Richard James Ahern's Blog

Fitness, Nutrition and Unchained Muscle!

Tag: Olympia

3 Reasons Dieting and Cardio is Making You FAT!!

Let’s lay down some truth, dieting and cardio certainly CAN make you lose fat, no doubt. However, done wrong, which is easy to do, it can make you GAIN FAT and WRECK your metabolism. The body has an amazing ability to adapt, it has a need for equilibrium (balance) and will do anything to keep the status quo. To change your body, whether it’s losing fat or gaining muscle we have to almost trick our body into making this drastic change. Here’s 3 ways the body adapts to dieting and cardio and how to counteract it!

  • Eating less slows your metabolism. When you start cutting calories and eating less your body senses this and starts lowering its metabolic rate to conserve energy as it thinks it’s starving. This is a natural survival mechanism. The longer you diet, the slower your metabolism can become and eventually can cause you to put on weight. To stop this, you should never cut your calories below your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and incorporating weekly cheat meals or refeed days will trick your body into keeping its metabolism high and therefore burning plenty of calories.
  • Steady cardio such as jogging will burn calories, obviously. However, done in excess the body adapts and will start slowing its metabolism to conserve energy. You’ll have to do more and more to get the same fat burning effect. This is why you should incorporate weight lifting and high intensity cardio into your routine. High intensity exercise such as weight lifting and HIIT cardio will shock the body, build muscle and ultimately boost your metabolism so you burn fat when you’re resting!
  • Dieting and cardio stresses the body. When the body is under any type of stress it produces a hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol is your enemy as it makes your body burn muscle for energy and makes your body store fat, particularly around your waist. Supplements such as glutamine, test boosters and vitamin C will help counteract cortisol but the best thing you can do is stop over-stressing your body! Keep your workouts short and intense and don’t starve yourself, it’s that simple!

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Cortisol: Why it’s Killing Your Gains!!


I love talking about hormones when it comes to building muscle and losing fat because I think they play a very important role in how your body looks! In this post, I’m talking about the hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone; our bodies produce it when we are under stress. This could be a stressful job, lack of sleep or working out for too long!

The problem is cortisol is your worst enemy when it comes to building muscle and losing fat because quite simply it turns your muscle into fat! More accurately it burns your muscle for energy turning it into glucose which can then stimulate an insulin response and potentially store that glucose as fat. Cortisol seems to have a strong effect on making us store fat specifically around our mid-sections, so it will hinder your goal of having a six pack too! Cortisol has also been linked to low testosterone levels and high oestrogen levels in men, leading to a whole host of problems.

So, by now I’m sure I’ve made you really hate this hormone and you’re now wondering how you can reduce it and keep it to minimum. Well first, think about it logically, it’s a stress hormone, so avoid stress! So, minimise stress, get plenty of sleep and don’t work out for longer than around 1 hour are the best ways to keep cortisol at bay.

Additionally, if you’re on a diet, don’t cut your calories and carbohydrates too much as this puts the body under a great deal of stress! Never lower calories lower than your BMR when trying to lose fat. Foods and supplements can also help you reduce cortisol levels, vitamin c and glutamine have been shown to reduce cortisol levels! Since cortisol is linked to testosterone levels in men, anything that can increase your testosterone will reduce your cortisol as well!

So guys, the take home message of this post is stay chilled out and don’t stress, it won’t get you anywhere and will just cost you muscle and gain you fat!

For the ULTIMATE guide on how to optimise your hormones so you can build muscle and lose fat effortlessly, check out my Hormonal Manipulation programme!

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The Key to a MASSIVE Chest!!


Part of my key series, today you will learn how to get a massive chest! A well-built chest is what most guys dream of and is the reason why they step into the gym, after all who doesn’t love chest day?! Here are the keys to building your chest:

Forget the barbell and say hello to the dumbbells! I recently posted about this on my Facebook page, dumbbells train the chest far more effectively than a barbell. So, make sure you are doing your dumbbell bench press! With dumbbells, you get a full contraction of each pectoral muscle and each side works independently and will help balance out your chest if one side is bigger. Dumbbells also are far more challenging as they recruit more stabilising muscles giving you much harder workout!

