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Posts Tagged ‘muscle fibre’

Gymnasts don’t use reps, sets and 3 days a week routines

I’m all for knowing a lot of the science behind getting the most from your training, but it’s not the most important factor.

The most important factor is just training, a LOT.  If you do that you’ll know what works for you and why anyway.  Then you can start to read a few books and educate yourself.  You can try things out and see how it goes for you.

When you are starting though you just need to get going, try just about anything.  See what effect it has.

When gymnasts train they just do the moves, and do them for hours everyday.

gymnast

Trainers nowadays are chronically afraid of overtraining, but that’s often due to doing ridiculous things that you know you shouldn’t be doing anyway.

It’s hard to overtrain using bodyweight exercises, and that’s not to say they don’t get to extremely high resistance, because they do with using one arm or difficult leverage points like handstand push ups etc.  The more natural the training the better because involving all the smaller muscles, skill, coordination and balance engages the brain more, which hugely improves results and also recovery.  Static contractions, kettlebells, bodyweight exercise, some weights exercises and playing sport are ‘natural training’.  The body is amazing at adapting to hard and regular training after a few weeks, especially if it is a sport or natural types of training.

If you just commit to training everyday or almost everyday, over time, you’ll work out how much and how hard to train.

You can also read up on sets and reps and try things out.

My point here is that a lot of people are getting caught up in the how and forgetting the main factor is to keep taking action.  The person who just keeps doing the training and improving his/her strength (even if they do it ‘wrong’) will end up getting way better results than the person who does all the reps and sets to a tee, but doesn’t push hard enough to improve regularly and turns up sporadically.

Those fellas that exercise on the monkey bars just go and train every day or every second day and do the best they can.  They aim to get better, and do so regularly.  They usually are training 6-12 months before they show any interest in the science of it, if they ever do.  Either way, they end up with amazing strength, athleticism and ripped muscular physiques.

So I’m going to break down for you what is really important:  Train a lot, train as naturally as possible and aim to improve at it regularly.  That’s it.

The rest of it is just fine tuning.

The Dragon’s favourite exercise

Bruce Lee is famous for his explosive speed, strength and his very ripped physique.  His abilities came from his superior mind-body connection.  He created this largely from using isometric exercise.  Isometrics are static contractions.  It is a powerful combination of mental focus and physical exercise, because you are creating the contraction mentally.

BruceLee

If you show off your bicep to someone and mentally flex or contract the muscle to tighten it, you are doing isometrics.  If animals in the wild who live and die by survival instinct and one of the greatest athletes of our time use these exercises extensively, then I’m sure you’ll agree this is an exercise worth looking at.

The uses and possibilities of isometrics are endless.  It is very helpful for flexibility in alternating contractions with relaxing into the stretch.  I’ve a whole report on my website about that, which is a great thing to use.  You will find it mind boggling how much further you can stretch immediately using this method.

Static contractions are proven to create 5% more strength every week in any muscle trained 3 times per week or more.

You can also hit just about any angle, any part of the range of motion and even the smallest muscles using isometrics.  The usefulness of this is huge.  For one thing, it makes it a lot easier to do sport specific exercises or target muscles needing rehab.

Add to all this the fact that you are creating a powerful link from the mind/brain to the muscles and you have something very powerful.

As we point out a lot here, the more your brain is involved during exercise the more you are going to get out of it in terms of performance, hormone response, neurological and physical adaptations.

However, SC not a complete exercise either.  I wouldn’t recommend isometrics as a stand alone routine.  You aren’t really strengthening your joints without putting actual weight on them, so isotonic exercise or movement with resistance is also needed.  You are also not practising movement.

However, isometrics are quick and easy to do and are a phenomenal compliment to any type of training.  Some things to note are that often the strength you gain from isometrics will only translate 10 degrees either side of the point of contraction.  In other words, it is a good idea to contract your muscles at about 3 different places in its range of motion.

It is also a good idea to relax your muscles periodically in a session, maybe after three or four 6-10 second contractions.  Relaxing only takes a few seconds, but it is good to shake the tension out, release and relax the muscles again.  Using your breathing is very useful for doing this as well.

You only really need to be aware.  Most people probably won’t even need to do the relaxation part, but a lot of us are so used to holding onto tension that we may not let go properly after a contraction exercise.

Tension when you don’t need it hampers your coordination, calmness and balance.  Learn how to avoid that, by learning how to relax your muscles as well.

When you picture Bruce Lee training what you see is total body control.  He is able to tense and relax at will in perfect timing.  He’s gained a lot of this from static contractions.  You will see him pull against a rope as hard as he can, push against something and then start exploding into speed moves.  This is all using the mind-muscle connection over and over again to grease the groove and create better and better neurological connections between the brain and the muscles.  That’s where his extreme muscle density, ridiculous speed and explosive power came from.

