Alas, spring is here. Interestingly enough the last day of winter was 65 degrees and sunny and the first day of spring was 35 and snowy.
How does that work? Either way I’m not complaining, I’m just excited to get my clients outside during training session and bring a “fun” collection of stair sprints, throwing things, and backyard sports into the mix. Training’s always more fun when workouts improve strength and athleticism outdoors.
But back to business—I’ve been conducting short Q-A sessions on Twitter and receiving tons of great questions.
— Eric Bach (@Eric_Bach) March 20, 2014
With this in mind I’m moving forward with a new post answering the best training, nutrition, and lifestyle questions I get each week. So please, jump into the mix and ask anything that comes to mind whether it’s through Facebook, twitter, or through the Bach Performance Contact page.
Question: Which lifts should I focus on for improving strength and athleticism? –Travis from Utah
Answer: Your best bet for improving strength is and will always the basic, multi-joint exercises. If your form is sufficient the Olympic lifts like snatches and cleans incorporate explosiveness, power, rhyme, and timing for improving strength and athleticism. Squats, deadlifts, lunges are also big money exercises. BUT, if you really want to improve athleticism you need to move your body through space. Change of direction, sprints, throws, and jumps better be a focus. Shocking I know, but your body adapts to the style of training you put it through. If the only focus is building strength your gains will be limited once you attain a good base of strength.
Organize Training like This:
-Movement (sprint work, sports specific work)
– Jumps or Throws
– Explosive Lift: Cleans 3×3
– Compound Strength Lift: Front Squat 4×5
Question: I’ve increased my training a lot over the last few weeks and have felt dehydrated, how much water should I drink each day?
— Jane from Wisconsin
Answer:Hydration is highly variable based upon intensity of exercise, sweat rate, and body mass. In active individuals I’d advise drinking between .75-1 1oz per 1lb bodyweight each day—over a gallon in most individuals. Yes, other liquids count, but emphasize water.
The human body is made up of as much as 75% water and even even a 1-2% decrease of baseline hydration status impairs performance by:
- Decrease in blood volume
- Decrease skin blood flow
- Decrease heat dissipation
- Increase core temperature
- Decreased sweat rate
These affects of dehydration decrease performance through decreased cardiac output and increased fatigue.
Hydration is involved in numerous physiological processes such as that are important for general health and health during exercise:
- Transportation of chemicals to and from cells
- Cell hydration
- Maintenance of body temperature
- Elimination of toxins
- Aids in metabolic and digestive processes
- Moisturizes and protects joints
Tips to stay hydrated:
- Avoid alcohol and/or keep it at a minimum, especially while physically active
- Drink 20 oz of water immediately upon waking up
- Drink 20 oz of water 1 hour before exercise
- Continuously refuel with water and or/sports drinks if an endurance athlete during physical activity. The carbohydrates and salts will help water transportation into cells.
- Keep water at your desk or wherever you spend the majority of your day.
- Eat foods with a high water content such as fruits and vegetables; these go a long way in maintaining hydration!
- Drink water before you are thirsty, the thirst mechanism doesn’t kick in until a low-moderate stay of dehydration. Stay ahead of the game!
An appropriate hydration strategy will maximize workout performance while reducing health risks and maximizing recovery.
Lean Gains and Strength Training for Endurance Athletes
Oh yeah. Here are two brand-spankin’ new articles that were published this week. One is how to implement Carb Cycling For Lean Muscle Gains while the other is Strength Training for Endurance Athletes.
Carb Cycling For Lean Gains: Struggling to Build muscle without gaining fat? This is your solution. Click HERE to see how my clients build muscle and athleticism without fat gain.
**This is a two-part series I did with Mike Samuels of Healthy Living, Heavy Lifting. Stay tuned for part-two.
Relative Strength Vs. Absolute Strength for Runners: I’m not personally a runner, but many runners are missing the boat when it comes to strength training. Absolute strength is imperative to build relative strength. Prevent injury, run faster, and easier? If you run and train endurance athletes you need to check out this one. Click HERE to continue.
These articles both tons of shares and likes, so I hope you enjoy them.
