Archive for Muscle Building

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.


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.


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.


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..


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.


Lean Eating: Breakfast

Posted in Health with tags , , , on January 14, 2012 by razorsedgeperformance

Did you make a resolution to burn fat or build muscle?  Or maybe you’re hardcore and have been grinding for a while.  Either way,  I might just have a tip to put you over the edge.  The secret…  Nutrition!  OK,  OK, you’ve heard that; you’ve also heard about what to eat after your workout. I’m here to fix breakfast. 

So you go the gym after work and you had a post workout shake,  but guess what?  You put on fat before 10am.  That’s not exactly a recipe for success. What I tend to see is that people either don’t eat breakfast, or they eat crap. The last thing you need is an insulin spike right after you get up. Avoid sugars and high carbohydrates. Most people don’t need or want a lot to eat at breakfast,  it’s just about breaking the fast and halting muscle breakdown.  Get some protein to repair and maintain Lean muscle mass and add some healthy fats to slow digestion and break down fat soluble vitamins. Cut the cereals, toast, bagels, waffles and pancakes; it’s time to take your body to the next level.


not cool

So what should you eat? Here are 3 starter ideas that you can customize to be your new lean breakfast masterpiece.

Eggs – These magical orbs are packed with protein and healthy fats.  Don’t cut out the yokes,  that’s where much of the good stuff lies.  They can be prepared a myriad ways and are great on the go. Try eggs with avocado slices or scrambled eggs with spinach and shredded cheese.



Cottage cheese/Greek yogurt – These are both dairy based and contain tons of protein.  Try having either of these with Shaved/chopped almonds thrown in and possibly some fruit.

Smoothie/protein shake – If you’re a natural food lover this will be low on your list,  but if you’re looking for some quick protein this might just be for you. Get yourself something to blend smoothies and the possibilities will be endless. Start with protein powder and some fruit,  add some kind of fats (almond butter,  light tasting olive oil, avocado) and throw in a healthy vegetable or two (frozen spinach will be almost tasteless) . That’s all it takes for a powerhouse healthy breakfast. 

Eating breakfast doesn’t have to be tough.  Don’t let an early morning or being tired be an excuse to ruin your goals.

Remember,  it’s about getting better! 

The King of Exercises

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I’d love to start this off by saying how important deadlifts are for increasing strength and power, which translates directly to speed on the field, ice, and track. Here at REP that’s not our style though. What is more important about deadlifting is how crucial it is for EVERYBODY to move better and restore balance to your body. It is crucial to get out of constant hip flexion by introducing the best hip extension exercise. It combines a hip hinge and a squat pattern, two basic moves that everybody should master for physical literacy, yet with most clients, these are missing. If you aren’t comfortable doing a deadlift, or aren’t 100% sure you are GREAT at them, go see a pro and get some work in. If the deadlift is the ‘King of Exercises’ then a poorly executed deadlift just might be the ‘Kingpin of Exercises’, the mob boss responsible for crime and destruction on the streets…or your tissues…

The Basics

You want to set up behind the bar with feet about shoulder width apart. This stance should be more narrow than a squat. The bar should be right up to your shins. Play around with your grip (you can use double overhand or alternating grip… I’d suggest staying with double overhand until it starts to get too heavy) width to find what feels most comfortable.

The Setup

I just gave you the basics of positioning, so now let’s talk approach. From a standing position, make sure your chin is tucked down and core is engaged. Next, sit down a little bit, like a quarter squat, by pushing the hips back. Then you will hinge at the hip and place your hands on the bar. You should be looking at a spot on the ground about 3-4 feet in front of you, not at your feet.

The Lift

When you are executing the lift, there are 3 things that we absolutely don’t want. First, is your hips and shoulders rising separately. This will put a ton of strain on your back if your hips pop up, then your shoulders start to come up. Second is any major lumbar flexion throughout the lift. A lot of times, if your hips pop up first, then you are likely going to go into lumbar flexion, since your spinal erectors are rarely strong enough to lift the weight on their own. Third is an exaggeration at the lockout position of lumbar extension or cervical extension. You do not need to lean back to make sure it’s complete. Your shoulders should not end up behind your bum (looking from the side). We are looking for hip extension, not lumbar extension. Full hip extension should leave you locked out in a straight line, head to toe. With the neck, some people look way up to the sky for this same purpose. Don’t do it. Leave the chin tucked and the neck in neutral.

One of my favourite cues for having a well-coordinated lift off, is to try ‘pre-lifting’ the upper back/shoulders. This tends to give the stiffness in the arms and upper body that you need to ensure your legs do most of the lifting.

