It’s My PR

Yesterday, I front squatted 295 lbs, which was a personal record (PR) for me. I was very happy about this.

I know of high school athletes who can front squat 315 lbs x 10 reps. That doesn’t concern me. I don’t care what anyone else is doing; I care what I’m doing.

Some lifts will come very easy for you. For me, these include variations of deadlifts, chins, pulldowns, rows, hip thrusts, back extensions, swings, and curls.

Other lifts will not come very easy for you. For me, these include variations of squats and presses.

In the gym, I’m a posterior chain badass and an anterior chain sissy. This doesn’t stop me from pushing myself as hard as possible on my squats and presses. Slowly but surely, they’re creeping up.

Much of this has to do with height, anthropometry/body segment length proportions, and tendon insertion points. It also has to do with genetic variability in muscle mass potential. I could deadlift 405 x 5 reps in my first 6 months of deadlifting at 21 years of age. Granted, they were round-backed, but that’s not the point.

A short, bulky lifter with short femurs and big quads will ALWAYS squat the house. A tall, slender lifter with long femurs and smaller quads will want tend to squat morning the weight up and will never feel like a natural at squats unless he balloons up in weight.

Moreover, most lifters have a particular muscle that doesn’t grow like the others. No matter what they seem to do, the muscle doesn’t budge in size to much of a degree, and it won’t grow like the other muscles. For me, these are my quads and triceps – hence the difficulty with squats and bench. Pecs, biceps, delts, back, traps, adductors, glutes, abs, and calves grow just fine.

My current front squat goal is 315 lbs. When I get there, I’ll definitely be doing a happy dance. What’s that – you can front squat 315 lbs for 10 reps and 455 lbs for a max? Good for you! Those are your PR’s.

But this is my PR, and I’m damn proud of it.

Lift for you and don’t pay attention to what others are doing.

ArnoldFS

Who thinks CrossFit needs a Glute WoD?

Crossfit is undeniably one of the biggest trends in the fitness industry at the moment. In just a few short years, it has acquired a large influence over the way that coaches carry out strength and conditioning.

One of the central tenets of CrossFit is that their approach is the best way of achieving elite-level results. But very few CrossFit WoDs (workouts of the day) include specific gluteus maximus exercises, like hip thrusts, barbell glute bridges, pull-throughs or horizontal back extensions. While they do tend to perform sled pushes and American-style kettlebell swings, it’s just not the same, not by a long-shot. When I started integrating specific glute work into my training, my clients immediately saw huge results in terms of glute development, strength, and power.

This means that following the standard CrossFit template will not lead to optimal improvements in the ability to generate force and power horizontally. We need to be able to generate force and power horizontally when sprinting or when pushing opponents out of the way during sport. It also means that CrossFit leaves large glute strength and muscle mass increases on the table. Glute strength and muscle mass are very helpful when moving in vertical, lateral, and torsional directions in addition to horizontal directions. Finally, there’s a psychological edge that is achieved when glute development is at an all-time high, which I think would be warmly welcomed by CrossFitters worldwide.

glutes

To help put this right, I’ve written a CrossFit-style Glute WoD and my colleagues over at Hip Thruster UK have written one too. Scott from Metal Rhino kindly agreed to film them (that’s him in both videos, suffering mightily). Here they are:

Bret’s Glute WoD

RKC plank
Barbell glute bridge – 100kg males / 60 kgs females
Sumo walks – mini-band
3 rounds of 20 seconds / 20 reps / 20 reps for time

Hip Thruster UK Glute WoD

Hip thrust – 100kg males / 60kg females
Heavy RKC-style kettlebell swing – 32kg males / 20kg females
3 supersets without rest – 21 / 15 / 9 reps for time

Please give these Glute WoD’s a try and let me know what you think.

