Dan Parvu trains Mayor Nutter
“….Depending on his [Mayor Nutter] schedule, the workouts last from 35 minutes to an hour, under the tutelage of his personal trainer, Dan Parvu, 32, a personable native of Romania whose lean physique is a persuasive advertisement….” read more…
It’s important to lift with your legs and not your back. Yes, yes, and yes. We have heard this message ten thousand times and it is the cardinal rule in movement. But it is so easy to reach down like an ape and pick up a heavy object with our arms and back.
After all, our paleo predecessors had enough manual dexterity to hoist their entire body up a tree with their spindly arms. Why can’t we modern day Homo sapiens do the same?
The short answer? We’ve evolved. Evolution imprinted our DNA with strengths from the past and facilitated many adaptations for our future. Our brain has developed to assist us with thought and risk assessment. Therefore, we need to be cognizant while lifting.
Think before making action. And structurally? We are taller and less robust then our ancestors. Our bones used to be as dense as the Stone Age. Our present structure has a higher center of gravity. Being upright has its advantages and disadvantages.
Bipedalism, the ability to stand upright, is a result of a well-developed psoas and increased curvature of the spine. The spine is a flexing spring mobilized by the lower body, glutes, and legs. The pelvis is the hinge connecting the two.
Our erector spinae muscle group is strong enough to support our eighty-plus pound torso and approximately twenty-pound cranium when we stand upright. In the case of bending forward and extending back upright, however, the integrity of the spine is compromised.
What Happens When We Lift From the Low Back?
There are many sensations felt if the knees are not bent and the strong power of the legs is not used while lifting. In one of the more common injuries, you may feel a strain from the psoas muscle pulling on the lumbar spine. This can occur if there is a lack of “reciprocal inhibition.”
Reciprocal Inhibition is when one set of muscles (agonist) engages and the opposing set (antagonist) disengages to facilitate movement of a joint. In the case of lifting, when the glutes and erector spinae are flexed, the body releases the psoas and hip flexors to enable the torso to extend upright.
If you lean forward, with legs straight/extended, and add the weight of picking up an object, your hamstrings stretch and your lumbar extensors act as the primary lifters. Legs are like hydraulic lifts or jacks that have supreme pressing power to lower and lift the trunk of the body. The glutes stabilize movement between the legs and trunk.
If reciprocal inhibition is not present between these two muscle groups, the psoas and hip flexors will continue to stay engaged pulling the top of the pelvis down against the action of the back. The low back becomes the hinge as the torso and legs are both facing down. It’s a deadlift with a rounding low back. What may occur then is a low back strain due to overstretched QL (quadratus lumborum) and longissimus (at lumbar). This area is being pulled in two different directions when disengaged.
How Do You Lift an Object Properly?
Ensure reciprocal inhibition of the psoas by bending your knees and flexing your glutes and erector spinae muscle group when lifting. The result will be released psoas and hip flexors, so you decrease risk of low back strain or disturbing the intervertebral discs.
Your back will generally increase in strength and the glutes will become well conditioned for future bending. Secure your torso by flexing the abdominal muscles and press off of the legs during an inhale. An inhale naturally forces the body into opening and extending out. If you exhale during a squat, it decreases oxygen force and lessens the intake needed to pump into the large muscles for power.
And try this right now. Don’t take my word for it. Notice the difference. It can make a marked difference in your lifting approach.
Nutrition arguments happen because of intellectual superiority… or the perception of it at least. Hell, that’s basically why most arguments happen.
“I’m right, you’re wrong. Let me make you feel dumb.”
And in the end, nobody changes their minds. So let’s do things differently. First, I don’t care if your mind doesn’t change. This is an assessment of where IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) started and where it went wrong. If you want to eat crappy food and count it up on an app, have at it.
What IIFYM Was Meant to Be
Some have renamed it “flexible dieting” to send a more moderate messaged
since it’s gone so far off course, but when IIFYM got its start the idea was fairly reasonable.
It gave dieters a little more leeway and removed the idea that certain foods were off limits. The main thing it had going for it was that you could still reach your physique goals even if you indulged a little or chose foods that weren’t the bodybuilding standard.
There was no need to stress about having a white potato instead of a sweet potato. Either was fine as long as it fit within your nutritional budget: your predetermined allotment of protein, carbs, and fats, and of course total calories.
If you wanted to eat mac and cheese along with your chicken and simply fit the macros for a serving into your diet, no biggie. You’d make the same progress as you would have with chicken breast, rice, and some almonds. The dieter could stop fearing food sources that weren’t a detriment so long as the calories and macros fit into their nutritional budget.
Where It Went Wrong
This simple approach ended up getting taken out of context as an “eat anything you want because the source doesn’t matter… if it fits your macros.” Maybe that’s not what the originators intended, but just peruse Instagram and Facebook and you’ll see the IIFYM clones all posting photos of their meals consisting of chicken, ice cream and exactly 1.2 Twinkies, carefully weighed and measured.
So instead of being IIFYM it became IDM-IIFYM-OK (it doesn’t matter; if it fits your macros; then it’s ok). And that’s where things got really confusing, wrong, and flat-out stupid. Coaches who endorsed this belief could be found telling clients and competitors that 100 calories from Oreos is the same as 100 calories of broccoli. That actually still happens.
Their reasoning? “It’s all about calories in and calories out. And all food sources are equal if the number of calories and macronutrients are equal… as long as you’re in a calorie deficit, weight loss will occur.”
This belief intensified when people started using everything from fast food to candy bars and kids cereal to prove a point about food sources not mattering for weight loss. And they were right… sorta.
Weight loss is possible that way. Initially at least. Anyone can lose weight eating high calorie foods, but what happens is that to stay within the caloric budget, they have to eat a lot less volume than they would with lower or moderate calorie foods.
