Muscle Factor Training A New Paradigm

Reblogged from http://www.trainingscience.net/?page_id=471

Muscle Factor Training

A New Paradigm

You may be familiar with the old adage – heavy weights / low reps build strength & size, light weights / high reps build endurance.  This belief about the effects that different numbers of repetition have on the body has been repeated for many, many years.  I started lifting weights in 1982 and it was accepted as truth at that time.  This belief is even accepted wisdom in the exercise physiology community.  The exercise physiology textbook in my library, published in 1996, states, “Performing an exercise between 3-RM (repetition maximum) and 12-RM provides the most effective number of repetitions for increasing muscular strength.”(1)  The bottom line is that there is little to no debate as to the effect different numbers of repetitions have on the body.  If you want to increase strength and size, heavy weights and low reps is the universally agreed upon prescription.

From a practical perspective this has resulted in most or all resistance training programs recommending heavy weights and low reps exclusively.  Basically every strength training or bodybuilding program recommends repetitions of 20 or less.  During 15 years of following popular strength training literature I can recall only 2 instances where reps higher than 20 have been discussed and in only one of those instances was it even seriously recommended as a viable training method.

In the first case, in the early 1980s or so a professional bodybuilder (Johnny Fuller, if my memory serves me correctly) revealed that he preferred to train using 32 repetitions for most or all of his exercises.  At the time this was used as an example of the recommendation that each trainee needs to find what works best for him/herself, but I don’t recall that the article recommended such high reps for anyone else.  Nor did any follow on articles I ever saw suggest that trainees might experiment with reps in that high range.

In the second case, Muscle and Fitness magazine ran a few articles in the late 1980s about 100 repetition training.  This series was run after one bodybuilder in particular revealed that he used 100 reps for brief training periods a few times a year.  After that series of articles, I don’t recall ever hearing about this type of training again.

So, while the adage says heavy weight/low reps build strength and light weights/high reps build endurance, I do not believe that high rep strength training is commonly used or seriously considered as a viable training method by most trainees or their coaches.  It isn’t commonly recommended to those who are most interested in increasing strength and/or size, nor does it seem to be a part of the serious endurance athletes training methods.

Since the adage says light weights / high reps building endurance, and increasing endurance is a goal of endurance athletes, I began wondering why high rep strength training was not commonly used by endurance athletes.  Even though the primary goal of endurance athletes is to improve endurance, heavy weight / low rep strength training is what is most often recommended to them.  The reason strength training is believed to be beneficial for endurance athletes is that it increases the amount of force produced during contraction, resulting in an increase in power output and, presumably, endurance performance.  What about the second part of the adage though?  The part that says light weights / high reps build endurance.  One of the muscle factors contributing to power output is fatigue resistance.  Increased resistance to fatigue is just another way of saying that the muscle’s endurance increased.  I reasoned that if high rep resistance training really did increase endurance then perhaps it might be a beneficial training method for endurance athletes.  With that thought in mind I started searching the available research to see what had been done on this topic.  I found some exciting and surprising research for us to review.  Let’s get to it.

Heavy weight/low rep vs. medium weight/medium rep vs. light weight/high rep

The first thing I wanted to know was whether research supported the belief that heavy weights / low reps build strength and that light weights / high reps build endurance.  After all it wouldn’t be the first time that someone discovered that conventional wisdom was not completely accurate.  I thought it best to be sure.

The classic research on this topic was conducted by Thomas DeLorme in 1945 (3).  DeLorme’s research indicated that heavy weights do indeed build strength while higher reps build endurance.  DeLorme is even credited with the axiom that heavy weights / low reps build strength and high reps / light weights build endurance.  Quite a few other research studies on this topic have supported DeLorme’s findings hence the reason it is now accepted as conventional wisdom.

This is not to say that DeLorme’s original axiom has gone unchallenged though.  Several research studies (4,5) that have found that the primary adaptation to either high or low reps is an increase in muscular strength.  So even though it is accepted today that heavy weights / low reps builds strength and light weights / high reps builds endurance the fact is that some research has challenged this belief, suggesting that high reps primarily build strength, not endurance and resulting in conflicting data on the topic.

In 1982 two researchers from the University of Kentucky set out to resolve this conflict (6).  Specifically, they wanted to determine the effects of three different resistance training protocols – heavy weights / low reps (6-8 reps), medium weight / medium reps (30-40 reps), and light weights / high reps (100-150 reps).

They recruited forty-three untrained, healthy subjects and trained them with the bench press exercise three times per week for nine weeks with one of three training protocols.  The low rep group performed 3 sets x 6-8 reps maximum, the medium rep group performed 2 sets x 30-40 reps maximum, and the high rep group performed 1 set x 100-150 rep maximum.  Resistance was adjusted as needed to ensure each subject stayed in the appropriate rep range through the training program.

Before training began each subject was tested for their individual 1 rep maximum (1-RM), relative endurance and absolute endurance.  Relative endurance was determined by the maximum number of bench press repetitions they could complete with 40% of their 1-RM and adjusted as 1-RM changed, while absolute endurance was measured by how many reps could be completed with 27.23 kilograms.

At the end of the study all subjects were tested again for maximum strength, relative endurance, and absolute endurance.  All three groups improved maximum strength and absolute endurance.  The heavy weight / low rep group decreased in relative endurance while the other two groups increased relative endurance significantly.  The results of this study are shown in table 1.

Table 1:  Percent changes in max strength, absolute endurance, and relative endurance following strength training at three distinct repetition ranges

Training Group

% Change in Max Strength

% Change in Absolute Endurance

% Change in Relative Endurance

Heavy weight /

low rep

20.22

23.58

-6.99

Medium weight / medium rep

8.22

39.23

22.45

Light weight /

high rep

4.92

41.30

28.45

As can be seen from the data in table 1, the results of this study support DeLorme’s axiom.   Heavy weight / low reps do build strength, while light weights / high reps build endurance.  However, in contrast to DeLorme’s axiom, note that all 3 rep ranges resulted in increases in maximum strength.  And all 3 rep ranges resulted in increases in endurance, with the exception of the relative endurance of the low rep group.  So while low reps increase maximum strength more than do high reps and high reps increase endurance more than low reps the point is that resistance training significantly increases both strength and endurance.  The researchers commented on this same point.

