Why You Should Train Every Day

Hey Bro, do you want to maximize your gains?

What training program do you follow? Is it a one-body-part-per-day split routine? If so, then you are completely off-track.

 

How often should I train?

Although there isn’t too much research on high frequency resistance training, there is evidence that higher training frequency (training 6 times a week for example) with a lower volume per session (doing fewer sets) is more beneficial for muscle gain than just a few long training sessions a week.

There was a really cool experiment done on Norwegian elite powerlifters (not a research study, just an experiment within the national team). The outcome was that training 6 times per week leads to greater strength and muscle gains than 3 days per week when the weekly training volume and program are the same.

Recently a new research paper was published, in which the scientist established the following model:

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

 

Each peak represents muscle growth after a training session. Training 6 days a week (black curve) is better for muscle growth than 2 days a week (grey curve), because the total area under the back curve is higher than the area under the grey curve (the time muscle are built).

Increasing the number of sets from 3 to 9 sets per muscle group when training only 2 days a week, doesn’t give you more gains, as the additional sets will 'get wasted'. It seems like there is an optimal number as to how many sets per session one can do to achieve optimal growth. Doing more sets in one session doesn't give better results.

The researchers concluded:

“Performing fewer sets per session at a higher frequency will likely be sufficient for increasing muscle size while also limiting fatigue to allow for higher frequencies and thus more frequent stimulations of muscle protein synthesis. Performing more sets per session while using a lower training frequency may reduce the time spent in a positive net protein balance because the large number of sets performed within a given session may exceed the ‘anabolic limit’, resulting in wasted sets.”

 

Of course, the individual training stage also matters. Trained individuals are used to the stimuli of resistance training. For them, muscle growth returns to baseline levels within 16-24 hours after a training session (black curve). In contrast, beginners grow muscle for up to 72 hours after a training session (grey curve). However, even for beginners, a training frequency of more than twice a week is also beneficial (because they get more spikes and there is more area under the muscle growth curve).  

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

Dankel, S.J., Mattocks, K.T., Jessee, M.B. et al. Sports Med (2016). doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0640-8

 

Want to recap? Then watch this video

 

For people who are at an advanced training stage, not only does the optimal training frequency change, but also the optimal training volume. For most persons who are beginners to resistance training, 9 sets per muscle group per week are sufficient to get optimal results, however, advanced lifters should train with a higher volume to achieve optimal muscle growth (If you want to learn more on this topic check out the Bayesian PT course). This means that if you are an advanced lifter and train 6 days per week, you may need to do 3-5 sets per muscle group each workout (this means that whole body workouts are more beneficial than split-type workouts).

 

Size vs Strength – Bodybuilding vs Powerlifting

The research paper presented above didn't discuss optimal frequency for strength gains. That’s why I am going to expand with my thought on this topic. If poor recovery isn't an issue, higher training frequency is also beneficial for strength gains, as observed in the Norwegian elite powerlifters experiment. This makes sense, as hypertrophy and strength go hand in hand. However, you can’t expect a linear increase in strength if you increase your training frequency in a linear manner. There are diminishing returns with increased training frequency. This applies to many other things as well; there are diminishing returns for muscle gain in an energy surplus, there are diminishing returns for calorie deficit when cutting (higher kcal deficit doesn't result in more weight loss), etc. Nevertheless, there is an advantage to strength gains when it comes to higher training frequency. Higher frequency is beneficial for the improvement of lifting technique. Lifting is a skill. The more you practice, the better you get.

 

Individual variability & lifestyle variability

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. One must consider individual cases.

Genetics: If someone has poor genetics and poor recovery, then a higher training frequency could make more sense for bodybuilding, than for powerlifting.

Energy balance: In a caloric deficit, it can make sense to decrease the volume. However, training increases energy expenditure and can be considered as additional activity that makes it easier to lose weight. If you tolerate a high training frequency and volume, then I would rather keep it. This also allows you to keep your calorie intake higher. Higher activity is not only beneficial for increasing energy expenditure, but may also reduce the drop in resting metabolic rate resulting from adaptive thermogenesis in an energy deficit.

Lifestyle: A stressful lifestyle, chronic sleep deprivation, alcohol consumption and eating too much junk are issues that have to be sorted out, no matter what your training frequency is. All of these factors reduce body’s ability to recover and are counter-productive for muscle and strength gains.

 

FAQ – You asked, I answered.

What if you don’t have the time to do 3-4 sets for each muscle group every workout?

