Everything Works and Everything Fails To Work

Look! It's a magic exercise!When you spend a couple of decades watching the world of fitness and strength training you see a lot of strange things. Often you see the same strange things repeatedly.One of the things that happens like clockwork is a Hollywood movie featuring somebody in great physical shape who has his shirt off for several minutes of screen time – and the inevitable publicity for the ‘workout’ that made it all possible.

Movies like 300 or The Wolverine or a dozen others, TV shows with actors likeTrue Blood’s Joe Manganiello, who has a great physique, all give rise the the inevitable magazine and web articles that feature “The Workout” used by the celebrity.

The idea is fostered that if you only had the Secret Workout of the celebrity you could have the same fantastic physique displayed by him.

There Is No Secret Workout

Here’s the truth: There Is No Secret Workout. The reality is virtually any workout can work to some degree and every workout – without exception – can utterly fail. There is also no secret technique like doing biceps curls on a colorful Swiss ball, or twisting your wrist at the top a a curl or flexing your shoulders at the top of a deadlift. All of these alleged benefits can be thwarted simply by stupid workout planning.

Put three guys in a gym and one of them will swear three sets of 10 to 12 reps to failure is the secret workout of champions. Another will say it’s one very slow set to failure. Another – bless him – will say it’s timed sets of strong range reps.

And guess what? All of them could make good progress or all of them could fall on their face. You can lift cinder blocks in your back yard and build some muscle. You can break rocks with a sledgehammer and build some muscle. You can lift sub-maximum weights and gain some muscle.

You can also do all of the above and overtrain and dig yourself into a metabolic hole where you get sick and/or lose the motivation to do any exercise at all.

Train Blind Or Train Smart

The reason any potentially productive workout can fail is because people train blindly with it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a celebrity workout, a pro bodybuilder workout or a workout I created just for  for you – you can overtrain or undertrain with it and get absolutely nowhere. In fact, you can make your overall health worse, not better.

The Dirty Secret

The dirty little secret is that it’s what happens outside the gym that is vastly more important. Namely:

a) Did you get enough rest to recover 100% from your previous workout

b) Did some new muscle grow, and

c) What is you plan to generate higher intensity on your next workout?

ALL of that is determined outside of the gym!

There is no excuse for working blind. It’s just dumb. And needless.

Take basic measurements of your intensity and then make sure that intensity  increases on every exercise during every workout. Don’t turn a good workout into a bad workout by not planning it properly.

TAKU’s Note:  This week features another great little article by my friend Pete Sisco. As always I appreciate him letting me share some of  of his excellent work here at Hybrid Fitness

Are You A New Man (or Woman) Today?

Wow! I improved 6.4%!!The logical foundation of strength training is that we build muscle by lifting heavy weights. It’s an adaptation of the body similar to developing darker skin as an adaptation to intense sunshine. We call that adaptation a suntan. Stand in the shade and your tan does not get any darker. Lift an easy weight and your muscles don’t get any stronger. Makes perfect sense.

So if you want today’s workout to build some new muscle you will need to lift a heavier weight than you usually do. A heavier weight than the last time you lifted. Or maybe if you lifted a weight for three reps last time you need to do four reps today. Something more intense. Something akin to brighter sunshine.

If your last workout was truly productive it stimulated some new muscle growth. If you waited enough time for that muscle to grow (like you have to wait for hair and fingernails to grow) then you should be stronger today. So when you return to the gym you should be able to lift a heavier weight or at least generate higher intensity (total weight / time).

Your last workout is inferior now. It’s like standing in the shade. You need more intensity today because you are a stronger person than you were during last workout. You are a new man.

No Two Workouts The Same

If every workout you perform is productive (and is there any reason it should not be?) then it causes new muscle to grow. If you have new muscle you are stronger. If you are stronger you should lift heavier weights more times. If you are doing everything right then every workout should be different than the last one. No two workouts should deliver the same intensity to a target muscle.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if today’s workout is more intense than the last one if you don’t take some basic measurement.

