The Bret Contreras Podcast: Episode 4: Real Functional Training

podcast

Click HERE to download an mp3, click HERE to listen in iTunes, click HERE to listen on Stitcher, or use the player below.

Today’s episode discusses my social media policies, a cool new study on squats, legit functional training (in response to Naudi Aguilar of Functional Patterns), and some of last month’s best articles and blogposts. I hope you enjoy it! Here’s the break down:

Part I

  1. Social media policy update :45 – 4:30
  2. New study highlight: Quadriceps effort during squat exercise depends on hip extensor muscle strategy 4:30 – 14:17

Part II (see HERE for original questions/debate challenge & how this all got started)

  1. The lowdown on Naudi Aguilar 14:18 – 28:25
  2. Should personal trainers impart their goals onto their clients? 28:26 – 32:10
  3. Are deadlifts, Olympic lifts, and squats functional? 32:11 – 33:50
  4. Does all bilateral glute training condition out the posterior oblique sling? 33:50 – 36:15
  5. Are humans designed only to run and throw? 36:16 – 38:05
  6. Even so, what are the best methods to improve running and throwing performance? 38:06 – 44:20
  7. Does pectoral training interfere with throwing? 44:21 – 45:30
  8. Are calisthenics functional? 45:31- 46:52
  9. Is unstable surface training warranted for general training? 46:53 – 49:52
  10. Is sagittal plane training functional? 49:53 – 52:26
  11. Is there a huge conspiracy in S&C to cover up Naudi’s secret methods? 52:27 – 55:15
  12. Are Naudi’s glute exercies effective? 55:15 – 57:30
  13. Is there a specific way that everyone should stand and walk? 57:31 – 1:00:34

Part III

  1. Do squats and deadlifts make your waist blocky? 1:00:35 – 1:03:04
  2. Is high frequency band glute training effective? 1:03:05 – 1:04:50
  3. What’s the proper head and neck position for hip thrusting? 1:04:51 – 1:06:45
  4. Should we incorporate isolation movements if seeking maximal hypertrophy? 1:06:46 – 1:10:40
  5. What foods are truly high in protein? 1:10:41 – 1:12:23

Links from the Podcast

Part I

Quadriceps effort during squat exercise depends on hip extensor muscle strategy

Strengthening and Neuromuscular Reeducation of the Gluteus Maximus in a Triathlete with Exercise-Associated Cramping of the Hamstrings

Comparison of different strongman events: trunk muscle activation and lumbar spine motion, load, and stiffness

Part II

How to Become a Functional Movement Guru in 40 Easy Steps

Challenging Naudi Aguilar of Functional Patterns to a Debate

Functional Training Revisited

Force Vector Training

Juan Carlos Santana Challenge

Naudi Thread on Sherdog Forum

Increases in lower-body strength transfer positively to sprint performance: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Upper body contributions to power generation during rapid, overhand throwing in humans

Unstable Surface Training Excerpt

Magnitudes of muscle activation of spine stabilizers, gluteals, and hamstrings during supine bridge to neutral position

Current Position Statement on Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Part III

Squats and Deadlifts Won’t Make Your Waist Blocky

Band Glute Exercises for the Win: Erin McComb’s Intriguing Training Methods

Proper Hip Thrust Technique: Head and Neck Position

Flexible Dieting and Foods that are Truly High in Protein

Compound versus Isolation Movements

Images to Support the Podcast

Naudi Quote

Classic Naudi Aguilar Quote

Here's Naudi calling me a pussy and a bro

Here’s Naudi calling me a pussy while backing down from a debate. And by the way, my Instagram page shows db walking lunges, front bb reverse lunges, db Bulgarian split squats, pistols, high step ups, single leg RDLs, single leg hip thrusts, band single leg hip thrusts, db single leg hip thrusts, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, glute kickback machine, band kickbacks, single leg reverse hypers, band standing hip abductions, and more, which are far more effective than anything Naudi prescribes, but whatever.