  • Smart exercise choice: Choose exercises that target several muscle groups at once = compound exercises (e.g. squat for quads and glutes and, of course, to some extent back and abs).
  • Set priorities: Choose what muscle groups you want to grow the most. If you want to get big shoulders, but don’t care about your biceps, do 5 sets of a shoulder exercise and fewer sets of biceps curls.
    • Side note: you train biceps automatically when you train back, e.g. rows or chin ups. If you frequently train your back, you can skip biceps isolation exercises on most days and do them only a few times a week, except if you want to be the person with the biggest biceps in your gym. If this is the case, do 5 sets of biceps curls every day :)
  • Do paired sets: Paired sets are sets in which you alternate 2 or even 3 exercises with a short rest between the exercises (not back to back like supersets). Usually, I choose 2 exercises for completely different muscle groups, e.g. lower body and upper body (leg extension and shoulder press). I try not to pair set difficult compound exercises like squat, bench press or deadlift, but pair set isolation exercises. However, if it is not possible due to time constraints I pair set heavy compound exercises with light isolation exercises (e.g. deadlift with lateral raises or bench press and calf raises).

 

I currently train 3 times a week doing a full body workout. Should I increase training frequency?

If you are an intermediate or advanced lifter, and not a total newb, then yes. 

 

What rep range should I do?

This depends on the exercise and your genetics. If you are slow twitch muscle fiber dominant, a higher rep range may be beneficial for you. If you are fast-twitch muscle fiber dominant, you may want to decrease the rep range. For more info, read my previous blog post.

 

Is it better to do 2 sets 6 times a week instead of 4 sets 3 times a week for each muscle group?

I wouldn't necessarily do only 2 sets per workout, at least not for body parts that are important for you. For muscle groups you want to grow the most, I would do 3-4 sets as often as possible, for other muscle groups, 1-2 sets if you don't have the time to do 3 sets.

 

How do you structure your training?

I usually do

1. Squat or Deadlift (or Good morning/Hip thrust on my easy days)

2. Bench press (different variations on different days)

3. Back exercise

4. Shoulder exercise

5. Exercise for hamstrings if squat was my first exercise or exercise for quads if deadlift was my first exercise

6. Triceps or Biceps or Lower back (depending on what my current priority is and what exercises I have done earlier in the session)

 

Did you like this article? If so, then share it with your friends on social media. I would really appreciate it! Thank you :-)

 

If you have any questions or suggestions for future blog posts, drop me a line at anastasia@sciencestrength.net

The reason why Boris Sheiko's programs are so successful

Just recently, once again, I had the honor to work with Boris Sheiko, one of the most successful powerlifting coaches in the world, and support him as his interpreter during his seminar. This time, there were two particular features about his seminar. First, it was his first seminar in Germany (finally, I can connect the dots and it makes sense why I grew up in a bilingual German-Russian environment :) ). Secondly, it wasn't the typical powerlifting seminar. The seminar was carried out in a crossfit gym and athletes with different backgrounds were present: powerlifting, weightlifting, strongmen, crossfit and even karate.After the theoretical part of the seminar (see my previous blog posts - #1, #2, #3 - for the content), all athletes showed their lifts and Boris Sheiko made technique corrections and suggestions on how to improve.

File_000(42).jpeg
File_000(42).jpeg

The first question, Boris asked each athlete was: "What is your sports background?" and only then he made suggestions. You might be a bit surprised why sports background matters. If the squat technique is correct, it shouldn't matter if one is powerlifter or weightlifter or crossfitter after all. Right?

However, it does matter a lot. These are the small technical refinements that matter, such as the bar position, stance width, range of motion, etc. that determine the squat efficiency for the individual sport or the individual goal.

To give an example, let's take a powerlifter, a weightlifter and a bodybuilder and the way everyone needs to squat.

The goal of a powerlifter is to push as much weight as possible. This means that a shorter range of motion (not a full squat, but just below parallel or to parallels, depending on the federation rules this lifter competes in) and a low bar position are most beneficial.

A weightlifter doesn't really care about squat because his competition disciplines are snatch and clean & jerk. However, squat develops leg strength and is a good assistance exercise for his competition lifts. For this reason, weightlifters squat with a full range of motion and high bar position, in which the lifter's position is more similar to the one in his competition lifts.

A bodybuilder has muscle growth as his main goal. How much weight he can or want to push, is a secondary issue, that is mostly determined by the size of his ego. Thus, a full range of motion, automatically implying a high bar squat position (the one you can push less weight with), make more sense for a bodybuilder.

What do we learn from this? Sports background determines what exercise form to use. The lifting technique should be adjusted to individual goals, which Boris Sheiko does for all of his students.

However, it doesn't end here. What exercise form to use is pretty easy to determine, but what about program planning? If we just look at strength building programs for powerlifters, there are so many different options. Which one is the best?

