total body sculpture

Hang Tough: Perfecting Your Pull Ups (& Chin Ups) Part 1

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Pull ups & chin ups are 2 great bodyweight exercises that can be performed almost anywhere, with minimal equipment. Hitting a variety of muscles including the traps, lats, biceps and delts, pull ups & chin ups should be incorporated in to any strength & muscleImage building programme. In fact, there is no better exercise for building strength in the upper body. There are significant differences between the two exercises and this guide will illustrate not only the differences between the chin up & pull up, but also how to perform them correctly, even if at the moment you can’t even perform 1!

So what is a pull up? Grab a bar and hang from it. Now, pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. That’s it! If you use an overhand grip (palms facing away from you), you’re performing a pull up. If you’re using an underhand grip (palms facing you), you’re performing a chin up. It’s as simple as that!  Of course you can make the exercises harder or easier depending on your level of strength, but both the pull up & chin up are still great exercises in this basic form.As we stated earlier, they are exercises that can be performed almost anywhere that you can hang from.

The full pull up technique can be broken down into 7 key points.

1. Start each rep from a ‘dead hang’, with the arms extended fully.

2. Using an overhand grip, take the bar close to the fingers not the palm.

3. Breathe at the bottom of the movement as this is much easier than trying to breathe at the top.

4. Focus on a point above the bar & pull up towards the bar, pushing the chest out and shoulders back. Don’t allow the shoulders to pull forward as this places unnecessary stressImage on them.

5. On the drive, pull your elbows towards the floor. This engages the stronger latissimus dorsi muscles.

6. Bend at your ankles behind you, this is a much stronger position than just having the legs hang below you.

7. Using your legs to aid in the drive is known as ‘kipping’. Only incorporate this when you are tired.

START OFF ASSISTED

The hardest part of the pull up is the actual pulling up portion. Only around 1% of women can perform unassisted pull ups. If you have a training partner, have them assist you in the lifting portion of the exercise by providing a platform for your ankles to push against or by aiding you at the hips. If you have suitable equipment, tie an elasticated band to the bar and hook it underneath where your ankles are crossed, again to provide some assistance on the lifting portion. Click HERE for an example on how to do this!

If you have one available, utilise the ‘Assisted Pull Up Machine’. This machine works by using a counter-balance, which reduces the amount of your bodyweight that you are forced to lift. The greater the amount of weight selected, the less bodyweight you are pulling up to the bar. This is a good machine for those with very little upper body strength, however as you are unable to control the decent or ‘negative’ portion of the exercise, progress can be slow. Therefore, it is much better to use assistance from a partner instead of this machine.

IT’S GOOD TO BE NEGATIVE

The lowering portion of the pull up or ‘the negative’ is a controlled decent from the bar to the arms fully extended & because you are working with gravity instead of against it, it is an easier part to perform for the beginner. Performing ‘negative only’ repetitions is a great way to build up the strength on route to performing your first full rep. This can be achieved in a couple of ways.

1. Using a Team Mate – As we stated above, have a partner aid you in the lifting portion & slowly lower yourself back down

Image2. Step Up To Achieve – Place a step or bench beneath the bar & jump up into the top of the movmenet before again slowly lowering yourself back down.

3. Challenge Your Negative – Some people may get to a point of being able to perform multiple negative reps, without being able to do a full pull up. Adding some extra weight using a dipping belt or a small dumbbell.

Chin ups are an easier exercise to perform than pull ups, so utilise the above methods using the chin up technique. However, try to use both methods as they do utilise slightly different areas of the body.

Once you can perform 10-15 full repetitions, adding resistance in the form of a dipping belt with added weight, or a dumbbell held between the knees will keep the exercise challenging.

In Part 2 of the ‘Hang Tough’, we will look at more challenging versions of the movement, including ‘muscle ups, ‘side-to-sides’ and asymmetric chins!

Pressing Ahead: Military Style

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The press is another of those exercises that can be used to develop strength and musculature in a variety of muscles. Along with the bench press, the shoulder press should be part of any training programme geared towards increasing strength in the upper body.
The type of form adopted for the shoulder press can be varied with the use of both barbell and dumbbells each bringing their own strengths and weaknesses. Here we will concentrate on the standing shoulder press, or ‘Military Shoulder Press’, although I will also touch upon the alternatives later.Image

The military shoulder press is predominantly a shoulder exercise, hitting all 3 of the shoulder heads (the clue is in the name!) However when performed correctly, with optimal weight, the military press also hits the traps, triceps and ‘core’ muscles.
When teaching the correct form of the military press, my preference is to use an empty Olympic barbell. If an Olympic barbell provides too much resistance, simply use a broom handle or similar lightweight pole until the correct form is mastered. Using too much weight at an early stage can cause technique errors to manifest themselves and become habitual, which if left uncorrected, could cause less than optimal performance and injuries to occur.

The steps below will allow you to master this multi-muscle strength builder in no time! Ideally the bar should be set up at around chest height, similar to if we were using the bar for squats, however, this is not always possible. A training partner or spotter that can aid you in getting the bar in to position can be invaluable, especially when performing working sets.

1. The first step in the military press is the grip. Simple human mechanics dictate how and where to grip the barbell. Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width so that the forearms are in a vertical position. This allows the bones of the forearm to be placed directly below the bar, on the heel of the hand. Positioning the bar here is optimal for the early stages of the ‘drive’.Image

2. The position of the elbows is an important point to consider for the balance of the shoulder press. Elbows under or behind the bar can cause the barbell to be driven away from the body, making a less than efficient and therefore less than optimal movement. This can also place unwanted stress on the shallow shoulder joint. Ideally, we want the bar to be resting on the front heads of the shoulders, with elbows slightly ahead of the bar. This will allow the bar to be driven directly upwards to a point over the crown of the head, in-line with both the shoulder blades and the middle of the feet. Yes, this means the bar will move towards your forehead, but as you will see below, we move the forehead out of the way first!

3. The military press requires a firm base from which to drive from. Using a stance not too dissimilar to one that would be used to squat, we are able to provide a stable base of the ‘kinetic chain’. The kinetic chain is the various muscles and bones involved in the production and transmission of force between the base of support and the load being moved, in this case starting at the ground and ending at the bar. This is one reason why it is important that the correct footwear is used when performing barbell movements such as the press, deadlift and squat. The standing military press requires the longest kinetic chain of the human body and is therefore a great way of building stability whilst under load.

4. Once you have established a firm base, it is time to stabilise the upper back by lifting the upper chest or “showing off your boobs”. Imagine you are pushing your chest up towards your chin by contracting the upper erector spinae. This movement along with the correct positioning of the elbows lays the foundation of the pressing movement.

Image5. When you are ready, take a deep breath*, hold it and press the bar overhead until the elbows are locked out. The bar should finish positioned over the middle of the foot, the shoulder blades and behind the forehead, not infront. Once the bar is locked out at the top, shrug the shoulders up to support the bar, The arms and traps working together will support the bar overhead, particularly when using heavy weights. Locking the elbows out and shrugging the traps up with the bar directly over the ears, produces a stable position for the shoulder girdle muscles and prevents shoulder impingement.

6. In 1972 the standing shoulder press was dropped from Olympic weightlifting competition. One reason for this was the bench press was growing as a preferred choice as a pressing movement (a movement with a very short kinetic chain ironically). Another reason is the amount of ‘lean’ permitted by competition judges was just too varied. However, as we’re not under competition rules, ‘learning to lean’ is key to not driving the bar into our nose and forehead. As the bar is starting a few inches ahead of where it will finish, some lateral movement is needed as the bar moves vertically. Pushing the hips forward whilst the bar is resting on the shoulders helps us to achieve this. The knees and lower back must remain locked out during this movement, as the hips are the only part of the body required here. This movement can and should be practiced without the bar. Practice isometric contractions the abdominals and quadriceps to stabilise the lower back and knees whilst not using the bar. This can be invaluable when it comes to incorporating this technique to a weighted barbell.Image

7. The Military Shoulder Press does not use any momentum from the legs to assist the upper body in pressing the bar. Towards the end of a set, you may want to incorporate the ‘push press’ as the shoulders begin to fatigue. It is performed almost identically as the military press, with the addition of a small, explosive ‘push’ with the legs. This produces momentum from leg drive, which will allow you to push past the early sticking point brought on by fatigue. See Tip Box on how to incorporate this movement into the end of your sets.

