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Focus and get bigger muscles

By Karim Waheed

You listening? If you've been mindlessly going through your workouts, you could be missing out on big results. A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that when people focused on a specific muscle during basic lifts [i.e. thinking about biceps during dumbbell curls] they worked that muscle 22 percent harder.

Zeroing in on specific muscles can help you feel the exercise more, the study adds. When working out, people often rush through moves. Being mindful of the muscle you're actually working can help keep it engaged.

Hit your targeted muscles even harder using these form cues for four common moves:

Bicep Curls
Slow down and squeeze hard at the top of the curl to get the most out of the range, and tighten your glutes. That way, you can further focus on your biceps.

Instead of simply going through the typical up-down and letting your knees fall in front of your toes, try this: sit your hips back and think of spreading the floor with your feet. Your feet are planted and knees still point straight ahead, but isometrically 'pushing' them apart helps open your hips to allow for better depth throughout the exercise.

Bench Press
Dig your feet into the ground and keep your glutes tight. It'll keep you more stable during this move, and allow you to handle more weight.

Pull through your elbows. Most people know this exercise targets the upper back, but pulling through the elbows can help you engage your lats more. From there, focus on placing your shoulder blades in your back pockets by pulling them together and down.


Your car is trying to kill you, again

By Ehsanur Raza Ronny

Yes, yes, it will. No matter how much love you give your car in the form of gentle fine-grain carnauba wax polishes, it will kill you the moment it can. It's like an alligator except the only thing at risk of being endangered is you.

But that's not such a bad thing. We can sit in a car, cruise slowly with our music on loud and be cool like a pair of penguins in a walk-in freezer in Alaska. Except, it's that particular loud music that could be killing us this time.

According to a 2009 study from South Korea, loud in-car music may be harming your heart. That's right; when William Congreve said music soothes the savage beast in his epic play, he didn't know about car stereos. The loudest thing troubling him was how loud the horse of his cart made air-expelling noises.

It's been found that regular exposure to 85 decibels or above could significantly bring about higher systolic blood pressure after nine years, than those in quieter surroundings. Many stereos' maximum volume exceeds 100 decibels. So, if you're feeling like a gangster and riding in 'da hood' with Jay Z, a decade later you could be having a weirdly beating heart. Those closed confines of a car don't help either, bouncing off the sound waves back and forth.

How do you stay safe? You could become a hermit. Or a monk like those in the movies where they are silent but know kung-fu. Or you could just, you know, lower the volume. Normal conversation averages about 60 decibels. A conversation about how Gangnam style is/isn't music is not a normal conversation. But while you're in the car, turn on the music and have a normal non-Gangnam style conversation. If you can't hear anything, it's too loud.


Masterchef Thailand

By kaniska chakraborty

The eponymous series has me down as a die-hard fan. I root for people, I feel sad when my favourite contestant gets eliminated despite a dazzling dish. And secretly, I always wanted to cook like that. Heck, why secretly? I'll give my right hand to be able to cook like that. I just wish that the Indian version would go slightly beyond heavy sauce laden, cream enriched debauchery of food.

My friend Kalyan Karmakar told me about the cooking class that he took in Chiang Mai. So, when we decided to go to Chiang Mai, in the back of my mind, I harboured a desire to do the same. Did not pre-book anything as we decided to take things easy and not get into any must-dos.

Our hotel was good enough to hook me up with one such outfit. Picked the option where they would take me to a farm and do a whole day of cooking. Early next morning early we were picked up. I, the student, and my wife my official photographer. Soon we found ourselves in a room full of eager people from all over the world. Americans, Italians, Germans, French and me, the Indian. We had to choose what we wanted to learn to cook from a set menu.

I picked up Tom Yum Goong (no surprises there), chicken with cashew nut (always loved it), glass noodle salad (I did not pick Som Tam as certain things should remain a mystery), Khaosoi (heard so much about it) and fried bananas (the other choice was mango and sticky rice which I never liked).

Soon, we were whisked away to a market to give everyone an orientation of “exotic tropical ingredients”. Stuff like various kinds of rice, coriander leaves, coconut milk, tamarind et al. At that point I really was thinking is this all worth getting up early for?

As Kalyan pointed out, I was the Lisa Simpson of the class. The next stop was the farm where the actual cooking took place. But before that, a tour of the vegetable garden to show people turmeric plants, bottle gourds, green chillies, guava plants and eggplants.

I grimly hung on to my patience. Soon, cooking started and all impatience was forgotten.

Quickly, I got into a groove. Chopping, dicing, sautéing, boiling, stir frying, deep-frying.

At the end of it, we had our respective fruits of labour. Which basically was our lunch as well. The esoteric international class of students sat around and shared their dishes. And made many new friends. Which, to me was the best part of Masterchef Thailand.


Into the mists and
magic of the river

A joy ride on the outskirts of the city, free from noise and pollution is a calming experience indeed. The breeze feels nice, the crowds are thin and the houses are few and far between. However, is that the best we can do when it comes to finding serenity?

To complicate matters, what if we wanted serenity with a hint of adventure and just the right dash of chaos needed to make ourselves feel at home, yet at peace? If that's your recipe too, why not head for the open waters?

As the chaotic scenes at Sadarghat Terminal unfold before you and after you have fought your way through the human tide and on to your launch, turn back and see what it is that you are leaving behind -- land. And the further away from land that you can go, the less will be the noise. But what's a journey without destination? The thrill of embarking and that of disembarking aren't really comparable, but both need to be equally experienced. Therefore, head some place distant yet familiar.

The concrete of Dhaka gives way to numerous water bodies snaking discreetly through the city. These water bodies are not only the city's lifeline, but an important travel route for those on the budget, seeking an adventure or just going some place without having to be stuck en route because the roads are too clogged. Thus, the decision came about to go to Chandpur and if the destination is Chandpur, why not go by a launch boat?

A pleasant three and a half hour journey to a respite, seems like pocket change in Dhaka travel time, but that's all the time it takes. With a huge group, book a VIP Cabin for around Tk.3000 while the rest of your troop can get deck tickets, yet enjoy the room. We all hear the horror stories of public washrooms, so it must be worst when people don't really have much option, but your VIP cabin comes with its own attached washroom. Plus, the boat itself is made clean and tidy before every journey. Suffice to say that it isn't left in the same condition.

Upon request, the captain and his mates may catch fresh river fish and serve it with your meal. Very few meals can beat that of a fish you saw being caught and cooked. Finally, walk up to the deck and enjoy the untainted view, free of blemishes.

Nothing but the skies dotted by a million stars and seemingly unending water all around, with the sounds of the river and the motor the only thing disturbing the peace. Head back in, because now you are full, peaceful and sleepy. Plus, your destination has almost been reached. Rest, until you get the chance to soak it all in again.

By Osama Rahman
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed


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