Go the F___ to Sleep, by Samuel L Jac- Just Kidding. Really Though, Lets Talk Sleep.

So your diet is on point, your weight programming, and form/structural ingraining is on point, and you’ve even convinced yourself to do semi-regular cardio ( *gasp* ). You’re training to beat Goku, yet you still stall out though, you wonder what is going on, and change programs, or diet tactics, which all displays the same results. You get to a point where you are just absolutely sick of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane… Wait, okay, maybe not that specifically, but you get the idea.

The amount, and more specifically the quality of your sleep, plays a huge factor in the body’s ability to repair and recover from the abuse you put it through attempting to gather the Dragon Balls, or whatever it is you do in your free time. A great sleeping pattern, as well as the proper amount of sleep, and REM sleep, can do quite a bit to ensure your recovery. In men, the difference comparing 4 hours of sleep to 8 hours can in some cases double your body’s testosterone output (1, 2). You can also experience complications (not limited to men) involving oxygen desaturation and sleep apnea in some cases, depending on your size, weight, mobility level, and various sleeping positions. It’s harder for you to breathe if you sleep on your stomach, because your head needs to be turned in order to breathe, but that position can restrict your airways, as well as prevent you from fully inhaling. Sleeping on your side can cause people to be restless, I personally (Hi! Im Nich! Your friendly neighborhood admin!) have problems with my limbs going to sleep if I lie too vertically on my side (think traps/shoulders forming a vertical line) which causes me to be restless, and move around quite a bit.

 

Beyond these things, people might consider getting a sleep study done, if they’ve tried (and exhausted) the other options, to get a clearer picture of whats going on. Primarily the study monitors the two things I mentioned previously, and measures the Apnea Hypopnea Index (AHI) and oxygen desaturation levels that doctors use to indicate the severity of obstructive sleep apnea. The AHI is the number of apnea of hypoapnea events that the system records per hour of sleep, with a scale ranging from “None/Minimal” at being less than 5 events per hour, to “Severe” being more than 30 events per hour. Doctors can also use the Respiratory Disturbance Index (RDI) because the RDI includes not only apneas and hypopneas, but this index can also include other, more subtle, breathing irregularities. This means a person’s RDI can be higher than his or her AHI.

This brings us to Oxygen Desaturation. These are recorded via polysomnography or limited channel monitoring. A normal blood oxygen level (saturation) is usually 96 – 97%. Although there are no generally accepted classifications for severity of oxygen desaturation, reductions to not less than 90% usually are considered mild. Dips into the 80 – 89% range can be considered moderate, and those below 80% are severe. The doctor I saw specifically, mentioned that in the state of Indiana, by law, if a patient undergoing a sleep study drops below 85% saturation, the doctor is required to alert the patient, and place them on a cpap machine. Polysomnography is the simultaneous recording of multiple physiologic signals during sleep. The signals generally included are: brain waves; eye movements; chin muscle activity; air flow from the nose and mouth; chest and abdominal movement; blood oxygen levels; heart rate and rhythm; and leg movements. The signals are necessary to determine whether a person is awake or asleep, and also to determine whether their pattern of sleep is normal. Polysomnography is usually performed in a sleep laboratory with monitoring by a sleep technician. In people with OSA, polysomnography recordings demonstrate repetitive episodes of breathing pauses despite efforts to breathe. It’s considered the “gold standard” for diagnosis.

The polysomnography can tell help diagnose sleep-related breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea, sleep-related seizure disorders, sleep-related movement disorders, such as periodic limb movement disordes, and sleep disorders that cause extreme daytime tiredness, such as narcolepsy. Not everyone is this extreme however, and though expensive (mine was about 3,800$ before insurance) they can provide insight into why you may not be sleeping properly, as well as give you some options and discussion points to discuss with the doctors you are in contact with. A fairly in depth review of the process can be found here: http://www.sleepapnea.org/treat/diagnosis/sleep-study-details.html In some cases, apnea or desaturation can be solved, over time, simply by weight loss on a general scale. This isn’t exclusively for the overweight, however, and a fair amount of powerlifters and bodybuilders use CPAP machines, rather than maintain a healthy weight. In my case, my apnea wasn’t so severe that a few extra hours of sleep couldn’t make a difference. I get *good* sleep roughly 1/2 of the hours I actually spend asleep, so whenever I get 6 hours of sleep, it’s actually more similar to experiencing 3 hours. So the recommendation for the time being, was to attempt to get more than 7 hours of sleep, per night. If I can manage 9, for a fairly consistent basis, the difference is astounding, but we’re still tracking the ins and outs of why I have trouble with the things I do.

So now, you’ve gotten yourself studied, checked, re-checked, trained, prepared and ready, read through this whole gosh-darn’t blog post, probably stopped to masturbate twice, watched at least 3 episodes of Doctor Who, fed your cat (or your dog), punched a hobo, bought Subway, punched a hobo with your Subway, and ran up and down the steps to most of the buildings in Philadelphia in a grey track suit because you watched Rocky but never actually REALLY watched Rocky, but who cares because now you’re pumped and “Eye of the Tiger” is playing, we’ve covered everything but the sleeping portion. Guess what, now you get to create another list to follow! Minor (or possibly major) things that can help with sleep quality can be things like the following:

  • Sleep in total darkness. Turn off cell phones, LED Lights, TV’s, lamps, computers etc
  • Close all the mobile-networks and wi-fi hotspots. This Saudi-Arabian study (3) found out that the electromagnetic frequencies can decrease sleep quality.
  • Exercise during the day, as research has shown (4) that just a simple exercise session incorporated in your daily life, can dramatically improve sleep quality.
  • Sleep in a cold room and be naked if you can. Firstly because cold room will mimic the natural sleeping habitat of the human body (we were meant to sleep outside), and secondly because the testicles need to be a tad bit colder than the basal body temperature is, for optimal functioning (that’s why they hang in a pouch outside the body and that’s also why cold showers and loose boxers increase testosterone). **Besides, who doesn’t want to be naked?** 😀
  • Don’t watch bright electronic displays before you hit the sack, as the “blue light” in most electronic screens will impair pineal gland’s ability to produce melatonin
  • Consume some high quality protein before hitting the bed, as certain amino acid’s such as L-tryptophan will increase melatonin production in the brain, thus also improves sleep quality.
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17520786
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19684340
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15195201
  4. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=412611
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Quick Fitness Glossary

Grammar and Lingo

This post contains a rundown of common terms and abbreviations you see pop up in regards to fitness.

 

Dieting
The term skinnyfat was originally coined to describe people in the normal BMI range <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_mass_index>  (healthy weight) but who had blood markers showing an increased risk for many diseases and health conditions similar to those people in the obese BMI range. So, while they appeared healthy on the outside, upon closer inspection they were not. The technical term is metabolically obese, normal-weight individuals <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9588440> . In recent years this term has been co-opted to become a euphemism among people with fat in the wrong places and not enough muscle in the right places. In this instance, it’s a fairly meaningless term and does not change the applicability of any information or section in this FAQ.

Cutting or going on ‘a cut’. Short for ‘cutting fat’. It’s a term used when one’s goal is to diet down to reveal the underlying muscle and obtain more definition. It requires a caloric deficit.

