Training Tips & Videos - Blackstone Labs










In the Pipe, 5x5's: A Classic Workout for Beginners

Often applied, but not always understood, “5x5” training is the gold standard, when it comes to building strength and quality muscle mass. Consider this post your comprehensive guide to the 5x5.

What is 5x5 Training?
Designed to help you build quality muscle mass, make serious strength gains, and help you break through training plateaus, 5x5 training in a method that at its core requires you to train long and hard, only three times per week. In it, you are doing 5 sets, of 5 reps, of 5 specific barbell exercises, split into workout A and B. 5x5 is a full body training protocol, with proven results.

Some Basic Rules of 5x5:
Your 5 basic barbell exercises which work multiple muscle groups at once are the squat, bench press, barbell row, overhead press, and deadlift. These are split into workouts A and B:

Workout A consists of Squat, Bench Press, and Barbell Row

Workout B consists of  Squat, Overhead Press, and Deadlift

Do three workouts a week, alternating between workouts A and B

Never train on consecutive days. Always take at least one day to rest between workouts.

Never do both Workout A and Workout B in a single session. Your body needs ample time to recover.

Many opt to train Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and take the weekends off.

Under this model, Workout A is to be completed Monday, B on Wednesday, and A again on Friday. The following Monday, start with B, and alternate every other day, accordingly.

In order to maximize both strength and muscle gains, ensure you are taking in enough calories.

5 x 5 training involves progressive overload, and with each exercise in each workout you are required to add 5 lbs to the bar (with the exception of deadlifts where you add 10 lbs to the bar each time). Be sure to start at the lightest weight possible, progressively increasing your lift numbers with each workout.

Start light, add weight slowly and consistently, take plenty of rest, and work hard, and you’ve got the essence of 5x5 training.

It deserves mentioning that while 5x5 is great for the beginner, a mastery of proper tempo and form is required, in order to reap maximum benefits from the program.

Why Does It Work?
5x5 training requires you to train hard, only three times a week. This protocol not only promotes consistent progress and results, but also sizeable strength gains. All you need is access to a barbell, free weights to add to the barbell, and about 45 minutes, 3 days a week, to integrate this regimen into your routine.

How to Start a 5x5 Regimen/Training Protocol
As with any training program, proceed with caution, and make sure you’ve built up the proper foundations before you embark on a 5x5 training split.

That being said, here’s a full 5x5 regimen, laid out for you:

  • Week 1: Monday - Workout A; Wednesday - Workout B; Friday - Workout A - Each Exercise is 5 Sets of 5 Reps
  • Week 2: Monday - Workout B; Wednesday - Workout A; Friday - Workout B- Each Exercise is 5 Sets of 5 Reps
  • Week 3: Monday - Workout A; Wednesday - Workout B; Friday - Workout A- Each Exercise is 5 Sets of 5 Reps
  • Week 4: Monday - Workout B; Wednesday - Workout A; Friday - Workout B- Each Exercise is 5 Sets of 5 Reps

Peaking: You can begin this after Weeks 4 through 6, for maximum strength gains

  • Week 5:  Monday - Workout A; Wednesday - Workout B; Friday - Workout A- Each Exercise is 3 Sets of 3 Reps
  • Week 6: Monday - Workout B; Wednesday - Workout A; Friday - Workout B- Each Exercise is 3 Sets of 3 Reps

Lather, rinse, and repeat, as needed.

Tried and true, the 5x5 training protocol is a great way to switch things up. No matter your goals, 5x5 can help you get there, faster.

March 12, 2018 by Adina Z



Understanding the Muscle: Fibers and Fatigue

So, you’ve decided that you want to get in the gym and build some muscle - that’s great! This guide will dive into the world of muscle-building, tacking it from all angles, so that you can truly understand and appreciate everything that is muscle-building.

The Basics of Muscle
Before we begin our journey towards building quality muscle mass, let’s first lay down the basics on what a muscle is, how it works, and why we want to build muscle in the first place. This post will be technical, so strap yourself in and prepare to get your learn on.

A muscle is by definition a band or bundle of fibrous tissue in the body that has the ability to contract, producing movement in or maintaining the position of parts of the body. In the figurative sense, the term muscle is used to refer to a person’s strength. More on that, later.

Delving a bit deeper into the physical definition, muscles produce both force and motion, and are responsible for maintaining and changing posture, locomotion, and movement of internal organs (such as the heart). There are three types of muscles in the body: skeletal (voluntary) , cardiac (heart), and smooth (involuntary)  muscle. For our purposes, we will focus on the building of skeletal muscles in the body. Skeletal muscles are anchored to bone by tendons, and are used to affect skeletal movement. Skeletal muscles are generally clumped into groups based on location (for example - core muscles include pelvic floor muscles,transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and the diaphragm), with some muscle groups being larger (in surface area) than others. The more a muscle is used in daily living (for example, we use our legs more than we use our arms), the ber (and generally larger) a muscle will be.

