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Table of contents :
The Poliquin Group™ Cover Image: Alexander Popov photo by Bruce Klemens Copyright © 2018, Poliquin Performance Center 2, LLC. All rights reserved First Edition, 2018 All materials, content and forms contained on or in this publication are the intellectual property of Poliquin Performance Center 2, LLC, and may not be copied, reproduced, distributed or displayed without the expressed written permission of Poliquin Performance Center 2, LLC. Poliquin Performance Center 2, LLC, does not warrant, either expressly or implied, the accuracy, timeliness, or appropriateness of the information contained in this publication. Poliquin Performance 2, LLC, disclaims any responsibility associated with relying on the information provided in this publication. Poliquin Performance Center 2, LLC, also disclaims all liability for any material contained in other publications. Notice: Before beginning any exercise program, consult with your physician to ensure that you are in proper health. This book is not meant to provide medicine advice; you should obtain medical advice from your private health care practitioner. No liability is assumed by the Poliquin Group for any of the information contained herein. Warning: All rights reserved, 2018 Poliquin Group. No part of the work embodied in these materials and covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, taping or information storage and retrieval systems – without the written permission of the publisher.
GET BIGGER AND STRONGER BOOK II INTRODUCTION SECTION 1: METHODS Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 SECTION 2: SUPPORT Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18
Chapter 19 Chapter 20 SECTION 3: NUTRITION Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30
INTRODUCTION This is the second book in a two-part series, Get Bigger and Stronger. The series builds on our 2010 publication Bigger, Stronger Arms, and has been expanded to cover not just arms but all body parts. One advantage of these two books is that the content can be read in whatever order is most useful to you. We advise starting with the first section in book one – which is about goal setting – but after that, feel free to move on to any chapter in these books. The chapters are written independently of each other, so it’s fine to skip around. Knowledge about training is continually evolving, and this book series represents the latest scientific and empirical evidence on the subjects of getting bigger and getting stronger. Within these pages we hope you discover many useful ideas that you can apply immediately in your training.
SECTION 1: METHODS
CHAPTER 1 Use the Modified Hepburn Method In the early days of the Iron Game there were several amazing athletes who achieved Herculean levels of maximal strength. Their formula for success was an optimal mix of principle-based training, sound nutrition, adequate recovery, and a drive to improve. One such athlete was Doug Ivan Hepburn. Hepburn was born in Vancouver, Canada, on September 16, 1926. Born cross-eyed and with a clubfoot, Hepburn took up weight training when he was 15 and overcame his disabilities to become incredibly strong – by age 18 he could squat 340 pounds, bench press 260 and curl 140. Many strength historians argue that at his peak Hepburn was the strongest man in the world. Here’s why. Hepburn broke eight world records in weightlifting and won the gold medal at the 1953 World Weightlifting Championships as a superheavyweight. Hepburn was the first man to bench press 500 pounds (eventually lifting 545), and his record-breaking success in such basic strength exercises helped earn him the title “Grandfather of Modern Powerlifting.” Among his other notable lifts are a 445-pound Olympic press, 445 push press, 750 squat, and 705 deadlift. Note that these lifts were performed a half century ago. Hepburn was also as strong as he looked, weighing 300 pounds at a height of only 5 feet 81/2 inches. The system that follows was inspired by Hepburn, with a bit of Hungarian and Romanian weightlifting methodologies mixed in. It is called the Modified Hepburn method and consists of two parts. Part 1: Heavy Singles Work (at 50X0 tempo) With this system, after a good warm-up you use heavy weights that will recruit the highest-threshold motor units (i.e., fast-twitch fibers). Specifically, you start with a weight you can lift for 5 singles, and then you progress to where you can complete 8 singles with it. After you
have done your singles work, you need to go back down to a weight at which you can complete 5 sets of 3 reps. At this intensity step you want to get to the level where you can successfully do 5 sets of 5 repetitions. For success with this strength building system you must adhere to the following guidelines: • Perform the singles with 95 percent effort. It is the volume of high intensity, not just the intensity, that dictates the training effect. • For the eccentric lowering in the singles, use a very controlled tempo (5 seconds). Perform the concentric range as explosively as possible – concentrate on accelerating the bar until you’ve completed the concentric range. • On the 8th single, if you feel particularly strong, increase the weight. Part 2: High-Threshold Hypertrophy Work (at 3210 tempo) At this intensity step you should work with about 72 to 78 percent of your 1RM. Let’s use the bench press for an example. The weight is lowered for a count of 3 seconds for the eccentric range, paused for a count of 2 seconds in the most disadvantageous position (the barbell on the chest), lifted for a count of 1 for the concentric range, then immediately lowered for another rep. Because you will fatigue throughout the set, the concentric-range tempo will exceed the 1 second, but that should not be a concern. The function of the pause at the disadvantageous angle is to increase intramuscular tension and to increase total time under tension for that set. Once you have excited the nervous system with the singles completed in part 1, you can do hypertrophy work for the higherthreshold motor units. For a practical example, let’s look at one individual’s progression – we’ll call him Tom – using this training system. In this case, Tom’s best incline press is currently 320 pounds. His workout progression looks like this: Workout 1
Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo Set 1: 305 x 1 Set 2: 305 x 1 Set 3: 305 x 1 Set 4: 305 x 1 Set 5: 305 x 1 Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo Set 1: 240 x 3 Set 2: 240 x 3 Set 3: 240 x 3 Set 4: 240 x 3 Set 5: 240 x 3 Tom was conservative on his first workout, which is in fact quite wise. Let’s look at his next workout. Workout 2 Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo Set 1: 305 x 1 Set 2: 305 x 1 Set 3: 305 x 1 Set 4: 305 x 1 Set 5: 305 x 1 Set 6: 305 x 1 Set 7: 305 x 1 Set 8: 305 x 1 Tom reached the goal of completing 8 singles. At this point, Tom should aim at doing 8 singles with an even heavier weight. Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo
Set 1: 240 x 5 Set 2: 240 x 5 Set 3: 240 x 5 Set 4: 240 x 4 Set 5: 240 x 3 Obviously the first workout was very easy, hence the marked improvement in training volume (total number of reps performed). Workout 3 Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo Set 1: 310 x 1 Set 2: 310 x 1 Set 3: 310 x 1 Set 4: 310 x 1 Set 5: 310 x 1 Set 6: 310 x 1 Set 7: 310 x 1 Set 8: 310 x 1 Tom again reached the goal of doing 8 singles, so he needs to try to perform 8 singles with more weight. Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo Set 1: 240 x 5 Set 2: 240 x 5 Set 3: 240 x 5 Set 4: 240 x 5 Set 5: 240 x 5 Tom completed all 5 sets! He should now increase the weight so he is back down to at least 5 sets of 3.
Workout 4 Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo Set 1: 315 x 1 Set 2: 315 x 1 Set 3: 315 x 1 Set 4: 315 x 1 Set 5: 315 x 1 Set 6: 315 x 1 Tom’s successful hypertrophy efforts in workout 3 drained his reserves, so in workout 4 he only managed 6 singles. He will keep the singles weight the same for the next workout. Keep in mind that at this point Tom’s 1RM will have gone up significantly. Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo Set 1: 250 x 5 Set 2: 250 x 4 Set 3: 250 x 3 Set 4: 250 x 3 Set 5: 250 x 3 Good volume work here, considering what happened with the singles. Workout 5 Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo Set 1: 315 x 1 Set 2: 315 x 1 Set 3: 315 x 1 Set 4: 315 x 1 Set 5: 315 x 1 Set 6: 315 x 1
Set 7: 315 x 1 Set 8: 325 x 1 Tom completed all 8 singles, and he felt so good that he couldn’t resist trying 325 on his last single. With such results, Tom should try 322.5 on the next workout. Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo Set 1: 250 x 5 Set 2: 250 x 4 Set 3: 250 x 4 Set 4: 250 x 5 Set 5: 250 x 4 Again, good volume work. Workout 6 Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo Set 1: 322.5 x 1 Set 2: 322.5 x 1 Set 3: 322.5 x 1 Set 4: 322.5 x 1 Set 5: 322.5 x 1 Set 6: 322.5 x 1 Set 7: 322.5 x 1 Set 8: 322.5 x 1 Tom completed all 8 singles, so he is ready for another weight increase. Tom reports that even though he completed all the singles, the workout was very difficult, so for the next workout he will increase the weight by only 5 pounds. Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo
Set 1: 250 x 5 Set 2: 250 x 5 Set 3: 250 x 5 Set 4: 250 x 5 Set 5: 250 x 5 Tom is ready for another workload increase. Workout 7 Part 1: (heavy singles) at 50X0 tempo Set 1: 327.5 x 1 Set 2: 327.5 x 1 Set 3: 327.5 x 1 Set 4: 327.5 x 1 Set 5: 327.5 x 1 Tom completed only 5 singles at this weight, and he feels exhausted. He has now maxed out this training system and should move on to a new program. Part 2: (high-threshold hypertrophy work) at 3210 tempo Set 1: 260 x 3 Set 2: 260 x 3 Tom could only do 2 sets of 3 and feels drained. Time to go home. Workout 7 has been too demanding. After a period of five days’ rest for that body part, Tom attempts a new max in the incline press. He successfully manages 347.5 pounds, which is 27.5 pounds above his previous best. Tom should stay away from direct incline barbell press work for 12 weeks. He should also take an active rest week, during which he will train only twice for a total of 16 sets of 6-8 reps, training his entire body. After this week he should then do a hypertrophy cycle.
You can’t get a more solid formula for strength training than Doug Hepburn’s. Hepburn died in 2000, but his legacy is proving that the human body has not dramatically evolved in the last 50 years and that basic hard work still prevails. There are no shortcuts – that’s the Doug Hepburn way!
CHAPTER 2 Do a Strength-Building Cycle Why would a bodybuilder need heavy training to increase muscle mass? Isn’t the typical hypertrophy protocol of 6 to 12 reps per set (about 40 to 70 seconds of muscular contraction) the optimal range to gain muscle mass? Yes, but that will only work for a while. One reason many bodybuilders fail to achieve their genetic potential for maximal hypertrophy is that their muscles are simply too weak for their cross section. In a case of the hypertrophied thigh of the weightlifter or the powerlifter, “what you see is what you get.” In contrast, for many bodybuilders – particularly the ones using massive dosages of anabolics combined with growth hormone – their size rarely reflects their strength. One strength coach says he knows of three Mr. Olympia winners who could not bench press 315 pounds for more than 6 reps in the offseason, when they are supposedly at their biggest and strongest. As for arm training, there are plenty of strongman competitors with massive arms that are also very strong arms. What is the difference? Drugs? No. Many strongmen also use anabolics. Different exercises? No, that’s not it: Strongmen and bodybuilders often do many of the same exercises for their arms. The difference comes from their choice of training methods. As a rule of thumb, strongman competitors train with few exercises performed for multiple sets of low reps, using long rest intervals between sets, otherwise known as the Maximal Weights method. Milos Sarcev, winner of the pro IFBB Canada Cup who has also placed in the top 10 of the Mr. Olympia, overcame a plateau in mass development when he was convinced to strive to handle greater loads in his workouts. The rapid improvement in his physique from such training resulted in his great performance at the prestigious Night of Champions, with a narrow miss for first place. The Maximal Weights method, which German exercise physiologists also call intramuscular training, aims at developing maximal strength
by improving the link between the central nervous system and the muscular system. The result is access to a greater percentage of motor units within the cross section. This training method accomplishes this by the following means: • Increased neural drive to muscle • Increased synchronization of motor units • Increased activation of the contractile apparatus • Decreased inhibition by the protective mechanisms of the muscle Contrary to standard bodybuilding methodology, the Maximal Weights method requires a lower energy output per unit of time. Therefore, your caloric requirement will drop slightly during that phase. As a practical example, here is an effective strength training cycle that uses a 12-week progression of varied sets-and-reps patterns designed to maximize the strength gain adaptation in the arms. The training phases are organized into three-week phases, as follows: Weeks 1-3 5 x 5 method Weeks 4-6 6 x 2-4 method Weeks 7-9 2 x 6-8 to absolute failure Weeks 10-12 5/4/3/2/1 method Weeks 1-3: 5 x 5 training. This is one of the more classical and most effective methods of strength and muscle development. It was popularized in the 1950s and 1960s by British bodybuilder Reg Park. Park won the Mr. Britain title in 1949, the overall title in the amateur NABBA Mr. Universe in 1951 and the pro divisions in 1958 and 1965. In 1973 Park was still in tremendous shape, placing second in the tall class in the pro division of that year’s Mr. Universe – talk about longevity! Park was probably best known for playing Hercules in five movies and was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding idol. At 6 feet 1 inch, Park had 20-inch arms, and he is credited for being the first bodybuilder to bench press 500 pounds.