This approach isn’t terribly innovative, is it? Weight Watchers was the original IIFYM. They just used a “point system.” And if you didn’t exceed your points for the day, you’d be in a caloric deficit and weight loss would occur. But would it remain, and what about body composition?
Most lifters who want to improve their body comp don’t care about “weight” loss. They care about fat loss, muscle retention and growth, and long term leanness.
The issue with eating crap and allowing some of that crap to displace nutritious food is that your appetite changes, your brain changes, and your gut microbiota changes. These physiological changes can make it very difficult to continue eating small portions of junk and staying within the macronutrient and calorie allotment. These changes also make it harder to enjoy nutritious food – you know, the stuff that satiates and makes you feel full.
But nobody needs to tell you that your preference for quality food decreases when your exposure to shitty food increases. This is an obvious occurrence: People who eat mostly healthy food tend to prefer mostly healthy food. People who eat mostly shitty food have a hard time appreciating the healthy stuff. There have been studies. Look them up if common sense isn’t good enough.
Calories Aren’t Equal, Neither Are Macros
Sure, the machine that measures calories as a unit of heat (a calorimeter) tells us that a calorie is a calorie. But this doesn’t hold true for the human body. Why? Because it’s a superficial argument that doesn’t address the unintended consequences of paying attention to ONLY calories and not their sources. The human body doesn’t work the same way as a calorimeter.
Not all calories are equal, and not all macronutrients are the equal. The source makes a difference.
Calories From Fat Sources
From an energy perspective, one gram of fat is numerically one gram of fat, no matter where it comes from.
Fats digest more slowly than carbs, but take virtually no energy to be broken down in digestion, which means there’s no TEF, or thermic effect of food. Your body doesn’t “spend” many calories assimilating fat into the body. Luckily not many people eat just a stick of butter.
But you don’t want to cut fats out completely. Certain fats can have anti-inflammatory effects (Omega-3s for instance), they’re responsible for helping you absorb essential nutrients, and your hormones, metabolism, and sex drive depend on them.
But there are fats that can cause inflammation and are linked to heart disease, strokes, and type-II diabetes. And according to researchers, certain dietary fats can impair insulin sensitivity and actually make it harder for you to lose body fat compared to other types of fat. Their energy value may be equal but their effects on the body are vastly different.
So if the fat you choose to fit into your daily allotment is coming from deep fried sources and prepacked snack cakes, is it the same as meeting that quota with fat from egg yolks, avocados, walnuts, and salmon? Don’t think for a second that it is.
Calories From Protein Sources
Proteins digest at the highest thermal rate of the three macros. About 30% of the calories you eat from protein are used for digestion. This is one of the biggest reasons that the “calories in, calories out” theory is BS.
The calories you get from protein actually make the body work to break them down. So eating a 400 calorie plate of fish is going to be dramatically different than eating a 400 calorie plate of pasta. A calorie is not just a calorie because of what happens to your body and your appetite as a result. And while most IIFYM dieters know the value of protein, this blows up the debate coming from people who say that a calorie is just a calorie.
The other thing about calories from protein – it’s very hard to eat an excess that will make you fat. You can’t say the same about an excess of calories from carbs or fats. When you eat more protein than what’s allowed on your diet, it will likely not make a dent… unless you’re eating it in the presence of extra carbs and fat.
Protein calories in excess are not metabolized by the body in a manner similar to carbohydrate calories. One study demonstrated that a relatively higher amount of protein doesn’t contribute to an additional gain in fat mass. And if the findings from this study are true, then the need to be anal retentive about tracking protein down to the gram is absurd.
Calories From Carb Sources
The thermic effect of carbs is a lot lower than protein, but that number varies depending on the source. Higher quality carb sources come wrapped in nature’s packaging containing some fiber and water: broccoli, oranges, cucumbers, and even potatoes, for instance. There are also carb sources, that, when prepared, soak up a ton of water, volumizing the mass of a food without increasing its calories (think oats and beans).
These are examples of carbs that contribute to your satiety. They’re nutritionally dense without being calorically dense, which means they fill you up. Do you think the carbs coming from pinto beans are the same as the carbs coming from jelly beans? Even if your calories were equal for both, their effect on your body won’t be the same.
Foods high in refined sugar spike insulin quickly and make you crave more of the same… even after you’ve reached your IIFYM allowance. Sugary foods, especially when they’re combined with some salt and fat, don’t satiate. They’re not meant to because food manufacturers designed them that way. They’d like for you to keep eating and keep buying their products. So when you post pictures of your nighttime Oreo and ice cream habit, you’re not being edgy or clever, you’re just being a dumb consumer.
These kinds of foods light up the same parts of the brain (the nucleus accumbens) that cocaine, heroin, and morphine do. They flood the brain with dopamine, making you want more.
Have you ever met a person who said they just couldn’t stop eating plain baked potatoes, broccoli, oats, beans, or even rice? Most likely not. But you probably have known people who can always fit in more dessert. You may be one of them.
So while a calorie is a calorie in the most basic of definitions, to pretend that all food sources are of equal value from a quality of health perspective, or that total calories are all that matter, is ignorance.
The IIFYM Issues
1 – It Creates Fanatics Who Can’t Think For Themselves
To do the diet you need to learn to weigh and measure your food so that in time, you can eyeball a portion of food and know the rough estimate of the macronutrients you’d be getting.
But in order to have the ability to manage your macros without obsessing over them, you have to be a little obsessive. You must go through the routine of weighing, measuring, and tracking everything you eat to get an accurate read on what you’re consuming.
This is what many would consider obsessive, and it’d be fine if it were temporary. Eventually you shouldn’t need to measure food or wonder if you’re drastically over or under your intake of carbs, protein, or fat.
