Thursday, January 28, 2016

HFT Benefits

The Benefits of High-Frequency Training for Size and Strength Gains!

     If you haven't done so, please read my previous post on High-Frequency Training (HFT) before reading the following.  It will be of more benefit—no pun intended—if you do so.
     Now, on to building more muscle, strength and power...
George Hackenshmidt—the "Russian Lion"—built a massive physique, with the massive strength to boot, using High-Frequency Training tactics in the early 1900's.

     Different training strategies provide different benefits.  For instance—as an example of a training paradigm completely counter to HFT—if you were to follow a 2-days-per-week program of full-body workouts, focusing on the 3 powerlifting exercises, then you would reap the benefits of having more free time than usual during the week, and of being able to get good strength gains out of minimalistic training.
     High-Frequency Training has more benefits, in my book, than most other training strategies.  Here are some of the best benefits of this style of training:
It's Easy to Properly Regulate the "3 Variables"
     In the past, I've discussed what I consider to be the "three variables" of training.  For any program to be successful, these 3 variables must be properly regulated, controlled, and even manipulated.  The 3 variables are intensity, volume, and frequency.  As a general rule of thumb, two of the variables should always be high, while the other variable should be kept low.  The exceptions to this rule are either (a) highly-advanced lifters who have the ability to train intensity, volume, and frequency at a very high level, or (b) a program that is focused on keeping all 3 of the variables at a "moderate" level.
     The sort of HFT that I generally recommend here is one where you regulate the 3 variables by keeping intensity and frequency high, while keeping volume relatively low.  As the lifter gets more advanced, he/she can slowly add volume, but not until sufficient and regular strength gains are maintained.
     And that's really the beauty of HFT: it makes regulating the 3 variables relatively easy.
     You are training almost daily.  This keeps the frequency high.
     You are using relatively few sets for each exercise, while only using a handful of exercises.  This keeps the volume relatively low.
     And you are working up to a fairly high percentage of your one-rep maximum, which, in turn, means that your intensity is also going to be high.
     It's simple, and that's what makes it so effective for a great majority of lifters.
Training Motivation Stays High
     For lifters or bodybuilders who use any kind of low-frequency training, one of the hardest things is remaining motivated while on the program.
     Generally, this isn't a problem for lifters on HFT programs.  The daily training makes it more "addictive" for your body, so that your nervous system and muscles will actually be "craving"—for lack of a better word—to train each and every day.  In fact, most lifters reach a point where they feel really weird when they take a day off, and they are usually dying to get to the gym on the day after an off-day.
     And once you reach a point where you are not looking forward to the daily training, then you know that you are doing too much, which means that all is needed is a few "back-off" days to renew and re-energize the body and the muscles.
Better Hormonal "Response" on a Daily Basis
     Each and every time that you train, a host of good things happens to your muscle cells and the hormones that control/regulate them.
     Training increases output of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1).  So, obviously, the more frequently you can train a muscle group, the more frequent is the anabolic response.
     Bodybuilders—and researchers to boot—have long known about these anabolic responses to training, but many really didn't know how to take advantage of them.  The idea just to "train more" obviously was not the appropriate response.  The beginner or intermediate trainee doesn't need to increase his/her frequency without regulating volume and intensity.
     The sort of HFT I have written about regulates volume and intensity rather nicely, and the daily training really does make a difference in the anabolic response.  When performed properly, you should feel more "full" in your muscles, and feel more "aggressive" than usual in your mindset—both indicators that your hormones—and your muscles—are getting adequate stimulus.
Take More Advantage of Peri-Workout Nutrition
     Consuming the appropriate macronutrients and supplements before, during, and after your workout (peri-workout nutrition) can have a big influence on your muscle growth.  Bodybuilders who take advantage of peri-workout nutrition know that doing so makes their muscles grow larger and stronger in a shorter period of time.
     It only makes sense that more frequent training, combined with always using peri-workout nutrition will result in the largest, strongest muscles possible within a particular training cycle.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mass — and Strength — Made Fast and Easy!

