High Rep Training

I’ll start this post off with a video I first saw years ago.  Here is the legendary Tom Platz doing high repetition squats with heavy weight (well over 500 lb).  This video was filmed back in 1993.  Tom Platz and Dr. Fred Hatfield (aka “Dr Squat) were doing a “squat off” in Germany.  Hatfield won the one-rep max competition by squatting 855 lb.  Platz won the rep competition with the weight you see here:

A while back I wrote an article on the best rep range for building muscle and burning fat.  I basically argued that a 5-10 rep range is going to be ideal for both of these goals.  I still believe that–most of your gains will probably come from this range.

But more advanced and older trainees may want to consider experimenting with higher repetitions (let’s say 15 and up).  There are some good reason to do so:

Leg Traininghighreptrainingplatz2

I’ve heard several bodybuilders say they had better leg growth from training with higher repetitions.  This makes sense because the quadriceps in particular tend to have a high number of both fast-twitch and slow-twitch fibers.  You’ve just seen what Platz was capable of in his prime–his legendary thighs were built with both heavy lifting and high reps.

Joint Health

High rep training has the advantage of being able to stimulate the muscles with less strain on the joints.  Older trainees in particular may find this to be very helpful.  But even younger guys can benefit from simply giving the joints a break.

Lactic Acid

Training with higher reps will produce more lactic acid, which in turn tends to produce growth hormone (a helpful hormone for burning fat).

Mental Toughness

I’ve found that training beyond my usual rep range also helps me learn to push beyond the pain barrier and force my body to keep going when my muscles are screaming to stop.

Variety in Training

Going to the gym can get kind of boring if you do the same thing week after week.  Dropping the weight and going for higher repetitions is a simple way to challenge yourself and keep things interesting.

Research

Some recent studies indicate that training with high repetitions is an effective way to build muscle.  One study, for example, took fifteen healthy young men and randomly assigned them to different workouts, measuring their bodies’ responses to different training stimuli: 1.  One set to failure with 80% of one-rep max (1RM)  2.  Three sets to failure with 80% of 1RM, and 3.  Three sets to failure with 30% of 1RM.  Needless to say the third workout tended to be much higher in repetitions (20-23).   They found that lower weights/high reps produced a similar anabolic response to lifting with heavier weight and low reps.1 This is just one of many studies you can find verifying the efficacy of this kind of training.   Bottom line: training heavy is not the only way to build muscle.

These are just reasons to consider incorporating higher reps into your workout.  Now let me give you some practical tips (in no particular order of importance):

Exercise Selection:  I think you’ll find some exercises simply aren’t good choices for high reps.  I love deadlifting, but I rarely go over 5 repetitions for that particular exercise.  My form simply starts to break down if I try to go beyond that.  The same goes for front squats.

I tend to be old-school and prefer free weight exercises, but it may be advantageous to consider machines with this kind of training–especially if you are working out without a spotter.

Time Under Tension:  Using less weight will mean you can lift more slowly and deliberately.  Take advantage of this and maximize the time your muscles are under the tension of the weight.

“Burnout” Set:  One of my favorite techniques is to finish my training with one or two sets of high reps after I’ve done some heavier sets.

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Try them and see if they don’t produce new gains.

1. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Jul;113(1):71-7. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00307.2012. Epub 2012 Apr 19. Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men.

Incredible Bulk Review (Ben Pakulski)

IncredibleBulkReview
Ben Pakulski has a new program out called Incredible Bulk.  I’ll start this review by summarizing what you get when you buy this program:

1.  The Incredible Bulk Main Guide:   This is the main book which explains the overall training/nutrition philosophy of the program.  Traditional bulking, Ben argues,  is not effective because trainees often just overeat for several weeks hoping to gain muscle mass.  This eventually works against the body’s hormones (and I believe causes damaging inflammation).  Many who do this end up creating fat instead of hypertrophy (muscle growth).  A smarter approach is cyclical in nature–alternating between “shred” phases and “growth” phases (diet and training are adjusted for each phase).  That’s it in a nutshell, but the book explains this in much more detail.

2.  Ben’s Personal Grocery Shopping List for Massive Size:  This guide will show you the kind of foods you should be buying the next time you go grocery shopping.  I think you will find this helpful, but I don’t worry too much if you can’t buy a bunch of organic foods (as he recommends).  Just use it as a general guide for the types of foods you should be eating.  One more thing I’ll add here: Ben recommends “gluten-free” items.  I am personally skeptical of all the hysteria regarding gluten.  A small percentage of the population is sensitive to gluten, but I don’t think it makes much difference for the rest of us.  My advice (at the risk of being repetitive): use Ben’s list as a guide for the general types of foods that will help you follow the diet, but don’t be overly concerned about organic, gluten-free, etc.

