Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you part 4 of this epic terminological journey!
In this edition we will be wandering into the realms of the following terms:
Hypertrophy, Progressive Overload, Overtraining, Burpees, Plank, fast and slow twitch muscle, goblet exercises, lateral exercises, singles/doubles/triples, 1RM, energy systems, sumo stance, close grip, interval training, tabata, pyramid training, drop sets, functional training, DOMS.
This is the increase in muscle size seen when you train. Start a training programme from doing absolutely nothing and you’ll see hypertrophy. It’s what bodybuilders train for, and it’s what you see as a by-product of training for such things as rugby, gymnastics and diving among many others.
There are two main types of hypertrophy or muscle growth:
Myofibrillar and Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is where the muscle sarcomere itself expands in size giving the muscle a larger surface area but retaining the same number of fibres whereas in myofibrillar hypertrophy it is an increase in the number of muscle myofibrills in the muscle. You don’t actually need to worry about this at all.
If you are a bodybuilder or just want to get stronger then hypertrophy is going to be of primary interest. It will result in your muscles having a greater cross-sectional area which has been shown to be highly correlated with strength.
So what is the best way to produce hypertrophy?
- Regardless of the rep ranges you are using you should be actively increasing the weight you lift in each individual rep, set, work out, week, month and year (progressive overload.) Often, especially if you are above beginner status it doesn’t happen in a linear fashion. You will have bad or weak work outs, but that’s fine. We all have them. You probably just didn’t get enough sleep or drink enough water. If you’ve been lifting the same weight for months and are well and truly in your comfort zone then it is time to work a bit harder!
- Train the muscles from various angles and use different exercises periodically (not necessarily changing all your exercises, after all there may be some you have to keep in for your sport) or play around with exercises by changing how long each repetition takes (the longer each repetition takes the more muscle damage it will create and the harder it will be)
- Use a range of motion that actually targets the muscles you want to grow. If the lift looks like shit and you barely moved it doesn’t count. Get a lighter weight, do the exercise properly and make some gains instead of feeling happy at just how much weight you can bench press 2 inches up and down on the smith machine
- Control the negative phase of the lift for a couple of seconds and perform the concentric phase as fast as yo’ ass can move. This puts the most force through the muscle fibre and hopefully will drive some optimal levels of hypertrophy
This means working progressively harder over time. This could mean gradually lifting more weight, doing more reps, having less recovery time between sets, running further, running faster and about a million other examples. Progressive overload over time is paramount if you plan on keeping achieving greater performance in the gym.
At first you’ll be able to make load’sa gains. You’ll probably hit a PB week for the first 6 months of training. Eventually these results slow right down. GODDAMN DIMINISHING RETURNS!!!!!!!!!!!!
So if you’ve been walking on a treadmill in exactly the same way as 6 months ago and you are wondering why you don’t feel any different I’d suggest you try to make your sessions more difficult and repeat once this higher level becomes easy you just repeat the process until you have hopefully achieved the level of fitness you want. Increase the speed you are walking and bring it back down every other minute at first or throw in a set of 20 bodyweight squats every 5 minutes or something. Doing the same thing in exactly the same way month upon month kills progress.
Overtraining or Overtraining Syndrome
Overtraining is where you train too much over a long period of time causing a number of negative impacts upon your health one of which being decreased performance. Some of the things associated with overtraining syndrome are:
- Decreased performance
- A loss of all motivation to train
- High amounts of fatigue and ‘heavy legs’ (going upstairs would feel like you were climbing a mountain, not just regular DOMS from the leg day you skipped for the last 4 weeks fellas)
- Changes in multiple body systems including the neurological, immunolgical and endocrinal systems- in short you will feel like shit.
A less severe type of overtraining is called overeaching and is expected when you are an advanced athlete or when you are training a lot. Training to be elite takes it’s tole as you have to do more work for less improvements. Many programs specifically send athletes into what would be called overreaching to provide variety to the training stimulus and is easily recovered from in a few days. Matt Perryman in his book Squat Everyday postulates that you can train through these phases to a certain degree to make your body adapt and that the body can handle a lot more than many people realise if you plan correctly and use your mental energy sparingly. I’m currently squatting near maximum everyday…I am still alive so I will keep you informed as to what I think of this!
