Committing and sticking to a training programme

committing to a training programmeWhen it comes to getting your training on the right track you usually start with the selection of a training programme. Whether that means you develop your own training programme to achieve a certain goal or you adopt a widely available training programme, having something to follow will not only ensure you know what you are going to do every time you walk through the gym door, but the structure of a good programme should allow for progression towards an end goal. Ironically most programmes from the same field will allow you to achieve much the same goals as long as they follow a few basic principles. Heading back to my P.E GCSE’s now but what you learn on the most basic of levels still applies to a good programme. SPORTSpecificity, Progression, Overload, Regression, Time. You can go further on this and add the FITT acronym… Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type.  Effectively as long as a programme is targeting your goals, shows consistent progression and overload and of course you take training time and intensity into account your programme will more than likely work. That is why there are hundreds of good programmes out there. There isn’t necessarily one that is better than any other but certain individuals react better to different forms of training and with so many successful athletes from the same sport using different programmes it can be a bit of a gamble when choosing your programme.

An aspect in the success of a training programme that will not change is sticking to it and being consistent. The most successful people I know, that is physically performance based are the ones that were consistent and consistent on only a few programmes over a long period of time. Chopping and changing between programmes because you haven’t instantly become Heman certainly won’t get you there. It takes time for your body to show adaptation to a training stimulus, more so if you are an experienced individual. You can see progression on a programme with only about 6-8 weeks of good training but for me however this is nowhere near long enough to get the most out of the training plan you’re doing. When people ask me what training programme I’m using or how to put their own programme together it would probably be more useful for me to say “pick the simplest exercises to make you better at what you want to do and do them for a while” This of course isn’t sound training advice but I am just trying to show you the importance of doing something good for a sustained period of time. I will be honest when I first started out in the gym, long before any studying or qualifications took place, I wanted to fill out a T-shirt. Not a bad goal considering I looked like a flagpole with a T-shirt hanging on it. I did what so many do and used good old google to find me a programme to build bigger Biceps and big shoulders. Several weeks later my biceps hadn’t grown and my shoulders weren’t any bigger. What I then did was go looking for the next programme that promised to build an amazing physique. For one I didn’t give the programme anywhere near enough time to have an effect on my body and I probably wasn’t eating enough food to support what I wanted anyway. Getting to the point, I myself was guilty of chasing a long-term goal with a short-term mindset. Now however I am about as organised with my training as it gets, It’s no coincidence I’m stronger now than this time last year and although my training has changed slightly over this time period the basic principles have remained the same.

Cardio exerciseWith the new year fast approaching this is where I encourage my clients, athletes and myself to start targeting a goal that they will attempt next year. This can be as simple as a body fat percentage, a powerlifting total or a distance in a faster time than they currently can achieve. Often these goals are dictated by competition or a deadline date so it should be easy to pick a date at which you want to achieve your goal. When your goal is set you can begin your programming. I personally plan my cycle for 4 months at a time although I will not limit myself to a 4 month training plan and will have a longer training programme sitting in wait. This allows me to make adaptions to the longer programme and implement anything I have picked up in the first 4 months of training. One piece of advice I will give is buy a notebook. My notebook is battered, dog-eared and covered in chalk but it contains every set in every workout I’ve done for the last 6 months and has the exercises sets, reps, and tempo etc for the next 2. Altogether 8 months of training logged and accounted for.

You have probably read this far expecting the programme to pop up at the bottom but that is not the case. If you are unsure of a programme find one that points you towards your goals. If it makes you better remember it made you better, learn how your body reacts to certain elements and use that to adapt or choose your next programme. Training is as much an education as it is a challenge, the more you learn about your body the better your programming will eventually be. I guess the take home message here is this; You can have all the will power in the world but if you aren’t consistent your goals will likely never materialise. Reaching your final goal is a marathon not a sprint metaphorically speaking, so looking further down the line is so important for the success of any individual. I want to leave you with a quote from the highly successful Tony Robbins. Although he does not have a background in physical performance I believe his words resonate with a wide range of disciplines.

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.”

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How to warm up for a big bench press session

bench press mobilityIf you don’t bench chances are you aren’t as strong as you could be. There are many exercises that are closely linked to being strong but the bench press is probably the number one when it comes to upper body development. Although this exercise is classed as the king and most people would love to have a big bench press it comes with its dangers, it’s the whole risk vs reward situation.  Yes the bench press is going to build strength and size faster than a lot of other exercises but if you do it wrong or don’t warm up properly you will more than likely end up paying the price for it either now or in years to come. One certain way to screw yourself up will be not warming up properly. The 10 minutes you spend at the start of a session can protect you more than you will ever know and it will more than likely increase your bench press performance in the long run so it makes sense to give yourself the time to not only do it but to do it properly. You can do a warm up by jumping under an unloaded bar and warming the chest, Triceps and shoulder through this way and gradually build the weight up until you are at the point at which your sets become working sets or you can be more thoughtful about it and begin to incorporate movements that will actually make you stronger.

 Foam rolling/SMR

I have always been a big fan of this and I would advise it in any warm up and not just for bench pressing. You will however only target muscles that will have a direct impact on your bench press, if you want to know about foam rolling in more depth have a look at A full foam roller review: Why, when and how to use it. Breaking down knots and scar tissue will increase the range you can achieve at the joint allowing for a more comfortable position when the joint as at its most vulnerable position. The key areas to target will be the Lats, Teres Major and the Tricpes. It is also important to use the foam roller to open up the shoulder and work on the pecs and anterior Deltoid. When foam rolling your main goal is to work your way into the knot from the outside and aim to gently release the muscle adhesion. If you have found a knot gently apply pressure around the outside first covering around and inch per second. After around 30 seconds this area should begin to loosen and become less sensitive. This is when you work your way closer to area where the tight adhesion is situated. I often use a Lacrosse ball when working out muscle adhesion, not only does it provide a more accurate method of working the knots out but it allows you to access areas that are hard to get to with a foam roller.

 Mobility

This is one area that is often missed out on in a warm up but is very important to ensure you protect yourself against incoming weight. The unloaded bar movement is technically mobility but you can be more specific with this movement and make better use of the time.

Rotator Cuff work 

If you have ever had a Rotator cuff issue you will know how crippling it can be. It is one area of the shoulder that will be put under severe strain during the bench press so it is vital to not only warm it up but to directly strengthen it. If you have weak rotator cuff or you are worried about you shoulder health check out The key to shoulder injury prevention & cure. Work on warming/mobilising the rotator cuff, you can do this through internal and external rotation. I like to use bands for this movement because it provides a more fluid load throughout the range of motion. You can however use a light dumbbell. Start with 8-10 reps on each movement, this should supply sufficient blood flow. I can tell you that from personal experience rotator cuff work is hard. I injured my shoulder around about 6 months ago and as you can see from the picture on the left my external rotation still isn’t good.