protein-shake

Why You Don’t Really Need a Post-Workout Protein Shake

By Eirik Garnas
www.OrganicFitness.com

Everyone who’s been lifting weights for some time have inevitably heard – and most likely bought into – a lot of the gym talk and magazine wisdom surrounding training and diet. Besides learning that eating every other hour and completely destroying each muscle group once a week is the optimal way to go for muscle growth, new strength trainees usually hear about the “anabolic window” that opens up after a workout and the boost in protein synthesis and muscle growth that occur if you consume fast-absorbable protein directly after your last set. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hungry or not, just getting it down is the priority. While some trainees cling on to these notions for their entire lifting career, those who start reading research and evidence-based information quickly learn that a lot of the general beliefs about training and nutrition are either inaccurate or outright harmful. But, while a lot of the myths in the fitness community are quickly dismissed by these smart lifters, the majority still hold onto their post-workout protein shake. Getting enough protein into your body is clearly essential if you want to maximize muscle growth and strength gains, but does it really make a difference whether you get some of these essential building blocks into your body directly after training or not?

“Listen to your body”. This short phrase is often considered the first rule of training, nutrition, and health since it doesn’t really matter what researchers, coaches, and experienced athletes say is optimal if it’s not compatible with your body. Most trainees learn how to adjust their diet and training program in accordance with their recovery rate and progress, but for some reason the pre- and post-workout food intake is often set in stone.

But how did the ideas about pre- and post-workout protein consumption get so ingrained in the fitness community? Bodybuilders selling and using supplements and ads in fitness magazines and websites certainly have a significant impact, but that’s not all. Most of us have probably heard or read about the scientifically proven effects of consuming fast-absorbable protein or branched-chain amino acids within about 30 minutes after training, and on a superficial level it does seem to make sense that consuming protein in and around a training session could help you build more muscle and strength.

protein-shake

Enter protein timing

Protein timing involves the consumption of protein in and around an exercise session, and proponents of this nutritional strategy claim that this type of nutrient timing enhances strength- and hypertrophy-related adaptations.

Let’s do a quick example to illustrate the idea behind protein timing. Adam has been lifting weights for 5 years and gained a respectable amount of muscle. He typically consumes a large mixed meal 2 hours prior to his strength training sessions and then another meal 1-2 hours after his workout. In total, he eats 4-5 meals a day, and since he’s dead set on increasing his strength and building muscle, he’s consuming plenty of animal source foods. Adam doesn’t use a lot of supplements, but one of his meals of the day includes a protein shake. His average daily protein intake is 180 grams (~2 g/kg/day).

If protein timing does enhance muscle growth and strength development, Adam should see even greater progress by drinking the protein shake immediately before or after his workout! However, it’s important to note that to adequately determine the effects of pre- and post-workout protein consumption, his total energy and protein intake have to stay the same.

Protein timing (in and around a workout) doesn’t have a significant impact on muscle growth and strength development

Studies on protein timing show mixed results (1,2,3,4). It’s therefore easy for supplements manufacturer and people with a strong opinion on the matter to cherry pick a study that seems to support their position on protein consumption pre- and/or post-workout, but if we take a closer look at most of these chronic training studies there are several methodological shortcomings that limit their usefulness. Perhaps the greatest issue with a lot of the studies on protein timing is that participants who consume protein directly before and/or after their workouts often have a higher total protein intake than subjects who’re not. Since a higher protein intake is associated with increased hypertrophy (up to a certain point), this unmatched protein consumption in the treatment and control group will have a significant impact on the results. To illustrate this, let’s go back to the example with Adam and adjust his protein intake so he’s only consuming 1,4 g/kg/day of protein each day. His daily protein intake is now below what is considered optimal in terms of maximizing increases in muscle mass, and it’s therefore no surprise that adding additional protein in and around his training sessions will make him gain more muscle.

Total daily protein intake is what counts the most

Total daily protein intake is what counts the most

Last year, Alan Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld, and James Krieger were the first to investigate the effects of protein timing on hypertrophy and muscle strength in a meta-analysis. After contrasting and combining results from several randomized controlled trials, the authors concluded the following: “In conclusion, current evidence does not appear to support the claim that immediate (≤ 1 hour) consumption of protein pre- and/or post-workout significantly enhances strength- or hypertrophic-related adaptations to resistance exercise. The results of this meta-analysis indicate that if a peri-workout anabolic window of opportunity does in fact exist, the window for protein consumption would appear to be greater than one-hour before and after a resistance training session …” (5).