UPDATE: I’ve been squatting pretty much every day for a month now and my personal best in the squat has gone up by 7.5kg. I was stuck at around 175kg for roughly 3 years until I began squatting all the time. Interestingly my bench press press maximum has increased by 5kg’s this month after been stuck at 127.5 for what seems like forever (roughly 2 years.)
Overtraining happens when you are one of those people who worry about everything, you don’t sleep very well, you have terrible relationships, have a high stress job (you might be depressed or anxious too) and then you do excessive training, and probably have to resort to devouring caffeine by the gallon in an attempt to feel normal and up for moving around let alone exercising regularly.
I believe I’ve seen one person who genuinely was overtrained, overstressed and over fatigued. She didn’t have the energy to crack a smile let alone a set of squats. You’ll know overtraining when you see or feel it. So if someone tells you they are overtrained they are probably full of it and just a bit tired. Tell them to stop moaning and to have a few days off going crazy in the gym.
Ah the burpee, possibly the most hated exercise known to man apart from kipping pull-ups (otherwise known as swinging around from a bar like a tosser.)
Unlike the kipping pull-up they work incredibly well at conditioning the body when used correctly.
The burpee is one of the simplest and effective strength and conditioning whole body exercises.
According to Wikipedia the burpee was named after an American Physiologist called Dr. Royal H. Burpee. Well Mr. Royal, you are off all of our collective Christmas card lists. You won’t even get a Christmas email, or a facebook message on your birthday for creating this monster of an exercise.
The burpee is a four count exercise.
1 From standing go into a squat position wiuth your hands touching the floor just in front of your fett
2 Immediately jump your feet back until your bodyweight is equally distributed between your hands and your feet.
3 Immediately bring your feet back into the squat position
4 From this low squat position jump up high into what is called triple extension or just to a standing position
In terms of how to program the burpee into your workouts I’d suggest putting them towards the end of your sessions, possibly as a brutal finisher. Perhaps seeing how many you can do in a certain amount of time (like a minute or five ;)) or do them tabata style or interval style. You could place them in a circuit or as an exercise in and of themselves. If you want a real challenge perform them wearing a weighted vest or do them single-legged for time…this isn’t easy!
Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fibres
You have two types of muscle fibres within the muscle with different subtypes within the two but for the sake of simplicity we are just going to cover type I and type II and leave the smooth muscle of the organs alone. Each individual muscle has a different percentage of fast and slow fibres and are subject to voluntary contractions i.e you can choose to use a particular muscle by moving a certain way. Some muscles like the soleus of the lower leg contain a relatively high percentage of slow twitch fibres whereas muscles like the triceps contain a relatively higher percentage of fast-twitch muscles cells. This can have implications for when you are choosing the amount of repetitions you are going to with a particular exercise.
The word ‘twitch’ is used because of how quickly the individual cell can twitch.
Type I and II fibres have different characteristics as laid out in the following table from Wikipedia:
|Properties||Type I fibers||Type IIA fibers||Type IIX fibers|
|Motor Unit Type||Slow Oxidative (SO)||Fast Oxidative/Glycolytic (FOG)||Fast Glycolytic (FG)|
|Resistance to fatigue||High||High||Low|
|Oxidative Enzyme Capacity||High||Intermediate-high||Low|
|Alkaline ATPase Activity||Low||High||High|
|Acidic ATPase Activity||High||Medium-high||Low|
Type I fibres produce energy by utilising oxygen to break down a compound called ATP (adenotriphosphate) releasing energy to ultimately cause movement. The contractions aren’t as strong as seen in the type II fibres, however they have an endurance capacity that smashes the other fibre types out of the water (apart from smooth and cardiac muscle.) So, if you have a high amount of slow twitch type 1 fibres you will be better at endurance events and if you have a relatively larger amount of fast twitch type II fibres then you are more likely to be better at strength events such as powerlifting or Olympic lifting.
Long Distance Runners have the highest percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibres in the athletic population
Powerlifters and Olympic Lifters have a large percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibres due to the low number of repetitions and high amounts of weight used in competition
So you have been blessed with a muscle fibre composition that isn’t ideal for your chosen sport…is there anything you can do about it?
Can you change your muscle fibres to perform better?
