Monthly Archives: January 2013

Get-Ripped Tips, Tricks and Mistakes

ironmanmagazine.comQ: I’ve been trying to get into some semblance of contest shape. My problem is that I will lose five to six pounds in a week, but then I’ll have a major diet breakdown and I gain back six to eight pounds in just a couple days. I punish myself for a week and get the weight back off, but then I get so hungry that I have another breakdown. How can I make progress and get into the kind of shape that I see you displaying in your photos in IRON MAN?


A: I’ve seen this kind of pattern before. What it involves is overtraining and overdieting, which creates too large of a calorie deficit that’s not sustainable, and eventually your body and brain rebel.

You have a major breakdown in which you can’t control your appetite. That results in a big bodyweight rebound, which consists of a combination of glycogen repletion, water retention and fat. Then you feel you must punish yourself, so you overtrain and overdiet, trying to get back to where you should be. The calorie deficit is so large that it leads you into another breakdown. It’s a the proverbial vicious cycle, and it leaves you frustrated, with a completely wrecked metabolism.

As I’ve always said, there is no substitute for consistency. You must consistently train hard and eat clean in order to achieve and maintain a lean, muscular physique. You must not make training and diet a means to an end. You must make it your lifestyle and make it livable.

So often people ask me how I’ve stayed in such great shape for so many years. The answer is that I’ve consistently trained hard and eaten clean— and I’ve been able to do that because it’s my lifestyle. It didn’t happen overnight, but almost 20 years ago I gave up fried foods, desserts, candy and sodas. I gradually made eating healthful foods my lifestyle—all the time, not just during precontest training. And now I have almost no desire to eat the bad stuff that I regularly consumed growing up. (I guess that means I wasn’t really grown up until I was about 33—and it’s still in question at 53.) When I finally fully embraced the bodybuilding lifestyle, the whole process became infinitely easier.

One thing that you need to change immediately is your mental approach to training and dieting. You have to stop beating yourself up for being less than perfect, and you have to stop using training and diet as punishment. That’s negative. Eventually, you’ll get sick of the punishment and give up completely.

Training should be fun. It should be something you enjoy and look forward to. Yes, it’s often painful, but when you associate the burn and the soreness with progress, you come to love it. And while nobody really likes dieting, when you feel better from eating clean and you see the changes in your physique that it brings, it becomes much more rewarding. In order to become and remain successful as a bodybuilder, you absolutely must become friends with your training and diet rather than using them as punishment.

Finally, the thing that you really need to do to extract yourself from this vicious cycle is to come up with realistic goals and expectations and work steadily and consistently to achieve those goals. Rather than trying to drop five pounds per week, set your sights on consistently losing one pound per week. In order to lose five pounds of bodyfat in one week, you must burn 2,500 calories per day more than you eat. That’s almost impossible to do without losing lean tissue, a.k.a. muscle—and it’s virtually impossible to sustain unless you are morbidly obese.

To lose one pound of bodyfat per week, you only have to create a 500 calorie-per-day deficit. That’s easy to do. What’s more, you won’t get overly hungry, and you can be certain that everything you are losing is bodyfat. If you’ve been on training-and-diet programs that get you to lose five or more pounds per week, dropping one pound per week will be a breeze. Most important, it will be something that you can live with and sustain.

So make friends with your training and nutrition programs, and adopt them as your lifestyle. If you do fall off the wagon, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back on your program and keep it steady as you go.

One more recommendation: Don’t have cheat meals. I find that after I haven’t eaten something for a while, I lose a taste for it and just don’t want it anymore; however, if I periodically eat something bad (say, pizza), I get the taste back in my head and I crave it. That makes dieting very difficult. So don’t remind yourself what the junk food tastes like, and you’ll be better off.

Have fun living the bodybuilding lifestyle. Enjoy the journey as well as the results.

Train hard, and eat clean.

Editor’s Note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at Click on Blogs in the top menu bar. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to IM


In Pursuit of the Perfect Workout [Insider Preview]

My good friend John Rowley was here in Southern California from the East Coast, and when I met with him, he mentioned that he was going to be seeing Doug Brignole, a former Mr. America who had been using a version of my 4X mass method with excellent results. "Great, ask him how his training is going."

