Archive for efficiency

Building That Squat

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , on May 9, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

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I’ve decided that my squat isn’t near strong enough. I need to do something about it.

There is an old Russian coach who had a ‘foolproof’ (except the soreness and discomfort) way to build your squat by up to 100lbs in a short period of time (13 weeks to be exact). His name was Smolov, and his squat protocol is now famous in the training world.

If you want to try it, google Smolov Squat Program and go to the link from stronglifts.com, they give you a spreadsheet all setup with the weights you’ll need based on your 1 rep maximum.

I have hit 365lbs before on a full-squat, but haven’t done anything heavy lately due to training ADD…so I decided to go conservative and set my max at 335lbs to start. Half way into the program you retest your max to adjust the weights for the 2nd half, so if I was way off, it will be corrected there.

Basically, you start with 3 straight days of high volume squatting, then a few heavy singles and doubles the following week before hitting the grind. This is 3 straight weeks of squatting 4x per week.

Saying i’ll be a little stiff and sore is an understatement but I think it’s the price to pay to really boost up my lift.

Strength truly is the gateway to higher levels of athleticism, so I want to be well over a 2x bodyweight squat.

I am done the first two days, starting the 3rd day tomorrow.

I will try to keep you guys updated to my progress regularly.

At the same time, I am trying to build the strength of my bench up as well…I’m using my own programming for the bench portion though, so we’ll see how it goes…good results so far starting this week off…

 

 

It’s About Getting Better!

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Do You Know What You Are Training?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

Training can be a tricky thing. Most people will tell you it’s just about effort, and for the most part that is where it starts. If you put in lots of work, good things will happen. If you don’t, it becomes hard to make change. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s talk specifics…

If you are looking to improve body composition, sometimes it doesn’t matter WHAT you do, as long as you are doing enough work in general. If you have plenty of room for improvement, then almost anything works, as long as you are doing SOMETHING. However, when your goals are more specific, you need more specific ways of structuring your training and I’ll outline some of these.

You can learn more about this from THIS ARTICLE.

In general, training needs to be focused on a specific characteristic. The one’s we’ll discuss here are Strength, Hypertrophy, Power/Speed, Body Composition, and Conditioning.

NOTE: These categories overlap, and improvements will generally be seen in multiple areas, but the biggest improvements should be seen in the area of FOCUS.

Strength

Typically this is where you will see a lot of the focus for athletes and powerlifters. The average gym goer will opt more for hypertrophy or fat loss due to the aesthetic effects rather than the performance gained from a strength-focused block of training.

When training for strength, a large portion of the adaptation comes from the nervous system and its ability to coordinate the use of your muscle tissue. Synchronization of motor units, inhibition of antagonist muscle groups, and increased recruitment of motor units all contribute to lifting heavy weight on top of some increases in muscle mass.

Here are a few examples of strength work. This is typically compound movements (lots of muscles used) for high load and low repetitions.

Hypertrophy

This is definitely the most popular category for young men, because your biceps can never get big enough. Truthfully, having a decent amount of muscle mass is important for self-confidence and filling out half your wardrobe, so I definitely don’t know it. I think almost every guy has thought about putting on 10lbs of muscle, and every woman has thought about seeing a nice flat stomach. There is nothing wrong with being sexy.

There are a lot of different programs and approaches that are used for hypertrophy but there is definitely a best-way and all the rest. The catch is whether you want muscle mass and strength and power to all improve together. This goes back to the concept of specificity. You can accomplish all 3, but much slower.

Ideal hypertrophy training involves a high amount of volume per body part along with reaching that dreaded fatigue mark (1). In strength and power training this is discouraged, but with hypertrophy training this is the way to go…

Here are a few examples of the kind of volume you want to get for hypertrophy gains!

Conditioning/Fat Loss

If you think about the Crossfit approach, that is definitely the path to go for the best in conditioning and fat loss training. You want to work in a high-intensity heart rate zone with low amounts of rest. The key here is to build circuits with a strong resistance training component so that you are either building muscle mass or maintaining what you have, while shedding body fat. That will ultimately make for the best body composition (Think Percent Body FAT!). If you could do a 30-40 minute mixed workout while avoiding going over the 40 second rest mark you will probably build quite a body composition workout. If you take this version of a Hypertrophy program, cut some of the volume down and make it full-body, you’d have a great workout.

