The Science of Strength: As easy as 1 – 2 – 3

The Science of Strength

As easy as 1 – 2 – 3

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1. Progression: Making the workout or exercise more challenging over time. This could be adding weight to strength exercises, or running faster or longer with cardiovascular training. Either way if you are not challenging your body no improvement will happen.

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2. Overload: Is when the body is challenged through intense exercise and the muscles are worked passed their current capacities. This training “environment” is what sets the scene for improvement.

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3. Recovery: After the muscles have been overloaded they need time to adapt and get stronger. This process takes between 48* – 96 hours +.

So the science of getting stronger is as follows:

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1. Train as hard as you can on each exercise to make sure overload takes place.

2. Allow the body to rest and recover. You can’t rush improvement.

3. When you return to the weight room try to add weight or repetitions to each exercise.

The science of getting stronger is really easy to understand. It is the application that is challenging. There are no secret routines or special exercises, just simple things that need to be done a certain way, for an extended period of time.

Train Hard!

PAU for NOW

TAKU

(*minimum recovery period for athletes with optimal recovery ability).

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HIGH-INTENSITY TRAINING: Safe Efficient Effective

By Wayne L. Westcott, PhD*

In the area of strength training, there are as many workout routines as there are body builders, weight lifters, power athletes, and strength coaches. Every strength expert seems to possess the perfect training program for maximizing muscle development.

Fortunately, several respected professional associations have come to consensus on recommended training procedures for safe, sensible, and successful strength exercise. These include the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Council on Exercise, and the YMCA of the USA. The training guidelines, which include the following, are designed for average adults who desire a higher level of strength fitness.

1. Training Exercises: Eight to twelve strength exercises that address all of the major muscle groups.
2. Training Frequency: Two to three nonconsecutive training sessions per week.
3. Training Sets: One or more sets of each exercise.
4. Training Resistance: Approximately 70 to 80 percent of maximum resistance.
5. Training Repetitions: Approximately eight to twelve controlled repetitions.
6. Training Progression: Approximately 5 percent increase resistance whenever 12 controlled repetitions are completed.
7. Training Speed: Slow to moderate movement speed–for example, two seconds lifting and four seconds lowering.
8. Training Range: Whenever possible, full range of joint movement.

These basic exercise procedures have proven to be an effective and efficient means for developing muscle strength and mass. Studies with youth, adults, and seniors have shown significant increases in muscle strength (about 70 percent) and muscle mass (about 3 pounds) after eight weeks of training in the recommended manner. While these improvements continue for several months, progress comes more slowly and eventually begins to plateau.

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Strength Plateaus
Strength plateaus are an inevitable part of the muscle-building process. At some point, the training effort that previously stimulated positive muscle adaptations is no longer productive. This does not mean that further strength development is impossible, but it does indicate a need for program changes.
Most people recognize that, to overcome a strength plateau, they must train a little harder. However, many exercisers confuse working harder with working longer. That is, they increase their exercise duration rather than their exercise intensity. For example, instead of performing one set of each exercise, they jump to two or three sets of each exercise. While this certainly increases the work volume, it has little impact on the work intensity.

Let’s say that John typically performs 10 leg extensions with 150 pounds, which is 75 percent of his maximum resistance. As John’s quadriceps muscles fatigue, his momentary strength decreases on a repetition-by-repetition basis. By his 10th repetition John has reduced his starting strength by 25 percent, and he can no longer lift 150 pounds. That is, when John’s quadriceps muscles fatigue below 75 percent of maximum strength, he can no longer lift 75 percent of maximum resistance.
If John chooses to perform a second set of leg extensions, he will clearly perform a greater work volume. He is unlikely to achieve a greater work intensity, however, by completing additional sets of leg extensions. This is due to the fact that each set of 150-pound leg extensions fatigues the same 25 percent of John’s quadriceps muscle fibers. Because the same muscle fibers are activated in the same recruitment pattern, there is little response difference between the first and last set of a given exercise.

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High-Intensity Strength Training
The primary intent of high-intensity strength training is to fatigue additional muscle fibers during a more demanding exercise set. One means of achieving this objective is to reduce the exercise resistance at the point of muscle failure. For example, when John can complete no more leg extensions with 150 pounds, he may immediately reduce the resistance to 130 pounds and perform a few more repetitions. By so doing, he may fatigue more muscle fibers and provide a greater strength-building stimulus. With this technique, called breakdown training, John experiences two levels of muscle failure and fatigues 35 percent of his quadriceps muscle fibers.

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Research on Breakdown Training
In a recent research study, we compared standard training with breakdown training. Forty-five adults (men and women between 25 and 54 years of age) and 15 seniors (men and women between 55 and 84 years of age) participated in this study.

