160418 Adrenaline[1] lifting

160418 Adrenaline[1] lifting

Lifting more than normal is not unusual under certain circumstances. This is frequently seen on the platform by athletes who make excellent use of their powers of generating positive result producing psychological and physical energy. In the gyms though, unless testing for a one repetition maximum, this is not a good training method.

The release of adrenaline, a hormone secreted by the adrenal medulla when stimulated by the central nervous system responding to stress, comes with limitations. It is not produced in great quantities and what is there is in limited supply until the body manufactures more over a period of time. If this is used too often, and excessively, it will eventually cause the body to use it but not realize the benefits.

This happens because the body begins to tolerate the initial stress response that caused the secretion in the first place and then disregards it. But the substance has still been released into the system. An increase in heart rate, blood pressure, carbohydrate metabolism and greater heart output results. All of which are stress responses. Essentially the body habituates to the influx of adrenaline and the energy that it provides is no longer realized by the lifter.

Left unattended these cause high blood pressure and heart problems.

[1] A hormone secreted in the adrenal gland that raises blood pressure, produces a rapid heartbeat, and acts as a neurotransmitter when the body is subjected to stress or danger

090418 Motor unit recruitment

090418 Motor unit recruitment

The size principle states that slow fatigue resistant motor units are recruited first. This theory serves to demonstrate the relationship between the motor unit twitch force and the recruitment threshold of the fibers.  For example these first muscle fibers are not able to sustain a lasting power output and give out rapidly. They do not have the ability to produce great force. Thus after lifting a certain number of repetitions the original fibers are fatigued and not producing the necessary force to continue. New fibers are then called upon to lift the weight. These new fibers are faster and much more powerful but also fatigue much quicker than the original fibers. These soon become exhausted and of limited use in the lifting process. But the advantage of this recruitment process is the majority of the muscles’ fibers have contributed all they can to the lift.  In other words the fibers have all been exhausted and will have to repair the damage caused by the lift in order to become stronger and better able to tolerate the resistance. The next time this load is placed upon them, they will have accommodated and grown stronger.

Training hint:

Training in such a manner as to inhibit the weaker fibers and going straight to the fast acting powerful ones is the key to instant and explosive force and power. Conditioning the CNS to bypass the non-power fibers occurs in some of the elite strength athletes. This takes the body a long time to make this adaptation and requires a deep dedication to the strength sport-more so than many people have at the lower levels of participation.

031017 Question of rest time between exercise sessions

031017 Question of rest time between exercise sessions

I’m a little confused on how long I should wait in between strength training sessions. I was always told 2 days but now someone has told me that if I do an intensive lower body training session I should wait an entire week before going back to that muscle group to allow a true and full recovery. Is this true

Answer:
In my opinion a week is way to long to wait between sessions. Your muscles will be into the detraining zone. Two days isn’t bad but you lose a lot of training time waiting. I would not suggest a one weeks wait in between muscle groups, even the largest muscles in your body, i.e. your back and legs should be recovering within two to three days at the most. The majority will recover within one to two days even after an intense workout. Are you getting my training newsletter? If so I am addressing recovery issues for the next several months.

Elite athletes are lifting up to 14 times a week. You may not be in the elite ranks right now so it may be better to lift according to your experience level. For instance, if you have been lifting under six months then twice a week will get you going. Over six months you may consider three times per week. In my gym after a year of training time I have many of my trainees on a four day program. With the exception of my competitive athletes I am not saying I want them in my gym four times a week. Since most of them have their own gear I eventually want them lifting at home or elsewhere. I am not in favor of creating a dependent relationship with those who train with me. I expect them to learn and apply what they have learned to their own circumstances by thinking about their training and discovering what is working and what isn’t, then they plan their own course of action.

Taking into consideration the issue of muscle soreness as a reason to wait seven days; if you are still sore seven days post exercise then you have possibly suffered an injury. On the other hand being sore is not an indicator that you need to stop exercising as this soreness will evaporate shortly after the first one or two movement specific warm up sets. Joint tightness helps produce more power output as the joints aren’t fighting a loose set up but are instead closer to the levers actual working ranges.

190917 Special strength and the athlete

190917 Special strength and the athlete

We all know that not everyone is born with the same capabilities to display awesome strength. It’s a fact of life that some of us just don’t have the right combinations of fast twitch to slow twitch fibers. However, each of us can make a difference in our strength levels through proper training schedules. How we go about setting up these training regimens is the topic of this article.

There are minute differences in each muscle fiber type, and these differences make up the ability to run long distances or to lift heavy weights. Some are nearly all fast twitch with nary a hint of a slow twitch characteristic in them. At the other end of the spectrum are the slow twitch fibers with an amazing ability to keep on keeping on. Somewhere in the middle lay the in-between fibers the type two ‘a’ and ‘b’. Not quite all out fast twitch and not fully slow twitch either.