Power/Speed

This is the bread and butter for athletes, but should not be the primary focus year round. The key to power/speed is that you need a sufficient base of strength in order to express high levels of power. Power involves moving high amounts of force quickly. Moving a tiny weight quickly is just annoying, not powerful. There are a few different approaches for working on speed and power. First, are the weightlifting exercises, clean and jerk, and snatch. These are difficult to master so if you want to do them well, find a coach who knows how to teach them. If you are weak, go figure out the strength part first! The second method is complexing a strength and speed movement to maximize power in the second movement. This is also an advanced technique that works best in experienced strong lifters, so feel free to try it out, but don’t make it a staple of your program if you aren’t strong (think 2x bodyweight squat for STRONG). Finally, strictly plyometric (jumping) or sprinting workouts are great ways to improve speed/power. These can be box jumps, bounding, broad jumps, sprints, hill sprints, etc.

Here are a few variations of speed and power work..

Conclusion

The key to getting the most out of your training is knowing WHAT you want to accomplish, then executing properly on the HOW. Think about sticking in one category for 4-6 weeks in order to see some adaptations!!

It’s About Getting Better!

Razor’s Edge Performance

1.    Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, Holwerda AM, Parise G, Rennie MJ, Baker SK, and Phillips SM. Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men. PLoS One 5: e12033, 2010.

5 Tools for 2012

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

The holidays are over, it’s time to wake up. The food coma you’ve been in for the last 2 weeks is starting to wear off. The guilt is piling up almost as high as the holiday calories. It’s bad; you know it, I know it. The easy part? That was 2011. See what I did there? A fresh start for everyone.

A new year brings new goals and new ideas. There’s no better time to take your training game to a new level. This is where the title comes into play; below you will find a list of 5 training tools that can help you achieve your new goals in 2012.

1. 
Gymboss Interval Timer

The gym boss is an interval timer. Timing is crucial to training. Too little rest, your strength won’t return, too much rest, your heart rate returns to normal. No matter what your training goal is, a timer will be bring a consistency you’ve never been able to achieve before. Oh and if you’re looking to start interval training (hiit), this is probably the best interval timer on the market.

2. Multipurpose band

Iron Woody Stretch Bands

Besides a good timer, this might be the most versatile piece of equipment in your training bag. A good multi purpose Band can be used for strength, flexibility/mobility, warmup and explosive work.

3. Foam Roller

Maybe you have tried it, maybe you haven’t. We’ve talked about foam rollers before and other self-massage tools in the past, check them out here (Part 1 and Part 2). Not only is it a great tool for recovery from a good workout, it is also important for establishing good tissue quality as well as restoring proper length-tension relationships throughout your body. Issues relating to poor posture always require two things. The mobilization and release of the tight muscles that are causing restrictions, as well as the activation of the weak muscles that aren’t pulling their weight. Foam rolling is crucial for the release/mobilization aspect.

4. Grip4orce or fat gripz

Fat Gripz

While most people will credit the big movers for the majority of strength in things like pullups, bench press, and deadlifts, it is the grip that will hold you back from hitting that PR. The harder you can squeeze a bar, the more force you can put into it. If you have ever felt your grip fail during a set of deadlifts, you can recall how much your grip affects the whole lift. It is not just a matter of the bar slipping out of your fingers, but you lose your upper back, then your lower back, and finally your legs. When your grip is failing there is a reflex for the rest of your muscles to start turning off as well like a chain reaction. By using tools such as the Grip4orce or Fat Gripz, you can turn any bar or dumbell into a thick bar, constantly building your grip strength with every exercise.

5. Skipping rope

This is the best piece of equipment for cardio after your own legs. If sprinting is the king of conditioning exercises, then skipping is a prince. It is much more effective than jogging or biking (don’t even bring up the elliptical), and can be done virtually anywhere you have 8 or 9 feet of ceiling clearance. You can carry around a skipping rope all the time, and just break out the Gymboss to get a good interval workout in. If you haven’t skipped since grade 4, don’t worry, it comes back quick. Getting up to 45-60 secs straight with the rope is mostly about coordination and timing. After 60 seconds, it is all fitness!

If you still plan on doing some holiday shopping for yourself, then get these tools that will make your body and health a priority!

Most of these items can be found at Rogue Canada.

It’s About Getting Better!

Fuel Your Workout!

