Training – Hypertrophia https://www.hypertrophia.com Muscle Supplements For Building Muscle in Size and Strength Mon, 07 Oct 2019 14:05:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.4 https://www.hypertrophia.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/lift-150x150.jpg Training – Hypertrophia https://www.hypertrophia.com 32 32 146658087 What Foods to Eat After Your Workout – Post Workout Snacks https://www.hypertrophia.com/post-workout-snacks https://www.hypertrophia.com/post-workout-snacks#respond Sat, 02 Feb 2019 18:49:22 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=1008 Last updated on March 11th, 2019 Best Post Workout Snacks for After the Gym If you are short of time after your workouts you may have to go with post-workout snacks in preference to post-workout [Read More]

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Last updated on March 11th, 2019

Best Post Workout Snacks for After the Gym

Best Post Workout Snacks for After the Gym

If you are short of time after your workouts you may have to go with post-workout snacks in preference to post-workout meals. There’s nothing wrong with that sometimes the easy things work best.

Whether you take your nutrition in the form of post-workout meals or snacks is not so important. However, knowing what foods to eat after your workout is very important indeed.

The foods that you eat after your workout play a vital role in muscle recovery and growth. Whether you are snacking or sitting down to a full meal, you need to get it right.

This article is primarily about post-workout snacks, but it could be equally applicable to post-training meals. In this case, the main difference between a snack and a meal is likely to be the time it takes to prepare.

Post-workout snacks are quick and easy to make. Post-workout meals often require a little more time to prepare. In both cases, the only important thing is the nutritional value.

We’re talking muscle fuel here and regular fuel is not good enough. You need to go premium all the way.

Bosybuilder eating snack post workout

The Importance of Correct Post-Workout Nutrition

Depending on the choices you make, your post-workout snacks can help move you forward or hold you back. You need to get it right.

Like everything else in your body, muscles require energy. Although your body can store energy, it originally gets it from food.

The food we eat releases glucose into our blood. The muscles use it for energy after first converting it to ATP. [SOURCE]

When the food provides more glucose than is needed, the liver converts the excess glucose to glycogen. It stores most of this within itself. The rest is stored in the muscles. When glucose runs low, the stores of glycogen are converted back to glucose and put to work. [SOURCE]

However, after any form of intense exercise or workout activity, the muscles’ are normally running on empty. The glycogen stores are practically gone.

Exercise hits the muscles hard in another way as well. All that intense physical activity breaks down muscle tissue.

By the end of your workout, your muscles are in a pretty bad way. Not only do they need to replace all that lost glycogen, they need to repair the damaged tissue too.

The only way the muscles can do these things is by using the energy and nutrients provided by food. Your post-workout snacks need to get both these things to them and they need to do it fast. [SOURCE]

It needs carbs to replace energy and protein for muscle repair. Your post-workout snacks will need to provide both. A little healthy fat can be good as well, but it’s not as vital as carbs and protein.

man resting post workout

Post-Workout Meal Benefits

A good post-workout meal provides a number of benefits. You’ll be more aware of some of them than others because a lot is happening behind the scenes.

Three less obvious benefits are:

  • Better protein synthesis
  • Glycogen restoration
  • Faster post-exercise recovery

When the foods you eat after your workout provide these benefits, you will feel it because your muscles will not feel so sore. Additionally, any soreness you do experience will only be short-lived.

You will also see the benefits, but that could take some time. Because good pre-workout snacks improve protein synthesis and faster recovery, they help your muscles grow. It’s going to be a while before you see that benefit in the mirror.

However, presuming you’re training correctly and your overall diet is okay, you should find you are getting stronger every week.

Fast Carbs After a Workout? Carbohydrates are the present day villain of the macronutrients.

The Role of Carbs and Protein in Your Post-Workout Snacks

Bodybuilders often tend to become overly obsessed with protein, but it’s only one half of a winning team. Carbs are important too.

Due to differences in the way they work their muscles, bodybuilders require a greater amount of protein than other athletes. There’s no arguing with that.

Swimmers and runners, on the other hand, will likely require post-workout snacks that have less protein and more carbs.

No matter what the sport though, the foods you eat after your workout need to provide both important nutrients.

Protein is needed for protein synthesis. Carbs replenish glycogen. They are powerful allies that can get your muscle growth moving in the right direction.

Eating post-workout snacks or meal that contain both nutrients improves body composition and boosts physical strength. That’s a fact and research proves it. [SOURCE]

Try beginning with post-workout snacks that include carbs and protein in a 3:1 ratio. See how you go, don’t be afraid to experiment, and take it from there.

The Debatable Value of Fat in Post-Workout Snacks

Fat provides nine calories per gram. A gram of carbs or protein only provides four. Fat is a high-calorie food and you need to bear that in mind before adding it to your post-workout snacks.

Seriously, if the idea of growing bingo wings gets you in a flap you need to go steady with fat. Your heart will thank you for it too.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it. The truth is your body needs it, just not in copious amounts.

You may have heard fat slows down the absorption of other nutrients. That’s true. It does. Fat is very hard to digest. It takes some time and when it gets mixed in with carbs and protein their absorption rates can take a hit.

That’s a good reason not to overdo it with fat, but it doesn’t mean you should avoid it entirely. If the foods you eat after your workout contain a little fat that should be fine.

In fact, it may even improve protein synthesis. A study comparing the abilities of full fat and skimmed milk certainly suggests this is so. When consumed after resistance exercise, the fat in the whole milk increased amino acid uptake, leading to improvements in protein synthesis. [SOURCE]

Tips on Timing Your Post-Workout Snacks

Just after training, there is a short window of time where “feeding your muscles” offers the greatest benefits. [SOURCE]

Most experts agree this window starts to close around 45 minutes after you cease training. So, eating your post-workout snacks around half-an-hour after your workout should help you get the optimum benefits.

A Few Good Foods Options for Your Post-Workout Snacks

The foods you include in your post-workout snacks provide your body with the nutrients it needs. The problem is, some foods release their nutrients too slowly to provide the muscles with the fast nourishment they need.

Below are some food suggestions to help you make some effective snacks to eat after your workout.

CARBOHYDRATE PROTEIN FAT
  • Potatoes
  • Fruits
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Oatcakes
  • Brown rice
  • Wholemeal Pasta
  • Yams
  • Chocolate milk
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Tuna
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Protein bar
  • Whey protein powder
  • Peanut butter
  • Avocado
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Trail mix
  • Olive oil

Some Post-Workout Snack Ideas

Here are some post-workout snack ideas:

  • Peanut butter and beetroot sandwiches
  • Crispbread with tuna and sweetcorn
  • Bulgur wheat salad garnished with olive oil and vinegar
  • Protein shake and mixed fruit smoothie
  • Cottage cheese and pineapple on toast
  • Greek yogurt with walnuts and berries or fruit
  • Rye bread and turkey salad sandwich

Some Final Post-Workout Considerations

The foods you eat after a workout are important. They help you heal and grow. Whether you take your nourishment in the form of a post-workout meal or a snack is less important. It’s the nutrients that count, not the way you chose to take them.

However, it makes sense to always choose healthy food options. Especially when it comes to fats. Unsaturated fats are always preferable to the saturated kind.

Although it’s a bit of stretch to include advice on hydration in an article about the foods to eat after your workout, the subject is too important to omit. [SOURCE]

The body of the average adult is 55 to 60 percent water. During a workout, you lose a some of that water in sweat.

You also lose a lot of important minerals the body uses as electrolytes. Allowing yourself to become dehydrated during exercise can make you feel dizzy and ill. It can cause a lot of other problems too. Loss of electrolytes can cause lethargy, nausea and disrupt your heartbeat.

A good workout is hard on the body in a lot of ways, it’s going to need some nurturing afterward.

If your post-workout snack is suitably rich in vitamins and minerals you will probably only need to top up with water. Though, there is a lot to be said for sports drinks. Vitamin and mineral supplements are good too.

Want the bottom line? Be as hard on your body as you want during your workout, but be extra kind when you stop. Feed it well, make sure it’s adequately hydrated, then sit back and watch those muscles grow.

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Best Foods to Eat Before Working Out – Pre-Workout Meals https://www.hypertrophia.com/pre-workout-foods https://www.hypertrophia.com/pre-workout-foods#respond Sun, 27 Jan 2019 22:06:05 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=1006 Last updated on February 3rd, 2019 Best Foods to Eat Before Working Out What are the best foods to eat before working out? Should you even care? Big Hell Yeah to that one last one. [Read More]

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Last updated on February 3rd, 2019

Pre workout foods what meals to eat

Best Foods to Eat Before Working Out

What are the best foods to eat before working out? Should you even care? Big Hell Yeah to that one last one. You need to care a lot. The pre-workout meals you eat can make or break your workout.

This article is all about what to eat prior to working out – we have another that features what to eat after working out here

That may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s not. Seriously. Think about it. If you head for the gym with nothing in your stomach but a bag of potato chips or a Twinkie, how will you train? Junk like that ain’t exactly the food of champions.

On the other hand, how do you think you will train if you hit the gym just after you’ve eaten a big meal?

Sure you may have made food choices that can juice you up with plenty of carbs, but the chances are you will feel bloated. Maybe even a little nauseous when you lie back on the bench and try to go to work.

Why You Shouldn’t Overdo It With Your Pre-Workout Meals

The other problem with going large on your pre-workout meals is it can make you sleepy. This happens in the animal kingdom as well, cats, dogs, even lions; they all crash out and bag some Zs after a big meal.

The scientists seem to still be trying to figure this one out, but they think it could be because overdoing it with the carbs and protein may trigger the release of serotonin. [SOURCE]

There’s another reason why eating a big meal before a workout isn’t a smart idea. It can actually rob you of energy instead of providing it. The same can happen if you try to fuel-up on sugar-laden snacks and soft drinks.

In both cases, the problem is the same. Be it due to eating big pre-workout meals or trying to get a sugar rush from snacks, your blood glucose can go sky high.

When you have too much glucose circulating your liver releases insulin to bring it down. More often than not, it does the job to well and you are hit with a sugar crash that can rob you of energy and give you cravings for high-calorie foods. [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2]

The take-home point here is it’s not just about knowing the best foods to eat before working out. The size and timing of your pre-workout meals is important too.

The Role of Macronutrients In Your Pre-Workout Meal

“Macronutrients” is a term used to describe the main nutrients in food. There are only three of them: Carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Although most foods contain a mix of macronutrients, many foods are classed by the main one they contain.

For instance, steak is mainly considered a source of protein but it contains fat too. Oats have protein, but people generally eat them to fuel-up on carbs.

Carbohydrate Protein Fat
Steak (100 g) 0 g 25 g 19 g
Oats (100g) 12 g 2.4 g 1.4 g

When you workout one of the main things you need is energy, so the best foods to eat before working out are ones that provide carbs. This is because carbs are your body’s primary source of energy. It’s designed to run on carbs.

It can get energy from protein and fat as well, but carbs are easier to use. Does that mean your pre-workout meals have to be all about carbs? No. They can contain the other two macronutrients too.

The thing is, adding them to your meal may be a bad idea if the time between eating and training is not long enough. Eating fat just before training can be particularly bad.

Carbohydrate (The #1 Choice for Your Pre-Workout Meals)

Carbohydrates (The #1 Choice for Your Pre-Workout Meals)

There are two kinds of carbs:

  1. Simple Carbs
  2. Complex Carbs

Simple carbs are basically sugars. They can provide a quick burst of energy, but can also cause your blood glucose to spike.

Complex carbs release energy more slowly than simple carbs. They keep you going for longer so they are the best carbs to use in pre-workout meals.

As they are digested, complex carbs release glucose into the blood. Your muscles convert this to ATP and use it for energy via a process known as cellular respiration. [SOURCE]

When the supply of glucose exceeds the demand, the liver converts the excess glucose to glycogen. It’s an important fuel reserve that is stored mostly in the liver but is stored in the muscles too.

Later on, when glucose levels are depleted during exercise, the liver converts glycogen back to glucose to help keep things going. [SOURCE]

So, the best foods to eat before working out are ones that provide complex carbs.

Here are a few examples of carb-rich foods you can add to your pre-workout meals:

  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Yams
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Quinoa

All pre-workout Meals should contain carbs.

Protein (For Increased Endurance and Faster Recovery)

Protein (For Increased Endurance and Faster Recovery)

The amino acids provided by protein help increase endurance. In so doing, they enable you to increase the intensity of your workout. [SOURCE]

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine are generally considered particularly important. For that reason, you can find them in many pre-workout supplements.

Adding protein to your pre-workout meals will also improve protein synthesis and provide you with extra strength. In addition to this, you may find you feel less muscle soreness due to a faster recovery rate.