3.  Incredible Bulk Workout Guide:  This training manual will show you how to set up your workout for both the cutting/shredding and bulking phases of this program.  Ben explains the variables you should consider when setting up your workouts: volume, frequency, rep ranges, rest intervals, etc.  He also addresses cardio and other things you should consider when training.

4.  Example Weekly Workouts Guide:  This document is a sample workout showing the exact exercises you could use on a five day split (training 5x/week) during the growth phase.  It gives you a good idea of how to set up your training.

5.  Supplement Stacks Guide:  This is Ben’s recommended supplements.  My advice:  just stick with whey protein, creatine monohydrate, fish oil, and a multivitamin.  Do that and you should be just fine.  I also would not recommend supplementing over 30-50 milligrams of zinc per day (going overboard on zinc can cause a copper deficiency).

REVIEW:

I agree with the premise of the Incredible Bulk program and I think this is an effective method for putting on quality mass while minimizing fat gain.  I think this program would be good for the following:

*Intermediate/advanced trainees who are looking to break through plateaus in building muscle mass.

*Bodybuilders who are looking to add some size in the off season.

*Athletes who want to go up in weight class without getting too fat.

If you fit these descriptions then I think the Incredible Bulk program would help you reach your goals.  Just CLICK HERE if you’d like to order the program or learn more.

NOTE:  I’d recommend MI40X if you’d like more details about Ben’s training strategies.  This has been one of my top sellers with many satisfied customers.

You can check out my list of recommended programs if you have other goals besides the ones I have described here.

Starvation Mode: fact or fiction?

Christian Bale in The Machinist
Christian Bale in The Machinist

You may have heard about the danger of going into “starvation mode” if you don’t eat enough calories while trying to lose fat.  The idea is that you’ll start losing muscle and wake up one morning looking like Christian Bale’s sickly movie character.  This fear lead many of us bodybuilding types to believe that you had to eat six times a day to keep the precious lean mass gained during training.

The starvation mode terminology still gets thrown around a good bit today.  I remember hearing it from a trainer a few years ago while watching The Biggest Loser.  The before-mentioned trainer was warning a contestant (his trainee) not to go any lower on calories.

Do we really lose all our muscle when calories are set very low?  Not necessarily.  One study looked at the impact of very-low-calorie diets (VLCD) on body composition in twenty subjects (17 women and 3 men).  All twenty subjects ate only 800 calories for 12 weeks (a liquid diet). The subjects were divided into two groups: one group did cardiovascular training four times a week while the other did resistance training (lifting weights) three times a week (the weight lifting group did circuit training–their routine consisted of 10 different exercises).

There were some striking differences in how the exercise type affected the subjects’ bodies. Those who trained with weights experienced an increase in their resting metabolic rate (RMR) despite the low calories (the cardiovascular training group’s resting metabolic rate decreased).  The cardiovascular training group lost more weight, but some of this weight was muscle.   The resistance training group kept all their muscle despite the ultra-low calories.  Repeat: those who trained with weights did not lose muscle. 1

Let me make something clear: I would not recommend anyone attempt this kind of diet without medical supervision.  800 calories a day is extremely low:  the typical trainee will lose weight on around 11-12 calories per lb of body weight a day (much higher than what these subjects were taking in).

But this experiment does leave us with an important takeaway: weight training is a powerfully effective strategy for preserving your muscle mass.  As long as you lift weights, you are very unlikely to lose lean mass–even with an extreme calorie deficit.  Those who desire to try intermittent fasting , for example, need not worry about losing muscle as long as they continue with resistance training.

Note:  I’d recommend Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss Handbook if you are looking for a scientific guide to “crash” dieting (losing fat as quickly as possible).

Reference:

1. J Am Coll Nutr. 1999 Apr;18(2):115-21. Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate.

Deadlifting without Calluses

francodeadlifting

I’m a big fan of the deadlift.  It’s one of those foundational strength and mass builders that packs on muscle like few exercises can.  This exercise has a tendency to give me calluses on my  hands, and that used to be fine with me: I considered them a badge of honor in my younger days.

But my wife hates them, and this has changed my attitude considerably.  I started wearing training gloves (something I never did in my single days), but that didn’t seem to help very much.

That’s when I ran across this helpful tip: try gripping the bar in a slightly different way.  Grabbing it in the middle of your palm (like you are going to bench press) really doesn’t make much sense because it will pinch the skin as it pulls towards your knuckles.  Grab the bar lower in your hand (where it’s going to end up as you pull) and you’ll avoid calluses.  I tried this today and it works–I didn’t notice any reduction in grip strength and it drastically reduced the pinching/callusing.

