POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION – KEEPING IT 100

Shades of Rosie the Riveter

                     POST-WORKOUT NUTRITION – KEEPING IT 100

Let’s talk about nutrition and supplementation as it relates to performance enhancement, but for a real change of pace let’s keep it 100.  Yes, I went there and used that term.  What of it? 😉

Larry Wilmore of the Nightly Show knows how to keep it 100!

Larry Wilmore of the Nightly Show knows how to keep it 100!

Supplement company owners and their proxy shills have written a LOT of information over the years on the topic, but the end game was almost invariably to promote their products via massively overstated claims of what would happen if you used them.  They most certainly were NOT keeping it 100…

Post-Workout

It has been touted for years that consuming protein after training is a necessity for improved and or optimized recovery.  This idea does have some merit, but it is not the entire truth.  It first came about as a result of protein supplement companies seizing upon research that showed consuming protein post-workout could more quickly place your body in an anabolic state, and additional research showing whey in particular can powerfully promote enhanced protein synthesis.

Drink a shake and you will look just like this guy.  Errrr... maybe not...

Drink a shake and you will look just like this guy. Errrr… maybe not…

The thing about studies is that to be scientifically valid they have to be highly controlled.  The studies which show the most potent impact of post-workout consumption of protein were done with trainees who had fasted beforehand.  Most of them had fasted for 12 or more hours before an intense training session and then consumed the requisite amount of protein after the session was complete.  That is not how it goes in real life for the majority of trainees.  Sure, some train in a fasted state the first thing in morning, but the majority have consumed a meal, or several meals prior to their training session.  Most meals consumed in Western culture have a fair amount of fat content and will take 4-6 hours to be fully digested.  That means that amino acids from the foods consumed will be deposited into the bloodstream for roughly that period of time.

One of the reasons post-workout protein consumption is theorized to be effective is that it provides the substrate, or fuel (in the form of amino acids) for the enhanced protein synthesis environment which is realized after an intense training session.  Another reason is that specific amino acids such as leucine are know to be a catalyst for an enhancement of protein synthesis even beyond that already present in the post-workout state.  If said amino acids are already present in the bloodstream from a previously ingested meal will the consumption of additional protein make a meaningful difference?  The answer is probably not.  Probably not?  What is this heresy?

Fuel baby!

Fuel baby!

Bodybuilders and strength athletes in general have been brainwashed into believing they must ingest WAY more protein than needed in order to facilitate optimized recovery and potential super-compensation.  The truth of the matter is that barring a low calorie pre-contest diet in which a bodybuilder might be engaged, the vast majority of strength athletes consume more than enough protein in their daily diets and do NOT need to supplement them with additional protein.

This guy is probably brainwashed...

This guy is probably brainwashed…

So Why Does AtLarge Nutrition Sell Supplements?

If the above is true why do we sell protein supplements (Nitrean and Opticen Natural)?  I/we sell them because they DO have a purpose and use, it just isn’t what the industry has drilled into your minds for decades.  Protein supplements are a product of convenience.  They truly are a SUPPLEMENT to a sound diet and training routine.  Despite what I noted above I DO feel it is a good idea to consume protein (and carbohydrates) post-workout as a form of insurance that your body has what it needs to optimize recovery.  A protein shake is a great way to get that protein.  I don’t know about you, but after I bust my ass in the gym I’m not necessarily in the mood to eat right away, but consuming a shake is no problem.

Protein shakes also have value as the lowest calorie possible source of quality whole protein.  If you are on a calorically restricted diet a quality protein shake will thus provide a complete protein with minimized caloric content.  Incorporating such a shake into your diet can allow you to hit your daily macronutrient goals while concurrently consuming a more varied diet and thus potentially more healthful and satisfying fare.

What About Carbs?

