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2017/10/01 09:48:28
James 1 comment

Cheat to Beat Mind Games

This article was written by Aaron Hallett & was originally published in The MuscleTalker March 2011 edition
Everyone at some stage in their life goes through a period where they want to reduce body fat, lose that belly, drop a few dress sizes, find those ever elusive abs or even diet down for a bodybuilding show.

For everyone who has dieted and managed to keep the ball rolling by dropping weight each week and seeing results, that alone can inspire and motivate to keep on plugging away. However, as you start looking back at the number of weeks spent working hard, your head starts playing games just when you thought your mind and body were on the same team.

Now, some cravings can be ignored and dismissed but when that is all that occupies your mind, opposed to the original goal which was supposed to occupy that cranial space, this is when some fall off the wagon. Sometimes people fall so far off the wagon they end rolling for a mile in the gutter and the wagon is now a distant dot on the horizon. Many never even attempt to rejoin the wagon, the psychological effect of remorse and guilt is too much to go through every time they give in to temptation.

A way to control these cravings is to sometimes give in to them, allow them, enjoy them and look forward to them. If you are staring back at the weeks of dieting gone by and the prospect of many more in front of you, how will you fare if all you think of is getting off the diet?

Having a planned cheat meal, not cheat day, a cheat meal, can be the needed carrot (or carrot cake) on the end of a stick you need, it also removes the forbidden fruits scenario where you only want it because you can't have it.

On the last meal on the last day of the week, allow yourself one hour to enjoy a meal of your choice with a desert of what ever you fancy. You can still accomplish your goals with that meal in there; many people have cheat meals staggered throughout their dieting and continue to lose weight, remove the guilt, look forward to it and enjoy it!

It's placed on the last day of the week because you will be spending the week physically and mentally working hard to earn that reward and will start the new week afresh. It's the last meal because it will remove the temptation to extend it further into your day. It will be a welcomed psychological break you sometimes need to avoid dieting burn out, it will also reinsert a dose of normality back into your life when you can sit with friends or family and all enjoy a meal together.

Dieting is never easy but you can make it that little bit more bearable.
1 comment
2016/03/20 09:41:24
James 2 comments

What is 'health', what is 'fitness'? What does it mean for your training or sport?

This article was written by Drew Price BSc MASc ACSM Cert RNutr & was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2007 edition
You eat well and do a push/pull/legs routine with some cardio on top, or possibly you compete in bodybuilding, powerlifting, mixed martial arts, triathlon or another sport. Your goal may be to look good, get stronger or faster and you may think you're in pretty good shape too, but are you fit and healthy? Firstly you have to define what these possibly 'fuzzy' terms mean.

If you go to one or more of the on-line dictionaries the definitions are still pretty vague and you get results like 'health, noun, free from illness, or the state of being well' and 'fit, adjective, healthy and strong, especially as a result of exercise'. Text books are a little more useful: Exercise Physiology (McAdle, Katch & Katch) for example, breaking fitness at least down into four definite measurable qualities. However (in my opinion at least), they don't cover the bases and I'm not alone in this opinion.

Let me suggest a couple that I have read in the past, proffered by coaches and health professionals that may be a little more useful for out needs:
  • Health: correct integration and functioning of our different physiological systems
  • Fitness: is the ability of the body to do physical and mental work
As you can see these two qualities are inextricably linked, flip sides of the same coin, crucially without health you cannot properly develop fitness. So, you may have decent bench or dead lift numbers but are you fit? Tour de France cyclists may have enormous cardiovascular capacity but are they fit, or even healthy?

I'd argue they're not. Fitness, or the ability to do work, is reliant on physical qualities which can be broadly divided into the following;
  • Speed
  • Strength
  • Power generation
  • Strength endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Range of motion
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Agility
  • Cardiovascular endurance
There are of course others you could include like posture, muscle tone, kinetic control, etc. So if you have a few of these, even at a high level, but are seriously lacking in others then you can argue that you're not fit. In order to achieve a high level of fitness you have to at some point train all of these qualities and, the older you become, the more you have to train. Conversely the more you specialize in your training, including a sport, the more unfit you may become. You may even have health problems as well, even whilst becoming more adept at that pursuit.

Seems counter intuitive, crazy even, but think about it for a while.