Juan Carlos Santana Challenges Naudi to a Debate, Naudi Backs Down

Juan Carlos Santana Challenges Naudi to a Debate, Naudi Backs Down

Naudi's Minions (Cesar) Going After People and Accusing People Like Me of "Supporting the Establishment"

Naudi’s Minions (Cesar) Going After People and Accusing People Like Me of “Supporting the Establishment”

Sherdog Forum Thread Excerpts:

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June Research Round-Up: Bodybuilding Edition

The S&C Research review service comes out on the first day of every month. Here is a preview of the June 2015 edition, which comes out on Monday. Each edition covers a wide range of important new research but this edition has a special theme of bodybuilding!

Is tendon cross-sectional area associated with muscle volume?

The study: Tendon cross-sectional area is not associated with muscle volume, by Fukutani and Kurihara, in Journal of Applied Biomechanics (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers compared the relative muscle volume and tendon cross-sectional area (using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans) of the triceps brachii, quadriceps femoris, and triceps surae between groups of trained and untrained individuals in order to assess whether there is a relationship between muscle volume and tendon cross-sectional area. The trained individuals included bodybuilders and rugby players.

What did the researchers find?

The researchers found that the muscles were all significantly larger (by muscle volume) in the trained group than in the untrained group. However, the proximal and distal ends of the three tendons were not significantly larger (by cross-sectional area) in the trained group than in the untrained group, except the distal end of the triceps surae tendon, which was greater in the trained group. This suggests that tendons do not grow similarly with increasing muscle size following prolonged resistance training, which might explain the tendency for tendon injuries among strength athletes.

quads

What macronutrient ratios do competitive bodybuilders eat?

The study: Dietary Intake of Competitive Bodybuilders, by Spendlove, Mitchell, Gifford, Hackett, Slater, Cobley, and O’Connor, in Sports Medicine (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers carried out a systematic review of studies that have reported on the dietary intake practices of competitive bodybuilders

What happened?

The researchers found that dietary macronutrient ratios varied widely even among bodybuilders. The researchers reported that protein intake ranged from 1.9 to 4.3g per kg of bodyweight per day for males, accounting for between 18 – 40% of total calories, and from 0.8 to 2.8g per kg of bodyweight per day for females, accounting for 10 – 39% of total calories. They found that carbohydrate intake ranged from 3.0g to 7.2g per kg of bodyweight per day for males, accounting for between 34 – 64% of total calories, and from 2.8g to 7.5g per kg of bodyweight per day for females, accounting for 48 to 78% of total calories. They found that absolute fat intake ranged from 19 to 241g per day for males, accounting for between 8 – 33% of total calories, and from 9 to 124g per day for females, accounting for 9 – 35% of total calories. This may indicate that adherence to a precise macronutrient ratio is not as essential for successful bodybuilding as some people have suggested.

What are the typical results of training for a natural bodybuilding contest?

The study: A nutrition and conditioning intervention for natural bodybuilding contest preparation – case study, by Robinson, Lambeth-Mansell, Gillibrand, Smith-Ryan, and Bannock, in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2015)

What did the researchers do?

The researchers performed a case study to record the effects of a bespoke nutrition and training program in a 21 year-old amateur bodybuilding competitor over a 14-week preparation period on body composition (as measured by skin-folds and girths).

What happened?

The researchers reported that the bodybuilder lost 11.7kg of bodyweight over the 14-week period, or around 1% of bodyweight per week, on an energy deficit of 882 ± 433 kcal per day. The loss in fat mass was 6.7kg (6.8% body fat) and the loss in lean mass was 5.0kg. This loss in lean mass represented 43% of the total body mass lost.

ripped

Get the full review!

The Bodybuilding edition comes out soon! It is packed full of 50 study reviews covering a range of topics relevant to strength and conditioning and physical therapy professionals alike. It only costs $10 per month. Sign up by clicking below!

 

Flexible Dieting and Foods that are Truly High in Protein

Seventeen years ago, I had an undergrad professor who constantly extolled the virtues of adequate protein intake for “brain-based learning” – a popular educational paradigm at that time. In order to help her students get their protein requirements in, she would pass out Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers to each of her students every single class to support brain function, learning, and retention.

