Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Filtering by Tag: Strength

Long-Term Twins Study

I came across quite a fascinating study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

PHYSIOLOGICAL PROFILE OF MONOZYGOUS TWINS WITH 35 YEARS OF DIFFERING EXERCISE HABITS

Abstract

Variations in physical ability between individuals depend on both training background and genetics. Previous research has investigated the details of this phenomenon by studying monozygous (identical) twins with long-term, moderate differences in physical activity patterns and/or monozygous twins with short-term, but greater differences in physical activity patterns. However, no previous research has used monozy-gous twins with both substantial and long-term differences in physical activity patterns. Purpose: Thus, to enhance our understanding of heritability and adaptability of various performance factors we analyzed the physiological profile of a set of monozygous twins with 35 years of differing exercise habits. Methods: One pair of male monozygous twins (age = 52 years) participated in this study. DNA testing confirmed zygos-ity. The trained twin (TT, ht = 186 cm mass = 94 kg) is a physical education teacher and track coach who began running crosscountry and track in 1981. TT has been training and competing in endurance sports (e.g., running, triathlons, etc.) consistently over the past 35 years. He has ;39,431 running miles recorded from July 1993 to June 2015. In 2005, he qualified for All World Bronze Level in the Ironman. The untrained twin (UT, ht = 183 cm, mass = 104.5 kg) is a delivery truck driver. He was recreationally active in swimming, biking, and team sports early in life, but, has not engaged in regular or structured exercise since then (;35 years). Since 1991 UT recreational physical activity has been limited to ;20–30 min walks, 3–43$wk 21. Both participants performed 4 trials of 6-second maximal isometric contractions of the right leg exten-sors, 5 trials of grip strength testing with both hands (hand grip dynamometer), as well as a maximal aerobic capacity (V _ O 2 max) test (cycle ergometer). Additionally, a dual-energy X-ray ab-sorptiometry scan was used to determine body composition and total bone mineral content (BMC). Results: UT displayed higher absolute peak torque (254 vs. 137 N$m, 59.9% difference) and grip strength (right = 56.5 vs. 44.3 kg, 24.2% difference ; left = 51.7 vs. 43.7 kg, 16.8% difference). When normalized to lean body mass (LBM), UT continued to display higher peak torque (3.40 vs. 1.83 N$m 21 $kg 21 , 60% difference) and grip strength (right = 76 vs. 59% of LBM, 25.2% difference; left = 69 vs. 58% of LBM, 17.3% difference). However , UT had a lower absolute (3.67 vs. 4.66 L$min 21 , 23.9% difference) and relative (35.1 vs. 47.5 ml$kg 21 $m 21 , 30.1% difference) V _ O 2 max. UT also had a higher body fat percentage (BF%) (27.8 vs. 19.2%, 36.6% difference), but nearly identical LBM (74.6 vs. 74.7 kg, 11.0% difference) and BMC (3575.7 vs. 3653.0 g, 2.1% difference). Conclusions: Long-term, mixed mode endurance training positively influenced V_ O2max and BF%, did not alter LBM or BMC, and was associated with lower isometric leg extensor and handgrip strength. The percent difference between the participants also demonstrates a level of “trainability” that exceeds previous research. Practical Applications: Leg strength and V_ O2max are significant and independent predictors of mortality. Training can influence both of these variables. However, adaptations are specific to imposed demands. Therefore, an ideal lifestyle approach should incorporate resistance exercise and endurance training to maximize both leg strength and aerobic capacity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research | www.nsca.com VOLUME 30 | SUPPLEMENT 1 | DECEMBER 2016 | S43-44

One of the toughest variables to control for in the world of health and fitness and strength and conditioning is the large variation in genetic differences. Monozygous (identical) twins tend to be "holy grail" subjects to study because they are identical, genetically. Therefore, we can then study how lifestyle habits relate to their overall health without having to factor in the genetic variability.

There have been studies done in the past comparing lifestyles of twins, but this study in particular is so amazing due to its length of time - 35 years. Let's break down the differences between the two twins above:


Trained Twin (TT)

  • Phys. Ed. teacher
  • Track Coach
  • Started running cross country track in 1981
  • Training and competing in endurance sports (e.g. running, triathlons, etc.) consistently for 35 years.
  • 39,431 total running miles logged from July 1993 to June 2015.
  • 2005 All World Bronze Level Ironman qualifier.

Untrained Twin (UT)

  • Delivery truck driver.
  • Active early in life but has not engaged in structured physical activity in 35 years.
  • Activity has been limited to 20-30min walks.

Results

  • UT is stronger.
  • TT is healthier aerobically (VO2 Max).
  • TT has less overall body fat.
  • Both UT and TT have essentially the same amount of muscle (lean body mass).

Wut?

It is to be expected that the trained twin is "fitter" overall aerobically, after all, he has been running close to 40k miles in the last 24 years alone. Having said that, how much healthier is he? The untrained twin has just as much muscle mass as his the trained twin, and despite the fact that he is heavier due to carrying around more body fat, is actually stronger despite the fact that he doesn't "exercise."

Now, there could be a discussion or argument made towards the activity level of the untrained twin. Sure, he hasn't been following a structured exercise or strength and conditioning program, but being a delivery truck driver, one could assume has its fair share of physicality to it. Not only that, but just the act of carrying around extra body mass requires more physical exertion and strength requirements from the muscles.

Despite all of that, this should be a large eye opener for chronic endurance athletes. As this study points out at the end:

Therefore, an ideal lifestyle approach should incorporate resistance exercise and endurance training to maximize both leg strength and aerobic capacity.

Would I classify or consider the untrained twin to be "healthy?" Not by any stretch of the imagination. However, lower body strength is actually a significant predictor of mortality, and in this case, the untrained twin actually has a lower risk of mortality than the trained twin.

Not only that, but it is not uncommon for runners or endurance athletes to completed avoid lower body training because they "get enough strength work" from running/cycling/swimming. Although endurance exercise may improve your overall aerobic capacity, it does not replace the need for lower body strength and conditioning work. Squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc. are so critical and crucial to not only improve the strength and functionality of the lower body, but to reduce the effects of aging as well.

Many readers to my site know that I have been a bit critical of chronic endurance exercise, despite my fair share of it in the past. Training for, and competing in, a marathon, triathlon, Ironman, etc. is a great life goal and something many put on their bucket list. Having said that, for overall health, performance, body composition, and longevity, a well-rounded strength and conditioning program with a little bit of everything (see: moderate running) is the best approach in my opinion.





How important is the chest when bench pressing?

