May 27, 2022
One of the downsides of working out is waking up so sore you swear you did something wrong. Even if it’s not that bad, just waking up and not feeling like you can perform optimally still sucks. Well, to be honest, chances are you did do something wrong because recovery is a vital part of training, not a punishment. In other words, some people think that being sore AF is some kind of achievement, or they just don’t know how to properly train to OPTIMIZE their recovery.
That’s right, learning how to recover properly will actually enhance your training. Still, there are a lot of workout recovery methods out there that claim to be the best, so we’re going to review some of the most common methods and what we believe to be the best methods for recovery.
This post will go over:
Get ready to learn the art of doing nothing (not really, there’s more to recovery than binging Netflix!)
At its most basic definition, recovery is just the process of healing and recovering from your workouts. It starts the minute you perform your last rep and ends once you perform another rep in the next session. That being said, recovery can be either passive (you don’t do anything to enhance recovery) or active (you’re actively taking steps to try and improve recovery). Furthermore, workout recovery can include modifying your diet or supplementation to enhance the healing process from exercise induced muscle damage. All in all, recovery is a vital part of training and is actually a necessary step in physiological adaptations.
“Muscles are built in the bed.” Yet another meme, which we generally hate, that actually holds a lot of wisdom. What we mean is that when you go to the gym, you are actually stressing the muscles that are causing the buildup of fatigue as well as muscle damage. If you think about it, you are actually weaker and beaten down when you leave the gym compared to when you go to the gym. Again, this is fine and truly necessary to grow.
When you go home, your body starts running a slew of different processes to help restore your body and repair your muscles. This is done primarily through proper nutrition and sleep. However, what happens after your recovery is your body restores your muscles and physiological systems to be a little bit stronger in a process known as supercompensation. In fact, this process is what allows the principle of progressive overload.
As you can see, muscle breakdown and recovery is a GOOD thing. However, in order to maximize the benefits, you need to have the perfect balance between training and recovery. It really is a balancing act.
Out of all the things you can do to optimize your recovery, proper programming is THE MOST IMPORTANT!!! It doesn’t matter how much glutamine you stuff down your throat or how long you sit in an ice bath; if your programming contains way too much intensity and volume, you’re not going to recover. While different “tricks” you hear may (or may not) be effective, they can’t reverse improper training. In other words, they can help you recover faster IF your fatigue and volume are manageable.
The first thing you need to do is have at least 48 hours of recovery between significant muscle groups. To be clear, this doesn’t necessarily mean two full days before your next exercise session. If you train at noon on Monday, 48 hours later would be Wednesday at noon. So basically, this just means don’t train the same muscle group every day. Studies show that this generally gives the muscle enough time for recovery, but this also assumes you’re using an appropriate amount of volume1.
An extensive range of 10-20 sets per muscle group per week tends to be the given guideline. At the same time, this is assuming you’re using sets of 6-20 reps. In other words, this number doesn’t apply if you’re following a strength or powerlifting routine. Regardless, what this means is that if we use the average number of 3 sets per exercise (i.e., 3x8), this means you shouldn’t do any more than 7 exercises in a week (3X7= 21 sets).
While we routinely will do more than this once in a while, you definitely can’t do 40 sets a week and think you’re ok because you rested for 48 hours. While you might be able to do more than 20 sets a week once in a while, you’d want to program so that while you may do 25 sets one week, the next week, you might want to chill out and do 10 sets. As we said above, it’s a balancing act.
An awesome way to not only optimize your training but improve your recovery is to use deloads as well as follow some form of basic periodization. Deloads are just weeks of training when you will decrease the intensity and/or volume of your training. The most common method is to simply keep the same rep scheme but just cut the load by 50%. Easy peasy. While intermediate and advanced lifters may take a deload week every 4 weeks, most people can probably get away with 6 weeks. Also, instead of just cutting your load in half, you can also take a deload to work on other areas such as mobility or work on a technical move. At the end of the day, this is just a method of giving your body an extended amount of time to fully recover so think of it as a time to work on things you’ve wanted but can’t.
At the same time, you can use periodization. Periodization refers to the method of altering the load and intensity of your training throughout a cycle. The easiest example would be that you might train hypertrophy for 3 months and then train for strength for 3 months, and so on. One of the best ways is a form known as Daily Undulating Periodization or DUP. This means that you change the training variable on a session per session basis. Again, this just allows you to apply a different stimulus which can mitigate fatigue (training for strength and hypertrophy can cause fatigue slightly differently).
A major area where lifters mess up with workout recovery is nutrition. They either don’t eat an appropriate amount of calories or don’t eat the right stuff. It’s not that hard if you follow some basic guidelines.
Other than your essential nutrition, there are lots of claims regarding certain supplements that help recovery. One of the main ones you hear about is glutamine. Unfortunately, while glutamine is vital for recovery, supplementing hasn’t shown to provide any sort of measurable difference in studies. Basically, if you’re eating a proper amount of protein, you are already eating a sufficient amount of glutamine, and taking more doesn’t appear to provide additional benefits. In fact, The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has glutamine listed as “Little To No Evidence” in terms of its efficacy2.
In fact, assuming you’re eating enough protein, the only supplement that can help speed up the recovery process is creatine. While creatine is generally regarded as a muscle-building supplement, studies have shown that it can also increase the effectiveness of recovery3.
There may also be evidence that drinking amino acids as well as carbohydrates during workouts can also improve recovery times.
A relatively new area of research that offers promising hope in terms of enhanced recovery and improved physiological adaptations is pre-sleep protein. Studies show that taking 30-40g of a casein protein shake 30 minutes prior to sleeping can improve adaptations to resistance training and decrease recovery time4. This is an easy and effective way to improve recovery while you sleep! You literally get benefits when you’re doing nothing; seems like a pretty obvious choice to us.
Inadequate consumption of vitamins is another that people mess up. People often forget that vitamins play multiple vital roles in various physiological systems, including muscle tissue repair and growth. Some of the top vitamins named for muscle recovery are:
Just be sure that you’re adequate amounts, and if you need, you could pop a multivitamin.
Active recovery is one of our favorite methods (actually, it’s our favorite after the best form listed below!) to enhance recovery. The simplest definition of active recovery is a low-intensity (light) exercise that’s performed after a more intense training session to enhance recovery. This can be done on the same day or on rest days.
For example, this study found that active recovery at slower intensity performed after a 200m freestyle swims resulted in faster blood lactic acid removal. However, keep in mind that this is only one part of recovery5. However, another study found that cycling at low intensity in between Wingate tests produced better performance variables6.
Further, there’s a ton of anecdotal evidence, including personal experience, that can attest to the fact that light active recovery can drastically reduce DOMS and muscle stiffness. As far as what type of exercise, simply walking with intent can be all you need. Ideally, you will have easy access to an Air Bike or some other machine that utilizes legs and arms. One of our favorite practices is to get in a 30 min walk sometime in the evening after we have worked out. It’s easy, free, and can definitely help improve your recovery.
Massage for recovery has grown significantly in recent years, particularly trigger point and myofascial release. But first, sports massage.
As far as basic sports massage, meta-analyses show very limited evidence that can improve performance or speed up recovery7. To be fair, other reviews have shown possible favorable benefits with massage, but we also need to consider messages aren’t free8. Being that you may spend $25-50 per 15-minute session, most trainees can’t afford this to be part of their regular workout routine. Instead, we’d suggest saving that money and getting a nice Swedish massage once a month just because “Treat yo self!”
Myofascial release and trigger point massage is another story. Completely opposite to sports massage, myofascial release does consistently show positive benefits in terms of muscle soreness and muscle recovery in meta-analyses. In other words, while rolling around on a pointy log can hurt like hell, you won’t feel so bad afterward9. Plus, trigger point rollers are pretty cheap and relatively easy to learn how to do by yourself. This makes it a reasonable choice for anyone looking for an effective and affordable means to help recovery.
One form of recovery that’s not often talked about is being involved in cross-training. Cross-training is being involved in multiple sports at the same time. How this might look is that you may go to the gym 3 days a week, cycle 2 days a week, and swim 1 day a week. What this does is allows you to still train but use different muscle groups and movement patterns. Now, we understand this may or may not be reasonable for some people depending on their situation or goal, BUT if you are able, we’d highly suggest getting involved with some other type of athletics.
Other than active recovery, lately, there has been a slew of methods and products that have been suggested to help speed up recovery. What we are referring to our things like:
We’re going to save you a lot of time and let you know that there is limited, if any, evidence to support any of these for weight lifting. Actually, things like an ice bath or cold shower may help elite athletes (who train much harder and longer than an hour in the gym), but studies show they can actually impede muscle growth and strength for strength athletes10.
Still, these aren’t even realistic for your average trainee. If your gym does have a sauna, studies show that heat may provide some benefit, so it may be worth your while, but we wouldn’t suggest you drive out of your way for it11.
At the end of the day, most people simply aren’t training hard enough or long enough for any of these to be practical, even if they did work.
The one method that can guarantee you have better recovery is SLEEP! It’s almost annoying that guys will complain about being sore, buy a ton of supplements and tools, and then get 4 hours of sleep. Sleep is literally your body’s built-in recovery system, and skipping out on it is one of the worst things you can do if you’re an athlete. While above we said programming is the most important, sleep takes that spot IF your programming is in check. If you are having trouble with recovery and muscle soreness, but not getting enough shut eye, you’re shooting yourself in the foot, and NOTHING can reverse the effects of poor sleep. Just sleep! Sleep is one of the most effective ways to reduce muscle soreness (aka DOMS).
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that can play a role in optimal muscle recovery and growth. However, you will see that the most significant factors have nothing to do with performing a particular exercise or wearing tights. The most important factors for post workout muscle recovery and muscle soreness are:
After this, active recovery and myofascial release are your next best friends for recovery. At the end of the day, recovery is a vital part of the process, and it will take some time for you to be able to find the right balance for yourself. Some people can handle higher volumes of training, while some can handle high loads. Not everyone is the same, and it’s up to you to find the perfect balance of training and muscle recovery for yourself.
Related: How to Avoid Burnout & Overtraining
April 02, 2022
Just about anybody who has ever done any type of exercise or training knows what DOMS is, or at least how it feels. DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, which does a pretty good job of explaining what it is; it’s the muscle soreness that you feel the day after doing an exceptionally tough workout or perhaps after doing a new movement. So does that mean that DOMS is good since you feel it after a good workout? And, is DOMS needed for muscle growth?
There is a lot of misunderstanding about this phenomenon that we want to unpack to help you understand how to deal with this muscle soreness. In this article, you’ll learn:
We’ve all been there; we’ve taken a little too much pre-workout and absolutely raged at the gym. While the insane pump you got eventually fades away, it’s replaced by stiffening joints and painful muscles.
You went and got yourself a case of DOMS!
As mentioned above, DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and refers to the discomfort that can develop after an intense training session, after a new exercise, or by just being a brand new beginner.
Regardless of when you work out, you almost always notice it after you wake up in the morning or take a nap during the day. Its intensity can range from slight discomfort to the point where it’s literally debilitating. Further, it can intensify over the course of 48 hours.
We’ll talk about how we can prevent it or minimize it later, but first, what is it (other than pain)?
While the symptoms of DOMS are understood as well as its relationship to intense training, quite interestingly, researchers don’t actually know exactly what causes it or why it even occurs. For example, one theory states it could act as a safety measure for you to reduce injury to a stressed muscle. It’s suggested that it warns you to bring down the intensity or risk further injury. To be clear, we are not saying this is what it is; we’re merely showing you how researchers are still looking for answers and the theories they offer - Really, we just find it fascinating that there is still so much we don’t understand about the human body!
Another theory that tries to explain what causes DOMS is called the “enzyme influx theory”. This suggests that extra calcium is stored within damaged muscles after exercise and can’t be released. This triggers the release of various enzymes that signal muscle breakdown. As a result, there’s inflammation of the muscle and pain occurs.
A more plausible theory, which is generally accepted today, is called the Muscle Damage Theory. This states what it sounds like, in that during weight training, muscle damage occurs, and the structure is rearranged. It should be noted that this primarily occurs during the eccentric portion of a movement. This is why slow, heavy negatives are a common method used by bodybuilders and strength athletes alike. Nonetheless, these structural damages could signal some pain receptors. However, this doesn’t even hold up 100% as the relationship between muscle damage and pain has been found to not be as strong as once thought.
Still, these are just two of numerous theories that try to explain the pain. Yet, none of these are verified to be the cause of DOMS, and in reality, all of them could play a role in the discomfort we feel. While we don’t know the exact mechanisms of DOMS, we do know there is a definite relationship between strenuous or intense exercise and muscular soreness.
Many people wonder if DOMS is a good thing or a bad thing. Actually, it depends on the severity as DOMS itself isn’t inherently bad or good. For example, if you wake up and can’t move, in this case, DOMS would be seen as a “bad” thing. Even still, you could argue that DOMS isn’t what’s bad; it’s the inappropriate training you engaged in that is terrible. In other words, is pain bad when you touch a stove? Not really, as it’s a signal that you’re hurting yourself. As mentioned, this is what one of theories actually suggests it is.
On the other hand, DOMS could signal that you are experiencing adaptations in the gym. When you speak to seasoned lifters, you may actually hear them say things like “I miss this feeling” after they catch DOMS from an intense workout. This is because their bodies have become so accustomed to stress that they rarely get the soreness, so they know they crushed it extra hard when they do.
The bottom line is that because we don’t fully understand what DOMS is, so we can’t really label it as good or bad. That said, a safe guess is that it’s neither, it’s just something that occurs and is part of lifting.
The association with a hard workout and DOMS leads some people to believe that it’s required for muscle growth. It isn’t. If you speak to anyone who has been lifting for an extended period, you will find out that DOMS actually stops occurring quite fast, at least to a high degree. What we mean is that your body seems to learn how to handle strenuous exercises without DOMS showing itself. However, trainees can keep on growing without the presence of DOMS.
We’re not sure of anyone who could continually train for years while waking up every morning and not being able to move pain-free. After you have some time under the bar, you may have a session where you wake up feeling a little extra beat up, but it’s nowhere compared to the pain you felt your first week. Remember, while there is a relation between strenuous exercise and muscle damage, correlation isn’t causation.
Unfortunately, this idea has led many people down the wrong path. It’s not uncommon for people to think they need to destroy themselves every session for progression in the gym. It’s even touted in perhaps the most famous gym meme there is “No Pain, No Gain”. While you absolutely do need to push yourself in the gym, you don’t need to chase DOMS.
In fact, there may actually be a stronger relationship between DOMS and mitigation of muscle growth. This can happen by either the muscle being too damaged to properly recover or simply because a muscle with DOMS can not perform as much work. We’ll say it again, we don’t understand DOMS (and that’s ok) so trying to guess what it means to dictate our training is setting us up for failure.
If you want to know how to gain muscle mass, check out this article instead of chasing DOMS!
One of the best ways to treat DOMS is to mitigate it from ever happening in the first place. While it’s likely impossible to dodge forever, and even advanced lifters will often experience mild DOMS (particularly in the legs), there’s no reason to make it worse than it has to be.
Therefore, follow these first two steps to mitigate any discomfort from DOMS.