The authors also note that the positive effects associated with protein timing seem to stem from a higher total protein intake in the treatment groups than in the control groups, but that more matched studies – especially in well-trained individuals – are needed to draw firm conclusions.

Overall it’s safe to say that total protein intake is far more important than protein timing when it comes to muscle and strength gains, and as long as you eat enough protein throughout the day to meet your requirements, it doesn’t seem to matter much whether some of this protein is consumed immediately before and/or after your workout or not. However, it’s important to note that these studies focus on protein intake in and around a training session, not the optimal frequency of protein-rich meals throughout the day.

But what if you combine protein with carbohydrates, does that make a difference? Most lifters typically include fruits, rice cakes, or carbohydrate supplements in their post-workout meal in an attempt to restore glycogen stores and increase protein synthesis, but the fact is that recent studies indicate that a greater insulin response following the post-workout meal doesn’t contribute to muscle protein anabolism in young adults (6). This can help explain why adding carbohydrate to a protein-rich post-workout meal doesn’t seem to enhance post-exercise muscle protein synthesis (7,8,9).

There are two primary reasons why consuming fast-absorbable protein and carbohydrates directly after a strength training session isn’t really a top priority for the average lifter (given that he gets enough protein during the day to meet his requirements and doesn’t delay his first post-workout meal for too long). First of all, the science doesn’t really show that consuming carbohydrate and/or protein directly after a workout enhances muscle growth or strength development. Second, if you’ve eaten a mixed meal 2-3 hours prior to training (like most serious lifters do), you’ve already supplied a generous dose of nutrients that are being broken down, absorbed, and metabolized both during and after your workout.

Should you include protein powders in your diet?

Since a post-workout protein shake doesn’t really seem to boost muscle growth or strength gains, you might be asking whether you will benefit from including protein shakes in your diet at all. While the answer to this question primarily depends on your ability to get enough protein from “real food”, there are also other considerations you should have in mind. Let’s briefly look at some of the pros and cons associated with the consumption with protein powders, with an emphasis on whey protein.

Pros

  • Protein powders help increase your total daily protein intake
    Protein shakes are clearly a convenient and cheap way of increasing the total daily protein intake, and many serious strength trainees find that they aren’t able to get enough high-quality protein into their diet without supplementing. Since sources of protein such as free-range eggs, grass-fed meats, and seafood are more expensive and require more preparation than sources of fat and carbohydrate, protein is often diluted in favor of carbohydrate and fat, and consuming protein powders after a training session or during the day can therefore be an efficient way of increasing the total protein intake. This can be especially beneficial for strength trainees who pay little attention to their overall diet and protein consumption. “High-protein” diets are often associated with bodybuilding and strength training, but are also very effective for weight loss.
  • Protein powders can help speed up the recovery process
    Although protein timing doesn’t seem to offer any substantial benefits in terms of hypertrophy and strength, nutrient timing does affect your recovery rate and is therefore of special concern to those who perform several workouts during the same day. In general, if you’ve just finished a brutal workout and feel the need for some fast-absorbable energy, it’s probably a good idea to get some food into the system within a relatively short timeframe to kick-start the recovery process. However, there isn’t any reason to force 2 scoops of whey protein down if you’ve eaten a large mixed meal prior to training and aren’t really that hungry directly after your workout.
  • There are many health benefits associated with the consumption of protein powders
    Besides the convenience of including protein shakes in the diet in the context of boosting protein intake and recovery, protein powders are also considered functional foods that have positive effects on health beyond basic nutrition. Most of the research has focused on the bioactive compounds and nutrient value of whey protein, which increases the antioxidant enzyme Glutathione (10) and is an abundant source of Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs). Whey protein has been shown to possess antioxidant-, antihypertensive-, antitumor-, hypolipidemic-, antiviral-, antibacterial-, and chelating- properties, which probably stem from the conversion of the amino acid cysteine to glutathione (11). Also, certain components in whey, such as lactoferrin and immunogolublins, have immune-enhancing effects (12), and several studies support a role for whey protein in the prevention and treatment of metabolic diseases (13).