The point of the deadlift is to build strength and muscle–not nasty, bleeding hands.  Check out the video below for a visual.

Holiday Weight Gain

holiday-weight-gain-in-the-us

It’s the time of year when people start regretting all the ham, cakes, cookies, and other holiday treats they’ve been eating.  You may have heard that the average person gains about five pounds during the holidays.   I decided to do a little research to see if this is true.

One study followed almost two hundred adults for a year to see how holiday eating (Thanksgiving through New Year) affected their weight.  They were weighed preholiday, holiday, postholiday, and a year later.   The study showed that most adults did put on extra weight during November-January, but it only averaged about a pound (.37 kg to be precise–as shown above).  Obese individuals tended to gain more, and 14% of the subjects did indeed put on five pounds. Here’s something else the researchers discovered: most of the subjects in this study never lost the weight they gained during the holiday.  The damage done was never reversed.1,2

This research backs up what we already know from personal experience and/or observation: weight gain is accelerated in the holiday season.   Most people don’t gain five pounds, but whatever they do gain stays with them (presumably for life).  It’s one contributing factor to the problem of obesity in the US.

One solution is to use the momentum of New Year’s resolutions to undo the “damage” caused by holiday eating–make a plan to drop a few pounds (more if needed).  There are plenty of good programs available to help you get started.

References:

1. N Engl J Med. 2000 Mar 23;342(12):861-7. A prospective study of holiday weight gain.

2. Nutr Rev. 2000 Dec;58(12):378-9. Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?

Hypertrophy Max Review Phase 5

Phase Five of Hypertrophy Max is called Max Intensity.  Previous phases have been geared more towards hypertrophy in terms of the rep ranges and weights (% of one-rep max) you were using.  But the training you’ll be doing in this phase is designed for neurological adaptation (strength and speed).   One of the techniques you’ll use is wave loading, a technique that has been proven to optimizing strength gains.

HypertrophyMaxReview5

You’ll be training heavy this month with the goal of increasing strength.  This will in turn help you build size: generally speaking, the strongest guys will also be the biggest guys.  Be sure you have a capable spotter and don’t sacrifice form in order to lift more weight.  You’ll notice that the coaches (Ben and Vince) emphasize controlling the weight.

Just CLICK HERE if you are interested in ordering Hypertrophy Max or learning more.

Model Mind Trainer Review (Kerri Baker)

KerriBTransformation
Kerri B (before/after)

Kerri Baker is one of those inspiration people I’ve had the privilege to meet as a fitness blogger.  She dropped over 100 lb. and achieved her dream of competing in a bikini model contest.  The Model Mind Trainer is a program she has developed to help others achieve their weight loss and fitness goals.  I’ll start this review by summarizing what you get when you order this program.

The Quick Start Guide:  Be sure to start with this.  Kerri starts with her own story/testimony of her transformation and also gives some important tips for making the most of this program.

ModelMindProgramReviewModel Mind Trainer 8-Week Program:  This e-book is kind of the “heart” of the whole program.  Kerri explains how she learned to “reprogram” the way she thinks in order to ultimately change her body.  She also emphasizes five components of life (which she calls “legs”) and how you can change or maximize them.  One such “leg,” for example, is overcoming bad habits and addictions.

Model Mind Workbook:  This goes along with the 8-week program.  You start by signing a contract with yourself to finish the course.  From there you will write answers to questions based on the trainer program book.

Bonuses:

Bikini 365:  This is a recipe book that with several ideas for cooking healthy meals.

Food Prep Guide:  Kerri teaches you how to plan ahead and stock your refrigerator/kitchen with the right kinds of foods.

Grocery Guide:  As the name implies, this e-book has practical instruction which will help you avoid sabotaging your weight loss goals when you go shopping for food/ingredients.

REVIEW:

There are a couple of things that intrigue me about this program.  First and foremost, I appreciate the fat that Kerri Baker has walked the proverbial walk as far as weight loss transformation goes.  Her life journey has given her really good insights that many readers (especially women) can relate to.

I also like the overall concept of changing the mind in order to change the body.  Arnold Schwarzenegger frequently talked about the role of the mind in his training.  You probably aren’t interested in being a bodybuilder, but the principle is the same nonetheless–people who accomplish great things with their bodies have developed a completely different mindset than those who have not.  I think the mental aspect of fitness is severely underestimated and the main reason why so many trainees fail to reach their long-term goals.   I think Kerri is on to something here, and the proof is in what she learned through her own struggles and accomplishments.