But often the IIFYM dieter doesn’t stop weighing, measuring, and micromanaging. They can’t graduate from the obsessive part into normal healthy eating. They lose touch with common sense and can’t feed themselves without consulting an app in their phones first.
If you’ve never gotten a reality check on portion sizes, you probably should at some point. It’s good to weigh and measure for a time. But being unable to eat without psychotically typing your food into your phone isn’t a super healthy way to live.
2 – It Ignores Gut Health
You can fit junk into your allotment of macros or you can fit high quality food into the allotment. It really comes back to the dieter.
But if an individual believes that the only thing that matters are macros and calories, he or she will tend to stop caring about the consequences of the food sources. It’s possible of course to do IIFYM and leave out shitty foods in favor of quality ones. Hell, bodybuilders have been doing that for decades, long before any acronyms were created.
The problem is, most people ignore gut health. Huge mistake. Gut health is probably the place everyone should start before scribbling down their macros or diet.
Roughly 80% of your immune system is contained in the digestive tract and efficient nutrient absorption starts in the gut too. But if that’s not exciting enough for you, realize that the microbes in your gut play a big role when it comes to cravings. If you eat healthier food, you feed the bacteria that makes you crave healthier food, which will make it easier to stick to a diet.
But keep the junk in your diet and you feed the bad gut bacteria that increases cravings. Gut bacteria doesn’t give a shit if it fits your macros.
3 – It’s Actually Not Ideal For Contest Prep
I know that IIFYM dieters will point to some people that got in amazing shape for shows using this approach. Sure. But the great majority of bodybuilders who have to get as peeled as possible know that deviating from what works for them is a recipe for disaster.
Yes, there are exceptions, but most men can’t get away with substituting certain food choices for others just based on macros fitting in during contest prep.
The reason most guys headed into a contest carry prepared food around with them is because they know their body, and what they can and can’t eat in order to get extremely shredded. And in order to do so, almost all of them have to narrow down their choices to a select few items.
This is one concept that a lot of people don’t understand if they’ve never dieted down to extremely low body fat levels. Going from 20% body fat to 10% isn’t really all that difficult. You can most definitely apply an IIFYM approach, manage your calories properly, and accomplish that. However going from 10% body fat, to 8% is a little more tricky. And going from 8% body fat to 5% requires an exceptional amount of discipline, and really just doesn’t allow for most people to deviate from a narrow set of food choices.
If you’re a person who can get away with doing so, that’s great. You won the genetic lottery in that regard. Most people will find that to get down to extremely low body fat, food sources have to eventually be narrowed down to the usual stuff: chicken, broccoli, egg whites, etc.
Now, this may not apply to the average bikini or figure competitor because women are judged by a different set of criteria. But if you’re a male trying to get into serious contest shape, then you’ll need to know a lot about how your body responds to different food sources. Especially on contest day.
4 – It Ignores Micros
Most people, even those who are fairly meticulous about their diet, ignore micronutrients. They think it’s all about them gainz, so all they need is the right ratio of protein, carbs, and fat.
Nope, sorry. Micronutrient deficiencies, like Vitamin D and magnesium deficiency, can really impede your goals. And what may begin as an inability to recover can end up as a health crisis. Throwing a Centrum down your throat on occasion won’t get the job done, and in order to figure out why you feel like shit you’ll have to go get blood work and find a smarter doctor than the GP.
But an IDM-IIFYM-OK guy who thinks 400 calories from a Big Mac is the same as 400 calories from kale and turkey probably isn’t going to care about pesky micros.
What It Wasn’t Meant to Be
IIFYM was never intended to be a pro-junk food diet. It was simply intended to allow for people to choose foods outside of a small selection of traditional “clean” foods and still meet their physique goals.
Like most good ideas however, it became bastardized by those who took it to extremes and tried to make a case that all food choices were equal as long as a calorie and macronutrient quota was met.
It’s possible to be a smart IIFYM dieter who reaches their dietary budget through quality, whole foods. But he or she also is aware of food sources, their impact on gut function, and their contribution of micronutrients. The smart IIFYM dieter is also not merely after weight loss, but rather improved body composition and improved behavior around food – which doesn’t include an ongoing lifelong obsession.
Don’t like this perspective of IIFYM? I have another acronym just for you: IDGAF.
Avena, N. M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B. G. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: Behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from PMC.
Dash, S. (2015, January 28). The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry: focus on depression. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from PUBMED.
Magnesium, inflammation, and obesity in chronic disease. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2017, from PUBMED.
Naeem, Z. (2010, January). Vitamin D Deficiency- An Ignored Epidemic. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from PUBMED.
Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated? (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2017, from PUBMED.
S. A. (2013, July 16). Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from PUBMED.
S. A. (2013, July 16). The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry: focus on depression. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from PUBMED.
There are a lot of things to learn and practice when you’re new to squatting and you want to get the best results possible, such as choosing the right weight, engaging the posterior chain, reaching proper depth at the bottom of the squat, keeping your back straight and controlling the rotation of the hips. But getting obsessive with achieving the best form possible as soon as you begin performing squats can lead you to analysis paralysis instead of the perfect squat and you might be overlooking the position of one of the most important body parts – the head.
In short, the position of your head when squatting can really make or break your squat since your body positioning often follows the lead of the head. Proper head positioning can help you prevent injury and generate more force, but looking at the ceiling during heavy squats squeezes the spinal discs in your neck, hyperextends the neck, forces the hips forward prematurely, increases knee flexion and can easily result with neck pain and injury. On the other hand, looking at your feet can cause unnecessary flexion of the spine and possibly harm your balance.
So, what to do?
It’s very simple, actually. The general rule is that your neck should be kept inline with the torso, maintaining a straight line from head to the hips. You can also drive your head A BIT backward and slightly tuck your chin. Find a point on the floor in front of you that feels comfortable to look at, looking diagonally down instead of straight down. This will make the back angle easier to obtain and hold while keeping your cervical spine neutral.
