Calf bashing workout

CRANK UP THE INTENSITY WITH THIS POWER PACKED TRAINING ROUTINE TO GENERATE NEW GROWTH
There are many misconceptions about calf training. Some people believe you should train them at least 3 or 4 times each week in order to get good growth. Others advise you should do at least 15 sets each time in order to properly exhaust them. Other times you will hear that because of the nature of the muscle, you must train in a very high rep range in order to reach full muscle failure to stimulate significant muscular growth. Often times, the people making these recommendations have calves that are “normal” or otherwise unimpressive. I constantly get asked what the heck I do to get such large and freaky calves.

I usually just give the short answer, “heavy weight with high reps,” but that usually doesn’t satisfy the person who asked the question. I have been asked to break down the details in an article, so for the first time ever, here it is:

First, it’s important to realize that the calves are composed of two major muscles – the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the larger of the two muscles and is composed of two heads (medial and lateral). It extends from the knee joint to the ankle joint and this muscle is what forms the well-known diamond shape you see in competitive bodybuilders with low body fat levels. The soleus is the smaller muscle, which lies under the gastrocnemius and contributes to the width of the lower leg. So, what is the importance of these two muscles? Well, if you want stellar calf development, you must focus on training both of these major muscles with equal intensity.

Okay, but what about the training details for maximum growth? How often should I train them? What exercises should I use? How heavy should I go? What rep range should I focus on? How many sets? Etc, etc, etc. Well, calm down because we’re going to get to all that.

It’s important to understand that there’s nothing special or magical about the muscles in your lower legs. Many people believe that because you use them walking everyday that they are somehow composed of special muscle fibers, which require extra special and extensive stimulation in order to grow. Hence the misconception about training calves 3 or 4 times per week or for 15 sets in a row in order to stimulate the “stubborn” muscles into growing. This could not be further from the truth. We also use our quadriceps and hamstrings to walk just as much as our calves, but we don’t train those 3 or 4 times per week. For those of us who do cardio daily, which muscle are you more likely to pull if you’re jogging on a treadmill

YOUR CALVES ARE ON FIRE AND STARTING TO CRAMP BAD. INTERESTINGLY, YOU THINK YOUR FEET MIGHT BE TINGLING AND TURNING NUMB. ALMOST THERE, SO KEEP GOING, DON’T QUIT!
– a calf or a hamstring? Well- you get the point. This is why I train calves like I train any other muscle group in the body (which may very well be the subject of another article, but I made my point).

Now let’s assume you’re like most other people who train each muscle group once every 4 to 7 days. That’s how often you should train calves. No more, no less. Okay, fantastic. Now, what exercises?

Let’s return back to the two major muscle groups, which comprise the calves – the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Since it’s important to train both of these muscles with equal intensity, it would be impossible to train them both on the same day. (The muscle going last will always be at a disadvantage in terms of weight, intensity, lactic acid buildup, fatigue, etc.) So, don’t do it. One day you should train your gastrocnemius and the next calf workout (4 to 7 days later) you should train the soleus muscle. You may be wondering, which exercise targets each of those muscles. Any calf exercise where your legs are straight will target the gastrocnemius (e.g. standing calf raises or donkey calf raises), and any calf exercise where your knees are bent will target the soleus (e.g. seated leg raises). Although there are multiple exercises to choose from, you will only choose one exercise per workout and you will blast that exercise HARD. Make sure your calves are properly warmed up before really cranking up the weight. Do a few light sets before working your way up to your heaviest sets. Add weight after each warm-up set until you reach the weight you have chosen for your working sets. One may ask, “how many sets, how heavy, and what rep range?” This is when things become a little more individualized, but basic human physiology principles apply. If you follow this protocol correctly, you’ll find that you won’t be able to do more than 3 or 4 hard sets (this does not refer to the warm-up sets where you are not going to failure but simply warming up the muscle). After your warm-up sets, use enough weight in order for you to hit failure at 10 reps with a controlled but deliberate movement. Get a good stretch at the bottom of each rep and then explode in a controlled fashion (no bouncing at all unless you desire to rip the muscle off the bone) to the top concentric portion of the movement. Give the calves a good strong squeeze then slowly lower the weight back to the stretched position and repeat. Strong mental focus is the KEY. Focus on feeling your calves contract as hard as possible on each and every rep! You’ll get to 10 reps and feel that you have reached muscle failure but don’t quit yet. Squeeze out another couple of reps continuing in the same fashion as above. Nice job, but you’re not done yet. Take a few deep breaths and continue with the exercise-13 reps, 14 reps, 15 reps… Your calves are on fire and starting to cramp bad. Interestingly, you think your feet might be tingling and turning numb. Almost there, so keep going, don’t quit! 16 reps, 17 reps… Take a deep breath, and yes, your calves have never hurt so bad before. 18 reps, 19 reps… The pain is unbearable. Last rep… 20! Rack the weight.

Your calves are cramping and they’re cramping bad. It’s very important to stretch them at this point one at a time and very carefully. If you go too deep on the stretch too quickly, you can actually tear and damage the muscle. So, gently drop into a stretched position and hold for a minimum of 30 seconds straight. Switch legs and repeat. Now immediately go back to the same calf exercise for the next set. This set will be identical to the first (get to 20 reps with that heavy weight that you wanted to quit with on 10 reps), and then you will stretch again. Despite the incredible pump and pain, you will repeat again for a third set of the exact same regimen of 20 heavy reps. Congratulations! You didn’t think you would get more than 8 reps on that last set, but you fought your way all the way up to 20. Even though your calves feel like they’ve never hurt so bad before, you can’t help but smile knowing you just made it through all that. You now have one final set which is optional. If you decide to continue, take about one third of the weight off of the calf machine. Get back in the machine and repeat what you did for all the previous sets, but you must hit 30 reps, not 29- but 30. You will have to fight hard to get a good stretch, a strong contraction in each and every of those 30 reps. When you are done with that, roll out of the machine and shake out your legs. You now need to slowly stretch each calf for a minimum of 60 seconds straight. This serves several purposes. It removes lactic acid build-up in the muscle, which will speed recovery and allow you to be able to still walk tomorrow. It also will stretch the fascia (the sheath of connective tissue surrounding the muscle) allowing the muscle to expand and grow from the intense stimulus you just provided it.

Your calf training session is over. Next time pick an exercise, which trains the other major muscle of your lower legs. If you trained gastrocnemius this session, then next time you will train the soleus muscle and vice versa. Feel free to alternate between different calf exercises and try to keep track of your weights over time. Your goal is to slowly get stronger on each of these exercises as you keep those reps high in order to continue to stimulate calf growth. Each time you train calves, you will train them in the same high rep and high weight manner as above.

If you strictly follow these protocols you should see some significant progress over the next few months. If no progress ensues, you may just be genetically challenged and can always take up golf.

After posting this I also realize that one set program does not necessarily  give everyone the best results. Following the above protocol may yield exceptional gains, modest gains or little gains depending on the individual. So lets explore some variations and in your training try them out if you are not satisfied with your results or if you want to just do something different.

1) Calve raises.. pick a weight you can do for 15 reps.. and do it for 100 in shortest time possible.

2) Do work on your front calves (tibial) on Monday, Do seated work on Wednesday, then standing work on Friday.

3) Try doing calf work on the days you DO NOT do your legs. Consider your squats and leg pressing as an indirect attack on your calves.

4) This may as well be another post on calf work but screw it, this will just be one really long post that is turning into a mish mash of different protocols…………

2 of my favorite ways to hit calves are……

5 second negatives + 5 second holds in the stretched position.

You can literally destroy your calves in one set of these.

Basically you just pick a weight you can usually get 15 reps with when performing them with a normal tempo.

Lower into the stretch position as slow as possible (5 seconds), hold the stretch at the bottom for a 5 second count, then squeeze/contract as hard as you can.   You should fail at around 8-10 reps.

It should take you a good amount of time to complete the entire set, but it’s excruciating.

After completing the set you can either drop set and immediately go again using the same method or rest pause to extend the set.  If your rest pause, aim to hit about half the amount of the reps you did on the first.  So if you got 10 reps, rest 30 seconds and go again…you’ll probably hit 5 or 6 if you’re lucky.

One all out set like this is enough.

Good thing about this method is it allows you to use a decent weight but also increases the time under tension significantly.

3×3 way circuit

Pick a weight you can do 10 reps with using a normal tempo.  Place a block or stack a couple of plates on top of each other next to the machine you’re using to create a platform.