I can recall sitting there being like, “WTF?!” I would glance around the room at all of the students, waiting for one…just one of them to read the nutritional label and discover that these snacks weren’t in fact packed with protein. But it never happened; everyone just naively accepted that they were helping their brains function better due to delicious protein filled treats.

keebler crackers nutrition

For twenty years as a personal trainer, this phenomenon has been bothering me. I can’t tell you how many times I overhear my clients saying something like, “Quinoa is a great source of protein.” Or, “I had some peanut butter because I needed to get some protein in me.” Or, “Almonds are packed with protein.” Or, “I made sure to have a Yoplait yogurt for breakfast since it’s important to have protein in the morning.” If you’re a personal trainer, I’m sure you can relate. And in case you’re wondering why it’s bothersome, it’s because none of these food sources are in fact high in protein.

Check out the nutritional info pertaining to the cheese and peanut butter crackers. You’ll notice that they contain 250 calories, 13 grams of fat, 30 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of protein. Less than 10% of the calories come from protein (46% is fat and 46% is carb). The mere fact that the food has the words “cheese” and “peanuts” in the title fools ignorant people who are unskilled in the art of reading nutritional labels into thinking that the snacks are high in protein when in actuality they are not.

Hypothetical Scenarios

I’m a big fan of flexible dieting (I created a flexible diet guideline for my 2 x 4: Maximum Strength product) – with this system you can work whatever foods you want into your nutrition as long as it fits your macros. You want some Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers? Have at it, just make sure you nail your numbers for the day. You have taste buds that don’t enjoy sweets? I hate you, you lucky son of a bitch, but in this case you wouldn’t use up any of your macros with sweets, you simply work the foods that you prefer into your day.

One problem is, many individuals don’t have as much wiggle room as they think they do with their diets. They realize this as soon as they start tracking and stop guessing with regards to their food intake. After finally downloading an app and actually tracking their macros, many of my clients realize that they’re taking in way more calories than they think or they have a few days per week where they go way over what they claim, which sabotages their progress.

macro

Ideally we could all have sky high metabolisms, all men could wolf down 5,000+ calories per day and all women could scarf down 3,000+ calories per day and not gain any weight. But the reality is that many of us are pretty sedentary and only exercise when we hit the gym several days per week for around an hour, and we can’t handle that many calories (maybe we could when we were younger, but not anymore). This is especially true when people get down to the weight they prefer, they find that they can’t eat as much as their brain would like. Bottom line, we all have to exhibit some discipline and monitor our eating habits.

Let’s say you’re a 200 pound male who maintains an ideal physique by consuming 3,000 calories and 200 grams of protein per day. And let’s go back to the example of the Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers. If you ate 12 of these crackers, you’d get 3,000 calories – your entire daily allotment, but only 72 grams of protein, thereby falling fall short of your protein goals. You’d also get 360 grams of carbs and 117 grams of fat per day, which is too much for a 3,000 calorie diet that contains optimal levels of protein. Obviously you can see that this snack isn’t really high in protein, and you’re going to need foods that are truly high in protein in order to hit your targets.

I have a 5’4″ female client right now that maintains her ideal current weight of 120 lbs by consuming 1,500 calories per day. She doesn’t do cardio and sticks to weights 3 times per week. I have her aiming for 120 grams of protein per day, 155 grams of carbs per day, and 45 grams of fat per day. She prefers to eat 4 meals per day, therefore she needs to average 30 grams of protein per meal. Getting this 30 grams of protein 4 times per day isn’t easy for many women, at least at first.

In my experience, many women will assume that they’re getting sufficient protein intake because they eat two eggs in the morning (12 grams of protein) and a piece of chicken at night (30 grams of protein). Assuming they get 12 more grams of protein from a can of Greek yogurt and 20 more grams from veggies and other things, this comes to 74 grams of protein per day.

Many men do the same thing, so it’s not just women. In fact, many of my guy friends who don’t lift take in tons of protein but they do so through such fatty meats that they go way over on calories, and their physiques suffer greatly as a result.

Check out the chart I made below.

Protein

You will clearly see which common foods are indeed high in protein, which foods are moderate in protein, and which foods are low in protein.