During the first four weeks all 60 subjects trained in the standard manner (one set of 8-12 repetitions per exercise). During the second four weeks half of the subjects continued to perform one set of 8-12 repetitions per exercise. The other half performed one set of 8-12 repetitions, then immediately reduced the weightload by 10 pounds and completed as many additional repetitions as possible (typically 2-4 breakdown reps with the lighter resistance).

The subjects who performed breakdown training experienced significantly greater strength gains than the subjects who trained in the standard manner. The high-intensity-trained adults gained 39 percent more strength and the high-intensity-trained seniors gained 100 percent more strength.
Given these findings, it would appear that breakdown training is more effective than standard training for developing muscle strength. It is assumed that the breakdown repetitions produced a greater strength-building stimulus. It is also likely, however, that the breakdown repetitions encouraged greater training effort. That is, the subjects who performed breakdown repetitions probably pushed themselves harder after realizing that the standard training set did not fully fatigue their muscles. This learning effect may explain the large difference in strength development between the two senior groups.

Assisted Training
Another means of increasing the training intensity is assisted training. Like breakdown training, the resistance is reduced at the completion of a standard exercise set to enable a few additional repetitions. Instead of changing the weightload, however, a trainer gives just enough manual assistance to complete another repetition.
Because we can lower more resistance (negative muscle contraction) than we can lift (positive muscle contraction), the assistance is limited to the lifting movements. The trainee handles the full resistance on the lowering movements.

Pre-Exhaustion Training
Pre-exhaustion training is also designed to fatigue more muscle fibers than standard training. With this high-intensity technique, you complete two successive exercise sets for the same muscle group. The first set is typically performed with a rotary exercise that fatigues the target muscle group. The second set is conducted with a linear exercise that involves both the fatigued target muscle group and a fresh muscle group.

For example, you may do a set of chest flies to pre-exhaust the pectoralis major muscles. At the point of failure, you may immediately perform a set of chest presses using both the fatigued pectoralis major muscles and the fresh triceps muscles.

By incorporating different movement patterns and fresh muscles, pre-exhaustion training produces greater fatigue in the target muscle group. Other effective pre-exhaustion combinations include lateral raises followed by overhead presses for the deltoid muscles, pullovers followed by pulldowns for the latissimus dorsi muscles, arm curls followed by chin-ups for the biceps muscles, arm extensions followed by dips for the triceps muscles, and leg extensions followed by leg presses for the quadriceps muscles.

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Conclusion
Our study with adults and seniors demonstrated significantly more strength development with breakdown training than with standard training. Although not researched, experience indicates that assisted training and pre-exhaustion training are also effective means of producing more muscle fiber involvement and promoting greater strength gains. In addition to the physiological adaptations associated with high-intensity strength exercise, there would appear to be psychological changes as well. That is, people who practice high-intensity techniques are likely to train harder than those who have not exercised in this manner.

Because of the greater effort required by high-intensity strength exercise, it should not be overdone. A single breakdown set, a few assisted repetitions, and an occasional pre-exhaustion workout will be sufficient. Most important, be sure to perform every repetition in standard and high-intensity exercise with proper technique and controlled movement speed

*Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. Dr. Westcott has written the Muscular Strength And Endurance chapter for the ACE Personal Trainer Manual and has authored several textbooks on strength training.

TAKU’s NOTE: This week I offer yet another excellent article from my friend and mentor Dr Wayne Westcott.

Perspective on Proper Strength Training

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I am not sure how many times I need to say this stuff…Okay, maybe just one more time.

Strength training programs should be comprehensive in nature with the emphasis placed on exercising the major muscle complexes throughout their fullest range of functional motion. The selected movements should include a variety of multi-joint and single-joint exercises, utilizing a good mix of machines and free weights whenever possible, and be safe and relatively easy to perform in terms of technique.

Muscle overload can be applied with a variety of tools: barbells, dumbbells, machines, manually applied resistance, body weight, sand bags, etc. Anything that can create high tension in the muscles can be used.


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A variety of exercise prescriptions can be used provided muscle overload occurs, such as heavy resistances / few repetitions, lighter resistances / more repetitions, minimal exercise bouts (i.e., 1 to 3 sets per muscle group) and / or varied rest time between sets and exercises (i.e., 30 seconds to 3:00+).

Set and repetition schemes may be varied, but the program should strive for intense efforts, accurate record keeping, a system for progressive overload and time efficiency.

