The Concurrent Training Effect Blog #2

This 2nd edition of The Concurrent Training Effect blog is going to focus on the molecular underpinnings of skeletal muscular hypertrophy.  Understanding the driving force behind the molecular response to strength training can provide us insight into why concurrent strength and endurance training can negatively affect muscular hypertrophy and strength.  In addition, a better understanding can lead to ways to mitigate the effect and optimize progress.  If you are a CrossFitter, or any other form of hybrid athlete this blog is for you.  Keep reading…

Mike Mentzer - knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.
Mike Mentzer – knew a thing or two about muscular hypertrophy.

A Very Cursory Overview of the Science:

The currently agreed upon molecular key to skeletal muscular hypertrophy is the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR).  mTOR exists in two complexes with mTORC1 as the type associated with muscular hypertrophy.  mTOR is most commonly activated via growth factors, but with strength training its activation is executed in an entirely different fashion.  An unknown kinase gets activated causing a chemical cascade resulting in the potent stimulation of mTORC1.

Mechanical kinase activation is the not the only manner in which strength training stimulates mTOR.  We have all heard of the post-workout anabolic window for nutrient consumption.  The following molecular explanation is THE reason the post-workout window has been so widely touted (and misrepresented equally as often) in the fitness world.

After an intense training session (and for several hours) the skeletal muscles pull a significantly greater amount of the amino acids leucine and glutamine from the blood.  The leucine individually is a potent activator mTORC1 and augments the previously mentioned kinase based mTORC1 activation.  The increased glutamine yet again enhances this synergistic effect as the resultant transport of glutamine out of the muscle further up-regulates leucine intake.

Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).
Start and Finish provide both leucine and glutamine (as well as other great stuff).

The Bottom Line

Bottom line, and there is a lot more to it than described here, the end game for strength training induced muscular hypertrophy is it is almost totally dependent on mTORC1.  One can thus reasonably deduct that endurance training can somehow blunt mTORC1 activation, and or its ability once activated to execute its normal spike in protein synthesis and the resultant muscular hypertrophy.

The next installment of The Concurrent Training Effect blog will focus on the manner(s) with which endurance training may effect mTORC1.

Sequence Your Training for Optimal Results

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.

CF 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.

Clean

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.
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.

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.

Up the Dosage

What’s the quickest and most effective way to change your physique? Easy. Insert several needles filled with an oily substance in your body each week and wash down half a dozen pink tabs everyday. Fast forward ten weeks and you should be pushing a good ten to fifteen pounds more in the lean tissue department. Pretty simple huh?

Actually it is.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where beautiful gym babes work out topless and anabolic steroids are free. In this world, when it comes to planning the next cycle the first thing that changes is the dosage. Sadly, this is a huge misconception.

Johnny Loses His Virginity

Meet Johnny. He’s an average guy with a sub-par physique who’s looking to slap some meat on his bones. His weight training adventure started at the age of 22 when he weighed in at 160 pounds with 9% body fat. After a year of hard training in the gym he’s managed to add on 20 pounds of mass to his frame boosting him up to 180 pounds at 12%. However, as it routinely happens, Johnny has hit a plateau and is now considering the use of anabolic steroids. So he does some research and educates himself. After some time he finally decides to use 500 mg of Sustanon per week for 12 weeks, and 30 mg of Dbol every day for 6 weeks—followed by some clomid therapy. After acquiring the goods he starts his cycle.

12 weeks later and 15 pounds heavier, Johnny is now sitting at 195 pounds and 14%. Johnny is happy but he’s still not satisfied. After some time off he decides to do another cycle.

Johnny wants to keep it simple. He’s going to take the same drugs but increase the dose. So now he’ll be taking 750mg of Sustanon for 12 weeks and 40mgs of Dbol for 6 weeks. However Johnny’s friend Bob (his work out partner) tells him that he should use more since he’s no longer a virgin and that his first cycle was his best one. In other words, Johnny needs to use more now to see the same gains he saw on his first cycle. So he does some more research and adds in some EQ as well at 400mg per week. Johnny is now taking more than a gram of anabolic steroids per week.

Where did Johnny go wrong?

School’s in Session

Johnny made three common mistakes. He took advice from his friend. He made the mistake of thinking that more is better, and he confused the notion that everything should be keyed to the drugs he’s using.

