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Monday, April 30, 2012

Going HAM

"I like the way the seam runs up the back of the stocking..."  Yeah, me too.  But what David Lee Roth should have said after that is: "especially when it has to take the long way--cuz she's got such monstrous hamstrings!" :P

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Quadzilla!

Finally!  (I wrote this post like a month and a half ago...)  Here it is, my leg training how-to!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pump It Up

I've kinda talked about pumps before, but let's go into a little more detail this time.  

Firstly, what is a "pump"?  Many individuals can train for months or years before experiencing one.  Seasoned lifters can grow so accustomed to them that the pumps themselves go largely unnoticed.  But what the hell is it?  Mechanically, the "pump" is a profusion of blood in the target muscle caused by the body's natural reaction to muscular contractions.  In addition to cleaning up the cell damage caused by catabolism, your body is also constantly replenishing ATP stores in order to power your muscles.  This causes a major influx of blood to the target muscle, creating mild congestion, e.g. swelling, slight numbness and tingling, as well as a slightly engorged appearance.

Muscular contractions (such as those performed during weight training) originate as conscious effort from the brain.  Basically, an electrical charge innervates the muscle fibers, causing a cascade of effects which ultimately leads to a contraction.  Within each innervated muscle fiber are myofibrils surrounded by sarcoplasm--a calcium rich plasma--within each myofibril are thin filaments formed by actin and myosin.  The electrical impulse from your brain depolarizes the inner portion of the muscle fiber, activating voltage-gated calcium channels which react with calcium-release channels.  These channels react with the sarcoplasmic reticulum (an organelle regulating calcium concentrations in the muscle), allowing the release of calcium, which binds to the actin containing filaments.  This in turn allows a modulation of proteins along the actin chain, allowing the previously blocked myosin filaments to bind to the actin filaments.  In the absence of calcium, this is not possible.  This binding pulls the bands together, resulting in contractile force.  Then, ATP (remember this guy?) binds to the myosin, weakening its binding state to actin and thereby releasing it--resulting in a relaxation of the muscle fibers.

So during muscular contractions, your body is required to replenish oxygen and ATP, as well as remove waste--all of which are done through the bloodstream.  So why have some people not experienced a "pump"?  Muscular contractions are not all equal.  The complete activation of all muscle fibers will require more bloodflow than a contraction where only some fibers are activated.  In a muscle where overload is not being experienced, there will also be less demand for blood.  This is why people who train light or people who don't train well will often go pump-less.  Once again, this is why isolation, overload, and proper form are absolutely necessary.  

How important is a pump in muscular hypertrophy?  There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that muscular pumps in any way correlate directly with growth.  Meaning, just because your quads got hella pumped,  you may not have initiated hella adaptive response (on a strictly acute basis).  Ya feel me?  However, muscular pumps are an excellent indicator of isolation and should definitely be sought in each workout, and are highly effective as a long-term benchmarking tool as well.  It goes without saying that fully activating each muscle--each fiber--will absolutely net you greater gains.  In many cases, this will result in a ridiculous pump as well.  In my personal experience, pumps are a thing of practice and effort; recognizing the sensation aids in isolation and also acts as a reminder to continually improve form.  I also find that those who do not use a HIT approach will have a harder time getting and maintaining pumps (this was me when I first started). 

Additionally, there are some who feel the stretching aspect of a pump to be a desired effect in and of itself.  These folks argue that the fascia (the sheath surrounding your muscle) becomes stretched as the muscle becomes more and more pumped, or engorged with blood.  This is the basis for Fascia Stretch Training-7 (FST-7).  This program involves doing 7 sets per exercise, usually 2-3 sets performed progressively heavier, followed by the remaining sets performed progressively lighter and also in a more rapid succession.  Arguably, this maximizes the pump in the target muscle, literally stretching the fascia by packing more and more blood into the muscle.  The argued benefit from FST-7 is basically that by stretching the fascia out, you are allowing for additional muscle volume to be present.  I've used this in the past as a sort of modified "drop-set," but it's a take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt type thing like everything else.

