Monday, October 26, 2015

Prime and Pump Leg Training

PRIME time for sliced Hams and PUMPED quads!

by Jared Smith

How a person trains can tell you a lot about that person. There are always the guys and gals who only train the “beach” muscles and seldom pay attention to the really important things such as legs and back. You can also tell when someone has spent too much time doing the “more bang for your buck” movements without properly preparing themselves for it. I have fallen victim to the same thing in the past. I was so excited to get under the bar that I all but ignored the preparation aspect of training, and, after a while, I started feeling the effects. I have no intention of being that old man who still packs a little muscle, yet can hardly get off the toilet without the joints sounding like someone pouring milk over a bowl of Rice Crispies! There is a way to keep pounding at the king of all exercises while preserving your knees and hips—and I will show you how.
If you have read the previous installments of Prime and Pump, you know that I am an advocate of pumping  antagonistic muscles to get the connective tissues pliable and ready to train hard. With leg training it is no different. We will start our session by getting those knees and hips ready for the assault in the squat rack. The first exercise will be lying leg curls. These will be done in two different variations. The first three sets will be done with a "piston-like" cadence while you elevate your torso off the pad, thus putting your hips in a slight position of extension. Perform three sets of these for 10-12 reps. At the top of each rep, you will feel a slight tug at the very top of your thigh, and that’s exactly what you want. The next three sets will be done in the "traditional style", keeping your torso on the pad and trying to push your hips through the apparatus as you curl upward. Lower the weight slowly and squeeze at the top for a count of two. After your third set of 8 reps, it is time to move on. 
One often-overlooked and neglected preparatory measure is making sure that the calves are limber enough to allow for one to keep his or her heels glued to the floor when squatting. We will accomplish this while simultaneously prepping our lower backs for the squat. Start by placing two ten-pound plates on the floor, at around shoulder-width. We will use these to elevate our toes and perform straight-leg deadlifts. By elevating the toes, you will place the calves under a stretch, and semi-stretch the hamstrings, thus recruiting them more than with the traditional version. Make sure that you descend slowly, and initiate the concentric by contracting your hamstrings. The descent should be deliberate, and you should attempt to touch your backside to the wall behind you. Push back with your hips, then push through with them. This will really get your hamstrings "firing", and your lower back should be warm and ready to go after three sets of 10-12 reps.
Now we are ready to get down to business! After a couple of warm up sets to get the nervous system kicking in, we will pound out four sets of squats. Imagine trying to pull yourself to the floor with your hamstrings. This will  keep your descent slow and controlled. The concentric shouldn’t be explosive. We are trying to squeeze the muscle as if it owes us money, even though it's a compound movement. We are after hypertrophy, pure and simple. After four sets of 8-10 with only a minute of rest between sets, you should feel pumped.
Next up, we have leg presses. If you think that since squatting is done the hard part is over, you are very sadly mistaken. We will do seven “doubles” as I call them. (These will be far less enjoyable than a double you would order from the local bar tender.) The first half of each set will be done with a narrow stance for ten reps, the second half will be done with a wide stance for another ten. We are essentially cramming 14 sets into a very short period of time. Rest only 40 seconds between each double, and keep the tempo smooth and piston-like, with no stops at the bottom or top of the movement. 
Next on the agenda will be drop-set leg extensions. These will not be the traditional drop sets you might be used to. These will be mechanical drop sets. This means we will do a more difficult version of the lift first, then, keeping the weight the same, we shift our “mechanical” advantage and continue repping out. The first part of the set will be done with your chest held up high, and a slight forward lean off the back pad, allowing your torso to be at exactly 90 degrees to the thigh, thus shortening the quad from both the hip and the knee. When you reach failure, lean back against the pad which will place the muscle in the midrange where it is strongest. Continue the set until you fail again. Three rounds of this torture, with a minute rest in between, with a controlled negative and a two-count squeeze at the top of each rep, and that is all she wrote!
By this point, your legs should be pumped and, if you pushed your sets to failure, you should be feeling a little shaky—perhaps even a bit nauseous. If you feel like death warmed over, I applaud you for a job well done! 
     Stay tuned for the next installment of Prime and Pump, where I will carve out your path of destruction through a back/triceps workout that will get you grabbing attention even when your back is turned to the “cardio bunnies”!

Monday, October 12, 2015

All About Fat Loss for the Bodybuilder

Control Your Calories, Your Macronutrients, and Your Training for an Awesomely "Ripped" Physique

by Matthew Sloan

Matthew Sloan displays the results of his hard work, both in the gym and in the kitchen.

