Thursday, August 6, 2009

Value added life - How to add value to ones life

Value-added Life

Whenever we invest our hard-earned money to buy a car, home, or property, we look at the value. We would like to see the initial quality, the long-term utility and re-sale or disposal value of it. In other words, we do look for “value” in every thing we buy or acquire in our lives even though we know some of them may appreciate or depreciate in value over the time. But we often forget that our lives also have some value at birth, and the value of our lives may also appreciate or depreciate over time depending on how we lead our lives. In fact, if there is any thing in this world that has a real value, it is only our lives. Every other thing else that we acquire in life has only a “relative value” as compared to the value of our lives. The value of many material objects that we acquire, such as a luxury car, may depreciate over time. There is no way we can increase the value of a used BMW car. But we can constantly increase the values of our lives. That is entirely feasible and is in our own hands. Furthermore, while valuable goods and property that we acquire can provide us comfortable life, they can never substitute the immense happiness and peace of mind that one can derive from a value-added life. In fact, our scriptures emphasize the importance of value-added life or VAL. Our ancestors built the foundation of our culture on VAL. However, in the recent past the cultural edifice of India is showing some deep cracks due to lack of interest in the people to pursue a VAL. Here are some thoughts on how to develop and nurture a VAL and regain our lost glory, happiness and peace of mind in our lives.
How to Develop a Value-added Life (VAL)? First we have to assign certain core values to our lives based on our inherent or inner nature, not on the external world or its demands or expectations or temptations. To do this, we need to understand what our inherent nature, potentials, aptitude, and qualities are. Once we understand those, we need to relentlessly pursue them and build them inch by inch by dedication, constant practice and application. If we keep on doing this, soon we will realize that the VAL will start growing like a big tree within ourselves, bringing light and joy into our lives. Furthermore, once these values are created and nurtured, then they will become the driving force within us to conquer external aberrations that may result in frustration, depression, anxiety etc. Then we will become masters of our lives. We shape and lead our lives as we desire. Our lives will not be shaped or led by this world any more. This de-links our minds from the frustration, depression etc generated by our worldly sojourn. Frustration, depression and similar types of mental
agonies cannot be defeated by improving our external conditions alone, as they originate within us. Only a VAL can conquer and de-link them from our minds and thus keep us happy all the time. That is the meaning of life, even as per our scriptures – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. All our sufferings are due to the fact that we fail to build a VAL and thus break this order of life given to us by our great ancestors, and at the same time we expect to have a happy life. That is the paradoxical situation we are facing. The real solutions for the problems of our life are not as easy. They need deep thinking and contemplation and inner search. Whether we like it or not, that is the only way we can find the answers to our problems.
The values that we create and nurture in our lives are comparable to the value of a car that we want to have. When we shop around for a great car, we look for a powerful turbo-charged engine with a high horsepower that can hit 0-60 mph in less than 10 seconds, traction control (TC), electronic stabilization system (EST), and anti-lock braking system (ABS) and perhaps six airbags supplemental restrain system (SRS). That is the value we want to have for a vehicle that we simply use to commute around the town, and we will keep for just 10 years only before trading it for a new car. There is nothing wrong in that. But we should translate such vision and values to our own lives as well. Unless we are equipped with turbo-charged high values, a good horsepower to propel us in the proper direction in life, a traction control to keep our grip at times of adversity, a stabilization system that takes care of our mental balance through the ups and downs in our lives, an anti-locking system that prevents our mind being locked on issues, and six virtues that can deploy like airbags in a crisis and protect us, our lives do not have more value than the BMW car that we drive around.
Be Focused and Clean in the Thought Process: Mind is like a computer. It functions efficiently when its memory is clean, and its hard drive is not cluttered with loose files in a disorganized fashion. Internally well structured computers, protected by good anti-virus software and other programs, rarely crash. So also the situation with the mind, which needs well-organized grey matter, anti-temptation software, pop-up blocker and a firewall to keep us protected and function efficiently. Then there is no reason why a person cannot be happy in his/her life.
Happiness is a State of Mind: Every religion, faith and scripture known to mankind said this. But we still have to realize it on our own. We cannot search for happiness outside like a commodity, because it is already within us. We need to only uncover it. Take for instance when we were small children, we were all the time happy even though we did not posses anything at that time. But as we grow older and older, as our possessions and attributes
increase in number we start losing the happiness. Where did it go? No where. We just covered it with our thought process, which goes outward looking for happiness in the external world. Our thoughts can be like the ashes that cover the burning cinders and thus make them look like extinguished. When we blow out the ashes, the burning cinders will be once again revealed. We should cultivate the habit of uncovering the happiness within and at the same time we should pursue our worldly goals. Then only the worldly goals will have great meaning for us. The external happiness that we derive from our worldly goals or objectives is only a reflection of the happiness within us. Without that inner happiness, the external world has no meaning at all. So the more we uncover the inner happiness, the more we can enjoy our lives – both personal and professional. Then the whole world looks like a play ground for us to play happily.
Be Prepared to Sacrifice Smaller Things in Life to Achieve Greater Objectives: This is very important, especially if one wants to achieve great objectives in life. We may set higher goals, have the potential to attain them, but if we are not willing or reluctant to sacrifice small or even petty things and cannot overcome over temptations, then we cannot achieve our goals. Frustration is often the “difference” between what we want to achieve, and what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve that. Please remember that nothing is easy or free in this world. We have to earn every thing we want to have in this life. Life is not going to be a bed of roses or a cake walk. But that does not mean that we do not have happiness in this life. We do have. But we need a balanced approach toward the dualities – gain and loss, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, riches and rags. We need to develop equanimity of mind in life to face them. Then the mind is less fluctuating and more peaceful.
It is never too Late to Change for the better in the Life: It is never too late in the life to change for good. History of mankind is a proof for this statement. Emperor Ashoka who ruled India during the 1st century AD, started his life with a great ambition to conquer all the kings and acquire their kingdoms and thus become a Great Emperor. He fiercely fought many battles and won them. Finally in the battle of Kalinga, the toughest one he ever fought and won, he literally saw human massacre with blood flowing in streams. That changed his life forever. He became compassionate and embraced Buddhism and spread its gospel throughout the Asia and Far East, which changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people for good. He became a great ruler who worked for the welfare and happiness of his people. He erected great monuments and constructed shelters, hospitals, schools and other public places. Today, the pillar he erected in Saranath about two thousand years ago, the lion heads of which adore the official seal of the Republic of India, the largest democracy in the world, stands as an eternal proof that when one soul truly changes, it can do tremendous things in life, and can influence 3
the lives of generations of people to come. Such is the power of the true change even it occurs late in the life. Similarly Valmiki was born as a hunter, but the sight of a bird lamenting for its fallen mate hit by a hunter’s arrow changed him and made him a great sage, who composed Ramayana, one of the greatest epics of India. We may not be so great as Emperor Ahsoka or Sage Valmiki to do such great things by changing. But by changing for the better we can definitely make a big difference in our small lives and in the lives of people around us. What else we want in our lives? Every one of us has to strive and do at least one good and great thing in our lives which will immensely benefit the people around us. Then our lives have a lot of meaning and value to make us happy, especially when become old.
Each Person has Three Different Entities: Each one of us has three different entities. The one we think about ourselves, the one that others think about us, and the third one – what we really are. The closer these three are the better will be our lives. But it is not an easy task, and needs years of practice and contemplation. The easier one to achieve, with more or less similar outcome is to keep the two – what we think of ourselves and what we really are as close as possible. This will allow us to be very realistic in our lives thus eliminating mental conditions, such as frustration, depression and thus make us happy and enjoy our lives. This only needs self-discipline and contemplation. This is my philosophy in life which I pursued for decades, and I found it works. In the long run I gained much from this perspective in life.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Spiritual toughness

