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Hey guys, how have you been?

In the words of Aaron Lewis “It’s been a While..”

Well, it has on the TBS Blog anyway…

If you’ve been on the TotalBodySculpture Facebook page or over at our Website, you will have seen all the things we’ve been up to, including my nomination as one of the Top 10 Personal Trainers in the World, which led to me being flown out to Barcelona to showcase my skills and knowledge!

A brilliant experience and I can say I met some incredible people during my trip, as well as sampled the great food (and red wine) of Bar-ce-looonaaa -sang in my very best Freddie Mercury voice!!

However, i’ve also managed to throw up some new articles on kettlebells, sand bags and loads of other content!

The best way to stay in the loop is to join a couple of 1000 others and join the TBS Newsletter. In fact, joining now will ensure you get on the list for my brand new daily email, which will be going out on Monday, with access only available until the end of the year, before going to an invitation only newsletter. So head over to the website at http://www.totalbodysculpture.com and ht the sign up page whilst you still can!

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).

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!

 

2013: The Journey Begins

So this year i’ll be competing at the Miami Pro British Championships, as well as trying to qualify for the UKBFF British Finals, both of which are in October.

Depending upon my size & condition leading up to October, i will be competing in either the Fitness Model category, or Muscle Model for the Miami Pro and in the Men’s Physique category in the UKBFF.

I will also be considering my options after these competitions and may compete in the WBFF European Championships in Iceland or Denmark in November.

At the moment i am still in maximal growth mode, eating as much as possible & training with a varying rep range programme. I have taken elements of my EvO:XD training programme and utilise them throughout the week, training each body part twice a week. This may seem like a lot, but the workouts are quite short, always less than an hour and I find the extra volume works for me, particularly for chest, shoulders and legs.

Usually, i like to remain a good level of leanness throughout the year, using carb-cycling to minimise any fat-gains made during a bulking period. However, this time around i have decided to try and add as much mass as possible & see how much of a difference it will make to not only my overall muscle gains, but also my strength. Now this can be a problem for photoshoots & fitness modelling, as there is obviously a lack of definition using this method & the longer term goal has to be kept in mind everytime you look in the mirror and decide you are going to cut up. I’ll come back to this point, but suffice to say it has been hard & i have to look at myself as a powerlifter & not a fitness model at the moment. This is mainly due to a growing desire to compete at a powerlifting competition. Now, i don’t think i’m any kind of world beater & i wouldn’t be looking to win & step up to Worlds Strongest Man anytime in the next 250 years, but if i can hit a few PB’s and do the best that i can, i’ll be ecstatic.

So, with alll the above taken into account, I did a photoshoot on Monday with physique photographer, Brian Selway. Below is a shot from the session, one i particularly like as it shows that the growth face is definitely working, for my traps/back anyway haha!

Image

Another reason for the photoshoot was this blog. I am going to be doing a photoshoot every month with Brian to record my progress going through to the competitions. This will serve a purpose, not only for my own monitoring purposes, but will also show the different stages throughout a competition preparation. There will also be other photoshoots, images of which i will post here, i’m also looking to try & get behind-the-scenes videos of some of them!

Along with the photoshoots, i’ll also be doing a video blog at the end of the month, basically talking about how i have felt the month has gone, what the coming months will bring etc. I am also looking at filming as many gym sessions as possible, showing typical gym sessions as the year progresses.

So as you can see, it’s going to be a busy year, so focus & determination are key! Here’s to a great 2013!!

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.
Vingren, J., Kraemer, W., Ratamess, N., Anderson, J., Volek, J., Maresh, C. Testosterone Physiology In Resistance Exercise and Training: the Up-Stream Regulatory Elements. Sports Medicine. 2010. 40(12), 1037-1053.
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.