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I’ve churned through over 150,000 emails, social media comments and messages, and blog comments in the last 6 years.

And that means I’ve fielded a ton of questions.

As you can imagine, some questions pop up more often than others, and I thought it might be helpful to take a little time every month to choose a few and record and share my answers.

So, in this round, I answer the following three questions:

  1. What do you think about neck training? 
  2. What are your thoughts on trainer certification?
  3. How useful are unilateral exercises?  

If you have a question you’d like me to answer, leave a comment below or if you want a faster response, send an email to [email protected].

Recommended reading for this episode:

5 Ways to Know if a Fitness Guru is Full of Sh…

The Easy Way to Find and Fix Muscle Imbalances


3:49 – What do you think about neck training? 

11:42 – What are your thoughts on trainer certifications? Are they necessary or are they a waste of time? 

17:07 – How useful are unilateral exercises? 

Mentioned on The Show:

Shop Legion Supplements Here

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hello, and welcome to Muscle for Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for a q and a where I answer questions that readers and followers ask me. If you want to ask me questions that I can answer for you and that may be chosen for future q and a episodes, shoot me an email. Mike, muscle for Life, just f o.

Dot com and let me know what’s on your mind. I get a lot of emails, so it may take me seven, 10, maybe even 14 days or sometimes a little bit longer, to be honest, to get back with you, but you will hear back from me and you will get an answer. And if it’s a question that a lot of people. Are asking or have been asking for some time, or if it’s something that just strikes my fancy and it’s something that I haven’t already beaten to death on the podcast or the blog, then I may also choose it for an episode and answer it publicly.

Another way to get questions to me is Instagram at Muscle for Life Fitness. You can DM them to me, although. That is harder for me to stay on top of. I do try, but the inbox is a little bit buggy and it just takes more time trying to do it, whether it’s on my phone or the Windows app. But there is a good chance you will still get a reply.

Email is better, and I also do post, I think it’s every few weeks or so in my feed asking for. People to give me questions, give me fodder for the next q and a. So if you would rather do that than just follow me on Instagram at most for live fitness and send me a message, or just wait for one of my q and a posts.

So in this episode, I’m gonna answer the following three questions. The first one comes from C uh, Andre. With three eyes. Not sure how to pronounce that from Instagram. And he or she asks, what do you think about neck training? It’s really trendy right now. Yes, it is. And then the next question comes from anonymous.

What are your thoughts on trainer certifications? Are they necessary? Are they a waste of time? And then the last question is, again, from anonymous, how useful are unilateral exercises? Also, if you like what I am doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world, and we’re on.

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All right. Let’s start with the first question, which again came from C Andre from Instagram and here she asked, what do you think about neck training? It’s really trendy right now, and yeah, it is a bit of a thing right now, at least on the socials, on Instagram in particular. I’ve seen quite a few guys posting about neck training over the last six months or so, and usually in the context of being more attractive to women, they either are saying that a thicker neck makes.

Guys more attractive to women or they themselves are trying to become more attractive to women. And you know, there actually may be something to it. I’m not aware of any research that directly links neck thickness or neck circumference to male attractiveness, but studies do show that women generally find men who are built or baroni sexually preferential to non muscular men.

Now those terms. Obviously mean different things to different people. What one woman considers brawny another might consider too much or might consider not brawny enough. Right? But I would guess that most women would consider brawny to be, you know, a strong chest wide shoulders, a big back, big traps, perhaps a wide.

The wide neck kind of comes with the big traps, right? So that’s one reason, I guess, to train your neck. It may or may not make you more attractive to women, but another reason is to decrease your risk of suffering a concussion. So that’s particularly important if you play contact sports like football, hockey, rugby, or if you are into combat sports, if you’re into boxing, wrestling, MMA and the like.

Studies also show that strengthening your neck can alleviate neck. That you may get from sitting at a desk all day, like what most of us do, and at least one study has linked tension type headaches to weak neck musculature. So if you strengthen the muscles in your neck, it may reduce your risk of getting tension.

Type headaches. Now, what about downsides? Are there downsides to neck training? Well, some people say it’s unsafe, but that’s not necessarily true. It doesn’t have to be unsafe. So long as you take some simple precautions like you would with any other type of exercise really, and. That just comes down to learning and using proper form and not using momentum to complete your reps.

You know, controlling your neck as you do the exercises and not overloading your neck with very large amounts of weight to satisfy your ego and so forth. You’ll be fine with your neck training. Sometimes the neck doms can be quite uncomfortable, but as with any muscle group, the more often you train your neck and the more it becomes adapted to the training, the less.

Generally experience doms. Now, one reason you may not want to train your neck is studies show that having a thick neck is associated with sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts, and it can dramatically reduce the quality of your sleep and can also cause you to wake.