I am strong.
To look at me,
you might laugh
at such a bold statement.
But my strength is not
of my arms, legs, and chest.
My strength is within.

Those that seek to harm me
do not use fists and clubs.
They use words,
of fear,
of judgment.
They’ll even try to use
their “love.”

No castle high
nor armor strong
can protect me from words.
When I fight back
I find myself
bloodied and beaten.
In a war of words,
we all get killed.

So I have chosen
a new way to protect my Self—
by not protecting me at all.
What use are words
fired in anger
if they cannot cause me pain?
What weapons of words
can hurt me
if they never reach their mark?

Within my heart
I know my truth.
In this knowing
I find my strength.

If I do not erect defenses,
there are no defenses to penetrate.
Defenses can crumble.
Defenses can burn.
Defenses can be destroyed.
But I am eternal.

I know that when I feel
emotional pain,
one of my defenses
has been breached.

So I seek to tear them down,
to leave myself raw and open.
In this undefended state,
I find myself amidst fighting
yet unperturbed by it.
I have found true toughness.

To be tough
is to remain at peace
amidst the storms
that rage around us.
To be tough
is to stay the course.

The truth I live by
is my truth,
given to me by God
to live a healed and joyful life.

Yet there are many
who find my truth
built on love
threatens their nightmare
built on fear.

To them I only say,
“I love you,”
and know they’ll find their way someday.

To argue or debate,
to defend and counterattack,
only serves to make
my truth a lie.

