Want rock-hard calves? Train your feet. Stronger foot muscles can boost your performance in calf-building exercises, according to researchers at Maryville University, in Missouri. In the study, men with strong feet completed 6 more reps in a set of standing calf raises than their weak-footed counterparts did. That's because the muscles supporting your arches help you generate force with your calves, says the lead researcher, Jack Bennett, P.T., C.S.C.S. To bolster these muscles fast, try the following drill, which you can do as you watch TV. Dump some sand into a pail and place one foot in the sand. "Grab" the sand with your toes as you curl your toes under your foot. Hold briefly, release, and repeat. Switch feet after 60 seconds.
Wake Up To More Muscle
Even if you're pumping out as many repetitions as usual, lack of sleep can slow your gains, report researchers at Midwestern State University, who sent men to a gym after keeping them awake for 24hours. The lifters were able to complete their workouts, but they didn't experience the normal post-workout testosterone spike that triggers muscle growth. If you frequently sleepwalk through the gym, your testosterone levels could actually fall, says Gregory Haff, Ph.D, the lead author of the study.
Ripped On A Budget
Go ahead: Cut back on the amount of pricey protein powder in your post-workout shake. Half a scoop of whey protein is enough to build muscle, say Canadian researchers. In their study, men were able to stimulate the muscle-building process when they downed a drink made with just 10 grams of whey. To shake it up like the men in the study, blend together Â½ scoop of whey protein powder with a half cup of water and ice, and a cup of fresh blueberries. Drink it up to 30 minutes after your workout.
Double Up For Big Gains
By fatiguing your chest or back muscles, these exercise combos train your arms up to 34 percent harder than standard upper-body routines do, according a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Do one move right after the other.
For Bigger Triceps . . .
1. Chest Fly
From the starting position, lower the weights until your upper arms are parallel to the floor, keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Then reverse the pattern.
2. Chest Press
Lie on a flat bench holding two dumbbells over your chest. Slowly lower the weights to your armpits. Pause, then press the weights up over your chest.
For Bigger Biceps . . .
1. Cable Reverse Fly
Grab the high pulley cable to your left with your right hand and the opposite pulley with your left hand. Draw your arms back and out, squeezing your shoulder blades.
2. Underhand Row
Grab dumbbells with an underhand grip and bend at the hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Pull the weights up toward your rib cage, and then lower them.
[ON OUR RADAR]
A slight sprain could impede your ability to build muscle for years, report researchers at the University of Virginia. They found that men with a history of ankle sprains fared far worse in a hamstring curl test than men who'd never rolled an ankle. Further research is needed to clarify the mechanism.