3 Things To Avoid For Better Results

Why do you train? Unless it’s just for fun, you’re likely after some form of training adaptation like gaining muscle, losing fat, or increasing athletic performance. Those adaptations to training can be simplified into a three-step process: stress, recovery, and compensation. Simply put, training is a catabolic stress. The breakdown from training-related stress leads to a cascade of physiological mechanisms causing the body to recover and bounce back stronger than before to handle repetitive stress. This compensation builds upon itself and is responsible for progressive improvements, i.e. the things that make you bigger, stronger, leaner and generally better at stuff.This article will focus on the physiological responses of recovery – more specifically, three popular methods that may blunt or impede these responses and how they may limit long-term performance enhancements. If you’re doing any of these things, it may be time to alter your approach.Ice and Cold Water Immersion Baths

Athletes have been icing and jumping into tubs of ice post-training for decades. Icing for recovery may seem like common knowledge (and an all too common practice) at this point, but a growing body of research demonstrates that cold therapy may blunt the response to training. For example, a study in the Journal of Physiology found that cold water immersion disrupts anabolic signals after a workout which led to reduced muscle and strength gains. On the other hand, heat seems to do the exact opposite by promoting these signals. A promising area of research is surfacing on something called heat shock proteins (HSPs). Production of HSPs is increased during periods of training-related stress like elevated body temperature, decreased blood glucose and a lack of oxygen in skeletal muscle. This is noteworthy since HSPs have been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis and the activation of satellite cells, both leading to increased muscle growth. When you combine the lackluster cold therapy research with the promising studies on heat, it appears that heat may be the way to go for maximum training effects.NSAIDsAlso known as Ibuprofen, Aleve, or Aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs reduce pain by blocking enzymes that promote inflammation. The problem with blocking these enzymes is that they’ve been shown to play an important role in the regeneration of muscle tissue. Furthermore, NSAIDs may also decrease satellite cell activity, which could negatively impact long-term muscle gains. You’d think this data would be enough to rule out NSAIDs for athletes, but a few studies still show no ill effects. For now, it looks like best practice would be to keep your NSAID use to a bare minimum and away from training times. When it comes to your gains, better safe than sorry. Lastly, acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not affect the same mechanisms and has been shown to actually improve performance.Antioxidants With stress comes the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), molecules closely associated with the negative effects of aging and chronic disease. Scary, right? The good news is that antioxidants like Vitamins A, C and E have been shown to limit reactions that produce oxidative molecules like ROS. The bad news is that ROS have been shown decrease post-workout insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial biogenesis and clearance rate of metabolic waste – all extremely important factors in recovery and hypertrophy. So while antioxidants are essential for optimal health and aging, you should probably check your multivitamin and pre-workout to avoid large doses around training. Antioxidants from whole foods shouldn’t be an issue since they are lower doses and have to be digested and absorbed. Key Takeaways:&bull- Effective training elicits recovery and compensation through stress and physical damage. Muscle soreness and inflammation are natural responses to training-related stress.&bull- Cold therapy may block anabolic signals, limiting muscle growth and recovery. Heat has been shown to enhance these signals. &bull- Use OTC pain relievers sparingly (injuries, headaches, etc.). When you must, use acetaminophen over NSAIDs around training.&bull- Avoid antioxidant mega-doses around training to maximize potential training adaptation.