So when another
calls me to battle,
to defend my truth
against their mighty fears,
I exercise my spiritual muscles,
and let their challenge pass by.

In that act
I demonstrate
the toughness of my spirit.
I stay firmly on my path,
guided by my heart,
grounded in love,
and at peace.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Silent Killers-sweets to avoid

Deadly news... worth to read...

For those who take Ricola & Fisherman , please note that they both contain Aspartame - the silent killer.

This website shows the adverse effects of ASPARTAME:

Fisherman Sweets
FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO EAT FISHERMAN SWEETS BE CAREFUL: Sugar free products contain ASPARTAME .. So don't consume Sugar free product esp. 'fisherman sweets' ASPARTAME - THE SILENT KILLER (by Ron Harder)

To those who prefer to consume artificial flavoring:

There is an epidemic across North America today of Multiple Sclerosis and Lupus. Most people do not understand why this epidemic is happening, and they do not know why these diseases are so rampant. I would like to share with you the main reason we are having this very serious problem. Many people today use artificial sweeteners in their tea or coffee.

They do this because the ads they see on TV tell them that sugar is bad for their health. This is absolutely true. Sugar is toxic to us , but what most people use as a replacement for sugar is much more deadly. I am talking about ASPARTAME. It is the cause of the epidemic that was mentioned above. ASPARTAME is an extremely toxic chemical that is produced by a chemical company called Monsanto.

ASPARTAME is being marketed around the world as a sugar substitute and is found in all diet soft drinks, such as Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi . It is also found in artificial sweeteners such as NutraSweet, Equal, and Spoonful; and it is used in many other products as a sugar replacement.

ASPARTAME is marketed as a diet product, but it is not a diet product at all. In fact, it will cause you to GAIN weight because it makes you crave carbohydrates. Causing you to gain weight is only a very small part of what ASPARTAME does. It is a toxic chemical that changes the brain's chemistry. It can and does cause severe seizures.

This chemical changes the dopamine level in the brain, and it is particularly deadly for anyone suffering from Parkinson's disease.

ASPARTAME is extremely poisonous, and here is why one of the toxic ingredients of it is wood alcohol. When the temperature of

ASPARTAME exceeds 86 degrees F, the wood alcohol in it is converted to Formaldehyde, and then to formic acid, which in turn causes folic acidosis..

FORMALDEHYDE is grouped in the same class of poisons as Cyanide and Arsenic which are very deadly toxins. The only difference is, Formaldehyde kills quietly, and it takes a little longer. And, in the process of killing people, it causes all kinds of neurological problems. There are 92 documented symptoms of Aspartame Poisoning leading to coma and death.

The majority of these symptoms are neurological, because the ASPARTAME attacks and destroys the nervous system. One of these symptoms is Lupus, which has become almost as rampant as Multiple Sclerosis, especially with Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi drinkers.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Mental toughness is the ability to consistently sustain one’s ideal performance state during adversities in competition. Performing to one's potential requires good technique and mental skills. Ups and downs in performance are often directly traceable to psychological ups and downs. Players who create a special atmosphere within them perform consistently. Mental toughness is learnt, not inherited. The ultimate measure of mental toughness is consistency.


The mentally tough competitor is self-motivated and self directed. He/she does not need to be pushed from outside as he is controlled from within. The player is in total control of his emotions. He/she is positive and realistic about his/her goals and success. The individual is generally calm and relaxed under pressure situations. The person is also mentally alert, focussed, confident and responsible for his actions. He is ready for action, usually energetic and determined.

Fundamental areas of mental toughness are:

* Self-Confidence
* Self-Motivation
* Negative Energy Control
* Positive Energy Control
* Attention Control
* Visual/Imagery Control
* Attitude Control

Self-Confidence: It is a way of feeling. One can develop self-confidence with practice. The key ingredient is belief in self. You develop self-confidence by elevation of self-image, learning to stay calm, goal setting, positive thinking, self discipline and reviewing performance.

Self-Motivation: It is a source of positive energy. It helps to endure pain, discomfort and self-sacrifice. To overcome low self-motivation, set meaningful long-term goals, commit the goals on a training book, keep a daily record, associate with self-motivated players, enjoy the activity.

Negative Energy Control: Controlling negative emotions like fear, anger, envy, frustration and temper. Performing with negative energy results in inconsistency. To overcome negative energy, increase awareness, psycho, regulation, physical exercise and stimulate competitive situations.

Positive Energy Control: It is the ability to become energized with joy, determination and team spirit. It helps players to maintain the required arousal level to achieve peak performance. To overcome low positive energy control, increase awareness, develop enthusiasm, start feeling good and ensure physical fitness.