External rotation rotator cuff work

Internal rotation rotator cuff

Rotation rotator cuff

Shoulder, chest and Trap mobility 

One of the most effective tools for warming up is a band you can use them to help work on the rotator cuff and you can use them to mobilise most muscles in the upper body. Overhead shoulder mobility with a band is in my eyes the best way to open the chest and shoulder and mobilise the Traps and Lats. Work on performing ten reps, one full rep would be starting the band in front, taking it overhead until the band is parallel to the floor behind you and returning to the starting position.

Overhead shoulder mobility with band

Overhead shoulder mobility with band

scapular wallslideOne of the best ways to mobilise the shoulder joint is to stand against a wall and extend at the shoulder joint making sure your hands remain in contact with the wall. You will find these are called Scapular wall slides if you google it. The reason this is such an effective warm up for the shoulder is it allows the ball in socket joint to remain firmly in the correct position, a very similar position your shoulder joint will achieve during the beck press itself.

The Trapezius plays a massive role in building a big bench press. By squeezing this muscle group together you lock the shoulder blades down and it becomes easier to engage the Lats when the bar touches the chest. The problem is a lot of people fail to warm this muscle through before starting a work out and your stability can suffer for it. The Scapular wall slides should allow blood flow to the traps and begin to warm them through. If you have the equipment available, a face pull with a cable is an excellent way to ensure the traps are warmed up fully.

Avoid static stretching

Stretching the Lats with a band or TRX

Stretching the Lats with a band or TRX

I don’t often include any static stretching techniques in a warm up. A dynamic warm up is far more efficient and is likely to increase your power output when compared to a warm up based around static stretches. The only time I will use it is if there is excessive tightness in an area that is going to effect your performance. Stretches for bench press may include the Pectoral stretch or the Lat stretch. Do not hold these for excessive periods of time 10-15 seconds should be sufficient to reduce any tightness, If it isn’t then you should really be working on flexibility rather than benching for the time being.

Below is a structured warm up for you to complete before your bench press routine. you should not feel fatigued by the end of this warm up but you should feel as if you have performed some work. Your heart rate should be up and you will be ready for  solid bench press workout. If you are looking to build your bench press Build a bigger bench supplies you with the tools to do it including a programme for free!

Exercise  Time,reps
SMR Lats 30 seconds
SMR Traps (Lacrosse ball) 30 seconds
Smr Triceps 30 seconds
SMR Pec/detoid 30 seconds
Rotator cuff work 8-10 reps for each move
Overhead band mobility 10 reps
Stadning wall shoulder extension 10-15 reps
Face pulls 10-15 reps

 

When and how to use a lifting belt

4 Inch powerlifting belt

4 Inch powerlifting belt

A lifting belt is as much a part of your gym wear as trainers and a t-shirt. Most people who have been in a gym will have seen wide variety of lifting belts being used across multiple different exercises. Big guys, small guys, big girls and small girls all wear belts but how do you know when to use one and are you doing any damage to your body by wearing one to soon?

Types of belts 

There are generally two types of lifting belt used, you get the 4 inch powerlifting belt and the 2 inch olympic lifting belt. Now which one you purchase is going to depend on your sport. If you do a lot of squatting and deadlifting you will want to buy a 4 inch powerlifting belt on the contrary if you are planning on cleaning and snatching a fair bit you will want to go with the 2 inch belt. If you aren’t set on being a powerlifter or an olympic lifter but just want to start using a belt I would go for the thicker belt. It is likely that if you are a recreational gym user you aren’t going to be knocking out heavy cleans and snatches but you more than likely will perform a squat and deadlift along you weight training mission (or I hope you will anyway)

Who should use a belt 

This is a tricky one to answer actually and the answer you get here might be something that you don’t want to hear. If you want to be strong and that’s all you are interested in then buy a belt. By that I mean if you just want to move some heavy stuff about then buying a belt is fine. If however you need to get strong for another purpose then using a belt might be a bad idea. Countless sports use the squat and deadlift to build brilliant athletes. Take sprint cyclists for example, these guys and girls have an incredible power to weight ratio when they squat but they squat to become better sprint cyclists not to become better squatters. You don’t see many sprint cyclists wearing a 4 inch thick lifting belt in the velodrome do you now, so why would you train with one. To a certain extent wearing a belt is ok if you are training for another sport, it can be vital to protect the spine in a heavy lift but don’t over use it. If you can only produce a decent squat or deadlift with a belt then you won’t perform as well on the pitch, the velodrome or the pool without it.

When to start using a belt

Using a belt to often can limit the development of core muscle especially the lumbar spine

Using a belt to often can limit the development of core muscles especially around the lumbar spine

There is nothing worse than watching someone walk into the gym, get changed into their kit and put their belt on to walk to the bar, set the weight up and get ready for a workout. A belt is not a fashion accessory that you should wear around the gym to show others you are a seasoned veteran of the iron, in fact by doing this you are taking away the opportunity to develop core muscles that will help you get stronger in the long run. At first it is really important to build your core strength simultaneously with strength in your legs, back, chest etc. You are only as strong as your weakest link and believe me wearing a belt all the time will make you core the weak link. When starting out I wouldn’t even touch a belt until you can squat and deadlift one and a half times your body weight. This doesn’t mean you have to try a 1 rep max but use a 1 rm calculator to workout if you could hit that weight in the squat and deadlift. When you have got to this level you don’t then have to wear your belt for every rep and set you do. Again it is important to increase your core strength while making the other muscles of the body stronger. If you put a belt on for every rep and set your core muscles will always be playing catch up. The time to put a belt on is anything above 80-85% of your 1 rep max. At this point the belt will come in handy as a protective aid. Tightening the belt up and filling the abdomen with air will increase intra abdominal pressure and protect the lower back from and large forces it is about the come under.

How to use a belt 

A lifting belt is not something to help you hold your trousers up so it shouldn’t be fashioned around the hips. The point of a belt is provide you lumbar spine and abdominals support so it needs to go around your lower back and your abdominals. This may seem like a given but I’ve seen people wearing belts on their hips and some wear belts closer to the chest than the lower back. We have touched on intra abdominal pressure already but I want to tell you how to do it properly. Make sure the belt is tight enough to feel it pushing against your abdomen. Take a deep breath in and fill the abdomen with air, this should increase the pressure of the belt pushing back on your abs and subsequently producing pressure around the abs and the lower back. Do not arch the spine in order to push the abs against the belt, all this does is increase the risk of injury to the spine and puts the hips out of alignment. If you have to arch the spine to push your abs against the belt, the belt itself is not tight enough or you are not getting enough intra abdominal pressure.

 

Things to consider 

A belt won’t correct your form – If you have a crap lifting technique then putting a belt on will not change that. Don’t try to mask your defects with a belt, this is one of the easiest ways to end up with a big old injury. Work on reducing the load, fixing your mobility and flexibility issues and begin to build the weight on the bar up. I am not usually someone who goes to the gym and starts correcting people, I know the sort of people who do that I can’t think of being anything worse. While I’m at work I will correct all day long but that’s my responsibility while I’m there. Just because I’m around other people who are training at the same time as me, it doesn’t give me the right to start dishing out advice to others who don’t want it … but in this case I had to say something at the risk of the poor lad ruining his back for years to come. While waiting for the squat rack to become free a guy was performing sets of 5 with what seemed to be a fairly heavy weight for him. The squat itself was about as shallow as a tadpole pond and won’t even start on hip and knee biomechanics. The thing is he was wearing a belt. When I said “that looks heavy” in an attempt to get him to reduce the load he said “yea my backs been sore for ages that’s why I’m wearing a belt now” This is a prime example of someone who has used a belt to mask a problem rather than sort out hamstring and lower back flexibility before dealing with a high percentage of his 1 rep max. Moral of the story is if you can’t do the movement without a belt don’t do it with a belt.