Some of the best protein-rich foods to eat before working out include:

  • Turkey Breast
  • Tuna steak
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Soy

However, whether or not it is a good idea to include them in your pre-workout meals will depend on how soon you are eating them before your workout.

Protein (For Increased Endurance and Faster Recovery)

Fat (A Good Choice, But Not Always the Best Choice)

During a short duration of high-intensity exercise, your muscles are going to be running on glucose. For longer periods of exercise, things change.

Once the glucose is gone and the stores of glycogen have run dry your body will start burning fat for energy.

Every gram of fat you eat provides nine calories. That’s a lot. Carbs and protein only provide four calories per gram.

Fat is a high-calorie food so it stands to reason it can be good for providing energy. Here’s the rub: it takes a long time to digest.

The other problem is eating foods that are high in fat can slow the absorption of other foods.

It’s best not to eat foods that are high in fat before just before working out.

If it’s two or three hours before your workout, that’s fine. Chow down with confidence. Otherwise, give the fatty food a miss.

Most importantly, if you are adding fats to your pre-workout meals go for healthy (unsaturated fats). If you go for the other kind (saturated) you won’t be doing your heart any favours.

If you are adding fats to your pre-workout meals, some good options are:

  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Avocados
  • Walnuts
  • Mackerel
  • Herring

Using olive oil when roasting or frying food is also a good way to add unsaturated fat to your pre-workout meals.

Pre-Workout Meals v Pre-Workout Snacks

If you are eating two to three hours before your workout you have the freedom to choose pre-workout meals that contain carbs, protein, and fat. You still need to keep things healthy though and make sensible food choices.

When your pre-workout meals are only one to two hours before working out it’s best not to eat foods that contain fat. Eating them may hinder your workout instead of helping it.

Stick to carbs and proteins and think about making the portion size a little smaller so it will be lighter on your stomach.

If you are eating less than an hour before working out you will need to forget about eating a pre-workout meal. You need to be looking at pre-workout snacks instead.

Ideas for Pre-Workout Meals (2 – 3 Hours Before Training)

If you are eating two to three hours before training you have more options. There are fewer restrictions regarding fat.

Idea No. 1 Idea No. 2
Lean Grilled Steak (protein + fat)

Boiled Potatoes (Carbs)

Green Beans (Carbs)

Poached Salmon (Protein + Fat)

Boiled Brown Rice (Carbs)

Boiled Peas (Carbs + Protein

Ideas for Pre-Workout Meals (1 – 2 Hours Before Training)

If you are eating one to two hours before training, the best foods to include in your pre-workout meals will contain less fat. You won’t be looking at anything too complicated either, so it should be quick and easy to prepare:

Good choices include:

  • A light salad with bulgur wheat or couscous
  • Wholegrain cereal with skimmed milk
  • A small bowl of porridge topped with strawberries
  • Protein shake with a little mango

Pre-Workout Snacks (Eaten Less Than 60 Minutes Before Training)

When choosing your pre-workout snacks try to go for something small and simple and concentrate on carbs.

Some good choices for pre-workout snacks include:

  • An apple, pear, or orange
  • Half a cup of dried mixed fruit
  • Cereal bar

Good pre-workout snacks should provide an ongoing supply of glucose during your workout and do so without making your stomach feel bloated and full.

The Bottom Line

Choosing good pre-workout meals involves more than known the best foods to eat before working out. You also need to get the timing right and put some extra thought into the portion sizes.

If the idea of having so many restrictions regarding the foods you eat before working out seems a little daunting, it may be best to concentrate on the benefits a little smart pre-workout meal planning can provide.

Eating the right pre-workout meals or snacks at the right time can help you feel more energized in the gym. It can also help prevent muscle damage, speed up recovery, and generally support your ambition to build a strong, lean physique.

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Exercise Variations for Accelerated Muscle Mass Growth https://www.hypertrophia.com/exercise-variations-accelerated-muscle-mass-growth https://www.hypertrophia.com/exercise-variations-accelerated-muscle-mass-growth#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:50:07 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=367 Last updated on January 18th, 2019 Exercise Variations for Growing your Muscle Quickly I’ve discussed set design, rep variations and load manipulation in previous articles, all of which I encourage you to read if you [Read More]

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Last updated on January 18th, 2019

Mna on workout machine varying exercises

Exercise Variations for Growing your Muscle Quickly

I’ve discussed set design, rep variations and load manipulation in previous articles, all of which I encourage you to read if you are interested in maximizing muscle growth from your training.

This article will cover another element of training that you can play with to stimulate improved mass gains: the exercises themselves.

There are several changes that can be made to the exercises you do, including the order in which they are performed, your body position, the type of grip you use, unilateral versus bilateral and so on.

Again, the exercise changes trigger adaptations to be made that can improve your strength and size improvements when you return to your regular training program or move on to another variant.

Extended Sets

The extended set describes a lot of sets. The “extended” part simply refers to the set lasting longer than it otherwise would due to something you do to allow it.

A dropset is technically an extended set because in the process of reducing the weight in increments, you can keep working the muscles to failure again and again within the same set.

You can extend a set by changing your grip on a barbell. Moving from a close to wide grip on the bench press, for example, can enable you to push out a few more reps in the set.

Adjusting your stance in a squat or deadlift can similarly extend the set. Widening your stance throughout a set of leg exercises should help you squeeze more from the set.

man working out on machine vary his sets

Hardest to Easiest

Perhaps the most effective extended set variation is that in which you adjust your position through the set from the most difficult to the easiest, while using the same load from the beginning to end.

Put another way, each positional shift puts your body in a stronger position to complete the movement you are doing.

The best example of this in my opinion will always be the bench press or dumbbell bench press with an adjustable bench. For optimal results, the bench should be able to be adjusted from incline to decline.

The trick here is to use a weight which you can only complete mid single figure reps with on the incline bench press. This will be a load that sits in your strength building range of 4 to 6 repetitions.

The first portion of the set you should complete 4 reps in the incline bench position. Your only break is the quick time in which it takes to adjust the bench to its flat position.

For the second portion of the set you should attempt to complete another 4 reps but only if this does not work your muscles to failure. If you can only perform 2 reps then so be it. Once complete, adjust the bench once more to its incline position.

In the final portion of the set you should rep to muscle failure in the decline position.
When you perform a set like that, what you are doing is using a load which is normally within your strength range of a maximum or 6 reps and extending the set to a range more synonymous with hypertrophy, somewhere in the range of 8 – 12 repetitions.

All that you change is your position, which in turn helps you recruit more muscle fibres to complete the task. By making your position stronger throughout the set you are extending the set, and thus heightening the stimulus for hypertrophy.

This has excellent carry-over to your regular strength and hypertrophy training.

There are several exercises within which you can change position to achieve similar results. The shift can range from something as simple as a grip to the kind of equipment manipulation discussed in the adjustable bench press example.

Another good example for an extended bench press set using dumbbells involves changing your grip each time.

Start with your grip reversed (palms facing you) and complete the first portion of the set like that. You can do this either on a flat bench or a slight incline.

The reverse grip may feel odd at first if you are not used to it, but you will find that pushing the dumbbells up from closer to your waist will begin to help. This grip activates the upper pectoral muscles more than an incline bench with regular grip does.

Reverse Grip

The reverse grip is also the most difficult to perform out of the three grips in this extended set.

For the second part of the set, you should twist the dumbbells roughly 90 degrees so that you have a neutral grip (neutral grip is what you would use for dips on parallel bars).

The third part of the set should be completed with a traditional bench press grip / overhand grip (aka prone grip), i.e. knuckles towards your face.

I’ll give a third example, and that is the pull-up. If you are used to doing bodyweight pull-ups and want to get more out of them, this extended set is for you. You can obviously add weight if you need to as well.

The hardest form of a pull-up is the prone, or overhand, grip (palms facing away from you). So begin your set with those.

If your gym or home equipment has neutral grips, then move to those next (parallel, palms facing one another).

Next move to under hand/reverse grip and complete the set to failure. This last element is the easiest form of a pull-up because it recruits your biceps and allows you to tuck your core more tighter.

Unilateral Exercises – One-Sided Lifting

If you follow major fitness publications, or social media trainers, you’ll see unilateral training is becoming a big thing.

Oddly, those of us who know what we’re talking about, and don’t just follow trends, have been doing one-sided lifts from the very beginning.

A basic example is the shoulder press. Bilateral shoulder pressing involves a barbell, or two dumbbells. being pressed vertically to train both left and right deltoid groups.

Unilateral training involves lifting only with one side at a time. There are lots of benefits to this.

Bilateral Deficit

Bizarrely, our bilateral lifts are not as strong as the sum of their equivalent unilateral lifts.

The weight you can push on your one-arm dumbbell press is probably more than half of what you can bench press standard.

A number of studies have confirmed this to be true, though they can’t quite explain why. It probably has something to do with more support and stabilizer muscles being recruited for one side rather than being shared by both.

Another interesting paradox is that by training unilaterally, the bilateral deficit becomes smaller!

Cross Transfer

Perhaps even weirder than the bilateral deficit thing is that training on one side of your body improves the strength of the untrained side.

Again, there’re studies to back this up, no matter how crazy it sounds. In fact, there are instances of people training certain muscles for several days on end but only on one side of the body. When their untrained side was tested afterwards it had gained considerable strength. [source].

This phenomenon is called cross-education, or cross transfer. It also goes a long way to support the theory that initial strength gains are largely a case of neural adaptation over physical growth.

Either way, strength helps size and size helps strength, so unilateral training is good.

Core Improvements

Another benefit is to your core muscles and stabilizers. Your core’s purpose is not to flex the spine (as most people who do crunches seem to think).

The core muscles are stabilizers, there to resist other movement by bracing and acting as a counter point.

Building the core group of muscles also helps improve your overall strength and keeps you injury free.

Unilateral lifting encourages new growth and strength improvements in a novel way, by making the core activate in different ways to provide counterbalance to the one sided lifts.

The carry-over to your other training is excellent.

Adaptation

Aside from the other benefits, unilateral training is another stimulus for growth. Perhaps your weak side is weaker than your strong side by enough to make a difference to your regular training.

If that’s the case then adding some unilateral training into your program, or indeed following it as a program for a while, will help to bring your weak side up to par with your strong side. When you then return to bilateral training, you will notice the difference immediately.

Often, we don’t realize we are creating imbalance with bilateral training. Our strong side can take over and our core compensates for it.

The lift might look perfectly fine on inspection, when in fact there is an ever-growing differential being introduced between your left and rights sides. And ultimately, that can start to show in your appearance, and through injury caused by imbalance.

Unilateral training: it’s not just a gimmick. Try it out and get the benefits.

Read Proven Set Variations for Muscle Gains – Playing with sets for optimum muscle mass building

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Load Variations for Accelerating Muscle Mass Growth https://www.hypertrophia.com/load-variations-accelerating-muscle-mass-growth https://www.hypertrophia.com/load-variations-accelerating-muscle-mass-growth#respond Thu, 29 Nov 2018 15:44:07 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=365 Last updated on January 18th, 2019 Varying Weight / Load Selection For Muscle Mass Gains The weights we lift in the gym – whether they are free weights, incorporated in machines, attached to cables, or [Read More]

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Last updated on January 18th, 2019

Load variation on weight machine

Varying Weight / Load Selection For Muscle Mass Gains

The weights we lift in the gym – whether they are free weights, incorporated in machines, attached to cables, or any other type – are the fundamental aspect of resistance training.

A training program that alters the loads you are lifting is therefore a fairly reliable way of stimulating muscle growth from your efforts.

The basic tenet of load manipulation is to stimulate an anabolic response by changing the tension on the muscle fibres by manipulating the resistance.

You’re probably thinking any kind of resistance training involves manipulation of the load. A standard ascending pyramid increases the load with each set.

That’s correct, but pyramids are mostly designed around repetition ranges, as are any other examples of programs that focus more on the number of reps than the load.

Here you will see that the number of reps you can perform is synonymous with the load selection, and you could just as easily call heavy-light sets ‘low-rep-high-rep’ sets.

Regardless, the emphasis is on resistance and not reps. Perhaps the best example of this is the classic dropset.

man working out drop sets

Dropsets

These are reliably effective, and very simple to understand. Dropsets are also something you can throw into your normal training as well as making them the focus of your program for a short while.

A dropset is where you perform repetitions with a given weight until you reach muscle failure. When that happens, you immediately strip some weight off – about 25% – and start repping to failure again without a rest.

You can do 3 to 5 drops within a single set before taking a rest and then repeating the process for another couple of sets.

That would be the more focused method of doing it.

The other way is to finish each group of sets on each muscle group with a dropset, so that you would complete 2 sets as normal and then crank out a big dropset to finish off the muscles.

Big barbell exercises are tough to do this way because it takes a while to strip the weight, unless you have a spotter. You really want to make the weight change a fast movement to minimize the rest your muscles get.

