Archive for Hypertrophy

Supplements…What to Choose?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

It’s a loaded question…I don’t know your goals. The supplements you take and the food you eat should obviously go hand-in-hand with the workouts you are doing to help fulfill your goals. Period.

With that being said, there is a good chance that these supplements will cover most people’s goals and should therefore be included your daily routine/regimen.

The biggest thing to understand about supplements is that a very large part of the industry is built on deception, not a good thing for the consumer who cares. There are so many companies offering a wide variety of products, that all claim to have made a BETTER VERSION. Why would any logically thinking human being think that this is reasonable?!?!?!

So here is the gameplan…find a company that is trustworthy and stick with them. You may pay a little bit more than your friends, but you know it works. There is a lot of value in that. Some companies with great products include Cytosport, Rivalus, MusclePharm (for the most part), AllMax, Dymatize. I’m sure many of you have a bigger list than that, but I like to make sure the products are clean and effective, so I don’t need more options than this…

Now onto the products that work. This is by no-means an exhaustive list, but will provide plenty of options for a well-rounded supplement protocol.

PROTEIN POWDER

This is a no-brainer for a few reasons. Firstly, protein ingested immediately post-workout is very important for increasing muscle-protein synthesis; that is the creation of new muscle mass. Secondly, anyone looking to improve their body composition must understand that they need a steady dose of protein throughout the day. This can come from a variety of sources, but a good protein powder is a great weapon to ensure that you can get your servings even when your outside of your routine. Whey Protein, Whey Protein Isolate, Casein Protein, and a vegetarion source like Brown Rice Protein are all good choices for purchase.

CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

If you have been trying to get huge, then you probably already get your fair share of creatine. If not, you probably think it is somehow illegal, or makes you bloated. The term ‘water weight’ gets thrown around quite a bit, without much evidence to support it. The truth is creatine is very beneficial for increasing high-intensity work capacity, for muscle hypertrophy, and lately has been shown to be extremely beneficial for your cognitive health (YOUR BRAIN!!). All the while, myths about cramping, bloating, or water retention have been refuted in the research. It is cheap and flavourless, so just drop 10g a day in one of your workout beverages and you are good to go!

BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids)

BCAAs might have to be the favourite supplement out there for most people who train regularly. It has a long list of benefits, including decreasing ratings of perceived exertion (difficulty/fatigue of the workout), increased muscle protein synthesis, decreased muscle breakdown, preservation of glutamine levels, and symptoms of DOMS. It has been shown effective before the workout, during the workout, and after the workout as well. While I don’t suggest replacing a protein shake after your workout, the consumption of BCAAs around your workout could make the post-workout shake redundant. If you aren’t looking to ADD a significant amount of lean mass, the BCAAs may be your top priority.

VITAMIN-MINERAL COMPLEX

This is the general blanket pick. There are so many factors that affect the level of your micronutrients, and the last thing you want is to have your progress stunted because of a deficiency. Take a vitamin-mineral complex that ensures you have a good variety of nutrients regardless of your diet, but don’t believe that you can eat garbage because of a convenient once-a-day.

BETA-ALANINE

A similar concept as creatine, beta-alanine just uses a slightly different mechanism to have its main effect. When ingested, beta-alanine is converted to carnosine, which is a compound that is used by your body to protect against a drop in pH. Specifically, carnosine buffers hydrogen ions, keeping the environment in your muscles from becoming acidic and function being impaired. This means when you are operating anaerobically (typically between 30 seconds and 3 minutes of strenuous exercise) taking beta-alanine will help delay fatigue and increase work capacity. Beta-alanine has also been shown to help increase lean muscle mass, so again provides the double whammy. Combining beta-alanine and creatine does not cause a conflict of any sorts so it should be encouraged! It’s a little bit harder to find beta-alanine alone but it is found in many pre-workout mixes.

CAFFEINE

Should you drink coffee? Should you avoid it? Here is the deal. Get some caffeine in you and reap the benefits. Tea, coffee, energy drinks, pre-workout cocktails, and anhydrous caffeine pills are all great ways to get some juice in your system. The truth is, it is one of the best supplements out there for improving performance. Increases in performance of endurance exercises, as well as strength-power work, repeat sprint performance, agility, reactive times, and game day performance are all found in the literature.  Don’t avoid caffeine because you think it’s wrong. It might be wrong if you need a constant supply to get through your day, but using it to enhance your workouts is just a great idea! Anywhere from 200mg to 400mg should provide a great jolt to your lifts, and allow you to complete a few extra sets or reps.