Building Bulletproof Knees

Safety in sports is a huge issue these days, from reducing the rate of concussions in football, to decreasing the incidence of serious career-ending injuries like torn knee ligaments. That’s because anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructions are among the most common sports medicine procedures performed in the U.S. each year. While many gym rats may not be so concerned about lateral or rotational stability in the knee – “I just squat, bro!” – those who choose to put their muscle to work in other pursuits such as hiking, hoops or weekend softball would be wise to train up some insurance. Here, two top professionals share their best tips for doing just that. How Physical Is Your Therapy?Justin Cooper PT, MPT, SCS, is the Director of Elite Sports Therapy and Program Development at MedStar Sports Medicine which is responsible for the care of teams like the Baltimore Ravens, U.S. Lacrosse, Washington Capitals and Wizards. He says that, “put an athlete out on the field with a big chassis and a weak engine you are just asking for trouble.”Many of the postural issues Cooper has found in testing athletes during his distinguished career can be attributed to a poor posterior chain consisting of weak glutes and hamstrings. Based on his years of experience of working with top pros, Cooper has developed a comprehensive protocol for improving the movement skills of any athlete. One way to screen as well as to train weak and inefficient muscles is the Bunkie Test, a series of five isometric holds meant to test functional strength in and around the core. (Click here test your Bunkie.) Cooper also suggests integrating movements like the single-leg Romanian deadlift and Swiss ball hamstring curl into your regular training routine, as well as some specialized plyometric exercises that target the elastic properties of the musculoskeletal system to teach your body to better absorb impact. Training these larger muscle groups also benefits you on nearly every other lift while amplifying your total per-workout caloric expenditure.Putting Your Best Foot ForwardKevin Boyle, MA, CSCS, is the Director of Explosive Performance for U.S. Fitness Holdings/Sport & Health Clubs, and strength and conditioning coach for the Washington Spirit women’s professional soccer team. In his role with the Spirit, Boyle has found out the critical importance of tracking movement efficiency and joint integrity in his elite female athletes. “I have seen tremendous changes in how my soccer players move during a 20-game season,” he says. “Fatigue and recovery play a huge role is determining whether an injury will occur at some point.” Boyle uses a simple, five-hop, single-leg jump to gauge the overall condition of each player, filming the results on his tablet so the athlete and coaches can immediately review the results of the test. Boyle is looking at how efficient the athlete is at absorbing the impact after each hop, including stiffness in the lower body, excessive movement at the knee joint, and whether the player leans in either direction to complete the exercise. If there are any issues, Boyle usually starts off with a simple drop-and-stick counter movement that helps train the body to better absorb impact well promoting a more symmetrical landing position. He then follows up with his players using an on-field drill that helps to train the athlete to use both legs equally in changing directions.Here’s Tiffany Weimer, pro soccer player for the Washington Spirit, performing the drill. The Best Defense is a Good OffenseAll sporting endeavors come with some element of risk but if you are looking to help reduce the chance of serious injury adding some simple exercises to your normal routine can yield major benefits.

Coping With Injury

Too often weight training and injuries go hand in hand. If you train hard long enough, those aches and pains can turn into injuries. However, that doesn’t have to be the case to. How you manage the injury will not only affect your recovery time, but it can prevent further problems in the future. It’s important to know what courses of action to take when you’re faced with an injury. Follow these five tips to get back in the gym safely.Tip 1: Train Other Muscle GroupsReading that subheading alone may be misleading. It doesn’t mean to conduct full-scale workouts at your normal frequency, intensity, or duration – that will likely cause aggravations to the healing injury. However, light training to unaffected muscle groups (even if you’re confined to a few fixed machines and have to distance yourself from barbell training for a couple of weeks) can improve blood circulation and speed your rate of recovery. Use discretion and common sense, don’t go overboard, and don’t let being injured keep you out of the gym entirely. Tip 2: Educate Yourself!It’s easy to get discouraged and feel pessimistic once you’re injured.

I experienced that more than once first hand with injuries to my hamstrings as a sprinter, and to my back as a lifter. But it encouraged me to take the initiative to look deeper into the nature of each of those injuries, why they were occurring, and how to lower the chances for re-injury. It also served as a great way to determine which exercises and program methodologies worked well for my body and which ones didn’t.

For many, high-frequency training pays huge dividends for muscular development and strength. For some, however (me included), training any more than four to five times per week doesn’t provide any added benefits. You may need to look at your warm up, your sets and reps, and your form. Setbacks are one of the best ways to learn about your body as a trainee, and to learn what to apply going forward to fix the issue. Tip 3: Invest in TreatmentThis sounds straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do anything when an injury happens.

