense level, your body will expend a greater number of calories throughout the day in order to repair itself after the hard workout; this results in a greater number of overall calories burned.

Myth No. 2: The more cardio you do, the more you can eat.
The truth: Don’t we all wish this were true? So many people operate under the false notion that they can eat a double cheeseburger, and then just go burn it off at the gym. First off, do you realize that it would take about 2 hours of running to burn that many calories? I bet that burger doesn’t look so appetizing now. Second, if you go by this principle, you will likely spend way too much time doing cardio, which will result in overtraining and possible injury. There is nothing that halts progress like these two unwanted evils.

Myth No. 3: Wearing weights while you do cardio helps you burn more fat.
The truth: If you think those two-pound ankle straps are going to launch you into fat-burning mode, think again. Not only are they not heavy enough to significantly impact your calorie burn, they will also throw off your balance, which could lead to injury. You‘re better off focusing on raising the intensity of your cardio rather than the amount of resistance. If your goal is to get stronger, get off the cardio machine and into the weight room; that is where strength progress is made.

Myth No. 4: You should do the same type of cardio every day if you want to see progress.
The truth: Just as in weight training, if you perform the same movement day in and day out, your body will adapt and become more “efficient.” You will end up burning fewer and fewer calories, and reaching the dreaded plateau. Instead, try to mix it up by running one day, biking the next, and possibly venturing onto the elliptical machine on the third day. In addition to changing machines, don’t forget to vary the intensity of your workout. This will force your body to alternate between periods of being pushed to its limits and resting, which will ensure that progress is made.

Myth No. 5: If you only have 10 minutes to do cardio, you might as well skip it.
The truth: 10 minutes is 10 minutes! When it comes to burning fat, every movement you make throughout the day counts; even the simple act of lifting your coffee cup burns calories. You’re much better off just making what you can out of those 10 minutes. If you frequently find yourself lacking time to do cardio, try breaking your workout into segments: 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes at night -- whatever works best for you.

Myth No. 6: You shouldn’t eat before cardio if you want to lose body fat.
The truth: This is a much debated topic, and it basically boils down to the type of cardio you are doing. If it is a steady-state, moderately paced workout, then you don’t need to eat; working out on an empty stomach may even help you access your fat stores faster. If you plan on doing HIIT sprints, however, you must eat beforehand. This type of cardio requires glucose for fuel, so not eating will throw your body into a catabolic state (during which you burn muscle tissue) and you won’t even be able to maintain the intensity this workout requires. You are best off eating a small meal that contains carbohydrates and protein about an hour beforehand.

Myth No. 7: Cardio demands little concentration, so you can entertain yourself by reading or watching TV.
The truth: If you are able to fully focus on a TV or a magazine while performing cardio, you are not working hard enough. Your pace should be fast enough that you are only able to focus on the task at hand. If it is “easy” day, you may be able to get away with watching some TV; however, a better option would be to pay attention to your movements to ensure that you are using proper form.

cardio no-nos
Next time you question what type of cardio best suits your needs, keep these common myths in mind. Don’t fall for what many others before you believed; it will only lead to disappointment. If you are still uncertain about what is best for you, your next course of action should be to speak to a qualified trainer who can provide you with an appropriate program.

Learn to listen to what the body is telling you.

I am sure we have all heard our training partners and coaches yell "Push it man! One more Rep, one more set, one more round, don't quit, don't quit, DON'T QUIT!" or have laid our eyes on slogans such as "Pain is temporary, Pride is forever" and "Pain is merely weakness leaving the body" plastered on gym walls all over the world ... I know I have.

Anyway... the reason I felt inclined to write this article is because sometimes pain is not temporary and not knowing how to listen to your body can lead to detrimental set-backs in your athletic career and lessen your over-all quality of life. I know, I am a 25 year old professional mixed martial artist who has been sidelined by a severe spinal injury that could have been avoided if I had listened to my body instead of trying to be a super-human in the gym and work through the pain.

Now, by no means am I condoning laziness or a lack of effort in the gym. The gym is not a social-club or an outing... the gym is work. And when you go to work you have a job to do, and if you don't do your job you get fired. The same principle applies to the gym... if you go to the gym and don't work you won't get the results you desire.

After sustaining a number of minor injuries and having to miss a couple weeks from training here and there I realized that I had to change my mind-set. My goal went from trying to lift the heaviest weights I could, doing as many sprints as I could, and sparring as many rounds as humanly possible, to trying to make each session as grueling as possible but not grueling enough to make me miss out on the next days sessions.