Protein is not the only macronutrient which can help to optimize post-workout recovery.  Carbohydrates, a blend of quick, moderate, and slow absorbing with an emphasis on the quick is the best way to go.  The previously stated meal absorption argument still applies here, but perhaps to a slightly lesser degree.  What many individuals don’t know about carbohydrates and the post-workout environment, and this is especially true with the recent popularity of low carbohydrate diets, “Paleo” diets, and so on, is that carbohydrates and the insulin spike they can elicit serve multiple beneficial purposes after an intense training session.  First, the quick absorbing carbs you consume will provide nearly immediate substrate for glycogen replenishment.  Glycogen is a stored form of glucose in the muscles (and liver) and used to fuel intense training.  The replenishment of glycogen is considered to be integral to overall recovery, and the more quickly it occurs the better.  Second, quick absorbing carbs elicit a potent insulin response by the body.  Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone which can enhance recovery both by enhancing glycogen AND protein synthesis.  Its specific effect(s) on protein synthesis is equivocal, but at the very least it has a permissive effect.  Its effect on glycogen synthesis is incontrovertible, it essentially “supercharges” it.  End game, the presence of insulin in the post-workout physiological environment is profound as it further enhances the already enhanced synthesis of both protein and glycogen.  Anabolic state anyone?

What is the Take Home Message?

The take home message is the consumption of both protein and carbohydrates after an intense training session is a good idea and doing it with a shake is a convenient, and efficient way to do so.  In the case of my company and products the solution for post-workout shakes is Opticen Natural (which contains 30g of protein and roughly 41g of a carbohydrate blend), Nitrean Natural plus RESULTS 2.0, or Opticen Natural and RESULTS 2.0 for the athlete with higher carbohydrate requirements (endurance athletes etc.).

Nitrean Natural

Nitrean Natural

Do I want you to purchase and use AtLarge Nutrition’s products?  Heck yes I do, but I want you to do so for the right reasons, in the right way, and I want you to have a solid understanding of what is occurring in your body after you train.  I hope this short article has done just that.

 

 

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.

Strength Training Application for Improved Athletic Performance

Louie Simmons still kicking ass well into his 60s.

Strength Training Application for Improved Athletic Performance

by Chris Mason

I hate to appear to be a name dropper, but I want to give credit where it is due.  So, at the risk of appearing to be the former I was recently visiting with my friend Louie Simmons.  As the majority of readers will know Louie is one of the most famous and brilliant strength coaches in the world.  The man has been responsible for an innumerable number of strength training processes and innovations which permeate the athletic world (board presses, accommodating resistance in the form of chains and bands, his patented Reverse-Hyper devices, box squats, and the list goes on and on).

Louie Simmons still kicking ass well into his 60s.

Louie Simmons still kicking ass well into his 60s.

Louie is also a noted author in the field with a mountain of published articles as well as several books (you can buy them at www.westside-barbell.com).  When discussing one of his soon to be released books we got back to the basics of his methodology in terms of how strength training relates to enhancing athletic performance.  One of the first statements Louie made on the subject related to how many strength coaches simply don’t seem to get it.  For instance, sprinting coaches often run their athletes into oblivion.  He said if you want to get faster you have to get stronger, period.

Put that last sentence on social media and watch it get vehemently attacked by most of the “experts” in the strength training industry.  You would see statements like strength only increases speed up to a certain level of strength and then a further increase does virtually nothing.  That is partially accurate, but as with most things in life there is much more to it than that, and now we have reached the crux of Louie’s success.  You see, over many years of study and application with the all-time record setting athletes at his gym and from all over the world, Louie has learned that if you want to improve any end of the strength spectrum optimally you have to improve the entire spectrum simultaneously.  In other words, if you want more strength endurance you also have to improve your starting strength, explosive strength, absolute strength and so on.

If technique is perfected the only way to get faster is to get stronger.

If technique is perfected the only way to get faster is to get stronger.

To be clear, if one particular portion of the strength spectrum is the primary goal that should be the main focus of the training regimen, but not developing the other forms of strength will retard progress and reduce results.  So, in the initially mentioned example of a sprinter above, absolute/maximal strength must be a component of the training program because strength endurance, starting strength, reactive strength and so on cannot be optimized without simultaneously increasing maximal strength.

I think a good way to visualize the strength spectrum and how to best increase any particular point on it is to envision filling a bucket with sand.  You can pour sand in the middle, but you can’t appreciably increase the height of any particular point of the sand in the bucket until you fill in the diameter of the bucket throughout the full circumference.  In the same way, you can’t maximize maximal strength without increasing starting strength, explosive strength, speed strength, strength speed and so on across the spectrum.