They simply rest until they can move pain-free again, and then return to their program. This is a recipe for disaster. Related: Popping Pills To Train Through PainInjuries are your body’s way of telling you that something was out of line and it reached its “breaking point” so to speak. Only looking at an injury from a pain perspective will make you jump back into things once it’s stopped hurting and you can move freely, but the truth may be more complicated, and investing in the help of a good practitioner like a physiotherapist, chiropractor or sports doctor is your ticket to knowing your next steps after you’ve healed.Tip 4: Value Your RestAlthough it’s good to exercise other muscle groups, the key is to train them lightly. The whole point is for the injury to recover, and if the body is overstressed, your recovery will take forever – or not happen at all. Train less frequently, and with less volume, than normally would. Also, make sure to get full night’s rest. You’ll be glad you did. Tip 5: Examine Your NutritionWhen you’re eating for cosmetic purposes, it’s easy to get into the habit of eating much more of certain foods, and fewer of others. It may also be a convenient, quick way to prepare meals for the day or week. But there’s a problem: you could be excluding nutrients that your body needs. Often, a deficiency in certain nutrients can lead to poor joint or muscle tissue quality, which can end up catching up to you in the weight room in the form of a muscle injury. Having a nutritionist or practitioner recommend quantities of nutrients you personally need to take care of weak points in your diet may be the key to staying off of the sidelines. In certain cases, it may require supplements – but in most cases, balancing out a healthy diet or improving hydration levels could be the missing solve to the problem. The Bottom LineIronically, injured people often treat their bodies with less care than they would while they’re healthy – when it needs to be at the very least flipped the other way around. Don’t push it when you have an injury- it’s easy to go overboard and “reach” for the point that you feel back to normal. Take a step back, get treated by a good practitioner, and take care of your rest and nutrition. It’s only a matter of time before you’ll be back to full strength.

Joint Custody

Big arms are like fast cars: everyone wants to have them, but not many are willing to pay the cost to get them. If you’ve been in the iron game for a while, you probably understand that a large portion of the arm anatomy comes from the posterior aspect of the arm known collectively as the triceps. As the name implies, the triceps consist of three heads: the long head, medial head and lateral head. While the origins of the heads are all slightly different, they all insert into one common triceps tendon. A well-designed program has you performing exercises that hit all three heads. The problem is, all of those exercises utilize the same triceps tendon, which has a tendency to become inflamed from overuse.The action of the triceps is to extend (straighten) the elbow. Compound movements such as bench presses (barbell or dumbbell), shoulder presses and dips all target the triceps. Isolation exercises such as rope or straight-bar pressdowns, triceps kickbacks and overhead triceps presses (with dumbbells/barbell/EZ-bar) also target the triceps. While isolation and compound exercises are fairly common knowledge among experienced lifters, it’s often forgotten that the triceps also statically contract in exercises such as pullovers, straight-arm lat pulldowns and bent-over lateral raises/reverse flyes. This can sometimes lead to trouble – you might think you’re giving the muscles a rest day after your triceps workout the day before, but if you’re incorporating pullovers or straight-arm lat pulldowns as part of your back workout, you’re not really resting the triceps at all. This could result in overtraining and injuries to the triceps and/or the triceps tendon. Due to the different insertion points of the triceps, specific exercises target certain areas more effectively. For example, an overhead triceps exercise such as a skullcrusher will target the long head of the triceps more effectively because that head is put in a prestretch position due to its anatomical origin. These particular exercises, while providing fantastic results, must be integrated into your training program intelligently due to the amount of excess tension that the prestretch position places on the long head of the triceps as well as the triceps tendon. Strain on the triceps tendon from repetitive pushing movements or from overloading it beyond what it can tolerate may cause triceps tendonitis, which is when damaged triceps tendon tissue experiences swelling and pain in the posterior aspect of the elbow or slightly above or below the posterior aspect of the elbow. In severe cases of triceps tendonitis, you may notice swelling in the back of the elbow or experience weakness when attempting to straighten the elbow against resistance. You may also feel pain and tightness when performing a stretch to the triceps or point tenderness when firm pressure is applied near the posterior aspect of the elbow. In less severe cases, you may only experience a minor ache or stiffness when performing activities requiring a forceful or repetitive contraction of the triceps. Once you have developed triceps tendonitis, it’s essential to provide a period of rest for healing to take place and for the swelling to subside. (Even if you can’t see the swelling, the tissue may still be swollen internally.) Ice, flexibility exercises and, occasionally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes recommended by your health-care practitioner. A certified athletic trainer or physical therapist may also help in providing you with an appropriate rehabilitation plan that will get you back to your normal activities. See “7 Tips For Pain-Free Elbows” for some tried-and-true injury-prevention tips to help keep your elbows healthy. 7 Tips for Pain-Free Elbows1. Perform a general cardiovascular warm-up for five to 10 minutes and a movement-specific warm-up for two to three sets before beginning your heavier work sets.2. Don’t begin your triceps workout with an overhead movement, as this places excess stress on the triceps tendon. Instead, start with either compound triceps exercises such as dips, or isolation exercises such as rope triceps pressdowns.3. Allow at least one day of rest between working the triceps. Remember that exercises such as shoulder presses, chest presses, pullovers, straight-arm pulldowns and reverse flyes also recruit your triceps. If you perform these exercises the day before or after triceps training, you’re not really providing adequate rest.4. Perform no more than one to two overhead triceps exercises for a maximum of eight sets per workout so as not to provide excessive strain on the triceps tendon.5. Check your ego at the gym door. Don’t lift more weight than you can safely handle, and don’t reach failure on every rep of every set of every exercise.6. Stretch your triceps with static stretches upon completing any workout in which you utilized the triceps. 7. If you feel elbow tightness or discomfort, ice the elbow for 15 minutes as a preventative measure.