Here it is totally dependent on you as an individual. As long as you aren't a complete newb (everything works for a newbie), a good program is the one, that works on your limiting factors and eliminates them, no matter if these are weaknesses in your technique, muscle groups that are lacking behind or even psychological issues, such as little confidence to lift heavy. To cut a long story short, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there is no program that works for everyone, as everyone has a different limiting factor....but...

...but, if all programs need to be individualized, and there are no programs that work for everyone, how can it be that Boris Sheiko's programs you can download from his page led to such drastic strength improvements for so many lifters even without individualization? (Just as a side note: Also Boris Sheiko says that all programs need to be individualized)

In my opinion, there are three reasons for it:

1. Boris Sheiko analyzed dozens or even hundreds of training log books from his athletes. Looking at the data he found correlations for training intensity and progress and he implements these findings into his programs.

2. Based on his longstanding experience he knows what are the most common mistakes and weaknesses lifters have. For this reason, Boris Sheiko uses variations of competition lifts in his programs that improve these weaknesses. No matter what your limiting factor is, the chance is pretty high that some part of Boris Sheiko's program will address it. 3. His programs are designed for the right genotype.

Designed for the right WHAT?

As I described in my previous blog post, there are genetic differences between people. These differences may play a crucial role for program design. Some people, whose genetic trait is classified as the endurance trait, respond better to low intensity high rep programs, even if building power and not endurance is the goal. Others, however, carrying the power trait respond better to high intensity low rep programs. The probability that the majority of powerlifters carry the power trait is very high. People like to do things they are naturally good in, like in the case of powerlifters lifting heavy stuff for one rep or just a few reps. Thus, it is reasonable that a successful powerlifting program targets exactly this group. If we have a look at Boris Sheiko's programs, we see that *surprise, surprise* the majority of competition lifts or variations of competition lifts are trained with low rep numbers. This is what I meant by saying that the programs are designed for the right genotype. They are designed for a powerlifter.

Take-home message: In my opinion, Boris Sheiko's programs are so successful, because they

  • are designed for true powerlifters (...the guys who like to lift really heavy stuff, because they're naturally good at it),
  • fix most common mistakes powerlifters do and
  • use optimal average training intensity for powerlifters.

Happy lifting!

Want to hear more from me? Then subscribe to my list - in case you haven't yet - to get updates, ideas and tips on training and nutrition :)

Save

Your Best Training Plan Is In Your Genes

No progress? Bored with training? Need a change? Then it's time to start a new training program. But how do you know what training program is the best for you? There are thousands of training programs out there; high rep, low rep, high intensity, low intensity, body part split, whole body workouts - you name it.

File_000(39).jpeg
File_000(39).jpeg

When completely lost in the training program sump people tend to choose the workouts that gave others great results reasoning like that:

"My buddy did this program and he got super ripped and strong!" or

"I will train like Arnold Schwarzenegger, his training program obviously made him to a legend!"

Now the intriguing question is, if a program was great for your buddy, will it be necessarily good for you? Or will training like a professional bodybuilder automatically make you looking like one? Or do other factors, such as genetics, for example, play a role for training progress?  

Just recently a very interesting research paperon genetic differences between individuals and how they influence the success of training programs was published. The scientist distinguished between two genetic traits; the endurance trait and the power trait. Research study participants with the power trait achieved more progress in power and endurance performance by following a power-oriented resistance training program (high set number, low rep number, higher intensity) and those with endurance trait improved more in endurance and power following an endurance-oriented resistance training program (low set number, high rep number, lower intensity). This finding is very intriguing, considering that the latter group experienced a higher increase in power (which is on the opposite side of the spectrum than endurance) doing endurance training and not power training (yeahh...pink dumbbell gains!!!:D ). As strength is closer related to power when it comes to adaptations to training, it is likely that higher repetition training results in higher strength gains in endurance genotype and low repetition (higher intensity) training in power genotype. But what exactly is this genotype you speak about?

Well, genetic heritage may influence muscle and strength gains one experiences as the result of resistance training. Muscle fiber composition, consisting of slow-twitch (endurance) and fast-twitch (power and strength) muscle fibers, also is a genetic heritage. The endurance-oriented slow-twitch muscle fiber content of quadriceps can range from 5 to 90%, depending on the individual.(ref) This difference may also influence the response to resistance training. For slow-twitch dominant trainees, it is likely to be more beneficial to train with high reps - even when strength and power increase is the goal - and for fast-twitch dominant lifters using low rep numbers. If you aren't fancy doing genetic testing to get a clue about your own muscle fiber composition, you can do the 80% test.