Skeletal muscles are composed of connective tissue, collagen, elastic fibers, and other good stuff. At the heart of muscle motion is the myofibril (a strand of muscular protein),  which is composed of thick and thin filaments. Muscle contraction occurs when synaptic input from motor neurons results in thin actin and thick myosin filaments sliding past one another. While the mechanisms of muscular motion are complex and difficult to explain, the building of muscular tissue is not.

What Causes Muscles to Grow
There are three main mechanisms to achieving muscular growth, and they are: muscular tension, muscular damage, and metabolic stress. Muscular tension involves progressive overload - the gradual increase of stress placed on the muscles in training by increasing the weight load. This then leads to muscular damage - the breaking down of the aforementioned muscular tissue (myofibrils), and metabolic stress via swelling around the muscle. Those three factors combined lead to the muscle - with adequate nutrition and rest - repairing itself.  The broken myofibrils will fuse back together, while new myofibrils will also be generated. Your muscles, in essence, adapt to stress by becoming bigger (more myofibril strands) and ber (better synaptic connections with repeated use)..

Why do we Need to Build Muscle
Besides being aesthetically pleasing, building muscle in the body has numerous physiological and health-related benefits. Besides earning bragging rights for how much you lift, more muscle means you’ll burn more calories at rest, you’ll be ber, you will reduce your risk of injury and you will increase your stamina for other activities. Muscle also takes up less space than fat, which means the more muscle you have the trimmer and more toned you’ll look, at any given weight.

How do we Build Muscle
We have actually touched upon this before in another article, but there are three definitive styles of weight training to build quality muscle. They are training for hypertrophy - size, and training for power.

  1. Training for hypertrophy (size) - this involves higher rep volume, shorter rest periods, and lower weight loads than those used for power-training. This is the most commonly used training style for bodybuilders.
  2. Training for power - this involves lower rep volume, long periods of rest, and maximum progressive overload. Olympic lifters and powerlifters both utilize these methods of training for power.

Muscle Building Tips and Tracking Progress
The following are just some helpful hints and tips/tricks to getting started on building muscle:

  • Start with bodyweight exercises, and learn proper form. In weight training and building muscle, form is everything.
  • Leave your ego at the door. A poorly executed rep at too-high a weight will do nothing but potentially injure you in the process.
  • Do your homework - either research technique, plan and strategy, or hire someone to guide you along the way.
  • Fuel your machine for maximum gains. Be sure to ingest enough protein (at least 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight), vitamins and minerals (from fruits and veggies), and quality carb sources.
  • The anabolic window is considered to be up to an hour after training. In this hour, you should consume both protein, and quick carbs (simple sugars), to ensure maximum muscle gains. A protein powder/banana shake is my personal go-to.
  • Training journals are key to tracking your progress. Log everything, from your weight and circumference measurements, to the exercises performed/reps completed.
  • Training buddies can help keep you accountable.

While the biology and mechanics of muscular growth are rather complex, the actions required to grow lean muscle mass are not. Get off the treadmill and into the weight room, and reap the benefits forever.

March 09, 2018 by Adina Z



Five Metabolism Myths

There is no denying that when it comes to metabolism, everyone and their coach is an “expert”, and every bro in the gym will give you his stance on how to “work your metabolism”. This article will give you the who and what on your metabolism, and how you can make what you are given work for you.

For starters, let’s define metabolism. By its most basic definition, metabolism is the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. For our purposes, Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.

Factors that can Influence and Impact your Metabolism:
First and foremost, your metabolism is largely the product of genetics, sex, and age. A man’s metabolism is faster than a woman’s, for example, and your metabolism tends to slow as you age. The amount of lean muscle mass you have, your size, how active you are, and your dietary intake all also play a role in your metabolic rate.    

Metabolism Myths
Now that we have our background sufficiently boosted, let’s discuss this article’s subject matter: Metabolism Myths. Here are facts that everyone thinks are true, but actually aren’t.

“Skipping a Meal Slows Down Your Metabolism”
Your body does not go into starvation mode if you skip a meal or two. In fact, Intermittent Fasters do just that. This long-held theory being proved a myth is also good news for those who usually ditch breakfast - because that won’t slow your metabolism down, either. The thermic effect of food, a.k.a what your body burns in digestion also only accounts for about 10% of your metabolic burn. Eat when it’s convenient for you, because at the end of the day it isn’t about when you eat, but what you eat.