1. Start Slow:
The only population who is guaranteed to suffer from DOMS are beginners. This also includes those who have been away from the gym for some time and are just returning (even just a 2-3 weeks can bring about DOMS again).
As mentioned above, there’s a clear relationship between the intensity of training and DOMS. Since beginners have never felt the stimulus of weight training, this brand new sensation is a shock to the system resulting in DOMS. It seems that no matter how easy this population goes, they will still feel it the next day. While you may never be able to altogether avoid it, going as hard as you can on your first day is definitely not going to help.
Therefore, if you are a brand new beginner at the gym, use your first week to learn movement patterns and how to use any machines you may want to train with. While you can obviously lift, use very little weight. Again, your focus should be on learning the movement patterns of the primary lifts, not lifting a lot of weight or overdoing it on volume. The good thing is that because you are new, this will still be enough to make you stronger. After the first week, then you can start applying some weight, but even still, there’s no reason to be working at near maximal sets.
2. Use Progressive Overload Appropriately:
Similar to above, use progressive overload the way it’s supposed to be applied. Remember, progressive overload is the process by which you continually place a more significant stimulus on the muscle using a minimal increase in load. This simply means that you add 5lbs to your squat every week, not 50. While this refers to a load that your body can handle strength-wise, we can still use it at the beginning stages of lifting to help the body acclimate to the stress and mitigate symptoms of DOMS. This is especially true for beginners. Going slow is not a bad thing and will likely lead to increased gains over the long-term. However, going too hard too fast can literally make you so sore that you need to take a week off.
Even if you use a proper loading scheme and increase intensity appropriately, you’re still going to get DOMS once in a while. There are many supposed methods to treat DOMS, all with varying degrees of evidence.
Have A Proper Post-Workout Meal And Nutrition:
One of the most important things you can do to reduce DOMS is to have a post-workout meal with the right foods. To begin with, this is something that you should already be doing, so reducing DOMS is just another reason to pay attention to your nutrition.
While we generally think of our post-workout meal as vital for muscle growth, it’s actually just as important for recovering damaged muscle. Resistance training can cause microtrauma to the muscles, which is one of the possible reasons for DOMS that we spoke about above. Multiple studies have shown that consuming whey protein after weight training can expedite the healing process, enhancing muscle growth. Still, if DOMS is caused by muscle damage, this should theoretically mitigate its effects. While studies show that this isn’t necessarily true, that is, muscle damage could be reduced with no mitigation of DOMS, there’s definitely enough reason to believe it could help. Besides, you need to anyway! Again, we recommend 1.6-2.2g per kg of bodyweight of protein for most individuals.
Antioxidants for DOMS:
One addition to your diet that could help mitigate the effects are various antioxidants, specifically vitamin C and E. Unfortunately, studies have shown conflicting results concerning this. However, it’s important to note that some studies have shown DOMS symptoms to be lessened after an antioxidant supplementation protocol. While these studies are limited, we can give you an idea of the doses used:
While you can’t do this for every session (unless you want to take high doses daily), you could plan a protocol if you know you have a big workout coming. For example, if you have a competition coming up where the activity level will be longer or more intense than usual, you could supplement that.
Some of the best antioxidant foods to eat for the purpose of DOMS are:
Another common practice for lifters to mitigate DOMS is seeking alternative therapies. By this, we are referring to any number of treatments that could include:
While there are still others, it doesn’t really matter as we can’t go through each one specifically in this paper; and the general consensus is that any benefit they may give is trivial and likely not realistic for the normal trainee. Large reviews have shown that none of these therapies can offer any significant help consistently making most a waste of money and time. However, there is quite a bit of anecdotal personal experience which can’t be discounted. Therefore, our opinion on these types of things is if it makes you feel better and you can spend the extra money, or have the time, you could try. If sitting in the sauna makes you feel good, go for it. Just know that even still, the best method to mitigate DOMS is to train with the correct intensity.
Of course, getting enough sleep is vital too for reducing DOMS.
Another question trainees have is if they can still train with DOMS. Again, there is nuance here as it will depend on the severity of your case. In short, you should be able to train while experiencing a light case of DOMS, especially if you’re training a different muscle group. In fact, light exercise can actually be one of the best pain relievers for DOMS. When you engage in exercise, you will increase the internal temperature of your body. This results in the muscle becoming more pliable and supple often referred to as “getting loose”. As your muscles relax and pressure is relieved, there will be a noticeable decrease in discomfort. Therefore, if your biceps have a case of DOMS, there’s absolutely no reason you should skip out on training legs; even training pushing muscles should be ok.
Remember that DOMS is most likely some sort of alarm warning us to take it easy. If your muscles are physically tender, you should definitely chill out for a couple days. On the other hand, if you’re just a little tight when you get out of bed but notice some improvement just walking around, you’re probably able to crush it.
As you see, DOMS isn’t really a huge deal. If anything, we can just say that it’s an unavoidable aspect of a lifter’s or athlete’s life. While not ideal, it’s a physiological phenomenon that we need to learn to live with. Still, other than for brand new beginners, DOMS is rarely bad enough to have any significant effect on our daily life, other than maybe walking funny. However, if we train at the right intensity and are mindful of extended periods of downtime, DOMS should hardly even be an issue. And one more thing to remember…you don’t need DOMS for muscle growth so stop killing yourself every day in the gym - train smart!
March 13, 2022
We can spend so much time trying to decide on a range of training variables and what can produce the best results; such as, how fast should we lift the bar, what kind of rep scheme to use, and what's the optimal training frequency? However, the one variable which you literally don't have to do anything is screwed up the most. We're talking about resting!
Our rest time is supposed to be a period where we recuperate from our last set and allow our physiological levels to return to normal. Doing so will allow us to perform at our maximum potential each set, optimizing our training.
Interestingly, the majority of people rush this and almost think that resting is a waste of time with no benefit. In reality, your rest is vital and could be the one variable, with some simple tweaks, that drastically improves your training.
Part of the problem is trainees don't understand the purpose of the rest so that's just one of the things this article will clear up. In this, you're going to learn:
Let's learn how doing nothing can mean everything in our training.
When writing out our training programs, we must consider several variables that can affect the outcomes. For instance, some different training variables include:
And this is where rest comes into play. "Rest" is a training variable that dictates how much time we wait between sets. Traditionally, rest periods looked a little something like this:
Now to be clear, the above times are just to give you a basic idea, and they could differ depending on who you speak to. Regardless, none of that even matters as no one ever explains why we rest for those periods, and when it is, the answer is usually wrong. But we're getting ahead of ourselves…
These rest periods were initially given as it was believed that they were needed to optimize the training. For example, it was thought that shorter rest breaks for hypertrophy training allowed a trainee to "break down" the muscle to a greater extent. This would then result in more repair being needed, which would mean more significant growth. On the other hand, it was believed that longer rest breaks were needed for strength and power training as the body required greater time to recover from using heavier loads. Meh…not precisely.
So how long should you rest between sets? Well, that depends on several factors, but before that, we need to understand WHY we rest.
This question can actually invoke a lot of different answers. Here's just a couple of common answers:
And to be clear, this is not to make fun of wrong beliefs; this is to point out the mass confusion that surrounds a critical training variable that can significantly affect the outcome. It's so important to know why we rest so that we can start taking this interval seriously.
When we train with high intensity, we can significantly reduce our bodies' stores of a compound known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short. ATP has been given the title of "our bodies energy currency" as it's our bodies' true source of fuel at the molecular level. Even when you see athletes eating during long races, those nutrients will be broken down through a series of reactions until they eventually produce ATP. Literally, every single muscle contraction must have ATP to power it and if there's none to spare, muscle contractions stop.
Everyone knows that there is an inverse relationship between the intensity of exercise and its duration. Basically, the intensity must lower as the duration increases; think the 100m sprint, 5k run, and marathon. These differences in average speeds are all due to the body's ability to produce sufficient supplies of ATP, as our bodies are only able to produce so much in a certain amount of time.
However, performing an extremely high-intensity exercise, such as weightlifting, can deplete our ATP stores extremely fast. Studies have shown that we can see a depletion in our ATP stores up to 70%! What this means is that if we perform a heavy, intense set of lifting and then jump right back into another set, we will have no ATP to do anything! In fact, it has been reported that the quality of subsequent bouts of performance are regulated more so by ATP resynthesis than any other factor such as the buildup of metabolites or clearing of lactic acid (study). Therefore, the primary reason we must rest in between sets is to allow our ATP stores to replenish. If we rest too short, we won't be able to perform any kind of meaningful volume.
Still, other factors occur as well. For example, when we are doing large exercises such as squats, the heart can hit extremely high beats per minute; we're talking 170+. Studies have also shown that our blood pressure can shoot up to 345/245 mmHg! Obviously, we need to chill out and let these return to normal before we have another go. And sure, we should allow our lactate to clear and all that good stuff but all of these occur well before our ATP levels have been replenished so again, from what we understand now, the primary reason we rest is to allow our ATP stores to fill up.
Still, when we are talking about events like weightlifting, our bodies rely on what's called the ATP-CP metabolic system. This system is able to resynthesize ATP from our muscle's creatine stores in a very efficient manner. Therefore, when we are resting, we are really allowing our creatine stores to fill up, and in fact, our performance in weight lifting and bodybuilding are dependent on out creatine stores.
While some of the original thoughts regarding why we rest may be incorrect, there is some truth connected to the idea that training for strength and hypertrophy requires different rest periods. Therefore, we will run through each of these goals separately. This is because both answers result from looking at the evidence for optimal rest periods and then balancing that with other variables such as duration of workout and engagement. For example, let's pretend that science says resting 15 minutes in between sets can result in the most work during the next set. That's great, but nobody is going to hang out at the gym for the entire day!
Therefore, when prescribing the best rest period, we need to consider several variables. That being said, we first need to look at how long it actually takes to resynthesize our creatine stores. If this is the primary reason we even have rest periods, it's also an essential variable when prescribing rest periods.
That being said, completely restoring our creatine stores can take a very long time. However, to "kind-of" restore our creatine sores can happen relatively quickly. When looking at some general numbers, two lengths of time are usually given. After intense training, it can take 3 minutes to reach 85% pre-exercise levels but 10 minutes to return to base level. One study used a cycle ergometer to a group of trainees' creatine levels down to just 19%. The researchers were then able to monitor the increase of creatine as time went on. They mentioned 3 major intervals:
As you probably won't be going all the way down to 19%, we can just use the above number of 3 minutes to return to 85% and 10 minutes to return to base levels as long as we keep in mind these are approximate numbers. That being said, it's a pretty long time that most people have likely never hit.
So we know that it can take up to 10 minutes for our stores to reach 100% but at 3 minutes, the level is at 85%. Should we really wait that extra 7 minutes to gain the last 15% more, or is there some give and take? In other words, is the extra work allowed really worth 7 minutes? Let's look at what studies say about the best rest intervals for strength and hypertrophy work.
Even with traditional thinking, rest times for strength and power training are longer than hypertrophy. However, most people will use a 2-3 minute rest period, and we know that the stores are still filling up exponentially during this time. So should we be resting longer than 3 minutes? Probably.
One interesting study took this concept but then looked at rest intervals of multi-joint exercises and single-joint exercises. It utilized 4 different rest sets with the bench press and chest fly:
When using a 3RM load (strength), they found that participants utilizing a 2 minute rest period were able to maximally optimize their workload and time efficiency for the chest fly. However, for the bench press, the 3-5 minutes groups were able to perform significantly more reps than 2-minutes. This makes sense as a smaller amount of muscle mass will use less creatine/ATP and cause less disruption to physiological systems. It should also be noted that 5-minutes was the longest rest period so could waiting longer be even better?
In terms of workload performed, yes. For instance, a study looked at the effect of different rest periods (2, 5, 8 minutes) when using 85%1RM for bench press. As one would expect, there was a positive relationship between the rest period and performed reps; the longer the rest equated to more reps, with the 8-minute rest period producing the greatest volume.
However, notice we said, "in terms of workload performed". While a longer rest period can result in greater volume, it also takes a lot longer. We remember that the 3:00 minute mark seems to be the point in which ore stores are relatively full in the least amount of time. It also just so happens that the majority of studies examining long rest intervals use a range of 3-5 minutes. For example, another study found that a rest period of 3-5 minutes was optimal for producing the largest workload.
Therefore, we recommend resting 3-5 minutes between your strength sets for your average recreational lifter, assuming you are using compound movements. Still, it makes sense to alter your rest period depending on what exercise you are doing. For example, exercises with larger amounts of muscle mass (squats, deadlift) may need the full 5 minutes while 3 minutes may be optimal for smaller compound movements such as lat pull-downs.
Sure, strength training may need longer rest periods because you're using heavier loads. But hypertrophy we're just trying to break down the muscle, so it doesn't need as much rest, right?
When looking at hypertrophy, metabolic stress and muscle damage are a couple factors that can enhance muscle hypertrophy. This is one of the primary reasons that shorter rest intervals have been so popular in the past. However, this theory ignores muscle hypertrophy's primary driver, which is total working volume. This was proven in a study from 2016, which examined the difference between using a 1-minute rest period and a 3-minute rest period between sets of bench press and back squats. The researchers found that the 3-minute rest group saw more strength gains AND more significant muscle hypertrophy!
A review from 2014 titled "The Effect of Inter-Set Rest Intervals on Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy" looked at all of the available data on rest intervals to date and made a similar conclusion. The researchers commented:
"...the literature does not support the hypothesis that training for muscle hypertrophy requires shorter rest intervals than training for strength development or that predetermined rest intervals are preferable to autoregulated (we'll talk about this below!) rest periods in this regard."
The vast majority of other studies that have looked at this have also concluded similar results. And it makes sense if working volume really is the main driving force of muscle hypertrophy. We would then want the rest period that allows the most work: the longer rest periods.
However, we can also remember that compound exercises will need longer rest periods than isolation exercises, especially the smaller muscle groups such as biceps or lateral delts.
So let's put all that together to see how we can optimize our training session by manipulating the training variables. Remember, we want a good balance of ultimate gains while being time-efficient. Below might be an example of what a "Back" session may look like. Notice the main lift (deadlift) utilizes the full 5 minute rest period. Then the next 2 strength movements are at 3:00; the next bigger hypertrophy movements are at 2:00; and the last 2 hypertrophy isolation exercises are at 1:00. Still, assuming you move quickly between exercises, this session will still last about an hour (without warm-up). Again, this is just an idea and you could alter depending on your needs:
The above times are awesome to start, and you can't really go wrong with those. However, the one drawback is that they are objective means to rely on when determining your rest break. In other words, if you choose a 3-minute rest break, you are assuming you are going to be ready to go. However, you might be able to go before 3 minutes and you might even need more.
Well, timed rest periods aren't the only effective method to use when determining how much rest is enough. Let's look at two other forms of regulating rest that have proven to be effective.
Autoregulation will make anyone who needs structure flip their wig. Well, maybe not entirely as autoregulation still utilizes structure yet in a very relaxed way. As it kind of sounds like, using autoregulation to select your rest periods quite simply means that the lifter decides when they are ready to go. This is why it's also known as self-selected rest intervals. However, a trainee doesn't choose a specific rest period to reiterate. Rather then, they decide when they want to do the next set for every set. Basically, it assumes the body knows what's best and will let a person know when they are ready to perform more work. With this in mind, autoregulation should only be performed by lifters who have experience and can read their bodies well.
