Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Build Muscle and Strength, Part 2: More Exercise Strategy

Because there was so much interest in the last post of this series (it's now my most popular post!), I decided to add some more of the interesting muscle-building exercise strategies that I've discovered during my recent research. The body weight exercises are especially fun!

Overload Training
In an effort to experience maximum intensity, I use a method of overload called max contraction. (1) The basic idea of max contraction is to hold a weight that is between 110% to 120% of your 1-Rep Max (1RM) for no more than 6 seconds. While you are holding this weight, you are keeping it stationary at the most disadvantageous position (usually with a joint at 90 degrees). If a person can only hold a weight for a maximum of 1-2 seconds, then their target muscle group has experienced the most intensity possible.

There are two reasons that I use overload training:
  • Achieve maximum muscle fiber recruitment to build strength quickly. (2,3)
  • Overcome protection mechanisms in the brain that prevent a person from lifting more weight, preventing a plateau. (4)

Since I concentrate on one muscle group per day, my first exercise is overload. So, if I were doing chest, I would do a few reps of one-arm max contraction dumbbell bench presses (I use dumbbells so that I can spot myself). I take a single 110-pound dumbbell, lie down on the bench, and lower the weight with only one arm (assisted by the other) until my upper arm is parallel with the floor, and my elbow is bent at a 90-degree angle. I hold the dumbbell stationary for 6 seconds. I repeat this with the other arm to complete my set.

This is the one-arm dumbbell bench press. When the weight starts to get heavy, you will have to shift your weight to the center of the bench to maintain balance.

I only go up in weight if I can hold the weight for more than 6 seconds. If I can't, then I will use the same weight until I can hold it for 6 seconds.

This style of exercise is very intense, so you can't do too many of them. I limit myself to a maximum of three total reps per daily workout, giving myself 1-2 minutes of rest between each complete max contraction rep. For example, if I were exercising my back I would use the one-arm pull-up as my overload exercise. After I completed three max contraction reps (or 3 sets of 1 rep) I would then move on to a traditional, heavy, full-range back exercise (like weighted pull-ups).

Max contraction is only one part of my approach to building muscle. When I experimented with this style of exercise, I got stronger, but not bigger. So I use max contraction to help drag my traditional, heavy, full-range exercises up in weight. I then use these heavy exercises (as well as my volume training) to maximize hypertrophy (i.e., growing muscle).

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Engineering the Perfect Body, Part 5: Putting It all Together

So here we are at the end of the perfect body series. Over the last few posts we have learned that building the body of your dreams is not impossible, it just requires that you do two things:

That's right, your doctor wasn't lying when he/she said that being healthy is as simple as enjoying an improved diet and moving around a bit every day.

Specifically, eating a more nutrient-dense, toxin-free diet will allow your brain to correctly regulate your body weight and body fat. After you get your diet straightened out, you can then use an efficient and effective daily exercise program that primarily focuses on building muscle that will help you replace fat with muscle. That's it!

For those of you who believe that this transformation will take too long or will make a woman look too masculine, take a look at the woman in the title picture. This person lost 35.9 lbs of fat in six months, which is a healthy 1.5 lbs of fat loss per week. By the end of her transformation, her body weight and body fat dropped to 120.4 lbs and 19.83% (respectively). That's an incredible transformation in only 6 months! (And I don't think that anyone would describe her as too muscular or less feminine.)

To give you a road map to building your perfect body (and easily earning 90s on your PT test), let's put each of my posts in this series into a single 4-step process:

This post has been moved over to my Mayo's Mind blog. Click on the link below to read the rest of this post.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Engineering the Perfect Body, Part 4: Body Composition

In the US, the current approach to losing weight--starvation diets and excessive cardio--has produced a weird phenomenon called skinny fat. Someone who is skinny fat is currently at a healthy weight, but their use of a low-calorie diet and/or chronic cardio has stripped away their lean mass. Consequently, this forces their brain to maintain that healthy weight with excessive body fat, giving them an undesirable body composition (which allows them to look skinny in clothing, but obviously flabby when in a bathing suit).

This post has been moved over to my Mayo's Mind blog. Click on the link below to read the rest of this post.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

How to Build Muscle and Strength, Part 1: Exercise Strategy

There are probably thousands of different exercise programs that you can use, and some are better than others. In truth, there is no single perfect exercise program; however, not all programs will effectively build muscle or "burn" fat. To help you get more bang for your exercise buck, I have assembled four simple and effective muscle-building lessons that are commonly missed by many exercisers.

This post has been moved to my Mayo's Mind blog. Please follow the link below to read the rest of this post.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

How to Build Muscle and Strength: Intro

Whether you are 15 or 75, man or woman, you should exercise 5-6 days a week. When you do exercise, you should always strive to build muscle and strength. Of course, building more muscle will make you look and feel great, as well as make life easier for you on a day-to-day basis. But the biggest reason that you should exercise to gain muscle is because your health and fitness are unavoidably connected to the amount of lean mass you have.

Building muscle quickly, consistently, and with the least effort possible is the focus of this four-part series. Since high school, I've always been obsessed with building muscle. However, I don't like spending much time in the gym. This has pushed me towards efficient exercise programs.

This quest for a super efficient program happened by accident. For most of my life, I've been relatively successful slowly building muscle. But, for the last two years, I've been unable to get any heavier. Consequently, because I started to plateau, I had to do some research to find the most effective techniques to get the results I wanted. My goal was then to put together the best techniques into a single efficient program. Although it took me a while, I have finally managed to put together all the tricks that make your body grow muscle like a Spartan!

This post has been moved to my Mayo's Mind blog. Please follow the link below to read the rest of this post.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Six Principles of Optimal Health: Intro

I just posted on my Mayo's Mind blog the six principles that I believe can help achieve optimal health. Check it out!

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