After completing the 10 reps on the machine, immediately follow that up with 10 reps on the block with just body weight.  Do these using the same method as above (5 seconds on the way down, 5 second stretch, explode up)….then finish off the first “round” by performing standing raises without the block from the floor…as many reps as you can until you can’t physically lift your own body-weight anymore.  This usually equates to about 10-12 reps.

So…

10 reps on the machine

10 reps off the block with body weight (slow negatives/hold stretch)

10-12+ reps body weight off the floor (normal pace…just pump them)

That’s the first set done

Rest a minute or so, then go back to the machine.  Reduce the weight by about 25% and follow the same method – 10 reps machine, 10 reps off block, 10-12+ reps off the floor.

Second set done

Reduce the weight by a further 25% and repeat the above process.

3 “rounds” of this and your calves are guaranteed to be well and truly fucked up.

Both the above methods only take maybe 10 minutes.

Even more ideas;

The one tip that’s worked a treat for me when training calves, is before I start my set, tilt my ankles inwards. Then when I do my reps, keep this tilt angle and push up through the ball of the big toe, ensuring the foot doesn’t lean outwards…

I had to drop my weight considerably at first, but I stuck with it and made small progressive increases using this stricter technique, and I’ve seen good results in overall mass gain.

For me man its all high reps with low to no weight (bodyweight). I like to look at it this way and call it bro science or whatever you want but aside from bodybuilders who has the biggest calves? Cyclists….runners…..soccer players etc etc. And what are they doing? Working them over and over and over day in and day out with literally no weight other than their bodyweight. Of course these athletes weight train but Im sure you get what im tryin to say.

A bodybuilder named Ben Pakulski has a ridiculous calve workout that im my opinion is the most brutal thing I have ever done for calves. Pick a machine, prefferably one where you are seated. Pick a weight (it will most likely be fairly light) Do 10 reps rest 10 secs, do 20 reps rest 20 secs, 30 reps 30 secs, 40 reps. That is it. Do that 3 times the first week. The second week start at 20 reps and work your way up in the same fashion and the third week start at 30 reps and same thing again. That is some serious shit!

Supplements for women

Today let’s focus on women, shall we? There is a lot that goes on in the female body. The food that we put in our body and the nutrients we receive are vital for a long and healthy life. It should be no surprise that the female and male bodies sometimes require different vitamins and minerals to function at their best. Here are some of the best supplements specifically for women.

Iron

Iron carries oxygen in the blood, supports brain development, immune function and helps in the production of red blood cells. Anemia is a very serious condition where the body is not getting enough iron. The most common symptom of this is extreme fatigue but it can also cause a weakened immune system and problems regulating body temperature. For women, when you have your period each month you lose more iron which makes it even more important that women are getting enough iron through their diet or by supplementation.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D’s most commonly known role is its aid in calcium absorption in the body and bone growth. It also plays an important role in immune function and reduction of inflammation in the body. Without proper vitamin D intake, your bones can become weak. When this occurs it can lead to much more serious conditions such as osteoporosis, which is much more common in women. Deficiency can also lead to the development of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3’s are important for the brain, help to reduce blood pressure and can help calm down inflammation. This is very important for the female athlete. While we all know that getting enough fat in your diet is important, supplementing with Omega 3’s is always a great idea especially for women. You can also find this in foods such as fish and nuts.

Magnesium

Magnesium helps to maintain normal muscle function, keep a healthy heart, support your immune system, strengthen bones, regulate blood sugar, and helps to improve the metabolism of energy. If you don’t realize it by now, it does a lot for the body! Due to the fact that it does play such an important role in so many processes in the body, being deficient in magnesium can have many consequences.

As we know, getting the appropriate vitamins and minerals can be tricky. If you can’t always count on yourself to eat the right foods to get these nutrients through food, supplementation is very important! It’s a good thing in fact!

The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade-off?

The cost of getting lean:
Is it really worth the trade-off?

By Ryan Andrews & Brian St. Pierre

SHARE

Six-pack abs. Tight butts. Lean, vibrant, flawless health. That’s the image the fitness industry is selling. But have you ever wondered what it costs to achieve that “look”? What you have to do more of? And what you really have to give up?

Make no mistake, there are real trade-offs as you attempt to lose fat and improve your health. Let’s talk about what they are. So you can consider how to get the body you really want while living the life you really enjoy.

A tale of two clients

Not long ago, one of our successful clients — we’ll call him Bill — came to us with a question.

Now that he’d lost thirty pounds (going from 22% body fat to 15%), he could run up stairs and haul heavy bags of garden soil without getting winded.

He could genuinely enjoy weekend bike rides with friends. He could wear clothes he used to be able to fit into but had long given up as hopeless.

But what next?

“Don’t get me wrong,” Bill said. “I’m happy with the way I look and feel.”

It’s just that he also wanted six-pack abs.

“Oh, I don’t have to look like a cover model,” he mused. “It’s just that I’m really close to looking… awesome.”

Bill figured that with just a little extra work, and a little more time, the abs would start popping and his physique would be “finished”.

Meanwhile, another client, Anika, had the opposite concern.

She just wanted to lose a little weight, and get a little more fit.

But she worried that in order to do so, she’d have to give up everything, become a “health nut”, and make massive changes.

Changes that probably included 6 AM bootcamps, kale shakes, lemon juice cleanses, and 1000 situps a day… forever.

“No way,” thought Anika. “That’s too much work.”

Two common misperceptions

Our two client stories reflect two common misperceptions:

Myth #1:
With just a few small, easy, hopefully imperceptible changes to one’s diet and exercise routine, you too can have shredded abs, big biceps, and tight glutes, just like a magazine cover model.

Myth #2:
“Getting into shape” or “losing weight” involves painful, intolerable sacrifice, restriction, and deprivation.

Of course, neither of these are true.

Reality #1:
The process that helps you lose “the first 10 pounds” isn’t the same one that’ll help you lose “the last 10 pounds”. Indeed, it usually takes a lot more work as you get leaner.

Reality #2:
If you do aspire to “fitness model” or “elite athlete” lean, you might be surprised. Images are photoshopped for effect. Bodybuilders only look like that for competition. And achieving that look comes at a high cost; one most people aren’t willing to pay.

Reality #3:
However, if you’re okay not being on the next magazine cover and aspire to be “lean and healthy” even small adjustments can — over time — add up to noticeable improvements. Sometimes these improvements can change, perhaps even save, lives.

Do more of this (and less of that)

With that said, we’re about to share something a lot of people in fitness and health don’t want you to see.

It’s a chart outlining what it really takes to lose body fat, improve your health, move from one fitness category to the next.

Some fitness people think you’re too afraid. Or too weak. Or that you won’t buy their products and services if they’re honest with you.

We think otherwise.

We think it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons so that you can make informed decisions about your body and your life.

Let’s start with the benefits and tradeoffs with each fitness level.

precision nutrtion cost getting lean benefits table The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade off?

Now let’s talk about what you might consider doing more of (and less of).

precision nutrition cost getting lean do table The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade off?

Bonus: We even created a cool infographic that summarizes this article. Click here for: The cost of getting lean illustrated. Is it really worth the trade-off?]

Your body, your choice

At some point, many of our coaching clients decide that being severely out of shape costs them too much energy, health, quality of life, and longevity. So they choose to change their behaviors and choices. With our help.

Other coaching clients decide that they want six-pack abs. Then, they discover that this option costs them something too. Some folks are willing to pay that cost. But most aren’t.

Even if you think you’d like that six-pack, it might turn out that you actually want something else a little bit more. And we wouldn’t blame you.

Here are the two basic principles:

1. If you want to make further changes to your body, you’ll need to make further changes to your behaviors.

2. The leaner you want to get, the more of your behaviors you’ll have to change. 

What you decide to change, and how much you decide to change it, is up to you. What’s most important here is that you understand what it actually takes to do what you want (or think you want).

What’s a healthy level of body fat, anyway?

First, for the sake of context, let’s take a look at some numbers.

Data tell us that most men can be healthy somewhere between 11 to 22% body fat. For women, its between 22-33%.

Right now in the U.S.,  the average man is about 28% fat, and the average woman is 40% fat.

In other words, the average adult in the U.S. (and throughout most of the West) is carrying a lot of excess body fat. Unhealthy levels of body fat.

Getting the process started

The good news is that it’s not that hard to go from over-fat to the higher end of “normal”.

You can do it with a few relatively small, easy-to-implement changes.