In the late 1970s the 5 x 5 training system was heavily promoted by former elite weightlifter and strength coach Bill Starr in his classic book Only the Strongest Shall Survive. The following is a sample 5 x 5 workout progression for an individual who can bench press 200 pounds for 5 reps with a close grip: Warm-up: 45 x 5, 95 x 5, 135 x 5, 185 x 5 Work Sets: The goal is to complete 5 sets of 5 repetitions with the 200-pound load. On the first workout the trainee should be able to complete at least 14 total reps, so the following could be considered a good first workout: 200 x 5 200 x 4 200 x 3 200 x 3 200 x 3 Compare this with the following sequence, in which the weight was too heavy and would have to be decreased in the next workout: 200 x 4 200 x 3 200 x 2 200 x 2 200 x 2 Once a trainee is able to complete 5 sets of 5 reps with the given load, they will increase the weight by 5 to 10 pounds and repeat the process until the three-week training phase is completed. Here is a sample arm routine using the 5 x 5 method for this threeweek training phase: A1. Seated Dumbbell Curl, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 seconds A2. Parallel Bar Dip, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 seconds
B1. Scott Reverse Curl, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 seconds B2. Lying EZ Triceps Extension, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 secondsWeeks 4-6: The Patient Lifter Method. With this training system, you start off with a weight that you can handle comfortably for 6 sets of just 2 reps. Depending on your neurological efficiency, that will translate into about 80 to 87 percent of your 1-rep maximum. The goal is to increase your strength so, over time, you can handle that weight for 6 sets of 4 reps. The reason the Patient Lifter method works is that the load is increased only when you are able to complete all sets of 4 reps with the starting weight of 6 sets of 2 reps. The system works by means of what is called the law of repeated efforts, because the nervous system is forced to accept the new load as being normal. Be certain when using this training system to rest at least 4-5 minutes between sets, as this will allow full recovery of the nervous system. That being said, you still can pair agonist and antagonist muscle groups to maximize the return from your time investment. Here is a sample arm routine for weeks 4-6 of this 12-week program: A1. Scott Close-Grip BB Curl, 6 x 2-4, 5011, rest 120 seconds A2. Close-Grip Bench Press, 6 x 2-4, 5011, rest 120 seconds B1. Standing EZ Bar Curl, 6 x 2-4, 5011, rest 120 seconds B2. Rack Lock-outs, 6 x 2-4, 2211, rest 120 seconds Weeks 7-9: Absolute Failure Method. With this system you perform 2 sets of 6-8 reps to absolute muscle failure. Why do we recommend this heavy-duty type of protocol? Because it works – at least for the time it takes you to adapt to it, which is about three weeks. Considering that the previous six weeks of arm training workouts prescribed between 20 and 24 sets per workout, by this time the body needs to train at a lower intensity level (in terms of percentage of 1repetition maximum), such as by lengthening the time under tension per set.
Consider that there are three types of muscular failure, each associated with a particular type of contraction. The muscular failure is concentric when you cannot raise the weight, isometric when you cannot hold the weight at any given point in the range of motion, and eccentric when you cannot lower the weight under control at a given tempo. When you fail on all three types of muscular contraction, this is known as absolute muscle failure. Typically, after a warm-up you will use a 6-8RM weight and go to concentric failure before a training partner gives you just enough assistance to complete the range of motion – but you will have strength to perform the exercise eccentrically. The number of assisted or forced reps should fall between 2 and 3; at that point the muscle should be so fatigued that you cannot even control the eccentric descent. If you don’t have a training partner to assist you, use singlearm movements such as one-arm French presses and dumbbell concentration curls so you can perform the forced reps with your free arm. Once you can complete 8 reps on a given set, increase the load for the next workout. Here is a sample routine using this training for weeks 7-9 of this program: A1. Seated Dumbbell Curl, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 seconds A2. Parallel Bar Dip, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 seconds B1. Scott Reverse Curl, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 seconds B2. Lying EZ Triceps Extension, 5 x 5, 4021, rest 120 seconds Weeks 10-12: 5/4/3/2/1 Method. This system is a favorite of sports medicine expert and former world powerlifting champion Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale. You start off with your 5RM and attempt to use two to three percent more weight every set, performing 1 fewer rep every set until you achieve a 1RM. This progression has the advantage of teaching the skill of expressing your true maximum. You cannot go from a cycle of 8 reps per set and expect to perform well in a 1RM until you have taught yourself how to recruit higher-threshold fibers. Thus, a work set progression for a 300-pound close-grip bench press might look like
this: 265 x 5, 270 x 4, 275 x 3, 282.5 x 2, 290 x 1 (you can accomplish the 2.5-pound increments by using PlateMates® or record plates). Here is a sample routine for weeks 10-12 of this program using the 5/4/3/2/1 method: A1. Concentration Curls, 2 x 6-8, 3021, rest 90 seconds A2. Lying DB Triceps Extension, 2 x 6-8, 3021, rest 90 seconds B1. Seated Hammer Curl, 2 x 6-8, 3021, rest 90 seconds B2. Decline EZ Bar Triceps Extension, 2 x 6-8, 3021, rest 90 seconds If building size is your primary goal, you’ll be surprised and pleased with the results that maximal weights training will have on your physique. By doing an occasional strength building cycle, you’ll be as strong as you look.
CHAPTER 3 Do a Chin-Up Specialization Program A chin-up specialization program not only adds impressive width and thickness to your back, it also packs solid inches on your arms by promoting growth of your biceps, brachialis, brachioradialis, and pronator teres. To be convinced, you only have to look at the arm development of Germany’s Andreas Wecker and Italy’s Jury Chechi, Olympic gold medalists in gymnastics. These individuals are known not for their volume of training on the Scott bench, but instead for their countless chin-ups on the various gymnastics apparatus. Many top-level bodybuilders originating from Eastern Europe claim to have acquired much of their elbow flexor size from slaving away during their formative years at the chin-up station. Those include IFBB stars such as Serbian bodybuilder Milos Sarcev. Circa-1980 strongman Mike Dayton held a world record for one-arm chins. He often opened his strongman show performing a hundred chins off a ceiling girder. In any case, the chin-up is useful for a wide variety of purposes, particularly in training for sports that require powerful upper-body pulling actions, such as judo and wrestling. You might say, “I’ll just substitute pulldowns for chins.” Sure, go ahead, but you won’t get anywhere near the same results. There are many neurophysiological reasons that chin-ups are superior to pulldowns, but the bottom line is that a great back can be built much faster through chin-ups than through pulldowns. In very much the same way that squats and deadlifts cannot be matched for lower body development, chin-ups cannot be matched for upper body development. One reason chins are so effective is that you have to move your entire body weight, and the stabilization required to do this (as opposed to using pulldown machines) involves more muscle mass. It’s also more difficult to cheat when performing these exercises— for example, on the lat pulldown you can cheat by crunching forward with the
abdominals. This is also one reason that the strength from chin-ups carries over well to pulldowns, but often the reverse does not. There are many ways to vary chin-ups to emphasize specific areas. For example, you can get a tremendous biceps workout by performing chins with a narrower grip. In fact, if you include chins in your workout, you may not need to perform specific biceps exercises!
CHAPTER 4 Try the 100 Reps Method The 100 Reps method increases work capacity by training the lacticcapacity energy system. In terms of physiological adaptations, you will experience much-improved vascularization and enormous increases in glycogen stores. It’s a great system to perform every three weeks or so for only one workout. In this method, bodybuilders are paired in a competitive setting and are instructed to perform 100 cumulative repetitions with a specific weight in as few sets as possible. Select a resistance that you can perform for 20RM. For example, bodybuilders Al and Bernie will do curls, Al with 100 pounds and Bernie with 90 pounds. Al performs a 20-rep set with 100 pounds. Immediately, Bernie performs as many repetitions as he can with 90 pounds. As soon as Bernie is finished, Al performs a set of maximum repetitions with his weight – let’s say 17 repetitions. Now Bernie must match or surpass the number of repetitions that Al did with his weight. Bernie, having watched all the Rocky movies, performs 18 repetitions for a total of 38 (20+18) repetitions. Al is trailing at 37 cumulative reps and performs another set of maximum repetitions right after Bernie completes his 18RM set. The bodybuilder should rest only during the completion of their training partner’s set. Once the two partners perform a total of 100 cumulative repetitions, they are finished with that exercise for that workout. At first, as many as 10 sets may be required to complete the 100 repetitions. Once they can each perform 100 repetitions within 4 sets, they will upgrade the resistance by 5-7 percent. If you try this method, rather than waiting until a training partner completes their reps, you could also alternate the curls with a triceps exercise to provide a form of active rest.
Here is a sample workout using the 100 Reps method. This gives you a total of 400 reps of work in a single workout! A. Standing Curl, EZ Bar, Wide-Grip B. Incline Dumbbell Triceps Extension C. Dumbbell Curl, 30-Degree Incline D. Rope Pressdown This is a great type of workout in which your body intelligence warns you that going heavy would be a waste of time.
CHAPTER 5 Do a Pre-Exhaustion Cycle With pre-exhaustion a muscle is first fatigued by a single-joint exercise, and then further exhausted by performing a multijoint exercise involving the same muscle group and additional muscle groups. You could perform biceps curls followed by chin-ups, or lateral raises followed by behind-the-neck presses. Pre-exhaustion is a training principle that was introduced to the bodybuilding world in 1968 by Robert Kennedy in Iron Man magazine, but it was Arthur Jones who popularized it and was obsessed with finding the most painful ways to use this training system. Jones’ most famous pre-exhaustion combo was his leg workout. Jones believed that the limiting factor in working the legs with the squat was the strength of the lower back, so he recommended preexhausting the quads with a set of leg presses for 20-30 reps and leg extensions for about 20 reps, before performing squats for about 1015 reps – with no rest between each set! The result was that when it came time to squat, often the weight would be half of what that individual could normally use. Jones says that when he began working with Casey Viator in 1970, Viator weighed 198 pounds, had an upper-arm measurement of 18 1/6 inches, and could not squat 500 pounds once. After 10 months under Jones’ guidance, Viator weighed 218 pounds and had an upper arm that measured 19 15/16 inches; he won the 1971 AAU Mr. America contest as a teenager, becoming the youngest person ever to do so. Using pre-exhaustion as one of their primary methods of training, Jones says that in one workout Viator performed 20 reps in the leg press with 750 pounds, followed immediately (i.e., taking no rest) by 20 reps with 225 pounds in the leg extension, which in turn were followed immediately by 13 full squats with 502 pounds! Jones liked the pre-exhaustion method so much that he even designed several machines that combined two exercises into one to minimize the amount of rest time between sets. For example, he had a
leg extension machine that was combined with a leg press machine, and a lateral raise machine that was combined with an overhead press machine. Possibly because these machines were much more expensive than single-station units and because fewer gym members could use them at one time, these units are no longer being produced. Although Jones took pre-exhaustion to the extreme, such as by performing two isolation exercises before the compound exercise, it’s best to start with just one pre-exhaustion exercise. For example, you could pre-exhaust the long head of the triceps with the lying triceps EZ bar extension, and immediately follow it with a multijoint exercise that involves all the heads of the triceps, such as triceps dips or close-grip bench presses with chains. For the brachialis, you could perform a pre-exhaustion superset by combining standing EZ bar reverse curls with incline hammer dumbbell curls. In selecting exercises for optimal development of muscle mass, consider that isolation exercises that recruit few motor units are not as effective as compound exercises. As such, parallel bar dips and the close-grip bench press are more effective exercises to use for preexhaustion than the dumbbell triceps kickback. This is not to say you should never perform these inferior isolation exercises, but they should not be emphasized as much as the compound movements. Another factor to consider is whether you are primarily a fast-twitch or a mixed-fiber type of individual. Fast-twitch individuals tend to respond better to sets using lower reps, such as 1-6 reps, whereas mixed-fiber types respond better to sets using higher reps, such as 7-12 reps. As with any training method, your body will quickly adapt – and it’s especially hard to motivate yourself to perform pre-exhaustion training for more than a few weeks. You probably won’t achieve the superhuman results of Casey Viator, but pre-exhaustion training can definitely provide a shock to your system that will help you achieve your goals faster.