Anyways, does it work? In a nutshell, yes, it does. There have been numerous studies that show people are able to recognize when they are ready to work and can improve their performance without a set time period.
For example, recently in 2021, researchers showed that trainees were able to benefit more effectively from post-activation potentiation when using self-selected rest periods rather than a set rest time. Basically, trainees performed a heavy back squat for post-activation potentiation and then a counter movement jump which was measured for height. There were several tests, some utilizing a 4-minute rest interval, a 5-minute rest interval, and then self-selected. As mentioned, the self-selected group improved their jump height to a higher degree.
In 2022, a study also showed that when participants were allowed to determine their own rest periods, they were able to perform more volume and saw greater activation.
When previewing the literature on self-selected rest intervals, one interesting variable comes up continually. That is that almost every time a participant was allowed to choose their rest time (can't say for sure as we haven't read every study), they chose a longer rest period than the fixed interval. Again, this follows what was discussed above: we have likely been resting too short of optimizing our training.
What to take away from this is to get rid of the "grind til I die" attitude. The more research that has come out tells us that the opposite is true. If you want to maximize your training, you may need to take a chill pill and actually rest between your sets. A great way of doing this is to listen to your body.
As more science is performed, we learn more, and when we do, we should take advantage of what's discovered in the lab and use it in the gym. Other than learning to chill, the other lesson to take away from this is we can't force our muscles to grow by going fast. When we go into the gym, the main goal is to lift as much weight as possible, and that's done with longer rest intervals. So next time you’re about to start your next sit, sit back and give it another minute and we promise you’ll be lifting more.
Related Study-Based Content:
March 08, 2022
Training to failure is the single most effective method for hypertrophy training...or is it? Let's dig into some science and find out if we really need to train until our arms are about to explode or if that's just something that has been brewed up in the bro lab.
In this article, we will answer the following questions (with studies as proof):
One of the main issues with training to failure is actually distinguishing what "failure" is. Training to failure could mean different things such as performing reps until there’s a break in form. However, in the context of this paper, training to failure will imply repetition failure. In other words, it's training with a specific load to the point that you can't perform any more reps. One little nuance to keep in mind here is that you're really not at muscular "failure" here as you could likely drop the weight and perform more reps; also known as performing drop sets. While that can really start making things complicated, the majority of studies examining training to failure use repetition failure.
One of the best ways to examine any possible benefits is to analyze studies that have compared training to failure and not training to failure to see what tangible benefits really exist.
A study examined multiple alterations that occurred between training to failure and not training to failure, including increases in strength and power. They reported that while both groups improved in strength and power production, they were basically the same. However, there was also evidence that training to failure decreased in subsequent max efforts, likely due to greater recovery being required. The only beneficial benefit to the training to failure group was an increase in local muscle endurance. As it's safe to say the majority of lifters use training to failure for hypertrophy, this study shows that doesn't seem to happen.
This finding seems to be the case for the vast majority of studies examining this training method. In fact, a large meta-analysis was just conducted in 2021 that looked at all available studies comparing training to failure to not training to failure. In total, 15 studies were examined and compared. They found that training to failure produced no distinguishable benefits for strength or hypertrophy. One caveat would be that this conclusion applies to studies where volume was equated for. When the volume wasn't equated for, training to failure did produce some benefits for muscle hypertrophy. However, as this did not occur when the volume was equated for, these benefits likely came merely from the extra volume performed. This makes sense as when someone is training to failure, they're probably pushing a little harder resulting in more work. So even still, it seems as though volume is the main driver for muscle hypertrophy. Perhaps the main lesson here is to keep pushing even when you experience discomfort. However, in the same study, strength gains favored (albeit small) not training to failure when the volume wasn't equated.
If you still choose to use training to failure in your training, you need to consider the fact that it is tough and highly demanding on your body. However, this increased demand isn't necessarily good and can have a very real detrimental effect on the entire body.
Studies examining the effect of training to failure on the body have demonstrated that it can actually delay recovery from 24-48 hours! That's 1-2 days where you cannot train at your true potential. One thing that serious lifters need to be aware of is that training to failure consistently can also significantly alter our endocrine system in the opposite manner we want. Studies have shown that if used too frequently, training to failure can significantly increase the catabolic stress hormone cortisol while decreasing the anabolic hormone IGF-1.
This is a factor to consider when looking at your training schedule. If you have to train back on Monday and then again on Wednesday, training to failure will likely cause overlap in your recovery. However, if you only train your back once per week, training to failure may be a more viable method of training. That being said, check out this article to see why you should be training two times a week!
One area that does need to be addressed in terms of training to failure is that the load you're using could increase or decrease, any benefits you may see. To clarify, studies have shown that training to failure may be of more importance when using lighter loads as opposed to heavy loads. When we think about strength training with loads of >85%1RM, performing one more rep is exponentially more difficult. Think about using 90%1RM and jumping from 3 reps to 5 reps. That's basically impossible, yet we're only talking about 2 reps. In other words, there's not much difference between training to failure and not training to failure.
Now think about using a light load of 65%1RM. Due to the light load, you're able to dig deep and perform more reps when performing to failure. Now we can confidently say there will be a distinct difference meaning that training to failure is more important. Keep in mind that this likely has more to do with volume than directly deriving from training to failure, but keep in mind when training.
Further, a study from 2012 noticed that participants who were trained to failure had significantly higher nucleotide adenosine monophosphate or AMP for short. This is important as this only occurs during the time of fatigue and when a cell is totally drained. When this happens, protein synthesis also decreases, which is not ideal for muscle growth.
So, this leaves the inevitable question; when should you train to failure? For starters, it's a stretch to even say that you "should" train to failure as we have seen multiple large studies which have shown that it is not required for growth. Perhaps the better word to use would be "could".
So let's say that you still want to train to failure as a method for building muscle; what's the best way to go about that? There are a few basic guidelines you should follow:
To be clear, you can still push it on the other exercises; in fact, you should. However, you don't need to work every set of every exercise until total exhaustion.
When it comes to optimizing your strength and hypertrophy training, properly managing volume and adequate recovery are still your best two tools. While training to failure might be able to offer some benefits, the best method for optimizing your training is to use progressive overload within a structured program.
March 01, 2022
Want the easiest way to maximize progressive overload with your hypertrophy training without needing to add any weight to the bar? We will assume so, which is why we’re going to talk to you about how you can use what’s called a mind-muscle connection to maximize your gains in the gym.
The mind-muscle connection phenomenon is one of those “sounds too good to be true” things that are actually true. It’s been used for decades by bodybuilders, and science has now proven it to be a legitimately effective method of training.
That’s why we’re going to tell you precisely what you need to do to maximize this little piece of lifting magic.
In this article, you’ll learn:
Let’s examine how the power of the mind can enhance the power of our muscles.
So what is “a mind-muscle” connection? Quite simply, it’s a training method usually seen in the bodybuilding community that seeks to use directed focus to increase muscle activation. The theory is that if you think about a muscle when you do an exercise, you are going to use greater activation. While it may seem a bit silly at first, it actually makes a lot of sense.
Our brain is the control center for every single contraction that happens in our body. Even if you’re not thinking about your biceps during a bicep curl, your brain definitely is subconsciously.
Imagine if we actively thought about every single muscle when we walked! The point being is that even when we’re not thinking about a muscle that’s contracting, our brains are still sending the required signals as it’s literally the control center for every action. So, in this sense, we always have a mind-muscle connection as it’s required!
This simple concept has gotten sports researchers thinking “since our brain ultimately controls muscle contraction, what if we just think about it?
The mind-muscle connection can sound a little bit like bro-science to some due to its heavy use in the bodybuilding community. However, make no mistake about it; the mind-muscle connection is 100% a real phenomenon that has been proven by science to be an effective means to increase hypertrophy.
One of the best examples of this whole concept is that of “no-load” training. No-load training is a relatively new field of research that aims to see if a trainee can elicit gains in hypertrophy with no load. Basically, this means that a person will produce powerful contractions with their minds while working through an exercise’s full range of motion.
For example, a person might pretend like they’re performing a pull-up by bringing their arms above their heads and then pulling down slowly in the same manner as if they’re actually doing a pull-up. Oftentimes the person will also visualize they are actually pulling on some sort of resistance and yes, it works.
One of the newer studies (again, this is a new area of research) compared the “no-load” training vs. a load of 70% 1RM during elbow flexion exercises. What they found is kind of crazy. While the “no-load” training wasn’t able to produce similar gains in strength, the alterations in muscle growth were nearly identical! This was so striking that the study claimed, “Muscle growth can occur independently of the external load provided sufficient tension is produced by the muscle.”
Now we’re not saying don’t use an external load, we’re just illustrating how powerful our mind actually is!
This begs the question, “if only using your mind can produce similar results to using a load, what would happen if you used a load AND your mind?”
Another study attempted to answer this and used a mind-muscle connection during the bench press. In this study, a trainee performed the bench press while directing focus towards the triceps on some sets and the chest on others. Their findings indicate that some muscles may respond better than others. In this study, while the triceps saw greater activation, the pectorals did not.
A similar study was conducted, and they too came to the same findings; while the triceps saw greater activation, the focus had little effect on the pectorals. This suggests that perhaps the mind-muscle connection is optimized when used to increase the activation of the smaller muscle groups. Or maybe when doing smaller isolation exercises.
However, yet another study again used bench press to test the mind-muscle connection and its effect on the pectoral muscles and triceps. They found that there was significantly greater activation in both the groups of muscles with one caveat; loads of <60% 1RM must be used. While greater activation was seen in the pectorals at 60%1RM, none was seen when the load was bumped up to 80%. This makes sense as since you are starting to use greater loads; your muscles will naturally utilize greater muscle activation, at least in the primary movers.
We can draw two guidelines from the above studies to optimize the mind-muscle connection:
Creating a mind-muscle connection is a simple concept yet is a bit more involved than just thinking about your muscle. There are three primary methods when trying to establish a strong mind-muscle connection. Then within these overarching categories, there are numerous other tips and practices to follow, all of which could be used to create a more muscular muscle contraction.
First, let’s go over the three primary methods:
1. Internal Focus
Internal focus is one of the primary means to use mind-muscle connections and is really at the heart of establishing a mind-muscle connection. This simply means that while you are lifting, you will direct your attention to a specific muscle as a means to acquire higher activation. When we train a muscle by lifting weights, our muscles don’t always need to fire at maximal intensity. In fact, they rarely ever do. In reality, if left to their own devices, a muscle uses the minimum amount of force necessary to get a job done. This makes sense as it would not be very efficient to have all muscle fibers fire maximally for each movement.
In fact, this is the underlying concept of muscle recruitment theory. Our muscles can learn to recruit larger muscle fibers before smaller ones; in other words, our bodies learn to skip smaller muscle fibers when high forces are needed. Point being is that our muscles will not use more muscle activation than necessary.
Internal focus simply means that you focus on a muscle and are instructing it to work harder. It works and is the key to the mind muscle connection.
2. Using Verbal Cues
Verbal cues have often been shown to be an effective method to establish a mind-muscle connection. In fact, several of the studies we mentioned used this method in their studies. Verbal cues can come from either yourself or from a coach or workout buddy. Either way, at the end of the day, its mechanism of action is simply helping to establish that focus needed for an optimal mind-muscle connection. Further, you can (and should!) use vocal cues with the internal focus for optimal focus!
3. Touching The Muscle
Not often talked about, touching a muscle is a great way to establish a mind-muscle connection. Feeling your muscle contract is a terrific way to actually feel your muscles working and pinpoint exactly what you want to happen. Further, this can be used in conjunction with the other two methods. For example, let’s pretend you are doing side crunches. As one hand is reaching down to the side, place your other hand on your obliques. Concentrate on squeezing your obliques while feeling them contract when you come up. This is a great way to add a physical cue and really feel your muscles working.
While the top three went over the basic mechanisms which help establish a mind-muscle connection, here are the best specific practices you can do to create a connection with your mind that will seriously increase the intensity:
1. Watch Yourself Train In A Mirror
Let’s get one thing straight. There is nothing wrong with looking at yourself in the mirror…within reason. We all go to the gym to look better, and looking at what you’ve accomplished is a great motivator, perhaps the best. Now obviously, we need to be considerate of others in the gym but getting a pump and admiring your glorious gains is what gym lightning was made for. Plus, we all do it. And if you say you don’t, you do so, but you’re just lying about it.
Anyways, next time you’re doing some dumbbell work, go stare at yourself in the mirror but specifically look at the muscle you want to isolate with your mind. This method works better if you can actually see it, such as your delts or a bulge in your biceps. Regardless, really look at it to help you concentrate on what you want to work out. Further, as you start getting a pump, you’ll actually see this muscle grow, which only magnifies your ability to establish that mind-muscle connection.
And remember...stare at yourself with no shame!!!! You worked for that!
2. Use Tempo Reps
By their very nature, temp reps force you to slow down for serious time under tension (TUT) and concentrate on the movement regardless of whether you want to or not. Forcing yourself to follow a predetermined time will cause you to think about the muscle so that you are able to control how much it moves. Therefore, once you add in some internal focus, tempo reps will suddenly increase in intensity, even though you already thought they couldn’t get tougher.
Again, using tempo reps forces you to slow down and really think about what you’re doing. At the end of the day, this is really what establishing a mind-muscle connection is all about; training you to be intentional with your movements rather than just knocking out a certain number of reps.
3. Flex Your Muscles Between Sets
Going back to the vanity thing, flexing between sets is another common practice that many trainees can take as conceited. Well, there might be a bit of that by flexing in between sets is an old practice and has even been popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger. That being said, we need to realize that there’s actually a science to back this method up…kind of.
When Arnold and other early bodybuilders talked about flexing in between sets, the rationale was that it would flood the muscle with blood or something of that nature. While this doesn’t really add up, we need to remember that flexing is nothing more than an isometric contraction which is basically what we looked at above with the “no-load” training. Still, another exercise study that specifically used flexing was conducted in 2014 and again found improvements to muscle thickness in the biceps and triceps. Therefore, the case for isometric contractions with no load definitely has been backed by science. Further, we have to keep in mind that we are just wanting to improve our mind-muscle connection and flexing forces us to do that.
That being said, only one study (that we know of) has looked explicitly at flexing in between sets. Unfortunately, the results weren’t great and saw no increase in most of the muscles measured and actually saw a decrease in lower body strength. Not good. However, we should note that they held contractions for 30 seconds in between sets. This is significantly longer than the flexing test in 2014, which used pulses of 4 seconds on and 4 seconds off. Still, we need to keep in mind that we are trying to improve that mind-muscle connection. Therefore, if you want to give this a shot, we would recommend using a much shorter time when flexing in between sets; or possibly even doing a few pulses.
4. Use Light Weight
One of the largest factors in establishing a mind-muscle connection is to use a lighter load. Remember, if you use too heavy of a load, it will be too heavy to elicit higher activation. Further, when you are lifting heavy, the last thing you want to do is go really slow nor think about the contraction. On the other hand, using a lighter weight gives you the ability to really focus on your muscles. At this point, we should mention that most of the benefits coming from the mind-muscle contraction are associated with muscle hypertrophy anyway. While the mind-muscle connection doesn’t seem to be as important for strength, don’t worry, we have an entire article that tells you exactly what to do for strength training. Therefore, use light weight for your hypertrophy work to really optimize the benefits of a mind-muscle connection.
