Want muscle? STOP the quessing game

People who engage in very repetitive tasks such as long distance running, labor or swimming show very little or no improvement in the size and strength of their muscles. Long distance events are by nature very low in intensity.

Compare a marathon runner to a 100 meter sprinter. Marathon runners who train for very long periods at a very low intensity are emaciated looking having less than normal muscle mass and carry on average 14 ? 16% body fat. Sprinters, on the other hand, who train for short periods at a high level of intensity are very muscular and have half the body fat levels than marathoners. If cardio is the key to getting lean, as many people presume, why do marathoners have a higher body fat than sprinters? The reason is, a specific stimulus is required for a specific outcome.

The specific stimulus needed to stimulate muscle and strength is high intensity training. This is a universal training principle that affects everyone without exception. This is due to the fact that we are anatomically and physiologically the same. If this were not true doctors could not perform surgery and prescribe medicine. Consequently, the stimulus needed to induce biochemical changes that build muscle and strength in humans is the same.

Intensity, when referring to training, is the percentage of physical exertion that one is capable of. Training with one hundred percent intensity is the best way, the only way, to stimulate muscular size and strength in the shortest amount of time. How does one gauge the intensity of their workouts? By taking your working sets to positive or concentric failure.

Taking a set to the point of failure, where you cannot possibly perform another rep despite your maximum effort is one of, and perhaps the most important of several factors in your success. There are many who disagree and advocate high volume training with 60%, 72%, 95%, or whatever percentage of intensity they decide is the best. Some even claim training all out, with one hundred percent intensity is not only unnecessary, but detrimental. Over the years I’ve seen so called strength coach specialists, and personal trainers with 15 letters after their last names, concoct the most ridiculous routines, using almost every percentage, that have yet to show any effectiveness in real world application.

The main problem with these bogus routines is that there are only two accurate measures of intensity. Zero, when you are at rest; and 100%, when you?re training to the point of failure. How do you measure anything less than 100% intensity? If I can do 10 repetitions to complete failure with 100 pounds on the leg extension machine, where do I go for 80% intensity? Do I perform 10 reps with 80 pounds? Or do I use 100 pounds and only perform 8 reps? Is 80% the optimum percentage, or is it 65%? There is no evidence that suggests, let alone proves, anything less than 100% effort is equally or more effective. Are you starting to see the ridiculousness and inaccuracy of such training prescriptions?

Intensity cannot be measured accurately with reps or weight. While performing a set, intensity increases exponentially with each successive rep. Performing the first 5 reps on the leg extension is not equivalent in intensity to performing the last 5 reps. Hence, 5 reps is not the equivalent of 50% intensity.

The only way to train that is completely accurate is with all out intensity to failure. This will give you a concrete view of how you?re performing. If you train with 100% intensity during every workout and you do not progress, you know you are not recovering. There will never be a question whether you are providing a strong enough stimulus for progress. However, if you follow the percentage of intensity or the percentage of max rep principles, how will you know you are training intensely enough to stimulate muscular size and strength? If you plateau, are you training too hard or too long? Do you lower the percentage or raise it? Do you need more rest, or do you need to train at a higher intensity? There is no need for this guessing game.

Your goal is to bring about the largest, most rapid outcome for your individual genetic potential. In order for this to occur, the body requires 100% intensity every working set of every exercise. This is the only truly accurate way to gauge the efficacy of your training program. Nothing less than 100% will do. The body needs a reason to adapt. Give it!

Buying New Gym Shoes? Let Your Feet Lead the Way!

Some like them light, others like them heavy and some like them somewhere in between. No matter what you prefer, there’s a gym shoe out there just waiting for you, all you have to do is walk into the athletic store and let your feet do the rest. Just in case you’re unsure about what your feet (and your body) need to be comfortable, here’s what you should look for:

A specific shoe for a specific activity.
It’s never a good idea to purchase a pair of gym shoes that are made for walking if you’re planning to run. Walking shoes tend to be stiff, while running shoes are flexible with extra components such as cushioning to handle higher levels of impact. Running in walking shoes can lead to aching heels, shin splints, and muscle aches.

