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.

Squatting for Hybrid Athletes, Functional Fitness Trainees, and CrossFitters

I will go on the operating assumption anyone reading this blog has heard of CrossFit. The term is pervasive in today’s fitness culture and has even begun to be used in general popular culture. In addition to CrossFit, there is another term that has worked its way into the collective fitness consciousness and that is functional fitness. Finally, hybrid athlete is now being bandied about in the fitness world. What all of these terms have in common is they reference a level of fitness that goes beyond the training specialization focus of the previous several decades.

CrossFitters, those who train for functional fitness, and hybrid athletes all become more physically fit across a broad spectrum. CrossFit in particular addresses virtually all of the components of physical fitness: strength, strength endurance, endurance, and skill. A high level CrossFitter is going to be above average at virtually any form of physical fitness.

One thing that each of these forms of varied training have in common is they include movements which are hard on the knees. All of them include some form of running, most of them jumping, and most of them some form of strength training.

The human body is a wonderful machine, but overuse injuries can and do occur and the knees are no exception. Strength training is a key to overall fitness and performance enhancement, but strength training for anyone other than a competitive weightlifter or powerlifter should be used as a means to enhance performance in their sport of choice. Unfortunately, that is NOT what occurs at most boxes and gyms, even at the highest levels. One need only watch training videos posted by strength coaches, box owners, and others to include Division 1 and professional athletes. Poor form is the order of the day, and that is nothing short of a recipe for disaster for the athlete(s) in question.
If you CrossFit, train for functional fitness, or are a hybrid athlete the majority of your lower body strength training should consist primarily of properly performed box squats. The reason for this is simple, box squats train all of the musculature of the traditional back squat, but they reduce the forces directed to the knees. It should be clear, but in case not, reduced knee stress when strength training makes injury on the field of play during execution of the athlete’s sport less likely. It also makes injury in the gym less likely. In short, it does exactly what strength training should do for an athlete by increasing the force production potential of the involved musculature without increasing the chance of injury.

I know, you CrossFitters are thinking this blog does not pertain to you because the box squat differs too much from Olympic style squats. You are concerned your Olympic movements will suffer if you heed my advice. In truth, you DO need to practice Olympic style front and back squats, but not in the manner you think. What you want to do is incorporate the actual Olympic lifts in order to build skill for those movements, but use box squats to increase the force production capacity of the involved musculature. The increased strength production capacity in your lower back, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes from box squats will then translate into bigger Olympic lifts once you master the skill of the movements. All the while you will be reducing stress to your knee joints and increasing your chances of remaining injury free which is a key to athletic progression.

Watch the video below of Laura Phelps demonstrating both perfect, and improper box squat form. This video was from a Westside Powerlifting Certification class for CrossFitters. Your author is narrating.

Poor box squat form is almost as bad as poor free squat form. Whether you are a coach or an athlete, learn to box squat like Laura. Make box squat variations (different bars if you have them, and different box heights) with perfect technique the primary source of your squatting volume for strength training and you will reap the benefits of enhanced athletic performance and reduced injury rates.

Post Workout Nutrition – Keeping it 100!

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? 😉

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…

Larry Wilmore of the The Nightly Show Keeps it 100
Larry Wilmore of the The Nightly Show Keeps 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.

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.

Aminos?

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?

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.

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?

Bodybuilding legend Mike Mentzer knew the importance of carbs post-workout
Bodybuilding legend Mike Mentzer knew the importance of carbs post-workout

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.).

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.

The author being pensive...
The author being pensive…

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.

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CrossFit Legend Chris Spealler Q&A 2nd Installment

CF snatch

Question: Chris, how do you alter your training immediately following a competition?

The competition that you have just completed and the time of year largely dictate the recovery process afterwards. By the way, and to digress from the question for a moment, if you are serious about being competitive in CrossFit it’s a good idea to do some local or larger regional competitions. What that does is give you a chance to “test” your plan for tapering, warm-ups at the competition, meals between workouts, and so on.

For the local/regional competitions your rest/recovery time can be as short as a day, and no more than two. You should be able to quickly get back to your training cycle that will allow you to progress for your main competition. If you are feeling run down it’s a good idea to initially get back to the gym with lower intensity and loading in your workouts. Examples of this might be something that provides built-in rest like and EMOM (every minute on the minute). This can also be great to work on some simple skill development or longer cardio respiratory endurance days since they are by nature of lower intensity.

Following the main competition of the year I typically recommend a week or two off from the gym. Personally, I am usually back in the gym within 5-7 days, but with similar principles mentioned above. Even if you placed well in the competition, coming off of the intense pre-competition cycle can often lead to a let-down. In such scenarios it is best to give yourself the time you need to recharge your batteries. Do some fun physical activities which are not stressful. If a couple of weeks have gone by and you are not yet physically hungry to be back in the gym take another day or two and it could lead to a better week or month of training.