5. Visualize Your Muscle Contracting
Haven’t we already talked about visualizing? Yes, we have, but here, we are literally talking about thinking of your muscle fibers pulling on one another as they shorten to pull the muscle. Visualize your muscles stretching during the eccentric contraction as your muscle fibers are pulled apart. This is a great way to really increase your focus as you’re actually visualizing the muscle work mechanically in response to the load. It’s pretty hard to concentrate more than visualize your muscle cells stretching and morphing.
If you haven’t been using the power of your brain for increased gains then you’ve been missing out. Maybe you thought it was just bro-science or perhaps you just thought it didn’t work. Well, it does. And it’s awesome. Being able to create a mind-muscle connection is 100% and 100% effective as long as you have the right variables down. Again, to sum them up;
Follow those guidelines, and you’ll be harnessing the power of your brain in no time!
March 01, 2022 2 Comments
Having a fast metabolism is the key to burning fat, keeping it off, having more energy, and looking great. However, many people struggle with a slow metabolism. No matter what they do, their metabolism doesn’t seem to speed up.
If you exercise and attempt to eat well, but simply can’t achieve a flat stomach or lose the love handles, you are going to want to read this article carefully.
We are going to teach you some key methods to speed up your metabolism, permanently, so you can lose fat AND keep it off (key point), feel great, and kick ass each and every day.
We will break this guide to speeding up your metabolism into three sections. Each section will have "rules" for you to follow.
These are the 3 main points we will be covering:
The rules will be section by the above three categories.
Our "rules" may seem too simple to be helpful, but just get through all of this and we promise you will walk away more informed and motivated than when you started.
All you have to do to speed up your metabolism is follow the 7 rules of this guide.
Remember, the goal isn’t just to lose fat, it is to turn your body into a calorie burning machine!
Note: We have backed up a lot of the information in this article with real science. We have consumed information from studies found on Google Scholar and linked to them where relevant.
Let’s first be clear that not all exercise is created equal.
Thus, here is the first rule…
If you want to workout for weight loss and speed up your metabolism, you need to step up your workouts.
Simple cardio just doesn’t cut it for speeding up metabolism1. Yes, it’s great for cardiovascular health, and it has its place, but it won’t fix a slow metabolism or burn fat.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) will speed up your metabolism, while also improving your cholesterol profile and insulin sensitivity2.
Here is a sample HIIT workout
Complete the following circuit four times (1 min rest between rounds):
If you want to add some fun training tools into the HIIT mix to spice things up and challenge yourself even more, unconventional training tools are typically the best for intense HIIT workouts. Moreover, they will also build muscle and strength at a higher level.
An Unconventional Fitness HIIT Workout could look like this:
Rest 1-2 minutes, then repeat for 3 more rounds.
You can even make things super simple when it comes to HIIT. For example...
Sprint HIIT Workout:
20-second sprints, followed by 40 seconds jogging for a total of 20 minutes. Essentially your rest time is the 40 seconds of jogging.
Studies show the sprint interval exercises have serious benefits on post-exercise metabolism3-4.
There are tons of HIIT workouts for you to follow on the internet, and you can easily create them yourself. Just remember, HIIT workouts are high intensity, the rest is minimal (which is why the workouts are efficient), and the exercises are typically compound bodyweight exercises.
When it comes to HIIT, burpees are the king of HIIT exercises, so when in doubt, burpee it out.
Our other favorite HIIT exercises are Hills Sprints (sprinting up hills).
We can confidently say that a lack of HIIT training is one of the top reasons why people aren’t able to speed up their metabolism and lose their fat, especially that last bit of lower belly fat.
HIIT will get your shredded as you will burn tons of fat during and after the workout.
The effects of a good HIIT workout will last all day!
A study shows that HIIT greatly influences resting energy expenditure (calories burned while resting) even in those who aren’t dieting5.
How many times a week should I do HIIT to speed up my metabolism?
Ideally, you should be doing 2-3 HIIT sessions a week.
Now, do you think that’s the only type of training you should be doing during the week?
That’s right, the answer is a big fat NO.
The good thing is HIIT workouts are efficient, so that leaves you with plenty of time to do other workouts during the week, which leads us to our next rule.
Related: HIIT for Beginners
When comparing muscle to fat, muscle is much more metabolically active. It’s been proven that increasing muscle mass will boost metabolic rate.
It's important that you have a good lean-fat mass ratio.
When you have lean muscle mass you will burn more calories all day long, even when resting. This is called resting metabolic rate (RMR).
RMR is one of the most important factors in controlling fat, as exercise only equates for a very small percentage of energy expenditure. In the modern world, RMR is the largest component of the daily energy budget.
Now, on the other hand, losing fat can decrease your metabolic rate, which we will get into a bit more further below...Thus, maintaining lean muscle mass when dieting-to-lose-fat is essential to speeding up your metabolism6.
To maintain muscle (and even build muscle, depending on what your diet looks like), you need to lift weights and develop strength so you can continually progress.
If you only focus on losing weight, by doing just cardio or HIIT, you will likely lose muscle mass in the process, and this is definitely not how you address speeding up your metabolism permanently.
Ever heard of skinny fat? This is what will happen to those who don’t lift weights and don’t watch their diet extremely well. They have a poor lean-fat body mass ratio, so there metabolisms are slow7.
Another big factor for lifting weights is that it can increase testosterone with big lifts like squats. Testosterone can positively impact metabolic rate8, and significantly at that.
This is a big reason why as you get older, it is easier to put on fat. As a young adult, testosterone is at its highest, and so is metabolic rate.
So, now you may be wondering...
How can I manage to do both HIIT and weight lifting every week?
Well, it’s not as difficult or strenuous as you may think. Building and maintaining muscle mass is best done by using heavy weights (relatively speaking) in a low-intensity workout format (LIIT). This type of LIIT training fits in perfectly with HIIT training.
A weekly schedule could look like this:
Monday: HIIT in the morning / Core training at night
Tuesday: Upper Bodyweight training
Thursday: HIIT / Cardio
Friday: Lower Bodyweight training
Sunday: HIIT / Core training (this is the start again, where the week repeats)
Your weight lifting sessions should allow you to target each muscle group weekly, and they should last around 1 hour. Your rests between sets can be anywhere from 1-2 minutes. Typically a total of 20-24 total sets of various exercises will be enough for one workout. However, the more the merrier. That being said, after 1.5 hours of low-intensity workouts, people typically start to…drag ass...for a lack of a better term. So, it’s better not to waste time. Efficiency is key.
Moreover, the mix of bodyweight and weight training is well rounded so it won’t only build/maintain muscle and boost metabolism, but it will also make you stronger and more athletic, which are all things we can appreciate.
We figured we’d put this one in the exercise section, even though it’s not technically exercising.
In any case, sitting too much just simply isn’t good for you. We didn’t evolve this way. So it goes against our nature. Sedentary life is one of the causes of the obesity problem the modern world is facing.
Sitting can lead to an increase in fat as it burns fewer calories than being active - Active being even just standing or walking around.
A study shows that standing up during an afternoon at work will burn 174 more calories than sitting9.
It may seem negligible but if you times that by 365 (days of the year), that’s 63,510 calories. A pound of fat weights 3,500 calories, so that’s approximately 18 pounds of extra fat each year. See how things add up?
Therefore, if you have a desk job, the easiest way to solve this problem is to buy an adjustable standing desk (or ask your company to buy one). You can spend an hour sitting then hour standing. You could even do 1-hour sitting, then 30 minutes standing. Just try to stand more. Over time you will get comfortable working while standing up.
If you can’t get a standing desk, or you need time to save up, then do a 15 minute walk every 1.5 hours. People are said to lose focus after 90 minutes anyway, so why not take that time to refresh your brain by walking around and burning some calories. As the classic saying goes - two birds with one stone.
All of this will make a big difference to your overall energy expenditure. Moreover, it will keep your metabolic rate churning all day long.
As we all know, diet is extremely important to our health. Our diet can make or break our progress in terms of growing muscle, losing fat, and speeding up metabolism.
Unfortunately, this is where people have the most trouble.
Our guts scream at us for sweets and junk food, to eat late at night, to eat more…
It’s a battle of will power to keep our diet in check.
The good news is, once you create a healthy diet habit, your stomach (a.k.a. your second mind) will stop yelling at you to do unhealthy things.
It’s important to understand that when it comes to diet, it’s not just about what we eat, it is also how much we eat and when we eat. So, these are all things we are going to discuss below, and we are going to create rules based on dieting for you to follow to speed up your metabolism.
It's very important that you are getting enough calories. Eating the necessary amount of food (*healthy food*) is how you maintain a healthy metabolism. Starving yourself is NOT.
There are two methods that we live by - Eat Smaller Meals More Often or Intermittent Fasting.
If you are not attempting to lose fat, and you are looking to strictly build muscle, eating small meals more often is the best tactic. Your metabolism speeds up when you finish eating in order to digest the food and turn it into energy. Thus, eating more often (5-6 meals a day) will keep your metabolism revved up and your fat in check. Of course, you need to eat healthy foods, and eat small meals for this approach to work…or else you will gain a lot of fat with your muscle gains.
Now, since the purpose of this article is to lose fat and boost metabolism, we want to take a different approach - our second method - Intermittent fasting.
If you are looking to lose fat while also speeding up your metabolism, intermittent fasting is the way to go. This is because, with intermittent fasting, you can maintain lean muscle while burning lots of fat. Most diets don’t do this. Most diets that attempt to help us lose fat also cause a significant loss in lean muscle mass10.
This is very counterproductive for two reasons:
This means as soon as you stop your diet or slack on your diet even for just a week, you are going to pack on fat quickly. The point of this article is to boost our metabolism permanently so we don’t have to constantly battle with losing fat. We want our bodies to have a nice balance of burning fat and maintaining muscle. That way we can eat a normal, albeit healthy, diet and not strictly count calories each and every day for the rest of our life just to make sure our body fat percentage doesn't get too high.
It's important to note that intermittent fasting does not mean you will be restricting daily calories. For this to help boost your metabolism, you need to be consuming enough calories. You just have a shorter time frame to do it in. For example, if you do 14 hours fasting each day, you will have a 10 hour window to consume your daily calories.
There are many methods of intermittent fasting, you can read about the best methods here.
When you think about it, intermittent fasting makes even more sense on a primal level. Throughout our evolution as species, people didn’t have access to large meals all day every day. Typically people would eat small meals that they could gather and large high protein and fat meals when they had a successful hunt. They began their day in a fasted state, while they gathered and hunted for food for the day.
People think they can’t do anything without a big meal, however, we evolved to work and do things in a fasted state. Remember that the next time you are stressing not eating before going to the gym. Fasted cardio is an effective way to burn fat!
It seems to us that it is very advantageous to bring the primal nature back out. This way we can stay lean like our ancestors…exactly how we are meant to be.
THAT BEING SAID, fasting may not be for everyone, so please consult your doctor. If you don’t want to or can’t try intermittent fasting, then definitely go for the EAT MORE OFTEN rule, even if you are looking to lose fat. All you have to do is eat small meals more often and keep a negative calorie intake each day. It’s simple math.
If you have no health issues, then intermittent fasting is worth attempting.
Test yourself, and do an experiment on what is working best for you. Try intermittent fasting for a couple of months - monitor the effects. Try eating smaller meals more often for a couple of months - monitor the effects.
As long as you follow everything else in this article, you will still be making great progress. Moreover, as long as you are eating healthy foods, you will be making progress.
Cut out sweets and sugars, lower your carb intake, and eat more vegetables. It will be hard at first if you are currently not eating such a healthy diet. Again, your stomach will scream for those sweets and junk food, but if you stick to your guns for a week, those cravings will go away.
To wrap this up, for RULE #4, both intermittent fasting and eating smaller meals more often each day are smart ways to maintain a healthy metabolism. The choice is yours.
This rule made simple:
No matter if you are doing the ‘eat more often’ plan or the ‘intermittent fasting’ plan, choosing what you eat to speed up your metabolism remains the same.
After you eat food, your metabolism will increase for a couple of hours. This is because our bodies need to burn calories to be able to digest, absorb and process the nutrients.
This is called TEF - thermic effect of food.
When comparing fats, carbs, and protein, protein creates the largest rise in TEF.
Increase in metabolic rate by food source11:
So, it’s important that you eat protein with every meal if you want to get the most bang for your metabolism buck.
Moreover, protein is shown to make you feel more full, which will prevent you from overeating during mealtime. And you definitely don’t want to overeat, as that won’t give you a greater total boost in metabolism, the math just doesn’t work that way.
You want to eat to around 70% full during meals, and with snacks, just enough to curb your hunger. Protein makes for the perfect snack.
Ideally, your daily diet should be around 30% protein.
There is a study that shows people who eat around 30% protein will consume 441 fewer calories per day 12.
Another big factor regarding eating more protein is that it helps with maintaining and building muscle. As we’ve discussed, losing fat can decrease your metabolism, so keeping lean muscle while doing so will negate that.
Resources on Protein:
Try using coconut oil to cook instead of cooking oils. We recommend only consuming coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil. Stay away from other cooking oils, as they are mostly unhealthy.
The reason why coconut oil is especially good is that it is high in medium-chain fats, which can speed up metabolism much better than long-chain fats13.
You can only expect modest positive effects on your metabolism from coconut oil, but when combined with all the other tactics for speeding up your metabolism, it becomes more beneficial to do so.
Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for speeding up your metabolism. It can be consumed by diet or through the skin from the sun. Vitamin D is associated with testosterone and higher levels of testosterone is shown to correlate with a higher metabolic rate14.
So, get your vitamin D in!
Spicy foods like chili peppers and hot mustard can boost metabolism as they contain a substance called capsaicin.
You will need to be able to eat a good amount of it to see some real effects on your metabolism, and many people can’t tolerate spicy foods, but if you can, similarly to coconut oil, when combined with other metabolism boosters, it can be quite effective15.
Moreover, spicy foods are shown to make you feel fuller faster, so you will be less likely to overeat if you add some spice to your meals.
This is the most important thing in our lives, yet not enough people drink as much water as they should. Water has a lot of benefits that go beyond just simply keeping us alive.
So, if you are looking to speed up your metabolism, drink lots of water each day. This is one of the surefire was to keep fat in check.
Green tea is the best thing to drink after water as it boosts the metabolism. Green tea contains a compound called epigallocatechin gallate, which may increase the calories and fat you burn. Moreover, green tea can help the body fight against diseases.
2-3 cups of green tea a day is recommended by health experts.
Note: Coffee is also said to boost metabolism. Have one cup in the morning to start your day and get your metabolism revved up. You can also try bulletproof coffee, which has been massively popular over the years. It is coffee with coconut oil in it. A double metabolic whammy.
Green tea and coffee, along with spices contain capsaicin, which as we’ve mentioned can improve one’s metabolism - Metabolic effects of spices, teas, and caffeine17.
Most people say keeping fit is 20-30% exercise 70-80% diet. Yet, they are missing a huge aspect of keeping in shape - SLEEP.
Sleep is said to be the greatest sports performance enhancer EVER.