While the above concept may seem intuitive, it is anything but in the strength training and athletic performance world.  Most performance coaches focus almost exclusively on the portion of the strength spectrum specific to their sport and thus dramatically limit the results which can be achieved by their athletes.  Louie Simmons’ Westside methodology addresses the entire spectrum with a focus on the specific portion of the spectrum most relevant to the sport of choice.  THAT is why Louie’s methods are the most effective in the business.

In case you missed it, the moral of this story is to train the entire strength spectrum (and do the research so you know how) and focus on the portion which is specific to your sport of choice.

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

CrossFit Gals

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

by Chris Mason

With the recent massive increase in the popularity of training multiple fitness components simultaneously (CrossFit being the driving force of this movement) the topic of exercise sequencing for optimal results has become particularly poignant.

CrossFit Gals

Physical fitness and performance are comprised of many different specific attributes. For example, strength has many forms all of which contribute to the body’s ability to move through space. Strength can be viewed as a spectrum ranging from starting strength (the ability to produce maximal force in the first 30 milliseconds of movement), to explosive strength (the ability to very quickly, albeit not quite as quickly as starting strength, generate a high degree of force), to maximal strength (the ability to volitionally produce the highest force possible). Muscular endurance, the ability to produce relatively low levels of force for prolonged periods, also has a strata with things like speed endurance and strength endurance.

Each attribute above and more must be trained in order to excel physically across a broad spectrum of performance markers. In short, you must get good at a lot of stuff to be a well-rounded athlete. The decathlete has historically best exemplified the all-around athlete, but the best of the best CrossFitters now equally well personify one.

Bruce Jenner is definitely the most famous decathlete

Bruce Jenner is definitely the most famous decathlete

As training time is limited for most athletes those that seek to be all-around machines must organize their training to permit optimized adaptation to all physical traits which are being worked. If all, or multiple attributes are to be trained in a single session the order should be as follows:

1) Technique or skill work
2) Speed work
3) Strength work
3) Endurance work of all forms with speed endurance work being done first to be followed by lower intensity prolonged exercise

Following the order prescribed above will allow for maximized results within the confines of training multiple attributes in a single session. A similar order should be followed when training will target multiple attributes via individual sessions over the course of several days. Care must be taken in those situations to permit recovery of the nervous system after endurance work prior to the next skill, speed, and or strength session. Either a day or two of rest or active rest are recommended.

A Special Note about the Nervous System and Performance

Technique or skill work for athletics are generally understood to be essentially wholly a function of the nervous system. What is perhaps less generally well known is that strength and speed work are also almost exclusively the domain of the nervous system. They may be less known in the scientific sense, but we can all empirically appreciate it as each of us have tried, at one point or another, to perform a high intensity activity when already fatigued from a lower intensity effort and know the sense of a lack of coordination and explosiveness which are manifest at such times.

This gentleman exemplifies the neural dominance of demonstrable strength

This gentleman exemplifies the neural dominance of demonstrable strength

The Why

In a simplified nutshell, lower intensity prolonged activities exert a negative effect on the nervous system in the short and mid-term. They reduce coordination, increase reaction time, and increase the chance of injury when higher intensity activities succeed them prior to complete recovery.
There is a paucity of scientific explanation for the specific causes of this central nervous system fatigue (central fatigue). One generally agreed upon factor is an increase of serotonin (5-HT) in the brain. This is thought to occur due to an increase in brain levels of free tryptophan (f-TRP) which is an amino acid precursor for 5-HT production.

During prolonged exercise f-TRP transport across the blood brain barrier increases due to two main causes. One has to do with tryptophan and albumin. Tryptophan (TRP) binds to albumin in the blood. During endurance exercise, blood borne fatty acid levels increase. Fatty acids displace TRP from binding to albumin thus increasing f-TRP.
The other main cause relates to branched chain amino acids (BCAA). F-TRP (i.e. unbound TRP) competes with the BCAA for transport to the brain thus a decrease in circulating BCAA will result is more f-TRP being able to pass to the brain. Prolonged exercise decreases circulating BCAA as the skeletal muscles take them up and oxidize them for energy.

A Wrap

While the science as to the specific physiologic cause(s) of central fatigue is scant, there is no lack of scientific and empirical evidence verifying the existence of central fatigue as a result of prolonged endurance exercise. There is also no lack of scientific and empirical data verifying the proper sequencing of exercise for specific adaptations. Take care to properly sequence your training and you will permit the best results possible.