Attention Control: It is the ability to tune what is important and what is not important (i. e., to disassociate from what is irrelevant). Improve calming and quieting skills, time awareness, get the positive energy flowing and concentration training.

Visual/Imagery Skills: It is process of creating pictures or images in mind (i. e., thinking in pictures) This is one of the most powerful techniques to develop mental toughness as it is the connecting link between the mind and body. To overcome low visual/imagery skills- practice visualization with all the senses, ensure internal calmness, use photographs and start rehearsing mentally in advance.

Attitude Control: It is a reflection of the player's habits of thoughts. The right attitude produces emotional control and right flow of energy. To overcome low attitude control, identify positive and negative attitudes. Positive affirmation reinforces positive attitude, keep records and have a vision or commitment.


Acquiring new modes of behavior by assimilating varied changes is a continuous process that occurs throughout the life. In sports the ultimate aim of achieving fine motor skills is to enhance one’s performance. Therefore, to bring in this desirable effect, certain principles are to be borne in mind.

Reinforcement – is any event or response which serves to increase the frequency of the behaviors that preceded its presentation. Positive or negative reinforcement helps or avoids repeating a desirable performance or stopping an undesirable performance. Delayed reinforcements are often less productive.

Motivation – is a process by which an individual is inspired to do something? Motivated condition is essential for effective learning. A need is to be created within the individual.

Feedback – is the knowledge of result which helps to check the performance and make the necessary modification after a self-evaluation.

Individual Differences – pertaining to physical, psychological and socio-cultural differences can affect the learning and performance.

Emotional Arousal – if in optimum level, is the most desirable for performance. Different games require different levels of arousal.

Insight – means sensing intuitively the inner nature of something. In a game situation, it may perceive the situations in a new way, and applying new tactics and strategy.

Information Processing – is collecting the right information that may be any idea, image, fact, knowledge etc. and putting these together for interpreting and responding to incoming stimuli.

Transfer of Training – indicates that an earlier habit influences the performance of later habit. Bilateral transfer occurs when one part of the body facilitates learning by another. Positive effect occurs when similarity in skills is established. Negative effect occurs if the skills have been mastered and if major changes are attempted.

Level of Aspiration – is the level to which one aspires, a standard set by a person by which success or failure can be personally gauged. In sports, choosing a realistic level as a strong motivator makes the learning effective.

Plateau – is a transition stage, which is only a temporary stagnation phase where the rate of improvement in learning is at the minimum. With appropriate corrective measures, this stage can be overcome. The duration of plateau stage varies from person to person.

Mental Practice – with physical activity results in early learning and aids in better performance by chalking out appropriate game strategies.


Stage 1: Psychodiagnosis

When a training camp commences, after the initial rapport is established with the players, it is desirable to have the base level of the psychological parameters. This will help the coach to have a general view of the psychological status of each player. The psychodiagnosis includes psychological tests, which have to be designed keeping in mind the demands of the particular game, age and skill level.

Broadly, the psychological tests can include the area of psychomotor abilities, information processing, personality, motivation and socio-psychological factors. The coach can identify the dominant psychological state of player. The testing is to be conducted during selection trials or even when the training camps are in progress. Testing during selection helps the coach to have an idea of the kind of tasks the player would suit.

Stage 2: Psychological Recommendations

After the psychological assessment is done in the first stage, psycho-pedagogical recommendations are given. The recommendation is to be given to all the personnel involved with the team – coaches, teammates, players, family friends, doctor and other paramedical staff.

For example, a casual remark by a masseur that a player’s muscles are not relaxed or any such negative statement while working with the player can become a source of worry and hinder high level performance. Well meaning close associates of the player can also cause anxiety prior to the competition by their over-concern or over-indulgence.

In such instances, it is recommended to refrain from doing things that could cause deterioration in performance. The recommendation can be given for appropriate selection of the sport for young children, besides developing the required skills of the players during the period of training camps. For example, if the visual skills of a hockey player have to be developed, the psychologist along with the coach can formulate exercises for the same. The recommendation can be provided for the choice of game, for the coaches to decide the kind of training to be imparted.

Stage 3: Psychological Preparation

The psychological preparation of the coach is important because it is he who is looked upto in times of crises. He is the person who inspires the player to think about new and interesting task variations. A coach often succumbs to pressure from the society, and his or her self-worth is associated with the team's performance. Hence winning becomes an important issue.

However, it is vital that the coach doesn't lose his nerve under pressure or become dictatorial. Coaches should take adequate measures to remain a counselor, adviser and most importantly, a person who provides knowledge and wisdom to young players.

Psychological preparation of a team will include different exercises to improve upon those qualities that have been evaluated. The psychologist and the coach should be sensitive to observing the motivational levels of a player and the group dynamics of the team. This is especially important in team sports.