Bulking or going on ‘a bulk’ is a term used when gaining weight, particularly muscle. In this instance, a caloric surplus is used in conjuntion with lifting to add muscle (and often some unavoidable fat) to the body.

 

General

Sets and Reps:
A ‘rep‘ is a repetition: one complete movement of the exercise you are performing

A ‘set‘ is a number of reps performed in a row, with little or no rest in between

Sets of repetitions are typically recorded as sets x reps. For example, “3×10 pull-ups” means 3 sets of 10 reps.

When recording or posting your sets and repetitions, make sure to include the weight of the bar (typically 45lbs / 20kg). The weight of the bar is always included.

Regimen or Protocol – A systematic plan or regular course of action

 

Abbreviations
1RM: One Rep Max — The maximum amount of weight that can be lifted one time.
5K: A running race which covers 5 kilometers
5RM: Five Rep Max — The maximum amount of weight that can be lifted five reps.
ATG: Ass-To-Grass/Ground — A squat performed low enough that the trainee is nearly sitting on the ground
BB: Barbell
BCAA: Branched-chain Amino Acid — BCAA’s are a supplement combination of three amino acids (building blocks of protein): leucine, isoleucine and valine. Generally taken to promote the increase in lean mass and reduce recovery time.
BF%: Bodyfat Percentage — The amount of a person’s body weight that is due to body fat. This is the preferable metric compared to Body Mass Index (BMI) but is more difficult to determine.
BP: Bench press / blood pressure
BW: Body Weight
C25K: Couch To 5K — A nine week beginner’s running program that is designed to help an untrained enthusiast gradually become capable of running a 5K.
CC: Convict Conditioning — A popular bodyweight strength training program.
DB: Dumbbell
DL: Deadlift — A movement that entails bending over and picking up a weight from the floor using the legs and back.
DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness — The muscular aches felt in the 1-3 days that follow a strenuous workout.
EC Stack: Ephedrine and Caffeine — A combination of these two stimulants used to increase the rate at which body fat is burned.
ECA Stack: Ephedrine, Caffeine, and Aspirin — The addition of Aspirin to an EC Stack is thought to reduce some of the cons of the stimulants
GHR: Glute Ham Raise — An exercise used to strength the hamstrings.
KB: Kettlebell. See /r/kettlebell <http://www.reddit.com/r/kettlebell> .
Keto: Ketogenic diet — An ultra low-carb/high fat diet designed to keep the body in a status of ketosis.
IF: Intermittent Fasting — A dieting technique of purposely not eating for 12-24 hours (depending on the specific plan) at a time.
NSV: Non-scale victory. An achievement showing that you have worked toward a goal that doesn’t involve the number on the scale.
OHP: Overhead Press — A type of barbell movement that entails lifting the bar from shoulder height to over one’s head.
Paleo: Paleolithic diet — A nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various human species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era.
PL: PowerLifter/PowerLifting – A sport that focuses on the development of maximum strength in three types of weight lifting events: squat, bench press, and deadlift.
PPL: Push Pull Legs — A kind of weight lifting split where upper body push exercises are done one day (e.g. bench press), upper body pull exercises are down the next (e.g. rows) and leg work is done the following (e.g. squats). Typically done in a ABCABCx fashion, where ‘x’ is a rest day.
PR: Personal Record — The maximal amount of weight an individual has ever personally lifted.
PWO: Pre- or Post-workout — Generally used in the context of food or a beverage consumed immediately before or after a workout, “PWO shake, PWO meal, etc.” Clarifcation as to whether the user means pre- or post- will need to be sought if their use is unclear.
RDL: Romanian Deadlift — A variant of the deadlift performed with little to no knee bend in order to target the hamstrings and lower back muscles.
ROM: Range of Motion – the distance a joint or limb travels during exercise.
SS: Starting Strength — A beginner barbell program by Mark Rippetoe
SL5x5: Strong Lifts 5×5 — A beginner barbell program by Mehdi Hadim
TGU: Turkish Get-Up — An exercise common in the kettlebell community

Bodyweight/Gymnastics Terms
BL: Back Lever
FL: Front Lever
GHR: Glute Ham Raise
HBP: Hollow Back Press
HSPU: Handstand Push Up
HeSPU: Headstand Push Up
HS: Handstand
HMSH: Horizontal Middle Split Hold
MU: Muscle Up
MN: Manna
MSH: Middle Split Hold
OAC: One Arm Chin up
OAP: One Arm Pull up
PL: Planche
PHS: Press Handstand (not related to HSPU)
PPPU: Psuedo Planche Pushup
RC: Rope Climb
RTO: Rings Turned Out
SAS: Straight Arm Strength
SL: Side Lever
SPL: Straddle Planche
RMU: Reverse Muscle Up aka Pelican
SLS: Single Leg Squat

Not Everyone Likes It Rough: Callus Care and Prevention

By: Chris Huber

Callused hands are a common fear of many getting into lifting. The thought of rough, unsightly paws isn’t exactly appealing. The good news is that is a fairly easy problem to manage. If you are a rookie lifter, your hands most likely do need a little toughening up, but you don’t need to end up with with crusted mitts of an old sailor.

Gloves

This is my least favorite solution. I have no issue with others wearing gloves if they so choose, but I feel that other options are better if you wear them to to prevent roughed up palms. My main gripe is that they make gripping things harder. The extra material between you and the bar is just more to deal with. If gloves work well for you, then more power to ya. Just make sure to air dry those bad boys so you don’t stink up the place.

Proper Bar Placement

I believe this is the biggest offender when it comes to torn up hands. The left two images show the bar being gripped from the palm, which leads to skin being folded over when you perform a pulling motion. The right three images have the bar set into the crook where your fingers meet your palm. This placement is much more ideal and should prevent any pinching and tearing of the skin.

Grip Strength

Along with having the bar correctly placed in your hand, this is the other big factor to prevent damage to your hands. If you don’t have the strength to keep the bar from slipping or rolling when you lift, you need to take steps to work on your grip strength. If your gym allows chalk then buy a bar and use it (Tip: Even if powdered chalk is not allowed, your gym may be ok with liquid chalk).

To improve strength, on any pulling movement make sure you squeeze the bar. You should feel the strain in your forearms in addition to what your lift usually targets. If you want to focus on grip specifically, you may consider incorporating Plate Pinches into your routine. A strong grip will mean never having to worry about the bar getting away from you.

Caring for you Hands

So you do your best, but you still end up with a rough patch on your hands? Well then it’s time for some preventative care (yes, even you fellas). Women tend to be much better about this, but regularly using lotion will keep your hands softer and less prone to cracking/splitting when lifting. Your significant other will probably appreciate this step as well.

If you have a thicker callus you will need to thin it out. I personally own a PedEgg© on the rare occasions a callus builds up, but any kind of pumice or sandpaper material can be used to clean up rough patches. Be careful when doing this, going too thin may lead to tearing next time you lift, so be conservative when it comes to shaving down calluses. Taking the time to do some preventative maintenance can save you having to sit out of the gym with a hole in your hand.

Podcast Primer #2: Motivation Is a Crutch, So Stop Leaning On It

This is the 2nd in our series of commentary to accompany our podcasts; this week’s entry pertains to our podcast on Motivation (which of course I highly recommend everybody watch).

