Posts Tagged ‘alwyn cosgrove’

April 12th, 2010

A recent study came out of Truman State University and looked at the metabolic effect of kettlebell training (thanks to Adam Bornstein for forwarding)

The subjects were asked to swing a kettlebell as many times as they could in a 12 minute period (sets, reps and rest period it seems were freestyled – the subjects rested whenever they wanted)

The researchers found that the subjects completed between 198 and 333 swings in the time frame (265 swings average ) and worked at an average heart rate of 86% of max and at 65% of their previously measured oxygen consumption [VO2max]. They concluded that

“Continuous kettlebell swings can impart a metabolic challenge of sufficient intensity to increase Vo2max. Heart rate was substantially higher than Vo2 during kettlebell swings. Kettlebells provide a useful tool with which coaches may improve the cardiorespiratory fitness of their athletes.”

This validates what several of you training yourself, training clients or who just hate doing traditional cardio have probably known for a while… We don’t have to do traditional cardiovascular training (running, cycling etc) to get a cardiovascular training effect. 12 mins of kettlebell swings can be used as a great cardio tool, as can bodyweight circuits, sleds, sandbags etc.

Taking that a step further, we can see that it may actually be a better choice of cardio training for some clients.

12 mins of running  as a comparison obviously involves a lot more repetitions through the joints than an average of 265 reps of kettlebell swings.  So for some clients/trainees, we can get a similar metabolic effect, heart rate, oxygen consumption (and therefore calories burned) while reducing the total reps and joint stress in deconditioned clients.

The bottom line is that we can use non-traditional metabolic training such as this, to provide cardiovascular training benefits.

Try the following at the end of your next workout:

Start the stopwatch.

Do 10-12 swings at the top of each minute, and rest for the remainder of the minute.

Repeat for 10-12 mins.

A great article from Alwyn Cosgrove

Get Strong! Stay Strong!

Chris

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An excerpt from Alwyn Cosgroves article: Releasing the Brakes

Imagine that a guy walks into my gym, and he’s looking to add 10 pounds of muscle — a simple and straightforward request. The first thing we do is go through a short checklist:

1. Is he lifting?

2. Is he eating enough, and eating enough protein?

3. Is he lifting often enough, heavy enough, and with good technique?

Obviously, if someone wants to gain size and he isn’t lifting weights, there’s no mystery about the first step. We get him on a training program, introduce him to the magic of progressive resistance, and watch him grow.Since nobody is confused about the need to lift in order to gain muscle, let’s move on to the next two points.  You’d be surprised how many people lift weights but don’t eat enough total calories to reach their goals. Same with protein intake: It seems obvious, but some people do need to be told to eat more. So once we figure out what he’s eating and when, fixing the problem is relatively straightforward.

“Heavy enough” and “often enough” are subjective, of course, but once we understand what he’s been doing, these are easy variables to manipulate. Technique? Well if you’ve been to any commercial gyms recently, you’ll see a lot of underdeveloped guys lifting with really bad form. If our guy’s form on the squat and deadlift leaves a lot to be desired, we might be able to add size just by teaching him to use the right muscles on basic lifts.  But what if the problem isn’t so easy to detect and fix? What if he’s doing everything we expect him to do with his training and nutrition, but he’s still not making the gains he wants to make, and that we’d expect him to make, given the effort he’s putting in?

Our next step is to release the brakes.  When Pushing Harder Doesn’t Help.  I got the “release the brakes” idea during a conversation with Dax Moy, a British trainer and gym owner. We were talking about “accelerating” client progress, and came to an interesting conclusion:  All of us in the fitness industry, trainers and trainees alike, have been brainwashed into thinking that the only way to improve results is to push harder. If you aren’t making gains, it’s because you aren’t training hard enough or often enough. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about systemic gains in muscle size or body composition, or strength in particular lifts, or the size of individual muscles or muscle groups. The answer to every problem is to punch down harder on the accelerator.  But think of a car with the parking brake on. If you push harder on the gas pedal, you’ll only run out of fuel quicker, right? But if you take off the brake, the car will go farther and faster, and probably use less fuel in the process.

