Archive for Muscle

Setting Goals for Success

Posted in Performance with tags , , , , on November 18, 2011 by razorsedgeperformance

Hey Everyone,

Been really busy lately so I haven’t had a chance to post. Excited to say that I am done the 1st semester of my MSc in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning).

I also had a great week for performance in my workouts, and I thought i’d share what happened because it has some good lessons for goal setting and mindset.

A couple friends of mine have been making me jealous by banging out a ton of muscle ups. I am a competitive guy, so I decided I wanted to be able to do some as well. This is the kind of thing they’ve been doing. If you don’t know Jose or Kane, they are some impressive guys in terms of feats of strength! (Especially relative to body mass…)

So after seeing this I got motivated to figure it out…I figured, I can do plenty of dips and pullups, so it can’t be that hard right?

The first time I tried it, I could barely get over the bar. I could not imagine how to get over and be in a position to press-up. Round 2, I fly over the bar, but can’t stop myself from falling back down again. Round 3, I narrow my grip a little bit, and BAM, knock one out, easier than I expected.

That’s when I texted Kyle and said I wanted to do 5 in a row by Thursday November 24, 2011. This was on Saturday November 12, 2011. I thought it was a little aggressive but doable.

Check out this video of me hitting my goal on November 18, 2011.

So how did I do it so fast?

I’m awesome, that’s how. In all seriousness though, it was the desire to accomplish a huge performance goal. I am lucky that I am in the gym for big chunks of time each day, so once I got my first one, I decided to do a muscle up whenever I got a chance. I can’t tell you how many reps total I have done in the past 4 days, but it is quite a few. If you think about weightlifters (i’ll use this term for those that compete in the snatch and clean and jerk), and especially those in eastern Europe, they perform squats, cleans, jerks, and snatches daily. They just cycle the volume and intensity of each for an appropriate mix between progression and fatigue. So when you have a performance goal, if you want to be aggressive with it, make sure you do it a lot. Don’t just do a once a week pulling lift if you want to improve your pullups drastically. Obviously you need to monitor your fatigue and soreness daily, but singles are always doable!

The next big lesson that I take from this goal, is not necessarily supported by evidence but anecdotally I believe, that performance goals are easier to achieve than body composition/aesthetic goals. It’s way easier to see what it takes to go up one rep at a time, or put 5 pounds on the bar at a time, but if you don’t lose weight one day it is easy to get mentally discouraged. Sometimes you don’t know what it will look like to lose 10 inches, or decrease body fat % by 10 points, so how do you stay focused daily? It’s easy to get side tracked when the end goal is hard to picture. But as I experienced, it was easy to tell when I was getting close to putting multiple reps together, so I slowly progressed to doubles and triples.

There is a lot more that goes into appropriate goal setting, but I feel that having a feel for the process is a very important part of the journey. I also believe that accomplishing certain performance goals can really boost self-confidence and give you the personal satisfaction to keep achieving great things.

So go ahead, make a goal, and work daily to accomplish it!

It’s About Getting Better!!

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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!

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.

Good Luck Vince!

Posted in Health, Performance with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2010 by razorsedgeperformance

This summer, we at Razor’s Edge Performance had the pleasure of working with a new client named Vince. Vince is a professional hockey player from the GTA who has been playing in Europe for the past 4 years and has come back to play in the AHL this season. Vince is in training camp with the San Antonio Rampage, the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, and hopes to not only make the team, but make an impact this season and catch the attention of the big club.

We  had 6 weeks to get Vince and his body in the best possible shape in order to perform on the ice. The first week we tested his abilities, taught some routines and exercises, and started building a foundation of fitness.  From then on, we trained 4 days a week for the final 5 weeks.

One of the biggest improvements we saw, came in his bench press. In 5 weeks, his projected maximum went up just over 30lbs! The exciting part is that we didn’t have enough time to focus on his bench press. We had to make sure his speed, power, agility, strength, and conditioning were all improving at the same time. We had to make sure his risk of non-contact injury on the ice was reduced as much as possible.

So why did his bench press improve so much when we only benched once a week? This one comes down to the central nervous system. When we are talking about improving strength and power, we often overlook the fact that the nervous system is one of the most important factors. Too many people focus on the specific muscles involved, then isolate and superset them for a huge pump. This is the definition of bodybuilder training. This may help you build definition, but it will decrease performance, and here is why. Doing high-energy, high-power movements like plyometrics, olympic lifts, and sprints improve the coordination between your brain and your muscles. Moving quickly increases your rate of force development, and the number of motor units activated. Since these improvements are related to your nervous system, the benefits are applicable to all movements, across all muscles. This way, every time we did a box jump or a sprint, we indirectly improved his bench press performance. Remember, the reason sports teams test the bench press is because it is a great measure of upper body strength and power.