As a professional athlete I have trained and competed hurt a number of times...that is part of the job. However, there is a big difference between being hurt and being injured.

Training consistently is the key to improving and sometimes training smarter is far more beneficial than training harder. I know... this is much easier said than done.

Ian Dawe: Professional MMA fighter, part time actor, full time dreamer.
Personal Website: http://WWW.IANDAWE.COM

Manny Pacquiao beats Miguel Cotto. Winner by TKO, 12th round

In an amazing, violent fight, Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) stopped WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs) in round twelve to win another world title in an unprecedented seventh weight division on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Both fighters were on the attack from the opening bell. Pacman dropped Cotto with a right hook in round three. Cotto dominated round four, but was dropped by a left uppercut at the end of the round. Cotto fought courageously but was rocked again in the sixth by Pacman’s hurtful shots coming in from all angles. Cotto began to box from the outside in the seventh with some success. However, Pacquiao continued to stalk him and break him down. Cotto was in survival mode down the stretch. Referee Kenny Bayless finally waved in off in round twelve. Time was :55.

Faster, stronger, bettter!!

Does your conditioning cost you?

In addition to superior fitness levels, and lightening-fast speed, boxing success requires tremendous power output. Power - the force or energy used to do work - in and of itself, will lend a degree of robustness to any of the main boxing punches and, in turn, increase the chances of landing the fight game's holy grail: the knockout punch.

The generating of maximal power through any punch, will certainly tell ones opponent they mean business, and this will have a profound psychological effect in terms of fazing "the enemy". Indeed, developing power will also help to enhance speed and anaerobic fitness.

Speed will improve as muscles become used to pushing out heavier weights (the cornerstone of any power routine), which translates to a faster punch when the comparatively infinitesimally light, 10-14 ounce gloves are laced on.

Anaerobic fitness, the fitness system which uses carbohydrates to generate short-term, high intensity work, will improve as muscles become adept at sustaining an all-out effort, due to greater lactic-acid-handling abilities (lactic-acid is a by-product of anaerobic metabolism and will prematurely curtail a sustained effort if it cannot be processed efficiently).

If the muscles, which are, after all, conduits for all movement in the boxing ring, cannot function optimally, meaning they cannot generate speed and power, and last the distance, boxing success will be severely impeded. Power, therefore, is a key ingredient in any boxing program. To develop optimal, specific, power for boxing purposes, one needs to pick the right exercises and execute them correctly.

In theory, any weight movement, performed correctly and with enough resistance, will enhance the power translatable to boxing. However, greater success will come from using movements which lend themselves to the generating of force (pushing type movements for example), and which replicate actual boxing techniques or motions the arms will make during the extension phase of the punch.

Boxing in Allentown PA!!

Long time friend & former professional fighter Luis Melendez of Allentown, PA has opened a boxing facility in Allentown. 402 Ridge Ave, Allentown PA. For more information contact Luis at Good luck Luis!!

lightweight world champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz VS Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi

After controversy, heated conversations and negotiations were settled, former three-time lightweight world champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz and former junior welterweight world champion Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi met face-to-face yesterday to announce the December 12 rematch of their exciting August 22 bout. Diaz and Malignaggi will square off on neutral ground at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois in 12 round junior welterweight bout that will be televised live on HBO’s Boxing After Dark

Train Like a Warrior to get in the best shape of your life.

Training for Warriors, uses exercises that build speed and explosiveness, which means that my clients gain the strength needed for a first-round knockout as well as the endurance to go the distance. This workout can not only make you leaner and more muscular, but also leave you in fighting shape.

Ignite your body's fat-burning furnace and build muscle with this total-body workout 2 or 3 days a week. Perform the exercises as a circuit--one exercise after another--with little or no rest in between. Rest for 2 minutes after the circuit and then repeat it. Work your way up to three circuits. To shred your midsection, try my H.I.G.T workout between training days

1. Judo Push-up
Begin in a traditional pushup position, but move your feet forward and raise your hips so your body forms an inverted V.
Keeping your hips elevated, use your arms to lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Keep your arms in close and maintain the tension on your upper body.
Then lower your hips until they almost touch the floor as you simultaneously lift your head and shoulders toward the ceiling. Return to the starting position. That's 1 repetition.