Which Set Is Better?
The fact is the first example is better by about 5% in terms of both momentary intensity andsustained intensity. This is something you can’t just “feel.” To know these facts you have to measure things.

The reason so much crappy advice gets circulated year after year in gyms, magazines and blogs about strength training is because nobody measures anything in the gym. So nobody gets proved wrong. Measurement cuts through the opinions and gets down to facts. What exercises deliver the most intensity to the triceps? What combination of weight and reps delivers more intensity?

When you measure you suddenly have facts instead of lore and opinion.

When you measure you can pre-engineer productive workouts.

When you measure you can become a new man or woman.

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks very much to my friend and mentor Pete Sisco for letting me share some of  of his excellent work here at Hybrid Fitness

Product SPOTLIGHT: Solo Strength

 

 

This week I want to shine my spotlight on a very cool product I recently discovered, SOLO STRENGTHSoloStrength is an innovative device designed to allow the user to do a wide array of body-weight exercises. The SoloStrength is built to last and easily adjustable for a wide variety of exercises as well as to allow for all fitness levels from beginner to elite.

With the addition of a few simple tools such as resistance bands or a suspension training device, one could have nearly limitless exercise options. Add to this the ability to do maximum static contractions across various ranges of motion and one can see how this device can easily build maximum strength in minimum time.

Check out the videos on YouTube and give them a call to find out more.

PAU for NOW

TAKU

 

TAKING A BREAK:

STROKE: Are you prepared?

A stroke happens about every 40 seconds. Each year, about 795,000 Americans have a stroke. Do you know the warning signs?

If you do have stroke warning signs, this means your brain isn’t getting the blood it needs. Damage may be temporary or permanent. For example, you might lose the ability to speak, but recover it with time. You might have partial or complete weakness, for example, in the use of an arm or leg.

The important thing is what you do if stroke symptoms happen. The sooner the treatment, the less chance of serious damage to the brain. And this means less chance of permanent disability.

Stroke Warning Signs

Sometimes symptoms of stroke develop gradually. But if you are having a stroke, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs like these:

Types of Strokes

Stroke symptoms may differ, depending upon the type of stroke, where it occurs in the brain, and how severe it is. A less severe stroke may be more difficult to recognize.

An ischemic stroke happens when a vessel supplying blood to the brain becomes blocked. It can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, fatty deposits in arteries (atherosclerosis) can cause blood clots to form. Sometimes a blood clot forms in the heart from an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. It then travels to a place where it blocks an artery supplying the brain.

A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain. This can also happen for a variety of reasons.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a “mini stroke” from a temporary blockage. Although a TIA doesn’t cause permanent brain damage, it may cause stroke warning signs, which may last minutes or even hours. Think of this as a warning sign you shouldn’t ignore.

What to Do if You Have Symptoms of Stroke

Remember that a stroke is a medical emergency. Sometimes it is even called a brain attack.

Don’t ignore stroke warning signs even if you have just one warning sign or if symptoms are mild or go away.

Don’t wait! Every minute counts. Call 911 or emergency medical services (EMS) if you have one or more symptoms for more than a few minutes. An ambulance can get you to a hospital without delay. Check the time when symptoms begin. This is important information to share when you arrive at the hospital.

What if you’re with someone else who might be having stroke symptoms but you’re not sure?

Take charge and call 911. Some people may deny that there is a serious problem. They don’t want others to make a fuss. Or they might ask, “What’s the big rush?” It may help to remember this: What’s the worst thing that can happen if this isn’t a stroke? An unnecessary trip to the hospital. But what’s the worst thing that can happen if you ignore the problem and it turns out to be a stroke? The result could be much worse.

TAKU’s NOTE: The above material was gathered from various sources around the web. I am sharing it here for information purposes. I have been away from my blog because someone near and dear to me recently suffered a stroke. This has been a life altering event for me and my family and I would not wish this on anyone. I’ve learned a few things during this process.

