Functional Isometrics: Par One

By TAKU

This weeks podcast features an interview with Shawn Bennett developer of the One Rep Gym and a form of Static Contraction Training called Measured Intensity Training.

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Static or isometric style strength training has probably been around in one form or another, since the dawn of man. Some see it as a tool only to be used to pass sticking points or as an adjunct to “real” strength training. While others use it as their only form of improving muscular performance. Still, for many the whole concept of training statically may seem strange or appear quite revolutionary. Which ever camp you belong to I assure you that Static / Isometric style training is highly effective and can be quite simple to implement with just a little practice. Lets investigate with a little Q&A:

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Q: What are isometrics?
A: Isometric training refers to exerting strength without movement. The most classic form of isometric training is pushing or pulling an immovable load.

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Q: Why include any form of isometrics?
A: You actually recruit more motor-units during an isometric action than during a concentric action.

Q: If isometric training is so good, why doesn’t everyone use it?
A: Actually many people use isometric or static training in a variety of applications. However, there are two main problems with pure isometric training:

1. It’s impossible to quantify progress. Since you’re not moving a load, you don’t know if you’re improving or if you’re exerting maximal effort or not. This creates problems with accurately determining progression which may lead to diminished motivation.

2. Isometric training may be angle specific, meaning that it’s possible you’ll gain strength only at the joint angles being worked. (Some theorize that there’s only a 15-20 degree carryover of strength gains on either side of the specific angle trained.)

Q: Then why bother including isometrics at all?
A: Isometric or Static training is one of if not the most efficient forms of strength training available. However due to the above mentioned limitations many people do not explore this form of training.

Luckily there are two solutions available which overcome all of the problems of classic isometrics, and make them not only worth including but easy to accurately measure and track for on-going progressive overload.

Functional isometrics

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Q: What are Functional isometrics?
A: Functional isometrics are a bit different. You still exert force without movement, but you’re actually lifting a load or tracking your force output with dedicated technology.

Q: How do I incorporate these into my training plan?
A: There are several ways in which you may include functional isometrics into your training. The first is to purchase a dedicated machine such as the ones available from:
ONE REP GYM

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Q: What if I can’t afford one of these machines or I don’t want to wait to try Functional isometrics?
A: Well, you are in luck. All you need is access to some basic gym equipment and you can start using this highly effective style of training right away.

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Q: What exercises can I perform using Functional isometrics?
A: This type of exercise can be used with many weight lifting exercises. Traditionally power lifters and Olympic style weightlifters have used static holds to over come sticking points in exercises such as the Bench Press, Deadlift / Clean, and Overhead Press.

I find Functional isometrics to be effective for most of your standard pushing and pulling movements. With access to basic gym equipment such as a leg press, rowing and pull-down machines and a good power cage or Smith Machine you can perform just about any exercise you can think of.

Q: How do I execute a Functional Isometric exercise using standard Weight training equipment?
A: You start the bar at a specific height and lift it two to three inches. Then you hold the position for six to ten seconds. You keep on adding weight until you can’t lift and hold it for at least six seconds while maintaining a good lifting posture. This way you’re actually lifting weights and can quantify your progress.

Q: How do I overcome the problem of joint angle specificity?
A: If you only perform single angle movements, the problem of joint angle specificity may still apply. That’s why some may want to use three positions working the whole range of motion of a selected movement. The three positions are:

1. A few inches after the start position

2. Sticking point

3. A few inches from the final position

For more on Static - Isometric training including examples of how to set up and perform basic exercises please read part two of this article.

NUTRITION: the ULTIMATE DISCIPLINE

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As far as I am concerned nutrition is the foundation of health. After years as a strength coach, and personal trainer, I have seen that people consistently struggle with dialing in their nutrition more than any other factor of health and fitness. With this weeks podcast episode in mind, I offer a few simple strategies that may help you get this often challenging aspect of your personal health and fitness routine, under control.


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FIRST: The hard facts!

  • There is no supplement to increase personal discipline!

  • You can’t out work a bad eating plan!

  • Quality Nutrition controls hormonal response (a calorie is not always calorie)

– Insulin – triggers fat storage (too much sugar)

– Glucagon – triggers fat burning (favoring protein dominant meals)

Don’t make excuses…

– “Everything in moderation”, is a set up for failure!

