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!
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Ten simple steps to getting stronger now
Follow these 10 steps by Men?s Fitness.com to gain more strength (and essentially, more muscle).
1.) Own the “big four.”
The squat, deadlift, bench press, and shoulder press are the best strength-building exercises, period. The chinup and row are great moves too, but don’t make them the focus of your workout ? they can be assistance lifts to complement the bench and shoulder press, keeping your pulling muscles in balance with the pressing ones.
2.) Use barbells first.
Forget all the fad equipment. The barbell is king, the dumbbell is queen, and everything else is a court jester ? it may have its place, but it’s not essential. Start your workouts with barbell exercises, such as the “big four,” as described above. Barbells let you load a lot of weight, and lifting heavy is the first step toward getting stronger. Once your heaviest strength exercises are out of the way, you can move on to dumbbell and body-weight training.
4.) Maintain a log.
Write down your exercises, sets, reps, and the fate of each workout. Keep track of your best lifts and the most reps you’ve done with a certain weight on an exercise. Constantly strive to improve those numbers.
7.) Add weights slowly.
The main reason people plateau and stop gaining strength is that they go too heavy for too long. Abandon your ego and do your main lifts using 10% less than the most weight you can lift for the given rep range. Increase the weight each session ? but by no more than 10 pounds ? and stick with the same lifts. You’ll rarely plateau again.
To see the entire list of 10, click here.
A lot of beginners (and veterans of the gym for that matter) like to do a variety of exercises and a variety of different movements in efforts to gain muscle. But as the article notes, keeping it simple is key. Doing compound movements and keeping track of your gains is crucial. After that, everything else is just additional.
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Tags: bench press, deadlifts, Exercise tips, gain more muscle, gain more strength, gaining strength, shoulder press, squats, tips for gaining strength and muscle, tips to gain strength, ways to gain muscle, ways to gain strength, Workout tips
The Push-up. Switch it up.
Do you train at home and feel there is not enough variety? To help switch things up, change what muscles you stimulate during push-ups by changing hand and foot positions. A study conducted by scientists from the University of Athens compared standard push-ups (hands shoulder width apart, legs supported on toes) with modified push-ups (?women?s push-ups,? with legs supported on knees), hands wider than shoulder width, hands together, hands above the chest, and hands below the chest. Women?s push-ups decreased the overall load by about 15%. The wider hand position stimulated the pecs more, while the triceps were targeted more with a narrow hand position. Next time you do push-ups, decide which body parts you want to stimulate more and position your hands accordingly.
(J Strength Cond Res, 19:146-151, 2005)
If you want to increase the difficulty of the movement above that of a standard push-up, use a stability ball. Start with the ball just below your knees. To make the movement more difficult move the ball towards your feet making sure to keep your body rigid and straight throughout the movement.
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Q and A with Mike Furci
I was told to do dumbbell flys on an incline bench (35-40 degrees). wrong? better? worse?
A: Better? No. Different? Yes.
As the angel of the incline starts to go beyond 30% the only difference is the degree to which the deltoids are used. And while we’re on the subject of angled benches, don’t even bother with decline bench. It is a myth that it stimulates the bottom portion of the pec muscles more than the flat bench.
Also, if you’re performing different angles to change the shape of your pecs, it’s not going to happen. Your shape is genetically predetermined. Train with 100% intensity and stick with the basics.
Read the rest @ Q&A
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