The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is collaborating with patients, academics, and the pharmaceutical industry to encourage the development of new treatments for sickle cell disease (SCD).
By Krista Haynes, RD, CSSD
It’s not the end of the world if you don’t like vegetables, but they are the pinnacle of health when it comes to your diet — these fiber-filled rockstars are key players when it comes to healthy digestion, weight management, satiety, longevity, and disease prevention.
But good news for veggie haters: Over time, your taste buds reduce in number and size, thus rendering your taste senses less sharp so things you hated as a kid you might actually enjoy as an adult.
You still might not go from veggie hater to veggie lover overnight, but with a few simple mental shifts and some handy tips in the kitchen, you’ll be on your way to becoming a big fan.
If you need some inspiration, there’s no lack of healthy living blogs — including our own! — that feature an endless number of ways to prepare vegetables.
And if all else fails, you can always go the sneaky route: Researchers have found that “hiding ” veggies in your favorite recipes can help boost your vegetable consumption and decrease total daily caloric intake for the double win.
The Benefits of Eating Vegetables
You’ve been told to eat your peas — and other veggies — for as long as you can remember. But do you know why? Here are three good reasons:
1. Vegetables provide a nutrient bang for your caloric buck
A side-by-side comparison illustrates that for almost the same number of calories, you can either consume 32 baby carrots with two tablespoons hummus or an ounce and a half of pretzels.
Both are crunchy snacks, but carrots and hummus are a more nutrient-rich snack choice. Not only can you eat a bigger portion, it also provides fiber, healthy fats, protein, quality carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients.
In her research, Dr. Barbara J. Rolls, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University, found that eating vegetables promotes satiety, thus resulting in fewer total calories consumed.
In laymen’s terms: Foods like big bulky salads or vegetable soup may help you feel more satisfied, even if you’re eating fewer calories.
2. Fruits and vegetables can help you stay “regular”
Talking about fiber might not be sexy, but when it comes to feeling full and losing weight, eating enough fiber can help make that easier.
Fiber is the indigestible portion of plants and takes longer to move through the digestive system, which can promote that “full feeling.” Fiber also adds bulk to your stool, which helps keep things moving along.
But most Americans only get approximately 16 grams of fiber per day, significantly less than the USDA Dietary Guideline’s recommendation of 25–38 grams for women and men respectively. This is mostly due to an over-consumption of packaged, processed foods void of fiber, and a diet lacking in fiber-rich fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
If you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet, for every fruit serving aim for two veggie servings until you reach seven to nine total combined servings per day.
3. Vegetables are versatile
Stay with me here: You may have grown up eating soggy boiled green beans or overcooked broccoli, but as an adult, you have the power to stop cooking veggies until they turn into mush.
A new cooking method (roasting, perhaps?), seasonings and sauces, or simply combining different colors and textures can take your veggie game to the next level.
How to Make Vegetables Taste Good
Find your “starter” vegetable
There are all kinds of vegetables out there and they all taste different. If you don’t already have a favorite veggie, take advantage of opportunities to taste-test different ones at a restaurant or at a dinner party — or if you’re feeling brave, get in the kitchen and start experimenting.
When you come across something that you like, this is your “starter” veggie. Popular vegetables varieties include:
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, dandelion greens, bok choy)
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts)
- Allium (garlic, onion, shallots, leeks)
- Root vegetables (sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, celery, radish)
- Gourds (squash, pumpkin, zucchini)
- Nightshades (eggplant, tomato, white potato, okra)
- Beans and legumes (black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, soy beans, lentils)
Once you’ve found your starter veggie, you can start experimenting with different preparations until you find the right one for your taste buds.
Experiment with cooking techniques
When you’re iffy on veggies, roasting them is usually a good place to start because it brings out the natural sweetness of each vegetable through a process called caramelization.
Not a fan of roasting? Consider using the grill. Grilled kabobs may spark fond memories of backyard barbecues. Associating vegetables with happy times can help reframe your disdain for them.
Add sauces, herbs, spices, and dips
While it may be counterintuitive to add calories just to get you to eat your veggies, when done within an overall healthy diet, you can still achieve the weight-loss results you want — and eventually, you may find you don’t need the dips and sauces at all!
Dip raw celery or jicama in hummus, spread some all-natural peanut butter over celery sticks (add raisins for that classic ants on a log treat), or kick up your green beans with fresh garlic. Or try this recipe for Acorn Squash or these Balsamic-Glazed Brussels Sprouts.
Some people have a certain taste receptor gene that can increase sensitivity to bitter flavors found in certain vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale. But with the right flavorings (lemon or cinnamon) and preparation methods (sautéed with fresh garlic or roasted with coconut oil), an otherwise bitter leafy green or floret can become a must-have side kick to your main dish.
Mix it up
Try multiple veggies at once instead of singling them out. Something like this Winter Superfoods Bowl can help you combine various flavors and textures into a mixed dish that may suit your taste buds quite nicely.
Go stealth mode
We all know that cheese and bacon can make anything taste ten times better, and sure you can smother cauliflower in cheese and call it Cheesy Cauliflower Nachos, but why not add veggies to the foods you already love?
Some sneaky ideas:
- Add puréed veggies to your pasta sauce.
- Mash cauliflower into mashed white potatoes.
- Blend baby spinach into your fruit smoothie.
- Add puréed pumpkin to your pancake batter or prepared oatmeal.
- Top your pizza with mushrooms.
- Mix half spaghetti noodles with half zucchini noodles.
- Add chopped mushrooms or carrots to your hamburger patty, or better yet, be brave and make a black bean veggie burger.
How to Buy Vegetables
Whether you buy fresh, frozen, pre-cut, or canned depends on how you plan to cook your vegetables — and how much time you have to prepare them.
“Fresh is best” most of the time. When looking for the perfect produce, select vegetables that aren’t wilting and still look vibrant. If your grocer doesn’t carry what you’re looking for, head over to the freezer section.
Frozen produce is basically fresh produce that was frozen at peak ripeness, thus “locking in” all the valuable vitamins and phytonutrients.
In addition, stocking up on frozen produce can help minimize food waste with its longer shelf-life compared to fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you’re pressed for time, pre-cut vegetables may be your saving grace. Heat, air, and light are three elements known to degrade certain nutrients, so keep in mind, the tinier the pieces, the more surface area is exposed to oxygen, thus resulting in nutrient loss.
If possible, choose a package that was freshly prepared at the market and store it in a dark, cold refrigerator.
Canned vegetables often mimic your worst nightmare when it comes to this food group — limp and lifeless. Plus, the preservation process degrades many valuable nutrients.
The only exceptions to this rule are puréed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!) and butternut squash, tomatoes, and canned beans. Check the label to make sure your canned veggies are low-sodium or no-salt added.
If you’re concerned about exposure to BPA (bisphenol A), then look for BPA-free cans or glass-jarred veggies.
