Although it certainly would be simpler that way, and there’d be an awful lot more strong people out there….
But since it involves three distinct systemic requirements, most people don’t really see a large up-swing in strength even they might work out very hard in the gym for years.
Those three requirements are:
Progressively increasing resistance.
Proper diet and supplementation.
Sufficient recovery and a strategy to deal with DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.)
(Although this blog will deal primarily with the third requirement, it might be best to touch upon the first two in brief.)
Progressively increasing resistance means doing a couple of things…
1) using enough weight to work a particular muscle to failure, but not too much as to fail to get a full series of sets.
( example: 3×10, at 70% 1RM)
2) slowly increasing the amount of weight used on a particular movement, during the course of time.
( example: adding 5 pounds every couple of weeks, while keeping the same number of reps)
Proper diet and supplementation refers to keeping those things your body needs to grow and get stronger bio-available during the most-essential times… especially within 1 hour of starting and ending a workout, and first thing in the morning.
Of all the possible scenarios, the minimum rules are these:
a) Never skip breakfast
b) Eat small meals throughout the day
c) Use the 40/30/30 plan
d) Get at least 50g Whey Protein before and after your workout!
before- add 5g BCAA, 5g Glutamine, 5g Creatine, 5g Beta-Alanine.
after- add Carbs, 5g BCAA, 5g Glutamine, 5g Cissus, 3 g Gluco-Chond-MSM.
Recovery and DOMS
If you’re as stubborn and bullheaded as me, you want to workout hard every day.
Of course, you shouldn’t, because growth in muscle and strength is dependent on REST between workouts.
But, if one can squeeze in more intense workouts, by ‘compressing’ the amount of recovery time, well… that’s a different deal altogether.
There have been a number of studies – and a few interesting facts have come to light along the way; these ideas may help you find more time for workouts, while giving your body ample time to recover.
For instance, Glycogen is an essential muscle fuel source for moderate- to high-intensity exercise.
Once depleted, the capacity to perform at these exercise intensities is lost or severely limited.
Therefore, the faster the muscle glycogen stores can be replenished after exercise the faster the recovery process and theoretically the greater the return of performance capacity.
But, interestingly enough, there are studies that indicate that the faster the glycogen stores are replenished, the less muscle fiber damage; indicating the possibility that this is not the best environment for muscle growth… however, this possibility is outweighed by the fact that the faster recovery time means a potentially quicker cycletime for exercise.
“For rapid recovery from exercise, immediately after a workout (strength or endurance), we must:
1. Rapidly replenish the low glycogen stores in our muscles.
2. Rapidly decrease the muscle protein breakdown that occurs with exercise.
3. Rapidly force further increases in muscle protein synthesis.
Failure to accomplish any one of these objectives will lead to a lowered rate of recovery from your workout. And the slower the recovery process is, the less growth you can stimulate!
Studies have found that delaying nutrient (protein and carbohydrate) consumption after a workout can greatly reduce the rate of glycogen restoration and protein synthesis. In fact, the rate of glycogen synthesis is reduced by 50% if nutrients aren’t consumed immediately after a workout.
Furthermore, it’s important to understand that post-workout protein synthesis increases (what will lead to increased muscle mass) are in part due to the rate of glycogen synthesis, increased insulin levels, and increased insulin sensitivity from the workout. As we just saw, delaying post-workout nutrients absorption will drastically decrease the rate of glycogen synthesis, which will negatively affect protein synthesis.
Plus, a few hours after a workout, the insulin sensitisation stimulated by the bout of training will be much lower: there’s a two to threefold increase in insulin sensitivity immediately post-workout. After two or three hours, it’s down to only 44% above baseline. So basically, if you wait too long after your workout to consume a mix of fast absorbing proteins and high glycemic carbohydrates, the amount of muscle you’ll build in response to your session will be significantly decreased.
Another interesting point is brought up by a study by Tipton et al. (2001) which has demonstrated that pre-workout supplementation with proteins and carbohydrates leads to a greater rate of protein synthesis following a workout than simply consuming the same drink immediately after the session.
An ideal post-workout formula would include fast-absorbing proteins, high glycemic carbs, and some additional BCAAs (which have been shown to drastically increase protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown on their own).
I find that 30 minutes of cardio after a heavy weight session dramatically improves my rate of recovery. A recent study looked at two post-workout recovery strategies; Active Recovery (AR)- performing sub maximal exercise, cardio, or posing, to promote recovery from hard-core training sessions, versus Passive Recovery (PR)- collapsing on a recliner from complete exhaustion, in an attempt to catch one’s breath and relax their muscles for the next workout or set in the iron jungle. The study looked at three aspects of recovery: Blood Flow, Lactic Acid clearance, and Post-workout Pain.