Let’s see what the literature says:
“Today, it is generally accepted that exercise training can promote changes within the population of fast-twitch fibers (i.e., type IIb to IIa) and to a lesser extent changes from fast- to slow-twitch fibers.”
There is also something called the SAID principle which stands for ‘Specific Adaptations to the Imposed Demands.’ This means that when you put your body through stress it tries to adapt to it and therefore be better at the task in future.
From the literature I have seen and the adaptations I have seen over the years of playing different sports at numerous levels I think that muscle fibres have a moderate degree of plasticity. You don’t have to worry about changing your fibre types directly anyway. Train for your sport properly and the adaptations will take care of themselves whether the fibres themselves are changing or not. If you are training and eating correctly it is then your genetics that will determine how far you can go (to a point.)
Insert pics of goblet squats, maybe a youtube video or something
I enjoy goblet exercises.
They make me move better.
The idea is that you hold an piece of equipment (usually a dumbbell or a kettlebell, but I guess you could use others) as if you are holding a huge drinking goblet at your chest to drink from.
It’s an excellent way to add resistance to exercises like the squat or lunges (any variation) and can be used as a great tool to help people ‘stay tall’ in certain movements. Taught properly, goblet exercises can improve upper back strength and muscle size, can carry over well to other exercises, can strengthen the lower back and can provide a new exercise stimulus and variation if you are sick of holding weights by your sides or across your shoulders in the form of a barbell. Goblet squats are an excellent way to reinforce good movement patterns in the squat without having to use very heavy weights
“I DON’T WANT TO DO HEAVY BACK SQUATS TODAY!!!”- Anonymous crying girl
Lateral means “of, at, to or from the sides” if you search for it on Google. So if you are looking at a person doing a lateral exercise face to face they would be moving something from side to side. Great examples of lateral exercises are side-bends, lateral raises, lateral or side lunges and many many more. I like to try and include a lateral exercise in each session as it is often a type of movement that is overlooked, particularly when it comes to leg training.
Side to side lunges are common in my sessions with barbells and holding kettlebells and occasionally I might drop in the occasional HEAVY side bends. The side-bend is such an abused exercise, it’s done wrong all the time and when people do it they tend stick at the same weight and reps forever…. and produce movements that ae just no benefit whatsoever.
If you really want to challenge the side-bend movement then try doing it with a barbell!
Singles/ Doubles and Triples
You might see these preceded by the word ‘heavy’ fairly often when reading through different training protocols, particularly in the Powerlifting or Strongman realms. A heavy single would normally involve doing a compound exercise for one repetition as seen in Powerlifting competitions, a double is exactly the same thing but done for 2 reps and a triple is (as you’ve probably guessed) an exercise done for 3 reps in a set.
Heavy strength training like this would be done at the beginning of your workout where you have the most energy, focus and strength.
1RM or One Rep Max
1RM simply means the most weight you can lift for one repetition in a particular exercise, this can be worked out fairly accurately by some sums (insert them into the article) by lifting a weight for 10 reps for example, or it can be a weight that you have actually lifted. You often find programs where the weight you are supposed to lift is based on your 1RM, so you might have to do sets with 50,60 or 75% of your 1RM for instance. These are usually compound lifts as you will very rarely do a 1 rep max attempt on something like a machine bicep curl unless you’re participating in a study or training wrong/ messing about.
When testing your one rep max be sure to have someone at least in the near vicinity who can phone an ambulance if the lift goes awry/ you go too heavy too soon!
Testing one rep maxes every week is absolutely fine until a certain point where it can take too much out of you. Until that point though, test them as often as you like as long as that form is bang on. If the lift looks like shit it doesn’t count!
First and foremost I have to say that this breaking muscle article had a huge influence on this section of this post.
We may be here a while with this one!
When training, researching training or even when you are training clients as a Personal Trainer you are going to hear people talking about training different energy systems and the different energy systems within the body that ultimately produce performance.
I guess the first thing to note is that although the different energy systems have different names they are all actually part of a sliding energy system continuum for utilizing the molecule called ATP that turns on whenever you do anything where (depending on what you are doing) the different energy systems ‘turn up/down’ to match the needs of your activity.
So what are the different energy systems?