How to Prepare Vegetables
Feeling fancy? Make your veggies resemble something you already adore: cauliflower rice or mashed cauliflower, zucchini noodles (i.e. “zoodles”), carrot fries, cauliflower pizza crust, broccoli tots, cauliflower breadsticks, or swap portobellos for a burger patty and top it with some lettuce and tomato.
Here are five cooking methods, ranked from top to bottom in the order you’re likely to enjoy most:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut your veggies into similar-sized pieces. Items that cook quickly (broccoli, cauliflower florets) can be roasted without additional chopping, and items that take a little bit longer to soften (beets, sweet potatoes) should be cut into about 1-inch cubes to help everything cook evenly.
Arrange in single layer on a large parchment or aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with coconut or olive oil, then toss to coat.
Add herbs or spices like fresh rosemary, thyme, chili powder, or cumin for additional flavor. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on type of veggie, turning once or twice during cooking to brown evenly and ensure they don’t get too crispy.
Note: Softer, smaller veggies require less time than dense veggies like roots and tubers.
Prepare grill to medium heat. Cut vegetables so they are large enough to lay flat on the grill without falling through.
Lightly coat veggies with coconut or light olive oil, and add a dash of salt and pepper. Grill to desired tenderness. Cook times vary, depending on type of veggie, approximately four minutes (asparagus) to 10 minutes (bell peppers).
Wash and chop vegetables so they are evenly sized. In a large skillet set on medium-high heat, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive or coconut oil and chopped garlic.
Add vegetables and continue to cook and stir until desired tenderness (you can easily insert a fork, but not overly mushy), about five or more minutes. Season with herbs and spices.
Note: Leafy greens will wilt faster than other vegetables so add those in the final minute of cooking.
Add about an inch of water to a large saucepan. Place a steamer basket into the pan and fill with vegetables in their ready-to-eat form. Just like roasted vegetables, dense ones (like the root veggies) will take longer to cook. Cutting these into smaller half inch cubes helps reduce the amount of time to doneness.
Cover with the lid and steam on medium-high for two to 15 minutes, depending on the size and type of vegetables (spinach and asparagus take less time to cook than tubers or root veggies).
Be careful not to overcook to the point that green veggies turn brown or bright veggies turn dull. Cook to the point where a fork can be inserted, but the veggie is still a bit firm. Almost any veggie works well when steamed. Season to taste.
Wash, chop, and chow down. You may want to dunk these in a healthy dip or combine in a salad and drizzle with dressing so they’re not so boring. However, if munching on raw celery or carrots is your thing, then by all means carry on!
The Bottom Line
Even if you’re a lifelong avoider of vegetables, take heart: With an open mind and a little creativity and crafty cooking, you can start adding more of this healthy food group to your diet.
Every single one of us has a go-to food we indulge in when we’re a bit down or stressed from a long week of work.
For me, it’s a big bowl of ice cream filled with chocolate, clusters of nuts, and some extra peanut butter thrown in for good measure. I’d never admit this to my diet expert pals because, well, it’s not exactly something that should be a part of my daily diet. But, we have to wonder: Do diet experts turn to the same kind of comfort food — or do they always keep it 100 percent clean, even if that means abandoning their favorites?
We asked dietitians to dish about their favorite comfort foods, and the results were as diverse as the experts themselves. Some go all-out, others turn to favorites from their childhoods, and a few embellish healthy ingredients with small amounts of decadent ones such as cheese or chocolate.
8 Registered Dietitians’ Favorite Comfort Foods
“Some of my favorite memories growing up are the days when my mom would put the biggest pot we owned on the stove, start chopping vegetables, and make her tomato sauce. I now work near my parents and I love coming around a corner to see her waiting there with a big cooler bag. I know exactly what’s in there waiting for me.”
—Ann Marion Willis, R.D., Nova Scotia, Canada
“Depending on the season, and what is going on, I have a range of comfort foods. One of my all-time favorites is a bowl of basmati rice topped with Rajma (kidney beans cooked in an Indian spicy sauce). This was a meal that I looked forward to as a child, and whenever I enjoy it now, it brings back fond memories of my Mom. It evokes fond childhood memories of home, childhood, and innocence.”
—Vandana Sheth, R.D., National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
“I love dark chocolate mini Trader Joe’s PB cups, frozen. I love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, and of sweet and salty. Most would not consider this food to be healthy, but I do believe that all foods can fit in, especially when consumed mindfully. Including some fun foods can help minimize sugar cravings, prevent overeating, and keep you happy.”
—Wendy Sterling, R.D., Owner of Sterling Nutrition
“My favorite comfort food is Indian khichadi or khichari; it’s a simple, porridge-like blend of mung beans and rice with spices. It reminds me of my childhood, school vacation, coming back home from vacations, healing, and my grandmother. She cooked it in a slow-cooker using a traditional stove called chulah.
“It’s a healthy combination for people who are not allergic or sensitive to rice or mung dal. In Ayurveda, it is known for the ability to restore balance and healing. It is an ideal food of choice during times of stress — such as illness, periods of overwork, or change of seasons.”
—Aarti Batavia, M.S., R.D., the Institute for Functional Medicine certified practitioner
“My favorite comfort food is pizza because it tastes so, so good, is satisfying. I believe that all foods can fit into a balanced, healthy lifestyle unless of course someone is allergic to a food.”
—Chrissy Barth, R.D., Live, Breathe Nutrition
“I don’t really have a comfort food! I work really hard to fuel [my body] when I am hungry instead of eating due to boredom, stress, happiness, frustration, sadness, and procrastination. I think being mindful with our eating and being more aware of why, when, and what we eat can help work through emotional eating.”
—Abby Black, R.D., AB Nutrition Solutions
“My comfort food seems to change over time. When I was younger, ice cream was my favorite comfort food for sure and I still enjoy it, but I don’t eat it daily for obvious reasons. Next it was crunchy raisin bran with almond milk. And now it is either homemade chocolate chip granola bars or homemade peanut butter oatmeal bites.
“I wouldn’t say these items are as healthy as a bowl of broccoli but they are not unhealthy. There are many ingredients in both recipes that are beneficial to our bodies. Oats, peanut butter, and chia seeds are all healthy foods. Chocolate and honey have to be eaten in moderation but are fine to be eaten occasionally. Both recipes have a balance of carbs, fat, and some protein, which helps kick cravings and contribute to helping keep me full instead of going back for three helpings.”
—Lauren Schmitt, R.D., Healthy Eating and Training, Inc.
“If I had to pick a food that is comforting, it would be short grain brown rice with salmon and spinach, topped with Parmesan cheese and a small amount of butter. It’s warm, nourishing, and also feels a little indulgent with the cheese and butter. In all honestly, I don’t use food for comfort and, as a registered dietitian, I encourage my clients to turn to non-food activities for comfort.”