For instance:

  • drinking less soda or alcohol each day
  • not overeating desserts and fast foods (instead, just eating them in reasonable amounts)
  • taking a daily walk or adding a yoga class

Assuming there are no other factors involved (such as a chronic health problem), if you make a few small changes like these, and do them consistently, in six months to a year, your body fat percentage will drop and fall into a much healthier range.

Cool!

Now of course, not every change will feel simple, small, or easy. Especially when you start out.

You’ll need to put a little extra effort and energy into making those changes happen every day. And having a trainer or a coach support you — and hold you accountable — will probably help you feel more confident and on-track.

Nevertheless, if the changes are small enough, and you practice them consistently, you’ll probably find that eventually they’re just part of your regular routine.

In fact, one day in the future, you might even say, “I just don’t feel like myself without my daily walk!”

“Overweight” to “no-longer-overweight” to “lean”

Suppose you’ve made a few changes like this.

Maybe you pack an apple in your lunch instead of apple juice. Or you include a salad with dinner, or you stick to one or two drinks with friends.

And you’re feeling good! Your knees have stopped hurting, plus your pants now button comfortably.

Now you’re somewhere in the zone of “a little extra padding, but not too bad”. You’re more mobile, healthier, and high-fiving yourself.

What’s the next step?

Well, if you’re a man who wants to reduce body fat from 20% to 14% (or 14% to 8%), or a woman who wants to go from 30% to 24% (or 24% to 18%), you’ll need to make some bigger changes.

You’ll need to invest more time, energy, and effort. You’ll need to plan more.

And you’ll also have to make some trade-offs.

From “lean” to “leaner”

If you’re a man and you want to go from 20% to 14% body fat, or you’re a woman and you want to go from 30% body fat to 24%, it’s all a question of doing more…and less.

You’ll probably need to do more stuff, such as:

  • get more exercise and daily-life movement, and perhaps make that exercise more intense
  • eating more vegetables and lean protein
  • choosing more whole foods
  • doing more meal planning
  • getting serious about rest and recovery
  • learning your physical hunger and fullness cues

You’ll probably need to do less stuff, such as:

  • drinking less alcohol and other high-calorie beverages
  • eating less processed foods
  • not eating when you’re not physically hungry

And you’ll need to make these small changes consistently, over a period of time.

Many folks will decide that these changes are worth making. They want to look and feel better, get a good night’s sleep, get off medications, and so forth. So they’re ready to compromise.

Other folks will decide that they’re not yet ready to make more adjustments. And that’s fine too.

The most important thing is that you realize: In order to change…you have to change.

What it takes to get “super-lean”

At next stage — going from athletically lean to bodybuilder lean — the tradeoffs get even more serious.

Here’s something that you may not realize:

Elite bodybuilders getting ready for a contest and models getting ready for a shoot are basically in a slow starvation process.

Adhering to an extremely strict and precise regimen of eating and training (and perhaps adding some drugs into the mix) is the only way way they can drop their body fat to extremely low levels.

Males can get to body fat levels under 6% with this process, and females can get to under 16%.

But this process is not for the faint of heart.

It goes against biological cues. It requires exercising when exhausted. It demands ignoring their desire for food in the face of powerful hunger cues. It involves intense focus and dedication.

And it often distracts from other areas of life that these athletes might enjoy and value.

Imagine all the practical things that are involved in very strict dieting and training.

  • You have to make your own food and measure every meal down to the last gram.
  • That food is generally very plain — lean protein, steamed vegetables, plain potatoes or rice, etc.
  • You have to carry that food with you so you can eat at a precise time.
  • You cannot eat in restaurants.
  • You have to do a specific workout on a given day, exactly as specified.
  • No sick days, no slacking.
  • You’ll probably be training 2 or 3 times per day.
  • You have to sleep and recover precisely.
  • No parties or staying up late.
  • You can’t think straight because you’re always hungry and tired.
  • Your whole life revolves around making food, dieting, training, and recovery protocols.
  • Did we mention you’re slowly starving?

So forget having a sex life, social life, parenthood, school, and probably a regular job.

Is that level of leanness worth it?

Having a six-pack doesn’t automatically make you healthy. In fact, getting toolean can be actively unhealthy.

You might end up with amenorrhea, low libido, disordered eating, bones like Swiss cheese, social isolation, and a host of other problems.

Some elite bodybuilders rely on drugs like stimulants, diuretics, and other drugs just to keep themselves going.

Many folks even rely on cosmetic surgery. Which creates its own health risks… and certainly doesn’t add health on its own.

In short, being really lean has almost nothing to do with being really healthy.

Indeed, being too focused on getting lean may lead you away from good health.

precision nutrition getting lean abs The cost of getting lean: Is it really worth the trade off?

Meanwhile, on the subject of six-packs, it might surprise you to learn that even among the super lean, not all abs are created equal.

That’s right. Strip away all the excess fat, and some people will never reveal a magazine cover set of abs.

Why? Because — quite apart from that airbrushing we referred to earlier — we’re all built differently.

Some folks have staggered abdominals. Some have angled abdominals. Some people might really only have four abdominals that are visible no matter how lean they get.

Don’t believe us? Go to any amateur physique competition for a first-hand view.

Who knows? The experience might prove enlightening. It might even contribute to greater body acceptance and self-compassion.

Because what you’re sure to notice is that in real life, nobody’s “perfect”.  Not even elite bodybuilders and fitness competitors.

Getting clear, getting real

Clarity is essential in change.

If you think you may want to change how much body fat you have, start by getting a clear idea of where you’re at.

  • Figure out your goals and priorities. If you don’t know what your priorities are, now’s a great time to explore that.
  • Decide what you’re willing to do right now in order to serve those goals and priorities. Why?
  • Decide how often, and how consistently, and how precisely, you’re willing to do those things.
  • Decide what you’re not willing to do right now. Why not?
  • In the above steps, be brutally honest and realistic yet compassionate with yourself.

Now you have your action plan.

And you know where you are on the cost-benefit continuum.

In the table above, we’ve provided rough estimates for what it might take to achieve specific levels of leanness or muscularity — or even simple health improvements, like getting off medications.

This is just a general guide. It’s a start. Something to get you thinking.

You may need more tailored guidance or coaching. Age, gender, genetics, medical conditions, and pharmaceuticals can all affect what you’ll need to do to get and stay lean.

If tracking your body fat is important to you, make sure you have a valid way to do it, such as a skinfold caliper measurement by a trained professional. If you don’t care, and use other indicators like your belt notches, that’s cool.

What to do next

1. Take the long view

Whatever change you want to make, remember: It will take time.

Eating one big, rich meal won’t make you wake up overweight. Fasting for 24 hours won’t give you six-pack abs.

A simple plan followed consistently is better than a complex plan followed intermittently.

2. Review what’s involved

To reduce your body fat from unhealthy to healthy levels

You only need to make a few changes, and follow them about 80% of the time.

To go from normal to reasonably lean

You need a few more changes, and a bit more consistency.

Now you might need to eat protein and veggies at every meal, and get 7+ hours of sleep 85% of the time.

To go from lean to very lean

You’ll have to put in more time and more effort. Plus, you’ll need to follow your plan even more consistently — with almost obsessive accuracy.

This means adding a few more habits, such as monitoring fat and carbohydrate intake, and exercising at least 5 hours per week 95% of the time.

For instance, if you eat 4 meals per day, in any given month you’ll need to ensure that 114 of your 120 precisely calibrated meals are perfectly executed, in order to achieve your desired level of leanness.

That’s a serious commitment right there.

3. Get clarity on what YOU want

Review the “getting clear, getting real” list.

What matters to YOU?

What are YOU willing to do… or not? Why?

There’s no right answer. What’s most important is that you understand what it takes to get a certain outcome.

And now YOU have the power to choose. Healthy, athletically lean, or super lean: It all depends on your priorities and goals.

Now you can make the decisions — and get the body you really need, while still living the life you want.

[Bonus: We created a cool infographic that summarizes this article. Click here for: The cost of getting lean illustrated. Is it really worth the trade-off? If there’s someone you think might benefit from seeing it, please pass it along.]

The Ten Rules of Progressive Overload

Reblogged from http://bretcontreras.com/progressive-overload/

The Ten Rules of Progressive Overload

In this article, I’m going to teach you how to go about progressive overload – the most important law in strength training. Perhaps you’re new to lifting and you’re wondering exactly what progressive overload is. Well, progressive overload simply means that you’re doing more over time. For example, you could be adding some weight to the bar, doing more reps, and/or having more productive training sessions. You won’t find many comprehensive articles on this topic as it’s pretty difficult to write an all-encompassing article pertaining to progressive overload. Due to the large variance in the fitness abilities of people when they first embark on a training regimen, it’s a little more complicated than simply telling someone to “add 10 more pounds to the bar each week,” or “do 2 more reps with the same weight each week.”