CF gals
Question: What do you recommend to get someone up to Rx as quickly as possible? Is it better to use Rx weights sooner and try to build from there, or scale and then work on strength independently?

This is a great question and exposes what many people fall victim to when starting out CrossFit. First of all, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program, not just a conditioning program. With well varied programming you will find a variety of loadings, rep schemes, and movements throughout a week that will help increase strength for most beginner to intermediate athletes.

CrossFit has 4 models that help support our definition of fitness: “work capacity across broad time and modal domains”. One of those models is The 10 General Physical Skills. This list was developed by Bruce Evans and Jim Crawley, track coaches in Texas and is as follows:

1. Cardio Respiratory Endurance
2. Stamina
3. Strength
4. Flexibility
5. Speed
6. Power
7. Coordination
8. Accuracy
9. Agility
10. Balance

Our belief is that he or she who is most fit will be best balanced across ALL 10 of these General Physical Skills. If we have excess capacity in one area it usually means we lack in another. Many people make the mistake of assuming that one of these is more important than the other. This would be true for a specialist such as a power lifter, or marathon runner, but for a generalist that is looking to have GPP (general physical preparedness) none is more important than the other.

It’s easy to think that we need to increase our strength to do workouts Rx’d, which may be the case, but the same could be said about coordination, ctamina, flexibility, or any one of the 10 GPS.

Doing a workout Rx’d is a huge achievement for many and should be celebrated. Having said that we still want to maintain the intended stimulus of the workout the majority of the time. Take the following workout for example:

3 Rounds

Run 400 meters
21 Pull-ups
7 Front Squats (225/155)

If you don’t have a baseline to start with regarding how long this should take an athlete think of a Regional level CrossFit competitor, or even the “fire breather” in the gym. The workout listed above for a Regional Level athlete should take anywhere from 7-10 min.

-Run 400: roughly 1:30/round
-21 Pull-Ups: roughly 45 sec/round
-7 Front Squats: roughly 45 sec/round

Each round taking approximately 3 min

These times allow for transition, chalking your hands, breaks between the bars, etc. Some athletes will be able to do it faster, some a bit slower, but the intention behind the workout is for power output. That means that the athlete should be able to move through the workout with a strong pace. Below would be two different athletes that although capable of doing the workout as rx’d, would be missing the stimulus.

Athlete 1:

This athlete may lack strength and have difficulty with the front squat. They may be able to get them done, but the rep scheme for the front squat is singles or doubles with long breaks between reps from the start to complete the set of 7.

The run and pull ups may not be the issue at all for this athlete since they suit his strengths, but if the front squat weight holds him back so much that the workout now takes him 15 min, we have lost the intention of the workout.

Athlete 2:

On the opposite end of the spectrum this athlete may have no issue at all with the front squat but the combination of the run and pull ups slows them down. Their cardio respiratory endurance for the run which is now taking 2:30-3 min, and stamina on the pull ups which forces them to do sets of 5 and less with long breaks to get to 21 holds them back from getting through the workout quickly. If this causes them to finish the workout in 15 min we have lost the intention of the workout.

The majority of the time the workout should be scaled to allow for a similar time domain and power output to be reached. Athlete number 1 should scale down the weight on the front squat to something where they can get at least the first round in consecutive reps. Athlete number 2 may scale down the distance on the run to 200 meters, or the pull up repetitions to 15/round, and if needed, scale both of them.

From the examples above you can see that strength may not be the glaring weakness. And if it is, well varied CrossFit programming including one strictly heavy day/week will increase the athletes strength over time. If our stamina or CRE is the limiting factor the same could be said. Well varied CrossFit programming providing a variety of rep schemes, loadings, and distances will increase this athletes capacity in these areas.

On occasion it is ok and recommended that you give your athletes a chance to perform workouts as Rx’d without worrying about the time. It will give them a victory, and baseline to work from for improving their fitness. Most of the time, in most situations, and most scenarios the workouts should be scaled down appropriately, first with load, then reps or distance, and lastly the movement, in order to maintain the stimulus intended.

Author Chris Spealler
Author Chris Spealler
Chris Spealler is a multi top 10 finisher at the CrossFit Games and one of the sport’s legends. He currently works for CrossFit HQ and owns his own facility (CrossFit Park City) in Utah. Chris’ amazing strength endurance, endurance, and work ethic always made him a fan favorite.

Nitrean Natural Has Launched!

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Our new Nitrean Natural
Our new Nitrean Natural
For years our customers have been asking if we planned to offer an artificial sweetener free version of our wildly popular Nitrean series. The answer has always been no, but that answer just changed!

As many of you know we have recently begun manufacturing our own products for the first time in our 12 years history. Our new plant has given us the freedom to delve into new, and previously unexplored facets of the supplement business. The first example of this freedom is our release of the Nitrean Natural series.