Have a great week,
Hey guys, i’ve got some exciting stuff today. I reached out to one of my idols in the Fitness industry Tony Gentilcore a few weeks ago to write a guest post. I anxiously waited around my email, checking constantly and drinking vodka to pass the time– okay, not really vodka– until I got a response. Tony was a very down-to earth dude and was thankful to have my contributions.
I was pretty jacked, I might have even peed a little. Okay, joking again, that’s weird.
Anyways, I’d really appreciate it if you would head over to his site and check out the post and drop me a comment.
Ready? See you there.
Creatine: What’s the Deal?
Creatine. We’ve all heard about it, but what’s the deal? I get boat-loads of questions regarding the safety and effectiveness of creatine.
Does it make me look better naked? What are these crazy ethyl-ester pills and shiny Pre-workout jugs promising a Skin Searing Pump?
With all the products and information it’s no wonder there are questions. I’m going to dig in and tell you what creatine is, how to use it, and what to expect.
What is it?
Creatine is a natural amino acid most commonly found in red meat,but also produced in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. In the body creatine becomes a fuel source for short duration high-intensity activities such as weight training, sprinting and jumping where phosphocreatine is converted to ATP.
The amount of creatine consumed through the diet and produced naturally in the body are low; supplementation increases available levels.
Strong. Shredded. Athletic.
Different physical activities require different physiological capabilities. When looking from a sports performance aspect, the body will react positively to any new stimulus in the initial stages.
However, for future advances in strength and performance, adaption becomes much more specialized to the unique physiological demands of the sport. Depending upon the sport and level of mastery the need for specific forms of muscular strength becomes more apparent as the level of competition increases.
For example, as a high school football player a defensive tackle (A) has a full back squat max of 450 lbs, very respectable regardless of size.
This back squat represents maximum strength, or the athletes’ ability to exert maximal isometric muscular force without a time limit. This same athlete does a phenomenal job and is invited to an All Star game with other skilled High School athletes. When lining up and going head to head with another player, the same athlete faces an opponent (B) with a 400 maximum squat, but is much quicker at the snap of the ball. Although athlete A may display a greater maximum strength, as the level of competition increases so does the need for explosive strength, the ability to produce maximal force in a minimal time as displayed by player B.
Explosive strength is the ability to produce maximal force in minimal time. It is very important for the development of power.
Power (P) =Force (F) x Velocity (V)
Well, okay, I don’t play Football, so why do I care about explosive strength and power?
Explosive strength and power are very important to athletes who need to develop force in a short amount of time. This includes activities such as sprinting, cutting, juking, hitting, throwing, swinging, kicking, evading, hoping, and diving. Even at the end of a race a marathon runner sprints to the finish line and can greatly benefit from power training.
Explosive/power training allows for better recruitment of type II fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are built for high force activities, muscular hypertrophy, and allow better recruitment and control of muscles. Explosive training that activates type II muscle fibers is very beneficial for aging populations and the battle against sarcopenia (muscle loss).
How Can I incorporate explosive strength training/power training into my workouts?
Ideally, power training should be performed either before a strength session or as its own session completely. The biggest thing I preach to my athletes and clients is to lift everything explosively because if you are not generating the most muscular force and speed on a movement, you are not training that quality to its full extent. Warming up with the 45lb bar on your bench press? Cool, still perform each rep as if it were a max-out attempt.
Great tools to incorporate into your training after a warm up would be medicine ball throws, body weight plyometrics (jump variations, plyo push ups), Olympic lifts (find a qualified coach such as yours truly), and/or dynamic effort training days (power/strength movements w/20-60% 1RM) with maximal speed.
Training explosive strength is vitally important for athletes, but all populations can benefit. Whether you are trying to dunk a basketball, play a professional sport, or prevent muscle loss with aging, explosive strength training/power training should play a vital role in your fitness regimen.
Verkhoshansky, Yuri, and Mel Siff. SuperTraining. 6. Rome: Verkhoshansky, 2009. 19,107. Print.