Sure, having things like lentils, refried beans, tofu, and even various veggies not included in the chart such as spinach are useful in helping people hit their protein requirements. However, an entire can of spinach only yields 14 grams of protein, so you’re not going to meet your protein requirements for the day with spinach and other veggies alone. The increased popularity of Greek yogurt over the past decade is great since it is in fact a high protein snack. But at the end of the day, you’re going to need to eat some meat or guzzle down a protein shake here and there. Yes, I realize that there are plenty of vegans out there who have incredible physiques, and many even figure out ways to get adequate protein intake. But the majority of people are not vegan, so for those who are trying to improve their physique, most meals should be centered around a portion of meat (or a shake, which I’ll explain below).

I don’t usually track my macros. Most of the time I just make sure I get my protein each day, and get on the scale in the morning and at night. I then modify my diet accordingly so I stay roughly the same weight. However, I have tracked my macros before and it worked beautifully, plus I have my clients track their macros.

Here’s a strategy I employed when I did track macros (keep in mind that this isn’t necessary – you can fit your macros any way you prefer) that helped keep me on track. Last year, I was consuming around 230 grams of protein, 230 grams of carbs, and 120 grams of fat each day, for around 2,900 calories. I was leaning out at the time and dropping weight. I have an affinity for fatty foods, hence the lower carbs and higher fats. I have most of my clients stick to higher percentages of carbs and lesser percentages of fat. Anyway, I liked to eat 6 times per day. If I divided my daily macros by 6, I needed around 40 grams of protein per meal, 40 grams of carbs per meal, and 20 grams of fat per meal. Getting 35-40 grams of protein per meal 6 times per day isn’t easy for me. It is for people that love to cook and prepare their meals ahead of time, but that’s not me.

meal prep

This is why I’m such a fan of whey protein shakes. I put two scoops in milk and it yields over 50 grams of protein. If I did this twice per day, this equated to over 100 grams of protein, which went a long way in helping me get to the 230 grams I desired. If you don’t like the taste of shakes, then you definitely don’t need to drink them. But in my situation, whey protein shakes helped me fit my macros.

This is especially important considering that I, like most people, tend to crave fatty and sugary foods. I could enjoy daily servings of my macadamia nuts, my almonds, my cashews, my sunflower seeds, my yogurts, my orange juice, my dried cherries, my Craisins, and my dark chocolate (I wish I liked my veggies but I don’t), because two of my meals per day were mostly protein (2 scoops of whey in skim milk).

protein

Now let’s incorporate this into my averaging scheme. With 2 of my 6 daily meals consisting of the shakes, this left 4 meals per day and took off 110 grams of protein from my total (and also 20 grams of carbs). Now my macros were at 120 grams of protein, 210 grams of carbs, and 120 grams of fat for the rest of the day, which is much more enticing. I should mention that I had a few fish oil caps per day so this took off around 6 grams of fat from the total. Focusing on protein, if I ate 4 cans of Greek yogurt, this took off 40 grams from the total, which left me with 70 grams. If I consumed 2 pieces of meat, or 2 cans of tuna, or 1 piece of meat and 6 eggs, I met my target protein goal for the day (I just needed to make sure I hit the carb and fat targets).

You definitely don’t need to copy my system, the point of flexible dieting is to figure out your own that suits you best. Work the foods you enjoy into the mix, consume the ideal number of meals you prefer, but just make sure you hit your macros consistently. You’ll likely find that the protein target is the hardest to achieve, as carbs and fats are more fun to eat. This practice leads to an incredible physique over time as long as you know how to train properly and manipulate your macros according to your goals.

Conclusion

To conclude this article, please focus on the larger picture. Absorb what’s useful to you and disregard what isn’t – no need to nitpick my info to death, unless you feel I’m highly off base of course. We can all dig up different articles showing different numbers for protein requirements. We can all dig up nutritional labels of brands that differ from the data I showed in my chart. We can argue about clean eating versus IIFYM to death. This article isn’t written for vegans, so if you’re vegan please don’t take it personal. My goals in writing this article was to show people how much protein they’re actually getting from various foods and to provide people with some example scenarios, which is beneficial from a knowledge standpoint. Scientia potentia est (knowledge is power) my friends!

power

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle

Eat, Lift, and Condition to Lose Fat and Maintain Muscle
By Marc Lewis and Travis Pollen

With summer just around the corner, fat loss and concurrent muscle preservation is on just about everyone’s mind. The trouble is, there’s a whole lot of gimmicky — not to mention conflicting — information out there, especially when it comes to extreme diet and workout methods that supposedly yield lightning fast results.