There was a very interesting study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research lately:

Abstract

In this study, we have used the multimodular measuring system SMART. The system consisted of six infrared cameras, and a wireless module to measure muscle bioelectric activity. Additionally, the path of the barbell was measured with special device called the pantograph. Our study concerns the change in the structure of the flat bench press when the weight of the barbell is increased. The research on the bench press technique included both the causes of the motion: the internal structure of the movement as well as the external-kinematic structure showing the effects of the motion, i.e. all the characteristics of the movement. Twenty healthy, male recreational weight trainers with at least 1 year of lifting experience (the mean +/- SD = 3.3 +/- 1.6 years), were recruited for this study. The subjects had a mean body mass of 80.2 +/- 8.6 kg, an average height of 1.77 +/- 0.08 m, and their average age was 24.7 +/- 0.9 years old. In the measuring session, the participants performed consecutive sets of a single repetition of bench pressing with an increasing load (about 70, 80, 90, and 100% of their 1 repetition maximum - 1RM). The results showed a significant change in the phase structure of the bench press as the barbell weight was increased. While doing the bench press at a 100% 1RM load, the pectoralis major changes from being the prime mover to being the supportive-prime mover. At the same time, the role of the prime mover is taken on by the deltoideus anterior. The triceps brachii, in particular, clearly show a greater involvement.

So what exactly does this mean? Well, the authors of this study found that the more weight an individual bench presses, the less and less the chest remains as the "prime mover." This actually isn't all that surprising, if you think about it, but is important for a few reasons none-the-less.

The bench press is considered a "compound" or "core" movement because it displaces load across multiple muscle groups and joints. When you bench press, the weight gets displaced across not only the pectorals, but the deltoids, triceps, etc. The joints involved include the shoulders and elbows. Compound movements are generally able to move more load due to this loading scheme across the body.

What this study is telling us is that although the pectorals may be one of the larger muscle groups involved in pressing the weight, the workload across the chest seems to peak at around 70% of an individual's 1-rep max, and any loads greater than that, and approaching closer to 100% come from recruiting the "supporting cast" - deltoids, triceps, etc.

Why this finding is important is because the training plan for an individual should be tailored to his or her goals. An individual who wishes to get a bigger chest, for example, may be better off training at less than 70% of their 1-rep max in order to increase overall workout volume without failing out due to fatigue in either the deltoids or triceps.

Not only that, but this also tells us the importance of accessory training. An individual can train their chest at sub-optimal loads all they want, but if there isn't enough effort and time invested in proper triceps and deltoid mechanics, strength, and health, they may struggle to improve their bench press 1-rep max.

Just some food for thought. 





No need to train until failure

“No pain, no gain!”

“If you’re not puking, you’re not working hard enough!”

“Go until you can’t do one more rep!”

That’s how we should train, right? Well no, at least not in untrained lifters, according to a new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Effect Of Resistance Training To Muscle Failure Versus Volitional Interruption At High- And Low-Intensities On Muscle Mass And Strength.

Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of resistance training (RT) at high- and low-intensities performed to muscle failure or volitional interruption on muscle strength, cross-sectional area (CSA), pennation angle (PA) and muscle activation. Thirty-two untrained men participated in the study. Each leg was allocated in one of four unilateral RT protocols: RT to failure at high (HIRT-F) and low (LIRT-F) intensities, and RT to volitional interruption (repetitions performed to the point in which participants voluntarily interrupted the exercise) at high (HIRT-V) and low (LIRT-V) intensities. Muscle strength (1-RM), CSA, PA and muscle activation by amplitude of the electromyography (EMG) signal were assessed before (Pre), after 6 (6W) and 12 (12W) weeks. 1-RM increased similarly after 6W (range: 15.8 - 18.9%, ES: 0.41- 0.58) and 12W (range: 25.6 - 33.6%, ES: 0.64 - 0.98) for all protocols. All protocols were similarly effective in increasing CSA after 6W (range: 3.0 - 4.6%, ES: 0.10 - 0.24) and 12W (range: 6.1 - 7.5%, ES: 0.22 - 0.26). PA increased after 6W (~3.5) and 12W (~9%; main time effect, P < 0.0001), with no differences between protocols. EMG values were significantly higher for the high-intensity protocols at all times (main intensity effect, P < 0.0001). In conclusion, both high- and low-intensity RT performed to volitional interruption are equally effective in increasing muscle mass, strength and PA when compared to RT performed to muscle failure.

Ok, so why is this important? How often do you hear from somebody you know who has recently started a workout program, and all they rave about is how tough it is. “My trainer made me do so many squats that I could barely walk for a week afterwards!”

Although D.O.M.S. (delayed onset muscle soreness) is an inflammatory response to something your body is not used to, it doesn’t always mean that you are necessarily improving. The go beyond that, doing something like squats or push-ups until you can no longer do one more rep shouldn’t necessarily be your end goal either.

What the aforementioned study is telling us, is that in untrained individuals, training to failure isn’t necessarily more effective in improving your strength or muscular size. This is quite important to remember for those just starting out in a workout program because the belief is that you must completely destroy yourself in order to improve.

I would argue that movement mechanics and safety outweigh the importance of how hard you work in the beginning. Take note that I still think intensity and effort need to be high in order to start to develop good habits, however, effective coaching where an athlete or participant is scaled and pushed according to their fitness and skill level should be the primary focus.

I run the CrossFit Orangeville Beginner Bootcamp with this very mentality. Sure, the first few sessions involve soreness (read above: D.O.M.S) and some minimal muscular failure, however, the primary focus is on moving well first, and then we begin to scale up the intensity and effort as the strength and fitness level of the participants begins to climb.

Conclusions

It should be noted that this study was conducted on untrained individuals. We have seen research that shows the vast differences between training intensity and volume in trained individuals. Some people seem to be able to handle more or less overall training volume based on a number of variables and circumstances.

Having said that, for untrained folks, this study tells us that just “getting your feet wet” and ramping up intensity later is probably the best option. Not only that, but I see it time and time again when new trainees start too intense, push their bodies to the limit in the beginning, and end up either injured or too sore to move. The far better option would be to push enough (with proper coaching) and staying consistent over time rather than trying to accomplish everything in a workout or two.





Genetics Series: Strength and Power

My old boss used to say, "You know, God made us (humans) all about the same." Sure, it is often said that humans, when compared genetically, are about 99.9% similar, however there are still some pretty remarkable variances between how we look and perform.

The 99.9% similarities between us controls things as common as having skin, hair, teeth, a stomach, high-level brains, etc., but can had differences in how those things look and work. For example, how tall we are, how long our limbs are, how big our noses are, etc. We also mostly act the same too - although this is heavily influenced by your surroundings.

If you keep looking deeper into that rabbit hole you can begin to understand that not only do our muscles oftentimes look differently, but they can act and perform differently as well. I always say to people, "You can't choose your parents," because your genetic lineage can have a drastic outcome on all of these factors that influence you. Some folks are able to build big muscles. It just comes easy (easier) to them. 