Let’s all wish Vince good luck in San Antonio. I will try to update his progress regularly. For all the athletes out there, drop the body part splits, and start getting better at your sport!

PS – Vince scored a goal in each of the first 2 intrasquad scrimmages of training camp with the Rampage!

All About CREATINE!

Posted in Health with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2010 by razorsedgeperformance

Creatine is by far the most popular nutritional supplement…EVER. Yet unfortunately, most people don’t really understand the reasons behind its effectiveness, and how it can help improve performance. For the average exerciser Creatine might as well be a distant cousin of the unicorn, a mythical creature of unknown origin and use.

It’s time to breakthrough all of the myths and explain both the mechanisms of action and protocol for usage.

WHAT IS IT?

Creatine is a substance that occurs naturally in our body and that of other animals as well. It is stored in our liver, muscles, and brain, with 95% of it being in skeletal muscle. The biggest sources of creatine in our diet are meat and fish. Unfortunately, with farming and agricultural processes changing over the years, the amount of creatine we get from our food is extremely low. This is why supplementing with creatine has been proven to provide a great effect.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

First and foremost, creatine is an energy substrate. That means it’s involved in the process of creating energy. ATP is the primary energy source for short-term, high-energy activities. Our body can only store a small amount of ATP, so it needs an effective way to replenish its stores after it runs out. This is where creatine comes in. Two thirds of the creatine stored in our muscles is in the form of phosphocreatine. After ATP is used to power a sprint or a set of deadlifts, phosphocreatine combines with the leftover ADP to create ATP, getting your muscles ready to repeat that intense activity. The more creatine (or phosphocreatine) you have stored in your muscles, the more times you can repeat activities at high intensity. It is this increased work capacity in anaerobic, high energy work that brings the greatest advantage. The more times you can go all out in a sprint, lift, jump, or throw, the more stimuli you provide your body. This increased stimulus allows your body to become bigger, stronger, and faster.

The second biggest reason why creatine can help jack up your performance, is by promoting muscle hypertrophy. That means muscle growth. Through a couple of highly complicated processes, creatine seems to help up regulate the genes related to muscle protein synthesis and also increase the activity of satellite cells within skeletal muscle. These satellite cells are unspecialized stem cells that hang around the outside of muscle tissue, and move in to help repair damaged muscle tissue. It is the addition of these satellite cells into the muscle belly that helps increase its size.

WHO DOES IT BENEFIT?

Many people can benefit from supplementing with creatine for a number of different goals. If you are resistance training in hopes of getting bigger or stronger, improve body composition, or increase strength and power, then creatine will surely help you. If you compete in athletics, most notably, anaerobic type sports then creatine will help you too. Some examples are football, hockey, basketball, sprinting, jumping, throwing, and soccer. Vegetarians tend to respond especially well to creatine supplementation since their normal levels of stored creatine is at the very bottom of the acceptable range. This is due to the lower dietary intake of creatine. Women and men both respond well to creatine supplementation as well.

HOW DO I USE IT?

Creatine Monohydrate is the most studied and most available version of creatine for sale. It is a tasteless and odourless powder that dissolves well in most liquids. The most popular dosage protocol for creatine involves a loading phase of 20g/day for 4-5 days followed by a maintenance load of 3g-5g/day after that. Loading allows you to increase your intramuscular creatine levels quickly, but they still level off after the first 5 days. If you skip the loading phase and take a regular maintenance dose from the start, you will still get increases in performance and intramuscular creatine levels will reach a maximum somewhere between 14 and 20 days.

WHAT CREATINE ISN’T…

Creatine is not a steroid, it is not illegal, and it is not banned. It is one of the cheapest nutritional supplements on the market, and arguably the most effective. Creatine does not damage your kidneys or increase the likelihood of cramping or compartment syndrome.  It does not appear that you can overdose on creatine, but there is also no benefit to greater ingestion after muscle saturation has been reached. Finally, creatine has been rumoured to increased water retention, however this is another myth. Research shows that increases in body water are directly related to increases in lean body mass, and overall hydration levels do not change.

If you strength train or play sports, creatine can help you. Maybe it’s time to give it a try.

 

10 Tips for Gaining Lean Mass

Posted in Health with tags , , , on July 29, 2010 by razorsedgeperformance

Whether you are trying to look like Arnold, just want to improve blood lipid profiles, or draw stares at the beach this summer, your focus needs to be on building lean mass. Whether you want to add 5 lbs or 25 lbs to your frame the formula will be the same. There are a number of different ways to build muscle in the gym, so here I will focus on the things you can do outside of the gym. So without further ado, here are my 10 tips for adding lean mass.

