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Posts Tagged ‘strength’

The best heavy resistance exercise for running speed

First of all, heavy resistance training helps speed. Every sprint trainer will know this. The stronger your sprinters, all things being equal, the faster they will be.

But what’s the best way to do it?

For pure sprinting you probably want to focus on deadlifts.

You need strength in certain areas, and you want no more bodyweight than is necessary.

So if you do strength without size training you are going to build a lot of ability to produce force, without extra bodyweight reducing your speed.

With regard to running it is the force you can put into the ground that will make a huge difference. This is proven to have a direct effect on stride turnover and even stride length, which is how speed is created.

Of course there are ballistic, agility, bodyweight, cardio conditioning, flexibility etc that each play a part as well, but in terms of strength and resistance, the force you can put in the ground is king.

And the best exercise for that is half deadlifts in low rep ranges with lots of rest between sets. Half deadlifts are where you pick the barbell off the ground, lift it to knee height and then drop it onto a cushioned mat or grass.

You want to be doing 3-5 reps per set with a weight that you could lift for a few more reps (if you had to) and have 4 minutes rest between sets.

One of the best speed trainers in the world, Barry Ross, swears by this type of training. It is the gold standard. It hits all the right muscles for producing force into the ground and thus running fast. Progressively lifting more weight with this exercise over months and years will make you a LOT faster.

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.

How much recovery do we need between resistance workouts?

The recovery we ‘need’ between resistance workouts depends on various factors.

It depends on the intensity of the last workouts; stress, sleep, age, recovery ability, other exercise, workload, illness and more. In other words, recovery is ever changing.

Luckily, we are very adaptive and all is not lost if you go back to the gym too soon. You can just do what you can, or, if you feel it is counterproductive, you can take an early bath. Either way, sooner or later you will be able to improve your workout results when your body has adapted and recovered to the stimulus you put on it.

A good rule of thumb is that you should be progressing over a few weeks. If you aren’t then you’re either overtraining or undertraining. You also need to pay attention to how you feel. If training is negatively affecting your sleep or your other activities then it is being overdone. Overtraining will also make it a lot harder to progress your gym work as well. It’s not all about working hard to get better. You also need to know when to back off.

If you are undertraining you will feel a bit flat in the gym, not stimulated enough. If you don’t give the body enough reason to adapt, then it won’t, and your results will also stay the same or worsen.

You only need to have a rough idea of how long it takes you to recover. And you only get that by experience.

You will also need to keep an eye on how your body (and results) respond when you change your routine (add more sessions, or add a new type of training).

For example, if I train with partial repetitions (in my strongest range), I can use double the weight. This is far more intense on the nervous system, trains the connective tissues harder and also takes longer to recover from.

But I won’t always train this way because training sporadically also has disadvantages. One of them is you lose your hormonal and blood flow response to training, which is also good for health, athletic performance and well being. I use both normal strength training and partial reps, but I have to understand how I will recover from each one.

Over time I’ve learned how often to train and with what intensity, to keep progressing.

Hopefully this information will speed up your learning curve. However, you will only learn how you recover and adapt to exercise through experience.

What are different types of muscle and how can we develop them?

There are different types of muscle in the body.

We all have strength, endurance, strength endurance and speed in our muscles to one degree or another.

The predominant traits from above will determine how the muscle functions and what it looks like.

First of all, a muscle that has not been used is usually small and underdeveloped (except in unusual genetic cases), because it has not been called upon to adapt to any functional necessity.

A muscle with a lot of strength only, is a dense muscle of small to medium size. These are rock hard muscles with a lot of definition. This is developed with very heavy weight and low reps (3-5 reps).

A muscle with endurance only is a small muscle, but the endurance fibres within it are at a high volume. This type of muscle is developed with very low weight and huge reps (jogging, cycling etc.)

A muscle with strength endurance only is a larger muscle, because it is filled with sarcoplasmic fluid to fuel strength muscle fibre work/volume. If this type of training is overdone, muscles can get very large, puffy and balloon like. It should also be noted that using low weight and a very high volume of reps will not really build size, because it is more to the endurance side of things than strength. The sweet spot for size and ‘intense work capacity’ development is far closer to strength than it is to endurance. This is developed with a heavy weight at a medium repetition range (8-12 reps).

A muscle with speed only is a small to medium sized muscle. These are usually well defined as well. These muscles have some similarities to strength only muscles, but have been trained to fire much faster. The weight or resistance used here is the one that can give the most ballistic movement. Repetitions vary from low to high, but these exercises tend to be done in short bursts of very high speed, with a lot of recovery in between sets.

In reality, a muscle can have many traits built into one. I used the ‘only’ reference just for understanding of how each trait manifests itself. Ideally, we would like to have a mixture of many things in a muscle, depending on our wants and needs.

I go into great depth in my book Precision Physique (available on amazon) on how to train to get the type of muscle you want.