Trainees tend to use higher dosages with each new cycle because someone, supposedly more experienced, tell them to. More experienced does not necessarily equal smarter. It is said that, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.” The difference between a seasoned vet who is experienced and one who is knowledgeable is that the knowledgeable one not only passes the test, but takes the time to learn the lesson afterwards. Many experienced lifters in the iron game tend to spend more time “learning the tricks of the trade rather than the actual trade” (Vernon Law).

Johnny is not alone in his second mistake either. In succumbing to the notion that more is better, he joins thousands of others who have done the same. 

This problem has nothing to do with some sort of complex biological mechanism operating in the human body, but rather, with 3 simple factors:

1) Increased nutrient partitioning.

2) Increased training “intensity.”

3) Increased caloric intake.

When Johnny first started his first cycle, he introduced 3 new factors into his routine, and these played a large role in his weight gain success. As with most humans, it’s a psychological norm to believe that once something has been achieved, getting to the next level must involve an increase in whatever worked before. With the usage of anabolic steroids, the same belief is widely accepted and should be. However, the problem isn’t in the dosage but lies within other variables which are often overlooked—the three mentioned above. Instead of increasing his dose, Johnny should have looked at increasing his caloric intake and restructuring his program so that the intensity used allowed for more of an overload to be placed on the soft tissues of the body.

Johnny gained 20 pounds because the drugs he took had an effect on his training intensity and allowed for an increased nutrient-partitioning effect. If Johnny were to use the same dose again for his next cycle, train in the same manner and maintain his caloric intake, would he see the same results? No. The next time around, other than an increase in nutrient partitioning, he’d be lucky to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle tissue.

To see a noticeable increase in size and strength while keeping the same dose Johnny would have to increase his training intensity and his caloric intake to match his new body. In many cases trainees often overlook the fact that after gaining new muscle, their body is now operating at a new level. To see an increase in size, more calories have to be taken in and a new stimulus must be applied to overload the muscles. Unfortunately, instead of applying this basic principle, most look at increasing the dosage and keeping the other variables the same. This is why many people feel that an increase in dosage each time they start a new cycle will produce an increase in gains.

This leads to Johnnies third mistake.

Johnny depended on a drug to do the job for him when he should have done it himself. For something to have an effect on the body, one must be prepared to do some work. A program should be tailored to the dose and the substance used, but the results should never be substance-dependent. It’s often the uneducated lifters who look at the easiest variable (dosage) and increase it without sitting down and looking at the other variables at work in their program. Nutrition, adequate rest, proper training habits and methods are areas that should be looked at first before assessing whether or not a substance is performing as expected. However, if all avenues have been exhausted, then by all means look at the dosage, but not before doing a thorough check of these other areas.

In the end, if Johnny avoids this common mistake he won’t fall prey to the “more is better syndrome.” Of course he won’t reap the same results he achieved during his first cycle, but he also won’t have to worry about other things such as increased side effects, money spent, health risks and potential injury. Hopefully Johnny’s smart and takes the route less traveled. It may not get him to his goal as quickly but it’ll save him a lot of heartache in the long run.

Written by Maki Riddington

How to maintain your gains post cycle – Part 2

In part I of this article, How to maintain your gains post cycle – Part 1 I presented some training splits and explained how a trainee could come “off” when it comes to post-cycle training. I discussed some reasons why a training routine should be structured, and how to put together an effective program. In this article we’ll be thinking about how to structure an effective post-cycle dietary regimen.

Life is good, your balls have grown back and you’re on the road to recovery. Except for the occasional moments of sensitivity when you stop to admire the beauty of the blue skies and green grass blowing in the cool breeze (blame that on the clomid), life doesn’t seem so bad after all.

After twelve weeks of blood, sweat and tears (tears of joy at the amount of muscle growth) you’ve achieved a new body. Countless hours have been spent cramming and force-feeding yourself protein, carbs and an assortment of healthy fats—all in the name of bulk.

With a new training program in place, the next step is to match up your nutritional and supplemental needs with your revamped body. However, post-cycle nutrition/supplementation is like the day after a college frat party. The after-effects have kicked in, and the ability to function at a normal level is impaired.