A 1rm squat would use the ATP-PC energy system which is anaerobic (doesn’t use oxygen) energy pathway. The CP part stands for creatine phosphate.
In this energy pathway ATP is broken down into ADP + P. The creatine phosphate reacts with the ADP to reform or resynthesize ATP again and thus create more muscle contractions/ force production.
This is why the supplement creatine monohydrate works. If you want improved performance and you aren’t on creatine do some research and certainly consider it as an option.
The next energy system is somewhat more complicated…
Called glycolysis, this is the system that kicks into gear once the ATP-PC system has run it’s course.
Essentially your body uses glycogen stored in the liver and liver or from glucose circulating in the blood to create ATP for energy. This glycogen comes from carbohydrates.
After this initial 12 seconds of maximum power you can then produce highly intense activity up to the 30 seconds mark, causing the production of lactic acid. This is referred to as “fast” glycolysis.
Putting in maximum effort up to 50 seconds will result in another drop of power (it’s impossible to maintain the same power output at this point.)
The body then begins to rely on the oxidative energy systems beginning with “slow” glycolysis.
Slow glycolysis differs from fast glcolysis because the pyruvic acid created is converted into acA or Acetyl Coenzyme A which enters something called the krebs cycle which produces more ATP for movement but results in more sustainable but less powerful movements and extreme fatigue is prevented.
Once the athlete has exhausted this system we enter the unfamiliar (to me) world of long duration low intensity efforts (such as a 5km run for example.)
This is called the oxidative system and produces around 10 calories of energy per minute.
As stated in the breaking muscle article that I have already referenced throughout, when power demand is low but high duration is demanded ATP can be produced in 3 ways:
- Krebs cycle
- Electron Transport Chain
- Beta Oxidation
In the Krebs cycle Acetyl Coenzyme-A or acA (we meet again!) produced during glycolysis is further broken down into carbon dioxide and hydrogen and via the complex art of witchcraft 2 more ATP molecules are created.
The hydrogen created by the krebs cycle poses a bit of a problem for sustained performance because if left unchecked this hydrogen would make the muscles too acidic to maintain performance so the body responds with a couple of enzymes to bond with the hydrogen.
This hydrogen is then sent through the electron transport chain where it reacts with water (via a host of other chemical reactions) and the acidity is prevented.
The krebs cycle and electron transport chain both use stored fat (triglycerides) and carbohydrates (glucose) to produce ATP. The use of fat for energy is called lipolysis. To ‘get into’ the krebs cycle and the electron transport chain these fats need to go through beta oxidation to break them down into acA and hydrogen where they can be used in the krebs cycle to create ATP for the sustained effort we need.
The oxidative system operates virtually alone during complete rest and very low-intensity activities and because it uses stored fat as a source of fuel it means that the stores of energy are virtually inexhaustible.
Bottom line: For short duration high power activities, carbs are used for fuel, for long duration marathon type events the body turns to fat as it’s ultimate source of ATP.
This is normally in reference to either squats or deadlifts and involves placing your legs wider (sometimes much wider) than the shoulders.
Sumo stances are used by a lot of powerlifters and athletes concerned with moving the most amount of weight. It tends to help with this due to shortening the range of motion as opposed to a regular stance with your feet around shoulder width apart. It may also be used to target the adductors of the legs if for example they need strengthening or increasing in flexibility.
Which stance should you be using?
Experiment and see.
I pull deadlifts from a conventional stance and I have a fairly narrow stance for squats. I’m not sure why, but I just can’t generate the same pulling or pushing power when in sumo stance during the deadlift and squat (despite the shortened range of motion.) During squatting the wide stance just doesn’t feel as strong for me and when you have a great big(ish) weight on your back feeling strong is essential. It might just be something I need to work on.
This usually applies to bench press or pull-ups/ lat pulldowns among others. It can mean your hands are just closer together than normal or that your hands are either touching in the middle or just a few inches apart.
If you ever see me bench pressing I’m pretty much guaranteed to be using what most people would call a close-grip. I seem to be a lot stronger despite the increased range of motion. I believe this is because I am tricep dominant (massive (for a natty) triceps, tiny chest) and the triceps come into play a lot more when the grip is ‘closer in.’
Have a play with close-grip stuff and see what works for you.
