Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quick ways to end your athletic career

Weight training can and should help athletes of all levels have a long and productive career.  When done properly, an athlete can expect increased strength, speed, quickness, and agility.  To extend your playing career not only means more dominance over a longer period of time but it also means more $ for professionals.

One of the fastest ways you can end or shorten your career is by doing explosive or a fast style of weight lifting.  These would be the power cleans, squat jumps with weight, and any exercise that the actual speed of the weight is fast.  These examples are the least productive type of training.  The rationale being if you move the weight fast it will improve explosive power and speed.  This is completely false.  An individuals body proportions(length of muscles, bones, connective tissue) and ability to activate a high percentage muscles quickly is genetic and programmed by the central nervous system.  You can't change your genetics! There is nothing you or I can do about it.  Any effort in trying to do exercises to change this is a waste of time at best.  At worst you can suffer a catastrophic career ending injury.

This holds especially true for younger athletes that are still developing.  I recently was contacted by the parents of a top high school water polo player.  They found out that there son's coach was having them do power cleans as a part of his training program.  Power cleans...for water polo?!  Following their intuition, they didn't feel right that their son was doing power cleans and had him come meet with me.  After learning how his coach had him and the rest of the team weight train, I was troubled but not surprised.  Doing explosive training puts your body's connective tissues, muscles, and joints under tremendous force.  Force causes injury.

Recent so called training "advances" such as flipping tires, circus balls, parachutes, rubber bands, heavy ropes, and explosive training have "advanced" athletic training to the horse and buggy era.  Why do athletes do them?  I have no idea but it's a sure way to put more wear and tear on your body than ever before.  It's a great way to end your career early!

To get the most out of your athletic ability, build your strength/size as needed for your particular sport/position by weight training very hard, briefly, and infrequent as outlined on this blog.  Then do sport/position specific skill training that your sport requires.  Skill training that involves the exact actions necessary for what you're doing on the field.        

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recovery is Everything!

Rest and Recovery is a must!
Up until now, we have discussed the how to build the most muscle from your workouts.  The other side of the coin is allowing your body to recover from the workout.  An often neglected but vital component of achieving the results you want is recovery.  With the type of high intensity training that is required for worthwhile results, you also need the proper amount of rest.  It has been proven that the overall system (Brain, Muscles, Joints) needs a minimum of 48hrs rest between workouts. 

Now you may be thinking, “What if we split up the body parts and only did a workout for the Chest/Shoulder/Triceps on one day, and Back/Biceps/Legs on another?”  In this case the overall system still will be taxed and recovery still will not take place.  No muscle growth will be happen.  The body works as one integrated unit, when you sleep the whole system sleeps.  When you eat, the whole system eats.  You're body doesn't go, I think I'll take this meal I just ate and only give it to my Chest/Shoulders/Triceps.  Makes no sense!

How can you tell if you’re getting enough recovery?  You have to examine the progressions you are making with your strength gains workout to workout.  Each set/rep/weight of every exercise of the workouts needs to be logged.  If the style of performance is equal (tempo, form, rest periods) then a comparison can be made.  If in each workout you are gaining in weights and/or reps then you are probably getting enough rest between workouts.  If you are not progressing every single workout, then you need to take more rest between workouts.  Two or three workouts per week on non consecutive days are all that is needed for the best possible results.  In fact if you worked out more, you'd actually get less results!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Workout like a MADMAN!

Butkus doing 410lb Shrugs
Do you want the fastest muscle growth in the shortest amount of time?  Don't you want to actually see a change in your body?  Do you want to see more results in a month than you did in past year?  Maximum muscle growth requires the maximum intensity.  You should welcome and strive for extreme pain and burning muscles during the workout.  Your face should turn multiple shades of red and purple, you should look downright frightening to the people around you because that's what it takes to make muscle growth happen.  If it was easy then everyone would be in shape!

How to tell if you're not working out hard enough:
  1. You can talk during and between sets.
  2. You're watching TV while working out.
  3. You can see or hear.
  4. The pain isn't making you very angry.
  5. You like an exercise.
This is not only my belief but it's fact.  Workout extremely hard, for a short amount of time, and not that often.  The pain will be worth it because you'll see the results faster than ever before.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Best Leg Workout Routine Ever

When done, it should feel like you've tried to climb a building with a car tied to your back!  Not only is this leg workout the best ever for building muscle size and strength, it also delivers more pain in a shorter amount of time than any other program you'll ever do. 

Here's the exercises:
  • Leg Press Machine 1 set of 20 reps immediately followed by
  • Leg Extension Machine 1 set of 20 reps immediately followed by
  • Barbell Squats 1 set of 20 reps then rest

Basically you do the leg presses until failure, stumble/crawl to the leg extension machine, then drag yourself to the squats.  One cycle of this circuit is all that is needed and should take less than 5 minutes for the whole leg portion of your workout.  Also, you should need at least 5 minutes to recover.  If you can walk sooner, you haven't done it hard enough.

There are a few key points to this leg circuit:
  1. Less than 3 seconds rest between exercises.  More than 3 seconds rest and you'll greatly diminish your results.  
  2. Always use the reps as a guide but never stop until you've reached muscle failure.
  3. Do each rep smoothly and controlled with no bouncing and focus on slow transitions between the positive/negative portion of the rep.

