How to build up your strength Ev­ery­day Ath­lete Tommy Young

Sunday Herald Life - - BOOKS REVIEW -

HYPERTROPHY (gain­ing more mus­cle) is the sec­ond most pop­u­lar rea­son for go­ing to the gym th­ese days. I’d say this only falls short to fat loss. The good news is that with more mus­cle you burn more calo­ries and ul­ti­mately shed more body fat and it’s eas­ier to stay lean. So since both goals are com­ple­men­tary, it be­comes a ques­tion of how much mus­cle you would like to gain. Once you know that, it’s time to form a train­ing and nu­tri­tion plan to match your goal.

So should you lift heavy weights, with fewer rep­e­ti­tions (reps) or lighter weights with more reps? Should you keep adding weights un­til you fail, or stick to a set vol­ume? How long should you rest be­tween sets? Put th­ese ques­tions to a room full of ex­perts and you will re­ceive sev­eral dif­fer­ent an­swers. Why? Well, what works for one per­son does not al­ways work the same for an­other and it might take some trial and er­ror to find out what’s best for you.

Heavy or light?

A weight is de­scribed as “heavy” when it is around 70 per cent or more of your one rep max (a weight you can only lift once). A light load would be 40 per cent of this and be­low. While you can achieve hypertrophy with both meth­ods, you can only get stronger by lift­ing heav­ier weights. The rea­son for this is the neu­ral adap­ta­tions cre­ated by lift­ing heavy weights af­fects the mus­cle in dif­fer­ent ways com­pared with the phys­i­cal adap­ta­tions cre­ated by lift­ing lighter weights for more rep­e­ti­tions.

So, you can train with lighter loads and still get mus­cu­lar but you will never be as strong as the per­son that chooses to lift heav­ier weights, even though you can both gain the same size. Go­ing to fail­ure with ei­ther method is a great way to cre­ate the mi­cro tears we need in the mus­cle that will force the body to build and cre­ate more mus­cle tis­sue. A com­mon way to achieve this would be to per­form a drop set. A drop set is where we per­form our se­lected ex­er­cise to fail­ure then re­move some weight and con­tinue un­til we fail again be­fore re­mov­ing more weight and so on. By con­tin­u­ally forc­ing the mus­cle to work be­yond a point of fail­ure we greatly in­crease the “dam­age and re­pair” se­quence that leads to bigger mus­cles.

Long or short breaks be­tween sets?

Most peo­ple ex­pect to take one or two min­utes be­tween sets, but you can take up to five min­utes off if you like. The rea­son for keep­ing the rest short in most train­ing plans is to keep the body burn­ing more fat, sim­i­lar to work­ing su­per­sets. If you take more rest time you might be able to work a lit­tle harder, cre­at­ing more mus­cle build­ing but less fat burn­ing; the choice should re­flect your over­all goals.

A re­cent study found that peo­ple who trained for mus­cle growth later in the evening showed more growth over those who fol­lowed the same pro­gramme but trained in the morn­ing. The morn­ing group were slightly leaner after the 12 weeks. The evening group would fin­ish train­ing, eat dinner and a few hours later be in bed sleep­ing. It is dur­ing sleep that our bod­ies do all the re­pair work and build more mus­cle. The morn­ing group, how­ever, would get a smaller meal (break­fast) and then go about their day. Dur­ing the day we are still phys­i­cally ac­tive and un­able to re­cover in the same way as dur­ing a full sleep cy­cle. How­ever, those who weight-train in the morn­ings will burn more calo­ries through­out the day due to a high me­tab­o­lism. The re­sult is a leaner physique.

If you are se­ri­ous about adding size to those arms, train later, eat big and sleep well. If your goal is a lean physique, get up early and prime your body to burn more fat through­out the day.

The ec­cen­tric ef­fect

Low­er­ing the bar slowly is known as “ec­cen­tric fo­cus train­ing”. This places the mus­cles un­der even more ten­sion for an in­creased time. As dis­cussed above, more stress = more mi­cro tears = more re­pair = bigger mus­cles. When plan­ning a mus­cle­build­ing pro­gramme it’s al­ways a good idea to in­cor­po­rate some ec­cen­tric fo­cus work into the plan. As long as you are train­ing to fail­ure you will grow more mus­cle tis­sue. When I pro­gramme clients on a mus­cle-build­ing phase I al­ways choose to go heavy then add in some work to fail­ure. I firmly be­lieve that – whether you are 25 or 65, male or fe­male – be­ing strong is im­por­tant for a long, ac­tive lifestyle.

Be­fore start­ing a weight-train­ing pro­gram you should al­ways seek in­struc­tion from a sea­soned trainer, who will help you test your true one-rep max which you need for set­ting your train­ing plan and coach you the cor­rect form to avoid in­juries.

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