Interval Training or HIIT (high intensity interval training)
Wikipedia defines interval training as follows:
“Interval training is a type of discontinuous physical training that involves a series of low- to high-intensity exercise workouts interspersed with rest or relief periods. The high-intensity periods are typically at or close to anaerobic exercise, while the recovery periods involve activity of lower intensity.”
There are many different versions of interval training. You can use any equipment or specific exercise for intervals. My favorite has always been the bike (most of the time I hate running you see) where I either do 1 minute slow pedalling followed by 30 seconds ‘as fast as I can’ for a set number of rounds. I use inverted commas because actually going ‘as fast as you can’ can be different day to day and throughout the workout.
Does interval training ‘work’?
Here’s a study that says they do if you want to decrease health-related risk factors:
Intervals are also very good at increasing an athletes lactate threshold, which means you can ultimately do more without the production of lactic acid limiting performance.
This and other studies has led people (including me at one point) to completely abandon lower intensity stuff in favor of just interval training. Which is ridiculous. A bit or even a lot of long or medium duration activity isn’t going to make your muscles fall off if it is planned correctly. Another thing with intervals is that they are BLOODY PAINFUL. There are days when I want screaming agony throughout my body (because you know that’s normal…) and there are other days (or years) where I’m happy with the amount of pain that lifting weights causes without inflicting more on myself through the medium of interval training.
I’ve found that interval training is more effective when stress levels are low in the rest of your life. When stress is high and you’re already training a lot it can be very easy to show symptoms of overtraining if you do lot’s of interval stuff.
It is all down to planning and what your goals are. If a high lactate threshold is your goal then you may need to do some interval training or if low body fat is your target then generations of bodybuilders can attest to the effectiveness of low-intensity ‘cardio.’ I like a mixture of both to be honest. I don’t need a particularly high lactate threshold for powerlifting so if I do cardio at the moment (which I don’t) then it’s steady stuff.
When I’m bodybuilding I like to do the odd interval session to raise the point where lactic acid starts to inhibit performance therefore in theory I can lift more weight for more reps which should mean I should build more muscle. Fingers crossed.
So an interval session might look like this:
2-4 mins steady cycling
30 secs pedalling as fast as possible
1 min recovery cycle (letting your legs spin at their on pace)
repeat 8 times.
You can alter intervals, rest periods and many other things with interval training. Enjoy!
Tabata Training is a popular and well known form of interval training. It is horrendous when done properly. If you aren’t a mess on the floor after tabata training then you haven’t done it correctly.
You have been warned.
Essentially Tabata is where you pick an exercise. You do this exercise AS HARD AND FAST AS YOU CAN for 20 seconds and then you rest for 10 seconds. This process takes 30 seconds.
You repeat this 30 seconds cycle 8 times to create a horrible and cataclysmic barrage of blood, sweat and tears. That may be my favorite sentence I’ve ever written by the way.
Where does tabata come from?
According to tabatatraining.com:
The Tabata method is often accredited to Izumu Tabata, however this is not entirely true. Although the original method was published by Izumu Tabata in a peer reviewed journal (see the reference at the end of the page) the idea was originally pioneered by the head coach for the Japanese Olympic speed skating team, Irisawa Koichi.
Irisawa Koichi was the head coach of the Japanese Speed Skating team in the 1990s and was using an unusual training technique of short bursts with even shorter rest periods. It is reported that this method not only increased short term explosive strength but also long term endurance. Izumu Tabata, a coach under Koichi, was asked to analyse his rotation of short burst with maximum effort followed by a short rest. So if we are to be rigorously correct we should call it the Koichi method (pronounced as – k oh EE ch ee) although I am not sure this will take off.
The Tabata method is named after the coach who measured the effectiveness of the training method devised by Irisawa Koichi. He was a researcher at the National Institute for Health and Nutrition and is currently a professor in the Faculty of Sport and Health Science at Ritsumeikan University in Japan. His research page can be found here. According to his papers this technique has a “very fast increase in VO2 max”.
The Tabata method paper was published in 1996 in the journal “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.” entitled, “Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity Intermittent Training on Anaerobic Capacity and VO2max.” (see below for the full reference).