Thank you for your legacy and wisdom Mr. Lee.

‘Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one’, Bruce Lee.

Why dancing is one of the best exercise routines

If you picture a scene in the amazon rain forest full of animals, what is going on?

If they aren’t mating, eating or trying to eat or avoid being eaten, they are singing, dancing and playing.  I’m not saying animals are better than humans, because they are not as developed and don’t have the ability to reason, inspire or create metaphor.  However, I think we often forget that we are animals too. We’ve lost a lot of our instinct and what actually works for us to make our lives better.

In that way we can certainly learn a lot from them.  So let’s go back to that scene and let’s look at the animals singing, dancing and playing.  It’s marvelous when you think about it.  It’s a cacophony of the senses.  They are really in the moment, in the flow and doing great things without effort.  We can really struggle with that.

Our world has moved so fast that we’ve devised a lot of education, lifestyles and practises that were created without thought as to whether we are designed for it.

As a result we are often stuck in the analysis part of the brain, which only makes up a meager 2% of the grey matter.  The rest of it is based on sensory images, and we seriously neglect that to our cost.  Our perceptive ability and potential is often hugely hampered as a result.

In the previous articles, we’ve talked about using more of the brain while exercising to get better results and also to enhance the rest of our lives.

We’ve talked about sport, coordination, balance and ambidexterity.  Well, what about music?  RHYTHM.

So important as well.  Rhythm connects our auditory sense and kinesthetic sense.

What do nearly all top sportpeople, dancers or athletes have in common?  Great rhythm.  Wouldn’t it be a good idea then for us to look at this important factor?

Would a dance class for exercise be a good idea?  Of course it would.  Sure you are using more of your brain, you have to coordinate, get in the moment, stay in rhythm, connect with other people and also keep your balance.

It’s a marvelous thing to do.

If you watch a monkey swinging from a tree, a quick lizard moving at pace along the ground, or a gazel taking off on a sprint what you see is fluid movement.  It is in beautiful natural rhythm.

Dance is a great way to connect this up.  Team sport is also a great way to develop it.  A good team movement is all about rhythm.  It’s not quick, cohesive and elegant without it.  But dance is an easier way to develop this because rhythm in team sport takes some individual development first.

For strength, you can also master bodyweight movement using good technique, rhythm and copy animal bodyweight movements like the lizard walk.  There’s a flow, coordination, balance and rhythm to those movements you just can’t get with a conventional weights exercise.  It will also show in overall results; how you look, how you feel and how you perform.

Really consider taking a dance or zumba exercise class.  It will do wonders for you, even if you start with two left feet.  You can start to get great results just by improving and practising a few times a week.  You only have to look at the enjoyment, posture, fluidity, muscularity and tone of a professional dancer to see what it can do for us.

If you start you’ll be gaining those things too.

All you really have to do is keep showing up to enjoy yourself.

Does jogging make you slow?

Yes and no.

If you only jog for a number of months then you will get considerably slower. I experienced this myself first hand lately. I started playing soccer again after years and years of not playing, aside from maybe one game per year.

I was still speedy in those intermittent games (so long as I wasn’t socialising the night before), no pace had been lost. My stamina had been very poor though, because I’d only been strength training, playing golf and watching my diet.

This year I wanted to also get great cardiovascular fitness as well. So I added jogging three times per week to my regime.

I’m starting to play soccer regularly now. Stamina has improved considerably on the pitch, but I can’t believe how much pace and speed I’ve lost. I can keep on going and going, but my ability to keep up intense work (work capacity) and speed are almost non-existent.

So I’ve learned from this and have added sprinting and interval work into my regime. My speed is coming back and the better work capacity should follow soon as well.

To be honest, it’s not a bad idea to build an aerobic base of stamina first, because first and foremost you need to be able to keep going and also it helps your recovery from hard sessions.

As disappointed as I was with my loss of speed, the fact is I probably gave a better overall performance than the days when I had the speed, but lacked stamina.

Even when slow, I’d arrive in goalscoring positions and get back to defend a lot more, and this gives you more chance to use your hopefully decent skills and finishing. I also had more in the tank than other players as the game wore on, and started to influence the game more and score more.

It’s not easy to go straight into a full fitness regime so maybe this was a decent approach. However, I’m happy the speed is coming back. It’s a great thing to have, not just for running, but it also hugely helps your ability in having quick feet for skills and tackling.