Calming the Calves

We seem to want to destroy our feet and calves. Women buy shoes that look hot but ruin the function of their feet, while guys just abuse them without a second thought. It’s no wonder that all of the muscles in the calves and in the feet sometimes decide to engage in a painful revolt.Aside from wearing different shoes and getting a foot massage every day, what can you do? Below are two quick stops along the way to making your dogs happy. Digging into the knotted-up flesh in the back of your lower legs can unlock tremendous power and unleash your progress. Better function and circulation lead to faster recovery and bigger muscles. Take five to 10 minutes a day to ensure your gym efforts result in muscle building and recovery rather than couch sitting and injury.Calf Roll. Sit down with your lower legs across a foam roller (the bumpy roller is preferred). Do not hold yourself up on your hands and roll length-wise (forward and backward) on your calves. This is the most common mistake people make when treating their lower legs. When you do this you must support your weight with your lower-leg muscles. That means you are activating the muscles you are attempting to massage, which is counterproductive. Instead, simply relax and let your calves sink into the roller.Slowly rotate your legs left and right. Find a tight spot that doesn’t want to relax and hold on that spot.Make three slow clockwise and counterclockwise circles with your foot. Feel the bumpy knot in your calf rolling over the knobs on the roller as you move your foot. It should feel like thumbs working on your leg.Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 for three rounds. You should notice decreased tension in your calves with each successive round.Afterward, get up and take a few steps on your toes and then your heels to check function and stability.Foot Press Take off your shoes and gently place the arch of your foot on a hard and preferably knobby ball. (I like the Beastie Ball by RumbleRoller.)Keeping light pressure against the ball, raise your toes while you inhale deeply.Exhale as you slowly wrap your toes around the ball and lean as much pressure as you can tolerate onto the ball.Repeat for three rounds, then move the ball to another spot. Go through this process on two or more spots on the bottom of your foot.Walk and grab the floor with your toes to test the range of motion and stabilization for your feet and toes.This simple routine can work wonders for your aching feet, toes and calves. Add a soak in a hot tub to the mix and you have a good self-care therapy program for functional and high-performing feet.