Shoes that fit your foot type and no one else’s.
Some us have flat feet, others have narrow feet, and some of us have wide feet. Never try to stuff your wide feet into a narrow pair of gym shoes because they look good. You’ll end up with more than just aching heels at the end of the day. A good shoe store will have all the equipment it needs to measure your foot precisely, and match you with the perfect shoe. Listen to the salesperson’s suggestions and you won’t be sorry later. Here’s another tip, foot size continues to change as we age, so have your feet measured twice a year.

Wiggle room.
Ok, so of course you need extra room for socks, but you’ll need even more room to wiggle your toes. Yes, gym shoes should not be snug at the front, but your heel shouldn’t slip out of the shoes either. Leave at least 3/8-1/2 inch between the front of your big toe and the inside of the front of the shoe for a comfortable fit. You shouldn’t feel any tightness anywhere. If you do, keep trying until you don’t!

Cutting-edge components for whatever ails you.
Having trouble getting shoes to fit no matter what you do? Try a pair that allows you to pump up the tongue for a customized fit. Got heel pain? Try a pair of gym shoes that come with clear inserts or shoes that are filled with gel, air, or Freon. These components add extra shock absorption, so you’re feet are less likely to hurt after a vigorous workout.

Mileage.
Yes, shoes rack up the miles, just like a car. And, like a car, they can break down when they’ve racked up too many. Ask the salesperson how many miles your shoes will last. The figure should be somewhere between 350 and 400 miles. Once your gym shoes hit the mark, it’s time to trade them in for a new pair. If you just don’t have time to calculate miles, it’s ok. You can go by how your shoes look and feel. If the shoes no longer offer support, they’re uncomfortable, or the back heel is worn out, it’s time to throw those puppies out and buy a new pair.

For more information about choosing the best gym shoes for your feet, visit WebMD.com.

How to Buy Running Shoes for Flat Feet


Buying running shoes can be a frustrating experience if you have flat feet.
If you’re not too sure if you have flat feet, you can tell by looking at the insides of the feet. A person with flat feet has flattened arches in the insides of the feet. When a person with flat feet stands up, the entire foot touches the floor. A normal foot has an arch on the inside, so this part of the foot never touches the ground. The arch provides natural shock absorption. Without it, extra stress is placed on other parts of the body such as the hips, ankles, and knees. To reduce the impact on other parts of the body, including the other parts of the feet, running shoes that provide either extra cushion, support, motion control, and stability are essential.

Although flat feet is a common condition, people with flat feet still have to search for special shoes that reduce the impact on other parts of the body, in order to prevent injury. Individuals with flat feet, especially those that play sports or exercise regularly, have a higher risk of medical and lateral midfoot injures such as metatarsal (the long bones in the forefoot) stress fractures. Metatarsal injuries are common in ballet dancers, gymnasts, and runners.

There are several manufacturers that you probably have never even heard of that make the best shoes for flat feet. These include Brooks and Mizuno. Popular makers of running shoes for flat feet include New Balance, Nike, Saucony, Asics, and Reebok.

No matter which brand you choose, you will still have to test them to make sure they are right for you. One of the best indicators of compatibility is how your ankles, feet, hips, and knees feel when you run or jog in them. Most large athletic stores will have a running track or enough space for you to jog around to see just how well the shoes work for you. Spend as much time as need to test cushion, support, motion control, and stability, with stability being top priority.

Expect to pay the same price for specialty running shoes as you would for a high quality pair of non-specialty running shoes. In-store prices typically start at around $120. You can shop online where “Internet only” specials are plentiful, but purchasing specialty shoes without trying them out first is not recommended.