This is how it works:

Take 80% of your 1 RM for the exercise of your interest and after you warm up try to do as many reps as possible.

  • If you do less than 8 reps, then the muscle group you targeted is fast-twitch dominant and it makes sense for you to choose a program with low reps and high intensity.
  • If you do more than 8 reps, then a program that implements high reps makes sense for you.
  • If you do about 8 reps, then your muscle fiber types are mixed and you should try to implement both, high and low reps.

Speaking from my own experience as mixed fiber type, I made the most progress when I followed a program that implemented both, high-rep-lower-intensity and low-rep-higher-intensity type of training.

Another thing that is important to mention is that the muscle fiber composition of different muscle groups varies. For this reason, you can't do the 80% test for squat and apply the numbers to bench press, for example. You need to do the test for each exercise you are interested in.

(If you want to become an expert in program individualization and programs design, I highly recommend taking part in the Bayesian PT Course).

Also, there is a difference between men and women. In general,resistance-trained women are more slow-twitch muscle fiber dominant, thus it makes sense for most women to train with higher reps and higher volume.

Ready for gains? -  Here is what you need to do:

  • Do the 80% test to determine what rep ranges you should focus on to build muscle and strength.
  • If you don't know what are the best exercises for muscle gain, read this article.
  • If technique issue with squat, bench or deadlift is the limiting factor for your strength progress, read this.
  • If you don't know if whole body workout or body part split is appropriate for your training stage, read this post.

Good luck! :) If you still don't know what to do, ask me  :) ...and don't even think of using pink dumbbells!

Save

Powerlifting Professor Sheiko - from Russia with Strength (part 1)

What fits better to the name of my blog, than writing about the only professor of powerlifting who came from Russia with strength? I had the amazing opportunity to accompany Boris Sheiko on his 2016 UK tour and acting as his interpreter. Professor Sheiko was the head coach of the Russian national powerlifting team for 7 years. At that time, his team was undefeated and his athletes won 39 gold medals and 22 silver medals at world championships. Spending three days with Boris Sheiko I got a great insight into his training strategies, ideas and coaching principles. I would like to start with his most important advice:

"It is never too late to fix technique!"

file_0002.jpeg

                       Photo taken from Boris Sheiko's Instagram page

At the seminars participants had the chance to lift in front of Boris Sheiko and got individually tailored advice on how to improve their technique. I realised that some technical inaccuracies appeared throughout the board, actually the same I make. Here is an overview of the most common mistakes and Boris Sheiko's suggestions how to fix these.

Squat

Depth: If you can't get deep enough and break parallel, do pause squats. When you pause, the weight on the bar will push you down and bring you into the right position. If your squat is too low (weightlifter-style) then you waste your energy. Do box squats using a slightly below parallel box (in height) in order to get used to the right depth. However, don't sit down, just touch the box and go straight back up. The important thing is to keep tight and not to relax the back.

Knees go in: If your knees go in on the way up, most likely your adductors are weak. You can strengthen them by using adductor machine or doing exercises with rubber bands.

'Squat morning' If you 'good morning' your squat (butt shoots up first) on the the way up, then your legs are probably too weak. Implementing front squats in your training routine and doing squats holding a 8-10 kg kettlebell in front of you when you warm up, can help you to fix your 'squat morning'.

Bench press It is important to note that there two 'types' of competition bench press: 1. narrow grip - targeting more the triceps 2. wide grip - targeting more the chest muscles

Every time, when a novice lifter comes to Boris Sheiko's gym, he has to show how he does close grip bench press. If the lifter pulls his elbows in, then narrow grip is more suitable for him. In contrast, if the lifter flares his elbows out, then he should widen his grip and use the more chest-dominant technique in the future. For those who do wide grip bench press, dumbbell fly and pec deck are useful assistance exercises. They stretch and strengthen chest muscle, tendons and ligaments.

Most lifters were encouraged to work on their arch, especially those, who compete in the lighter weight classes. Light lifters do not have any reason not to arch (except an injury prevent them from doing it). Both, arching and wider grip, shorten the range of motion and allow powerlifters to lift more weight. In this case, the shorter the better, especially if it is about winning a championship.

Another great advice from Boris was decreasing the speed of the bar before touching the chest. For competitive lifters it may significantly decrease the time the bar has to be hold on the chest before getting the 'press command'. Actually, Boris Sheiko makes all his athletes pausing the first rep of each set, no matter if they have a 'one rep set' or 'five reps set' planned in their training. The aim is to automate the performance of competition lifts. The competitor has to lift automatically, as competitions are usually very stressful and the time to think about one's technique is lacking. The same applies for locking out the elbows. Dear competitive lifters, please, lock out your elbows at each single rep in training.