The truth is that you don’t need to employ a bunch of hocus-pocus or fancy tricks to improve body composition (i.e. lose fat). In fact, just sticking to the tried-and-true basics the majority of the time will absolutely enable you to meet your beach body goals — no crazy diets or trickery needed.

Here are 10 nutrition and training tips to guide your beach body journey.

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Nutrition

1. Increase energy expenditure through exercise BEFORE reducing calories.

Why: Energy balance is the main determinant of weight management. An energy surplus equates to an increase in body mass, and an energy deficit equates to a decrease in body mass. The most common mistake people make when attempting to shed fat is simultaneously reducing caloric intake and increasing exercise energy expenditure.

The problem with this strategy is twofold: (1) it creates a magnified energy deficit (i.e. caloric reduction plus increased energy expenditure) and (2) it reduces your “caloric bank.” If you’re in a magnified caloric deficit, you will lose body mass too fast to maintain your hard-earned lean body mass, which in turn will negatively affect your basal metabolic rate (i.e. the amount of energy your body uses for basic life function) (1).

In order to improve body composition, the main goal must be to decrease body fat while keeping caloric intake as high as possible. This will provide you with enough calories to minimize any loss of lean body mass and create a greater caloric bank to draw from to combat plateaus (1).

How: Using an app like MyFitnessPal, identify the number of calories you’re currently taking in. Obtain your body composition by whatever means is available to you (i.e. bioelectrical impedance, skinfold calipers, etc.). Using your body mass along with your body fat percentage, calculate your fat mass vs. fat-free mass. Additionally, identify the number of calories you are taking in to maintain your current body mass. Once you start implementing the training methods presented below, monitor your body composition while maintaining your current caloric intake and using your body mass and body fat as control variables.

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2. Implement a small to moderate caloric deficit.

Why: Crash dieting or greatly reducing your daily caloric intake (i.e. >500 kcals per day) negatively impacts your metabolic rate, which ultimately makes it more difficult to reduce body fat and train effectively (2, 3). The magnitude of these negative adaptations are likely proportional to the size of the caloric deficit. Therefore, small to moderate caloric deficits are the way to go for short-term body composition change, as well as for long-term metabolic health (1).

How: When seeking to reduce caloric intake in order to improve body composition, focus on small-to-moderate caloric reductions of 300-500 kcals per day, which equates to a weekly caloric deficit of 2100-3500 kcals, and ultimately, a reduction in body mass by 0.6-1 pounds per week. This pattern of weight loss will assist you in reducing your body fat, while minimizing the loss of lean body mass. As suggested by Trexler et al. (2014), although this may decrease the rate of weight loss, it will attenuate negative adaptations that can challenge body fat reduction.

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3. Get your protein.

Why: When attempting to reduce body fat through an energy deficit, increasing your protein intake has been suggested to attenuate losses in lean body mass (4, 5, 6). Additionally, high protein diets (i.e. >25% of your total macronutrients) have been shown to increase satiety and thermogenesis (heat production) (7). In addition, the pattern of protein intake outside of the immediate post-exercise recovery period appears to be important for maximizing myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS), while inducing a more positive whole body protein balance (5).

How: Protein consumption of approximately 1.8-2.7 g/kg/day have been shown to preserve lean body mass when training in an energy deficit (4, 6). The consumption of approximately 20-25 grams of leucine-rich protein (i.e. chicken, beef, whey protein, eggs, etc) every 3 hours post-exercise has been suggested, along with consuming at least 20 grams prior to sleep (5). This practice will assist in maximizing MPS, which will promote recovery between training sessions by enhancing skeletal muscle remodelling and allowing you to maintain lean body mass.

4. Fuel to train.

Why: The ability to train effectively during each training session is really what builds lean muscle mass, cranks up your metabolic rate, and allows you to burn more calories during the other 23 hours of the day that you’re not training. To train effectively and truly maximize every session, you must be properly fueled. When attempting to reduce body fat, many people utilize calorically restrictive diets that interfere with their ability to maintain adequate training frequency, volume, and intensity. Strength training without the proper fuel blunts leucine uptake by the muscle, mTOR signaling, and ultimately, muscle protein synthesis (8).

