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There may be times when you can’t hit the gym, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a solid upper-body pump. Exercises like close-grip push-ups give you a great pump and fatigue your muscles almost as much as if you had been to the gym. The close-grip push-up is one exercise with the potential to generate a massive pump in the triceps, with decent carry-over for the anterior deltoids, chest and even a bit of the scapular muscles of the back. This exercise is an intense way to engage your triceps when the heavy iron isn’t around.

If you simply don’t have time to get to a gym and might be forced to skip the occasional workout, then you should consider this triceps shocker. It’s also a great way to get a quick pump in your upper body before stepping out. Either way, this rather basic exercise can have some amazing effects that will quickly gorge your triceps with blood and make them feel like they’ve just completed their usual session at the gym.

Muscles Activated

Close-grip push-ups activate the serratus anterior, upper trapezius and pectoralis muscles along with a number of shoulder and rotator cuff muscles, but it’s the triceps brachii muscles that really get torched in this exercise. Hand position on this exercise is important because if the hands are shoulder-width apart, the force at the elbow is up to 45 percent of bodyweight, but the force increases significantly (and involves more triceps work) with the hands closer together (up to 70 percent of bodyweight with a close-grip spacing).

The triceps brachii muscle – and especially the long head of the triceps – is strongly activated in close-grip push-ups. The lateral head of the triceps begins high on the humerus bone, but doesn’t cross the shoulder joint. The medial head of the triceps begins in the middle of the humerus bone and is mostly buried by the other two heads, but part of it can be seen above the elbow. The long head of the triceps runs from the scapula (shoulder blade) just below the shoulder joint, and it joins the medial and lateral heads of the triceps brachii to cross the elbow and attach to the ulnar bone in the forearm. The long head of the triceps, or the “inner head,” gets the most activation because it both extends the arm at the shoulder joint (pulls the upper arm backward during the controlled descent) and extends the forearm at the elbow joint (straightens the elbow) during the upward movement. The medial and lateral heads also contribute strongly to elbow extension by helping the long head raise the body from the floor during each repetition.

The anterior fibers from the deltoid muscle are activated with each push upward. These muscle fibers begin along the lateral part of the clavicle bone. The fibers from this region of the deltoid insert on the proximal (closer to the head) and upper anterior (front) regions of the humerus bone. They cover the insertion of the pectoralis muscle as it also attaches to the humerus bone of the upper arm.

The large, fan-shaped sternocostal head of the pectoralis major muscle attaches along the lateral edge of the sternum and the upper-six ribs. Although all of the fibers are activated by close-grip push-ups, the fibers closest to the sternum are most directly and constantly activated. The pectoralis major adducts the humerus (moves the arm toward the midline of the body), so this muscle is active to position your arms into the close hand spacing. The fibers of this muscle also flex the humerus (move the humerus bone of the upper arm anteriorly) as you push your upper body up from the floor.

The subscapularis muscle is a deep, rotator cuff muscle of the shoulder. It’s a thick, triangular-shaped muscle that begins and lies on the anterior surface of the scapula (closest to the ribs). It forms part of the armpit (axilla) and crosses the anterior part of the shoulder joint where it attaches to the humerus near its head. This muscle is a strong medial rotator of the humerus. It also helps hold the humeral head in the glenoid cavity during all phases of the push-ups.

The serratus anterior muscle is a very large muscle overlaying the lateral part of the rib cage. Its fibers look like ropes lying just above the attachments of the latissimus muscle fibers on the lateral side of the ribs. When the serratus muscles have been pumped by close-grip push-ups, these muscle bundles begin to live up to their name, which in Latin means “saw-toothed.” The fibers of the serratus anterior muscle attach to the first eight ribs and then run posteriorly along the lateral side of the thorax. The other end is attached along the medial border of the scapula (shoulder blade). This muscle pulls the scapula forward (protraction) and holds it against the thoracic wall. It stabilizes the scapula for pushing, and the serratus anterior acts as an anchor so other muscles can use the scapula as if it were a fixed bone (even though it’s a free-floating bone).