Determining the precise ratio of fast to slow twitch fibers is in the realm of the scientists but a few easy to follow tests may give an astute coach a clue as to the direction the training program would realistically follow. Dr. Fred Hatfield, also known as Dr. Squat, came up with a useful gauge for program planning based on the individuals’ fiber makeup. Here’s the test.

Determine the one repetition maximum, without equipment, in the lifts of your choice. Now take eighty percent of that one rep max. Do as many repetitions as possible with this weight. If you are able to do four to six repetitions, and no more with good form, then you are more than likely genetically gifted with a larger amount of type two fibers-the fibers that produce high force but wear out quickly due to their lack of endurance. These fibers operate within the rapidly consumed ATP/CP energy sphere. They fatigue easily, have fewer mitochondria and few capillaries supplying them with fuel.

If on the other hand you are able to do more than fifteen then you probably, have an abundance of type one fibers. These contain a greater percentage of mitochondria, a higher aerobic enzyme capacity and much more dense capillary concentrations. They allow you to go longer but the force output possibilities are lower.

In the middle of these two extreme rep ranges, we have the seven to fourteen ranges. These individuals will have predominance of in-between fibers. Not that many fast twitch and not that many slow twitch fibers.

So what do you do with this information once you’ve found it out? If you know your trainee is a fast twitch sort of person then design the program around this aspect. Keep the reps low and the sets higher. Two to six reps for ten to four sets respectively. Keep in mind that performing four sets of six reps will be physiologically harder on the system than doing twelve sets of two reps.

If they lean more toward the slow twitch end of the continuum then have them doing higher repetitions and fewer sets.

Now that you have a brief idea of the direction you will be going with your training plans, don’t forget to add in a few higher and intermediate reps and sets schedules for those who have the majority of fast twitch fibers. Take advantage of your trainees’ strong points but don’t overly neglect the rest of the points either.

010817 Alternate Bench Press Training Methods

010817 Alternate Bench Press Training Methods 

By Danny M. O’Dell, M.A. CSCS*D

Most everyone has heard the saying that if you want a ‘big bench then you have to think big’. Just ‘thinking a big bench’ is NOT going to cut it. Instead, you have to analyze your current bench technique. Look at the strong points, the weak and the in between ones as well. Examine how the bar is traveling. Is it fast and sure or slow and tentative? Where does it go fast and where does it go slow? Is it going straight up or angling back toward your head? Where are your elbows when the bar slows or is moving quickly? Where does your strength lie? Is it in your pectoralis major, your anterior deltoids, your triceps or maybe in your upper back? Once you have closely examined the way you lift, then you have the information necessary to chart a course of improvement.

Many bench press practitioners are relying on the false belief that simply by doing more benches their lift will become stronger. Clearly, there is an error to this premise. If it were as easy as this, the world would be witnessing more 800-pound benches.

Making your strong points stronger and improving upon the weak portions of your lift by practicing variation in exercise selection is the key to progressive development toward heavier loads. If you have difficulty in locking out the weight then more triceps work is needed. If you cannot stabilize on the bench and remain in the groove then more upper back work is evidently necessary. In time, using the same exercise becomes stagnant and unresponsive to your needs. Variety truly is the spice of lifting progress.

Just as the palate becomes tired of the same food so does the body become tired of the same tools of exercise. If you consistently use the barbell as the single training instrument, your nervous system will eventually quit responding to the training and you will have reached the infamous ‘plateau. Use dumbbells in place of the barbell for a change. Use bands or surgical tubing for added speed or resistance elsewhere in the strength curve. Begin doing various types of push-ups (see the Push up power for more ideas) and you can positively stress your bench press muscles in a variety of different ways.

The use of stability balls, asymmetrical loading and camber bars adds even more dimension to the exercise options just as will changing up the range of motion (ROM). Instead of a full ROM, do fast partials from three to four inches below lockout. Or, from three to four inches off the chest to the lockout. Use dumbbells to increase the ROM but be very careful in using this method as it will be extremely stressful on your shoulders at the low (below chest level) point. Floor presses and board presses are also very handy to practice when going for the big bench press.

The utilization of these exercises at differing times in your training schedule will elevate the strength and power throughout the entire curve.

Stress placed at the natural sticking point will eventually change the position of that particular point of resistance. It will not eliminate the sticking point. It will only move it elsewhere up, or down, the path. Adding chains, bands or tubing will change the sticking points depending on the attachment points selected.