Deadlift

Deadlift practice was most most entertaining part of the seminar. 90% of the lifters made the same 'mistake' (me included): Jerking the bar. Boris Sheiko stressed multiple times that powerlifting - in contrast to olympic weightlifting - is not about explosiveness, but strength. The lifts have to be performed slowly and not jerkily. Even when a lifter warms up using light weight, it isn't a reason to make the bar fly off the ground. It is an useless waste of energy. Experienced lifters put just as much energy into a lift, as it is required to move the weight, no matter if 100% of 1 RM are on the bar or just 50%.

Another inaccuracy is that many lifters look down, instead of looking straight or keeping the head neutral. Boris wondered: "What are you looking for? There is no money on the floor."

The technique coaching part allowed me to understood why many of Boris Sheiko's programs include deadlifts with pause. Many lifters lock out their knees too early or keep the bar too far away from the body during the lift. This takes the legs out of the movement. The back has to do most of the work. When pausing it is hard to keep the bar far away from the body. For this reason, most lifters will pull in the bar automatically when doing pause deadlifts and get used to keeping the bar closer to the body.

Last but not least, the Powerlifting Professor was very surprised finding out that most participants do conventional deadlift and not sumo deadlift. Although, sumo deadlift is not ideal for everyone, many lifters could benefit from the shorter range of motion and the fact that two of the biggest and strongest muscle groups; leg and back muscle; work simultaneously when pulling sumo. Boris highly encouraged the participants to give sumo deadlift a try. One should practice sumo deadlift for at least one month before deciding which deadlift version to use. As all good things go by three, also I am back to pulling sumo. I tried switching to sumo two times already, but went back to conventional every time. Now, I am looking forward to repeat this challenge.

12802725_578334412332031_4975234573282771983_n.jpg

For more info on Boris Sheiko and his programs check out his web page and his facebook page.

Part 2 of the series: Epic Programs for Epic Lifters – Boris Sheiko’s Secret Weapons

If you are hardcore powerlifter,  I have a special bonus for you:

Powerlifting competition preparation - 5 things Boris Sheiko recommends

bfe40e2f-b3c0-4c89-a420-0f505f9cab68.png

Epic Programs for Epic Lifters - Boris Sheiko's Secret Weapons (part 2)

Why are Boris Sheiko's athletes so successful? What outstanding training strategies does one of world's best coaches use?

Let's dig deep and get the answer to these questions.

1. Program format - healthy athletes are happy athletes

One key point of Boris Sheiko's training programs is to vary training load every week (image below). His ideas is to create a solid foundation an athlete can maintain, even if one or two training sessions have to be skipped, for example due to illness. The variation principle aims to prevent overtraining and limit the risk of injury that can easier occur following a program that increases the load in a linear manner.

week 1
week 1

This is only an example how the training load can vary over time. Many different combinations of load distributions (small, medium and large load) are possible.

2. Training structure - save reps, double sets and lifts

Compared to Boris Sheiko's programs, the popular 5 x 5 scheme looks like cardio. On most training days the number of repetitions for the main lifts is kept fairly low, even for sets below the targeted working weight. The low rep number allows the lifter to focus on each singe rep and do it with a perfect form. This strategy clearly counteracts the "Screw the form, I just want to be done"- effect that often kicks in after 2-3 reps with a heavy weight. The high set number makes up for the "lost reps".

A unique characteristic of Sheiko programs are the  double lift session. Boris Sheiko is the first coach who came up with this idea. Here is how it works: in the same training session, one of the main lifts is trained twice. However, different variations of the competition lift are used. For example, the training session starts with deficit deadlifts, followed by bench press and then the lifter goes back to another deadlift variation (e.g. rack pulls). The bench press block between two deadlift variations gives time to recover and improves the efficiency of the second deadlift session. This example shows how Boris Sheiko's training sessions are structured:

program example
program example

This is a training section from Boris Sheiko's 4 day program.

Another interesting characteristic of Sheiko's programs is the high amount of 'half movements'. For example, deadlifts up to the knees. The idea behind it is to split the lift into two parts. Performing only one half of the movement allows the lifter focusing on this particular part to practice a difficult technique sequences until perfection.

 3. Exercise choice - focus on muscle you need the most

Boris Sheiko's recommendations on most important assistance exercises may surprise some of us: hyperextensions, exercises for abdominal muscle and box jumps.