A belt won’t make you stronger – Well it will actually so that sub heading is slightly wrong, a belt will give you more stability in turn making you a bit stronger but putting a belt on won’t take you from a 160 kg deadlift to a 200 kg deadlift. Just because the belt has gone on you won’t become the hulk unfortunately so be sensible with it. Add small increments of weight and still use proper form when lifting to avoid going a bit gun hoe and destroying yourself for weeks maybe months to come.

Getting fitter & stronger with limited training time

training time Wouldn’t it be nice to plan your week around training; working out when to train, cook up food and spend the rest of the time stretching, getting a massage or catching 40 winks to aid recovery. For most people this just isn’t realistic and although becoming a pro athlete is a dream for many it is reality for only a few. Even some pros in sports with lesser funding still have to hold down a job while fitting in gruelling training sessions. “I don’t have time” is becoming an ever more common phrase used by those in the modern world and who can blame anyone for using it. The work place demands more hours than ever, the stakes are higher and losing your employment is an ever-growing concern amongst a high percentage of the population. When times get tough, hours wise that is, finding a way to get the most out of training can be hard. I have nothing against short workouts, in fact I rarely train for over an hour and sometimes if I have a lot on my plate I will be in and out in 45 minutes. You’re now thinking that training for 45 minutes must be the most horrendous thing, pushing ridiculously hard and absolutely annihilating your body is the only way to benefit it in such a short space of time. It doesn’t mean that at all, those 45 minutes don’t have to be an eye watering massacre of muscle pain and destruction. Being smart about your programming will allow you to stay consistent when you have two jobs, a family, a car that needs repairing and a late meeting tonight. Obviously your training will depend on your goal, it is not often you see a high level powerlifter marathon running, therefore choosing the right exercises is going to be the most important thing you do when it comes to training on a time budget. One thing I will say is that the programmes listed below have worked for me in the past. When I was studying in my final year of uni and was working a fair few hours I still managed to train and I still managed to get stronger. I am not alone either, thousands of people who are pushed for time can still get stronger and end up with pretty decent body composition in the process.

If you know you are in for a tight few months the greatest investment in time will be sorting out a plan, even if that means missing a gym session now to sort yourself out for the future your patience will be repaid in the coming months.

Getting stronger

If I get weaker I feel weaker, this doesn’t just apply when I’m under the bar but my mood and general wellbeing declines rapidly, I feel about as good as a vegetarian at a BBQ. Staying strong has benefits beyond just picking something heavy up. If you partake in a strength sport then strength training will more than be a corner-stone of your training plan. If you are involved in a  field based sport you can benefit from being stronger. Long and the short of it is there aren’t many sports that don’t benefit from an increase in strength.

5×5 method

I’ve written about this rep scheme in 4 valuable rep schemes you should know how to use and there are generally 2 ways to use it. Strong lifts 5×5 has one of the biggest followings world-wide and the thought of a 5 rep scheme usually brings you back to the stronglifts routine. There are however many ways of using this 5 rep mantra.

“You can approach 5 x 5 in 2 ways. Either select a weight that you can complete all 5 sets and 5 reps with, not adding more weight until you can complete all 25 reps Or you can use the first 2 sets as warm up sets using 50% and 70 % of your 1RM then the following 3 sets as your max effort sets with around 80% of 1RM. From experience option 1 is more likely to give you progression in size option 2 in strength. The volume of option 1 is higher but you may find you progress quicker up the weights with option 2”

option 1 (1 RM bench press 100 kg)                                            Option 2 (1 RM bench press 100 kg)

set 1. 80kg x 5                                                                                        set 1. 50 kg x 5

set 2. 80 kg x 5                                                                                      set 2. 70 kg x 5

set 3. 80kg x 5                                                                                       set 3. 80 kg x 5

set 4. 80kg x 5                                                                                        set 4. 80kg x 5

set 5. 80kg x 5                                                                                        set 5. 80 kg x 5

 

Wendler 5/3/1

bench press strengthMr. Wendler is a pretty famous guy in the world powerlifting. He has a 1000 lb squat to his name along with a 675 lb bench and a 700lb deadlift; Altogether a big guy with a big total. His programme has become the staple of many strength training individuals and the 5/3/1 variations now available for powerlifting make it an even wider used template. If you use the 5/3/1 method named “I ant doing jack s##t” you will find that you will be in and out of the gym within 45 minutes, maybe even less and that’s with a warm up and cool down. You can then choose accessory work if you want to and increase the volume but again this needn’t be long. “Big but boring” accessory movements require 5 sets of 10 reps on one of the big four barbell exercises so you probably won’t exceed one hour even if you do this on top of 5/3/1.

Starting strength

This is another programme that won’t take you to long. It is renowned for its ability to build, yes you guessed it… good starting strength. A novice lifter can see great results on this programme and won’t have to spend hours in the gym to boot. This is a great programme if you are thinking about starting strength training seriously but are already pushed for time. It is tough mind you and you will be using big compound movements so don’t think that it is a walkover by any means.

Conditioning work

While you are limited on time and training has to take a back seat for a while it can be difficult to fit in those longer sessions that include conditioning work. Bear in mind though that if you can get stronger while decreasing your workout time, you can also increase your conditioning level.

Sprints

For body composition this will always be a better option that running at a steady pace anyway. The good thing is a really tough sprint workout shouldn’t take you in excess of 20 minutes anyway. When it comes to the time:results ratio sprinting probably has the top trump card.

Decrease body fat and increase endurance – 6 x 30 second all out sprints, take around 1 minutes rest in between sets.

Increase strength and power. 8 x 35 meter sprints with 10 seconds rest between sets

Prowler

ProwlerThis is hard and there isn’t any getting around it, but in fitness if something is hard then it is usually worth it. This is a great way to burn body fat and build some powerful legs. Load the prowler up and perform 5 sets of 20 meter pushes with 45 seconds rest between sets. You can do this as conditioning work on the same day as your weight training or you can complete this on a separate day altogether, just ensure you aren’t performing anything to strenuous the next day, you will be surprised how hard the prowler will hit you the next day, especially if you aren’t used to it.

As you can see there are various ways of limiting training time and staying just as fit if not getting fitter. I am under no illusion that things like stress and diet play a large role in keeping you moving forward and having a handle on these elements is important in time stricken periods of your life. If you can control these variables a simple training programme will more than likely still deliver.