The superior (upper) portion of the trapezius is strongly activated by close-grip push-ups. The trapezius is diamond shaped with sides like a trapezoid, an irregular, four-sided figure. The superior part of the trapezius muscle (the top of the diamond) begins along the base of the skull and the seventh cervical (neck) vertebrae. The fibers angle downward and laterally to attach on the lateral part of the clavicle (collarbone) and along the scapula. The superior fibers of the trapezius lift the scapula and shoulder structures toward the ears and stabilize the shoulder during push-ups.

Close-Grip Push-Ups

1. Position your body facedown (prone) with your feet close together. If you really want to turn up the heat on your triceps, place your feet on an elevated (high) bench, chair or even the bed.

2. Place your hands together, with your forefinger and thumbs forming a heart shape. You can spread your fingers if you feel unstable, as this will increase the base and give you a little extra support.

3. Start with your elbows flexed (bent) and your chest on the floor. Rise up so your bodyweight is distributed between your toes and your two hands.

4. Keep your knees and body straight and push upward by straightening your elbows. Do this quickly (in about one second).

5. Don’t rest at the top with your elbows straight; slowly lower your chest toward the floor (in about three seconds). Your elbows should point backward as you lower your body.

6. When your chest touches your hands, start the upward thrust. Continue until your set is done (e.g., 30 reps). Rest 30 seconds, and then start again for a great pump.

A wider hand placement will direct a greater activation and stretch to the lateral fibers of the sternoclavicular portion of the pectoralis muscle and away from the triceps. However, if your hands are closer together (especially if they’re touching), the triceps brachii will feel like they’re on fire and you’ll also activate the inner fibers of the pectoralis next to the sternum. If you’ve had a wrist injury, you might want to stay away from this exercise until your wrists heal completely.

This exercise is the paramount exercise for the perfect triceps pump.



1. Cogley RM, Archambault TA, Fibeger JF, Koverman MM, Youdas JW and Hollman JH. Comparison of muscle activation using various hand positions during the push-up exercise. J Strength Cond Res, 19: 628-633, 2005.

2. Fodhazy Z, Arndt A, Milgrom C, Finestone A and Ekenman I. Exercise-induced strain and strain rate in the distal radius. J Bone Joint Surg Br, 87: 261-266, 2005.

3. Freeman S, Karpowicz A, Gray J and McGill S. Quantifying muscle patterns and spine load during various forms of the push-up. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 38: 570-577, 2006.

4. Jaskolski A, Andrzejewska R, Marusiak J, Kisiel-Sajewicz K and Jaskolska A. Similar response of agonist and antagonist muscles after eccentric exercise revealed by electromyography and mechanomyography. J Electromyogr Kinesiol, 16:829-839, 2006.

5. Standring, Susan, Gray’s Anatomy text, 39th edition, CV Mosby, Churchill Livingstone, 2005, ISBN: 0443071683.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
Title: The Ultimate Pump for Bigger Arms
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Ripped Leg Blast for Carved Thighs



Powerful and thick thighs require gut-busting exercises like squats and leg presses. However, once you have acquired adequate thigh mass and strength, you should consider adding some balance and sharpness to the muscle bellies in your thighs. Although tough to accomplish, leg extensions provide a great way to carve the separations between the muscle bellies, and to accentuate the “teardrop” shape of the four quadriceps muscles of the anterior thigh.