You Can’t Fall Off If You Never Got On In The First Place

Let’s get one thing out of the way; there is no bandwagon.  There is no platform or exclusive club or bus to “Gainzville”, as people enjoy tossing about.  This is one of the most often things we all see and hear about on fitness forums, articles, and even in passing conversation with people, and is one of the biggest mistakes people make right from the get-go.

Fitness and health and the pursuit of it gets put onto a pedestal.  It gets propped up onto a proverbial mountain top that people must ascend to, and therefore are as able to fall off because the footing on the treacherous path people set for themselves is unstable.

This is where motivational posters and videos tend to make themselves relevant, and by relevant I mean, something people tend to stare at and try and force them to be a starting point.

Paul Carter of Lift-Run-Bang (a man who I draw a lot of philosophical inspiration from) wrote a post on this subject and there is an excerpt from it that resonates with me:

Motivation
Motivation is bullshit. Getting better should be something you’re already about. Not
something you need to be goaded into. I’m not saying some things don’t light a bigger fire
under your ass than others, but if you have to seek out reasons to get better, you’re
losing. Meaning, If it requires some outside force to resonate with something inside of you,
you aren’t in possession of what it takes to get better all on your own.
How will you CONSISTENTLY get better if it requires the dangling carrot to do make you do
so?
At some point you have to decide that getting better is just a part of what you are. What
makes you, you. When that happens you won’t need “devices” in order to get better. It will
just be something you do. If you were isolated in a room with your weights for 10 years,
would you get better without the influence of external forces? I hope you can say yes to
that. If not, figure out how to say yes to that. 

What staring a bunch of uplifting quotes and pictures really does is externalize your drive to succeed so much you dilute or completely lose that internal drive and then you go and put yourselves into a vicious cycle of failure and stalling…

…so fucking stop that.  Right now.


Okay Then Mr. Debbie Downer, What the Hell do I do instead?

Well, since I am not a jerk and won’t leave the dear reader hanging on a negative note, the biggest thing I have stressed time and time again is to build good habits.

The good habits link above is, more or less, a really good starting point to getting started.  So let’s put it in perspective for fitness and nutrition:


Set a big goal, and lots of smaller goals to get you there.

Let’s say you figure you need to lose like, 100 pounds (or 45 kilos for those of us not using freedom units).  This is a pretty substantial weight loss goal and will probably take over a year to accomplish as sanely as possible.  Having your goals that far out there is difficult to keep things in perspective.  So, instead, set smaller goals such as; “I will lose 20 lbs. in 4 months”.   This is a smaller goal, is much more easily achieved, and keeps a solid weight loss pace (just a shade over 1 lbs. lost per week over the period).  Breaking the weight loss into smaller, more achievable portions adds up over time, keeps it in perspective and creates smaller (but still rewarding) milestones aimed at reaching the more ambitious one.


Find something you enjoy doing, and find a way to make it fit into every day

Time and time again people do things because it is effective, but not necessarily fun.  I made the mistake of this myself years ago when I was initially losing weight.  I committed to doing oodles and oodles of cardio; running 3-4 days a week, treadmill, bike, actual outdoor running…I did it not because i enjoyed it, but because I wanted to burn the most calories I could every day and didn’t think just lifting was enough.  Running became a simple means to an end.  It didn’t take long before I burned out from the effort of keeping up with it, and I abandoned it.

Nowadays I just lift and sprinkle in some sprints now and then.  I have zero desire to doing cardio, so, why the hell would I do it?  I had no real incentive to do it, and if I had kept up with it, it would have done more harm than good to my habit building and internal motivation.

The moral of the story is to find an activity that you actually WANT to do.  It should be something that you are eager to do, eager to get better at, and that you find easy to integrate into your lifestyle.  If you want to do it, you’ll make it work.  So, if you want to play floor hockey, or run marathons, hike the backwoods or power lift…it doesn’t matter, as long as you find that passion that makes going out and doing it and building on the habit of doing it easier.


Shit Happens; Don’t Forget Your Coping Helmet

Seriously.  You had a few beers, maybe some nachos and…OH NOOOOOO I ATE TOO MUCH ONCE THE WORLD IS OVER.

Pump the breaks.  How awful was it that, once in a month of good behaviour, you let loose once?  You aren’t going to re-gain those 5 lbs. you lost over the last 4 weeks because of ONE night.  Take a deep breath and learn to put these sorts of problems behind you.  Even when you have a holiday weekend that goes a little awry, ask yourself if you’re really going to let that balloon up into a week and a complete disregard of the good progress you’ve made.  Don’t dread holidays, social outings or missteps.  Account for them, assess them, and move on from them.  If you fuck up 30 times in a 365 day span, what are the odds that will hold you back from your goals?  Barring you having some professional incentive in it, you likely won’t notice the effects of the hiccup a week later, let alone a month or a year later.

So, if you have a fuck up, don’t let that hold you hostage and blow up into a complete collapse of miserable bingeing and self-flagellation over it.  You need a healthy approach to your fitness journey just as much as you need to eat sensibly and exercise.  If you don’t develop the mental fortitude along with everything else then you’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle.


My Dirty Little Secret: All Of The Above IS Motivation

I know, I just beat it into your skulls that motivation sucks.  It still does, but that’s because, as I alluded to already, external motivations suck.  Building those good habits and having clear goals and a clear path to get there SHOULD be motivation enough.  Even when you’re sick, miserable or overwhelmed, the internal motivation drives you to make it happen.  Draw your desire in and fuel your own inner fire rather than seeking sparks elsewhere.  Even if you move your workouts around to accommodate injuries, life events, sickness…never let yourself SKIP the workout, talk yourself out of your goals, or let outside forces dictate your direction.  If you draw anything from the external world, it should be with the explicit end goal of becoming or re-enforcing the inner drive.  Get a little selfish and think about yourself and what YOU want first, and how you’re going to get there.

If you can master that philosophy, and walk the walk to get there, you’ll never need the bandwagon, a motivational poster or “just the right song” ever again.

-Andrew Crickmore

Podcast Primer #1: The Good, Bad and Ugly of My Weightloss Journey

I F*cked Up So You Don’t Have To

By Andrew Crickmore

That’s been my mantra for a long time; at the very least since I started posting in Imgurfit.  It’s also the sub-title for our first podcast.  A lot of what I say in this post pertains, in part, to the stories told n there, so please give it a whirl.

At the end of 2011, I went through a bit of a life crisis; I was a fat, miserable and soon-to-be-divorced 25 year old that felt like I had no control over a lot of what was going on in my life.  After a brief grief period of self-loathing, I decided to take a measure of control back.  I pledged to not be fat anymore.

11 months and 109 lbs. later a thin (in hindsight, too thin) me emerged my self-inflicted trial by fire having learned a lot about how incredibly little I understood about weight loss and nutrition and a better appreciation for why people have such a hard time losing weight (and keeping it off).