8. Once you have practiced this motion and feel comfortable with its use whilst under a weighted bar, it is time to incorporate each element together. Take the bar out of the rack with the correct grip, elbows in the correct position, chest up and hips forward. Do not begin to drive the bar upwards before you have pushed the hips forward. Doing so will cause you to push the bar forward slightly to avoid hitting the face, instead of straight up which is what is desired. Once the barImage has passed the forehead, move the hips back and the torso forward to get under the bar, don’t move the bar backwards. The forward movement of the torso aids in the lockout of the elbows and traps, bringing the upper arm and forearm into alignment.

TOP TIP

Utilising the push press is a great way to finish of the set, especially as fatigue has kicked in. From the standard starting position (A), bend the knees slightly whilst maintaining your stable ‘core’ (B). Drive the hips upwards explosively. With this momentum, drive the bar upwards and continue to lockout as with the military press (C).

Deadlift 101.1

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Following on from the Squat technique article I posted last week, what could be better than a 2-part series on Deadlifts! There are very few exercises that stimulate multiple gImagerowth like the deadlift can. It is one of the main exercises used as a benchmark of overall strength, simple to execute and a big strength and mass builder when used correctly. Unfortunately, it is also one of the exercises I see performed incorrectly more time times than any other in the gym. On a number of occasions I have felt the need to intervene before a serious injury occurred.
Below, i’ve split this King Strength Builder into 8 easy to highlight steps, that will have you well on your way to perfecting your deadlift. The advise below is for the conventional Regular deadlift. Part 2 will look at the variations of the deadlift, which include the Sumo, Stiff-Legged & Rack Pull.

1. Stand with feet slightly narrower than shoulder width, with the bar over the middle of the feet. Note that I said feet, not trainers.  Feet can be angled out slightly. This will allow you to establish a better back angle.

2. Bend at the waist, keeping legs straight, gripping the bar with a tight overhand grip. A split grip of overhand & underhand can also be used.

Image3. Now bend the knees until the shins touch the bar. The bar should be over the middle of the feet, with shoulder blades directly above the bar. This should establish the correct back angle for the lift.

4.Taking a deep breath, take the tension of ther bar. Maintaining neutral alignment in the neck, lift the chest and pull your shoulder blades back and down, looking forward at a point roughly 15-18 feet infront of you. This will allow you to gauge your body position throughout the movement.

5. Pushing your heels through the floor, lift the chest, pulling the bar upwards in a smooth motion, maintaining its proximity to the body. Be ready to suffer some shin scraping.

6. Once the bar has passed the knee, drive the hips through & the chest forward as you pull the shoulders back. Some people may feel the benefit of using the latimus dorsi to pull the bar upwards towards the waist. Hyper extension of the hips is unnecessary, locking out is the aim. Try to maintain the deep breath as this will support the back and core.

7. The eccentric (lowering) part of the movement will be performed much quicker than the concentric part. Lower the bar by pushing the hips back and when the bar reaches the knee, start to bend the knees.
Don’t try to control the weight too much, just go down with it.

Nothing builds & shapes a great behind like the deadlift.

Nothing builds & shapes a great behind like the deadlift.

8. Keep the chest up and your focus forward as this will stop you from rounding the back & which is better for the back.

 

Hints & Tips

*TIP 1: When deadlifting, use flat soled shoes such as Converse Chuck Taylors, Adidas Boxing shoes or as a last resort, bare foot like Arnie. This will allow you the proper stability when pushing through the heels. Just don’t drop weights on bare feet. It hurts. A lot!

*TIP 2: Avoid using wrist straps where possible. Relying on wrist straps will not only take away the added grip strength benefits, but will also place stress on the wrists where the straps dig in. Use straps for big PB efforts.Image

*TIP 3: Need some added grip? Chalk up!
Climbing chalk or powerlifting chalk will reduce moisture on the skin, which is how calluses form. If your gym doesn’t allow the use of chalk, your gym sucks & you should trade up!

SQUAT 101: Step-by-step Guide to Perfecting Your Squat

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Along with the deadlift, the squat is one of the best compound exercises available to build strength and mass in an athlete. Unfortunately, just like the deadlift, it is an exercise performed incorrectly by so many gym goers.
I have seen personal trainers and fitness instructors not only perform the squat incorrectly, but also teach incorrect form to clients and gym members. This is both frustrating and dangerous.

The squat engages the core in much the same way as the deadlift does. The biomechanics of the body make the squat a very natural movement to perform.baby squat In fact many of us have the perfect form from a very, very young age.

The perfect squat balances the forces around the knee and hips. When you ask someone what muscles they are working, almost everyone will focus on the obvious leg muscles, particularly the quadriceps.
Of course the quads are stimulated during the squat, however on top of that the muscles of the lower back, the abdominals, the ribcage muscles (costals), upper back muscles such as the traps and rhomboids, glutes, hamstrings and even the shoulders and arms all take on some of the load when performing the squat.

The squat really is the only exercise available that allows direct training and progressive improvement of ‘hip-drive’. Hip-Drive is a complex movement that strengthens the muscles that make up the ‘Posterior Chain’, which include the muscles we mentioned above.

To perfect the correct technique of the squat, the movement should be introduced ‘without’ the bar. Problems that develop with technique tend to become exagerrated once the bar is introduced. For example, drop down into the squat position and with hands pressed together in a clap, elbows pushed into the inside the knees, push the knees out over the feet. This should form ther basis of your body position during the squat.

Below are 10 Steps to a Heavenly Squat!

THE SQUAT SET UP
1. Chest Up – Pushing the chest out & pulling the shoulders back will automatically create the platform for the bar. You can also tighten your upper-back better as a result.

2. Focal Point – By focusing upwards too much, the neck can become hyperextended, taking the spine out of neutral alignment. Looking upwards also inhibits the hips when driving from the bottom of the squat, leaving you weaker at the position where you need to be at your strongest. Focus on a point roughly 8-10 feet in front of you on the ground, not at the feet.

3. Bar Position – This is very much down to the individual & practice. Ideally, the bar needs to be low, below the bone at the top of your shoulder-blades and at the base of your traps – NOT ON YOUR SPINE! If the bar is too high, the back angle is increased vertically to allow the correct hip involvement.

4. Grip Width – A narrow grip makes it easier to tighten your upper-back, however this also comes down to shoulder flexibility too. I’ve trained plenty of people that just haven’t had the flexibility in the shoulder joint to go narrow. As long as long as the other areas are locked in, a wide grip is fine.
Wrist alignment – The correct grip keeps the hand (incl thumbs) above the bar and all of the weight of the bar on the back.

5. Tight Upper-back – Bring your shoulder-blades together. The elbows are lifted, causing the rear delts to contract. This creates a shelf in which the bar sits. Never should the bar be sitting on the top of the spine!

6. Foot Stance – Heels are shoulder-width apart, with feet angled outwards at around 35 degrees.

LOWERING THE BAR
7. Maintain Body Position – Taking a deep breath, which will help support the lower back, lower the hips, maintaining the arm, chest and neck angle.
The knees should train outwards over the feet, at the same angle. Don’t allow the knees to buckle inwards, this reduces the amount of quads available for the movement & points to weakness in the hamstrings.

8. Go Deep! – If the hips don’t go below the knee joint, it’s only a partial squat. If you can’t go deep, the weight is too heavy. Contrary to the thought that deep squats place extra stress on the knees & hips, it is partial squats that place higher tension on the knee joints. This is because you’re placing a shearing force on the knee, using more of the quads & not the stronger muscles of the posterior chain. If you walk away from a squat session with exhausted quads & your hamstrings and glutes haven’t done any work, your squat technique sucks!