The dumbbell rack is good as you can quickly select a lighter set of bells.

The best dropsets are probably on machines and cables though because you can just drop the pin a couple holes on the stack and start lifting again with virtually no break, which is the whole point really.

You can even do some mega dropsets where you just drop one plate at a time to thoroughly burn your muscles on that last set. If you work down from a high weight that can be something like an 8-10 drop dropset.

Dropsets allow you to work your muscles to failure multiple times in one set. In fact, it’s the only way that can be achieved without the help of a spotter.

The incrementally decreasing weight is basically a way of pushing the muscle beyond its self imposed failure limit.

It’s a similar effect to when a spotter helps you by taking more and more of the load as your set progresses but where you keep the actual weight constant. Those are called Forced Reps or Assisted Reps, and they can be of great use when you don’t want to pause to mess around with the plates on a bar.

The biochemical response to pushing the muscles past their threshold and continuing to reach failure with the lighter weights in such a brief space of time is the release of two of the most important anabolic hormones in the body: human growth hormone (HGH, or just GH) and IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor 1).

The more we stimulate the release of these hormones during the workout, the more potential muscle mass we can grow in the days following, especially during our sleeping hours when they come out again.

The initial spike from training with techniques like dropsets is key because it signals the level of hypertrophy response that is necessary as a result of the training stimulus.

I probably don’t have to tell you that growth hormone is one of the most popular physique enhancing drugs, as well as a phenomenal healing and recovery aid, when used in its illicit exogenous form.

Dropsets, however, will help you make more of your own, endogenous, growth hormone. And that’s always good for growing more muscle.

Set variations

Diablos – Point to Point Pyramids

I call these diablos because the visualization of the method looks like those funky yoyo things you spin on a rope (which are actually called Diabolos, but whatever).

“Diablo” also works because these workouts are the brain child of Lucifer himself.

Remember pyramids? – if not, I explain them more deeply in the Reps Variations article. The short version is this:

Ascending Pyramids: this is where you select a heavier weight after each set. Generally speaking, less reps are performed with each passing set as well.

Descending Pyramids: here you would with the heavier weight and decrease the load per set. Reps tend to be increased, or at least performed to failure with each drop in weight.

As you can see, these pyramids are relevant from a repetition and load perspective. One tends to have an inversely proportional effect on the other.

I’ve also talked about Diamonds before, which are essentially two pyramids performed back to back. Diamonds are an ascending pyramid followed immediately by a descending pyramid.

The diamond shape is used because it looks like two pyramids/triangles base to base.

Diablos, on the other hand, are like two pyramids that are performed point-to-point. They are sets of incrementally decreasing followed by sets of increasing load, usually returning back to the original weight.

These can be used with most exercises, equipment and muscle groups but the most effective approach is to use them on the bigger compound lifts.

In a typical squat diablo, you would select a weight that you can perform 6, 8, 10 or 12 reps with. You would then perform those reps for the first set.

For the second set you would drop the weight enough to allow you to perform the same number of reps as you did in the first set.

The third set involves a similar drop, again so that you can carry out the same number of reps.

You could continue to a fourth set of decreasing load but if you’re new to these it’s probably best to start the back side of the diablo after 3 descending sets.

For the first ascending set, simply add load back on to the bar so it’s equal to the second set’s weight. You then lift that for as many reps as possible.

The last set’s load should be the same as the first set. You’ll probably struggle to do many reps with it but that’s kind of the point.

It would look something like this:

  • Set 1 – 315 lbs x 8
  • Set 2 – 300 lbs x 8
  • Set 3 – 275 lbs x 8
  • Set 4 – 300 lbs x 3
  • Set 5 – 315 lbs x 2

Obviously, the reps in the last sets are determined by your fatigue level, but the idea is that their low number compliments the higher rep sets in the first half.

For some people, these are particularly difficult, and they are not necessarily the most effective strategy for everybody, but they CAN trigger change if you are experiencing some stagnation in your training progress.

Dumbell rack

Running the Rack

This one’s fairly straight forward.

Most gyms have long racks of dumbbells these days and they usually include an expansive range of weights all the way up to 200 lbs in some cases.

Running the rack involves performing increasingly heavy sets of dumbbell exercises until you reach a weight you cannot lift.

The idea is to increase the load after each set only by the difference between the weight you just used and the next one on the rack. Dumbbell sets in gym tend to be in 5 lb increments, so you increase by that much.

It’s important not to sacrifice form as the weights get heavier and heavier. Once you reach a weight that you can just about complete a single rep with, then you have effectively run the rack.

The cool thing about this is that if you run the rack every once in a while, you should see the progress you have made in the meantime simply by making it further up the line of dumbbells.

To add extra muscle mass building depth to running the rack, you can descend back down the weights once you have reached that heavy single rep. You could do this in discrete sets or as a massive dropset.

If you do it as separate sets with rest intervals then you should descend by the same minimum increments as you ascended, i.e. 5 lbs in most cases.

If you perform the descent as a dropset then you will find better success if you skip a couple of weights each time – 10-15 lb increments should be fine for about 3 or 4 drops total. This will allow you to get more out of each set rather than reaching failure too quickly every time.

Running the Rack is best used on big mass building dumbbell exercises like presses and rows. It’s also pretty intense, especially if you are doing the dropset descent, so I wouldn’t use them more than once per muscle group.

It’s a good method for bringing up a muscle group that’s falling behind. A lot of people find success with shoulder pressing given that the shoulders are prone to lagging behind the larger groups that have more stabilizer and support muscles to assist.

The shoulders, however, are also quite susceptible to injury so it pays to make sure they are properly warmed up before hammering them with this or any other intensive program addition.

Muscle heavy weight biceps

Breakdowns – Simple Triples

I discussed a method called Tri-set Pyramids in the rep variation article, which are sets where three distinct rep ranges are hit without taking a break. A typical example would be 5-10-20 sets where you start with a large lift for 5 reps and incrementally decrease the load and the number of recruited muscles with each increase in repetitions.

Breakdowns involve a similar decrease in load and similar repetition ranges but rather than completing it all in one set, the breakdown is done after each discrete set.

Also, the exercise remains the same for each of the breakdowns, rather than switching down to a more isolatetion-type movement.

While both the tri-set pyramid and breakdowns work to boost muscle growth potential by forcing your muscles to operate in distinct stress brackets – i.e. low, medium and high rep ranges – their execution is quite different.

Here’s an example of a simple triple breakdown:

Exercise: Barbell Rows

  • Set 1: 205 lbs x 5
  • Set 2: 165 lbs x 10
  • Set 3: 95 lbs x 30

These sets can be performed with the usual 2 to 3 minute rest.

The second set’s load selection is about 20% less than the first set. The 3rd set is around 50% of the first set’s load.

High reps from 25 to 30 are meant to challenge the slow-twitch fibres once the fast-twitch have been used in the first couple of sets. This can improve muscle size because most of your large muscle groups are about 50-50 slow-twitch to fast-twitch fibres.

By training both fibre types equally you should stimulate some simultaneous growth and thus increase mass more than single rep-range training.

The three ‘classic’ repetition ranges are involved here with suitable time spent on each exercise type to produce some new adaptation.

Closing Remarks on Load Variations

I think programs and sets that manipulate the load deserve some concluding remarks, because a lot of people find it difficult to lift lighter weight for the sake of progress.

It’s usually because of their ego, and a compulsion to lift as heavy as possible all of the time, often in the overly-hyped hypertrophy range.

The idea of lifting less to gain more might even make sense to some guys…until they get to the gym, and the voices in their heads start telling them they have to go big or go home.

It’s often what leads to people repeating the same 8-12 rep range forever trying to force progressive overload, when all they’re really doing is setting themselves up for stagnation.

I believe working outside your comfort zone contributes a lot to success.

It’s easy to bench big weight every other time you’re at the gym because it’s enjoyable. It might not be as appealing to do 30-rep sets with light weight after your first couple of heavy sets but it works well.

And if it works well then use it regardless of whether the guy or girl you are trying to impress just walked into your area while your grunting your way through a set of 135 on the bench.

If you let your ego do the lifting then you’re already half way to missing your goals. Anyone that matters shouldn’t care about the numbers you’re lifting. Manipulating your weight selections will help you lift more in the future anyway. That’s what consistent progress is all about.

I’ll leave you with a rather obvious word of warning: You need to have a good base of strength – especially core strength – to tackle the sets where you start heavy and pyramid down.

Warm-up sets are a given, but even those will not help you if your nervous system is just not experienced enough with heavier weight.

It should be implied that you are familiar and comfortable with the multi-joint compound lifts such as the deadlift, benchpress, shoulder press, military press and bench press, before you start fiddling with descending pyramids, diablos and so on.

A good benchmark to look out for is the point where you stop making leaps in progress from straight set training. If you’re tracking your progress with any accuracy, then you’ll know when that happens.

Read Exercise Variations for Accelerated Muscle Mass Growth

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Proven Set Variations for Increasing Muscle Mass https://www.hypertrophia.com/increasing-muscle-mass-set-variations https://www.hypertrophia.com/increasing-muscle-mass-set-variations#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 15:20:37 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=363 Playing with sets for optimum muscle mass building. Changing aspects of the sets you perform during a resistance training workout can help you increase your muscle mass gains significantly. A lot of people do the [Read More]

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Man on weight machines

Playing with sets for optimum muscle mass building.

Changing aspects of the sets you perform during a resistance training workout can help you increase your muscle mass gains significantly.

A lot of people do the same exercise, for the same number of reps, for straight sets…forever.

They do this, and wonder why they are not making the same progress as they once did. One big reason is because their muscles have adapted to the way they have been training.

Muscles do that when they get used to certain stimuli. It’s what makes them great, but it’s also what makes them

Not only does messing with set design allow you to break that stagnation, but it offers additional advantages for stimulating muscle hypertrophy.

For the sake of clarity, let’s just determine what I’m referring to when I say set.

A set is a number of repetitions of an exercise or exercises performed continuously until the next rest period.

You can manipulate sets in a number of ways. To start with I’ll cover some of the more classic sets that bodybuilders have gained a lot of success with over the years.

If you get through those and it’s nothing new to you then fear not, there will be more.

On the other hand, if you are totally new to resistance training or you are recovering from injury, then I would not attempt these sets until you have a solid base of straight set training under your belt.

For a green lifter, the point where you should start messing with sets is an individual thing. There’s no template that suits everyone. These are the bodybuilding basics.

However, if you record your progress from the start, you will see very clearly when your progress in your current program starts to stall.

The Classic Bodybuilding Sets - Adding Exercises

The Classic Bodybuilding Sets – Adding Exercises

One of the first things to do when you want to push your gains, when you’re experiencing what you think is a plateau, stagnation, or whatever, is to add exercises to the set.

These sets are basically two or more exercises performed back to back with no rest in between.

The main benefit of doing this is of course the increased training volume without adding too much additional time to the total workout.

Again, you’ve probably heard of them before, but read on anyway because there’s some useful tips for getting the most out of them.

Man with muscle soreness doing squats

Supersets – Increasing Muscle Mass

When you lift a weight, you are using the agonist muscle in concentric and eccentric contraction, which is the shortening and lengthening of the muscle, respectively, under load.

The simplest example of this is the bicep curl. The biceps are the agonist in the curl movement and must contract concentrically and eccentrically in order to complete both the positive and negative portion of each repetition.

The agonist is often called the prime mover, as it is the primary muscle utilized in the exercise.

An antagonist is simple the muscle that must work in an opposing way to allow the contraction of the prime mover.

In the case of the bicep curl, the triceps work antagonistically. They actually relax to allow themselves to lengthen so that the biceps muscles can perform concentric contractions.

On the eccentric contraction, as the biceps extend under load, the triceps must contract to allow it.

Superset training is where you train both muscles (or muscle groups) in their agonist-antagonist pairs.

The superset is a number of reps of an exercise which uses the agonist, immediately followed by a number of reps using what was the antagonist, but switching it to become the agonist.

Increasing Muscle Mass triceps

It is only once both have been completed that the set is over and the rest interval between sets begins.

A basic bicep-tricep superset might be:

  • 12 x barbell bicep curls, followed immediately by
  • 12 x cable tricep pull-downs

People often pick an agonist-antagonist pair and do three or four supersets on them. Basically about the same number of exercises they would do in straight set fashion on the single muscle group.

Doing this for one pair per workout is a great way to add an extra muscle group without the addition of much more time, i.e. just the time it takes to complete the extra reps.

Superset training is not just a time saver which allows for more volume though. The first muscle to be trained in the pair actually becomes a weaker antagonist for the second muscle.

That might seem like a bad thing but it’s beneficial to your muscle gains, because a weaker antagonist allows for a stronger contraction of the agonist.