This leads to two important conclusions: First, removing the impediments to your progress will probably help more than adding another set of squats, bench presses, or sprints. Second, it’s pointless to increase load and volume while those impediments are in place.  So What’s Holding You Back?

A friend of mine went to see a chiropractor for a back problem. The problem: misaligned vertebrae in his lumbar spine. The culprit: heavy Romanian deadlifts.  My friend is strong as hell — he was using close to double his body weight in the lift. His glutes and hams could handle the load, but his lower back couldn’t. Since my friend’s goal is to get even stronger than he was before the injury, what’s his best strategy? Keep pushing, despite the fact his injured back has already shown it can’t handle bigger loads? Or design a program that releases the brakes by strengthening his weakest link?

We switched to a heavy emphasis on core training that allows direct loading of his lumbar area, along with heavy single-leg RDLs, which maintained the strength of his glutes and hams without the risk of a lower-back injury.  Core strength is often the underlying issue, whether we’re talking about something major like misaligned vertebrae or something that’s annoying but minor, like a lagging body part. The core muscles need to stabilize and protect the spine, particularly when the extremities are in motion. If those muscles aren’t strong or stable enough, the first clue could be a lack of size or strength somewhere else.

Quick experiment:

Stand up and hold a single dumbbell out to your right side, as you would in the finishing position of a lateral raise. What muscles are working? Obviously, it’s your right deltoid. If you’re a trainer or otherwise knowledgeable about exercise physiology, you can probably name a few other muscles in the shoulder girdle that come into play, but we can all agree that the prime mover here is the deltoid.  But think about how your torso stays upright with that dumbbell hanging out in space. Your center of gravity has been thrown off, so something besides your right deltoid must be working pretty hard to keep you from listing to the starboard side. In this case, it’s your left oblique. It’s working to stabilize your spine, allowing your right deltoid to lift that weight and hold it out there away from your body.

Now imagine that the oblique on your left side is weak, or recently injured. You wouldn’t be able to lift that dumbbell, since the muscles charged with protecting your spine aren’t prepared to do their job. Your body cares more about the health and safety of your spine than it does about the size of your shoulders.  Your best strategy, then, is to rehabilitate and strengthen your obliques, thus releasing the brake on your muscle development. Stomping on the accelerator by increasing the volume of your shoulder training wouldn’t do any good, and might make things considerably worse.

Let’s assign some completely hypothetical numbers to this example, and say your right deltoid can lift 30 pounds for 10 reps. To achieve overload and force growth, we have to train the deltoid to do one of two things: lift 31 pounds for 10 reps, or 30 pounds for 11 or more reps.  But let’s say your core muscles, either because of injury or disuse, can only handle 29 pounds for 10 reps.  A bodybuilder might say the solution is to find a way to overload the delts while bypassing the core. Maybe he’d use machines designed for that purpose, or wear a lifting belt for his lateral raises, or do something else that wouldn’t occur to me. Ultimately, the strategy is counterproductive; even if it works, it only exacerbates the imbalance, which makes the brakes work harder to slow your body down and keep your spine safe.

See more at alwyncosgrove.com

Get Strong! Stay Strong!

Chris

 

 

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By Alwyn Cosgrove

When I started out in the fitness-training field, the average client tended to be an active person who used gym exercise to augment the other types of activity he got outside the gym. Few of us specialized in fat-loss training, simply because it wasn’t the primary goal of the majority of our clients. It was a nice side-effect of solid workouts and a good diet, but it wasn’t the main reason our clients came to work with us. Today, it’s the opposite. What we do with our clients in the gym may be the only exercise they get in a typical week. We regularly see clients who work 50 hours a week, not counting the two hours a day they spend commuting. Many of them can’t train on weekends because of work-related travel, or because it’s the only chance they get to spent time with their spouses and kids. Since opening our facility in 2000, we’ve measured the body-fat percentages, abilities, range of motion, and posture of all our beginning members. I can say this unequivocally: The average beginner today arrives fatter and in worse shape than the average beginner just nine years ago. That presents a huge problem for us. We have to address posture, strength, mobility, flexibility, elasticity, and cardio-respiratory endurance simultaneously. And we’re lucky if we get three hours a week to do it. A traditional program won’t work for this population. Now, before anyone counters with “dedicated people make time,” let me assure you that I’m talking about people who are dedicated. Let me describe two of my former clients:

Client #1: a professional motocross rider • Races 45 weekends a year • Flies out to the race site on Friday, competes Saturday and Sunday, and flies home on Monday • Practices Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday • Trains with me Tuesday and Thursday • Starts all over again on Friday This is a guy who’s married, with two young sons. Is he not dedicated? Do you see any additional room in his schedule that would allow him to train more than he does?