Indeed, his programs have an exceptionally high number of lower back exercises, such as hyperextensions and good mornings. In contrast, other popular back exercises, such as lat pulldown or row, are rare or even not nonexistent in his programs. Give it deep thought. It really makes sense. A strong lower back is much more important for a powerlifter than big lats. Big lats aren't too bad for benching, but a strong lower back is crucial for squat AND deadlift. These are the exercises you pull the most weight with in a competition (except you are Jennifer Thompson).

Now answer the question: How many times a week do you train your lower back? I am totally with you, hyperextensions are as boring as hell and good morning is the weird exercise, especially when done seated. However, both exercises are crucial for powerlifters.

Let's move on. Training abs to increase core stability makes sense. But why the hell box jumps? - Well, box jumps are a good exercise to develop power in the preparatory period. Power development is beneficial for strength, despite the fact that powerlifting is not about power, but strength. Strength and power are not the same. Explosive power - you see in Olympic weightlifting - has no place in powerlifting.

I know, some of you are confused now. The opinion that a lift, especially deadlift, has to be explosive is widespread. Don't worry, I will discuss the 'explosiveness controversy' in the third part of the Sheiko blog post series ;)

Hey you,  hardcore powerlifter,  I have a special bonus for you:

Powerlifting competition preparation - 5 things Boris Sheiko recommends

bfe40e2f-b3c0-4c89-a420-0f505f9cab68
bfe40e2f-b3c0-4c89-a420-0f505f9cab68

Explosiveless & Success - Boris Sheiko's Powerful Advice (part 3)

EXPLODE!!! - That's how my friend cheered me on. I did it; lifted more explosively and it worked. I spent many training sessions practicing speed deadlifts. I focused on lifting with power, speed and explosiveness. Do you know what happened? The bar started flying off the ground. Even on my 1 RM attempts the speed off the floor was incredible! Some time later, while interpreting at Boris Sheiko's seminars I had to think of my explosiveness experience. Boris Sheiko stressed several times that powerlifting isn't about explosiveness and that the weight should be lifted slowly. I couldn't wrap my brain around it. Why is it wrong to be explosive? Explosiveness helped me to lift at least 10 kg more off the floor after all (to be fair I should mention that it was much more weight than I could ever lock out :P ).

As you may know, I am scientist, analytical thinker, problem solver…I put on my thinking cap and thought about explosiveness for a while.

It seems to me that there is a difference between explosiveness and speed the maximal force a lifter applies when going for the maximal attempt. Imagine, you apply your maximal force to your 1RM lift. The bar will move slowly, because it is heavy as hell. If you apply the same force to 50% of your 1RM, you will get speed and explosiveness. The bar will fly off the ground, because you apply your maximal strength to a sissy weight. The point is that you don't need to put your maximal strength into a 50% lift. Apply just as much force as needed for a particular lift. Anything above is waste of energy. Boris Sheiko pointed out that experienced lifters put just as much energy into a lift, as it is required to move the weight, no matter if 50% or 100% are on the bar.

My personal conclusion from the explosiveness confusion is that a lifter needs to learn how to apply maximal force in order to lift more. Doing speed lifts with light weight might be helpful for getting the feeling how to apply maximal force. However, it is not necessarily optimal. Explosive movements have the tendency to be fast, chaotic and imprecise. When you go for your maximal attempt; however, you should aim for perfect technique and optimal bar path. Rushing (= being fast and explosive) at the beginning of the movement increases the risk of getting into a suboptimal position and missing the lift. Does it make sense?

All good things must come to an end, so does my Boris Sheiko UK seminar series. I would like to complete it with Boris Sheikos powerful (but not explosive ;) ) advice for successful training:

"In my opinion, some of the most important factors are the ability to work hard and self-belief. I tell my students: "Hard work never goes to waste." In other words, hard work always yields good results. If an athlete doesn't believe in himself, doesn't believe in his abilities and that he can reach his goal, then he won't achieve anything."

Happy lifting and PRing :)

What? You would like to know more ? Ok, if you are hardcore powerlifter,  I have a special bonus for you:

Powerlifting competition preparation - 5 things Boris Sheiko recommends

bfe40e2f-b3c0-4c89-a420-0f505f9cab68
bfe40e2f-b3c0-4c89-a420-0f505f9cab68

The best training routine

“What is the best training routine?” – I heard this question so many times. Usually, my answer to this question is another question…Well, to be honest, other questions

What is your goal?

What is your training status?

What is your current training routine?

Most of the time ‘the best routine’ type of question is asked by beginners or intermediate lifters who want to get stronger.