“The reader should note, however, that with the exception of the relative endurance task for the high resistance low repetition group, all training protocols demonstrated significant improvements on each of the three criterion tests.”

Anderson and Kearney’s research went a long way to resolving the conflicting data on DeLorme’s axiom – heavy weights increase strength the most, high reps influence endurance the most, but all resistance training results in improvements in both strength and endurance.

In 1994 Stone and Coulter modeled a study after Anderson and Kearney’s study with the exception of using a less extreme rep range for the high rep group (7).  Stone and Coulter had their subjects perform either 3 x 6-8 reps, 2 x 15-20 reps, or 1 x 30-40 reps.  The results of this program supported the findings of Anderson and Kearney.  Strength and absolute endurance increased for all three groups.  The low rep group improved strength more than the other 2 groups and the high rep group improved endurance more than the lower rep groups.

The bottom line is that while DeLorme’s basic axiom is generally supported by this research, the fact is that resistance training results in improvements in both strength and endurance but to varying degrees depending on how many repetitions are performed.

What about alternating rep ranges?

The studies cited above have compared one rep range to another, high reps vs. low reps for example.  In every study researchers had subjects perform just one rep range and in each case heavy weights / low reps increased strength the most.  What the researchers never examined was how a program of multiple rep ranges compared to a program consisting of a single rep range.

In 2004 a group of researchers tackled this very question in a fascinating study of varying combinations of high and low rep training (8).  This group speculated that a combination type program that included both low and high reps would be more effective than a periodized program consisting of single repetition scheme during each training period or phase.

To test their hypothesis they recruited 17 untrained subjects, divided them into two groups, and then trained each group twice per week for 10 weeks.  Subjects were tested for maximum strength and muscular endurance pre- and post-training.  The first 6 weeks of training was designated as phase 1 and both groups trained exactly the same during this phase. Workouts consisted of two exercises (leg extensions & leg presses) for 3 sets x 10-15 reps.  At the end of this first phase of training there was no difference between the groups; both had significantly and equally improved strength and endurance.  This is not surprising since both groups trained exactly the same during phase 1.

During the final 4 weeks of the study, both groups conducted 5 sets x 3-5 reps of each exercise.  One group, the combi-type group, added a single set of 25-35 reps following their final low rep set.  At the end of the training program the combi-type group had increased their strength 58% more than did the other training group (14.7% vs. 9.3% respectively).  The results are displayed in table 2.

Table 2:  Set and rep ranges for 2 training phases and percent change in strength following phase 2.

Training Group

Phase 1 training

Phase 2 training

% Change in strength after phase 2

Strength type group

9 sets x 10-15 reps

5 sets x 3-5 reps

9.3 %

Combo type group

9 sets x 10-15 reps

5 sets x 3-5 reps,

1 set x 25-35 reps

14.7%

In their discussion of these findings, the researchers wrote,

“This suggests that the combi-type regimen caused a larger increase in dynamic muscular strength than did the strength-type regimen when combined with the hypertrophy-type regimen in a periodized fashion… This effect appears to be inconsistent with the classical principle operating in resistance-exercise training, in which low-repetition protocols are used for muscular strength and low-intensity, high-repetition protocols are used for muscular endurance.  Sensible combinations of high- and low-intensity protocols may therefore be more important to optimize the strength adaptation to resistance training.”

There were also significant differences in endurance between the two groups.  During phase 1 both groups increased endurance with no significant difference in the percent change.  However, the combo type group’s endurance continued to increase during phase 2, while the strength type group’s endurance decreased 4.2%.  The results are displayed in table 3.

Table 3:  Percent change in endurance following each phase of training and total percent change in endurance.

Training Group

Change in endurance, phase 1

Change in endurance, phase 2

Total Change in Endurance

Strength type group

28.5 %

-4.7 %

24.3 %

Combo type group

20 %

18.8 %

38.2 %

In summary, this study found that a combination program consisting of heavy weights / low reps and light weight / high reps was more effective for improving both strength and endurance than a traditional periodized training program consisting of a single rep range during each training phase.  This is truly a fascinating finding.

What Does All This Mean?

What are we to make of all this data on low and high rep strength training?  Based on this data I suggest that the evidence supports that resistance training consisting of a combination of reps is superior to a more traditional lower-rep strength training program.  While I’d like to see more research on this topic this data is enticing enough that I strongly recommend giving a combination of low rep / high rep training serious consideration.

Personally, I adopted a combination high and low rep program in 2007.  At that time I had been strength training consistently for 25 years (I started in 1982) and had tried pretty much every training program that had come down the pipe.  Changing to a combination program was the single best change I’ve ever made in terms of increasing strength.  Despite being in my mid-40s and many years past my prime I was able to increase my strength to the level it had been at during my mid-20s.  Too bad I didn’t discover this 25 years earlier.

What explains the results of a combination program?  What physiologically is happening within the body that produces such large strength gains?  Why does the addition of high rep training – training that has been conventionally viewed as endurance training – to a traditional low rep program produce greater gains in strength than a low rep program only?  I pondered this question for about a year until I finally arrive at the muscle factor model as the physiological explanation.  I believe this new model for how muscles function during exercise and how they adapt to exercise explains why a combination program is superior to single rep range training.  Based on this I chose the term Muscle Factor Training to describe combination training.

If you would like to try muscle factor training I suggest starting with the following. In addition to the low rep training you are already doing, add:

  • one set of 20 reps (range of 17 – 23 reps)
  • one set of 40 reps (range of 35 – 45 reps)

For example, let’s say your current training program includes 4 x 8-10 reps in the bench press.  You would replace 2 of those low rep sets with 1 set of 20 reps and 1 set of 40 reps.  Your new bench press program would look like this:

  • 2 sets x 8-10 reps
  • 1 set x 20 reps
  • 1 set x 40 reps
 

Summary

The old adage is that heavy weights / low reps build strength while light weights / high reps build endurance and a review of the research shows that the adage is basically true.  However, while that adage is basically correct it does not reveal the complete picture.  Strength increases from reps as high as 150 but if you are only doing one rep range then lower reps increase strength the most.