Sidelined With A Hernia

It’s back day and heavy deadlifts are first up. After a thorough warm-up that includes a couple of submaximal sets, you’re ready for your heavier work sets. You load up the bar just enough to squeeze out eight good reps, but on your first rep you notice a subtle pain that feels much like a burning sensation in your groin area where the thigh meets the torso (inguinal region). After a few more reps, the pain becomes slightly more noticeable, but never unbearable. By the end of the set, you sense there’s something wrong. You cease with the deadlifts and proceed with the rest of your workout, but you notice slight discomfort in the inguinal region throughout the remainder of your workout. About a week later, you notice a slight bulge in that same region. According to Dr. Jerett Zipin, a sports medicine and internal medicine physician in Monrovia, CA, “A hernia occurs when the contents of a body cavity, such as portions of intestine or abdominal fatty tissue, protrude out of an area where they’re normally contained.” The abdominal wall, which is a thin membrane that represents the outer portion of the abdominal cavity, may be compromised either at birth or later in life. Pre-existing openings in the abdominal cavity (usually at birth) or areas of abdominal wall weakness (usually later in life) make individuals susceptible to hernias. Additionally, individuals with a family history of hernias are more likely to develop them sometime in their lives. Any activity that increases the pressure of a compromised abdominal cavity, such as coughing, sneezing, heavy lifting or even straining during a bowel movement may contribute to the formation of a hernia. The signs and symptoms of a hernia range from seeing a painless lump in the abdominal wall to a severely tender and painful bulge of tissue that may or may not be pushed back into the abdomen. Zipin says that inguinal hernias make up most of all abdominal wall hernias, but there are different types of hernias that may occur (see “Types of Hernias”). Due to the nature of bodybuilding, lifting heavy weights with compound movements such as squats, deadlifts and bent-over barbell rows are part of a comprehensive program, but those same exercises put you at risk. Although weaknesses in the abdominal wall may predispose you to hernias, you can minimize your risk by maintaining strong abdominal muscles and ensuring you progress your weightlifting efforts in a logical fashion (that is, increasing your weights slowly over time). If you’ve taken some time off from performing heavy lifting, be sure you progress slowly back to your heavier weights to allow your body to build tolerance to the heavier loads. Unfortunately, once you develop a hernia it’ll likely get worse over time with continual heavy lifting. The only way to correct a hernia is through surgery. This is usually a successful feat when you have a knowledgeable surgeon who understands your needs as a weight lifter.Hernia FAQ. What Is It? A protrusion of an intestine, its fascia, or adipose tissue through the wall of the cavity that normally contains it. It’s not an uncommon occurrence among bodybuilders when adipose tissue or an abdominal organ protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal wall or groin area. Is It Painful?  Pain may or may not be present, but there’s some danger of organ dysfunction and other complications if left untreated.  How Do You Know If You Have One?  If you feel a lump in your abdomen, it may be a hernia. The lump may be small, soft and painless or may be swollen and tender.

Self-Myofascial Release for Shoulders

Have you ever wished you could take your arms off when you sleep? If you train hard, you know what it’s like to have stiff and painful shoulders, and maybe even a full-blown injury. Shoulder joints are tricky. They get hurt easily and heal slowly.Self-myofascial release (SMR) can help clear up mobility issues in your shoulders that lead to impaired movement and eventual injury. Be aware that SMR can border on being painful. On a pain scale of one to 10, SMR should feel like a six to eight (a “hurts so good” feeling). The best part of SMR is that it provides near-instant feedback. If you’ve done it right, you’ll immediately feel a little better. If you’ve done it wrong, you’ll know it, too. Your muscles will be tighter instead of being more fluid. If you do feel worse after a bout of SMR, get a medical diagnosis to avoid further injury.Practice the techniques shown here to relieve knots and restrictions so you can more easily raise your arms overhead instead of fighting limitations in your muscles in addition to the bar you’re lifting. After performing these moves you should notice a greater ease when raising your arms, and your elbows should get closer to your ears when you’re in an overhead position.Always do a “systems check” after performing an SMR technique. Take your arm or neck through some long, slow, full-range stretches. If you have greater ease with movement, you’ll know you are on the right track. If you were too aggressive with the amount of pressure, then you will likely feel even tighter. If that’s the case, back off to lighter pressure with more of a stroking movement.Addressing your muscular discomforts with five to 10 minutes a day of SMR is like brushing and flossing your teeth. If done regularly, it prevents little issues from becoming big problems.Delts Roll>>Begin by pinning a foam roller or ball between your shoulder and the wall. (Rumble Rollers are firm but flexible, and the bumps are very effective.)>>Slowly turn your hips so you’re facing the wall, then slowly turn away from it, but keep the SMR tool pinned between your shoulder and the wall at all times. When you find a spot of increased tension, hang out there until it dissipates or for one whole minute. Then slightly squat up and down to massage that spot.>>After 30 seconds, repeat the forward and backward rotations to find another spot. Repeat the squatting massage for each area of tightness you find.Lats Roll>>Lie on the floor with a roller under the back of your armpit.>>Slowly rotate your body so your chest turns toward the floor, then slowly rotate back so your chest faces upward.>>Repeat for 30 seconds up to two minutes. Lie down on your back with a roller under your neck.>>Slowly tilt your chin toward one side and gently nod up and down.>>Lay one or both forearms on your forehead for a deeper massage.>>After a few minutes on one side, do the same for the other.