Take the plunge: Ice baths for exercise recovery

Take the plunge

Take the plunge

One thing I have noticed with the success of individual athletes, clients and recreational sports people is that the key to getting better at what you do is to be consistent. You could walk into the gym or onto the track and go absolutely balls out during a training session but if you can’t train again for days then you have actually taken a backwards step. People spend so much attention on their training programmes, nutrition and kit that recovery methods can end up taking a back seat when it comes to enhancing performance. If you were to take a look at your training right now, whether that be a powerlifting training programme or an advanced endurance plan for a sport such as cycling or running, have you got any recovery methods in place? You may have a stretching routine to work from which is highly commendable but what about beyond that. Ice baths are a method of recovery that have been used for years by professional athletes to increase there recovery rate. A wide range of sports from rugby through to marathon running use this method but we are going to find out if it actually works. Personally I think ice baths are one of the best recovery methods around. If I play football and don’t have an ice bath I notice the pain the next day far more than I would if I had just had one. In fact I find if I spend the time having an ice bath combined with stretching and good post workout nutrition I can train the day after with relatively high intensity. If I don’t do those things I am looking at around 2 days out of the gym before I can tackle a workout with full power. This is no scientific evidence that ice baths work and if I was reading about an account of a guy that used ice baths online without the backing of any science I would close the page quicker than business with no product. The trouble is the science is a bit hit and miss on this one. There are studies out there that back the method as you will find out in this article but thus far there hasn’t been conclusive evidence that ice baths are the way forward. There are various techniques and practises that have come up inconclusive in studies but with so many people using this method surely there must be some truth behind it right ?

After exercise your body is in an almost self destruct mode. The exercise stimulus,whether that be pushing a heavy weight or pounding the pavement has caused trauma to the muscle meaning the muscle fibres have torn on a minute level. There can also be a build up of various toxins in the muscle such as lactate acid and Unless your body can alter certain hormonal responses it is likely your body is beginning to breakdown muscle tissue as you become catabolic.

These are a few of the benefits that ice baths are suspected to help with.

1. Constrict blood vessels and aid the removal of waste products after exercise

2. Reduce swelling of damaged tissue and reduce the speed of tissue breakdown (becoming catabolic)

3. When warm water is introduced to the cold muscle after the ice bath it can kick-start the recovery process

4. Reduce the pain of DOMS

Your ice baths song have to be that cold

Your ice baths don’t have to be that cold

Those 4 are pretty solid reasons to use ice baths really. Most athletes can benefit from all of the above but there is an ongoing argument in the science world which has people batting for both sides of the ice bath team. One side of the argument states that the inflammation process post workout is necessary for the body to adapt and become stronger over a long period of time. So although you may be helping yourself train again in the short term, you might be taking long-term physiological enhancement away from the body. On the other hand recovering faster and to a greater degree would allow someone to train again sooner with more volume and intensity therefore getting fitter or stronger quicker than someone who can’t train again at that intensity as soon. These are to very intriguing arguments and with no long-term study yet completed it is difficult to attain which side has the right theory.

There are however a few scientific studies that do come out with some useful findings. A study by Vaile et al (2008) found that cyclists training at high intensity had better sprint times the following day when cold water immersion or contrast water therapy was used as opposed to complete rest and hot water immersion. This was supported years before by Eston and Peters (1999) who found that cold water immersion after strenuous eccentric exercise reduced muscle stiffness and post exercise damage to the muscle.

How to use ice baths 

If you are thinking about using ice baths as a recovery method here are a few points to push you in the right direction.

1. Don’t freeze yourself to death. A bath filled with ice that looks like the mid atlantic in december isn’t necessary. Water under 15 degrees is enough to illicit a response from your muscles. Yes you may have to put a small amount of ice into a bath to bring the temperature down but don’t worry about turning your freezer into a mini iglu.

2. Don’t spend to long in there. Most accounts of ice bath use rely on 10 -15 minutes of cold water immersion. You may find some people spend longer but anything in excess of 20 minutes is just going to make you unnecessarily cold.

3. Re heat the body after ice bath use. Re-warming the body by stepping into a warmer bath or under a warm shower after the 15 minutes will help re introduce fresh oxygenated blood to the muscle carrying it vital nutrients for repair.

 Points to consider  

Ice baths can be a bit of a pain and although 15 minutes would suffice they can add a fair bit of time to your workout routine. My advice would be don’t use an ice bath after every session. It is a little unnecessary to think your body can’t handle the demands of post exercise responses at all. I would say use them after a particularly intense session, maybe a long run, sprint session or a Ice bathscompetitive match where you have to work at a high intensity for long periods of time. Active recovery has been proven to be as effective when trying to rid your body of lactate acid so it may be worth while trying out these techniques before tacking the long cold plunge.

Cold water immersion needs more research, there is not doubt about that. It needs several studies to be conducted explaining it’s effects over a long period of time and some definitive research on it’s short term use would certainly be handy. Wether the research is valid or not hundreds of athletes and sports teams use ice baths world-wide so that to me says it must be worth a try. If you are looking for more recovery methods check out What do compression garments actually do ?

References

ESTON, R and PETERS, D (1999) Effects of cold water immersion on symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage. Journal of sports science. 17(3) p.231-238

VAILE, J, HALSON, S, GILL, N, DAWSON, B (2008) Effect of hydrotherapy on recovery from fatigue. International journal of sports medicine. 29(7) p. 539-344

4 valuable rep schemes you should know how to use

rep and sets for strength How many reps and sets for Power/strength/size is probably the most used phrase typed into google when it comes to training. When you start out on your training journey it is pretty much guaranteed to be the first thing you look up. That along with every supplement in the world that promises 50lbs of muscle growth in 10 days !!!! Of course you very quickly find out there is no such supplement and the best way to do it is to rely on tried and tested training advice. Finding the right rep scheme is generally a lot easier to get a hold of than other training information and if they are used effectively clear-cut results usually follow.

The following rep schemes should give you an idea of how much volume and intensity you should be lifting at to reach your goal faster. I am not going to touch on rep tempo in this article although it is one of the most important areas of training for a specific goal. All the information you will need on tempo is on Change your rep tempo for a specific training goal. The other thing to consider is exercise choice. If you want bigger biceps then you might use the hypertrophy rep scheme using and exercise like Bicep curls. However if you want to get stronger or more powerful, choose an exercise that is renowned for building strength. For example bench, squat and deadlift. The same goes for the power rep scheme where you might use exercises like the clean or the snatch (along with some of the strength exercises as well of course) Be smart with your choices and use your common sense.

Maximal Power progressive 8 x 3 (sets x reps)

If you want to get strong you are going to have to move something heavy around. There are those that will tell you that lifting that heavy is pointless and you can get just as strong lifting light loads but personally I believe moving heavy stuff makes you better at moving heavy stuff… simple. When I say progressive 8 x 3 what I mean is each set should get heavier until your final two sets are really pushing at your limits. For example if you had a 1 RM bench press of 100kg your 8 sets would look as follows.

power training 1. 60kg x 3

2. 65kg x 3

3. 70kg x 3

4. 75kg x 3

5.  80kg x 3

6. 85kg x 3

7. 90kg x 3

8. 95kg x 3

I appreciate using 95 % of your 1 RM may be to much for some people which is fine, all you have to do is start set one 5kg lower, meaning your final set is 5 kg lower. The great thing about the rep scheme is it gets you stronger, warms your central nervous system up properly for those final few sets and you aren’t going to fatigue yourself so much that you can’t do anything for the rest of the week. I find that this rep scheme allows for some manipulation, if you feel your best results come from 7 sets rather than 8 this is fine. It is also fine to manipulate the percentage of the weight lifted in each set. Just make sure that you are putting it in for those last 2 sets.