While there are many health benefits associated with the consumption of protein powders, there are also some potential adverse effects

Cons

  • In evolutionary terms, the consumption of a highly concentrated source of protein is a novel behaviour
    Protein powders contain a higher concentration of protein than anything we’ve been eating throughout most of our evolution, but it’s unclear whether this unnatural macronutrient composition poses a problem or not. The evolutionary argument isn’t especially conclusive in terms of protein timing as our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t really train like bodybuilders or weight lifters. Also, they didn’t necessarily do what was optimal in terms of recovery and muscle growth. However, looking at the human diet in an evolutionary perspective can help us understand what types of foods we’re naturally adapted to eat. While we don’t need to eat like our paleolithic ancestors (or have access to the same food) to be healthy, we can learn a lot by studying the mismatch between modern sources of food and those we’ve been eating throughout most of our evolution. Both highly dense sources of carbohydrates (e.g., refined grain products, sugar) and fat (e.g., high-fat cream, vegetable oils) are recent introductions in the human diet and because of their unnatural macronutrient composition these products can potentially induce a state of chronic low-grade inflammation by promoting the absorption of endotoxins into systemic circulation. Highly dense sources of protein such as protein powders are also a very recent introduction in the human diet, and although there is currently little evidence showing that protein powders are harmful to ones health, we can’t exclude the possibility that dense sources of protein could have some potential adverse effects that haven’t yet been fully investigated.
  • Consumption of whey protein can increase acne severity
    Besides the insulinogenic effect of whey protein, some of the hormones that are present in milk are also present in whey, and this could help explain why whey proteins seem to increase acne severity in some people (14,15,16).
  • What about the insulin spike?
    Whey protein has a very powerful effect on insulin secretion, and although insulin sensitivity is heightened after a training session, there are few (if any) studies showing that a similar amount of protein from whey is superior to meat, eggs, and seafood after a workout. Is the potent effect on insulin secretion following consumption of whey protein beneficial, benign, or bad? We can’t say for sure at this point. Recent research questions the notion that a greater insulin response post-workout contributes to muscle protein anabolism (17), and I’m personally sceptical to the idea that a post-workout insulin spike is something to aim for. This is also supported by recent literature which shows that a post-workout protein shake, with or without added carbohydrate, doesn’t seem to enhance muscle growth or strength development. However, if you’re a big fan of protein timing it’s clearly more convenient to bring a shake than chicken and fruit to the gym.
  • A lot of protein powders on the market are of poor quality
    Since the supplement industry is poorly controlled, a lot of protein powders contain metals and ingredients that lack safety data (18), and it can often be difficult to know whether you’re buying a high-quality supplement or not.
  • Allergy and intolerance
    While not really a downside of protein powders themselves, it’s worth mentioning that some people experience gas, bloating, or other problems following the consumption of protein powders because they are allergic to some of the protein fractions or don’t produce the necessary enzymes to break down all of the ingredients in the supplement.

Takeaway

In conclusion, total protein intake matters a lot more than protein timing (in and around a workout). The “anabolic window” doesn’t close 30 minutes after a workout, and there’s no reason to force down protein shakes or food until you’re actually hungry. There are several considerations you should keep in mind when deciding whether you need protein powders in your diet, chief of which is whether you’re able to get enough protein from food.

About the author

eirik-garnas_organic-fitness-authorName: Eirik Garnas
Website: www.OrganicFitness.com
facebook_buttonBesides studying for a degree in Public Nutrition, I’ve spent the last couple of years coaching people on their way to a healthier body and better physique. I’m educated as a personal trainer from the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and also have additional courses in sales/coaching, kettlebells, body analysis, and functional rehabilitation. Subscribe to my website and follow my facebook page if you want to read more of my articles on fitness, nutrition, and health.