“Don’t Eat Before Bed”
Everyone and their mom will tell you not to eat (especially carbs) before bed, because it will surely get turned into fat. That’s false, thankfully, as your body has no internal clock to tell it what time it is. Your body doesn’t care what time of day you’re eating, and will burn food for energy based on hormones, quality and content of your meals, and your overall energy expenditure for the day. A carb is a carb, no matter when you eat it.

“Eating Small Meals throughout the Day is Better than Eating Fewer, Large Meals”
The idea that always eating and never till true fullness keeps your body burning is also a myth. As previously mentioned, the thermic effect of food is only a small fraction of total energy expenditure.

“You can Boost Your Metabolism by Eating Spicy Foods, Drinking Ice Cold Water, Engaging in HIIT Cardio, or Consuming Caffeine”
Sure, these things will temporarily bump up your caloric burn upon consumption, but the effects will sadly wear off quickly. Any “quick fix” tricks are just that - tricks!

“Your Metabolism is Beyond Your Control”
Speaking of things that don’t  boost your metabolism, here is what does: getting adequate sleep, drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day, and consuming plenty of quality proteins.

When it comes to your weight, your metabolism is the be-all and end-all for your goals. Be informed, and make your metabolism work for you.

November 17, 2017 by Adina Z



Water Manipulation and Diuretic Use

  • Fact: Water is essential to life.
  • Fact: Our bodies are made up of 50-65% water.
  • Fact: How much water our bodies are holding at any given point fluctuates, and the amount of water held can drastically alter our appearance. The more water you are holding, the less “hard” and defined you will look.

Given all of those fun facts, it makes sense that when competing, we would want to manipulate the percentage of water in our bodies at a given point, (as safely as possible!) so as to showcase our best physiques. This is achieved through a process of water and sodium manipulation that begins during peak week, and the use of diuretics. This post is a quick and easy guide to diuretics and their uses.*

*As with anything, always consult with a professional, as using diuretics incorrectly can be dangerous, or even life-threatening.*


What is a Diuretic?
A diuretic is any substance, manmade or natural, that helps the body get rid of excess fluid, mainly water and sodium. Most stimulate the kidneys to excrete more sodium into the urine. That flushing of sodium will take with it water from the blood. There are two classes of diuretics - natural, and prescription.

Natural Diuretics are herbs/flowers found in nature, known to have water-pulling capabilities when consumed. The most common and effective natural diuretic is dandelion root, which is available as pills, tea, or tincture. Most over the counter water pills utilize dandelion root as their main ingredient, and will also feature other natural diuretics such as caffeine.  

Prescription Diuretics are as described - manmade drugs that are prescribed to treat various medical conditions that require the flushing of excess water. These include hypertension, edema (swelling of the body due to excess water retention), PMS, and glaucoma. The three classes of prescription diuretics are: thiazides, loop diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics.

Thiazides are the most commonly prescribed diuretics, and not only decrease fluids in the body, but also cause blood vessels to relax. This makes them especially useful for treating high blood pressure.

Loop diuretics are diuretics that inhibit sodium-potassium-chloride cotransport in the kidneys, and are generally only described in cases of congestive heart failure or renal insufficiencies.

Potassium-Sparing Diuretics are exactly that: a class of drugs that reduce fluid levels in your body without depleting potassium, like other diuretics do. Potassium-sparing diuretics are prescribed for people at risk of low potassium levels, and don’t reduce blood pressure as well as the other types of diuretics.  


How do I use Diuretics in Show Prep?
Of the diuretics listed, dandelion root is the most commonly used and safest option for the average bodybuilding competitor. In some instances, competitors will use prescription diuretics, usually thiazides, under the supervision of a trained and knowledgeable coach. Do not under any circumstances take it upon yourself to use diuretics on your own, as doing so could result in some serious health problems.


Use with Caution:
The side effects of using diuretics are numerous, and include: potassium deficiency, sodium deficiency (which is needed for the body to function), headache, dizziness, thirst, increased blood sugar, muscle cramps, skin rash, gout, and even diarrhea. In extreme cases, excessive diuretic use can result in a severe allergic reaction, kidney failure, arrhythmia, or even death. We cannot stress this enough - always consult with a professional before taking any diuretics.


What Other Times are Diuretics Useful?
As previously noted, diuretics are often prescribed to treat various health conditions. As diuretics can improve your physique’s appearance, and cause a temporary reduction in weight, some will find these water pills useful for big events. For example, one may use diuretics prior to a photoshoot, or beachy vacation. For these instances, over-the-counter or herbal water pills should do the trick just fine.  

When used safely, under the supervision of a trained professional, a quality diuretic can be the ingredient that takes your physique to the next level.

November 15, 2017 by Adina Z