When I got the report, I was stunned. Doug had taken it to a whole new level—both higher and lower at the same time. By that I mean he had cranked his reps up—to 50 on some sets—but he was only doing one exercise per muscle group.

“When I superset between chest and back, or biceps and triceps, or quads and hamstrings, I go continuously. I don’t rush per se, but I don’t delay.”

"You’re kidding?" I prodded. "Nope," John said, "and he looks bigger than ever. Everybody is asking him what he’s doing in the gym to get those results—at age 53 no less."

Well, yeah! I wanted to know too, so I fired off an e-mail to Doug asking for the details. The response I got back amped up my excitement even more. It started like this:

"Okay, I guess my little secret is out of the bag. I’ve nailed it—the Holy Grail. This is the best workout program I’ve ever used. Period.

"My weight is the highest it’s ever been, and I’m gaining steadily—creeping up on 220 for the first time in my life. I’m gaining two to three pounds per month."

Now I was really hooked—and so are you, I imagine—if you’re looking to build muscle size as quickly as possible. So for your benefit as well as mine, I interrogated Doug for all the details.

IM: In the past you and I have discussed the fact that higher tension time builds muscle size, but you’ve taken it to a new level with high reps. And you do only one exercise per bodypart?

[story continues...]

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Tip 527: Get Strong: Tips To Gain Maximal Strength & Improve Performance

Being strong can solve a lot of problems, both on the athletic field and in your daily life. For example, it’s a lot easier to get faster and more powerful from training if you already have a strong, balanced body. And being strong is a major bonus when you need to lift heavy stuff in your house or if you find yourself in a tricky physical situation.

Research shows that if you are strong you can get SO much more out of training. This tip will tell you why maximal strength is so critical to performance and how to achieve it.

A recent study wanted to find out how important it is to be strong for optimal athletic performance and power output. Researchers divided young men into two training groups based on their strength level: A strong group that had a back squat 1RM that was 2 times body weight, and a weaker group that had a back squat 1RM that was 1.3 times body weight.

After 10 weeks of power training, results showed that the strong group increased power, jump height, and 40-meter sprint speed much more than the weaker group. The stronger athletes experienced a much larger improvement in peak power ability and vertical jump, supporting the idea that for athletic development, it is best to attain a high level of strength prior to training for power.

Researchers think that the stronger athletes are better able to utilize the stretch shortening cycle and tolerate high forces than the weaker group, which led them to experience greater benefits from the training. This shows how being strong is beneficial for more than just lifting really heavy stuff—it leads to a better trained central nervous system, more efficient muscle-tendon activity, and better coordination. The performance outcome is greater speed and power.

To develop your maximal strength, use the following guidelines:

•    You must ensure structural balance between the muscles, otherwise you will put yourself at risk of injury and never reach your maximal strength potential.

For example, make sure the right and left sides of the body are balanced, and that muscles such as the vastus medialis obliquus, the hamstrings, the rotator cuff and shoulder girdle, and scapular retractors have adequate strength.

•    Lift heavy (loads above 85 percent of maximal) for few reps and more sets. Keep the rep range below 6.

•    An example of an 4-week maximal lower body strength program used by rugby players included the following protocol: back squats, clean pulls, deadlifts, and Nordic curls, all at 85 to 93 percent of the 1RM. The players increased maximal squat strength by 30 kg after training.

The rugby players then did a 4-week power training program and increased sprint speed by 6 to 8 percent over sprints of 5, 10, and 20 meters. They also increased vertical jump.

•    Strength development is influenced by the anabolic response you create in response to training. For example, research suggests that acute testosterone response to training correlates with maximal strength gains. Equally, free testosterone levels have been found to predict athletic performance in trained athletes.

Emerging research suggests anabolic training response is somewhat individualized, but in general, a large volume, heavy loads, and adequate rest will produce the greatest testosterone response.

•    Recovery nutrition, the clearance of stress hormones like cortisol, and protein feeding will influence strength gains over the long term. This is especially important for athletes who are continually engaged in very intense strength and sport training.