– Learn to eat High-Quality food year-round, (without gorging!)

– Take some responsibility for your actions!

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Nutritional Strategies for long term success!

  • Control Quality -1 week.

– First control Quality.

– This alone may help control frequency and quantity.

  • Control Frequency -1 week.

– With controlled quality, frequency is easier to control.

– It also controls energy levels and insulin response.

  • Control Quantity -1-week.

– By this time – the quantities of food are naturally smaller.

– More nutrient dense and thermic foods.

Controlling Quality!

Week 1

  • Start eating more High-Quality foods. If it is in a box, bag, or can, and has a label don’t eat it. Strive for Free-Range Organic Meats. Raw, Organic, full-fat dairy. Chicken and eggs from Free-Range chickens. Local fresh fruits and vegetables (try the Farmer’s Market).

  • You will burn calories breaking down whole foods – as much as 300 additional calories per day (i.e. the Thermic Effect of food).

  • Processed foods should be avoided.

Controlling Frequency!

Week 2

  • Eat 3 & 2 (3 meals and 2 snacks every day). DO NOT SKIP MEALS.*

  • *If ONLY CRAP is available – Use this as an unexpected time to fast.

  • Remember, sometimes it’s okay to be hungry.

  • You have to feed the person you want to be, not the person you are right now!

Controlling Quantity!

Week 3

  • By now – your stomach has shrunk a bit and you are eating less anyway!!

  • When you’re full – stop eating.

  • Eat slow to give your blood sugar time to go up a little and signal you that you are full; you’ll eat less.

  • Feed your ideal bodyweight and add a 0. If you want to weigh 130 lbs. eat 1300 calories over 5-6 meals!!

  • Don’t miss exercise sessions. You don’t miss emails, texts, phone calls, and FACEBOOK, don’t miss your exercise!

Strategic approach!

– Have healthy snacks ready everywhere!

  • Keep non-perishable foods around, and carry a small cooler!

– Nuts & seeds (walnuts. Almonds, Brazil nuts)

– Hard-boiled eggs, String Cheese

– Apples, Celery stalks

  • You’ll eat less!

– Have a healthy Protein Snack before you go food shopping!

– Have a healthy Protein Snack before you go to a party!

  • Don’t buy junk food.

– If it does not belong in your stomach it does not belong in your House / kitchen!

Well…there you have it. some simple strategies to aid you on your personal quest for lifelong health and fitness. Remember, nutrition is the foundation of health. Take the ideas I have outlined above and put them into practice today!

TAKU

 

Simple Steps to Good Nutrition

  By TAKU

By TAKU

Nutrition. Is there anything out there that is more confusing? High carbs, low carbs, good fats, bad fats, don’t eat at night, don’t eat anything but fruit until noon…It’s enough to make you scream. How can we possibly decipher all the nutritional mumbo-jumbo that is thrown around every day? Each time you turn around there is a new diet telling you what to eat and what to avoid.

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Well, take a deep breath and let’s see if we can make some sense out of all this confusion. By the time your done reading, you’ll have at least a basic set of ideas that should work for you. It still won’t be easy. I have been training people for 30 years and I call nutrition the ultimate discipline.

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Let’s get some basics out of the way. We can break our food into a few basic components. Macro-nutrients (meaning Big stuff) and along with the big stuff we get Micro-nutrients (little stuff). Add water and you have your bases covered.

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Foods contain calories in the form of the three Macro-nutrients, Fats, Proteins, and Carbohydrates. These calories provide energy for our bodies to move, grow, repair and maintain themselves. Both Protein and Carbohydrates have four calories per gram. Fat has more than twice as many calories with nine per gram. Foods also contain Micro-nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals. Micro-nutrients are important because they contribute to the many chemical processes that our bodies undertake for daily living. They do not however provide energy.

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When we say energy as it relates to food it just means calories. All food has calories and all calories can be burned to provide energy for the body. When we see something in the store called an “Energy” bar or Energy drink, it really just means that the bar or drink has calories. There is nothing magic about them. Most energy drinks have not only calories in the form of simple sugars but are also loaded with stimulants such as caffeine, guarana (an herbal form of caffeine) or other similar substances. This is where the “energy” comes from in the zero calorie energy drinks. The above mentioned substances are central nervous system stimulants and are providing energy through a series of chemical interactions in the body. If you like to get the buzzed feeling of caffeinated drinks, but don’t like coffee then these types of drinks will do the trick for you. Just remember there are no magic substances in energy bars and drinks that will do anything for you that good, whole food cannot. For the most part these bars and drinks are just glorified candy bars and soda pops and their manufacturers are trying to get you to feel good about eating and drinking them.