Frequently throughout the night. So according to one study, for example, that was conducted by scientists at Church Hill Hospital that looked at obese people having a neck circumference of about 16 and three quarters of an inch or larger considerably increased the chances of suffering sleep apnea. Now, what’s not clear from the research though is if having a thick neck was causing the problem or if it was related.

The body fat problem, the obesity. So for example, if you had a very thick neck because you have very well-developed neck muscles and you are not obese, are you more likely to suffer from sleep apnea? This study can’t answer that question again. All it found is an association between a large neck in obese people and sleep problems.

That said, given the dangers, the health risks associated with sleep apnea, I think a reasonable. Guideline. A reasonable rule of thumb is to only do neck training if your neck is particularly thin. So for example, if you have a 14 inch neck and you’d like to build it up until you have a 16 inch neck, you should be fine.

That should not negatively impact your sleep. But if you have a large neck, if your neck is already 16 and a half inches, for example, you may not want to develop the muscles any. Okay, so with that caveat out of the way, let’s talk about neck training. The most important muscles that you wanna focus on. If you want to improve the size and the appearance of your neck, or the upper traps and the sternocleido mastoid muscles.

Now, as far as training your upper traps, the best way to do that is to just do a lot of compound lifting, do a lot of dead lifting, do a lot of overhead pressing, do a lot. R dls and your traps are also gonna get stimulated from other exercises like upright rows, lateral raises, and of course you can include shrugs in your training as well.

If you are doing all of the things that I just mentioned and your traps and. Particularly your upper traps are still lagging. Chances are they won’t be though. I, for instance, often get asked if I am including direct trap work like shrugs, because I have fairly well developed traps not overly developed.

They’re not huge. I think they are proportionate. To my torso, and the answer is no. I haven’t done a shrug exercise in a very long time because I haven’t found it necessary. I do all of the exercises I just mentioned, and that has always been enough to give me the upper trap development that I wanted.

Same thing goes for forearms. I have fairly well developed forms. Again, nothing out of the. But proportionate and clearly muscular, and I haven’t done forearm training or grip training in a long time because the heavy pulling alone has been enough to give me the forearms that I want. Now, as for training the Sterno klino mastoid muscle, you can use neck flexion and extension exercises to train that.

So flexion exercises normally involve lying with your back on a. And hanging your head off of the end of the bench and then putting, uh, a small weight plate on your forehead. Most people like to wear a hat just to make it more comfortable and then bringing your chin up toward your chest, so that would be flexion.

Some other equipment options include resistance bands that are specifically made for training your neck. Iron Neck is a brand, for example, that you can find on Amazon or a. Device specifically made for neck training, like the neck flex, for example, um, which allows you to load in different ways. You can load with plates, you can load with bands, and it just makes the exercise more.

Comfortable. So that would be neck flexion. Now, as far as neck extension goes, it’s the opposite motion. So in this case, you’d be lying face down on a bench, your head would be hanging off of the end, and you’d place the weight plate on the back of your head where you’d use the resistance bands to produce resistance against the lifting of your head.

The moving your chin away from your chest, so that would be extension. Now with flexion and extension exercises, make sure that you use lightweights particularly in the beginning and stick to higher rep ranges, you know, 10 to 15 or even 15 to 20 reps with a couple reps in reserve, meaning a couple good reps left and progressed slow.

Using the smallest possible jumps in weight that you can. And as far as a progression model, just go with double progression. Go with once you can hit the top of your rep range for three or four sets in a row, then increase the weight slowly and just do that over time. Okay, so let’s move on to the next question.

This one comes from anonymous, but it’s a good question. One that I’ve been asked many times over the years. What are your thoughts on trainer certifications? Are they necessary? Are they a waste of. And my answer to this is it depends. It depends on what you are trying to do. If you want to train people online or in person, you should definitely get a certification simply because it helps you get your foot in the door.

It establishes credibility, and even though you can. Get a trainer certification and have no idea what you’re doing. You probably know that many trainers unfortunately, are not very knowledgeable or skilled in the art and science of getting people fit. Most people don’t know that. Most people would hear that you are a certified trainer and assume that you must be good at your job.

You must be good at getting people fit, and especially if you have some good before and after success stories that you can share with them of. Past clients, and if you don’t have any clients yet, check out the interview I did with John Goodman, j o n Goodman. Just search that in the podcast feed because in that interview he gave a lot of great tips for people just starting out in personal training.

So if you want to work with people one-on-one, whether it is or online, I do recommend. Getting a trainer certification. Now, if you want to produce content, if you wanna write, if you want to record podcasts, uh, record YouTube videos and so forth, I think it is less important to have your trainer certification because in my experience, most people.

Could care less. They don’t even think to look or ask if you have certification. It’s more about your ability to explain things well and help people solve their problems. For instance, I’ve maintained a trainer certification for many years now just to have it just to say that I am a certified personal trainer, even though I don’t work with anybody anymore, one-on-one, I just don’t have the time to do it.