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a precise prescription. In order for me to know exactly how you should progress, I have to be with you, watching you train. Since I can’t be there with you, I’ll give you some advice to adhere to, which should make your life easier. Here are the ten rules of progressive overload:

1.       Progressive Overload starts with whatever you can do with perfect technical form

Let’s say you’re brand new to a particular exercise. You’ve seen all sorts of Youtube videos of strong lifters hoisting hundreds of pounds. You think you’re a strong cat, so you load up the plates and find that the exercise just doesn’t feel right. It feels awkward, unnatural, you don’t feel the right muscles working, and it even seems jarring on the joints and potentially injurious. This exercise is definitely not right for you, right? Wrong! The exercise is probably right for you, but your approach was all wrong.

Do not concern yourself with what others use for loading. When you begin an exercise, start out as light as possible and gradually work your way up. Let me provide you with two examples – the starting point for the weakest non-elderly and non-injured beginner I’ve trained as well as the starting point for the strongest beginner I’ve trained. Chances are you’ll fall somewhere in between these two individuals.

The weakest beginner I ever trained (a middle-age woman who had been completely sedentary for around 15-years) had to start out with bodyweight high box squats on the adjustable step-up platform so that she was only descending around 8 inches before sitting on the box. This same client also performed glute bridges, step-ups from a 4” step, and hip-hinge drills – all done with just bodyweight.

But guess what? She was squatting, hip thrusting, step-upping, and deadlifting. Granted, she was performing the most remedial variations of those exercises, but this is what was right for her at the time. Within six months she was doing goblet full squats, barbell hip thrusts, Bulgarian split squats, and deadlifts from the floor with 95 lbs.

Box Squat

Conversely, the strongest beginner (a high-school wrestler) I ever trained was able to use 185 lbs for full squats, 225 lbs for deadlifts, 225 lbs for hip thrusts, 155 lbs for bench press, and could do Bulgarian split squats, single leg hip thrusts, and chin ups with great form. Though he was an athlete, surprisingly he had never lifted weights before. Sports had strengthened his legs and upper body so that he was able to start out at a much more advanced level than most beginners. Even my (at the time) 13-year old niece, a very good volleyball player, full squatted 95 lbs, trap bar deadlifted 135 lbs, and single leg hip thrusted (all with excellent form) in her very first weight training session.

But these people are not you. You’ll find that due to your unique body type, you’ll have an advantage with some exercises and a huge disadvantage with others. Long femurs? You probably won’t set any squat records, but your weighted back extension strength is going to kick some serious butt. Long arms? Kiss your bench press records goodbye, but you’re gonna be a deadlifting rockstar.

Figure out where you belong on the regression-progression continuum (this is basically a list of each variation of an exercise from the easiest possible version to the most challenging version) and start getting stronger.

2.       Progressive Overload for beginners involves a few tenets

Progressive overload methodology is different for beginners compared to more advanced lifters. It’s also different for men compared to women and for those carrying a lot of muscle versus those not carrying much muscle. For example, I can’t just tell a woman who is brand new to strength training to just add ten pounds to the bar for squats and deadlifts each week. First of all, chances are some work has to be done just to get her to squat and deadlift properly, before ever focusing on load. Some clients should start out with partial range lifts such as bodyweight box squats and rack pulls and simply work on “progressive distance training,” whereby the range of motion is slightly increased each week. If you keep squatting your own bodyweight (or rack pulling 65lbs) for 3 sets of 10, but each week you descend an inch deeper, that’s progressive overload. Eventually you’ll be using a full range of motion and can then concern yourself with adding load.

With exercises that have you moving a significant portion of your body, such as squats, hip thrusts, back extensions, and lunges, you must master your own bodyweight before adding load. I like my clients to be able to perform 3 sets of 20 full-ROM reps with bodyweight exercises before adding load.

Reverse Lunge

Furthermore, many lifts require very small jumps in load over time, and attempts in these particular exercises should usually involve jumps in repetitions instead of load. This applies to lifts that utilize smaller loads, for example curls and lateral raises, in addition to challenging bodyweight movements such as skater squats, single leg RDLs, single leg hip thrusts, and prisoner single leg back extensions.

This is especially important for women or smaller men when access to smaller plates (1.25lb or 2.5lb plates) or smaller jumps in dumbbell (ex: 17.5lbs) or kettlebell loads aren’t possible. Think about it – going from 50 to 55 lb dumbbells is a 10% jump in weight. However, going from 10 to 15 lb dumbbells is a 50% jump in weight. You cannot expect someone to make a 50% jump in load and execute the same number of repetitions as the week before, but you can expect them to get another rep or two with the same load. So let’s say that one week you perform dumbbell rear delt raises with 10lbs for 10 reps. The next week, rather than up the load to 15lbs, try performing 12 reps with the 10lb weights. When you get to a point where you can do a couple of sets of 20 reps, then jump the weight up to 15 lbs.

Hammer Curl

3.       Progressive Overload can be achieved in a variety of ways (12 primary ways I can think of)

Remember, progressive overload is simply “doing more over time.” There are many ways to go about this. In this article, I’ve already mentioned progressing in range of motion, repetitions, and load. In the beginning, you want to progress in range of motion and form. Yes, if you do the same workout you did the week before, but with better form, that’s progression. You “did more” for the neuromuscular system in terms of motor patterning and even muscle force since using better form involves relying more on the targeted muscles.

After proper form and full range of motion are established and ingrained, now it’s time to worry about progressing in repetitions and load. But these aren’t the only ways to progress. Here are all the practical ways I can think of:

  • Lifting the same load for increased distance (range of motion)
  • Lifting the same load and volume with better form, more control, and less effort (efficiency)
  • Lifting the same load for more reps (volume)
  • Lifting heavier loads (intensity of load)
  • Lifting the same load and volume with less rest time in between sets (density)
  • Lifting a load with more speed and acceleration (intensity of effort)
  • Doing more work in the same amount of time (density)
  • Doing the same work in less amount of time (density)
  • Doing more sets with the same load and reps (volume)
  • Lifting the same load and volume more often throughout the week (frequency)
  • Doing the same work while losing body mass (increased relative volume)
  • Lifting the same load and volume and then extending the set past technical failure with forced reps, negatives, drop sets, static holds, rest pause, partial reps, or post-exhaustion (intensity of effort)

Just remember, improvements in form and ROM come first, and increases in reps and load come second.

4.       Progressive Overload will never be linear

Many strength coaches love to tell the story about Milo of Croton to illuminate the merits of progressive overload. Legend has it that Milo used to pick up a baby calf every day and carry it around on his shoulders. As the calf grew, Milo got stronger. Eventually Milo was hoisting a full-size bull and busting out sets of yoke walks like it ain’t no thang. Pretty sweet story, right?

Milo

Unfortunately this story is a crock of bull (pun intended). First of all, a half-ton bull would be way too awkward to carry due to the lopsided nature and sheer size of the animal. But this is irrelevant.

No gains from weight training, be it mobility, hypertrophy, strength, power, endurance, or fat loss, will ever occur in a linear nature. The body doesn’t work that way. Adaptations happen in waves. Sometimes you’ll make big jumps in a single week in a particular quality, while other times you’ll stall for three months in another quality. Over the long haul, everything goes up, but it’s a windy road. There are physiological reasons for this phenomenon, which is beyond the scope of this article.

However, let’s pretend for a minute that you could make linear progress for an entire year on a particular lift. A 10lb jump per week equates to 520lbs in a year. Even a 5lb jump per week equates to 260lbs in a year. Moreover, a 1 rep jump per week equates to 52 reps in a year, while a 1 rep jump per month equates to 12 reps in a year. You won’t gain 260-520lbs in a year on any single lift. And you won’t gain 12-52 reps on most lifts either.  It just ain’t happening. Some sessions you’ll be surprisingly strong and make big gains, some sessions you’ll simply tie your previous efforts, and some sessions you’ll actually be weaker and go backwards. But every six months you’ll likely be stronger and fitter.

