January 12, 2014

How Counting Down Can Make Your Numbers Go Up! (5, 4, 3, 2, 1)

What’s On The Menu Tonight?

Strength is a skill that is best developed, like any skill, through stress and repetition. Ideally one must expose the neuromuscular system to the highest levels of tension, as frequently as possible without overworking the body’s ability to recover from the workload. Factors like the size of the muscles involved will also greatly influence how much weight can be lifted, therefore linking one’s size, to one’s strength levels, and vice versa. And while you can make improvements in strength, or size, without seeing an improvement in the other, progress in most cases won’t be optimal and is why focus should be on improving in both areas as much as possible. The exception being for those who have to perform at a certain bodyweight in that gaining as much strength as possible without gaining weight is ideal.

Typically when the goal is to gain strength, the reps are recommended to remain below 5, as anything over 5 could lead to metabolic fatigue, therefore decreasing performance on the remaining sets (definitely not something you want to have happen when relying on the nervous system). To make up for the lack of work being done, more sets are generally added. The ‘sweet spot’ for total reps usually falls around 25, no matter how you slice it (8 sets of 3, 6 sets of 4, 5 sets of 5, 12 sets of 2). While most examples suggest performing the same amount of reps per set (be it 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 for each set), there’s no rule that says you won’t be successful by performing reps on both ends, or even throughout the entire 1-5 spectrum (there’s no real rules at all, really, but you know what I mean).

January 5, 2014

Super Sets, And A Little Trick To Increase Size And Strength (By Training Biceps or Hamstrings First!)

What A Super Set Is

Two sets performed in succession for either the same muscle group, opposing/antagonist muscle groups, or unrelated muscle groups, is referred to as a ‘super set’.

The Three Ways To Practically Apply Super Sets

If the goal is to recruit and fatigue as many motor units as possible, with the purpose of building muscle, performing a super set for the same muscle group is the most appropriate way to go.

If the goal is to pump as much blood to a given area (the arms or legs in most cases) for hypertrophic purposes, or to maximize performance and minimize recovery, than performing a super set for opposing/antagonistic muscle groups is the most appropriate way to go. The reason being is that when one muscle group is acutely fatigued, the opposing muscle group will receive the added benefit of a greater level of net motor unit recruitment during the succeeding set.

If the goal is to improve conditioning and/or body composition, or direct more volume to a lagging bodypart, performing a super set for unrelated muscle groups is the most appropriate way to go. Generally these types of super sets involve fairly large muscle groups, unless the goal is to bring up a lagging smaller bodypart, to ensure the body is exposed to as much tension as possible so that caloric expenditure and cardiovascular conditioning is maximized.

As always, your goal should dictate just what type of super set would be best for you. There is no shortage of material out there about the benefits of super sets, and there are countless options in which an effective super set can be done, but there is one principle that has remained under the radar that is worth mentioning, and that is – FLEXION before EXTENSION.

January 1, 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Constant Tension Is What It's All About

Stimulate – Definition: to excite/cause

Growth – Definition: the gradual increase

Results Are Linked To One Common Attribute

Stimulating growth is the one common attribute that links nearly everyone’s fitness goals together either directly, or indirectly. A larger muscle will directly influence how much force can be generated (this is beneficial for those looking to improve performance, or rehabilitate an injury), and indirectly positively affect ones health (by improving body composition and therefore health, and also contributing to a leaner, more developed physique, which likely also increase self-esteem/mood).