Sleep is the ultimate recovery tool - read this to find out all about sleep benefits and the negative impacts that a lack of sleep has on people. Both the positive effects of sleeping enough and the negative effects of not sleeping enough are plentiful, so that is a must read - Importance of Sleep.
A lack of sleep is a major link to obesity. Scientists think this is because of the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the metabolism18.
Furthermore, a lack of sleep causes people to make poor diet decisions during the day as sleep deprivation is shown to boost the hunger hormone gherlin and decreases the fullness hormone leptin.
Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
It’s important to note that not all sleep is created equal. Quality sleep is important. You need to make sure you are having healthy sleep cycles. If you aren’t, then even 8 hours of sleep will have you waking up feeling sluggish.
So, if you are waking up throughout the night many times, you need to get that in check too.
Sleep is the key to keeping in good shape and keeping your metabolism fast.
1) Do heat therapy and cold therapy.
The sauna offers tons of benefits and is said to produce heat shock proteins and boost metabolic rate 19.
Ice baths are also great for boosting metabolism as your body needs to use energy to regulate body temperature. As with heat therapy, cold therapy provides a vast number of health benefits.
2) Eliminate Stress.
Eliminate stress as best as you can. Too much stress can negatively affect metabolism20, and it can indirectly affect metabolism by causing things like overeating and poor sleep. If you can reduce stress, you will definitely see big positive effects on your fitness endeavor. The good news is, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to exercise. So that’s a win-win.
We will end this by saying:
Metabolism can be a tricky thing to control and a lot of tips for speeding up your metabolism are under debate. Moreover, genetics play a big role.
What we can say for sure is that if you want to control your weight and fat loss, you need to consider calories consumed versus calories spent. This is the only guaranteed way to keep control of your weight. So, it will always be a constant thing you need to be aware of. That being said, counting calories and finding out how many calories you are actually burning can also be tricky for the average person.
So, the best thing you can do for yourself is to make healthy choices a habit and experiment. Try things and see what works. If something is working for you, stick to it. Moreover, don’t beat yourself up if you have a little fat. Just do your best to stay healthy. In the end, longevity is key. Looking good is just the byproduct of being healthy.
We are confident that if you follow all of these 7 rules and make them a habit, then you will be on your way to a faster metabolism, permanently.
February 26, 2022
Every lifter on the planet knows that they need to be consuming plenty of protein. It’s one of the most essential nutrition variables that can either make or break your gains. As such, protein powder is the most common nutrition supplement on the market. When it comes to protein needs, you want to eat a serving about once every 3-4 hours. This is to ensure you have a continuous steady supply of amino acids so your muscles have what they need to grow. Every lifter knows this and most follow it...except at night. At night, we let our bodies go 7-10 hours without any protein intake and nobody bats an eye. So, that begs the question, “Should I eat protein powder at night?"
That’s what this article is all about. We’re going to explore the time in our lives where nutrition is rarely, if ever, mentioned.
Now, let’s explore the world of nighttime protein feeding…
Before we talk about if we should eat protein before bedtime, we first need to understand what protein is and why we take it in the first place. Proteins are long chains of amino acids which are vital for basic life function. While generally thinking of “protein” as the nutrient protein, we actually consume a variety of different proteins, which all have a specific role.
For example, a non-exhaustive life of proteins functions are:
However, we are worried about the nutrient protein today.
The nutrient protein primarily acts as a structural binding agent for different structures within the body. This includes the muscle, which is what we are discussing today.
If you’ve heard “muscles break down in the gym and grow at home”, you have a basic idea as to why protein is so important.
Protein’s primary function is to assist in the recovery and repair of damaged muscle, making it an intricate part in growing stronger muscles. As the phrase above implies, when we go to the gym, we lift weights, which actually causes damage to our muscles. In fact, this is one of the reasons we are sore after the gym as our muscles have been damaged and are inflamed.
However, breaking down the muscle is vital for muscle hypertrophy, assuming we are eating enough protein. Once we go home, we will eat all of our post-workout nutrition, which our body utilizes to help repair these muscles. However, our bodies will actually repair the muscles so that they’re a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger.
And this is why protein is so important to athletes and lifters, as it’s literally what puts our muscles back together when we kill it in the gym. If we didn’t, we would just be constantly damaging them.
When we look at protein consumption, there are two variables: total protein intake and protein timing. Out of the two of these, total protein intake is the most important. This refers to the total amount of protein that you consume throughout the day. At the end of the day, you need to be hitting your protein intake every day. In fact, your protein intake is the most important out of all your macros. And remember, this is daily! While mixing it up once in a while isn’t huge, you really want to hit your protein numbers consistently.
Now assuming you have your total protein intake under control, the next thing you need to consider is your protein timing. This refers to when and how often you eat your protein throughout the day.
Are you eating all of your protein in one setting? Or are you spreading it out into 5 servings? Are your meals spread out evenly or are they “just whenever?”
This is important because when you eat protein, you cause an acute increase in muscle protein synthesis. This refers to your body’s ability to regenerate muscle tissue and repair your damaged muscles. It’s simply when your body is in a heightened state of muscle building.
However, this elevated state is only transient. The International Society of Sports Nutrition states that while elevated MPS can remain elevated for 24-72 hours, peak elevation occurs within 3 hours. This means that optimal levels of muscle protein synthesis come and go as we consume protein throughout the day.
This is what causes so much confusion when people talk about the existence of the “anabolic” window. There is a difference between states of elevated muscle protein synthesis and states of maximal elevated muscle protein synthesis states (emphasis on maximal). It’s also why we said that total protein intake is most important as again, that will have the largest effect.
However, we want to maximize our muscle protein synthesis, so learning how to maximize muscle protein synthesis with our total intake is crucial.
Since muscle protein synthesis is optimized at 3 hours, we want to eat a serving of protein every 3 or 4 hours. Doing so will keep these levels at their maximal rates for the most consistent period of time throughout the day. When determining how much protein you should eat each serving, it will depend on your total daily protein intake. However, they should be roughly equal servings of at least 20g.
The optimal amount of protein intake will vary depending on the individual. That being said, for the athletic community, which includes weightlifters, you should eat 1.6-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
One of the most significant factors to consider is if you are gaining weight or trying to lose weight. You can actually eat towards the lower end when gaining weight, as your body has plenty of calories to support muscle.
However, when eating in a caloric deficit to lose weight, you want to eat at the higher end to support any type of muscle breakdown for fuel.
First, let’s make the distinction between eating protein “at night” and eating protein “before bed”. Sometimes these can get lost in context.
Eating protein “at night” could just refer to having a protein shake at 8pm. However, eating protein “before bed” refers to purposely consuming a serving of protein before you go to sleep.
An individual may consume protein within 30 minutes of going to sleep; usually, just a protein shake.
So, why would you want to do that?
Remember that we had just talked about how we see optimal protein synthesis for just 3 hours after consuming protein. We often talk about how this is important for optimal growth, yet we entirely neglect the time between dinner and breakfast.
Let’s look at how long this could be:
This means that, at a minimum, most people go for 8.5 hours without eating protein! This can go even longer depending on the person.
Again, this is fine if you’re not an athlete or gym trainee. However, if you’re consistent with the gym and trying to benefit from every hour in the day, having this massive gap in time where your muscles are starving should be a concern! Well, perhaps the word “starving” is a bit dramatic, but you get our point.
Sport researchers also began to notice this same thing. All the research is being done on if you should eat every 3 or 4 hours yet we seem to be okay about that 8-10 hours of no nutrition. It’s kind of silly to ignore as this is our body’s literal time to repair and recharge (sleep!). We often forget that our bodies are still very much working when we sleep, and providing some extra nutrition to work with could benefit.
To be clear, this does not mean we eat a monster shake with oats and peanut butter. It relates to a protein shake as in water (maybe milk) and protein powder only.
Therefore, over the past decade or so, research on bedtime protein began to grow, and results seem promising with multiple studies:
1. One simple study looked at the effect that casein protein had on functional recovery in professional soccer players. 10 players consumed either 40g of casein protein or 40g carbohydrate pre-sleep after a game. Then the next day, various performance variables were re-tested. Measured variables included soreness, counter-jump, and reactive strength. When compared to the carbohydrate group, the casein protein group had significantly better improvements.
2. A study was performed that examined the effect that pre-sleep casein protein has on overnight muscle protein synthesis. The research team had three groups of men and fed each group a different dose of casein protein:
First of all, all groups, regardless of dosing, saw a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis. However, there was also a dose-dependent response. This basically means that groups saw a more significant increase in muscle protein synthesis with the larger doses with 40g of casein eliciting the highest response. This is an excellent study that illustrates your body’s ability to utilize protein while you sleep, AND it can be maximized by eating more significant amounts.
3. One interesting study was conducted to look at the difference in consuming casein protein in the morning or pre-sleep. Two mixed groups of trained men and women performed an identical diet and training program, with the only difference in variables being the timing of their casein consumption. One group consumed casein protein in the AM, and one group consumed casein protein within 90-minutes of sleep; everything else was the same, including training program, total calories (relative to their body weight, and protein intake (relative to their body weight). Both groups improved in performance and composition variables. However, after 8 weeks, the pre-sleep group gained 1.2kg of fat-free mass while the morning group only gained 0.4kg of fat-free mass. This would seem to suggest that the period of time when we sleep plays a major role in muscle growth. Sure, we can still grow without it, but we can raise even more if we use it.
4. While we could keep looking at more studies, let’s just look at perhaps the most recent meta-analysis on pre-sleep protein published in February of 2021. For those unaware, a meta-analysis is an examination of all the available studies on a specific subject. It will analyze detailed studies and compare studies against each other to see if there are common findings. That being said, this meta-analysis concluded that;
“The consumption of 20–40 g of casein approximately 30 min before sleep stimulates whole-body protein synthesis rates over a subsequent overnight period in young and elderly men…In addition, pre-sleep protein consumption can augment the muscle adaptive response (muscle fiber cross-sectional area, strength and muscle mass) during 10–12 weeks of resistance exercise in young (men).”
So yeah, it seems pre-sleep protein is a pretty good practice to follow if you’re looking to optimize your training.
As you probably noticed, the vast majority of studies on pre-sleep protein have turned to a protein source called casein protein. Casein is very similar to whey protein as both are derived from milk. However, the major difference between casein and whey is the rate of absorption. Whey protein is known as a “fast-acting protein” since your body digests it quickly, causing a faster and higher jump in muscle protein synthesis. On the other hand, casein protein is known as a “slow-acting protein” whose absorption is slower.
What this means is that the spike in muscle protein synthesis takes longer and doesn’t reach the same level as whey. However, while the spike may not be as high, it lasts much longer than whey protein. This is precisely what we want when we sleep! After all, we can't take more protein mid-sleep.
While a high spike in muscle protein synthesis can be helpful after we train, it doesn’t need to be high as when we are sleeping. Further, we will not consume any protein for an extended period of time, so a more prolonged response will be more beneficial than a short spike.
Actually, there has been a new trend in sports nutrition where casein is favored as a” general protein” such as in the morning with breakfast. On the other hand, whey protein is used primarily as a post-training protein.
Further, one of the main concerns with pre-sleep protein is the fear that it can alter our metabolism.
So, is this true?
First of all, multiple studies have shown that pre-sleep protein can actually increase your morning resting energy expenditure. This means that assuming you are at maintenance calories or in a caloric deficit, pre-sleep protein will have no effect on fat gain.
Still, studies have shown that compared to consuming whey protein or carbohydrates before sleep, eating casein has zero impact on your fat utilization overnight. Further, hunger has shown to be blunted in the morning, which means that participants would naturally consume less in the morning.
The last piece of the puzzle is figuring out exactly how much protein you should eat. When examining the studies, the vast majority of them use larger amounts in the range of 30-40g. Plus, we can look back at the study, which saw a dose-dependent response in terms of the amount of protein consumed and length of heightened muscle protein synthesis.
Times varied from 30-90 minutes, with 30-minutes being the most common. Again, we need to realize that we take pre-sleep protein to raise muscle protein synthesis before we sleep. Therefore, we should consume it as close to bedtime as possible.
Sleep is single-handedly the most important aspect of workout recovery. At the same time, you’re just lying there doing nothing! It’s time we start taking advantage of this period of time as you’re literally doing nothing else. Utilizing pre-sleep protein and having a shake 30-minutes before your sleep requires zero extra effort and could mean additional gains. Free gains? Count us in!
Still, for bigger guys who need a surplus of protein, this is the perfect chance to add a serving to hit your numbers; and again, you could see more gains! See what we’re getting at? At the very worst, having a pre-sleep protein shake means making it easier to hit your daily protein intake. And at best… we’ll repeat it…it could mean more gains! Free gains! Why wouldn’t you try pre-sleep protein?!
February 22, 2022 1 Comment
The ISSN recently concluded their event where they took position stands on all things supplements and nutrition. One of the beauties of science and sports nutrition is everything is constantly changing. Sports researchers are always spending time and money exploring and learning more about human performance and the role that nutrition plays. Although it is a relatively new field, new findings and information are constantly being discovered.
Today we want to look at several position stands of the International Society of Sports Nutrition or ISSN for short. Sparked by the idea of Susan Kleiner, Ph.D. RD, the ISSN, was then cofounded by Jose Antonio Ph.D., Doug Kalman Ph.D. RD, Richard Kreider Ph.D., and Anthony Almada MSc. Together, they wanted to form an authoritative organization that could monitor research and develops a cohesive system on the effectiveness and use of nutrition and ergogenic aids. Since its inception in 2003, the ISSN has done just that, growing into the premier organization for authoritative information on all things nutrition and human performance.
To act as benchmarks for the most popular topics, the ISSN has developed "stands" that lay out their conclusions on the known body of research. Then, as new research is done, the ISSN reevaluates its stands to perhaps change things they once thought were true (this is an actual scientific model) or add new discoveries.
The ISSN just reevaluated their stands, and we had the privilege of sitting in on their discussions today, and so now, we want to bring you the most up-to-date information on the ISSN's stands! And we'll also cover any other cool info given by these true experts.
On February 12th, 2022, the ISSN held a live conference online where several leading experts in their fields covered their position stands with regards to supplements and nutrition. The conference was moderated by Jose Antonio PhD, Cassandra Evans MS RD CISSN, Veronica Mekhail CISSN. The event's experts covered the topics below:
The use of protein as a dietary supplement was one of ISSN's original focuses. Still today, one of Dr. Jose Antonio's favorite subjects is busting myths regarding protein and dangers to the kidneys. With that said, one of the great things about listening to true experts speak is that they will always teach you something new.
Dispelling Myths Of Protein And Kidney Damage:
Dr. Antonio started the stand on protein by addressing the issue of some making claims that protein will destroy your kidneys. Even after we had read the information on this before, Dr. Antonio brought up a point concerning heavy protein consumption evolution, and it makes a lot of sense.
When we look at the different physiological systems of man, we must realize that they have evolved for two main goals:
In this manner, we are very simple beings. That being said, our systems were built to keep us alive in the environment we found ourselves in. We did not have the luxury to pre-package our meals in little Tupperware containers to store in the fridge until feeding time during our hunting and gathering days. When we killed an animal, we ate it; all of it. This meant that we likely consumed well over the supposed max of "40g per serving," which our bodies supposedly can't digest.