Client #2: a doctor • Works 60 to 70 hours a week, and is often on call longer than that • Commutes an hour to work each way • Married with three kids • Attends his kids’ soccer games, and tries to spend to spend as much time as possible with his family • Trains with me three times a week Is he not a dedicated person? Should he devote more hours to the gym, at the expense of saving lives or spending time with his family?

The solution: To give these dedicated but time-challenged clients the best possible results, we need to hack traditional training down to its most basic and fundamental elements. Hacking 101 You may be familiar with the term “life hack.” Basically, it’s a time-management system in which you hack away the unessential stuff in your life to increase productivity. If we define productivity as “maximizing results per unit of time invested,” we can see the benefits of it. The goal is to spend less time doing things that bring us little if any benefit, and more time doing the things that improve our income, prospects, pleasure, and quality of life. Another way to look at it: maximize productivity by minimizing redundancy. As a fitness professional and owner of a training facility, I realized I had to hack our training programs if I had any hope of keeping pace with the rapidly changing needs of our clients. For example, it’s not uncommon to see programs that include three exercises or more for each body part. So for biceps, you might see the barbell curl, EZ-bar curl, and seated dumbbell curl — three exercises that are more similar than different. Barbell curls, EZ-bar curls, and seated dumbbell curls are essentially the same exercise. Our first hack would be to switch to barbell curls and incline dumbbell curls. Now we’ve reduced the total number of exercises by a third, and we’ve also chosen a non-redundant exercise — the incline curl — to give us a different angle of pull and allow us to hit more muscle fibers. A second hack would choose one of those exercises as our sole focus. A third and final hack — the “max hack” — would eliminate the isolation work completely. Instead, we’d do close-grip chins, which would target the biceps effectively enough while also recruiting lots more muscle and building total-body strength.

Body by Pareto The Pareto principle, also known as the 80-20 rule, is an important key to successful hacking of any type — whether we’re talking about training, running a business, or the overall management of our lives. It’s named for Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist who in 1906 observed that 80 percent of the wealth in Italy (and every country he subsequently studied) was owned by 20 percent of the population. After Pareto published his findings, many others observed similar ratios in their own areas of expertise. In the early 1940s, an industrial-efficiency expert named Joseph Juran applied Pareto’s ideas to project management, describing the principle of “the vital few and trivial many.” Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, popularized the idea for my generation of entrepreneurs when he observed that 80 percent of his income came from 20 percent of his clients. So he hacked off 80 percent of his clients, effectively reducing his workload by 80 percent, and focused on the clients who accounted for 80 percent of his income. Yes, at first he took a 20 percent pay cut, but his productivity and income soared on a per-hour basis. You can apply the Pareto principle to workout hacking with the assumption that 80 percent of the consequences come from 20 percent of the causes. Or, put another way, 20 percent of the exercises you do produce 80 percent of your results. Let’s say you have a total-body workout with 10 exercises. If we hacked out eight of the 10 exercises, and just kept squats and chin-ups, would you expect to get just 20 percent of the results? Chances are it would be the opposite — you might get 80 percent of the results by focusing on just 20 percent of the exercises. So most of your results come from just two exercises, and relatively few results come from the other eight. It’s easy to see why. Compound exercises recruit more muscle, allow you to use bigger loads, and burn more calories than isolation exercises. That’s why you want to build your program around them, and why your workouts should start with exercises like deadlifts or squats, the ones that produce the best results on a rep-by-rep basis.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you’ll get 100 percent of the results you want with a hacked program. The goal of hacking out what’s unessential from your training program is to free up more of your time without significantly diminishing your results. Don’t hack for the sake of hacking; you want to eliminate redundant or trivially beneficial exercises so you can accomplish other goals, in or out of the gym. In the next few sections I’ll show you examples we’ve used successfully with clients in our facility. As you’ll see, there’s a sound basis in science for most of these hacks.