Psychological stress management has to be an integral part of the training. Stress can destroy a sports person's self-confidence and cause digression from tactical skills. It can cause burnout in a sportsperson at a crucial time in an important competition.

Psychological training should be individually directed for each trainee, and it should include relaxation training, stress management, positive thinking, regulation of self, training for improving concentration and psychological energy control. While practically doing the above training, it is important that the sportsperson develops a self-awareness of his initial level. While training is in progress, after each session, the trainee has to be encouraged to record the effects, observations and associated feelings. The training log will thus provide a feedback of the effectiveness of the training program, and it can even be modified if needed.

Stage 4: Psychological Control

Psychological control during competition will be achieved if the sportsperson has learned the management techniques during the long-term training. In competitions which are prolonged, self-control and regulation of arousal becomes important so that performance is not negatively affected.

Often during a critical period of the competition, even well-meaning suggestions offered by a coach elicits little change in the player’s behavior. This is due to the stress that the player is undergoing. However, if the athlete is able to regulate his activation, positive improvement can occur.

Therefore, a coach should be cognizant of the activation demand of the task, and the individual level of the sportsperson. Self-control and self-regulation gains significance because on the playfield, the player is competing alone or with his teammates only. It is in the best interests of the game that the coach or psychologist leaves the player alone without excessive interference.

Stage 5: Evaluation

Every competition provides feedback of strengths, weaknesses and the strategies used. Based on these, future strategies can be chalked out. The emotion which follows is often related to the outcome of the competition. Each player will interpret his unique contribution to the result of the competition differently.

For instance, a player from the winning team can feel depressed if he feels his role was not successfully executed. Likewise, a loss is not necessarily an unsuccessful effort. Therefore, during the process of evaluation, the coach should be extra cautious while interpreting the present and formulating future strategies. The experience and the background of a player is to be considered individually. After ensuring proper rest and relaxation, a coach can offer objective, constructive criticism in precise terms to each player irrespective of the win or loss of the game. This would provide direction for future competitions to follow.

6 Mental Training Tips - How to Improve Your Mental Toughness

6 Mental Training Tips - How to Improve Your Mental Toughness

softball player 6 Mental Training Tips How to Improve Your Mental ToughnessThe mental is such a big part of our game. It's often the determining factor between success or failure.

Almost every day, I get emails from players, coaches, and parents about how to improve confidence or be mentally tougher.

I thought I would share with you a few tips to help you become almost instantly mentally tougher.

READ THEM SLOWLY and take time to study them. This stuff is what helps the best athletes in the world be successful.

Tip #1 Overcome fear of failure. Fear of failure might be what is holding you back. Dare to be great by taking risks, chances. Nobody has ever achieved greatness without facing hardship first. Failing is a good thing if you learn from it. Instead of seeing problems or obstacles, see challenges to overcome. The most successful people on the planet are risk-takers. You will never achieve anything by risking nothing.

Tip #2 - Make no excuses and take full responsibility for all your failures and all your successes. The world’s most successful people never make excuses and they hold themselves accountable. Achieving success and making excuses are mutually exclusive, wholly incompatible.

Tip #3 - Accept the fact that you will fail, make a lot of mistakes and learn from them. Failing is a big part of the game. If you succeed only 30% of the time at the plate, it’s excellent. That means that you will be failing more often than you succeed. Failing is part of life and sport in general. You actually learn more by failing than by succeeding. The key point is to look at mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. Ask yourself: “What didn’t go well and how can I do things differently next time to be successful?”

Tip #4 - Be here, now. Play one pitch at a time, confident and focused on each pitch as it is played with disregard for past or future pitches. Ignore the emotional baggage of scores, innings, and pitch counts; just focus on the next pitch. Playing a full game in the present is to ultimate goal and the best way to ensure that you perform at your best.

Tip #5 - Focus on the process rather than the outcomes. You have much more control over the process than the outcome. For example, when hitting, focus on having a good at bat (proper mental approach to the plate, selecting the right pitches, using your best swing, hitting a line drive, etc.) rather than focusing on getting a hit or not striking out.

Tip #6 - Develop routines to help you get in the zone. The use of routine is one of the most widespread practices among elite softball players. They perform routines before games, between innings and between pitches
at the plate and on the field. A routine integrates both the mental and the physical aspects. It is a specific way of doing things to stay focus, block distraction and put you in the ideal mindset. Routines are powerful and you should definitely use them.

Again, take time to re-read slowly these 6 tips. They can tremendously help you perform on the softball field.

Be mentally tough.