So, let’s run through the not-chronological order of things I learned from my own stupidity

The Good

As much as I have painted a very awful picture of my weight loss journey, the ultimate good news is I’ve kept the weight off since 2012 and reversed all the nasty, self-inflicted damage I foisted upon myself.  So, there’s that at least.  In addition of course, I did do some good (and critical) things during my fat to fit process that has stuck with me and probably helped lead me to my ultimate success:

  1. Started using MyFitnessPal immediately and tracking calorie intake, along with weighing and measuring food for over a year to reset my base understanding of servings
  2. Went to the gym and tried, in theory, to have a balanced workout plan
  3. Never stopped reading and learning, even when the things I was reading ended up being wrong.

MyFitnessPal was (and still is) an essential tool in my tool box.  Learning how to properly track and measure portions was likely the number one reason I succeeded in my weight loss, even as I started eating some ridiculously low calorie intakes.  I measured and weighed food portion religiously and managed to hit my aggressive calorie targets 90% of the time.  It was so important to my success I still use it; I’m up to a streak of 1350 days straight (and counting).

After I started tracking my calories, I drove over to the community centre gym I knew I had a dormant gym membership at and reactivated it.  At first I just did machine circuits, but that evolved into an upper body/lower body rotational split as I was afraid of not working out all my muscles.  As much as whatever half-assed program I concocted that was, it was born from the first real attempts to learn something substantial about weight lifting and, coincidentally ties well into my third and final takeaway…

Last, but not least, I delved deeply into blogs, articles, books, videos and whatever else I could dig up for answers on pertinent questions about what I should and should not be doing.  Ideally I’d have done this BEFORE doing any substantial weight loss and exercise, but I seriously doubt I’m unique in my endeavour to throw myself into the gauntlet without even a helmet to protect me.

The Bad

It’s hard to imagine a time when I was so utterly clueless about weight loss and fitness that these things happened, but they did.  A lot of what I characterize as “the bad” in this article are the sorts of things that it seems nearly everyone is guilty of:

  1. I was way too aggressive with my weight loss, despite some early and seemingly reasonable goals
  2. I bought into the idea of working myself ‘to death’ was the best way to gain results
  3. the Numbers mattered more than anything else, including, in the end, my health.

Patience.  Patience.  Patience.  It’s all I preach now to people now who ask about weight loss and fitness results.  It’s typically my best quality, but it never was when I started losing weight.  Initially I set what SEEMED like pretty realistic goals; 35 lbs. lost between December 2011 and April 2012 initially.  This was after I’d lost a few pounds just cutting out pop and junk food, so I felt pretty good about how things were going.  Problem was, was that I started to lose weight VERY quickly.  At one point I was losing about 2-3 lbs. every 3-4 days (at least according to the scale).  Seeing that sort of initial loss was addictive.  So, I crushed that first goal by a good 10 lbs., then took it even further.

In my self-inflicted race to the bottom, I started going to the gym longer and longer.  2-3 hours was common, most of it doing half and half cardio and weights, 6 days a week.  I chased calories burned, I chased weight loss, and eventually I even started doing outdoor running in addition to all of that.  Hell, I even worked myself up to a solid 6 mile distance at my peak because the more I could burn, the better. At the same time, I was continuing to maintain a -1000 calorie deficit (or thereabouts, I was solely dependent on MFP’s calorie reduction system and never adjusted it, not even when I felt like hell).

All of this inflicted on myself because I couldn’t wait.  It was a weird experience for someone who typically is patient to a fault.  These points weren’t even the worst things I experienced, however…

The Ugly

What categorizes ‘The Ugly’ for me was the stuff that bordered on sadistic and eating disorder issues.  This is the sort of stuff that probably made me lose the most muscle mass, feel the absolute worst as my weight loss journey stretched into a year, and caused the most issues for me in struggling with my post-dieting existence.

  1. I had absolutely no idea what TDEE and BMR were, and paid for it
  2. When I got down to sub-200 lbs., my calorie deficit was so bad I felt like I had a black hole in my gut, yet I ignored it.
  3. I tried all sorts of stupid things, which included cutting out nearly all my protein intake at one point.
  4. At my lowest, I’d binge on frozen yogurt and low-fat peanut butter and feel miserably guilty about it after

TDEE and BMR used to be foreign concepts to me.  I understood calories in vs. calories out, and I understood calorie deficits, but I never really understood anything about TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) until I’d already fucked myself over.  All I knew was what MFP told me to eat, and as much as I enjoy using MyFitnessPal, they really need to change their algorithm.  At my lowest I was trying to subsist on only 1470 calories.  Keep in mind my BMR is around 1900 calories, so I was eating a brisk -500 calorie deficit on my bare minimum required calories.

This ridiculous calorie deficit really started to be a problem when I hit the sub-200 calorie mark.  For people who don’t know, if you lose 10 lbs. MFP will ask you if you want to adjust your calorie intake down by 100 calories per day.  That SEEMS reasonable, except it caps at 1200 calories, which is ridiculously low calories for ANYBODY.  As a result, I started to feel physically and mentally shittier.  Physically, I’d be weak, have difficulty sleeping, and even got jitters at some point.  Mentally was worse.  Food dogged me constantly.  I was making bargains with myself over the food I was eating and calculating how much cardio I needed to do to counter it.

I distinctly remember nights where I would stare into a jar of peanut butter and bargain with myself as to whether I would eat any more of it.   These staring contests would last anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour.  Usually I caved and would start shoveling spoonfuls of peanut butter into my mouth in some involuntary attempt to make up for the massive amount of lost calories I’d subjected myself to.  The most I’d ever eaten during one of these binge stages was an entire kilo of peanut butter, ending the destruction by scraping the bottom with my finger.  It’s amazing that I can still eat peanut butter at all honestly.  Peanut butter was the main trigger food for this, but I did it for other foods too.  Mostly sugary things mocking me from my freezer or workplace break room table.

Other stupid shit I did?  For one, I went vegetarian for a week.  Problem with that was I basically just cut out all my protein intake.  I cannot describe to you what soreness without protein intake is like when you insist on working out anyways.  I did similarly miserable things with carbs and fats, all with equally dismal results.  I beat salads to death, weird curry dishes to death, cheat days to death, spicy foods to death…really, I tried every coping mechanism I could to trick myself into eating less calories or feeling “full” on less calories.  The slop I’d eat just to minimize my calorie intake was as ridiculous as it was intense.

What the Hell Should I Learn From All This?

First and foremost, Despite my fuckups I’ve managed to keep the weight off going on 4 years (as of October 2015).  This in itself is a huge accomplishment.  That doesn’t mean any sane person should try what I did, yet my experience isn’t exactly an outlier.  plenty of people on imgurfit and elsewhere continue to subject themselves to well-meaning but extremely poor choices.

So, if you skipped all the way down to the bottom of this post for some reason, here’s what you should do;

  1. Develop or practice patience.  Slow and steady is better than aggressive and fast when it comes to weight loss
  2. Don’t try stupid shit.  Calculate your calories, eat enough food and at the right macronutrient ratios.
  3. Eat for your level of activity.  If you run and lift and do all sorts of other things, eat lots of food.  You’ll still probably lose weight.
  4. Develop a healthy relationship with food. even when trying to cut calories.  Don’t degrade your mental and physical health to the point where you’re binge-eating regularly to compensate for your poor health.
  5. Keep reading, keep learning, and become nutritionally and physically literate.
  6. Track your god damn calories and macros.