—Sarah Mirkin, R.D., C.P.T., Kitchen Coach
It’s easier than ever not to cook at home: Take-out, pick-up, and a slew of food-delivery apps makes no-cook eating as easy as tapping a few buttons on your phone.
But that convenience can come with a high-caloric cost. One simple — and usually less expensive —way to block those extra calories heading for your waistline? Cook at home.
Science backs it up, too: A 2014 study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that people who eat more meals at home consume 200 fewer calories at meals than those who eat out on the regular. And when these home cooks do eat out, they pick healthier options.
Find why firing up the stove can help you lose weight, and tips to make cooking at home easy and doable.
Why Cooking at Home Can Help You Lose Weight
It’s not good enough to just eat at home, though — you have to make those meals, too. And remember: Just because you cooked something at home doesn’t automatically make it healthy. (Sorry, but those “homemade” double-chocolate fudge brownies don’t count.)
But if you stick with healthy recipes, then you’re definitely giving yourself the home advantage. “The bottom line is that eating at home is healthier for you because it gives you so much more control,” says Meg Hagar, M.S., R.D., and author of Little Book of Kitchen Wonders. You know exactly how much salt or fat or sugar is going into your dish; you also have the power to swap ingredients in (and out) to fit your nutritional and caloric goals.
And eating healthy at home doesn’t have to cost more: A study from researchers at the University of Washington found that home-cooked dinners were lower in fat, calories, and sugar — but not higher grocery bills. The study also found that people who eat at home are more likely to meet U.S. government guidelines for a healthy diet.
The control you get with cooking at home extends to other facets of your health as well: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six Americans get sick from food-borne illness each year. Of course, food poisoning can happen anywhere, but when you’re preparing meals at home, you know exactly how food is being handled — and how clean the kitchen is.
Master the Art of Meal Prep
One of the biggest reasons people eat out is for convenience. But that convenience comes at a hefty price: According to data from the USDA, Americans spend almost $3,000 a year eating out.
We get it: It’s easier to just pick something from a menu versus shopping, preparing, cooking, and cleaning, especially if you’re crazy busy. But if you arm yourself with some smart shopping tips and time-saving meal plans, you can lose pounds and gain some cold, hard cash.
“I’m a huge believer in batch cooking, or preparing multiple servings of a meal all at once,” says Hagar. “The best part is that I only have to cook a few times a week and I get to eat my own homemade meals all week!”
Sounds easy, but the reality of it can be overwhelming. Start slow, like cooking three dinners at home one week. Then, the following week, add two home-cooked breakfasts. Keep building on each subsequent week until it becomes a habit to cook at home, instead of eating out.
Pro tip: If you need a kick in the pants to get your healthy habits started, a fitness and nutrition program like 21 Day Fix can get you going.
How to Eat Healthy at Home
Restaurants use everything from color to music to influence what you eat — and how much you spend — at their establishments. Follow their lead by creating an environment at home that supports healthy eating and habits:
- Put your meal on a plate before you sit down to eat; no eating out of bags or boxes of food.
- Keep healthy foods like fruits and nuts easily accessible and tuck the less-healthy temptations in the pantry or cupboards.
- Put away all electronics — be mindful of what you’re eating and how much. “At home, you can turn off distractions while eating, allowing you to really tune into our hunger signals and avoid overeating, ” says Hagar.
- Use portion-control containers to make sure you’re eating a balanced meal. “Load up on veggies and lean proteins plus a small amount of complex carbohydrates to make your plate look more full of food,” she advises.
How to Eat Healthy While Eating Out
While we’re definitely fans of eating at home, that doesn’t mean you have to be a hermit who never enjoys a meal out. With a few tips and tricks in your back pocket, you can stay on track and eat out with friends and family with zero guilt:
- Scope out the menu online beforehand to see which meals will fit your goals. Chain restaurants are required to list calorie counts and other nutritional info, making the search for the right dish a lot easier.
- Read the fine print on the menu: Stay away from foods that are described as “crispy,” “pan-fried,” “buttered,” or “stuffed,” and stick with healthier preparations like “broiled,” “baked,” or “steamed.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions, or for dressings and sauces on the side — or not at all.
And don’t beat yourself up if you eat out more than you plan to. Just roll with the punches and know that making the switch to healthy cooking and eating, like with any new habit, takes time to master.
We all know there aren’t enough hours in the day, but that’s no excuse to skip a sweat session. You can crush your daily workout in less than 30 minutes, trust us—we designed them (and tried them!).
If you’re reading this, you’re probably pressed for time, so without further ado, here are a few of our quickest and most efficient workouts under 30 minutes—we’ve even got some 10-minute routines.
If You Have 30 Minutes to Work Out
Beachbody On Demand Members —you can click in to any of the workouts below and start crushing it (as long as you’re logged in, of course). Not a member yet? Learn more about Beachbody On Demand, our health and fitness streaming platform.
21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme
Sculpt a strong, lean physique in 30 minutes with 21 Day Fix, featuring Super Trainer Autumn Calabrese. These easy-to-follow workouts use dumbbells and resistance bands to provide an efficient, full-body workout every time. If you’re already pretty fit, try 21 Day Fix EXTREME, which revs up each move for greater intensity. Try 21 Day Fix now.
You might not make it the full 30 minutes of this intense cardio routine your first time out—but that’s the point. With INSANITY MAX:30, by Super Trainer Shaun T. you’ll jump, crunch, and burpee those calories off as you find your max—and then blow right past it. Bonus time-saver: there’s no equipment required; you can literally do this one anywhere. Start INSANITY MAX:30 now.
Yep, there’s a half hour version of P90X—P90X3! Super Trainer Tony Horton gets you extreme results in just 30 minutes with an eclectic mix of workouts that use chin-up bars, resistance bands, dumbbells and sometimes no equipment at all. If you’re looking for an intermediate-advanced challenge in a short amount of time, try P90X3 now.
Beachbody On Demand has tons more 30-minute workouts! Check out the rest of our programs here.
If You Have 25 Minutes to Work Out
Incinerate calories with another one of Shaun T’s fierce cardio programs, FOCUS T25. These short, intense workouts that occasionally require weights or resistance bands get you in and out in 25 minutes (hence, the program’s name), and are designed to maximize fat loss. How, you ask? NO REST. Try FOCUS T25 now.
22 Minute Hard Corps
If you’ve got 25 minutes, you’ve definitely got 22. This basic-training-inspired program uses military drills for simple, highly effective cardio and resistance workouts designed to burn fat and get you in fighting shape. Plus, it comes from Tony Horton, the same trainer who created P90X, so you can be sure that you’ve got your work cut out for you. Lastly, you’ll need pull-up bars (or resistance bands) and dumbbells (or sandbags) for this one. Try 22 Minute Hard Corps now.