High-Frequency Training for Fast Growth in Muscle Mass plus Some Serious Strength and Power Gains

"A day without work is a day without food." —Zen Master Hyakujo

     After my son posted his previous article on some easy ways to lose fat (fast), I thought I would do something similar, assuming, of course, that your goals in this instance are fast gains in both strength and muscle mass.
Matthew Sloan builds his muscle with HFT

     I have many other articles on this blog that cover high-frequency training, but it's amazing how many emails I still get from folks—typically guys, of course—who want more information on how to properly design a high-frequency training program, or use HFT for a period of a few weeks as a break from their typical routines.  Consider this post—and the subsequent ones that will follow during the remainder of this month—as my answer(s).
     There are many ways to build both strength and/or muscle mass.  Some programs are decidedly better than others at building just muscle mass or strength.  Conversely, some programs suck at building one of the aspects, and are really good at building the other.  For instance, if you are trying to stay in a weight class (as some people do for powerlifting) and are concerned about gaining weight, then a very effective way to train is infrequent training combined with really low reps (1 rep, or at the most 2 rep, sets) for multiple sets.  In this scenario, you would train, say, Squats on Monday, bench presses on Wednesday, and deadlifts on Friday.
     Such low-rep, infrequent training is not good at all if you are trying to build muscle mass.
     In that same regard, if you perform a program of moderate to low-frequency workouts with lots of sets and reps—15 to 20 sets of 15 to 20 reps—then you have set yourself up on a program that will build plenty of muscle, but will result in virtually zero strength gains.
     When it comes to building both muscle and strength, there are several programs that are effective.  (Almost all of the training articles I've penned on this blog are good for building both.)  A heavy-light-medium, 3 days-per-week program, for instance, is quite good, as is an upper/lower split program where you train 4 days-per-week.  (And, of course, programs such as Westside ain't "half-shabby" either.)
     For my money, however, nothing—and I mean nothing—beats HFT for building muscle and strength and power WHEN it's used correctly.  (And the operative word is "when"—you can do daily training, multiple-times-per-day for really high reps, and you won't build strength that would amount to much of anything.)
     When I say high-frequency training, I mean high-frequency training!  I mean a program that has you training each muscle group between 4 and 6 days-per-week.  Anything less than that is not the kind of training that I'm talking about.
     Here are some of the "keys" to making HFT work for building the ultimate combination of both strength and mass:
Train Very Frequently
     As I just mentioned, HFT is most effective at building this ultimate strength/mass/power combo when VERY high-frequency is used.
     Each muscle group should be trained on an almost daily basis.  Typically the training works best if you train every day for 3 to 5 days in a row, then take a break of one day before repeating.  You don't have to be too systematic about it, however.  So, if you train 3 days, then take a day off, followed by 5 days, then take a day off, followed by 4 days, then take a day off, and so on and so forth, then that should work out "perfectly."
     You can take the day off whenever you feel as if "mentally" you need the break, or you can do something such as what I do: When training this way, I simply take a day off whenever "life" gets in the way.  If I come home from work, for instance, and my wife wants to go on a "date night", then I take a day off.  If, come the weekend, some friends invite us over for beer and burgers, then I know that's another "life" reason for a relaxing day away from training.
     Here's the thing, however: the more often you train, the more often will you NOT want a day away from the gym.  In fact, if you take two days off at any time, you'll probably be absolutely dying to get your tail back under some big weights.
Treat Each Training Day as a "Practice Session"
Herman Goerner was massive and strong even in the 1920's.  He trained as if it was a "practice session" and could deadlift almost 800 pounds, an impressive feat no matter the era.