Going To War

Within the body, wars are constantly being fought on different fronts. If you’re training properly and practicing sound nutritional habits you should be winning more battles than you’re losing, that is, getting stronger and/or gaining more muscle. . .and losing body fat.

One of the most crucial battles takes place after a cycle.

Picture, if you will, a general whose mission is to conduct a successful attack against an enemy who, for the past 5 years, has been laying siege to your fortress. It’s time to go to war. You’ve studied his tactics, gathered the necessary supplies and are ready for battle. War is waged and within a short period it ends. You’ve won and you celebrate; however, the victory party is short-lived.

A new enemy has emerged, stronger and more powerful. And since you put all your resources into the previous battle, the army (your body) is tired and needs a few weeks of R&R. But you can’t afford to take time off. The enemy, fierce and unforgiving, has regrouped and wants to regain lost ground.

During a cycle, nutrient-partitioning is increased due to the effects of the drug(s) being used. Nitrogen-retention is elevated and insulin-sensitivity is heightened; the body is in an anabolic state and the nutrients from food are assimilated efficiently. Things change however post-cycle. Insulin sensitivity decreases, the body starts to shift away from an anabolic state and nitrogen levels drop. There’s a new war to be fought in maintaining strength and muscle tissue, and this battleground is set on a difficult terrain.

You soon realize that a new strategy is needed to halt the advancing enemy. After studying current strategy and taking advice from other war staff, a new plan is devised.

The epic battle of catabolism vs. anabolism is about to take place and you’re wondering who will win? How do I equip my body for this battle and what role does nutrition and supplements play? How does one go about maximizing their results during a period when the body is not responding the way it normally does? And why am I asking all these damned questions?

The Plan

When it comes to post-cycle nutrition, there are three main areas of concern for a trainee:

1. Nutrient partitioning
2. Meal timing
3. Macronutrient ratio adjustments

To offset the decrease of nutrients after a cycle so that the goodness of food is diverted toward muscle-building rather than fat-storing the timing of meals must be changed, as must the macronutrients, so that the good stuff is now effectively partitioned to the proper areas (muscles cells, not fat cells).

This means the three points mentioned above must be structured strategically. Failure to do so will result in less than optimal results (increased fat gain and muscle loss). So how does one go about setting up a properly designed dietary program that meets the body’s post-cycle needs?

Winning The War

For post-cycle nutrition, all that’s needed are the basics. Simple, tried-and-true methods that can be used over and over again. I like to think of this approach as post-cycle Nutrition For Dummies.

If, for a moment, you were to think of food as pharmaceuticals and of the most effective times to take these goodies, what would you come up with? Let me give you a clue—it’s hormone sensitive, lasts several hours and follows a period where feelings of euphoria in the body are not uncommon. Stumped? I’m talking about the post-workout window.

It’s at this time that the body tolerates glucose intake (more so then at any other time of the day) efficiently (how well depends on what kind of training you are performing). More on this in a bit. So, using this tidbit of well-known information, structuring the majority of your carbohydrate intake around this period of time can be seen as a great starting point. Since the effects of a post workout meal have been well documented as the optimal time to feed the body. Taking it one step forward or in this case back, it has been shown that ingesting carbohydrates/protein prior to commencing a workout is also favorable. (1) Maybe even more so then post workout according to the literature. But I’ll let you be the judge of that.

So now you’re taking some food (preferably liquid form for quicker digestion) pre-workout and post-training.

But there’s more. As I mentioned earlier cortisol levels have gone wild (like the girls of Mardi Gras) and there’s no stopping them. Well, actually there is. Thus far, taking in a pre and post workout shake is winning the battle for you, but to ensure victory, including a carbohydrate beverage during a workout will give you a landslide. Sipping on a carb beverage will not only keep cortisol levels at bay (2) but will keep your glycogen levels up which in turn will prolong your performance on the battle field (the gym).