1. Be sure your life is in order. In other words G.-Y.-S.-T.

2. If you or someone you know has already had a stroke, be sure and explore your available resources.

If you think someone may be having a stroke remember this acronym: F-A-S-T

Functional Isometrics: Part Two

By TAKU

In part one of this article we learned about some different forms of strength training and discussed their similarities and differences including Isometrics and Functional Isometrics. In part two we will take a closer look at how to incorporate these concepts into a your workout program. I will also introduce the concept of Static Contraction training an ultra brief, intense and efficient workout system based on the Functional isometric concept.

Exercise Example:

Lets take a look at the execution of the Bench Press using the Functional isometric training style discussed in part one.

Step One: First you will need a good Power Rack / Cage or Smith Machine with multiple height adjustments. Set the safety pins at a position about even with the bottom of your range of movement. Load a weight that is about 50% of your current max. If you rarely or never perform 1RMs then estimate from a 5-10 RM using an RM calculator. You will then position yourself under the bar and get yourself set in a good, solid, pressing position (do I need to explain how to properly bench press?). Lift the bar and hold it just a few inches off the bottom pins, for 6-10 seconds. If it felt super easy, add some weight, rest up a couple minutes and do it again. Once it feels really challenging at that height your done.

Step Two: Raise the pins to the mid-range or sticking point of the movement. At this point (if you are not already there) add enough weight so that you are at or near your current max. Lift the bar and hold it just few inches off the pins, for 6-10 seconds. If it felt super easy, add some weight, rest up a couple minutes and do it again. Once it feels really challenging at that height your done.

Step Three: Raise the pins so that they are just a few inches away from your lock-out position (4-6 inches). At this point (depending on how your other sets have gone) add enough weight so that you are at or slightly above your current max. Lift the bar and hold it just a few inches off the pins, for 6-10 seconds. If it felt super easy, add some weight, rest up a couple minutes and do it again. Once it feels really challenging at that height your done.

When performing these types of sets you want to strive for maximum efficiency. The more accurate your records the less weight adjustments you will be required to make. The goal is for you to know exactly how much weight will challenge you in each range, for each movement. This may take a week or two to figure out. Once you have your weight dialed in for each movement, you should perform no more then one, all-out contraction for 6-10 seconds in each of the three positions.

I often cycle Functional isometrics into my own strength training program for several months at a time. I find these types of workouts to be very challenging and extremely effective and efficient. I will load up for the exercise I am going to perform and start with the weakest part of the range first. I then do one, all-out contraction for 6-10 seconds in that position. I raise the weight to the next part of my ROM and after a brief rest, complete another 6-10 second contraction. One more adjustment, one more contraction, and I am done for that exercise. I find I can complete and entire full-body workout in as little as 20 minutes. This is possible because I know exactly how much weight to use for each movement which makes set up quite simple.

For Ultimate Efficiency

There are thousands of athletes and general fitness enthusiasts around the world who use a type of Functional isometrics termed Static Contraction training as their only form of strength training. In this style you perform just one, all out contraction in the strongest range for each basic pushing and pulling movement. As I mentioned earlier in this article, this style of training is easiest to perform with a dedicated machine such as those produced by www.digitalstrengthtraining.com however terrific results can be had using conventional equipment as well.

With just a little practice and dedication you can learn to fine tune the specific ROM of each exercise to produce amazing results in just a few minutes per workout. Static contractions performed in the strongest range, using one all-out contraction, for as little as 6-10 seconds, can produce rapid improvements in muscular strength and performance. Now those of you who are really paying attention may be saying “hey, what about the joint angle specificity problem you mentioned above? For many people The 15-20 degree carryover on either side of a specific joint angle is more then enough to supply usable functional strength for all activities. For some blessed with what is termed a type “G” strength curve, training in just about any part of ones ROM will produce results throughout the entire ROM (This is a genetic attribute and not subject to change).