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

The supplement industry gets a lot of buzz…and why wouldn’t it? Millions of athletes and recreational lifters are doing what they can everyday to get their best body and best performance. For most, there are definitely some things they could do better with their nutrition and things they could do better with their workouts. For some, the blueprint is right, but patience is hard to come by. Either way, the supplement industry is finding its way into billions of dollars annually. I am not opposed to the use of supplements, I just think that most of the time it is not done effectively to get the results people are looking for.

I am NOT going to list all of the supplements that I think work and what they do, I am only going to discuss the importance, and simple protocols of peri-workout nutrition. Many people maintain that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but if you have some serious performance goals, I don’t think this is true. Breakfast is important, as are all the other meals of the day. However, what is often overlooked is the time before, during, and after your workout, when your body is most receptive to many nutrients.

Pre-Workout

The most important thing here is to eat something about 1 hour before your workout. Avoid fibre, as it will just slow down digestion. If you don’t have food, a meal-replacement type shake is a good idea here. You want a little bit of everything for your workout. Add in a scoop of creatine monohydrate here.

Intra-Workout

If you are training for more than an hour, it is important to hydrate regularly, and add a carbohydrate/electrolyte mix to your water. This goes a long way toward enhancing endurance, blunting the release of cortisol, and maintaining strength and power. Adding branched-chain amino acids to this mix, or essential amino acids, will decrease the catabolism of muscle and turn on the mechanisms for protein synthesis as soon as possible. The research is mixed as to whether supplementing during your workout or after your workout is more important.

Post-Workout

Since a lot of people either are unprepared to take in all of their nutrients during the workout, or just don’t like it, post-workout is the most common time for the main shake. The important thing to realize here is that a scoop or two of whey protein isn’t the most ideal post-workout shake. Drinking a shake with carbohydrates in it is extremely important for replenishing muscle glycogen, improving rehydration, and adding lean body mass. A combination of carbohydrate and protein is more effective than either on their own for almost all measures of recovery and performance. Add in some creatine monohydrate and you can ensure that you are increasing lean body mass/improving body composition. For protein requirements, you want either 30g of protein or roughly 10g of BCAA or EAAs, both are effective at these doses. More may help, but taking 5 times as much is probably a waste. As for carbohydrates, if you are looking to build muscle or just recover optimally, you want about 3x or 4x as much carbohydrate as protein. So if you have 30g of protein you are going to want to be around 100g of carbohydrate. If your primary goal is fat loss, there is no need to eliminate the carbs around your workout, but instead just lower them. Bring the ratio down to about 2:1.

Personally, I am a big fan of Cytosport’s line of products, so I like to mix about 60g of Cytomax and 15g of Monster Amino post-workout with about 5-10g of creatine monohydrate. I also sip on some Cytomax just before, or during the start of my workouts.

To finish this up…proper workout nutrition is absolutely HUGE for reaching any aesthetic or performance goals, and it starts with a properly formulated post-workout shake. Depending on your last meal, look at adding something before or during to maintain energy and performance levels. Having a mixed beverage is way more effective than a high dose of protein only.

Drink up that post-workout shake!!

It’s About Getting Better!

Believe it or not…endurance running is about power!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , on April 27, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Sprinters versus marathoners…Nothing alike they say…A whole different can of worms…Well, I’m here to tell you they are closer than they appear. Sure there is a definite difference in which energy systems are used as the primary fuel source, but there are also many commonalities. For example, they both race for time, so at the end of the day, the fastest runner wins. With that in mind, ground contact time on each stride is the enemy. The longer we are on the ground for each step, the slower our time will be, since it means we are not going anywhere!

So how do we reduce ground contact time? Essentially it comes down to stiffness. When preparing to strike the ground, we need to activate a whole bunch of muscles in our legs along with having good stiffness in our connective tissue. This way, after driving downward, our leg essentially bounces off the ground as quickly as possible. If our muscles aren’t trained to withstand the high ground reaction forces, some of our joints will bend, absorbing much of the energy and sticking to the ground. This can cause some overuse injuries, and also slow us down.

Why power training? Stiffness is another word for tension. The ability to create tension is basically strength. Strength in a short period of time is power. A running stride definitely falls into the category of short period of time! Power training involves any exercises that involve creating a high level force, but at the fastest rate possible.

Most endurance runners spend almost all of their time doing long distance running assuming that the more they run, the better they will get. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The more we run, the more efficient our body becomes at running. This means we use less energy to create the same result. It doesn’t necessarily mean we increase our maximum running speed. As I mentioned earlier, marathons are still a race, the fastest runner for 26 miles wins.