The Frequency and Volume Hack Back in 2000, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared equal-volume resistance training over one day or three days per week. [1] The participants in the study were experienced lifters. Group one performed the entire workout — three sets of each exercise — on one day. Group two performed the same volume of work, but spread it out over three days. So they did one set of each exercise in each workout. The researchers found that the once-per-week group achieved just 62 percent of the strength improvements of the three-times-per-week group, and also gained less muscle. The men in the second group put on nine pounds of muscle, vs. four pounds for those in the first group. This gives us an idea of how to start our training hack: It’s better to reduce volume per workout than it is to reduce frequency. So if you work out three times a week, it’s better to make those workouts shorter than to do longer workouts less often.

A review published in Sports Medicine in 2007 looked at several studies on strength training and hypertrophy across different populations.[2] It concluded that, for hypertrophy, it’s better to train each muscle group three times a week. Anecdotally, we know that a lot of bodybuilders use an increased frequency to bring up a lagging body part. If the problem is that every body part needs to be brought up, then three total-body workouts should work better than a series of split routines in which body parts are hit just once or twice per week. The Sets and Reps Hack Now that we’ve settled on three total-body workouts a week, we have to figure out how to hack unessential elements of those workouts to keep them at a reasonable length. But we still want results, so we have to figure out how best to employ sets and reps to increase size and strength.

A study published in JSCR in 2002 compared two different types of periodization.[3] Traditional linear periodization works something like this: In weeks one to four, you’d do eight reps per set of all your exercises. In weeks five to eight, you’d do six reps, and in weeks nine to 12 you’d do four reps. So you’d progress from a hypertrophy protocol to one that emphasizes pure strength. Undulating periodization aims to achieve those goals simultaneously, so on Monday you’d do four reps per set, on Wednesday you’d do six reps, and on Friday you’d do eight reps. The researchers found that undulating periodization was better than linear periodization for strength gains. Thus, we’ll use three distinct ranges of sets and reps in our three total-body workouts each week. That brings us to the next big question: Which exercises should we use?

Exercise Hack At the 2000 annual conference of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, researchers at Ball State presented a study that compared the effects of two different workouts on upper-arm circumference.[4] One group did four compound upper-body exercises in each workout, while the other did those four exercises plus biceps curls and triceps extensions. Both groups increased their strength and arm size. But in 10 weeks of training, the additional arm exercises provided no additional benefit. So if you’re going to hack your training program to make it as efficient as possible without sacrificing benefits, you can eliminate direct arm training with isolation exercises. Big arms, no curls. Workout Duration Hack Sir Charles Scott Sherrington won the Nobel Prize in 1932 for his contributions in physiology and neuroscience. Sherrington’s law of reciprocal innervation states that “for every neural activation of a muscle, there is a corresponding inhibition of the opposing muscle.” This means that when you work your chest muscles, the opposite back muscles are forced to relax, thereby resting. It’s easy to apply this one: Instead of waiting two minutes between sets of bench presses, for example, you can perform one set of the bench press, rest for one minute, and then do a bent-over row. After you finish, you’ll rest for one minute, then repeat the sequence until you complete all sets of both exercises. In an average workout, this technique saves at least eight to 10 minutes without sacrificing performance.

“If you could only do one exercise … ” I hate questions like this. But I do have an answer: The snatch-grip deadlift probably works more muscle through a bigger range of motion than any other single exercise. (In other words, I’m not comparing the snatch-grip deadlift to a combination exercise like the clean and press.) So we’ll start with that as our primary exercise. Our secondary exercise will be the front squat. I also like to do single-leg exercises, so we’ll create a second total-body workout in which we use dumbbell Bulgarian split squats to target our quads, with step-ups as a hip-dominant counterpart. For upper-body exercises, we’ll stick to the ones that use the most muscle and avoid single-joint exercises.

The big four here will be chin-ups, dips (or dumbbell bench presses), dumbbell rows, and barbell push presses. We’ll do two of them in each of our total-body workouts.