Chris Mason

Chris Mason is the owner of AtLarge Nutrition, LLC and an accomplished author in the fitness genre. He has written for numerous websites and magazines to include The CrossFit Journal and Iron Man Magazine.

ANOTHER ATLARGE NUTRITION CUSTOMER TRANSFORMATION!

Garrett showing off the guns!

Another customer recently contacted us with their personal transformation story.  In his own words:

“Hey AtLarge , my name is Garrett Strout. I am a 19 year old amateur bodybuilder. I am 6’2 and 244 pounds.  I am currently prepping for a few competitions in 2015, hoping to do 3 next year. I should be walking on stage at about 210-220 pounds. I had a big transformation, I went from a 270 pound 15 year old who was bullied everyday to the bodybuilder I am today.  I am an avid user of many of your products. I’m ADDICTED to my BCAA+! !”

Going from a very out of shape 270 lbs 15 year old to a lean machine at 244 lbs is a great transformation Garrett!  Good look with your first bodybuilding shows.

Garrett showing off the guns!

Garrett showing off the guns!

Garrett hitting a rear double biceps

Garrett hitting a rear double biceps

PML for Optimized Injury Prevention & Repair by Chris Mason

Scott Mendelson sporting a significantly worse pec tear than me :)

Progressive Mechanical Loading for Injury Rehabilitation/Prevention

by Chris Mason

Progressive Mechanical Loading (PML) is a term I have coined to describe what I have found to be the most effective injury rehabilitation/prevention method in my nearly 30 years in the iron game.  PML is deceptively simple, but as Occam’s razor suggests, the most effective solutions need not always be overly complicated or exotic in nature.

Aristotle writes in his Posterior Analytics, “We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [all things being equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses.”

PML involves the use of progressive resistance to condition tissue (skeletal muscular, connective, even osseous) to either prevent injury when the extreme forces of heavy loading or explosive training are employed, or when injury occurs, to facilitate a speedier and more complete recovery.

The incomparable Louie Simmons with one of his finest proteges, Laura Phelps Sweatt.

The incomparable Louie Simmons with one of his finest proteges, Laura Phelps Sweatt.

I first became aware of the the general concept from Louie Simmons (www.westside-barbell.com).  I had torn my right pec major relatively significantly and had called Louie to receive counsel.  In short, Louie told me to get back to benching almost immediately.  Start extremely light (use 20+ rep sets), use high frequency, and very gradually increase the loading over time.  I did exactly that, well almost exactly…  I probably started heavier than I should have using 95 lbs.  I think I did 9 reps the first time.  All I did was the one set and stopped at 9 reps because it literally felt like the pec was going to completely tear from the bone with each rep (which Louie had warned me would happen).  I moved the weight slowly with what can best be characterized as perfect form.  I did this daily trying to get more reps each time.  When I got to 20 reps I increased the load by 10 lbs and started over doing as many reps as possible.  After about four weeks of daily benching (one set each day) I went to benching every other day continuously trying to progress in reps and resistance.  When I got to the mid 200s for 20 reps I began to increase the loading and decrease the reps first doing sets of 12 and over the course of a few more weeks moving down to sets of 5-8 reps and so on.

Scott Mendelson sporting a significantly worse pec tear than me :)

Scott Mendelson sporting a significantly worse pec tear than me :)

The method worked, and worked very well.  I believe it resulted both in faster and superior healing of the injury.  I am now benching more than ever and have not experienced lingering problems from the injury.  There is science to back the concept.  My buddy Shaun did some post-graduate research at the University of Virginia (10 minutes from my home).  The focus of his research was the regeneration of connective tissue.  Convenient, eh?  To make a long story short we were out having a drink one night at a local university haunt called Boylan Heights.  Well, maybe more than one drink…. Anyway, while discussing the topic he told me about research which showed that when the skeletal muscle associated with damaged (in this case I believe it was a partially severed tendon) connective tissue is mechanically stressed it causes a chemical cavalcade which results in increased signaling for the repair of the damaged tissue.  This information simply reinforced what I had discovered empirically.  Rest for an injury is not ideal, rather mechanical loading of the tissue such that the injury is not exacerbated, but the tissue is still sufficiently stimulated to more aggressively repair itself, is what leads to optimized recovery.

