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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More is only better when it comes to sex and money
The duration of exercise is the volume or number of sets performed. Intensity and duration have an inverse relationship. Meaning, the harder you train, the less time can be spent training. This is because we have a finite amount of fuel available to carry that level of stress. This is not a choice or an opinion; it?s fact.
Let?s take another look at a sprinter versus a marathoner. By definition a sprint is: To move rapidly or at top speed for a brief period, as in running. The key words here are ?top speed? and ?brief?. A sprinter runs with all out effort or 100% intensity. Because of this all out effort, which is a tremendous amount of stress on the body, the duration of the movement is brief. Now it becomes clear why a 400 meter run and longer are not considered sprints. Although some do consider the 400m a sprint, runners are not running with all out 100% effort as in the 100m or 200m sprints. Point being, one can only exert themselves with 100% effort for so long.
In the case of marathon runners, they train at a very low intensity. Because of the inverse relationship between intensity and duration, unlike sprinters, endurance athletes can train for extended periods of time. This is not to say endurance training is not difficult, I am merely pointing out the physiological fact the body can only train so hard for so long.
This brings us to the second way most people train too much, but the most common; too many sets. Although training hard is the best way to move forward, some people are under the impression that doing more is training harder. This couldn?t be farther from the truth.
Training all out, poses extreme demands on the body’s resources, which are governed by genetics and in limited supply. Because of this finite supply, the body will not allow you to train ?too hard? for too long, and gives clues you are reaching your limits. Once you reach failure performing a set, or run out of gas during a workout, you?re simply not able to train any harder. It doesn?t matter what you do at this point, the body is done. Performing anything more than what is optimum, will hinder your progress. Yet, at this point, most perform more sets with reduced weight or reduced intensity because of the more is better mentality. Do not get caught in this no win cycle.
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What is CrossFit (CF)?? In a nut shell it?s performing movements and or exercises under time that are continuously varied from workout to workout.? Started in the mid 1990?s, this training system does have value in improving ones fitness level; that?s where the benefits stop.
CF?s upside according to its proponents is being a total-body conditioning workout that is purposefully varied, which inhibits boredom.? I think it?s a home run for fitness enthusiasts because the workouts are challenging and competitive.? CF?s inherent difficulty, notice I said difficulty not intensity, also benefits the average person because most people do not train hard enough to elicit any measurable result.
The seemingly illogical CF programming is an effort to challenge as many movement patterns and energy systems as possible.? ?CF is not a specialized fitness program but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of the ten recognized fitness domains.? They are cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, stamina, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.? Says founder Greg Glassman who is also known for his outrageous unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of CF.
Its the lack of specificity that gives CF it?s upside and its downside. Because the body is receiving multiple forms of stimulus the body never excels at any of them.? Somebody who starts out as a crossfitter and was not strong or muscular through previous training, will not make appreciable gains in strength or muscularity.? Sure, one can get very fit, but that’s too one dimensional.
Intensity and duration exist in an inverse ratio. In other words, as the intensity while performing an exercise increases, the amount of time one can perform the exercise decreases.? CF proponents claim their program utilizes a high level of intensity.? Well, there is no such thing as performing a movement or exercise for 5, 10, or 30 minutes and training with high intensity.? This is a physiological fact, not a choice, and certainly not something you can ?build? up to.
Is CF difficult? You bet your ass.? Is CF Intense? No.? This can best be explained by comparing a sprinter and a miler.? Any type of endurance event is by its very nature of low intensity.? Sprinters are always sucking wind at the end of a race.? In contrast, long distance runners are usually breathing close to normal after several miles of running.? It doesn?t matter how long a world class sprinter trains, because he is going all out physiologically, he is breathing hard every race.? Sprinters, as a result of their intense training are far more muscular than the thin distance runners.? This is not to say distance runners don?t work hard, they do, but the body can only perform at a high level of intensity for so long.? And intensity is a prerequisite to gaining strength and muscle.
You?ll never get truly strong performing CrossFit. No matter what Glassman or other CF coaches claim, it?s not going to happen.? A CrossFitter will never be able to achieve strength gains anywhere near the level of a powerlifter or even a strength enthusiast.? The vast majority of crossfitters have no appreciable strength what-so-ever.? The CrossFitters who are fairly strong or muscular, are former bodybuilders, powerlifters and weight lifting enthusiasts.? Training that targets endurance strength doesn’t increase maximal strength.? Training for maximal strength, however, does increase one’s strength endurance. ? If getting stronger, especially maximal strength, is your goal CF isn?t for you.
You will not attain any measure of lean mass. CF?s founder Greg Glassman claims CF, for the natural athlete, is better at building muscle than traditional hypertrophy weight training.? As with most of his claims there?s no science or empirical data to back this assertion.? While touting the muscle building capacity of CF he fails to explain, the lack of muscularity among most CF athletes.? Crossfitters don?t come close to the muscular development of a natural bodybuilder.?? At best some Crossfitters look athletic, which is great, if that?s your goal.? But, if you want to be muscular, CF is not for you especially if you?re a hard gainer.
It?s been well documented that within the fitness industry for decades that brief high intensity muscular contraction is the most important stimulus for building muscle and strength.? The duration of the exercise or movement is crucial, but can be counter-productive.? Sets lasting 5, 10, 30 minutes are completely of target for building anything but endurance.
If overall conditioning is what you want?? If improving your physique is what you want?? If increasing your endurance is what you want?? Learn how to train each energy system properly for optimum results.? CrossFit needs to be taken for what it really is, a great fitness program.? That?s where it ends.
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