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I know that nutritional planning is a bit confusing at times. How many meals a day should I eat? Do I need a certain percentage of my daily calories from one source or another? What should I drink and how much is enough? Well, that is what we are here to find out. Keep in mind that there is no one, perfect way that will work for everyone when it comes to nutrition. But we can set up a framework from which to begin your journey. So let’s set up some guidelines that may help us get more out our nutrition. Keep in mind that what most people lack when it comes to nutrition is discipline and consistency. The following guidelines are not new or magic, they are merely ideas to help you establish a framework from which you may create that disciplined consistency you currently lack.

1. Most days eat 3-5 feedings per day. This does not mean eat giant meals every time you feed; this includes your snacks as well. Think of it as eating on average about three meals and two snacks per day.

2. Eat some source of lean protein such as eggs, chicken, beef, lamb, turkey or fish, at every meal.

3. Eat low-sugar fruits, and a variety of non-starchy vegetables with each meal. The more different colors and textures the better.

4. Ensure that your carbohydrate intake comes primarily from vegetables. Think of fruit as a small treat.

5. Ensure that you get some fats every day. You want these to be primarily in the form of good or “friendly” fats such as those found from olive, flax seed and coconut oils, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, as well as fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines anchovies etc.

6. Drink primarily non-calorie containing beverages, the best choices being water and green tea. A good goal for water intake is about half your body weight in ounces a day. So, if you weigh 100 pounds, aim for 50 ounces a day and if you weigh 200, pounds aim for 100 ounces a day. (The rest of you can do your own math).

7. Eat mostly whole foods. This means foods found in their most natural state. There is no such thing as a donut tree, and contrary to popular belief; nothing made out of flour (like bread, pasta and bagels) is a source of complex carbohydrates.

8. When you get off track, regroup quickly. Having one bad meal or snack here and there will not have a large impact on your overall success. What does negatively impact you is the snow ball effect. That common feeling of “well I screwed up lunch so I guess the whole day is shot”. Forget that stuff. Your next feeding is your next opportunity for success.

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So what does this type of eating look like? Here is a simple way to think about it. To create a healthy plate meal, simply view your plate like a clock. Fill the position of 12 o’clock to 6 or 7 o’clock with a wide variety of colorful vegetables; fill the space from 6 or 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock with friendly fats including healthy oils, nuts, and seeds*, and fill the area from 9 to 12 o’clock with lean protein  in the form of beef, chicken fish and so on. A little fruit here and there will not hurt you, (for best results I recommend keeping it to small amount of low-sugar fruits.)

Most of the time if you stick with just two sections, the veggie (+ a little fruit) section and the protein section you’ll be doing just fine. If you do include starchy carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice etc.) I recommend saving that for after your workout, and for best results don’t let that starchy section get any bigger then about ¼ of your plate. (*TAKU’s NOTE: There may be some overlap between friendly fats, and good protein etc)

So, don’t I need to know how many calories I am eating and how much fat etc? The answer is yes and no. For the greatest long term success I would recommend taking a few days and figuring this stuff out. Working with a good nutrition coach can really help. The most important thing however is that you just start making some good simple choices right away. I think you’ll find that when you do, the rest starts to take care of itself.

Here is what a day of this type of eating might look like:

(I’ve included a few examples for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks)

Meal Examples

Breakfast:

1. Scrambled Eggs with veggies and Fruit. 2-3 whole eggs. Tomato, peppers onions etc (your choice). 1 large orange.

2. Cottage Cheese and Fruit. 1-cup cottage cheese (full fat minimally processed). 1/2 cup Fresh or water packed Pineapple or Peaches. I Tbsp Almonds (raw).

