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

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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PAU for NOW
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.
 

Olympic Lifting Resurgence (Product Spotlight)

 

Way back in 2008 I wrote and article titled O.S.W. vs H.I.T. With Olympic Style Weightlifting experiencing a resurgence of late, I figured this week I would shine the spotlight on one of my favorite resources for learning about this sport. It’s a book and DVD set written by my coach, and long time friend Jim Schmitz.

 

For those of you who may not be lucky enough to know Jim, or are not familiar with him, here is just a little background. Jim Schmitz coached Team USA in the 1980, 1988, and 1992 Olympics. He currently trains weightlifting at The Sports Palace, a member gym of the Pacific Weightlifting Association in South San Francisco, California. Jim was also the president of USA Weightlifting from 1988 through 1996.

Jim has written and produced an excellent manual and DVD set titled:

Olympic-style Weightlifting for the Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifter.

This set is available through Iron Mind, and is a bargain at around $40.00. This series is the next best thing to working with Jim in person as he offers not just some basic technical instruction in the quick lifts, but specific programs as well as tips gleaned from his 55 years of active involvement in the sport he loves, at it’s highest levels.

For those interested, there are also a series of excellent, high-quality videos on YouTube produced by USA Weightlifting and featuring Jim.

If you have a chance to attend one of his many workshops or certification courses, I highly recommend that you take advantage of your opportunity to work with Jim and find a way to GET THERE! If you are in the SF bay area, take a moment to visit him at the Sports Palace, you’ll be glad you did.

PAU for NOW,

TAKU

Workout Frequency Revised

By Jim Bryan

Early in my weight training career I was training an average of six days a week. Sometimes twice a day. I was involved in competition in Olympic Lifting, Power Lifting, and Body Building . Sometimes there were non-sanctioned Strongman type competitions. At this time I was chemically assisted but I never felt that it helped. Others did and saw areas of big improvements. But like I said I never felt it helped and don’t recommend it.

Somewhere in 1970 I met Arthur Jones and was exposed to shorter and harder workouts. I was already training hard but the workouts took a long time to complete. I hadn’t learned to “focus” my training yet. Arthur convinced me to stop depending on chemical assistance and showed me how to train harder in a shorter time frame. He also told me about “infrequent training.” After, I was training only three days a week for about 30 to 60 minutes. At first it was mostly on free weights and some machines at Christensen’s Health Club, and on mostly free weights and early prototypes of Nautilus Machines in Deland. When I first met Arthur, Nautilus didn’t exist in reality. It was only in Arthur’s mind. Thus, we didn’t have anything special in the beginning to train on. Free weights, Universal machine, Nautilus Pullover Prototype that’s pretty much it. I was happy to be only training 3 days a week and to me this was “Infrequent Training.” Today you have trainers bragging about only working out now and then, or once a month. It has been accepted that this is “Infrequent Training.” I believe things have gotten out of hand with this thinking.

My thoughts on “Optimal Training”

Three days a week training: I feel that this is the best way to go for most people. It works for body composition, lean muscle improvements, strength, and conditioning. Most people don’t train hard enough to run the risk of over training and three days is not that hard to get in. This can be all weights or a mix of weights and body weight training. Throw in some implements to make things interesting and on your off days get outside and enjoy being active. Don’t be afraid to be active. Practice sensible eating and you should do well.

Two Days a week training: This also works and for very busy people it may be ideal. Also, for the rare few (and I mean few) that train the way we used to in Deland, this is or can be a good frequency of training. Again, you can do all weights or mix with body weight training. It becomes more important to stay active on your non – training days if you are after a “lean look.” You can accomplish your goals of adding strength and maintaining muscle on two days a week training. Some will even add muscle but you need to make these workouts count. Focus your training and try to do as much as you can in the space of your workout. Training should take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Some really hard workouts can be completed in 15 minutes and change.

When you are training only twice a week, “conditioning” starts to suffer in my opinion. I recommend participating in some kind of out door activity. Something like jogging, water skiing, swimming, soccer, surfing, boogie boarding, walking, or biking. Get outside, burn some calories, stay fit and stay active. Twice a week can work but you have to practice sensible eating if you want to shed some fat.

Once a week training: I don’t find this to be optimal. Sometimes you can’t help it. Life gets busy and you can only get one a week in. I feel that you can continue to add strength on one training session a week as long as you REALLY focus on weight progression in your exercises. I feel that body composition suffers for most people. You will tend to get fat and your conditioning will suffer, as well as your “work capacity.” You’ll really have to cut your calories if you want a lean look. So much so, that you may find you don’t have enough energy for a HEAVY workout. Your strength can suffer also. It’s around this area that “Infrequent Training” starts to become too infrequent. You better be active as heck if you only workout once a week or you will become…………………………………fat.

Less than once a week training: Look! I’m going to be honest here. I don’t care how many books or articles you have that say you can succeed on this. What you will end up with is ………Books and Articles.

You’ll have very little muscle, and your conditioning will be zero. You just can not do it in five minutes a day whenever you feel like it as some would have you believe, and you can not do it with workouts that never happen. Having the best Fitness Library means zilch if all you ever do is read and talk your workout. You have to work out! You have to raise your heart rate. You have to spend some sweat and effort. You have to be consistent. You have to pay attention to what and how much you eat. All the best intentions in the world will not make up for lack of effort in the gym.

AND neither will the latest “Fitness Craze.” The experts on the Internet will go on and on about “I use this and I use that” but the bottom line is weight training works. Combine weight training with body weight training and conditioning and just do it. It has worked for over 50 years as I know it and continues to work. Gimmicks come and go but Sensible Strength Training will go on and on. BUT you have to show up, work out, and be consistent! Argue less on the Body Building sites and you will probably find the extra few minutes needed to “Just go lift.” I don’t care how you do it or who’s method you use, “Just go Lift.”

All said and done if you have been training consistently and regularly, don’t be afraid to take some time off to recharge now and then. Best effort equals best results. Not everyone will end up developing “Huge Muscles.” Some will and some won’t. It depends on your potential and effort. AND!!! Women don’t end up looking like a man because they lift weights. So just throw that excuse out the window. Women look good with some lean muscle on them.

TAKU’s NOTE: Thanks to my friend Jim Bryan for once again sharing his insights with us.