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!


A no-nonsense guide to designing your workouts

In my recently rewritten article “A no-nonsense guide to design your workouts“, which is a three-part series, I offer no BS ways for beginners and veterans alike to keep their workouts fresh while consistently making gains.

Everywhere you turn these days, weight training seems to be the focus. And why shouldn’t it be? A proper weight training program produces many positive effects, including: increased muscle mass; reduced body fat; increased bone density; improved insulin sensitivity; improved self-esteem; and overall well-being. The list goes on. Yet with all the information available, why is it so hard for people to make progress? Because most of what is out there is BULLSHIT!!

Helping people is what being a trainer and a coach is all about. Most publishers and editors are so hell-bent on selling magazines, they print things like this: “Put 2 inches on your arms in 21 days;” “Have a chest like Arnold’s in just 6 weeks.” People, just like you, purchase this type of trash in the hopes that it might work. These writers and editors rely on your ignorance.

Having the knowledge and ability to help somebody achieve their goals goes far beyond writing an article about workouts. Writing workouts is actually a pretty easy thing to do. Just about anyone with a little bit of knowledge can do it, and many ? unfortunately — do. The barriers to entry to become a personal trainer are so low, most certificates aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. In contrast, look at the barriers to entry to become a nurse. Several years of school filled with prerequisites, in which you need a 78 percent just to pass, coupled with many hours of hands-on clinicals. What education does a trainer need? Send away for some study guides, take a test, and “Bam!” you’re a certified trainer.


Partial reps vs full range of motion

I am not a huge fan of using partial reps, but will use them sparingly with experienced lifters to “through a wrench into their workout”. When I prescribe them they are performed after the client has already reached momentary concentric failure during a set. But, because partial reps place such high demands on the recovery ability of the muscles being worked, I caution against using them more than once every 4 workouts per body part. In reference to this belief, I received an email from an intermediate lifter claiming a study (J Strength Cond Res, 2004, 18(3), 518-521) proved partial reps should be incorporated in his workout instead of full range reps.?

I did a little research, as always, and found the study the gentleman was referencing. This study was conducted over a 10-week period using the bench press as the criterion measurement. Subjects were divided into three groups. Group one trained with full range of motion sets. Group two trained with partial range of motion sets. A partial range of motion was defined as two to five inches from full extension of the elbows. Group three trained with a combination of both partial and full range reps. All groups were pre and post-tested with a full range of motion one rep maximum. No differences were found between the groups. So should we or shouldn’t we use partial reps?

There are several problems I find with this study that are common to many studies trying to illuminate the most efficacious training principles. First, and perhaps most important, inexperienced, recreational subjects were used. Inexperienced subjects can achieve gains in the first few months on just about any program. Second, the length of time the study was conducted was entirely too short. six, eight or, like this study, 10 weeks is just not enough time to show the efficacy of a particular training protocol. And third, the intensity of the exercises or perceived exertion is not mentioned or monitored. Are the subjects going to failure on their sets? Are some subjects pushing themselves harder than others? Are the subjects training in the same manner on exercises other than the bench press? This study like most training studies shows nothing.


Perfect Pecs

Like a great set of developed arms, a well developed chest always gets attention.? Chest and arms are the most frequently worked body parts in any gym across the country.? You never hear of anyone skipping a chest workout to do legs, but frequently hear people skipping their leg workout.? Most of this is due to shear laziness, but some is because chest is much more fun to work.

In their quest for an “Arnold like” chest many people look for that one exercise or that one workout that, like magic, will give them the chest they want.? Unfortunately, genetics, as with all body parts, determines the size and shape of ones chest.? This doesn’t mean, however, that one can’t improve upon what they have.

Do not get caught up in the game of trying to make your muscles look a certain way.? You will consistently be disappointed.? Instead concentrate on making the best of what you’ve got.? You can do this by hitting the chest from a variety of angles.? It is also imperative you “feel” the muscle being worked.? Concentrating on feeling your chest work is as important as performing the exercises. And last, using TEMPO to increase muscle tension is essential and will help to improve your concentration level.?

Learn more about these and other guidelines to build Perfect Pecs.


Sex differences in the gym

Weight training can elicit numerous benefits including injury prevention. However, weight lifting has it’s share of injuries and according to a study in Cincinnati Ohio, which examined a sample of 3713 patients, these injuries vary between genders. The objective of this study was to examine the differences in injuries associated with strength training in adolescents and young adults.

Comparisons of accidental injuries between the sexes revealed that women had significantly greater odds while strength training when compared to men. Women had higher foot, trunk, and leg injuries, where as men had higher arm, hand, and head injuries. Men had a much higher percentage of their injuries in the form of strains and sprains compared to women, but there was no difference in reported fractures. The trunk was by far the most commonly injured body part for both men (36.9%) and women (27.4%).

The findings of this study show that men are at far greater risk for exertional types of weight training injuries than women. However, women had significantly higher odds of accidental weight training injuries compared to men, which researchers say is of particular concern. Common accidental injuries include dropped weights, improper use of equipment, or tipping over of equipment. Does this really surprise anyone?


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