Look at high level athletes of all types from bodybuilders and Olympic lifters to marathon runners and rate them against the measures above. Of course it all depends on what type of sport you play, what level you play at and what you training entails, for example mixed martial art is a sport needing many qualities. However for all sports the goal is the same i.e. not to get fit but to get more points that the other guys. This is an important point, to use my earlier example; Tour de France riders are not fit, they are just incredibly good at riding bikes.

So what does this mean for you? Look again at the list of qualities above, note how they are all measurable and how one may have an impact upon some of the others, they are all linked. Goals aside (we have different reasons for training and joining MuscleTalk) have a think about those qualities and how you would rate yourself against each one. Ask yourself where you are lacking and how that might be affecting the other parts of the puzzle. By stepping back looking at your training methodically and working on an area that may be lacking can you help you overall training?

You may not agree with what is written above but chew it over objectively and have a think about what it means for you, your long term health and training goals!

2016/03/18 08:18:04
James 4 comments

Rest Periods Between Sets

This article was written by MuscleTalk Moderator Dirtyvest & was originally published in The MuscleTalker October 2007 edition
When deciding the best rest between sets strategy to choose you need to ascertain where your priorities lie with regards to your training: muscular strength, muscular hypertrophy or muscular endurance. Once established you can then select the rest period that best suits your goal. Rest periods can vary from as little as 30 seconds up to as much as 8 minutes. Why rest? Rest will help you to replenish phosphogens (ATP-PC). Optimal ATP recovery takes around 3-5 minutes; phosphocreatine recovery takes 4 to 8 minutes. Efflux of lactic acid has been shown to be from 4 to 10 minutes.

The Strength Athlete, whose focus is on maximal power output over a very short time period, requires the greatest rest. It goes without saying, although has been studied, that the longer you rest the more you can lift next time round as energy reserves are replenished. This is not infinite though as you also need to consider cooling down which will hamper your lifting. Three minutes will allow for, as near as damn it, maximum ATP recovery. The novice lifter may benefit from a slightly extended time, up to 5 minutes. That said, a lifter performing multiple sets may have to consider a further extended time to allow for removal of lactic acid, say 6-8 minutes.

The Bodybuilder, whose focus is on hypertrophy, will benefit from less recovery, around the 1-2 minute mark, some studies say as little as 30-60 seconds. Energy required for lifting here isn't solely phosphogen reliant as the glycolyctic system is also tapped so extended recovery is not as essential. This type of training (higher volume with minimal resting periods) has also been shown to stimulate the endocrine system leading to greater testosterone and growth hormone levels, an obvious advantage to those seeking size. There is also the effect of lactic acid, which we recognise as 'the pump'. Not in itself a sign of growth but increased blood flow will lead to a greater nutrient uptake in the muscle. Shorter rest also enables complete workout time to be quicker thus prevents you entering a catabolic state created by lengthy sessions.
2015/12/04 17:21:49
James 1 comment

Listening, Understanding and Communicating with your Body

(This article was written by Michael Iurato aka MT member Capri200 & was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2004 edition)

The thing that makes this sport an art is that human genetics are used like different textures and colours. You are given the materials to create but everyone's tools are different. So the science is to teach yourself how to best utilize the materials that you have. If everyone's genetics were equal than it would be quite a boring place. Everyone walks around in the gym and envies someone's certain body part they wish that they had, because they just can't peak it quite as well or rip up quite that sharp. This is normal and is why we all strive so hard to reach our personal best. This takes me to the reason of this article…

So you got under the squat rack and did 600lbs with your ass to the floor. You got on the bench and pressed 405lbs for reps. You feel strong, you feel good, but do you really know what you are doing, and are you reaching the peak of your genetic code?

In most people I can say the answer to that is no. So many people are fascinated with the Ronnie Colemans and the Davanna Medinas of the world that they follow their every step thinking that maybe, just maybe, I can be that way someday. Well, I hate to be the stork delivering bad news but it ain't happening. First off these men and women in these magazines are on a suicide mission and it is just a matter of time before the door of Health and Luck slams in their face. I cannot preach about things that I have done myself, but in moderation is one thing. These men and women are pushing their genetic code past normality. The point here is that Ronnie's diet may work for me and not you. Davanna's diet may work for Suzy and not Beth.