As mentioned previously, the type of training being performed will dictate how many carbs you ingest. For example, it’s been shown that if heavy eccentrics, or training that focuses on the eccentric portion of a lift, are being performed, a link between muscle damage and the decreased inability for the muscle to uptake carbohydrates can result. (3,4,5,6) It then may be a smart move to decrease carbohydrate intake the following day. On the other hand, if a higher volume of sets and a lower intensity are employed then glycogen stores will be taxed and the need to saturate the muscles will result in an increased carbohydrate intake following a workout, and several hours beyond. Also, your carbohydrate intake pre, during and post workout will also need to be adjusted depending on which muscles you are training in a session. For example, if it’s leg day or a chest/back day then you will take in more carbohydrates than if you were to work your biceps and triceps on another day. Bigger muscles require a greater workload than smaller ones, which equates to a greater need for carb replenishment and nourishment.

As outlined above, if you take the majority of your carbs in pre, during and post workout you will take care of the first two areas of concern, meal-timing and nutrient-partitioning. Now it’s just a matter of adjusting your macronutrient ratios.

Fiddling around with your macronutrient ratios is like taking your first bra off. It took a bit of practice and patience. Of course it shouldn’t be long before you become a pro since the reward ahead makes it all worth your while.

Changes to the macronutrient ratios you’ve been using, will depend on what you’ve implemented during your cycle. So going from a low-fat, high-carb, high-protein plan, to a low-fat, high-carb, high-protein plan afterwards, won’t have much of an effect. Neither will mindless changes, such as switching to a Ketogenic diet. There needs to be some strategy involved because, remember, you’re at war and the smallest mistake may be your downfall.

Below is a general template of a pre cycle macronutrient breakdown for a 200-pound lifter who’s has 12% body fat.

Protein: 300-350 grams
Carbohydrates: 400-500 grams
Fat: 80 grams
Calories: 3520-4120

Meal Breakdown

Meal 1: Protein/Fat/Carbs
Meal 2: Protein/Fat/Carbs
Meal 3: Protein/Fat/Carbs
Meal 4: Post Workout Meal Protein/Carbs
Meal 5: Protein/Carbs
Meal 6: Protein/Fat

Bear in mind that this is just a general breakdown and the ratios could be designed a number of different ways. Generally a nutritional program for someone who’s taking anabolic drugs would be high in carbohydrates, high in protein (relative to the individual) and moderate in fat. Of course this will vary with each person and how their body metabolizes each macronutrient. Post-cycle this is how the above macronutrient ratios could be changed.

Protein: 250-300 grams
Carbohydrates: 300-375 grams
Fat: 115-125 grams
Calories: 3235-3865

Sample Macronutrient Meal Breakdown

Meal 1: Protein/Minimal Carbs
Meal 2: Protein/Fat
Pre workout: Protein/Carbs
During workout: Carbs
Post workout: Protein/Carbs
Meal 4: Protein/Fat
Meal 5: Protein/Fat

As you can see, the main change comes in the fat department. Carbohydrate intake has been lowered and protein intake has dropped a bit. And while the calories have decreased somewhat this should not cause panic. Remember that the body cannot handle the same amount of calories that were previously taken in during the cycle. If you keep taking in the same amount, you can be sure that the ratio between muscle to fat will change in favor of fat. Your body simply can’t process the same amount of calories in an efficient and effective manner as when you were “on.”

At this point some of you may be thinking, “what if I incorporate this method while I’m on?” If it works well after I’ve finished a cycle it should work even better during a cycle. While this line of thinking may appear to be based on common logic, it is, in fact, quite misleading. Let me explain, looking at it from a strength-training perspective.

In bodybuilding circles wearing tight spandex and florescent tank tops was once fashionable and training to failure was believed to be the sure-fire way of achieving the best result in the shortest period of time. While this method reaped great results (and the latter ‘was’ very appealing), the effects, at some point, began to wear off.

Training to failure or enlisting other types of training methods (see Weider’s principles ) can be seen as tools. And tools that are used over and over begin to lose their effect as time passes. They just wear out.

This can also be applied, somewhat, to nutrition. Nutritional tools/methods, however, are a bit different, as the body doesn’t adapt to dietary manipulations. It’s a matter of energy expenditure and balancing, so fat-loss is progressive and balanced (muscle to fat-loss ratio). These tools should be applied only at specific times. A sensible approach that allows for balance will work every time. It’s the balancing part that can be tough—knowing when and how to balance various nutritional tools so that they work to your advantage.

The End

Hopefully, some light has been thrown on one way you can structure post-cycle nutrition. I’ve used a simplistic approach to outline the nature of a war that many trainees fight once, twice or maybe even three times a year, and how it can be won.