Even 400 lbs giants like Rich Williams have to be careful when trying novel, or infrequently used exercises.

Even 400 lbs giants like Rich Williams have to be careful when trying novel, or infrequently used exercises.

I mentioned in the beginning of this article that PML can be used for both injury repair and prevention.  For injury prevention a modified version of the technique is employed.  In the spirit of full disclosure, what I am referring to here is just an extension of the concept of GPP (General Physical Preparedness) and the first couple of micro cycles in classic periodization.  The difference is it is a highly specific adaptation of these concepts.  Its primary use is for the seasoned lifter/athlete who has developed an excellent strength base and plans to try something new, or something they have not done in a long time.  You see, the body’s adaptation to exercise is extremely specific.  For example, take a lifter who back squats, but never performs front squats with regularity.  The primary movers for both movements are the same, but the relative emphasis on them varies due to the changes in the location of the load and thus the movement of the body and joints.  The variation in movement is also dramatically different for the nervous system.

The variation in the movement pattern and thus variation in stress on the musculature and connective tissue can lead to injury if the more advanced athlete too quickly attempts maximal loads.  This is because the force production capacity of the involved musculature may exceed the mechanical stress absorbing capacity of the connective tissues for the specific movement pattern of the front squat, or any new, or not regularly used movement.  PML can address this by building the connective tissue for the specific movement pattern prior to the use the of maximal loads.

The basic principle of progression for this use of PML is similar to that used for injury repair, but differs in initial loading.  The initial loading will be significantly greater than that used for injury repair.  It will still be relatively light, but in this case the selected resistance should be heavy enough that it is difficult to complete 20 repetitions.  The frequency is also less, more akin to that of your normal training, and the progression of resistance can be faster, but should still cover four to five weeks prior to reaching loads of 90% or greater.

Savvy use of PML will lead to less injury, faster recovery if injury does occur, and the ability to more quickly progress in one’s strength or athletic training.  Give it try, you will not regret the decision.

 

New Year – New You! Rodney did it and so can you with AtLarge!

Rodney at 206 lbs hitting an ab shot

Rodney H. has been using AtLarge’s products for the past three years and his transformation has been amazing!

Rodney is a real AtLarge Nutrition customer who recently sent our owner, Chris Mason, these pictures as a way of saying thank you for both ALN supplements and for Chris’ nutrition advice (Rodney had used the contact us link on our site and had read Chris’ Fat Loss Made Simple – http://atlargenutrition.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/atlarge_nutrition_fat_loss_program.pdf).

Rodney did not make this transformation overnight, it took nearly three years.  We know other companies sell you on overnight fixes, we don’t do business that way.  We provide you the best products possible and the best training and nutrition information possible.

If you want to make meaningful and lasting progress in 2015 AtLarge Nutrition is where you want to do business.  We can help you just like we helped Rodney (and make no mistake, Rodney was the driver of his change, we just provided some of the tools).

Rodney used ALN’s Nitrean+ and now Nitrean Natural, Pre-Workout, and RESULTS to achieve his goals.

Rodney before at 358 lbs

Rodney before at 358 lbs

Rodney after at 206 lbs!

Rodney after at 206 lbs!

Rodney again at 358 lbs

Rodney again at 358 lbs

Rodney at 206 lbs hitting an ab shot

Rodney at 206 lbs hitting an ab shot

 

ALN Black Friday Sale – BIG SAVINGS!

black-friday

AtLarge Nutrition Black Friday Sale!

Code: black

Save 15% off every supplement we offer!

PLUS, GET A PRE-WORKOUT AND BCAA+ FOR ONLY $55.20 – THAT’S A $32.70 SAVINGS!!

*Sale ends Friday at midnight P.S.T – NO exceptions

 

We have just released our Nitrean Natural all-natural protein line (no artificial sweeteners, drug free, grass fed whey sources, and more).  This sale event is the perfect time to give it a try and see what all of the hype is about!

 

Want to save on a performance stack?  Order these products:

Pre-Workout – 1 serving 40 min. before training

Nitrean Natural – 1.5 scoops in water post-workout

RESULTS – 1 serving post workout on training days and 1 serving with a meal on off days

 

Order now!  Great holiday gifts for your fitness minded friends and family.