How: It is suggested to consume at least 20 grams of leucine-rich protein (i.e. chicken, beef, cottage cheese, whey protein, etc.) at least 60 minutes prior to training, while consuming a mixed meal (i.e. fat, carbohydrate, protein) within 3-4 hours prior to strength training (8). A good rule of thumb is to consume approximately 20-30% of your daily carbohydrate intake (depending on gastrointestinal tolerance) within 3 hours prior to training, which provides adequate energy to train and recover. When performing conditioning early in the day and resistance training in the afternoon, it is vital to refuel fully in order to maximize the cellular signaling that facilitates muscle hypertrophy (8).

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5. Condition fueled, not fasted.

Why: The concept of “fasted cardio” is based on the theory that low glycogen levels cause the body to shift energy utilization away from carbohydrates and increase lipolysis in order to mobilize stored fat for energy. Schoenfeld (2011) suggested that even the premise of this concept is flawed, since it considers only the energy utilized during the training session when determining the optimal method for fat loss. As Schoenfeld points out, energy utilization associated with fat burning must be considered over the course of several days, since substrate utilization is determined by multiple factors (9).

Additionally, when attempting to reduce body fat while preserving muscle mass, every bit of muscle tissue matters. It’s been shown that proteolysis (i.e. the breakdown of protein) is increased when performing aerobic exercise in a fasted state (9). Finally, performing any type of high-intensity training, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), in a fasted state will most likely impair performance, thereby blunting the positive effects of the training.

How: Eat before you condition! This doesn’t mean you have to eat for conditioning the same way you would for strength training; it just means that you need to consume at least some protein (i.e. 20-25 grams) and some carbohydrates prior to training. To lose body fat while preserving your hard-earned muscle, consume a mixture of BCAAs and dextrose prior to training.

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Training

1. Focus on big-bang-for-the-buck, full-body lifts with sufficient training volume.

Why: For the umpteenth time, spot reduction is a myth! All the sit-ups and curls in the world won’t shed that stubborn belly and arm fat. Sure, isolation exercises can help shape and define a particular muscle. However, they won’t burn calories and melt away the fat that’s hiding those muscles in the same way that full-body, compound movements will. Compound movements provide the hormonal, neural, and cellular adaptations needed to maintain lean body mass, while simultaneously ramping up caloric expenditure. Additionally, compound movements allow you to go heavy (in order to recruit the high threshold motor units that have the highest capacity for growth) and work multiple large muscle groups at once, which in-turn makes for more efficient training.

How: Make multi-joint lifts like the squat, deadlift, hip thrust, lunges, bench press, overhead press, dips, pull-up, and the row the foundation of your program. Perform two or three of these exercises for adequate volume at the beginning of every training session. When training with higher loads, about 25 total reps are optimal (i.e. 5 sets of 5, 4 sets of 6, 8 sets of 3). At lower loads, a total of about 50 reps is the magic number (i.e. 5 sets of 10, 4 sets of 12, 3 sets of 15).

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2. Hit a variety of repetition ranges.

Why: One of the most common misconceptions, even among seasoned lifters, is that muscle is built only in the 6-12 repetition range. It is certainly true that a significant portion of hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth) will occur within this window. However, in order to maximize muscle gains — and trigger each of the various mechanisms of hypertrophy (10) — both lower and higher repetition ranges should also be covered (11).

Moderate- and high-repetition sets will induce muscle damage and metabolic stress (also known as “the pump”), while maintaining the use of high-load, low repetition sets will facilitate the use of greater absolute loads at submaximal intensities. Only when all three strategies are employed in synchrony can we reach our full muscular potential.

How: Not surprisingly, the compound lifts discussed above are ideally suited for all three mechanisms of hypertrophy and repetition ranges. For an in-depth analysis of how to manipulate training variables (sets, reps, tempo, and rest) to invoke the various mechanisms, see Bret and Travis’s recent T-Nation article, “The 3 Essential Workout Methods for Muscle.”

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3. Utilize undulating periodization.