Now, let’s recap the main points:

1. Time your carbohydrate intake around your pre, during and post workout sessions. Breakfast will be the only other meal that carbs can be taken in (preferably oatmeal as your source so your bowels don’t get clogged up).

2. Increase your fat intake using flax, hemp, fish and nuts as your sources (liquid and solid form).

3. Decrease your protein intake (it’s really just an expensive source of glucose).

4. If you use negative training and/or emphasize this portion of the lift quite a bit in your training it may be wise to cycle your carb intake on your off days.

5. Adjust your carbohydrate intake according to the volume of your workouts and the muscle groups exercised.

6. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Balance is the key to winning this war.

Next time, I’ll be talking about post-cycle nutritional/supplement do’s and don’ts.

Written by Maki Riddington

How to maintain your gains post cycle – Part I

Note: This article is geared (pun intended) towards the moderate user (defined as 400mg-1000mg/week). It is not intended for the advanced user who stays on for long periods or year round and uses more then a gram per week plus Insulin, GH and other goodies.

Life is good. You’ve got money in the bank. You’re dating Barbie, the hot silicone blonde from the gym, and you’ve just amassed 15 pounds of lean muscle on your current cycle. With this newfound muscle under your belt, 24/7 pumps, heavier weights lifted with each new session, and a sex drive that’d put Hugh Hefner and Ron Jeremy to shame.

What more could a meathead ask for? Probably a whole lot more, but that’s beside the point. However, all good things must come to an end. Week 12 has arrived and you’ve just taken your last shot.

For newbies the weeks ahead will be met with mixed feelings and for the non-virgins the routine is far too familiar. Your balls are no longer swole, your pumps are going to disappear quicker than a fat lady gobbles down a Krispy Kreme, and your strength is going to drop. Oh yeah, your newly acquired muscle gain is going to take a beating. Fun stuff, eh? Of course, there’s always the option of bridging until your next cycle, but what’s the point? You’re going to have to come off sometime, that is, if you value your health and your balls enough to quit.

Granted you’ve been smart and planned out your entire cycle in advance, it should be safe to say that the post cycle therapy (PCT) portion has been designed according to the type of drugs and their reactions with each other and with your body. So, what else can be done to offset the classic post cycle symptoms? Well, there are three areas that need to be addressed.

1. Training
2. Nutrition
3. Supplements

The understanding of how to implement the proper use of each area will not only allow you to hold on to your newly acquired muscle, it may also create some more muscle tissue in the process, even if it is a small amount.

Gearing Down

Coming off isn’t a walk in the park. A user often faces multiple symptoms such as weight loss, a decrease in body strength, loss of muscle tissue, increased fat deposits due to a drop in nutrient partitioning (more on this in Part II), a decrease in motivation to train, depression, laziness and a lack of self discipline. All of this is caused by a catabolic state induced by a decrease in testosterone production and an increase in cortisol. Simply stated, you’ve got the post cycle blues. Your life now sucks. All those gains are going bye bye. Or so you think. Alas, there’s hope for your poor small-balled self.

With the proper knowledge, dedication, and testicular fortitude, holding onto the majority of your strength and size gains after a cycle is not such a far fetched idea. In most cases it appears that taking two steps forward and one step backward is the result in carrying out a properly designed cycle. However, what many end up doing, is taking one step forward and two steps backward. In other words, many people know how to build up muscle while using steroids but very few understand how to maintain that muscle afterwards. Let me explain.

Most trainees put a lot of time and effort into planning a cycle and very little into a training program. It almost seems that the majority of trainees feel that an increase in effort in combination with one or more injections a week magically solves their problem! However, an increase in effort does not and will never make up for a poorly planned program. For those who have put aside some time to draw up a program, they still tend to ignore the post cycle phase, which can bring about our worst fears, small balls, no hair, and big breasticles. A cycle doesn’t end after the last injection.

It stops when the next one is started. However, if you’re one of the rare few who’ve decided to play it safe and only plan on doing one cycle a year, understanding how to come off a cycle is extremely important as opposed to those who come off and go back on after a 2-4 month hiatus.