My last two blog posts have brought you quick but demanding workouts that can be performed in under 30 minutes. When working out in a time crunch having a plan of attack is critical to making the most out of your time in the gym.
In order to give the legs their best workout in the least amount of time the focus of exercise selection must be on multi-joint compound movements, no leg extensions here! The backbone of any program with strength and hypertrophy as the goal should contain major hip dominant, and knee dominant lifts, such as the squat and deadlift.
In this workout the contrast method will be used. The contrast method uses a combination of Heavy load lower repetition exercise with lightly weighted or un-weighted exercise. This method will nail all of your muscle fibers through PAP (post-activation potentiation.) PAP will allow you to gain strength in your heavy exercise following each set of your longer, un-weighted set due to better motor unit recruitment.
Without further adieu here is the workout!
Perform 1 set of 5 repetitions on the front squat and immediately after the set (using a box or bench) perform a bodyweight squat to a box, immediately upon touching the box or bench explode into a vertical jump. Reset and continue for 45 seconds. Rest for 45 seconds and repeat 3 times. Following the third set rest 60 seconds and move to circuit 2.
1a. Barbell Front Squat 3×5
1b. Box Squat Jumps x45 seconds
With the same weight as the front squats perform all out set of back squats with the same weight, coming within 1-2 reps of failure. Realistically this should be 10-15+ reps in most cases. Following this set immediately perform 60 seconds of bodyweight jump squats. Rest 60 seconds and move to circuit 3.
2a. Back Squats 1×10-15+
2b. BW Jump Squats x60 seconds
Perform 3 sets of Dumbbell Romainian Deadlifts, immediately after each set perform 20 dumbbell calf raises followed by 20 alternating jump lunges. Rest 45 seconds after each set and repeat 3 rounds.
3a. DB RDL 3×8-10
3b. DB Calf Raises3x20
3c. Alternating Jump Lunges 3×20
There you have it, a brutal yet effective workout to blast your lower body in under 30 minutes. As always make sure your form is up-to-par, as the intensity of this workout will likely require using submaximal, albeit heavy workloads to get the best effect. Share your comments below!
Numminello, Nick. “Contrast Training for Strength, Size, and Power.” T NATION.com. Testosterone, LLC, 11 May 2009. Web. 20 May 2012. <http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/contrast_training_for_strength_size_and_power>.
Admit — you want bigger, more jacked arms. Pipe cleaners be damned.
You’re not alone. Poll hundreds of dudes and you’re unlikely to find anyone satisfied with their biceps development. Dudes do multiple workouts delegated just for their biceps, chasing the famous predator handshake, yet they never get close.
What’s the problem?
It’s simple, too much focus on isolation exercises. Those 5 exercises done for 3 sets 12 to pump your bi’s aren’t getting it done. Really, they’re probably the last thing you need.
Rather than give a complicated run-around I’ma provide a Blueprint to get you sleeve-splitting biceps.
You must focus on getting stronger at compound exercises. When I say compound movements, I mean exercises that involve multiple joints, allow you to use the most external load, and give you the most bang for your buck. Squats, deadlifts, cleans, presses, rows, and pull-ups should be the focus.
Building strength is the biggest step towards building muscle, and the body likes to grow in proportion. Adding weight to the bar stimulates the body to grow, creating a stimulus and foundation for optimal development… like errrg… for the biceps.
In addition to your squats, deadlifts, and presses heavy pulling exercises like the chin-up and supinated bent-over row will emphasize your biceps. Supinating your grip – having your palms facing up places greater muscle building tension on those pythons.
When it comes to skill acquisition high frequency is best.
For example, If you’re trying to learn a new language what works best: Practicing one day per week for two hours, or 30 minutes six-days per week? I’d assume you’d say six-days per week, rather than one.
Building your body is no-different. Pick a few exercises per day to hammer the biceps, rather than a 1-day blitzkrieg. The consistent stimulus will challenge the biceps to adapt and grow, while the volume will be low enough each day for optimal recovery.
Isolation and Varying Reps
Isolation exercises are needed for maximal biceps growth. When programmed in concert with heavy, compound lower body and upper body work isolation exercises will add extra size to the arms.