Chart

These charts depict a woman’s progress over a one-year period in bodyfat percentage and lean body mass in kilograms. She made the most dramatic transformation I’ve ever seen to date, but notice the non-linear adaptations. Also notice the drop in muscle, despite doing everything right. This woman gained a ton of strength on squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, bench press, military press, rows, and chins, she never missed a training session, and she ate perfectly for an entire year, yet she lost around 11 lbs of muscle during her year-long pursuit of getting into contest shape of below 10% bodyfat. Nevertheless, she won her first figure competition and is now a popular figure competitor.

5.       Progressive Overload will never be as fun as it is during your first 3 months of lifting

If you’re a beginner, sit back and enjoy the ride! Your rate of strength gain during your first three months of proper weight training will be higher than at any other time in your life. Each week you will slaughter personal records. Getting fifteen reps with something that you got for only ten reps the previous week is not an uncommon occurrence. This is mostly due to rapid gains in intermuscular coordination. Just don’t get spoiled, your rate of gain will slow dramatically and pretty soon you’ll be just like the rest of us – fighting like hell for those PR’s.

6.       Progressive Overload for veteran lifters requires serious strategy and specialization

As a beginner, you can pretty much do anything and gain strength as long as you’re consistent. After a couple of years of solid training, however, you have to be clever about your programming in order to continue to reach new levels of strength. You’ll need to rotate your lifts, plan your program designs intelligently, fluctuate your training stress, and tinker around with methodologies. Eventually it becomes very difficult to pack more pounds onto a particular lift or even gain another rep.

7.       Progressive Overload is much harder when you’re losing weight

Unless you’re a beginner, it’s highly challenging to increase your strength while simultaneously dropping significant weight. In fact, simply maintaining your strength while losing weight is a form of progressive overload as you’d be increasing your relative strength (strength divided by bodyweight) and therefore “doing more over time.”

Chin Up

Some lifts are more affected by weight loss than others. Squats and bench press tend to take a big dive, whereas deadlits can sometimes stay put. Your strength endurance on bodyweight exercises for the upper body will see a huge jump when you lose weight, however, so enjoy the boosts in reps on push-ups, chins, dips, and inverted rows.

8.       Progressive Overload sometimes has a mind of its own

Quite often you’ll do everything right, but you won’t get stronger. The plan just won’t work. You’ll be lifting hard, adhering to an intelligent plan, eating well, and sleeping right, and yet you still you won’t set any PR’s. Other times, you’ll do everything wrong, and you’ll somehow gain strength. Your training can be derailed, your diet and sleep can go down the gutter, but you’ll go to the gym and set a PR. This makes absolutely no sense and flies in the face of sports science. Nevertheless, this is just how the body works sometimes. Physiology is tricky and multifactorial. Don’t get cocky when this happens and think that you’ve stumbled upon the secret system (excessive partying, eating junk food, and training sporadically). Whenever you engage in these behaviors for too long, it will backfire on you, so stay on track to the best of your abilities.

9.       Progressive Overload should never be prioritized over proper form

At any point in time, if you really want to set a PR, you can just be lax on your form and likely set a record. For example, you could round your back excessively during deadlifts, bounce the bar off your chest with bench press, or use a little more body English with curls. However, this is a slippery slope that’s best avoided. Progressive overload only works when you challenge the muscles to do more over time, and your muscles will not be forced to do more if your form gets sloppy. Moreover, you won’t be setting any personal records if you’re injured or constantly in pain.

10.   Progressive Overload requires standardized technique

The only way you will ever know whether you gained strength or not is to perform the lifts exactly the same way each time. In other words, true strength gains require proper depth, tempo, and execution. Many lifters lie to themselves and pretend that they’ve gotten stronger, but their ranges of motions diminish or their form goes out the window. These lifters didn’t get stronger, they got sloppier. Federations in the sports of powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and strongman have created rules for their various exercises. It may be worth your while to learn these rules so that you always perform them properly in training and when testing your max. Assuming you can perform the lifts properly, always squat to parallel or deeper, always lock out your hip thrusts and barbell glute bridges, and in general always control the weight through a full range of motion.

Kellie Glute Bridge

Hopefully these 10 rules will keep you on track. I have one more piece of advice to share with you. Even the most seasoned lifters often have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. Sometimes we get caught up in chasing continuous PR’s to the point of altering form, relying on the wrong muscles, skimping on ROM, or training through pain. Once per year, I recommend “resetting” your strength levels in your pursuit of progressive overload. Throw everything you’ve done in the past out the window and start over using the best possible form through a full range of motion. This is your new baseline. Now work on adhering to that same form while doing more over time. Your body will thank you in the long run for engaging in this simple yet effective practice.

The Effect of High Rep Training on Strength and Size

Reblogged from http://www.trainingscience.net/?page_id=301

The Effect of High Rep Training on Strength and Size

In a recent research study(1) a group of researchers set out to explore the impact of lighter weight and higher rep training on muscle mass and function. They designed a study “to compare the adaptive changes in muscle size, contractile strength, and MHC (fiber type) composition evoked by resistance training performed at either low or high contraction intensity (i.e. low or high reps) while equalized for total loading volume”

Specifically, this study compared 10 sets x 36 reps using 15.5% 1RM to 10 sets x 8 reps using 70% 1RM.  The study ran 12 weeks, with 3 workouts each week.

How did the 10×8 program do? It produced a 7.6% increase in muscle size (hypertrophy) and a 35% increase in 1RM (one rep maximum).

Not bad. Not bad at all. And, candidly, not the least bit surprising. Heavy weights and low reps has long been the accepted way to maximize strength and size.

How about the 10×36 reps program? Many would predict that such a “high” rep range would build endurance and, if it didn’t cause an outright decline in strength and size, would surely not increase strength and/or size.  Remember, standard physiological and training wisdom is that more than 20 reps is “endurance” training and endurance training does not increase strength and size. This belief is reflected in the following quote I read on a bodybuilding forum.  “Anything beyond 20 reps is high, and not good for strength gains”.

Anyone who would predict that high reps are good for endurance only would be wrong.

The 10×36 program produced a 19% increase in 1RM and a 2.6% increase in muscle size. Pretty impressive for a program many would call “endurance training”.

There are a couple of things to be learned from this study.  First, this study clearly shows that a program consisting exclusively of heavy weight and low reps produces greater increases in strength and size than a program consisting exclusively of lighter weights and higher reps.  This isn’t any sort of surprise – research over the past 80 years has very consistently shown this same thing.

But there is more to the story than just heavy weights and low reps wins.  The most glaring point to consider is that “high” reps increased strength levels 19% and muscle size 2.6%.  This naturally brings up two questions.  Is this the only study that has shown “high” reps increase strength and size?  And from a physiological standpoint how do higher reps cause strength and size to increase?

There have been multiple studies comparing changes in strength and size from different rep ranges and, despite what conventional wisdom teaches, these studies have consistently shown that higher reps cause increases in both strength and size.  Yes, heavy weights and low reps increase strength and size the most.  But that doesn’t mean higher reps don’t also build strength and size.  Conventional wisdom has incorrectly interpreted the research as “heavy weights and low reps build strength; light weight and high reps build endurance”.  The first lesson from the research is that “light weights and high reps do increase strength, just not as much as lower rep schemes.”

It is important to note that the research has shown that the higher the rep range the smaller the increase in strength and size.  So while reps in range of 25- 35 can build strength an impressive amount, the higher above this that you go the smaller the increases in strength.

There is no getting around the fact that a program of only heavy weights and low reps builds significantly more strength and size than a program of only lighter weight and higher reps. So if you are trying to decide what reps you should exclusively be doing, pick reps less than 20.  But, this study also clearly shows that that conventional strength training thought is inaccurate to some degree. Higher reps do increase strength and size.

This brings us to the second question.  What logical explanation can we come up with to explain these results? By what physiological mechanism could high reps build strength?

The most logical answer is that what conventional physiological and training wisdom call “high” and “endurance” really aren’t particularly “high”, nor are they really “endurance”. It appears that “high” and “endurance” start somewhere far beyond 20 reps.  Exercise doesn’t suddenly transform from “strength” to “endurance” within a matter of a few reps.  Going from 12 reps to 24 reps in the same exercise doesn’t somehow turn the exercise into an “endurance” workout.  Instead, strength and endurance exist on a continuum, with both elements being trained at all reps.  Training at the strength end of the continuum, training between 1-15 reps, increases strength the most and endurance the least.  As you increase the number of reps strength is less affected and endurance is more affected, until at some point you are doing so many reps that changes in strength are no longer measurable.  That point happens somewhere above 150 reps, according to the research.