After trying this leg workout cycle you'll appreciate the workout done by Casey Viator in 1971:
  • Leg Press Machine, 750lbs for 20 reps immediately followed by
  • Leg Extension Machine, 225lbs for 20 reps immediately followed by
  • Full Barbell Squats, 502lbs for 13 reps.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All or Nothing - How muscles work

The fact that there has been $400 million dollars made this year based on the delusion of muscle confusion is beyond me. In reality, MUSCLES CANNOT BE CONFUSED! Muscles work in an "all or nothing" fashion. This means that if a muscle fiber is working, it's working at full throttle at that particular time. The body only uses the required amount of fibers to do the job at hand.  If you're lifting a pencil, only the required amount of fibers (in this case not very many) for that particular need will be used and those fibers will be working all out.

During your workouts, in order to use as many muscle fibers as possible each set has to be taken to 100% muscle failure with good form.  This means that you cannot do another repetition even though you are giving all out effort.  This way you insure that at least some of the muscle fibers will be exhausted and the others will be worked very hard.  This is how the fastest results in building muscle will be stimulated.  Doing 2 sets with a maximum of 3 sets of an exercise is all that is needed when working out this way.  Believe me that you literally won't want to do more and actually doing more sets will stand in the way of your progress.  Working out hard is something you can't do that often or for very long.

What happens if you don't take a set to failure?  First, you don't use all of the available muscle fibers therefore you won't get the maximum stimulation for building muscle.  Second, you make an inroad into your recovery ability without getting the benefit of the muscle being stimulated fully if at all.  Basically a set not taken to failure is a waste of time at best.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Compound Exercises versus Isolation Exercises

Compound exercises are far better in building overall muscle than isolation exercises.  Muscles work in systems or groups no matter what exercise you're doing.  With compound exercises there are many muscles being worked at the same time.  They're much harder than isolation exercises therefore when done with proper performance, you get superior results in building muscle.  Examples of the best compound exercises are squats, leg presses, Dips, overhead shoulder presses, Pull Ups, bent over rows, upright rows, and stiff legged dead lifts.  A few properly done sets of each of these exercises 3 times per week is all that most people need for maximum results.

Isolation exercises involve only one joint and very few muscles.  A common myth is that you can not only isolate a muscle but emphasize and build a certain part of it.  An example of this would be concentration curls for the biceps, either done on a cable or DB that supposedly focuses on the "bicep peak".   I am sure people learned this somewhere in a muscle magazine or Arnold's Encyclopedia of bodybuilding.  This is physiologically impossible, you can't isolate let alone isolate a particular part of a muscle.  A muscle's shape and especially "bicep peak" is dictated by your genetics not an exercise.

Another example would be preacher curls.  Many people see a "big guy" in the gym doing them and figure, he has big arms...I want big arms...therefore I'll do preacher curls.  The myth here is that preacher curls emphasize the "lower bicep" and builds muscle closer to the elbow.  This is so far off base it's rediculous.  If you ever have a someone that recommends preacher curls you should run!  There's almost no bigger waste of time doing these.  You can't emphasize a part of a muscle.  Lower bicep development is a product of genetics.  If you have long muscles and short connective tissue, you'll not only have the potential for huge arms but your lower bicep will be developed fully.  Nothing short of surgery can change this!

There is a place for isolation exercises which are best used in a pre-fatigue fashion before a compound movement and that's another chapter.  For most us, getting as strong as we can at the major compound lifts will build you the best physiques you've ever had.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is the sequence of exercises important?

YES! Exercise sequence is probably one of the most important aspects of exercise next to intensity and form.  If you ask 10 strength coaches or personal trainers about what body parts and exercises to do first and why you'll most likely get 10 different answers.  I'd venture to say that most of them won't have a clue on the reason why it's very important to have the right sequence of exercises!

Regardless if your goal is to lose fat or build muscle, all workouts should start with legs/hips/back work.  It's interesting because these are the areas that most gym goers avoid like the plague!  If your effort is put into these areas first when you're fresh, it not only allows you to lift heavier but it serves as a complete warm up for the rest of your workout.  Hard leg/hips/back work gets your heart rate through the roof and just flat out stinks!  All the more reason to do them first and get them out of the way.

Here's an ideal way to organize your workouts:
  1. Legs 
  2. Back
  3. Chest 
  4. Shoulders
  5. Biceps 
  6. Triceps
  7. Forearms 
  8. Calves
  9. Abs
Use the hardest exercises.  Do them as hard as you can with good form. Allow for recovery and then next time you workout, hit it harder than you did the previous workout.  It's quite simple maybe too simple but it's in fact the fastest way to change your body.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Which is better - Machines or Free Weights?

Which gives you the fastest results with building muscle, Machines or Free Weights?  Answer: It depends on the manufacturer who made the machine.  Companies like Nautilus, Free Motion, and Medx build their machines to follow the proper functional strength curve of a muscle. This means that the resistance varies over the course of the rep, getting harder as the muscle contracts.  For example when you're doing a bicep curl, the resistance is as such that at the start of the movement the weight feels lighter and as you curl the weight it feels heavier and heaviest at peak contraction.  Test it out yourself next time you're at the gym, do a set on a Non-Nautilus/Medx/Free Motion machine and then do a set on one.  You'll feel a world of difference!

The flaw with free weights is that there are very few exercises that puts the resistance at peak contraction of the muscle. If you take that same bicep curl for example, the only point the weight is the heaviest is when your lower arm is parallel to the ground.  In that position, gravity is at its greatest force.  This is basically in the middle of the movement not at the peak contraction where it needs to be.  At the start and at the end of a free weight bicep curl the weight is actually moving mostly horizontally which is completely ineffective.

Don't be misled and think that I don't recommend free weights.  They are a far superior tool than most of the machines out there except Nautilus, Medx, and Free Motion.  An incredible amount of muscle can be built with a few very basic free weight exercises done 3x's per week. With the right type of machines, you can get the same results in a matter of months.