A combination of both high and low reps – what I call Muscle Factor Training – has been shown to increase strength significantly more than a traditional low rep, periodized type training program.  For those who are most interested in maximizing muscular strength and size this finding is significant and should be seriously considered when designing a strength training program.

Reference:

1.  Katch, Katch, McArdle, Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition, and Human Performance, 1996, Williams & Wilkins, pg. 427

2.  Muscle Limit Performance, Muscle Contractility

3.  DeLorme, Thomas L., Restoration of muscle power by heavy resistance exercise, Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 1945, 27:645-667.

4.  Stull G, Clarke D., High-resistance, low-repetition training as a determiner of strength and fatigability, Research Quarterly, 41(2), 189-193

5.  Clarke D, Stull G., Endurance training as a determinant of strength and fatigability, Research Quarterly, 41(1), 19-26

6.  Anderson T, Kearney J., Effects of Three Resistance Training Programs on Muscular Strength and Absolute and Relative Endurance, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 1982, 53:1, 1-7.

7.  Stone WJ, Coulter SP., Strength/endurance effects from three resistance training protocols with women, J Strength Cond Res 8:231-234.

8.  Goto K, Nagasawa M, Yanagisawa O, Kizuka T, Ishii N, Takamatsu K., Muscular Adaptations to Combinations of High- and Low-Intensity Resistance Exercises, J Strength Cond Res, 2004, 18(4), 730-737.

Push/Pull/Legs Split – Strength, Size and Athleticism

Reblogged from: 

BY · OCTOBER 13, 2013

One of the simplest yet rewarding routines out there is the “Push/Pull/Legs” split. It is an easy template mould which harnesses all the required criteria for a full-proof program – balanced time spent on each individual body part/movement and consistent overall training volume. It is also one of the best programs for optimal recovery, which puts it right up there.

The split is based on the idea that your body is essentially split into three parts, in terms of “movements”:

  • Push: Movements that push away from the body e.g. bench press
  • Pull: Movements that move resistance towards the centre of the body e.g. dumbbell rows
  • Legs: Any movement which targets the muscles of the legs.

screenshot20110414at121

As I have said in the past, if your goal is to be athletic, or athletic and aesthetic you should train movements not muscles (http://jt9797.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/movements-not-muscles-program-included/). I favour this split over any other mainstream program for that very reason. By splitting the program up this way it allows the individual to strengthen the basic human movements required for almost all athletic activities, while also delving into the muscle building side of things. It is perfect for athletes who are looking to gain mass, especially in the off season.

Sets and Repetitions

You cannot rely on the movements alone to develop performance and muscle mass simultaneously. To build both athleticism and muscle you must tamper with the sets and repetitions ranges, as well as the exercises (we’ll look into this later). As a general rule of thumb a single session should consist of 4-6 movements (exercises) and 16-24 sets. Here are the ideal sets and repetition ranges you should perform for each exercise:

  1. Primary Exercise: focus on strength/ athletic development = 3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets
  2. Main Assistance: aimed towards improving the primary exercise, again, focused on strength and athletic development with a little muscle building = 5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets.
  3. Compound Mass: aimed to improve upon strength and muscle weaknesses = 6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets.
  4. Mass Assistance: directed towards gaining muscle mass and strength = 8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets.
  5. Mass: solely focused on muscle development and conditioning = 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets.
  6. Mass: solely focused on muscle development and conditioning = 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets.

As you can see we begin with strength and athletic development exercises that focus on low repetitions and heavy weight which are used to develop strength. These require the most amount of energy and technique; therefore they must be performed at the start of the session. We slowly fade into mass building parameters, focusing on slightly higher repetitions.

Exercise Selection

Exercise selection is easy – on pull day you do pulling exercises, on push day you do pushing exercises, on leg day you do leg exercises. You begin with compound movements and slowly move onto isolation movements.  Here are some exercises you could use:

Days Primary Exercise Main Assistance and Compound Mass Mass Assistance Mass
Push Bench   PressOverhead   PressPush   Press Overhead   PressBench   Press (and any variation e.g. close grip)DipsDumbbell   Bench Press

Incline   Press

Push   ups

Dumbbell   Overhead press (single or double)

Push   Press

Floor   Press

Push   upsDipsCable   fly’sFly’s

Skull   crushers

Pec   Deck

Triceps   PushdownTriceps   ExtensionPush   upsCable   fly’s

Fly’s

Dips

Lateral   raises

Pull DeadliftOlympic LiftsRack-pulls Olympic LiftsRows (any type)Chin upsPull ups

Shrugs

Rack-pulls

Pulldowns

Chin upsPull upsShrugsRow variation   (lighter)

Pulldowns

Straight arm   pushdown

Face pulls

Band-pull aparts

ScarecrowsBand-pull apartsFace pullsCurls (any arm work)
Legs SquatOlympic   LiftsDeadlift Olympic   LiftsBulgarian   Split SquatsHip   TrustsGood   mornings

Stiff-legged   deadlifts

Lunges

Step   ups

Leg   Press

Hack   Squats

Glute-ham

Raise

Box   Squats

Glute-ham   raisesPull-throughSwiss   ball leg curlReverse   hyperextensions

Lunges

Step   ups

Hip   trusts

Leg   press

 

Sled   dragsLeg   extensionsLeg   curlsGlute-ham   raises

Swiss   ball leg curl

Abdominal   work

Pulling It All Together

Why didn’t I just hand you a readymade template for you to follow? I decided to lay out the structure for a reason. Too many trainers hand out generic programs that do not meet the needs of individuals. By giving you the opportunity to pick your own exercises, repetitions, sets and training days you have the chance to make an individually moulded program that will be focused towards your own goals, take responsibility. A personalized program will always out perform a generic one.