Depending on the stage of training and body composition, some trainees are able to look high up or low down without risking their safety, but these guys are exceptions to the rule and should not be viewed as role models for the average lifter.
As a beginner to low bar squats, looking slightly down while maintaining a neutral spine can help you work the posterior chain more effectively. However, when you progress to moving heavier weights, you’ll be better off looking forwards and never tilting the head up. This will keep your upper back tight and support a successful lift.
With enough practice, you’ll be able to discover which direction is the most comfortable for you to direct your gaze at, without damaging your form and increasing the risk of injury. But regardless of where your eyes go, ALWAYS maintain your cervical spine neutral since this is the key feature of a proper squat, even if this limits the amount of weight you can handle. Quality should be more important than quantity if you’re hoping to make any real gains and prevent painful injury. If more people followed this simple advice, the squat would finally be able to defeat its invalid reputation of a dangerous exercise.
7 Bodybuilding Lies That Are Keeping You Skinny and WeakFrom Alain Gonzalez Elite FTS | Posted on: 05/25/2016 |
Unsubstantiated bro-science has circulated the fitness community with many fictitious claims — from the idea that we must consume protein within 15 minutes of training or we’ll shrink, to the old adage that, “your body is like a furnace, the more wood you add, the longer the fire burns” that made us believe we needed six meals per day to “keep our metabolism revving.”
Although complete bullshit, these claims aren’t hurting anyone…right?
Eating six meals per day could be potentially helpful, and having protein immediately following a workout won’t hurt. But there are a few lies plaguing the fitness industry that can ruin your ability to put on any muscle whatsoever. I want to shed a bit of light on these myths and, at the same time, share simple and effective methods for building the body you want, faster.
Lie #1: Carbs Make You Fat
The reason “experts” believe this myth is understandable: carbs increase insulin and insulin is a storage hormone that forces our body to store fat; however, the evidence is pretty clear that the insulin response from food intake doesn’t determine the amount of fat you store — total energy balance does.1, 2
What they also fail to mention is that insulin is responsible for driving amino acids into our muscles thus elevating protein synthesis. This is vital for maximizing muscle growth.
Fact is, if you’re looking to put on lean muscle through weight training, you should never avoid carbs. The reasons are twofold: 1) carbs are converted to glucose, our body’s main source of energy and 2) glucose is stored in the muscles as glycogen. Blood glucose and muscle glycogen are the most important elements in the formula for maximizing physical performance3.
Avoiding carbs to minimize fat gain is like not flying for the fear of crashing, but driving on the highway to work every day, texting — you’re worried about the wrong thing! If we go low carb, we’ve got to go high fat. But a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition4 concluded that fats are more efficiently stored as body fat than carbohydrates:
“Excess dietary fat leads to greater fat accumulation than does excess dietary carbohydrate.”
This actually makes perfect sense, especially since there is plenty of evidence that carbs are inefficiently stored as body fat even when overfeeding5. This is due to a highly regulated metabolic pathway known as de novo lipogenesis.
Bottom Line: If you want to get big and strong, eat carbs. Lots of them.
Lie #2: Always Train to Failure
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow” — Arnold Schwarzenegger
Sorry Arnie, but I’ve got to disagree with you on this one. What makes a muscle grow is not the last three or four reps, but a pathway known as progressive overload6: adding more volume through increased reps and/or weight, over time.
That said, our main focus in the gym should be performance: increasing our volume (sets x reps x weight lifted) without completely wiping ourselves out. If we’re fatigued, then our performance suffers and the rest of our efforts are in vein.
I’ll give you an example: you walk into the gym and you are aiming to push 315 pounds on the squat for three sets. Here’s what it looks like when you’re training to failure.
Set 1 – 315 x 8
Set 2 – 315 x 5
Set 3 – 315 x 3
You exert a great deal of energy on the first set because you want to “force” growth by training to failure, so the second set suffers. Despite feeling fatigued, you push as hard as you did in the first set to squeeze out the next five reps. By the time you’re on your last set, you’re struggling to hit a lousy three repetitions. Not only did you hinder your performance in the squat, but you’ve made yourself useless for the remainder of the workout.
If we look at squats alone, the total tonnage would have been 5,040 pounds.
Now let’s look at how your squats may have gone, had you ended a couple of reps short of failure, instead.
Set 1 – 315 x 6
Set 2 – 315 x 6
Set 3 – 315 x 5-6
In this example, you’re still primed and potentiated after the first set, thus the second set doesn’t have to suffer. Now, after two pretty intense sets you may not be as potentiated, but certainly not fatigued.
Total Tonnage: 5355-5670 pounds
Although the difference in volume during squats may not have been huge, the real disparity happens as you get further into your workout. If you insist on training to failure, consistently, then you’re just digging a deeper hole with each set you perform.
Bottom Line: The higher the intensity, the further away you should stay from failure. That said, when training with a lighter load (less intensity), training to failure has its benefits7. So for example, if your training routine includes a light-day where you train 15 reps or higher, this might be a good time to train to failure.
Lie #3: Train for Size, Not for Strength
When I hear this, I cringe. It’s like saying you want to drive the six figure Lambo with the engine of an electric car.
Here’s the deal: muscle is a byproduct of strength, and unless you’re getting stronger, you’re not getting bigger, period. Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a jacked dude struggling to bench 135 pounds? Never.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should stay under five reps and max out every few weeks or completely eliminate bicep curls and replace them with more squats and deadlifts. What I am saying, however, is that unless you’re adding more weight or more reps, you’re not going to stimulate further growth.
The way we produce new muscle tissue is quite simple: we introduce a stress and our body adapts to that stress by building muscle in order to handle it again, later.