The bottom line is that when performing functional isometrics using the Static Contraction method, one may complete a brief, intense workout in just 3-5 minutes (not including set up, breakdown and rest). Individuals who regularly use this style of training will often rest and recover for 7-10 days (sometimes more) before the next session. For those who feel that they do not have time to strength train, Static Contraction training my be the tool you have been searching for.

Now get to it!

PAU for NOW

TAKU

P.S. Functional isometrics are a great tool to have in your tool box. Whether you decide to buy and use a dedicated machine or to incorporate these into your regular weight workouts, I highly recommend you give Functional isometrics a try. Don’t be surprised to find your strength shooting up to new heights in a few short weeks.

Functional Isometrics: Part One

By TAKU

Static or isometric style strength training has probably been around in one form or another, since the dawn of man. Some see it as a tool only to be used to pass sticking points or as an adjunct to “real” strength training. While others use it as their only form of improving muscular performance. Still, for many the whole concept of training statically may seem strange or appear quite revolutionary. Which ever camp you belong to I assure you that Static / Isometric style training is highly effective and can be quite simple to implement with just a little practice. Lets investigate with a little Q&A:

Q: What are isometrics? A: Isometric training refers to exerting strength without movement. The most classic form of isometric training is pushing or pulling an immovable load.

Q: Why include any form of isometrics? A: You actually recruit more motor-units during an isometric action than during a concentric action.

Q: If isometric training is so good, why doesn’t everyone use it? A: Actually many people use isometric or static training in a variety of applications. However, there are two main problems with pure isometric training:

1. It’s impossible to quantify progress. Since you’re not moving a load, you don’t know if you’re improving or if you’re exerting maximal effort or not. This creates problems with accurately determining progression which may lead to diminished motivation.

2. Isometric training is angle specific, meaning that you’ll gain strength only at the joint angles being worked. (There’s only a 15-20 degree carryover of strength gains.)

Q: Then why bother including isometrics at all? A: Isometric or Static training is one of if not the most efficient forms of strength training available. However due to the above mentioned limitations many people do not explore this form of training.

Luckily there are two solutions available which overcome all of the problems of classic isometrics and make them not only worth including but easy to accurately measure and track for on-going progressive overload.

Functional isometrics

Q: What are Functional isometrics? A: Functional isometrics are a bit different. You still exert force without movement, but you’re actually lifting a load or tracking your force output with dedicated technology.

Q: How do I incorporate these into my training plan? A: There are several ways in which you may include functional isometrics into your training. The first is to purchase a dedicated machine such as the ones available from www.digitalstrangthtraining.com .

Q: What if I can’t afford one of these machines or I don’t want to wait to try Functional isometrics? A: Well, you are in luck. All you need is access to some basic gym equipment and you can start using this highly effective style of training right away.

Q: What exercises can I perform using Functional isometrics? A: This type of exercise can be used with many weight lifting exercises. Traditionally power lifters and Olympic style weightlifters have used static holds to over come sticking points in exercises such as the Bench Press, Deadlift / Clean, and Overhead Press.

I find Functional isometrics to be effective for most of your standard pushing and pulling movements. With access to basic gym equipment such as a leg press, rowing and pull-down machines and a good power cage or Smith Machine you can perform just about any exercise you can think of.

Q: How do I execute a Functional Isometric exercise using standard Weight training equipment? A: You start the bar at a specific height and lift it two to three inches. Then you hold the position for six to ten seconds. You keep on adding weight until you can’t lift and hold it for at least six seconds while maintaining a good lifting posture. This way you’re actually lifting weights and can quantify your progress.

Q: How do I overcome the problem of joint angle specificity? A: If you only perform single angle movements, the problem of joint angle specificity still applies. That’s why some may want to use three positions working the whole range of motion of a selected movement. The three positions are:

1. A few inches after the start position

2. Sticking point

3. A few inches from the final position

For more on Static Isometric training including examples of how to set up and perform basic exercises please read part two of this article.

PAU for NOW

TAKU

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