So what about athleticism? Do you remember growing up and playing with your friends? Do you remember that one friend of yours that just seemed to be better than everyone else at everything (or most things)? They could run faster, jump higher, were better at Mario Kart, and could be the best with little to no effort at all! Was this friend in the gym spending hours a day getting bigger, faster, and stronger? Of course not, they were just gifted in ways that maybe you weren't. The effectiveness of their neural pathways were better than yours. They had better coordination, better strength, better reaction time, etc.

Why are some people so good at some things? Is it because they work harder? Is it because they are more committed? Possibly, but not necessarily.

Take this review, for example:

Genetics of muscle strength and power: polygenic profile similarity limits skeletal muscle performance.

Abstract

Environmental and genetic factors influence muscle function, resulting in large variations in phenotype between individuals. Multiple genetic variants (polygenic in nature) are thought to influence exercise-related phenotypes, yet how the relevant polymorphisms combine to influence muscular strength in individuals and populations is unclear. In this analysis, 22 genetic polymorphisms were identified in the literature that have been associated with muscular strength and power phenotypes. Using typical genotype frequencies, the probability of any given individual possessing an "optimal" polygenic profile was calculated as 0.0003% for the world population. Future identification of additional polymorphisms associated with muscular strength phenotypes would most likely reduce that probability even further. To examine the genetic potential for muscular strength within a human population, a "total genotype score" was generated for each individual within a hypothetical population of one million. The population expressed high similarity in polygenic profile with no individual differing by more than seven genotypes from a typical profile. Therefore, skeletal muscle strength potential within humans appears to be limited by polygenic profile similarity. Future research should aim to replicate more genotype-phenotype associations for muscular strength, because only five common genetic polymorphisms identified to date have positive replicated findings.

So although this isn't ground-breaking or particularly new, we are starting to discover just how advantageous you may or may not be due to the genetic lottery that you have played when you were born. The above review details 22 genes (that we know of) that are beneficial for strength and power performance in individuals. In these 22 genes, the more you personally have, the greater likelihood you have to being a strength or power athlete.

There are 3 "options" when it comes to these gene phenotypes. You can either have a favourable gene expression, a neutral expression, or a negative expression. In other words, whether or not you have a specific genotype can either make you good at something, potentially bad at something, or no real positive or negative effect at all.

One well-known gene, for example, is one that encodes for the protein ACTN3 has been shown to be favourable for sprinting (in those that contain the correct gene), and can actually be favourable for endurance athletes with a mutated ACTN3 protein.

Studies have linked the fiber twitch type with ACTN3, i.e. fast twitch fiber abundant individuals carry the non-mutant gene version. Also, studies in elite athletes have shown that the ACTN3 gene may influence athletic performance. While the non-mutant version of the gene is associated with sprint performance, the mutant version is associated with endurance.

What's notable in the above review is that the researchers calculated 0.003% of the population to have "optimal" gene expression for strength and power attributes. This certainly makes sense, especially in a country like Canada - population around 30,000,000, that about 9,000 individuals (give or take) have more optimal strength and power characteristics.

Does this mean that other individuals can't be strong and powerful? Absolutely not, but those individuals with favourable genetic phenotypes are certainly at an advantage when it comes to producing strength and power. On the flip side of that coin, as we have seen with ACTN3, it is entirely possible to be not all that great at something.

It should also be noted that although an individual may have a genetic potential for something, does not mean that they are going to be the best. Although this number has been associated with strength and power, let's use the same figure (for argument's sake) to discuss genetic potential for other attributes as well. Assume that even at 0.003% of the population has a genetic advantage for something, that still creates a lot of competition between yourself and the other "elites" in that category. Being strong and powerful, especially compared to your less-than-genetically-gifted friends will only take you so far. If you wanted to compete on an Olympic level, for example, then you still need to hone your skills and work hard to be even better than those around you.

I will once again remind my readers that this is not to sound like an old curmudgeon, saying that talent and athleticism is "all luck." There is certainly advantages that make some of us better than others at certain things. It is not impossible, just highly unlikely that you would see a 7 foot tall man competing at the Olympic games in weightlifting. The limb lengths and joint angles are not as advantageous for maximal torque and power required for Olympic lifting. On the other hand, although we have seen some shorter individuals play in the NBA before, the game certainly favours taller individuals. Being tall, or having a long torso (advantageous for weightlifting) cannot be trained. If, however, you are tall, and you work hard, then you have a chance to make it big.





Your Complete Guide to Sets and Reps

This is an updated guide to reflect the latest science and research surrounding sets and reps and how they relate to muscular strength, endurance, and hypertrophy (muscular growth).

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Focus on the areas in yellow, as these are the "optimal" zones for each training goal. Keep in mind that although you may benefit in various training ranges, there are just rep ranges to focus on based on what your training goal is. For example, you will gain some muscular strength from doing a 20+ rep set of an exercise, however choosing a resistance that keeps you in a 5 or under repetition range is optimal for strength gains.

Strength training is generally most improved in the 1-5/6 repetition range.

Power is generally most improved in the 1-4/5 repetition range.

Endurance is generally most improved in the 12+ repetition range.

Hypertrophy has generally been thought to be most improved in the 6-12 repetition range, although this is the one section that will be most discussed in this guide as some of our current knowledge is being challenged by recent research.

Core vs. Assistance Exercise

You may think a "core" exercise is one that involves the abdominals. The true meaning of a core exercise refers to one that recruits one or more large muscle areas (chest, shoulder, back, hip, thigh), involve two or more primary joints, and receive priority when one is selecting exercises because of their direct application to sport. An example of a core exercise would be a squat because it involves large muscle groups such as the gluteals, quadriceps, hamstrings, etc. and involve more than one primary joint (knees, hips).

"Assistance exercises" on the other hand, usually recruit smaller muscle areas (upper arm, abdonminals, calf, neck, forearm, lower back, or anterior lower leg), involve only one primary joint, and are considered less important to improving sport performance. An example of an assistance exercise would be a leg extension.

I generally don't recommend strength training for assistance exercises. For example, I wouldn't recommend using a weight that keeps you under 6 repetitions for something like a biceps curl.

How muscles contract

We sometimes perceive our muscles as self-controlling structures that abide by an "all or none" mechanism. This is simply not true. Your muscles are made up of muscle fibers, none of which are thicker than a strand of hair. When your muscle contracts, the entire length of the muscle shortens, however only a small percentage of the muscle fibers are doing the work. So, although all of the fibers are shortening in length, only a specific percentage of the fibers are actually completing the work at any given time.