This can be done two ways:
Increase weight without sacrificing reps
Increase reps without sacrificing weight
You mentioned earlier that the main pathway by which we build muscle is increased volume (sets x reps x weight lifted), doesn’t that mean we could just add more sets?
Sure, this can be done, but studies show that it’s only possible to a certain degree8 before we experience diminishing returns. Not only is this strategy not efficient past a certain threshold, but it’s impractical.
Bottom Line: You don’t have to train like a powerlifter, but you should always walk into the gym with one goal in mind: do better than you did last time. If you’re a caveman like me, bring a pen and pad into the gym with you to record your lifts. If you’re a bit more sophisticated, use an app. Regardless of how you do it, track your progress!
Lie #4: You Need All The Protein
Protein is by far the most critical macronutrient for building muscle, no doubt. But like most things, more isn’t always better. In fact, too much protein can potentially inhibit your ability to grow.
No, not because it’ll ruin your kidneys or because you’re pissing it out anyway – that’s total bullshit.
More so due to the impact it has on your appetite.
Here’s the deal: if we want to build muscle, we’ve got to ensure we’re getting enough carbs, fats, and protein to support growth. For some of us, however, eating enough becomes a huge struggle because our energy needs exceed our appetite.
And protein has been shown to reduce appetite dramatcially9 due to its extremely slow absorption10. And if you’re already struggling to eat enough, this could magnify the burden.
Truth be told, the supplement companies and fitness magazines aren’t dumb enough to believe you actually need as much protein as they suggest. But because whey protein is one of their lower margin products, they have to deal in volume. And the only way to sell you more protein, is by telling you that you need absurd amounts if you want to look like their cover models.
Bottom Line: Studies suggest that 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight is enough11 to maximize muscle growth; however, they also note that “more protein should be consumed during periods of high frequency/intensity training.” That said, I would recommend aiming to get about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, to be on the safe side. Anything more than that is useless.
Lie #5: Mondays Are Chest Day
If Monday and only Monday is chest day, your shit is broken.
This isn’t to say that you can’t make decent gains while training each muscle-group once per week, but if you want to maximize muscle and strength, low frequency training just isn’t going to cut it.
So whenever you hear someone crying about how sore their quads are from “leg day,” just know that it’s not because they went HAM in the gym; it’s because they’re training their legs too infrequently.
“But my trainer told me that if I train my chest twice per week, I’ll overtrain.”
A study that was published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research12 compared training one day per week using a split body workout to three days per week using a full-body approach. Researchers found that subjects who trained a single muscle-group more frequently throughout the week, despite no changes in total volume, experienced significantly more muscle growth than the low frequency group.
Another more recent meta-analysis13 concluded that “When comparing studies that investigated training muscle groups between 1 to 3 days per week on a volume-equated basis, the current body of evidence indicates that frequencies of training twice a week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes to once a week.”
This, in my opinion, is due to two main factors:
1. Repeated Bout Effect: the adaptation whereby a single bout of eccentric exercise protects against muscle damage from subsequent eccentric bouts.
Although this effect does still require an adequate rest period between bouts, training more frequently will increase your ability to recover and adapt.14
More efficient recovery and adaptation makes for extended progression without a plateau, strength increases, and more overall muscle growth.
And the more frequent training bouts bring us to our next point…
2. Muscle Protein Synthesis: the driving force behind adaptive responses to exercise and represents a widely adopted proxy for gauging chronic efficacy of acute interventions, (i.e. exercise/nutrition).
MPS is essential to the body’s ongoing growth and repair of muscle tissue. If we can synthesize more protein than we breakdown, we end up with more muscle than we started with.
Studies like one published in the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology15 suggest that MPS is more than doubled at about 24 hours following an intense training bout. It then begins to drop back to baseline about 12 hours later.
So let’s look at an individual who trains his chest every Monday. He elevates MPS, by Wednesday it’s back to baseline, and it’s not elevated again for another 5 days.
Now let’s look the individual who’s training his chest twice per week – say Monday and Thursday. He elevates MPS, by Wednesday it’s back to baseline, and the next day it’s elevated again. It’s pretty clear to see that this individual is spending more time building and repairing muscle tissue than the guy on the low frequency split routine.
Bottom Line: Follow a higher frequency training split that targets each major muscle group at least twice per week. More importantly, though, find a workout that you are excited about. Regardless of what science might suggest, there is no factor more important than adherence.
Lie #6: Eat Clean
What exactly does it mean to eat clean? Ask 10 different “experts” and get 10 different answers.
Truth is, there is no such thing as a “clean” or “dirty” food. The same way you’ll never drop dead from eating one burger, you won’t wake up fit from chugging a greens shake.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in following a predominantly whole food, minimally processed diet. But I am also a huge advocate of flexibility. The notion that you have to “eat clean” to build muscle is not only subjective, but extremely misleading. This type of advice is what leaves people dazed and confused about why they’re not growing or getting stronger.
The fact of the matter is, it’s not just about what you eat, but how much of it16. Unless you’re in a positive energy balance and consuming enough protein, fats, and carbs, you won’t grow.
Have you ever tried getting 1000kcal from broccoli and chicken breasts? It’s just not practical.
Bottom Line: If you want to grow, you’ve got to ensure you’re in a caloric surplus, consuming more calories than you’re expending. Following a diet that provides sufficient protein, dietary fat, and carbohydrates is critical if your goal is to build muscle. I don’t care how “clean” you’re eating — if you’re not eating enough, you’re not going to grow.
Lie #7: High Reps for Definition
I’m not sure where the hell this came from, but the idea that high reps shape or “tone” the muscle is complete dog shit.