2. Crossover Step-up
Hold a dumbbell in each hand as you stand with your left side next to a step or bench. Step up onto the bench with your right leg by crossing it in front of your left leg. Push up by using the leg on the bench.
Next, bring your left

3. Leaning Shoulder Fly
Hold a dumbbell in your right hand and stand with your left side next to a squat rack or post, your feet together. Now grab the rack with your left hand and allow your left arm to straighten so that your body is leaning at an angle away from the rack. Let your right arm hang straight below your shoulder and turn your palm so that it's facing your side. That's the starting position.
Keeping your right arm straight, raise the

4. Medicine-Ball Pike-up
Lie on your back with your legs straight and hold a medicine ball over your head with your arms outstretched.
Keeping your arms and legs straight, simultaneously raise them so your feet and hands touch. Flex your abs by rotating your hips toward your upper body. Lower your body to the starting position. That's 1 repetition.

5. Mixed-Grip Chin-up
Hang from a bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, one palm facing toward your body and the other facing away. Pull your chest to the bar and pause. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull yourself up. Then slowly lower yourself to the starting position. Do the recommended number of repetitions, and rest. Flip your grip and repeat

6. Swiss-ball Wall Squat
Stand with your feet slightly in front of your body and use your back to hold a Swiss ball against a wall. Keep your feet flat and don't rise onto your toes as you lower your body. Keeping your back in contact with the ball, lower your body until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor. (The ball will roll down the wall as you squat.) Stay in the down position for 5 seconds and return to a standing position. That's 1 repetition

7. Around-the-Head Plate Drill
Grab a weight plate by the sides with both hands and hold it just in front of your chest. The plate should start in front of your body. Keep your elbows bent throughout the move. Raise the plate up and over one shoulder.
Continue a clockwise rotation behind your head keeping the plate close to your body. Continue moving the plate on the path around your head, and return it to its original position after going over the opposite shoulder. Complete all reps moving clockwise, and then repeat, this time going counterclockwise.

8. Boxer's Dumbbell Speed Twist
Grab a dumbbell with both hands and sit on the floor with your knees bent. Hold the dumbbell an inch or two in front of your chest and raise your feet off the floor. That's the starting position. Now brace your core and rotate the dumbbell a few inches to your right. Maintain your lower-back position as you rotate your body.
Then rotate it to the same position on your left. That's 1 repetition.

The bottom line on your protien needs.

Most athletes know of the importance of eating before exercise, however, what and when you eat after exercise can be just as important. While the pre-exercise meal can ensure that adequate glycogen stores are available for optimal performance (glycogen is the the source of energy most often used for exercise), the post-exercise meal is critical to recovery and improves your ability to train consistently.Consuming protein has other important uses after exercise. Protein provides the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during intense, prolonged exercise. It can also increase the absorption of water from the intestines and improve muscle hydration. The amino acids in protein can also stimulate the immune system, making you more resistant to colds and other infections.

Bottom Line
If you are looking for the best way to refuel your body after long, strenuous endurance exercise, a 4:1 combo of carbohydrate and protein seems to be your best choice. While solid foods can work just as well as a sports drink, a drink may be easier to digest make it easier to get the right ratio and meet the 2-hour window.

Jason “The American Boy” Litzau

Litzau in action tonight

Hard-punching Jason “The American Boy” Litzau. from St. Paul, Minn. faces relentless Johnnie “The Lumberjack” Edwards from Aiken, N.C. tonight (Nov.4) at the Marine Corps Air Station New River, for the vacant North American Boxing Federation super featherweight championship. The special show, will start at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and will feature some of the most exciting performers in the sport, highlighted by three bouts that will be nationally televised as a presentation of Square Ring Promotions.

More Muscle, No Waiting

Here are some tips to build muscle fast:

Eat more quality food. You cannot be afraid to gain fat if you want to build muscle fast. Make sure you increase your protein content and increase your calories weekly as you get bigger.

Lift heavy and stick to core movement exercises. You want to work multiple muscles at once and able to lift as much weight as possible. Core exercises allow you to do this. You still want to stick to 6-8 reps, even though you are lifting heavy.
Do not miss workouts. You are not going to build muscle if you continue to skip workouts. Stay focused and on track.

Add some creatine to your diet. If you have the money, take 5 grams of creatine monohydrate daily. It has been shown to be one of the most effective and safe muscle building supplements over the past 10 years.

Do not overwork yourself. Training more often will not get you muscles to grow faster. If anything the more rest you get, it will allow you muscles to grow more.