Program A 1) Snatch-grip deadlift 2) Dumbbell Bulgarian split squat 3a) Dip 3b) Dumbbell row

Program B 1) Front squat 2) Step-up 3a) Barbell push press 3b) Close-grip chin-up Here’s how we’ll alternate programs A and B:

Week one: Mon: Program A Wed: Program B Fri: Program A Week two: Mon: Program B Wed: Program A Fri: Program B

Sets and reps for A and B work like this: Mon: 4 sets of 4 reps of each exercise. Rest 90 to 120 seconds between sets. Wed: 3 sets of 8 reps of each exercise. Rest 75 to 90 seconds between sets. Fri: 2 to 3 sets of 12 reps of each exercise. Rest 60 to 75 seconds between sets.

Select a load that’s appropriate for each exercise, given the rep range. You want to stop one or two reps short of failure on each set. Try this system as written for up to six weeks. You’ll do each program nine times, but only three times at each rep range. Final Thoughts Is this the perfect program? Absolutely not — the perfect program doesn’t exist. It’s just one way to hack out the unessential, trivial, and redundant exercises from your program, replacing them with the most effective exercises, and employing them in the most time-efficient way I know. Does it work? Let me put it this way: I wouldn’t still be in business if it didn’t.

Great Stuff!

Get Strong! Stay Strong!

Chris

Leg Training Myths Exposed
Quick Answers to Common Idiocy

You know the guy who floats around the gym nit-picking everybody’s technique? The guy who offers constructive criticism without being constructive? Well, we got sick of listening to his pseudo-knowledge about leg training, so we had Alwyn Cosgrove respond to some of the most common “tips” you hear.

The Parallel Universe

Myths:

Real-World Response

Have you ever watched kids learn to stand? They begin in a full squat. In fact, the fetal position is a full squat. That’s how your knee actually developed — in the full squat position.

Deep squatter from day one.

Don’t come back at me saying that a fetal position isn’t loaded. That statement actually proves my point. It’s not the position itself that’s dangerous. If you’re an idiot and don’t know how to load properly, then we have big problems.

Ask any orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist at what degree of knee-bend one performs the “drawer test?” It’s at 90 degrees. In this position, the knee joint is most unstable. If you’re trying to assess the integrity of the ligaments, you want minimal interference from other structures.

The drawer test: If it tickles, you probably aren’t doing it right.

Bend the knee to full flexion and check how much the tibia moves on the femur anteriorly or posteriorly. It’s very little. However, do the same test at 90 degrees of flexion and you’ll get considerably more movement.

You can imagine how much force is on the knee ligaments if the athlete descends with a weight and then at the most unstable point (90 degrees), reverses momentum and accelerates in the opposite direction. Couple this with the fact that nearly everyone is capable of squatting more weight to parallel than to the full squat position, and you set your body up for a problem.

Warning: The following stunt is not to be attempted by anyone wishing to remain bipedal.

Scientific Response

Squatting to parallel with legs bent at 90 degrees not only makes the exercise less effective, but increases the risk of injury. By not squatting through a full range of motion, you can’t maintain proper lumbosacral body mechanics.

When performing the squat, the sacrum undergoes a process known as nutation. It tilts forward relative to the two ilia on either side of it. At approximately 90 degrees of knee bend, the sacrum tilts back in a process known as counternutation. These two functions, nutation and counternutation, basically describe the movement at the sacroiliac (SI) joint.

However, proper SI joint mechanics help to ensure optimal functioning of the rest of the spine. For example, some literature links SI dysfunction with lower back pain in up to 80% of cases.

In order to perform a full squat, flexibility and range of motion must be maintained in the lumbar spine and SI joint, as well as in muscles such as the iliopsoas, hip external rotators, piriformis, and gemelli.

If a client can’t squat past 90 degrees of knee bend without their heels raising or their body bending excessively forward at the waist, but they can squat all the way to the floor while holding onto something, we know there are muscle imbalances and stability issues around the pelvic/lumbosacral region as opposed to a knee or ankle dysfunction.

Great for testing your squat depth and great for keeping out the land shark.

Additionally, improper pelvic, hip, and/or lumbosacral mechanics could manifest down the kinetic chain as recurring knee or ankle problems. Thus, regular performance of the full squat offers a “screen” of the athlete’s pelvic and lumbosacral flexibility. This could prevent injury or muscle imbalances long before they become chronic.

Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screen is a reference for using the squat as a screening tool.

As far as studies go, Salem and Powers (2001) looked at patellofemoral joint kinetics in female collegiate athletes at three different depths of knee flexion — 70 degrees (above parallel), 90 degrees (at parallel), and 110 degrees (below parallel).

The researchers found that “…peak knee extensor moment, patellofemoral joint reaction force and patellofemoral joint stress did not vary significantly between the three squatting trials…” There was no support for the idea that squatting below parallel increased stress on the patellofemoral joint.

To Boldly Go Where No Knee Has Gone Before

Myth:

Real-World Response

This one is really easy. My answer is, what about the other knee? In a lunge, it’s apparently too dangerous for the knee of the front leg to extend past the toes. Meanwhile the knee of the back leg is past the toes the whole time.

I’ve had people respond by saying that there’s no load on the back leg during a lunge. Okay then, put 135 pounds on your back and go down to the bottom of a lunge. Now lift your back foot off the floor. I rest my case.

The shirt may be optional, but using both feet to lunge is mandatory.

Scientific Response

When talking about knees going forward, one study jumps out. Fry, Smith, and Schilling (2003) examined joint kinetics during back squats under two conditions.

The first condition placed a board in front of the participants’ shins, which restricted forward displacement of the knee. In the second condition, movement wasn’t restricted at all. They squatted normally and the knees were allowed to pass the toes.

The researchers found that restricting the forward excursion of the knees during the squat increased anterior lean of the trunk and promoted an increased “internal angle at the knees and ankles.”

The results showed a 22% decrease in knee torque and a 1070% increase in hip torque! That stress has to go somewhere. Keeping the knees behind the toes definitely reduces the forces on the knee, but those forces were transferred more than tenfold to the hips and lower back.

You can be guy number one or guy number two. Your choice.

Obviously this study was in regard to squatting. However, the knee angle in a lunge would be similar and we could expect similar findings.

Wrap-Up

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(An excerpt from Alwyn Cosgroves Newsletter Dec 16 2008)
I’m a huge believer in using the “alternating set” system when training in the gym. For time management reasons, I tend to do exercise one for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, do exercise two for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, and continue. This allows me to increase work density while still getting “true” rest.

In other words, I perform a set of squats, rest 60 seconds, perform a set of push-ups, rest 60 seconds, and repeat. So in effect, I’ve almost tripled the rest period between squat sets (60 seconds plus the time taken for push-ups plus 60 seconds) as opposed to using a straight set system. And for fat loss training, it’s unparalleled.

However, the biggest problem or complaint I get from clients who use commercial facilities is that it’s really hard for them to tie up two pieces of gym equipment at peak hours. I have my own facility, but I realize this can be a real problem elsewhere. So I started experimenting with a few things–doing dumbbell lunges and push-ups for example or step-ups and dumbbell bench presses where I could use one set of dumbbells and one piece of equipment.

It was an okay compromise, but it started to somewhat limit my exercise selection. And to be honest, it still had the issue of people working in and possibly disrupting your rest periods.

So I went a step further. What if I created a fat loss or conditioning program based around one piece of equipment where you stayed in the same spot, using the same load for the entire duration. So I tried it. At first it was awkward, but after reading Istvan Javorek’s work and talking with über strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios, I started to implement different variations of combination lifting.

I just hoped that it would work as well as alternating sets for fat loss and conditioning or at least close enough that it wasn’t too much of a tradeoff. As it turns out, it worked better! In fact, it worked so well that it became a cornerstone of my conditioning programs with several athletes.

Part two
Part two of the evolution of our fat loss programs came shortly after. I have always recommended interval training as a superior form of fat loss over steady state cardio. Interval training is essentially periods of hard work alternated with easier periods of work using a cardio exercise.

The problem–running a mile doing intervals involves about 1500 repetitions. For someone looking to cut body fat, and hit total body weight training two to three times a week, that is a lot of extra volume and potential joint stress. So I started thinking. Interval training is similar to weight training in that it involves sets (and reps) followed by a rest period (albeit active). What if I used a lighter version of traditional strength training and created metabolic circuits?