     This is one I learned from the "old-timers".  Your old-school strongmen and other lifters interested in cultivating "physical culture" did not "thrash", "obliterate", "destroy", or "crush" their muscles and lifts into oblivion with sets taken to the point of momentary muscular failure.  No, what they did was "practice" their various lifts.
     In this way, lifting becomes much more similar to martial arts, where you pick a handful of exercises, and then "practice" the exercises for numerous sets, but never take your sets to the limit that your form begins to "break down."
     Which brings us around to the next big key:
Train the Lift and Not the Muscle Group
     At each training session, pick a handful of exercises, and then train each exercise for a handful of sets, beginning with a fairly light weight, and then work up to a heavy triple, double, or single.
     None of the sets should be "all-out"—or even close, for that matter.  Always leave a few reps "in the tank", aside from the last set, where you should be lifting close to whatever your max is for that particular rep range of 1 to 3 reps.
Always Finish Training Your Exercises with LOW-Rep Sets
     Along the same lines, whenever you are finished with your last set of your chosen exercise, DO NOT perform a final high-rep set or two.  Sure, this technique is fine for some programs, but not when it comes to building plenty of mass and strength with HFT.  You want your muscles to "remember" the last set.  Your strength gains will be diminished if you don't follow this tip.
Train Using the "Big" Lifts
     There is no need for "isolation" movements, or anything of the like when it comes to HFT.  In fact, using such exercises could actually hinder your progress on programs such as this.
     Stick with the "big boys."
     As a rule, you can't go wrong with the exercises I've outlined in the past in one of my "Big 5" articles/posts.  Pick a heavy squatting exercise, a heavy pulling exercise, a heavy overhead pressing exercise, and, then, throw in a "drag" or "carry" exercise as a finisher.
     Here's a small list as an example:

  • barbell squat
  • dumbbell squat
  • Zercher squat
  • overhead squat
  • deadlift
  • deficit deadlift
  • trap-bar deadlift
  • sumo deadlift
  • power clean
  • power snatch
  • clean-and-jerk
  • dumbbell power clean
  • clean and press
  • military press
  • push press
  • one-arm dumbbell overhead press
  • farmer's walk
  • sled drag
  • sandbag carry
     Also, in addition, it's perfectly fine to include some heavy chins, dips, barbell curls, dumbbell curls, or the like for good measure.
Use the "3 to 5 Rule" as a Reliable Guide
     At each training session, perform 3 to 5 exercises for 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 5 reps.  I like this "rule" because it limits your total amount of reps on any exercise to 25 reps.  If your total reps on any exercise, and, thus, your total "workload", gets too high you will begin to have problems with such high-frequency training.  This form of training has to be tempered with a moderate amount of volume.  (The exception, of course, would be highly advanced lifters who have built up the work capacity to do high-frequency, high-intensity, and high-volume workouts.)
     At the same time, another benefit is that this "rule" prevents you from doing too-little work.  Too much training, and you can stifle some of your results, but too little training, and you might as well stay away from the gym altogether.
     Finally, don't be limited by this "rule", either.  There will come a time—assuming that you stick with HFT for long enough—when you will need more sets, and, eventually, more exercises to keep making progress.  Also, to keep from growing incredibly bored, you may want to try some other methods that work well in the context of this style of training.
Another Reliable Method is the "Two-Barbell Rule"
     If you would prefer to do less exercises, you may want to try the "two-barbell" rule.  This "rule" simply states that, for the fastest progress, begin each training session with 2 barbell exercises before proceeding to whatever-the-hell-else you feel like doing.  In this case, however, the 2 barbell exercises would be the only exercises in use.  You perform less exercises, but more sets.
     A good way to use this "rule" is to do "ramps" on your two exercise.  Pick a rep range—either 5 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps, or singles—and simply "ramp" up in weight on each set until you reach the "near-max" for the chosen rep range.
     If your first exercise is the squat, and you choose a 5-rep ramp, your sets may look like this:
     This example assumes that the last set of 5 reps was "tough" with 295; tough enough that you probably could not get 5 reps if you added another 10 to 15 pounds.
     The lower the reps, the higher the sets.  Also, the more advanced, the higher the sets.  Advanced lifters may want to, as well, begin with sets of 5 before proceeding to sets of 3, then singles.  Remember, I said "advanced"—too many sets, even with only 2 exercises, and you won't be able to train at the frequency required.
Eat Plenty of Food!
     Unless you are advanced enough—by this point, if you haven't figured it out yet, the rules go "out the window" for advanced lifters—you would not want to follow my HFT strength and power training advice and follow my son's "Shredded Made Easy" diet plan at the same time.  The kind of training I have advised here requires calories, lots of calories!  Throw all the macros you want at this training regimen—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  In fact, I think a diet that is almost equal in all the 3 macronutrients would be rather ideal.
     Don't forget the calories, either.  As a starting point, shoot for 12 times your bodyweight in calories daily.  After a few days, bump that up to 15 times your bodyweight in calories minimum.  So, for all of you 150-pound "Macs" who are tired of having sand kicked in your face while your woman tells the bully to beat off, this means that you need to work up to at least 2,250 calories-per-day minimum.  If you can stomach it, you will eventually want to add more.  (In fact, you should have to add more.  You should begin to gain weight at a rather fast rate on this program—compared to others—and as your weight increases, so must your total caloric intake.)
Charles Atlas is shown on the right, with a snippet from his legendary "dynamic tension" course on the left.  (Anyone my age or older, who read comic books as a kid, can remember the advertisements well.)