Thanks for Reading, and Keep an eye out for future Podcast Primer Posts pertaining to the things we’ve discussed.

-Andrew

3 Years of Wendler 5/3/1, Part 3: Beyond 5/3/1, Hitting My High Note, and Leaving It Behind

By: Andrew Crickmore

When I switched to Beyond 5/3/1 sometime in the summer of 2014 I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had just read through Wendler’s e-book on it and decided to construct a template for it and run it.  If you still haven’t read it, I recommend you do so RIGHT NOW, but the biggest draw of it as compared to other versions of 5/3/1 was the auto-regulation and the volume level, both of which I craved.  

When I talk about auto-regulation, I am referring to the idea that you, the user of a program, have the authority to pick the pace of a workout; in the case of Beyond 5/3/1, you work up to your training max (which is, like in 5/3/1, calculated off your real max) and then decide how far you go from there.  

So, let’s assume you’re trying to progress your Bench Press on this example (we’ll use my “real max” of 265 lbs. for the template):

Rep Scheme: (all in lbs.)

0%:10xbar

10%:3-5x 45/bar

20%: 3-5x 50

30%: 3-5x 70

40%: 3-5x 95

50%: 3-5x 115

60%: 3-5x 140

70%: 1-3x 160

80%: 1-3x 185

90%: 1-3x 205

100%: 1x (or PR set) 230

You start with the bar, and work your way up by 10% for each set and never above 5 reps (until the end).  Wendler does say that you can skip to the 30% portion if need be because, as you can see, the difference between 0% and 30% is very low in terms of weight jump and that makes them expendable reps.  At heavier weights for squats and deadlifts these percentages are still a lot more useful.  In theory you could stop here and be done, but then you’d be not exploiting the best part of the auto-regulation.  Having a good day?  GO FURTHER!

Joker Sets

105%: 1x 240

110%: 1×250

115%: 1×260

120%: 1×275 (PR!)

 

Joker Sets are simply going above your scheduled “max” for the day and dependent on how you feel during your workout.  Do they work?  Absolutely.  Joker Set utilization is how I set my current bench press max; I felt great one day, and worked up aggressively to a PR of 265.  I’ve only been able to match it once since, and have not set a new PR since utilizing joker sets previously.

 

We’re not done here though…maybe you didn’t feel great about the joker sets, or maybe you just want some extra volume.  Well, look no further than…

 

Down Sets

3-5 sets for 5-8 reps @ 75% (170 lbs.)

3-5 sets for 5-8 reps @ 70% (160 lbs.)

 

Down sets are typically a higher difficulty than just doing Boring But Big, and on days that I really wanted to camp out on the bench I did do these, albeit not often, because I did a great deal of bodybuilding accessory work after my compound work.  On that note…

Lastly, Beyond 5/3/1 doesn’t provide accessory templates.  Wendler, through this expansion on his program, is telling people to really embrace auto-regulation.  Whatever you do for accessory work is dependent on your goals and weaknesses and, ultimately, how you feel on a given day.  However I do recommend you develop a plan and, like the reps for the main movement, track it for maximum progress.  During Beyond 5/3/1 was when I got to play with the most bodybuilding work and really got to exercise my still-developing programming muscle.

 

Wendler Stops Working For Me and Where Do I Go From Here?

Beyond 5/3/1 worked extremely well for me. In the 6 months I ran it, I set a massive (and my current) Deadlift PR (495 lbs.), my old squat PR (360 lbs.), my old OHP PR (175 lbs.) on it as well as a respectable bench PR doing it (265 lbs.) all at a bodyweight around 182-185. Additionally I hd some tremendous hypertrophy gains on this program because I was able to let loose with some great isolation work at my own discretion. I have yet to see even remotely similar results on any previous program.  So, why the hell did I quit doing it?  It was to try a powerlifting variation on 5/3/1, but alas that’s where I really started to stall.  

The last Wendler program I ran was 3/5/1, which is one of Wendler’s powerlifting variations (although not his powerlifting specific programs).  To give a quick summary, 3/5/1 is a rearrangement of the rep scheme (doing 3s week, then 5s week, then 5/3/1 week) as well as building in heavy singles work at approximately 110% of your training max for that session.  I ran this for a solid 4 months during my winter school semester and, enjoyed it immensely; the problem was that, either mentally or physically, I was no longer responding well to the rep scheme and progress began to slow significantly.  Couple this with a late-december back injury (which took a solid month to rehab from before I could deadlift properly again), it became obvious that I was starting to fatigue on the program, but not necessarily physically.  I was always well-rested, well-fed and consistent with my diet and workouts.  

I didn’t completely stall, however; I did hit an OHP PR of 180 lbs. in January 2015, and then a modest squat PR of 365 lbs. in April 2015.  Despite this though, I knew I needed something new and something to push myself a lot further; I had, in essence, lost the discomfort necessary for real progress on the standard 5/3/1 format.  

This begs the question…why didn’t I just go back to Beyond 5/3/1?  Mainly because I wanted to try something completely different from my comfort zone, as there was always a real chance that I’d just “settle” even with the aggressive auto-regulation in place in Beyond 5/3/1.  So, I settled on trying Candito’s Intermediate/Peaking 6 Week program and, even though I haven’t finished it yet, I have set new rep PRs in squat and deadlift, and have done some unprecedented heavy volume with bench press.  It is, at least in terms of early results, exactly what the doctor ordered.  The rep scheme and overall protocols are extremely uncomfortable for me, and that’s exactly what I needed right now.  I will be running at least 3 full cycles of this program before deciding where to go from here…maybe back to Beyond 5/3/1, maybe working out a GZCL template for myself, or seeking some other ambitious program.  Either way, I have gotten what I could out of 5/3/1.

Are You Ready To Get On The Wendler Wagon?

Wendler’s program is predominantly for people in the “intermediate” stage of their strength development; odds are you’ve capped out your weekly progress on 5×5 programs and need something with a longer cycle to make further progress.  People coming off Stronglifts or Starting Strength type programs are really set well for 5/3/1.  Having said that, there is a Beginner’s Template available for people who just want to run Wendler right from the word GO.  Since I’ve never used it, I’m not going to tell you how effective it is, but I am pro-Wendler in all things and it probably couldn’t hurt to try it as a new person.  You’ll make great gainz either way and will benefit from the structure.  

 

So ask yourself, “Do I want to be strong?  Do I want to be able to crush the power rack and push some heavy ass weight?” I you answer, yes, YES, or HELL YES, then 5/3/1 is for you.  

 

3 Years of Wendler 5/3/1, Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

By: Andrew Crickmore

The Program, Variations, and My Recommendations

If you have read any of 5/3/1’s multiple volumes (which is highly recommended obviously) then you would know that Wendler spends the majority of his writing on variations of his program to help people tailor the training to their goals and their restraints; he has templates for 2-days-a-week, for powerlifting specifically (including a whole volume put out for PL training on its own) as well a multitude of versions that incorporate other training templates into his own structure. He has also been known to create 3-month challenges for people to attempt to help them for bodybuilding or peaking-specific goals.