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The short version is: 1.) Select exercise tool(s), and resistance / repetition schemes that reflect your current goals. 2.) Perform as many perfect repetitions as possible with the selected resistance. 3.) Write it all down. 4.) Next time attempt to do more than you did last time.

YES!! It’s really that simple.

Now get to it!

PAU for NOW

TAKU

TAKU’s NOTE: Movements requiring excessive momentum for the execution and/or completion of the lift should be avoided. (More specific information is available upon request.)

 

 

TEN TRAINING TIPS:

Below you will find ten basic tips that will help you get the most out of your strength training program.

1) Train with a high level of intensity.

Intensity is not yelling loud, rather it is the ability to exert maximal effort, and focus on each repetition. At times this may require the ability to train past your comfort zone.

2) Attempt to increase the resistance used or repetitions performed every workout.

This is the application of the Overload Principle. The muscles must be challenged gradually and consistently in order to grow stronger.

3) Ideally, perform one set of each movement to the point of muscular exhaustion.

(There is very little evidence to suggest that multiple sets of each exercise are superior to a single set for strength gains.)

4) Reach concentric muscular failure within a prescribed number of time / repetitions.

If you reach failure well below the recommended time / repetition range the weight is too heavy, and potentially dangerous, it should be lowered on the next workout. If you reach failure above the time / rep range the weight is too light and you should gradually increase the resistance on the next workout.

5) Perform each repetition with proper technique. (see four rep rules)

The workout is only as good as each individual repetition. For maximum muscle-fiber recruitment and safety you should use a slow and controlled rep speed. We recommend a minimum 3-5-second concentric movement (raising) and 3-5-second eccentric movement (lowering). Note: Slower rep speeds are acceptable, and may be quite effective for some.

6) Strength train for no more than thirty minutes per workout.

We find it counter-productive to train with high levels of intensity for over 30 minutes.

7) Strength train 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days.

To keep the body fresh and to avoid over-training you should take time to recover. As long as your strength continues to increase your rest is adequate. Should your strength plateau or slip you may need additional rest, not additional work. Counter intuitively stronger athletes require more rest than beginners.

8) Keep accurate records of performance.

This is the only way we can determine your gains in strength. This also is how coaches can help you individualize the workout for you, as no two athletes are exactly alike.

9) Safety above all things.

We are in the weight room to supplement your athletic skills with strength training. We do not want to risk an injury preparing for our sports. Non-athletes also do not want to risk injury in the attempt to improve their overall heath. Rule of thumb: If a movement is too fast or unorthodox do not perform it

10 To gain weight, consume more calories… to lose weight consume less.

Obviously the calories you put into your body should be healthy ones and the calories you cut from your diet should be done gradually. If you are serious about this concept please contact me for safe tips on weight gain and loss.

*THE FOUR rep rules.

Rule # 1 – Raise and lower the weight through the muscles full range of motion.

Rule # 2 – Eliminate momentum during the raising phase of each exercise.

Rule # 3 – Pause momentarily (stop for a count of 1001) in the muscle’s contracted position and then make a smooth transition to the lowering of the weight (no sudden drop).

Rule # 4 – Emphasize the lowering of the weight (take longer to lower the weight).

PAU for NOW
TAKU

The above inspired by the excellent work of the folks at www.strongerathletes.com

Positive Role Models

Below is a list of some of the men who have positively impacted me in my career as a strength and conditioning coach. Some of these men are friends of mine, some I have been lucky enough to meet and spend time with, while others have led by example through their tireless efforts to promote safe, productive strength and conditioning practices. Not only have these men positively impacted my own development, but their work has inspired and positively influenced numerous coaches within the industry, and countless athletes around the world. This list is presented in no particular order (it’s not a top ten).

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  1. Mark Asanovich

Mark Asanovich has years of NFL Strength and Conditioning experience. Including time with the Minnesota Vikings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Jacksonville Jaguars strength and conditioning programs. His program emphasizes individual supervision of player workouts. It is his belief that players who are coached in the weight room will develop better results. The cornerstone of the program is to “maximize physical potential and minimize physical injury.” Asanovich has been a speaker for consecutive years at the Strong-S seminar in Tokyo that is organized by the renowned Japanese trainer Tatsuya Okawa.

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  1. Matt Brzycki

Matt Brzycki has authored, co-authored and edited seventeen books. In addition, he has authored more than 435 articles/columns on strength and fitness that have appeared in 44 different publications. Matt has given presentations throughout the United States and Canada. He has also given presentations to the Central Intelligence Agency; US Customs and Border Protection; and US Secret Service Academy. He was appointed by the governor to serve on the New Jersey Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as well as the New Jersey Obesity Prevention Task Force.