Biceps and triceps are a beautiful example of this because there are two bicep muscles and three tricep muscles. By training biceps first in the superset, it allows for the stronger triceps to get maximal contractions, thereby increasing the resistance or number of reps you can lift.

Another agonist-antagonist muscle pair example is the chest and back. Both muscle groups are fairly large and so superset training the pecs and lats for example will cover a lot of ground, plus provide that hypertrophy benefit from added volume and second exercise power.

Guys often perform cable rows before hitting the benchpress so that they can maximize the pectoral activation.

Recommended frequency: superset training is demanding but it’s not as intense as some of the set variations I’m going to get to. However, there are some things to think about.

It may not be optimal, for example to perform biceps-triceps and then chest-back the following day. Reason being, the chest-back superset will actually utilize the triceps and biceps quite heavily anyway. If they are fatigued from the day before, they might be limiting factors in your chest and back exercises.

With all that in mind, I would give both muscle groups two days rest before you hit them again. This means you can focus on other muscles on the days between.

The most common muscle group pairings are:

  • Chest and Back
  • Biceps and Triceps
  • Quads and Hamstrings
  • Shoulders and Lats

People find different combinations to work. Some focus on supersets for a limited period of time, while others add them in to their program on a regular but less intense basis.

Personally, I like to add a couple supersets in to my training per week, with one upper body and one lower body pairing.

Set variations

Compound Sets – Increasing Muscle Mass

Compound sets are also two back-to-back exercises with no rest in between but both are done on the same muscle group, rather than agonist-antagonist pairs like in supersets.

You can either:

  • Use the same part of the muscle group in both exercises; or
  • Target two different sections of the muscle group

A tactic often used is to perform a multi-joint lift (aka compound movement) and then immediately follow it with an isolation exercise.

Examples include:

  • Bench press with dumbbell fly
  • Shoulder press with lateral raise
  • Squats with leg extensions

Other methods used include:

  • Barbell exercises followed by dumbbell exercises
  • Free weight exercises followed by machine exercises

A benefit of doing compound sets is of course the added volume without much added time. Much like supersets.

When you are trying to hit a particular muscle group harder to stimulate a greater growth response in the days following, there aren’t many better exercises than compound sets and tri-sets and giant sets (I’ll get to those in a bit).

Compound sets are more intensive than supersets thought because you are focusing the entire set on one muscle group, sometimes on one muscle.

There’s only one way to make up for the added energy you expend and that is in the recovery process.

These sets are therefore best used only occasionally and/or for short stretches. The longer you use them for, the more at risk you are of over-training.

I will stop using compound sets at the first sign of unusually high tiredness over the course of a couple of regular days.

Also, you should consider adding time to the rest interval between workouts of the same muscle group. Some people wait up to a week before training the same muscle group again after they have hit it with compound sets. Others only need 3 days rest but for them it is still an increase.

Find your pattern.

Tri-Sets and Giant Sets – Increasing Muscle Mass

Compound sets aren’t limited to two exercises like supersets are. Tri-sets and Giant sets are basically just bigger compound sets.

At the risk of stating the obvious, tri-sets are sets where you perform three exercises on the trot with no rest intervals in between them.

What’s cool about tri-sets is that you can do three sets and hit an entire small muscle group, without the need to add on some straight set exercises afterwards.

Your triceps are a great example because there are three of them and you can perform a nice, quick transition between the exercises to hit the long-head, lateral head and medial head of the group.

Giant sets are four or more exercises performed on the bounce. They are perhaps better suited to the larger muscle group, but can be performed on smaller groups provided lifting form doesn’t suffer.

In fact, that piece of advice goes for any of the compound set variations. If your form starts to slip during any part of the set then I would suggest that your rep counts are too high, or you are simply not ready for that intensity of exercise yet.

Make sure you can cope with the intra-set endurance required before you attempt trisets and giant sets. If you are used to hitting straight sets on the shoulders, for example, then jumping into giant sets might not work out for the best because you don’t have the stamina to really get the most out of it.

Increasing Exercise Intensity

The increasing exercise intensity and set volume from two exercise compound sets up to giant sets would be best approached in congruence with your experience level.

This will help you to avoid over-training, injury and program failure, as you will be confident in your strength and skill, despite the sets still pushing you physically.

As you stuff more exercises into your compound sets, your frequency and period of training them should be less and shorter respectively.

Not only will this reduce the likelihood of overtraining, fatigue and failure, but it will help you recover better and in fact grow more from the training stimulus.

Basically, the more energy you put into the process, the longer your body needs to recover and overcompensate afterwards.

One muscle group particularly suited to giant set training is the abdominal muscles. There are many variations of exercises, utilizing bodyweight, free-weights, cables and other machines that can target different sections of the abs.

Also, due to to almost constant use of our core, the abdominal muscles are used to being engaged frequently and for extended periods. Thus they have a high recovery rate, between both sets and workouts.

Giants sets are therefore a great way to work the core deeply and stimulate maximum growth by interrupting that fast recovery time with back-to-back exercises.

Things to Bear in Mind – Increasing Muscle Mass

Additional volume and intensity means additional stress. Supersets and all variations of compound sets should be used infrequently and for short periods of time to get the maximum adaptations from them.

There are a few ways to work them into your program, and over time you will become accustomed to what works for you.

Some people add one or two set variations into every workout for a period of time, targeting different muscle groups each session. This works because no one muscle group becomes overly fatigued over the course of a few weeks.

For example, if Monday is your chest day and arms day, then you could probably do a superset for your arms and a compound set for your chest. On the other hand, you could do straight sets on your chest and then tri-set your triceps to really finish them off. The following week, you could tri-set your chest and straight set your triceps.

This would allow both to recover adequately for the next chest/arms day the following week.

Another possibility is using set variations to bring a lagging muscle group up to the same standard as the rest of your physique.

Compound/Super-Setting

This can either be done by compound/super-setting that muscle group every week for a few weeks and training the rest as normal.

A strategy that has worked well for me is adding a workout for that muscle group within the week’s program and using set variations then.

For example: if I feel a muscle group is lagging, such as my back, then I will simply add another back workout to my weekly program so that there is only 2/3 days between each back workout.

Supersets are great for this because you can superset your back with your chest on chest day and then carry out back day as normal a few days later.

To take it to the next level, you could dedicate an additional workout to the lagging muscle group – the back in this case – and do compound sets on that additional day while training it as normal on the regular back day.

Again, it will take some experimentation to see whether this is actually beneficial to your muscle growth response, or whether it fatigues you more and ends up being detrimental.

The more you focus on one muscle group, the more you have to be wary about the length of time you train for, both within the session and on a week by week basis.

Experience, fitness level, diet, sleep and general activity level in your life will dictate much of what you can achieve, and there is no point in me saying ‘do this for 4 weeks for the best results’ because no program fits all.

Somebody who has a very physical job, for instance, should not be attempting multiple giant sets per week unless they are mitigating the energy usage elsewhere with nutrition and additional hours of sleep.

What I’m saying is: as you invest more energy into your program, another factor of your life must give some back to retain the balance and prevent you from experiencing the negative effects of over-training.

Remember: training is ONLY the stimulus for muscle growth, NOT the process. It is during SLEEP and REST that hypertrophic muscle growth occurs, fuelled by NUTRITION and SUPPLEMENTS.

In the next article: I’ll cover some of the ways you can play with repetition counts, speeds and methods to elicit further muscle hypertrophy.

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Training To Failure – Part 2 – Muscle Soreness and Muscle Failure https://www.hypertrophia.com/muscle-soreness-muscle-failure https://www.hypertrophia.com/muscle-soreness-muscle-failure#respond Fri, 23 Nov 2018 18:59:09 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=643 This is part 2 (part 1 here) of Training to Failure – in layman terms… working out until you cannot workout anymore Context has the final word once again. Muscle Soreness and Muscle Failure – [Read More]

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Training to failure

This is part 2 (part 1 here) of Training to Failure – in layman terms… working out until you cannot workout anymore

Context has the final word once again.

Muscle Soreness and Muscle Failure – What Does the Science Say?

Scientific studies have attempted to compare failure and non-failure training and some have done a reasonable job at it.

I won’t slam you with a thousand study references but up until now the picture has looked something like this:

Not everyone is great at judging how close they are to muscle failure, so training to failure is a guaranteed way to ensure you are working the muscles hard enough to elicit growth.

Chronic failure training – as in, going at it every time you hit the gym – however, can cause fatigue which can hinder your overall effort and possibly dull growth.

Failure training is no more dangerous than non-failure training provided any potential problems are mitigated. In other words, it’s not inherently dangerous to train a muscle to failure, but falling over while squatting to failure is (okay that last bit wasn’t sciency).

Some studies have even completely contradicted each other in the past, where one says failure training produces better results while another concludes that it hinders progress.

So, what are we to think from a scientific standpoint?

Recently, a comprehensive study was undertaken.

Over the course of 20 weeks, 10 different training protocols – each one a unique combination repetition design – were performed by the subjects.

Muscle damage and fatigue were measured before each training session and at intervals afterwards, ranging from 6 hours to 48 hours post-workout.

Subjects performed 3 sets of bench press followed by squats. The rep protocol included 5 failure and 5 non-failure designs of different rep counts. The non-failure protocols also ranged in RPE (rate of perceived exertion).

For example, in the failure group, one subject would do 12 reps where 12 were possible. That would be a failure set. This went all the way down to a failure set 4 reps where only 4 were possible.

In the non-failure group, one subject did 6 reps where 12 were possible, another did 5/10, and so on down to one subject doing 2 reps where 4 were possible.

Man with muscle soreness doing squats

Intensities (weight) was matched to the RPE and rep counts.

The results of the study were as expected, but it’s nice to have a quality investigation say as much.

High rep failure sets – particularly 10 to 12 reps – take longer to recover from than sets at 5 to 8 RPE.

Again, that sounds obvious but when you consider that the scientists measured actual physical performance as a follow-up at 6, 24 and 48 hours it bears significance that the higher-rep failure guys had reduced power compared to the non-failure subjects.

So, with that in mind, the longer recovery time could definitely impinge on volume, and therefore gains.

The study shouldn’t be interpreted as saying never do failure sets, but it was the first one to show the recovery over time following failure versus non-failure training and with different RPEs and rep counts to boot.

What would be great to see now is what recovery and progress can be made from 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 RPE where repetitions are equal and resistance (weight) is the variable.

Training Experience and Muscle Failure

Something I’ve heard a lot is that over time, you have to train to failure more and more to continue seeing progress.

This is generally from people who have been lifting for years, perhaps 10 and over. They are talking about a widely held belief that adding muscle mass and/or making strength increases becomes that much more difficult as you become more and more experienced.

Of course it’s true. The most successful bodybuilders in the world cannot make the same gains as someone who is 6 months into regular lifting.

Training to failure appears to be synonymous with that “extra” that veteran bodybuilders are referring to.
We can’t really look at scientific data and make any meaningful conclusions in the context of lifetime lifters. At least, I don’t know of any studies that have been able to get guys with a decade or more experience busting iron.

For one thing, the diminished returns from their training would make it very difficult to measure anything in a reasonable amount of time.

So does experience dictate how much you should train to failure? Probably, but I can’t put numbers on it.

A pro bodybuilder probably mixes it in with non-failure training in a way that’s optimal for them as an individual in terms of recovery. These people are at the apex of their potential for muscle gains and so squeezing fractions of improvement out of their already sculpted muscles probably takes some extreme work.

For regular human beings, experience will matter but then so will individual responses to resistance training. I know some people who can’t move the day after a gruelling leg workout and others who are back at the gym squatting.

This could be partly due to individual biochemical responses to training, but it can also be because of individual perceptions of effort.

man with muscle soreness

Muscle Soreness and Muscle Failure – Varied Perception of Effort

We’ve established what muscle failure is and it’s pretty easy to understand when you’re lifting weight.

What’s perhaps more difficult is an individual’s perception of how close they are to that muscle failure. Are they 2 reps away from failure? Or is it 3…4?

Some of us are better at it. Since it’s becoming fairly clear that we shouldn’t train to failure every time we train, due to the lengthy recovery process and the potential decrease in performance and volume, how close should we get?

It’s a good question, and one that’s often answered with: go with how you feel.

If you training program is of decent design then your overall volume – provided the intensity is adequate – is the most important factor for progress.

Once you are lifting considerable percentages of your 1RM (i.e. 60% and above), total volume is important.

Volume can be measured in total weight lifted as well as number of sets performed. If your 1RM on benchpress is 275 lbs then if you take 70% of that and 90% of that you can still perform the same volume with 70% as you do with 90% but your likely to be much less fatigued.

That isn’t to say you should always stick to 70% of your 1RM, the point is more about related to being able to achieve your program’s volume by making the right decisions.