RAISING THE BAR
9. The Bounce – People believe that the bounce at the bottom of the squat places stress on the knees. This is true. But only if the squat is not performed correctly! The bounce at the bottom causes lengthening of the hamstrings and adductors, causing a ‘stretch reflex’. The ‘Stretch Reflex’ causes the contraction of the hamstrings and glutes to be enhanced, which aids the hip drive. Obviously this bounce is controlled. Don’t just let gravity take the bar down & then try to fire it back up.

10. Maintain Body Position – As we mentioned in Step 7, push the knees outwards as you squat upwards. Lift with the hips, whilst maintaining the neutral alignment of the neck, chest up. Squeeze the glutes as you drive up. This will help drive up the bar, whilst also helping to protect the lower back.

If you have never squatted before, seek the instruction of a proper qualified Strength & Conditioning Coach.

squat-racking

Many personal trainers & fitness instructors out there are not suitably qualified to teach the art of the squat & as I said earlier, if bad habits are formed early, they will only be exasperated when the ba

r is heavier. It makes me wince when I see someone under a bar squatting & it is what can only be described as a full leg press, followed by a ‘Good Morning Lift’.

Of course there are further tips which will help someone further develop their squat, such as the Pad Test, Hip Pick Ups & Upper Back Bar Drive, but just like building a house, it’s important to build a solid foundation before you start building the patio & extension!

 

Fit-Chef Lasagne

Ingredients

lasagne

MEAT SAUCE

  • 500g Lean Turkey Mince
  • 1 large Onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped/crushed
  • 400g Can Chopped Tomatoes
  • 250g Mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 30ml Red Wine
  • 1 tbsp fresh Oregano, chopped
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Organic Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

WHITE SAUCE

  • 700ml Skimmed Milk
  • 1 thick slice of Onion
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 3 tbsp Corn Flour
  • Freshly grated Nutmeg

OTHER INGREDIENTS

  • 250g Wholemeal Lasagne Sheets
  • Coconut Oil
  • Organic Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper

Salad to accompany;

Spinach Leaves
Cherry Tomatoes (chopped)
Cucumber (sliced)
Gherkins (chopped)
Red/Green Peppers (chopped)

METHOD

*In a large frying pan heat the coconut oil, then gently cook the onion and garlic, making sure not to brown.

*Add the turkey mince and cook until the mince is no longer pink, spoon off any fat, but leave the juices.

*Add the tinned tomatoes, red wine, oregano, bay leaf and tomato puree.

*Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook gently for 20 minutes

*Add the mushrooms, cooking for a further 10 mins.

*In a separate pan pour all but 4 tbsp of the milk.

*Add the slice of onion & bay leaf and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

*Add the remaining milk to a large bowl and mix in the cornflour.

*After the infused milk has cooled for 15 minutes, strain it into the bowl with the cornflour and milk using a sieve.

*Return this to the pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring continuously, until thickened, season and add the nutmeg.

*Preheat the oven to 190°C, (gas mark 5)

*Cover the bottom of a medium sized ovenproof dish with a single layer of lasagne sheets.

*Spoon a layer of the meat sauce and cover with a layer of white sauce.

*Arrange a layer of lasagne sheets on top.

*Continue layering, finishing with a layer of white sauce.

*Bake for 20-25 minutes.

*Serve with salad or vegetables

ENJOY!!

Mighty Matcha Part 2: Recipes & Ideas

Yesterday I posted an article on the benefits of Matcha Green Tea. Really, it was a re-post as the article has been up on the Totalbodysculpture website for a while now. So, i decided it would also be beneficial to those that haven’t seen it, if i posted the second part of the article that’s up there; How it can be used! So, check out these recipes and original ideas about ways that you can use this awesome green superfood!!

Matcha Green Tea Latte

The trick to preparing a cafe style matcha green tea latte is to make the tea first, then add the hot milk and foam.Image

Sift 1 tsp Matcha into a cup
Melt matcha by adding 2 oz hot water and stirring until matcha becomes a smooth paste
Pour 6 oz steamed* milk into your favorite matcha bowl or teacup
Add “melted” matcha tea to the milk
Scoop foamy milk on top
Sprinkle with matcha dust or cocoa powder

Optional
Add vanilla, almond or mint flavors, use almond milk or coconut milk for a twist, sweeten with honey, combine steps and froth milk and tea all together

Matcha Green Tea Ice-Cream

2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
2/3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/3 tsp salt
4 Tbsp matcha + 2/3 cup hot water
1 cup fresh cream

Heat the milk in a small pan to about 140 degrees F (60 degrees C). Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the egg yolks in a pan and beat lightly. Add the sugar and salt. Mix thoroughly with a whisk.  Image
Gradually pour in the heated milk and stir, making sure that no lumps form.  Strain the mixture and pour it back into the pan.
Place the pan over a low flame and cook until the milk thickens, stirring all the time with a wooden ladle.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Mix the matcha and hot water and stir briskly until the paste becomes smooth.
In another bowl, whip the cream until semi-stiff, fold the milk, and add the matcha paste.
Pour into a metal or plastic container, and place in the freezer to set.  After two hours, take it out and mix thoroughly with a spoon or whisk, then resume freezing.  Repeat this process 3 or 4 times to ensure the ice-cream is smooth.

Matcha Tea Cake

To serve 6

3 ounces (3/4 cup) flour
1 tbsp matcha tea (ingredient grade)
4 whole large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift the cake flour with the tea three times. Using an oil spray, coat the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan lightly. Place a round of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan and spray the parchment lightly. Set the pan aside.Image

Place the eggs and sugar into a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a bain marie. Whisking constantly, heat until the eggs and sugar feel warm to the touch (approximately 100-110 degrees F.).
Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, and beat until light in color and texture, approximately tripled in volume. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg foam without deflating, making sure that there is no undissolved flour lurking at the bottom of the mixing bowl.
Immediately scoop the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the cake tests done when a skewer is inserted into the center. Cool on a rack.

Matcha & Chocolate Truffles

1 Tbsp Honey
250g Cream
2 Tbsp Matcha Powder
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
350g 85% Dark Chocolate

Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over gentle heat, add the honey and brown Imagesugar, and stir until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the matcha, stir until dissolved, and set aside.
Place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl and pour in the cream mixture. Mix thoroughly, and pour into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Cool in the refrigerator for about an hour.
Using a spoon, scoop out a heaping teaspoon, and make a ball using the palms of your hands. Repeat until all the chocolate is used, you should wind up with about 50 truffles.

Matcha Protein Smoothie
Image
1 scoop of protein powder
1/2 banana
1/2 cup nonfat milk or yogurt
1 tsp honey
1-2 tsp matcha

Blend ingredients together in a blender.

These are just some of the things you can do with Matcha. Why not try it out for yourself, making matcha butter, or adding 1-2 tablespoons to our Protein Banana Bread or Carrot Cake recipes in the Recipes section of the TBS Website! If you do, drop us a line and post your recipes/pictures on the TBS Facebook page!

Mighty Matcha: The Superhero Green Tea!

Some of the biggest issues to effect society relate to health, whether it is the recent increase in the level of obesity, progression in cancer related treatments, signs and symptoms of stroke or basic nutrition in schools. A health related news story appears daily. With good reason. The quality of our lives is important to us, not just now, but in the years to come. The foods we consume are becoming increasingly more and more important to us, the further our understanding develops. Image

Tea is the 2nd most consumed beverage in the world, second only to water, with an estimated 3 billion Kgs of tea produced each year. In the Western world black tea is the most popular, however Eastern countries such as Japan & China, Green Tea is a much more popular choice, a trend which is filtering into Western culture. The reason for this increase? Simple! Antioxidants!

Antioxidants are one of the biggest vogue subjects today, with a variety of foods lauded for their antioxidant content. The advent of ‘Superfoods’ has given rise to all sorts of claims regarding what we should eat & drink to get/stay healthy.