•    Being strong is about continuing to make things harder, not easier, when training. A squat of 2 times body weight is by no means unreasonable, but it is uncommon in the general population—especially a double body weight deep squat.

Comfort, P., Haigh, A., et al. Are Changes in Maximal squat Strength During Preseason Training Reflected in Changes in Sprint Performance in Rugby League Players? Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.

Newton, Robert, et al. Combined Strength and Power Training For Optimal Performance Gains: A Biomechanical Approach. 2012. International Conference on Strength Training. Oslo: Norway.

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Physical Activity Essential to Prolong Life

ironmanmagazine.comReporting that the global mortality burden of physical inactivity stands at more than 5.3 million deaths annually and is similar to that of cigarette smoking at 5 million deaths per year, I-Min Lee, from Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts, and colleagues urge for the adoption of initiatives to promote the attainment of the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking.

The team acquired burden-of-physical-activity measures through several large cohort studies from around the world using input from the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group, including data on prevalence of physical activity at baseline and incidence of death and relevant noncommunicable disease. Those data were then used to determine the population attributable fraction by country, by region and globally for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer and all-cause mortality.

The researchers found that by eliminating inactivity globally, the world’s population would gain an estimated median 0.68 years in life expectancy (range 0.41 to 0.95), and that inactivity was tied to 5.3 million of 57 million deaths around the world in 2008. The researchers commented that complete global elimination of inactivity was unlikely, but with a 10 or 25 percent reduction in global rates of inactivity, an estimated 533,000 and 1.3 million deaths, respectively, due to all-cause mortality would be prevented. Writing that “physical inactivity has a major health effect worldwide,” the authors observe, “Decrease in or removal of this unhealthy behavior could improve health substantially.”

Lee, I.M., et al. (2012). Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group: effect of physical inactivity on major noncommunicable diseases worldwide: an analysis of burden of disease and life expectancy. Lancet. 380(9838):219-29.

—Dr. Bob Goldman


Editor’s note: For the latest information and research on health and aging, subscribe to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine e-zine free at


What I’ve Learned About Diets

ironmanmagazine.comI’m now past 40, and having more than a couple of decades of experience under my belt, I’m often asked if I “do diets” or help bodybuilders prepare for shows. I don’t, for a couple reasons. The main one is that I’m more than busy enough writing. Second, I just don’t have the patience to create diets and analyze them with people on a regular basis.

I know how to get myself in shape, and that’s good enough for me. Over 23 years of competing, I’ve tried many different methods and figured out through trial and error what works for my body. Even though what I’ve learned won’t apply to everyone, as that’s impossible, I thought it might be interesting to share, since many readers are in the process of shedding bodyfat.

1) I am either on a diet, or I’m not. There is no in between for me. Either I’m eating 100 percent clean 100 percent of the time, or I’m not. That also explains why I lean out so fast once I start my diet in earnest. My body reacts to the sudden decrease in sugar, wheat and dairy products by shedding fat to the tune of a good five pounds in the first two weeks. Unless I have a reason to be in great condition, though, I don’t eat that way. It’s not like I’m a fitness model and need to be ready for a cover shoot at any time.

2) Longer diets work best. In the past I would try to diet for six to eight weeks. It was a disaster every time. I never got lean enough by contest time, and I lost precious muscle. I also used to get pretty fat in the off-season. By staying leaner year-round and very gradually dieting over 16 or more weeks, I found I was able to hold on to nearly all of my muscle and get into better condition than ever.

3) Too much cardio is bad news. We are all different when it comes to cardio. I have known some guys who did as much as three hours a day while preparing for a contest. At times I used to do two hours a day, and it was common for a few years to do two 45-minute sessions a day. Part of that was because I was allowing myself to get too fat in the first place and also because I was trying to lose too much fat in too little time. In recent years I have figured out that 45 minutes of cardio a day during a diet is perfect. I lose the fat and keep the muscle. Your mileage may vary.