The strength & hypertrophy combo 5 x 5 

This is one of the most famous rep schemes out there and greats from various sports have sworn by it for over half a century. The infamous Reg park brought it to the forefront of training with his 5×5 programme and it is still widely used to this day. The most popular version used today is stronglifts 5×5 and the success of this programme is documented world-wide. Personally this rep scheme is my favourite. Whenever I find my training has hit a stopping point or I have become a bit disillusioned with where I am heading this is my comfort zone. You can approach 5 x 5 in 2 ways. Either select a weight that you can complete all 5 sets and 5 reps with, not adding more weight until you can complete all 25 reps Or you can use the first 2 sets as warm up sets using 50% and 70 % of your 1RM then the following 3 sets as your max effort sets with around 80% of 1RM. From experience option 1 is more likely to give you progression in size option 2 in strength. The volume of option 1 is higher but you may find you progress quicker up the weights with option 2.

option 1 (1 RM bench press 100 kg) 

arnold-draper-squatsset 1. 80kg x 5

set 2. 80 kg x 5

set 3. 80kg x 5

set 4. 80kg x 5

set 5. 80kg x 5

Option 2.

set 1. 50 kg x 5

set 2. 70 kg x 5

set 3. 80kg x 5

set 4. 80kg x 5

set 5. 80kg x 5

Good old fashioned Hypertrophy 8-12 x 4

Hypertrophy is one of those subject areas that has about a thousand different views from a million different people. Every man and his dog has an opinion on what makes you bigger (me included) Of course a lot of this depends on individual experience and body type but science does back this one up. For the greatest gains in hypertrophy you need to put micro tears into the muscle fibre. When these tears heal and repair you grow and you grow bigger than before. To do this you need to enrol the help of some higher rep ranges. 8-12 x 4 is a rep range used by bodybuilders, wrestlers, American football players, rugby players etc. Generally any athlete that has to be a bit of a unit. These athletes will often use other rep ranges dependant on their goal but when they need to stack on some muscle this is more often that not the one they use.

Endurance rep ranges 15+

These rep ranges are often considered as 15+ reps for anything between 3-5 sets. You are going to be lifting loads that are lighter than normal, something around 60 % of your 1 RM, maybe lower. These ranges are going to make you better at lasting for longer which makes sense really seen as your time under tension is going to massively increase. You will find this sort of rep range is used for athletes such as cyclists and swimmers looking to increase their muscular endurance. This sort of rep scheme is also used for those trying to add muscle to their frame purely because the trauma applied to the muscle is enough to cause further micro tears allowing for further growth.

Using the rep schemes 

You may have one of these rep schemes in mind already, seeing that you now know exactly how to get the required response to reach your goal quicker you might just want to crack on. You do however have to consider the potential in using more than one rep scheme in your training. For example, those looking to gain strength can also benefit from hypertrophy rep ranges. Increasing strength and size simultaneously has benefits to sports like American football, rugby, powerlifting and so on. This is where your planning has to become more efficient. If you’re looking for both an increase in size and strength you may find In pursuit of size and strength useful. You will also find a full programme available there.

Conclusion

Above are 4 of the most widely used rep schemes on the planet. Believe me this isn’t even touching the surface when it comes to how many are out there and I would back other rep schemes not stated in this article. The thing with these 4 is they are a safe haven, you know what you are going to get with them and they do exactly what they say on the tin. What I am trying to say is out there somewhere maybe the perfect rep scheme for your body but sifting through them all would take you years. Use this as a base and manipulate them as you see fit. Expand into other areas of your chosen rep scheme. My end message would be listen to your body, watch how it reacts to the training and make a judgement from there. Everyone is different therefore everyone’s perfect rep scheme will more than likely be different to.

the key to shoulder injury prevention & cure

shoulder_pain_smlWorking in injury rehabilitation has taught me a lot about how the body is designed to move. The problem with this is you not only find out how you yourself could move more efficiently but you begin to notice how bad we are as species at moving properly. I think one of the places this is most apparent is in the shoulder. I have lost count of the amount of people I have helped with rotator cuff injuries or shoulder instability issues and if I’m honest the prevention would have been far easier to administer than the cure. From experience the shoulder/chest is an area that people tend to neglect when it comes to mobility. People are worried about their lower back mobility and squat depth more than anything. Don’t get me wrong those areas are of extreme importance and a vital part of moving efficiently but if you have ever torn you rotator cuff you will know how important shoulder health is. If you think about the shoulder joint itself it is a ball in socket joint. This joint should provide a fairly large range of motion through several planes but if you test yours right now it’s likely you don’t feel to comfortable moving through it’s full range.

A Rotator cuff tear is the most common serious shoulder injury and it isn’t a nice one. Neither is it quick to recover from, a full grade 3 tear will see you out of action for up to a year and you may never be able to put full load through it again (dependant on the recovery techniques of course) That isn’t scare tactics from me, trying to force you into doing the following exercises but a rotator cuff injury really is that bad.

Generally you will need to look at 3 area’s when in comes to prehab; flexibility, mobility and Strength. The following exercises are designed to reduce the risk of shoulder injury but some of these will also be used after an injury has occurred in the rehabilitation stage… but let’s not let it get to that shall we.

MOBILITY

Overhead shoulder mobility.

Overhead shoulder mobility with band

Overhead shoulder mobility with band

This exercise can be performed with a bar or a band and works at opening up the chest and mobilising the shoulder joint.  Take a wide overhand grip on the bar or band or band, retract the Scapular and take the band overhead until the arms are horizontal with the floor behind the body. Your hands my slide out across the band making the hand position wider. Let them slide until full range is achieved. Retract the band to the starting position and mark the position where both the right and left index finger start. If flexibility improves the two mark will move closer together. When you have the hand position set, perform 10 reps taking the band back and forward. On the final rep, hold the bar in the stretched position for 20-30 seconds.

Banded Rotator cuff work

I like to use 3 different movements to strengthen the rotator cuff. This is also a great set to add to your warm up for bench press and squat workouts. Working the Rotator cuff through 3 different movements allows it to be strengthened across separate planes of motion decreasing the chance of injury. The bands used can be purchased anywhere on the internet. Just stick exercise bands in google. The pictures below show the movements you will need to perform.

IMG_1861

Band attached in front, keep upper arm parallel to the floor.

IMG_1864

Band attached behind, keep elbow locked into the body.