When it comes to Antioxidants, Green Tea is a big-hitter & ‘Matcha’ is the undisputed King!
One glass of matcha is the equivalent of at least 10 glasses of standard green tea in terms of its antioxidant content and nutritional value. Both blueberries and pomegranates are proven antioxidants with values of 91 and 105 units per gram (respectively) when tested using a method known as Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). Matcha green tea has a value of 1300 units per gram!! 25 times greater! Matcha contains 9x the beta carotene content of the superfood spinach, 70x the antioxidants and 137x the level of standard green tea.

Matcha green tea is relatively new in the green tea world. Whilst tea cultivation dates back thousands and thousands of years, particularly in the Far East, matcha in its current form only dates back around 1000 years. It is the tea used in the famous ‘Japanese Tea Ceremony’. The main difference between matcha green tea and other teas is the when it is consumed. Normally black tea or other green teas are consumed via steeping the tea leaves infused with hot water. The water soluble content of the tea diffuses into the water and is consumed, with the tea leaves disposed of. This method is problematic as only a small part of the health benefits of tea are water soluble, depending on tea variety and preparation only 10% – 20% of the healthy nutrients are consumed when drinking steeped tea. With matcha, the whole leaf is ground down to a fine powder, therefore the entire leaf is consumed, thus avoiding any loss of health benefits.

The table below highlights the differences between standard steeped green tea & matcha.

Image

The many benefits of matcha green tea include;

  • Packed with antioxidants including the catechin Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) (see below).
  • Burns calories and boosts metabolism, with one recent study suggesting matcha may increase calorie burning by 400%
  • High in the detoxifyer Chlorophyll, which helps eliminate heavy metals and chemicals from the body
  • Mood enhancement
  • Calming and relaxation effects due to its L-Theanine content (see below)
  • Minimal effect of insulin levels
  • Rich in fibre
  • Provides Selenium, Zinc, Magnesium, Chromium and Vitamin C.

The catechin EGCg is the most abundant catechin in tea and is a potent antioxidant that may have therapeutic applications in the treatment of many disorders (e.g. cancer). It is found in green tea, but not black tea. Catechins are a highly potent form of antioxidants providing potent cancer fighting properties. ImageCatechins counteract the effects of free radicals from influences such as UV rays, radiation, pollution and chemicals which can lead to cell and DNA damage. EGCg is regarded as on of the most powerful catechins, so anything containing a high amount is a good thing. Matcha  contains a particularly high amount of catechins, of which over 60% are EGCg.

Matcha was introduced to the Japanese by a Monk named Eisai in 1200AD as an aid in the practice of meditation. During long hours of worship, monks would ceremoniously drink matcha to remain alert, yet calm. A rare amino acid, L-Theanine, promotes a state of relaxation and well being  due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.  Theanine has psychoactive properties and has been shown to reduce mental and physical stress, improve cognition and mood in a synergistic manner with caffeine. Theanine may also help memory and learning ability, whilst also inhibiting the side effects of caffeine.

When it comes to matcha, how it is to be used will place a bearing on the grade of matcha to be used. Traditionally, there are 2 ways of preparing matcha for drinking; ‘Koicha’ – Thick or ‘Usucha’ – Thin. It is also advised to use traditional utensils when preparing drinking matcha. After all, it is a ceremonial tea once described as “The Elixar of the Immortals”
Below are instructions on how to prepare both Koicha and Usucha using the correct utensils.

USUCHA

Preheat the matcha bowl with hot water and place the whisk with prongs facing down into the water to wet them. Once the bowl has thoroughly preheated, empty out the water and dry the bowl out preferably with a cloth such as a chakin. Set the wet whisk aside and then measure out 70ml (approx. 2.3oz) of hot water into a measuring cup and leave it to cool.

Use the bamboo scoop to measure about 2 scoops of matcha powder and place it into the bowl. Sifting the matcha into the bowl is advisable as it will remove any clumps of powder.

Once the water in the measuring cup drops to 70°C(158°F)-80°C(176°F) pour it into the matcha bowl.

Take the whisk in one hand and hold the rim of the matcha bowl with your other hand and start to whisk the matcha. Whisk briskly using your wrist (not arm). Whisk in a W motion until the matcha has a thick froth with many tiny bubbles on the surface. The matcha is now frothy and ready to drink!

KOICHA

Preheat the matcha bowl with hot water and place the whisk with prongs facing down into the water to wet them. Once the bowl has thoroughly preheated, empty out the water and dry the bowl out preferably with a cloth such as a chakin. Set the wet whisk aside and then measure out 40ml (approx. 1.3oz) of hot water into a measuring cup and leave it to cool.

Use the bamboo scoop to measure about 3-4 scoops of matcha powder and place it into the bowl. We highly recommend sifting matcha prior to preparing koicha.

Once the water in the measuring cup drops to 70°C(158°F)-80°C(176°F) pour it into the matcha bowl. The water should be just enough to cover the powder. For koicha, pouring the water in two parts (40% and 60%) often produces better results.

The idea with koicha is NOT to make a frothy consistency with a fast whisking action like usucha. Instead, a slower kneading action from left to right, up and down, and a gentle 360 degree rotating action can be used to make a thick consistency. The resulting tea should be reasonably thick, smooth and without froth.

There has been a considerable increase in the use of matcha in cooking and baking, where its rich green colour and distinctive taste has been applied to dishes from ice cream to pasta. One of the great things about cooking with matcha is that the grade does not have to be as high as that used for beverage preparation.

Wide or Narrow Grip Pull-Downs/Pull-Ups: Does It Make a Difference?

Although my bread & butter is personal training, my background involves a combination of athletics, martial arts and strength & conditioning. I have various S&C qualifications and along with competing next in fitness/muscle model competition, S&C coaching will become more prevalent in my TBS life. I have always been a keen advocate of training both the mind & body and “everyday’s a school day” is a term often used. So, following on from the recent Poliquin articles i’ve posted, here is another strength related article written by Brad Longazel from EliteFTS. I make sure to read consistently and an article regarding an exercise all of my PT clients will be familiar with, pull ups/chin ups! Enjoy!

Wide for wide, in for in, in for out, out for in—we’ve heard all the catch phrases for where to hold the bar on a lat pull-down. But do a few inches in or out really make a difference? The latissimus doris (LD) primarily works to create two major actions on the arm. It works in adduction (pulling the arms to the sides of the body) and extension (pulling the arms down from a horizontal position past the torso; 2). Muscles contract in the same fashion, fibers become shorter, and this creates movement. If muscles all contract the same, why does a changing in hand position on pull-downs and pull-ups feel vastly different?

The Department of Kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University took on the challenge of answering this question. They looked at electromyographic (EMG) action of the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and middle trapezius under varying hand positions on the lat pull-down to determine which created the greatest amount of muscular activity in each of the muscle groups.

It’s all in the grip

Much of the way lat pull-downs are performed is based on personal belief and experience. Though the lat has a few anatomical variations from person to person, it still ultimately performs the same two major actions for everyone. With the movement, the bar path will go in one of two directions. The bar can be pulled in front of the head or behind it (or you can rock back like your dodging an undercut (not the optimal method) for a few). Any pull-down movement performed behind the head can narrow and impinge the tendons that run through the subacromial space and lead to pain or even tendentious in the glenohumeral joint if it is done repetitively (2). There is an endless number of ways to perform the movement. But which one is the best for muscular development and shoulder health?

Penn State took twenty regularly active men and had them perform wide over-handed, wide under-handed, narrow over-handed, and narrow under-handed gripped pull-downs (3). Due to negative effects of behind the neck pull-downs, all pull-down styles where performed in front of the head. In efforts to see how hard each muscle was working, EMG electrodes were placed parallel to the muscle fibers’ anatomical orientation on the latissimus dorsi, biceps brachii, and middle trapezius. Then the men performed each style of pull at 70 percent of their one rep max.  After all results were analyzed, it was found that wide grip over-handed lat pull-downs had elicited greater muscular activity of the latissimus dorsi than either wide or narrow under-handed pulls. Results also displayed that there wasn’t any significant difference in wide or narrow gripped over-handed pull-downs. Further, EMG results from the middle trapezius and biceps brachii muscular activity failed to show any difference between any styles of the pull-down (3). What does this all boil down to? If you’re targeting specific lat strength, grip the bar over-handed. It doesn’t matter whether it’s wide or narrow. Just make sure that it’s over-handed in terms of muscular activity.