What the research hasn’t told us is how higher reps built strength and size. What physiological mechanism is at play that causes higher reps to build both strength and size?  If there are different physiological reasons for how low reps build strength and how higher reps build strength, then it raises a fascinating question.  What if you combined low reps with higher reps? What would the results be? If different physiological mechanisms are responsible for the increases in strength and size at different reps then would a combination program of different reps result in better results than single rep programs?  As we have seen higher reps do increase strength and size and if they build strength due to a different mechanism than lower reps there may be some advantage in combining lower rep training with higher rep training.

This study doesn’t answer the question but this one does.  In the meantime, the point is that light weight and high reps are not really “endurance” exercises; high reps are both strength and endurance training and the degree to which they affect strength or endurance depends on the number of reps being performed.

Reference:

Holm L, et al, Changes in muscle size and MHC composition in response to resistance exercise with heavy and light loading intensity, Journal of Applied Physiology, Nov 2008, 105:1454-1461

Muscle Factor Model

Reblogged from: http://www.trainingscience.net/?page_id=310

Muscle Factor Model

How muscles function during and adapt to training

In the early 1970s a man named Arthur Jones introduced a revolutionary strength training method to the bodybuilding and strength training world. Jones had been studying muscle physiology for about 30 years and had long understood that the standard training methods of the day were not completely consistent with what was known about how muscles function during exercise or how they adapt to exercise. Many of the training practices of the day were rooted in tradition and contradictory to known physiological facts. Jones, a lifetime strength trainee himself, believed that training would be more effective if it were modified so that it worked in accordance with what was then known about muscles. He figured that a training program based on how the body really functioned would produce much better results than those training methods that ignored, denied, or were ignorant of the true workings of the body.

Utilizing his understanding of muscle physiology Jones spent many years testing and experimenting with different training methods, constantly seeking to discover training methods that produced the best results. Being independently wealthy afforded Arthur both the time and money required to test his ideas and he ultimately spent 20+ years and millions of dollars in his quest. The end result of all his work was a revolutionary training method – High Intensity Training – and a completely new type of exercise machine – Nautilus Training Equipment.

However, there was a problem; Arthur’s high intensity training method was not just revolutionary; it was contradictory to the conventional training wisdom of the day. Humans, being only human, are usually reluctant to abandon long-held beliefs and so many were resistant to Arthur’s methods. Controversy broke out about Arthur’s high intensity training method and two opposing camps formed – one group supporting high intensity training and one supporting conventional (high volume) training. These two groups spent lots of time and effort defending their methods and attacking those of the opposing camp. Even today, more than 35 years after Arthur first introduced high intensity training, the two camps still exist and the debate still rages. In fact, one of the the primary debates in the bodybuilding world is still centered around which method – high intensity or high volume – is best.

Of significance is that Arthur’s high intensity training method was basically the first time that exercise physiology was used as the foundation of a training program. Before Arthur, training was mostly based on tradition and what the top champions of the day were doing. Arthur completely ignored tradition and the training of the top champions of the day and focused on designing training based completely on the functioning of muscles. The fact that his methods continue to be widely used today is a testament to the effectiveness of his physiology-based training method.

The Problem of Two Opposing Theories

All this is not to say that the entire world has embraced high intensity training. As noted above, today the strength training and bodybuilding world basically consists of two opposing training methods – high volume and high intensity. Both methods are currently used and promoted as the best training method by their respective proponents.

The reason both training methods still exist is because both are known to work, at least for some number of people. And therein lies the problem. In science, anytime a theory is shown to be contradicted by even a single observation, then, by definition, that theory is inaccurate. When a theory is shown to be inaccurate it must be abandoned or modified. The high volume training theory and high intensity training theory are, in essence, opposing theories as to how the body works. Since these two theories contradict each other it means that both theories are wrong, at least to some degree.

The body works in one way, not in two contradictory ways. Or, said another way, there is one set of principles/laws by which the body functions, not two contradictory set of principles/laws. We know that both training methods produce results for some people. We also know that, by definition, both theories are wrong to some degree since they contradict each other. What all this tells us is that we are missing some important information as to how muscles function during and adapt to training. Once this missing physiological information is filled in, both of the competing theories will be assimilated and replaced by a new training theory. The missing physiological information is what has allowed the two competing training theories to continue to exist for more than 35 years and has prevented further advances in training methods.

Enter the Muscle Factor Model

In 2006, while conducting background research for an article on strength training for endurance runners, I came across a strength training study whose results were quite startling. The study compared a non-traditional training method to a standard periodized training program and found that the non-traditional method produced 50% greater increases in strength than did the periodized program. The researchers themselves were unable to explain why the non-traditional program produced the best results and noted that the results were contradictory to both current beliefs about the functioning of muscles and classical training methodology.

That particular study caused me to rethink some of what physiology currently teaches about muscle activation during exercise and its adaptation following exercise. In turn, this led to a breakthrough in muscle physiology; a breakthrough I have termed the Muscle Factor Model. I suggest that this new model more accurately explains how muscles function during and adapt to exercise. Furthermore, this new model suggests some significant modifications in training methods for any sport in which strength, power, or endurance is important. I believe the muscle factor model is a key piece of the missing physiological information and will ultimately result in the integration of high volume and high intensity training. The muscle factor model may lead to the most significant changes and refinements in training since the introduction of periodization in the United States back in the 1980s. I realize those are bold claims so let’s have a look at this new model. We begin with a discussion of muscle contractile properties.

Muscle Fiber Contractile Properties

Physiologists generally divide muscle fibers into three basic types – Slow Twitch, Fast Twitch A, Fast Twitch B – each with its own distinct contractile properties.

Slow twitch fibers are the weakest of fibers, contract relatively slow, and have very high levels of endurance.

Fast Twitch A fibers are stronger than Slow Twitch fibers, contract relatively fast, and have high levels of endurance.

Fast Twitch B fibers are the strongest of fibers and have the fastest contraction speed but have the least amount of endurance.

The above description of the contractile properties of each muscle fiber type might lead you to believe that each type of fiber has distinct contractile properties. Nothing could be further from the truth. Muscle fibers of any type are not all alike; they don’t all contract the same; they are not homogenous. Instead there is a broad continuum of contractile properties in all the muscle fibers of any type. Physiologists have measured up to a 129x range of contractile properties in muscle fibers of the same type. What this means is that in any specific fiber type you will find fibers that contract much slower or faster than other fibers of the same type; fibers that contract much more or much less forcefully than other fibers of the same type; fibers that possess much more or much less endurance than other fibers of the same type. For example, physiologists measured the time to exhaustion in a group of fast twitch fibers and found some of the fast twitch fibers fatigued in as little as 16 seconds while other fast twitch fibers were able to contract for 34 minutes before reaching fatigue. The contractile properties discussed earlier tell us what the average contractile properties are for each type of muscle fiber. The average Slow Twitch fiber is slower, weaker, and has greater endurance than any of the Fast Twitch fibers. The averageFast Twitch B fiber is stronger and faster but less enduring than other fiber types. But the broad range of contractile properties across all muscle fibers means that fibers of the same type do not all have the same level of strength, endurance, or speed.

A very important point about muscle fiber contractile properties is that there is a strong inverse relationship between a muscle’s strength and its endurance. The stronger a muscle fiber the less endurance it has and vice versa. Weaker fibers possess much greater endurance than do strong fibers. Stronger fibers possess much less endurance than weaker fibers. This point is critical to understand.

Muscle Activation During Exercise

Not all muscle fibers are activated during exercise because the body only activates the minimum number of fibers required in order to get the job done. Muscle fibers are activated in a very specific order, from weakest to strongest. Physiologists have termed this the size principle of activation. Basically, muscle fibers are recruited based on the amount of force required to complete the task at hand. Recall that there is a wide variation in the strength of muscle fibers; every whole muscle has fibers with different levels of strength, from very weak all the way up to very strong. The weaker fibers are recruited first with the strongest of fibers only being recruited during the heaviest of tasks. Fibers are generally recruited in the following order based on the level of force required to perform the task:

Slow twitch – Fast Twitch A – Fast Twitch B

There are 2 important points to understand about muscle fiber activation – 1) it is a team sport and 2) total force is the sum of the force of all the active fibers.

1. It’s a team sport: Muscle fiber work together. Activation proceeds from Slow Twitch – Fast A – Fast B. It is NOT the case that Slow Twitch fibers exclusively handle the easy tasks, Fast Twitch A exclusively handle the moderate tasks and Fast Twitch B exclusively handle the heavy tasks. Instead, as the load increases from easy to moderate to heavy an increasing number of fibers are activated and all are working together to complete the task.