CHAPTER 6 Do a Post-Exhaustion Routine A post-exhaustion routine is a great plateau buster. As the name suggests, this is a type of superset in which you first perform a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise that taps into the same motor pool of the muscle you want to focus on. The key is that you have to select an exercise that recruits a lot of motor units, such as a chin-up or a squat, followed by a superior isolation exercise, such as a Scott curl or a split squat lunge – don’t bother with wimpy exercises such as triceps kickbacks or side adductor raises. Here is an example of a post-exhaustion protocol applied to arm training: Superset #1 A1. Close-Grip Chin-Up, 4 x 4-6 reps, 4010, rest 10 seconds A2. Low Incline Dumbbell Curl, 4 x 6-8 reps, 5010, rest 180 seconds Superset #2 B1. Parallel Bar Dip, 4 x 4-6 reps, 3210, rest 10 seconds B2. Overhead Rope Extension, 4 x 8-10 reps, 3110, rest 180 seconds The close-grip chin-ups are performed with palms supinated (facing you), with the grip width four to six inches between the two little fingers. If you think you need to substitute lat pulldowns for the closegrip chin-ups or cable crossovers for dips, you’re too weak to do this routine – this is an advanced program with no substitutions allowed. The time it takes you to go from the chin-up bar to the incline bench counts as the 10 seconds’ rest between the close-grip chins and the incline dumbbell curls. At the end of 10 seconds, you should be curling the dumbbells. Keep the 10-second rest interval strict, or you will not achieve the desired training effect. If you are strong enough, use additional weight tied to a chin/dip belt for extra resistance. For incline curls, the lower the angle on the bench, the greater the stretch placed upon the long head of the biceps
brachii. Be certain to fully supinate your hands in the bottom position of the incline curls. Curl the dumbbells, keeping your upper arms perpendicular to the floor for at least the first 90 degrees of elbow flexion to minimize recruitment of the anterior deltoids. After 90 degrees, particularly if the dumbbells are too heavy, your elbows will tend to move forward slightly. As long as you keep the first 90 degrees clean in terms of technique, you’ll maximize isolation of the elbow flexors. On the first workout of this routine, it’s normal to experience a significant loss of strength in each succeeding superset. For example, during the first set you may be able to complete 6 chins with a 50pounder supersetted and curl 8 reps with the 45-pound dumbbells. By the fourth set, however, you may only squeeze out 4 reps with your body weight in the chin-ups and curl a pair of 35-pound dumbbells. But as you go through this routine, your strength-endurance should skyrocket and you will be able to handle heavy weights for every set. You will also see your arm size increase appreciably. Based upon the amount of muscle soreness many athletes experience from the workouts described here, post-exhaustion training can be a great way to bring up lagging body parts.
CHAPTER 7 Try High-Volume Training German Volume Training (GVT) was first introduced to the bodybuilding community over two decades ago. The exact origin of GVT is a subject of extensive debate in the bodybuilding community, but its roots are believed to be in German powerlifting; women’s bodybuilding pioneer Bev Francis is said to have used such a workout. Others believe GVT is a variation of a high-volume method developed by US bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda. One of the major differences between GVT and Gironda’s method is that GVT contains more rest time between sets, which in turn enables you to use more weight and thus pack on more muscle mass. Regardless of GVT’s origin, if you are willing to work hard and follow the training protocols exactly as prescribed, you’ll find that GVT is one of the fastest ways to pack on a lot of muscle in a short period of time. Motor units are nerves that cause a specific group of muscle fibers to contract. GVT targets a group of motor units and subjects them to a high volume of repeated efforts, specifically 10 sets of 10 reps of one exercise. The body adapts by increasing the size of those targeted fibers. With this training protocol, your goal for each exercise is to complete 10 sets of 10 reps with the same weight for each exercise. This means you cannot use a weight that allows you to complete only 10 reps for your first set, because fatigue will not allow you to perform 10 reps for the remaining sets. A good approach is to start with a weight that you could lift for 20 repetitions, or about 60 percent of your best single. Thus, if you can bench press 200 pounds for 1 rep, you would use 120 pounds for this exercise. After your first workout, a good goal is to try to increase the weight by about 2.5 percent for each workout, as follows: Workout 1: 120 x 10 x 10 Workout 2: 125 x 10 x 10
Workout 3: 130 x 10 x 10 Workout 4: 135 x 10 x 10 Workout 5: 140 x 10 x 10 Workout 6: 145 x 10 x 10 We all have our off days, and occasionally you may not be able to complete 10 repetitions in a workout – that’s to be expected. However, the weight should be light enough that on most days you will be able to complete 100 repetitions. In the following GVT workout you will perform each training session a total of six times – at least two days’ rest is needed between workouts. Although you may perform additional work, limit the number of GVT exercises to just two, as this method can easily result in overtraining. Chest and Back A1. Incline Dumbbell Press, 10 x 10, 4010, rest 75 seconds A2. Chin-Up, Neutral Grip, 10 x 10, 4010, rest 75 seconds B1. Flat Dumbbell Press, 3 x 12-15, 3010, rest 60 seconds B2. Bent-Over Single-Arm Dumbbell Row, 3 x 12-15, 3010, rest 60 seconds Legs A1. Back Squat, Heels Elevated, 10 x 10, 4010, rest 75 seconds A2. Lying Leg Curl, 10 x 10, 4010, rest 75 seconds B1. Dumbbell Semi-Stiff-Leg Deadlift, 3 x 10-12, 3020, rest 60 seconds B2. Standing Calf Raise, 3 x 10-12, 2012, rest 60 seconds
Arms A1. EZ-bar Reverse Scott Curl, 10 x 10, 4010, rest 75 seconds A2. Dips, 10 x 10, 4010, rest 75 seconds B1. Incline Dumbbell Curl, 3 x 12-15, 3010, rest 60 seconds B2. EZ Bar Lying Triceps Extension, 3 x 10-12, 3110, rest 60 seconds Besides being a physically challenging workout, GVT requires such a high volume of work that it is mentally taxing. This is why you should take a long break after a GVT cycle – a sound approach would be to only perform it twice a year. Although GVT does not produce a high level of growth hormone release, it is not as effective in the short term for reducing body fat compared to some other programs, such as the German Body Comp program. However because GVT is a superior method of increasing muscle mass, it will more effectively raise your metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories). For every pound of lean tissue gained on GVT, there is often a loss of an equal amount of fat weight – this is especially true for women.
CHAPTER 8 Use the 10/8/6 Formula With the 10/8/6 formula, you perform 3 sets with a descending repetition progression: first set, 10 reps; second set, 8 reps; third set, 6 reps. Of course, the 10/8/6 rep-set scheme is not appropriate for all exercises, especially the Olympic lifts (the snatch, and the clean and jerk) and their assistance exercises, due to the technical nature of these exercises. As for the details of this training protocol, the first set should be light (about 50 percent of your maximum result for 10 reps), and as such it is used as a warm-up. The second set uses a medium weight (about 75 percent of your best result for 8 reps), and the third set should be with a weight that enables you to perform just 6 reps. If you perform only 5 reps (or fewer) on the last set, then use the same weights on your next workout. If you perform 6 or more reps, then increase the weights for all sets on your next workout. Here is an example of an individual who can bench press 175 pounds for one repetition: Workout 1: 10 x 75, 8 x 115, 5 x 150 Workout 2: 10 x 75, 8 x 115, 6 x 150 Workout 3: 10 x 80, 8 x 120, 4 x 155 Workout 4: 10 x 80, 8 x 120, 7 x 155 Workout 5: 10 x 85, 8 x 125, 5 x 160 Workout 6: 10 x 85, 8 x 125, 6 x 160 Based on repetition conversion tables, after the sixth workout this individual should be capable of a 1RM bench press of between 190 and 195 pounds. Again, we’re talking about a beginner – it would be unrealistic to expect an individual with a 350-pound bench press to increase their personal best by up to 40 pounds after just six workouts, performing only 3 sets per workout. The 10/8/6 program is especially motivating for beginners because by doing fewer reps on the second and third sets they can use heavier
weights – in effect, it gives trainees the illusion of getting stronger throughout the workout. Because this is a protocol designed for a beginner, 3 sets are enough for a beginner to make progress. After an introduction to training with this type of program, a trainee can move on to another program for variety, such as by doing permutations such as 12/10/8/6 if the goal is more muscle mass, or 10/8/6/4 if the goal is greater strength. One similar program, the 5/4/3/2/1 method, was a favorite of former world powerlifting champion Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale. This method can help weight trainees who use relatively higher reps but don’t know how to recruit higher-threshold muscle fibers. They may be able to bench press 300 pounds for 10 reps but may have trouble with 325 for a single; even though they are strong, they cannot demonstrate their true strength with a 1-rep maximum. By gradually adding 2-3 percent more weight per set, the 5/4/3/2/1 method “teaches” the lifter to recruit those more powerful muscle fibers. Vince Gironda, a bodybuilding pioneer who trained first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott, used a variation of the 10/8/6 program, adding a fourth set with 15 reps with a weight that was 35 percent of maximum effort. The criticism of Gironda’s 10/8/6/15 program is that the repetition bracket is too broad, such that the body does not know what strength quality it is supposed to adapt to. The 10/8/6 training system is not the single best workout program, because such a program doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, this simple approach allows beginners to make progress for quite some time. There are many other ways to train, but the 10/8/6 system is a good place to start.
CHAPTER 9 Try the 1-6 Method for Strength The 1-6 method, which uses a variety of repetition protocols to achieve results, can produce dramatic increases in strength and size. It is based upon the concept of a neurological phenomenon called post-tetanic facilitation (PTF), which has been the subject of considerable research. One of the early researchers in this field is German strength physiologist Dietmar Schmidtbleicher, probably best known for his pioneering work in the field of power development. You can also find a discussion of PTF in Roger Enoka’s textbook Neuromechanics of Human Movement, 4th ed. (Human Kinetics, 2008). In simple terms, PTF describes the process by which a more powerful muscular contraction is achieved if that contraction is preceded by a strong muscular contraction. For instance, Russia’s Valery Borsov, who won gold medals in the 100m and 200m sprints at the 1972 Olympics, used post-tetanic facilitation for his legs before sprinting. The basic premise of the 1-6 method is to use maximal loads to increase the activation of the nervous system before performing sets of higher reps. The result is that you will be able to use heavier weights in those 6-rep sets, which will enable you to build bigger and stronger muscles. Another bonus: The system taps into the higher-threshold motor units responsible for the production of explosive strength, so it’s great for athletes who want to gain weight while increasing power. As such, it’s ideal for wrestlers, MMA fighters, and athletes in grappling sports such as jiu-jitsu. The 1-6 Method Here is the gist of the 1-6 method: Perform a maximum single repetition (1RM), rest, and then perform the remainder of the exercise using as much weight as you can for 6 reps (6RM). The rest period is
3-10 minutes; however, if you choose to perform supersets, you would spend less time passively resting. As an example, let’s say you can incline press 220 pounds for 6 reps and 265 for 1 rep. If you perform that 1RM four minutes prior to a 6RM, you will probably be able to use 225-230 pounds. In fact, you’ll find that you will use more weight on the second and third 6RM series (i.e., waves) in that workout, as follows: Sample Incline Press Workout, 1-6 Method Set 1: 1 rep with 265 pounds Set 2: 6 reps with 220 pounds Set 3: 1 rep with 270 pounds Set 4: 6 reps with 225 pounds Set 5: 1 rep with 272.5 pounds Set 6: 6 reps with 230 pounds To show you how to use the 1-6 method with supersets to reduce the time of passive rest, here is an example of a leg workout with the first superset using the 1-6 method: Sample Leg Workout, 1-6 Method A1. Back Squat, (1,6,1,6,1,6), 50X0, rest 120 seconds A2. Lying Leg Curl, Feet Neutral, (1,6,1,6,1,6), 50X0, rest 120 seconds B1. Barbell Lunge, 4 x 6-8, 40X1, rest 120 seconds B2. Romanian Deadlift, 4 x 6-8, 40X1, rest 120 seconds When designing your own 1-6 method workouts, consider that the goal of this routine is to promote large increases in strength and in the cross-sectional area of the high-threshold motor units. As such, you should use it primarily with exercises that use large muscle groups, such as squats and presses. Also, because you’re going to be doing a series of 1RM lifts, it’s imperative that you warm up. The warm-up should always consist of doing reps with the first pair of the exercises
listed in the workout. If you’ve warmed up properly, there’s very little need to warm up for the second pair. Using the workout example above, your squat warm-up might be 5 reps x 135 pounds, then 3 x 185, then 2 x 225, before you start the working sets. As with any workout system, when you reach a point of diminishing returns you need to change workouts. A four-week cycle is extremely effective using a training split as follows: Day 1, Arms; Day 2, Legs; Day 2, Off; Day 4, Chest and Back, Day 5, Off. The 1-6 method is based on strong science. Give it a try and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can increase your functional hypertrophy and power.
CHAPTER 10 Blast Through Training Plateaus with the Patient Lifter Method When a basketball team misses a lot of foul shots in a game, the coach will often have the players perform a tedious number of free throws during the next practice (too bad this method didn’t work for Shaquille O’Neal). In effect, this method uses boredom to achieve the desired result. Such is the inspiration for the Patient Lifter method. With this training method, trainees start off with weights they can handle comfortably for 6 sets of 2 reps. They are not allowed to increase the weight until their strength increases to the level where they can perform 6 sets of 4 reps. The rationale for this type of training is that using the same weight over and over becomes so boring that the desire for change motivates trainees to get stronger so they can move on to a new workout. Hammer throw champion and PICP Level 5 coach Jud Logan says this type of training “taps into an athlete’s sense of pride and desire to not get left behind”; Logan likes to use this method particularly with squats and deadlifts. From a more scientific perspective, the Patient Lifter method works by the law of repeated efforts. One definition of that law is that adaptation will occur if an activity is repeated enough, which suggests that if you continue to use the same load workout after workout, the nervous system will eventually be forced to accept that weight as normal. This process is not a visualization (such as saying to yourself, “Next workout I know I can hit 6 sets of 4 reps!); rather, it is a physiological adaptation supported by science. Regarding the starting weight, it will be 80 to 87 percent of your 1repetition maximum, depending upon your current neurological efficiency. Neurological efficiency refers to how effectively an individual recruits their higher-threshold muscle fibers. Athletes who are neurologically inefficient, as in the case of beginners, will respond better to the 80 percent load, as they cannot effectively recruit the higher-threshold muscle fibers to help them lift the weight.