Perhaps later in the week, or on your last session of that exercise before you have a couple days off, you can do some failure sets.

Muscle Soreness and Muscle Failure – Leaving No Doubt

I mentioned earlier in the article that this might be the best reason to train to failure.

Taking the muscle to failure leaves no doubt as to how close you have got to maximal motor unit output and muscle fiber recruitment.

In the very least, it reassures you that you couldn’t have done more even if you tried.

Once again, if you are approaching your total volume for that muscle or muscle group for the week then it won’t hurt to use it.

How Much is Too Much?

I would say if your first sets of a training session are difficult or painful to get through because of residual fatigue/soreness from the previous session, you are overdoing it.

Actually, if it occurs over a sustained period of time, it’s a good sign that you are overtraining in general, along with other indicators like declining performance, psychological distress, sleep disturbance, lack of motivation, deteriorating physique

I and many people have found that soreness level and the length of time it sticks around are great indicators of how suited a program design is to the individual using it.

In my opinion the larger compound lifts like squats and deadlifts shouldn’t be taken to failure often, if at all.

These movement rely on so many muscles and muscle groups that working them to that point is likely to result in your form slipping, and yes, possible injury.

What’s more, given the stress these lifts place on the central nervous system (CNS), particularly the closer you get to maximum single repetition loads, working to failure can have detrimental effects that go beyond the musculoskeletal system.

Muscle Soreness and Muscle Failure – Single-Joint Movements

The single-joint movements, machine and cable exercises are more suited to putting in maximum effort. Once you’ve finished your free squats, for example, taking your legs to the pain cave on the leg press isn’t a bad thing – again, so long as the rest of your training doesn’t suffer.

By no means is it necessary or even advantageous to train to failure every time you go to the gym. Employed correctly it can be a useful addition to your program.

There are lots of options open to you as well. No-one is telling you (they shouldn’t be anyway) to do a specific number of sets to failure within a workout.

People often use it on their last set of a particular exercise. They might even combine it with a big drop set where they reduce the weight by about 30% after reaching failure and then go again, repeating the process once or twice more.

Going Beyond Failure

Muscle failure doesn’t even stop some people. They go beyond that point by performing spotter-assisted repetitions; forced and negative reps.

Forced reps are those which a spotter helps you complete after you have reached the point of muscle failure on your own. It’s a bit like reducing the weight but without even the pause it would take to do so.

Negative reps also require a spotter, and sometimes more than one. These are traditionally done with weight that is heavier than the lifter can actually lift with the concentric – or positive – portion of the repetition.

It works after concentric failure as well because it’s more or less the same thing. The spotters help you lift the weight on the positive and then allow you to perform a controlled negative.

Either one of these options are ways by which you can go deeper into the pain cave. The value of them can be debated all day long, as can regular failure sets.

Main Takeaway Points

I think the moral of the muscle failure story can be summed up with the following points:

Training to failure is relatively safe, provided it does not lead to dangerous practices (like back squatting to failure away from the power rack).

It is not, however, essential to make muscle growth gains, neither is it fore strength improvements – at least not in the first few years of training.

Including some failure sets will help guarantee you are recruiting maximum motor units and muscle fibers, but this can probably also be achieved if you leave a couple reps in the tank provided you have an accurate perception of how many you have left.

Too much failure training will inhibit your ability to complete weekly volume, which is arguably more important for progress than failure sets anyway.

Strategic timing of failure sets – such as in the last few sets of your weekly volume, or before a couple days rest will help limit any negative impact they have on your overall volume and frequency

Closing Remarks on Training to Failure

If you’re befuddled by the amount of information coming at you and you’re still not sure whether failure sets are good for your gains or not then join the club.

No-one can tell you for sure, but the science is getting better at zeroing in on the issue.

Research, bro-science, anecdotal evidence, observations, and whatever else has issued from the mouths of the wise and weird, has shown that muscle failure still has a place in a rounded training program.

Some scientists found that it enhances the production of growth hormone following a workout. Other studies show a benefit in terms of hypertrophy.

Bodybuilders have done it for years, and given the literal weight of their opinion, you’d be hard pressed to tell them they are wrong.

And if nothing else, sometimes smashing an exercise until the muscle is well and truly murdered…well, it just feels right.

Plus, the pump you get is outrageous.

Modern research is leaning more towards the opinion that it’s almost redundant, especially if it negatively affects your overall training volume…but they also say you might want to add some in just in case, you know, to make sure you’re pushing your muscles as much as you think you are.

Thankfully, there’s nothing specifically saying failure sets are useless or dangerous. So have at it, but remember this: the deeper you go into that pain cave, the longer it takes to find your way out afterwards.

Don’t overdo it, otherwise you’re just wasting time and energy, and that’s something none of is can afford.

Biggest Workout Mistakes – Why You are Not Getting the Gains

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Training to Failure – Training a Muscle to Failure https://www.hypertrophia.com/training-to-failure https://www.hypertrophia.com/training-to-failure#respond Fri, 23 Nov 2018 15:15:51 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=485 Training to failure is repeating your specific exercise or workout to point where your muscles fail. Typically, you just cannot muster the strength for one more bench press. Take a look around a typical gym [Read More]

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Man training to failure

Training to failure is repeating your specific exercise or workout to point where your muscles fail.

Typically, you just cannot muster the strength for one more bench press.

Take a look around a typical gym full of bros and you’ll see a lot of them squeezing out their best pain face as they crank out the last few reps of their set.

That often means they are taking the set to muscle failure, otherwise known as the point when your muscles just won’t do another rep, no matter how strong your mind-muscle connection is.

Many of the same bros would tell you that training to failure is the best way to grow muscle. Some of them will say it’s the only way to grow muscle.

In fact, this has been the edict of many a professional bodybuilder over the years.

And who can argue with the very people who should absolutely know how to grow the biggest muscles, considering they have the largest muscles in the world?

But, is it necessary to do it every time your train? Should you take each muscle group to failure on each set? How many times should you do it a week? and is there an advantage to leaving some reps in the tank?

I’m going to cover all the answers to those questions, and possibly more. I’ll discuss some fancy research that’s put this very subject to the test, and I’ll provide you with some cool advice that you can immediately apply to your training in order to get more out of it.

First, let’s start with the basics.

What is Muscle Failure?

Within the context of resistance training, it’s the point when your muscle/s can no longer generate adequate force to overcome the resistance and perform even a partial concentric contraction.

In other words; you can’t move the weight an inch.

Muscle failure is technically temporary, and might be called momentary concentric failure in pretty books about bodybuilding and strength training.

It’s temporary because you should be able to perform more contractions with the same load after you’ve taken a breather.

In fact, this momentary nature of muscle failure has led to many different set designs being thought up over the years, from the rest-pause method to completing multiple back-to-back drop-sets to failure.

What’s Good about Training to Muscle Failure?

Exhausting your muscle, sometimes repeatedly in a short space of time, has been used to improve rates of muscle protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy – i.e. growth in terms of size and mass – for years.

Basically, the idea is that by working a muscle to its point of failure makes sure that as many motor units and thus muscle fibers as possible are recruited to keep moving the load.

That’s because as more and more of the initial fibers that were engaged at the start of the set become fatigued, the muscle needs more to help it generate the same total muscle force.

That in turn means that more muscle fibers are stressed under load, providing the stimulus for the supercompensation/growth that happens in the post-workout recovery stage.

Going to failure essentially ensures that no more of the muscle’s fibers could have been recruited.

That concept of leaving no room for doubt might actually be the only reason to train to failure, and I’ll get into why that is a bit later.

Mn bench pressing muscle failure

What’s Bad about Muscle Failure?

Longer recovery, decreased frequency, decreased volume, reduced intensity and higher probability of injury.

Okay, that sounds really bad, but it all makes sense when you think about it.

Longer Recovery

Training a muscle to failure implies a heavy reliance on anaerobic respiration and therefore lactate.

One can only work the muscle using lactate as an energy substrate for so long until muscle acidity rises to the point where it is too high for the conversion of glucose to occur at effective rates.

This acidity is commonly known as lactic acid, and it’s why our muscles fail.

Lactic acid is a good thing though because it prevents you from simply working the muscle until it wastes away. It’s a defence mechanism.

However, it causes soreness in the muscle, often proportional to how far you took your training. This can extend the recovery period of the muscle tissue, which can have knock on effects to your training.

Why you cant get bigger muscles

Decreased Frequency

Of course, if a muscle or muscle group takes 4 days to recover instead of 2 because you ventured deep into the pain cave last time you trained, it can affect the frequency by which you can train.

Most trainers and coaches these days advise that you don’t train if you are sore. Obviously the whole situation varies from one individual to another, but soreness – sometimes referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) – is a good indicator for when you should train a body part again.

Light soreness is not really an issue but if the pain causes reduced function of the muscle it is probably best to let it rest some more as it is still recovering, growing and strengthening.

I’ll talk about soreness in more detail in a while. For now, suffice to say that it plays a role training frequency.

Soreness aside, the reduced capacity of muscle tissue following an intense lifting session can reduce training frequency. Simply put, you want to avoid overtraining because it can have many negative impacts, both in the short term and down the road.

Decreased Volume

From decreased frequency, a decrease in training volume is a definite possibility.

Weekly training volume is defined by the number of reps and sets you do in the seven days. Reduce the frequency and you can reduce the overall volume unless you increase the volume per workout to compensate.

That’s fine of course, and often part of the natural course of progressive overload. Progressive overload doesn’t always have to mean adding weight to the bar. It can also involve adding another set, say to your squat routine.

Training to failure too often can disrupt that progression.

After all, something has to give if you’re cooking the muscles to failure but trying to pump out the same volume and frequency as you would do if your sets actually left some reps in the tank.

That something can be training intensity, or the health of your joints, muscles and connective tissue.

Decreased Intensity

Generally speaking, if it takes more effort to lift the same weight for the same sets and reps as you did in your last workout, something is going wrong.

I say ‘generally speaking’ because sometimes there are understandable reasons for this, such as during cutting cycles, acute fatigue, nutritional timing etc. or any other short-term issue.

Intensity – at least in the context of bodybuilding – refers to the amount of weight your are lifting. It’s often referred to as a percentage of your 1RM (one rep max). And again, in general, it should increase for a given volume and frequency over time.

If training to muscle failure is preventing this increase from happening, or it is even causing your intensity to decrease, then it’s most certainly time to re-assess how often, or when, you are doing those failure sets.

Decreasing either of the other factors – volume or frequency – in order to maintain intensity is just as bad.

Man Training Injury

Increased Risk of Injury

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise but weakening muscles by training them to their point of failure can heighten their potential for injury.

The risk of injury when lifting weights is extremely low, especially compared to other sports, as long as you are aware of your body’s capabilities and limitations.

Important Counterpoint

It’s worth noting that none of these points are inherently negative until they have a negative effect.

If that seems like I’m stating the obvious then let me use an example to explain: if training to failure reduces your overall volume, it’s only negative if you are set back in your progress as a result.

In fact, I’ve often heard people explain that reducing volume and adding some failure sets in is what broke them through a plateau. Ultimately, progress can be attributed to a combination of all the factors, and much of that is down to the individual.

Even the perceived increased risk of injury that’s associated with concentric muscle failure is theoretical. There’s no reason to assume the risk of injury is greater unless when it has been accommodated for.

For example, someone who performs free-weight back squats to failure in the open, nowhere near the safety bars of a power rack, is putting themselves vastly more at risk than someone doing arm curls to failure on a cable machine.

 

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Rep Variations for Boosting Muscle Size Gains https://www.hypertrophia.com/rep-variations-boosting-muscle-size-gains https://www.hypertrophia.com/rep-variations-boosting-muscle-size-gains#respond Wed, 29 Aug 2018 15:19:33 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=369 Last updated on November 23rd, 2018 Increase Muscle Hypertrophy with Repetition Variations These days, most coaches, bodybuilders and strength athletes will recommend that you train with different rep ranges to maximize growth and strength gains. [Read More]

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Last updated on November 23rd, 2018

Muscle curls vary reps to boost muscle size

Increase Muscle Hypertrophy with Repetition Variations

These days, most coaches, bodybuilders and strength athletes will recommend that you train with different rep ranges to maximize growth and strength gains.

There was a time not too long ago when a large population of the gym community believed specific muscle strength and growth goals were achieved through the execution of specific repetition ranges.

Somewhere along the road, you’ve probably heard something similar to this:

  • 1 to 5 reps builds strength
  • 8 to 12 reps for hypertrophy
  • 12+ reps for strength endurance

 

A lot of people have taken that literally and decided to live their gym life in the 12 rep range, because they “want mass gainz, bruh”.

Problem is, scientific research and real world practices are constantly evolving and finding the best way of doing things. Those repetition counts, it turns out, might not be so accurate…or important in terms of hypertrophy.