Why over-handed?

Over-handed lat pull-downs and pull-ups reign as champion. This is purely an anatomical reason when the movement is broken down. When the forearm is placed in an over-hand (pronated) position, it places the shoulder in a mechanically disadvantaged state (1). This causes the lats to perform a greater amount of work compared to an under-handed pull. Many may think that this is due to the biceps compensating and taking over in the under-hand pull-down, but this isn’t so. The EMG results from the study cancel out this idea. Biceps brachii showed similar activity in all four styles. The real reason is linked to the fact that when you hold a bar in an over-hand position and look out at your elbows, they are positioned more to the side of your body than in an under-handed position. When the elbows are out, the shoulder joint has to travel in a greater range of motion to complete the pull-down, which explains why the lats were activated to a greater degree when held with an over-hand grip (1). Optimizing this fact in your training can be done with a rotator bar, which forces you to move your elbows even further out to your sides. Over-handed pulls reign supreme, and the debate is finally settled. Wide or narrow is of no matter. Just hold the bar over-hand, right? This is true with one slight limitation. The latissimus dorsi’s anatomical structure is generally the same on everyone, but the joint that it directly influences has a few more considerations to note before you grip the bar and start spreading those lats.

Shoulder joint limitations

The shoulder is a highly mobile joint. It needs to be strengthened to produce force yet mobile enough to move through a full range of motion. Over-handed grip pull-downs and pull-ups are great for developing the lats, but they will also place the shoulder into a externally rotated state, which can be a problem for people suffering from rotator cuff tears, tendentious, or even frozen shoulder in extreme cases (2).

When pain is present in the shoulder, proper movement should be a greater concern over which movement is going to give you the biggest bang for your time spent in the gym. Under-hand gripped pulls are great for keeping the shoulder in a more neutral non-rotated position, but there are better choices. Neutral grip pulls with bars such as the Swiss multi-grip cable bar, the fat grip double D handles, and the fat grip neutral lat pull-down bars are better choices for two reasons. The neutral hand position will place a greater amount of work on to the lats without compromising the position of the shoulder joint. It also disperses the load over the entire hand, which helps maintain forearm and elbow health in the lower arm. A neutral grip will be the most beneficial choice with the presence of shoulder pain. Once the pain or issue is relieved, it’s time to rotate that grip around and get the most out of your pull-ups or pull-downs.

Conclusion

The debate over the best method to perform the lat pull-down has lingered for years in the minds of self-proclaimed gym gurus and professionals alike. We can all now sleep better at night knowing that the debate has finally been settled. Wide or narrow doesn’t matter. Just make sure that you can see the back of your hands when you do your pulls. This will ensure optimal lat development. But we aren’t all created equal. Limitations to training arise with injuries, and modifications need to be made to ensure that movements can be performed safely. If the shoulder joint is limited in movement—be it flexion, abduction, or external rotation—switching to a neutral grip is the best approach. Removing external rotation from the pull-down will allow you to continue working when pain limits optimal movement. Lat pull-downs are a wonderful exercise when working up a client or yourself to a full pull-up. Make sure to select your grip appropriately based on shoulder health and then unleash the potential packed in your back.

Works cited

  1. Antinori F, Felici F, Figura F, Marchetti M, Ricci B (1988) Joint moments and work in pull-ups. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 28: 132–37.
  2. Crate T (1996) Analysis of the lat pull down. J Strength Cond Res19: 26–9.
  3. Lusk S, Hale B, Russell D (2010) Grip Width and Forearm orientation Effects on Muscle Activity During the Lat Pull-Down. J Strength and Conditioning Research 24:1895–1900.

The Growth Hormone Response: Get Anabolic Pt2

Get the greatest training gains by creating the most anabolic response and positively manipulate your hormonal system. The hormonal, or endocrine, system supports your body’s equilibrium by releasing hormones in response to stresses such as resistance training or sprint conditioning. While testosterone is often considered the most potent anabolic hormone, growth hormone (GH) is possibly the most interesting one.
GH is released from the anterior pituitary gland in bursts throughout the day, with the largest burst usually coming at night. One of its key functions is to regulate body fat and lean tissue, but it also builds bone and connective tissue, and boosts the immune system. GH stimulates the secretion of Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1),  and with resistance training, it increases amino acid uptake to enhance protein synthesis and muscle building—all good stuff you need for optimal health and a lean physique.
GH is not only affected by resistance training but other external factors such as sleep, nutrition, and alcohol consumption play a major role on GH release patterns. Here are eleven things you need to know to increase GH levels and reap the benefits of increased fat burning and protein synthesis.

1)    Use a High Total Volume of Work and Short Rest Periods

Extensive research shows that short rest periods and large total volume of work are the two most important factors in leading to a significant increase in GH levels. Use a heavy resistance (not a maximal strength load), such as 75 to 85 percent of the 1 RM with rest periods between 30 seconds and one minute.2)    A Hypertrophy-Type Protocol is Best to Trigger GH
We know that a large number of sets and high total volume results in the greatest GH increase. Research supports this with evidence that a hypertrophy-type protocol, such as training four sets of ten reps of squats at 75 percent of the 1 RM is more effective at increasing GH than a strength (3 x 11 at 90 1RM) or power protocol (8 x 6 of jump squats with no weight). Researchers note that for optimal results, a greater number of exercises than were used in this study should be trained for peak GH stimulation.

3)    Train Above the Lactate Threshold: Lactate Associated with GH Release

High volume and short rest periods will result in greater lactate concentrations, which has been shown to trigger GH. A 2010 study compared the effect of rest period length on GH release, testing 60, 90, and 120 second rest periods with a training program that used four sets of bench press and squats at 85 percent of the 1 RM. Participants lifted each set to failure, meaning that the two longer rest periods of 90 and 120 seconds allowed for about a 15 percent greater volume of work than the 60 second rest period group because participants were able to recover more completely between lifts. Even so, GH release was highest in the 60-second group. Researchers point to the increased metabolic stress of the heavy lifts with short rest to increased lactate and hydrogen ion accumulation that elevates GH.

4)    Use Eccentric-Enhanced Lifts: Increase GH and Lactate

Training with heavier eccentric loads is a great way for advanced lifters to gain strength and trigger GH. Researchers compared training the bench press and squat using a traditional program (4 sets of 6 reps at 52.5 percent of 1RM) with an eccentric-enhanced program (3 X 6 at 40 percent 1RM for the concentric motion and 100 percent 1RM for eccentric) and found that GH increased more after the eccentric-enhanced training.  It also led to both a greater post-exercise lactate response and subsequent increased lactate clearance rate than traditional training. It was surprising that the eccentric training group had a greater GH response because this group performed a lower volume of work than the traditional group, suggesting that this form of training may be more efficient in eliciting anabolic stimuli and strength adaptations based on relative total volume. The correlation between elevated lactate response and GH was likely the key. Trainees with limited training time will benefit from adding eccentric training as would athletes who compete above the lactate threshold (boxers, wrestlers, rowers).

A second study of eccentric training had similar results. A group that trained with 90 percent of the 1RM load generated the greatest GH spike. Researchers note that their study used too low of a training volume (four sets to failure of the bench press, comparing eccentric loads at 70, 80, 90, and 100 percent) for a large GH increase. Despite this, they did find that GH was highest after the 90 percent load, and this elevation was significantly more than with the 100 percent load. The takeaway point from these studies is that eccentric training can  be incorporated into a complete program to train the human strength curve and trigger GH.

5)    Do Conditioning with Sprint Intervals to Trigger GH
Sprint intervals of varying lengths will allow you to produce more GH because they allow you to train above the lactate threshold and pack a potent metabolic punch. Two studies from Israel tested hormone response with a variety of sprint schemes. Using four 250 meter sprints at 80 percent of maximal 100 meter speed elevated GH with no increase in cortisol. Additionally, IGF binding protein-3, which is GH dependent and has anabolic effects because it stimulates IGF-1 bioactivity, did increase.