After a cycle, the muscles are in need of a stimulation that is at a level close to what they had been given while “on.” Unfortunately many times trainees become paranoid afterwards and continue to keep the level of intensity high. Big mistake! This causes a couple of things. For starters, it opens up the body to burn out in the form of neural fatigue. This in part, is primarily because the body can no longer cope with the demands that are being placed upon it. The hormonal system is in a state of recovery and the body cannot withstand the same amount of stress anymore. Two, injury can and often does occur as the loads used can no longer be supported by the body due to the rapid increase of muscle tissue and the lag in development of the supporting soft tissues. As a result you have a strong muscle but your tendons and ligaments cannot support the muscles that are being used to lift the loads.

Instead of sucking it up and kissing 40% or more of that hard earned muscle away post cycle, a training program needs to be structured in such a way that it allows for the body to adapt back to it’s regular state and still allows for a stimulus to be received.

For this to happen, several variables need to be examined. The two most important for our purposes are the frequency of the workouts during the cycle, the number of sets performed and the rep range. I’ve left some other variables out, however these are the main variables that most trainees change in a program. For simplicities sake I’ve drawn up a couple of generic programs that might be employed during a cycle, for examples.

The Strategy and Programs

The number of times you “hit it” is important in most relationships. If you skimp on frequency, performance suffers, and as a result your relationship weakens. The same can be said about the frequency of training sessions, the body, and the relationship between strength and size. During a cycle most people increase the frequency due to increased recovery. However, post cycle the number of sessions in a week should be altered as the body is now in a state of recovery. Nevertheless, there are exceptions to certain rules; this being one of them. If you were training five to six days a week during your cycle, the same frequency can still be maintained almost to the same degree, however one of the other exercise variables (mentioned above) involved must be changed (more on this later).

If your training has been based around a six day split, cutting the frequency down a day or more will give the body some much needed time to recuperate. Below are some examples of how your training frequency can be structured when coming off the above outlined programs. Here are five, four, and three day splits that can be used. The choice of muscles worked each day may be varied.

Increasing the Volume

Once the frequency of training has been chosen, the next step is to choose the number of sets or the amount of volume that will be used in the routine. The number of sets selected will depend on the level of intensity you’ll be using. Intensity, for the purpose of this article, can also be defined as the overall work load used in a training program (determined by the frequency and number of sets employed). For example, if you have been training to failure using a high number of sets, it should be quite obvious that you cannot continue training in the same manner. That said, to maintain the same level of intensity the number of sets employed must be lowered. You do this because there is an inverse relationship between intensity and the number of sets used in a workout session. As seen below the number of sets chosen should coincide with the frequency.

Below are some examples based upon the first two example routines I outlined above.

Spicing Things Up

Variety is the spice of life. Although cliché, it’s the truth though, and most likely throughout your cycle, the repetition range that’s been used has varied. Post cycle, however, repetition ranges should stay the same if they’ve been altered. Let me explain a bit further.

High reps are known to primarily work on increasing the non-contractile proteins and the semi fluid plasma between the muscle fibers. In scientific circles the 140 pound lab techs call this sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Meatheads refer to this as “pump training.” The other type, low rep training, is called sarcomere hypertrophy. This is otherwise known as power training. It works on increasing the size and number of the sarcomeres that make up the myofibrils. Each type of hypertrophy has a different effect. Bodybuilders and those purely interested in aesthetics train using the pump method. Athletes who are in sports that require explosiveness and speed train primarily using the power method.

Training post cycle should focus on a variety of rep ranges. Low rep training focuses on neuromuscular efficiency, which in turn is responsible for strength production with minimal hypertrophy. Higher rep training focuses more on hypertrophy while placing less emphasis on the neuromuscular system. If one area is favored the other will suffer. So, to stay big and strong it is imperative that you utilize a mixed rep range in your training program. Below I’ve outlined the programs in their entirety so you can see what the programs look like once all the variables I mentioned have been added in.

 

Coming off a cycle isn’t fun, and it’s not an easy task. Truthfully, it sucks. However, with proper precautions taken, and by simply following the guidelines I’ve provided, the post-cycle transition won’t be so rough. It’s that simple.

Next month, I’ll outline some of the nutritional stumbling blocks that you might face after a cycle and some supplements that might offset this problem.

Note: Check it out here – How to maintain your gains post cycle – Part 2

Written By Maki Riddington