But hold the phone. We need cover some basics.
There are two primary ways to categorize muscle fibers in the body–fast twitch, and slow twitch. Fast twitch muscle fibers are primarily used during explosive, requiring high intensity exercises. These muscle fibers rely primarily on the phospho-creatine system for muscle contractions.
Slow twitch muscle fibers prosper in longer-duration, lower intensity exercises. These muscle fibers rely on glycolytic and oxidative energy systems to maintain muscular contractions.
Going any deeper into these systems is outside the scope of this article, so here’s the cliff-notes version.
Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers= High intensity strength and explosive exercises, generally 8 or fewer reps with a significant load. Think compound strength exercises.
Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers= low-moderate intensity exercises lasting a longer duration under moderate load. Think timed sets, chasing the pump, and isolation exercises like curls.
To maximize muscle growth all muscle fibers must be attacked. That means heavy weight with low reps, moderate weight with moderate reps, and low weight with high reps are part of the game plan.
Multiple sets between 2-8 reps performed as explosively as possible will stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers. Focus on proper form and maximal weight *without form breaking down. Rest should be sufficient for heavy weight, at least 90 seconds.
*Note:This emphasis on perfect form is termed technical failure.
Slow twitch muscle fibers don’t respond as well to high intensity exercises, but thrive in higher-rep endurance exercises. To fatigue slow-twitch fibers higher reps that require oxygen as an energy source are required.This means longer duration sets that provide the “burning” sensation in your muscles fit the bill.
Isolation exercises work best for pumping the biceps specifically, the slow-twitch fibers. Sets between 10-20 reps with incomplete rest are best. My favorite exercises are fat-grip barbell curls, hammer curls, incline dumbbell curls, zottoman curls, and cable curls.
Yes, you will still be chasing the pump. I’ll let Arnold Schwarzenegger explain.
By hitting all rep ranges more muscle fibers are stimulated, creating maximal muscle growth.
Woah. So how do we put all these concepts together?
Don’t spend the entire winter on getting huge arms. You need to get strong first, remember?
Choose a few 4-6 week periods throughout the next few “blast” the biceps and make them grow. This will “shock” the muscles and then allow a time period for recovery and growth.
Here’s a sample 3-day total body workout program to build big, sleeve splittin’ biceps.
1a.Barbell Deadlift 5×3-5
1b.Plank x30-60 seconds
2.Chin Up 5×4-8 reps (Low/Moderate Reps, high load)
3a.Dumbbell Bench Press 3×10-12
3b.Dumbbell Walking lunge 3×10-12
4.Dumbbell Biceps Curl 4×10-15 (moderate/High Reps, moderate load)
5. Move, Do Conditioning for the love of God
1a.Barbell Bench Press 5×5
1b.Glute Bridge x30-60 seconds
2.Barbell Supinated Bent Over Row 5×4-8 reps (Low/Moderate Reps, high load)
3a.Barbell Biceps Curl 3×10-12
3b.Dumbbell Step Up 3×8-12
4. Dumbbell Hammer Curl Curl 4×10-15
5. Move, Do Conditioning for the love of God
1a.Barbell Front Squat 5×5
1b.Side Plank x30-60 seconds
2.Dumbbell 1-Arm Row 5×8-12 reps (moderate, moderate-high load)
3a.Push Up 3xMaximum
3b.Lateral lunge 3×10-12
4a.Incline Dumbbell Curl4x10-15 (moderate/High Reps, moderate load)
4b. ab wheel rollouts 4×8-12
5. Move, Do Conditioning for the love of God
Despite what the fitness-bullies say, proclaiming that you want to have big, veiny-triumphant arms isn’t silly, non-functional or immature. Those critics are just frustrated at their own lack of success stretching shirt sleeves.
Remember, just because jacked biceps is the goal doesn’t mean your programming should consist of 39 different curl variations.
Your biceps won’t grow if the rest of the body isn’t strong and stimulated to grow. Apply what you’ve learned in this blueprint and start stretching shirt-sleeves.
P.S. for your own highly individualized biceps building program contact me here.
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