I will lay out a ready to go program, but this is only for beginners and people who want to see what the finished product looks like. If you know what your goal is and have a basic knowledge in training, channel your program towards attaining your goal. Pick exercises that strengthen your weak areas and train how you want to train! Here we go:

Push:

  1. Primary Exercises: Bench Press (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Dumbbell Incline Bench Press (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Dips (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Push-ups (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Triceps Extensions ( 10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Triceps Pushdowns (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Pull:

  1. Primary Exercise: Deadlift (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Dumbbell Rows (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Chin ups (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Face Pulls (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Barbell Curls (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Hammer Curls (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Legs:

  1. Primary Exercise: Squat (3-5 Repetitions x 3-6 Sets)
  2. Main Assistance: Stiff-legged Deadlifts (5-8 Repetitions x 4-6 Sets)
  3. Compound Mass: Bulgarian Split Squats (6-8 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  4. Mass Assistance: Leg Press (8-12 Repetitions x 3-5 Sets)
  5. Mass: Glute-ham Raises (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)
  6. Mass: Weighted Abdominal Rollouts (10-15 Repetitions x 3 Sets)

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic program but it will never outdo a personalized program.

3 Day a Week vs 4 Days a Week

Push/Pull/Legs can be split into a three or four day a week program:

Day 3 Days a Week 4 Days a Week
Monday Legs Legs
Tuesday Off Push
Wednesday Pull Off
Thursday Off Pull
Friday Push Off
Saturday Off Legs
Sunday Off Off
Monday Legs Push
Tuesday Off Pull
Wednesday Pull Off
Thursday Off Legs
Friday Push Off
Saturday Off Push
Sunday Off Off

Both have their benefits, if your goal is purely strength and size based or you’re going through a bulking phase, you may find the four day a week to be beneficial. However, I personally prefer the 3 day a week program as it gives athletes plenty of time to work on skills needed in their sport, as well as sprinting and other conditioning sessions, while still gaining great amounts of strength and size.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic program for people looking to gain strength and mass. I regularly use this style of program with rugby players and other contact athletes who need to gain muscle mass, while still developing athleticism.

5 x 5 Compilation.

I am a big fan of the 5 x 5 routine and I came across an article written by another fan who pretty much put all info about 5×5 that he could into one place. I believe I have another post that I had done that is similar but this one is more comprehensive . I found it useful and I think you will too.

5 x 5 Strength Training Template: How to Do It Right

Reg Park 5x5 Strength Routine

5 x 5 Strength Training Template in History and Its Variations

Well, I don’t really know whether old-timers used exactly 5 sets of 5 reps. I think, that they came up with something like this at some point. Lots of coaches attribute invention of 5 x 5 system to Bill Starr and his famous book The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football. I admit I haven’t read it yet. But it is on my to-read list. Here’s a quote and original template from the book (that I found here):

“These are 3 basic exercises used by weightlifters to increase their strength….the football player (and you can insert Martial Artist, Fighter, whatever there) must work for overall body strength as opposed to specific strengthening exercises….In other words the athlete should be building total leg strength rather than just stronger hamstrings. He should be seeking overall strength in his shoulder girdle rather than just stronger deltoids….the program is fast, simple and, most importantly, effective. It requires very little space and a minimum of equipment….”

Bill Starr’s 5X5 Routine In Its Original Form

Monday – Heavy

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Bench – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set (add 10 rep sets after 8-12 weeks on program)
Squats – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set

(set 1 35% of target / set 2 70% of target / set 3 80% of target / set 4 90% of target / set 5 target)

Wednesday – Light

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Incline Bench – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
Squats – 5 sets of 5 / 1×10 weight from 3rd set / set 5 use weight from 3rd set of Monday

Friday – Medium 

Power cleans – 5 sets of 5
Overhead press – 5 sets of 5 1×10 weight from 3rd set
Squats – 5 sets of 5 / 1×10 weight from 3rd set / set 5 use weight from 3rd set of Monday / set 5 use weight 4th set of Monday”

As you can see, template is simple and effective. There are 3 days with almost the same exercises (Bench Press “evolves” in Overhead Press throughout the week). Heavy-Light-Medium, which is great for intermediate lifters (for beginners, I think, it would be better to use linear progression increasing weight every session). In addition, you should have noticed that the weight gets ramped up every set. We’ll talk about this later in this article. Exercises used are basic compound lifts in Push-Pull-Legs fashion.

Of course, history of 5 x 5 strength training template doesn’t stop at the Bill Starr’s version. Another example is Reg Park’s 5 x 5 variant:

Reg Park’s Three Phase 5×5 Program

Phase One

45-degree back extension 3×10
Back squat 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Deadlift 5×5

Rest 3-5 minutes between the last 3 sets of each exercise.

Train three days per week for three months.

Phase Two for Bodybuilders*

45-degree back extension 3-4×10
Front squat 5×5
Back squat 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Standing barbell shoulder press 5×5
High pull 5×5
Deadlift 5×5
Standing barbell calf raise 5×25

Rest 2 minutes between sets.

Train three days per week for three months.

* After the basic Phase One, Park had a different set of recommended exercises for aspiring Olympic weightlifters. It used a few different sets and reps, and included lunges and power cleans.

Phase Three for Bodybuilders

45-degree back extension 4×10
Front squat 5×5
Back squat 5×5
Standing barbell shoulder press 5×5
Bench press 5×5
Bent-over barbell row 5×5
Deadlift 5×3
Behind-the-neck press or one-arm dumbbell press 5×5
Barbell curl 5×5
Lying triceps extension 5×8
Standing barbell calf raise 5×25

Rest 2 minutes between sets.

Train three days per week for three months.”

As you can see, this program is quite different from Starr’s except the first phase. I really don’t know whether phase 2 and 3 will work for the average trainee, but they will take serious effort at least to be accomplished. I know they probably won’t work for me as I have quite bad recovery. Another important point is the fact that Reg Park didn’t recommend ramping up the weight. He recommended 2 warm-up sets and 3 work sets with fixed weight.

Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe

Another reasonable program is Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength. I highly encourage you to read his Starting Strength and Practical Programming for Strength Training. I think, it’s one of the best programs for beginners and with some tweaking it becomes one of the best programs for intermediates too. Mark recommends 3 sets of 5 (which is variation of 5 x 5) similarly to Reg Park’s example above, but overall program volume is much more reasonable. For advanced trainees (if their goal is bodybuilding) program volume may be too low, which can be adjusted with assistance “pump” work. Original template looks like this:

“Workout A

1) Barbell Squat 3 x 5

2) Barbell Bench Press 3 x 5

3) Barbell Deadlift 1 x 5

Workout B

1) Barbell Squat 3 x 5

2) Barbell Military Press 3 x 5

3) Barbell Power Clean 5 x 3

Workouts A and B should be alternated on a 3-times-per-week basis. For example, Monday – workout A, Wednesday – workout B, Friday – workout A, Monday – workout B etc.”