What’s more important is varying your rep ranges to stimulate greater adaptation and change within the muscle tissue.

Where absolute strength gains will probably always involve lifting heavy, hypertrophy seems to have a lot more to do with factors such as:

  • Metabolic stress
  • Time under tension
  • Anaerobic respiration
  • Range of motion

When you look at a modern, progressive bodybuilding program, you can definitely see a shift towards a new kind of training.

Vary reps for muscle size gain

Periodization – Rep Variations for Boosting Muscle Size Gains

Periodized training programs are nothing new, but in the world of bodybuilding, they have taken a while to fully set in.

Amongst other things, some forms of periodization can involve the weekly changing of repetition ranges in order to stimulate maximum muscle growth and never let stagnation set in.

Some variants of periodization include:

  • Classic Linear
  • Reverse Linear
  • Undulating

Undulating periodization is one type of program that involves the weekly shifting of rep ranges, where you might stick with high (15+) reps for a week, then drop to a more power/strength range of 1 to 5 the following week, and so on.

You can even perform different rep ranges for different muscle groups within the same workout.

All of this is to say that the number of repetitions you do can be varied to enhance your results. The idea of rigidly adhering to old school methods is counterproductive, unless you adhere to the training program better if those methods are utilized.

Some people even mess with their repetitions from set to set, or within the sets themselves, and that’s the discussion I want to get to now.

Tri Set pyramid

Tri-Set Pyramids

Remember tri-sets from my article on manipulating set design?

Tri-sets are three exercises performed back to back with no rest. They are like a compound set in that the same muscle group is worked for all of it.

Mostly, people perform the same number of reps per exercise within the tri-set, so an example set would look something like this:

  • Dumbbell shoulder press x 8
  • Dumbbell lateral raise x 8
  • Dumbbell front raise x 8

With the tri-set pyramid you actually increase the number of reps each time you change the exercise.

This also means that you begin with heavier weight for the first exercise, and use lighter weight with each change – also known as a descending pyramid or reverse pyramid (because of descending weight).

A typical example would be 5-10-20, where you do 5 reps on the first exercise, 10 on the second and 20 on the last.

Many people perform a compound movement, such as bar and dumbbell presses (shoulder/bench), squats, deadlifts, pull-ups etc. followed by a couple of movements that involve less muscles each.

The third and final exercise is usually an isolation movement. As usual though, there are many different exercise choices you can make. The general idea is to treat it as a modified tri-set and use the same muscle group throughout. So, using a similar example to the one above:

  • Standing barbell shoulder (military) press x 5
  • Dumbbell seated ‘Y’ shoulder presses x 10
  • Cable lateral delt raise x 20

By doing the tri-set in this pyramid fashion, three repetition ranges are used in a single set. This means you hit those ranges that are classically associated with strength/power, hypertrophy and endurance strength.

training for strength

Twenty Ones – 21s or Sevens – 7s

It doesn’t really matter what you call these, as long as you get the idea.

These sets change the range of motion of the muscle you are working every 7 repetitions.

  • The first seven reps are actually half reps, performed from beginning of the movement up to the halfway point
  • The second seven reps are also half reps but this time from the half-way point to the full contraction point of the muscle.
  • The last seven reps are whole reps, through the entire range of motion, from full extension to full contraction.

These are best done with single joint movements like arm and leg curls. Also, they are more effective if machines or cables are used to ensure constant tension through each group of seven reps.

Dumbbells are not as great because there is little resistance in the first half of the rep. During a bicep curl, for example, there is a lot less tension on the muscle in the first half of the rep when using dumbbells. Cables and machines apply equal tension even at full flexion.

The beauty of twenty-ones is that each part of the set benefits you in a slightly unique way.

The first half of the rep improves flexibility and stimulates muscle growth at full flexion, thereby increasing muscle size along the full length of the tissue.

The middle seven reps are in the range of motion where you are strongest, thus allowing you to put a lot more effort into forcing a maximum contraction.

The last seven reps should burn progressively stronger as you come to the last rep. Ideally, you would not be able to perform another with good form.

Those last repetitions, which are performed deeply in anaerobic respiration, will cause a strong pump and trigger anabolic processes for muscle hypertrophy.

Large multi-joint movements like the benchpress and squats don’t work as well with this because they use too many other supporting muscles that wouldn’t benefit from it. Those movements are better performed as complete range of motion repetitions nearly all of the time.

Twenty-ones increase the working muscle’s time under tension as well as pushing the full range of motion. You should take this into account and lengthen the recovery period for that particular muscle.

Every major muscle group can be trained with 21s, and you can even follow it as a program for a few weeks at a time, adding it as the first 3 or 4 sets of your workout or even the last ones to finish off a group.

The following examples are muscle group and exercise pairings that can be used to perform twenty-one style training.

  • Chest – Cable crossover, pec-deck and fly machine
  • Shoulders – Cable lateral/front/bent-over raises
  • Back – Lat pull downs, straight arm pull-down, cable row
  • Triceps – Cable push-downs, rope cable extensions
  • Biceps – Cable curls, rope cable curls
  • Quadriceps – Leg extensions, hack squat, leg press
  • Hamstrings – Leg curls

If you’re starting out with 21/7 sets then you might find you can only complete one in fullness at the beginning.

Don’t worry if this is the case; just complete the rest of your sets in straight-set fashion and go for adding another one the next time you hit that muscle group.

Muscle Fiber Types 1 and 2 - An Overview

100 Reps Training – Hundreds

The concept of Hundreds training sort of takes a massive dump on traditional approaches such as 3 sets of 12.

It’s pretty much what it looks like – 100 reps.

Thankfully, you do just one set per muscle group, but if you’re thinking that still sucks, then you’re only partly correct.

There are some benefits to throwing down some hundreds that aren’t readily available by any other means. So while it might not seem like your favourite thing to do, it might still be a good idea to incorporate it every now and then.

Hundreds training was once a well used strategy to break through plateaus. It can do this because the results have carry-over to your regular strength and hypertrophy training:

It trains slow-twitch muscle fibres as well as fast-twitch
It increases capillarization, the growth of blood vessels that feed you muscles with blood and oxygen, nutrients and hormones

The majority of your muscles are comprised of roughly an even proportion of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibres.

Research into the hypertrophy of muscle tissue tells us that growing both fibre types will increase the overall size of the muscle.

Given that slow-twitch muscle fibres are normally used for endurance type activity, the very high repetition aspect of hundreds training actually recruits them for the first half of the set.

Training slow-twitch fibres is not a practice often performed by bodybuilders, especially amateurs who are mostly interested in lifting heavy for single or low double figures reps for multiple sets.

Those same people often avoid doing much intensive cardio, which would also build the slow-twitch muscle fibres in certain parts of the body.

However, hundreds training is a way of exercising those fibres over the whole body, and stimulating biochemical changes which promote muscle growth the likes of which would not otherwise be easy to obtain.

Capillarization is the formation of new blood vessels to feed the muscles with more blood flow, and the oxygen, nutrients, anabolic hormones and everything else that comes with it. [source]

This happens as a result of the metabolic stress that those hundred reps put the muscles through.

Such a long time under tension puts extra demands on the vascular delivery system. And capillarization is one of the fastest ways the body can respond in order to fuel those local increases in demand.

When you return to a more regular program, the benefits from your hundreds training carry over to enhance any other bodybuilding and powerlifting sets you perform.
Hence why it is known as a plateau buster.

Tips for Hundreds success:

  1. Weight selection is important. You want to get about 3/4 of the way through before the muscle starts to fail
  2. A mini break at the first sign of muscle failure is okay but you should only take enough breaths as yo have reps left to complete
  3. Strict adherence to form is paramount. Sacrificing form to complete bad reps is pointless.
  4. One set per muscle group means you can hit them all twice a week if you follow hundreds as a program
  5. If you dedicate some full-time program to 100s then only do it for 3 to 4 weeks

Above all else: you need to have some lifting experience. This is not for noobs because anyone who has been lifting for less than a year should not need to break stagnation yet.

Also unless you have some solid experience lifting high-rep sets then you probably won’t complete a hundred reps.

Even one hundred body squats are too much for some. You will want to at least get to the point where you are squatting weight for 20 rep sets before considering hundreds training.

Pyramid and pump

Pyramid and Pump – Rep Variations for Boosting Muscle Size Gains

Pyramids are just ways to describe the sequence in which you lift weights. For the purposes of this explanation:

an Ascending Pyramid is where you start with a specified weight and increase it incrementally with each set
a Descending Pyramid is where you decrease the weight with each set

Confusingly, most ascending pyramids involve descending reps and descending pyramids involve ascending reps.

Just think of the load you are lifting as going up or down in weight and you’re there.

Pyramid and Pump is a cool way to trigger some serious growth, while incorporating some varied loads, varied reps and a set to failure.

Basically, there are two ways to do this, and both have their advantages.

Perform an ascending pyramid of 3 sets, followed by a 4th set of high reps for maximum muscle pump
Perform a descending pyramid of 3 sets, followed by a 4th set of high reps for maximum muscle pump

As you can see, the only difference in the two approaches is whether you increase the weight with each of the first 3 sets or decrease it.

I’ll lay down some examples of both methods.

Tip: It helps to know your 1RM (one rep max) for the exercise you are going to do. If I’m honest you should have a pretty good idea if you are at the experience level you need to be to consider doing this in the first place.

Ascending Pyramid Pump

For this one you’ll do 3 sets of ascending weight (and descending reps) followed by a 4th set of 20 reps.

The reps should go something like this:

  • Set 1: 10 reps
  • Set 2: 8 reps
  • Set 3: 6 reps
  • Set 4: 20 reps

Now, you need to select a load for that first set of 10 so that you’d have one or two reps in the tank after completing it. A good guideline for 10 reps is to choose about 60% of your 1RM.

Follow the same logic for Sets 2 and 3. Again, a guideline would be 70% 1RM for 8 reps and 75% for 6 reps.

When you come to the 4th set you need to select a load that will get you at least to 15 reps. This means you will get a really good pump by 20 and possibly even fail. A guideline for this is about 50% of your 1RM.

Descending Pyramid Pump

This is where you start heavier and drop the weight with every set.

Your reps should look something like this:

  • Set 1: 6 reps
  • Set 2: 8 reps
  • Set 3: 10 reps
  • Set 4: 20 reps

If you apply the same reasoning as for the ascending pyramid, you would start with roughly 75% and descend to 60% of your 1RM before finally doing a set of 20 at about 50%.

Remember, those are only examples. You can play with the numbers to find what works the best for you, but the ultimate goal of the exercise is to finish on a massive pump.

What this achieves is to prime your muscles with the first 3 heavier sets. Changing the load and reps slightly activates the muscle more completely.

The 4th and final pump set then floods those primed muscles with blood, oxygen and nutrients. The pump fills the cells of the muscles, thereby creating tension and stimulating the cascade of reactions that results in anabolic growth.

For some people, staring heavy with a descending pyramid is difficult. If that is the case then the ascending pyramid might be a better match.

What I find with the ascending pyramid – where you increase the load per set – is that the change from the 3rd set (with the heaviest weight) to the 4th ‘pump’ set (with the lightest weight) is dramatic, and really lets you put some power into the last set.

However, on days when you are feeling good and feel you can lift heavy first, i.e. with the descending pyramid, you can put some bigger lifts in at the start because you haven’t fatigued yourself.

Of course, it’s always best to ramp up to the heavy weight with some warm up sets, but you should not do to many reps in the warm up so that you don’t waste energy.

After warming up, you can rack a heavier weight than 75% 1RM for the descending sets – maybe start with 80% and add a little per week. This makes you work a little harder on strength building for the first set, before moving on to hypertrophy with the following sets and then the muscle pump set at the end.

When you hit the heaviest sets first, you will recruit the most muscle fibres possible, which results in greater muscle growth and strength improvements. You can also take each set to near failure, or failure, which is again great for stimulating growth. In that sense, it’s a bit like a drop set.

Following an ascending pyramid, you cannot work to failure on each set because the next set will be heavier and you will miss the first rep if you do.

The downside of descending pyramids is that you are more prone to injury because you are beginning with the heaviest weight. To reiterate, a good warm up is crucial for heavy lifting.

For people who have been lifting less than 6 months, I would advise sticking to ascending pyramids for the time being.

Once you are confident that you have developed your core strength, stabilization muscles, and accustomed your ligaments and tendons to heavy lifting, you can think about doing descending pyramids.

By the way, some people call descending pyramids, ‘reverse’ pyramids. It’s all the same.

Diamonds, Octahedrons and Triangles

Pyramids are a linear way of looking at progressive load selection relative to repetition count in weight lifting. You don’t really have decide between ascending or descending pyramids at all.

You can do both.

Ascend then descend.