3. Protein Shake. 2 scoops Protein Powder. 1/2 cup Strawberries, fresh or frozen. 1/2 cup peaches, fresh or frozen. 1-2 cups water. 1 -1/2 Tbsp Almonds or flax-seed oil

Lunch:

1. Tuna salad. 4-6 oz of Albacore Tuna in water (drained). 1-2 Tbsp of sweet pickle relish (optional). 3-5 Tbsp of celery (diced). 10-15 seedless grapes. 1-1/2 Tbsp Mayo (homemade or coconut oil, avocado oil). 2-4 lettuce leaves. 1 large apple.

2. Chicken Caesar salad. Romaine lettuce (3-4 cups). Chicken precooked and cooled (4 oz). Parmesan cheese 1 Tbsp (grated). Caesar dressing (2 Tbsp).**

3. Cantaloupe Fruit Salad. 1/2 of a melon. I cup cottage cheese (full fat minimally processed). 5-10 seedless Grapes. 1/2 cup sliced Strawberries. 2 tsp Sunflower seeds.

Dinner:

1. Chicken salad. 4-6 oz chicken. 2 tbsp walnuts. 1 apple chopped. 1-cup grapes (cut in halves). 2 tbsp mayo ( coconut oil, avocado oil or home made). 1-cup green beans.

2. Grilled Salmon and Vegetables. Salmon steak grilled (4-1/2 oz). Onions sweet large size (3 thick slices). ½ green pepper (sliced). 1 zucchini (sliced). Green salad (2 cups). I cup Peaches, fresh or frozen for desert.

3. Beef Tenderloin Dinner. 6 oz extra lean beef. Asparagus spears (10 – steamed). 3-4 cups green salad with tomato. Fresh blueberries for dessert.

Snacks:

1. Cottage cheese with Pineapple. 1-Cup cottage cheese w/ 1/2-cup pineapple.

2. Hard-boiled Egg and Fruit. 1-2 whole eggs. 1 egg 1 small tangerine or orange.

3. String Cheese and fruit. 1-2 string cheese. 1 apple.

If you are serious about your health, you should be serious about your nutrition. Our health comes from the inside out. Feed your body good food, drink water and get enough sleep every day, and you have gone a long way to insuring optimal health and high function for years to come. When we eat well it supports everything else we do. It makes it that much more likely, that you will achieve your athletic and aesthetic goals as well as perform at your best in the boardroom or on the wrestling mat. Remember, every time you go food shopping is a chance for you to make great choices. Now get out there and get to it.

Bonus Food Shopping List:

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Protein

Fish:

• Salmon

• Tuna

• Cod

• Trout

• Halibut

• Shrimp

• Scallops

Eggs

Chicken breasts

Cottage cheese (Full-fat minimally processed)

Lean Red Meat:

• Flank Steak

• Ground Beef

• Top Round Cuts

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Carbohydrates

Vegetables (not limited to):

• Broccoli

• Green Beans

• Spinach

• Lettuce

Mixed Beans

Carbohydrates

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Fruits (not limited to):

• Berries

• Apples

• Oranges

• Kiwi

• Grapefruits

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Fats

Flax oil/Flax meal

Fish oil (EPA / DHA)

Olive oil / Olives

Mixed nuts:

• Almonds

• Walnuts

• Brazil

• Pistachios

Avocados

Coconut Oil

Butter (occasionally)

Macro Nutrient Servings:

Fruit. 1 serving =

1 medium sized fruit, ½ banana, 1-cup berries, ¼-cup dried fruit. 1-cup melon.

Veggies. 1 serving =

½ cup cooked or raw, 1 cup leafy.

Protein. 1 serving =

4-5 oz fish, poultry, pork or lean beef. 1-cup tofu (Organic non-GMO), 1-cup cottage cheese (Full-fat minimally processed) .

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BONUS RECIPE:

*Caesar Dressing:

• 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

• 1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

• 1/2 Tbsp Lemon juice

• 1-2 cloves garlic, pressed

• 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

• 1/2 tsp anchovy paste

• 1/2 tsp dry mustard

• 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake until blended.

Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: Low-carb Dieting Made Easy

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This P.E.P. is based on the work of Dan Duchaine (Body Opus) and Lyle McDonald (the Ketogenic Diet). The version that I am presenting is a highly simplified version of the original Duchaine / McDonald works as laid out in their above named books. If you wish to attain copious amounts of detail into how to really tweak this approach I suggest you purchase one or both of the books written by these two gentlemen. Although their approach is reliable, I am confident that similarly consistent results will be attained without following some of the extreme guidelines set forth by these two authors.