In addition to wearing special running shoes, people with flat feet may perform foot exercises (using ping pong balls) to prevent injury and they may also use insoles for flat feet in other types of footwear. New Balance, ProKinetics, and Dr. Scholl’s sell a variety of insoles for flat feet.

Barbell back squat vs smith machine squats

Many strength and muscle building experts will say, the barbell back squat is much more effective at building size and strength. They argue free weight squats are a more natural movement and require much more stabilization and balance, which increases its effectiveness. However, the Smith machine is much easier to learn, especially for beginners, which many argue is safer. I contend that it depends upon the person’s build. If one has long legs and a shorter torso, they will have a very difficult time performing a squat correctly in order to get optimum stimulation for strength or growth. In this case and in others, they would benefit greatly from performing smith machine squats. But what does science have to say? Which is better for gaining strength?

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada compared the free weight squat to the Smith machine using electromyography (EMG). The purpose of their study was to determine which exercise was better at stimulating the prime movers and stabilizers of the legs (e.g., tibialis anterior, gastrocnemius, vastus medialis, vastus lateralis and biceps femoris) and trunk (e.g., lumbar erector spinae and rectus abdominus). Six healthy participants performed 1 set of 8 repetitions using a weight they could lift 8 times, i.e., 8 rep maximum.

Contrary to our hypotheses, muscles of the legs (specifically the vastus medialis and biceps femoris) displayed greater EMG activity during the free weight squat compared to the Smith machine squat, whereas there were no differences between exercises for EMG activity of trunk stabilizers.

Researchers conclude that the free weight squat may be superior to the Smith machine squat for training the major muscle groups of the legs and possibly would result in greater strength development and hypertrophy of these muscle groups with long-term training.
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(9), 2588-2591.

Yogilates, The Yoga Hybrid with Staying Power

Back in 1997, when Yogilates was created by certified Pilates instructor and Vinyasa yoga practitioner Jonathan Urla, no one thought this yoga hybrid would stick. After all, hybrids like disco yoga, ballet yoga, and soul yoga faded away just as quickly as they exploded onto the scene. Well, Yogilates is still standing, nearly 15 years after its inception, with a sizable number of devotees and a dedicated website selling everything from DVDs and exercise gear to eco bottles and books. It’s safe to say that this is one yoga hybrid that’s here to stay.

Yogilates combines moves from Pilates and yoga to create a challenging workout that strengthens and tones the muscles, exercises the heart, and relaxes the mind. According to the official Yogilates website, this hybrid is designed as a unique style of yoga that “integrates the core strengthening and alignment principles of Pilates with the practice of hatha yoga” – a 5,000-year old discipline. As a result, Yogilates gives practitioners “more rapid and balanced development of their bodies than when either discipline is performed separately.”

A typical Yogilates session begins on the floor. Participants prepare for practice through breath and alignment awareness, followed by a warm-up that integrates “the core strengthening and spine lengthening of Pilates matwork with hatha yoga breathwork and essential poses.”

Through a series of smooth transitions from one exercise to the next, participants eventually move from the floor and into Sun Salutations (a series of 12 yoga poses) and a Vinyasa yoga flow. As the session progresses, the poses become more and more challenging before ending with restorative poses and relaxation called Shavasana.

Yogilates has a number benefits including:

  • Combines the most effective parts of yoga and Pilates for a challenging and invigorating workout
  • Improves flexibility of the spine, posture, breathing, and alignment
  • Improves performance in all activities from sports to everyday tasks
  • Helps to develop coordination and concentration
  • Helps achieve weight loss goals
  • Relieves stress
  • Reduces risk of injury
  • Helps sharpen the mental and physical skills needed to achieve peak performance
  • Safe for all ages and exercise backgrounds
  • An additional benefit of Yogilates is it can be practiced in a studio or at home. It is possible to find Yogilates classes at a health club, but you are more likely to find quality Yogilates classes at a yoga or Pilates studio. To safely and comfortably practice Yogilates at home, you should purchase a yoga mat and comfortable exercise gear made of breathable and non-irritating fabrics. You should also make sure that you are well-hydrated before and after practicing.