I call these “diamonds”, but other people call them triangles (they are wrong). If you put two pyramids base to base you get an octahedron. Basically an 8-sided 3 dimensional diamond (or rhombus).

Why does that matter?

It doesn’t.

Anyway, it’s probably best to stick with 2 dimensional descriptions given that all we’re talking about here is a visual representation of increasing and decreasing weight.

Diamonds it is.

With these, you get most of the best of both worlds. You can ascend from about 60% of your 1RM to your 75-80% weight and then descend back to 60% and then finish with a 50% pump set.

This allows for the slower increase to heavy weight, but also lets you let the failure sets loose on the backside of the workout.

The only drawback of diamonds is that you aren’t getting maximum muscle recruitment because you aren’t hitting the heaviest weight off the bat.

Nonetheless, they are excellent for stimulating muscle growth. and the pump is ridiculous.

Four and Five Rep Volume Increments

Before we get into this, let’s just recap on Tri-Set Pyramids and Pyramid Pumps.

With tri-set pyramids, you decrease the weight WITHIN the set itself, not resting until the 5-10-20 reps have all been completed. You also change the exercise WITHIN the set, generally moving from compound lifts to isolation movements as you go.

With regular pyramids and the pyramid pump, you increase or decrease the weight AFTER each set. You also perform the same lift/exercise with each set change.

The Four and Five Rep system I’m about to talk about has 2 variants, and they are both blends of the two I’ve just re-capped…sort of.

Variation #1

With this program, you perform exercises in the usual order: compound/multi-joint lifts, followed by lifts of increasing muscle isolation, for example:

  • Bench press
  • Incline dumbbell press
  • Cable cross over
  • Seated machine fly

Do 3 sets of each, like a regular chest/whatever workout, but each time you change to the next exercise, you add 4/5 reps to your sets.

The whole thing looks something like this:

  • Bench press – 3 sets x 4 reps
  • Incline dumbbell press – 3 sets x 8 reps
  • Cable cross over – 3 sets x 12 reps
  • Seated machine fly – 3 sets x 16 reps

The basic idea is to do your heaviest sets with your strongest lifts and continue increasing the reps as the number of recruited muscles drops, until you are doing isolation movements in the last round.

If you do this correctly, you should reach near failure on the last rep of each set and failure on the final16-rep sets, which should also give you a great pump.

By changing the rep count with each change of exercise you are hitting each of the classic rep ranges of bodybuilding to stimulate gains in both strength and size.

If I’m following this program for a while, I tend to go with 5 rep increases on lower body exercises and stick with 4 rep increases on upper body work. The bigger leg muscles really benefit from those 20 rep finishers!

Variation #2

The other way to do this is to do all the rep ranges for all the exercises. This means doing 4 sets of the same exercise with incrementally increasing rep-counts.

That means doing something like the following:

  • Back squat – 4 sets x (5, 10, 15, 20) reps
  • Landmine squats – 4 sets x (5, 10, 15, 20) reps
  • Leg press – 4 sets x (5, 10, 15, 20) reps
  • Knee extensions – 4 sets x (5, 10, 15, 20) reps

The drawback here is that you must strip weight off the machine or bar, or select different dumbbells after every set. But if you can handle that then it’s an awesome way of hitting all the rep-ranges for each part of the muscle group within a single session.

Fixed Load – Target Reps

This is a nice program you can follow for a while to help you see your goal coming closer week by week.

I like this approach because it’s really simple and adds some depth to your training and growth that you might otherwise forego. You can also do it alongside other training methods so that you don’t feel you are putting everything else aside.

Here’s what it involves:

  • Your Big 4 compound lifts – Bench, Squat, Deadlift, Shoulder press – plus the Pull Up.
    Find the weight for each exercise that you can complete 8 reps with. For the pull-ups, that might be bodyweight or assisted bodyweight – and that’s fine.
  • When your normal routine comes around to these exercises, you will complete as many reps with that original 8 rep weight as possible. Repeat this weekly until you reach your target reps.
    I suggest 15 reps is your target.

NOTE: you can either add this in as a one-set test every time or you can follow it as a program and do 3 sets of maximum reps. Follow the rest of your training as normal.

REMEMBER: Always hit that exercise first and always use the same load/weight that you could originally perform 8 reps with.

The interesting thing about this is that you are taking a weight that is on the cusp of your strength / hypertrophy boundary in terms of repetitions, and taking it to the hypertrophy / strength endurance level.

During the process, you are gaining size, strength and stamina. Of course when you reach your 15 rep goal, you will be able to increase the weight that you can do for 8 reps. And on the other end of the scale you will be able to go deep into big 20 rep volume sets with weight that you could only do for 12 reps or so before.

Sticking to it for a few weeks is tough because you will be tempted to increase the weight on the bars. It’s okay to do that, as long as the first exercise you do is to perform this benchmark test.

For me, when you have a goal like XXX lbs for XX reps, it is better to focus on that and concentrate on this as a micro-cycle. It’s only for your bigger multi-joint lifts so you can continue as normal for your smaller muscle groups and isolation exercises.

You can do it for your isolation movements too – no-one is going to stop you – but I find that exploring different rep-ranges and varying loads on the machines and cables will help your progress because it will stimulate adaptations that will help the main Fixed Load Target Reps effort.

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Role of Genetics for Muscle, Strength, Training – Hardgainers and Extreme Responders https://www.hypertrophia.com/genetics-muscle-strength-training https://www.hypertrophia.com/genetics-muscle-strength-training#respond Sun, 15 Jul 2018 15:58:02 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=99 Last updated on October 7th, 2019 Most of the time, informative health, fitness, nutrition and supplementation articles and essays that end up on our computer screens, books and magazines deal with averages and majorities. You [Read More]

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Last updated on October 7th, 2019

Genetics for Muscle, Strength, Training

Most of the time, informative health, fitness, nutrition and supplementation articles and essays that end up on our computer screens, books and magazines deal with averages and majorities.

You can’t cater to everyone due to the very nature of uniqueness. This is no more apparent than when you offer advice about strength and muscle building to an audience rather than an individual.

The bigger the group, the more generalized your advice has to be. By definition, you have to talk about averages in order to resonate with the majority.

You are, however, an individual, and for some individuals making gains in the gym is not as easy as it is for others.

The topic of genetic predetermination, giving rise to natural talents, or “gifts” as they are so often called, is a subject of unending debate.

It isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon either, and that has a lot to do with the emotional furor that can erupt when dealing with such sensitive issues.

Put two men in a room together, one a self-professed “hardgainer” and the other a professional bodybuilder. The small guy might tell the bodybuilder that he’s just lucky on a genetic level.

The bodybuilder might reply with something along the lines of, “my physique is a result of extremely hard work and determination. You are small because you don’t train like me.”

The argument could go on ad infinitum because they might both be partly correct, and partly wrong, or one might be almost 100% correct and the other almost zero.

No-one really likes the idea that you can be dealt a good genetic hand at birth, for anything, because it negates a lot of that hard work, true grit, steely determination, motivation, drive stuff and replaces it with, “meh, they just have the right genes.”

For the person with the talent, this is a pretty big blow because no matter how close to reality it is, the hard work they have actually put in has lost some meaning.

And for the person who wants the talent but can’t have it, they might have to deal with the fact that no amount of hard work will get it.

Like I said, it’s emotional.

Born With It, Or Not?

The underlying principal of success in any given skill or discipline is hard work, at least that’s what most of the free world is raised to think. “Work hard and the sky is the limit.”

It sort of craps on someone’s parade when they find out just how much of their success can be down to something they have zero control over.

People like the idea that they control their destiny, generally speaking. The notion that much of their life’s fortunes and failings are a product of genetic fate and the chance discovery of it does not sit well.

Truth be told, there’s no easy way to know the actual proportions of success in terms of “practice makes perfect” and “born talent”. At least, not with our current level of genetics science.

Even the research of innate skill/talent variations in athletes is frowned upon. Many nations’ governments are comfortable with, even built upon, the concept of the existence of a god…

…but apparently not one who, at the design stage, programs us individually with advantages or disadvantages relative to one another.

Life would be much more fair if hard-work, grit and determination were the only variables involved in skill level and success.

Alas, genes have a bigger effect than a lot of people want to accept.

Why do some people seem to make such quick progress and I can’t?

On the other hand, genetic determinists – people who think it’s all in the genes – are missing the point of practice. Practice might not make perfect, but it damn well helps.

Despite ourselves, most of us probably think our talents and skills are a combination of the genetic factor and hard-work factor.

There’s more truth in that assertion than any of the extreme points of view. Of course there’s a mix. The elite bodybuilders of the world still have to put in the work, just like the fastest marathon runners, and strongest powerlifters.

But how much impact can our genetics have on our ability to get stronger, bigger and more powerful? That is, after all, what most readers are interested in.

How much of my potential has been pre-determined for me?

What can I do to improve my strength and hypertrophy gains?

Why do some people seem to make such quick progress and I can’t?

There are so many questions. I can’t answer them all. Like I said, we just don’t know enough, and modern, western science tends to avoid the issue for fear of opening a gigantic can of worms.

Still though, some research has gotten through the cracks, and it’s overwhelmingly obvious that innate genetic variations from person to person can lead to large differences in their ability to grow massive muscles.

To the initial question: Born With it Or Not? – It’s too simplistic. For example, there isn’t a singular on/off switch for muscle growth potential in response to resistance training.

There are a bunch of genetic switches with complex variations, and yet more to be discovered, but the odds of having all the switches turned on to give you the perfect genetic propensity for muscle growth are trillions to one.

In all likelihood, there has never existed a single human being who was born with the royal flush of activated genes.

Pre-Training Variations in Body Type

Pre-Training Variations in Body Type

The fact that there can be a large genetic influence should be obvious from the start if we’re honest with ourselves.

Even before doing a single session in the gym, muscle mass varies pretty wildly from individual to individual.

Your natural size and strength is not necessarily a factor in how strong and big you can get from training, but it’s a good indicator as to what sort of template you’ve been born with.

Obviously diet and activity level as you grow up into adulthood are major factors in your “novice” strength and size, but even if those are accounted for, genetic variations make a big difference.

Bone density, size and strength variations are – all else being accounted for – highly subject to genetic combinations.

Even the distribution of slow-twitch (type 1) and fast-twitch (type 2) muscle fibers can be genetically pre-determined to a large extent.

All in all, about half of your variability relative to others in adult pre-training muscle mass, physique dimensions and skeletal structure have been dialled in before you even start training. Before you were even born!

people can have hugely different muscle growth responses to a specific resistance training exercise.

Genetic Trainability for Muscle Size and Strength

You’d think if there was any logic to this, the people who have a genetic head start – i.e. naturally bigger frames, muscle mass and strength – would be the ones who would respond the best to resistance training.

After all, why would they be naturally big and strong if it wasn’t a sign for them to be an even greater physical specimen?

To that, and any other questions of a similar philosophical flavour, I would strongly urge you to give up asking why, because that discussion quickly descends into unresolvable debates.

What we know from studying people under controlled conditions is that people can have hugely different muscle growth responses to a specific resistance training exercise.

A study looking at the differences between the subjects response to bicep training showed that the variation in muscle size ranged from about a 60% increase down to some that got smaller!

Strength-wise there were people who didn’t increase at all, to someone who increased their one rep max (1RM) by 2.5 times their starting strength.

The average response was 19% in size and 54% in strength.

In scientific studies, people who don’t improve in response to the training (or test) stimulus are called non-responders.

Note: Non-responders are only technically non-responders for the test in which they have been studied. Their biceps size and strength might not get bigger in the specific training program of the study, but they might from a differently designed program.

Also, without full body training, no-one can know whether the non-responders are only so for that muscle group.

The same subjects are not called up time and again to test different parts of their bodies, with varying training volumes and styles, so it’s impossible to say for sure what could be, given some tinkering.

Other studies, including a better designed study which controlled the nutritional intake of the subjects, give us a better picture as to what happens.

Muscle hypertrophy – the growth in size of muscle tissue – appears to be the largest variable when it comes to the differences between non-responders or hardgainers and average/extreme responders.

Putting some numbers to that: extreme responders have been observed adding four times the lean mass of a “low-responder” during a 3 month training program, with controlled nutritional intake.

Variations in strength improvements however tend to be far smaller, to the point of statistical insignificance.

How can there be such a difference in variation between strength and size trainability?

There might be a couple of reasons that combine to cause this to happen.

Firstly, when you begin a resistance training program, you will see dramatic increases in strength during the initial 2 to 3 months.

This strength boom is largely attributed to neural adaptations taking place, which is a fancy way of saying you learn how to lift heavier weight with your existing muscle mass. The ongoing discussion between your brain and muscles is fairly efficient at this and so you improve quickly.