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With my personal experimentation using this approach I have found it to consistently reduce BFP% while maintaining LBM. Below I have shown examples of weekday and weekend eating plans consistent with this style of P.E.P. The basic premise is to reduce Carb consumption to as low a level as possible during a five-day period Mon-Fri. Then take in high carbs on the weekend to facilitate glycogen super-compensation and the sparing of LBM. My weekday goal for carb consumption is 30 grams or less a day. On weekends the carb consumption is unlimited and should be as high as is comfortably possible. Once you feel you have fully re-loaded your carb stores (usually indicated by an increase in water retention), you may begin to de-carb once again.

WEEKDAY MACRONUTRIENT GOALS:

The goal for protein consumption is a minimum of 1 gram per pound of total body-weight, with a maximum of up to 1.5 grams per pound of total body-weight. The calorie level should be set at approximately 90% of daily maintenance levels*. Once protein levels have been established, the remainder of the calories should come from “friendly” fat sources and a minimum of low glycemic carbs (as indicated in the eating plans below). When trying to make up the proper calorie levels start with protein. Then add the “good” fat, + bad fat, then finish with the LGC.

WEEKEND MACRONUTRIENT GOALS:

Protein consumption should be set at a minimum of 1 gram per pound of LBM with a maximum of up to 1 gram per pound of total weight. Carbs should be set as high as 3-5 grams per pound of total body weight. Fat should be set at a maximum of 1 gram per every 2 pounds of total body weight.

SUGGESTED EATING AND TAPER PLANS

You may notice an energy slump in the first couple of weeks, this is normal and is the interim period between your body burning carbohydrate for energy and converting to burning fat. Stick with it and you will achieve your goals.

The program is a 5-days on 2-days off schedule, the days off may be fitted in at your convenience but weekends are probably best.

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Suggested eating plan No1

Meal 1.

4 eggs any way, or 6-10 egg whites, 2 slices of ham, 2 Oz l/f. Mozzarella cheese. Make into omelet, if desired add chopped veggies

Meal 2.

Small tin of tuna (6 Oz) in oil (drain oil), ¼ avocado, salad or 2-3 scoops Whey Protein + 1 Tbsp Flax Oil in 10 Oz water

Meal 3.

Chicken breast w/- veggies &/or salad (stir-fry) & ¼ avocado

Meal 4.

Handful of nuts or 3-4 Oz meat (ham, turkey etc) & 2 piece string cheese Or protein drink as above

Meal 5.

Steak (8 Oz) with veggies, salad & ¼ avocado

Drink tea, coffee, or water. (If not using the ECA stack** then a load of brewed coffee is best)

Use artificial sweeteners to sweeten protein drinks & hot beverages only if you feel it is required. (I do not recommend artificial sweeteners)

Absolutely no fruit or sugar sources outside the weekend.

Suggested eating plan No. 2

Meal 1.

(6-10) Egg white omelet w/- mushrooms, tomato, l/f cheese, onions etc and tea, coffee or water.

Meal 2.

Chef salad w/- ham, cheese & egg. Or handful of raw nuts & cheese

Meal 3.

Chicken Caesar, Cobb, or Spinach and bacon salad etc w/- (no croutons)

Meal 4.

4 eggs, 4 strips bacon (or ham, Canadian bacon, sausage etc)

Meal 5.

Salmon (6-8 Oz) grilled, poached or baked with veggies, salad & ¼ avocado.

Meal 6.

(Optional, use only during transition phase if you are really craving sweets), nonfat yogurt, whey protein (1 scoop), flax oil 1 Tbsp (mix together as pudding)

Note: For the best results I recommend you stick as close as possible to the weekly examples I have provided. It is really not hard once you get into a groove.

The taper in.

In order for the transition to this P.E.P. to be smooth and relatively discomfort free, a lead in period of gradual carb reduction is suggested. This is a fairly simple process, as follows;

Week 1. P.E.P. only on Tuesday & Thursday.

Week 2. P.E.P. on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

Week 3. P.E.P. every day except Wednesday.

Week 4. P.E.P. Monday to Friday.

This should see you make a smooth, pain free transition into the amazing world of fat burning.

