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IFBB Fitness Pro Laura Mak Answers Top Fitness Questions E-mail
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I am having a hard time drinking 80oz of water, and I was told I should try to drink 128oz (1 gallon) of water per day. How can I possibly drink all that water? Sandi Z. - CA


Think about spacing out the water. If you divide your day up into 10 hours from morning until about 2 hours before you go to bed, do you think you can drink 13oz of water each hour? It seems to be more manageable when you break it down into parts, rather than feeling like you have to drink a lot of water at one sitting.

Another alternative, and what I like to do is separate my day into three parts.  I typically carry a 48oz bottle of water with me. I track my water consumption by making sure I have 1 bottle of water in the morning and one bottle of water in the afternoon by 5pm, then, I just have to have about 30oz of water between 5pm-8pm. That leaves me two hours before I go to bed at 10:00pm.


I don't have a lot of time for  weight training but I know it is good for me and my bone density. Is there a way I can condense a full body workout and still be effective? Lauren G. - Illinois


Absolutely! You don't have to spend hours training your body to get the results you want. You can "multi-task" your workouts, or use "Multi-Joints" training during your workouts. There are numerous weight training exercises that you are included in this style of training. What exactly does that mean? Well, you can combine two exercises at a time. For example, a lunge with a lateral raise uses several joints - shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.  You can do this using elastic bands or dumbbells.


How do I build my deltoids? I have been training them two times a week, and they don't seem to be growing. Sheryl C., NY


You could actually be "overtraining" them by training them twice a week. Drop your shoulder routine to once a week for about eight weeks. Each shoulder session should include exercises for the anterior, posterior, and medial deltoid (front, rear, and middle). Mix exercises that use dumbbells, cables, barbells, and machines. Aim for two to three exercises for each the front, middle and rear deltoid. Keep the repetitions approximately 8-12 per set. Remember the muscles are broken down when you train, and to build and grow they need to have time to repair. Allow your shoulders the recovery time and I believe you will begin to see results.


My hamstrings are so tight and it is unbearable to stretch. I know I need to stretch but what do you recommend I do?


Stretching is so important, especially for the hamstrings. Many times tight hamstrings can lead to lower back pain - even more of a reason to stretch. The best time is after a work out or in the evening. The blood is flowing and the body is warm so the muscles are more elastic. It is important to only stretch as far as you can without the muscles tensing to the point they cannot relax.

My three favorite hamstring stretches are the following: one foot up on a bench or step and reach forward with the opposite arm to the ankle or shin. The second stretch is sitting on the ground or on a bench with both legs straight in front, and the body bends forward with a long spine. Stretch your hands towards your ankles. Lastly, standing with your feet shoulder width apart with either straight or slightly bent knees, bend forward and reach your hands towards the ground. Grab your elbows and let your head hang down. Stretching is a key component to health and fitness and great for injury prevention.


Why do I need to supplement with calcium in my diet? Rhonda F. - Maryland


You really only need to "supplement" if you are not getting enough in your daily diet. Studies show you can get calcium - 3 servings from low fat yogurt or milk. According to Harvard study, people with low calcium in their diets have more calcium in their smooth muscle cells and that can lead to artery constriction and raise blood pressure.


I am trying to tighten the back of my arms, triceps, and I am doing lots of dips and press downs. Am I missing something?  Shelly I. - Michigan


Try adding a few arm variations using the tricep extended over the head. You can use a cable and rope to do overhead extensions. Also, using dumbbells in one hand extended straight above the head. You are using different parts of the tricep on each of these movements.


I would like to compete in fitness because I like the routine round. But my routine is the weak area for me. How can I learn new tricks to improve my routine? Or should I start with the figure contest? Shawna N. - Maine


There are a few different ways you can "advance" your routine difficulty. First of all I would recommend taking dance classes to improve transitions in to and out of your strength moves. Secondly, build upon the skills you already have by doing the skill with a slight variation such as: one arm, one leg, adding a longer "hold" to it, add a rotation to it, or simply repeat the skill several times (like in the straddle push-up with the legs over the shoulders - instead of two do four). Figure is another competition where the physique is about the same, but there is not routine round. Sometimes this is a good way to begin a contest to see if you enjoy the process. You can also check out my ebook "A Fitness/Figure Competitor's Guide to Competing at Your Best", where I outline an entire pre-contest fitness routine training program.