Active Muscles in Leg Extensions

The three vasti muscles comprise most of the anterior thigh.1 The vastus medialis covers the medial (inner) part of the femur bone (thigh bone). When it is well developed, it forms a teardrop-like shape over the medial side of the knee joint. The vastus lateralis muscle attaches to the lateral (outer) part of the femur bone. The vastus intermedius connects to the femur bone between the vastus lateralis and the vastus medialis muscles. The fibers of all three vasti muscles come together at the quadriceps tendon, which crosses the patella (kneecap) to attach to the tibia bone just below the knee.1

Together, the three vasti muscles extend the leg at the knee joint, although the vastus intermedius may be more fatigue resistant than the vastus lateralis.2 The vastus medialis oblique (VMO), which is a small part of the vastus medialis muscle, attaches to the medial part of the patella. It is thought to help the patella track properly during movement of the knee. Improper tracking can increase the likelihood for knee injury.

The vastus medialis and especially the VMO part of this muscle are primarily responsible for tibial rotation (rotation of the tibia bone of the lower leg on the femur) during knee extension. This rotation or “twist” has been shown to increase the activation of the VMO portion of the vastus lateralis even more than doing knee extensions with the hip adducted (thigh rotated so that the medial portion of the knee is facing mostly upwards).3 Dorsiflexion of the foot (moving the ankles so the toes are pointing towards your head) also increases the activation of the VMO by more than 20 percent.4 Likely this is because the dorsiflexor muscles stabilize the tibia during knee flexion and resist rotation of the tibia on the femur as the knee straightens.

The fourth muscle of the quadriceps group is the rectus femoris muscle. It attaches to the anterior part of the hip bone just above the hip joint.1 The largest bulk of the muscle fibers are located on the upper three-quarters of the thigh, whereas the largest belly of the vastus medialis and vastus lateralis are more inferior (i.e., closer to the knee). The distal end of the rectus femoris muscle becomes tendinous and it creates a deep valley between the lateral and medial vastus muscles as it approaches the knee.1 It assists the other quadriceps muscles by extending the leg at the knee joint, although it is less effective when the hip is flexed than if it is straight.

Leg Extensions

The three vastus muscles of the anterior thigh are strongly activated by single-leg knee extensions. The rectus femoris is not activated as strongly, but it does undergo some overload when the anterior thigh is under contractile effort, about halfway up to the top of each repetition.

1. You should always warm up your knees with some stationary cycling prior to getting into leg extensions. Furthermore, the resistance on your first set should be fairly light to allow the joint to fully warm up before you get to the heavier stuff.

2. Adjust the knee extension machine so that the pivot point of the lifting arm is directly adjacent to the center of the side of your knee joint.

3. Position the ankle roller/leg pad over the lower part of the leg (above the ankle joint).

4. Take about three seconds to slowly extend (straighten) both leg so that the weight is lifted upward from the stack.

5. Continue upwards until the tibia and the femur bones form a straight line and the knee angle is straight. Hold this for two seconds at the top.

6. Slowly lower the weight (about four seconds down) towards the starting position. Once the knee has reached 90 degrees, start the upwards extension phase again. Continue for 12-15 repetitions for the first set. Lower the number of repetitions but increase the resistance for subsequent sets.

7. On the next sets, lift the weight upwards until the knee joint becomes almost straight, but just slightly short of a total knee lockout. Be careful that you do not “jam” the knee joint into a fully locked out position, because this could cause knee cartilage damage5, especially with heavy weights. Hold the top position for a count of three before lowering the weight.

8. Lower the weight slowly (four to five seconds) towards the starting position where your knee is flexed to 90 degrees. Just before the weight stack contacts the remaining plates at the bottom, start lifting it upward for the next repetition.

The downward movement should be slower than the upward phase because you are resisting the pull of gravity. The slow lowering of the weight stretches the muscle under a resistance and this is a great stimulus to improve muscle shape and size.6

Make sure that you do not hold your breath during the lift upwards.7 Rather take a breath at the bottom (start) of the lift, and exhale as you extend the knees/legs. Take another breath at the top and slowly exhale as the weight is lowered. Take another breath at the bottom and repeat the sequence.