During a 48 hr period on Saturday & Sunday basically eat what you feel like, try to keep it fairly healthy but succumb to your cravings because Monday you get strict again.

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EXAMPLE OF WEEKEND EATING PLAN:

Meal 1.

Non-fat milk (8 Oz), Oatmeal (8 Oz cooked), 3 egg whites (stirred into oatmeal), 5 dates (chopped & stirred into oatmeal)

Meal 2.

“Power Shake” 8 Oz Non-fat milk, 8 Oz Non-fat yogurt, 1 Banana (mix in blender)

Meal 3.

Roasted chicken (6 Oz), rice (1 cup), beans (6 Oz), Sherbet (3 scoops)

Meal 4.

Cottage cheese (1 cup), Pears (canned in own juice) 4 halves

Meal 5.

Peanut butter sandwich 1 Tbsp p-nut-butter + 1 Tbsp jelly on sprouted (flour-less) bread, Non-fat milk (1 cup) 1 Banana

Meal 6.

Tuna sandwich (tuna packed in water) on sprouted (flour-less) bread, 1 apple, handful of nuts (your favorite)

Meal 7.

“Power Shake” 8 Oz Non-fat milk, 8 Oz Non-fat yogurt, 1 Banana (mix in blender)

When trying to maximize strength, size and power, I load creatine on the weekends (5 grams with every meal). You may of course add whatever supplements you currently feel are beneficial to you reaching your health goals.

LBM = Lean Body Mass

BFP% = Body Fat Percentage

LGC = Low Glycemic Carb

P.E.P. = Personal Eating Plan

**ECA STACK = Ephedrine, Caffeine, Aspirin combined to elicit a Central nervous system stimulus which aids in fatty acid mobilization as well as increasing mental focus, suppressing appetite and may also aid in the increase of workout intensity.

If you have never experimented with this “stack” do so cautiously. I suggest using a mainstream brand such as “Ripped Fuel” by Twinlab etc. Start with less then the suggested dose and work up from there. I use one dose a day Mon-Thu when on this plan. If you do choose to use it, do not take it Friday-Sunday as it may interfere with the carb loading process. It is not required that you use the ECA stack to achieve success on this plan I mention it, only FYI.

*Lowering calories further during the weekdays can speed up weight loss but will increase the challenge and potential discomfort during this phase of the eating plan.

Supplement recommendations and all other aspects of this article are intended for informational purposes only. Consult with your primary care physician before experimenting with the CKD or any other P.E.P.

TAKU

How to execute the perfect REP

Today I am talking about the most fundamental component of training there is, the rep. If you want to achieve maximum success from your training as well as enjoy continued progress over the long term then how you execute each rep is very important.

Below I will outline the rules I use when teaching people how to strength train properly.

Rep Rules:

1. Raise the weight in a smooth and deliberate manner. Avoid sudden or jerky movements. Eliminate the use of any momentum.

2. Pause momentarily in the muscles fully-contracted position.

3. Slowly make the transition from raising the weight to lowering the weight. Do not suddenly drop the weight.

4. Emphasize the lowering of the weight. The muscles that raise the weight are the same muscles used to lower the weight.

5. Raise and lower the weight through the full range of motion* provided by each exercise. Always move through your maximum range of motion provided that you are in complete control of the weight at all times and you are pain free.

I recommend that you raise and lower the weight taking roughly 3-5 seconds in both the
positive and negative phase. This means that each rep will take between 6-10 seconds to complete.

For absolute beginners or those coming back from a lay-off or recovering from injury I recommend starting with the slower speeds (5 seconds up, 5 seconds down). To assist beginners with their learning of these slower style repetitions I will often use a
metronome. I set the metronome for a sixty beat count (one beat per second); this way they can easily match their movements to the cadence set by the metronome.

If you have never tried using slow controlled movement when lifting weights you may be in for a shock. First you may find you have to drop your poundage on many exercises as this lower force method will increase the tension the muscles experience. Second be prepared for a serious case of the DOMS when training to failure in this style.

Remember how you execute each repetition is the most fundamental aspect of your strength training. Train smart, train safe and reap the rewards that strength training has to offer.

As a side note, there are other training methods, such as Olympic weight lifting and kettlebell training, that specifically require fast, explosive repetitions. We’re not discounting those methods in the slightest. In fact, we personally train this way quite often when using strength implements to enhance metabolic conditioning.