Why: Undulating periodization is suggested to be superior to other forms of periodization when peaking for a specific event isn’t a concern (12, 13). To reduce body fat while minimizing losses in muscle, the training program must allow for somewhat frequent variations in training parameters like volume, intensity, rest period, and tempo. These fluctuations will allow for the maximizing all of the factors associated with muscle hypertrophy, while simultaneously giving you the freedom to “auto-regulate” your workout based on other stressors in your life. Undulating periodization also reduces the risk of progress stagnation, which tends to be associated with an overemphasis, or specialization in a certain volume and/or intensity.

How: There are a multitude of undulating periodization schemes. One simple and easy to implement example is daily undulating periodization, which elicits the desired response by cycling through training sessions emphasizing multiple loading schemes over the course of the week. It’s important to note that although the bulk of each session’s sets and reps should be consistent with that particular day’s emphasis, work can also be done in other ranges (i.e. one or two “back-off sets” following heavy strength work).

A sample week of daily undulating periodization might look like this:

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4. Incorporate metabolic resistance training for its dual muscle-building and conditioning benefits.

Why: If anything over 5 reps is cardio, as some hardcore powerlifters will assure you, then why not take advantage? By metabolic resistance training (MRT), we’re referring to circuit-style workouts utilizing low-load, low-skill, high-rep compound movements and standard resistance training implements. Traditionalists might eschew this method of conditioning, preferring time-honored machines like fan bikes or even good old-fashioned hill sprints, but in truth — when programmed intelligently — metabolic resistance training has a slew of benefits.

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MRT provides an adequate stimulus for maintaining muscle, while simultaneously ramping up the fat-burning furnace. It increases the metabolic cost of exercise (600-700 kcal/hour) by increasing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) (14, 15, 16), or that feeling that you’re still burning fat well after the last rep, which you actually are! Due to the glycogen-depleting nature of high-intensity exercise, our body shifts its focus to replenishing those glycogen stores post-exercise, which in turn increases lipolysis and the utilization of free fatty acids as fuel (16). In fact, EPOC increases exponentially with high-intensity exercise (high intensity of load or effort), as opposed to the linear increase associated with submaximal intensities (16).

Moreover, MRT allows you to increase your work capacity through improving lactate clearance, thus enabling you to perform a greater volume of work at higher relative intensities (16). In sum, MRT is an ideal method for improving aerobic and anaerobic metabolism, while efficiently and effectively torching unwanted body fat.

How: MRT should involve compound exercises for the full body. It’s most easily carried out in supersets (two exercises performed back-to-back in alternating fashion) or circuit form. Some exercises to consider include squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups, bench press, push press, rows, and dips.

The work load should be approximately 60-65% of your 1-RM for 2-3 sets of 15-20 reps. The intensity of effort should be very high (i.e. RPE 8-10 on the 10-point scale). Rest should be no longer than 30 seconds between rounds of supersets and no longer than 2 minutes between rounds of a larger circuit (17). An example of an MRT circuit might be 3 rounds of 15 goblet squats, 15 repetitions on bench press, 15 ring rows, and 15 deadlifts. Push the pace, but rest as needed in order to maintain form.

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5. Condition strategically with a mix of intensities (of both resistance and effort) and durations.

Why: Every minute of conditioning must serve a purpose. That is, spending mindless hours on the elliptical or stationary bike will not help you reach your body composition goals. Nor will having an “every-day-is-game-day” mentality and going balls to the wall session after session. In order to lose fat and preserve muscle when conditioning, the key is to strike an optimal balance between shorter, higher intensity efforts and longer, lower intensity bouts.

Cardiac output, or steady state, training at low-to-moderate intensity (i.e. 25-30 minutes cycling at 50-70% HRR) can be an extremely useful tool, as well. Cardiac output training assists in recovery by improving the clearance of metabolic byproducts, improving the quality of sleep, and improving the body’s ability to replenish glycogen stores. In addition, cardiac output training can improve autonomic nervous system control (i.e. sympathetic vs. parasympathetic balance), which directly impacts recovery and improves mood. Finally, as its name implies, cardiac output training is also great for the heart, thereby allowing you to keep a healthier engine.