2. The total force produced by a whole muscle during a task is the sum of the force of all the individual fibers. All active fibers, whether Slow Twitch, Fast A, or Fast B, contribute force during movement and the total amount of force generated by a muscle is the sum of the force of every active fiber. During a really heavy lift, even though the Fast A and Fast B fibers are activated and doing the bulk of the work, active Slow Twitch fibers are producing force and helping lift the weight.

In practical terms this is what it means:

If you pick up a light weight, then only Slow Twitch fibers will be activated because little force is needed to pick up the weight.

If you pick up a heavy weight then both Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A fibers will be activated because more force is required to lift the weight. Note that the Slow Twitch fibers are still active during this exercise, but since they are unable to generate enough force to get the job done by themselves, some Fast Twitch A fibers are also required to help out.

Pick up an even heavier weight and now you are using Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A + Fast Twitch B fibers to lift the weight. The Slow Twitch and Fast Twitch A fibers did not possess enough strength to lift the weight by themselves, so the strongest of fibers, the Fast Twitch B fibers, were activated.

The same thing applies to any activity. For example, running at a slow pace activates only Slow Twitch fibers because the force required to run slowly is small enough that the Slow Twitch fibers are strong enough to handle the job themselves. Running at a faster pace activates Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A fibers because running faster requires more force to be generated. Very fast running (i.e. intervals and sprints) and fast or steep uphill running activate the Slow Twitch + Fast Twitch A + Fast Twitch B fibers due to the high level of force required to run at very fast paces.

Muscle Fiber Activation at Exhaustion

As an exercise proceeds it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a set amount of force production because of fatigue. The first repetition of an exercise might be reasonably easy but repetition 20 with that same weight might be an all-out effort. Are all fibers activated during the hard to all-out effort that athletes routinely reach during intense workouts? Only in some cases; in most cases not all fibers are activated.

During exercise as a person’s active muscle fibers fatigue some inactive muscle fibers are recruited to assist those active fibers that have fatigued. However, there is a limit to the amount of additional fibers that are recruited. Not every muscle fiber is activated during exhaustive exercise. Instead, the person reaches exhaustion or terminates the exercise.  About the only time that all fibers are active is during the heaviest of tasks, such as during very heavy weight lifting (i.e. about 6 or less reps). Less forceful tasks, such as high rep strength training or distance running, do not result in 100% activation of all available muscle fibers, even at the end of the exercise when the trainee is working as hard as they can in that particular exercise. For example, one study found a little less than 70% leg muscle fiber activation while running to exhaustion on a level treadmill and a bit more than 70% activation during exhaustive running up an inclined treadmill.

Overload and Intensity

One of the primary principles of training is the overload principle. Exercise physiology generally describes overload like this – the application of an activity specific overload in order to cause physiologic improvement and bring about a training response. What this means is that muscles must be trained with a sufficient level of intensity in order to cause adaptation to occur. There is nothing earthshaking in the concept of overload as it has been a principle of training for more than a century.

However, we need to carry the concept of overload a bit further and apply it to individual muscle fibers; what is true for a whole muscle is also true for individual muscle fibers. In order to cause a training response in any individual muscle fiber that muscle fiber must be trained with a sufficient level of overload, with a sufficient level of intensity. This is accomplished by training a fiber reasonably close to its maximum capacity. Or said another way you must sufficiently fatigue a fiber in order for it to adapt and improve. This point is critical in understanding how muscles fibers work and adapt to training.

Let’s examine this principle in training terms.

You put weights on a bar so that you are only able to lift the bar a maximum of 10 times. Since the bar is very heavy you will activate Slow Twitch + Fast A + Fast B fibers while lifting it. After 10 reps (about 30 seconds of lifting) you are no longer strong enough to lift the weight an additional repetition so you set the bar down, ending the exercise. Which fibers did you overload?

You only overloaded some of your Fast B fibers. Specifically, you overloaded those Fast B fibers that fatigued in 30 seconds or less.

There were a whole bunch of fibers that you didn’t overload. Which ones? Those fibers that take longer than 30 seconds to fatigue were not fully overloaded when the set ended.

At the end of the set some of your Fast B fibers were exhausted and couldn’t continue to contract. But a lot of your Fast B and all your Fast A and Slow Twitch fibers were not exhausted at rep 10 because they posses more endurance than the strongest of the Fast B fibers (remember, it has been shown that it can take several minutes to exhaust all the Fast B fibers). The reason you terminated the exercise at rep 10 is because the whole muscle lacked the strength to lift the weight, but only some of the Fast B fibers were fatigued.

This set fatigued, and therefore overloaded, some of the Fast B fibers and those are the fibers that will get stronger. But the remainder of your Fast B and all your Fast A and Slow Twitch fibers were not particularly overloaded and will adapt little to none.

When those few Fast B fibers adapt you will be stronger but you will not be as strong as you could get. Why? Because lifting a heavy weight is a team effort and all your Fast B, all your Fast A and all your Slow Twitch fibers contribute to the total strength of the muscle but you didn’t adequately train all your Fast B or your Fast A and Slow Twitch fibers to get stronger. Only when you train all your fibers to overload will you get as strong as you are genetically capable of getting.

Putting it All Together = Muscle Factor Model

When we put all the above facts together, we arrive at the Muscle Factor Model. In order to cause an adaptive response in a muscle fiber, that muscle fiber must 1) be active and 2) be overloaded; failure to accomplish both of these results in little to no adaptation in that muscle fiber.

Recall the inverse relationship between a muscle fiber’s level of strength and its endurance capacity – the higher the strength the less the endurance, the lower the strength the greater the endurance. If you are going to overload a muscle fiber you must work it to a reasonable level of fatigue. Considering that muscle fibers posses widely varying levels of endurance, this means that only a relatively few muscle fibers are fatigued at the end of any normally conducted exercise session.

In training terms this means:

In order to overload weak muscle fibers with abundant endurance requires long training sessions conducted at low levels of force production.

In order to overload stronger muscle fibers with moderate levels of endurance requires moderate duration training sessions conducted at moderate levels of force production.

In order to overload the strongest of muscle fibers with poor endurance requires short duration training sessions conducted at high levels of force production.

If you want to maximize your performance, then you have to train all the muscle fibers that contribute to force production during your chosen activity. You have to train your weak fibers, your moderate fibers, your strong fibers, and your strongest fibers. Since force production is a team effort any untrained fibers detract from the overall performance of the team (in this case the team is the whole muscle).

Summary

The muscle factor model provides a more complete explanation for how muscle fibers work during and adapt to exercise. Only muscle fibers that are active and overloaded during exercise will adapt and grow. The only way to overload a muscle fiber is to train it to a sufficient level of fatigue. Normally performed exercise programs usually do not train all or most of the fibers in a whole muscle due to the way muscle fibers are activated during exercise and because muscle fibers have widely varying levels of endurance. The only way to maximize performance is to train all the muscle fibers that are active during the event; any untrained muscle fibers prevent the athlete from reaching his/her maximum potential.

What the American Diet says about its Culture

The Secular Jurist

By Robert A. Vella

If we are what we eat, as the old adage proclaims, then what does the American diet say about its culture? Before delving into this, let’s state for the record that the U.S. is a large nation with many diverse regions and subcultures. What people eat in rural Georgia, for example, can be quite different from an affluent city such as San Francisco. However, there is a larger American culture which transcends these differences and its cuisine is unmistakably unique compared with the rest of the world.

Consider the burger, or its original moniker – the hamburger. The idea of a ground beef patty sandwiched in a bun is so ubiquitous that virtually all types of food establishments serve them. The manager of my local Chinese restaurant revealed once that he sold nearly as many burgers as he did specialty items. You can get…

View original post 691 more words

Lose fat for this summer

Read this and take notes if you want to lose fat for summer.

2015 is steamrolling forward and not letting up. February is here and it’s time to get down to business when it comes to being beach ready. The summer months are closing in and right now is the time to lose fat and get in the best shape of your life.

Here is the lowdown on dropping the fat you don’t want on your body. Whether it’s your stomach, thighs, hips, or arms, follow this plan and start now and you will have an awesome chance of losing serious weight by the time the fourth of July swings around.

Being mindful of your nutrition and exercise is the most important key to your success and here’s why. When you are stuck in a rut and not losing weight and not training hard, it’s probable that you’re mindset is not in line with the desire for losing weight. When we go grocery shopping, the steps of success are being built. Often, we listen to marketing campaigns that drive us away from our end result. We believe greek yogurt is better than eggs or we grab 100 calorie snack packs because the packages say it’s good for you. Next time you go shopping, pick up a 100 calorie cookie snack pack that promises it’s good for you and ask yourself “Is this going to help me burn fat?”