TAKU’s NOTE: *There are times when breaking the range of motion into segments, or working with a limited ROM can be an effective way to enhance muscle recruitment and increase intensity. For more on theses methods check out

Zone Training,

Power Factor Training

TAKU


MISSION CRITICAL: Protect the command center

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For some time now I have been recommending that people train the muscles of the head and neck. I used to think this was primarily important for combat athletes such as those intending to participate in wrestling, judo, MMA, boxing, football, hockey, rugby etc.

Later I added any athlete who participates in a sport with potential head impacts of any kind including soccer, basketball, and lacrosse. These days I have come to realize that everyone (athlete or not) can, and will benefit from having a stronger neck complex.

In fact, research indicates that building muscle strength in such important places as the neck, shoulders and jaw not only allows this area to better dissipate forces, but that having a stronger neck will actually improve other athletic and functional movements because (much like having a stronger mid-section) stronger neck muscles increase stability and control allowing your body to transmit force more efficiently, wherever it’s being applied.

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 In the past I used a basic neck series* consisting of shrugs, combined with four way neck movements. Currently I use and recommend the Concussion Prevention Protocol* based on the work of Ralph Cornwall Jr. Ph.D. (Exercise Physiologist -Researcher).

These days we know that strength training is not just important, but it is the most important exercise one can participate in. It offers numerous benefits both physical and psychological, and when implemented intelligently takes very little time to see and feel these amazing improvements.

In my personal opinion most regular folks can and will benefit from adding a brief, intense, and effective neck strengthening routine to their current strength training program. Training the neck is not difficult to do and because most folks necks have rarely experienced any exposure to strength training, these muscles tend to respond rather quickly to a training stimulus. An effective neck training program will only add about 8 - 15 minutes to your program (depending on which protocol you implement) and their are a variety of tools and methods that are readily available to you to accomplish this goal. Below are links that will lead you to examples of several of the methods and or tools available for neck strengthening.

There are many ways to train the neck:

1. Manual Resistance
2. 
Neck Harness
3. 
Dedicated machine
4. Resistance Bands / Cables
5.
Physio-Ball

*My basic neck routine looks like this:

Neck & Trap Exercise Sequence

1. Neck Flexion – 12 reps (60 seconds TUT)

2. Neck Extension – 12 reps (60 seconds TUT)

3. Lateral Flexion Right – 12 reps (60 seconds TUT)

4. Lateral Flexion Left – 12 reps (60 seconds TUT)

5. Shrugs – 12 reps (60 seconds TUT) Seated or Standing (can be performed with dumbbells, barbell, resistance bands, or Smith Machine etc.)

If you are lucky enough to have access to a dedicated neck training machine, I recommend that you give it a try. If your facility does not have such a device, take the time to learn and apply one or more of the other methods described above. Regular neck training may help improve posture, lesson headaches and also help protect you in the case of an unexpected slip, fall or other collision.

If you are already doing some form of neck training and are happy with the results, keep up the good work. If you are looking for a quick and easy way to strengthen your neck, but don't have access to any specific neck training equipment, give the following routine a try.

Neck Routine: Begin with one set of Shrugs with enough weight to fatigue within 60 seconds. Do one set of 60 seconds pushing head into a small stability ball in all four directions. Finish with a final 60 second set of shrugs. Alternate methods not shown include but are not limited to, using a neck harness attached to cables or resistance bands, as well as manual resistance either solo or using a partner.

You’ve got eight minutes, so get to it!

TAKU

TAKU’s NOTE: This week we are lucky enough to have Mark Asanovich as our podcast guest. Check out our current episode to learn all about why everyone may benefit from Head & Neck training.

3 phases to strength development:

There are 3 phases to an athletes’ strength development:

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Phase # 1- This is the stimulation phase. It is necessary for the athlete to perform exercises that are challenging. We recommend training to voltional fatigue (sometimes referred to as momentary muscular failure) in order to trigger the strength and growth mechanism. Once strength and growth are triggered through proper stimulation, it cannot be triggered anymore for that training session.