Simplicity at its finest. If you are new to strength training, I highly encourage you to use this routine.

Madcow, Stronglifts etc.

These are other notable variations of 5 x 5. I won’t include actual templates here, but if you are interested in trying them:

You can learn more about StrongLifts template here.

You can learn more about Madcow template here.

They are both just variations of the above.

My Experience with 5 x 5

I, personally, was first introduced to 5 times 5 system by Mike Mahler (it was featured in several articles by him and in his e-book “Aggressive Strength Solution for Size and Strength”). It was something really new for me as I was used at that time to basic 3 x 10, classic bodybuilding-style and HIT-style work. I was so brainwashed in those days that I thought it was impossible to gain muscle on low repetitions. To my great surprise, 5 x 5 worked and worked very well. That’s how I found my love with strength training. Gaining muscle was not a great priority anymore. Especially seeing the results that steroids can deliver to others. I have a guy at work that gained at least 15-20 kg in 2 years with no fat (he has visible abs). He’s now 100 kg. Of course, he uses steroids (he told me). And this is true for almost any big guy in the gym at least in our country. I am highly competitive person. And after that I just lost interest in bodybuilding. What’s the point? Yes, you can put in a lot of effort, get perfect program and perfect diet, and gain pretty decent size in 5-10 years. However, some guy will just inject this and that, have really sub-optimal training and nutrition, and will be bigger than you in less than 2 years. So building muscle for me is more like a side effect of building strength. From the time I discovered it, I use some variation of 5 x 5 in almost all of my programs. This is what works for me.

5 x 5 Methods Explained

So what you can see in above examples? Low reps, low-to-mid amount of sets, heavy weight, basic exercises, full-body routines etc. I won’t use percentages here, but probably they are between 70-85% of 1RM. Therefore, basic methods of 5 x 5 are:

  • 4 warm-up sets of 5 working towards 1 top work set of 5;
  • 2 warm-up sets of 5 and 3 work sets of 5 with fixed weight;
  • several warm-up sets and 5 sets of 5 with fixed weight.

Every one of them has its own application. 5 sets of 5 with fixed weight requires less intensity because it has more volume. It may not be suitable for some people. They just might not get all the reps in all the sets no matter what they do. Their sets may look like 5, 5, 5, 5, 3. I’m one of these people. With increased intensity I tend to not get all the reps in such template. Second variant is much more suitable for me. First variant has less volume with working weight, which can be used in light and mid days because you have only one set of practice with working weight.

Here’s a method of progression I learned from legendary Brooks Kubik. You can start with 4 warm-up sets of 5 and 1 working set. Next session you can do 3 warm-up sets and 2 working sets. Next session you can do 2 warm-up sets and 3 working sets. Then add weight and start over with 1 working set of 5. Here’s the picture to make it more visual.

5 x 5 Progression

Secondly, despite the examples above, 5 x 5 is not only for full-body routines. You can successfully use it with split routines. Iron Addict’s SPBR is one of the examples. You can check it out here.

5 x 5 and Calisthenics

Regular 5 x 5 routines are great when it comes to weights. But what about calisthenics? Well, everything is a little bit trickier (as always). 5 x 5 will definitely help you build strength in bodyweight movements, but great chances are that you’ll need to use more flexible scheme. It’s all because you can’t make microadjustments like with barbell exercises.  There are 2 ways out:

  1. Weighted calisthenics
  2. Use more flexible set/rep scheme

Rough Strength Variation of 5 x 5

Of course, I can’t leave you without routine and practical knowledge how to implement 5 x 5. You can find beginner routines here.

Let’s implement several training tools and several methods of 5 x 5 and create a program for intermediate trainee for gaining strength and building some muscle:

Day 1

A) Sandbag Zercher Squats 3 x 5

B) Tuck Planche Push-Ups (between chairs) 3 x 5

C) One-Arm Kettlebell Row 5 x 5

D) Ring Triceps Extensions 3 x 8-12

Day 2 – off

Day 3

A1) Kettlebell Double Lunges 5 x 5 (each leg)

A2) Kettlebell Double Swings 5 x 5

B) Pistols 4 x maximum

C) One-Leg Calf Raises 3 x 12-20

Day 4

A1) Handstand Push-Ups 3 x 5

A2) Weighted Chin-Up 3 x 5

B) Weighted Dips 1 x 5

C) Sandbag Shouldering 5 x 2 (1 per side, switch sides after every set)

Day 5 off

Day 6 off

Repeat.

Notes:

  • 1 x 5 means 4 warm up sets and 1 work set;
  • 3 x 5 means 2-3 warm up sets and 3 work sets;
  • 5 x 5 means 2-3 warm up sets and 5 work sets;
  • If you can’t accomplish all reps in work sets in first week, you’re using weights or exercises that are too hard for you;
  • If you can accomplish all the reps in work sets, you can add the minimum increment. No more than 2.5 kg;
  • If you want to add some muscle, then you need to be in calorie surplus and eat enough protein and carbs.

Hamstrings In My Sights

T- Nation.Com

Hamstring Hell: Sliding Leg Curls

by Ben Bruno – 8/13/2013
Hamstring Hell: Sliding Leg Curls

Here’s what you need to know…

• Sliding leg curls are the real deal. They hammer your hamstrings in a unique and painful way.

• Unlike some exercises, they can be trained with higher frequency, which makes them ideal for fast hypertrophy gains.

• Sliding leg curls can be systematically progressed or regressed to match your strength level so you can experience consistent long-term gains.

Sliding leg curls are no joke. I’ve absolutely buried top athletes with those “wussy” sliders. And I’m talking super strong guys that can squat and deadlift obscene weights and do glute-ham raises like nobody’s business.

From a programming perspective, not only do they absolutely torch the hamstrings while being easy on the lower back and knees, they can also be done with a higher frequency, which is beneficial for building both size and strength.