     This is a very important topic and it is important for one reason: millions of people set their goal to lose fat every year, and only a very small percentage succeed. Some people will say that these people are just lazy, but the simple fact is that the majority of people who fail to lose the fat have been misguided in the way to accomplish their goals. So I am going to attempt to enlighten you on the real way to lose fat and to lose it permanently.
     Let me begin by saying that this is not the ONLY way to lose fat, but this is an effective way and many of these principles are necessary in any fat loss journey. The most important factor in losing fat is one thing, and one thing only, and that is calories. You must be expending more calories than you are consuming daily to lose weight. You can calculate your daily caloric expenditure by going to an online calculator( this number will be based on your weight, height, age, and activity level). Some people will be exceptions to this caloric expenditure number, but you probably are not one of them.
     Calories are important, but only worrying about calories is not going to give you the optimal results you are looking to achieve. Our goal is to not only lose weight but to lose adipose tissue and not muscle that you've worked hard to build. In order to accomplish this, you must also worry about which macronutrients you get your calories from. When I say "macros", I am talking about the three main macronutrients found in foods: protein, carbs, and fats. Your proteins are primarily your meats, beans, dairy, protein powders, and a few other sources. Your carbs are primarily your potatoes, rice, fruits, and your common junk food. Your fats are primarily your nuts, dressings, and other common junk food choices.( I am a proponent of "flexible dieting" or "IIFYM" , so ,yes, you can get your macros from junk food or non "clean" foods, but for health reasons, I would recommend getting majority of your calories from clean whole foods.) It is important to have a balance of all these macros because they are all important in their own way. You need your protein for muscle growth and to prevent muscle loss. You need your carbs for energy and muscle growth. You need your fats for a few important body functions. Everybody will respond differently to these macros, and some people will need more of a certain thing than another. This is where a coach is able to manipulate and adjust your macros for optimal performance. But a good starting place for everyone is to get 25% of calories from protein, 15-20% from fat, and 55-60% from carbs.  (One of the most common macro ratios is a 40/40/20, but this is not optimal because no beginner needs that much protein. 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass is enough.)  This 25/55/20 macro ratio will give you plenty of energy from the large amount of carbs( I am a big opponent of low carb diets, but I will explain that in another article), and this will provide you with a protein amount that is effective, while also making dieting easier.
     OK, so now we know the first two keys to fat loss—your calories and macros—the next thing is your workout program. I would recommend a high frequency training style while cutting—my dad has written multiple articles on high frequency training so just check one of those out; we have tons of awesome ones here at Integral Strength. The reason for this is that the goal of your workouts should be to conserve as much muscle as possible and to burn as many calories in your workouts as possible. High frequency training is going to allow for more protein synthesis in the muscles, and will allow you to train more body parts per workout, leading to more calories burned.
Matthew uses a HFT protocol—similar to many of the articles here at Integral Strength—to help him lose fat while maintaining muscle mass.
     Now that we have the three main components of fat loss explained, I am going to explain how you will implement these for maximum fat loss. So fat is basically just stored calories, or stored energy. This fat was very useful for our ancestors because they may have had to go weeks without eating, and would have needed energy to continue living. In today's society, we have no need for this extra fat, so we wish to get rid of it. So it seems simple—if you starve yourself then you will lose the fat (such as commonly found in today's popular low carb and/or low-calorie diets), right? Maybe, except for one giant, fat (pun intended) problem: when your body goes into "starvation mode", it is going to get energy from your fat and muscles, and simply losing fat and muscle is not going to make you look any better or perform better—its simply going to make you smaller (I have made this mistake in the past). In order to lose fat without losing muscle, you must slowly decrease daily caloric consumption, while slowly increasing daily caloric expenditure.  So for an example, I will use myself. I am coming off of a caloric surplus, and I have been consuming 3200 calories daily. My macros were something around 160 grams of protein, 450 grams of carbohydrates, and 80 grams of fat. I want to ensure I don't lose my muscle, so I have been decreasing my calories by only 100 calories per week. Every 1.5 weeks, I am increasing cardio by five minutes, as well.  ( I jump rope for my cardio but any form of cardio will be fine.)  I have a "macro change" every three weeks—keep calories the same, but decrease carbs and increase protein. The only other thing I do is have a "re-feed" day( back up to 3000 calories) once a week. These are the main key components of my "cut".
     You should now have a good understanding of the basics of fat loss, and if you incorporate these components into your program, then you will lose fat and change your body. I will go into detail on low carb diets, cardio, food sources, and a few other minor fat loss ideas/methods in another article.