5 Training Tips That Will Save Your Back

If you think you have a healthy back and don’t have to worry about future back injuries, think again. Back injuries can happen when you least expect them. If you’ve never experienced nerve and disc issues in your back you are going to want to pay very close attention to this article. For those of you that have had back issues, we’re going to tell you how to avoid future injuries.The first three times I injured my back I can honestly say I didn’t know any better. Despite training with great form and warming up before each workout, I still got injured. The last three times it was undeniably my fault because by that time I knew what I needed to do and I either wasn’t doing it or wasn’t doing it consistently. After this last injury three weeks ago I had a revelation. Well, that’s what I am going to call it because having to crawl to the toilet before you shit yourself and then getting stuck on the toilet for almost three hours because of back spasms just isn’t something I want to explain to you all. The point is, I had enough and swore to myself that I would never go through that again.My first three back injuries came as a result of tucking my hips and tilting my posterior. Twice it occurred while putting a t-bar down after a set and once while going too deep on hack squats with tight hams and lower back. The hips came forward and “pop”. Two of the last three injuries happened while I was leg pressing. I rolled my hips just enough and “pop”.The last time? I sat down in a chair in a waiting room. No kidding. And this was the worst one! I couldn’t stand upright and could barely get to my truck to get home. The next morning was the aforementioned situation where I almost shit myself and then I stayed in bed for three days not eating or drinking anything because I was willing to shit the bed rather than crawl to the toilet again. It was during this time that I had a Percocet and Xanax epiphany. I promised myself that from now on I would consistently do anything and everything to keep my back healthy. I already had all of the tools as I had kept my back healthy for long periods of time prior to this last injury. Yes, the last three injuries seem like a lot but keep in mind that we’re talking about three injuries over about twelve or thirteen years. I was totally injury free for years until my bad habits caught up with me. Here are five points that I always keep in mind to ensure a healthy back:A Good Chiropractic DoctorThis is by far the most important key to avoiding recurring back pain. I was fortunate enough to get a recommendation from my great doctor to see another great doctor here in Denver. When I’m seeing my chiro regularly and consistently, I have zero back issues and I feel great both in the gym and throughout the rest of the day.Using A BeltFor years I advocated not using a belt and I’m sure many of you are quick to assume that not using one is what caused my back pain. For anyone that has no structural issues with their lower back, I still recommend not using a belt while training unless you are going for very low rep, strength-type sets in a powerlifting type of style or “max” sets. Otherwise, not using a belt will help to keep your core strong and fully develop those muscles. If you have ever had back issues, I recommend using a belt in the gym for EVERYTHING you do! Literally everything from squats to side laterals to bench presses. Why? Belts not only provide support when performing an exercise but even in between sets when you are picking up plates and loading up a bar on the bench press. They also keep your midsection warm and that’s a very important factor in keeping your back healthy and injury free. When you take off your belt it should be warm and moist from working your ass off.StretchingI can’t lie, I hate stretching. The thing is, it does help keep you loose and your lower back healthy. So as much as it sucks, it needs to be done. Stretching the hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings and erectors during warm up sets is the way to go. This will have you stretching warm muscles that have blood in them and that is the safest way to stretch. Stretching can decrease or even eliminate minor pain in the lower back while warming up. I’ve had leg sessions that I didn’t think I’d be able to get through due to lower back pain only to have the pain vanish after only a few stretches.Weight ControlI’m not talking about the weight on the bar but rather YOUR body weight. My first two injuries were weight related in that when I put the t-bar down after my set, my round stomach leveraged my lower back and helped to cause the injury. The bigger your gut, the bigger your chance of injuring your lower back. In my particular situation, if I stay below a weight of 220 pounds the likelihood of injuring my back drops considerably.Exercise SelectionEveryone wants to lift big and everyone wants to do the big exercises like squats and deads, etc. However, there comes a point where you have to balance out what you WANT to do with what is LOGICAL for your situation. It might be wise to admit that doing squats is just too much of a gamble and if you switch to presses you won’t be risking an injury and layoff from training. I mean, what is more effective for leg growth: leg presses without any time off for injuries or squatting with time off for injuries every three months? Please understand that there are many people that develop big legs and backs without squatting or deadlifting. In fact, there are many pros that don’t do deads or squats at all! There are even more that used to do them but have stopped due to the risk of injury.When push comes to shove, your body only allows for so much. Everybody wants to keep training heavy and performing all of the big exercises, but if you’re in this sport for the long haul, you will eventually need to rethink your long-term strategy. I feel I’m as hardcore as the rest of you out there but I won’t soon forget the indignity of my wife saying to me: “I can wipe your ass if you shit the bed”. I have been married for twenty years so on the one hand that is pretty awesome of my wife to offer to help. On the other hand, I do have my dignity. I will pass on deads if it means I get to wipe my own ass!