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  1. Dr. Ellington Darden

Dr. Ellington Darden is the leading disciple of the H.I.T. training method. Darden, for 17 years the director of research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries, is the author of such enormously popular books on high-intensity workouts as The Nautilus Book, High-Intensity Bodybuilding, and 100 High-Intensity Ways to Build Your Body, along with 40 other fitness books.

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  1. Big Jim Flanagan

Jim Flangan met Henry “Milo” Steinborn, world’s strongest man at the time and champion wrestler, and began strength training under Milo’s guidance. He continued training with Milo for years to come and along the way met Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus and known worldwide as the man who changed the face of fitness forever. Arthur was a fitness genius and true living legend. Jim purchased a full line of Nautilus equipment from Arthur in 1973 and proceeded to open Orlando, Florida’s first fitness center, Jim Flanagan’s Nautilus Fitness Center.

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  1. Mike Gittleson

Mike Gittleson spent thirty seasons as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Michigan’s football program. He was appointed the athletic department’s first strength and conditioning coach in 1978. Gittleson was recognized by the Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches Society as the 2003 National Collegiate Football Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year. Gittleson maintained the overall training and conditioning of the football program in one of the finest facilities in the country. He developed a unique and scientific approach to Michigan’s conditioning program, tailoring each program to the individual player in order to provide the maximum physical output and the prevention of injuries.

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  1. Arthur Jones

Arthur Jones’ ideas helped move the public’s notion of bodybuilding and strength-training exercise away from the hours in the gym using free weights, to short, single set workouts focusing on maximum intensity, which, according to theory, triggers maximal muscular growth. His publications include the Nautilus Bulletins, which aim to dispel contemporary myths of exercise and training. The Nautilus machines and the company he formed to sell them made him a multimillionaire and landed him on the Forbes list of the 400 richest people. Jones also founded MedX Corporation, in which he invested millions to develop medical-based exercise and testing equipment targeting spinal rehabilitation and fitness.

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  1. Dr. Ted Lambrinides

Dr. Ted Lambrinides is currently a strength and conditioning coach for the University of Kentucky. Ted did his undergraduate studies in business marketing and graduate studies in coaching and exercise science at The Ohio State University, where he began his career as a student assistant and graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach. After OSU, Lambrinides worked as director of education for two fitness companies, Nautilus Midwest and Hammer Strength Corporation.

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  1. Dr. Ken Leistner

Dr. Ken Leistner, for decades a concerned voice in the powerlifting community as a competitor, trainer, judge, national athletes’ representative, and administrator, was the Feature Editor, monthly columnist, and the author of articles ranging from training advice to political commentary for POWERLIFTING USA Magazine. With over 1000 published articles in the area of strength enhancement and injury prevention and rehabilitation, Dr. Ken was asked to edit or rewrite the rulebook for two of Powerlifting’s major federations. Dr. Ken has served as a consultant to numerous university athletic programs and NFL coaching staffs. While many in the sport know Leistner through the Steel Tip Newsletter of the 1980’s, many articles, and former ownership of the National and World Championship winning Iron Island Gym, Dr. Ken is as well known for his contributions to the Chiropractic treatment protocols first used at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the design and prototyping of Nautilus and Hammer Strength equipment dating back to the early-1970’s.

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  1. Ken Mannie

Ken Mannie has spent 18 + years as Michigan State’s head strength and conditioning coach for football, while additionally directing and overseeing the strength and conditioning programs for all men’s and women’s sports. Mannie has been a keynote speaker and round-table participant at several national conventions and seminars. In both 2006 and 2007, Mannie was named to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in recognition for his numerous and ongoing educational efforts in the field of strength and conditioning and in bringing awareness to the anabolic drug abuse problem in sports. He has been recognized and is widely published on his adamant stance against performance-enhancing drugs.

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  1. Dan Riley

Dan Riley most recently was the strength and conditioning educator for the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine Institute. Riley is a retired strength and conditioning coach having spent 27 of those years in the National Football League (19 with the Washington Redskins and eight with the Houston Texans) winning four Super Bowls. Prior to his stint with the Redskins, Riley spent five years as the strength coach at Penn State after serving four years as the strength coach at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

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  1. Dr. Wayne Westcott 

Dr. Wayne Westcott has been honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Fitness Professionals, the Healthy American Fitness Leader Award from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and the Roberts-Gulick Award from the YMCA Association of Professional Directors, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Governor’s Committee on Physical Fitness and Sports, and the NOVA 7 Exercise Program Award from Fitness Management Magazine.