TurboFire is a super intense cardio program from Super Trainer Chalene Johnson with workouts ranging between 10 and 60 minutes. Here we recommend the program’s HIIT (high intensity training) workouts, including HIIT 20 and 25, Upper 20 and Lower 20. Check out TurboFire for a complete list of 25-minute-or-less workouts, and get your heart ready to race.
If You Have 15 Minutes or Less to Work Out
10 Minute Trainer
You’ll be surprised at the results you can get in just 10 minutes a day. Work your legs, arms, core, shoulders, back, chest, heart, and lungs in total body workouts that last just a little longer than it takes your coffee to brew. It’s not easy, but it’s designed to get you great results. Try 10 Minute Trainer now.
Great Body Guaranteed!
Five power-packed workouts from trainers Tony Horton and Debbie Siebers—all under 11 minutes. This Beachbody Classic was created to slim and tone your thighs and arms, define your abs and butt, and teach you how to stretch it all out in the time it takes to boil pasta. The perfect pre-dinner workout. Try Great Body Guaranteed! now.
Total Body Solution
Get down to basics with Total Body Solution. Four of the program’s five workouts are under 15 minutes, focusing on neck, shoulders, core, and knees. Not only does it provide cardio conditioning, but it also focuses on relieving and preventing pain. Try Total Body Solution now.
Everyone is curious about the newest Beachbody Super Trainer, Megan Davies. She created the new program Clean Week, which helps people establish healthy habits in just seven days, and is available for FREE on Beachbody on Demand on October 3rd. She won the Beachbody reality TV show: THE 20s, is a premier fitness and figure competitor, and owns a successful gym in her home town of Coral Springs, Florida. We got a chance to sit down with Megan, learn how she got into fitness, why she loves working with beginners, and who she admires most.
How did you first get into fitness?
Megan Davies: I was always active when I was younger. I did all kinds of sports. I was one of those kids always outside doing something. Dance and gymnastics were my two main activities, then I got into weight lifting in high school. I started training for fitness and figure competitions at age 14 and did my first competition the day after my 15th birthday. I just fell in love with it. It combined my two loves of gymnastics and weight training.
When did you start training others?
My dad was the first person I trained. Growing up, I saw my dad gain and lose weight like a rollercoaster. He loved to exercise, but didn’t have time because he was always working to support the family. I felt bad. So I told him I wanted to work out with him and go on this fitness journey together. He got really excited and decided right then and there that he was going to do a figure competition by the time he turned 50. He was 47 at the time.
So, we started learning about health together, working out together, meal prepping together. We set up a mini gym in our garage and started weight training, and sure enough, at age 49, he competed in his first bodybuilding competition and won first place in his age group. Helping my dad make his transformation made me realize that I have the ability to motivate beginners in fitness and really make a difference. This is when I knew I wanted to work with beginners, to help them turn their lives around and reach their goals.
I understand you own a gym in Florida with your family. How did this come about?
After my dad made his big transformation, my mom said, “Well, if you’re going to be fit and have abs then I’m going to do it, too.” So she started working out with us in the garage, and soon after my older brother joined in. We all started working out together as a family and pushing each other. Then the neighbors started coming over and joining us. They all wanted to be part of this fitness journey with us. Sometimes we did Beachbody’s P90X in the garage on Saturdays. It’s funny how things come full circle.
After high school, I moved three hours away to Orlando to go to college at the University of Central Florida, but I still went back home all the time to workout with my family. We were getting quite a following of people coming over to get trained on a regular basis. My dad, brother, and myself all got certified in personal training, and we offered it all for free. We just loved doing it.
A couple years after college, my family and I opened a gym in Coral Springs. It was 2011 when our gym “Training for Warriors” was born. My dad had some experience with owning a business, but we really didn’t know what we were getting into. We just knew we loved what we were doing and we knew we wanted to do it full time.
We put all the equipment we had from the garage into the little 1,000-square-foot gym and we just hoped that people would actually show up and join the gym. But it worked, people joined, because we treated them as we always did—as part of our family. Showing our clients love and support is how they got results and the gym grew really fast. We went from 1,000 square feet the first year, to 2,000 the second year, to 4,000 the third year at the location where we’ve stayed ever since. Me, my dad, and my brother all teach classes and train people. My mom is the office manager. People are happy and are seeing results, and we couldn’t be more proud of what we are doing.
Who do you most admire?
Recently I’ve been following this girl named Jennifer Bricker. She is a gymnast and aerialist who was born with no legs. She inspires me to never say that I can’t do something, to always go for what I want with as much energy, effort, focus, and passion as I can. To put it all out there and just see what happens. It’s easy to say “I can’t” or “it’s hard” to go after your dreams, but this woman didn’t let her physical limitations stop her, so that inspires me to really go for it in life.
Why do you love working with beginners?
I love working with beginners because that’s how I got started–pulling my family, friends, and community along with me on my fitness journey. I mean, of course it’s fun to train really fit people because you can push them to do some extraordinary things, but to motivate someone to take their first step on their fitness journey is really special because they always have that connection with you: I’m the person that got them moving and helped change their life.
This is why I created Clean Week specifically for beginners, with workouts anyone can do and a simple nutrition plan that includes Shakeology. This program is near and dear to my heart because it’s my passion to help people get onto the right path.
I couldn’t be happier right now. I get to help people every single day. And working with Beachbody, that reach has been extended further than I ever thought possible. I’m really excited for what the future holds.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can happen to anyone. And these types of injuries, which include concussions, contribute to a substantial number of emergency room visits (and even deaths) each year. Learn more about TBI, and the FDA’s related research and regulatory activities.
When you decide to add strength training to your workout routine, knowing where to start can be tricky. And once you get going, knowing how to progress can be even trickier. After all, most weight-room newbies are unsure of their strength and, in turn, how to push it to its limits. How heavy of a dumbbell should I choose? How many sets and reps should I do? When should I move up to heavier weights?
Luckily, Beachbody On Demand offers programs like A WEEK OF HARD LABOR and Body Beast, created by Super Trainer Sagi Kalev, to get you started in weight lifting. “In A WEEK OF HARD LABOR, we are lifting heavy but I’m teaching you how to lift weights correctly,” says Kalev. “My top three rules are use proper form, be safe, and have fun.”
Here, we break down how to push yourself and your workouts to meet your individual goals. Consider this your guide to awesome strength-training results.
How Do You Build Muscle?
Simply put, you get stronger by stressing your muscles, giving them enough time to recover, and then stressing them again. That’s because, every time you place a demand on your body that’s heavier or harder than what it’s used to, you create microscopic tears in the worked muscle tissue. Then, those tears heal, the muscle incorporates new structural and contractile proteins, coming back just slightly stronger and better able to handle even heavier loads. Eventually, the exercise that was once incredibly challenging becomes easy and it’s time to increase the stress so that the process can happen again, and muscle growth continues.