A muscle can do three things: grow larger, get smaller, or remain the same size. The shape it takes is completely up to your genetic makeup. Another problem with this claim is that, like clean eating, it’s very subjective. What exactly are “high” reps? Is it 12-15? 15-20? 50?
Either way, training in any of those rep ranges requires that we reduce intensity. There’s no way in hell you’re pushing 80% of your one-rep max for 20 reps.
In fact, one study17 concluded that you would have to perform three times the volume when using a lighter load to get the same results you would from a moderate weight.
A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology18 compared a low, moderate, and a high rep group. To no surprise of my own, the low and moderate rep groups produced significantly more hypertrophy than the high rep group. Not because you can’t build muscle with a lighter load, but because intensity matters — and if you want to build muscle as fast as possible, you’ve got to lift heavy.
Bottom Line: Lift heavy shit. If you want to get a better gauge as to “how heavy,” start using percentages.
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By Brandon Hall STACK.com
Along with chicken breast and brown rice, sweet potatoes have become a staple of the elite athlete diet. Nowadays, nearly every pro athlete with whom STACK speaks mentions sweet potatoes as a food they eat on a regular basis. The reverence for sweet potatoes is well-deserved, but it has come at the expense of abandoning another type of tuber—white potatoes.
White potatoes used to be the default potato on most people’s plates, but they’ve become a casualty of the low-carb craze. Sweet potatoes are lower in carbs and calories than white potatoes, which is why they’re frequently referred to as the smarter option. But is this really true? Is the demotion of the classic white potato deserved? And are sweet potatoes really superior? The answer might surprise you.
Tuber Nutrient Comparison
The following is a segment of an infographic created by Precision Nutrition comparing the nutrition facts of one medium baked white potato and one medium baked sweet potato.
Since carbs and calories are the two biggest reasons why sweet potatoes have earned a reputation as the healthier tuber, let’s examine them first. A medium baked sweet potato contains 58 fewer calories and 13 fewer grams of carbohydrates than a medium baked white potato. That’s not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but it is significant.
Fat, Fiber, Protein and Other Nutrients
Now let’s check out some other big factors. Both kinds of potato have zero grams of fat, which is good. Also, they each contain 3.8 grams of fiber, about 15 percent of your recommended daily value. Fiber is the Swiss Army Knife of nutrients. It helps normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar and even slow digestion, which keeps you feeling full longer after you eat. The Harvard School of Public Health states that fiber appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
When it comes to protein, white potatoes actually have a slight edge: 4.3 grams to 2.3 grams. Considering the importance of protein for muscle-building and recovery, that’s a big plus. As for vitamin and mineral content, the only category with a big difference is Vitamin A, where sweet potatoes trounce white potatoes. Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy skin, teeth and soft tissue, so the larger amount of it in sweet potatoes is an advantage. Aside from that, though, the vitamin and mineral content of the two tubers is pretty darn close, with each trading off some narrow victories.
Besides Vitamin A, the only real advantage sweet potatoes have over white potatoes is their lower carb count. However, the carbs in potatoes aren’t necessarily the type you should want to cut. Much potato carb content can be attributed to resistant starch, which isn’t digested. Instead, it is fermented in the gut to produce short-chain fatty acids, which aid in nutrient absorption, reduce inflammation, fuel healthy gut bacteria and keep you fuller longer. So even if you’re looking to cut carbs, axing potatoes might not be a smart way to do it.
When you add that fact to the higher protein content of white potatoes, you could conclude that white potatoes’ bad rep is not deserved. Both varieties are fat-free, stuffed with fiber and chock full of vitamin and minerals. The bottom line is that both white and sweet potatoes are great foods to include in a well-balanced diet. And don’t forget to eat the skin. That’s where many of the useful nutrients in these tasty tubers can be found.
By Bob Kupniewski Athletic Xtreme
One of the most asked about topics or articles people always want to know about is in regards to protein intake. Many athletes or general gym goers will continue to wonder what is the adequate amount, how often should I be intaking protein, how often should we spread out meals, and how often should we allow protein levels to reach their refractory stages before being spiked again. Over the years I have followed a lot of individuals who research protein timing, protein doses, and also individuals who study branch chain amino acids for a living (Layne Norton) which has an impact on showing the benefits to dosing out larger meals spaced further apart. Is the common eating every 2-3 hours truth? Or is a myth? What facts are there to back that and what facts are there to back larger meals spaced further apart? Not only are these topics going to be covered, but also how much per meal, and how often with research to back that from Alan Aragon.
The Protein Debate Begins
First of all dating way back to when protein was first researched The American Dietetics Association (ADA) that gave a prescribed .5 grams per pound of bodyweight (.4g/lb). Not only was this applied to athletes but this was applied to nearly 95% of the population that walked the earth. The key thing to factor here is that not much research was done on bodybuilders in the early 90s or the turn of 2000s. Due to this the general recommendation this may have been a far stretch until more recent times where people took more pride and results off human results than putting faith in people in lab coats. When we look back compared to research now how different is it, and when did this start to evolve?
Fast forward to more research times and general consensus of protein intake was far more researched into the 2000s. The Journal of Sports and Science did various Pubmed research on athletes to try and gather some more information. Professor Tipton and Wolfe who were in charge of demonstrating the research and varied amounts of athletes to see if less or more was appropriate relating to muscle mass and also muscle retention in athletes. These professors took amounts up to 2g/lb of protein and down to around .75g of protein and the result showed little or limited evidence for positive effects of a very high intake of protein for an athlete or lifter. The key factor behind the research was there was not much rational to overall increasing protein towards muscle hypertrophy. They also studied the results in a slight caloric deficit too on higher protein intake and higher level activities and there was also no change in nitrogen balance (Manninen another research assistant in the lab notified). While this has more backing than the lower limits from the ADA we are still not sold on the amount of protein needed for athletes or general gym goers. What we did note is that even with the higher protein intake there were no downsides to the overall health of the athletes when they were monitored.