IMG_1863

Band attached in front, keep elbow locked into the body

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FLEXIBILITY 

flexibility is always going to pop up in prehab/rehab plans, there isn’t really any getting away from it. Have faith though, I’ve seen people’s quality of life improve beyond belief when only these three stretches are used.
hbb_towel

1. towel stretch This stretch allows you to work directly on the shoulder flexibility ensuring you are limited in you range of motion. The more flexible you become the closer together you should be able to bring your hands on the towel.

 

2. Pectoral stretch When it comes to shoulder health, the pectoral group and the Deltoid group are very closely linked. A Bonnie and Clyde of the body if you will. Ensuring the chest doesn’t inhibit the movement of the shoulder is vital.

 

Stretching the Lats with a band or TRX

Stretching the Lats with a band or TRX

3. Lat flexibility You may not think it but actually The Lats play a large role in shoulder mobility. If tight, they can really limit the range of motion you can achieve, again putting strain on the shoulder and putting you at risk of injury. I like using bands for this but make sure they have a certain rigidity to them. You can also use a TRX if you have access to one but they can be expensive and buying a set for one exercise is a little bit excessive.

 

STRENGTH / STABILITY

Now I’m not going to tell you to start throwing weight around, smashing over head press work and jumping into olympic lifts but strength does have a role to play in the prevention pie. Shoulder rehabilitation guides will often focus on single arm work and I am a big fan of this. From personal experience those with shoulder problems often have a severe lack of stability in the joint. What kills me is you often see those people attempting the widest grip bench press you will ever see or press ups that place all of the strain directly onto the shoulder. It can sometimes be difficult to attain if you are unstable in the shoulder without screening from a professional but it is always good to integrate some single arm press work into your routine to avoid the problem anyway. You can use dumbbells to do this and shoulder press with one arm at a time. Remember although strength is what this section is called it is really stability that we are looking for. Focus on controlling both the eccentric and concentric portions of the lift with a 2-3-1-0 tempo. There is more info on tempo training in Change your rep tempo for a specific training goal. Start with 10 reps 3 sets for each arm and after 6 weeks reduce this to 6-8 reps 4 sets. The sets should not be extremely physically taxing focus on making the movement as stable as possible rather than increasing the weight week on week.

If you have already injured your shoulder, Consult a doctor before beginning any of these exercises. As a prevention tool these exercise should put you in a pretty firm position to avoid any future mishaps. If you need more information on injury prehab/rehab don’t be afraid to contact me at ventureeliteperformance@gmail.com  or leave a comment below and I will get back to you.

 

 

Plyometrics; are you using them properly

box-jumpsPlyometrics fall into that category of exercises that have become more and more fashionable in recent years, not unlike the kettlebell craze and “functional workouts” you see plastered all over gyms now. The problem with fashion exercises is that they are usually not new at all and often find their heritage in an eastern block gym for the 1970’s. This certainly applies to plyometrics. The trouble is plyometrics are a fantastic tool if you know what to use them for but people just seem to use them now because companies make boxes look pretty and to be fair with the “cool” factor of plyometrics stronger than ever why wouldnt you dabble in a bit of bounding. The credit for plyometric training seems to be mixed between the Americans and the Russians. Eastern block training methods combined with the ideas of Fred Wilt, an American olympic coach in the 1970’s gave rise to the term Plyometrics. With both training philosophies combined from different corners of the globe plyometric training was born.

Now that the History lesson over with we can look at the science behind Plyometrics. It can be a bit wordy and yes some of it may seem like it is a bit to much information but I think it is a really important area to get your head around considering it plays a massive role in all explosive movements. The point of plyometrics is to increase the power of your muscles by increasing their ability to contract as quickly as possible. This power is developed through the rapid change from an eccentric contraction to a concentric contraction. Plyometric training increases two very important factors that are imperative to better force development.

1. Myogenic response – This is the way in which your body can store energy in the muscle tendon tissue. One thing I have noticed is that trainers and athletes alike tend to miss the important of tendon elasticity and think that it is only your muscles and your central nervous system that play a part in producing power. When I was at University my lecturer described this in a way that is so easy to understand. “Your tendons are like rubber bands, imagine them as a sling shot storing kinetic energy and then firing an object when you let the rubber band go” This should make perfect sense really, it’s why you are told to pull the slack out of the bar when performing a deadlift, or build up pre-tension in the hamstrings during a hang clean.

jumping2.Neurogenic response- This involves the muscles and your central nervous system, more specifically it involves the firing rate in which the motor units will be able to achieve. This is effectively how quickly your central nervous system can fire motor units to cause the muscle to contract. This is essential for power production. You could be the strongest guy in the world but if it takes you an age to fire the motor units to produce that strength then you will be way down on the power scale.

Below are three terms you should know about involving plyometric training.

Stretch shortening cycle (SSC)

When talking about plyometrics you may hear this talked  about. This is the term used to describe the eccentric muscle action followed by the concentric muscle action. An efficient stretch shortening cycle is imperative to the effective performance of many sporting movements such as explosive running or jumping.

Series elastic component (SEC) 

The SEC is made up of tendons and muscle tissue and when it is subjected to an eccentric or concentric contraction energy is stored and released resulting in an explosive movement, just like the rubber band metaphor my lecturer used. So this is what happens during the Myogenic response. (I hope this is starting to fall into place now)

Stretch reflex (SR)  

This term is slightly more well-known and you may have heard it used when talking about certain stretching techniques like PNF. The stretch reflex is your bodies safety mechanism and it stops you pushing to hard and causing yourself and injury. The SR will come into play when your body detects that the lengthening of the muscle could cause damage to your body and fires to Golgi tendon organ making sure your body contracts the opposing muscle group, firing you out of a harmful stretch position. For example in a drop jump your hamstrings lengthen to allow your body to reach squat depth. When your Golgi tendon organ suspects your hamstring is at risk of tearing because it is lengthening, it fires the quadricep group to contract to ensure you don’t go any deeper into the squat position.

Now that is the science bit done (and I heard from here the sighs of relief that just washed over you) we can talk about things that you can do to use plyometrics properly.

Why should you use plyometrics 

plyometric ballThe short answer to this is, it will make you more powerful. Plyometrics can benefit performance in multiple sports, effectively anyone that requires you to shift you ass quick, jump over something or lift something heavy up. There are however a few key points you should consider before throwing these into your programme.

1. Bear in mind that plyometrics were developed for high level olympic athletes who were already strong and powerful. Now becoming more powerful is fantastic, no one can deny that, but if you haven’t built up the strength using movements such as the squat or deadlift why would you use plyometrics yet. The answer is don’t. Plyometrics put a large amount of stress through the tendons and it takes time to build this up. I wouldn’t worry about the use of plyometrics from a  safety point of view until you can handle your own body weight in a squat and deadlift, possibly even more if you lack stability in the knee and hip. This said if you can only handle that much weight in those two lifts you are better spending your time getting stronger first.

2. Plyometric work can place high impact forces through your joints so be wary if you have problems with your knees, hips and elbows. I personally struggle with excessive amounts of drop jumps because of a joint problem in my right knee. This should act as a warning for those out there that suffer from the same sort of thing.