Neurological efficiency is one reason that the Advanced German Volume Training Program (designed for trainees who have at least five years of training experience) uses sets of 6 reps instead of the 10 reps prescribed in the German Volume Training program. When using the Patient Lifter method, you need to take 4-5 minutes’ rest between sets to allow your nervous system to fully recover. However, if you pair exercises for agonist and antagonist muscles, you can cut that rest time just about in half. If you pair the biceps with the triceps, for example, you could rest 120 seconds after each exercise so that by the time you return to the biceps, you will have nearly 5 minutes’ rest (it adds up to more than 4 minutes because you have to include the time it takes to perform the triceps exercise). Here is a sample arm workout using the Patient Lifter method: Sample Arm Workout (Patient Lifter Method) A1. Close-Grip Barbell Scott Curl, 6 x 2-4, 4010, rest 120 seconds A2. Close-Grip Bench Press, 6 x 2-4, 4010, rest 120 seconds B1. Standing EZ Bar Curl, 6 x 2-4, 4010, rest 120 seconds B2. Close-Grip Bench Press Rack Lock-Out, 6 x 2-4, 2210, rest 120 seconds If you’re fouling out with poor gains in your lifting, it’s time to turn things around. Let boredom work for you by trying the Patient Lifter method.
SECTION 2: SUPPORT
CHAPTER 11 Ensure Neck Alignment If progress in training, especially in arms training, has come to a halt despite excellent program design and nutrition, more often than not the culprit is poor neck alignment. One cause of poor neck alignment is a forward positioning of the head and shoulders, which is highly prevalent in occupations that require long periods of sitting. Another cause is improper training technique, such as by rolling the shoulders and sticking the head forward during shoulder shrugs. This dysfunctional cervical posture may cause an impingement of cervical nerves (from vertebrae C5, C6, and C7), which in turn may impair neural drive to the upper arm muscles, thus reducing their ability to produce force. The following information, which is rather technical, points to some of the serious consequences that poor neck alignment can have on nerves and muscles. The musculocutaneous nerve, which innervates the long and short heads of the biceps as well as the brachialis, originates from the C5– C7 nerve roots. The radial nerve, which innervates the medial, long, and lateral heads of the triceps and anconeus, arises from the C5 to T1 nerve roots. In practical terms this means that an impingement of the nerves in this area would affect the arm flexors to a greater degree than the arm extensors. However, the dysfunction does not stop here. The long thoracic nerve, which arises from the C5–C7 nerve roots, innervates the serratus anterior muscle. The serratus anterior is an important stabilizer of the scapula, as it holds it to the chest wall. If it is weakened, it creates a “winging” of the scapula that completely disrupts the scapulathoracic mechanics. Because the long heads of the triceps and biceps brachii originate from the scapula, they will now have an altered length-tension relationship. Both long heads will not function optimally, and as clinical experience shows, a “bicipital tendonitis” usually occurs.
Much of your efforts in the gym can be wasted if the neural conduction to the trained muscles is under par. If you suspect cervical posture is limiting your training progress, consult a physiotherapist, chiropractor, or osteopath who is competent in manipulation and mobilization techniques to realign your neck. Compression of the discs of these vertebrae will also minimize neural drive. Compression of the discs can be alleviated by various softtissue manipulation techniques such as Active Release® and Rolfing. ELDOA or LOADS (Longitudinal OsteoArticular Decoaptation Stretches), created by the noted French osteopath Dr. Guy Voyer, is also very effective if compression has occurred. Improving thoracic extension is also helpful in improving faulty neck alignment. Another promising treatment in restoring the neural drive to the affected muscles while correcting abnormal neck alignment is frequencyspecific microcurrent (FSM) therapy. All these techniques are useful, particularly when used in combination with each other. Nerve and muscle impingement caused by faulty neck alignment responds best when you deal with the problem from more than one angle.
CHAPTER 12 Promote Soft-Tissue Health If you’re training hard on a sound workout program and eating well but your progress has stagnated – and if neck alignment is not the issue – you may have a soft-tissue injury. In the case of the upper extremities, for example, long-term weight trainees often develop adhesions in three main anatomical areas that tend to fuse together: the brachialis, brachioradialis, and biceps brachii (an adhesion in this area is just slightly superior and medial to the insertion of the brachioradialis). Once that adhesion is stripped out, trainees often report an instant 10-15 percent increase in their curling poundages. Soft-tissue work in the intramuscular septum between the triceps and biceps can often improve function of the upper arm muscles. The entire length of the pronator teres often needs to be addressed; releasing adhesions here not only positively impacts curling poundages but also allows for smoother performance of chin-ups, particularly the supinated type. The radial nerve can easily be entrapped in the medial and lateral head of the triceps, a condition that affects the neural drive to all three heads of the triceps. Also, as clinical experience shows, any adhesions in the subscapularis or serratus anterior also affect the biceps and triceps. It’s possible that their involvement in scapulathoracic mechanics affects the biceps and triceps because the long heads of both arm muscles attach to the scapula directly. If their origin on the scapula becomes dysfunctional, they cannot contract optimally; in that case bicipital tendonitis usually ensues. A highly qualified practitioner always looks at the scapula when trying to improve the function of the upper arm. If any of these conditions apply to you, consult an experienced practitioner in Active Release Techniques Treatment® or Rolfing; these treatments commonly deliver great improvements in training.
CHAPTER 13 Monitor Overtraining with Grip Testing Sports medicine is a medical specialty that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of injuries that occur during athletics. It is a relatively new branch of medicine; it was only a few decades ago that the medical community officially recognized the term “sports medicine.” In those “old days,” if an athlete sprained an ankle playing tennis, the family doctor was considered fully capable of treating it. If that ankle injury was serious enough to require surgery, a physical therapist probably would have been brought in to expedite the healing process. Today, that’s not good enough. Currently, if an athlete gets injured – regardless of the type of injury – there is no question about it: They need to see a sports medicine physician. For some reason an ankle that is sprained when an athlete falls on the playing field requires an entirely different protocol from that for an ankle sprained when a regular guy falls off a ladder. Today there are sports medicine clinics that are committed to more aggressive treatments, as well as a greater variety of approaches, to get athletes back in top form quickly. The focus of such clinics is usually on treatment, not prevention (as insurance companies are not fond of this aspect of medical care). That’s too bad, especially for athletes, since one major cause of sports injuries is overtraining. Overtraining is a major concern for athletes and sport scientists. In fact, at one point two research teams from two different major countries each spent more than a million dollars to determine the major predictors of overtraining. Neither research team knew about the other’s work, but both came to the same conclusion, which was that one of the most accurate predictors of overtraining is an athlete’s mood. While this is interesting, there are many other predictors of overtraining. In his excellent book Science of Sports Training, Thomas
Kurz says the following factors should be taken into consideration when determining the physical readiness of an athlete: pulse rate, temperature, breathing frequency, weight, blood pressure, and one of my favorites because it’s so practical: handgrip dynamometry. A grip dynamometer is a simple device that you squeeze to measure your grip strength. This test is particularly useful because grip strength is often a great predictor of overall strength and even performance in many sports. Judo, for example, requires tremendous hand strength, and those who perform best in hand grip tests are often at the top of this sport. Likewise, one of the primary determinants of the success of lightweight weightlifters is grip strength, because the diameter of the bar makes it difficult to grasp. The following is a noninvasive assessment used extensively by Eastern Bloc training centers several decades ago to measure the readiness of the central nervous system (and possibly various androgens). The test was performed in the morning so coaches could examine the results before training and adjust an athlete’s workouts accordingly. The test is still valid and useful today. Here’s how it works. First, purchase a high-quality dynamometer. Likely sources include medical supply stores that provide equipment to physical therapists. Take a measurement after you have taken a few days’ break from training. Upon awakening, grip the dynamometer with your dominant hand and position your opposite foot slightly forward. Raise your dominant hand overhead and then slowly lower the arm while squeezing the handgrip as hard as you can. Record your results, and then repeat the process with your other hand; again, record your results. These scores will represent your standardized measurements. Every morning measure your grip strength in both hands in exactly this manner. Says Kurz, “In the cases of overstrain and insufficient recovery, and in the initial phase of overtraining, the values of a morning dynamometry go down.” Specifically, if your scores are down by two kilos or more per hand, you have not recovered, from a neurological standpoint, from your previous workout(s). From the
viewpoint of an energy substrate level you may be fine, but not when you consider the central nervous system. In contrast, if your scores increase by four kilos or more per hand, you are ready to lift some maximal loads and possibly set some new PRs. If your score is poor on the morning grip dynamometer test, you may not need to skip training altogether, but you may need to reduce the volume of training to avoid a deeper level of overtraining. Remember, it’s usually the volume of your workouts, not the intensity, that results in overtraining. Using a grip dynamometer test to monitor overtraining is easy, noninvasive, and relatively inexpensive and has been around quite some time. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best.
CHAPTER 14 Bulletproof Your Spine with Back Extensions Core training has become the focus of many popular workout programs for the general population and for athletes as well. Exercises such as planks, Russian twists, roll-outs, and side bends are now mainstay training exercises in just about every program. The definition of core training encompasses low back training, but, unfortunately, this is where many workouts fall short. One exercise solution to prevent the lower back from becoming a weak link in the core is back extensions. One of the primary muscle groups the back extension works is the erector spinae, a set of three parallel muscles: the iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis. These muscles run the entire length of the spine, from the sacrum to the base of the neck. Their functions include extending and laterally flexing the vertebral column and helping to maintain optimal posture of the spine during exercise. Focusing on the lower back muscles with back extensions not only helps ensure proper form in multijoint exercises (for example, to maintain a neutral spine in squatting and deadlifting); it also has an “irradiation effect.” What this means is that if you strengthen the erector spinae muscles, you’ll also increase the strength of other muscle groups. As such, by strengthening your lower back you will also improve your military press and even your standing biceps curl. The key, however, is to find ways to make back extensions progressively harder. Just about every gym has a back extension bench, and many gyms also have an incline version, usually set at 45 degrees. Many gymgoers use only their body weight, typically performing a set or two of 10-15 reps, with their hands either across their chest or, if they feel especially frisky, behind their head. Sorry, that’s just not good enough. Fortunately, there are many ways to increase the intensity of the exercise to develop a powerful core.
Because gravity exerts its effects downward rather than horizontally, you achieve the highest level of resistance during a back extension when your torso is parallel to the floor. However, you can change the resistance curve by performing the exercise on an incline back extension bench. In the incline version you will feel more resistance at the start of the movement, unlike in the flat version, where you will feel the most resistance at the finish. With both exercises, the sequence in which the muscles are activated during the movement is calves, hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae. Another advantage of the incline bench is that beginners will be more aware of the point at which they start to lift their torso too far into hyperextension. Hyperextension of the spine may cause discomfort or even back spasms in some individuals, especially if they have excessive forward rotation of the pelvis, which is common in those who are overweight. Also, the incline version tends to create more traction on the spine at the start of the exercise, and this traction can be beneficial for people who suffer from back pain. There are many ways to increase resistance on both conventional and incline back extensions. You can hold a barbell on your upper back (in the same position you would as if you were squatting) or place a medicine ball on your upper back (do not place the ball on your head, as this can cause neck strain). That’s not all. You can hold a medicine ball, dumbbell, or weight plate on your chest. Another option is to hold a barbell at arms’ length using a shoulderwidth or wide grip (to increase the range of motion). You can also add chains to a barbell to increase the resistance as you lift your torso. When holding a barbell at arms’ length, keep the bar aligned with your shoulders during the movement. Also, when using any resistance, be certain that the apparatus you are using is designed so it will not tip forward as you perform the lift. Another way to make back extensions more challenging is to vary the leverage throughout the exercise so it is greater at the top of the movement. This is accomplished by holding a dumbbell, weight plate, or medicine ball close to your chest, proceeding to the top position of
the exercise in the normal fashion, and then extending the dumbbell or other implement in front of you. Lower slowly with arms outstretched. When the arms are extended, the resistance is increased because the lever arm is longer (as an analogy, compare it to moving back a bit on a teeter-totter). You’ll be surprised how little resistance you will need to achieve a training effect with this variation. Conventional back extensions target the mid-part of the lumbar spine (above L3), compared to reverse hypers, which target the lower part of the lumbar spine (below L3). For this reason it’s important to perform both exercises to develop these important core muscles to their fullest.