I think this program would be best suited for any of the following:

*Trainees who have struggled with “yo-yo” dieting–losing weight only to gain it back.

*People who are looking to make a lifestyle change as it relates to diet.

*Those who struggle with sabotaging their weight loss goals.

These are just a few types of people that I think will benefit from this book, but you get the idea.  Please CLICK HERE if you are interested in ordering the Model Mind program.

You can also check out my recommended programs if you thing something else may more closely match your needs/goals.

Skinnylicious Cookbook Review

I’ll repeat something I’ve said many times on this blog:  you can’t out-train a bad diet.  Sometimes people will join a gym and put great effort into their training without my thought as to how should they should plan their meals.  Exercise alone will produce some (limited) results, but you have to get your diet right in order to lose fat.  There’s no way around it.

With this in mind, there’s a new product you may want to consider.  Flavia Del Monte (creator of the Curvalicious program) has created a brand new cookbook called Skinnylicious.  This book has 150 recipes to help you learn to cook healthy meals that will help you reach your fitness goals.   Just CLICK HERE if you’d like to check it out.

Skinnyliciouscookbook

Visual Impact Frequency Training Review

Visual Impact Frequency Training Review

I’ve had the opportunity to look over Rusty Moore’s latest workout program.  I’ll get VisualImpactFrequencyTrainingReviewstart by explaining some of the basis premises of this workout:

We know that frequency (how often you train a muscle) is one of the training variables we can adjust in order to meet our goals.   Conventional wisdom is that a muscle must get trained then have 48 to 72 hours of recovery.  Most bodybuilders try to take advantage of this by doing body part splits: training a muscle with a lot of volume, then allowing it to rest for the next day or two while you train other body parts.

No one is questioning the effectiveness of traditional split training.  But it clearly isn’t the only way to get stronger–it may not even be the best way, depending on your goals.  Many athletes, for example, train at least once a day.  Let’s use boxers as an example:  they don’t hit the bag for an hour then wait 2-3 days to do it again. Athletes sometimes practice/train several times a day, yet they end up improving in their sport.

Moore argues that we can learn from those who don’t follow the typical bodybuilding pattern of working out.  He believes, in fact, that training like an athlete (with higher frequency) is a much more efficient way of getting stronger and leaner.  He also believes a higher frequency style program will produce a harder, more dense kind of muscle.

Moore spent a great deal of time studying the methods of Eastern European athletes in developing his program.  He looked at the philosophies of legends like Pavel Tsatsouline and Vladimir Zatsiorsky.   Zatsiorsky believed in lifting with maximum velocity in order to create the maximum amount of force possible.  Tsatsouline emphasized lifting the weight with slower, controlled speeds in order to maximize the tension on the muscle.   Rusty’s program combines both of these philosophies, since each of them have merit.

How is this program set up?  I’ll try to summarize it without giving too much away:

You’ll be training 5-6 days a week, training every muscle group daily.  That may sound like a lot, but it can be done when other variables (like training volume) are properly adjusted.

You’ll only be doing one exercise per body part per workout.  Since you will be training daily there is no need for multiple sets.

You’ll be alternating between “explosive” workouts (emphasizing lifting with maximum speed/force) and “TUT” workouts (time under tension–emphasizing slow, controlled movements).

Moore says he was “blown away” when he tried training this way: he saw improvements in in his physique and strength levels in just a few weeks.

Here’s another bonus to high frequency training: fat loss.  The book goes into detail about the best way to adjust your diet and add some cardio so you can get lean while building strength.

REVIEW:

I’m very impressed with Visual Impact Frequency Training.  I really like the way Rusty has put this program together.  Is it right for you?  It depends on your goals.

I would not recommend this program for beginners–those who have not put on their first few pounds of muscle.  Jason Ferruggia’s Muscle Gaining Secrets may be better if you are a novice trainee who is just getting started.

I would also not recommend this for guys who are looking for a typical bodybuilding physique.  MI40X would be better if you are only concerned with mass.

But this program would be great for the following:

1. Trainees who are basically satisfied with their size but want to improve their strength and muscle definition.

2. Guys (or girls) who want to lose fat while maintaining (and even improving) their lean mass (muscle).

3. Those who are willing to train 5-6 times a week.  This program is designed for those who can go to the gym (or train at home) several times a week.

4. Trainees who desire to “mix things up” for two or three months in order to add variety to their workouts and keep things interesting/challenging.

5.  Older trainees who would like an effective way to work out that is relatively easy on the joints.

I think you would enjoy this program if you match any (or all) of the five criteria I’ve just described.  Please CLICK HERE if you’d like to order or learn a little more about Visual Impact Frequency Training