Muscular pumps can be enhanced by nitric oxide products, i.e. SuperPump, Jack3d, etc.  For my review of NO products, read this.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Eat to Shrink III

Part I can be read here, Part II is over here..  Now on to the exercise portion.

No one can diet for long and keep losing weight without exercising as well.  What you do to burn calories is up to you; however, I highly advocate at least a three day per week weight lifting regimen in addition to your regular cardio.  I recommend this for two reasons: muscle burns energy more efficiently than fatty tissue, and weight training strengthens bones and connective tissue--vital for longevity and long-term health.  Adding some muscle to your frame will definitely help you look more toned as well.  BUT the body is a SYSTEMIC organism—spot reduction, i.e. burning fat off a particular area by training the muscles in that area DOES NOT WORK!  You can build muscle in a certain area and the muscles will push through the fat layer more, creating the look of more definition, but the fat will remain the same unless you lose it systemically.   

Eat to Shrink II

Part I of this series can be viewed here.

Now we have a general idea of how much to eat, but what do we eat?  I advocate simple foods such as chicken breast, brown rice, whole grain bread, sweet potatoes and fruit as staples that can be prepared ahead of time and act as a framework for clean eating.  Using food exchanges and “common meals,” as well as having food that is already prepared, will not only make the transition easier but also head off “desperation cheat meals”—why cheat when there’s diet-approved food in the fridge and all you have to do is assemble the meal?

Eat to Shrink

The next few posts are made up of selected portions of a dieting guide I originally wrote two years ago for a fatty friend of mine who never ended up reading it.  Do yourself a favor and don't repeat her mistake.  The guide itself has been edited and altered as necessary over the years to reflect more accurate information as it comes to my attention.  I've broken it into a few posts so you don't succumb to information overload.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dead Like Me

So in my last post, I explained how training too heavy can impact range of motion (ROM) and rep ranges.  Basically, if you can't do more than one rep, or you can do 6 reps but they're all partials--you are training way too heavy!  But training too heavy also impacts form, and form is possibly even more important to pay attention to, especially in those areas where people are tempted by setting personal records for themselves, i.e. Olympic lifts such as deadlifts, cleans, etc.  Ever wonder why you never see people doing PR's on biceps curls?  You're probably thinking "It would be pointless to do that on biceps curls."  Well, it's just as pointless to do it with any other exercise also--the logic is the same in either case.  Deadlifts are a great strengthener for hips, lower back, core, and legs--but they must be performed for reps and they must be performed perfectly!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tiny Repping = Not So Tiny Failing

One of the biggest crimes people commit against their bodies, in the gym anyways, is performing exercises with too much weight.  Most commonly, this leads to form breaking down and non-performance of full repetitions, or tiny repping.  Although I've espoused the benefits of heavy weight training many, many times, it is important to note that "heavy training" and "training with a lot of weight" are not necessarily the same thing--in fact, they are often not.  The weight used during training is only one aspect of the overload as perceived by your muscles--making the exercise more difficult, i.e. making the exercise feel heavier, can also be done by improving form, increasing the number of reps performed, and most importantly, using a full range of motion.  In many cases this requires a significant reduction in weight.  There are other techniques for increasing difficulty as well, such as pre-exhaustion, but those are pointless if you can't do the elementary stuff.  

Saturday, April 07, 2012

GoPro or Go Low?

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first started bodybuilding was eating way too much protein.  High protein is one of those things in bodybuilding that no matter how much you argue against it, people will never listen until they do it themselves--myself included.  Protein is definitely a necessity, don't get me wrong, but overdoing it is not as beneficial, or even as harmless, as most would believe it to be.  While bloodwork can show the negative biological effects of excess protein, I believe the straight-up better results from a lower protein diet speak for themselves.  And we can all smell the meatheads who are overdoing it, amirite?  High protein definitely contributes to some really nasty gym farts sooo, take it easy brah!