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Timed sets

This is the simplest variation of metabolic work. Pick a load that is about 80% of your 10RM. Perform as many reps as possible at a constant tempo for a period of time (e.g. 60 seconds) and try to perform as many repetitions with as good form as possible. Rest for 15-30 seconds and perform another exercise.

Example #1

Barbell reverse lunge, left leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell reverse lunge, right leg, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds
Barbell push press, 60 seconds
Rest 15-30 seconds

Repeat three times for a 12-minute routine.

Example #2

Kettlebell swings, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Push-ups/burpees, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds
Prowler push, 30 seconds
Rest 15 seconds

Repeat for five rounds for a 12-minute finisher.

Alwyn always has great info.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!

Chris

Alternative Methods of Progression

Are you on exercise autopilot? After every set do you add a 10-pounder to each side of the bar before you can say, “Please spot me, Jamie Eason?” Then it’s time to consider some new ways to step up your workout. Alwyn Cosgrove has got some great ideas about the subject.

The Path To Progress

Most people use a single variable to progress in their weight training — load lifted. There’s nothing wrong with that, but eventually you reach a ceiling when you simply can’t add more weight to an exercise.

In a typical training program, we have exercise order, exercise selection, sets, reps, tempo, rest period and load. Here’s a small sample workout below. Let’s go over three progression methods and see how each changes the workout.

Sample Workout

Assuming each set takes a minute, the workout is done in 15 minutes.

Most people would just increase the load each week. But instead, we could add an additional rep next workout. Or add an additional set. Or maybe we cut the rest period down, and with the extra time we can add more exercises or even back-off sets.

Method #1: Add Reps

Add one rep to each set of each exercise.

You can always get one more rep.

Method #2: Add Sets

Add one set to each exercise.

Do a little more work than the next guy.

Method #3: Reduce Rest Periods

Decrease the rest between each set.

Assuming each set takes a minute, the workout is now done in 13.5 minutes.

Workout’s done already? Whatcha gonna do with that free time?

Let’s Put It All Together

This will take us from week one’s total volume of 5400 pounds in 15 minutes to a total volume of 8400 pounds in 18 minutes, with an increase in workout density from doing those two extra sets. That’s 55% more work in only three more minutes, or over 100 pounds of additional work per minute training.

Obviously this is a huge increase in the total work done without having to add any weight to the bar. So even if you’re in a situation where your home gym doesn’t have any extra weight, you can still make great progress. I haven’t even changed exercise order, exercise selection, rep tempo or load, yet I still managed to create a more challenging workout.

This would not be a more challenging workout.

In Conclusion

Hopefully you see the benefits of implementing different methods of progression rather than just increasing load all the time. The key to progress is overload and there are various ways of getting there. Just make sure you’re moving forward every step of the way.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!

Chris

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By Alwyn Cosgrove

As a trainer, I’ve witnessed some amazing things in the gym, most of which involved 300-pound powerlifters moving weight equal to that of a small SUV. (There was also the adult-film star I trained who had an orgasm every time she did hanging leg raises, but that’s another story.)

 

The most impressive feat I’ve ever seen, though, came courtesy of a 160-pound guy named Steve Cotter. Steve’s a martial artist, and one day he did a dozen single-leg squats while holding an 88-pound kettlebell in each hand. If that doesn’t sound particularly jaw-dropping, try doing one — without any weights.

 

And there lies an important point: Despite the plethora of gym equipment available, some of the greatest exercises remain the ones you can do with just your body weight — for instance, the single-arm pullup and the handstand pushup. Or the lower-body version, the best leg workout to build leg strength and improve athletic performance: the full-range, rock-bottom, single-leg squat.

 

So, while you may not be the strongest guy in the gym, you can still turn heads by banging out a set of single-leg squats. And the attention is just a side benefit. Master this one leg workout and you’ll see gains in strength, speed, and balance. You’ll squat more weight, jump higher, and discover athletic ability you never had before. The best part: You can do it all without setting foot in a gym.

 

Test your best

To determine your leg workout training plan, do as many single-leg squats as you can. If you aren’t able to perform at least two repetitions flawlessly, note the spot during your descent at which you can’t control your speed of movement. This is your “breaking point” — and you’ll need to know it to complete the routine. Once you’ve finished the test, proceed to the leg workout here that most closely matches your maximum effort. 