How: Incorporate at least one day per week each of metabolic resistance training, high- or low-intensity interval/tempo training, and cardiac output training (i.e. 25-30 minutes cycling at 50-70% HRR). When incorporating interval training into your program, select an appropriate work-to-rest ratio based on the primary energy pathway you are utilizing.

If you’re performing high-intensity interval sessions involving a 30-second all-out sprint, then an appropriate rest period would be 3 minutes (1:6 work-rest ratio). This allows for the primary energy system being taxed —  anaerobic glycolysis, in this case —  to recover, which will allow you to perform the sprints as close to full capacity as possible. In contrast, if you’re doing aerobic intervals, such as 3 minutes of work, a rest period of 3 minutes will be adequate to recover in order to perform the interval near full capacity (1:1 work-rest ratio). Perform cardiac output training at least once a week for 25-35 minutes at 50-70% of your HRR.

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Don’t Be a Stiff!

Remember, muscle growth and fat loss are a combination of the stress of training and the ability to recover from that stress. Sometimes life gets in the way — maybe the baby kept you up all night, or you were forced to grab a lower quality pre-workout meal than usual. When this occurs, it’s important to “auto-regulate,” or tweak training parameters to coincide with your current physiological and psychological states. Moreover, don’t feel guilty if you slip up every now and then on nutrition or if you have to skip a workout. It’s okay to live a little! Just be sure to jump right back on the wagon.

References

  1. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, & Norton LE. Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 11 (7), 2014.
  1. Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, & Sundgot-Borgen J. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 21, 2011.
  1. Chaston TB, Dixon JB, & O’Brien PE. Changes of fat-free mass during significant weight loss: a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity. 31, 2007.
  1. Murphy CH, Hector AJ, & Phillips SM. Considerations for protein intake in managing weight loss in athletes. European Journal of Sport Science. 2014.
  1. Perez-Schindler J, Hamilton DL, Moore DR, Baar K, & Philip A. Nutritional strategies to support concurrent training. European Journal of Sport Science. 2015.
  1. Churchward-Venne TA, Murphy CH, Longland ™, & Phillips SM. Role of protein and amino acids in promoting lean mass accretion with resistance exercise and attenuating lean mass loss during energy deficit in humans. Springer. 2013.
  1. Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 87, 2008.
  1. Baar K. Using molecular biology to maximize concurrent training. Sports Medicine. 44(suppl 2), 2014.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ. Does cardio after an overnight fast maximize fat loss? Strength and Conditioning Journal. 33(1), 2011.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(10), 2014.
  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Willardson JM, Fontana F, & Tiryaki-Sonmez. Muscle Activation during low- versus high-load resistance training in well-trained men. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 114, 2014.
  1. Miranda F, Simao R, Rhea M, Bunker D, Prestes J, Diego Leite R, Miranda H, De Salles F, & Novaes J. Effects of linear versus daily undulatory periodized resistance training on maximal and submaximal strength gains. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25(7), 2011.
  1. Rhea M, Ball S, Phillips W, & Burkett L. A comparison of linear versus daily undulating periodized programs with equated volume and intensity for strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 16(2), 2002.
  1. Da Silva RL, Brentano MA, & Martins Kruel LF. Effects of different strength training methods on post-exercise energetic expenditure. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24(8), 2010.
  1. Elliot DL, Goldberg L, & Kuehl KS. Effect of resistance training on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Applied Sport Science Research. 6(2), 1992.
  1. Paoli A, Moro T, Marcolin G, Neri M, Bianco A, Palma A, & Grimaldi K. High-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT) influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ratio in non-dieting individuals. Journal of Translational Medicine. 10, 2012.
  1. Haltom RW, Kraemer RR, Sloan RA, Hebert EP, Frank K, & Tryniecki JL. Circuit weight training and its effects on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 31(11), 1999.

About the Authors

Marc Lewis, M.S.(c), CSCS, TSAC-F, ACSM-EP-C, ACSM-CPT is the owner of Winston Salem Personal Training in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, while also serving as a graduate teaching/research assistant in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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Twitter: @mtlewis14

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Personal Training: www.winstonsalempersonaltraining.com

Travis Pollen is an NPTI certified personal trainer and American record-holding Paralympic swimmer. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Biomechanics and Movement Science at the University of Delaware.

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