The reason this is possible is because the main structure of 5/3/1 only addresses the compound lifts; he purposefully leaves the choice of accessory work up to the user of his program. So, to put in in the simplest terms possible, if you do the 5/3/1 base, that’s all you REALLY need, but we know that, for one, it’s not enough for most people from a personal and actual progress standpoint, and two, you probably want to do some curls anyways, so you’ll pick a template or two and roll with them.

Here are all the different templates I have tried, all for a minimum of 4 months;
– Boring But Big
– The Periodization Bible
– The Triumvirate
– Simplest Strength
– 3/5/1 for powerlifting
– And lastly, Boring But Big + Bodybuilding work (my own accessory template)

So let’s look at how you’d build a few of these templates, just to give everyone a good idea of what a full workout would look like. I won’t break down every single one, but I will pick a few of them and provide some sample workout templates to give people an understanding of the variety possible with Wendler’s program, and some reasoning for why I selected them.

Boring But Big:
Boring But Big is just 5×10 of either the lift you did or the complementary lift (upper or lower) as the accessory you do that day. So, if you were to program a BBB cycle, it would look like this:
Monday
– 5/3/1 OHP
– 5×10 OHP or Bench Press @ 30% of 1 RM. 
– 1 choice of Lat work (Chins, pull ups, rows)
Tuesday
– 5/3/1 Squats
– 5×10 Squats or Deadlifts @ 30% of 1 RM
– 1 choice of Leg work (leg curls, hamstring curls, good mornings etc.)

Thursday
– 5/3/1 Bench Press
– 5×10 OHP or Bench Press @ 30% of 1 RM
– 1 choice of Lat work (chins, pull ups, rows etc.)
Friday
– 5/3/1 Deadlifts
– 5×10 Squats or Deadlifts @ 30% of 1 RM.
– 1 choice of Leg Work (leg curls, hamstring curls, good mornings etc.)

This is the most popular template because of its simplicity; it provides lots of volume for someone coming off of a more simplistic linear program, but also starts off with weight percentages that allow you to work on form and ramp up the difficulty over time. This particularly template lacks variety (hence the name) but it being so straightforward makes it easy to program for and register progress on. This is one of the templates I ran more than once when I was starting out; however I always did the “opposite” 5×10 to my 5/3/1 compound; so if I did OHP 5/3/1, I always did bench 5×10. That was entirely my own preference. 
The Simplest Strength Template
Simplest Strength is a lot more of a power-building-centric template. There’s a lot more accessory work, and a lot of it is isolation. All of it is still, in theory, designed to drive your main lifts up, but it is more balanced than BBB and similar templates.
Monday
– OHP 5/3/1
– Accessory work is all 3×10, not factoring in warm up
– Close-grip bench press 
– Barbell Rows/Lats 
– Upper back (such as shrugs or face pulls) 
– Triceps
– Biceps
Tuesday
– Squats 5/3/1
– Accessory Work is all 3×10, not factoring in warm up
– Stiff-Legged Deadlift
– Hamstring work
– Lower back work
– Abs
Thursday
– Bench 5/3/1
– Accessory work is all 3×10, not factoring in warm up
– Close-grip bench press 
– Barbell Rows/Lats 
– Upper back (such as shrugs or face pulls) 
– Triceps
– Biceps
Friday
– Deadlifts 5/3/1
– Front Squat
– Hamstring work
– Lower back work
– Abs

The Simplest Strength template was the last template I ran before I started experimenting with my own accessory work template, and pushed me to acclimate to higher volume levels than I’d previously experienced. I’m not sure I’d recommend doing it unless you’ve run some of the lower volume versions first, OR you start fairly light.

Now, the template that I made for myself, in which I went for some pretty sweet volume and saw some pretty noticeable hypertrophy gains from, even when I only really hit a 5 lbs. squat PR and 10 lbs. OHP PR on this program. The premise of the program was to attack with good volume, but also try and do a lot of lat work and the usual vanity muscles. Power-building was the goal, for a lack of a better way to phrase it.
All Accessory work was 5×10, unless listed otherwise
Monday
– OHP 5/3/1
– Bench Press 
– Meadows Rows
– Tricep pushdowns
– 2 H Lat Pull-downs
– Rear delt flyes (one handed)
– Bicep Curls (bar)
– Dumbbell or cable Side Lat raises (hit middle delt as target)
Tuesday
– 5/3/1 Squats
– Pin Squats (worked up to heavy 3-5 reps for 5 sets)
– 1 Legged quad extensions
– 1 legged hamstring curls
– Abs (woodchoppers and other twists, optional)
Thursday
– Bench 5/3/1
– OHP
– Barbell Rows
– Barbell Shrugs
– 1 Handed lat pull-downs
– Overhead tricep extensions
– Hammer Curls
Friday
– Deadlift 5/3/1
– Pause Squats (warm-up and worked up to heavy 3-5 reps for 5 sets) or 5×10 squats
– Barbell Glute Bridges
– Abs (woodchoppers and other twists, mandatory)

Some other template options include;
– Bodyweight accessory work
– More Squatting
– Full body
– Two and three day cycle options
– A German Volume Training adaptation
– Various bodybuilding templates
– A Beginner’s version
– 3/5/1
– Powerlifting for Mass/Strength/Conditioning
…and these are only the main options. The books themselves lay out dozens of variations, challenges and suggestions on how to utilize the 5/3/1 program to your goals, your constraints, and to your preferences.

So now to wrap things up let’s talk about some of other additional work you can do with the program outside of the templates themselves. This is where Beyond 5/3/1 really kind of kicks off, but these concepts are not exclusive to Beyond 5/3/1, and I’ll cover more of that particular variation in detail for Part 3. I digress, back to the topic at hand.

First, we’re going to talk about Joker Sets. Joker Sets are simply doing over and above sets above your prescribed reps for that day. For example; if you reach the peak week (5/3/1) and, on your 1+ rep of squats for 315 lbs., you hit a very solid set of 3-4 reps. This is probably a clear PR for you, and, if you are feeling up to it, you can add 5% of your working set weight and keep going.
I’ll lay it out for you;
315 for 1+ ; you hit 4 reps. 
You then do…
330 (105% or 1 RM for that day) x1+
345 (110% of 1 RM for that day) x 1
360 (115%) x1
380 (120%) x1
At this point you can continue on until you cannot do any more reps. Potentially you could work all the way up to an outright PR, which is usually about 120% of your rep max for that day. The decision to do so is part of Wendler’s attempt to provide some auto-regulation to the program to take advantage of you having a really good day in the gym.

Pyramid Down with 5/3/1
Pyramid workouts are nothing new, but in the context of 5/3/1 are a good supplement to increase volume in your template without going with a BBB-style accessory setup. You work up the 5/3/1 working sets, then back down all the way through your warm up sets, if you so choose to do so.

First Set Last with 5/3/1
Another volume-centric add-on is to repeat your First working set after your maximum work-set for as many reps as possible. The idea is that deloading down to that first work set weight will allow you to push out a significant number more reps than you might have otherwise; having experimented with this I would regularly do at least 8-10 reps of my first working set, often pushing up to 12 if I had enough gas left in the tank. Again, another good addition to add volume without doing a 5×10 BBB template. This can also be done for multiple sets.