If you don’t know what category you belong to and how many times a week you should train, check out is the NSCA classification and guidelines below.1

table 1
table 1

Ok, now let’s have a look at the ‘I want to get stronger’ part. Do you want to get stronger to get better in a particular sport (e.g. football) or just because you want to be badass? If it is the first, then consult a strength and conditioning coach to get advice what training routing makes sense for you. If you are one of those who want to hulk up, then read on…(for most women probably tone up ;-) )

If you just started resistance training,

… you have to learn proper technique first, before you start lifting heavy. I mean powerlifter-type of heavy. Your workouts should be challenging, use the black dumbbells, not pink ones ;-)

… you will see progress, even with low training frequencies (2-3 times a week).1

… you should give yourself enough time for recovery.1

Once you become more advanced, you

… can increase your training frequency to ≥ 3 times a week.1

… can start implementing a split routine type of training. This means you will train different muscle groups on different days. Some examples for split routines are given in the table below.1

… should plan your training sessions so that there is at least one, but not more than 3 rest days between sessions targeting the SAME muscle groups.1

… can start following programs like 5x5 if you want to get ‘powerlifter-type’ of stronger. Such programs are often described as beginner programs, however, in my opinion, these programs are good for ‘beginners with resistance training experience’. If you have never lifted before and start doing heavy sets of 5 without even knowing what you’re doing, then snap city may become your next destination.

table 2
table 2

Table adapted from ref. 1.

Tips based on my personal experience:

Exercise selection

Free weight compound (multi-joint) exercises rule. My strength and size progressed a lot when I started powerlifting training doing heavy squats, deadlifts, bench, overhead press, rows, dips and pull-ups. I had one year resistance-training experience at that point and have seen some progress, however, it was nothing compared to the results I got after I decided to stop toning up and start hulking up… it took me 1.5 years to get my squat from sets of 5 at 40 kg to sets of 5 at 105 kg.

squat hulk
squat hulk

...not sure if you will get such a beautiful, radiant skin though...it's the result of a unique combination of heavy lifting, vegan lifestyle and all the GMO work for my PhD :P

dead hulk
dead hulk

Also, machine exercises have their place in the program. I usually do them at the end of a training session, when I am more tired. It allows me to focus on particular muscle groups and reduces the risk of injury.

Isolation exercises are good to work on particular weaknesses that are the limiting factor for your strength development (e.g. if you get stuck with your bench progress because of your weak triceps) or if your goal is to increase the size of a particular muscles for esthetical appearance…for instance, if you think that it is super badass to have a huge biceps, but don’t care about your chicken legs.

Exercise order

Do compound exercises or the exercises where the risk of injury is higher first. Basically, the exercises you need the most focus and the most power for. Many machine and isolation exercises can be done at the end of a training session.

Form

Work on your form! It will never be perfect. If you are not sure if you lift with a good form and you don’t have anyone to check on it, then record yourself on video. Analyze your videos and do your own research on how proper technique looks like. In the emergency case, if you are not sure if you perform an exercise correctly, upload your videos to the internet and ask for advice. However, be cautious about the advice you get. Many people on social media love giving advice, no matter if they are knowledgeable or have no clue. Thus, screen for competence.

Also, never forget: different people have different opinions, different strategies and approaches to techniques. Stay open-minded and think about tips you get. Find what applies to you and works for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Time & Intensity

If you are short on time or want to increase the intensity of your workouts try to do supersets. Alternate exercises for different muscle groups, so that one muscle group can rest while you’re training the other (e.g. lat-pull down & leg curls superset).

If you want to increase your workout intensity to the ‘YOU ARE A MACHINE’ level, then you can add plyometrics to your supersets. Box jumps and burpees are great.

However, know what your workout goal is. If your workout focus is strength progress, then keep your rest periods longer (3-5 min) and do NOT superset. Heavy deadlifts and burpees superset is a no-go! In contrast, if your goal is to do a workout that keeps your heart rate up and increases your energy expenditure, then jump the hell out of it.

Everything is about balance

Guys, even if a big chest is your number one goal, please, train your back with the same volume as you bench.

And, ‘I want abs ladies’ – if you do 500 crunches every session, please, don’t forget to do 500 back extensions as well ;-)

For more, more advanced crowd (>> 1 year training experience)

A further increase in training frequency and volume, training each muscle group every day, may be actually beneficial at this stage.2,3,4

Do you think it will cause overtraining? Then try Smolov and tell me your opinion after you completed the program. Smolov won’t make you necessarily stronger or technically better, but will show you how adaptable the human body is. Often the limitation is not a person’s physical strength, but mental strength. Of course, when running a very intense training program, recovery is incredibly important. Eating right, sleeping well and reducing stress, all of these factors are crucial if you want to train with high volume and frequency and see progress.