This pain was caused by an accumulation of hydrogen ions that stimulate pain nerves located in the muscle. Performance decline is induced by both metabolic and muscular fatigue.
Metabolically, a decreased pH causes the inactivation of several enzymes, membrane nutrient transport mechanism inefficiencies, and energy decreased accessibility. All of these factors ultimately lead to reduction in the production of ATP. Thus, decreased performance. Concerning muscular exhaustion, lactic acid promotes the restrain of the actomyosin ATPase, which breaks down ATP so it can provide energy for your body. In addition, H+ interferes with calcium uptake that is essential for muscular contractions. Increased lactate may also interfere with cross bridging. These factors lead to a decline in both the force and velocity of muscular contractions.
Lactic acid can severely inhibit your athletic performance if not cleared out of your system. So finally, how do you help your body clear LA? By far, the most proficient mechanism is oxidation both during, and after exercise. Subsequently, we discuss how to accomplish this via active recovery.
First, Lactic acid is best cleared through oxidation. So any movement that supplied your body with oxygen, would be of great assistance. The optimal procedure for this is low intensity aerobic (with oxygen) movements. Did you notice I said low intensity? Though high intensity aerobics would supply ample amounts of oxygen to your body, it would also induce higher levels of lactic acid, which is counter productive.
Here is an extremely fascinating study. The effects of different recovery regimens on white blood cell count (WBCC) and muscle enzyme activities following strenuous, sub maximal, steady state workouts on a treadmill was examined. 14 athletes participated in an intense run (70-80% of their VO2 max) followed by either 15 minutes of passive recovery (complete rest), or 15 minutes of active recovery (running at 50% of their VO2 max). The results showed that PR was associated with a 35% reduction in WBCC, compared to only a 6% decrease when using AR! They concluded that AR clearly prevents the initial drop in WBCC following strenuous training sessions.
They also performed a study on which type of active recovery was most beneficial for LA clearance. Subjects performed 4 separate cool downs for 40 minutes; passive recovery, active recovery (cycling at 35% VO2 max, or at 65% VO2 max), and interval training consisting of cycling at 65% for 7 min followed by cycling at 35% for 33 minutes. The rate of blood LA disappearance was significantly greater in continuous AR at 35% VO2 max, compared with other intensity levels. They concluded that low intensity; continuous active recovery is most beneficial for LA clearance.
Athletic performance is regularly impaired by soreness. Thus, any application that limits the extent of damage or hastens recovery would be of interest and practical value to soldiers of the iron jungle. Muscular aches often occur after a hard-core training bout. These pains typically peak 24–48 hours after exercise, and are known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is the bane of strength trainers; it keeps one from working a muscle as hard as one might otherwise, it might even keep one out of the gym altogther.
Countless hours of scientific research have been dedicated to optimal recovery from DOMS. Active recovery, once again, shows great promise to the elite athlete. Consider the following studies:
It has been established that a highly effective mean for reducing DOMS is through active resisted exercise of the affected muscle groups. Hasson et al. investigated the use of light exercise in the treatment of DOMS 24 hour’s post-eccentric quadriceps training. A significant reduction in symptoms was demonstrated.
Tiidus et al. is a major advocate of AR for DOMS. Through several experiments he has shown that for elevated muscle blood flow through low intensity exercise would be of great benefit, and would “thereby enhance healing and temporarily reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.”
“Sayers et. al compared a lighter training session (active recovery) compared to pure rest. Eight subjects rested after a taxing elbow flexor workout, while nine performed a lighter training session to aid recovery. The results showed that strength recovery was better after light exercise when compared with just rest. This study confirms, that even if you do not perform split volume training, that a light training session while the muscle is recovering can be very beneficial.”
The results are clear: performing Active Recovery exercise during recovering periods is of great assistance for alleviating DOMS, expediting recovery, and improving athletic performance, as will pre and post-workout supplementation, with protein, carbs, BCAA’s, and glutamine.
Hey- See You in the GYM!
(Note: the following post and any other posts of mine are strictly for entertainment purposes only,
and are not to be taken as medical advice or any other kind of fuckin advice for that matter…………
see your doctor before entertaining any ideas of using any of this entertainment for your own entertainment. Get it? Good.)
Strength training can take a toll on your body and your mind.
Here’s how to avoid staying in a rut you can’t pull out of.
Anybody would think that the weight lifting / strength training lifestyle would be good fer ya.
But once you’ve been doing it for a while,
… there are gonna be times when you come to doubt it.