The obvious answer will come to you right away.

Step one in the journey to healthy and fit in 2015 is to be mindful of the process and not let yourself get into a unconscious blur. You don’t want to get caught up in that blur because it can crush your results. Being mindful of your schedule, the proper foods to buy, cook, and eat, the workout program you’re on, and hydration and sleep will bring you the best results.

So now, here are some immediate things you can do that will help you drop bodyfat, help you feel better, and get you out of the rut you might be stuck in:

– Drink more water.

If you drink one glass of water today, drink two tomorrow and then add another the next day. Work your way up to around seven or eight bottles of water a day and you will be fully hydrated, which helps your body burn more fat. A lack of hydration can mess with your energy levels, performance in the gym, and functions of the body’s hormones and digestive system.

– Eat these foods:

Lean Meats. Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Buffalo, Pork, Venison, and Fish

Vegetables: Romaine Lettuce, Spinach, Cauliflower, Peppers, Carrots, Onions, Squash, Zucchini, Cucumbers and more. Make the produce section the place where you spend most of your time at the grocery store. Most stores have prepackaged salads that are great to grab a few handfuls from and take with you to work.

Nuts and Seeds. Almonds, Cashews, Walnuts, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Hemp Seeds, more.

Fruit. Apples, Bananas, Lemons, Limes, Berries of all kinds, and more.

Also eggs should be in your diet.

Cook with coconut oil, olive oil, or real butter.

Eating rices and potatoes are fine. Keep them to one meal a day and it’s best if it’s after a workout. Carbs don’t make you fat. Eating too much food and not moving enough does.

A lunch or dinner plate should look like this:

One Serving of a lean meat

Two Servings of Vegetables

One Serving of Nuts or Seeds or Nut/Seed Butter

One Servings of a carb source like Rice or Potato (preferably once a day after a workout)

For breakfast, I usually eat 4 to 6 eggs or I just grab a Whey or Hemp Protein shake and a banana or apple if I’m in a rush.

The key to success with nutrition is to eat healthy and whole foods. You should absolutely avoid foods that have a lot of processed material in them. Foods like microwave popcorn won’t help you see fat loss. Foods that you find in the snack and cereal aisle like weight watcher cookies or 100 calorie pretzels won’t help you see fat loss. The more real, quality, foods that you eat, the better your results will be.

Once your nutrition and hydration are in order, it’s time to talk about exercise.

– Exercise at the level of your current fitness.

Many people are afraid of exercise. It burns the muscles, the lungs, gets the heart pumping and uses our energy. Sometimes we just don’t have any energy left after dealing with the kids, the jobs, the dog, and more, but exercise doesn’t need to scare you.

For beginners, there is no reason why you won’t lose a lot of fat by simply walking for a few minutes everyday. Walking is the most underrated exercise there is for people it benefits most. Walking doesn’t burn as many calories as running or burpees, but for people who have a hard time breathing during heavy exercise or have a lot of weight to lose, walking is simply the best thing you can do. But, you also have to make it more challenging every time. That might mean walk faster, go further, or walk longer.

There is a large number of people I’ve encountered who have no time to exercise. They’re schedules are packed with work, kids, sports, school, and many other important life events. But that doesn’t have to stop you from working out. Sure, it’s hard to just get started at home, especially when you don’t have the accountability of a coach like those at Activate Fitness, but you can always find ten minutes for an at-home workout.

Here is a sample at home workout you can perform right now that will shed fat in 10 or 15 minutes.

10 Bodyweight Squats
10 Push Ups
10 Sit Ups
20 Jumping Jacks

Repeat that circuit for 10,15,20 minutes or more.

For those of you who have time to make it to the gym and are able to perform workouts effectively, you want to make sure you train three to four times a week. Progression in strength, endurance, and mobility is important. As you train you should be working on getting stronger and feeling like you can get through an intense workout better. Simply showing up for a workout and going through the motions will not help you produce the change you’re after.

This brings me to my secret weapon when it comes to losing fat fast.

A notebook.

Several years ago I was 60 pounds overweight and struggling to drop fat. I was working out four times a week and trying to eat the healthiest I could at the time. The problem was, I was not losing weight. I was stuck and it pissed me off. Then one day, I heard someone talking about how record keeping, writing your daily foods and exercise, in a notebook is one of the most powerful things we can when trying to lose weight.

Within 30 days of writing down everything I ate and what I did during my workouts, I lost over 20 pounds. Within 60 days, well over 30 pounds. Over half of the entire weight I lost from when I was my fattest came within two months of writing things down. Sounds like something you should do huh?

Here’s an example of an entry in a notebook.

2/2/2015
5 am workout
Trap Bar Deadlifts with 225 pounds 5 sets of 5
Push Ups 5 sets of 20
1 Arm DB Rows 4 sets of 20 with 60 pound dumbbell
Bodyweight Walking Lunges 4 sets of 100 feet
Plank 4 sets for 1 minute

Finished workout with 5 minutes of Jump Rope

6:30am- Breakfast
4 eggs
1 Banana

9:30am- Snack
1 Scoop of Whey Protein
2 ounces of Almonds

1pm- Lunch

6 Ounces of Chicken Breast
2 Handfuls of Spinach/Mixed Green Salad
2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 Ounces of Mixed Pumpkin and Sunflower Seeds

4pm- Snack

1 Red Apple
2 carrots sliced
1 TBSP of natural peanut butter

6pm- Dinner

6 Ounces of Pork Chops
2 Handfuls of Spinach/Mixed Green Salad
2 TBSP Olive Oil
1 Cup of White Rice
2 Ounces of Mixed Nuts on Salad

8pm- Dessert

1 Cup of Mixed, Sliced Strawberries and Blueberries
1 TBSP of Heavy Whipped Cream

That is a perfect notebook entry for when you’re trying to lose weight. It shows you exactly what you did, when you did it, and it keeps it recorded so you can always go back and look or show your coach if you have one. Doing this takes roughly a few minutes each day and if it seems like a hassle to you, most likely you don’t want to lose fat, you’re just pretending.

Now that we have your hydration, your nutrition, your exercise and movement, and the secret weapon (a notebook), the last thing to do is talk about:

– Sleep

How long do you sleep each day? 4, 5, 8 hours?

“The best I can do” is usually the answer and for awhile, it’s okay. You can’t change it right away but it should be worked on. If you sleep less than 7 or 8 hours a night, working on getting more will help you lose more fat in 2015. If possible, like on weekends, find time to nap. Even if it’s 30 minutes. Napping is a great way to relax the body and help yourself catch up on needed rest. Sleep has a big effect on performance and mindfulness, work on it.

I am confident that if you follow these simple guidelines you will burn more fat than ever before. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed though. If one thing is harder than the others, don’t make it as big of a deal until you have the ability to focus and make it happen.

Some people have no time to cook. While eating out isn’t the best thing to do, you can find alternatives to menu items that are somewhat in-line with the foods I listed. Don’t just give up and blow your diet.

Workouts are hard to do and finish. Start where you are. If a 10 minute walk fatigues you, that is progress and not something that should get you down. It’s a small success that will lead to big results. If you can’t make it to the gym, do the circuit above for a few minutes and be happy that you had the ability to do it in the first place. Sometimes you have to find the inner strength to make the workouts happen as well. If the baby naps and that time is the only peaceful quiet time you have all day, it’s probably a good bet that you should train during that time. It will make you feel better.

The key to your success in 2015 when it comes to losing fat is your mindset. Say it’s hard or not worth it and you’ll be stuck exactly where you stand. Accept the resistance of exercise, the difficulty of scheduling, shopping and cooking, and you will find that you have the time and ability to get in the best shape of your life. Drop the excuses. There are none. The only reason you have for not getting results is the fact that you don’t want to try. All it takes is a little effort and you will change your life.

On the injury list

So now I have a shoulder injury, Im thinking its from doing shoulder press on the Hammer Strength machine. I went light but these machines really put my arms and shoulders in a very tough position. I really should have known better and I went ahead and used this machine. The injury was aggravated by a busy day at work, probably one of the busiest I’ve had in my 10 yrs on the job.

So I am resting it now and just trying to stretch it. If it starts to get better from rest I will rehab it using the video inserted into this post. If it continues to hurt then its off to the doctor I go.