This is a mechanically simply exercise, but it really can be very challenging and blood depriving8,9, especially if you try to control the weight as it is moving up and down. However, if you are willing to work through some discomfort, you will be soon enjoying your new shape and slabs of carved thighs.

GettyImages 674163248 600


1. Moore K.L. Clinically Orientated Anatomy. Third Edition. Williams & Willkins, Baltimore, 1995; pp 373-500.

2. Watanabe K, Akima H. Neuromuscular activation of vastus intermedius muscle during fatiguing exercise. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2010;20:661-666.

3. Stoutenberg M, Pluchino AP, Ma F et al. The impact of foot position on electromyographical activity of the superficial quadriceps muscles during leg extension. J Strength Cond Res 2005;19:931-938.

4. Coburn JW, Housh TJ, Cramer JT et al. Mechanomyographic and electromyographic responses of the vastus medialis muscle during isometric and concentric muscle actions. J Strength Cond Res 2005; 19:412-420.

5. Senter C, Hame SL. Biomechanical analysis of tibial torque and knee flexion angle: implications for understanding knee injury. Sports Med 2006;36:635-641.

6. Alway SE, Winchester PK, Davis ME et al. Regionalized adaptations and muscle fiber proliferation in stretch- induced enlargement. J Appl Physiol 1989;66:771-781.

7. Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR et al. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2011;43:1334-1359.

8. Denis R, Bringard A, Perrey S. Vastus lateralis oxygenation dynamics during maximal fatiguing concentric and eccentric isokinetic muscle actions. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 2011;21:276-282.

9. Ueda C, Kagaya A. Muscle reoxygenation difference between superficial and deep regions of the muscles during static knee extension. Adv Exp Med Biol 2010;662:329-334.

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By: Stephen E. Alway, Ph.D., FACSM
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PRIMAL Preworkout



Training hard and intensely is the only way to train – you can’t step into the gym in low gear or
asleep at the switch and expect results. To get the most out of every training session with no
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your limits and that’s what Animal’s PRIMAL Preworkout delivers.

A Better Pump

PRIMAL is Animal’s most comprehensive pre-workout supplement ever, and is scientifically
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helps increase exercise capacity and endurance and helps optimize vascular endothelial function,
aka vascularity.†

Other key benefits of PRIMAL come from four scientifically formulated blends that work in tandem
to deliver the ultimate pre-workout:

• Endurance & Performance Complex so you can train longer and harder. Beta-alanine,
betaine and taurine are combined as a powerful endurance trio†. Beta-alanine is a vital ingredient
used to combat the urge to quit.

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maintain focus. Includes the amino acid tyrosine, which is involved in neurotransmitter production;
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the brain send messages for improved mental endurance and focus†.

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in energy without the jittery feeling, increases in motivation to accomplish tasks, mental energy
and decreases in feeling of fatigue†.

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powered by a combination of tried-and-true caffeine, along with an herbal complex of green tea,
coffee bean extract and guarana†.

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training sessions – because proper hydration is key for maximal performance. PRIMAL
Preworkout tops it off with a combination of AstraGin ® to support nutrient uptake and Senactiv,
which helps the production of citrate synthase, an important enzyme that is responsible for
producing more ATP†.

How to Use PRIMAL
30 minutes prior to training, consume 2 rounded scoops (20.3g) with 8-12 oz of water or your
favorite beverage. Users that are sensitive to stimulants should start off with 1 rounded scoop
(10.1g) to assess tolerance.

PRIMAL Preworkout

• Enhances energy and endurance†
• Supports muscle hydration†
• Supports intense focus†
• Contains AstraGin ® to support nutrient uptake†
• Contains Senactiv ® which helps the production of citrate synthase, an important enzyme that is
responsible for producing more ATP†
• Absorption and nutrient enhancers
• Great tasting, easy to mix

PRIMAL is a pre-workout that will power your performance and enable you to crush it every time you train.

For additional information, visit
†These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This product is not
intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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Title: PRIMAL Preworkout
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