The Big Risk of Beach Muscle Training

Two camps of bodybuilders co-exist side-by-side at the gym: Those who train each and every muscle group for symmetry and proportion, and those who want a big chest and arms with tight abs so they look great with their shirt off (but not necessarily in shorts at the beach). Trying to make the point to a bodybuilder (whose primary aim is to impress someone) that training for a balanced physique isn’t just about looking good will likely fall on deaf ears. Even more important, after years of working the beach muscles, you greatly increase your risk for all kinds of injuries. No one’s ever going to tell you, “Wow, your rotator cuff is freaky strong,” or “The size of your posterior deltoids and rhomboids are impressive!” We get that. But in the long run those areas are just as critical to train as your pecs and arms. Balanced training simply means to train all bodyparts equally (or perhaps more intensely if they’re already lagging) to ensure that they develop proportional size and strength. Instead of continually training the stronger/bigger bodyparts for even more development, a balanced training approach focuses on training the lagging parts so that there are minimal proportional weaknesses in the physique. According to Kelly Bautista, a licensed vocational nurse at Kaiser Permanente (Anaheim, CA) and winner of the 2005 and 2010 NPC USA lightweight bodybuilding titles, “Training for symmetry and proportion not only gives you the illusion of a larger physique but also helps to keep your body free from injury.” To illustrate the point, Bautista adds, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so training the disregarded muscle groups will help take your strength to another level in all of your lifts.”It’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to completely disregard smaller muscle groups, such as the internal and external rotators of the rotator cuff or the scapular stabilizers of the shoulder. The four relatively small rotator cuff muscles are critical in positioning the head of the humerus (the upper arm) into the shoulder socket to prevent shoulder dislocations or the impingement of other important shoulder structures. Since your cuff muscles work in tandem with your shoulder musculature, when you strive to build bigger and stronger delts without a corresponding increase in the size and strength of the cuff muscles, the result is that those muscles will no longer work as well together, therefore increasing your chance of injury. Even worse are those lifters who disregard (or perhaps pay significantly less attention to) a large muscle group altogether. As described in “Muscles, Potential Injuries and Fixes of Unbalanced Training” below, muscle groups (both large and small) are often disregarded by bodybuilders. The table recommends exercises you can implement to train the commonly neglected muscle groups and points to visible postural abnormalities and potential injuries that may result from an unbalanced physique (when applicable). While many lifters do attempt to train for balance by incorporating all of the muscle groups in their training split, they still don’t recognize that they’re not paying enough attention to the more commonly neglected muscle groups. For example, performing 16 sets of chest exercises and only 12 sets of back movements will, in time, lead to a significant muscular imbalance. Similarly, implementing rotator-cuff exercises 2-3 days per week (i.e., on shoulder day, chest day and back day) would create more balance than training the rotator cuffs only one day per week. Approaching your training in a balanced fashion will help you to avoid common injuries and could even take your strength and physique to another level.Muscles, Potential Injuries And Fixes Of Unbalanced TrainingMuscles NeglectedPotential Visual ChangesPotential InjuriesExercises To ImplementRhomboids, middle trapeziusRounded/forward shouldersShoulder impingement, rotator-cuff tear, rotator-cuff tendonitis, long head of biceps tendonitisRows and pulldowns with emphasis on squeezing the shoulder blades together. Also see posterior deltoid exerciseLower trapeziusLack of development on the lower traps, which lies between the middle back and the lower/inner portion of the shoulder bladesShoulder impingement, rotator-cuff tear, rotator-cuff tendonitis, long head of bicep tendonitisProne on incline bench forming a “V” by lifting arms straight from the floor to shoulder level while keeping the elbows lockedRotator cuff internal rotator (subscapularis)N/AShoulder impingement, rotator-cuff tear, rotator-cuff tendonitisKeeping the shoulder down and elbow by your side and at 90 degrees, rotate your hand from just outside your body toward the midline while holding a pulley (not a dumbbell!) with weight or resistance bandRotator cuff external rotators (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor)N/AShoulder impingement, rotator-cuff tear, rotator-cuff tendonitisKeeping the shoulder down and elbow by your side and at 90 degrees, rotate your hand from your midline to out beside you while holding a pulley with weight or resistance bandPosterior DeltoidsRounded/forward shouldersN/AReverse flyes using dumbbells or pec-deck, ensuring you keep your elbows and arms elevatedHamstringsIncreased lordotic curve (a larger than normal curve in the lower-back region)Hamstring strains Romanian deadlift, lying leg curl, seated leg curl, single-leg curl, glute/ham raise machineMultifidus (deep inner back muscles) N/A Lower-back strains Segmental back extension, rotational back extension.