ALN Gobble-Gobble Sale!

Gobble Gobble

ALN Gobble-Gobble Sale!

SALE CODE: 241ETS

It’s time to gobble up some savings with AtLarge Nutrition! Now through Monday, November 10. Order now while supplies last!

Our top selling recovery supplement ETS is unique in the industry. It can enhance general recovery, reduce delayed onset muscular soreness, help with minor joint pain, and enhance the quality of your sleep. No other product comes close to offering its wide array of potential benefits.

For a very limited time, order one Nitrean+, Opticen+, Pre-Workout, and or RESULTS and get two ETS for the price of one. That is a $38.95 savings!!!

Ex. Place an order for a Pre-Workout ($59.95) and then add two ETS to your cart. Enter the code sale code 241ETS and you will get a credit for $38.95 (your total will be reduced by $38.95)!

Hypertrophy Specific Training CAN Have a Direct Effect on Maximal Strength

Holly knows that training is about health AND performance.  Nitrean Natural is the perfect protein for her.

Hypertrophy Specific Training CAN Have a Direct Effect on Maximal Strength

by Chris Mason

Dennis James seems to know something about hypertrophy specific training...

Dennis James seems to know something about hypertrophy specific training…

On my drive home this evening my mind wandered as it often does.  During the process I came to what should be an obvious, but was instead a bit of an epiphany, at least at the conscious level, conclusion about hypertrophy training as it relates to maximal strength.  That conclusion was that hypertrophy training can have more than an indirect effect on maximal strength.

Holly knows the importance of hypertrophy specific training for strength.

Holly knows the importance of hypertrophy specific training for strength.

It is absolutely true that hypertrophy training indirectly aids maximal strength assuming the trainee also includes maximal strength training in their regimen.  This is due to the fact that a percentage of any hypertrophy that occurs in skeletal muscle is comprised of an increase in the size, and thus potential force production of the contractile myofibrils (actin and myosin).  Maximal strength specific work in the form of high intensity, low repetition training then permits the nervous system to harness the increased force production potential of the larger myofibrils and the athlete is able to lift ever greater maximal loads.

Branch Warren has some serious size in his lower body.

Branch Warren has some serious size in his lower body.

With that said, my epiphany relative to a direct effect of hypertrophy specific training on maximal strength stems from the fact that I realized that hypertrophy training is also a form of strength endurance training, and that strength endurance can play a role in a one repetition maximum attempt.  The connection lies in the fact that any maximal strength demonstration, by definition, will move relatively slowly.  The success or failure of a given max attempt can thus partly depend on how long the athlete can produce maximal force, or the rate of reduction in maximal force production.  In theory, enhancing strength endurance can enhance the length of time the athlete can produce maximal force.

Think of it this way, and I will greatly simplify for the sake of argument (taking joint angles and varying forces etc. out of it); if it takes 301 lbs of force to bench press 300 lbs and the lifter starts the press by producing 310 lbs of force which then rapidly declines to 305 lbs, and then 301 lbs, and finally 298 lbs before the completion of the press, they might miss the lift.  Conversely, if via hypertrophy specific training the lifter has built their strength endurance to the point they can prolong their ability to produce maximal force, and or mitigate the rate of reduction of force production, the likelihood they can grind out a maximal attempt increases.

Jeremy Hoornstra is one of the best bench pressers in history.

Jeremy Hoornstra is one of the best bench pressers in history.

The above begs the question of how a strength athlete can use this concept to their benefit.  At face value it might seem that hypertrophy specific training would be counterproductive for the strength athlete relegated to a weight class other than superheavyweight.  When it comes to the human body that which seems obvious isn’t always the case.  An important component of skeletal muscular hypertrophy when considering an individual whose level of muscular development is anything beyond a rote beginner is total caloric intake.  If the athlete controls their total caloric intake and practices hypertrophy specific training not much in the way of actual hypertrophy will occur, but the adaptation of increased muscular endurance will still be manifest given proper rest etc.  So, even for the strength athlete that does not want a significant increase in skeletal muscle mass, hypertrophy specific training can be of benefit to their absolute strength and performance.