The fun part of this sport is to find out what exercises work for you and what food and how much is needed to give you optimal performance. The interesting thing is that once you recognize this, you become so educated that you will realise that what you did 2, 3, and 4 years ago was ridiculous. Your body is a machine. You would never give a Ferrari regular gas would you? You wouldn't send your Ferrari to a chop shop to get body work done would you? Didn't think so. The point I'm trying to make is that fuelling up is extremely important in performance and the way your body suppresses all the nutrients. And finding exercises that you can consider top notch to do the cosmetic body work is also important. Working out is the easy part. It's understanding what your body is trying to tell you and responding to it. That is the hard part. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. Try everything. Mix and match foods, change time frames, training times and exercises. Then one day it will click and you will be able to control your physique and overall wellness. Your Body is your temple. Build it your way.

1 comment
2015/10/07 06:57:17
James 1 comment

Turn a NEGATIVE into POSITIVE results!

(This article was written by former MT member Junkyard Dog & was originally published in The MuscleTalker November 2002 edition)
I will be using curling as an example:
Positive: Contracting the muscle, curling a dumbbell up.
Negative: Extending the muscle, lowering the dumbbell.

Many people tend to work very hard to get the weight up only to let the fall back down offering little or no resistance. What a waste! You should use as much energy to keep the weight from falling that you did in getting it up in the first place.

Time it out to a 1:1 ration. The time it takes to get the weight through the positive motion (curling the weight up) should match time to get it through the negative motion (lowering the weight back down). It really adds a lot to your workout!

You can intensify this by changing the ratio to 2:1 or higher. You can also have your spotter add more weight to the negative by lightly pushing on the bar. This will add a burn that you will not soon forget!

1 comment
2015/09/29 06:36:27
James 2 comments

Warming Up and Stretching

(This article was written by former MT moderators Devildave & Ozzy & was originally published in The MuscleTalker October 2002 edition)
One of the most important aspects of working out is the warm-up. This is all to often neglected. Warming up is essential to prevent injury and increase your gains; it relaxes the muscles and allows them to be stretched more efficiently. It will also improve your circulation by dilating the blood vessels to the muscles. Exercising without warming up may causes muscles to work without enough oxygen supply, forcing them to use anaerobic processes respire. As a result lactic acid accumulates and muscles may become fatigued. Cold muscles and tendons are more prone to injury and tears, thus warming up helps to optimise training.

Muscles, ligaments and tendons are designed to be flexible, but when cold they are stiffer, so it is advisable to gently ease into your stretch patterns. Focus largely on the area to be worked in your routine, but remember secondary muscles will be used. Begin your stretches at a moderate intensity and, as the body loosens up, you should be able to stretch harder. A stretch should be lengthy enough to fully open the muscle, but remember that you must not 'bounce' in your stretch as this places unnecessary pressure on the muscles. A stretch warm down can also help to keep the blood circulating through the used areas. Again stretching should be concise and lengthy to ensure a good warm down.

Train safe!

2015/07/17 11:50:35
James 1 comment

Article: Training in the Heat

When it comes to summer it can be tiring and uncomfortable training in the heat. You will perspire to the maximum and this can contribute to your irritability. Here are some suggestions to help you maximise your workouts in hot weather whilst reducing the uncomfortable conditions:

1. Wear light clothing. Training in the heat can be bad for you, as it will increase the chances of dehydration. By wearing suitable clothing like vests and shorts you can minimise heat build up and help to maintain the intensity of your workouts. Avoid wearing clothing like jogging bottoms (especially ones with elasticised bottoms), as these will trap air around the body causing heat build-up.

2. Keep workouts short. By reducing the time spent in the gym you will minimise risks of over training and dehydration. Techniques like high-rep pre-exhausting followed by a heavy-set and drop-set techniques will help by increasing the intensity of your workouts. A simple routine could look something like this (we will use chest as our example)

Incline dumbbell flies
1 x 50
1 x 12 followed by a double drop set

Incline smith press
1 x 10
1 x 10 followed by a double drop set.

Working right into eccentric (negative) failure (concentric if no spotter is available) this should create a good burn and will spur maximal growth. You should also be in and out of the gym with in about 30 minutes!

3. Keep well hydrated. It is vital to keep well hydrated in these conditions. A good way to ensure that the body is running efficiently and is capable of maintaining workout intensity is to constantly sip water throughout your training. Carrying a small bottle of water rather than relying upon fountains is best as the bottle is constantly in your view. One extra pointer with regards to hydration, before leaving home, drink 1 to 2 cups of water to boost your water levels before your workout starts. This will help to ensure a constant water supply whilst training.
(This article was written by former MT moderatory ozzy & was originally published in The MuscleTalker August 2002 edition)
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