CHAPTER 15 Train Your Traps Developing bulging, powerful traps is the goal of football players, rugby players, grapplers, and many other sportsmen. And several decades ago, bodybuilders would spend a considerable amount of their training on specific exercises to develop these muscles. There was even a novelty hit song released in 1977 praising the necessity of thick traps and collar-button-busting necks: “Pencil Neck Geek,” written by the late pro wrestler Freddie Blassie. The key exercises for developing the trapezius muscle for bodybuilders in the 1950s and ’60s were Olympic lifting exercises such as power snatches and power cleans. John Grimek is regarded by most bodybuilding historians as possessing one of the best physiques of his era; Grimek retired undefeated. He was also a successful weightlifter and competed in the 1936 Olympics. Marvin Eder, who placed third in the 1951 AAU Mr. America, also deserves a mention for being a physique competitor who was as strong as he looked. At 200 pounds body weight, Eder could do a standing Olympic press of 330 pounds, complete 80 wide-grip chins (and 8 reps with 200 pounds!), and perform a parallel bar dip with 434 pounds (with the resistance being provided by two men hanging from his feet!). At age 75, Eder could still regularly perform dips with 70 pounds attached to his waist! In the 1960s the bodybuilding community began to split from weightlifters, both in training methodology and in organization – before then, bodybuilding competitions often were held in conjunction with weightlifting meets. Peary Rader, the editor of Iron Man magazine, wrote about this separation 44 years ago, and it was discussed in detail in Randy Roach’s Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors: Volume I, an amazing book about the history of bodybuilding. Says Roach, “It was obvious to him [Rader] at this stage that bodybuilders could not develop the level of musculature on a weightlifter’s regimen, nor could
the weightlifter come close to attaining his required lifts using the techniques of the modern physique athletes.” Rader’s prediction was accelerated when isolation training methods were popularized by bodybuilding gurus such as Vince Gironda, who recommended that physique competitors avoid heavy compound exercises such as back squats and even bench presses. For an athlete, an injury to the neck can be catastrophic. Fortunately, training the upper back muscles also helps to develop the neck muscles. The neck development of top Olympic lifters is evidence of such a carryover effect, especially to the neck muscles involved in extension, such as the suboccipitals, splenius capitis, and semispinalis capitis. Another little-known benefit of having strong traps is that it enables you to use heavier weights in standing curl exercises. If your curling poundages have not improved since Jimmy Hendrix was at the top of the charts, make an effort to increase the mass and strength of your upper traps – this could be your ticket to breaking through that plateau. In addition to the competitive Olympic lifting exercises and their assistance exercises, another great exercise to develop the traps is the one-arm barbell shrug. This exercise offers several advantages over conventional shoulder shrug exercises. Compared to the two-arm barbell shrug, the one-arm version provides a greater range of motion. You will instantly feel how much higher the trapezius moves upward when you use the single-arm version versus the two-arm version. Compared to dumbbell shrugs, there is no contact with the body during the one-arm barbell shrug, permitting a much smoother performance of the movement. With dumbbells, there is a considerable amount of friction created because the plates rub against your body, especially when using heavy weights. While the friction produced from using dumbbells does increase the resistance of the movement, unfortunately you lose the ability to determine how much the load has increased and consequently how well you are progressing with the exercise.
With the one-arm version of the shrug, the working arm has to remain in a neutral position. This technique helps correct the excessively internally-rotated shoulder and arm posture commonly associated with individuals who have done too much bench pressing over the years. Also, to prevent the barbell from moving medially (towards the front of the body), the one-arm barbell shrug requires the infraspinatus and teres minor to be recruited isometrically. This additional work develops superior shoulder integrity that is valuable for athletes such as football and rugby players, athletes who experience a high degree of disruptive forces to the shoulders during their sports. Although it seems like a simple movement, here are some special tips on how to get the most out of the one-arm barbell shrug. First, to make it easier to load the barbell and pick it up to assume the starting position, set the barbell on a power rack across the pins. You can then brace yourself with your free hand against one of the power rack posts, which will allow you to keep your torso in an upright position. Regarding the use of straps, use them only if the weight is so heavy that your grip gives out – so, no straps for sets of 1-3 reps. To increase time under tension, which favors the development of greater hypertrophy, pause for a predetermined time (1 to 6 seconds, for example) at the end of the concentric range of motion. This paused variation is also recommended for trainees who are recovering from shoulder surgery; even if they cannot handle high loads, they still need the hypertrophy to rehabilitate quickly. If your traps are in need of a dire challenge, add the one-arm barbell shrug to your program. It will build your traps fast, and you can consider it a tribute to the pioneering work of the old-time bodybuilders and strength athletes.
CHAPTER 16 Sleep Better Get more sleep if you want to gain muscle and improve your athletic performance. Research shows that lack of sleep activates the immune system, causing an inflammatory response in the body that leads to muscle breakdown and a host of other negative physiological effects that compromise athletic performance. Sleep affects every system in the body, and lack of it will also influence brain health and function, body fat accumulation, insulin health, reproduction, and cardiovascular health. In fact, sleep deprivation is lethal in animal models! This chapter describes how sleep specifically affects your life and provides a few tips to get more. When you don’t get enough sleep for one night, your immune system will be activated, which means that your body will produce biomarkers of inflammation called cytokines, such as IL-6, an inflammation marker that is also produced during exercise. However, the exercise-induced release of markers like IL-6 are thought to be “under control” by the body, and if you allow for adequate recovery time, they will be effectively cleared. Chronic lack of sleep leads to a pro-inflammatory state in the body with an overwhelming number of cytokines being produced that directly affect the central nervous system (CNS). When the CNS is altered and inflammation rises, your hormones will be influenced, producing more stress. It’s a vicious cycle: Sleep is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the endocrine system, but if you are sleep deprived, your hormones will be imbalanced and you won’t be able to go to sleep. Did you know that lack of sleep can impede hypertrophy, keep you from making strength gains, and make you gain fat? It can, and, unfortunately, fatigue can make you a poor performer in a surprisingly short period of time. For example, a recent study looked at how fatigue affected performance in college rugby players who competed in a five-day tournament, playing three games with inadequate rest
and sleep. On-field performance and neuromuscular function deteriorated as the tournament progressed, with a significant drop-off by the third game (the team lost the second and third games). In addition, cytokines (inflammatory markers) increased each day of the tournament, indicating a pro-inflammatory state. Researchers noted that the rugby players would recover if given sufficient time to get both physical rest and sleep. However, if players continued to get inadequate sleep due to anxiety, exams, or a sleep disorder, they could succumb a nasty pro-inflammatory state that could permanently alter performance and health. Here are a few things you can do to improve your sleep and ensure you get the most out of your training: 1. Commit to getting a certain amount of sleep nightly. Base this on your own needs – most people need at least eight hours, but some feel fine with less and some need more. “Normal” average sleep duration has decreased from nine hours per night in 1910 to seven hours currently. 2. If possible, commit to a 9:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. sleeping schedule, or something similar. Research shows better body composition and overall health are more common in people who have early-to-bed and early-to-rise sleep patterns. 3. Try meditation. Studies show that people who meditate every day have lower inflammatory markers of IL-6 and get better sleep. 4. Start a gratitude log. Just before bedtime write down three things you are grateful for from your day. This can be very calming and helps you look at the world in a positive way before going to sleep. 5. A related option to the gratitude log is to answer these three questions: • What good to other people did I do today? • What good did other people do to me today? • What did I learn today?
6. Turn off all media screens during the hour or half hour before bedtime. It will make a huge difference in your ability to go to sleep and get good rest. Turn off computers, TVs, phones, and any other screens for at least the final 30 minutes before you hit the sack. 7. Have a very small snack with carbs about an hour before bedtime. Carbs can help elevate serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps you feel good, calm, tired. Avoid sugar or refined grains for this snack. 8. Take adequate magnesium. Magnesium calms the nervous system and helps you get adequate rest. Studies show the average American gets less than 25 percent of the magnesium they need a day from their diet. 9. Try to stay on your sleep schedule on the weekend. Staying up late on Friday and Saturday night and sleeping late the next morning will throw the whole schedule off and make it harder for you to go to sleep at your set bedtime on Sunday night.
CHAPTER 17 Rediscover the Power Rack If you are interested in achieving the highest levels of strength development, incorporate partial movements in your current training programs. Powerlifting coach extraordinaire Louie Simmons has achieved great success by making use of this type of training at his Westside Barbell Club, and many successful Olympic lifters use partial reps in their training. Further, elite bodybuilders also have used partial movements to boost muscle growth, such as Mr. Olympia Frank Zane, who performed one-quarter deadlifts to develop his erector spinae muscles. For most individuals, the power rack is simply a large squat rack that has safety pins that will catch the weight if an athlete drops it. Unfortunately, the result of dropping any significant weight on the safety pins usually bends the barbell, so this approach is probably best referred to as “death control,” as replacing bent barbells is expensive. But the power rack has many more uses, one of which is enabling you to work on specific parts of the range of motion of an exercise. Here are three advantages to partial-range training: 1. Enables you to use greater loads than you can when performing full-range movements. This means you can select specific parts of the range of motion of an exercise where you are the strongest, and use weights that will appropriately overload that range. For example, if you always train with full squats, you will not be maximally overloading the top range of the movement (i.e., quarter squat). 2. Allows you to focus on sticking points in a lift. The sticking point is the weakest point of a lift, such as the bottom position of a bench press or the lockout of a deadlift. Because the amount of weight you can lift is often limited by how much you can use though the sticking point, partial-range-of-motion training is one of the best approaches to work this area. For example, if you are weak in the start position in curls, you can perform them on a Scott bench where the resting surface for your triceps is set at 45 to 60 degrees, and only do the first
45 degrees of range of motion with an extremely heavy load. Make certain that the movements are done slowly over that limited range to bring about maximal intramuscular tension, and avoid bouncing or choppy movements, as this can injure your tendons. 3. Disinhibits the nervous system. Extremely heavy partials on top of the range, also known as lockouts, will help you overcome the inhibition of feeling a great load on the spine or at arms’ length. Powerlifters use it on squats and bench presses for that purpose in peaking for a competition, because after performing partials the weights will feel lighter when the lifter removes the barbell from the supports to prepare to lift. Physique and strength athlete Chuck Sipes, a former Mr. America, popularized this approach in the 1960s; he used to call them “heavy supports.” Heavy supports help heighten the shutdown threshold of the golgi tendon organ (GTO), which is a tension/stretch receptor located in the tendon of a muscle. The GTO inhibitory effect can be seen during an arm-wrestling match between two people of uneven strength levels. The weaker person – when losing – will look as though they suddenly quit as their wrist is suddenly slammed to the table. What is actually happening is that the GTO perceives a rapid rate of stretch during the eccentric contraction and yells to the brain, “Better shut down the contraction, or my biceps tendon is going to tear.” Probably a better option to raise that threshold is by interspersing 8 seconds of heavy isometric holds (i.e., heavy supports) between regular sets. Using percentages for initial guidance in weight selection, the approach of using heavy supports in your bench press routine may look like this: Set 1: Bench Press, 5 RM @ 85 percent of max Set 2: Heavy Supports, 8 seconds @ 120 percent of max; basically it is 1/16 of the range. You just unrack the weight and hold it with your elbows just short of lockout. The weight should be heavy
enough so that your upper extremities shake uncontrollably. Set 3: Bench Press, 5 RM @ 85 percent of max Set 4: Heavy Supports, 8 seconds @ 125 percent of max Set 5: Bench Press, 5 RM @ 85 percent of max Set 6: Heavy Supports, 8 seconds @ 130 percent of max Make certain that you train in a power rack for this routine, and set the safety support bars 2-3 inches below your lockout position for safety. Often the weights you can use for heavy supports increase dramatically, so don’t be shy about using even greater percentages for the heavy supports than the ones suggested. In turn, your bench press performance may increase significantly in just a few workouts. There are drawbacks to using partial movements exclusively. Longterm specialization on partial-range movements can decrease flexibility, as the muscles will strengthen over only a short range. For this reason always include full-range movements when embarking on a program that uses partial-range training. In short, use partial-range-of-motion training as a valuable adjunct to your regular training to increase strength and muscle mass, improve athletic performance, and even help you overcome injuries.