Who loves ya? ;-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

9 secrets for bigger stronger muscles

Your body has about 650 muscles. It doesn't matter that you only care about four or five of them. You need every one in order to perform the normal functions of everyday life—eating, breathing, walking, holding in your stomach at the beach.

Granted, you don't need to spend a lot of time thinking about most of your muscles. The 200 muscles involved in walking do the job whether you monitor them or not.

You could try to impress your friends at parties by telling them the gluteus maximus is the body's strongest muscle, or that the latissimus dorsi (in your middle back) is the largest, or that a middle-ear muscle called the stapedius is the smallest. But it probably won't work, unless you have some really unusual friends. And muscle trivia can't capture the wonder of muscles themselves—the brilliance of coordinated muscles in motion, the magnificence of well-developed muscles in isolation.

We hope, in the following story, to help you understand a little more about how your muscles work, and thus how to make them bigger, stronger, and more aesthetically pleasing (if you're into that sort of thing). You can accomplish all three, if you know what's going on beneath the surface.

1..Muscle Fibers Do Different Things

Your skeletal muscles—the ones you check out in the mirror—have two main types of fibers.

Type I fibers, also called slow-twitch, are used mainly for endurance activities. Type II, or fast-twitch, begin to work when a task utilizes more than 25 percent of your maximum strength. A movement doesn't have to be "slow" for the slow-twitch fibers to take over; it just has to be an action that doesn't require much of your fast-twitch strength. And an effort doesn't have to be "fast" to call your fast-twitch fibers into play.

2...To Grow Large, Lift Large

When you begin a task, no matter if it's as simple as getting out of bed or as complex as swinging a golf club, your muscles operate on two basic principles of physiology:

1. The all-or-nothing principle states that either a muscle fiber gets into the action or it doesn't. (As Yoda said, long ago in a galaxy far away, "There is no try.") If it's in, it's all the way in. So when you get up to walk to the bathroom, incredibly enough, a small percentage of your muscle fibers are working as hard as they can to get you there. And, more important, all the other fibers are inactive.

2. The size principle requires that the smallest muscle fibers get into a task first. If the task—a biceps curl, for example—requires less than 25 percent of your biceps' strength, then the slow-twitch fibers will handle it by themselves. When the weight exceeds 25 percent of their strength, the type II, fast-twitch fibers jump in. The closer you get to the limits of your strength, the more fast-twitch fibers get involved.

Here's why this is important: One of the most pervasive myths in the muscle world is that merely exhausting a muscle will bring all its fibers into play. So, in theory, if you did a lot of repetitions with a light weight, eventually your biggest type II fibers would help out because the smaller fibers would be too tired to lift the weight.

But the size principle tells you that the biggest fibers are the Mafia hit men of your body. They don't help the underlings collect money from deadbeats. They suit up only when the work calls for their special talents, and when no one else can be trusted to do the job right.

In other words, a guy who's trying to build as much muscle as possible must eventually work with weights that require something close to an all-out effort. Otherwise, the highest-threshold fibers would never spring into action. Moreover, the smaller fibers don't need any special high-repetition program of their own, since the size principle also says that if the big fibers are pushed to the max, the small ones are getting blasted, too.

3...Building Muscles Saves Your Bones

Many have tried to disparage the squat, framing it as an exercise that's brutal to back and knees. The charges never stick. Sure, the exercise can be tough on the knees, but no tougher than full-court basketball or other full-bore sports.

And for guys with healthy backs and knees, the squat is among the best exercises for strength, mass, sports performance, and even long-term health. The heavy loads build muscle size and strength, along with bone density, and thicker bones will serve you well when you finally break into that 401(k). So you won't be the guy who fractures his hip and ends up in a nursing home, although you'll probably pay some visits to your nonsquatting friends.

Setup: Set a bar in supports that are just below shoulder height and load the weight plates. (Be conservative with these weights if you've never squatted before. There's a learning curve.) Grab the bar with your hands just outside your shoulders, then step under the bar and rest it on your back. When you pull your shoulder blades together in back, the bar will have a nice shelf to rest on. Lift the bar off the supports and take a step back. Set your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly, pull in your lower abs, squeeze your glutes, and set your head in line with your spine, keeping your eyes forward.

Descent: To begin the squat, bend your knees and hips simultaneously to lower your body. Squat as deeply as you can without allowing your trunk to move forward more than 45 degrees from vertical. Make sure your heels stay flat on the floor.

Ascent: Squeeze your glutes together and push them forward to start the ascent, which should mirror the descent. Keep your knees the same distance apart (don't let them move in or out). Your hips and shoulders need to move at the same angle--if your hips come up faster, you increase your trunk angle and risk straining your lower back. At the top, keep a slight bend in your knees.