    Where to Find Yogilates DVDs

    You may purchase one of three Yogilates DVDs produced by Jonathan Urla online at www.yogilates.com. You can also view or purchase other Yogilates videos by visiting Amazon.com or Youtube.

    Just F-in squat

    Some say the squat is the king of all leg exercises. They even go as far as saying that if you don?t squat, your chances of building big, strong legs are next to impossible. And there are others who even take it one step further, claiming the squat is the best overall exercise there is period, and no routine should be without one.

    Yes, I agree that the squat is unquestionably a very productive exercise in that it works a large number of major muscle groups. More so than any other exercise, however, it is not essential to do the barbell squat in order to get muscular and strong legs. More-over, for some the pain caused by injuries or anatomy makes this exercise very uncomfortable and unproductive. For instance, those who have very long legs and short torsos have trouble doing squats due to bad bio-mechanics. Some people need alternatives, but, for this Exercise of the Month article I focus on how to perform the barbell squat properly and show how to change what muscles are emphasized.

    High intensity or high volume?

    The question, “What’s best workout for building strength and muscle?” has been the subject of heated debates for years.? My answer is always the same.? There is no one workout that is the best.? There is no one workout that works for all.? However, there are training principles that do apply to everybody.

    Anatomically and physiologically we are identical.? A bicep is a bicep and has the exact same function from person to person.? An aorta is an aorta.? Our anatomical structures may have different shapes and sizes, but they all function the same.? This holds true for all tissues in our bodies from blood to hormones.? If this weren’t true medicine could not exist.? How could an anesthesiologist do his job if everybody were different?

    Therefore, in order to get bigger, stronger muscles the same stimulus is needed.? That stimulus is short, intense training sessions.? Why short?? Because we have known for centuries the body can either train long or train hard.? A perfect example is to compare distance runners to sprinters.? Because of the types of training, one is emaciated looking and one is muscular.? Remember you can not sprint a mile.? Is it difficult to run a mile, yes?? But it is essentially impossible to run a mile with 100% intensity.

    The other factor one needs to take into consideration for building bigger, stronger muscles is recovery.? How much or how often can you train?? Or better yet, how much “should” you train?? Here is where the differences in genetics lie.? Our muscles need the exact same stimulus in order to cause a chain of events that forces them to adapt by making bigger stronger muscles.? However, the rate at which we are able to recover from these intense bouts is as different as the shapes and sizes of our bodies.

    So what are you to do?? If you’re training using the typical muscle building routine, which is 3 or more working sets per exercise and 4 or more sessions a week, and not getting anywhere, change it.? First, reduce your sets per exercise by half and only train each body part once a week.? If you still don’t make gains or you plateau after a short while, reduce your sets again.? Remember, if you’re training with 100% intensity and you’re not making gains, you’re not recovering.

    More is only better when it comes to sex and money.????????

    Abductor and Adductor machines

    Purpose:? These machines are designed to isolate the muscles that spread the legs apart and bring them together.

    Pros:? The machines allow you to feel the burn in the targeted areas.

    Cons:? Despite the perception (mostly among womem) that these machines “tone” flabby thighs, they don’t actually apply enough resistance to burn many calories.? Because they don’t allow the legs to stabilize a load like squats or lunges, the abductor and adductor don’t build much strength or muscle.? Plus opening and closing your legs in a public gym is just asking for trouble.

    Verdict:? Bad.? “If you want strong, athletic looking legs,” says Jason Ferruggia, an MF training advisor, “you need to squat, lunges and deadlift.”? Those simple movements will train the thighs’ inner and outer areas much more efficiently and without comprimising your manhood.