We are incredibly excited about the release of Nitrean Natural. We have always felt that we offer the finest protein supplements available, but this product line truly sets the industry standard. Here are just a few of the highlights:

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Shock Your Legs!

Time to grow some legs – already got them..? Time to make them even better. This

program will shock your entire lower body into growth very quickly. Be warned, it

isn’t easy and at times you may feel the urge to quit – don’t do it!

Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!
Phil Hill has some of the most amazing legs ever!

If there are two things that stop guys or girls training their legs hard, they are:

• It’s hard, and you don’t like hard

• If you have weak legs or under-trained legs, it seems embarrassing to start with

smaller weights

If you are guilty of the first point, this programme probably isn’t for you… unless you

want to make a change and challenge yourself (which I highly recommend).

If you are guilty of the second, there is one solution – face your fear and get down to

the nitty-gritty of a supremely effective leg shocker.

On the other hand, if you do hit the legs hard but they have stopped growing, other

factors come into play:

1) Exercises used for too long a time with insufficient variation have caused a

plateau

2) Too few exercises choices that are preventing the needed muscles getting the

attention to grow

3) Over-training – using high volume or high intensity training methods too

frequently or for too long

If points 1 and 2 apply, no need to worry – this program is your ticket. If point 3

applies, take 2 weeks of downtime, or easier training to gain sufficient restoration

before starting this routine.

Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.
Tom Platz is the undisputed all-time quad development freak of bodybuilding.

This is not a traditional bodybuilding leg training program – it is a little different, and

the reasons for this are:

• There are a greater selection of exercises that are often not used in a traditional

body-builder’s arsenal

Now, what will this program do for you? It will:

• Build crazy amounts of muscle

• Raise your squat

• Raise your deadlift

• Increase your sprinting and jumping ability

• Allow you to do all of this year round with a very high time economy

Sound too good to be true? Let’s test it out and get cracking on the nuts and bolts of

the matter.

The program is performed 2 times per week, preferably with 72hrs in between

sessions.

Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.
Ben Johnson knew the importance of strength training for athletic performance.

Day 1:

Warm-up – choose from one of the following:

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal height

jumps

• Seated vertical jumps(on box/chair/bench) with light dumbbells – 3-4 sets of 5-

6 maximal height jumps

• Seated vertical jumps (on box/chair/bench) with light ankle weights – 3-4 sets

of 5-6 maximal height jumps

Maximum strength – Choose one of the following and work up to a 1RM

• Deficit deadlifts (wide or close stance)

• Below parallel box squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Snatch grip deadlifts

• Below parallel pin squats (front or back, wide or close stance)

• Rack pulls

• Full Olympic squats (with brief pause at the lowest point)

Assistance work: choose from one of the following:

• Exercise A: Deficit deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts – 6-8RM

• Exercise B: Hanging bent leg raises or hanging straight leg raises – 8-15RM

• Exercise C: Below parallel wide stance front box squats or below parallel wide

stance front pin squats – 5-6RM or 3RM

• Exercise D: Alternate arm dumbbell suitcase deadlifts or alternate arm barbell

suitcase deadlifts – 6-8RM(per side)

One heck of a seated good morning!
One heck of a seated good morning!

• Exercise E: Seated good mornings or thoracic extensions – 6-10RM

Day 2:

Warm-up – choose from 1 of the following:

• Maximum broad jump – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light ankle weights – 10 sets of 1 rep

• Maximum broad jump with light dumbbells – 10 sets of 1 rep

Follow immediately by:

• Sub-maximal broad jumps – using about 70% of your max broad jump do 8

sets of 3 reps emphasizing short ground contacts. Use the same resistance as

the max broad jumps used in each session. Rest 15 seconds between sets.

Assistance work:

• Exercise A: Broad jumps or rope pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6 maximal

distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise B: Kneeling broad jumps or kneeling pull-through – 3-4 sets of 5-6

maximal distance jumps/8-12RM

• Exercise C: Backwards sled drags or leg extensions -16-20 steps/8-12RM

• Exercise D: Straight leg sit-ups or decline straight leg sit-ups – 8-12RM

Pallof press
Pallof press

• Exercise E: Pallof press or pallof press & static hold – 8-12RM/15-30 second

hold

Notes:

• The amount of sets can be decided according to your ability to recover – as a

guide, with the amount of time you will have for your workouts, 2-4 sets will

work well. Rest periods should stay at a maximum of 2 minutes.

• If you need extra work on a weaker muscle/muscle group, simply increase the sets by 1 or 2

and reduce the sets by 1 or 2 from an exercise/muscle that is a strength.