CHAPTER 18 Use the Appropriate Stretching Method Yoga is suddenly cool again. Workshops and online presentations on stretching and becoming more supple are very popular. With the value our culture places on staying young, mobility training is essential as people age. Also, as athletes strive for higher levels of physical superiority, they need to work on maintaining full range of motion and eliminating muscle adhesions that impede progress in performance and gains in strength and muscle mass. So what type of mobility work is best for you? Before choosing any particular type of mobility work, consider that the nature and timing of stretching is critical to achieve the optimal training response. For example, performing static stretching before activities that require maximal strength or power, such as sprinting or powerlifting, may decrease performance. In fact, a study published in the June 2011 issue of Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that stretching an antagonist muscle group can adversely affect performance of its agonist. In this case, researchers found that stretching the quadriceps can affect the power production of the hamstrings. With that warning, for your consideration here are a few types of activities that fall into the category of mobility work: Static stretching. In this form of stretching you assume a stationary position and hold muscles at a length greater than their normal resting length. The duration of the stretch is usually 30 seconds. Static stretches are generally easy to learn and can be performed without the assistance of a partner. Static stretching should be performed either after a workout or four or more hours before a workout, as it can affect the ability of the muscles to generate strength and power. Although many yoga stretches may be considered a form of static stretching, static stretching by itself was made extremely popular by Bob Anderson with the 1975 publication of his book (co-written by Jean Anderson) Stretching (Publishers Group West, 2010). The book
has sold over three million copies and has been published in 24 languages. PNF stretching. An acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, PNF is a partner-assisted type of stretching that involves stretching a muscle, holding it isometrically against a resistance (usually the partner), and then stretching it once more to achieve an even greater range of motion. This type of stretching requires skill to administer, as an untrained partner can easily stretch an individual too far and cause injury. As with static stretching, PNF should only be performed after a workout or several hours before. A good, practical guidebook on how to perform PNF stretching is Facilitated Stretching, 4th edition, by Robert McAtee and Jeff Charland (Human Kinetics, 2014). Dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching involves fast movements that place muscles under a rapid but brief stretch. Dynamic flexibility is different from static flexibility; in fact, the correlation between dynamic flexibility and static flexibility is quite poor (r = 0.42). What this means is that it’s possible for someone who can barely touch their knees in a sit-and-reach test (static stretch) to kick you in the face (dynamic stretch). As such, this type of stretching is considered a dynamic expression of flexibility. It is also a very popular type of stretching because it (unlike static stretching) can be performed immediately before a strength or power activity without negatively affecting performance. Thomas Kurz helped popularize this type of stretching in his book Stretching Scientifically: A Guide to Flexibility Training (4th edition, Stadion Publishers, 2003). Fascial stretching. Fascial Stretch Therapy™ is a stretching method developed by Ann and Chris Frederick. With this technique a client is placed on a treatment table and the practitioner moves the client’s limbs in specific ranges of motion. Straps are used to stabilize the limbs not being worked so the practitioner can work on specific muscles. This technique enables the practitioner to stretch not only the muscles but also the fascia, which is connective tissue in the body that plays a key role in providing stability to the body.
Distraction stretching. Distraction stretching is a form of traction using rubber bands to provide tension that helps to open up joint capsules. The basic technique involves attaching a large elastic band to a stationary object, then securing the other end around a body part and slowly pulling away. An excellent resource for this type of stretching is Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett and Glen Cordoza (Victory Belt Publishing, 2013). ELDOA, a.k.a. LOADS. The technical name for this type of stretching is Longitudinal OsteoArticular Decoaptation Stretches, which translates from the French acronym ELDOA (Etirements Longitudinaux avec Decoaptation Osteo-Articulaire). This form of stretching, which was developed by Guy Voyer, D.O., decompresses the spine and helps to normalize alignment of the vertebrae. As for which type of stretching method is best, that’s debatable – perhaps all of them, as each has its pros and cons. In any case, whether your goal is to improve athletic performance, build muscle, or simply live pain free, you need mobility training to be a part of your regular fitness routine.
CHAPTER 19 Reconsider Using Ice for Injuries “Put ice on it!” has become the standard recommendation for just about any injury. Most coaches and trainers believe that ice is the most appropriate treatment for everything from black eyes to torn ACLs, and many also recommend taking uncomfortable ice baths to help recover from especially hard workouts. There’s only one problem: Icing an injury doesn’t work. In fact, it can even interfere with the healing process. Such is the basis of Gary Reinl’s self-published book, Iced! The Illusionary Treatment Option (2nd edition, 2014). Reinl contends that inflammation is a critical part of the healing process; in his book he writes that “there is no peer-reviewed, indisputable published evidence (indexed on PubMed) that the use of ice improves the recovery process. None!” In fact, Reinl says, icing an injured area only delays the process. Says Reinl, “Think of it this way: You want fluid to get there – because that means that the inflammatory response is doing its job – but you also want it to leave as quickly as possible.” In contrast to inflammation, says Reinl, swelling can be regarded as the accumulation of waste at the completion of the inflammatory cycle. The swelling process is regulated by the lymphatic system, which relies on muscle activation to function properly. Reinl believes that ice limits muscle activation and thus interferes with the function of the lymphatic system: “Essentially, the ‘cold’ causes the one-way valves to open in the wrong direction, which creates more swelling.” Reinl’s observations concerning the effects of ice on swelling are supported by a peer-reviewed article published in Sports Medicine in 1986. The authors of this paper explained that when ice is applied to a body part, lymphatic permeability is increased, such that fluid flows in the wrong direction, thus “…increasing the amount of local swelling and pressure and potentially contributing to greater pain.” As for reducing muscle soreness, ice doesn’t appear to accelerate the recovery process – a realization that will come as a surprise to
thousands of athletes (especially gymnasts and football players) who have been forced to endure painful ice baths. According to a paper published in the May 2013 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the authors concluded, “These data suggest cooling… appears to not improve but rather delay recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.” As for other methods that are used to deal with chronic swelling, specifically nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), consider a report published in 1999 in The New England Journal of Medicine. The report extrapolated that the number of deaths per year from NSAIDs included an estimated 16,500 deaths just from the gastrointestinal side effects of NSAIDs alone. There’s more. The FDA reported that in the first three months of 2008, there were over 2,700 deaths from NSAIDs. As if those numbers are not enough to scare you, according to a 2009 report published in the Annals of Medicine, the risk of developing complications (such as liver problems, stomach upset, blood disorders, and vision problems) from taking antiinflammatory drugs “is present from the first dose.” Instead, to accelerate the healing process, Reinl believes that the best method is active recovery, or loading, which will “…cause enough pain-free stress to sufficiently activate the involved muscles for the desired period of time, but not enough stress to cause fatigue.” Examples of such methods include stationary bikes, upper body ergometers, vibration plates, weighted medicine balls, and free weights. Reinl also endorses the use of what he calls “poweredmuscle stimulators.” He says such technology can “…make the recovery process easier (sometimes much easier), requires much less effort (e.g., essentially none), is often more comfortable, and is faster in many instances.” Although not mentioned in Reinl’s book, another promising way to deal with chronic swelling and to accelerate healing is Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM). Developed in 1995 by Dr. Carolyn McMakin, an osteopath in Canada, FSM uses a specially calibrated machine to apply specific frequencies of electrical current matched to
a specific injury and tissue. For example, after ACL surgery it can take several weeks for the swelling to decrease so that rehabilitation can begin; however, if FSM is applied within a few hours after surgery, often swelling can decrease to a level where rehabilitation can begin within 2-3 days after surgery. It’s time for coaches to consider alternatives in treating swelling. Using NSAIDS is risky on many levels, and icing often does more harm than good.
CHAPTER 20 Consider These 10 Training Accessories Barbells and dumbbells? Check. Power racks and benches? Check. Weight training machines? Check. With those basics taken care of, it’s time to focus on getting the right personal training gear. This gear will help you lift more weight and lift more safely. Some of the following lifting accessories are more important than others, and this is not the time to debate the pros and cons of wearing surgical scrubs versus clown pants (although just to make it clear, both are ridiculous). But wearing the wrong type of footwear or improperly using lifting straps could increase your risk of injury. With that background, here are some facts about 10 types of training accessories that can improve your workouts. 1. Weightlifting shoes. In addition to being very rigid to give you a solid platform for squatting, weightlifting shoes have an elevated heel, usually about 1 inch. This heel enables the shins to incline forward further so the back can maintain a more upright position during the squat. This effect is especially valuable for lifters with tight calves, as they would have to lean forward excessively when squatting to compensate. The rigid design of these shoes also helps align the bones of the ankle and foot so it’s easier to keep the knees in the proper alignment when squatting. 2. Knee wraps. The main reason someone would use knee wraps is to be able to lift more weight or perform more reps, but that doesn’t mean wraps will make you stronger. Knee wraps are worn because they increase the maximal weight that can be lifted by increasing the speed with which the lift is performed and by storing elastic energy in the wrap. That’s the good news. The bad news is that knee wraps alter squatting mechanics by restricting motion around the hip joint, causing greater flexion at the knee joint and thus compromising the integrity of the knee joint. Research indicates that although knee wraps are frequently worn to
protect the knee joint, they may in fact increase the friction between the patella and the underlying cartilage because the wraps compress the kneecap into the thighbone, increasing the risk of injury and knee pathologies such as arthritis. Unless you’re a competitive powerlifter or strongman, better alternatives to knee wraps are neoprene knee sleeves. These sleeves keep the knee warm, which helps to lubricate the knee with synovial fluid, without altering movement mechanics. 3. Lifting straps. A lifting strap is made by sewing one end of a strip of cloth to itself to form a loop. The other end of the cloth is passed through the loop so it can attach around the wrist. By wrapping the free end of the cloth around a barbell or other apparatus, you reinforce the grip. Lifting straps can be made from numerous types of materials, but for snatches a slick material such as nylon is best because you want to be able to release the barbell quickly. Straps should only be used in cases where limitations in the strength of your grip will prevent you from overloading the muscles you are focusing on in an exercise. This means straps are not necessary during warm-up sets, and for some exercises they should not be used at all. 4. Chalk. Chalk absorbs moisture to ensure a sturdy grip. Do not use too much chalk, because this can compromise your grip as the chalk particles move across your hand. If your gym does not allow the use of conventional chalk, you might be able to use a chalk ball, which is not as messy. If that is still not an option, liquid grip is a good alternative. One problem with using weightlifting gloves as an alternative to chalk is that they affect proprioception (body awareness), which is important to safely perform exercises such as the Olympic lifts. 5. Kinesio tape. Kinesio tape is a special tape used to stabilize muscles and joints while providing a form of treatment by manipulating the soft tissue. It can also provide pain relief for many conditions and decrease inflammation. It can be used for injuries involving fascia, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. The downside is you’ll need
some training on how to use it, and for some areas, such as the upper back, you’ll have to have someone else apply it. 6. Weight training belt. A weight training belt is considered an essential tool, especially when other assistive gear is used, such as knee wraps and squat suits. But in other lifts belts are seldom used or needed – even competitive weightlifters seldom wear belts. However, for overhead presses, belts do provide some support along with more proprioception so you know your position in space. Most belts designed for powerlifting are thick, about four inches wide and the same width all the way around. A weightlifting belt is about this same width in the back, but the width tapers down in the front of the body in the buckle area so it doesn’t dig into the waist when the lifter bends over. There are also noncompetition belts that are similar to weightlifting belts but are wider in the back; this style is popular among lifters who have back pain. 7. Squat pads. Beginners often use a rolled-up towel or a rubber apparatus that wraps around the bar to avoid the discomfort of supporting the barbell on the back. The downsides are that these options are not as secure as lifting with just the bar on the back and they can increase pressure on the neck by pushing it forward. A better idea is to use a device called the Manta Ray®. By redistributing the weight over more muscle mass, the Manta Ray minimizes the stress on the traps, and it does so without displacing the center of the mass of the bar. The only problem is that individuals with especially large traps may find the device uncomfortable. Another option is one of the various safety-squat bars with padded yokes that distribute the weight slightly differently from that encountered in traditional high-bar squats. 8. Compression clothing. Compression clothing includes form-fitting garments such as T-shirts and shorts designed to improve athletic performance and reduce muscle soreness. The idea for such workout clothing probably came from support hosiery that helps with venous disorders such as thrombosis, edema, and phlebitis. The jury is still out on these high-tech garments, but some of the research looks
promising, especially in the area of reducing muscle soreness. One downside is that compression clothing can be quite expensive, with some shirts costing over $100. 9. Wrist wraps. Wrist wraps are used to support the wrists for pressing or overhead exercises. Leather straps are more secure, but elastic wraps with Velcro provide the best fit. The precaution is that you should never just wear one wrap to protect an injured wrist – wear them on both wrists, as this can affect lifting mechanics. 10. Ammonia caps. Ammonia capsules have legitimate medical uses and were never intended to improve sporting performance, but some lifters believe they help clear the head and enable them to lift heavier weights. Be aware that these types of substances are considered toxic, so if you do use them, use them sparingly, and only if you are free of any medical issues that would prevent their use. There you have it: information and guidance about lifting accessories that can help you increase performance and reduce your risk of injury.