The High Intensity work phase for the Tabata protocol was originally performed at approximately 170% of VO2 Max. The VO2 max is a measure of the maximum capacity of your body to transport and use oxygen during a period of exertion or work. In simple terms this is an extreme intensity workout, you are working at close to your maximum heart rate. According to Dr Tabata the session should be
“…An all out effort at 170% of your VO2 max. If you feel ok after the session you have not done it right! The first three sessions should be easy and the last two should feel impossibly hard…”
When this was repeated over a period of six weeks, four times a week, the athletes saw a 28% increase in their anaerobic capacity and 15% increase in their VO2 max which is considered a good measure of cardiovascular fitness. The control group performed a steady state cardiovascular workout lasting one hour, five times a week. Their VO2 max scores increased by just 10% and their routine had no significant effect on their anaerobic capacity. Over the six week period the Tabata group recorded 120 minutes of training compared with the control gourp that recorded 1,800 minutes!”
Pyramid training is quite varied and I know of a few different versions. I’m just going to cover standard pyramids today.
Generally this is an intermediate to advanced training strategy as it involves progressively heavier weights and using a calculation from your one rep max in a particular exercise.
In a standard pyramid you start with 60% of your max weight for 8 reps.
After a rest you increase the weight by 10% (so 70% 1RM) and reduce the reps by 2.
Add 10% again and reduce the reps.
Repeat the process until you are doing 90% of your 1RM for 2 reps.
You can guarantee that those last 2 reps will feel revoltingly difficult. If you’ve been stuck at a particular weight for a while you might want to give this a go for a session or two!
You can make this effort akin to one of the 7 feats of Hercules by making it into a double pyramid by repeating all your pryamid sets in reverse order.
It is a mean mean MEAN methodology. I don’t use it too often but I might have to include it in my plan as a ‘tester’ work out.
I’ll let you know when I next do one of these horrible pyramids!
First of all. Done right THESE HURT. There are a number of ways to do these but the one constant factor is that the weight you are lifting drops with as little rest as possible between lifts. Sometimes the reps increase with each drop in weight, sometimes it is for as many reps as possible and with others the reps may stay the same.
If you are a crazy person you might try these with squats.
Let’s say you can squat 100kg relatively easily for 10 reps. You’d place the weight on the bar in 10kg plates (4 each side in total)
- Squat 100kg for 10 reps (or AMRAP)
- Strip 10kg off each side
- Squat 80kg AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
- Strip 10kg off each side
- Squat 60kg for as many reps as possible
- Strip 10kg off each side
- Squat 40kg AMRAP
- Strip 10kg from each side
- Squat the bar AMRAP
- Fall in a heap and recover
Use these periodically. I use them for 1-3 compound lifts per month when powerlifting and a little more regularly when bodybuilding. I used to do them for leg extensions and leg curls. Have fun with those!
These are excellent if you want to make your training more intense. They will mess you up. I promise. You don’t want to do them all the time if you want to function at all in life outside of the gym.
Functional Training means different things to different people. To me it means that you train in a way that improves how you function in every day life and how you function in any sporting events you may take part in. People don’t think bicep curl is functional…but for a competitive bodybuilder who needs massive biceps they definitely serve a purpose. But for the elderly lady who just wants to be able to stand up out of her chair and be able to twist to pick something up without getting injured I would argue that the bicep curl serves no purpose whatsoever. If you had said lady doing a squat with a slight forward lean or trained rotationally in some way you would be training her to be more functional in her life. Functional Training should essentially help you to move better throughout your life or improve your performance in sport whilst lowering the chances of you getting injured.
Functional training doesn’t necessarily involve standing on one leg with your eyes closed on a bosu ball while swinging a kettlebell. If you could do this I would be impressed though.
This stands for DELAYED ONSET MUSCLE SORENESS. This is the name for the soreness you feel the day after or maybe 2 days after exercise. It tends to disappear after no more than 3 days and is normally the worst when you are starting out with an exercise program for the first time or performing movements that you are not used to. DOMS are the reason most people hate me in the first couple of weeks of their training.
This concludes my overly long terminology series (for now.) It should have been split into 768.5 parts but I’ve stuck with 4. If you’ve made it this far you are a better man than me.
If you’d like any terms defining just drop a comment below and I’ll make it into a little article.
Go lift some weights 🙂