For the purposes of our explanation, let's imagine a toddler biceps curling a 5lb. dumbbell. Because of the amount of overall strength required to lift the 5lb. dumbbell, the toddler will require quite a large percentage of the muscle fibers in their biceps to contract to lift the dumbbell. An average adult, on the other hand, could curl a 5lb. dumbbell with little to no effort at all meaning that a lower percentage of their muscle fibers are actually doing the contracting.

Why is this important? Well, when your muscle fibers fatigue, the fibers that were doing the work stop contracting and other fibers step in to complete the work. There are always at least a small percentage of your muscle fibers resting while others are doing the work. If we think of our dumbbell curl example again, chances are the toddler won't be able to curl the dumbbell as many times as the adult because they are recruiting a higher percentage of muscle fibers for every single repetition, leading to quicker fatigue and failure.

Muscle fiber recruitment is orchestrated by the muscle's neurons. One, often overlooked, positive adaptation to resistance training is the improvements in your mind to muscle connection. Basically, your neurons greatly improve their efficiency at "recruiting" muscle fibers.

So not unlike learning a skill, where your brain must train a synchronized orchestration of your muscles to act in a specific order of events, to say - throw a baseball, the brain must also learn how to actively recruit more muscle fibers in order to generate more force.

It should be noted that during the first 8 weeks of a resistance training program for beginners, nearly all of the "gains" achieved from resistance training can be attributed to neural adaptations. So, even though one may be experiencing strength gains, this is not due to an increase in muscle size or any measurable improvement in the strength of the muscle itself, instead, it is an improvement in the efficiency of the mind to muscle connection!

Repetition Goals

Use the following table to help yourself better estimate the loads you can lift at various repetition goals.

%1RM
Repetitions
100
1
95
2
93
3
90
4
87
5
85
6
83
7
80
8
77
9
75
10
70
11
67
12
65
15

Strength/Power

With our quick lesson on neural adaptations and muscle fiber motor units out of the way, let's discuss how this pertains to strength gains. In the most basic terms, strength is the ability for your muscles to generate as much force as possible. Power, on the other hand, is the ability for your muscles to generate a lot of force quickly. Strength is extremely beneficial for those looking to be able to lift or move heavy objects, but not necessarily within a specific amount of time.

Power, which is closely related, is about generating a lot of force (strength) in as short amount of time as possible. Power has very direct correlations to sport and athleticism. It should be noted that increasing your strength will also help to improve your overall power as strength and power are so closely related.

Keep a mindset that strength and power gains are primarily a "learned" skill. Like we discussed above, by training for strength, our muscles are getting stronger by training our brain how to activate high threshold muscle motor units more effectively. There is a limit to the amount of strength any given muscle in your body can produce, limited by a number of factors including limb length, joint angle, skill, technique, genetics, ratio of type 1 to type 2 muscle fibers, etc. Many of these topics will have to be covered in future blogs.

A definitive stance is proven time and time again with resistance training, strength and power output is most improved in individuals training in the 5 or fewer repetition range. Although endurance and hypertrophy training can be adjusted and benefited from varying repetition ranges (more on that later), we know that strength and power is most greatly improved with higher intensities (high weight).

Strength Repetition Goal:
1-6
Primary Energy System:
ATP-CP
Ideal Rest Periods:
2-5 minutes

Endurance

Like strength and power training, I would consider endurance training to also be a "learned" skill set for your muscle cells. Although strength and power can be considered a "learned" skill, considering the brain is becoming more effective at activating muscle fiber motor units, endurance training can be considered a skill on more of a cellular level as your muscle cells are learning how to become much more aerobically efficient.

Endurance training is highly beneficial for athletes that compete at longer-duration events such as distance running, swimming, etc. It should be noted that sports like hockey or even soccer, although they may be considered sports that requires a higher level of aerobic efficiency, are actually a series of highly intense intervals that would benefit greater from training plans intended for the work duration of such sport.

Endurance Repetition Goal:
12+
Primary Energy System:
Aerobic or Oxidative
Ideal Rest Periods:
30-60 seconds

Hypertrophy

This is decent video to get most of you up to speed on muscle fiber types and how resistance training can cause muscular damage leading to growth (hypertrophy). I will admit that I was a bit disappointed because the video seemed very rushed and ended abruptly, missing a lot of key points. I was also quite surprised that they even made mention of muscular hyperplasia. Hypertrophy is the actual enlarging of muscle cells (increase in volume) whereas hyperplasia is the division of muscle cells - increase in overall quantity. Although it is certainly possible to increase the overall number of muscle cells, the evidence for this isn't entirely clear and most likely does not apply to the general population.

While strength/power and endurance training could be considered a "skill" as I mentioned previously, hypertrophy should be considered a stimulus. In other words, our training is creating a specific demand within our muscle cells to signal growth. This is one area that not only generates a lot of interest amongst fitness enthusiasts, but researchers as well. For years, many thought that training within a 6-12 rep range was optimal for muscular hypertrophy or growth. Research, although not necessarily refuting that evidence, is trying to explain the greater picture in how or why muscles grow and how varying stimuli can promote muscular growth.

As it turns out, the number of repetitions you do does not entirely matter how much muscular growth is promoted. In other words, rep range does not matter for hypertrophy.

In conclusion, this study showed that both bodybuilding- and powerlifting-type training promote similar increases in muscular size, but powerlifting-type training is superior for enhancing maximal strength.

Ideally, your training should meet your needs, goals, and desires. If you wish to train to improve strength and/or performance, then stick to lower repetition ranges with higher intensity. If you wish to train for more aerobic events, then lower intensities and higher repetitions should be targeted.

This study demonstrates that both intensity and exercise-induced metabolic stress can be manipulated to affect muscle anabolic signaling.

What about our previously-thought belief that rest periods determine the growth of muscles? Well, apparently not.

In conclusion, the literature does not support the hypothesis that training for muscle hypertrophy requires shorter rest intervals than training for strength development or that predetermined rest intervals are preferable to auto-regulated rest periods in this regard.

One more variable we can throw into the mix is research that has looked at oxygen restriction and how it affects hypertrophy signalling. One study used tourniquets to restrict blood flow to working muscles to discover whether or not this would alter training stimulus or signalling.

Blood flow restriction resulted in significantly greater gains in strength and hypertrophy when performed with resistance training than with walking. In addition, performing LI-BFR 2-3 days per week resulted in the greatest effect size (ES) compared to 4-5 days per week.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy

Source: http://slidingfilament.webnode.com/skeletal-muscle/

Many coaches or gym bros may want to talk your ear off about how much physiology they know and spout off a very detailed explanation about the two different types of hypertrophy - myofibrillar vs. sarcoplasmic. As the story goes, you can enlarge your muscles either one way or the other. Myofibrillar hypertrophy refers to the enlarging of the structural framework of the muscle fibers whereas sarcoplasmic hypertrophy refers to the increased fluid of the muscle cell sarcomeres.