3. Jumping isn’t neccasarily plyometric training. By the letter of the law you are jumping so it does technically come under the plyometric banner but there should be an emphasis on being explosive and developing pre tension. If you are on your 30th box jump you haven’t developed any tension in the tendons and you are spending ages doing each jump, you are just do cardio. Beware of this and beware of trainers that tell you you are doing plyometric work with no emphasis on pre tension or explosive strength.

4. Don’t overdo it. Just because you aren’t necessarily using a weight doesn’t mean that these exercises aren’t taxing on the body. In fact because of the explosive nature of the movement they can drain the central nervous system very quickly.

5 plyometric exercises to get you moving. 

A mis conception with plyometrics is that only jumping is used. There are tons of drills that get you working without using jumping alone. Below are some exercises that involve jumping, throwing and single leg work.

1. Box Jumps

2. Med ball chest throw

2. Drop jumps

4. Lateral jump

5. Box march (build pre tension in the Achilles tendon on each step)

In conclusion plyometrics are a fantastic way to make you more explosive, however the exercises themselves should be thought through far more than just doing some box jumps because you fancy them. They are predominately there to make you better at explosive sports that require the use of tendon elasticity and motor unit recruitment. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use them if you aren’t into these sports but do take into account how taxing they can be on the body. I usually put a programme in on these articles to give you an idea of what you should be heading for but plyometrics are so applicable to specific sports that I would have to post loads of programmes on here for you to find the right one. If you need any help with plyometric programming feel free to email me, or leave a comment below.

References

CARDINALE, M, NEWTON, R, NOSAKA, K (2011) Strength & Conditioning: Biological principles and practical applications. Chichester, John Wiley & Sons limited.

Asadi, A., Arazi, H. Effects of High-Intensity Plyometric Training on Dynamic Balance, Ability, Vertical Jump and Sprint Performance in Young Male Basketball Players. Journal of Sport and Health Research. 2012. 4(1), 35-44.

Markovic, Goran. Does Plyometric Training Improve Vertical Jump Height? British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2007. 41(6), 349-360.

 

 

 

 

 

Exercises to protect and build a strong neck

neck-painThe neck is such a vital piece of the body. For one it holds your head in place (which is a pretty big job) and two it protects your Cervical spine. If you think about it, maybe bar the heart it has one of the largest responsibilities of any muscle group in the body. This said, if you ask your average gym goer how do you train you neck ? You will more than likely get a cocktail of facial expression that suggest they didn’t even know the neck could be trained. So why is it then that such a valuable set of muscles is neglected so heavily ? I think the simple answer to that is fear. I have heard people say some pretty bizarre stuff in the fitness industry but I think neck training must be one of the most hushed subjects going. No one wants to hurt it, no one wants to train it but in reality the neck is made up of muscles meaning it can grow, become stronger and become a less feared body part. I know not all people want a massive neck that makes their head look the size of an egg but even if you aren’t after a thick neck it has benefits beyond growth that you would be a fool to ignore.

If you think about it purely from a safety standpoint it should be a vital piece of your training programme. If you can deadlift like a machine, squat like a monster and bench like a king you probably feel bullet proof when you take a big impact on a rugby field or from a powerful running back. You’re probably right to a certain extent and there is no denying that you can take and receive bigger hits if you are stronger but none of those movements really work the neck. So what you have done is built a body that can take some punishment … from the neck down. Put yourself in a position where the neck has to take the same sort of forces that the rest of your body does and you’re going the right way for a serious neck injury or a concussion.

Most good strength coaches or programmes will preach big compound movements, which if you read much on this site you will know I feel exactly the same way about using compound movements to build a better physique, improve at sports and so on so on. I don’t often preach the use of isolation movements but in this case I do. A study by Conley et al (1997) found that those who trained their neck directly on top of a training programme involving large compound movements had a 34 % increase in neck strength when compared to those who used a compound only training programme, who did not increase neck strength at all. I am not a big fan of five hours of bicep curls in front of the mirror when you could be doing chin ups instead but from that research, direct neck training does seem a good use of time. This extra strength is going to provide you with a far greater support unit for the head and protect your cervical spine far more than sporting a pencil neck would.

neckThere isn’t many muscles that make you look more imposing really. Take wrestlers for example, yes they have thick necks which makes great telly and they look scary and all but don’t you think with the amount if impact they subject their bodies to it’s a good job they train there necks multiple times per week. Your neck could also be the missing part of the physique you are looking for. You don’t have to end up with a tree trunk sticking out of your Traps but having some definition and thickness can really bring out the Traps and Deltoids.

So we have worked out that neck training protects you, makes you stronger and makes you look more commanding, now we have the small matter of how to programme it. In times gone by you would often find neck training devices in gyms, unfortunately they seem to have fell by the way side and you really only ever get them in gyms built specifically for sports involving contact such as American football. This means we are going to have to improvise. Your best bet would be to purchase a neck training harness. They shouldn’t cost you more than £15 so don’t go breaking the bank here. You can also use things like towels and bands to add resistance and some of the exercises need no equipment at all.

generally there are 4 movements in which you can train your neck. Flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation. You can also perform bridges which will train your neck isometrically.

 

Neck flexion

This movement will require you to tilt your neck forwards, training the Longus Colli, Longus Capitis, and Infra Hyoids This is a perfect situation where a band can be used to add resistance. Attach a band to a fixed point behind you and wrap the band around your forehead, tilt the chin towards the chest without using your torso to aid forward movement. This exercise is often used in a clinical setting to help neck rehabilitation.neck flexionNeck extension

This movement requires you to tilt your neck backwards, training the Splenius Capitis, Seminispinalis Capitis, sub Occipitals. To a certain extent your Traps will come into play here so don’t worry about the top of your neck not doing all the work. I prefer to get people sitting on a chair for this. Move your chin away from your chest in a slow controlled manner. This movement is best achieved with a neck training harness.neck-harness

Lateral neck Flexion

This movement involves tilting your head side to side, training the Scalenes. I like to ensure this movement is done in a seated position as well to stop you using your body as leverage. This movement can be performed with a band in much the same away as the neck flexion is performed with a band. It can be easier to attach a band to a neck training harness. lateral neck flexion

Neck rotation

This movement evolves turning the head as if you were looking over your shoulder. I find the best way to do this is with a towel. Wrap a towel around your head and take hold of both ends. Apply pressure using the arm and turn your head away from the oncoming resistance.neck rotation

Isometric neck training

This is a popular method used by wrestlers to strengthen the neck and has a direct cross over to the protection of your neck on impact. Neck bridges can be very hard and as a beginner this maybe asking to much of the untrained muscle group. Start by using a wall and staring upright to perform neck bridges. You can then move onto neck bridges on the floor.

neck bridge

Programming

Many athletes will train their neck multiple times per week. This is very effective however this training takes years to build up to and for beginners you are asking for a very stiff neck and even injury if you push yourself to hard at first. An end goal would be to train your neck twice per week hitting all 4 movements and the isometric contraction. first start with 1 set of 15-20 repetitions for all four exercises outlines once per week. Slowly build up the amount of sets performed per session week on week. When you feel comfortable completing 3 sets of each exercise you can begin to integrate a second session per week or increase the load. A starting programme should look like the one below. As you begin to progress with this programme you may find that it is lasting to long and is taking up to much of your time. I totally understand this and I know not everyone has hours and hours to dedicate to neck training per week. You can stick with one session per week and work on increasing the resistance or you can split the session below in half and perform both halves over two sessions. You may find that your body reacts better to certain exercises so place emphasis on these if you are pushed for time. I would give this programme to someone who was particularly weak through the neck and was playing a serious contact sport. Therefore you may decide that you don’t want to place so much emphasis on neck training. Some neck training is better than no neck training at all so take from this what you will. By integrating even one or two of these movements into your routine you should see a major difference.