The best way to get started is to pick up a weight that you can perform three sets of 10 reps with each exercise, so you’re lifting the weight 30 times, with a couple minutes of rest time between sets.
How Do I Progress in Weightlifting?
As you get stronger, you have three options regarding how to progress:
- First, you can lift the same number of sets and reps and just increase your weight. For example, if after a couple weeks of lifting, you can easily do three sets of 10 reps lifting 10-pound dumbbells, then pick up 15-pounders and do the same program, and then repeat this process.
- A second option is to increase sets and decrease reps, such as four sets of six reps. You would choose this option if you want to make big jump in weight, let’s say from 10 to 20 pounds, since you may not be able to lift 20 pounds more than six times. Also, the heavier your weight, the more rest you need between sets in order for your muscles to recover.
- A third option is to keep the same weight and do more reps, which may be your option if you only have one weight to work with.
If you’re working out in your home gym and don’t have multiple weights to choose from, you can still progress in a few different ways. First, changing how you’re gripping the weight will engage different muscles. You can also change the pace in which you lift, such as slowing down the eccentric phase of the exercise (i.e. when you lower the dumbbell in a bicep curl). Lastly, you can decrease the amount of time you rest in between sets.
What’s Your Weight-Training Goal: Muscle Strength, Endurance, or Size?
To keep your workouts progressing in the right direction, it’s important to be clear about your goal. Here are recommendations for building muscle strength, endurance, and size, according to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 4th Edition.
- Muscle Strength
If you want to increase your muscle strength, you’ll want to perform low repetition sets in which you’re lifting a weight that’s close to your one rep max (1RM), which is the most you can possibly lift in a given exercise with good form. For example, you might perform two to six sets of six or fewer reps, lifting a weight that is 85 percent or more of your IRM, with two to five minutes of rest between sets. If you’re able to lift seven or more reps, then you need to increase your weight.
Note: While determining your 1RM is a great way to understand your strength abilities, any testing should be performed under a certified trainer’s supervision.
- Muscular Endurance
Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle, or group of muscles, to perform continuously without fatigue. For muscular endurance, decrease your weight, up your number of reps, and reduce the amount of rest between sets. For example, perform two to six sets of six or fewer reps using 85 percent or more of your 1RM, with two to five minutes of rest between sets.
- Muscular Size
To build muscle size, or hypertrophy, you’ll want to increase your number of sets, but with heavier weights and lift as many reps as you can while maintaining good form. Again, when you lose proper form, that is where you stop and make an adjustment. For example, perform three to six sets of six to 12 reps, using 67 to 85 percent of your 1RM, with 30 to 90 seconds of rest between sets. With those heavier weights, you’ll need a bit more rest in between sets. Once you hit 12 reps with good form, it’s time to pick up a heavier weight and go back to lifting 6 reps.
Speaking of bulk, let’s get real for a second: for women, there is a stigma around “getting bulky.” While women are slowly starting to embrace weight lifting, others worry that they will turn into the Hulk the second they pick up a dumbbell. The truth is that most women can’t get bulky even if they wanted to since, compared to men, they have roughly 15 to 20 times lower testosterone — a hormone that plays a large part in bulking up. So, while women can enjoy similar gains in muscle strength compared to men with weight training, most won’t notice a significant gain in muscle size due to genetics and hormones. (Plus, if a woman has a lot of fat to lose, she may actually get smaller in her waist and thighs since lifting weights increases metabolism.)
As you experiment with these variables (weights, sets, reps, and rest between sets), remember they are interdependent, so if you change one, you need to adjust the others. For example, if you lift a weight at the upper end of the range (85 percent of your 1RM), you’re going to perform fewer sets of fewer reps and take more rest than if you were to lift a weight at the lower end of the range (67 percent of your 1RM).
When To Pick Up a Heavier Weight
Once you consider a previously challenging workout easy, you are no longer stimulating muscle growth, you’re doing a recovery workout.
So what does “easy” actually feel like? The best way to know when you’re ready to increase exercise stress — whether by lifting heavier weights, adding reps, or decreasing rest time between sets—is to track your workouts, and focus on your form. Stephen Graef, Ph.D., a sports psychologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, suggests taking notes on your sets, reps, rest times, and how you feel for each workout. This way, you’re able to track your progress.
Focusing on your form can help you know when you’re ready for more. You should always use the heaviest weight that will allow you to perform all of your reps with good form. Let’s say you lose proper form at the 8th rep of your bicep curl workout, don’t go any further and jot down a note that you lost form at the 8th rep. When it’s time to do bicep curls again, see if you can perform more than 8 reps with good form. Once you’re able to accomplish all 10 reps with perfect form, and your last few reps of an exercise feel similar to your first few, it’s time to pick up a heavier weight.
Joel Freeman, C.P.T., co-creator of Beachbody’s CORE DE FORCE says, “No matter your strength-training experience or what workout you’re doing, improving your form is a huge marker of progress.” When learning new moves, Freeman recommends looking at yourself in a mirror, or even filming yourself working out, so you can go back to analyze and improve your form.
In his own workouts, Freeman ups the weight based on his ability to get through his last rep without any help from a spotter. As soon as he can do that, he pushes himself even harder. If you don’t have a spotter to keep yourself safe when you’re pushing yourself to your max, many trainers recommend progressing your weight when you can perform two extra reps during your exercise’s last two sets. “If you can do two extra reps in your last set of a given exercise in two consecutive workouts, then you’re ready to progress,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody Senior Fitness Content Manager. “That’s called the ‘Two for Two Rule’.”
P90X trainer Tony Horton recommends lifting the heaviest you can for six to 10 reps, and when you can do 12 reps at that weight, move to the next heavier weight and go back to six reps.
Again, going up in weight isn’t the only way to progress. Thieme recommends trying out the other options, such as decreasing the rest period, changing the grip of the weight so that different muscles engage, or moving from dumbbells to a barbell.
Are You Pushing Yourself Too Hard?
With all this pushing, it’s important to remember that it’s during the recovery process that your muscle tissues actually become stronger, bigger, and fitter. And there’s a fine line between pushing hard and getting the results you want versus pushing so hard that you actually hamper muscle growth.
So how do you know if you’re overtraining? Physical symptoms include experiencing excessive fatigue, chronic soreness, more frequent injuries, and even illness. Mental symptoms include reduced motivation, irritability, and depression.
Again, this is where tracking your workouts comes in handy. If you lift significantly less weight for two weeks in a row, then you might be pushing too hard and not building muscle properly.
On recovery days, Freeman suggests stretching or foam rolling, or light cardio such as jogging, walking, or hiking. One study showed that 20 minutes of light cardio on the recovery day helped women who lifted weights reduce muscle soreness.