For updates on nutrition, training and science subscribe to my list

References

  1. Baechle TR, Earle RW. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 2008.
  2. Kim PL, Staron RS, Phillips SM. Fasted-state skeletal muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise is altered with training. J Physiol. 2005; 568(Pt 1): 283–90.
  3. Raastad T., Kirketeig, A., Wolf, D., Paulsen G. Powerlifters improved strength and muscular adaptations to a greater extent when equal total training volume was divided into 6 compared to 3 training sessions per week. Book of abstracts, 17th annual conference of the ECSS, Brugge 4-7 July 2012.
  4. Häkkinen K, Kallinen M. Distribution of strength training volume into one or two daily sessions and neuromuscular adaptations in female athletes. Electromyography and Clinical Neurophysiology. 1994; 34(2): 117-124.

FASTED CARDIO – beneficial or pointless?

Of course, there is no simple answer to this question. In my opinion, it is more important to ask instead: What do I want to achieve with fasted cardio?

 

Fasted cardio to improve body composition

According to a study conducted on normal-weight women, fasted cardio is not more beneficial than cardio in fed state when it comes to fat loss.1

For 4 weeks, 20 healthy, young, non-obese women on a calorie-restricted diet performed 1 hour of steady-state aerobic exercise 3 days per week. The study has shown that there was no significant difference between both groups, fasted group lost 1.1kg fat, whereas fed group 0.7kg fat on average. Although the difference of 0.4 kg is not statistically significant short term, it may become significant long term. A time period as short as 4 weeks and a sample size of only 20 subjects can give a rough idea, however, not conclusive proof.

Also, the efficiency of fasted cardio may be population dependant. Physique athletes trying to achieve an extreme level of leanness readily apply fasted cardio as a fat loss method. For very lean individuals fat mobilization may be more challenging than for normal-weight individuals. Thus, there is the possibility that fasted cardio is more beneficial for people with low body fat content.

It seems like the same finding apply not only to steady state cardio, but also to high intensity interval training (HII). A study on obese/overweight women showed the same extent of body fat loss and muscle gain, no matter if training was performed in fasted or fed state.2

Although it is not conclusive if fasted cardio is more beneficial for weight loss, there is some evidence that it counteracts weight gain under calorie surplus.3 Subject following a high-fat-high-calorie diet (50% fat and approx. +30% calories) for 6 weeks gained less weight when trained fasted (two 60 min and two 90 min training sessions per week). Fasted group gained 0.7 kg, fed group 1.4 kg and the not exercising control group experienced 3.0 kg weight gain on average. Also, the study showed that fasted steady-state cardio improved whole-body glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity during high-fat-high-calorie diet. For this reason, fasted cardio may be a strategy worth considering during the holiday season to counteract weight gain.

 

Fasted cardio to improve endurance

Some studies suggest that fasted anaerobic training may be beneficial for endurance athletes. A larger increase in maximal oxygen uptake and muscular oxidative capacity was observed for fasted subjects.5 Interestingly, a greater increase of oxidative activity of the trained muscle was seen for men compared to women.4 Also, there is evidence that fasted endurance training increases the storage of muscle glycogen.6

 

Bottom line

If fat loss is your goal and you are fairly lean already, then give fasted cardio a try. Otherwise, personal preference is the critical factor. It doesn't matter fasted or not as long as you do it …. or at least do something to create calorie deficit. It doesn't necessarily have to be steady-state cardio.

.

References:

(1)      Schoenfeld, B.; Aragon, A.; Wilborn, C. D.; Krieger, J. W.; Sonmez, G. T. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2014, 11, 54.

(2)      Gillen, J. B.; Percival, M. E.; Ludzki, A.; Tarnopolsky, M. a; Gibala, M. J. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013, 21, 2249–55.

(3)      Van Proeyen, K.; Szlufcik, K.; Nielens, H.; Pelgrim, K.; Deldicque, L.; Hesselink, M.; Van Veldhoven, P. P.; Hespel, P. J. Physiol. 2010, 588, 4289–302.

(4)      Stannard, S. R.; Buckley, A. J.; Edge, J. a; Thompson, M. W. J. Sci. Med. Sport 2010, 13, 465–9.

(5)      Van Proeyen, K.; Szlufcik, K.; Nielens, H.; Ramaekers, M.; Hespel, P. J. Appl. Physiol. 2011, 110, 236–45.

(6)      De Bock, K.; Derave, W.; Eijnde, B. O.; Hesselink, M. K.; Koninckx, E.; Rose, a J.; Schrauwen, P.; Bonen, a; Richter, E. a; Hespel, P. J. Appl. Physiol. 2008, 104, 1045–55.