A Novel Training Approach to Transform Weak Body Parts into Strengths
Virtually everyone is unhappy with one body part or another. Whether it’s “pipe-cleaner arms,” “chicken legs,” or a “trench chest,” most of us have a body part that lags behind the rest. Weaker. Smaller. Not as defined.
Yes, genetics do play a role in determining what our physiques look like—if your dad had skinny calves and you have his legs… it can seem like you’ll never overcome this obstacle. But don’t give up hope! Tweaking certain aspects of training, diet, and supplementation can help transform your most stubborn body part into one of your best.
Now, we want you to pick your worst body parts. Write them down. And get ready to transform these weaknesses into physical strengths…
Let’s start with the most obvious factor: training. Our goals here are threefold: first, to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers (both “slow twitch” as well as “fast twitch”); second, to cause varying degrees of substrate (fuel) depletion in those fibers; and third, to cause microscopic damage to muscle fibers and the connective tissue harness (which results in mild to moderate delayed-onset muscle soreness that most of us have come to love). To accomplish these goals, we need to do the following:
“New research suggests that eating a small meal/snack 15 to 30 minutes prior to training leads to greater increases in muscle protein synthesis following the workout.”
- Frequency of training —Once you decide which body parts to focus on (you only get to pick two at a time), be prepared to blast them into submission twice a week. For most of us, the best way to guarantee results is to use a three workouts per week program where you train your priority body part at the beginning and end of the week (e.g., Monday and Friday). This will ensure at least one or two full days of growth-promoting rest following each target workout. Because the body only has limited growth resources, all other body parts need to be put on a maintenance program. This means training them only once a week (Wednesday in the above example) using a low volume, heavy weight (> 85% of 1-rep max) routine. If you cheat here and adopt a “four workouts per week” program, you’re already heading down the dark alley of failure. Trust us on this one. Don’t do it.
- Sets and reps —The key here is to do enough work to stimulate growth but not too much to impede recovery. As a general rule, figure on completing 12 to 16 work sets for each target body part (biceps and triceps, for example) and only three work sets for every other body part (legs, back, chest, shoulders). Relative to repetitions, if you are choosing your weight loads properly; that is, hoisting 60 to 80% of your 1-rep max and exercising to the point where your technique erodes (notice we didn’t say “failure,” otherwise the number of sets would be drastically reduced), the reps will take care of themselves. That being said, depending on your training experience and the muscle group being targeted, the “optimal” rep range for muscle hypertrophy (growth) is somewhere in the six to 15 range. After completing all of your work sets, finish off each target body part with one high-rep (10 to 20) “back off” set.
- Rest periods —Most of us know that longer rest periods (three to five minutes between sets) promote better strength gains, while shorter rest periods (one to two minutes between sets) induce more substantial size gains. While there are exceptions, the vast majority of trainees will find that rest periods of one or two minutes will work best for pumping up their target body parts. But don’t write off the longer rest periods completely—use them for your “other” body parts…the ones that are performing maintenance work.
- Tempo of execution —The notion that different tempos of execution result in different training adaptations has enjoyed widespread popularity over the past few years. Basically, each repetition is divided into three phases: concentric (shortening the muscle), pause, and eccentric (lengthening the muscle). Most of us were taught to lift the weight to a two-second count, pause for one second, and then lower the weight in another four seconds. This tempo of execution would be designated as a “4-1-2.” For muscle growth training, some of the more popular tempos of execution are 4-0-8, 3-1-6, 2-2-4, and 3-2-3.
- Order of exercises —This one is easy: always train your lagging body parts first in the workout and first in the week! If you target arms, they are always first to the plate. If it’s chest, they get hit before anything else. By training your lagging body part first, you get the benefit of directing your full energy and attention to the task at hand.
- Number of exercises —The idea here is to stress the muscle from as many different joint angles as possible. This is also a great way to get out of the “three sets for every exercise” rut that pervades most weight rooms. Pick a movement, perform one to two work sets, and move on to the next exercise.
- Alternative training methods —Although there are dozens of techniques that strength and conditioning coaches use to improve the muscle-building response, we’ll share two that we believe are particularly effective. The first is called the 1 1/2 technique. Simply put, using the 1 1/2 method means you perform a full range repetition, pause for one second, lower the weight through half of its range, pause for one second, and return the weight to its starting position. This is considered one rep. The second method of enhancing the growth response involves getting rid of the stretch shortening cycle (and subsequent use of elastic energy) by pausing each repetition at the end of the eccentric contraction. Using the bench press as an example, you might lower the weight to a four-second count, pause for four seconds, and then raise the weight in two seconds. If you remember from a previous point, this corresponds to a 2-4-4 tempo of execution.
“Most athletes have discovered that judicious use of a select few supplements can lead to enhanced gains in strength and size and improved body composition.”