Anywhere from 70-80% of a muscle cell is made up of structural proteins. If you were to increase the volume of the sarcoplasm and therefore the sarcomere, you would have to increase the overall structural framework of the muscles too. It would be like making the inside your house bigger without actually building any additional walls. In order to increase the size of the sarcoplasm/sarcomere, you have to increase the amount of contractile proteins too. Don't believe me? Check out this study:

The linear distance between myosin filaments (38.7 +/- 0.3 nm before, 38.7 +/- 0.4 nm after training; mean +/- S.E.M.) as well as the ratio of actin to myosin filaments (3.94 +/- 0.03 before, 3.86 +/- 0.06 after training) did not change with training. 3. These results refute the concept that the increases in muscle strength or radiological density during short-term heavy-resistance training are caused by changes in myofilament spacing.

In other words, although the muscles got bigger, the framework didn't simply increase in distance, it had to increase in overall quantity. Both sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy happen at the same time making any discussion about differentiating them total bullshit. There is zero evidence to back up sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Period.

Hypertrophy Repetition Goal:
Any
Primary Energy System:
Varies
Ideal Rest Periods:
Based on goals/availability

Ok, so for the purposes of hypertrophy training, here is what we can summarize:

  • Lifting heavy things makes you better at lifting heavy things. The heavier you lift (fewer reps), the stronger you will get.
  • Lifting lighter things many times makes you better at, well, lifting lighter things multiple times. In other words, your muscles become more fatigue resistant, also known as endurance training.
  • Volume is the key. You must push your muscles to at least close to failure multiple times to promote growth.
  • Oxygen depletion seems to also promote hypertrophy signalling, so by training at a high rate of metabolism, such during high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you can still promote muscular growth.
  • Forget the term "toned." Nobody should train at higher repetitions to "tone."
  • Stimulating muscle cells to increase in size through resistance training can only take you so far, a proper diet rich in protein and sufficient calories is what makes or breaks most cases of hypertrophy. Oh yeah, hormones count too.
  • There is no such thing as sarcoplasmic hypertrophy so don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sets, Repetitions, and Training Goals Summary

Strength - High-load, low-repetition training to improve overall strength of the muscle(s) being trained. Should mainly be targeted by "core exercises." Long periods of rest between sets to allow full recovery of muscle fibers in order to produce maximum amount of force every subsequent set. Remember that many of the strength gains achieved come from improved neuromuscular patterns.

Power - High-load, low-repetition training similar to strength training but designed to increase the overall explosiveness of the muscles. Also designed to be targeted by "core exercises" only. Also intended to have long periods of rest between sets to promote full recovery. Like strength, many power gains are achieved by improving neuromuscular patterns.

Hypertrophy - Enough volume to challenge your muscles to fatigue as many of your overall muscle fibers as possible in order to elicit growth. There is also a potential for growth simply by working until extreme fatigue to create a lack of oxygen and energy replenishment to the muscles such as HIIT training.

Muscular Endurance - Low rest periods, higher rep goals, lower loads. Ideally used to improve the aerobic efficiency of the muscle fibers. Should be used by endurance athletes to improve muscular efficiency. Not intended to improve overall strength or power, however.





Back to Basics

Back to Basics is a program based on gaining maximal muscular strength, size, and function. This program is based on the program StrongLifts. If you haven't heard of StrongLifts then I highly recommend heading over there to check out that program. It may very well be the perfect program for you, as-is. There have been many individuals who have greatly benefited from such a program, and you can too.

Over the past couple of years, I have experimented with a program like StrongLifts on not only myself, but clients of mine as well. I have personally found that the program is missing a couple key elements or need a few adjustments made to the scheduling or programming to suit my needs. I believe that these changes and adjustments will benefit many of you as well.

Here are the main additions/adjustments that I have made:

Dynamic Warmups - I have taken some of my favourite and most useful movements to warmup the body through various planes and wide ranges of motion. The key areas of focus are the hips and shoulders. The shoulders and hips are the link, connecting strength and power from the core, out to the limbs. It is smart, and in good training practice to make sure they are warm and prepared for the work.

Warm-up Sets - I am not a big fan of the warm-up sets that StrongLifts recommends you do. Instead, I have included my own variety.

(Optional) Accessory Work - I have included some of my favourite and most useful accessory sequences to aid the main primary lifts. Especially when just starting a program like StrongLifts, I have found that many users can get the feeling of "not doing enough" by just doing 5, 5-rep sets of the primary lifts. There are a couple key aspects to note here:

  1. The emphasis and energy for the day (on strength days) should be to focus on improving numbers on the main lifts. The accessory work is there to work as a supplement. The original StrongLifts program was designed with some accessory work but too many people were focusing too much on trying to improve their numbers with their accessory lifts and neglecting the main lifts.
  2. Some days, if you are pushing for a personal best on bench press, for example, you may not even have the strength or energy to do the accessory lifts, so either don't do them at all for that day, or back off on the weights you have previously used.
  3. If you fail at getting 5x5 for your lift for the second straight workout, then skip the similar accessory for for that day (discussed in more detail below*). One may think that plateauing or stalling on a weight should require more volume/intensity, but in actuality, you probably need more recovery.

*Let's say you fail at a lift for the second consecutive workout (for that lift) and are forced into a de-load:

Strength Day 1:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs.
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 4 reps (fail)
Set 5 - 3 reps (fail)

Strength Day 3:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs. (2nd attempt)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 4 reps (fail)

On that second workout, in this case - Strength Day 3, skip both the incline press to bent over row and dips. Both of these accessory lifts use the shoulders, triceps, and chest just like the bench press does so taking extra recovery time will benefit you more than trying to fight through the accessory lifts. You would only skip those accessory lifts for that one workout. Alternatively, if you failed on the squat for the second time on Strength Day 3, then you would have the option to do the incline press to bent over row and dips.

Exercise Selection - Just a small change to the warmup sets for deadlifts on Strength Day 2 & 4 (utilizing snatch deadlifts).

Recovery Days - I have included recovery days that focus on "active recovery" for the muscles that have been worked the previous day. I am a firm believer in active recovery, as an increase in circulation can aid in repair and recovery. This includes some flexibility training, some mobility training, as well as some core and assistance work. Keep in mind that the point of the recovery days is to allow your body to move through various ranges of motion to aid in recovery as well as strengthen your synergists.

Front Squats - When starting this program, it is great to back squat 3x/week to build up your strength. However, I really like the front squat for a number of reasons, including preparing your body for Olympic Lifts down the road, improving posture, and most importantly, making your back squat that much better. Once you are able to back squat your own body weight 5x5, I recommend you start front squatting 50% of your 5x5 back squat on Strength Days 2 & 4, in place of back squats. So, if you are 180lbs and can squat 180lbs 5x5, start front squatting 90lbs on Strength Days 2&4, increasing in weight the same way you would with the other lifts by adding 5 pounds to the next workout, every time you successfully lift 5x5.