Here are a couple of videos that you can look at to help give you an idea of what to do…

(Unfortunately the above video was filmed before I understood the importance of neck packing; the chin should be tucked more than it is in this video for a straighter spine)


Some key points about deadlifting…

  • A 2x body weight deadlift is the bare minimum for any elite athlete.
  • Anybody who lifts regularly, no matter the age or athletic status, should be able to deadlift body weight
  • You do not need to go into hard lumbar extension to exaggerate the finish.
  • You can put serious mass on through your legs and upper back with deadlifts
  • If you don’t use straps, your grip strength will fly through the roof!
  • They do contribute greatly to the ability to jump and sprint
  • They are probably the best full-body posture exercise out there

If you don’t deadlift, start now. Get someone to look at your technique. Learn how a good deadlift FEELS then you can start progressing up in weight. Make them a cornerstone of your programming.

It’s About Getting Better!

Maximizing Your Workout

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

I’m often surprised to find that people will kill themselves in the gym,  class, or sport and then forget or simply not know how essential it is to refuel your body afterwards. The Post Workout window is probably THE most important period of time to focus on specific nutrition. Don’t get me wrong, nutrition is important all the time, but if you’re not ingesting the right things after your workout, you’re seriously holding yourself back.

Not Exactly What We're Looking For

If you’re looking for a good guide of what to eat, check out our post workout nutrition guide  HERE .

Remember, the post workout window is crucial for ingesting the right type of nutrients to maximize recovery. Studies have shown that proper post workout nutrition can aid muscle gain as well as fat loss.

Stop eating the fries, kraft dinner or candy and get some proper ratios of carbs to protein. If  you’re really keen, start taking a post workout shake and start getting the results you want!

It’s about getting better!

… In the gym and the kitchen


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Putting Protein on a Pedestal

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , , , on March 22, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

I thought people were becoming more educated about food and their diets…turns out I was wrong. With new clients one of the first questions I ask is always, what are you eating? Or How’s your diet? Most people are pretty confident about their diet or say something like, “I eat pretty well”. Sometimes that’s the case but mostly you’re wrong. There’s always two things missing, not enough vegetables, not enough protein.

For some strange reason people still think protein is for bodybuilders or just for people looking to get huge.

Who's getting their protein?

Here’s the truth, we all need protein and we need lots of it. Why is that? There’s a few reasons.

1) Muscle Building – In order to build muscle, once you’ve provided the stimulus in the gym, you need to get adequate protein in your diet in order to keep your nitrogen levels positive. This is done through protein intake. If your nitrogen levels for a day are negative, you go catabolic (lose muscle); if your nitrogen levels are positive for the day, you go anabolic (gain muscle). There are very few people who need to lose muscle, pretty much everyone would benefit from gaining more. It makes you leaner and makes your body perform better. If you’re working out for body composition, you need to add muscle mass.

2) Fat Burning – Protein plays two roles in the fat burning process. For one thing, protein takes the most energy to break down in your body, thus it increases your metabolism on a daily basis. Secondly, it keeps your muscles from breaking down in a fat burning phase. If you’re exercising, there will be a point where your body will look to break down your muscle for fuel. The truth is, amino acids (what protein is made up of) are a very good energy source and your body will try to use them. If you want to burn fat and avoid losing more muscle, then we need to get adequate amounts of protein – both for fuel and to save your muscles. Whats the point of losing fat if you’re going to lose your muscle as well? The only way to improve body composition is to gain or maintain muscle mass while losing fat, not losing both.

Let’s not overlook the fact that amino acids are used for some of the most basic bodily functions. Women, where do you think the protein that’s in your hair comes from? Small things like that are overlooked when it comes to ones diet. So how much should you get? Where should you get it?

Ignore the Canadian Food Guide. If you want to increase the amount of muscle you have on your body, you need to get 1g/lb of body weight. It’s very simple. If you’re an elite athlete or bodybuilder, you may want to go even higher. This is a reasonable number. If you’re eating 4 or 5 times per day, there’s plenty of opportunity to get it. The trick is making protein a priority and putting it on a pedestal. Everytime you eat a meal, you should know where you’re getting your protein from. It can be from any meat, fish, bird, dairy, lentils, nuts or protein powder. Think of snacks like beef jerky, cottage cheese or hard boiled eggs. There is no shortage of protein (unless you’re a vegan, which takes more work). Bottom line, whether you want to put on muscle or lose fat, start getting in more precious protein! All your hard work will start paying off!!

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