4) Don’t change the workouts. When you’re starting to see veins and striations, it’s very tempting to do more exercises and sets. You get so motivated by what you see and by your desire to win that you often want to do more supersets, drop sets and forced reps. That’s just stupid. You’re eating less food, and you’re doing more cardio. You’re not going to grow at this point. Maintaining what you have is about the best you can hope for, so respect the recovery process and don’t start going crazy with your workouts unless you want to lose muscle.

5) I need carbs. Some people swear by keto diets. I’ve tried them, and I hated them. Personally, I do well with carbs. I have them in my pretraining meal, in my postworkout shake, and in my postworkout meal. It works for me, and I still get in shape.


Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth From 25 Years in the Trenches, available at


Tip 526: Are You Trying To Get Stronger, More Powerful, or Build Muscle? Tips To Break Through Performance & Body Comp Plateaus

Are you trying to get stronger, more powerful, or put on muscle, but aren’t getting satisfying results? When was the last time you increased your weights, did more chin-ups, or saw a positive change in your body composition? If you can’t provide specific answers to each question, you may want to shake up your training so as to get something out of your hard work. Here are a few tips to do so.

First, you need to perfect training technique. Training technique is not trivial! Rather, it is a fundamental skill that will allow you to achieve success in the gym, just as fundamental skills like dribbling or footwork will give you success on a basketball court. For example, elite weight lifters spend so much time perfecting their lifting technique on the basic exercises such as the squat and overhead press because it will allow them to get stronger, and that strength will have carryover to the Olympic lifts. 

Training technique includes knowing the basic mechanics of a lift—if you are doing a full squat you know you need to go all the way down until the hamstring covers the calf, but not to the point where your pelvis caves under, and you must keep your back tight, chest up and open, and knees tracking over the toes.

Second, you need understand that training to “technical failure” is a very effective strategy for gain muscle and strength. It does not mean continuing to lift until you are physically unable to perform another repetition. Rather, you lift until you are unable to maintain the correct pathway of the bar or dumbbell for every repetition. Once you can now longer lift the weight with proper technique, you should end the set or decrease the weight, depending on the type of training program you are doing.

Third, doing more sets will help you build strength faster than doing fewer sets, especially over the short term. For example, an elegant study that compared the effect of 1, 4, and 8 sets of heavy squats in trained men showed the superiority of doing a lot of sets if you want to get strong. The participants trained twice a week doing either 1, 4,  or 8 sets of squats to failure with a load of 80 percent of the 1 RM. Workouts included upper body lifts to more closely mimic a real-life training protocol.

Results showed that the 8-set group gained the most strength in the squat by the end of the study, improving their 1RM by a huge 37 kg. They also got strong fast, increasing squat 1RM performance by 18.5 kg after only 3 weeks! Compared to the 8-set group that saw an average squat 1RM increase from 162 kg to 199 kg, the 1-set group increased squat 1RM by 17.5 kg, and the 4-set group increased squat 1RM by 23.8 kg by the end of the study.

The take away is that if you are serious about training, regardless of if your goal is strength, power, or body composition, you HAVE to do more than one set. Multi-set training is ALWAYS superior, and really, a much larger volume—as in more than 4 sets—will produce better results than a smaller volume of less than 4 sets. Pay attention here, because the vast majority of recreational gym goers are maybe doing 3 sets, but very few even do that many. Increase your sets and you will get better results.

Fourth, consider changing your rep/set/load scheme. Just as the vast majority of recreational trainees use 2 or 3 sets, they often stick to 10 reps per set. We know that if your goal is to get stronger, you will be much better served by doing a training cycle with fewer reps (try 5 or 6), but more sets (try 6 to 8), with a heavy load. If your goal is to build muscle, consider increasing your weights by 5 or 10 percent, but do 8 reps for 4 to 8 sets.

Finally, if you are training for a sport, you will want to include explosive training cycles in your program. Read the article Vary Tempo to Gain Muscle & Lose Fat: Count Tempo to Get Results for an example of an explosive training program for increasing power output.

Marshall, P., McEwen, M., et al. Strength and Neuromuscular Adaptation Following One, Four, and Eight Sets of High-Intensity Resistance Exercise in Trained Males. European Journal of Applied Physiology. November 2011. 111, 3007-3016.