Try dips! Dips are an old-school chest exercise that can do wonders for your chest if done properly. The key is to lean forward so your chest is doing the work rather than the triceps, you will know when it’s working because you will feel it deep in the pecs!

Don’t go too heavy! Guys love to go heavy on the bench press whether it’s with the barbell or some dumbbells they love to show off on chest day. Heavy chest training certainly has its place but you won’t get much growth if you’re doing 1 or 2 reps with a heavy weight with poor form. Remember the optimal rep range for growth is 8-12 reps, keep this in mind!

There are 3 keys that can make all the difference to whether your chest grows or not, so next time it’s chest day, leave your ego at the door and train smartly to get that chest you deserve!

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The Key to CANNONBALL Shoulders!!


In the next couple of blog posts, I’m going to cover how to train each muscle group to its full potential and get the absolute most growth you can get! Introducing the Key series!

So today is the key to getting cannonball shoulders! Shoulders have always been an important muscle group to me, I’ve always wanted wide shoulders as I think that’s what makes a physique stand out! Shoulders also assist in most upper body exercises so strong shoulders will help your chest lifts and most of your back lifts too!

The shoulder muscles also known as the deltoids are formed of three separate muscles, these are the anterior deltoid (front), medial deltoid (middle) and the posterior deltoid (rear). For developed and strong shoulders all three of these need to be trained.

Dumbbell shoulder presses are my number 1 shoulder exercise; they target all three heads of the deltoid and work each deltoid independently as you’re using dumbbells rather than a barbell. As always use a full range of motion and feel the stretch in the shoulders at the bottom of the lift. Performing these standing also gives you a great core workout!

For shoulder width, the medial deltoid is the most important muscle and the best way to train this is with lateral raises. Pro bodybuilders love this exercise as it’s the only way to isolate the medial deltoid to give you that wide look! A lot of people cheat on this exercise and swing the dumbbells up, use a light weight and focus on squeezing the muscle without swinging the weight!

Presses are the best shoulder compound exercise you can do, but to isolate each head use front raises for the anterior, lateral raises for the medial (see above) and reverse flyes for the rear. This way you can be assured that you have completely trained all deltoid heads to their absolute limit and get the most growth possible!

Also try barbell clean and presses, these are a great exercise for shoulder power and work the traps as well as all three deltoid heads to give you an awesome shoulder workout!

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The ONLY 3 Training Methods for Muscle Growth!!


When it comes to training for muscle growth, there are 3 methods you can use in the gym, they all involve using some kind of resistance, may this be weights or cable machines. In this post I will cover them and how you can use them to get more gains than ever before!

Micro Tearing the Muscle – This is the most effective way to grow your muscles, this is the principle of hypertrophy training. By lifting relatively heavy weight in a controlled manner using a full range of motion for around 8-12 reps is the best way to cause micro tears in your muscle fibres. So essentially you are purposely damaging the muscle, hence the soreness, so when you leave the gym your body will repair these micro tears and grow back your muscle fibres BIGGER and STRONGER for next time! Focus on stretching and squeezing the muscle with each rep to get the best results!

Lifting Heavy Weight – Strength gains can often be the result of improved nervous system control but very often a stronger muscle is also a bigger muscle. So lifting heavy weight will challenge your muscles and will likely cause them to grow, lifting heavy also elicits an anabolic response inside the body, so you produce more testosterone and growth hormone which will result in overall growth!