 

Week Neck Flexion reps x sets Neck Extension reps x sets Lateral Flexionreps x sets Isometric bridges time x sets Neck rotationreps x sets
n 15-20 x 1 15-20 x 1 12-15 x1 (both sides) 15 seconds x 1 15-20 x 1

2

15-20 x 2 15-20 x 2 12-15 x2 (both sides) 15 seconds x 2 15-20 x 2

3

15-20 x 3 15-20 x 3 12-15 x 3 (both sides) 15 seconds x 3 15-20 x 3
4 (Increase load) 15-20 x 2 15-20 x 2 12-15 x 2 (both sides) 20 seconds x 2 15-20 x 2

5

15-20 x 3 15-20 x 3 12-15 x 3 (both sides) 20 seconds x 3 15-20 x 3
6 (2 sessions per week) 15-20 x 3 15-20 x 3 12-15 x 3 (both sides) 20 seconds x 3 15-20 x 3

7

15-20 x 3 15-20 x 3 12-15 x 3 (both sides) 20 seconds x 3 15-20 x 3

8

15-20 x 3 15-20 x 3 12-15 x 3 (both sides) 20 seconds x 3 15-20 x 3

 

References 

CONLEY, M, STONE, M, NIMMONS, M, and DUDLEY, G (1997) Specificity of resistance training response in neck muscle size and strength. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology. 75(5) p. 443-448

How to Naturally raise testosterone levels for a better performance & physique

Testosterone chemical structure formula on blackboardMost people know what Testosterone is but there are a fair few negative stereotypes that the hormone holds dear when it comes to the general population. For people who don’t really understand it they instantly think of mutant sized bodybuilders, aggressive tendencies and generally loutish behaviour; This is all crap. Yes, if Testosterone is abused there can be side affects, just like any hormone in the body. Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for an all round healthy lifestyle so don’t close this page just because you think you are going to turn into Arnold by changing a few lifestyle factors. Higher levels of Testosterone are also linked to greater physical performance, so the more you can boost your natural levels the better if you ask me. Constant and efficient T levels are so important for a balanced physique and well rounded lifestyle. Here are 6 ways to naturally increase testosterone production.

1. Shed some weight

Those with higher levels of body fat are likely to have lower levels of testosterone levels. Losing some timber is not just a must for increasing testosterone production but it is going to help your physique anyway, so why not drop a few. Its kind of like a “you help me I help you” deal you make with your bodies internal hormone regulation. I Don’t want to delve to far into dietary advice in this article because it would end up detracting from the point but those who are overweight and on a high sugar diet are more likely at risk of low testosterone levels. Those taking on excess amounts of sugar will be continually spiking insulin levels slowly making them insulin resistant. Being insulin resistant is linked with having low serum testosterone levels. If you are worried about this it might be worth while checking out The Paleo predicament which will give you a pretty solid base to work from.

 

2. Get you Vitamin D

PN-vit-d-performanceVitamin D comes with a host of benefits from preventing osteoporosis to lowering blood pressure but it also has a little testosterone trick up it’s sleeve. The most natural way to get your vitamin D levels up in to spend some time catching a few rays. Don’t take that as an excuse to lie in the sun for 8 hours and look like a pink salmon. Your Vitamin D levels might be sky high but we all know the dangers of UV rays. Point is don’t end up looking like your Nan’s leather handbag. Exposure to the sun for 10 minutes should give you around 3000 IU, which if performed 2-3 times per week should be ample.  You should be able to get enough vitamin D from a bit of sun and a balanced diet containing oily fish, such as salmon sardines and tuna. You can consume Vtimin D3 as a supplement to increase Vitamin D but I am not a big fan. Realistically you should be able to get the recommended amount through sunlight and healthy eating. But like all things if you need to use it, then you need to use it.

 

 

3. Avoid stress

StressWouldn’t that be nice !!! It isn’t always convenient and I’m sure 99.9% of us don’t like being stressed but this is a massive factor when to comes to low testosterone levels. When we get stressed and begin tearing our hair out, our bodies refer to the fight or flight response. When we get into this state a whole host of hormones are released into the body which spells disaster for natural testorone levels. The “stress hormone” Cortisol is released in large quantities and let’s just say testerone and cortisol aren’t pals. Low testosterone levels and high Cortisol levels share the same symptoms so if you have any of these you could be a walking cortisol cocktail if you dont get your stress levels under control.

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of labido
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression

4. Use ZMA supplementation

This is probably the best known supplement for natural testerone increase. ZMA is actually an acrinym which stands for Zinc, Magnesium asparate and Vitamin B6. This little trio is a must for those looking to increase testosterone. I’m generally not a fan of taking every supplement going because if I’m honest I think a lot of them are a complete waist of time and just ways for companies to charge obscene amounts of money for things that aren’t going to do a great deal but in this case (as with a few other) I do agree. Another health advantage of ZMA is it’s effect on sleep. If you do have trouble sleeping (for example those with high stress levels) This can be a great way to increase your quality of sleep without taking a ton of chemically enhanced sleeping pills to get you there. Day to day your energy levels should increase and you should feel on the whole a lot more lively.

5.  Catch some ZzZ’s

Sleeping_GorillaGetting enough rest is probably one of the most important things in living a healthy lifestyle so it is no surprise that a poor sleeping pattern or limited time spent on the pillow is going to have an effect on some internal hormone regulation. Poor sleep can effect testosterone production the following day by as much as 40 % so getting at least 7 hours is key to holding onto as much muscle as possible. Have a look at Sleep builds giants not slackers for a few key points on how to get a good nights kip.

6. Lift some heavy stuff

I have left my favourite until last but it is probably the most effective. Nothing get’s your testosterone levels up like throwing some iron about. There are various trains of though when it comes to how many reps and sets are needed to increase testosterone levels. Generally it as accepted that high volume work is better at increasing T levels so a high rep routine is going to get you pumped up. The other training must to increase T levels is use big lifts. Don’t muck about with tricep kick backs and calf raisers. Hit big multi-joint moves like the squat, deadlift, bench press and the clean. This said I wouldn’t design a whole programme around increasing testosterone levels. If your doctor has told you you need to so something then this might be an idea but dont sacrifice your other training goals to get a testorone programme in place. Stick to a good quality programme that includes these factors.