However, like any exercise, you can eventually get good at sliding leg curls. That’s when you need to use progression, and sliding leg curls can be progressed to the point of being downright tortuous.

So here are some devilishly effective progressions of the standard sliding leg curl. All of these can be performed using a slideboard, sliders, or anything else you can McGyver. Just use them on any slick surface.

Remember, the key is to find the right progression for your current level and then strive to move forward from there.

1. “Squeeze” Sliding Leg Curl

These are just regular sliding leg curls done while squeezing something like a small foam roller or medicine ball between your knees. Here’s what it should look like, as demonstrated by Eirinn Dougherty.

I’ve seen coaches and trainers use this method with glute bridges and I just applied it to sliding leg curls, which is really a bridge derivative even though it’s more of a hamstring exercise than a glute exercise.

Interestingly, I started trying it as a way to get more bang for the buck by strengthening the adductors, but I quickly noticed that exercise form started to improve when athletes were forced to squeeze something.

People tend to screw up sliding leg curls by flexing at the hips (i.e., letting the butt sag), which takes the glutes out of it and greatly diminishes the usefulness of the exercise. However, when they’re forced to squeeze something, they do a better job of keeping the hips up and the glutes engaged. So besides working the adductors, it’s also become a good teaching tool.

You can also use heavier implements as you progress to increase the challenge to the adductors.

2. Resisted Single-Leg Sliding Leg Curl

Single-leg sliding leg curls are a great progression once you’ve mastered the regular version, but how can you employ progressive overload beyond just doing a ton of reps?

Well, two ways, and both can be great depending on what you’re looking to achieve.

The simplest method is just to put of small plate on top of the slide pad, or if you’re using a slideboard, put a small weight on a towel.

A little weight goes a long way, so even five pounds will make a big difference and ten pounds will transform the exercise into an absolute monster.

Another option is to drape chains, a weighted vest, or even a weight plate over your hips.

I like this method because it increases the challenge for the glutes on what’s otherwise more of a hamstring exercise.

3. Body Curl

Body curls are a great progression/variation from sliding leg curls. Instead of keeping your torso fixed and sliding with your feet, keep the feet stationary and move your body back and forth.

They work best with a slideboard, but you can make due by putting a couple of sliders underneath a plate and resting your shoulders on top of the plate.

Plate with slidersThe form cues for body curls are the same as for sliding leg curls, meaning you want to keep the hips up by thinking about keeping a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

 

I have a light weight on my hips in the video, but start with just bodyweight.

4. Barbell Hamstring Body Curl

Once you’re comfortable with body curls, you can begin to load the hips to increase the challenge for the glutes. Start by using chains or a weighted vest, but eventually you can progress to using a barbell like you would for barbell glute bridges.

 

5. Single-Leg Body Curl

I’ve done tons of hard hamstring exercises, but single-leg body curls may very well be the toughest of the lot, even when just using bodyweight.

 

It took me a long time to progress to them, and even when I could do regular sliding leg curls with 135 pounds on my hips, I still couldn’t even do one rep of these bad boys.

To build up to doing the true single-leg version, try the single-leg eccentric version, which is also a great exercise in its own right.

Bridge up normally, then push out on one leg and pull back in with two legs.

 

Be prepared to walk funny afterwards.

How to Incorporate Them

Add these exercises in towards the end of lower body workouts after your heavier work, or add them in on off days or upper body days for supplemental hamstring work.

You can do them up to four times a week without issue because they’re very easy on the joints. It’s definitely an exercise that lends itself well to higher frequency training, making it a great choice if you’re looking to bring up lagging hamstrings.

When you first start doing them you’ll likely struggle, but make it a goal to get good at them and work through the progressions outlined. You’ll find that your hamstrings will get bigger and a whole lot stronger in the process.

Probably the biggest thing holding you back from adding sliding leg curls is your own insecurity about doing something that isn’t “manly.” Get over yourself! Try these sissy exercises – I’ll bet you’ll be humbled and sold all at once.

Muscle Building Workouts

Muscle Building Workouts – Build Muscle And Fitness The Right Way

Does this sound familiar to you?

You have goals for your muscle building workouts. You follow a regime that allows you to achieve those goals. You’re doing everything right. But, you fall on your ass.

Then you find that you get back up and start the whole process working on your muscle building workouts all over again. Only to find that you keep falling down, getting back up again and repeating this over and over.

You do this until you think that you are never going to achieve anything here. You think that this training lark isn’t for you. So what do you do?

Yep, you give up.

Why does this happen and what can I do about it?

You’ve probably asked yourself that question many times. But you may have found that you never came up with a real answer. You blame the muscle building workouts and everything that led you to it.

So what is the real problem?

It seems that you have the right muscle building workouts. You may have goals in mind of what you would like to achieve with that training routine.

Maybe you’re doing one, or more, of the following:

* Having bad, or no, warm up sessions.
* Not eating enough.
* Not taking enough fluids.
* Training too much.
* Lifting excessive weights.
* Not getting enough sleep.

These are all very common to all muscle and fitness workouts, no matter what sport you do.

These are easily identified and remedied. Just go through each one of these and see if they apply to you. If so, then identify why this is the case. Having done that, you need to find the right solution to fix it. You do this in a systematical manner, until you have fully identified what is wrong, the reason for it going wrong and the appropriate solution for it.

For example:

Lets say that your not experiencing any growth in your biceps. Ask yourself some questions of your muscle and fitness workouts:

Question: What is wrong? Answer: My biceps are not growing.

Question: What are the possible causes, and why? Answer: The exercise may be done too quickly, or maybe I’m cheating in my training, or maybe there isn’t enough weight on the barbell.

Question: What can be done to remedy this? Answer: Improve my form when doing this exercise. Reduce the weight so that I don’t cheat and to keep me more strict. Or increase the weight on the barbell to promote more growth in this area.

So you see, you need to identify the problem first. If you don’t do this, you cannot fix it up. Then you must identify what the possible causes are so that you can offer up appropriate solutions to remedy the situation. Just go through each solution, one at a time, until you are satisfied with the results.