Further, this meant that our organs would be forced to process substantial quantities of protein at given times. In Dr. Anotnios word's "It's stupid to suggest that this behavior would destroy our kidneys or that we would not be able to process this much protein" (Yes, he can be blunt, and we love it!). Our bodies would have adapted to be able to handle these loads as this was common practice among early humans.
An interesting thought, but there are obviously plenty of studies to back this up as well. For example, a 2-year study followed two bodybuilders who consumed a high protein diet (>2.2/g/kg) and monitored their blood work. All levels were acceptable and remained steady the entire study.
That said, assuming your kidneys are in working condition, eating high protein should be of no concern.
Benefits Of Protein On Strength And Performance:
Benefits Of Protein On Body Composition:
RECOMMENDED PROTEIN INTAKE, TIMING, AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:
The ISSN's recommended protein intake is much higher than the standard RDA:
Other than protein, creatine has been another significant focal point of the ISSN due to the many false claims regarding its safety. This misinformation is even more alarming due to the sheer amount of benefits that creatine has been found to give. In fact, the ISSN has even warned that this misinformation can actually be detrimental to athletes involved in high-impact sports due to its role in brain health and recovery from concussions!
In reality, non-athletic benefits have been taking the lead as far as areas of new research. This is mainly because so many studies have been done to affirm creatine's benefits on performance. During that time, researchers have begun to identify a plethora of other benefits that creatine may have. Creatine is the closest we have to a miracle drug in many ways.
Athletic Benefits Of Creatine:
The primary work mechanism is it allows more workload due to the extra ATP production, which results in various performance benefits.
Most worries about renal failure are centered around case studies that examine creatine use in patients with renal failure.
Non-Athletic Benefits Of Creatine:Creatine has been found to be beneficial in a ton of non-athletic endeavors. While we can't go through the exact mechanisms, the areas below are currently being researched.
RECOMMENDED CREATINE DOSING:
Along with protein and creatine, caffeine is one of the most well-researched and effective supplements on the market. Caffeine simply works. While we all know it can get you "hyped," this stimulation can actually improve performance on several variables, which we'll look at. However, what was most interesting about the latest research on caffeine had to do with the different effects people receive depending on their genotype.
The fastest absorption happens through the mouth. Therefore, gum can elicit the most immediate benefits.
Benefits Of Caffeine:
The greatest benefits are seen in endurance training.
RECOMMENDED CAFFEINE DOSING:
Note: Be mindful of the individualistic responses.
The focal point of the discussion on beta-alanine revolved around the common errors found in the dosing and timing of beta-alanine. While beta-alanine is one of the few supplements deemed as "effective" by the ISSN, most people don't consume it properly as they rely on pre-workouts for their dose. This made dosing the main focal point on the discussion of beta-alanine.
Benefits Of Beta-Alanine:
Errors In Dosing:
Mentioned numerous times in the presentation, beta-alanine is one of, if not the most misunderstood supplements on the market. This is mainly due to its association with "pre-workout." We got the chance to specifically ask Dr. Abbie Smith-Ryan about this. She confirmed our belief that beta-alanine has nothing to do with a pre-workout and can be taken at any point during the day.
Beta-alanine relies on chronic consumption as it works very similarly to creatine as we are increasing our stores. Therefore, timing has little effect on its effectiveness. However, in reality, consistency does, and this is one reason many people never genuinely benefit. It's because they only take it with their pre-workout.
Secondly, if you rely on pre-workout, you are likely underdosing anyways. Most pre-workouts only offer about 1.6-2.0g of beta-alanine. This is not enough (we'll lay out proper dosing below). This being said, you should get a stand-alone product to better control your dosing.
RECOMMENDED BETA-ALANINE DOSING:
Sodium bicarbonate is similar to beta-alanine in that it acts as a muscle buffer. However, beta-alanine works as an intracellular buffer while sodium bicarbonate works outside the cell.
Regardless, it's most effective at buffering the muscle when glycolysis is the primary metabolic system being used. These are high-intensity bouts with a duration of 30 seconds to 2 minutes. However, even after 2 minutes, glycolysis is still heavily involved, meaning that sodium bicarbonate can provide substantial benefits longer.
Benefits Of Sodium Bicarbonate:
RECOMMENDED SODIUM BICARBONATE DOSING:
Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, or HMB, is a promising compound that has shown benefits in resistance training due to its relationship with leucine. One of the three branched-chain amino acids, leucine, is the primary amino acid responsible for signaling muscle protein synthesis.
Due to the large amounts of leucine required to maximize its effectiveness, it's believed that one of its metabolites may be the primary compound. The one compound that shows the most promise is HMB.
HMB has been found to attenuate muscle damage after workouts resulting in faster recovery. As our progression in resistance training is governed by recovery, HMB can play a pivotal role in resistance training for hypertrophy and strength.
Benefits Of HMB Supplementation:
RECOMMENDED HMB DOSING:
Over the past years, gut health has become an area of interest for performance on athletes. One of the practices which we can all perform is including the consumption of probiotics in our diet. Probiotics literally mean "pro, life." When we consume them, they can promote the growth of healthy bacteria in our gut.
As this is where the absorption of nutrients occurs as well as the jettison of junk, probiotics will have benefits that reach way past the local reaction. For example, benefits can include an improved immune system and better absorption of nutrients.
Facts Of Probiotics:
Benefits Of Probiotics:
Improving our gut health will have a vast array of benefits. Like creatine, the list is far too extensive to detail for each benefit. That said, here is a list of potential benefits.
RECOMMENDED PROBIOTICS DOSING:
There are many strains, and each one has a different function. Further, they are required in optimal amounts. Therefore, a person will need to assess what they require individually.
The purpose of this stand is to simply help clarify and organize different diets by establishing several diet hierarchies. The ISSN has established 6 major hierarchies under which diets fall. By diets, the ISSN gives the definition of "The sum of energy and nutrients consumed from food and bev on a regular basis." This means a protocol that you follow for at least four weeks.
RECOMMENDATIONS ON DIETS:
Nutrient timing is a highly controversial subject (even though it shouldn't be), likely due to the high amount of nuance involved. Simply put, nutrient timing deals with how the timing of our nutrition can affect the outcome. There are so many factors to consider, such as:
With that understanding, this stand will try to lay out the most essential and wide-reaching variables.
Basic Concepts To Understand With Nutrient Timing:
The number one consideration is total calories and macronutrients
BASIC CONSIDERATIONS FOR PROTEIN:
BASIC CONSIDERATIONS FOR CARBOHYDRATES:
This post wasn't only meant for certified personal trainers to implement for their clients. We hope that you can take some of the insights of the ISSN position stands on supplements and nutrition and then put them into practice in your everyday life. As science is continually changing and improving our understanding it's important to leave your preconceived notions at the door.
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February 10, 2022 2 Comments
To include isolation work or not include isolation work; that is the question. As the answer will differ depending on your training level and age, we will primarily be answering this from a beginner’s viewpoint as that is where we find most of the nuance; that and beginners are the ones who usually wonder about this. In fact, if you don’t get this right, you may never even pass the beginner stages of lifting. And to be clear, often, you will find lifters who want to bash a style of training because they saw a Youtube video that said it was bad. That’s not what we’re doing here. We want to use scientific studies to explain why you may be wasting your time in the gym and even hindering your gains if you’re choosing the wrong exercises. In other words, we actually want to see you progress. That being said, let’s get into it.
Before we even speak about if you should include isolation movements in your training, we need to be sure we are talking about the same thing. When we are choosing exercises to perform, there are two major categories; compound movements and isolation movements.
Compound movements are exercises which include the flexion and extension of 2 or more joints. This is why they’re also known as “multi-joint” exercises. Being so, they use a lot of muscle mass and usually let you move a lot of weight. Examples of compound movements are:
You get the idea. Big movements - push ups, pull ups, bent over rows, etc.
Isolation movements are smaller exercises that only include flexion and extension at one joint. Again, they’re also sometimes known as “single-joint” exercises. Their primary purpose is to “isolate” a specific muscle group (as much as possible) in order to train it without the involvement of other muscle groups. You will generally see bodybuilders use isolation movements much more as they are trying to train each muscle on its own for optimal growth.
Common examples include:
So that’s the difference between compound and isolation exercises.
The reason this is even a question is because when new trainees first go to the gym, they will almost always go straight for dumbbells and start doing curls. Then move to lateral raises. The reason being is that these movements are simple and easy to do. The form is also not as big of a factor (the form is always a factor, but there’s a huge difference between the form for bicep curls and the form for a deadlift), making them less intimidating to try. Unfortunately, if you have less than 1 year of progressive training under your belt, you are likely just wasting time - check out these strength standards to see where you stand.
We’ll get into the studies below, but first, we want to explain the reasoning of why beginners should minimize the use of isolation exercises. In a nutshell, a beginner lifter has way too much to improve to mess around with isolation exercise. A good way to think about this is to imagine you were painting the outside of your house (your body). When looking at your tools, you find that you have two choices, a big roller (compound movements) and a small brush (isolation movements). When you first begin painting, you’re going to use the roller as this is going to cover a lot more area in a faster amount of time. Once you get the majority of the work done, then you’ll grab the brush to hit any hard-to-get spots or areas that need a bit more detail. And this would be right as it's the most efficient method. Now picture someone coming and wanting to paint the whole house with a little brush. That’s what you’re effectively doing when you rely too heavily on isolation exercises when you’re just beginning.
Basically, when you first start, every muscle group on your body has plenty of room to grow and needs training. However, a muscle can only grow so fast after one workout. This means that if you apply any sort of stimulus to your muscle as a beginner, it’s going to grow. In other words, there’s no need to isolate a muscle because it’s already getting sufficient stimulation from the big compound exercises. Further, adding more stimulus won’t result in any further growth simply due to the growing rate of a muscle (see below to see studies that have proven this).
When more advanced lifters use isolation exercises, they have reached a point in their training where isolated muscle groups have reached a point where they need to be isolated for continual progress. One reason for this is the concept of “the weakest link”. Basically, when we use compound exercises, we are limited in the amount we can lift which is determined by the weakest muscle. For example, let’s say you exercise using muscles A, B, and C. However, muscle C has not responded as well as the other muscle groups during your training, so it has lagged behind. Therefore, muscle C fatigues before muscles A and B can reach a stimulus sufficient to grow when you perform the exercise. However, as mentioned above, this isn’t a concern for beginners simply due to the potential growth in all of their muscles.
Perhaps even more important is that while isolation movements can produce muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth), their ability to increase muscle strength is mute. One of the reasons for this is due to neurological adaptations just don’t occur to the same extent. In order to increase your strength, your muscles must learn to work together. This is because movements rely on the proper firing of muscles to produce the greatest amounts of force. When you perform isolation work, you are only using one muscle, meaning it’s not learning how to work with other muscles. Further, the heavy loads required for strength gains just can’t be applied to isolation movements, at least not safely.
After reading the explanation, it kind of makes sense; still, let’s look at some studies that show this to be reality. And there are actually quite a few.
1. Effect of adding single-joint exercises to a multi-joint exercise resistance-training program on strength and hypertrophy in untrained subjects (2013)
This first study had an extremely simple methodology. The researchers divided a group of untrained men into two groups, with one group performing a strength and conditioning routine using only multi-joint exercises. The other group completed the exact same program as the first with the multi-joint exercise but then added single-joint exercises. In other words, the second group who added the single-joint exercises actually did more volume, making you think they would have more significant gains.
However, the results showed while both increased muscle mass and strength, neither group outperformed the other. To be clear, the group who did the extra single-joint exercise saw no additional gains in strength or size. This is even more amazing because the multi-joint group only performed 2 exercises (bench press and lat pulldown). You would think that with this little volume, the added single-joint exercises (elbow extension and elbow flexion) would elicit more gains. In reality, it seems they just wasted their time.
2. The effects of adding single-joint exercises to a multi-joint exercise resistance training program on upper body muscle strength and size in trained men (2015)
Basically, this study is the same thing as the one above. One group performed a resistance training protocol only using multi-joint exercises. Another group did the same program but added single-joint exercises. Again, the same results. Neither group outperformed the other except the single-joint group spent more time in the gym. However, this study is interesting because it was done with trained men; each participant had at least 2 years of training. And still, single-joint exercise offered no additional benefit!
3. Does the addition of single-joint exercises to a resistance training program improve changes in performance and anthropometric measures in untrained men? (2018)
Another study showing the addition of single-joint exercises offered no benefits to a protocol using only multi-joint exercises.
4. Resistance Training with Single vs Multi-joint Exercises at Equal Total Load Volume: Effects on Body Composition, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Muscle Strength (2017)
This study changed things up a bit as they had two groups follow different resistance training protocols. One group only performed multi-joint exercises, and the other group only performed single-joint exercises. The one controlled variable was volume in that each group performed the same amount of volume, which was calculated by Sets x Reps x Load.
While both groups had similar increases in muscle mass, the multi-joint group saw greater improvements in their VO2max and muscle strength. So, while a die-hard fan of arm curls might say you can grow just as much muscle with a single-joint exercise, the multi-joint group improved their cardiorespiratory system to a greater extent and had greater neurological adaptations which we spoke about above. Also, we need to discuss the equated volume. As the multi-joint exercises used 6-8 reps for their training, the single-joint group had to use anywhere from 12-18 reps in order to equate for volume. This doesn’t reflect reality as gym-goers generally stick around 8-12 reps for hypertrophy. In other words, the single-joint group was doing more work than what’s usually seen, which theoretically should have been an advantage.
There are more studies, but you get the point. It seems that isolation exercises don’t really seem to offer much benefit assuming you’re following a structured training plan and employing progressive overload.
There are several things to consider with this question. The first is that professional bodybuilders have been training for years and have reached a point in their careers where they need to perform isolation movements in order to create a sufficient stimulus for growth. Remember that we are saying “Beginners should not be doing isolation exercises”, not “nobody should do isolation exercises”. In fact, this is one of the main culprits of bad advice. Just because one method is right for this person, it does not mean it’s suitable for you. Every single trainee has a set of different variables that will.
Secondly, not every bodybuilder should be a trainer. That’s just the reality. Often, they will suggest you train the way they do, which is horrible advice. In fact, many of the “hardcore” bodybuilding routines that include doing a ton of isolation and special sets are definitely not suitable for your average trainee.
Absolutely! First and foremost, we love getting a crazy pump; even if we know damn well, it’s transient and will likely have a minimal effect, if any, on our arms. Further, we need to clarify that even though the single-joint exercises didn’t offer any benefit, they also didn’t cause any negative side effects. We simply propose the idea that the bulk of your training should be done using compound exercises and save one or two isolation movements for the very end if you have time. In other words, single-joint exercises should never take the place of a multi-joint exercise.
However, if you’re done with your training and want to knock out some dumbbell bicep curls, we say, “Go for it!”
Very few rules should be taken as a blanket statement, including this one. There are some instances where isolation work is definitely acceptable:
As we said, you never have to totally give up on bicep curls. That being said, when we look at the one study above, isolation movements still gave no benefits to those working out for two years! While that’s one study, it seems that for most guys in the gym, isolation work should never be the main focus of your workouts UNLESS you are advanced or as “enhanced”. Again, it’s very hard to give a solid answer as the studies aren’t that specific but the majority of guys we see in the gym should just learn to master the foundational movements..