And. Really never get asked if I have any sort of bonafide whatsoever, at least by readers and listeners. I guess I have established myself enough, uh, by now as a credible expert that people don’t feel the need to ask if I have a trainer certification or a formal education in any of this. That said, Am doing more in the way of publicity these days.

So I am getting featured more in magazines and on bigger health and fitness websites, and my trainer certification is useful for that because often they want to be able to say that somebody is a certified. Personal trainer, sometimes they just go with bestselling author of Bigger, leaner, stronger or Thinner.

Leaner, stronger, or c e o and Founder of Legion. But, uh, just as often they want to say certified personal trainer and maybe author or c e O. Founder of Legion. So again, if you want to be an influencer or educator, having a trainer certification is not gonna hurt. It may not help that much. It may not matter that much, but it’s certainly not gonna hurt.

And so I would say, why not? It’s not that hard to do, especially if you know your stuff and if it helps even a little bit, then I would say it’s a good use of time. Now as far as which. Certifications are better than others. I recommend choosing one of the five that are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, and those are the American Council and Exercise Certification, the ACE certification, the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the N A S M certification, the American College of Sports Medicine, a c s.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association, n SCA and the National Council on Strength and Fitness N C S F. Choose one of those. You don’t have to do more than one, just choose one. And I would say any is probably equally good as the other. So check ’em out and just go with whichever appeals the most to you.

There are, of course, cheaper options out there. Easier options, but they’re not as reputable. So if you’re gonna do it, I would say just do it right and get one that can stand up to scrutiny. And you’re also gonna learn more useful stuff if you choose one of the five that I just mentioned, because they have evidence-based curricula.

They are taught by certified instructors. They focus on numerous aspects of personal training. They talk. Decline consultation, fitness assessments, uh, legal and professional responsibilities, programming, taking into account medical history, injuries, goals, preferences, and so forth, and more. Again, they’re, they’re pretty comprehensive curricula.

If you know a lot about this stuff, you may be familiar with a lot of it. But you’re probably gonna learn some new and useful information. One other little note is the National Strength and Conditioning Association Certification. The N S C A focuses more on working with high level athletes or competitive amateur athletes.

So if that is your target demographic, you may want to go with that one over the others.

If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. All right. Let’s move on to the next question, which is, how useful are unilateral exercises?

Very good question. Now, what is a unilateral exercise? Well, to define that, let’s first define bilateral exercise. So that’s an exercise that trains both sides, bi of the body. At the same time. So for example, the squat trains both legs at the same time. It is a bilateral exercise. A unilateral exercise then is one that trains only one side of the body at the time uni one, right?

So for example, lunges train each leg separate. Now, most barbell exercises, the vast majority of them, Are bilateral, right? The bench press, the deadlift, the overhead press, barbell, curled, and so forth. But dumbbell exercises can be both bilateral and unilateral. So if you’re gonna do unilateral training, it is going to be with dumbbells or it’s gonna be with machines.

So some examples, lunges, step-ups, one-arm dumbbell rows, alternating biceps curls, and so forth. Now, should you include unilateral training, In your programming? Well, as you probably know, mechanical tension is the most important mechanical driver of muscle growth. If we’re talking about hormones, for example, it’d be testosterone.

But if we’re talking about just stimulating the muscles, then mechanical tension is it. And one way to increase the mechanical tension and the stress that’s imposed on your muscles is to increase the amount of weight that you lift. And when you do that over time, you are progressively overloading your muscles.

Now that principle is particularly important when it comes to discussing the importance of unilateral exercises because of something that scientists call the bilateral deficit. And what that is, it is the inability of the neuromuscular system to generate maximal force when two limbs are operating simultaneously bilaterally compared.

To the force that is developed when both limbs are acting separately. So for example, let’s say you were to do a one rep max biceps curl test with each of your arms separately with dumbbells. So then let’s say with your right arm, you curl 45 pounds, and with your left arm, you curl 40 pounds in theory.

Then you could add those numbers together and get something very close to your barbell curl. One rep max a 95 pound, one rep max on the barbell. But. Because of the bilateral deficit, it’s highly unlikely that your barbell biceps curl one rip max is going to be 95 pounds. It’s probably gonna be slightly lower, 80, 85 pounds.

And therefore, when you do unilateral exercises, you’ll find that you can lift a bit more weight. Than you can if you were to do the bilateral version of that exercise, and that additional amount of weight would increase the amount of tension produced in your muscles, which would produce a slightly more powerful training stimulus.

Keep in mind though that that doesn’t. Mean that you are going to be able to lift more weight with dumbbell exercises. For example, you are going to be able to barbell bench press more weight than you’ll be able to use on the dumbbell bench press. So if you can barbell bench, press 2 25 for sets of four, let’s say.

