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I'm in college and have been lifting for a few months now, a few times a week. I eat well and train pretty hard, but I still drink a lot of beer on the weekends. How much does this hurt my results?
To be honest, when someone asks this I know that my response does not matter. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is unhealthy, and harmful to muscle building in particular. A beer or two on the weekends is all right, but getting trashed on Friday and Saturday will have negative consequences. But I'm sure that you already knew that. I won't insult your intelligence by regurgitating a bunch of stats regarding its effects.
Your priorities are not with working out right now, and there is nothing wrong with that. I go through periods where my workouts take a back seat. But to maximize your bodybuilding or athletic potential, you have to make working out your priority. That means remembering that when you drink excessively it undermines all the hard work you put in at the gym.
You'll make the priority switch when you are ready. Working out is new so you're not sure if it's worth giving up your beer. Trust me though; give working out a couple months of good solid effort, and you'll realize it is. Besides the numerous health benefits associated with working out, you'll eventually hit the point were the six pack you're focused on is not bought at 7-11.
I suffer from sciatica, and want to undertake an exercise program to strengthen my back and relieve the pain. What exercises or variations of exercises should I avoid?
First let me congratulate you on your decision to take an active approach in relieving your pain. Sciatica usually triggers a vicious downward spiral for most people, where the pain causes them to be less active, and the inactivity leads to more pain. Before they know it, they are in constant pain, and find everyday tasks unbearable. By exercising and increasing your fitness level, especially that of your abs and lower back, you will help ensure that your problem does not deteriorate to this point.
As far as your exercise program, you should avoid high impact activities, such as running on a treadmill. Water aerobics or some other non-impact form of aerobics, such as an exercise bike, would be advisable. If you enjoy running and want to continue, you should make sure you have very good shoes, and that you run on a soft surface like grass. Don't push yourself too hard, and take some time to find out what your limitations are. In the weight room you just need to be careful about straining the lower back. Exercises like hanging knee raises and deep leg presses will aggravate the sciatica by straining the lower back.
Form should be more important than how much weight you lift, but this does not mean that you should not challenge yourself. Exactly how someone with sciatica responds to various exercises is varied, so once again you should take it slow at first and find out what your limitations are. A great rule of thumb for exercisers who suffer from sciatica is that if you feel anything in your lower back while performing an exercise, then stop it immediately. Odds are, that movement will end up causing some pain later on.
How can I get my pecs more developed? What are some exercises that produce the cup shape at the bottom of the pecs? I work my chest once a week doing flat bench (6-8 sets, 6-8 reps), incline bench (4 sets, 6-8 reps) and usually 2 sets of dumbbell flyes (12 reps, moderate weight). I'm just not getting the results that I would like. Any help will be appreciated.
That cup shape is a result of thick pecs, and not necessarily something that you can work directly towards. As long as you do a variety of presses, your chest will develop just fine aesthetically within your genetic limitations. As for your overall lack of results, two things come to mind when I look at your program; First, are you using a periodized approach? By cycling your intensity levels in a progressive manner you will ensure continual progress.
Tudor Bompa's book Serious Strength Training can be found by clicking here, and does a great job explaining the basic concepts of designing a periodized program. Second, you are probably overtraining your chest.
You indicate anywhere from 12-14 total sets for chest alone, and for most natural weight lifters this is too much volume. 5-10 sets are enough to stimulate muscle growth in your chest. Remember that you want to do just enough in the weight room to stimulate growth, and then get out. Lastly, spend some time doing 5 reps or less. Get your bench press as strong as possible and you will find it easier to achieve the thickness that will give you the cup shape that you desire.
Is the latest creatine "twist" of creatine serum a viable option? The companies claim that there's no need for a loading phase, less creatinine and waste are produced, it can be taken fewer times, with quicker uptake, and less bloating. Have you tried this, or heard any independent research in regards to this?
It seems that liquid versions of creatine have been around almost as long as the original. Of course, when it became common knowledge that creatine could not remain stable in a liquid medium for very long most of them disappeared. However, some company is always trying to resurrect the concept, often claiming to have invented technology that solves creatine's unstable tendencies.
Will Brink, one of the supplement industry's recognized leaders, has done lab tests on a variety of creatine products. In fact, he is the man who brought the whole creatine purity issue to light, by exposing several major manufacturer's creatine as being sub-standard. He says that, while he has hopes that some day a liquid creatine product may be developed, all the liquid and serum creatine products he tested showed very little creatine and a lot of creatinine - in other words, whatever was supposed to stabilize the creatine did not work. So right now it seems that the creatine serum claims are more hype than fact.
Besides, it's pretty well-recognized that a loading phase is not necessary even with plain powdered creatine, and that intestinal distress caused by creatine is a byproduct of impurities, not creatine itself. If you make sure you are using pure creatine (German manufactured creatine is widely recognized as the industry standard), then most of the supposed benefits of creatine serum are negated, making it an iffy buy, even if it did contain stable creatine. Stick with the original.