Recent Years | Research
As we move towards the 2010 era we saw a lot more research being done by individuals such as Lyle McDonald who wrote The Protein Book. Alan Aragon had a great article he did on how much protein per meal that was published on the wannabebig forums, Layne Norton also did a great few power points on Protein Synthesis, and Martin Berkhan has some good research on protein intake and rates off his leangains website that I want to talk about.
First off if you have never read any of Lyle McDonalds books I highly suggest you do so because of the information that he does provide in the books for you to acquire and utilize. Not only on protein intake, but also the Stubborn Diet Protocol and Keto Diet books is a wealth of knowledge. Lyle on the other hand in essence stated that around 1.4g of protein/lb would be a general intake for habitual strength athletes (based off his book). That intake is especially based off those who are dieting and need a higher end of protein intake compared to those in a surplus who will need less protein intake due to carbs being protein sparing and a higher caloric need. When it comes to endurance athletes the need for protein will drop a bit to around 1g/lb but will be around the 1.25g/lb when it comes to those dieting to help maintain muscle mass during long bouts of exercise or activity.
Alan Aragon if you have ever followed him does a lot of nutritional research and wrote a fantastic article off the wannabebig forums on protein intake on how much and how often. While Alan was a strong advocate of around 1g/lb for most trainees and endurance athletes, he also utilizes this aspects in his own clients. In a personal interview with Alan Aragon, he explained his major focus was on reaching that proper intake and then spacing those meals out to at least 3 meals per day. In his article on the wannabebig forums his research was based solely off the 20-30g of protein per meal myth and his research and findings concluded that short term effects provided hints what might be an optimal dose for maximizing anabolism a lot more than 20-30g as most people think. The long answer is it depends on several factors including the amount per meal (it will take longer to digest larger meals). Alan had research shown by Dr. Soeters and colleagues that showed a 20 hour fast in individuals and those individuals taking in over 100g of protein in a 4 hour window and still seeing no difference in lean mass and muscle protein synthesis between groups with a spread out intake over the course of a day.
More research he found based off his article was that if you consume around 80% of your protein needs in one meal versus the same amount spread across four meals there were little to no difference in fat free mass or nitrogen retention. Lastly I want to touch upon one last research aspect he foud by Dr. Symons and colleagues is in a 5-hour response to protein intake and the results. When one individual used lean beef to acquire 30g of protein in multiple meals vs 90g of protein in a single meal the difference was negligible. The 30g servings (3 of them) compared to the 90g serving showed minimal increase in muscle protein synthesis, but overall enhanced muscle protein synthesis did not vary at all showing you more backing to less meals maybe being more optimal than frequent meals.
Dr. Layne Norton
Protein research continued to evolve with Layne Norton at the forefront with two great powerpoint presentations on muscle protein synthesis. His hypothesis was based off dosing meals further apart and using BCAAs as a bolus between meals to help spike protein synthesis and then allow protein levels to reach their refractory stages before being spiked again compared to eating every 2-3 hours and constantly elevating protein levels. During his research Layne utilized up to 3-4g of BCAAs (in leucine) between meals that were 4-6 hours apart and with that he saw an increase in nitrogen balance and overturn in muscle protein synthesis compared to eating more frequent meals (every 2-3 hours). Therefore it would take almost 30-50g of protein (Depending on the source and leucine content) to meet those requirements. With that said he noted that his protein intake would likely be around 1-1.5g/lb based off the individual and their current goal (higher for one on a cutting or restricted caloric intake) and lower (for those who have a higher intake or those who are trying to add size with a caloric surplus). Food sources that were highest in leucine came down to Whey Protein, Eggs (Due to a high BV), and Beef as primary sources in ones diet.
With that said Martin Berkhan who is an advocate of a lower meal frequency based in an eating window (lean gains or a form of intermittent fasting) has posted a fantastic article called The Top 10 Fasting Myths Debunked). As I stated in some of alans research Martin is another one to back his stance and you can see that on his website and the articles he does provide. A basis for martin on his stance with Protein intake is if you are in taking higher doses of Leucine (Similar to Laynes Theory) then less total protein intake is needed to stimulate MPS (muscle protein Synthesis) at each meal. Considering Martin is one to advocate around 3 meals a day within an 8 hour period (leangains) that makes sense when you see Alan and his research showing no real different in nitrogen or lean muscle mass in the 24 hour period. It goes to show you that more research and evidence can back the lower meal frequency that Layne was talking about yet his research shows meals spaced 4-6 hours apart (which could happen in the 8 hour period with 3 meals). Martin also is a big advocate sometimes of doing 2 meals a day based on the individuals caloric intake (more so dieting) and satiety with larger meals and when calories may get down into the 1200-1500 kcal range and splitting them between pre/post workout or training fasted with BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids) and following Post-workout and pre-bed (or end of the fast) with another protein feeding in the 8 hour window.
All of this research may be a lot to grasp throughout this article, but it all has its place in time in bodybuilding and general fitness. Protein intake may be one of the most heavily studied things out there in the last 5-6 years regarding how much and how often. Let some of this research and evidence persuade you to tool with your intake, try different amounts per meal, and also vary your frequency to see what suits your body. The key aspect to take away from this is not everyone is the same. Some will still thrive off 5-6 meals a day, and some will find it easier to do 3-4 and make the same if not better results in the gym. Research is something you can take with a grain of salt regarding how much protein and how often, now it comes down to applying it to the real world and varying your caloric intake to see what proves best for you! My general Stance would be 1-1.25g/lb and also spread into 3-5 meals (based off personal preference).
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BY GREG NUCKOLS Juggernaut
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT FORM.
Deal with it.
