Archive for the ‘strength’ Category

Sports Supplements

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Different supplements have got different effects but in general if you are training as hard as you possibly can you are going to want to take something even if it’s just a multivitamin.

The reality is that most people don’t train hard enough to justify the supplements they are on but they can be very useful.

Before taking any supplements you need to understand which level of training you are at and then get the appropriate stuff. You also need to make sure your basics are squared away. If your diet is crap, you don’t get enough sleep or your training program is rubbish no amount of expensive powders will make you big and strong.

So here is a guide for three basic levels of training, keep in mind that these are cumulative which means that people at the advanced/competitive level need to take everything from the levels below as well.

Before you think about supplementation check the following

1. Are you eating 3 solid meals a day + 2 – 3 snacks each containing some protein, carbs and good fats

2. Are you training at least 4 days a week with a focus on the big basics like deadlifts, squats, bench press, chinups and military press.

3. Are you getting 7- 9 hours of sleep a night.

If the answer to any of these is a no then spending big bucks on supplements is going to be a waste of time.

Level 1 – Beginners

During the first 6 months to 1 year of serious training it’s unlikely that you’ll need much more than lots of food and some hard training to make gains.

Supplements at this level are restricted to stuff that’s cheap and highly effective.

Multivitamin – Train hard and chances are that you’ll be working your bodies vitamin and mineral stores a bit harder than the average couch potato. While you may be getting enough from your diet a multivitamin is good insurance and costs bugger all.

Protein – Plain Whey Protein Concentrate mixed with whole milk 2-3 times a day. No need for fancy pants stuff that’s been bioengineered to death.

Fish oil – 3 – 6 caps a day for general heart, brain and joint health. Start now and never stop taking it.

Sports drinks – Gatorade or similar during hard training to replace electrolytes and provide energy. Avoid if your goal is fat loss.

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Jim Wendlers 5-3-1 for maximum strength

Monday, November 2nd, 2009
Pulling 240kg in April

Pulling 240kg in April

In my experience the vast majority of athletes are always on the look out for the magic program that is going to boost their performance into the stratosphere while making them 10X sexier to the opposite sex.

They are normally impatient for the performance and sexiness to arrive and try 4, 6, 8 or 12 week super cycles that promise the world but often deliver overtraining, frustration and injury instead of results.

While it may not provide instant results or sexiness (your mileage may vary) Jim Wendlers 5-3-1 system is a definite antidote to the endless skipping through radical plans.

It’s more of the slow cooker approach to strength development and if you’ve got a tiny bit of patience for the first few weeks then you’ll reap some big rewards.

I’ve been using 5-3-1 now for a few months, testing out variations of the program in my own training and want to share some observations so that you can decide if it’s a good option for your training.

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Training to Failure

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

One of the questions that I get asked a fair bit is about the concept of training to failure in bodybuilding, kettlebell training and strngth and conditioning.

The other day on one of the forums I post on the following question came up.

It’s always said not to train to failure. What I’m wondering is why?

I’ve done it a little lately to vary it up, and while it really smashes me I at least feel some progress. Learnt the hard way though to do it close to bed time, cause if I go to failure (or beyond with lowered weight) a few times with small break in between I’m absolutely wrecked till I sleep a while.

After answering the question I thought i might as well pu tthe answer up here because i’m sure other people would have the same question!

So here is what I wrote…

This is a fairly complicated subject and depending on who you talk to you’ll get lots of different opinions.

I’ll try to simplify things to the three most common scenarios.

1. Muscle mass – Training to failure is an easy way to ensure progress when trying to build muscle.

Basically a fairly high volume of work with moderately heavy weights leads to a break down in muscle fibres and the bodies response is to build more muscle to compensate.

Due to some quirks of physiology though not all the muscle is contractile fibre (the bit that lifts stuff) so you can get bigger muscles but you aren’t necessarily as strong as you look. You still get stronger but just not the same way that pure strength athletes do.

Bodybuilders who train to failure in the 8 – 12rep range are in the muscle building zone and will often experience delayed onset muscle soreness.

2. Strength and power – strength is more neurological than most people think. When aiming to develop maximal strength and power you need to lift as heavy as possible but not necessarily to the point of failure.

By avoiding failure you recover more quickly and therefore can train more often. Like all skills the more often you practice the better you get.

This is why olympic lifters favour low reps (1-5 and mostly 1-3) and often twice daily training. They never train to failure in multi rep sets and only really “fail” during one rep max attempts when the weight is too high to lift.

Olympic lifters still get DOMS sometimes and initially they often build a lot of muscle mass but then tend to plateau when they get to the body weight they want to compete at.

3. Muscular endurance –
When the goal is high rep local muscular endurance (20+reps) for things like pushups you can train effectively either with multiple sets of sub maximal numbers or you can hammer away at training to failure. Either will work for a while and then it’s probably best to switch.

During long sets or circuits you end up with different types of failure if you push to the limit. You can experience metabolic failure where the muscles don;t have enough energy to contract or a build up in acid levels is inhibiting contraction. When this happens you’ll stop because you are out of breath basically. You can also get the same type of failure as doing bodybuilding type training whereby you might have the energy to do the reps but you’ve run out of nueromuscular juice.

At the end of the day you need to overload the muscles and your energy systems and try to progress every few sessions, once something stops working switch to a slightly different plan and start again!