The plan I have now is to play two 1.5-2 hour five a side games per week and do one tempo interval session as well, to cover aerobic fitness. All other sessions will be based on skills, strength, speed, agility and flexibility.

I’m replacing all jogging with the games and a tempo interval session, which is running repeats at 75% of max for 10 seconds and resting a minute or until heart rate goes to 130 bpm, and doing this for 15 to 30 minutes depending on if it is a light or full session. This is basically aerobic training done by easier sprints and work capacity training. It’s not full out intervals, which are great for work capacity, and it’s not jogging either. It’s intervals for aerobic capacity and some work capacity.

This is what sprinters do for conditioning. They are afraid of jogging causing a loss of speed and so am I now!
However, I’m not sure jogging would have any effect on speed so long as you maintain your sprint and speed work. Some boxers and mma fighters maintain blinding speed with regular jogging on top of their speed routines, so that suggests it isn’t a problem if not done in isolation.

But it may be better for athletes that need maximum speed to stick to games and tempo intervals. It is something to consider, it may be more specific to the needs of certain types of sports. In soccer for example, it is all bursts and recovery, which is more suited to tempo intervals and outright speed training on top of games and regular training.

All in all this is something that needs consideration. If you want to build an aerobic base from scratch you are probably better starting with walking alternating with jogging and building up to jogging. However, if you also need or want speed, then beware that this cardio work alone will take all speed away (over a period of months).
Have speed work as part of your routine as well, if so required.

How to build dense muscle

First of all, why would you want to?

If you aren’t very familiar with bodybuilding or physique training, have you ever wondered why some people have really dense hard looking muscle and how that is different to what is normally associated with muscular?

Well, a dense muscle is a very strong muscle. The density or hardness is showing a lot of fibres. Muscular endurance will build more tissue and fluid in a muscle, but it won’t build great density.

For maximising health, appearance and performance you need the density first and foremost. Have you ever seen a bodybuilder that just looked like a lump of cheese (even with very low body fat), who couldn’t run or do a push up to save his life?

Well, that’s a guy that has built balloon muscles on gym machines that are useless in real life.

He’s stayed in only muscle mass rep ranges and also has used weights that are balanced on a machine or on cables. That doesn’t translate to the real world.

You need to be using a variation of rep ranges, cycling your training and using free weights and bodyweight. That is how you master your health, physique and performance in this area.

There’s an Irish UFC fighter that is making a few waves at the moment called Conor McGregor. He’s a great example of muscle density. He has one hell of a physique. He has some size, but more importantly that physique is tip top in density.

That’s a guy with great hormone health, looks the part and has all the strength, speed and agility he needs.
Go for that physique, not the one that can’t get into nice pants anymore. Don’t end up with joint problems, cheesy muscles and poor performance outside the gym. Why do we workout? Is it to feel great, look the business and perform at sport or lifting things or what ever else? Or is it to just ‘get big’?

I’ve a chapter in my book, Precision Physique about measurements and how many people are teaching lads to get way too big and girls to get way too skinny. We actually have great data now on when people are in their best health and best appearance for their height and gender and how to get there.

It’s not an obsessive guide, but actually the opposite. The problems are created from unattainable and actually undesirable physiques that are being plastered all over magazines.

We need to change our goals to healthy ones to do with physical conditioning, athleticism, health, sound aesthetics and performance, not extremes that involve bad health, overtraining, distorted images and quite often drug use.

Why building the mind-muscle connection is important to any sportsperson, bodybuilder or gym goer

It’s important because this unseen aspect of training will increase your results.

What is the mind-muscle connection? It’s basically how many nerves are going between your brain and your muscles, and how well grooved the pathways are.

If there are more neurons and connections in your brain for handling certain muscles, then they will function better, contract with more force, fire faster, with more control, coordination etc.

A lot of this is built simply by regular training. If you lift weight you are building the mind-muscle connection to make it stronger. You are building the physical structure in muscle fibre, but you are also building the skill of strength. Your brain is also adapting to get better.

The same goes for any type of training. You have to perform technique a certain amount of times before it is second nature. That’s all neuromuscular adaptation, the neurons getting a blueprint for how to do a movement (using muscles). Anyone who’s trained for a decent amount of time, eventually gains a supra awareness of their body, ‘the mind is more in the body’. It may be noticed as simply feeling muscles contract, but it is a powerful perception and a sign of increased ability.

Furthermore, we can amplify the connection with certain exercises, and it adds a lot to results.

For example, using ballistic exercises not just builds more speed, but it is also very helpful to strength training and general performance. This is because deliberately firing muscles faster is a mental focus that builds the mind-muscle connection. It’s not uncommon for people to increase their bench press 100lbs from adding ballistic training for the chest and shoulders. A lot of this is due to engaging and growing fibres not hit in heavy resistance training, but it is also largely to do with neuromuscular adaptations.