A second study by the same research group looked at hormone response to both a decreasing (400, 300, 200, 100 meters) and an increasing (100, 200, 300, 400 meters) sprint interval scheme. The decreasing distance protocol had a greater GH and lactate response, indicating a higher metabolic demand. Take note that trainees rated the decreasing distance protocol as easier on a rating of perceived exertion scale. Having the 400 meters, the longest, hardest distance at the end was very difficult from a mental standpoint. Combining a psychologically easier workout with a greater GH anabolic response is obviously the best choice.

6)    Target GH Bursts With Nutrition
It is essential to make sure you’re feeding your body with the right nutrients at the right times to target the protein synthesis that comes when the pituitary releases bursts of GH. Include a whey protein supplement and essential amino acids (EAAs) in your nutrition program for the best results.

Research shows that whey protein is more anabolic than casein protein even though they are both derived from milk. A recent study found that protein synthesis following training with consumption of whey was 122 percent greater than with casein because whey is more rapidly digested. There is additional evidence that ingesting a supplement of 20 grams of EAAs combined with carbohydrates (both 30 g and 90 g were tested with similar outcomes) stimulates protein synthesis after training and results in a decrease in muscle protein breakdown. This means supplementing with EAAs/carbs facilitates a significant anabolic effect, while slightly decreasing the catabolic processes that come with cortisol release from metabolic stress.

7)    Take EAAs and Train to Failure: Sensitize the Muscle to Feeding

The greatest anabolic environment is created through nutritional supplementation and training to muscle failure. Research shows that taking 15 grams of EAAs immediately after training to failure, and again 24 hours after training, increases protein synthesis more than if submaximal exercise had been done. Weight training to failure is necessary because it recruits Type 2 muscle fibers and sensitizes the muscle to EAA feeding.

Interestingly, researchers found elevated protein synthesis and enhanced EAA sensitivity in response to using two very different loading schemes to failure: a 90 percent 1 RM load and a 30 percent 1 RM load. This was not the case with an exercise protocol using a 30 percent load that didn’t train to failure.

Use this knowledge when doing eccentric-enhanced training—remember research shows it should be done to failure—by targeting the GH bursts with the right nutrition for peak protein synthesis and fat burning.

8)    Strategic Programming to Be Anabolic: Do Large Muscle Mass Lifts First
It’s crucial to train single-limb exercises to correct structural imbalances between the left and right side of the body, and between the agonist/antagonist muscle pairs. Unilateral training decreases the risk of injury and improves improper motor patterns, allowing for greater health and longevity as an athlete or trainee. Plus, unilateral lower body training in addition to regular bilateral training has been shown to result in faster short sprint times, even in elite sprinters.

Single limb training (single leg squats, single side dumbbell chest press, single side cable low row to name a few) is effective at improving strength unilaterally but not bilaterally, meaning it needs to be done in addition to other bilateral training to trigger an anabolic response. A recent study compared GH response in unilateral and bilateral exercises at 80 percent of the 1RM. GH increased for both groups but was more elevated in the bilateral training group.  Insulin, another anabolic hormone, increased equally for both groups.

For best GH response, on the day you include unilateral training, start with large muscle mass exercises to stimulate testosterone and GH—lower body exercises such as squats, power cleans, and dead lifts are recommended at a high percentage of the 1 RM, with a high total volume. This strategic programming should dramatically increase hormone secretion once unilateral or smaller muscle mass exercises are started.

9)    Take Arginine, Ornithine, and Betaine

Add arginine, ornithine, and betaine to your nutrition stack for a greater GH response after training. All three are amino acids (actually betaine is a derivative of the amino acid glycine) and they’ve all been shown to improve performance and make you more anabolic.A new study found that taking 1.5 grams twice a day of betaine improved participants vertical jump height, bench press throw power, and maximal number of squat reps at a 90 percent load. It also resulted in a greater GH and IGF-1 release than a placebo group. Plus, cortisol release decrease, indicating that betaine creates a potent muscle building environment. Researchers suggest that performance improved because betaine helps support the synthesis of creatine phosphate, the body’s energy source for intense short-term exercise.

Additionally, taking a combination of arginine (3000 mgs) and ornithine (2200 mgs) twice a day has been shown to result in elevated GH levels after performing five sets of five squats at 80 percent of the 1RM. Interestingly, long, five-minute rest periods were used, which is different from previous evidence that short rest periods are ideal to elicit maximal GH release. This suggests that with proper programming longer rest can be used to allow for more complete recovery and greater maximal lifts.

10)    Take Alpha-GPC: Stimulate GH and Produce More Force

Alpha-GPC helps create a potent anabolic environment because it stimulates the pituitary gland thereby elevating GH production. It is particularly effective in increasing GH response in older trainees, and has been shown to improve brain function cognition in the elderly.

Alpha-GPC is a precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in muscle contractions throughout the body. One study found that Alpha-GPC increased GH levels in young and older individuals after resistance training and that the hormone elevation was more pronounced in the older subjects.

A second study presented at the conference of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that taking 600 mg of Alpha-GPC prior to performing six sets of ten reps of squats at 70 percent of the 1 RM improved GH response 44-fold compared to a placebo group that only had a 2.6-fold GH increase. Participants performed three sets of bench press throws thirty minutes after the squats to test their peak force. The Alpha-GPC group produced 14 percent greater force than the placebo group.

I’ve counseled the use of Alpha-GPC for years to improve lean body mass and fat burning, while supporting brain function. You’ll improve force production, strength and muscle mass by taking Alpha-GPC prior to your workout. Check out the Poliquin Alpha-GPC.

11)    How to Use Longer Rest Periods For Maximal GH Release
It is generally accepted that shorter rest periods with a high volume of work results in the greatest GH response, but there is evidence that if you program correctly and use a wave-like program, you can still maximize GH with longer rest. Researchers have cautioned that short rest intervals are associated with cortisol release, possibly inhibiting a long-term hypertrophic effect and that testosterone and IGF-1 are not elevated with short rest intervals. Plus the highest-threshold motor units are only recruited without heavy loads or by training to failure.

One strategy is to include eccentric training to failure with longer rest periods, which we’ve already discussed in #4. Another option is to vary your rest periods within the workout or to do a program for two weeks that includes mainly short rest periods for hypertrophy and peak GH response followed by a maximal strength phase with longer rest. Additionally, research suggests that circuit training can be used to trigger GH and get equal strength gains as a traditional training program. A new study found circuit resistance training resulted in equal blood lactate accumulation to a traditional program indicating that this style of training will equally trigger GH. Strength gains were equal in participants in both the circuit and traditional training groups.

The benefit of circuit training comes from the fact that it is part of a varied training approach (and it takes less time). Nutrition, wavy training, a high volume, eccentric-enhanced lifts, and relatively short rest periods will make you more anabolic and help you achieve the ideal physique.


Reference #1

Fry, A., Kudrna, R., Gallagher, P., Moodie, N., Prewitt, M. Acute Endocrine Responses to Maximal Velocity Barbell squats with Three Different Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. March 2011. 25(Suppl 91-92).Reference #2
McCaulley, G., McBride, J., Cormie, P., Hudson, M., Nuzzo, J., Quidry, J., Triplett, N. Acute Hormonal and Neuromuscular Responses to Hypertrophy, Strength and Power Type Resistance Exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009. 105(5), 695-704.

Reference #3
Rahman, R., Qaderi, M., Faraji, H., Boroujerdi, S. Effects of Very Short Rest Periods on Hormonal Responses to Resistance Exercise in Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(7), 1851-1859.

References #4
Yarrow, J., Borsa, P., Borst, S., Sitren, J., Stevens, B., White, L. Early-Phase Neuroendocrine Responses and Strength Adaptations Following Eccentric-Enhanced Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22(4), 1205-1214.

Crewther, B., Cronin, J., Keogh, J., Cook, C. The Salivary Testosterone and Cortisol Response to Three Loading schemes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.2008. 22(1), 250-255.References #5
Meckel, Y., Eliakim, A., Seraev, M., Zaldivar, F., Cooper, D., Sabiv, M., Nemet, D. The Effect of a Brief Sprit Interval Exercise on Growth Factors and Inflammatory Mediators. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2009. 23(1), 225-230.