If you have followed me or my companies at all for the past several years you already know I am a firm believer in Louie Simmons and his Westside Barbell training system (www.westside-barbell.com).  I have known his system is highly effective for some time, but the more I learn and contemplate the ramifications of what I learn, the more I begin to understand why.  Relative to this article, Westside includes hypertrophy specific training directly alongside maximal strength training, and I think that fact is lost on a lot of trainees.  The accessory work which is at the core of the Westside system is, for all intents and purposes, bodybuilding.  Its inclusion aids maximal strength in exactly the manner I have defined above.

To further illustrate the effects of hypertrophy specific work and enhancing strength endurance for maximal strength we need look no further than one of Louie’s disciples and a story Louie loves to relate when telling about his system.  Travis Bell is a natural athlete who is a tremendous bench presser (570+ lbs raw and nearly 900 lbs shirted at around 260 lbs body weight).  Travis began training at Westside several years ago and has made amazing progress since being there.  At one point, when Travis’ training had stagnated, Louie had instructed him to add sets of 100 repetition band pushdowns supersetted with lying extensions after his standard triceps work.  As Louie tells it, Travis’ triceps blew up to over 20″ in short order and his bench press followed suit.

Travis Bell at Westside

Travis Bell at Westside

Bottom line, if you want to be as strong as possible do not shy away from hypertrophy specific/strength endurance work.  Make it a part of your regimen and optimize your training results.

Intensity vs. Volume for Hypertrophy (includes a 4 day split routine)

Vic Richards was definitely at or near his genetic potential!

Intensity vs. Volume for Hypertrophy (includes a 4 day split routine)

by Chris Mason

My last article addressed how to get bigger legs in 30 days using a form of double pre-exhaustion with a very high intensity of effort and low volume.  I addressed how hypertrophy can benefit strength athletes from bodybuilders to weightlifters with some detail, but I did not directly touch on the topic of intensity vs. volume as it relates to hypertrophy.

John Defendis definitely had the vacuum pose down!

John Defendis definitely had the vacuum pose down!

Intensity vs. volume has been a topic of hot debate over the years with the two extremes of the spectrum being commonly represented on one end by the HIT (High Intensity Training) one set to failure popularized by the legendary Arthur Jones (the man who invented Nautilus® training equipment), his protege Ellington Darden PhD, and bodybuilding icon Mike Mentzer.  The other end of the spectrum has the GVT (German Volume Training) proponents and the system coined Intensity or Insanity championed by bodybuilder John Defendis (he learned it from another bodybuilding legend named Steve Michalik) which promoted up to 60 or more sets per body part per session (clearly the high volume champion)! 



The one immutable physiologic fact is that intensity and volume are inversely related when it comes to strength training.  Intensity can be defined in this case by either the classic weightlifting definition which relates it to the percentage load used compared to the trainee’s one rep max, or by how close to concentric failure (when you cannot complete a rep) one comes during their post-warm-up sets.  The higher the intensity of the session, the less volume which can be benefited from. 

Konstantin Konstantinov knows intensity!

Konstantin Konstantinov knows intensity!

Many, many trainees confuse tolerating a given high volume routine with truly benefitting from it.  Some trainees can adapt to a volume load such that they don’t show the classic symptoms of overtraining, but that does not mean they are training in such a fashion as to elicit, and more importantly, to permit supercompensation which results in improved size, strength, or both. 

Don’t be a dummy, dummy!  If you are not consistently progressing, assuming you are not near your genetic potential for size, strength, or both, you are NOT training properly, and as most serious trainees are not lacking in the effort department (i.e. intensity) chances are very good you are training with excessive volume and literally preventing the outcome you seek!

Vic Richards was definitely at or near his genetic potential!

Vic Richards was definitely at or near his genetic potential!

Now, as anyone who has been around the iron game for any length of time knows, there can be a pretty large variance in the amount of volume which works for a given trainee.  There are two main reasons.  First, individual genetic makeup provides for variance.  Some people can simply handle more high intensity volume than others.  Second, intensity, as has already been stated, is a variable that can make a huge difference.  There is a marked difference in terms of recovery from training done at 100% intensity (as a percentage of one’s 1RM), or to failure with repetitions, than training done at 70-80% intensity, or stopping two or more reps short of failure.  In the end, I believe this is a primary source of the confusion that persists in the bodybuilding (hypertrophy specific) world as to what volume of training is best.