Strength Trumps Conditioning for Body Improvements

Today I have a very exciting story to share! When Kristen, a Get Glutes member since day one, recently showed the forum her updated pics, my jaw dropped. I was blown away by her progress. I immediately asked her to write a guest blog for me so she could share her experiences and detail her journey. Kristen’s mental transformation has mirrored her physical transformation. I’m sure that many of my readers are frustrated with their lack of progress. So was Kristen. But she persisted and prevailed, and she learned to train smart, not just hard. So don’t give up! And Kristen, I’m damn proud of you!

2011 – The beginning of my fitness journey

I began my fitness journey in 2011 when I finished graduate school, weighing in at 162 lb and a size 12. I felt absolutely awful about my body. I had maintained the typical student diet of alcohol, processed foods and very little protein since 2004, and it showed. During my university life I dabbled in the gym, but it was mostly doing bicep curls with pink dumbbells and the 30 minutes on the elliptical. I was not consistent, I definitely did not eat to support my training, and I did not lift heavy. In April 2011 I started with a trainer at my local gym, lost a couple of pounds, but nothing drastic.

End of 2012 – Excessive cardio and carb restriction

Near the end of 2012 I discovered HIIT and began doing a combination of HIIT workouts, kettlebell workouts, spinning classes, Bikram yoga, and running 5 – 10 km 6 – 7 days a week. I was determined to lose weight/body fat and I would do multiple workouts a day and take 1 rest day a week maximum, which usually involved Bikram yoga, so I wasn’t really resting. This was total overkill and my body was hurting – I suffered from joint problems, ganglion cysts on my feet, nerve issues and constant numbness in my toes, sore wrists from an excess number of burpees – I was always in pain from exercise. At the same time I was eating extremely low carb and low fat (all whole foods, but just protein and ultra-low carb veggies) and binge-eating on crap on Saturday, and often Sunday too. I could easily put away 3000-4000 calories a day on the weekends since I felt so deprived during the week. It was like the weekend would arrive and I thought I’d never be able to eat again, so I would just eat ALL the food, and then shame myself for eating so much.

It was a mentally exhausting process and at the time I didn’t really understand that I was suffering from disordered eating and that this was drastically changing my relationship with food. Although I was binge-eating, I did lose weight during this time, but not many inches, so my clothing size didn’t change much and I didn’t look much different. I had lost a lot of muscle and my ass got really flat, and I was still “skinny-fat” despite working so hard doing a ton of exercise. I was frustrated and confused as to why these methods weren’t yielding the results I desired. In December 2012, I started reading about women lifting heavy weights, and I came across articles by Bret, about “advanced programming for glutes” – I dabbled in the prescribed exercises, but really didn’t have a clue what I was doing in terms of setting up a program.

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Jan 2013 – start of Get Glutes

In January 2013 I found Get Glutes through Marianne Kane. I joined when it launched and started the workouts to get in shape for my wedding in September, 2013. At this point, I weighed 132 lb and was a size 8-10.  I immediately fell in love with heavy lifting and increased my protein intake (I thought this was “eating to support my training”), although I still struggled with being afraid of carbs and fats. I continued to suffer from disordered eating patterns and was obsessed about what foods I couldn’t eat. Literally there were days when I would walk down the street and I remember hallucinating cheeseburgers for heads on people walking by. The deprivation during the week necessitated a binge day on Saturday, which while not as excessive as in the past, was not conducive to my fat loss goals or more importantly having a healthy relationship with food. I was always hangry and food-obsessed during the week, and shamed myself for being a glutton who couldn’t control her food intake on the weekend – I was not in a good place. I was also still clinging to my obsession with HIIT and excessive amounts of conditioning as I thought this was how to “tone” and lose fat, not to mention I felt very guilty about binge-eating and that I had to “work off” those calories. For the first 5-6 months on the Get Glutes program I didn’t see major strength or shape gains since I was still doing at least 30 minutes of HIIT before or after (often both) nearly every strength workout.