Who is this program for?

Still making progress, 370lbs #deadlift for 5 reps #motivation #exercise #lifting

A video posted by Tyler Robbins (@trobbinsfitness) on

Men, women, young, and old. If you are interested in lifting heavy weights, gaining strength, increasing muscle mass, and just being a total fuckin' badass, then this program is for you. Keep in mind, however, that if you are wishing to gain, you must commit to the program and not worry about gaining weight. The way I see it, there are 3 types of people reading this blog right now:

  1. For some of you, gaining weight is a tough thing to do and you are willing to do anything to put on some size. Well, get ready to eat a lot and lift a lot!

  2. For others, you may be stuck in this limbo zone where you are lean and have a decent level of strength, but just haven't reached that ripped level you are looking for. You find yourself stuck between not wanting to lose any more weight and lose muscle, yet you don't want to gain weight either because you are afraid of getting fat. Well, I was stuck in that zone too until I started to eat more and lift more. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at all hours of the day (see: resting or basal metabolic rate).

  3. Finally, there may be some of you looking to lose weight and gain some strength. Fine. This program can still work for your, but if you are over 20% body fat, you may wish to start the program at a caloric deficit (eating less than you burn) which will work for a while, and you will definitely gain strength, but your strength gains may plateau quicker than others who eat at a caloric surplus. That, however, is based on the individual.

For folks who fall into category 1 or 2, all I can say is, if your goal is to gain size and strength, stick to the goal and eat and lift. There will be time to "cut" body fat later. I recommend that you partake in a program like Back to Basics during the winter when you are probably going to be covered by your clothes for much of the time anyways. That is, if you give a shit about what others think about what your body looks like.

By the way, if this program becomes popular enough, I will have a follow-up program in the spring specifically focused on getting you more lean while maintaining muscle.

The Workouts

Strength Day 1
Strength Day 2
Strength Day 3
Strength Day 4

Recovery Day 1
Recovery Day 2
Recovery Day 3
Recovery Day 4

Back to Basics Schedule

The schedule runs on an 8-workout, repeating rotation. Here is how you would incorporate the 8 workouts into a 3 week schedule.

Week 1
Monday - Back to Basics Strength Day 1
Tuesday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 1
Wednesday - Back to Basics Strength Day 2
Thursday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 2
Friday - Back to Basics Strength Day 3
Saturday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 3
Sunday - Recovery/Off Day

Week 2
Monday - Back to Basics Strength Day 4
Tuesday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 4
Wednesday - Back to Basics Strength Day 1
Thursday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 1
Friday - Back to Basics Strength Day 2
Saturday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 2
Sunday - Recovery/Off Day

Week 3
Monday - Back to Basics Strength Day 3
Tuesday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 3
Wednesday - Back to Basics Strength Day 4
Thursday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 4
Friday - Back to Basics Strength Day 1
Saturday - Back to Basics Recovery Day 1
Sunday - Recovery/Off Day

Etc.

Diet

With a quick internet search, you can find a number of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculators. TDEE calculators are a good place to start to get yourself a ballpark figure as to how many calories you should be consuming. If you are interested in gaining weight, aim for at least 250-500+ calories a day over your calculated TDEE. Although I recommend putting away quite a few calories, remember that too many calories isn't necessarily ideal.

In order to grow muscle and improve your strength, you need a surplus of calories. More often than not, individuals get stuck in a limbo zone between not wanting to gain body fat so they don't eat at a caloric surplus, yet they want to increase the size and definition of their muscles.

Future edits of this blog will have some of my favourite recipes linked here.

Supplements

This is going to be a hotly-debated topic. My personal opinion is that majority of the supplements on the market are full of empty promises. Most supplements are designed to make you think that they are the "latest and greatest" in the world of health and fitness. Don't listen to the salesperson at the supplement store.

Don't pay attention to the marketing materials. I almost guarantee you that the supplements that some of these extremely fit (and/or muscular) folks who are trying to sell you supplements either don't use the supplements they are marketing themselves, or have other *ahem*....help with their results. I really like using the site examine.com to check the latest research on specific supplements. Feel free to search for some of the products or supplements you are currently taking and see if it/they are worth as much hype as you've been made to believe.

Having said all of that, I know folks will ask me what I use for my supplements, so I will share what I use. All of these are absolutely optional and should not be taken as a prescription from me.

Creatine Monohydrate - one of the most widely-researched supplements in the history of exercise science. Nothing fancy here, no other products carry any additional benefits or "perks," regardless of what someone may have told you...I promise. I take 5g in my post-workout recovery drink. More questions/info needed? Check here.

Whey Protein - Again, nothing fancy. I take a basic vanilla flavoured whey protein that I buy at Costco. You don't need any "state-of-the-art" delivery matrices or any other marketing mumbo jumbo like that. Whey isolate digests quick enough, and your body only transports so much protein per hour so don't worry about all of this marketing promising faster muscle absorption or uptake, etc. It should be noted that actual food always takes precedence for me. I never have more than 1 whey shake per day. I try and get at least 90-95% of my calories and protein from whole food sources and then have a shake when I either run out of time or am busy with other things.

Fish Oil - Fish oils (EPA and DHA) have a wide range of benefits.

Coffee - My pre-workout stimulant. Not much to say here. Caffeine - that's about it.

Vitamin D - I take 1000IU in the form of a pill during the fall/winter months (I live in Canada). During the summer I try and get as much sun exposure as I can, so along with Vitamin D in Shakeology I feel like I have my bases covered. Lots of benefits to supplementing with Vitamin D as well.

Strength Journal

Whether you use Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, some sort of journal app on your phone or tablet, or even just plain old pen and paper, I highly recommend you keep track of your 5-rep max (5RM) weights for your lifts. You can then use this information to keep track of your theoretical (calculated) 1RM.

Why is this important? Well, knowledge is power, and whether you are moving on to another program that involves using a certain percentage of your lift or just your buddy asking how much you bench, you will know your numbers. 

Q&A

What weights should I start with?

Understand that strength training is training not only your muscles, but your central nervous system as well. The goal here is not to "pump" up your muscles, like what happens during hypertrophy training. Instead, we are working to not only strengthen the muscle fibres themselves, but to also improve the mind to muscle connection. We are focusing on training the nervous system to be more coordinated and effective at recruiting high amounts of motor units to "fire" together and generate maximum force.