We know it is also nerve power increase because using a different focus during strength workouts also increases lifts quite a bit.

Long term, these practises will make a very noticeable difference. We outline exactly how to put this in a program in our book, Precision Physique: Training (module 2).

How to grow a body part

This might seem like a strange title. Why not just say ‘how to build muscle mass?’

Well, that’s too general for some people’s purposes. Some people only want to grow certain body parts for sporting or aesthetic reasons.

So, can it be done? Yes, absolutely. You use exercises that target a certain body part and follow the rules of of mass building.

In building muscle size it is all about using high resistance and fatiguing the muscle. There is quite a bit of debate as to exactly how to do that, but the generally accepted wisdom is that you need to use 8-20 repetitions and not a lot of rest in between; 40 seconds to 2.5 minutes.

What we generally advise is to start with a weight where you can do 12 reps to failure (after a warm up set of 10 with a weight 50% or so lighter), take 40 seconds rest and do 4 sets with the same weight. You’ll probably end up at about 8 reps on the 4th set. Over a few weeks you will be able to do more reps. When you can do 20 reps on the first set with that weight, that’s when we advise going up to a weight you can do 12 reps with and start the process again.

This will keep the sets in the 8-20 repetition bracket, at a challenging and progressive resistance for you and will provide a lot of muscular fatigue. Any body part you do this with will start to grow and increase in size.
Other body parts can be exercised in the same way or differently. Muscle building is specific in that way, it’s about what is being hit and how.

What are good body measurements?

There are actually body measurements that are ideal for your height and gender.

And they are attainable long term for anybody with the right training and diet.

They are also not the stereotypes you often see on the front of a bodybuilding or fashionista magazine. Those dudes are often too big and the girls are often too skinny.

That’s not just what I am saying, that is what the maths is saying as well. There is a number throughout nature called Phi, or the perfect ratio. It is the design number. It is in everything from seashells, to plants, to animals, to humans. It is also used in roads, buildings, credit cards, cars, cereal boxes and lots of other things to make them structurally sounder, more visually appealing and to sell more.

Nearly all the great physique statues are on these numbers as well. We discuss the numbers in depth in our book, Precision Physique.

The extremes don’t look right, it is commercialism to try to get people after the unattainable (and actually undesirable), so they will keep buying magazines, the supplements they own, the clothes they advertise and so on.

The young people who are hell bent on getting the drug induced physiques in the pictures end up shooting steroids or with eating disorders. Not good.

So it is not just interesting information to talk about the correct health and physique goals, but it is actually very important information.

There’s nothing worse than a lean girl thinking she would look better if she was skin and bone. Her health, life and even appearance will end up in bits.

The idiots who perpetuate this madness (in the images and articles they write) need to be called out. Hopefully then eventually everyone will be aware of it and then no younger people will want to buy the stupid mags anymore (until they start publishing good material).

Is High Intensity HIIT Cardio Better For Fat Loss Than Steady State Cardio (Like Jogging)?

It is better for fat loss, but not as good as using both.

They both have pluses and minuses when it comes to burning body fat.

High intensity is great at releasing body fat and steady state is great for burning it off so that it doesn’t go back to fat storage.

Either type of cardio will burn body fat, under the right circumstances.

However, from the research and our experience HIIT is superior for fat loss because it encourages sugar to be converted into glycogen and put into carbohydrate storage in muscles. It encourages this more than sugar being converted into fat and put into fat stores. It also does this more than steady state cardio.

That’s not to say steady state exercise encourages fat storage. That’s not true either, it’s just not as effective for changing body composition.

But using both will give you the best results. HIIT is better for teaching the body to mobilise fat, and steady state is better at teaching the body to use fat for fuel. You can also do more steady state than HIIT, which means you can train more by using both, leading to greater results.

A lot of people are trying to suggest that steady state is bad for you. It’s not. Any bad results are due to overtraining, plain and simple. Too much of anything, too often, is bad for you. With steady state, overdoing it just takes longer to show up and does so in a more subtle fashion than usual, and that’s where the confusion comes from. Problems that arise from steady state overtraining are also nearly always accompanied by a lack of resistance training and excessive prolonged calorie restriction.

Using a well designed program and good tests to see when you need rest, will avoid this problem. We have a top quality cardio program in our book Precision Physique: Module 2 training, which covers all types of cardio in the one program. We also make sure you don’t overtrain.

If you do cardio correctly it is a very good fat loss strategy. And if you are strategic in using all types of cardio, then the results are even better.