Even really low responders/hardgainers will experience this ramp-up of strength in the early stages because their slower rate of muscle mass growth is not necessarily holding them back.

After 6 months, the strength increases might level off. We don’t really know from a research perspective because these studies don’t go for that long.

Skinny Guy

Limitations of Scientific Studies

I started this article by saying how unique everyone was and that information which fits the majority is not necessarily useful for everyone.

That is unfortunately where scientific research leaves us much of the time. Studies that have investigated the effect of genetic differences on variability of response to resistance training mostly tell us that genetics clearly play a significant role.

What they don’t offer is much in the way of solutions for people who might be considered low-responders or non-responders.

The biggest limitation is highlighted by the uniqueness of the individual subjects.

The high responders and the low responders to a particular exercise at a specific frequency with heavy weight might not be the same low and high responders to another exercise, using another muscle group, at a different training volume with low-load-high-rep training.

What’s more, studies only last for a virtual blip on the possible timescale of a person’s training career.

Given personalized training programs and a lot more time, who’s to say a “non-responder” won’t start to make real progress?

In fact, a study conducted in 2017 demonstrated that perfectly, when individually designed training programs were given to the subjects.

Every person in the study got stronger with the personal program whereas only about two-thirds of the standard cookie-cutter program participants did.

Studies are a snapshot, and only provide a glimpse. As an individual you have many years to mess with your training program and see what produces the best results for you.

Hardgainers and Non-Responders - What Are the Implications?

Hardgainers and Non-Responders – What Are the Implications?

There’s no avoiding the fact that some people are born with a better set of genes lit up than others when it comes to muscle and strength adaptations to resistance training.

You might be roughly aware of your own circumstances already if you’ve got a good base of comparison and solid observation skills, but even then it’s hard to take much away from observing similar people doing similar training.

You might be wondering if you are a “hardgainer” – the gym bro word for low/non-responder – and hoping for some kind of sign as to what you can do about it.

There are medical DNA tests but they are far from accurate and they only test for the genes that are known about, which aren’t fully understood and aren’t even very good predictors of training response potential.

A much more satisfactory approach would be to acknowledge the limited research that highlights the advantages of personalized training programs.

Something simple as increasing training volume can literally make the difference between success and failure for a hard gainer. However, it may be a reduction of training volume that is necessary if the problem you have is not allowing enough time for the recovery process plus the overcompensation/growth process to occur.

The occasional investigation like this one even broadens the measurement criteria to show that when people train, there will always be some positive response.

The same study actually followed a group of 65+ year olds and resulted in only one non-responder for strength gains.

That demonstrates again that there is a much lower rate of non-response for strength, and given it’s amongst a group of people 65 years of age and over, the chances of younger people experiencing non-response in strength numbers is as good as zero.

Training Volume and Intensity

I mentioned earlier that increasing or decreasing your training volume might be the key to unlocking some growth responsiveness from said training.

When we break muscle in the gym, it must be repaired before it overcompensates and grows bigger. Overtraining can interrupt the process even for moderate to high responders because the process is curtailed after the first recovery step by another training session, which damages them again.

One theory floating about with respect to hardgainers is that they have a larger than average inflammation reaction to the training/damage phase which may last well into the phase in which growth would normally occur.

With that in mind, if a hardgainer with this inflammation response problem trains alongside a moderate responder they might not be seeing gains purely because they are cutting the growth phase off every single time.

Training intensity can make a difference too, especially combined with volume alterations. There is evidence to show that different people respond differently to high-intensity-low-volume compared to low-intensity-high-volume.

Intensity here refers to how much weight is being lifted, and volume, how many reps/sets. Another way of looking at it is high-weight-low-reps versus low-weight-high-reps.

Muscle grows in different ways from both approaches and it’s entirely possible that people who don’t respond well to one will respond well to the other.

Consistently getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night is one of the best ways to ensure you are getting enough time to recover and grow.

What Can You Do as a Hardgainer or Low-Responder?

My advice to hardgainers, if you think you are indeed a low-responder for muscle mass and strength adaptations is to first and foremost optimize each of the variables that you have ultimate control over; diet and sleep being the most obvious.

You will be surprised at how many people aren’t eating the right amount and types of food to generate an efficient anabolic response. For a hardgainer, that aspect is going to be even more important.

Sleep is the time when our bodies can do the most muscle building. You break it in the gym and build it in bed. Consistently getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night is one of the best ways to ensure you are getting enough time to recover and grow.

Stress is another important factor to get under control. Hormones related to stress are notoriously bad for muscle growth and energy levels. Getting that additional sleep will help, as will improving your diet, but there are other things you can do. Explore them because they will help.

Once you’re on top of those aspects of life, you can look at training volume and tinker with it. The best thing is to increase it at first, because the results will be the most obvious if they change.

Within that increase of volume, you can adjust your intensity to suit your fatigue level. If you are having trouble growing muscle in size then it’s worth exploring high-volume-moderate-intensity (high rep sets of moderate weight) and tweaking the weight and rep-count up and down.

When you do this, you have to give it enough time to be allowed to work. The first adaptations to a change in training might not be apparent for a while so it may need a few of months to kick in.

Document all your numbers and muscle measurements, science the shit out of it, and enjoy the process.

Some ergogenic training supplements can help. Some type of Protein supplement is no-brainer for muscle and strength development.

I’ve also written an article on Creatine Monohydrate which you should take a look at if you haven’t already considered it. Eventually there will be many more articles related to supplementation.

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Cardio for Lifters – Get Bigger Muscles and Recover Faster with Cardio https://www.hypertrophia.com/cardio-for-lifters https://www.hypertrophia.com/cardio-for-lifters#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 16:15:36 +0000 https://www.hypertrophia.com/?p=94 I know most people who lift are mentally allergic to cardio-vascular training, but it might be the most important aversion you’ll ever overcome. Many of you would do some pretty crazy things if you knew [Read More]

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bodybuilding and cardio

I know most people who lift are mentally allergic to cardio-vascular training, but it might be the most important aversion you’ll ever overcome.

Many of you would do some pretty crazy things if you knew it would improve your muscle gains, but cardio is viewed as a muscle eating, gains robbing activity.

What if it was a muscle-augmenting activity? What if it helped your resistance training in more ways than one? What if…

What if you’re actually missing out on some strength and physique improvements?

Shock, horror, right?

Methods some strength athletes follow is to put some high intensity interval training (HIIT) into their workouts, or higher rep sets with lower weight at faster tempos, in order to check the “cardio” box”.

Bear in mind that I want you to be as strong and musclebound as possible. I’m not here to impede your progress in any way, but to advance it, so shed the skepticism now. It will serve you better.

High Intensity Interval Training Takes Different Forms

First, before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s best to make one thing clear. HIIT is whatever you want it to be, so long as it incorporates:

  1. Roughly 5 minutes of warm-up at 50-60% effort output
  2. Several short rounds of near maximal (80-90%) perceived effort – lasting 15 to 30 seconds
  3. Passive or active rest sets between rounds
  4. Roughly 5 minutes of warm down, starting at 50% effort and tapering off

Example 1 – HIIT Cycling

An example of the a classic cardio style HIIT would be to use a spin bike or static bike.

With a bike you can cycle for the whole duration, and your rounds would be about 30 seconds each at 80-90% effort (often called RPE – Rated Perceived Exertion).

The rests between rounds can be 50-60% RPE, just like the warm-up, for 90 seconds, and same for the warm-down at the end.

Example 2 – HIIT Weights

Another example would be to do HIIT with resistance training instead. Get up to 60% of your squat and deadlift 1RMs (one rep max) within a 5 minute warm-up.

As for the HI rounds, rated perceived exertion can be achieved by taking the same 60% of 1RM and repping it with fast cadence to within 1 or 2 reps of failure.

So basically stop the round when you have 1 or 2 reps left in you. For most people this will fall into the range of 8 to 15 reps.

Between each round take 90 seconds of rest.

The warm-down for the weights could be something light like walking on a treadmill or cycling very low resistance for 5 minutes.

Cardio or HIIT

So, Which Is Better – HIIT Weights or HIIT Cycling?

Logic tells us that performing HIIT weights as your cardio training would add to your strength and muscle growth gains given that it’s using some movements from your strength training.

However, this doesn’t tend to be true. In fact, if you do a fully taxing HIIT cycling session, you will feel a leg pump that rivals, or even beats, that of HIIT squats.

There’s also evidence that concurrent training in this manner, involving interval cycling and regular weights training can improve gains. This is in part due to the larger muscle groups – especially legs – having roughly equal proportions of type 1 and type 2 muscle fiber.

There has been a study carried out which directly compared these two HIIT methods.

In some areas the study was poorly designed and controls could have been better, but there were some interesting takeaways that might help you.

One such finding was strength measurements were not greatly different in the HIIT weights and the HIIT cycling groups following the study. However, like I said, there wasn’t a control group who performed strength-only training to determine what the maximum strength could be.

Either way, strength improved for both groups and the improvements were similar.

Aerobic fitness on the other hand was improved in the HIIT cycling group by enough to outweigh any study design problems. i.e HIIT cycling is better for your CV system.

Nothing really astonishing there, but with it fresh in your mind, let’s look at program design and the wider implications to muscle and strength improvements, which is why we’re all here anyway.

HIIT weights versus HIIT cycling

Fitting Cardio Into Your Training Program

High intensity interval training is unmatched with respect to cardio-vascular health and elevated rates of fat burning that results from the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

But you don’t need me to tell you that cardio is good for you. You want to know how you can manage it and still be a beast.

The first mistake that can be made is to simply bolt cardio onto their program. That’s fine if you have a moderate to low training intensity/volume as it is, but can lead to overtraining and fatigue problems if you’re already pushing your limit every week.

That also provides a segue to discussing the HIIT weights versus HIIT cycling methods. Some of you might still be thinking it’s an opportunity to add some gut-busting squat, deadlift, other compound lift, sets in to really pump up that volume and maybe add some mass.

The danger here is that you limit your output for the days when you are doing your really heavy lifts. Something you definitely don’t want to do is stagnate your strength gains by pumping out HIIT sessions a couple times a week.

In that study they said strength gains were similar but they were only measuring knee extensions which none of the participants were including in their program prior to the study. They were also using predicted 1RMs based on rep-count and fatigue, not true 1RMs.

No-one can really argue with me here: if you’re squatting and deadlifting way into the red on your cardio days, you’re not going to be able to lift your heaviest on your strength days.

So, that leaves us with HIIT cycling. The first few times you push a solid interval cycling session in, you’re going to feel it the next day, but you will get used to this, and eventually it will hardly affect your heavy lifting program at all.

Additionally, the cardio-vascular fitness improvements will help you recover faster between your heavy sets, hypertrophy sets and days in between.

If you have some body fat to lose, it’s another reason to get on the bike, and you can push it harder while staying safer than you ever could if you were doing HIIT waits to near maximal effort.

Muscle failure on the bike just means you stop and recover. On the squat rack it can be a different matter.

There’s even the possibility that you’ll get some size increase in your legs. Previous research into concurrent training indicates this as a possibility and it might be due to you building up both muscle fiber types as opposed to focusing on one.

Strong is great, but strong and fit is more likely to get you to a ripe old age.

Conclusion – Look At the Bigger Picture

I’m going to get all philosophical on you now, so be warned.

if I haven’t convinced you to introduce some intense cardio to your program then just hear me out here and I’ll say no more.

A lot of you are probably trying to increase your numbers, be it on the big three: squat, deadlift and bench, or just in general across the board.

I get that, I really do, but it’s important to remember that it’s all for nothing if we don’t have our health. And CV work is health, ladies and gents.

Strong is great, but strong and fit is more likely to get you to a ripe old age.

Some guys walk on treadmills for 40 minutes – you’ll see the biggest bodybuilders doing this all the time. It’s like they are afraid their muscles will melt if they do anything more intense.

The light treadmill walking thing is like a virus that has made its way to all gyms everywhere. Big guys just do it.

No wonder they are bored off their minds. Walking in a gym sucks.

Whereas, a hard interval session on a big will fly past and be done before you even know it.

The hardcore results you will get from it once you have done it for a few weeks will make you a believer, trust me. And the swole-factor is ridiculous.

Additionally, you won’t be so taxed from a cardio-vascular standpoint during your lifting sessions, which might ultimately lead to increased volume or intensity on the whole.

I’ll finish this article with a bit of practical advice. It’s true that when you do your cardio the day before your leg workout, you might feel some of the fatigue the following day, at least for the first few times you do it.

The workaround is to alternate the upper and lower body according to the program you are following. I haven’t mentioned the rowing machine in this article yet but it’s about to come into your life in a big way.

The day before leg day, do your interval/HIIT cardio on the rowing machine. The day before chest or shoulder day do you HIIT cycling.

Could anything be simpler or more elegant than that?

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