Become a Fast-Twitch Beast

We’ve all heard that training with heavy weights for lower rep ranges will produce two results: strength and size. That pervasive truth is a bit simplified – the true science goes beyond that – but one valid reason for this general direction is so the body learns to make best use of its biggest, strongest and most quickly fatiguing muscle fibers. Targeting your fast-twitch fibers specifically will produce some of the most direct effects on your body composition and performance because they help you lift more weight, produce more power and grow more muscle.Whether you’re a physique competitor, a competitive lifter, an athlete or someone who just wants to lean out and build muscle, you can benefit from a more strategic emphasis on your fast-twitch fibers. This can be accomplished via many different training methods, but we can boil things down to three key tactics that are almost universally effective for enhancing your fast-twitch machinery.Method 1: Olympic LiftingOlympic lifting – the snatch, clean and jerk and their many derivatives and variations – is the most explosive form of weight training you can do. It allows the body to accelerate maximum loads in a burst of power that lasts one to two seconds at most. It’s a testament to your absolute strength and power, and doesn’t involve traditional muscular fatigue but rather emphasizes central nervous system excitement. Because of this, the nervous system will more efficiently fire your fast-twitch muscle fibers, making them more responsive and involved in your normal weight training. Plus, being able to drop the bar after you complete the lift incurs no added muscle damage from eccentric reps, which can increase your workout volume and recovery.

Method 2: Plyometrics + SprintingThough they’re usually done unloaded, plyos come in handy when training for explosiveness, mainly because they incorporate a quick and repeated use of the stretch reflex. This is a key player for performance enthusiasts who need responsive, reactive muscles for multidirectional and/or explosive sports. Along the same lines, sprinting allows for an all-out max effort to be produced while incorporating the stretch reflex at basically every major load-bearing joint on each stride. These types of movements also emphasize fast-twitch fibers, primarily in the legs, which can translate to greater performance on traditional lifts such as squats, deadlifts and lunges.Method 3: Heavy Compound LiftingDoing a basic set of exercise for five or six repetitions with considerable weight will place considerable stress on the nervous system while also targeting your fast-twitch muscle fibers. The good news here is that playing with the tempo can make a world of difference as to which fibers are emphasized. The strongest ones are actually the type IIb fibers that are mostly involved during eccentric reps. That being said, slowing down those eccentric reps and following a 30X0 tempo (three-second negative, no rest at top or bottom and an explosive positive rep) may be just what the doctor ordered for increasing strength and tapping into your inner fast-twitch beast.Twitchy ResultsA combination of performance-based training and heavy, traditional weight training at specific tempos goes a long way toward achieving fast-twitch gains. Remember: These are advanced training tools and they absolutely demand a foundation of basic joint health and lifting technique. Beginners need not apply – yet – but those who adopt these practices will be the recipients of a bigger, stronger, leaner and overall more powerful physique.