You roll out of bed in the morning with your shoulder poppin’,
and your knees hurtin’,
and your elbows achin’,
and your back screamin’….
Of course, you might just chalk that up to getting old…..
I’m 52, and stuff is gonna hurt just natural from chasin girls all those years.
Naaaah…… 52 is the new 32, din’t ya hear?
We all know that weight training IS good fer ya, especially if you’re over 40 –
it allows you to keep the muscle you already got,
… and maybe even put on some new muscle, too….
it helps keep your body producing vital hormones like testosterone and growth hormone….
it stimulates the mind and helps keep you alert and focused……
it is a vital part of maintaining libido, promotes firm erections, and drives motivation…..
it help keep you looking younger and fitter than most people fifteen or twenty years younger than you….
( it also puts you in close proximity with gym hotties you probably wouldnt get near without tuckin’ five dollar bills in their g-strings otherwise….. )
But some days……… yow.
I recently went through a period of time, about 5 weeks, where my training was just draggin’.
Man, I mean really draggin’.
It wasn’t like I wasnt lifting as heavy —
—it just seemed that I was just working a lot harder to get it in.
My joints seemed to hurt more, and my recovery slowed to a crawl.
I wasn’t adding more weight to the stack —
— and I was walking out of the gym every day feeling completely done in.
…. let’s talk about the several possible culprits here,
———- assuming you don’t just say that I’m past it.
Cause I ain’t.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask yourself the questions I have listed in BOLD.
The first thing I did when I noticed the lack of progress and the additional soreness, was to have a physical and my blood checked.
What the doctor and I were looking for was a reduction in my T-Levels, or a physiological problem, like with red blood cells or liver function.
And, although I did have raised levels of creatinine
( a by product of creatine supplementation, but also a marker for reduced liver function )
…… and a surplus of Iron —
( mens bodies don’t use much iron, and if this additional iron isn’t cleared from the system, it can be dangerous ),
there wasn’t anything immediately pertinent to the issue at hand…..
T levels looked nominal, red blood cells slightly high but ok.
No infection, nothing that out of the ordinary.
This is the first question one should ask —
— is there a medical condition that could be causing a lag in training?
Secondly, I looked at my sleep and rest patterns.
Again, somewhat problematic —- I work at night – and sleep a broken pattern–
a nap in the morning, then hit the gym, and a couple hours sleep before work in the evening.
But, the truth is, that really hasn’t changed much in the last coupla years — I see no reason why it would be affecting me much more only now.
I can’t discount the fact that I am lifting more weight — I am working harder — than ever before, and that very well could mean that I need more sleep than ever before, too.
I found an extra half an hour I was wasting in the morning before my nap, and another half hour in the evening – an extra hour of sleep translates into 20% more sleep – which should translate into me being more rested – and boosting my recovery, too.
As far as ‘rest days’ is concerned, I was lifting five times a week, with a ‘compressed all around day’ on Saturday, which included several leg components previously worked that week on Wednesdays ( my regular leg day ), including heavy squats and deadlifts.
Over-training could be a possibility, certainly.
I decided that, for a time, I would delete the Saturday ‘all around’ workout completely, and especially not work my legs on any other day than my regular legs day.
An extra off day shouldn’t affect my strength negatively, as long as I’m hitting it hard the rest of the week.
As you know, your muscles only grow when they’re at rest – so I should actually gain strength in the long run.
So, the second question one should ask —
— Am I getting enough rest, sleep and recovery time?
Now it was time to look at my nutrition.
I realized right off that my protein intake had been seriously reduced over the last couple months due to a Spring lean-out program I had been following, which stresses fruits and vegetables over meat — very effective at leaning me out, but clearly might be affecting my strength.
( Hey – ya can’t blame me for wanting to look good in my bathing suit, ya know? )
I had not compensated for the reduction in protein with more whey, because I wanted to avoid the calories, instead adding more BCAA’s.
Studies indicate that whole proteins are more effective in this context.
I was also not ‘eating up’ for a training session like I used to… and decided to follow my carb intake more carefully to ensure the necessary fuel for my workouts.
The best strength training diet contains enough calories to run the body and a little extra to build muscle – in the proportion of 40% proteins, 30% carbs, and 30% fat.
A daily caloric restriction below 2500 is not efficient for strength building.
Third Question —
Am I getting enough good calories – at the correct ratio – to fuel my workouts?
Another important concern has to do with supplementation.
I wondered how resistant my body had grown to absorbing certain supplements I had been using for a long period of time.
Creatine is a good example… I don’t ‘cycle’ Creatine as some people do, i don’t see the point.