Remember, every person is different. When you’re starting a new weight training regimen, it will take some time to understand the cues your body is telling you. Graef says, “Over time, you’ll learn to listen to your body, and know when to push and when to pull back.”
A great way to get into weight lifting is to sign up for Beachbody On Demand and check out programs that incorporate strength training, such as A WEEK OF HARD LABOR, Body Beast, SHIFT SHOP, P90X, The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, and 21 Day Fix.
In an effort to support the communities affected by Hurricane Harvey, the Beachbody Foundation will donate $1 every time you stream A WEEK OF HARD LABOR. Press play on any A WEEK OF HARD LABOR workout between Tuesday, September 5th and Sunday, September 10th to generate up to $100,000 for the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund.
Losing weight isn’t easy, but keeping it off can seem even more daunting.
Thankfully, it turns out that the idea that most people who lose weight gain it all back (and sometimes more) might be a misconception, and there’s research to back that up: An ongoing observational study found that with sustained behavioral changes, the majority of people were able to keep weight off for 5+ years.
To help bolster your resolve, shed these nine unhealthy habits and ways of thinking to help make weight loss part of who you are, rather than a fleeting phase.
Ditch: Thinking long-term weight loss is impossible
Feeling like you have to suffer for the rest of your life to maintain your weight loss is understandably scary.
That’s why it’s crucial to have a realistic maintenance plan for eating and exercising that meshes with your life. Just as important, however, is how you react when you go off-plan.
“Slip-ups will happen. It’s helpful to not view them as a failure but as something you can learn from,” says psychologist Holly Parker, Ph.D., author of “When Reality Bites: How Denial Helps and What to Do When It Hurts.”
Try to think of those ups and downs as a natural part of the process, she says, rather than getting hung up on the fact that the slip-up happened. And use the information you gleaned to help guard against a similar lapse in the future.
Getting back on the horse right away also can make you feel more in control, Parker says. Feeling passive, on the other hand, can make you feel helpless and overwhelmed, which can be part of a vicious cycle that leads to poor diet decisions.
“Many of us overeat or eat things that aren’t so healthy as a way to cope with difficult feelings,” adds Aline P. Zoldbrod, Ph.D., a psychologist based in Lexington, Massachusetts, and a spokesperson for the American Psychological Association. “So the best way to not get into feelings of hopelessness is to set small goals and to have a lot of compassion for yourself when you are struggling.”
Ditch: Thinking you have to eat foods you don’t like
When social media starts exploding with testimonials about the latest magical diet food, it can be difficult to not get caught up in the hype and start thinking you can’t possibly be healthy without it. But if beet smoothies, salmon jerky, or kale just aren’t your jam, don’t worry about it, nutritionists say.
“No one food is the ultimate food,” says Paige Benté, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., and nutrition manager at Beachbody. “Every food has a different macro- and micronutrient profile, and bodies need a variety of all of those things.”
In other words, it’s the whole puzzle, not individual pieces, that’s important. While one food doesn’t have the power to ruin your diet, the health food of the moment won’t make it healthy on its own either, says Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., a dietitian in New York City and co-author of “The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure,” with sister Lyssie Lakatos, R.D.
“Just like you wouldn’t eat cake at every meal — it’s OK every once in a while — it’s the same with really good foods,” says Lakatos Shames. “If your diet is poor overall, throwing in some kale or red quinoa once in a while won’t make up for it.”
In addition, no matter how impressive a food’s nutrition profile is, it won’t make much difference to your health if you resent eating it, Benté says.
“Is kale healthier than romaine lettuce? Yeah, sure,” she says. “But if you hate kale, you’re not going to eat it. I’d rather you eat a salad with romaine that you’ll enjoy and keep eating rather than forcing yourself to eat kale once in a while.”
Ditch: Uncomfortable workout clothes
You don’t have to buy expensive exercise clothes to get a good workout, but there’s evidence to suggest that clothes might actually play a role in keeping you motivated.
So, if you’re wearing clothes that are uncomfortable (like baggy cotton shirts that get heavy with sweat or leggings that feel a little too low-cut), that might be what stands between you and a good workout.
According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, when subjects wore lab coats, they performed better at tasks requiring attention, leading the authors to conclude that clothes might have symbolic meaning and associations for some people.
And clothes might also have the ability to affect psychological processing. That might help explain why sometimes just putting on cute workout clothes can feel inspiring and energy-boosting, and why tying your sneakers can be the thing that finally spurs you to head out the door and go for a run.
“Obviously, being comfortable makes working out more pleasant,” Parker says. “When I wear clothing that I feel uncomfortable in, my mental energy is distracted. So I imagine that wearing clothes that make you feel good can be motivating.”
Ditch: Reacting to slight weight gain with quick-fix diets
Life often gets in the way of good intentions: You go on vacation or to a wedding, and indulge a little too much. When that happens, it’s tempting to overcorrect with a quick-fix diet plan.
Any responsible dietitian will tell you should steer clear of unhealthy diets that severely restrict calorie intake or the variety of foods you can eat. From a pragmatic standpoint, you shouldn’t do them because they won’t help your reach your weight goals beyond the very short term.
More importantly, your body may try to hold onto fat stores if you go below a certain calorie level in preparation for what it considers “starvation.”
“Ultra-low calorie diets can backfire in terms of your metabolism function,” Lakatos says. “Although initially, there might be weight loss, part of what you’re losing is muscle tissue,” which can affect the speed of your metabolism.
That means that when you start eating normal food again, it might be more of a struggle to keep weight off. “Not only is it unsustainable, it leaves you back where you started, and that can be pretty depressing,” she says.
This yo-yo dieting process is one of the biggest obstacles for people trying to keep weight off, says Benté, who has maintained a significant weight loss for several years herself.
“Diets aren’t things you start and go off of and then go back to your old habits,” she adds. “A quick fix is not healthy, nor is it weight loss that’s going to last.”
What works is finding a balance that works for you, recommends Benté. Start slow and keep making small goals for yourself, such as adding an extra serving of vegetables to your diet each week so you adjust to eating more of them.
“When you slowly incorporate changes into your life, eventually they won’t seem as daunting,” she says.
Ditch: Thinking of exercise as a chore
No matter what your weight is, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and regular exercise tends to be a contributing factor in your ability to keep weight off over time.
The key is finding an activity (several) that you enjoy and will do regularly. While some people thrive on competition and enjoy group sports, others may prefer at-home workouts by themselves.
“It’s amazing how, when people develop a habit, it eventually can become a part of their identity,” Parker says. For example, instead of thinking, “I’m running,” you start thinking, “I’m a runner.”
“When they use that language, something has been folded into their identity, so they’re more likely to stick with it because it has become part of who they are,” she says.
Ditch: Thinking you can never drink alcohol again
Sure, alcohol contains empty calories that don’t do your body a lick of good, but if you’re smart about it, you don’t have to ditch alcohol to maintain weight loss.
