Author Archive

6 Healthy Thanksgiving Day Foods

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Thanksgiving Day marks the beginning of the annual holiday fat gain for many people. Weeks of family get-togethers accompanied by more food than anyone needs to eat is a bad recipe for your physique. Combine this with the colder temperatures outside, which naturally decreases physical activity, and you have the “perfect storm” for fat gain.

It doesn’t have to be like this of course. Not everyone gains fat over the holidays, and there are some simple strategies you can use to prevent fat gain.

The first is to make sure to maintain your exercise regimen during these busy times. The holiday season is about giving, but don’t forget to make time to give back to yourself as well.

The second strategy is to be educated about your food choices. You want to eat healthily, but you don’t want to be the one at the table eating a plain chicken breast and steamed broccoli while everyone else is enjoying the Thanksgiving feast. There is a compromise between these two approaches, and it begins by understanding the healthier options that are available to you at a typical Thanksgiving dinner.


Benefits: Packed with protein and low in fat (even less than chicken). High in the amino acid tryptophan, which naturally increases your levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and relaxes your body.

Avoid: The skin, which is filled with fat and calories, and is high in toxins.

Sweet potatoes

Benefits: Much healthier than white potatoes, sweet potatoes are a dense source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and beta carotene.  Gives you sustained energy without causing a blood sugar spike.

Avoid: Adding calories with toppings like marshmallows or too much butter.  Try adding cinnamon or a low-calorie butter spray instead.

Pumpkin pie

Benefits: Pumpkin is high in fiber and rich in carotenoids, which may slow the aging process. Topping with cinnamon adds an additional antioxidant punch and helps to control your blood sugar levels.

Avoid: Overindulging or adding whipped cream or ice cream.


Benefits: High in polyphenols and indoles, which may help to optimize hormone levels and prevent cancer.  A good source of selenium, vitamin C, and soluble fiber.

Avoid: Overcooking as this will destroy many of the beneficial nutrients.  Also make sure to avoid topping with large amounts of butter.  Try extra-virgin olive oil with sea salt and pepper instead.

Red wine

Benefits: Good source of resveratrol, which has many potential benefits, including life extension.  The alcohol content is beneficial as well, as studies suggest that 2 alcoholic beverages per day contribute to a healthier and longer life.

Avoid: Overdoing it. More than two glasses and you are likely hurting your body more than you are helping.


Benefits: Rich source of antioxidants, especially anthocyanidins which may prevent cancer.

Avoid: Candied variations which contain excess sugar.

Building the Bench Press Muscles

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

When you hear someone talk about the bench press you typically hear them talking about their chest muscles.  While the bench press can certainly stimulate the pecs, the way it is performed by most lifters makes it more of a shoulder and triceps exercise.

With that in mind, let’s look at 3 great exercises you can use to increase your bench without actually bench pressing.

1. Overhead Presses

This is one of my favorites for increasing the bench press.  Most lifters tend to neglect this exercise, or at best do it last in their workout.  This creates a weak link, and when you fix this weak link you will see your bench press soar.

You can do this exercise with dumbbells or a barbell, either way will work.  I highly suggest performing this exercise standing most of the time since it is a great way to engage the rest of the body in the movement.  This makes the movement more transferable to daily activities.

2. Dips

This is one of the best overall triceps builders when done correctly.  Most people tend to lean forward, as this makes the exercise easier and allows them to handle more weight.  Unfortunately this also takes the stress off the triceps and puts it on the chest.  As mentioned above, this is not what we want if our goal is a big bench press.

Make sure to maintain an upright posture and make sure to add weight with a dip belt or by holding a dumbbell between your feet as you get stronger.

3. Pull-ups

Wait, is that a typo?  Nope.

Yes, pull-ups are a back exercise, but the back is actually very important in the bench press.  It stabilizes you throughout the movement and gives you a base to press from.  For this reason pull-ups are one of the best exercises to increase your bench press.  As with dips it is important to add weight as you progress.

If your bench press has been stuck for awhile then take some time off from the bench press and improve your strength on these three exercises.  When you return to the bench press I think you will be pleased with the results.

And for more bench press tips check out this article on Bench Press Secrets.

Train hard,

Tony Schwartz
Professional Strength Coach

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