However, I did realize that my creatine intake was sporadic- I would take it on my workout days, but not on my rest days… was that causing my creatine levels to be less than optimally loaded?
The fact that my creatinine levels were high makes me wonder whether there’s too much, or too little, creatine being reserved in my cells.
I decided to be more consistent in my creatine intake, and that of beta-alanine as well.
I’ll have another blood test in six months…. we’ll see what the regularity of intake will do to my creatinine levels….. and go from there.
Glutamine is a terrific supplement to aid in recovery — again, it’s used extensively on my workout days, but hardly at all on my off days – and now that I have an extra off day, I will have to make an extra special effort to get it in.
Two supplements that I had taken completely off my list were: Glucosamine/Chondrotin/MSM and Cissus… they were expensive, and I thought I could do without them…..
I realize now that they had been very effective in keeping my joints feeling well, and the pain in check, and have since added them back.
I have also added back a testosterone booster …. I was using X-Test by Xcience, which I found to be excellent, but it was pulled by my supplier, and I have been doing without. I have added a product called “Tribuloid”, and am currently evaluating it. I’ll let ya know.
I guess the bottom line on these supplements is this:
……… you might not feel them working, but you’ll miss them when they’re gone.
Am I using those supplements that help me attain my goals?
A lot of guys who find themselves stuck in a rut start with the next question…. and it certainly is an important one…. because of muscle fibers’ uncanny ability to adapt themselves to a workout program….. you’ve got to mix up your workout, and try to keep your muscles off balance— constantly responding and growing.
This is the ‘muscle confusion’ theory… it’s almost like your muscles are like a repetitive job worker— they get bored of doing the same old work, and just kinda do the minimum required of them. Punch in, do whats required, punch out. Yawn yawn.
If you wanna get stronger, you’ve got to constantly change up your workout- the intensity, the movements, the implements, even the order of when you work certain groups.
The changes can be simple, like alternating wide grip bench presses with narrow grip, or more complicated, like adding dumbbells and machines to overhead pressing with just a bar.
A change like using a straight bar instead of an easy curl bar will force your body to respond, when it has adapted to curls the old way, you betcha. Even if you have to temporarily lighten up the weight.
I modified my workout so that I’m adding new movements, and variations on old ones. I’m alternating stiff legged deadlifts with sumos, for instance, and the variety feels great.
I changed the order of my push-pull sets… and varying the intensity as well.
I needed the change, and it really rejuvenated my whole routine.
Am I constantly provoking my muscles to add strength with new challenges??
This last one is the one most overlooked, and also the one that causes the most people to give up strength training all together…….
It’s not enough to go to the gym, and do the work.
You gotta have the eye of the tiger while you’re doing it.
It’s one part intensity, one part aggression, one part just plain bad attitude.
You gotta know you’re a monster…. and there ain’t a weight made you cant lift.
Call me a jerk, but get outta my way, cause it’s time to hit it.
Pain? I’ll worry about that after I’m done lifting these cream puff weights.
It just boils down to attitude….. you gotta stay fired up – or find a way to get fired up.
And everybody has a different way of doing it, although it really is all self-talk.
By self talk, I mean encouraging yourself through positive statements, and avoiding thinking negative.
It can’t be: ” oh jeez, not time for the gym again…”
It’s gotta be: “oh yes!!! Time for the GYM !!! ”
The last question:
Do I have my mind right???
…………………….. Well, DO YA ?????
I never seem to get any interesting email anymore.
The AOL ‘you’ve got mail’ guy tells me I got mail.
(sounds of tearing envelopes.
Hey- Use yer imagination!! )
Oh goodie. Just in time for my blog. What a coincidence, huh?
Here’s an interesting email I just got.
“Any suggestions on getting going for the gym when youre not feeling like it?”
Well, thanks for the interesting email !! Absolutely!!!
The one very important aspect of strength training that is often overlooked is the psychological one…
(and while my background is in strength training, you can apply this perspective to any kind of training.)
and more particularly – the phenomena of perceived weight load/overload.
I’ve often been in the gym on a day when I just didn’t feel like working out.
I’ll drag my ass in there anyway, because I know – that if I didn’t,
I’d feel even worse (and lazier) the NEXT day.
But, once there, I’d have to “get my mind right” – that is, psych myself up.
The right music helps, but in the end, its just ‘YOU’ versus ‘LAZY YOU’,
or ‘IT HURTS, YOU’
or ‘IT’S TOO HEAVY YOU’
or ‘I’D RATHER BE WATCHIN OPRAH YOU’
(no, no… NOT THAT! Say it ain’t SO!)