Like a glass of juice or a scoop of ice cream, alcohol can fit into a healthy weight-maintenance plan, Benté says. But it is a treat, she points out, and should be treated accordingly.
“If you really know your limits and can have just a drink once or twice a week, we say it’s perfectly fine,” Lakatos Shames says.
Problems can arise, however, if people jump on and off the abstinence wagon without having a realistic plan to keep alcohol consumption in check.
“When clients tell us they’re going to completely abstain for two weeks, we’ll say, ‘that’s great,’ but if they felt deprived doing that, they might go wild after it’s over,” Lakatos Shames says.
They also advise setting a drink limit in advance: “With a number set in your head, it’s easier to stick to,” Lakatos Shames says.
Pro tip: Drink water or soda water between each alcoholic beverage helps slow you down and keeps you hydrated.
Ditch: Chowing down to fit in
Sometimes we shift into “party mode” way too easily. A birthday party is a no-brainer danger zone, but if you’re not careful, having friends over for dinner can trigger party mode, then regular Friday happy hours with co-workers.
How much you share about your indulgence plan for an occasion is up to you, but sometimes asking loved ones for help and understanding about your goals can be helpful, Benté says.
“If you tell people, ‘this is something I’m doing for myself, and I need your help,’ it makes you more accountable because they know you’re working on these things,” she explains.
There are also sneaky strategies to help you avoid nosy questions about what you might be eating or drinking: Having a little healthy food on the plate in front of you won’t stand out like an empty plate would, Lakatos Shames says. A red plastic cup filled with soda water helped Benté blend in unnoticed at college-era parties, she says.
Reminding yourself that you have a choice is another trick to maintain healthy behaviors, Parker says. A 2015 study found that when people at a mall were confronted with signs asking whether they wanted to take the stairs or the escalator, more people chose the stairs than people who hadn’t read the sign.
It might have a similar effect on eating behavior, Parker says, to remind yourself that you have the option to eat a cookie or eat an apple — and it’s up to you.
Ditch: Shaming yourself on the regular
A steady stream of negative talk about your body doesn’t just make you feel bad — it makes healthy choices more difficult.
“There’s this idea that if people are hard on themselves, they’ll be motivated to do better, but evidence shows that the opposite is true,” Parker says, pointing out that research suggests that “fat shaming” may actually cause people to eat more, not less.
Being cruel to yourself with negative self-talk can set you up for a vicious cycle, Zoldbrod says: “You say terrible things to yourself, feel worse than you did before, use food to self-medicate your upset feelings, and then you feel disgusted by yourself, so you want to eat more to feel better. It just goes around and around.”
When you catch yourself thinking bad things about your body or your weight, flip the body-shaming script by focusing on the bigger picture: You’re losing weight to be healthy and strong.
If you start beating yourself up for eating a cupcake or skipping a workout, think about healthy goals you’re working on now.
“Focusing on what you can achieve rather than what you can avoid has a more positive impact,” Parker says.
Ditch: Not managing your stress levels
You’re probably familiar with many of the reasons why stress is bad for your health, but here’s another: Cortisol.
This is the body’s stress hormone and it affects how your body stores fat, contributing to belly fat stores, and it can also increase appetite-stimulating hormones. So having — you guessed it — a plan to combat stress can help maintain your weight, Benté says.
When you’re trying to lose weight, you might get stressed out that you can’t have your favorite foods, she says. The trick is to map out your eating plan for the week and adding healthier versions of your favorite not-so-healthful foods, or squeezing in a small treat here and there without being too restrictive.
Don’t forget to keep moving, too: Exercise naturally boosts endorphin and serotonin levels, which helps lower stress, Lakatos Shames says.
The Bottom Line
Try to remember that long-term weight loss isn’t as much of a unicorn as previously thought. Experts agree that having a plan, setting small goals and challenges to keep yourself motivated, and not freaking out when life happens all go a long way in maintaining your weight. Ditch these bad habits, and you’ll be a step ahead in the weight-maintenance game!
They go by many names: pipes, pythons, rocks, guns. Whatever you call them, athletic-looking arms — firehose thick or ropey and lean — are a hallmark of the über-fit, standing out even when you’re fully dressed.
But the benefits of effective arm workouts are more than cosmetic. “Physical strength and power are translated to the outside world through your limbs,” says Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Beachbody’s senior manager of fitness and nutrition content. “So strong arms aren’t just important for stretching the limits of your shirtsleeves — they’re important for allowing you to more effectively perform the tasks of everyday life, like carrying groceries, lifting furniture, or sealing a deal with a firm handshake.”
Ready to build a pair worth showing off? Beachbody On Demand is the right place.
Biceps and Triceps Basics
The upper arms consist of two major muscle groups: the biceps on the front of the arm, which flex, or close, the elbow joint, and the triceps on the back of the arm, which extend, or open it. Anatomists refer to muscles like these as antagonist pairs — muscles whose actions oppose each other.
Though it appears to be a single, continuous muscle, your biceps actually has two heads (short and long). Both of them attach separately to the scapula, and then fuse together to form the “belly” of the muscle before attaching via a tendon to the upper forearm.
In addition to flexing your elbow, the biceps also help to supinate your hand, turning it from a palm-down to a palm-up position. You can see this function at work when you twist your wrist while flexing your elbow: your biceps will “pop up” as you wrist turns inward.
The triceps is larger than the biceps, making up two thirds of the mass of the upper arm. It’s the extensor muscle of the elbow, and it has three heads. The long head — the one closest to your torso — originates at the scapula (shoulder blade). As a result, you’ll also feel it contract in movements where the backs of your shoulders are active, like bent-over lateral raises.
The lateral and medial heads attach to the humerus (upper arm bone) near the shoulder. The medial head is located beneath the other two, which together form the classic horseshoe shape of the developed muscle. All three fuse together and attach to the elbow via the same tendon.
10 of the Best Exercises to Add to Your Arm Workouts
Below are 10 of the most effective arm exercises we know, all pulled from Beachbody On Demand‘s extensive library of workout programs and targeted arm workouts. Each of them hits your biceps or triceps slightly differently to maximize arm development.
If you aren’t following one of our programs, Thieme recommends working one or two exercises for each upper arm muscle (biceps and triceps) into your workout two or three times a week. “The growth stimulus from a strength training session lasts about 48 hours, so targeting a muscle group more than once a week will help optimize your results.”
That said, he cautions, “it’s also important not to overdo it. A smart training program, like those on Beachbody On Demand, will challenge every muscle group, including your biceps and triceps, often enough to stimulate growth without compromising recovery.”
In and out bicep curl
Appears in: P90X – Shoulders and Arms
Benefits: This move alternately stresses the two heads of each biceps muscle — long and short — with two different grip positions.
- Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with your elbows at your sides and your palms facing forward. This is your starting position.