So, what is the answer, what is the optimal volume and intensity for training for hypertrophy?  In terms of actual results the answer is somewhat equivocal, but when you take into account time (the actual amount of time spent training) the answer becomes much clearer.

Over the years I have trained myself and many, many others both in person and remotely.  What I have found to work best for the vast majority when hypertrophy is the primary goal is 4-6 working sets (I define work sets as post-warm-up sets) of 8-12 reps taken to, or within 1 rep of failure for larger body parts, or muscle groups, and 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps for smaller muscles, or muscle groups.  So, nutshell, high intensity with moderate volume is the most effective means of eliciting maximal hypertrophy.  Sure, variants of this formula work, but as noted in the previous paragraph, when you consider time spent in the gym, the formula I have set forth is the most “cost effective” I have found.  Increased volume, generally speaking, does not translate to significantly better results (and often leads to overtraining), and less volume nets less results.

Earlier in this article I mentioned bodybuilding legend Mike Mentzer.  Mike, after his competitive bodybuilding days, and before his death, promoted less and less volume.  What is interesting is that at his competitive best he did not train with one set to failure.  He used multiple working sets to failure and was able to achieve what is arguably one of the finest physiques ever displayed sporting a very rare combination of shape, symmetry, and sheer mass.  I think Mike’s move towards extremely low volume was based on both a diseased mind (I understand he was considered to have some mental health concerns) and the need/compulsion for progression that is basic to human nature.  People, especially high achievers, always feel compelled to improve things.  This basic attribute of humanity is simultaneously a driver of achievement and a foible.  

I have always loved the sheer power Mike exudes in this pic.

I have always loved the sheer power Mike exudes in this pic.

I mention Mike again because the following routine, which I have found to be VERY effective, is based off of a contest training regimen which Mike employed at his peak.  To be clear, Mike was one to grow into his shows, so the pre-contest routines he used were potent at stimulating hypertrophy.  

Monday & Thursday:

Superset (perform 3 supersets):

Incline dumbbell flye x 10 reps

Flat barbell bench press x 10 reps

Giant set (perform 2 giant sets):

Leg extension x 12 reps

Leg curl x 12 reps

Full squat x 12 reps

Rest 3-5 minutes then (not part of the giant set):

Leg Press – 1 x 15 reps

Calf raise – 2 x 20 reps

Overhead cable ab crunch – 2 x 12 reps

Tuesday & Friday:

Wide grip chins – 2 x failure

Superset (perform 2 supersets):

Dumbbell pullover x 10 reps

T-bar row x 8 reps

Superset (perform 2 supersets)

Dumbbell lateral raise x 12 reps

Seated dumbbell press x 10 reps

Superset (perform 2 supersets)

Barbell curl x 10 reps

Dumbbell rollback x 12 reps

Donkey calf raise – 2 x 15 reps

Overhead cable ab crunch – 2 x 15 reps

* Each of the above sets is a working set.  Warm-up as needed prior to their performance.  

Follow the above routine for three months.  After three months take at least ten days off totally from training and then begin a new training regimen based upon your goal(s).

Nutrition and Supplementation

This is a training article, but some mention should be made of both nutrition and supplementation to support your intense hypertrophy focused training.  In terms of nutrition the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle applies.  The key points to remember: You should try to minimize consumption of processed foods, consume sufficient protein (1g per pound of body weight is more than sufficient), consume sufficient calories to support potential growth (this is the most often missed component), and have some sense of nutrient timing surrounding your training (be sure to consume some protein and quickly absorbed carbs immediately after training).

The concept of sufficient calories is a bit amorphous, so let me be more specific.  For younger men, and those with a fast metabolism, sufficient caloric intake to fuel growth ranges from roughly 17-25 calories per pound of body weight.  For older trainees, and those with slower metabolisms, the range is more along the lines of 14-18 calories per pound.  The only way to know what is best for you is to experiment, but the ranges noted are good starting points.

In terms of supplementation, and keeping one’s budget in mind, I recommend the following:

http://atlargenutrition.com/product/pre-workout/ – take one serving about 40 minutes prior to training

http://atlargenutrition.com/product/nitrean/ – 1.5 scoops mixed in water or milk post-workout

http://atlargenutrition.com/product/results/

 – one serving post-workout on training days and with a meal on off days