4...You Can Improve Muscle Quality

On the day you were conceived, the gene gods had made three decisions that you might want to quibble with as an adult, if you could:

1. Your maximum number of muscle fibers

2. Your percentages of fast- and slow-twitch fibers

3. The shapes of your muscles when fully developed

On the downside, unless you were born to anchor the 4x100 relay at next summer's Olympics, you can forget about ever reaching that goal. The athletes at the extremes—the fastest and strongest, the ones with the best-looking muscles, and the ones capable of the greatest endurance—were already at the extremes from the moment sperm swam headlong into egg.

The upside is that there's a lot of wiggle room in between. Few of us ever approach our full genetic potential. You probably will never be a freak, but with the right kind and amount of work, you can always be a little freakier than you are now.

The best way to do that is to learn to use your muscles' very own juice machine.

5....More Muscle Comes from More T

Everyone has some testosterone—babies, little girls playing with tea sets, grandparents shuffling through the laxative aisle at CVS—but no one has hormonal increases from one year to the next like a maturing male. His level increases tenfold during puberty, starting sometime between ages 9 and 15, and he hits near-peak production in his late teens. From there, his testosterone level climbs slowly until about age 30, at which point he hits or passes a few other peaks.

His muscle mass will top out between the ages of 18 and 25, unless he intervenes with some barbell therapy. Sexual desire peaks in his early 30s. Sports performance, even among elite athletes, peaks in the late 20s and starts to decline in the early 30s.

None of this is inevitable, of course. Unless you're that elite athlete who's trained for his sport since before the short hairs sprouted, you probably have the potential to grow bigger and stronger than you've ever been. And that could also put a little of that teenage explosiveness back into your sex life.

The testosterone/muscle-mass link is pretty clear in general terms: The more you have of one, the more you get of the other. Strength training, while it doesn't necessarily make your testosterone level go up permanently, certainly makes it get a little jiggy in the short term. We know of four ways to create a temporary surge in your most important hormone.

1. Do exercises that employ the most muscle mass, such as squats, deadlifts, pullups, and dips.

2. Use heavy weights, at least 85 percent of the maximum you can lift once on any given exercise.

3. Do a lot of work during your gym time—multiple exercises, multiple sets, multiple repetitions.

4. Keep rest periods fairly short—30 to 60 seconds. Of course, you can't do all these things in the same workout. For example, when you work a lot of muscle mass with heavy weights, you can't do a high volume of exercise, nor can you work effectively with short rest periods. This is among the many reasons you should periodize your workouts, which is a polysyllabic way of saying change your workouts every few weeks, rather than do the same thing from now till the gene gods recall the merchandise.

6...Muscles Need More than Protein

The mythology surrounding protein and muscle building could fill a book, even though the science is fairly straightforward. Your muscles are made of protein (except the four-fifths that's water), so you have to eat protein to make them grow. You also have to eat protein to keep them from shrinking, which is why men trying to lose fat without sacrificing muscle do best when they build their diets around high-quality, muscle-friendly protein from lean meat, fish, eggs, poultry, and low-fat dairy products.

But if you're young, lean, and trying to gain solid weight, a lot of extra protein may not help as much as you think. Protein has qualities that help weight loss and may curtail weight gain. First, protein is metabolically expensive for your body to process. Your body burns about 20 percent of each protein calorie just digesting it. (It burns about 8 percent of carbohydrate and 2 percent of fat during digestion.)

Second, protein creates a high level of satiety, both during meals and between them. In other words, it makes you feel fuller faster and keeps you feeling full longer between meals. (This effect does wear off as you grow accustomed to a higher-protein diet, so it may not have an impact on long-term weight gain or weight loss.)

Finally, if you eat more protein than your body needs, it will learn to use the protein for energy. You want your body to burn carbohydrates and fat for energy, obviously, so a body that's relying on protein for energy is like a car that's using pieces of its engine for fuel.

The best weight-gain strategy is to focus on calories first, protein second. You should make sure you're eating at least 2 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of muscle mass. A kilogram is 2.2 pounds, so a 160-pound guy weighs about 73 kg and should take in a minimum of 146 g protein a day. But that's just 584 calories of protein, the amount you'd find in 15 ounces of chicken, two salmon fillets, or a 28-ounce steak. A protein-powder shake can amp up your totals, as well. If you need to eat more than 3,000 calories a day to gain weight, you'd better have some sweet potatoes with those steaks.

7...Do Deadlifts

Ever watched a Strongman competition on TV? They start with large men picking something even larger up off the ground. That's a deadlift—the most basic and practical of all strength-building movements. Now, have you ever watched a Strongman competition with your wife or girlfriend? She'll notice something you probably wouldn't: Not a single one of those guys has a flat ass. So pull up a barbell: You'll be able to perform everyday feats of strength—lifting a sleeping child or a dying TV—and you'll look a lot better when she follows you upstairs to the bedroom.