The moral of the story is that as long as you become educated, you can use nutritional supplements to your advantage to help your performance and reach your goals. There are many products designed to maximize your physiology or mentality, so don’t be afraid to try some out!

It’s About Getting Better!

Razor’s Edge Performance

Progress Update

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , on May 29, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

So last time I posted, I mentioned that I was trying an aggressive approach to building up my squat to new strength levels.

The truth is, I am doing it because the squat is the ultimate foundation lift for all things strength and power. Being strong doesn’t guarantee you speed and power but you can’t expect those things if you are weak.

So i’ve just started my 4th week of Smolov Squat Program, an old russian formula for aggressively improving your strength. Week 1 was three days in a row, week 2 was another 3 days of squatting but with very little volume and high intensity. Think singles, triples, doubles, and a five rep set.  Each day I basically worked up to 1 working set. So it was about staying familiar with the squat and heavy weight, but giving the body a bit of a rest. I’ll talk some more about that in a bit.

 

Week 3 is when the fun starts, because there is 4 squat workouts. Since I was coming off the Victoria Day weekend, that put me at Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. So I didn’t get a full weekend off to rest up for Week 4. It’s the same protocol, same 4 workouts with the same rep scheme but with 20lbs added to each day. So in week 3 I lifted 235 day 1, 250 day 2, 270 day 3 and 285 day 4.

So far this week i’ve done 4×9 at 255, and 5×7 at 270. I get a rest day tomorrow (where i’ll focus on bringing my max bench up, which i hit a PR of 285 last week) and then the heavy days are Thursday and Friday.

Here are the videos from the last two workouts.

 

 

TAKE HOME MESSAGE

The key to bringing up a key lift, or really accomplishing anything related to your body is to do it often. Frequency is key. Adjust the volume and intensity when you need to in order to stay healthy, but you need to constantly remind your body of something if you want it to adapt. If you want to lose fat, do SOMETHING everyday…if you want to get huge, lift SOMETHING everyday. Even if it’s just pushups. If you want to improve a lift, practice it at every workout.

Hope this helps keep you going in the right direction for your current goals!

 

It’s About Getting Better!

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.

Strength or Hypertrophy, Pick One!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , on May 16, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

You’ve heard it time and time again; set goals to achieve results. Everyone talks about it, but rarely do people actually do it. Working at a gym, you get to observe peoples training over months or even years. There’s something that most trainees share, they have no true direction. I see some people who have been working out for a year and have achieved neither a major increase in strength, or a major increase in size. The truth is you have to pick one!

Hypertrophy and strength take substantially different approaches to effectively achieve success. To make significant increases in strength or muscle mass,  one must program for such a goal.  Too many people come in without a plan and end up in limbo for years, not quite “ripped” or “jacked” and not really strong either.

ripped?

In order to get the most out of your training programs, you need to have a specific plan for what you wish to achieve with that program. Looking for strength? Whether it’s an increased bench, squat or deadlift, lifting near maximal weights is the most effective way of gaining strength. If you’re new to heavy lifting, try doing 3-4 sets of 3 reps on one of your compound lifts 2 times per week on your next program. This will allow you to be in much more control than doing max lifts (1 rep max). As long as your are progressing and adding weight each week, a substantial increase after your 4-6 week program can be expected in your 1RM. Keep in mind that this is only for compound movements, this rep scheme should not be applied to single joint movements (curls, calf raises, etc.).

Hypertrophy can be achieved while training for strength with a proper diet, but training can be adjusted for more effective results. The trick to hypertrophy is maximizing time under tension. This is the amount of time that your muscle fibres are activated either resisting or contracting. A set of 12 repetitions done extremely quickly has many reps but does not actually contain a high time under tension. Try changing the tempo of your reps in order to maximize your hypertrophy. Try the 4010 tempo on some of your lifts of your next program in order to increase TUT. The numbers refer to the speed at which you move the weight. The 4, is the eccentric portion, the 0 is the transition from eccentric to concentric, the 1 is for the concentric portion and the final 0 is the transition back to eccentric. If we use bench press as an example, you would lower the weight for 4 seconds, 0 seconds at the bottom, 1 second to raise the weight and then 0 seconds again at the top. As a note, muscle soreness will increase with more time under tension.