This requires patience and dedication. Most people will not put in the time to find out why they’re going wrong. Instead they spend a lot of money and waste a lot of time trying out different solutions. Whereas, what they should have done first was to seek the answer within themselves. Then seek the appropriate solution elsewhere suitable for their muscle building workouts — only if that solution is outside of their grasp.

Hard or EZ . Hardcore thought of the day

The couch or the squat rack? The grilled chicken and broccoli or the the quick slice of pizza? Wake up at 4 am or sleep in? Add weight or do the same weight? Drag your tired body till it burns with lactic acid or sit and rest? Eat egg whites or eat ice cream? Go to bed early or stay up to watch t.v.?

The hard way or the easy?

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12 Mistakes You’re Making In The Gym

12 Mistakes You’re Making In The Gym

Not Bringing Your Music

I could go into detail on this one but do us all a favor and make sure you bring your best jams. Most people with bubbly personalities or to many friends in the gym tend to talk to much. That means not only are you messing my workout up but your also hurting yours.

Music is also a beast motivator. There is nothing like getting ready for a lift listening to that one song that gets you fired up. I remember when I wrestled in high school and the one song I would listen to before every match was “Break Stuff” By Limp Bizket. I don’t know why, it just got me fired up.

What gets you fired up!? Make a play-list of your top 10 most motivating songs and hit shuffle. Your workouts will get better.

Only Doing Your Skill Set

We all do it in more areas of our life than fitness. We like to do what we are good at. It’s time to step it up. Do something new. If all you do are lunges and leg press because you think your beast at them then try one of the other hundred ways of working legs.

It’s nice to be really good at a few things but you want to be good at as many things as you can. It also gives a challenged to your workouts. Doing something new usually causes you to either drop weight or spend more time mastering…it’s like your starting from scratch! Embrace it, you haven’t always been a beast!

Focusing On The Little

Unless you’re competing for your pro-card and taking buckets of steroids you don’t need 6 different arm exercises on arm day. I have learned so many weird bodybuilding tricks over the years that it would be confusing to explain them all. One thing I have learned, is if you focus more on the major muscle groups and worry less about how much your wrist twists at the top of your bicep curl then your doing fine.

Stop adding all these filler movements and exercises and talk about different angles and blah blah blah. The average person doesn’t need that. Yes, angles play a role in lifting but not as much as you think.

Plan It Out

Where are you going to go? What are you going to be doing between sets? What exercises are you going to do first? Which ones are your compound exercises and which ones are not? How much weight did you do last time? How are you going to change your program up this week to support progression? Most of these questions need to be worked out before you start moving around.

Call me old school but I am getting back into writing everything down so I know where to challenge myself next week and what needs to change for the next month cycle. Sure you can just walk in to a gym and start moving stuff around but you’re not going to get far. So if you’re serious about seeing results, start writing.

Protein Powder

It’s not that big of a deal. There are thousands of brands of protein supplements on the market. There is no way I could tell you which ones are the best out of them all. I can say that getting an organic, grass fed whey would probably be the best but I personally don’t do that. Costco sells a giant tub of 100% whey protein that I have been buying for years.

Lately, I have gotten away from drinks and turned more to chewing my protein…. to each his own. Watch the carbs, sugar and any other filler crap that they put in those other powders. If your whey powder tastes like a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato then odds are it’s not the best for you.

Lifting With Your Boys

I have lifted with small groups of guys before and the majority of the time gets spent messing around and getting too much of nothing done. Stick to one partner or none at all (see my next point). The more people you have the less you can get done. 45 minute workouts turn to 1:15 minute workouts.

You may have all the motivation and drive in the world but banking on the rest of the guys your with to have that same drive…don’t hold your breath. Stop using the gym as your social hour.

Lift Alone

I am blessed to have a beast partner that pushes me and is always down to try new things. We are seeing results and getting things done. I have had partners in the past that always showed up late or never at all, never really changed much up. I just wasn’t there to do that and like anyone else time is precious.

These kinds of partners are not going to help you get results. You’re better off lifting alone and getting more things done. “But I need a spotter” I answer this in my next point.

Lift Till You’re Blue In The Face

Do me a favor for a few weeks try not going to ultimate failure and then some with every set. Tone it down some. Do as many reps as you can with perfect form then hang it up. You can do this with any rep range whether it’s a low rep or high.

Do what you can with good form and leave it alone. This protects your central nervous system from being over worked and not being able to help repair your body after your workouts. You will feel better and recover faster for the next lift.

Lift With Your Girl

As long as you two part ways the minute you walk into the door. Odds are she is afraid to do anything heavy and will walk over to a few machines and end up in the stability ball and band area. If you take the time to explain to her the importance of doing heavy weights and compound exercises and she is on board, then let her join you.

My wife is pretty rocking. She will do just about anything I tell her to as long as it’s not going to put her life in danger (although sometimes there is always that chance). She is willing to push heavier weights and stay away from the bosu balls. Total respect for you ladies doing work in the gym!

Being A Member Of A Globo Gym

Meat market, drama, and clickish tendencies is what I hear the most coming from these places. They are great for the classes and variety of equipment but if you’re like any other social person your workouts could turn into a social hour. I’m not knocking them completely. Total respect for the guys and gals who go into those places and grind out killer workouts and not get mixed up in all the mess!! BUT….The hottest gyms are the little hole in the wall studios you see around town.

Working for Old Dominion University as a trainer for a little while gave me somewhat of a feel for the bigger gym atmosphere. Spending most of my career in small studios has really allowed me to grow a passion for the smaller studio feel. It’s just better. You get the family atmosphere and depending on the owner you can find some pretty odd objects to use in your workout.

Doing Olympic Lifts With Straps

I have heard horror stories of noobs trying to hang clean or full clean weight and actually breaking their wrists because of the weight and lack of proper technique. You can’t clean tons of weight and expect your wrists to have the proper range of motion (along with the rest of your arms) as a noob. If your new to the clean then go light and work on your catch and ROM when its at rest (top position).

Catching with your elbows pointing straight out and landing the bar across your upper chest and delts. If your grip is suffering then spend some extra time on your off days working on grip exercises. Check this video out! Start with these and use some chalk until your form and wrist/arm ROM is on point. By then you shouldn’t even need straps to do them. Win-Win situation.