Setup: Load a barbell and roll it up to your shins. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Position your shoulders over the bar as you grab it with an overhand grip, your hands just outside your knees. Keep your back in a straight line from head to pelvis. Finally, pull your shoulder blades together and down.

Just before the lift: Straighten your legs a bit to establish tension on the bar. Pull in your lower abs and squeeze your glutes.

First pull, from floor to knees: Straighten your legs while keeping your trunk and hips at or near the same angle. The bar should stay in contact with your skin at all times.

Second pull, from knees to midthighs: Stand up, driving your hips forward. Finish upright, with your shoulder blades back and down and your lower back flat.

Lowering: No need to perfectly reverse the motion; just slide the bar down your thighs and shins to the floor. Don't annoy your fellow lifters by dropping the bar.

Next repetition: Repeat the setup, letting go of the bar and regripping if necessary. You want perfect form on every repetition, and you won't get that if you bang out reps without stopping to set up properly before each lift. Remember, it's a deadlift. That means no momentum from one repetition to the next.

If you use perfect form, your lower back should give you no trouble. However, if you have preexisting back problems, your muscles may not fire properly for this exercise. Try the sumo deadlift instead. Set your feet wide apart, toes pointed slightly outward, and grip the bar overhand with your hands inside your knees. Your back will be more upright at the start, taking away some of the potential for strain.

8...Dip for Big Triceps

Beginners almost invariably hit their triceps with light weights, limited ranges of motion, and simple, easy exercises. Which is fine . . . for beginners. For sizeaholics, the key to triceps development is lifting really, really heavy loads.

If you have time for just one triceps exercise, make it a dip. It's the big, basic movement that works all three parts of the muscle (thus the name "triceps"). And, because the bigger, stronger chest muscles are the prime movers—the ones that get your body moving from a dead-hang position—your triceps get to work against a much heavier load than they would in a triceps-isolating exercise.

How to dip: Hoist yourself up on parallel bars with your torso perpendicular to the floor; you'll maintain this posture throughout the exercise. (Leaning forward will shift emphasis to your chest and shoulders.) Bend your knees and cross your ankles. Slowly lower your body until your shoulder joints are below your elbows. (Most guys stop short of this position.) Push back up until your elbows are nearly straight but not locked.

Making progress: For most men, doing sets of dips with their own body weight is challenging enough. But when you reach a point at which you can do multiple sets of 10 dips, you want to add weight. The best way is to attach a weight plate or dumbbell to a rope or chain that's attached to a weight belt. Many gyms have belts specially designed for weighted dips and chinups. Another solution, especially if you work out at home, is to wear a backpack with weight plates inside it.

But the more weight you add, the more careful you have to be. Always lower yourself slowly—you don't ever want to pop down and up quickly on a weighted dip, unless you think you'll relish the feeling of your pectoral muscles detaching from your breastbone.

Precautions: Aside from the pec-tearing thing, you want to protect your shoulders. If you have preexisting shoulder problems, or feel pain there the first few times you try dips, you should skip them.

A comparable but more shoulder-friendly exercise is the decline close-grip bench press, using a barbell or dumbbells held togethe

9...Run Less to Grow Faster

Running doesn't build muscle mass. If it did, marathoners would have legs like defensive linemen, and workers in Boston would have to repave the streets each year following the city's signature race. But running shrinks muscle fibers to make them more metabolically efficient, thereby saving the pavement.

You'd think you could get around this by lifting weights in addition to running, but your body negates that work through a mysterious "interference effect." Your type II fibers—the biggest ones—will still grow if you run and lift. But your type I fibers won't, and even though they're smaller than the type IIs, they probably comprise 50 percent of the muscle fibers in your body that have any growth potential.

Cut back on your running program and you'll see growth in both your slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers, and perhaps finally get your body to look the way you think it should.
A personal-record bench press is going to use every possible fast-twitch fiber (plus all the slow-twitchers, as we'll explain below), even though the bar probably isn't moving very fast.

Most people are thought to have a more or less equal mix of slow- and fast-twitch fibers. (Elite athletes are obvious exceptions—a gifted marathoner was probably born with more slow- than fast-twitch fibers, just as an Olympic-champion sprinter or NFL running back probably started life with more fast-twitch fibers.) However, the fast-twitch fibers are twice as big as the slow ones, with the potential to get even bigger. Slow-twitch fibers can get bigger, too, although not to the same extent.

So one strategy comes immediately to mind . .