Meckel, Y., Nemet, D., Bar-Sela, S., Radom-Aizik, S.  Hormonal and Inflammatory Responses to Different Types of Sprint Interval Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(8), 2161-2169.

References #6

Blynn, E., Fry, C., Drummond, M., Dreyer, H., Dhanani, S., Volpi, E. Muscle Protein Breakdown Has A Minor Role in the Protein Anabolic Response to Essential Amino Acid and Carbohydrate Intake Following Resistance Exercise. American Journal of Physiology. 2010. 299(2), R533-540.
Tang, J., Morre, D., Kuibida, G., Tarnopolsky, M., Phillips, S. Ingestion of Why Hydrolysate, Casein, or Soy Protein Isolate: Effects on Mixed Muscle Protein Synthesis at Rest and Following Resistance Exercise in Young Men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009. 107(3), 987-992.References #7
Burd, N., West, D., Moore, D., Atherton, P., Staples, A., Prior, T., Tang, J., Rennie, M., Baker, S., Phillips, S. Enhanced Amino Acid Sensitivity of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Persists for up to 24 Hours After Resistance Exercise in Young Men. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011. 141(4), 568-573.

References #8
Uchida, M., Crewther, B., Ugrinowitsch, C., Bacurau, R., Morisot, A., Aoki, M. hormonal Responses to Different Resistance Exercise Schemes of Similar Total Volume. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2009. 23(7). 2003-2008.

Migiano, M., Vingren, J., Volek, J., Maresh, C., Fragala, M., Ho, J., Thomas, G., Hatfield, D., Hakkinen, K., Ahtiainen, J., Earp, J., Kraemer, W. Endocrine Response Patterns to Acute Unilateral and Bilateral Resistance Exercise in Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(8), 128-134.References #9
Hoffman, J., Ratamess, N., Kang, J., Gonzalez, A., Beller, J., Craig, S. Effect of Fifteen Days of Betaine Ingestion on Concentric and Eccentric Force Outputs During Isokinetic Exercise. Journal of Strength and conditioning Research. 2011. 25(8), 2235-2241.

Kraemer, W., Bailey, B., Clark, J., Apicella, J., Lee, E., Comstock, B., Dunn-Lewis, C., Volek, J., Kupchak, B., Anderson, J., Craig, S., Maresh, C. The Influence of Betaine Supplementation on Work Performance and Endocrine Function in Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. March 2011. 25(Suppl 1).
Zajac, A., Peprezecki, S., Zebrowska, A. Chalimoniuk, M., Langfort, J. Arginine and Ornithine Supplementation Increases Growth Hormone and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Serum Levels After Heavy-Resistance Exercise in Strength-Trained Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(4), 1082-1090.References #10
Ziegenfuss, T., Landis, J., Hofheins, J. Acute Supplementation with Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine Augments Growth Hormone Response to, and Peak Force Production During, Resistance Exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. September 2008. 5(suppl 1), 15-16.

Ceda, G., Ceresini, G., Denti, L., Marzani, G., Piovani, E., Banchini, A., Tarditi, E., Valenti, G. Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcoline Administration Increases the GH Responses to GHRH of Young and Elderly Subjects. Hormone and Metabolic Research. March 1992. 24(3), 119-121.References #11
DeSalles, B., Simao, R., Miranda, F., Novaes, J., Lemos, A., Willardson, J. Rest Interval Between Sets in Strength Training. Sports Medicine. 2009. 39(9)m 765-777.

The Testosterone Response: Get Anabolic Pt1 by Charles Poliquin

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Testosterone is the most potent muscle-building hormone and recent research shows that adequate levels are directly related to health and well being in men. Testosterone (T) is directly involved in muscle building and promotes the secretion of Growth Hormone (GH) from the pituitary gland—another essential anabolic hormone for tissue repair and fat burning.
Optimal T levels correlate with a lean body composition and low levels can lead to fat gain and muscle loss. Additionally, low T levels are associated with type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, elevated cancer risk, particularly prostate, not to mention a low sex drive, fatigue, decreased bone density, depression, and reduced muscle mass and strength. Aging, particularly beyond 40 years is associated with a one to three percent decline per year in T concentration, eventually resulting in a condition known as andropause.
Wondering what you can do to increase T levels?
First, understand the relationship between cortisol and testosterone. Second, follow my research-based tips for the greatest anabolic training response.
Testosterone is typically measured in relation to the catabolic, muscle degrading hormone, cortisol. The best T response from training allows you to increase strength and lean body mass by elevating protein synthesis and inhibiting the catabolic effects from high-intensity training. A higher testosterone-to-cortisol (T:C) ratio reflects your ability to maintain a higher intensity and volume of training as well as have a speedier and more effective recovery from workouts. Naturally, if you can train harder and longer, you’ll get better results and improved performance.
1)    Go Heavy and Use Large Muscle Lifts: Olympic Lifts, Squats, Deadlifts
It’s been well established that for the maximal T response, your best bet is to do a lot of squats, deadlifts, and Olympic lifts such as power cleans and snatches. A significant metabolic stress in the form of a high volume load, particularly in order to yield a favorable T:C ratio with heavy lifts (85-95 percent of the 1RM) and a moderate to high volume of training is also necessary.For example, a study of rugby players, found that training four exercises of 3 sets of 5 at 85 percent of the 1 RM resulted in a greater increase in T (by 13 percent) after the workout than three lighter loads equated for volume.2)    The Importance of Volume
Researchers suggest that differences in load intensity, rest periods, and technique are secondary to volume in eliciting T and C responses to training. It has been established through research that strict maximal strength and power protocols produce only modest changes in anabolic hormone levels, while hypertrophy protocols commonly yield a significant hormone response.

For example, even with heavy lifts such as a 90 percent 1 RM load, you won’t get a significant T response without a large volume of work. Research shows that with a relatively low volume of work, a hypertrophy-type (4 sets of 10 reps of squat at 75 percent of 1 RM) protocol is more effective at creating an anabolic environment than a strength-type (11 sets of 3 reps at 90 percent of 1 RM), or a power-type (8 sets of 6 reps of jump squats with no weight).

The hypertrophy protocol resulted in a significant increase in T, C, and sex hormone-binding globulin, indicating both a state of protein degradation and an adaptive process leading to increased protein synthesis. Workouts with a larger volume that incorporate specific strength and power lifts for variety would create the best anabolic response.

3)    What About Rest Periods?

While short rest periods with high-intensity training have been shown to create a potent anabolic environment by eliciting a strong GH and T response, recent research shows that longer rest periods may be more effective in triggering T release if you program properly. A new study compared the affect of rest period length on GH and T response. Participants performed four sets to failure of bench press and squat at 85 percent of 1RM with either 60, 90, or 120 seconds of rest between sets. Because participants were lifting to failure, training volume for the 90- and 120-second rest groups was about 15 percent greater than for the 60-second group because they were more rested.

T levels increased the most with the longest rest period of 120 seconds, most likely due to the higher training volume because participants were able to recover more completely. The 60-second group had the highest increase in GH, indicating the importance of using a variable training program that incorporates both short rest periods to stimulate GH for and longer rest periods to get the critical T response. The slightly longer rest allows for the use of heavier loads and greater recovery between lifts, resulting in a higher total volume for the best T release. Don’t ignore the value of T to counteract the muscle degradation of high-intensity training that elevates cortisol.

4)    The Individual Nature of Testosterone Response

The good news is that there is more than one training protocol for getting a strong T response and building muscle. Things begin to get complicated when we look at individual role of T in different trainees.

Two studies from New Zealand of rugby players support a variable training protocol for strength and muscle mass gains and the fact that T response is individualized. Both studies compared the same exercise protocols: four exercises using 4 sets of 10 at 70 percent of 1RM; 3 X 5 at 85 percent; 5 X 15 at 55 percent; or 3 X 5 at 40 percent.