Pumping the Muscle – When you train a muscle for long enough your body pumps more blood into that muscle to feed it with oxygen and nutrients, this is known as the pump. Often training in a higher rep range with lighter weight will get the best pump (15-20 reps), you will know when you get a good pump as the muscle will feel tight, look bigger and burn! The reason this makes the muscle grow is quite simple, you are FEEDING it! The blood carrying all the protein you’ve eaten throughout the day is directly taken to that muscle for growth, on top of this, pumping a muscle will release more growth hormones inside the muscle and also stretch the facia of the muscle which will allow for easier future growth!

So there you have it, every time you step into the gym and pick up a weight, think of these 3 principles, if you’re not tearing the muscle fibres, challenging them with heavy weight or pumping the muscle then you’re NOT going to grow!

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How to Add Up to 100 Pounds to Your Bench and Deadlift Instantly!!


In this blog I’m going to tell you how to add 100 pounds to your bench press and deadlift, this also can apply to other exercises too but I’m focussing on these because they are what most people want to get stronger at. For some it won’t be 100 pounds, it depends on what your current technique and knowledge is like but for most beginners the tips and tricks in this post will add HUGE amounts of weight to your lifts!

General Training Advice – To increase your strength you need to go heavy! The best set to rep range is 5×5, so 5 sets of 5 reps on the relevant exercise, on the last rep you should be really struggling and it should take everything you’ve got to complete that last rep, if it doesn’t then you’re going too light! Warm up first before going to the 5×5 with a lighter weight to make sure you don’t injure yourself. This is the best training method to increase strength.

General Diet Advice – Lifting heavy takes energy, you need to fuel your body. To increase your lifts, you need be eating a caloric surplus, so you are eating more calories than you are burning. I suggest you eat around a 1,000 calories surplus if you’re really serious about gaining strength. Most of these calories should be coming from carbohydrate as carbs are what the body uses for energy but also ensure you’re eating at least 1g of protein per lb of lean body mass for optimal recovery.

Ok, so now the nitty gritting tactics on how to increase your bench press and deadlift:

Deadlift –

  • First of all, always deadlift on a hard solid surface. Don’t deadlift in trainers, either wear proper lifting shoes or go barefoot!
  • Wear a belt, a lifting belt will stabilise your lower back and core and can easily add an extra 20 pounds to your deadlift.
  • Keep your feet aligned about shoulder width apart and ensure your knees and ankles are aligned. Bad technique can really affect your chances of a good lift.
  • Back needs to be flat when lifting with no arch, use an underhand-overhand grip if you struggle with grip strength. Correcting your technique can easily add 50 pounds to your deadlift.
  • Drive with your hips, your hips and legs should start the lift, think of it like a leg press and you’re pushing down on the floor as hard as you can with your legs. The power to start the lift comes from the legs, not the back, this makes a huge difference to how much you can lift.
  • Keep stretching your hamstrings, I have tight hamstrings and it has really affected my deadlift and has led to me getting lower back injuries. However, since I’ve started stretching my hamstrings regularly my deadlift weight has shot up!
  • Try deficit deadlifts, if your weak point is getting the weight of the floor try some deficits for a few weeks then come back to regular deadlifts. Deficits are where you stand on a platform when deadlifting thus making the weight lower on the ground and increasing the range of motion.
  • To increase your deadlift, you need strong legs and back so any other exercise which targets these muscles will help. Squats, Romanian deadlifts, hamstring curls, lunges, bent over rows and pull ups will all help you increase your deadlift.

Bench Press –

  • Make sure your grip is optimal, this makes a massive difference, too narrow will put too much strain on the triceps and too wide will only engage the chest. You want a grip that will engage as many muscles as possible to get the biggest weight up, this is usually slightly wider than shoulder width, but experiment and do what you feel gives you the most power.
  • Put a slight arch in your back when benching, there is nothing wrong with this and all power lifters do this, it will add pounds to your bench press instantly!
  • It’s not just about chest! You need strong shoulders, triceps and even lats for a big bench. Shoulder press, narrow grip bench press, and pull ups will all help your benching power!
  • Train with dumbbells! Dumbbell bench press is more challenging that barbell bench press, so go heavy with the dumbbells and when you come back to the barbell you’ll see a big difference.
  • Keep the bar above your nipples. This is the optimal position that you will get the most power from, it can vary from person to person but keep this in mind as a general rule.