SECTION 3: NUTRITION
CHAPTER 21 Start the Day with the Poliquin™ Meat & Nuts Breakfast The Poliquin™ Meat and Nuts Breakfast is the single best dietary tip for optimal leanness, energy, and sustained mental focus. The meat allows for a slow and steady rise in blood sugar, and the nuts provide a great source of healthy smart fats that allow the blood sugar to remain stable for an extended period of time. Virtually everyone who switches to the Poliquin™ Meat and Nuts Breakfast reports improved mental clarity, increased energy, better appetite control, and reduced cravings throughout the day. One of the best reasons to try the Poliquin™ Meat and Nuts Breakfast is to benefit from its positive effects on the neurotransmitters dopamine and acetylcholine. These neurotransmitters increase drive, commitment, and euphoria. Fat loss and muscle gains also occur very quickly after you make this one simple change to your diet. Another advantage of this system is that it reduces the development of food sensitivities, which are known to increase the stress hormone cortisol. When first-time clients are tested for food sensitivities, it’s often found that they have antibodies to foods they have consumed daily, often for years. This is even more the case with physique competitors. It is not uncommon for these individuals to have intolerances to beef, eggs, whey, casein, tuna, and oatmeal – the basic bodybuilding staples. Here is a sample 5-day rotation of the Poliquin™ Meat and Nuts Breakfast. Organic tea, coffee, or herbal infusions are permissible; milk, juice, or other liquids are not allowed. You may use heavy cream (from pasture-raised cows) in your coffee, but no creamers or artificial additives. You may also season the meat with herbs and spices, but no sauces. You can even add vegetables. Day 1 1-2 buffalo or bison patties
1 handful of macadamia nuts Day 2 4-8 oz. smoked wild-caught salmon 1 handful of cashew nuts Day 3 1-2 grass-fed beef patties 1 handful of almonds Day 4 1-2 cans of sardines 1 handful of Brazil nuts Day 5 1-2 chicken breasts 1 handful of pumpkin seeds When you travel, scout ahead for places that serve the best breakfasts and simply choose steak and eggs, a salmon omelet, or lox and poached eggs. If you are allergic to nuts, replace them with a portion of any of the following low-glycemic/low-fructose fruits: apricots, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, grapefruit, loganberries, nectarines, olives, papaya, peaches, plums, raspberries, and strawberries. Make certain the fruits are organic, especially the strawberries, as they are among the most highly sprayed crops in the world.
CHAPTER 22 Take Branched Chain Amino Acids Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are considered essential amino acids because the body cannot synthesize them itself. They are of special interest to strength athletes because BCAAs make up a large portion of skeletal muscle. Further, BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) consumed during training raise both growth hormone and insulin at the same time, hence increasing anabolism (which builds muscle) and anticatabolism (which prevents the breaking down of muscle). Studies of cyclists have shown BCAAs can reduce cortisol (catabolic) as much as 46 percent. The BCAAs stimulate the anabolic effects of insulin in three different pathways; one of the most significant is the metabolic pathway. Leucine is the most readily oxidized BCAA and therefore the most effective at causing insulin secretion from the pancreas, thereby stimulating the metabolic pathway. Studies show that leucine supplementation, together with the intake of carbohydrates following resistance exercise, increases insulin output by 221 percent! Without leucine the output is only 66 percent. To increase lean body mass, use branched chain amino acids while you train. How effective are BCAAs? An Italian study of natural bodybuilders showed that taking 0.2 grams of BCAAs per kilogram of body weight 30 minutes before workouts and 30 minutes after workouts led to greater increases in lean body mass and strength in the bench press and squat. Here are a few other positive effects of using BCAAs: • Promotes protein synthesis in the fat-free body mass • Is used as a form of energy by muscle cells • Prevents a decrease in postworkout testosterone levels and actually allows testosterone levels to increase following exercise
• Has an anticatabolic effect by favoring a better testosterone:cortisol ratio • Reduces the exercise-induced increase in the muscle concentration of tyrosine and phenylalanine, therefore indicating a decreased net rate of protein degradation during exercise • Decreases postworkout soreness • Decreases body fat, especially visceral fat, which is the fat that accumulates inside the abdomen and results in that beer-gut look • Helps prevent muscle loss at high altitudes • May counteract exercise-induced declines in mental functioning How much BCAAs should you take? One common recommendation is to take 0.44 grams per kilogram of body weight. Take half the amount 30 minutes before training, and take the other half right after training. For example, if you weigh 90 kilograms (198 pounds), take a total of 40 grams of branched chain amino acids on each training day. If you are on a restricted budget, use at least 20 grams (any less would provide insufficient benefits).
CHAPTER 23 Develop a Postworkout Nutrition Plan Ideal workout nutrition will help you get the best results from the hard work you do in the gym. Common pitfalls include the following: not getting enough protein, not getting the right kind of protein, getting too many carbs, drinking the wrong things – sports drinks, chocolate milk, energy drinks, coffee – or taking protein tainted with chemicals or high-fructose corn syrup. You must plan your postworkout nutrition based on your specific goal. For muscle and strength development, take high-quality, pure whey protein. Avoid whey protein that has added sugar, chemical sweeteners like aspartame, dyes, or artificial flavorings. Studies repeatedly show that the greatest muscle growth and strength development come when the right dose of the amino acid leucine is provided to the muscles. Leucine kick-starts the pathway in the body by which protein synthesis occurs, which leads to overall muscle development. Athletes of all ages need leucine to experience protein synthesis; however, people over 50 require a larger amount to kickstart the protein synthesis pathway. Although you might think soy is a good postworkout option since it is typically cheaper than whey, the vast majority of soy protein is genetically modified. Soy also contains phytoestrogens that can mimic estrogen in the body, which is contradictory to the goals of postworkout nutrition. If your goal is fat loss in addition to muscle building, it’s generally best to avoid consuming carbohydrates postworkout. For endurance athletes, or for athletes who do a very large volume of training, carb supplementation may be beneficial to replace muscle glycogen, which is a stored energy source in the body. A common misconception is that carbs must always be taken with protein to achieve optimal protein synthesis, but this is not necessarily the case. It’s true that for optimal protein synthesis to occur, the body
must release insulin. However, whey protein elicits a large insulin release, so if body composition is your main goal and you take whey protein, you should be all set. Although milk and chocolate milk have been suggested as ideal protein sources, they are both extremely allergenic. If the milk isn’t organic, it may contain growth hormones and other growth factors that you need to avoid. Whey, which is made from milk, is preferred to cow’s milk because it is closer in nature to human milk, which in the early stage of lactation is 90 percent whey. In cow’s milk only about 20 percent of the protein content is from whey. Finally, avoid drinking coffee, energy drinks, or anything with caffeine immediately postworkout because this can inhibit recovery. Caffeine elevates cortisol, the stress hormone, which you want to help clear as quickly as possible. Vitamin C, incidentally, aids in the clearance of cortisol. Also, stay away from sports drinks because they contain sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. If you do want to take carbs postworkout to replenish glycogen, choose a high-quality malto-dextrin mix.
CHAPTER 24 Gain Muscle and Lose Fat with Vitamin D One of the simplest things you can do to lose fat and improve body composition is to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D. People who are low in vitamin D are more likely to be overweight, have less muscle mass, and be at higher risk of a long list of diseases. Vitamin D is produced in the body in response to direct sunlight. In order to maintain vitamin D levels from sun exposure, scientists suggest you need to be in direct sunlight for at least 20 minutes every day between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. However, surveys estimate that anywhere between 40 and 90 percent of the population is deficient depending on ethnicity and season. Here are six facts you should know about vitamin D if you want to be lean, strong, and healthy: 1. Low vitamin D is associated with greater fat mass in all ages, all races, and both genders. For instance, a study of overweight women found that those who took vitamin D for 12 weeks lost 2.7 kg of fat compared to a placebo group that did not modify diet, did not weight train, and did not lose fat. Further, separate surveys of children, men, and women showed that those with lower vitamin D had more body fat and more belly fat. 2. Because low D leads to fat storage, it “produces a toxic milieu by initiating metabolic and inflammatory cascades,” writes one research group. This cascade increases fat storage rates and worsens the inflammatory state in the body. Low vitamin D also decreases pancreatic cell function and affects insulin sensitivity because there are vitamin D receptors on insulin cells. Therefore, in addition to increasing the amount of fat you have, low D puts you at risk for continual fat gain and diabetes. 3. The inflammatory state associated with vitamin D compromises muscle function and leads to fat accumulation in muscle. For example, a study of collegiate women in Southern California found that vitamin D status was inversely correlated with the amount of fat they had in
their muscle. Researchers were alarmed since the population was young, fit, and living in a sunny climate. 4. Vitamin D levels are associated with muscular power. Adequate vitamin D has been found to increase the size and strength of type II muscle fibers in a variety of populations. One study found that overweight adults who took vitamin D in conjunction with doing a strength training program increased their explosive power significantly more than a group that didn’t take vitamin D. 5. Because of the role vitamin D plays in muscle and strength, lack of vitamin D increases the risk of injury. For example, in a study of professional football players, the average vitamin D level of players who experienced an injury was 19.9 ng/ml. Further, vitamin D enhances the immune system, while low D increases vulnerability to illness. 6. Low vitamin D is associated with low testosterone and poor fertility in men. Research found that men with adequate vitamin D (above 30 ng/ml) had higher testosterone levels, the leanest body composition, a greater percentage of lean mass, and better overall health than men with insufficient D. If you are not attending to your vitamin D level, you are not going to be as lean and strong as you could be. The solution is simple: Take vitamin D and lose fat. Take vitamin D and get better results from training. Ensure optimal vitamin D levels and improve your athletic performance.
CHAPTER 25 Think Twice about Dairy Products “Milk blunts fat burning. Don’t take it before exercise.” “Chocolate milk is the ‘best sports drink’ out there, and it will improve recovery.” “Milk is healthy and can aid fat loss, but it must be low fat.” With all these confusing claims it’s no surprise if you’re baffled about milk and dairy. Research outcomes are similarly inconsistent and confusing. Here’s the short version of what you need to know: • Many people are allergic to lactose, which is in milk, and need to avoid it. In addition, some people find they are intolerant of milk (an immune reaction that is less intense than an allergy); they feel better avoiding it. • Those who are overweight, diabetic, or sedentary should consider restricting milk because it produces a large insulin release that is greater than expected and may worsen metabolic health in people who are already insulin resistant. • Whey protein, which is made from milk, is the best protein source for building muscle and improving body composition with strength training because it consistently produces superior outcomes than casein or soy produce. Whey protein is even being tested in studies as a therapeutic protein to help improve metabolic health (including in diabetics) and to reduce body fat. • Casein, another milk protein, has a lower digestive rate than whey has; casein’s lower rate is considered inferior if the goal is putting on muscle with training. • Chocolate milk has been recommended as a useful “sports” drink for accelerating recovery due to the sugar (for carbs) and protein content. However, a lot of chocolate milk on the market contains high-fructose corn syrup and artificial chemicals, which are best avoided if the goal is recovery or body composition.
If you want dairy in your diet, the best products are raw, fermented, and/or casein-free. When it comes to taste and nutrition, milk is inferior to butter, cream, and fermented dairy such as yogurt. Real butter and cream are minimally processed foods that provide good fats, are low in lactose and casein, and are extremely delicious. If you get them from grass-fed animals, they provide the beneficial bone-building nutrients (vitamins A, D, and K) in a form the body can use. Fermented dairy includes yogurt, cheese, cultured butter and buttermilk, clotted milk, kefir, and Indian lassi, which are traditional foods in many cultures known for their low incidence of disease. They provide beneficial bacteria for the gut and are low in lactose. Raw dairy provides enzymes and nutrients not present in pasteurized diary. “Raw” means that it has not been pasteurized or heated to kill pathogens. Raw dairy was standard in the United States until the Industrial Revolution, and it’s still widely consumed in other parts of the world. Enjoy fermented dairy, butter, and cream to your liking because they provide health-promoting nutrients when eaten sensibly. They also provide variety and flavor for unique meals. Lastly, raw dairy is probably the “healthiest” bet as long as it’s free of disease.
CHAPTER 26 Know the Pros and Cons of Caffeine In controlled studies, caffeine can boost performance by a whopping 20 to 25 percent. In real-world competitions the improvement is likely much smaller, around 5 to 7 percent. However, there are a few concerns linked to caffeine use. Some people find that taking caffeine at any time of day keeps them from sleeping, or they’re so caffeine fueled all day long that they find themselves battling chronic fatigue. There are also some misconceptions about caffeine, one being that caffeine can cause dehydration, a serious problem for athletes, as dehydration can decrease performance. The truth is that even though caffeine can increase urination the first few days if you’ve never used it before, this does not cause dehydration and the effect goes away after a few days. There is another another concern that caffeine may elevate heart rate and blood pressure in those who are not regular users, but this effect also goes away after a few days as you become habituated to it. Why does caffeine work? The physiological benefits of consuming caffeine include the following: • It raises stimulatory hormones such epinephrine and norepinephrine • It helps free fatty acids so you can burn fat and spare glycogen • It releases calcium that is stored in muscle for increased endurance • It decreases the sensation of pain and affects the brain’s message of fatigue, allowing athletes to keep going when they’d normally collapse in exhaustion Strength trainees are more motivated to train and will have higherquality workouts with caffeine. For example, a bench press study found that trained men who took 5 mg/kg of caffeine did an average of 22.4 reps and lifted 1,142 kg compared to a placebo group that did an average of 20.4 reps and lifted 1,039 kg.