Having a general program will produce general results. If you’re looking for awesome results, put in awesome effort. Try narrowing your focus on your next program and see what kind of changes you can accomplish!!

Where the good stuff happens…

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I’m here to blow your mind.

All that time you’ve spent in the gym was awesome. Job well done. Unfortunately, that’s not where the good stuff comes from. The truth is, all the important results of your hard work are reaped while you’re resting. That’s the biggest secret to training.

Obviously you cannot make positive changes to your body or performance without the hard work. There must be a stimulus in order to change your body. You can’t get big biceps without ever working them, and you can’t reshape your body without doing some killer exercises. The real issue is related to priorities. We all seem to get caught up too much with the stimulus. With a little bit of trial and error, we figure out which exercises are good and which ones aren’t. The ones that are worth your time, and the ones that aren’t. So we put these into a program. All of them. Each workout involves super-setting and tri-setting and all sorts of tricks to cram tons of volume into a 1-hour workout. Afterward, you’re exhausted, but you think “wow, I did a great job today!”.

When I see this happen, I cringe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s such a relief to see people working hard, doing all they can to reach their goals. My problem is about how often we are emptying the tank. This is an analogy I think about often when it comes to programming for my clients. If your body is like a car, everytime you train you are using up fuel, like our sweet sweet gasoline. After the workout, you need to fill that tank all the way up again before your body can start making the adaptations you are looking for (for simplicity, we’ll say muscle building, fat burning, and increased neuromuscular efficiency for strength gains). Now at a gas station, the time to fill up is relatively quick, so it’s not that big of a deal. Yet with oil prices as they are, the cost can be great! You don’t want to have to pay 80$ to fill your tank everytime you drive your car do you? Seems excessive. The same can be said about your body. The truth is, most athletes spend way too much time emptying their tank and way less time filling it back up. So overall, they impair their own ability to build and grow. The same can be said for non-athletes looking to build more muscle or burn more fat.

It requires quality reps at an appropriate intensity to signal your body to improve in a specific capacity. For every exercise, goal, and person this might be different. Generally speaking though, we believe that there is a lot of work being done that is so far above and beyond this threshold, that people are actually putting in a lot of effort to slow down their body’s progress. The bottom line is this: if your results have been minimal or non-existent, increase your focus and time on the time spent outside the gym. Basically, get more food and get more rest!

Quality Rest

An expert is not just somebody that makes you tired, but somebody that makes you better. After all, it’s about getting better!

Sport Specific Training – Are You Doing It?

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Recently, the term ‘sport specific training’ has become a must for every athlete and their parents. Visions of having your kid become a first-round draft pick? Gotta go somewhere for some sports specific training…how else will he improve?
Well, I loved the idea of it too. It seemed to make so much sense, train the way you play and you’ll improve dramatically!

Now though, I think I know better. In fact, I think I figured it out (the concept; not all the details…yet…work in progress). Improving sports performance is about 3 things. Injury prevention, strength training, and skill training. The first two belong in the gym with your strength and conditioning coach, the latter with your sport coaches.
Injury prevention is about taking care of the little things. Self-myofascial Release (SMR) to ensure your tissue is in the proper state to do awesome things. Specific corrective exercises to ensure symmetry. Finally, proper hydration, nutrition and rest to cap it off.
The specific details are individualized but that’s the main structure.

The second part is about adding horsepower. This is the strength training component and its importance is immense. You need to get strong if you want to be fast, quick, and powerful! Don’t worry about agility ladder drills for quick feet, worry about how much force you can put into the ground. I don’t care how quick you can pick your feet up, if you can’t put force in the ground you won’t be better at your sport. Let’s take the pro shuttle for example. This is a staple in Combine testing. It involves starting in the middle with a cone on either side of you, each 5 yards away. You turn one way, run 5 yards and touch the ground, turn back and run 10 yards (touch) and return to your original spot. Done at full speed this drill seems all about quickness, and it is. The key though is taking the fewest steps possible, not the most. In order to accomplish this you need each step to have a large amount of force behind it. This comes from being strong!
Sprint work and plyometrics are also an important part of the strength program.

Finally, we have skill training. This is done often and involves drills and games of your sport. This is where you hone your skills, not in the gym on a bosu ball. Your skill work will improve a lot of things, but injury prevention or strength isn’t one of them. A good chunk of your conditioning will also come from the skill training. As an athlete, this should take up the most time. Will it be the most influential part of the process? Depends on where you are in your journey…some need the injury prevention the most, others the physical development, and some the skill work.