Bring The Celly

Leave the phone in your car. In today’s day you probably send well over a thousand texts a month…if not more. You don’t need to have that thing right on your side the whole time. Facebook, twitter, emails etc. all get sent to our phones which means your probably checking some kind of notification every few minutes. This is time away from your lifts. Whatever it is can wait.

If it’s an emergency then let those people know where you are. What happened to just calling the main building the person was in. That’s what intercoms are for right? Now, if you’re doing everything I say then you’re probably lifting at a small local studio therefore they can call you there almost directly.  Don’t worry, I am guilty of this too! I hate it when I catch myself wasting time looking at an email or post. It’s all about productivity.

Go after it!

Tish Shelton Aims High in First Pro Season

Krivs Studio Blog

Newly minted physique pro Tish Shelton has lofty goals in mind for her first season in the IFBB ranks—namely earning a trip to Las Vegas to compete in the Olympia next fall. Challenging expectations to be sure but certainly legitimate considering the rising star from Mobile, Alabama brings a notable and striking package to the stage.

In fact, we just discussed a coterie of contenders for the upcoming season in the previous post that could have easily included the steely 5-foot-1, 125-pound powerhouse and reigning NPC North Americans short class champion. Pro physique continues to be intriguing with newcomers like Rikki Smead, Erica Blockman, Tracy Weller and Tish Shelton all joining the mix this year.

Following Tish’s dazzling, pro card-winning routine, highlights from a contest shape debut shoot in Pittsburgh, Pa. last summer feature a tantalizing combination of sinewy and sinuous. Tish’s tremendous development is on display—wide, detailed back

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Keeping A Workout Log is Smart. Fitness Apps

I don’t care if you think you look corny or goofey or whatever when you’re walking around the gym with a little notebook and you are writing down all your reps and weights. So what if some  dude is sneering and making jokes. Screw them! Do it anyway.Why? Simple. If you really take your workouts seriously you have to be able to keep track of your training.  By not logging your workouts it’s like driving across the United States without a map, sure you’ll get there but it will take a lot longer.You may think that you can remember where you started and what you did a week or two before but after a few months you won’t remember jack and that will come back to haunt you. Since you are planning on training for the rest of your life (you are , aren’t you?) you will need to reference all sorts of details that you will not remember unless they are jotted down in your notebook.One thing is for certain your time is valuable and you want to benefit the most from your training. By keeping an account of your workouts you will make sure that you are progressing. You always want to be adding weight, getting faster or whatever.

Let’s say you are bench pressing and for your last set @ 230 lb you miss your target rep range by one measly rep. Then you have an action packed week and by the time you come back to the bench again you don’t remember that you missed by 1 rep. You also don’t remember that you added 2.5 lb plates onto the bar. So this week you just do 225 lb. instead and then make your rep range. You think you got stronger but you’re not sure because you don’t remember what you did. Meanwhile if you had a log book you would have seen that you almost had 230 lbs. but missed it by 1 rep. If you saw this you would have loaded the bar with the 230 instead of the 225 and went for it! And you probably would have gotten it too. So you missed out and you’re not progressing.

When keeping a log book all the little details are right there for you. It is all useful information. If you want you can even add other notes like what you ate before your workout, how much sleep you had and whether or not it was quality sleep, if you are stressed, how much water you drank, what the weather is like , so on and so forth.

If you are a little self conscious because not many people are walking around with a notebook just suck it up. Before long you will be moving punishing amounts of weight while the jokers are still toying around with the same weight they were lifting 6 months ago. If you are still not buying my motivational shpeel then you should ask yourself why you are so concerned about what other people think of you anyway. That I will deal with in another post.

In the meantime, I am trying to get you to keep a vigilant track of your training so here’s a little secret for ya if you don’t want to carry a note pad……use your phone. Everyone will just think your Mr. or Mrs. Popular and sending text messages to your friends.

You can either just use a notebook function that is already in your phones TOOLS or you can download one of these Apps I highlighted below.

I don’t use a smart phone so I’m not using any of these so if anyone has any input on these apps then let us know what you think. Thanks!

“The obstacle is the path”

Keep Track Of Your Workouts And Train Hardcore with these Fitness Apps

#1 RunKeeper – A GPS-based app that keeps track of your run, ride, or walking path, providing time, distance, average speed, and more. A great motivational and informative app that can help you analyze and track your progress from your iPhone. It’s like having a coach with you every step of the way.

#2 iFitness – Choose workouts for overall fitness or to target specific muscle groups. You can even create your own special workout and it will keep a record for future use. It’s like having a personal trainer on your iPad.

#3 aSleep Classic -Sleeping is part of your training, it’s when your muscles grow. This app  provides music to create the perfect setting for you to relax for stress management, meditate, do a yoga session, or just help you get to sleep. A portable chill out zone wherever you go.


#4 FoodSwitch – Just like sleep, your nutrition is part of your training too. You can’t grow unless you are shoveling in the right nutrition. This is a camera-based app that can read food product bar codes to inform you of nutritional content as well as providing healthier options for you to choose from. It really takes the confusion out of food labels. Your personal dietitian at the supermarket.

#5 Yoga Stretch – Stretching and core strength are  important for your well-being, affecting everything from posture to digestion. Yoga Stretch app will take you through a session of your choice for both intensity and time. A yoga class ready when you are.

#6 Ready, Set, Run! – Another running based training app that lets you set a goal and then helps you achieve it by tailoring a program for your level of experience and needs. A motivation coach in your pocket.

#7 Chinese Health Massage – We can’t all have a masseuse at our beck and call, but we can help speed up our recovery with simple stretching and self massaging techniques, like an old swimming trick of using a tennis ball against a wall to ease the tension in your back and shoulders. The Chinese Health Massage app shows you simple ways to relieve tension in key stress areas like neck and upper back.

#8 iMuscle – An incredible app that helps you understand the mechanics of the body so you can choose better exercises and have more effective workouts. Use your iPad to find all those detailed muscle groups.

#9 Upbeat Workouts for Runners – A music-picking app that matches the beat of the song to your running stride to make workouts more fun and keep you in rhythm. A personal iPhone based “DJ-workout motivator” for every step