Other studies show that caffeine makes trainees more motivated because fatigue is reduced and mood is higher. A study of sleepdeprived rugby players who took 4 mg/kg of caffeine an hour before training found that they self-selected significantly higher loads and got better-quality workouts than players who took a placebo. Caffeine allowed the sleep-deprived players to train as hard as they would have if they’d been rested without taking caffeine. In contrast, the placebo group was exhausted and experienced a large decrease in training quality and in the amount of weight they could lift. Athletic performance is diminished in the early morning compared to later in the day due to lower activation of the central nervous system and lower body temperature. Taking caffeine can overcome this effect. In a study of elite athletes who took 3 mg/kg caffeine in the morning, maximal strength and power performance in the bench press and squat were enhanced by 3 to 6 percent compared to athletes who took a placebo. Morning strength and power were nearly equal to levels recorded in an evening trial when performance peaked. Caffeine will also improve concentration and reaction time. When you fatigue or feel pain, your rate of motor firing decreases. Caffeine blocks this by activating neurotransmitter release for more efficient muscular contractions. For instance, a study that gave athletes 3 mg/kg of caffeine along with BCAAs and creatine improved performance as they progressed through an exercise series. Around 95 minutes into the exercise, the placebo group’s performance dropped off significantly, whereas the supplement group reacted faster in the final stages of the test. Caffeine also appears to be one of the most effective supplements for reducing the debilitating effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and for restoring strength. One study found that when trained men took 5 mg/kg of body weight of caffeine and then did a muscledamaging workout to induce DOMS, they experienced significantly less soreness on days 2 and 3 after training than the group who took a placebo. The caffeine group also did more reps during the workout and their reps felt easier than the reps done by a placebo group,
which is significant because the caffeine group applied more stress to the muscles but recovered faster. Caffeine works postworkout on DOMS as well. A study of female trainees found that taking a 5 mg/kg dose of caffeine at 24 and 48 hours postworkout decreased muscle pain by between 26 and 48 percent compared to a placebo group, depending on the type of motion being assessed. Recovery of maximal strength was also faster. Is coffee as effective as caffeine capsules? It’s unclear. For certain individuals, coffee boosts performance, but whether caffeine capsules deliver the same degree of improvement has not been determined. The majority of studies show there’s no difference, but one study found that coffee compromised performance compared to caffeine. That trial could be an anomaly or due to individual differences in metabolism. You can’t out-train a bad diet, and you can’t out-diet lack of effort. You also can’t undo the effects of bad eating or a poor training program by taking caffeine. You need the whole package for fat loss, and caffeine is an excellent tool to boost your motivation when your drive and devotion to your goals are slipping.
CHAPTER 27 Plan Cheat Meals A “zero tolerance” approach to nutrition is a losing proposition. Instructing people to go months without indulging in their favorite foods is a recipe for failure because even the most committed dieter can rarely last longer than 12 weeks before falling off the wagon. Worse still, those who stumble trying to follow such extreme regimens often binge and rebound severely. Some unlucky folks will gain back all the weight they lost over several months in just a few days! Here’s the good news: You will lose fat faster if you allow yourself a cheat meal once every four to six days. Why? The cheat meal increases body metabolism, so you’re able to lose body fat faster. The cheat meal also acts as a welcome reprieve from a diet that can get monotonous after a while. However, this is not a recommendation for an all-day food free-for-all – it’s a cheat meal, not a cheat day. Here are seven steps for losing body fat by cheating on your diet: Step 1. Figure out how often you can cheat. The ratio between lowcarb meals and cheat meals should be between 20:1 and 30:1 – never less or more. What this means is if you’re eating five low-carb meals a day, you should have a cheat meal once every 4-6 days (preferably the last meal of the day). This 20:1 or 30:1 ratio applies to about 75 percent of people trying to lose body fat or maintain their weight loss. However, approximately 25 percent of the population actually lose fat faster and function better on a carb-based diet. For example, if someone can get lean eating carbs much more often, say 4:1 or every day, they are definitely a “carb person” and should be eating carbs every day. Step 2. Decide how you will cheat beforehand. When it comes to cheating, you don’t want to fly by the seat of your pants. Plan your indulgence ahead of time and make it something meaningful. A tasty meal at your favorite restaurant will be a lot more satisfying than some haphazard snacking in front of the TV.
Step 3. Determine your carb allotment. You’ll lose fat faster if you eat the optimal amount of carbs on your cheat day. Fortunately, figuring this out is relatively simple. Here’s how: Have a BioSignature assessment performed on a Monday, and then get in four days of low-carb eating. On Friday night enjoy your cheat meal, recording the quantity of carbs you eat. On Saturday morning, have another BioSignature assessment performed. If your body fat has decreased and your lean mass has increased, you chose the correct quantity of carbs. Repeat this amount at your next scheduled cheat meal. If you woke up fatter on Saturday morning, you ate too much – so the next time you cheat, decrease the carbs by 20 percent and see if you drop body fat the following morning. If you happen to have lost weight the morning after a cheat meal, it means the next time you cheat you should increase the carbs by 20 percent and see how your body reacts. This system effectively eliminates the guesswork from your fat loss plan! Step 4. Make better cheat choices. While it may be a cheat meal, the quality of the food you put into your body still matters. Gluten-free oatmeal and rice are better than wheat cookies; organic chocolate almonds are better than jellybeans. A good way to tell if a cheat food works for you is how you feel the next day. If eating pizza means your knees and elbows don’t bend the next day, try rice pudding next time. Step 5. Eat your protein first. Starting a meal with protein helps reduce the blood sugar spike that occurs after eating a lot of carbohydrates. There’s also evidence suggesting that when your body receives carbohydrates first, it sends a signal to the digestive system to store more fat for later use. Step 6. When your butt leaves the chair, no more eating. For some, the first few bites of a cheat meal can serve to “open the floodgates,” leading to hours of excessive overfeeding. Set your favorite foods on the table and enjoy them, but once you leave your seat, that’s it – the cheat meal is over.
Step 7. Once you’re lean, you can eat more carbs! A side benefit of getting to a low body fat percentage is that you can eat more of your favorite cheat foods and stay lean and muscular. These effects are all related to insulin sensitivity and your body’s ability to manage carbohydrates – as you get leaner, insulin sensitivity increases, so you can handle carbohydrates in far greater amounts than someone with more body fat. How much more? A hard-training lifter with low body fat can enjoy full cheat days rather than just cheat meals. The only catch is that the cheat days must always fall on a non-training day, for restorative purposes. A low-carb diet doesn’t have to mean you’ll never get to eat your favorite foods again. On the contrary, a little cheating done the right way can actually help you reach your fat-loss goals that much faster – and have more fun along the way!
CHAPTER 28 Eat Organic Meat and Produce Organic food is always superior to conventional food. Organic fruits and vegetables generally contain less toxic pesticides and herbicides than conventional produce contain; organic meat and animal products allow you to avoid the effects of eating foods that have been treated with antibiotics and growth hormones. A primary factor in growing nutritious and flavorful food is the quality of the soil. Organic growing practices attempt to mimic natural ecosystems in order to maintain and replenish the fertility and nutrient content of the soil. Organic production promotes sustainability by growing food without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organic animal products are produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, or cloning. There is significant evidence that organic products have significantly less toxic pesticides and chemical residue than conventional products have. Many of the pesticides and chemicals used in conventional agriculture are harmful to humans because they need to be toxic to kill pests. The Environmental Protection Agency has a tolerance limit for the amount of pesticides left on foods that are sold, meaning that some toxic chemicals are legally allowed. When you eat a lot of food with pesticides, levels can build up and are stored in your fat tissue. Ideally, purchasing organic produce allows you to avoid consuming these toxic chemicals or at least significantly lessens the chance even if there are violations or mismanagement in organic production. Organic animal products are equally important for your health: They don’t contain the chemicals and hormones that their conventional counterparts contain from the animals being dosed with antibiotics and growth-boosting hormones. For example, it has been speculated by researchers that American girls are entering puberty at significantly younger ages, and adult men are developing breasts as well, likely due to the increase of hormones in the environment. There is evidence that grass-fed beef is lower in fat, and it has a
higher ratio of omega-3s to omega-6 fatty acids – a balance that is crucial for health, improved cardiovascular function, and cancer prevention. Also, compared to factory-farmed animals, free-range animals have less chance of spreading E. coli bacteria and have higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic fatty acids, which help prevent cancer. If you care about your body, opt for organic whenever you can.
CHAPTER 29 Go Gluten Free Find out if you are intolerant or sensitive to gluten and eliminate it to improve body composition and health. Some individuals are not gluten sensitive, but there is evidence that gluten is a difficult protein for all humans to digest and we might be better avoiding it. Humans have inadequate stomach enzymes necessary to break gluten down so that it can be properly digested, a problem that has been made much worse by the genetic engineering of wheat over the last 100 years. In fact, according to a study published in BMC Medicine, the amount of gluten in the wheat produced today has increased to 14 percent from 4 percent a century ago. Not only is the wheat we eat today much more difficult and dangerous for our bodies to process than the wheat our great-grandparents ate, but rates of gluten sensitivity also have increased dramatically over the last half century. Today, it is estimated that up to 15 percent of the American population have adopted a gluten-free diet for many reasons, including diagnosed celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and the belief that a gluten-free diet is healthier or can help with weight loss. Eating gluten free is an increasing food trend, and although some nutritionists and various market research groups dub gluten-free eating a passing fad, better health and body composition would be more easily achieved if everyone with an intolerance to gluten were to eliminate it. From a nutritional standpoint, there is nothing that is gotten from foods containing gluten that can’t be gotten easily from gluten-free foods. There are much better sources of protein, fiber, vitamin B, iron, etc., than wheat and gluten-containing foods. Further, the argument has been made that people who don’t have a diagnosed gluten sensitivity are eliminating gluten because they have heard it can help them lose weight and feel better, which results in the development of nutrient deficiencies or in some cases weight gain if people end up relying on gluten-free analog products (those made to
mimic the conventional gluten-containing breads, cookies, crackers, etc.). Gluten-free analog products often substitute unusually high-carb ingredients (potato, corn, tapioca starches) in place of wheat, and they are often very expensive. The bottom line is that many people are gluten sensitive, making it reasonable to ask yourself, would I feel better and be healthier if I eliminated gluten from my diet?
CHAPTER 30 Avoid Food Additives There’s been a lot of buzz lately about food additives as people become more and more committed to eating real food and improving their health. Any sharp label reader knows that all kinds of unpronounceable additives are popping up in everything from nut milk to vinegar to yogurt. Are all additives dangerous? Or are some harmless in the small doses we’re exposed to in food as the FDA tells us? Let’s look at a few myths about food additives to help you in your food choices. Myth #1: If the FDA has approved it, then it must be safe. A lot of people incorrectly assume that just because an additive is FDA approved, then it must be safe. Not so. First, many additives have not been thoroughly tested. Much of the testing that has been done has been completed by food manufacturers, not the government or independent labs. Second, companies can decide on their own that an additive that has not been thoroughly tested is safe to use in a food. All they have to do is petition the FDA and provide an argument that based on the best science presently available, the additive won’t harm consumers as long as it’s used in the way it’s proposed. Third, any additive that is considered “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) can be added to foods. These ingredients do need to be listed on labels, but may be identified with catch-all terms such as “artificial flavoring,” “artificial coloring,” or “natural flavoring.” Fourth, there’s a long list of additives (dominated by food colorings), which were once considered safe but have since been banned due to health risks (usually cancer or organ damage). Myth #2: Food additives are made from chemicals, which is why they’re bad for you. While it’s true that many food additives are chemically produced, many natural food additives can be harmful
when consumed in large doses or because a person is allergic to them. For example, annatto is a natural food coloring (yellow) that in some people causes hives. MSG is a natural additive that is made when sodium is fermented and L-glutamate is isolated. It’s a flavor enhancer that has been linked to poor digestion, headaches, nausea, weakness, elevated heart rate, and difficulty in breathing. Studies on its safety are lacking, but the FDA continues to classify it as safe. Sodium nitrate, which is produced today by neutralizing natural compounds, is a salt used to cure meat but is also used as a fertilizer and to make gunpowder. Several studies have linked consumption of cured meat with cancer. While more recent research suggests nitrates are harmless, a consistent association between processed meat intake and greater cancer risk exists, despite the lack of a definitive explanation. So, whether nitrates in meat are really dangerous is anyone’s guess. Myth #3: Food additives are always identifiable on labels as unpronounceable words or things you wouldn’t eat by themselves, such as tert-Butylhydroquinone. It’s true that these alien words tend to be additives, but did you know that the FDA classifies anything that is added to food as an additive, including salt, sugar, and caffeine? This is important because familiar ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sugar, and trans fats are the additives that pose the greatest threat to people’s health because they are regularly consumed in such high quantities. We know that HFCS, sugar, and trans fats increase risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. That’s why a priority for everyone should be on radically reducing or eliminating intake of those additives before worrying about a few milligrams of lecithin, carrageenan, or guar gum. To completely avoid food additives, you can make the choice to eat only whole foods or to process foods such as nut milks and probiotic foods at home rather than buying them. To take this a step further,
explore the following resources to ensure you are not harming yourself with food additives: • The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a useful guide to food additives, breaking them down into the following five categories: “Safe,” “Cut back” (nontoxic, but large amounts may be unsafe), “Caution” (may pose a risk), “Avoid” (unsafe), and “Certain people should avoid” (may trigger allergic reactions). • The Joint FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and WHP (World Health Organization) Expert Committee on Food Additives has a database on most food additives. It’s dense and complicated to read but packed with information.