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  1. Kim Wood

Kim Wood started weight training as a youngster, training to become a better wrestler and football player. He continued his training behind the scenes, as a running back at the University of Wisconsin in the sixties…. long before the fancy weight rooms and training complexes known to today’s players. Later, he worked for Arthur Jones, the legendary designer of the Nautilus machines. In 1975, Kim became one of the first strength coaches of professional football. During that time, he was also one of the three principals who created the now, world famous, Hammer Strength machines. He retired from the Bengals after 28 years with the team and was lucky enough to experience two Super Bowls along the way.

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13. Tom Kelso

For 23 years he was in the collegiate strength and conditioning profession, serving as the Head Coach for Strength and Conditioning at Saint Louis University (2004-2008), the University of Illinois at Chicago (2001-2004), Southeast Missouri State University (1991-2001), and the University of Florida (1988-1990). He got his start in the strength and conditioning field as an Assistant Strength Coach at Florida in 1984 where he was also a weight training instructor for the Department of Physical Education from 1985 to 1988. Tom Kelso is currently an Exercise Physiologist with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He also trains clients through Pinnacle Personal & Performance Training in Chesterfield, Missouri.

Along with my friend, Mentor, and frequent poster here at Hybrid Fitness Jim Bryan… The above gentlemen represent some of the finest minds of the Strength and Conditioning community. If you are already familiar with some or all of the men on this list, then count yourself lucky. If you have not explored their work, then I suggest you do so right away.

PAU for NOW

TAKU 

S.P.I.C.E. things up

A common question that comes up with coaches and athletes is how do I make sure my strength and conditioning program is “sports specific”? There are only three things you need to think about improving.

  • Force enhancement via strength training
  • Energy system improvement via sport-related conditioning runs or drills
  • Skill improvement via sport-specific skill training

The development of muscular strength is the general progression of increasing the muscle’s ability to produce force. Sports skill development, on the other hand, is the specific learning of how to best coordinate and apply these forces.

In other words, strength is a non-specific adaptation developed in the weight room whereas sports skills are a specific adaptation developed through guided practice on “the field”.* As a result, a powerful athlete is developed physically in the weight room, which by a separate process is developed mechanically on “the field”.*

Unless you are competing as a power-lifter, Olympic style weight lifter etc, anything you do in the weight room will have zero direct transfer to what you are doing on “the field” of play.*

With the above in mind, here is a simple formula to keep your training on the right track.

Key points to remember too S.P.I.C.E. things up

1. Strength train in order to reduce injury, and resist fatigue in the safest method possible.

2. Practice your skills

3. Improve flexibility- perform a proper stretching routine to increase range of motion around a joint

4. Condition the energy systems used to play your sport (running intervals, cardiovascular exercises and speed training)

5. Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of water to ensure the body has the proper amount of nutrients in order to grow stronger.

 

These five basic concepts will go a long way in keeping your training simple, safe, and focused on success.

PAU for NOW

TAKU 

TAKU’s NOTE: *(“The field” implies any athletic playing space the wrestling mat, tennis court, Fighting cage, boxing ring etc.)

Product Spotlight: Total Fitness in Thirty Minutes a Week

Anyone who is a regular visitor to my blog knows that I am always on a quest to find the most efficient and effective ways to attain and maintain fitness. For many years I have been an advocate of brief, intense strength training, as well as a strong proponent for the merits of interval training, and other methods of less protracted “CARDIO” exercise.
With this in mind I highly recommend you seek out the book: Total Fitness in Thirty Minutes a Week by Laurence Englemohr Morehouse, and Leonard Gross. Dr. Lawrence Morehouse founded UCLA´s performance laboratory and wrote sections on exercise and physical conditioning for the Encyclopedia Britannica. He designed NASA’s fitness program for the astronauts. Most notably, he discovered that a combination of exercises-one for short periods of time daily-can provide all the muscle developing, stretching, aerobic stimulation and cardiovascular conditioning most people need. 
 
Dr. Morehouse’s findings revealed that we need very little exercise each day-if it´s the right kind of exercise. Morehouse, advocates vigorous exercise as monitored by your pulse rate, for its beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system. Among some of his unconventional ideas, Dr. Morehouse, suggests that 10 minutes of vigorous exercise, three times a week, is all that is needed for complete cardiovascular conditioning.
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Total Fitness in Thirty Minutes a Week Exposes myths about physical fitness, intense exercise and strict diet plans and proposes a targeted approach to conditioning based on individual lifestyles and the regulating of metabolic systems.
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TAKU
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TAKU’s NOTE: Although this book was originally published 1976, it is well worth finding a copy and giving it a thorough read through.
*All pictures of Astronauts performing strength, and conditioning training aboard the ISS.