For example, attaching a band to a point above the bar will reduce the load off the chest, thereby making the ‘starting strength’ weight lighter. This in turn helps to improve the speed of the push off the chest. Additionally, the high band attachment will help to contribute to the overload during the explosive strength phase of continually increasing the force production on the bar.

Conversely, attaching bands at a point lower than the bar will develop starting strength and further change the location of the sticking point lower into the movement pattern. It also contributes to helping increase the top end of force the production strength curve due to the added resistance on the bar resulting from the tension of the stretched bands.

To learn more about how to increase your bench press you may want to consider getting your copy of the Ultimate Bench Press Manual. It is jammed full of incredible information designed to get your bench up where you want it to be!

An instant download version is available here at Amazon for your eReader device.

020417 Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Strengthening the deep lower back muscles

Sports scientists and strength coaches are well aware of the importance of a strong back. One of the exercises that will contribute to strengthening this often times injured area is simple to do and can be done nearly anywhere.

Position yourself up against a wall so that your head, shoulders, upper back, buttocks and heels are all touching at the same time. Now while maintaining this contact, try to push the lumbar area of your spine against the wall. Keep the pressure evenly distributed throughout the lumbar area and hold it for four or five seconds at a time for five to six good repetitions.

If this seems too difficult then do it supine on the floor. Once you’ve figured this out on the floor then move back to the standing version.

300117 Starting a weight training program

Starting a weight training program.

Are you just beginning to lift weights? If so, then seeking out a knowledgeable coach to guide you along may be the first and most important thing you should consider doing. Check their credentials. Are they certified by a recognized organization such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) or the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)? Do they care about you or just your money and the gym membership? Ask them for references. After all, it truly is a buyer beware situation when you are trying to get stronger and are paying out good money for the results you desire.

Maximum lifts are to be avoided in any new weight training program. If this is the case then how are you expected to lift heavy if you don’t know how to lift in the first place? The answer is you can’t. So don’t be intimidated into adding more and more on the bar in your first sessions. Learn how to lift, build up a base and then gradually start adding the weight.

Excessive initial loads contribute little to becoming stronger but do expose you to an increased likelihood of injury. A new lifter will do quite well with a load varying in the range of 60-80% of a muscles force generating capability. You may be wondering how this is determined. One of the safer ways is to simply estimate a conservative load and try it out.

Another more frequently used method is to do a set amount of repetitions, i.e. ten, five or three, and then use commonly available charts to determine the percentage weight to use based on the outcome of the multi repetition test. Once the percentage has been figured out then the sets and reps will be a matter of professional knowledge and experience for your coach.

Using lighter weights for more repetitions is generally wiser for the inexperienced lifter. Selecting loads that allow ten to fifteen repetitions for two to four sets in each exercise helps build a strong base to continue future training. This repetition and set scheme will not place an excessive load on the bones, ligaments, muscles or tendons of the new lifter. More importantly it will not cause negative disruptions on the nervous system.

Certainly if the lifter is able to easily lift the selected percentage load for the chosen repetitions then more weight can be added the next session. A minimum of twelve repetitions is the determining factor in this decision to go to a higher load. This process will be trial and error for the first two to three sessions unless the coach is highly experienced.

Once the weight has been figured out then it’s time to set up the training load schedule in one of several ways: Progressive, over load, or step loading.

Progressive is effective for the new lifter for a short time then becomes less productive. The schedule will appear in this fashion. Three to four sets of various loads with a certain number of repetitions. For example, a warm up followed by one set of eight reps, then one set of six and finally one set of four. This schedule is followed for the rest of the training time.

The overload scheduling scheme leads to over training which in turn will lead to staleness, lack of interest and even injury. Many coaches like this as they believe the athlete benefits from the extra work. Not so. The athlete becomes disinterested and fatigued. In this system the load progressively increases every week or even every session. There is no rest built into this loading program and the constantly increasing intensity quickly leads to overtraining and its attendant problems.

The step load seems to be the best alternative for the new trainee in that one load is used throughout the entire sequence of one exercise. In the step load the warm up is completed and then one load is chosen which has been determined by the previous testing. This load then remains for three to five sets until it is no longer a challenge to the lifter. This is co-determined by both the lifter and the coach’s observations of the lifters speed and bar path.

An able coach will also start out the exercise session with a dynamic warm up such as riding a bike, skipping rope (my favorite warm up exercise) or some other active motion type of movement. If your coach starts out with static stretches then it’s time to find one more knowledgeable in the field.

Depending on the sessions some will begin with the larger muscle groups first and gradually work their way to the smaller ones such as the arms or calves. On other occasions the exercises will begin with the targeted muscle groups and work from this point onward.

One final note or two; keep a log of your progress in the weight room it will show you how well you’ve done…or not. If the or not is taking place it’s time to find another coach and begin to make some progress.