That wraps it up for Part 2; for the 3rd and final part, I’ll discuss running Beyond 5/3/1 specifically, as well as what has lead me to stop doing 5/3/1 entirely after all this time. 

3 Years of Wendler 5/3/1, Part 1: A Wendlerite is Born

By: Andrew Crickmore

Part 1: Overview
Wendler’s 5/3/1 has been the foundation for my training since I discovered that I really did want to get stronger and chase PRs in the Big 4 (I include OHP even though it isn’t a comp lift). The question as to what to do next started to bubble up as I got closer to my goal weight. I read more and more articles and testimonials about rebounding back to one’s old weight after particularly massive weight loss, and at that point I was hovering within spitting distance of the 100 lbs. lost mark.
Over the course of a couple of weeks I read through several different strength books, including Juggernaut Method (original, not 2.0), Starting Strength, Stronglifts, Mad Cow, Texas Method and, of course, 5/3/1 (volume 2). In all honesty, I should have gone with Stronglifts or Starting Strength, but in my hubris I decided to do something more substantive, because I wasn’t a “total noob” to lifting.

Regardless, the only one that truly stood out to me was Jim Wendler’s program.
What stuck out for me (besides the program itself) was the preface of Wendler’s book on training itself; he’d been killing himself for years doing intense powerlifting regiments, all while being extremely fat and basically only being able to waddle up to a monolift and squat heavy in a suit. He goes on to talk about watching a lady, in excellent shape, simply walking on a treadmill. What stood out for him (and for me) was the idea that you don’t need to go out and destroy yourself to reach your goals and improve your numbers. Basically, Wendler has a work smart, not hard philosophy that he embraced after being burnt out from powerlifting.

The program itself preaches a monthly increase and steady progress, even to the point where Wendler recommends you use 90% of your 90% max; start light, build momentum, and then before you know it you’ll be using your old maxes as your rep outs on the easy days.

From the start of this program to the last PR I had on 5/3/1, my number progression looks like this:
OHP: 95 lbs. to 180 lbs.
Bench: 195 lbs. (not even with chest touch) to 265 lbs. (full touch)
Squat: 205 lbs. (not even to depth) to 365 lbs. (below parallel now for sure)
Deadlift: 285 lbs. to 495 lbs.

Additionally: body weight went from 156 lbs. to 192 lbs. at my peak, all while staying relatively lean in the process.

Anyways, now that I’ve laid out what got me going on it, let’s actually talk about the program itself. The TL;DR on 5/3/1 is that it is a monthly periodization-based program in which you do a 5’s rep week (3 sets of 5), a 3’s rep week (3 sets of 3), and a 5/3/1 rep week (a set of 5, a set of 3, and a set of 1+), followed by a deload week (more on the deload later). The last set of the program is really and AMRAP set; you do as many as possible and set a new Rep PR for that weight. More weight moved equals you getting stronger. Simple! You apply this rep scheme to Overhead Press, Deadlifts, Squats, and Bench Press, all on their own dedicated workout days (although there are variations addressing doing less than 4 workouts a week as well).
Example Rep Scheme using Deadlifts (via black iron beast’s calculator)

(5s week)
Deadlift: 1 RM = 495, Training RM = 446
Warm up:
180×5
225×5
275×3
Working sets:
290×5
335×5
385×5+
(3s week)
Deadlift: 1 RM = 495, Training RM = 446
Warm up:
180×5
225×5
275×3
Working Sets:
315×3
360×3
405×3+
5/3/1 week
Deadlift: 1 RM = 495, Training RM = 446
Warm up:
180×5
225×5
275×3
Working Sets
335×5
385×3
425×1+
After you’ve run the 5/3/1 week and, hopefully, hit a new PR at the calculated weight, you add 5 lbs. to the upper body lifts and 10 lbs. to the lower body lifts (giving you a new training max) and then take a deload week OR jump right into the next 5s week; personally I deloaded rarely, and whether that was a detriment or not I honestly do not know. Even Wendler has acknowledged in his most recent book that most people don’t need the deload until they’ve run at least two cycles, whereas he originally recommended one every 4th week.
If you do take a deload week on the program, you can either just not go to the gym, or just do the warm up sets on the compounds and then move on to your accessory work. The idea is, along with the rest of the program, to let you stay fresh enough that your progress is extremely consistent.
Last note; if you fail the last reps on any of the weeks, it’s recommended you repeat them. If you fail again, re-do two to three cycles previous, then work back up. You can also re-configure the program with your new calculated or actual 1 RM, which gives you a fresh starting point. I ended up doing this myself twice during my run and it worked out well both times.
In the next part I will go over some of the accessory templates in detail that I have run, as well as some PROs and CONs of running 5/3/1.
Part three will be me talking about Beyond 5/3/1, as well as why I’m NOT running it anymore, along with anything else I may have missed.

If you wish to drop a few dollars on Wendler’s e-book, you can check our his website and buy it direct.  It’s a worthwhile purchase and it supports a dude that has created an amazing program.

 

 

Strength Training: A Brief Overview

By: Conrad

As sports become more and more popular and world records are pushing the limits of human abilities, the levels of human performance seen today are unrivaled at any time in history. To even be considered an elite athlete, one must push the boundaries of what is considered possible for the human body. To reach this, athletes must be bigger, faster, and stronger than their predecessors. As knowledge of the human body increases, the ability to train the athletes to higher levels of muscle mass, explosiveness, and strength does as well.

However, an increase in knowledge does not necessarily mean it is utilized. Many programs that are put out today by top bodybuilders, sprinters, or strength athletes are based solely in empirical evidence. This presents an issue because the mechanism of the adaptations could be utilized sub-optimally yet still produce results, or not studied to check for long term viability.

Size

Size is undeniably important. NFL linebackers top 250lbs regularly, and they aren’t 250lbs of adipose tissue. They’re mass monsters, often with lower body fat percentages than the average American. How men can grow to be so large is largely due to their style of training and the demands of their sport.

Volume is defined as both repetitions per set and the number of sets per exercise. It is generally accepted that higher repetitions are to be used for muscle growth and there hundreds if not thousands of studies that support this claim. One of the most prominent of these is, “Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men,” in which subjects did four sets of leg extension with either 90% of 1 Rep Max (RM) to failure, 30% to work matched (WM) of 90% to failure, or 30% of 1RM to failure. In terms of muscle building potential, the 30% to failure group far outweighs the 90% to failure and the 30%WM in terms of both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis after 24hrs. The 90% group averaged 5 repetitions whereas the 30% to failure group averaged 24 reps per set. This data provides a strong correlation between the number of reps and hypertrophy (Burd et al, 2010).

The number of sets per exercise is far less researched, but there are still several studies that provide excellent evidence that multiple sets seem to be effective. Another Burd et al. study published in the Journal of Physiology took young men and had them do leg extensions with 70% of their 1RM to failure for one or three sets. The three set group had higher markers for hypertrophy up to 29 hours post exercise, indicating that higher volume via increasing the number of sets has an anabolic effect.