1-  PROTEIN

            Protein is the building block for muscle, without it, you won’t grow. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, it is hard to eat too much protein. Everyone who wants to add lean mass and improve body composition should aim to get one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. This will not be easy. You should try to keep track of nutritional content labels so it’s easier to keep track of how many grams you are getting per day. For most, this will be much more protein than you are currently getting, therefore you will need to make the effort to eat much more.

2- EAT OFTEN

            Eating for fat loss and eating for muscle growth can be very similar in one respect. You need to be eating every 2-3 hours. The only difference between the two philosophies is volume. Building requires excess calories, while cutting requires a caloric deficit. When trying to add lean mass, it is important to keep fuelling your body every few hours even if you don’t feel hungry. When our body tells us we are hungry, it is often too late. Set a 3 hour timer if necessary to make sure you are following your plan.

3- EAT LEAN MEATS

            In order to make sure you are adding protein without excess saturated fats, focus on eating as many lean meats as possible. Choices include turkey, chicken, fish, extra lean ground beef, eggs, and most cuts of steak. You should have a lean source of protein at every one of your 3 hour feedings. Having a good quality protein powder on hand, with a shaker cup, gives you a quick and effective option for a feeding that is a clean source of protein. Relying on a purely liquid diet is not always a great idea, but having a protein shake for 1 or 2 of your feedings can be a great option.

4- GET COMFORTABLE IN THE KITCHEN

            You don’t need to be Wolfgang Puck to make a big difference in the kitchen. Get some Tupperware and learn how to cook up big portions of meat and vegetables to last for a few days. Get used to packing up plenty of meals so that you aren’t at the mercy of the closest restaurant when your 3 hour timer goes off.

5- POST-WORKOUT SHAKE

            The human body has a 45 minute window after a workout, where it is extremely responsive with the nutrients you take in. Having a shake that includes both carbohydrate and protein right after your lift will turn on your body’s muscle building machinery. Good options for this are ‘weight gainers’ as they include a good ratio of carbohydrates and protein, or a combination of carbohydrate powder and branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

6- GET YOUR MICRONUTRIENTS

            While the macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, and protein) are usually the biggest focus with nutritional intake, attention must still be paid to the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). While they do not provide much in the form of energy, and nothing in terms of calories, vitamins and minerals are extremely important for many of your body’s chemical reactions. This includes muscle growth. A nutrient deficiency is one of the easiest ways to put your muscle building engine in neutral. To cover your micronutrient demands, make sure to eat lots of fruit and vegetables and/or take a multivitamin. Ingesting fruit and vegetables with a variety of colours, and at every feeding will give your body the foundation it needs to build.

7- GET YOUR FISH OILS

            In the past, the general public has feared fat in the diet like the plague. However, the good fats, especially omega 3’s, are extremely helpful for both increasing your calorie intake, as well as reducing body fat, and keeping your body in an anabolic state (anabolic = building). Take fish oil capsules with food at least 3 times a day to make a positive change to your body composition.

8- TAKE CREATINE

            No supplement has ever been tested and researched more than creatine monohydrate. A relatively inexpensive supplement, creatine has been shown to have statistically significant increases in work capacity, lean body mass, and body composition in more than 80% of the peer-reviewed studies conducted on the product. This is an extremely high number, given the variability in research design and testing protocols. Adding 5-10g’s a day of creatine monohydrate to protein shakes or a cup of tea, increases your body’s natural stores of creatine. In turn, this increases the amount of work you can do in the gym, and helps ensure you are building clean muscle.

9- WORK HARD

            Following tips 1 thru 8 is only effective as long as you are matching this effort with hard work. Pushing yourself with your lifting program will give your body the impetus it needs to get bigger. Lift weights at least 3 days a week, and considering adding extra pushups and squats before bed on off-days.

10- REST

            This includes sleep and days off. As for sleep, make sure you get at least 7 hours a night, and go to bed at a decent hour. Not all sleep is considered equal, with sleep before midnight being much more valuable than sleep after. Most of your body’s muscle building efforts come when you are sleeping, and your body is releasing growth hormone. Getting into a deep sleep is important to maximize growth hormone production. As for days off, it is important to try getting a day of rest after every 2 or 3 days of working out. Never go 4 or 5 days in a row of hard work. Your body uses exercise to ‘break down to build’, but will not build if you are constantly breaking down. Get in a couple of intense workouts, and then give your body a break.

For more help with planning your meals, or to purchase nutritional supplements, contact Cory Kennedy at info@razorsedgeperformance.ca

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