 Phase # 2- This is the Recovery phase. Recovery is necessary after stimulation has occurred. Recovery should be as short as possible. In order to keep the recovery short, the athlete must train with the least amount of sets possible preferably one set per exercise after the athlete learns to train intensely and is at the appropriate level. This will make the program more efficient.

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 Phase # 3- This is the growth phase. This phase will begin after the recovery phase is complete. Growth and strength will occur at the same time. On a proper set / rep scheme, a larger muscle is a stronger muscle. It is important to keep the growth phase as long as possible. In order to do this an athlete should train each body part less often. Strength and growth will follow recovery if during the training session you progressed in strength, either by performing more reps in an exercise than the previous workout or by lifting more weight in an exercise than the previous time you performed a set of that particular exercise.

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T.N.T. Fitness maintains that an athlete should have more days off than training days. This will ensure a longer growth phase. If an athlete trains again before the recovery phase ends, it will put them back into recovery again and if this repeats many times, the strength and growth phase will never occur and the athlete will be in an over-trained state that could take time to get out of.

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Productive training means doing enough to get all 3 phases working properly. Efficient training will occur by spending less time training. Coaches need to take all these phases into account for each athlete. Each athlete will eventually be on his or her own individual program. This takes work but is well worth it.

TAKU

Ten Things we know about STRENGTH TRAINING

This week’s podcast features an age old debate: MACHINES VS FREE WEIGHTS. Check below for 10 things we know after years and years of experience...

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1. For muscle to grow and become stronger, it must be exposed to an overload stress. INTENSITY of effort is the key.

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2. Muscle will adapt to the stress if given enough time to recover. Adequate RECOVERY time between workouts is the key.

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3. For further adaptation (improvement), greater overload stresses must be applied. PROGRESSION of overload is the key.

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4. To improve further, or maintain current ability, the overload stress must occur regularly. CONSISTENCY in training is the key.

5. Creating high tension in the muscle fibers and working to momentary muscular failure involves the greatest amount of relative muscle tissue. Effort (working to fatigue) and using good form (controlled movement with no bouncing or jerking) are important here. If in doubt, slow it down and aim for maximum repetitions (safely).

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6. Muscle overload can be applied with a variety of tools: barbells, dumbbells, machines, manually applied resistance, body weight, sand bags, etc. Anything that can create high tension in the muscles can be used.

7. A variety of exercise prescriptions can be used provided muscle overload occurs, such as heavy resistances / few repetitions, lighter resistances / more repetitions, minimal exercise bouts (i.e., 1 to 3 sets per muscle group) and / or varied rest time between sets and exercises (i.e., 30 seconds to 3:00+).

8. No matter the speed of movement used, muscle fibers are recruited in a fixed order: slow twitch / type 1 --> intermediate / type 2 --> fast twitch / type 2A --> fast twitch / type 2B & 2C. Generally speaking, if the demand is low, the slow/type 1 fibers are called upon. As the demand for EFFORT increases, the higher threshold, fast / type 2 fibers are called upon.

9. There is no skill transfer from a weight room exercise to a totally different athletic skill done in competition. The principle of specificity clearly states that for a positive transfer to occur, exactness in a number of factors must be present. The fact is, no weight room exercise exactly replicates any sport skill (other than the sports of weightlifting and power lifting). That is why one should practice his / her sport skills separately, then generally improve total-body weight room strength.

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10. Although anyone can alter their strength, muscle size and body composition via strength training, their genetic endowment effects the magnitude of potential gains in the weight room. Those blessed with a high percentage of the slow / type 1 muscle fibers may not develop large muscles or great strength. Likewise, those who more easily get bigger and super-strong most likely possess a greater volume of the larger, more powerful type 2 fibers. Also, longer arms / legs and unfavorable muscle origins and insertions hinder great strength demonstration. Ultra-strong humans – male or female – usually have exceptional body leverages to allow for this.

TAKU’s NOTE: The Machine Vs Free Weight argument is likely to rage on for many years to come. There is a lot of great information out there, but always more research to be done. Both methods of resistance training, provide significant benefits if performed appropriately. Any difference in strength improvement is mainly associated to a difference in the intensity adopted during the training.

At T.N.T. we feel the ideal solution is to learn to use as many tools as possible. No specific modality of workout has  demonstrated absolute overall superiority: free weights, elastic bands, and resistance machines should be considered complementary methods of training, since each of them have specific benefits.