SINGLE-LEG SQUAT

Stand on a bench or box that’s about knee height. Hold your arms in front of you and flex your right ankle so your toes are higher than your heel. Keeping your torso as upright as possible, bend your left knee and slowly lower your body until your right heel lightly touches the floor. Pause for 1 second, then push yourself up. That’s one repetition.

 

 

YOUR BEST EFFORT: 0 TO 1 REPS

THE PROBLEM: Individually, your legs aren’t strong enough to support your body weight through the entire range of motion.

THE FIX: A two-pronged attack using “negatives” and “partials,” both of which help you challenge your weak spots and lower your breaking point. Do this workout once every 4 days until you can perform at least two single-leg squats with perfect form.

 

Step 1

NEGATIVE SQUAT

Stand on your left leg, facing away from a bench. Holding your arms and your right leg in the air in front of you, slowly lower your body until your butt is slightly higher than your breaking point. (Ideally, this should take 5 to 7 seconds.) Sit, then stand up using both legs. That’s one repetition. Do six reps with your left leg, then six more  with your right. Complete a set. Rest for 2 to 3 minutes and move on to step 2.

 

PARTIAL SQUAT

Stand on a bench holding a pair of 5-pound dumbbells. As you perform a single-leg squat, simultaneously lift the dumbbells in front of you to shoulder height. (This helps counterbalance your body, making the movement easier.) Again, lower your body until you’re just above your breaking point, then pause for 2 seconds before pushing yourself back up. Do 10 repetitions with each leg, pausing for 10 seconds instead of 2 on the last rep with each.

 

YOUR BEST EFFORT: 2 TO 5 REPS

THE PROBLEM: Because you can’t adjust the weight you’re using, as you can with free weights, your muscles give out quickly — and that limits the total number of repetitions you can perform, a key factor in increasing strength.

THE FIX: A technique called escalating density training, or EDT. Popularized by Charles Staley, author of Muscle Logic, this method helps you slow the onset of fatigue, so you can complete more total repetitions than usual. Instead of doing as many reps as you can in each set, you’ll do more sets of fewer repetitions. In addition, you’ll further increase the challenge to your legs by adding two other single-leg exercises: the Bulgarian split squat and the high stepup.

 

Step 1

Determine your starting point

Take the number of single-leg squats you can complete with perfect form and divide it by two. That’s how many repetitions you’ll do each set. (If your best effort is three, round down to one.) Perform the 4-week EDT routine below once every 4 days, doing the number of sets indicated and resting after each for the prescribed amount of time.

 

Step 2 

BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT

Stand with a bench about 2 feet behind you and place the instep of your right foot on the bench. Keeping your torso upright, lower your body until your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Your left lower leg should remain perpendicular to the floor. Pause, then push yourself back to the starting position as quickly as you can. Do 12 to 15 repetitions, then repeat, this time with your left foot resting on the bench and your right foot in front. After you’ve worked both legs, immediately (without resting) complete step 3.

 

Step 3 

HIGH STEPUP

Stand facing a bench or step that’s about knee height. Lift your left foot and place it firmly on the bench, push down with your left heel, and push your body upward until your left leg is straight and your right foot hangs off the bench. Lower yourself back down. That’s one rep. Do 12 to 15, then do the same number of reps with your right leg.

 

YOUR BEST EFFORT: 6 TO 9 REPS

THE PROBLEM: You have poor endurance.

THE FIX: Training your muscles to resist fatigue. Perform the following routine once every 4 days for 5 weeks.

 

Step 1

Do as many single-leg squats as you can, then rest for 60 seconds

 

Step 2

Repeat until you’ve completed twice the number of reps you achieved in your first set.

So, if you do seven reps in your first set, you’ll do as many sets as needed to complete 14 reps. For each subsequent workout, this will be your repetition goal.

 

Step 3

Each workout, try to reach your repetition goal in fewer sets. For instance, if you need five sets in your first workout, aim for your goal in four sets in your next session. After 5 weeks, repeat the entire process. But in order to keep improving, do the exercise while holding dumbbells at your sides.

Get Strong! Stay Strong!

Chris