Well, you know what I mean.
I like to run a kinda game on myself.
Before starting a heavy set, say- deadlifts, I’ll repeat 5 or 6 times:
(under my breath , usually…
though, maybe people CAN hear me, because I do get a LOT of funny looks in the gym……
—- but maybe it’s just ’cause I’m funny lookin’….. who knows – )
“NO WEIGHT” , “NO WEIGHT”
“NO WEIGHT” “NO WEIGHT”
Now- of course, consciously, I know that 630 pounds weighs 630 pounds.
………….But exactly what does 630 pounds FEEL LIKE?
Well, that’s where this little ritual comes in…. it’s still 630 pounds,
but it feels much lighter than what I would expect 630 pounds to weigh if I hadn’t run thru my lil ritual.
Get it? SURE- It’s all in your mind…. and- that’s the point.
Your are using your MIND as a muscle to help you lift the weight.
Hey, before you scoff yerself off, TRY IT.
A lot of people use it, and it works.
When I was coaching youth baseball, I used to preach to the kids that they
should VISUALIZE themselves making a play or hitting the ball before they actually stepped in to play;
the parents seemed to think I was crazy, but the kids that tried it found that it actually improved their game.
This is the phenomena of the ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ or ‘Pygmalion effect’; and I used it often when I was teaching motivational sales techniques back in my rat-race days as well.
In Sociologist Robert Merton’s ground breaking book “Social Theory and Social Structure”,
he described this effect , and wrote it occured when “a false definition of the situation evokes a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true”.
If you like to read, I highly recommend “Iron Mind: Stronger Minds, Stronger Bodies” by R. Strossen;
it was a great primer on “getting yer mind right” for a session of lifting heavy weights, broken down into small ‘digestible’ pieces.
Just remember – your motivation must be mental.
Your body is never gonna say “let’s workout!”.
Mind First – Body Follows.
Choose to do it – then DO it.
I was at GNC on Saturday, in time to hear a clerk there tell a customer ( young male, 25 or so, 25%? body fat ) that cardio should never be done after resistance training.
And, that he should do cardio one day, and resistance training the next, and so on.
Alrighty– he’s not an expert, he’s a guy working at GNC.
But there are several studies that I have read, that basically said the same thing.
So, who to believe?
Well, this is one of them things that doesn’t have one right answer—
It gets back to knowing your body, understanding your workout, and determining the most efficient way to attain your goals.
I can tell you how I understand it….
There was a definitive Japanese study in 2005, that showed peak power was improved over a four month period by doing strength training FIRST , and then following that up with 30-45 minutes of cardio .
That has always worked for me.
But think about it — that’s for a person who trains for strength — I don’t give a hot damn about the mirror.
If you’re cutting, or on weight loss regimen, or trying to trim up for bikini season, I’d spend much time more time doing cardio— before and after resistance training.
More cardio at the 165-180 heart rate range is what will get you the results in this case .
Light resistance training, like in this example, is for toning, not for building and adding, muscle.
Sure, you can build muscle and do cardio, too — but it’s more in how you balance your workout — 40% of the workout might be cardio, and 60% might be heavier-resistance training.
I still say, though…. save cardio for the end.
Send em: firstname.lastname@example.org
I dunno how you get to be an exercise physiologist,
but I guess that’s not really important right now….
( I’ll have to ask that question one of these workouts… )
Anyhoo…. he introduced himself on a leg day in December, while I was on the leg press….
He said he’d like to work in, (lighter, of course) and see if he could put some of his ideas into practice.
We got to talking about it, and I decided to help him.
Now, I have no problem with this .. it seems to me that he and I both could benefit, if we can mutually find ways of improving power output and reducing recovery time.
He’ll probably get a study published or some such,
….. and me, well,
I’ll be happy if I just can add some additional power to my arsenal.
We’ve been working on prolonging muscle contractions to increase long term power — quadriceps in particular.
Basically– flexing your quads while slowing down your reps to a crawl.
Initially, I wasn’t happy about him taking almost 200 pounds off the sled on my first test set….
We ended up putting it back on for the 2 thru the 4th sets for a working weight of 1260 or so.
The slower rep added to the contraction really made my quads pop, tho.
I was really sore with DOMS for about 48 hours after, but four days later, my legs felt like they were ready to pull the jet.
( We do that in the fall, though. )
We’re gonna do some more testing for the next 4 weeks, and I’ll let you know the final results, but I can tell you now that it’s gonna be a net gain.
I can feel it in my quads.
Remember: DON’T SKIP LEG DAY !!!!