It was exhausting and my body was tired, but I was convinced that I needed to do this. Bret would always give me shit about it, but I really didn’t understand at this point that what I REALLY needed was just heavy lifting, more resting, and not trying to make up for binge calories with exercise, and that just not binge-eating in the first place was far easier. After many frequent big kicks by Bret, Kellie Davis and Marianne Kane, I dropped all conditioning work and maintained extreme consistency in the gym, getting 4 – 5 strength sessions in a week. To my complete surprise the magic started happening! (This is when I had to admit, that of course, The Glute Guy knows better than me). I quickly put 3 inches onto my butt, I got up to 3 x 225 x 10 my BBHT, did my first unassisted pull up with proper form, and I was gaining strength like a boss. I was losing dress sizes and bodyfat, although my weight was stable at 132 lb.

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October 2013 to April 2014

I slowly began to incorporate one conditioning finisher a week back into my training in October, 2013, after not doing any conditioning for nearly 5 months. I cleared it with Bret first, and he assured me he “trusted me now” as I had finally seen the benefits of prioritizing strength training. Now when I do conditioning, although infrequent, I do it right – keep it short (< 10 minutes) and keep it heavy (kettlebell swing ladders, barbell complexes). I also avoid anything that will make me overly sore and interfere with my next lifting session, unlike before when my goal was get as sore as possible.  Shortly after this time, with much encouragement from my friends on the Get Glutes forum, I decided to let go of my carb- and fat-phobia and started to eat like an athlete. I started tracking my calories and macros to make sure I was getting enough but not too much of the right foods to support my training. Eating this way restored my sanity and completely resolved my disordered eating – I no longer had the urge to binge since I was happy with my regular food – I stuck to 2 off plan meals each week, or one off plan meal and a bottle of wine with my husband.  Improving my macros also resulted in all sorts of gains in the gym – my BBHT was stuck at 3 x 10 x 225 for months prior, and it jumped to 3 x 10 x 255 and 3 x 3 x 315 out of nowhere. My deadlift hit 200 lbs. I finally got 4 unassisted pull ups for sets and did 12 singles.  Basically my strength increased across the board! I started losing more body fat, adding more muscle on my upper body and my ass started changing again. While the inches didn’t change on my glutes, their shape changed a lot during this time – they became much rounder and higher. My clothes were fitting looser everywhere, except in the butt, and I was now wearing a size 4, although I was still weighing in at 132 lb.  While I am closer to my “ideal”, what that means keeps changing for me, so it will be a never ending project of getting strong as hell and putting on more muscle. I look forward to this journey since I love training!

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What I’ve learned

My main focus now is building strength, and this definitely takes priority over conditioning. While I still add some accessory work (isolation work for upper body) a few times per week,  or a short conditioning finisher (< 10 minutes), I do not go overboard on either because if I do it will impact the compound movements in my next workout – I’ve tried the overboard approach and it fails. Every. Time.

I have learned to taper myself in the gym in order to ensure my next training session is a productive one, and to listen to my body when it needs to rest – why go for a workout when I’m really sore and tired if it’s just going to suck?  That’s not to say I don’t push it and train hard, because I do. I grunt sometimes and make faces, and they’d probably ring the lunk alarm on me for grunting too much if I trained at Planet Fitness. I still get sore, and I train if I’m a bit sore, but now I know the difference between slightly sore and able to train with good form vs. exhausted sore and needing rest. I know the value of being consistent with heavy lifting, the value of rest, and that my body requires both in order to build the muscle mass I desire.  I know now that if I beat the crap out of my body every session it won’t perform optimally and this will impact my strength and physique gains. I know that to perform well in the gym, utilize progressive overload and get stronger, and not to mention maintain a sane relationship with food, I need to feed my body well and not restrict entire macro groups.  I have learned too that like everyone, while I have my trouble spots, I also have things about my body that I love! Although my abs may never be 6-pack ripped, as this seems to be where I am genetically predisposed to hold on to fat, you could bounce a quarter off my ass and I can BBHT and BBGB more than any of the men at my gym.

So, with that, any ladies reading this who aren’t sure that heavy lifting is for you… well… heavy lifting is for everyone! Get Glutes style workouts will give you the body you only dreamed conditioning would give you – b/c conditioning won’t give you that coveted curvaceous, “toned” look, and it definitely won’t give you a sweet butt. You need muscle for that and you need to be strong.