Remember that we are talking about isolation movements here, so you can still do hypertrophy movements. Another note to consider, when looking at the studies, many of them used elbow extension (triceps extension) and elbow flexion (biceps flexion). The only one that used isolation movements for the chest and back was the multi-joint program vs single-joint program study, which resulted in similar growth. However, we like the idea of adding isolation work for the back (rear flys, swimmers) and chest (chest flys, chest pullovers) more than we do for the arms ( curls, triceps extensions).
So as an example, when writing a program for the back, it may contain 6-7 exercises:
Concentrate On Your Foundation!!!
The main point you need to take away is to always focus on your foundational movements.. If your overhead press sucks, doing lateral raises is a waste of time. Get your press strong first, and then worry about building caps. You will never be wronged if you perform your big foundational movements with progressive overload; we can promise you that. Concentrate on those exercises, and once you’re finished, then you can get your pump on!!!
Here are 3 of our favorite workout plans to follow for strength & hypertrophy:
January 21, 2022
Tabata is one of the most groundbreaking training protocols to ever grace the gym. This little 4-minute workout is going to literally melt your fat off in front of your eye and produce a quantum-sized furnace inside your body with its massive EPOC effect. What this means is that even when you go home, you’re going to continue burning 10,000 calories an hour, meaning you never have to go to the gym again.
Well, that’s all bullshit but some people actually believe similar claims thanks to the ridiculous statements made by the fitness industry. And they say these things all in the name of fitness and money.
Now let’s be clear, Tabata training truly is a fantastic protocol to follow to enhance athletic performance in minimal time; it’s just not going to burn thousands of calories. Why? Because it’s only 4-minutes long! Further, burning calories and improving body composition was never the intent of the Tabata protocol in the first place!. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to even find a Tabata study that even measures things like caloric expenditure and changes in body composition.
Therefore, we want to set the record straight on Tabata training. In this article, you’re going to learn:
And to be clear…we love Tabata training. It’s brutal. There’s just a lot of nonsense that surrounds it. Now let’s explore the Tabata training protocol and how to really use it to take our athletic ability to the next level.
What would you say if we told you that Tabata training never had anything to do with burning calories, EPOC, or improving body composition? Well, that’s exactly what we’re telling you.
Back in 1996, there was a famous Olympic coach by the name of Irisawa Koichi. Coach Koichi was working on an extremely fast yet extremely efficient protocol to improve his athletes’ VO2max and anaerobic capacity. In comes Dr. Izumi Tabata. Dr. Tabata was a brilliant and successful researcher who was given the task to work with Coach Koichi to research the most efficient training protocol he could. And this is exactly what they did (check out the original study here).
Dr. Tabata set up a protocol to compare the effects of two protocols over the course of 6 weeks:
The 60-minute protocol simply had participants jog for 60-minutes at 70% VO2max 5 days a week for 6 weeks.
Now the 4-minute high-intensity intermittent protocol is what we’re interested in as it became what is known as Tabata. Also being performed 5 days a week for 6 weeks, the protocol consisted of 8 rounds of intense training using a work:rest ratio of 20 seconds to 10 seconds. Therefore, one round lasted 30 seconds, so when 8 rounds were done consecutively, the entire protocol lasted 4 minutes.
However, this is where most people stop with Tabata training and think that’s all there is. In reality, they’re missing the most crucial part of Tabata, which is INTENSITY (we’ll discuss common errors down below). Dr. Tabata chose to use cycle ergometers to perform the original Tabata due to the ease of use; allowing trainees to work at supramaximal efforts. For the work interval, the subjects worked at the brutal level of 170%VO2max! This is literally the hardest a person can push themselves and requires training just to be able to work at these levels.
As mentioned, this extremely high level of intensity is the real secret behind Tabata. You see, Dr. Tabata and coach Koichi were trying to see if they could create a 4-minute program that could improve performance variables more effectively than a 60-minute program. Therefore, they knew that trainees would need to bust their ass if they wanted to improve in 1/15 of the time! And, it worked. After 6 weeks, the Tabata protocol had produced more significant improvements in both V02max and anaerobic capacity.
All that being said, this is the original Tabata protocol:
Yes! Without a doubt! However, there are a couple minor caveats.
What do you mean when you say “work”?
As mentioned above, Tabata has been stolen by the fitness industry who has since completely transformed it over the years. Now, all that’s left is a shell of what used to be. It’s also been attributed with benefits that it was never intended to give, such as an extreme calorie burn (more on this later). Regardless, the entire purpose of Tabata is to improve VO2max and anaerobic capacity. Therefore, if you mean “does Tabata improve VO2max and anaerobic capacity” when you say “work”, the answer is a resounding YES!
If you mean “does Tabata actually burn calories?’, the answer is still yes; just not as profound as you might think.
You must perform Tabata correctly
This should go without saying, but for Tabata to work, you must do it correctly. What this means is giving 100% effort during the work sessions AND using the correct exercises (again, more on this below). For a guideline, you should ideally be aiming for a heart rate of 90-95%max. However, for untrained and general populations, 85% would probably suffice, with some suggesting even 80%. Regardless, more intense is better.
If you’re having fun, you’re not doing Tabata properly.
One of the many claims that big box gyms use to promote their group classes is the insane caloric burn and EPOC effect you (supposedly) get from Tabata. You then have new trainees going in and thinking they have found this secret to fat loss, and that Tabata will take care of everything. Unfortunately, it won’t. In fact, a similar claim is made about any type of various HIIT style workout.
For example, one study that examined changes in body composition from a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) did so by comparing it to a moderate-intensity group. They actually did find significant improvements in body composition, except that it only occurred in the moderate group. Yes, the moderate-intensity group improved their body composition more so than the HIIT style. Check this article we wrote for a more in depth breakdown of HIIT vs steady state cardio for improving body composition.
Another study used Tabata with underweight, normal weight, and overweight students in high school (average age being about 16). They found that Tabata only improved the body composition of overweight students. That’s awesome, but in reality, anything will work for a previously sedentary, overweight person.
One of the few studies that did look at caloric burn was published by ACE. However, their version had 4 Tabatas put together with 1-minute rest in between each Tabata, totaling 20 minutes. Further, the exercises were seemingly random and included 16 different movements.
Regardless, their trainees burned between 240-360 calories, the difference likely being due to the size differences in trainees.
That’s awesome, but you also need to consider that a 160lb person will burn around 175 calories running 20 minutes. Already you see this stops becoming so impressive. If you burn an extra 150 calories a day, it will take you about 25 days to lose an extra pound of fat. We don’t want to downplay a pound of fat, but that’s hardly the burning furnace some trainers would have you believe. PLUS, Tabata is 4 minutes! It’s not 20 minutes! So now we start reaching into a situation where we’re using something that’s not even Tabata and calling it Tabata.
Similar results were found in another Tabata session using squat jumps. In this study, participants burned an average of 54 calories in 4-minutes. If you were to stack 4 or 5 together, you’d reach 210-270 calories.
The point being is, yes, you’ll burn calories with Tabata. But keep in mind that’s not it’s intent. Still, it’s 4-minutes long, so you can’t really expect much. A more interesting argument would be that Tabata can increase your total work capacity, which allows you to do more work which translates into more calories; that’s an exciting idea.
At the end of the day, no form of exercise should be your main tool in a fat loss journey; your diet should be. If you don’t know where to start, check out these awesome articles we have that will tell you all you need to know:
So far you have gotten the idea that there are some issues with the way Tabata has been portrayed to the general public. Here are the top problems that are usually seen when the general public performs Tabata.
1) Not Enough Emphasis On Intensity Levels
This is huge. Too many trainers let their clients “just do their best” and then act like they’re going to get the same results. To be very clear, we are not saying to not do your best. Showing up and trying is the most important thing because we can then work to improve from there. However, everyone can work at max effort; it just may look differently for different people. Still, we can always place heavy emphasis on using max attempts. Saying, “just do your best,” does a disservice to Tabata and your health.
Instead, think, “This is going to suck hard, but it’s only 4-minutes. I’m going to crush it.”
2) Using Too Complicated of Movements
The other huge mistake is that trainers try to use many movements to look flashy. Remember, the original Tabata used a basic cycle ergometer for the entire session. In fact, ergometers are the primary piece of equipment used in studies. Why? Because they’re so simple and allow you to push yourself hard. With cycling, you are really only executing one continuous rep by rotating your feet which can then be made to be more challenging by increasing the tension. Simple and effective. Perfect.
However, many classes will have their clients perform squats, jump rope, pushups, and kettlebells. While jump rope and kettlebells might seem like a good idea, what if you get out of rhythm? And have you ever actually tried to go harder with a kettlebell? It doesn’t work. Therefore, you want to use exercises that are easy to perform and can ideally be done doing a “continuous rep”.
3) Trying To Work In “Strength” Training
“Our Tabata class will build muscle, burn fat, and make you sweat!”
No, it won’t. For Tabata to work, you need to use movements that allow you to move quickly. By its very nature, this eliminates proper strength training. While Tabata will improve your anaerobic capacity, you’ll need to use heavy loads (>85%) to really improve your strength. Further, this leads to the problem where people will use inappropriate movements as they’re trying to get their strength training in. Now, you can still use exercises like pushups and pullups with a :20/:10 ratio, but it’s not Tabata; it’s just a style of circuit training, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Remember, your number one goal for Tabata is getting your heart rate up.
So we’ve told you that people use improper exercises; so what are proper exercises? Just like the original study, stationary bikes are likely your best bet due to their low impact and easy to use. If you don’t have access to a bike, here are the best exercises to use to get your heart rate up.
Yes. We know burpees suck, but that’s because of how awesome they are. In fact, one study found that examined the use of burpees and sprinting in HIIT style sessions found that burpees could elevate the heart rate to the exact same level of sprinting.
2. Sprinting/Banded Runs
Sprinting is sprinting. They use 100% max effort, which is exactly what you need to perform Tabata. The only downside is that they can stress the lower body, so keep this in mind. A good option would be to simply alternate sprinting with another exercise.
Another option is to run against a stationary band. This is a good option if you’re in a gym where you can’t sprint for 20 full seconds.
3. Shadow Boxing
A study found that boxers reach the highest heart rate on average than any other intermittent sport at 197BPM! While not complicated, there probably will be a learning curve to train your neurological system to be able to move quickly enough, but even when first beginning, you should be able to get a nice high heart rate.
4. Sled Work
Sled work is an excellent option because it’s relatively low impact (compared to sprinting) and very easy to get your heart rate up. If you have limited space, you could use more weight to move slower yet still achieve a high heart rate.
5. Squat Jumps
Remember above we talked about a study that had participants burn 54 calories? Well, the only exercise they used were squat jumps. The key to squat jumps is using fast transitions and max power when jumping.
That’s 5 exercises which should be more than enough. Why only 5? Because that’s all you need! In fact, that’s 4 more than you need! Remember, your only goal with Tabata is to elevate your heart rate using max effort. If you find that there is one exercise that is comfortable and easy for you to push hard on, you can just use that. There’s no need to use a revolving door. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!
One great workout would be to alternate between sprinting and shadow boxing. This is because the two exercises use different muscle groups allowing you to continue working hard. Get a watch and sprint as hard as you can for 20 seconds. Rest 10 seconds and then shadow box for another 20 seconds. Repeat this 3 more times and you just had an awesome Tabata workout.
Remember to ALWAYS before performing Tabata. While this is always a must when you train, warming up before Tabata may even be more critical. This is because the minute the whistle blows, you’re giving 100% effort. There’s no easing into it.
After your dynamic warm-up, we actually recommend running through the Tabata once at a lower intensity, just to really get your body ready for the movements.
So there you have it. We at SET FOR SET believe that if you’re going to do something, you should do it right. This includes performing Tabata training the way it was designed. We just showed you the common issues seen with Tabata training AND how to quickly fix it. As you can see, it basically comes down to people losing sight of the required intensity and mixing in inappropriate exercises. Tabata is beautiful due to its simplicity so don’t go and try to make it fancy thinking it will be better; it won’t be.
For other awesome HIIT-style workouts, check out these articles:
December 25, 2021
What is velocity training? That's what this article is all about - How to use velocity training for maximal progress (using bar speed for optimal results)!
Pushing yourself in the gym is the key to success. Having the mental fortitude to push yourself past your limits is the foundation of progressive overload and is the entire point of progressive overload. Quite simply, you're not going to make progress if you never use a higher intensity than the week before. Now, there are many ways to judge this, such as using RPE or rate of perceived exertion. This is simply allowing a person to judge how hard something feels. Actually, studies do show this is an effective method. However, it does depend on some maturity in the gym and being familiar with how your body performs. Plus, it relies on human instinct, which isn't always exact.
This is where velocity training comes in. In a nutshell, velocity training aims to judge the level of fatigue or intensity by looking at the speed in the initial reps followed by the decrease in barbell velocity or drop in bar speed as reps are continued. This is a fantastic way for a trainee to have a tangible method of judging how hard they are pushing and if they're really pushing past their comfort level, or more likely, stopping right when things start getting hard when they should be trying for a couple more reps. We're going to break it down for you.
In this article, you'll learn:
Let's get into it!
So above, we gave a brief overview of velocity training, but now we want to break it down a little more. As mentioned, one of the most difficult aspects of strength and conditioning is prescribing an appropriate load. Sure, on paper, it seems black and white. You just add a little weight each week for progressive overload, and you can use an RM calculator to prescribe a load for a given rep range. This does work; however it falls short as it's only 100% reliable assuming all other factors of the trainee are on point. Things like adequate sleep, proper nutrition, recovery, stress levels, hydration status; all of these things can have significant effects on a lifter's performance. Other methods such as RPE, while effective, rely on the trainee's ability to correctly judge themselves in the weight room AND be honest with themselves.
Noting these issues, a new form of prescribing reps and load emerged; this method being velocity training. To be clear, adding weight in a progressive manner and RPE are both effective, but velocity training is unique in its effectiveness as it fills in the gaps left behind by simply adding weight to the bar and RPE. Those gaps are that there has been no tangible method fro an athlete to determine how hard they are training until now.
In 2010, a study was released which aimed to examine the relationship between bar velocity during the bench press and RM loading. They made findings that suggested very strong associations that they concluded.
Using the velocity of the bar to judge loading could:
This would make perfect sense if we were to stop and think about it as a heavier load, which represents a lower RM will move slower. Regardless, this very enlightening study demonstrated that this "obvious" connection could be used for programming and velocity training took off. Since then, multiple other studies have shown the same relationship in a variety of over movements such as squats, leg press, and prone bench pull.
From the studies that have been published on velocity training, it seems to be a very reliable way to assign loads and %RM. In the real world, this could look like taking a new trainee who is ready to start progressing on a structured program. Instead of using a rep range, you could have them use a velocity loss, say 20%. Use a load until their bar speed drops 20%. Next week, load the bar and have them perform reps until there's a 20% drop in velocity. Why 20% drop and not a prescribed rep range? Well, it helps to mitigate fatigue by having them work at the correct intensity.
Or, you could use the same weight but try to knock out more reps until you hit the same loss in velocity. Basically, instead of a rep range to measure your loading scheme, you're using bar speed. And again, the number one benefit is it takes into account your fatigue levels and optimal training effort.