     For now, this should be enough information to get you started on the right track with HFT for strength and muscle mass.  Keep coming back to the blog regularly this month, however, because the plan is to have plenty more where this came from!

     (As an end note, the plan this year is to have at least 2 articles every week added to Integral Strength, whether the articles come from myself, my son, or the behemoth that frequents these whereabouts known as Jared Smith.)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Shredded Made Easy

5 Simple Ways To Make Dieting Easier
by Matthew Sloan

Matthew Sloan shows off his lean physique

     The New Year of 2016 has arrived, and, with it, comes New Year's resolutions. The vast majority of these resolutions involve something such as this, “I'm going to get ripped!” or “I want to be toned”.  Unfortunately, the majority of these lost souls who go on their journey to that "dream physique" never make it past the month of January. Although much of this failure is the result of being misinformed on the correct way to lose fat (which I have talked about before), it is also the result of a lack of willpower. A very small percentage of us can follow a strict dietary program and never slip up, even if it's only now and then. But many of us, have a hard time not to binge-eat on the weekends while watching the latest episode of our favorite TV show(myself included). But over this past year(as I embarked on my journey from fat to shredded), I have learned some simple methods for coming up with easy ways to stick to my dietary regimen. So here are my 5 simple ways to make dieting easier.
Intermittent Fasting. I'm sure many of you are aware of intermittent fasting, but here is a short description. Intermittent fasting is, essentially, just consuming all of your calories within a period of the day called an eating window. For example, one may fast from 8:00 pm until 12:00 pm the next day. This would create a 16 hour fasting period and an 8 hour eating window. So now that you all are aware of what intermittent fasting is, here is how it can work to help you achieve your fat-loss goals. So, let's say you are consuming 2000 calories a day and you eat from the time you get up at 6:00 a.m. until you go to sleep at 10:00 p.m. You are attempting to spread 2000 calories throughout a 16-hour period. This is very difficult to accomplish, and makes it much harder to stick to your diet. But let's say you fast from the time you get up until noon. Then it will be much easier to go throughout the rest of the day with your limited calories. Give it a try—I'm sure you will find that it is much less taxing on the mind when you eat this way.
Caffeine. For all of you coffee drinkers out there, this one is definitely for you! Caffeine is a good appetite suppressant. This will make it so that you aren't as hungry, resulting in a lower caloric intake for each day. We've all heard of diet pills, well, all these pills are primarily just caffeine! I recommend having a cup of black coffee every morning—you will grow to enjoy black coffee (trust me).
Water. It doesn't get anymore simple than this. Water can be very beneficial for those of us that are dieting, not only because it is healthy for your body, but because it will help to keep you full. Try drinking half-a-gallon of water every morning, and watch how much easier it is to keep your cravings under control.
Stay Busy. I am always the hungriest when I am just sitting around watching T.V. or just being lazy. So in order to make it easier on yourself, just stay active! When you are busy, time will fly right by you, and, before you know it, you'll have a hard time getting in all the calories, not the other way around.
Cheat Meals. One of the best ways to give your mind a break while dieting, is to have a cheat meal! I recommend having 1 cheat meal on a specified day every week. Not only will this give your mind some much needed rest, it can also be beneficial to losing fat directly. So, begin with 1 cheat meal each week and, if you feel as if you're body responds better to more cheat meals( I am like this), then add in more.

     Hopefully this is the year in which more people reach their New Year's resolutions than in the past. Just remember to train hard, eat correctly, and follow these tips!