Take note that not all of the study’s participants had optimal T responses to the same protocol: two had the largest T response to performing 3 X 5 at 40 percent—a surprisingly light load and low volume. The majority of the players had the greatest T response to 4 sets of 10 at 70 percent.

The takeaway point from this study is that individuals with a low T-response threshold may have a greater anabolic response to a low-load, explosive training protocol, such as 85-95 percent 1 RM Olympic lifts of power squats for 5 sets of 3. Alternately, for those that require a large volume of exercise to elicit a T response, a 5 X 15 at 55 percent protocol may be more appropriate.

5)    How Can I Get the Best T:C Ratio?
The second study from the New Zealand researchers used the same group of rugby players and tested the same four exercise protocols on T:C ratio. In fact, all four exercise schemes yielded decreases in C concentration. The program that produced the most favorable ratio was 3 sets of 5 at 85 percent of the 1RM (13 percent increase in T and 38 percent decrease in C), which supports the idea that heavy resistance with large muscle groups is key.

Very similar results are evident from other studies comparing strength, hypertrophy, and power. I’ll say it again, a high volume is important with a hypertrophy-type protocol that allows for variety in the training scheme, occasionally including strength and power exercises if desired.

6)    Use Complex Training to Manipulate the T:C Ratio in Your Favor
Add complex training with a strength-then-power protocol to trigger more T release and a better T:C ratio. A recent study found that using a strength-power squat protocol is more effective than a power-power, power-strength, or strength-strength combination training order. The strength-power order resulted in the greatest T response of 13 percent and a “trivial cortisol response.” The power-power bout yielded the least favorable ratio with a significant C response and the smallest T response of all. Researchers note that despite a relatively limited T increase, the strength-power protocol has the potential to enhance the anabolic environment for adaptation.

7)    Warm-up With Sprints for the Greatest Anabolic Response
Prime the muscles and the endocrine system with all-out sprints prior to resistance training to lift more weight and get a better T:C ratio. A recent study found that performing one lower- and one upper-body body cycle sprint (40 seconds long) prior to a box squat and bench throw workout resulted in a higher T response. Participants also had greater maximal lifts in the squat. Researchers point to the importance of using large muscle lower body sprints and lifts for the most anabolic milieu.

8)    Testosterone and Fish Oil: Omega-3s are Anabolic!
Take fish oil to build muscle and get an anabolic response. Recent research shows that fish oil supplementation enhances protein synthesis and decreases C levels. In one study participants increased lean mass and decreased body fat after taking fish oil for eight weeks and they did no exercise or resistance training. The lower C levels are likely the reason for the positive body composition improvements.

While fish oil hasn’t been found to actually raise T levels, zinc supplementation has. Research shows there is a significant relationship between low zinc levels and low T levels in men. Additionally, taking a zinc supplement has been shown to increase T response to high-intensity to cycling more than a placebo. Don’t leave muscle gain on the table—take zinc for the best T response.

9)    Take Branched-Chain Amino Acids for a Better T:C Ratio
If you haven’t added branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to your nutrition program, two recent studies should convince you to do so. A 2010 study found that taking BCAAs while resistance training results in significantly higher T levels with a lower creatine kinase and C response. This is significant because both strength gains and a decrease in protein degradation are more correlated with a better T:C ratio than total testosterone levels.

A second study compared taking 10 grams of protein that was 18 percent leucine with a similar drink that was 35 percent leucine. The higher leucine concentration resulted in greater anabolic protein signaling, which means less muscle breakdown from the degrading effects of C.

10)    Anabolic Signaling, T, and Wave-Like Training
Anabolic signaling relates to the process of how T interacts with hormone receptors, specifically androgen receptors (AR). Increasing the activity of ARs—or upregulating them—results in a greater anabolic response. Research shows that using wave-like training with varying programming schemes can upregulate ARs and elevate T levels.

A recent study used a 21-week total body resistance training program with men who performed seven exercises with varying loads and repetition/set schemes. Participants performed each of the following protocols for seven weeks: strength endurance, hypertrophy, and maximal strength. All participants significantly increased muscle size and 1RM strength, and had higher T levels following training sessions.

Researchers found that in individuals with the greatest T response, ARs were equally more upregulated. Plus, the magnitude of muscle growth correlated to greater T and AR upregulation, indicating the critical nature of T in creating an anabolic environment.

The Growth Hormone Response:  Get Anabolic Pt2

Reference #1

Crewther, B., Cook, C., Cardinale, M., Weatherby, R., Lowe, T. Two Emerging Concepts for Elite Athletes: The Short-Term Effects of Testosterone and Cortisol on the Neuromuscular System and the Dose-Response Training Role of these Endogenous Hormones. Sports Medicine. 2011. 41(2), 103-123.
References #2
McCauley, G., McBride, J., Cormie, P., Hudson, M., Nuzzo, J., Quidry, J., Triplett, N. Acute Hormonal and Neuromuscular Responses to Hypertrophy, Strength and Power Type Resistance Exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2009. 105(5), 695-704.
Fry, A., Kudrna, R., Gallagher, P., Moodie, N., Prewitt, M. Acute Endocrine Responses to Maximal Velocity Barbell squats with Three Different Loads. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. March 2011. 25(Suppl 91-92).
References #3
Rahman, R., Qaderi, M., Faraji, H., Boroujerdi, S. Effects of Very Short Rest Periods on Hormonal Responses to Resistance Exercise in Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(7), 1851-1859.
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References #4
Beaven, C., Cook, C., Gill, N. Significant Strength Gains Observed in Rugby Players After Specific Resistance Exercise Protocols Based on Individual Salivary Testosterone Responses. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22(2), 419-425.
Beaven, C., Gill, N., Cook, C. Salivary Testosterone and Cortisol Responses Following Four Resistance Training Protocols in Professional Rugby Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22, 426-432.
References #5
Crewther, B., Cronin, J., Keogh, J., Cook, C. The Salivary Testosterone and Cortisol Response to Three Loading Schemes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008. 22(1), 250-255.
Reference #6
Beaven, C., Gill, N., Ingram, J., Hopkins, W. Acute Salivary Hormone Responses to Complex Exercise Bouts. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(4), 1072-1078.
Reference #7
Crewther, B., Cook, C., Lowe, T., Weatherby, R., Gill, N. The Effects of Short-Cycle Sprints on Power, Strength, and Salivary Hormones in Elite Rugby Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(1), 32-39.
References #8
Smith, G., Atherton, P., Reeds, D., Mohammed, G., Rankin, D., Rennie, M., Middendorfer, B. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women. Clinical Science. 2011. 121(6), 267-278.
Smith, G., Atherton, P., Reeds, D., Mohammed, B., Rankin, D., Rennie, M., Mittendorfer, B. Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation Increases the Rate of Muscle Protein Synthesis in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. 2010. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 93(2), 402-412.
Neek, L., Gaeini, A., Choobineh, S. Effect of Zinc and Selenium Supplementation on Serum Testosterone and Plasma Lactate in Cyclist After an Exhaustive Exercise Bout. Biological Trace Element Research. 9 July 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Chang, C., Choi, J., Kim, H., Park, S. Correlation Between Serum Testosterone Level and Concentrations of Copper and Zinc in Hair Tissue. Biological Trace Element Research. 14 June 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
References #9
Glynn, E., Fry, C., Drummond, M., Timmerman, K., Dhanani, S., Volpi, E., Rasmussen, B. Excess Leucine Intake Enhances Muscle Anabolic Signaling but Not Net Protein Anabolism in Young Men and Women. The Journal of Nutrition. 2010. 140(11), 1970-1976.
Sharp, C., Pearson, D. Amino Acid Supplements and Recovery from High-Intensity Resistance Training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2010. 24(4), 1125-1130.

Reference #10
Ahtiainen, J., Hulmi, J., Kraemer, W., Lehti, M., Nyman, K., Selanne, H., Alen, M., et al. Heavy Resistance Exercise Training and Skeletal Muscle Androgen Receptor Expression in Younger and Older Men. Steroids. 2011. 76(1), 183-192.