So basically, this is velocity training. It's a method of prescribing intensity and load by using the speed of the bar rather than a structured rep scheme. This will automatically take into account all of the factors we mentioned above without having the coach or trainee guess how they're feeling that day. It's an incredibly effective means to train that is making waves in the world of strength and conditioning.
Touched on above, the benefits of using velocity training are wide-reaching. But the primary aspect that is so appealing is that velocity training can help coaches prescribe loads, identify fatigue, and progress using a quantifiable method rather than guessing what the trainee should be lifting.
In many ways, it's a form of advanced autoregulation. Autoregulation is another effective form of training that basically states you allow some variance in your workout depending on how you feel. In other words, if you go into the gym and feel great, go ahead and crush your workout; maybe even use heavier loads than you were expecting. On the other hand, perhaps you're just not feeling it. On these days, you could tone down the intensity or maybe swap out your big movements for some smaller accessory work. There's a ton you can do with autoregulation, and it's fantastic, but again, it relies on how you feel.
Velocity training uses this same concept, along with others, but lets you know what state physiologically you are in. For example, sometimes we might feel great, but our muscles aren't truly recovered. You plan to destroy your weight only to be highly disappointed by your first rep. Velocity training lets you know exactly how you are doing.
Further, concepts of training velocity could be highly beneficial for new trainees. One of the biggest hurdles for those new to lifting iron is realizing how strong they are. More often than not, new trainees stop as soon as the reps get kind of hard. Giving them the knowledge of velocity training lets them know that while a lift may be more complex, which is indicated by a slower speed, it does not mean they're going to fail on the next rep.
All the above is excellent, so how do you use velocity training in a real-world situation? Well, it's actually quite straightforward, but there are a few variables to follow. Well, truly one very important variable. That is, you actually have to use maximal effort, or close to maximal effort, when you're lifting. In other words, doing tempo work with 5 second concentric isn't going to tell you anything. Also, if a trainee isn't really "trying" when they lift, it won't help. Therefore, the first step is to lift with intent.
After that, the main question is, what kind of drop-in velocity are you looking for when it comes to strength gains?
The good thing is that while velocity training is a very new method in the world of strength and conditioning, its effectiveness has led to quite a bit of research that can guide you through your training.
"Your progress only occurs as fast you recover" is one of the most basic lessons you learn as a coach. However, oftentimes it's hard to tell if you're fully recovered, which leads to people training too early. Well, studies have given a reliable method to use bar speed to determine if you're fully recovered. Quite simply, after 48-hours, you should be able to produce the same amount of speed, if not faster, on the first reps. If you are not able to effectively produce rapid force, you'll likely inadequately recover.
Typically, S&C coaches would prescribe a specific rep scheme for their clients, such as 6X2 @ 90%1RM. These loads would be based on the desired goal for the session, such as building power, speed, or muscle hypertrophy. There has been enough research that we can attribute a specific bar speed to its training zone. An essential correlation looks like this..one thing to mention first. Velocity training generally uses meters per second (m/s) to measure bar speed.
The following is taken from one of the newer companies, GymAware, that sells equipment for velocity training…more on this later. Anyway, the speed of the initial reps should move at these speeds
You could line this up with your typical power, strength, hypertrophy, and endurance rep spectrum to give you a better idea of how fast your bar should be moving for the desired effect.
One study aimed to examine how far trainees should push themselves on reps to attain a desired result. They had two groups of trainees perform the exact same protocol using relatively light loads (50-70%1RM). However, one group was instructed to perform reps with maximal intent until they saw a 15% loss in bar velocity while the other group performed reps until they saw a 30% loss in bar velocity. Despite the 30% loss group performing more reps, the 15% loss group saw significantly better performance variables and strength results! Another study saw similar results but instead used a velocity loss of 20% vs. 40% with the 20% loss group producing greater strength gains.
While novel, this finding actually opens up many questions about how we've been training. Remember how above we spoke about being able to produce maximal speeds as proof of full recovery? Well, the theory is that when the loss of velocity comes too extreme, you reach a point of fatigue that is undesirable for strength training; basically, you cannot produce maximal velocities anymore as you're not fully recovered.
Still, this brings up another method of training related to velocity training known as "maximal intent". While mentioned above some in another context, maximal intent training is the idea that maximal strength can be achieved with lighter loads IF you push with 100% max effort. This concept has been shown to be a legitimate training method as this study found maximal intent was significantly beneficial in producing gains in the bench press.
Perhaps what we are seeing is a merger of these two training methods. Regardless, it seems that using maximal intent for each rep until you see a 15-20% drop in speed is optimal for strength gains.
Velocity training for hypertrophy is not as studied as strength as the variables that drive strength and hypertrophy are entirely different from each other. Still, the trainees above in the 30% loss group did produce more volume, which led to greater hypertrophy. Further, in the other study that examined a 20% loss in velocity vs. a 40% loss in velocity, the same results were found with the 40% velocity loss group producing more hypertrophy. Also important to note, this study pointed out that a 40% velocity loss resulted in muscle failure in 56% of the lifters.
So now the important part; all this sounds great, but how do you actually measure the bar speed? Well, there are two ways.
1. Buy Bar Velocity Training Equipment
The first option is to actually buy specialized equipment that can measure the speed of the bar. Since the inception of velocity training, there have been a number of manufacturers who have produced equipment to do just this. However, as of now, these are worth a few thousand dollars. Unless you are an extra serious home lifter or are training competitive athletes, this is likely not an option. To be clear, these are the most effective way of measuring bar speed and allow you to actually see the speed in real-time. Further, these will store your results and all of the other fancy stuff you need to run a program. With that in mind, they definitely do work if the price is worth it to you.
2. Eyeball It
The other less precise way is to eyeball it. This takes a lot of time to practice to be able to recognize these losses in bar speed, and you'll likely never be exact. However, it's free, and it can be very effective. If you are eyeballing it, you would just need to use other progression methods, such as adding weight. For example, loading weight and trying to identify if the bar moved just as fast as it did last week. While there will be plenty of errors, having basic knowledge of velocity training and the importance of bar speed could make a massive improvement on your progress.
Still, the one principle you can definitely use without the use of fancy equipment is maximal intent. While specifically for strength training, increasing your speed for force production
With its massive growth in just over 10 years, velocity training will likely become the new preferred training method for serious recreational lifters and elite alike looking to maximize strength training. The one barrier now is the cost of equipment to get a precise measurement for bar speed. However, we can expect this (hopefully) to decrease as the technology is advanced. Still, you can always take these principles and try to coach yourself on what to look for. Regardless of what you do, start including velocity training into your arsenal of techniques to optimize your training sessions.
Simply paying attention to bar speed and maximal velocity is a game changer.
November 29, 2021
Everyone wants to improve their body composition. Therefore, in the pursuit of weight loss, everyone wants to find the most efficient way possible. The quickest, most effective method of weight loss is the # 1 priority. In fact, some people will actually waste time researching which method is the best rather than actually training.
Two of the most common cardio training styles are HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) or MICT (Moderate Intensity Continuous Training). There seems to be a ton of debate on which is better to improve body comp with HIIT training usually taking the win. This begs the question, is it? Is this just gym bro talk, or is it backed by science?
Luckily for us, famed sports researcher Brad Schoenfeld and his team did an exhaustive systematic review and meta-analysis on all the studies they could find and found the answer. What they found might be surprising to some, but we can learn a lot from it.
As mentioned, this meta-analysis was conducted by Brad Schoenfeld and his team and was published in November of 2021. This makes it the most up-to-date analysis with the latest information there is. In total, the research team examined 54 studies that looked at the effects that interval training (HIIT) and steady-state (cardio like running or cycling) training had on body composition as well as other factors. In totality, the variables that were compared were:
We’ll take this one by one and go over the significant findings and points of interest.
When it came to which method was better for fat loss, the winner was....neither! Yes, that is correct. Both forms of training illicit similar reductions in fat mass loss, with any difference being insignificant.
Further, when the fat loss was examined as a whole, both methods of cardio training had a minimal effect on fat loss! In other words, neither method created significant amounts of fat loss. This may be surprising to some people due to the marketing tactics seen in the industry, but cardio training does not generate massive deficits in calories. To be clear, both are awesome, and even a little bit adds up over time; however, the most effective means of losing weight is your diet. Boring but true.
To be clear, technically you can burn thousands of calories a day doing cardio. However, we’re assuming you’re not doing a full Ironman triathlon. Therefore, keep in mind we are speaking about the typical lifter who just throws in some cardio to burn some extra calories.
One reason trainees usually point to HIIT-style training is for EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In a nutshell, this is the number of calories that you burn after your workout as your body tries to recover and bring your body’s physiological systems back to homeostasis. Since HIIT training is more intense, it’s believed to cause massive EPOC or’ extra calories,” as many proclaim. However, EPOC has been greatly exaggerated and is actually quite small. While studies do show that HIIT will cause greater EPOC, when compared to total calories, it is a modest amount at best.
So changes in fat mass were equivalent, but what about muscle preservation or even muscle gain? One claim that is often made is that HIIT is better at preserving muscle while steady-state can result in the breakdown of muscle. Or, some claims even suggest that cardio can build muscle if it’s intense enough. Therefore, the team compared which method is best to maintain muscle mass. What they found was really interesting.
For all intents and purposes, there was zero difference. However, somewhat surprising is that both groups saw an increase in muscle mass. While trivial, this dispels the myth that a steady-state will destroy your gains. To be specific, HIIT saw an increase of 0.11kg of fat-free mass, and MICT saw an increase of 0.07kg. Again, a very tiny amount, but that is a world of difference compared to “you’re going to destroy your muscle”.
There is some nuance involved. These sessions were not extreme, meaning they were not spending “hours on the treadmill,” which likely would cause some muscle loss. However, this retort that is often given to explain steady-state cardio does not mesh well with reality.
One drawback of HIIT is that many people will claim that it’s too intense for people to do long-term. When speaking of MICT, the claim of it being “too boring” is often used. Therefore, which style are you likely going to stick with?
When comparing the drop-out rates of these methods of training, you would be most likely to drop out of neither! Not only were the drop-out rates very similar for both groups, but they were also very low in general. Both groups completed about 90% of their sessions with a 13-17% drop-out rate. The conclusion is that both styles of training are appropriate, and it likely comes down to psychological preferences to determine which is right for you
Adverse effects were the last variable to be compared. Are you more likely to get injured with one method over the other? Interestingly enough, this was the only variable to get a different outcome than “everything’s the same”.
After reviewing injuries and health problems, the team discovered that the method most likely to cause injury was….inconclusive! This was primarily due to such a low number of studies that actually reported injuries in any meaningful way.
Their conclusion here was that researchers needed to start documenting injury rates.
Obviously HIIT and MICT are vastly different so there were something to consider as each had their own special benefit that may make them more appealing,
When it comes to HIIT, the workouts took less time. Therefore, you can the same amount of calories in less time. However, when considering the fact that you need to warm up really well for HIIT, the difference in time shortens. On average, you would probably be looking at a 10-15 minute difference. This might be useful for some trainees and should be taken into account
However, often times trainees underestimate HIIT training. HIIT is extremely intense which is why you can burn more calories in less time. This intensity not only requires more rest, many trainees simply don’t have the work capacity to perform HIIT effectively.
Considering MICT, it is much more accessible for the average trainee. It may take a little longer to perform but the recovery period is much shorter and doesn’t require such high levels of athleticism.
All of these variables should be taken into account when deciding what’s best for you.
As seen, this meta basically told us that neither method of cardio was superior for fat loss. Further, in terms of the general effectiveness for fat loss, neither are even that effective in the first place.
This may sound confusing at first due to all the marketing, but you need to consider the actual numbers. All kinds of ads speak about “torching fat” and losing an obnoxious amount of pounds in 30 days. However, training doesn’t work like that.
First, let’s take a logical look at how many calories you need to burn to lose fat. An approximation has you burning 3,500 calories to get rid of 1lb of fat. Now we take the average of calories burned in a typical cardio session. If you do something like a Tabata, you can expect to burn maybe 50 calories. With a more typical HIIT or 30min MICT session, you’re looking at 100-200 calories dependent on a lot of factors. To be conservative, we’ll give you 200 calories per session.
After doing the math, that means you need to perform 17.5 sessions to burn 1lb of fat through a typical cardio session. Assuming you’re not working out every day, that would take you almost 1 month to burn an entire pound of fat from cardio. Sure, you could do longer cardio sessions and burn more calories, but again, we’re assuming the average lifter who is just throwing in some cardio to burn extra calories.
Next, we can take a look at the recommended caloric deficit you need to be in to lose weight. Most nutritionists will recommend a very modest 300-500 caloric deficit daily. That is not a lot. To get this range, we need to remember that you will still burn calories from your weight training. We then add in your diet on top, and suddenly you don’t need to have a cardio session to burn 1,000 calories. There is this idea that you need to be able to burn “800 calories an hour,” which is ridiculous. In reality, if you burned 800 calories, you would need to actually eat an extra 300 calories to get to the recommended 500. The reason the recommended number is at 300-500 calories is because if you go higher, you increase the risk of breaking down muscle.
From these two numbers above, we find two things:
This is actually another “thing to consider,” but we think it deserves its own headline. There is the misguided belief that the purpose of cardio training is to burn fat. How many times have you heard “go do some cardio” when someone asks about burning calories? To be honest, even we say that as cardio is a great way to burn up some calories. That being said, we speak of it in its correct context as it’s excellent at contributing to extra calories. Compare this to suggesting that cardio is the most crucial aspect to improving your body comp.
While cardio is an excellent way to improve your caloric deficit, burning calories is not its sole purpose. In fact, burning calories isn’t even its primary purpose.
The purpose of cardio training is to improve your cardiovascular system. This includes improving fitness variables such as;
For example, I’m sure you have heard how great Tabata's are for burning calories in a short period of time. Creating a “fat furnace” was never the intended purpose of the original sports researcher, Izumi Tabata. Yes, Tabata workouts are named after the Japanese researcher who originally designed the protocol. His study in 1996 was actually intended to find a more effective protocol to train elite ice skaters. In fact, Tabata’s studies don’t even mention calories as their main purpose was to improve things like VO2max and work capacity. It wasn’t until small group training became more popular that gyms started using marketing gimmicks to showcase their “new” fat loss workout.
To be clear, cardio does burn calories, but that is a secondary benefit. You would be better off if you looked at training practices for their intended purpose. Here is how you should look at your training pillars:
The one thing that you need to understand when it comes to weight loss is that there is no magic bullet. No method of training exists that is so obviously superior that you’d have to be an idiot to not be doing it; which is often implied in some circles. Sometimes there seems to be this notion that trainers hold this weight loss secret that you can only discover if you buy their program.
Here’s the real secret. There are no secrets.
Yes, cardio can contribute to your overall body recomposition, but the calories burned from a single session are minuscule. This means it’s only effective if you are consistent with it over a long period of time. And that is the common theme in all of fitness. Nothing happens overnight. To be successful, you must be patient and disciplined.
All of this being considered, the best style of training is what’s suitable for your circumstances. Something that you enjoy and can push yourself. Other than that, you’ll just need to trust the process.