I am not competing, but I want to gain some more muscle. What is the right amount of protein for me? Helena R. - South Carolina


Typically women (non-competitors) get about .25g of protein per pound of body weight. According to researchers, .5g protein per pound of body weight is the recommended dosage for protein. For elite athletes, the protein recommendation can be as high as 1.0 - 1.5 g per pound of body weight. Depending on what amount you are currently eating, you should aim for about .5g. If you are already eating that much and you are not seeing results, try increasing your intake. Be sure to include a variety of sources of protein.


My shoulders are still having trouble growing. I am training them hard but they still are just not shaping up into that round full look that the judges reward. Any tips? Kathleen  J. - Colorado


Try adding a new type of shoulder exercise such as the "handstand". Are you afraid to go upside down? Well, you can practice with your feet on a bench or even against the wall. Place your hips and shoulders in line over your wrists and hands, and bending about 90degrees at the hips. Hold this pose, working your way up to 30-60 seconds. Once that begins to feel more comfortable, then you can try kicking up to the wall and holding, then eventually you may want to try it free standing. This is excellent for the shoulder strength, development, and balance.


I am exercising and eating well, but I am having a hard time training my lower abs. What is the best exercise to improve them? Kathy, Torrance CA


The ab muscle known as, Rectus Abdominis, is one long muscle that originates in the pubis bone and attaches in the ribs and xyphoid process (located in the middle of the ribs). When a muscle is contracting or working it is based on an "all or nothing" theory. That means when the muscle flexes all of the fibers are working, so not just the lower muscle fibers or upper muscle fibers. They all work simultaneously. The movement can begin in the lower section by tilting the hips under. The three best exercises to target this area are hanging abs, roman chair abs, or hip lifts on the floor. The main focus on each of these exercises should be tilting the hips under and contracting the abs in towards the spine.


I know I am supposed to be eating fiber, but how much should I have daily?  Cindy H., Chicago, IL.


Experts recommend approximately 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Most people only have about 10-12g of fiber a day, but the body really needs about 25-30 grams of fiber. Naturally balanced fiber is a ratio of 75% insoluble fiber and 25% soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is the roughage that cleans the colon and promotes regular bowel movements. Soluble fiber is fiber that dissolves in water. You can find both types of fiber in fruits and vegetables.

If you are going to supplement with a fiber pill, try to keep the 75/25 balance. This balance may be maintained by using a Flax fiber versus psyllium. Flax also contains "Lignans" which are an important nutrient studied in cancer research. Flax is non-constipating because it does not swell in the body like psyllium does. Lastly, Flax is available in an organic form and psyllium is not.


My back has been so tight lately because I work in an office. Are there stretches I can do during the day to loosen up?


Yes! I actually have this problem sometimes myself. Here are three chair exercises you can do at your desk to loosen up and get the blood flowing in your upper body.

  1. Neck - Sit up straight tilt your right ear to the right shoulder and press your left arm down about 45 degrees from the shoulder. Lift your fingers and palm up away from the floor for a more intense stretch. You can also feel how the stretch changes as you lift your arm up slowly to horizontal and then back down towards your waist. Take 3-4 breaths in each position. Hold for about 20-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
  2. Back - Move your chair away from your desk about two feet. Start with your feet flat on the floor hips width apart. Begin with an inhale and allow your upper body to bend forward at the hips about 45 degrees, hold this for 20 seconds. Spine remains straight. Allow your upper body and chest to round forward on top of the legs. Let your hands hang down towards the ground. If this is too strenuous then keep your hands or elbows placed on your knees until you are able to comfortable hang with your hands touching the floor.
  3. Shoulders - Start with your chair about 2 feet away from the desk. Place your hand on the top of the desk about shoulder width apart. Press your chest forward towards the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. Move your hands out about two feet apart and feel the stretch move more into the front of the shoulder and chest. Hold here for 30 seconds or 5 breaths.


If I only have limited time in my strength training workouts, what is the BEST leg exercise to do? Is there one that works my lower half? Lucy, New Jersey.


YES!    The "Lunge" is the single best leg exercise. It targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves, along with your core as the primary balance. There are so many variations of the lunge, which is terrific so your body will never really "get used" to the exercise. You can do the lunge in place, traveling forward, stepping back, to the side, on a Bosu ball as a step up and reverse back, with dumbbells buy your sides, with a barbell on your shoulders, with elastics in your hands pressing above your head, on a smith machine.

About the Author 

Muscle Mag Fitness fitness expert Laura Mak
Laura Mak 

Laura Mak is a fitness and health expert at where she regularly writes about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness and figure competitions, nutrition, and yoga. Laura is a highly sought after personal trainer, and also owns a successful online company offering health and fitness eBooks, fitness equipment, apparel and offers customized personal training services.


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