From StrongLifts: If you start too heavy, you’ll get sore legs which can make you feel like skipping workouts in the first week. Better to start light so your body get used to Squatting three times a week. The weight will increase quickly anyway since you’re adding 2.5kg/5lb per workout (that’s 30kg/60lb per month on your Squat). If you’ve done the Squat, Bench and Deadlift before, with good technique, you can start with 50% of your five rep max. If you’ve never done these exercises, or you haven’t lifted in years, or you have no idea what I mean with a “five reps max”, just start with these weights:

When should I increase weight?

If you can get 5 repetitions of the same "working weight" without breaking form, then increase your "working weight" by 5 pounds for the next workout you do that exercise. For example, if you squat 135lbs 5x5 during Strength Day 1, increase to 140lbs on Strength Day 2. If, however, you get 135lbs, 5x5 on the bench press on Strength Day 1, you wouldn't increase to 140lbs until Strength Day 3. The one exception to this is on the deadlift. You can increase weight by 10lbs from workout to workout. For example, if you can deadlift 95lbs for 5 repetitions without breaking form, the next workout you complete deadlifts, you can increase to 105lbs.

What if I don't lift the same weight all 5 sets?

First of all, you should at least attempt to lift the exact same weight for all 5 "working sets." Even failed sets have you lifting 1, 2, 3, or 4 reps of a weight you have probably never lifted before; that's still progress!

If you don't get 5 reps during a set, make sure to rest for 5 minutes before attempting the same weight on the next set. Remember that you are only increasing by 5 pounds on an exercise from workout to workout so your body is making gradual changes. You should not be failing by more than a rep or two unless you are seriously short on sleep, not eating enough, or drinking enough water.

Shit happens, however, so some days just won't be as good as others. Let's say you get all 5 reps for your first 3 sets and then only 4 reps on your 4th set, and finish off with just 3 reps on your final set, fine, this is still progress. The next time you do this exercise, attempt the exact same weight. If, you still can't get 5 reps in all 5 sets, then you need to de-load by 10%. After you de-load, work your way back up 5 pounds per workout as you did before. Here is how it looks:

Strength Day 1:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs.
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 4 reps
Set 5 - 3 reps

Strength Day 3:

Bench Press - attempting 200lbs. (2nd attempt)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 4 reps

Strength Day 1:

Bench Press - attempting 180lbs. (10% de-load from 200lbs.)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 5 reps

Strength Day 3:

Bench Press - attempting 185lbs (180lbs. was successful)
Set 1 - 5 reps
Set 2 - 5 reps
Set 3 - 5 reps
Set 4 - 5 reps
Set 5 - 5 reps

The key to this program, and any other strength program to be honest, is that each individual must keep the integrity to stick to as perfect form as possible. I am telling you right now, it is far more beneficial (and impressive) to do full squats at 200lbs than to do half or even 3/4 squats at 250lbs. If you can't do a repetition with near-perfect form, it doesn't count. Either try the same weight again next time or de-load, and work your way back up!

Keep in mind, you only de-load in weight on the exercise(s) that you failed to achieve 5x5. If you de-load on the bench press, for example, still attempt weight increases on your other lifts (squat, barbell row, etc.)

Can I use dumbbells instead of a barbell?

The primary lifts (squat, deadlift, overhead press, bench press, barbell row, Romanian deadlifts) are designed to utilize a barbell for a number of reasons including weight optimization (you can move more weight with a barbell than a pair of dumbbells) and safety. You may be able to start this program with dumbbells, however, I would highly recommend either investing in a squat rack/cage and barbell for your home gym or become a member of a gym that has the appropriate equipment.

Can I adjust the schedule to lift more often or less often?

You should allow at least 1 full day "off" from lifting between lifting days. There are many similar muscles worked during every single lifting day, so proper recovery is a must. If, however, you only lift every 3 days rather than 2, that should be fine. I wouldn't allow too many days between lifting days, however, as that could hinder progress.

Do I have to use front squats?

Of course not! This is the program that I have used. This is what I consider to be the best fit for me and should work for many of you. To be honest, you don't really have to follow anything I recommend here. I have 2 goals with sharing this information.

  1. A few people will use this program and have great success.
  2. A few people like some of the ideas and changes my program presents and uses them for their program.

I believe that front squatting, combined with back squatting will make you a stronger and more well-rounded athlete. Even if you do not play sports, keep in mind that well-rounded and physically fit "athletes" tend to do everything better and more efficient. If you can front squat and back squat efficiently and effectively, I believe it will improve your overall health and fitness.





Back to Basics: Strength Day 3

Warm-up

The warm-up shouldn't take you more than about 5-10 minutes to complete, especially once you become familiar with the exercises and sequencing. Watch the video to get an idea of how each exercise is done.

Quadruped Shoulder Series x 240 reps
Open/Close x 15 reps
Scarecrow x 15 reps
Scapular Retraction x 10 reps
Plange Push-ups x 10-15 reps
Face Pulls with Scapular Retraction x 15 reps
External Rotations x 10 reps
Overhead Squats x 10 reps
Leg Swings x 48 reps
Scorpions x 8 reps
Fire Hydrants x 20 reps

Strength

Back Squat - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Bench Press - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Barbell Row - all sets are 5 repetitions
*shoulders and body should be warm by this point, only a 60% warm-up set should suffice
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Each exercise has anywhere from 1-3 warm-up sets with 40, 50, and/or 60% of your "working sets" weight. All "working sets" weight stays the same for all working sets. I usually round to the nearest 5-pound increment for my warm-up sets. This is where 2.5lb. weight plates come in handy so that you can micro-load your barbell with 5 total pounds.

A set of squats (180lb. "working weight") would therefore look like this:

40% - 70lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
50% - 90lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
60% - 110lbs. x 5 reps
90 second rest

180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps

*There is no set rest time between warm-up sets (besides the time it takes you to load your barbell), however, the following guidelines should be followed for the working sets:

  1. If you complete all 5 repetitions with ease and no break in form, take a 90 second break before the next working set.
  2. If you struggle with one or more repetitions to reach 5, take a 90-180 second (1.5-3 minute) break prior to starting your next working set. Do not be in a rush to start the next set, as your body requires time to recover from the previous set's effort. Your central nervous system also needs time to recover.
  3. If you miss one or more repetitions, which means you either fail to lift the weight at all, or substantially break form to complete (not recommended), then rest for 5 minutes before attempting the same weight again.

If you complete all 5 working sets with the same weight then you increase your weight by 5 pounds for the next workout you complete this exercise.

Accessory

Incline Press/Bent Over Row - 6-12 repetitions per set, 3 sets

Dips - Max repetitions. Like pull-ups and chin-ups, if your goal is to train for max repetitions, I recommend you aim for just that on every set. If, however, you would like to increase strength and size, if you can reach 12 repetitions on sets consistently, then I would recommend using a dip belt to add weight to sets as you increase in strength.