So there you go, here’s a load of tips and tricks to increase your bench press and deadlift instantly as well as general training and diet advice to gain overall strength!

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Why You Should Take STEROIDS!!


Ah WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!!….. before you leave an angry comment on my blog calling me an idiot, hear me out, I am not advocating the use of steroids or any performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), nor do I recommend them to anyone at all. This post is aimed at individuals who have been misled by the fitness industry and I’m here to give you a reality check!

One of the most damaging things in the fitness industry are guys who use steroids and PEDs but claim they don’t and claim natural, more commonly known as the ‘fake nattys’!  They sport insane musculature with single digit body fat percentages but claim they are all natural. If you look at what real natural bodybuilders look like that are drug tested you can begin to see what the natural limit is, the human body has its limits, its biologically impossible to look like a top pro bodybuilder naturally, we simply don’t possess enough natural testosterone and growth hormone.

So next time you see a guy that looks pretty much like a pro bodybuilder but claims all natural, it’s fairly safe to say they are lying. The problem with this is it gives guys false hope and sets them up for failure. When guys think they can look like that naturally and bust their ass in the gym and the kitchen day in and day out but achieve nowhere near what they expect to achieve, that can be devastating! They will often end up quitting because these ‘fake nattys’ have mislead them to what is actually possible.

So the point of this blog post is this: if you want to look like a pro bodybuilder that steps on to the Olympia stage then I’m afraid to say you better get on the juice, that’s the unfortunate truth but I think it’s better for me to tell it to you straight rather than mislead you like many of the fitness guys on the internet.

However, you can achieve a great physique naturally and I do not in any way want anyone to go on steroids, you don’t know your natural limit until you push yourself, you never know you might be surprised at what you can achieve!

The human body has its limits, nature didn’t intend us to be 300 pound ripped mass monsters so don’t be misled, that’s the moral of this story!

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The 3 Ingredients That Make a Pro Bodybuilder!!


Today I was watching the Mr Olympia show, the ultimate showcase of the top bodybuilders in the world. I found myself in awe of their physiques, it’s truly amazing how they can achieve such size with such conditioning and it has to be respected how insanely amazing they look. Most people are probably wondering how pro bodybuilders look this freaky, so here are the 3 reasons they look inhuman and why most people could never achieve anywhere near this sort of physique:

IT’S THEIR JOB! They get paid to look this way, they are paid by supplement companies and they get paid to win shows. So their lives are geared towards training, eating and growing. They don’t miss workouts and they don’t miss meals, they are dedicated to the absolute maximum. Every calorie and every macronutrient is calculated and the amount of food and protein they eat is unimaginable to the everyday person, most people are not capable of that sort of discipline!

GENETICS! The top bodybuilders you see on stage are guys that are naturally inclined to be muscular, they are naturally gifted with wide shoulders and narrow waists and the ability to put on huge amounts of muscle relatively easy. Just like the top professionals of all sports they have a natural talent for bodybuilding and that’s why not everyone who steps into the gym or takes steroids can look anywhere near how they look!

DRUGS! Ok, so this comes last because it does NOT play as important role as the other two despite what some people say. Drugs alone do not make a champion physique, you could pump a guy full of steroids but if he didn’t work hard he really wouldn’t look very good. However, drugs are a part of pro bodybuilding and it’s just not naturally possible to look like these guys, the human body just can’t build that much muscle by itself on natural testosterone. Steroids just scratch the surface with pro bodybuilding, human growth hormone, insulin and diuretics are all used in addition to steroids in order to create such freaky physiques. Every top bodybuilder does it though, (unless it’s a drug tested/natural show) so it’s an even playing field and it’s just the nature of the game!

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