If you want to really drop your time in your endurance event, start putting more focus on sprints and strength training. Don’t worry, you won’t immediately turn into a meathead. What you will do, with the proper guidance of course, is improve your ability to transfer force through the ground in order to propel your body forward. This means more speed, and a better time!

Remember, it’s about getting better!

Technique Matters!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , on March 11, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

When training intensely, there is a fine line between challenging yourself with heavier weights and maintaining the proper technique through your lifts. I for one, recognize the importance of constantly challenging yourself with heavy weight in order to increase strength and muscle mass, but here is a quick explanation as to why technique needs to override max weight.

We all know about the dangers of injury when working out improperly so I won’t go there today. I want to address the issue of functional training. A lot of people associate this term with simulating movements from your sport in the gym via bosu balls and cable machines. This is not functional training. Functional training merely refers to the carryover of your strength work into athletic performance. This means we are focusing on development of force in the appropriate direction, by the appropriate muscles, in the appropriate sequence.

That is a very important definition. Sometimes in order to lift a maximum weight, we turn on some compensatory patterns in order to get the weight off the floor. So while you get the weight from point A to point B with a certain amount of force, you may not have recruited the appropriate muscles, and especially in the appropriate order. When we are looking at the way you move and perform in sport, we are attempting to put your body in position to be the most efficient and effective it can be. As soon as you alter some of these motor patterns in an incorrect way by altering the technique and recruitment of muscle in certain lifts, you change the way you move and react in space.

Remember, strength at the cost of technique is never OK! Lift strong, but lift right. It’s About Getting Better!!

Back to the Basics: Movements instead of Muscles

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

There’s a famous quotation I’ve heard so many times, I’m not even sure where it originated; the quotation goes something like this: “When you train muscles, you forget movements. When you train movements, you never forget muscles”. This quotation sparked a rant that took place inside my head. This rant became the basis for this particular article, maybe I should get angry more often!

My certification says that I’m a personal trainer but really I’d rather call my self something like a movement coach. As a company this is where our focus lies, that and bringing out your inner awesome! My rant begins with what the fitness industry has become. Walk into any gym and at least 90% of the people are in there focusing on a specific muscle group. This seems to me like a product of the popularity of bodybuilding in the 20th century and the mainstream media which accompanies it. I respect bodybuilders for certain things like their dedication and some of their discoveries for muscle activation and hypertrophy techniques, but they’ve created a situation where most of the people entering the gym have their views toward training. The unfortunate thing about the muscular viewpoint can be seen in the movement patterns of so called “experienced lifters”. Many of these individuals are so inept at basic movement patterns that they cannot even properly perform simple tasks like sprinting and jumping, let alone squats and deadlifts. The close minded focus on isolating individual muscles has ruined athleticism and is not constructive for a functional, healthy body. Naturally speaking, the body is not made to try and isolate individual muscles; the body uses many muscle groups in unison to efficiently perform a movement pattern to accomplish a specific task (moving your body, pushing or pulling a weight). Being a jock, let’s look at how this affects sports.

The bodybuilding view, as I call it, has begun to change the minds of our athletes to the point where their sport has taken backseat to bodybuilding. Too many young athletes spend the majority of their time trying to build certain muscles hoping that it will make them a better athlete. The truth is, the best athletes aren’t the ones with the biggest or strongest muscles but those who can most efficiently perform the necessary movement patterns of their sport. Let’s take two examples, Tim Lincecum and DeSean Jackson, if you saw these two guys on the street you’d probably think they were dweebs. Instead they fit right into the Razor’s Edge mindset and have brought out their inner awesome. Neither of these guys can be considered extremely muscular, yet both of them dominate their sports due to their efficiency in movement patterns. So what would that mean for you? Retraining movement patterns will not only improve your performance and strength (muscle and nervous system integration), but using full range of motion will help flexibility and mobility. These aspects will keep you healthy and injury free, but mostly awesome.

No matter how long you’ve been training, it’s never too late go back to focusing on movements. Spend a week or two doing workouts made up of foam rolling, mobility exercises, activation and re-learning basic human movement patterns. This includes sprinting, jumping, squating, pressing (horizontal and vertical), pulling (horizontal and vertical) and anything else that you might utilize on a daily basis. Once your balance and coordination have increased, be creative and make yourself a program based on complex movements which focus on the goals you’ve set for yourself. Next time I hear someone going to do a bicep day, I might just lose it!
Remember,
It’s About Getting Better!

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