You will notice that I do not have single-muscle and/or single-joint accessory exercises (bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc.). The main strength lifts across all 4 strength days cover essentially every muscle in your body. Coupling that with some of the accessory work to aid in strength and growth, muscles like your biceps and triceps get plenty of work. For example, during a bench press or overhead press, although your are primarily pressing with your pectoral muscles of your chest or deltoid muscles of your shoulder, your triceps are heavily involved in the movement. By doing these exercises, your triceps will get stronger and grow.

Remember that these exercises/lifts are here to aid your main lifts. All of your focus and energy should be focused on your strength work. If, however, you wish to complete the accessory exercises, do not be as attached to previous workouts' numbers and wish to increase numbers. For example, you may have pressed 40lb. dumbbells for 8 reps on the incline press, but as you get stronger and push your bench press numbers higher, you may be more fatigued by the time you reach the accessory work, forcing you to either get fewer reps or drop the weight of the dumbbells a bit.

I use 90 second breaks between each set. I complete all sets of an exercise before moving on to the next exercise. I do not super-set. For example:

Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Incline Press/Bent Over Row x 6-12 reps

Questions/Comments/Concerns? Make sure to comment below!





Back to Basics: Strength Day 4

Warm-up

The warm-up shouldn't take you more than about 5-10 minutes to complete, especially once you become familiar with the exercises and sequencing. Watch the video to get an idea of how each exercise is done.

Quadruped Shoulder Series x 240 reps
Open/Close x 15 reps
Scarecrow x 15 reps
Scapular Retraction x 10 reps
Quadruped Torso Twists x 10/side
Face Pulls with Scapular Retraction x 15 reps
External Rotations x 10 reps
Overhead Squats x 10 reps
Leg Swings x 48 reps
Scorpions x 8 reps
Fire Hydrants x 20 reps

Strength

Back (or Front*) Squat - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Overhead Press - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of "working weight"
50% of "working weight"
60% of "working weight"
Working Set 1
Working Set 2
Working Set 3
Working Set 4
Working Set 5

Snatch Deadlift** - all sets are 5 repetitions
40% of deadlift "working weight"
50% of deadlift "working weight"
60% of deadlift "working weight"

Deadlift - 5 repetitions
Working Set 1

*Front Squats - When starting this program, it is great to back squat 3x/week to build up your strength. However, I really like the front squat for a number of reasons, including preparing your body for Olympic Lifts down the road, improving posture, and most importantly, making your back squat that much better. Once you are able to back squat your own body weight 5x5, I recommend you start front squatting 50% of your 5x5 back squat on Strength Days 2 & 4, in place of back squats. So, if you are 180lbs and can squat 180lbs 5x5, start front squatting 90lbs on Strength Days 2&4, increasing in weight the same way you would with the other lifts by adding 5 pounds to the next workout, every time you successfully lift 5x5.

**Snatch Deadlift - Just read at how great this variation to a classic is. What's nice about this setup is that you probably won't be deadlifting as much with a snatch grip versus a clean grip, so as your traditional deadlift increases (clean grip), your snatch deadlift can increase accordingly based on the percentages. For example, if you are deadlifting 200lbs, your snatch grip sets will be 80, 100, and 120lbs. As your deadlift climbs to, say, 260lbs, you will then be lifting 105, 130, and 155lbs with the snatch grip. The snatch grip deadlift forces you to squat a bit deeper since your hands are further apart so you will get a bit more activation and stretch in the posterior chain and legs preparing you for the heavy set of clean grip deadlifts.

Each exercise has anywhere from 1-3 warm-up sets with 40, 50, and/or 60% of your "working sets" weight. All "working sets" weight stays the same for all working sets. I usually round to the nearest 5-pound increment for my warm-up sets. This is where 2.5lb. weight plates come in handy so that you can micro-load your barbell with 5 total pounds.

A set of squats (180lb. "working weight") would therefore look like this:

40% - 70lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
50% - 90lbs. x 5 reps
No rest
60% - 110lbs. x 5 reps
90 second rest

180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps
*90 second rest
180lbs x 5 reps

*There is no set rest time between warm-up sets (besides the time it takes you to load your barbell), however, the following guidelines should be followed for the working sets:

  1. If you complete all 5 repetitions with ease and no break in form, take a 90 second break before the next working set.
  2. If you struggle with one or more repetitions to reach 5, take a 90-180 second (1.5-3 minute) break prior to starting your next working set. Do not be in a rush to start the next set, as your body requires time to recover from the previous set's effort. Your central nervous system also needs time to recover.
  3. If you miss one or more repetitions, which means you either fail to lift the weight at all, or substantially break form to complete (not recommended), then rest for 5 minutes before attempting the same weight again.

If you complete all 5 working sets with the same weight then you increase your weight by 5 pounds for the next workout you complete this exercise.

Accessory

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) - 3 sets of 5 repetitions completed the same as the strength lifts. Use the same weight for all 3 sets. If you get 5 reps easily, rest 90 seconds between sets. If you struggle to get 5 reps with the given weight, rest 3 minutes between sets. If you miss a rep or break form to complete a rep, rest 5 minutes before the next set.

Dumbbell Swings/Push Press - 3 sets of 6-12 repetitions per arm.

Pull-ups - Here you can essentially aim for max repetitions (3 sets). If your goal is to train for hypertrophy/strength gains, I recommend adding weight via a weight belt to keep your repetitions lower (6-12 range). This is the dip belt that I haveThese should be done strict, no kipping. Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing like having a weight belt hanging in front of your genitals to prevent you from kipping to get more reps!

You will notice that I do not have single-muscle and/or single-joint accessory exercises (bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc.). The main strength lifts across all 4 strength days cover essentially every muscle in your body. Coupling that with some of the accessory work to aid in strength and growth, muscles like your biceps and triceps get plenty of work. For example, during a bench press or overhead press, although your are primarily pressing with your pectoral muscles of your chest or deltoid muscles of your shoulder, your triceps are heavily involved in the movement. By doing these exercises, your triceps will get stronger and grow.

Remember that these exercises/lifts are here to aid your main lifts. All of your focus and energy should be focused on your strength work. If, however, you wish to complete the accessory exercises, do not be as attached to previous workouts' numbers and wish to increase numbers. For example, you may have pressed 40lb. dumbbells for 8 reps on the incline press, but as you get stronger and push your bench press numbers higher, you may be more fatigued by the time you reach the accessory work, forcing you to either get fewer reps or drop the weight of the dumbbells a bit.

I use 90 second breaks between each set. I complete all sets of an exercise before moving on to the next exercise. I do not super-set. For example:

Dumbbell Swings/Push Press x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Dumbbell Swings/Push Press x 6-12 reps
90 second rest
Dumbbell Swings/Push Press x 6-12 reps

Questions/Comments/Concerns? Make sure to comment below!