• Seated vertical jumps are performed by sitting on a surface then jumping up from

that surface as high as possible with maximal vertical leg drive. Immediately

descend to the surface and do another rep. There should not be long pauses

between each rep. Rest 60 seconds – no more, no less between sets of all

5-6RM jumping exercises, rest 15-60 seconds for 1RM jumps and rest 15

seconds for sub-maximal broad jumps.

• The limits of a persons maximum strength will cap whatever they can do for

reps. The best way to build maximum strength is to work up to the heaviest

weights that can can moved with volitional, controlled effort

• Maximal strength is best trained where you are weakest. For example, if

you fail out of the hole when doing Olympic squats or fail to lockout heavy

deadlifts, rack pulls and below parallel squat variations are very sensible

choices. On the other hand, if you are weak to start heavy deadlifts off the

floor, snatch grip or deficit deadlift variations are sensible choices.

• Working up to a 1RM is great. It doesn’t have to be done every week, but

it can be done if you want to. A 1RM max that trains your particular weak

point should be attempted no less than once per month. Other weeks can

consist of 2 or 3RM maxes or occasional deloads.

• Work up to around four or five 1RM or near 1RM attempts once per week at

around 90-100% of your max for that day.

• If you would like to continuously progress on this program simply

rotate the rep ranges of the exercises here or slightly change the exercises e.g.:

Change from body weight broad jumps to broad jumps with ankle weights

or switch to dumbbells. Switch from deficit deadlifts for 6-8RM to deficit

deadlifts or snatch grip deadlifts for 3RM etc – this will help prevent excessive

accommodation

• Keep training sessions to 60 mins at most

• You can do each session once per week or once every 6 days. For example, day

one on Monday, day two on Thursday, day one again on Sunday and so on.

• Don’t spend forever maxing – allocate 10 or 15 minutes at most to this section

– any more time will eat into other work that needs doing. Rest 2 minutes

between sets of 1RM.

• Before commencing high intensity jumps in a warm-up, do one set of 10 easy

jumps and one set of 10 moderate jumps

The author, Will Vatcher
The author, Will Vatcher

Will Vatcher is a strength & conditioning coach based in Cambridgeshire, England. He has published articles online on several major websites, including interviews with experts such as Louie Simmons, Fred Hatfield & Natalia Verhoshansky

You can contact Will at willvatcher@hotmail.com

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

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 had the vacuum pose down!
John Defendis 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 near his genetic potential!
Vic Richards was definitely 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.

Mike Mentzer looking AMAZING here!
Mike Mentzer looking AMAZING here!

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

Killer Quads by Julia Ladewski

Killer Quads

By Julia Ladewski

Julia has built some quads!
Julia has built some quads!

Over the past two years, I’ve dedicated a lot of time to growing my quads. My powerlifting training history had made me very strong, but decidedly lacking in the hypertrophy department. For the past two years I have spent a great deal of time practicing exercises and exercise combinations which elicit hypertrophy.

Time under tension is one of the main keys to increased skeletal muscle mass, and that has been a focus. The following is a list of workouts I used to build up mass in my quads. These workouts do not include direct hamstring work, but rather focus on the quads.

Lean and not mean :)
Lean and not mean 🙂

Workout #1

*SS Yoke Bar(TM) Squats

4×5

*SS Yoke Bar(TM) Reverse Band Squats

3×8

Banded Leg Extensions

3 sets of high rep near failure

Workout #2

Squats w/ 1 chain

14 sets of 3, short rest to encourage lactic acid formation

Front Squats

2×15, 1×25

Chain Lunges

24 with chains then 24 without chains, 3 sets

Workout #3

Manta Ray Squats

work up to heavy set of 5, then drop set of 10 reps, then drop set of 15 reps

Leg Press

3×30

Sissy Squats

4×8

Workout #4

Squats-

4×8 with 3 second eccentric (lowering phase)

Front Squats- ascension set

5 reps at each ascending weight, 4 total sets

Only rest is to change the weights

Heavy Dumbbell Lunges-

4×8 each leg

Workout #5

Yoke Bar squats w/ 2 sets of chains

work up to heavy set of 5.

Then drop a chain and do 5 more reps.

Then drop another chain and do 5 more reps.

Then drop the weight in half and do 10 more reps.

Giant Cambered Bar front squats

5×10 with 45 seconds rest

Banded Leg Extentsion

10 reps at each band resistance (use 3 resistances)

Workout #6

Yoke bar Anderson squat

5×8

Bulgarian split squat (front foot elevated)

3×12 w/ chain and DB’s

Reverse band squats

1 giant drop set of 10, 10, 10

Workout #7

Banded Squats

worked up to a tough set of 8, then did 3 sets of 3 with little rest.

Front squats

5×15

Supersetted with

Band Leg Extensions

5×15

Workout #8

Front squat

work up to difficult set of 10

Reverse Band Yoke 1.5 rep squats (down, half way up, down and all the way up)

work up to 3 sets of 8