The law of diminishing returns states there is a “decrease in the marginal (incremental) output of a production process as the amount of a single factor of production is incrementally increased (Diminishing Returns).” This law is supported in building muscle as two to three sets were observed to have a 46% increase in muscle protein synthesis over a single set, but four to six sets were only attributed an additional 13% increase over two to three (Krieger, 2010). The researchers concluded that in order to optimize the energy spent and the hypertrophy made, only 2-3 sets should be completed per exercise.

There are multiple other variables and techniques which can be utilized and manipulated to increase the effectiveness of hypertrophy specific training, but in terms of strict weight training, most lifters can stick to the guideline of high reps(12+) for two to four sets per exercise and see substantial hypertrophy in a long enough time frame.

Power

Sticking with football as an example, acceleration is arguably the most important factor in performance on the field. When the whistle blows, the linemen explode into each other, reaching maximal velocity in a fraction of a second trying to be faster to their opponent and knock them back. Running backs try to outmaneuver their defenders. The faster you can move, the better you can perform.

Power is defined as, and work is defined as, . Through substitution, . For an athlete, this calculates how quickly they can get their bodies moving through space. If you can do so faster than your opponent, you have an advantage. Power, like most other athletic attributes, can be trained.

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2002 looked at jump squats and their relation to peak force, peak velocity, peak power, and jump height using 30, 55, and 80% of 1RM as external resistance, the participants were instructed to move all loads as quickly as possible. The 80% group was lifting at a higher load and achieved a lower peak velocity and at the conclusion of the experiment their peak force had increased but their contractile speed/jump height did not increase proportionately. The 30% group saw the opposite happen; their maximal force production increased a little while their peak velocity increased substantially more (McBride et al., 2002). The researchers concluded that training adaptations are specific to the velocity at which the training is conducted.

Kent Adams in the Journal of Applied Sport Science Research compared the effects of strictly squatting, doing plyometrics, or the combination of both on power production in the vertical jump test. Between the squatting only and plyometrics only group, the difference was statistically insignificant. This is notable because the plyometric movements were performed at a higher velocity than the weighted movements. However, the combination group improved nearly three times as much as either of the independent groups (Adams et al, 1992).

The aforementioned study suggests extremely high velocities and moderate external loads moved quickly are necessary to fully develop power in an athlete. This conclusion is not inconsistent with other studies that have been performed. In 2000, Fatouros et al., published a study with 41 subjects conveyed the same information; “the combination training group produced improvements in vertical jump performance and leg strength that were significantly greater than improvements in the other 2 training groups (plyometric training and weight training). This study provides support for the use of a combination of traditional and Olympic-style weightlifting exercises and plyometric drills to improve vertical jumping ability and explosive performance in general (Fatouros et all, 2000).”

Strength

“Strength is the performative quality upon which all others are built.” – Brady Singleton

The relationship between increased maximal strength and an increase in most all other areas of performance has been widely documented. In a two-year study with 134 elite youth soccer players, half of them underwent strength training, via the front and back squat, in addition to soccer training while others only participated in their regular soccer training. The study measured running velocity every 5m for 30m and the strength training group saw anywhere from 1.9-6.6x as much improvement over two years (Sander et al, 2013).

In 2009, the National Strength and Conditioning Association published an update to their position statement which also served as a literature review of 258 papers concerning resistance training in children. The NSCA found benefits ranging from cardiovascular health, bone health, to all-around improved motor performance and reduced injury rates (Faigenbaum et al, 2009). Where power is arguably the most important quality to possess, it appears that strength is the most advantageous to train.

There is very little debate about the methodology of building maximal strength. Much like how high volume lends itself towards hypertrophy, high intensity lends itself to strength. In 1999, Tan Benedict released a review of several hundred articles. He concluded, “In general, maximum strength is best developed with 1-6 repetition maximum loads, a combination of concentric and eccentric muscle actions, 3-6 maximal sets per session, training to failure for limited periods, long inter-set recovery time, 3-5 days of training per week, and dividing the days training into 2 sessions.”

Conclusion

The human body is very complex, and our knowledge of it laughably incomplete. But for now, the training guidelines that the research recommends are as follows:

Hypertrophy – 12+ reps for 2-4 sets

Power – Bodyweight plyometrics and light, externally loaded, ballistic exercises

Strength – 1-6 reps for 3-6 sets

Specificity is key, it would make no sense to train an athlete for hypertrophy if the athlete does not require size. The only attribute which shows evidence of being advantageous to train, regardless of sport requirements is absolute strength. Elevated levels of strength, either directly increase other areas of performance, or allow them to be trained higher than without strength training. However, these guidelines should be accompanied with caution for several reasons:

  • Athletes with different levels of experience will not respond the same way to training.
  • There is more to power than jumping and linear acceleration, changing direction and stopping must also be considered.
  • There are hundreds if not thousands of methods used within the categories of hypertrophy, power, and strength that can further enhance adaptations. These must be explored and implemented correctly.

References

Adams, Kent., John P. O’Shea, Katie L. O’Shea, and Mike Slimstein. “The Effect of Six Weeks of Squat, Plyometric and Squat-Plyometric training on Power Production.” Journal of Applied Sport Science Research, Volume 6, Number 1.

Benedict, Tan. “Manipulating Resistance Training Program Variables to Optimize Maximum Strength in Men: A Review.” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 289.

Burd, Nicholas A., Daniel W. D. West, Aaron W. Staples, Philip J. Atherton, Jeff M. Baker, Daniel R. Moore, Andrew M. Holwerda, Gianni Parise, Michael J. Rennie, Steven K. Baker, Stuart M. Phillips, and Alejandro Lucia. “Low-Load High Volume Resistance Exercise Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis More Than High-Load Low Volume Resistance Exercise in Young Men.” PLoS ONE: E12033.

Burd, N. A., A. M. Holwerda, K. C. Selby, D. W. D. West, A. W. Staples, N. E. Cain, J. G. A. Cashaback, J. R. Potvin, S. K. Baker, and S. M. Phillips. “Resistance ,Exercise Volume Affects Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis and Anabolic Signalling Molecule Phosphorylation in Young Men.” The Journal of  Physiology (2010): 3119-130.

“Diminishing Returns.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Jan. 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diminishing_returns&gt;.

Faigenbaum, Avery D, William J Kraemer, Cameron J R Blimkie, Ian Jeffreys, Lyle J Micheli, Mike Nitka, and Thomas W Rowland. “Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: S60-79

Fatouros, Ioannis G., Athanasios Z. Jamurtas, D. Leontsini, Kyriakos Taxildaris, N. Aggelousis, N. Kostopoulos, and Philip Buckenmeyer. “Evaluation of Plyometric Exercise Training, Weight Training, and Their Combination on Vertical Jumping Performance and Leg Strength.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 470-76.

Krieger, James W. “Single vs. Multiple Sets of Resistance Exercise for Muscle Hypertrophy: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 1150-159.

Mcbride, Jeffrey M., Travis Triplett-Mcbride, Allan Davie, and Robert U. Newton. “The Effect of Heavy- Vs. Light-Load Jump Squats on the Development of Strength, Power, and Speed.”Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: 75-82.

Sander, André, Michael Keiner, Klaus Wirth, and Dietmar Schmidtbleicher. “Influence of a 2-year Strength Training Programme on Power Performance in Elite Youth Soccer Players.”European Journal of Sport Science: 445-51.