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Tip 525: Sleep Better By Taking Vitamin D: Fatigue & Sleep Disorders Are Linked to Low Vitamin D

Sleep better and feel less tired by making sure you are getting vitamin D. New research suggests you need a vitamin D blood level between 60 and 80 ng/ml to get the best sleep. In addition, vitamin D deficiency is repeatedly linked to excessive fatigue during the day.

A research group from the University of Texas recently noticed conducted a study of 1,500 people who experienced headaches and insomnia and found that they were all vitamin D deficient. The researchers gave them vitamin D, and found that by raising the subjects blood vitamin D level to between 60 and 80 ng/ml over a 2 year period, they experienced normal sleep and much fewer headaches.

A few important points came out of the study: First, the subjects were very vitamin D deficient, so they were given 20,000 IUs a day of vitamin D3. The effect on sleep from the large dosing was immediate—sleep quality improved right away. Over a period of months as the subjects’ vitamin D blood levels increased they returned to completely normal sleep cycles. During the 2-year study, researchers observed that when vitamin D blood levels dropped below 50 ng/ml or went over 80 ng/ml, sleep difficulties were reported. In addition, supplementing with vitamin D2 prevented normal sleep in most patients. Avoid this form in favor of the D3 from of the vitamin.

The mechanism via which vitamin D influences our ability to sleep has to do with the fact that there are vitamin D receptors throughout the brain. A large concentration of these receptors are in the cells of the brainstem that allow us to sleep. If vitamin D is deficient in the blood, the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted. In addition, vitamin D influences many other hormonal processes in the body, including reproduction, metabolism, digestion, and cardiovascular health, all of which influence fatigue and sleep regulation.

Researchers suggest that the increasing rate of sleep disorders over the last 40 years is due in part to widespread vitamin D deficiency since we are spending the majority of our lives indoors, or wearing sunscreen out of doors. It’s true that vitamin D deficiency is rampant in warm sunny climates and the northern latitudes, making supplementation absolutely critical for health.

Be aware that in addition to helping you sleep better and avoid that mind-numbing fatigue that comes from insomnia, vitamin D is needed for body composition, and athletic performance. Read more about this in the article Take Vitamin D to Lose Fat & Gain Muscle.

Bominak, S., Stumpf, W. The World Epidemic of Sleep Disorders is Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency. Medical Hypotheses. 2012. 79, 132-135.

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Fusing P/RR/S and FD/FS

ironmanmagazine.comIn last month’s column I answered a question about whether I would ever recommend combining Power/Rep Range/Shock and/or FD/FS in a single training week, as opposed to the normal method of spreading those protocols over three to four weeks in a cyclical fashion. My answer was a resounding yes.

While many readers are familiar with the basic P/RR/S program, you may not be up on all of the techniques I mentioned last month. Here are synopses of some of the newer methods I’ve melded into my unique training approach:

Hybrid P/RR/S. This combines Power, Rep Range and Shock techniques in a single workout, enabling your muscles and central nervous system to “experience” a multidimensional attack each time you enter the gym. Here’s an example:


Bench presses (Power)

(4/1/X/1 tempo) 4 x 4-6

Hammer Strength incline presses

(Rep Range) (2/1/2/1 tempo)

1 x 13-15, 1 x 10-12, 1 x 7-9

Superset (Shock)

Incline flyes (2/0/1/0 tempo) 2 x 10

Weighted dips

(1/0/1/0 tempo) 2 x 7-9


Reverse Rep Range. This is the basic Rep Range protocol in reverse. It does not seem like much of a change, but trust me, going from higher to lower reps provides a very different feeling in the muscle and a pump that you will not believe! Here is an example for back:


Cable pullovers

(2/0/1/0 tempo) 2 x 16-20

Wide-grip pulldowns

(2/0/2/1 tempo) 3 x 13-15

Undergrip cable rows

(2/1/2/1 tempo) 3 x 10-12

One-arm dumbbell rows

(2/1/1/1 tempo) 3 x 7-9


Mixed Rep Range. With this variation of Rep Range the intention is to confuse the target muscles and central nervous system by moving the reps up and down from exercise to exercise. Here’s an example for shoulders:


Seated dumbbell presses

(2/0/2/0 tempo) 3 x 7-9

Machine rear-delt flyes

(2/0/1/1 tempo) 2 x 13-15

Wide-grip barbell upright rows

(2/1/1/0 tempo) 2 x 10-12

Lateral raises

(2/0/2/1 tempo) 2 x 7-9


Within Exercise Rep Range. With this version you vary the reps within a single movement rather than over multiple movements for the same muscle group. You can choose to work from higher to lower reps or vice versa. Here is an example for quads using both high-to-low and low-to-high components:


Squats (2/0/1/0 tempo)

1 x 16-20, 1 x 13-15, 1 x 10-12

Leg presses (2/0/2/0 tempo)

1 x 7-9, 1 x 10-12, 1 x 13-15

Alternate reverse barbell lunges

(2/0/1/0 tempo) (per leg)

1 x 16-20, 1 x 13-15, 1 x 10-12

Leg extensions (2/1/1/1 tempo)

1 x 7-9, 1 x 10-12, 1 x 7-9


Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System” is available at His e-books, Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout and The FD/FS Mass-Shock Workout, which include complete printable workout templates and Q&A sections, are available at


These Foods are Good for Gaining Weight

Since obesity is so common, most of the articles written about weight have to do with losing weight, but some people want or need to gain weight. Being underweight ...

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Tip 524: Build Muscle & Improve Athletic Performance With A Speedy Recovery

Don’t ignore the recovery process after training! Ignoring the need to clear cortisol, support muscle recovery, and get rid of waste products produced during training will inhibit subsequent athletic performance and slow your results. Plus, you will feel sore, stiff, and tired!

Two recent studies show the value of a recovery program, with strategies for accelerating the healing process. First, a study performed on elite rugby players is one of the first to test strength, power, and waste biomarkers after a short sprint workout. The players did 6 sets of 50-meter sprints with 5 minutes rest between sprints. Recovery was tested immediately after the workout, 2 hours after, and at 24 hours.

Results showed that power as measured by jump height was significantly lower immediately after the sprints compared to before, indicating acute fatigue that is associated with metabolic stress. Power and jumping ability completely recovered by 2 hours after sprinting, indicating that waste products such as lactic acid had been cleared. Similarly, the central nervous system had recovered power abilities. However, at 24 hours post-workout, power was much lower, which was likely due to muscle damage since creatine kinase (a reliable marker of muscle damage) was much higher at 24 hours.

Two points should be taken away to get better recovery: First if you are doing explosive training in addition to sprint workouts, it may be best to perform explosive activities that require motor coordination following 2 hours of recovery compared to 24 hours after sprinting. In addition, it may be better to sequence a heavy strength training workout prior to a sprint workout because you will be able to take advantage of muscle activation for faster sprints, without compromising your strength development.

Second, it’s critical that you aid muscle recovery by taking protein post-workout that has a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids because these have been shown to minimize soreness. Equally, you need to help clear cortisol, while supporting the testosterone response. A recent study tested how cortisol and testosterone correlated with perceived recovery and soreness in athletes following a muscle damaging workout.

This study showed that at 48 hours post-workout, cortisol had been cleared, but free testosterone (T) was significantly lower than pre-workout. The drop in free T was associated with how the athletes rated soreness and fatigue—lower free T equaled more soreness. To support free T, you want to make sure you are getting enough of the basic nutrients such as vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc because all three are necessary to avoid having testosterone aromatize or turn into estrogen. You also want to support the free T to cortisol ratio by clearing cortisol. Do this by avoiding caffeine post-workout and take vitamin C daily after training—try 2 to 10 grams a day.

Johnston, M., et al. The Neuromuscular and Inflammatory Responses to a Maximal Speed Training Session in Rugby Players. International Conference on Strength Training. 2012. Oslo: Norway.

Sikorsi, E., et al. Changes in Perceived Recovery status Scale Following High Volume, Muscle Damaging Resistance Exercise Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012.

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