This is a subject Ive been known to wax poetic about from time to time. If you meet me in real life, feel free to ask me about perfect form, and hear the complete hour-long lecture/rant. But for this medium, Ill keep it snappy.
First off, we have to ask ourselves: why are we trying to find a perfect form to begin with?
My guess is that it comes out of the assumptions the modern (as opposed to postmodern) world is built on. Everything is knowable. With the great, omniscient tool of Science, we can understand the workings of any system to determine how to optimize its function. The universe and everything in it works just like clockwork, so all we have to do is figure out how all the pieces of each clock function, and well know how to make it work perfectly. This is the type of thinking that leads people to ask questions like, whats the best diet? or whats the best program? or what is perfect form?
This type of thinking was discarded in just about every branch of science and philosophy by the 1920s (perhaps retained as an ideal, but not as something actually attainable in the vast majority of cases), but its still alive and well in our common cultural consciousness. Especially in biology like when were talking about us and our bodies statements involving words like perfect, optimal, and universal have no place whatsoever, unless theyre used as a shorthand for an idea along the lines of pretty good, or, the best we can do with what we know now. Along those lines, were pretty good at being able to make statements of better and worse in a lot of general cases, but even such judgements in those general cases cant be mapped directly onto all specific cases. Even if we could know the truth about perfect form for an exercise for the theoretical average person, you couldnt treat that as applicable in all cases.
With that philosophical rambling out of the way, I want to show you some reasons why this is the case. Ill use the squat to illustrate.
1. DIFFERENT LIMB LENGTHS
Leonardo Di Vincis Vitruvian Man may have had idealized average proportions, but odds are that you dont. In a population, there are characteristic average lengths for each bone in relation to your total height. However, your segment lengths may differ by a few percents, throwing off the goal of finding optimal mechanics.
Take, for example, the torso and femur. The femur is, on average, about 24% of the total height of the body. The trunk is about 29.5%. How long your femurs are in relation to your torso will largely determine how far forward to have to lean at the bottom of a squat. Someone with shorter femurs and a longer torso, relatively, will be able to stay fairly upright and have a strong bottom position with almost any squat form. Someone with longer femurs and a shorter torso will have to lean quite a bit farther forward.
What may be optimal for the average person with 24/29.5 proportions will be increasingly less appropriate as someones segment lengths get further and further from average relative lengths.
2. DIFFERENT ANATOMICAL FEATURES
For the squat, hip anatomy alters how (or if) youll best be able to squat to depth, and it can alter how much tension is on each muscle that flexes, extends, or causes rotation at the hips. Some people have hips that let them squat below parallel with a really wide stance, but that stop them well above parallel with a narrow stance. Others have hips that let them drop their butt onto their ankles with their heels touching, but that limit depth as soon as they get barely outside shoulder width.
Factors such as where the hip socket is placed on the pelvis, the shape of the pelvis itself, the angle and rotation of the femoral neck, and the depth of the hip socket all influence what types of squat forms will be better or worse for each individual. This is a subject that has been written about in quite a bit of depth here, so for the purposes of this discussion, Ill just leave it at that.
Furthermore, there are variations in knee anatomy that influence proper knee tracking. Some people have femoral condyles that are about the same length, while for others the medial condyle is quite a bit longer. This influences how the joint will move and how much stress will be on the menisci and ligaments with various degrees of knee flexion, hip abduction, and femoral rotation.
3. DIFFERENT TRAINING GOALS
Lets say you want to squat the most weight humanly possible to just below parallel for the sport of powerlifting. A slightly wider stance that allows you to use your hips more and that will stop you just below parallel due to a powerful stretch reflex is probably your best bet.
Lets say you want to grow some mammoth quads for the bodybuilding stage, or increase your leg strength for weightlifting. Since quad activation increases with squat depth, the technique that allows you to squat as deep and upright as possible will be more appropriate.
Even if you COULD determine the perfect way to squat, such a declaration would still have to be placed in the context of what, exactly, you were trying to ACCOMPLISH by squatting since different techniques are more or less appropriate for different purposes.
4. DIFFERENT INJURY AND TRAINING HISTORIES
Different people have different strengths and weaknesses that determine what positions theyll be stronger in. If you have an absurdly strong posterior chain, the flat-soled, incredibly hip-dominant squat may be the best way for you to move the most weight. If youve got Tom Platzs quads, a purposefully hip-dominant squat takes your greatest asset out of play.
Furthermore, what if you have a injury to your knee, or an ankle mobility restriction? For you, the best squat form would be the one that allows you to train around your restrictions pain-free, optimal mechanics be damned.
SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
Stop trying to cram yourself into a restrictive box, or waste your time seeking out perfect form. Embrace your individuality and differences.
You may see that most great powerlifters squat a certain way. Is that because its the universal best way to squat for powerlifting, or because most great squatters have similar physical characteristics that cause a certain range of techniques to give them the best results?
You may see that most great weightlifters squat a certain way. Is that because its the universal best way to squat for weightlifting, or because most great weightlifters have similar characteristics that allow them to excel in their sport? Im talking primarily about depth in this instance the best weightlifters are the best, among other things, because theyre the ones who can get the lowest. They may all be able to squat ass-to-grass, but that doesnt mean everyone can.
Instead of chasing perfection, chase better.
Instead of trying to find optimal technique, learn how to troubleshoot.
TROUBLESHOOTING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL YOU CAN DEVELOP AS AN ATHLETE OR COACH.
Play with your stance width, your footwear, how much you point your toes, how much you abduct your hips, how far forward your knees track, your bar position, whether you break at the hips or knees first, etc. If you try something, it feels better for you, and it lets you (depending on the reason youre squatting) move more weight or train the squat harder, then thats better. It may or may not be better for most people, but thats irrelevant. Its better for you, and thats what matters. And better is the best youre going to do.