    Men’s Fitness March 2008


    Amazingly these machines are still in many fitness centers and gyms. It isn’t bad enough that women are still using these contraptions, but amazingly I also see men using these useless machines. Why? outside of shear laziness and ignorance, I haven’t a clue. The adductors and abductors are worked to a much higher degree by performing multi-joint lower leg exercises like the squat and it’s variations.

    There is no such thing as a free lunch. Working legs properly, like anything that yields good results, takes effort. If you can talk while you’re performing a set, go home. Start taking your sets to the point at which you start breathing hard and feeling a deep burn in order to get the gains you want

    Time equals muscle

    A highly overlooked, but very useful tool for progressive resistance training is – Tempo. I will even go one step further and call tempo an essential tool for attaining optimum results from weight training. Yes, it’s true one can attain results performing reps just like every other hack in the gym, but I’m talking about optimum results.

    If you’re going to spend the time in the gym, why not get the most out of it. The biggest reason most people who weight train don’t use tools like tempo is shear laziness. Performing a set to momentary failure, to the point where you can’t possibly get another rep is grueling. Few people have what it takes to train correctly, achieving 100% intensity. Hence, the legions of frustrated people in gyms across the US. Like any endeavor, doing your best takes hard work, focus and dedication.

    So what is tempo? Tempo goes hand in hand with “time under tension” or TUT. TUT is simply the amount of time a muscle in under tension. To develop the optimum amount of muscle in the shortest amount of time, a set should last between 20 and 60 seconds.

    Tempo is the speed of your reps. It is expressed and recorded by three or four digit numbers representing the seconds required to complete a rep. Example: 402 (four, zero, two) or 50X0 (five, zero, explosive, zero). Using the bench press, the first digit is the speed in which the weight is lowered (negative). The second digit is the amount of time one pauses once they’ve reached their chest. The third digit is the amount of time one takes to raise the weight (positive). The forth digit, if used, is the amount of time one takes before lowering the weight again. If an “X” is used, it means explosive, or as fast as possible.

    Designing Your Workouts

    Is it really necessary to count each rep in order to build strength and muscle? No. Is it necessary to lift under control and to vary your speeds to get the best most rapid gains per your genetics? Yes. When you perform an exercise under control, the muscles are truly doing the work. ?Slower?, not ?slow? speeds make the muscles work harder by eliminating momentum and bouncing. There?s nothing impressive about performing a bench press by allowing the weight to drop, bounce off your chest and then barely being able to complete the lift.

    If tempo is used properly, the target muscle group is truly performing the exercise. Tempo forces one to lift in a very controlled manner, but like any training tool it should be used as an adjunct to your weight training program.

    The Good Morning

    Bending over to pick something up can be a very dangerous move if done with a rounded back. Most people in their lifetime will have an injury to the lower back. One way to help prevent such injuries is to do the good morning.

    Performing the good morning is an excellent choice for strengthening and building the posterior chain, which includes the lower back, glutes and hamstrings. The glutes (butt) and the hamstrings are responsible for hip extension while the muscles of the lower back (erector spinea) are contracted statically.

    Because of the large degree of hip flexion, the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings are utilized throughout the movement. The glutes work in unison with the hamstring to extend the hips in the concentric (raising) part of the movement. The hamstrings, located on the back of the upper thigh, become more involved as you begin to decrease the degree of hip flexion while raising the weight. The erector spinea, which run the length of your spine on both sides, are statically contracted throughout most of the movement, keeping the normal curvature of the spine. A static contraction of the rhomboids and the trapezius muscles help maintain the shoulders.

    Extension of the body occurs when the upper body, torso and pelvis rotate up and back. The biggest mistake I see with this movement is allowing the back to ?round? and magnifying the kyphotic (upper back) curvature while de-emphasizing the lordotic (lower back) curvature. I need to add that a slight curve of the upper back will present no danger and will happen to most while using heavy weight, but if you look like a big question mark (?) while performing the exercise, that?s a different story.

    The good morning

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