- Keeping your elbows tucked, curl the weights as close to your shoulders as you can without letting your elbows leave your sides.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Pull your shoulder blades together and rotate your arms so that the backs of your hands face your sides.
- Keeping your arms in this externally-rotated position, curl the weights as close to your shoulders as you can without raising your elbows.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Continue alternating grip positions with each rep.
No dumbbells? Hold the handles of a resistance band and step on the center of the tubing.
Full supination concentration curl
Appears in: P90X – Shoulders and Arms
Benefits: This variation on the biceps curl creates a peak contraction of the biceps muscle, helping to create definition.
- Stand holding a pair of dumbbells with your elbows at your sides and your palms facing in. (As in the previous move, exercise bands are also an option.) This is your starting position.
- Curl the weight in your right hand toward your shoulder, rotating (supinating) your wrist toward the outside of your shoulder.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, and repeat with the weight in your left hand.
- Continue alternating sides, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.
One arm concentration curl
Appears in: P90X – Back and Biceps
Benefits: This exercise works the biceps with the upper arm in a vertical orientation, which maximizes tension on the muscle in the fully-contracted position.
- Assume a wide, staggered stance with your left leg forward and your left arm supported on your left thigh (as if you were about to attempt to start a lawnmower).
- Holding a dumbbell at arm’s length with your right hand (palm facing forward), make a fist with your left hand and brace the back of your right elbow against the back of your left wrist.
- Keeping your back flat and core braced, curl the weight toward your shoulder.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.
Appears in: Body Beast – Bulk arms
Benefits: Switching from an underhand to a neutral grip (so your palm faces inward), increases the load on the brachialis, a muscle lying to the outside of your biceps that adds shape and definition to your upper arm.
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat, your knees spread wide, and a dumbbell in your right hand.
- Bend forward and brace the back of your right elbow against the inside of your right knee. Your right arm should be vertical, with your right palm facing toward you.
- Keeping your upper body still, your elbow against your knee, and your palm facing inward, curl the weight toward your shoulder.
- Pause and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat, performing an equal number of reps with each arm.
Appears in: SHIFT SHOP – Strength: 25
Benefits: This classic exercise allows you to work the biceps directly using the heaviest possible weight.
- Stand upright holding two dumbbells at arm’s length in front of your thighs, palms facing forward.
- Keeping your back straight and your elbows locked at your sides, slowly curl the weights as close to your shoulders as possible.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat.
EZ bar preacher curl
Appears in: Sagi’s BOD exclusives – Bis and Tris
Benefits: This move targets both heads of the biceps in a mechanically weak position, allowing you to work harder using less weight, fewer reps, or both.
- Position yourself on a preacher curl bench with your elbows bent and an EZ bar held in both hands with an underhand grip.
- Lower the bar, stopping just before your elbows lock out.
- Curl the bar back up to the starting position, and repeat.
Side leaning tricep extension
Appears in: P90X – Chest, Shoulder, Triceps
Benefits: This exercise both isolates the triceps and works it from a fully extended position, increasing the tension on this key upper arm muscle.
- Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, sit sideways in an armless chair with the backrest under your left armpit.
- Leaning against the backrest for support, press the weight in your right hand directly overhead with your palm facing forward. This is your starting position.
- Without moving your upper arm (keep it vertical), slowly bend your elbow and lower the weight behind your head toward your left shoulder.
- Return to the starting position.
- Do all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat.
Flip grip twist kickbacks
Appears in: P90X – Shoulders and Arms
Benefits: Few other exercises trigger as much activity in all three heads of the triceps as the kickback, according to a study by the American Council on Exercise. This alternating-grip variation boosts the benefits by making it even more challenging.
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, assume a staggered stance with your left foot forward.
- Lower your torso until it’s 45 degrees to the floor, and then curl the dumbbells to shoulder height with your palms facing down. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your back flat and your elbows tucked, extend your arms fully behind you.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, and then flip your grip, so that your palms are now facing up.
- Extend your arms fully behind you, and then reverse the movement to bring the weights back to shoulder height.
- Continue alternating grips with each rep.
Rope push down
Appears in: Sagi’s BOD exclusives – Chest and Tris
Benefits: This machine-based move forces the triceps to work hard when your arms are fully locked out, emphasizing the long head of the muscle.
- Attach a two-handled rope to a cable machine and set the pulley to about shoulder height.
- Holding the handles with a neutral (palms in) grip, move backward a foot or two (feet together) to create tension on the cable, and then hinge forward with your torso about 30 degrees.
- Without moving your upper arms, extend your arms fully toward the floor.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position, and repeat.
Appears in: Sagi’s BOD exclusives – Bis and Tris
Benefits: This challenging bodyweight move works the triceps in conjunction with the chest and shoulders.
- Grab the handles of a dipping station and jump or step up to the starting position: feet off the floor, arms straight, ankles crossed.
- Keeping your forearms vertical and elbows in (not flared), allow your torso to lean forward as you lower your body until your elbows form about a 90-degree angle.
- Reverse the movement, returning to the starting position. Repeat for as many reps as possible.
Too tough? Perform the move with your hands on a sturdy chair or bench behind you and your feet on the floor.
Skull crusher press
Benefits: This exercise emphasizes the long head of the triceps by working the muscle in the fully extended position.
Stand holding a single dumbbell horizontally in both hands at shoulder height, palms on the weighted ends, with your elbows tucked. This is your starting position.
- Press the weight straight overhead.
- Without moving your upper arms, lower the weight behind your head.
- Reverse the movements to return to the starting position, and repeat.
Each of the above exercises is streaming right now along with their complete arm workouts at Beachbody On Demand. Sign up for a free trial and start working out at home via your TV set-top box or mobile device.
Nutrition for Arm Development
Essential to building the muscles of your upper arms — and anywhere else — is eating properly. Muscles don’t grow unless you feed them. So if building impressive guns is your objective, a balanced diet of good carbs, healthy fats, and (especially) sufficient protein is essential.
Supplementation can also assist in your arm-amplifying efforts. A shake containing approximately 20 grams of protein consumed shortly after your workout — when your muscles are most receptive — delivers the maximum dose that the average person can synthesize in a sitting. Not coincidentally, that’s the amount contained in a serving of Beachbody Performance Recover, which also contains pomegranate extract to help reduce muscle soreness.
Often overlooked when trying to maximize protein synthesis (a.k.a. muscle growth) is how much of it takes place (or at least can) while sleeping. Beachbody Performance Recharge takes advantage of those overnight hours with 20 grams of casein, a slow-digesting protein that makes steadily available the protein that’s typically in short supply during sleep.
Creatine, another supplement, has been shown to help boost muscle growth and strength, as well as recovery between sets, allowing you to do more work per workout. Beachbody Performance Creatine helps you tap into additional strength with five grams of creatine monohydrate — the purest, safest, and most effective form of the supplement — per serving.