Learn to skip rope like a fighter to achieve an edge in burning fat.

8 Exercise Myths

Myth #1: More Protein Builds More Muscle

To a point, sure. But put down the shake for a sec. Protein promotes the muscle-building process, called protein synthesis, but you don't need exorbitant amounts of it to gain lean mass. If you're working out hard, consuming more than 0.9 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of body weight is a waste (excess protein breaks down into amino acids and nitrogen, which are either excreted or converted into carbohydrates and stored). Even more important than how much protein you consume is when you consume it. To optimize muscle growth, down a shake containing three parts carbohydrates and one part protein within 15 minutes of working out.

Myth #2: Always Use Free Weights

Sometimes machines can build muscle better—for instance, when you need to isolate specific muscles after an injury, or when you're too inexperienced to perform a free-weight exercise. That said, free-weight exercises do mimic athletic and real-life movements better than machines, and tend to activate more muscle mass. As you become stronger, gradually transition to free weights until they make up the majority of your training program. If you're a seasoned lifter, free weights are your best tools to build strength and burn fat.

Myth #3: Never Exercise a Sore Muscle

Before you skip that workout, determine how sore you really are. If your muscle is sore to the touch or the soreness limits your range of motion, give it another day of rest.

In less severe instances (i.e., if you’re not sore to the touch and have full range of motion), "active rest" involving light aerobic activity and stretching, and even light lifting, can help alleviate soreness by stimulating blood flow (and, thus, the repair process). Start with 10 minutes of light cycling, and then exercise the achy muscle by performing no more than three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions using a weight that's no heavier than 30 percent of your one-rep maximum.

Myth #4: Squats Kill Your Knees

And cotton swabs are dangerous when you push them too far into your ears. It's a matter of knowing what you're doing. All things considered, however, squats are one of the safest leg exercises you can do. In fact, a recent study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that "open-chain" exercises—those in which a single joint is activated, such as the leg extension—are potentially more dangerous than closed-chain moves—those that engage multiple joints, such as the squat and the leg press. To squat safely, hold your back as upright as possible and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor (or at least as far as you can go without discomfort in your knees).

Myth #5: When You Lift Weights, Draw in Your Abs

Trainers often advise their clients suck in their belly as they perform exercises. Their goal is to engage the transverse abdominis, a deep abdominal muscle that’s part of the musculature that maintains spine stability. Here’s the problem with that strategy: Your transverse abdominous doesn’t act by itself to support your spine. For any given exercise, your body automatically activates any number of the handful of muscles that are needed for spine support, so focusing on your transverse abdominis may over-recruit the wrong muscles and under-recruit the right ones. This not only increases your risk of injury, but also reduces the amount of weight you can lift. If you want to give your back a hand, simply "brace" your abs as if you were about to be punched in the gut, but don't draw them in. In so doing, you’ll activate all three layers of the abdominal wall, improving both stability and performance.

Myth #6: Do 3 Sets of Each Exercise

In 1948, a physician named Thomas Delorme reported in the Archives of Physical Medicine that performing three sets of 10 repetitions was as effective at improving leg strength as 10 sets of 10 repetitions. Here’s what we know today: There’s nothing wrong with—or magical about—doing three sets, but the number of sets you perform for each exercise shouldn't be written in stone (or determined by a 50-year-old default recommendation). Indeed, if you’re looking to pack on muscle, you should regularly vary the number of reps and sets that you do, and the amount of weight that you lift. That way, you’ll constantly force your muscles to grow to meet new challenges.

Follow this rule: If you're doing eight or more reps, keep it to three sets or less. If you're pounding out less than three reps, do at least six sets. The Big Book of Exercises has hundreds of other get-fit-quick exercise strategies.

Myth #7: Use Swiss Balls, Not Benches

Don't abandon your trusty bench for exercises like the chest press and shoulder press if your goal is strength and size. Why? You’ll have to reduce the weight to press on a Swiss ball, and that means getting less out of the exercise. Instead, focus your chest and shoulder routines on exercises that are performed on a stable surface. Then use the ball to work your abs.

Myth #8: Slow Lifting Builds Huge Muscles

Lifting super slowly produces super long workouts—and that's it. University of Alabama researchers recently studied two groups of lifters doing a 29-minute workout. One group performed exercises using a five-second up phase and a 10-second down phase, the other group followed a more traditional approach of one second up and one second down. The faster group burned 71 percent more calories and lifted 250 percent more weight than the super slow lifters.