When you hear somebody talk about sport specific training make sure they aren’t just making a sales pitch. There is nothing sport specific about making your body more awesome and able to handle ANY sport! It’s about getting better!

Understanding Post-Workout Nutrition

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Post-workout nutrition (PWO) is only one aspect of the whole nutrition plan but can be very important to the results you get from your training. Following specific guidelines can help maximize your time in the weight room or on the track, and set you ahead of the competition.

There are two concepts that are important to PWO and they are anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism refers to the production of muscle (think +) and catabolism is the degradation or destruction of muscle (think -). When your body is fuelled with all of the appropriate nutrients and a training stimulus has occurred, anabolism will occur and new muscle will be built. However, after about 45 minutes of exercise, the hormone cortisol is released and begins breaking down muscle for energy. This is catabolism. This continues until you can reverse it through nutritional intervention. The goal of PWO will be to limit catabolism, and shift quickly into anabolism.

Let’s make a checklist on the things we want to accomplish in PWO in order to stay in a positive balance, and avoid time in the negative.
– Replenish muscle glycogen
– Rehydrate
– Start the synthesis of new muscle

For the record, there are many great foods that have an appropriate nutritional profile for a post-workout snack. However, having your nutrients in liquid form, a post-workout shake, allows your body to absorb and assimilate nutrients much quicker, and ensure that you capitalize on this important 45 minute window.

Your body uses glycogen for higher intensity activities, so it’s important that you replenish this glycogen so that your body is ready for its next challenges. A number of studies have shown that ingesting carbohydrates inside this window of opportunity allows your body to reload its glycogen levels anywhere from 2 to 4 times faster than if you were to ingest the same carbohydrates later in the day. 1-3

Rehydrating is a very simple concept. Part of taking a shake post-workout involves using 500mL or more of water to mix the other nutrients, ensuring you start replenishing the water you lost in sweat and other metabolic processes.

Finally, with the right nutrients in this window of opportunity, we can quickly kick-start the processes that produce new muscle fibres. This is important for everybody, not just bodybuilders and athletes. Synthesizing new muscle is important not only to add to your body, but also to repair what was damaged during the workout, or broken down for energy. In order to achieve optimal body composition, you must always be maintaining the muscle you have, or adding new muscle. In a study by Levenhagen4, the group who consumed a carbohydrate/protein supplement immediately after a workout synthesized new muscle three times faster than a group who waited 3 hours. Also, this group had a significantly higher net protein balance. In fact, the group that waited ended up with a negative protein balance. How does that happen? While you are working out, you will always have a breakdown of muscle tissue for energy and from a build-up of cortisol. Then, once you ingest these important nutrients, your body stops breaking down your own muscle and begins to repair and rebuild. If this is done quickly, you will end up with more muscle then before you chose to workout. If you wait, you will actually have taken a step back for now. In fact, in some studies, the groups who took a carbohydrate/protein mix after their workout even burned more fat then those who took nothing. This goes to show that it’s always better to take in the right nutrients instead of starving yourself.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Everybody who is involved in strength training should be taking a post-workout shake. A shake with a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio works best. While whey protein is a great choice, using branch chain amino acids or essential amino acids as the main protein source can be more effective. If you do not want to bother with mixing your own ingredients, then buy a post-workout product. Dymatize Xpand Post is a great product, as well as things like Endurox, Surge, or meal replacement beverages. Another simple solution is a serving of Gatorade powder, or a bottle of Gatorade and a scoop of whey protein powder.

When you are putting in a lot of time and effort into your training, do yourself a favour and use this important nutritional strategy to gain an advantage! It’s about getting better!

1Ivy, J.L, “Dietary strategies to promote glycogen synthesis after exercise,” Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26 (Suppl): S236-S245, 2001.
2Ivy, J.L, Katz, A.L, Cutler, C.L, et al., “Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: effect of time on carbohydrate ingestion,” Journal of Applied Physiology, 64: 1480-1485, 1988.
3Ivy, J.L, Goforth, H.W, Jr., Damon, B.M, et al., “Early post exercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement,” Journal of Applied Physiology, 93: 1337-1344, 2002.
4Levenhagen, D.K., Carr, C., Carlson, M.G., et al., “Post exercise protein intake enhances whole-body and leg protein accretion in humans,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34: 828-837, 2002.

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