On to the battle of the knife and fork. Any nutritionist or exercise physiologist will tell you that weight gain requires eating more calories than you expend. Although weight gain is not our goal per se, we do have at least three concerns that need to be addressed with diet: limiting the process of protein breakdown induced by training and fasting, increasing the process of protein synthesis, and replenishing muscle energy stores. To accomplish this, the following dietary manipulations are warranted:
- Pre-workout meal —New research suggests that eating a small meal/snack 15 to 30 minutes prior to training leads to greater increases in muscle protein synthesis following the workout. Six to ten grams of essential amino acids along with 35 to 50 grams of sucrose is ideal. For those of you who want that in “shake equivalents,” it turns out to be approximately a scoop and a half of 100% BIO-ACTIVE WHEY™ protein powder mixed into two cups of chocolate milk.
- Post-workout feed —Now this is one you’ve probably heard before. Make sure you get 50 to 80 grams of high glycemic index (GI) carbs like rice cakes and 25 to 50 grams of rapidly absorbed whey protein like that found in 100% BIO-ACTIVE WHEY as soon as possible following your workout. This is also the perfect time to add more BIO-GRO Bio-Active Peptides to amplify your protein synthesis at this critical time. Simply add two to three servings of BIO-GRO to your whey and mix it up. In a perfect world, you will already have your shake premixed and waiting for you in your gym bag.
- Follow-up meal —Exercise scientists have demonstrated that the post-exercise “window” for regenerating muscle glycogen stores lasts for several hours following a workout. They’ve also recently shown that adding protein to the mix increases protein synthesis greater than carbs alone. To take advantage of this anabolic (muscle-building) opportunity, be sure to eat again one to two hours after training. Use the same ratio of carbs to protein (2:1) but pull back on the glycemic index a bit (go with moderate GI carbs) and use whey and casein protein sources. Collectively, this will make sure you get a steady stream of carbs and protein over the next several hours.
- Other meals —Although it’s been said a hundred times before, here it is again: to gain muscle size, you need to eat small meals every few hours. Buy a watch that has a countdown alarm and set it to go off every three hours. Although opinions vary substantially on what the “optimal” anabolic diet is, many nutrition gurus recommend various iterations of the 40-30-30 approach. That is, 40% of total calories from carbs, 30% from fat, and 30% from protein. We recommend finding what is right for you, however higher carb diets (50 to 60%) tend to be easier to follow and can be just as anabolic. Whichever macronutrient ratio you choose, the regular availability of insulin and amino acids will help minimize protein breakdown and enhance protein synthesis—just what Dr. Muscle ordered. And remember, if you wait until you’re hungry to eat, your chances of making substantial gains with this program are about as good as the desert getting flooded.
- Alcohol —Got your attention with that one, didn’t we? Good, now that we have it, listen up: alcohol is one of the single biggest enemies to hypertrophy we can think of. It decreases testosterone and muscle protein synthesis sharply and increases estrogen—exactly the opposite of what we want. So if you drink, go real easy on the sauce, especially the day after your target workouts.
Back in the day, we used to knock back handfuls of supplements that tasted like the mosh pit floor at a concert. And the real kick in the teeth was that few if any of them worked. Luckily, times have changed. Most athletes have discovered that judicious use of a select few supplements (creatine, branched-chain amino acids, and some type of thermogenic, for example) can lead to enhanced gains in strength and size and improved body composition. Now iSatori’s supplements are much more advanced including clinical research on finished products and key ingredients. The goal of our supplementation program is to increase workout intensity, improve workout quality , speed recovery and ultimately lead to over compensation and muscle growth. Here’s the rundown:
- Pre-workout supplements — Ensure this critical time is covered starting with the full featured pre-workout PRE-GRO MAX. World class athletes like multi-time World’s Strongest Man Brian Shaw also like to stack MAXON™ PURE STRENGTH with his PRE-GRO MAX to have additional pathways of increasing strength… it’s his secret to deadlifting well over 1000 pounds!
- Post-workout supplements — Immediately force your body to accelerate the recovery process after training. One to two scoops of 100% BIO-ACTIVE WHEY with 3-3 servings of BIO-GRO literally sets a new standard in post-workout recovery.
- Supplements for non-workout days — Any serious training program requires ample amounts of testosterone. The hormonal influence of testosterone on muscle growth cannot be understated. Take ISA-TEST® GF daily to help maximize Test and minimize estrogen.
- Ancillary supplements — To round out your supplement strategy we always recommend a strong multi vitamin, or training pack. It helps cover depleted micronutrients from the increase in intensity and focus on lagging body parts.
WHAT WILL YOUR FUTURE HOLD?
We don’t own any crystal balls or read tarot cards, but we can tell you this with absolute certainty: continue with the same training, diet, and supplement plan you always have, and your lagging body parts will continue their downward spiral relative to the rest of your body. Then again, if you’ve had enough of people ripping on a certain body part of yours, it might just be time to adopt the strategies outlined in this article. Just make sure you take some measurements and pictures for motivation before you start…that way you can brag about the numbers even if no one ever challenges you to a pose down the road.