You won’t be able to go over to the one tens on the dumbbell bench press or the one 12 fives if your gym is extremely well stocked and do sets of four. And the reason for that is a tangent I won’t get into here, but it has to do with lateral forces that you can produce with the barbell, and that’s a little tip for.

Barbell bench. Pressing more weight, by the way, is feel like you’re trying to rip the bar apart or you’re like you’re trying to bend the bar in half and you can increase that lateral tension, which will allow you to get not necessarily more weight on the bench press. I don’t think that’s gonna be the difference between, let’s say 2 25 and two 30, but you certainly can get an extra rep or two if you go from not consciously producing that lateral.

To doing it. So anyway, keep that in mind when you are thinking about how you may want to include unilateral versus bilateral training in your programming. As you know, barbell training should make up the majority of your work. That is your base of strength training. That is going to ensure that you continue increasing your whole body strength over time and that.

Is going to ensure that you keep on gaining muscle over time. Very important. As a natural weightlifter, and particularly as an intermediate or advanced natural weightlifter, you need to see your one rms on the big exercises, the big squats, you know, front back squat, the big deadlifts. It could be a conventional deadlift or a trap bar deadlift.

Sumo deadlift the bench press some sort of big overhead barbell press. It could just be a standard O H P standing O h P. It could be a seated military press. I like to alternate between them, but you want to see your one rep maxes going up. On those exercises, it’s gonna be slow, but they should be going up over time.

So don’t make the mistake of dropping barbell exercises because they’re bilateral and trying to replace them with unilateral exercises that simply can’t take the place of the big squat, the big deadlift, the big overhead press, or even the big bench press. That would be stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

Now what you can do is play around with unilateral training for your accessory work for the exercises, usually the isolation exercises that come after the big primary compound movements. And you have, of course, bilateral accessory exercises you can do, but you also. Work on some unilateral exercises and see which seem to work better for you, which create a better mind muscle connection, meaning where you feel the target muscle group working, which create a bigger pump, which result in more muscle soreness.

All indicators that an exercise is doing what it is supposed to. And if you wanna learn more, That in particular, how to find the exercises that work best for you. Check out the interview I did with Dr. Mike Isra. It came out a couple of months ago and it was all about that subject in particular, and he spells his last name I S R A E T E L.

So you can just search it in the feed and check it out. Now as far as specific exercise recommendations, here are some ones to consider. You have single arm LA raises. You can do those on the cable machines. You can do those with dumbbells. One arm dumbbell row, of course. Uh, you can also do that with cables.

Curls. You have preacher curls, standing curls, incline curls, seated curls. Just do it with a dumbbell, one arm, triceps extensions, another good option. You can do triceps, kickbacks. If you want to have small arms, a kickbacks suck, don’t do kickbacks. Do something else. Instead, you can do one leg work on the.

Leg press. Some leg presses are fancy and the foot plate is actually two foot plates that you can attach or detach. And when they are attached, it works as your normal bilateral leg press. And when you detach them though, they move independently and that makes it real easy and comfortable to do one leg leg press work.

You can do one leg Rd ls, you can do Bulgarian split squats. Uh, you can do lunges, leg extensions. And lastly, to show off at a party or show off on Instagram, you could do some one arm chin-ups or some one arm pushups. Now, one training tip with unilateral work is always start with your weaker side, and then go until you hit your.

Rep intensity target. So let’s say you are ending with one rep in reserve, one good rep left. So work on that weaker side until you hit that reps in reserve target, and then match that on your stronger side. Because if you do it the other way around, if you start with your stronger side or you don’t match on your stronger side, your weaker side will never be able to catch up.

You’ll always be doing a bit more volume on your stronger side. And so that. Imbalance will continue more or less indefinitely. Alrighty. Well that’s it for this episode. Thanks again for joining me. I hope you found it helpful. And if you have questions, email me mike muscle for or follow me on Instagram at Muscle Life Fitness.

And every month or so I post asking for questions to answer on the podcast. So follow me on Instagram and when you see the post, just ask your question or questions in the comments. And I. Have the time to answer every single one of them in the comments, but I do pick questions from those Instagram posts to answer on these episodes.

All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode. I hope you found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, could you please leave a quick review for the podcast on iTunes or wherever you are listening from? Because those reviews not only convince people that they should check out the show, they also increase the search visibil.

And help more people find their way to me and to the podcast, and learn how to build their best body ever as well. And of course, if you wanna be notified when the next episode goes live, then simply subscribe to the podcast in whatever app you’re using. To listen and you will not miss out on any of the new stuff that I have coming.

And last, if you didn’t like something about the show, then definitely shoot me an email at mike muscle for and share your thoughts. Let me know how you think I could do this better. I read every email myself and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. All right, thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you.

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