Archive for the tag - muscle growth

No Longer Sore After Workout: Am I Doing Something Wrong?

No pain, no gain: No way.

Hi Davey,

I’ve been getting back in to shape lately by going to the gym 2 – 3 times a week. When I first started, my muscles would become sore 1 – 2 days after my workout. Recently I’m finding that my muscles don’t become sore in the slightest. I am increasing the amount I lift but I’m cautious because I’m still getting back into it and I don’t want to harm my muscles.

Does this lack of soreness or stiffness in my muscles mean I’m not working hard enough?

Thanks and much love,
Eric

Hey Eric,

Congratulations on getting back into the swing of things and renewing your commitment to exercise!

First things first, muscle soreness that occurs 12 – 48 hours after exercise is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) – and it’s a good thing. Immediate muscle soreness or pain, on the other hand, is often related to injury – and immediate medical attention is encouraged. Since the soreness you experienced is the former, there’s no need for concern.

When exercisers start a new routine (just as you did), muscle soreness is very common. Since the new workout is a shock to the body, muscle soreness is a likely result. But, over time, the body will adjust – and soreness will tend to decrease. This is all very natural and part of the process.

Though many people become addicted to feeling sore after exercise, soreness isn’t required for muscle growth. Provided you have an effective strategy to target muscle growth, your muscles will continue to grow even if you don’t experience discomfort.

In this way, the age-old adage of “no pain, no gain” is certainly a fallacy.

Love,
Davey

Does Alcohol Damage Muscles?

Dear Davey,

I was about to start working out when my friend mike was complaining to me about how we wanted to lose weight. So I invited him to join me. He declined by saying, “I’m drinking at the moment and you shouldn’t work out when you drink because it dose more damage to your muscles.”” Is this true? Dose drinking actually do muscle damage when working out?

From,
Sam

Hey Sam,

Alcohol, depending on how much you drink, can have a fairly dramatic impact on your body’s muscles.

For one, alcohol hinders the process of protein synthesis (i.e., the production of muscle proteins needed to grow your muscles). By preventing muscle growth, you’re not going to make gains at the gym.

Second, according to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, binge drinking can cause “acute mypopathy.” Myopathy is myopathy is a muscular disease in which the muscle fibers do not function for any one of many reasons, resulting in muscular weakness. In other words, binge drinking can greatly hinder your performance at the gym by preventing your muscles from working properly.

I suspect that your friend is referencing myopathy in his refusal to work out. However, it’s the alcohol – and not the physical activity – that is the problem. It’s an important distinction.

The University of California San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics Department put together a comprehensive bulletin about alcohol and its effects on performance. Some of these include increased fat storage, delayed reaction time, decreased testosterone and many more.

The bottom line: If you make the decision to drink, it’s important to to do so in moderation; alcohol abuse and misuse can certainly sabotage your gym results.

Hope that helps! And when alcohol abuse is starting to take its toll on the body of a friend or a loved one, perhaps it’s time to get a professional alcohol intervention specialist to help out.

Love,
Davey

How to Do Forced Reps in Strength Training.

The forced reps technique is an effective strength training strategy to increase muscle mass.

The first time I encountered forced reps was while working with a trainer in Sydney, Australia. I was performing my final set of barbell bicep curls and approaching muscle failure. Just as I was about to complete my last rep, the trainer grabbed the barbell with two hands and shouted for me to continue. By assisting the movement, he was lifting some of the weight for me – and so I continued to curl. As my muscles continued to reach fatigue, the trainer provided a heavier and heavier spot – and so I continued and continued and continued until he was doing most of the work.

When we finally stopped, my arms were shaking worse than the east coast earthquake. Moreover, it took me days to recover.

Needless to say, the technique is called forced reps. And while you do need the help of a trusted spotter, forced reps can be performed with many barbell exercises – most commonly, the bench press. Once you reach failure, have the spotter lift some of the weight for you. As you continue to fatigue, he lifts more and more of the weight. You can eek out an extra 20 or 30 repetitions without any rest.

The idea behind forced sets is similar to that of drop sets. By lightening the weight, you’re able to move past your initial muscle failure and eventually approach absolute muscle failure. Forced sets tear deep into muscle tissue and thus result in increased muscle growth – and they are true shock to your system.

But a word of caution: Forced reps are extremely taxing and shouldn’t be used for each set. In fact, after completing the set of forced reps in Sydney, the trainer told me that I shouldn’t do it again for several weeks. So while they’re a great muscle building technique, don’t abuse forced reps in your routine; use sparingly.

Sugar in Protein Shake: Is It Bad?

Turns out, a little post-workout sweetness is a good thing.

Dear Davey,

I recently bought a protein shake, but when I got home and read the ingredients more carefully, I realized just HOW MUCH SUGAR is in it! It has over 50 grams of sugar per serving!

Is that bad? Does the sugar prevent muscle growth? Does the sugar out-weigh the protein content?

From,
Christopher

Hey Christopher,

It seems like the necessity of post-workout carbohydrates is one of the best keep fitness secrets.

Everyone knows that your body needs protein after hitting the gym – but many people overlook the importance of post-workout carbs. When taken after a workout, carbohydrates restore muscle glycogen. And if you don’t eat carbs in your post-workout recovery meal, your body may actually break down existing muscle for this very same purpose.

And yes, even if you are on a low-carbohydrate diet, you still need to consume carbs after you exercise.

The sugars in your protein shake are carbohydrates, and so it sounds like your shake is designed specifically for post-workout consumption. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for general protein supplementation (i.e., some protein before bed), then it’s wise to seek out a lower carb alternative.

Experts recommend anywhere from 40 up to 70 (or more) grams of carbs after a workout; the 50 grams of sugar in your shake do the trick.

Interestingly, the best carbs to consume are those that are absorbed the quickest. The carbohydrates found in multi-grain bread, for example, break down slowly. After a workout, your body needs to carbs fast – so simple sugars, like those in your shake, are the best approach. Yes, I just gave you a green light to eat simple sugars. But only after a workout.

I hope that helps!

Love,
Davey Wavey

5 Creative Drop Set Techniques.

Use these creative drop sets to up your workout game - and gains!

As I’ve mentioned before, drop sets just might be one of the most effective muscle-building techniques around.

Drops sets are a strength training technique wherein you perform a set of any exercise to failure (or just short of failure) for between 8 and 12 reps – and then drop some weight (usually 15%) and continue for additional repetitions with the reduced resistance. Once failure is again reached, additional resistance is dropped and so on.

But even standard drop sets can get old and stale, so try switching things up with the following five variations:

  1. Zero Rest Drop Sets. To perform a good drop set, it’s important to minimize rest time. Less than 10 seconds is ideal. To perform a true zero rest drop set, you’ll need two spotters. As you finish the last repetition in the set, the spotters can remove the appropriate weight from the machine. For example, you may load a leg press machine with 25lb weight plates. After each set, your spotters can remove one weight plate. You’ll be amazed at the difference a few seconds can make!
  2. Tight Drop Sets. While the typical drop set involves a 15% reduction in resistance, try something smaller – like 10% or even 5% reductions. For example, you could move from 50lb dumbbells immediately to 45lb dumbbells, and then 40lbs, 37.5lbs, 35lbs and so on.
  3. Grip Change Drop Sets. As you change your grip (i.e., wide grip vs. narrow grip, etc.) or adjust your stance (i.e., shoulder-width, feet together, toes pointed out, etc.), you place emphasis on different muscles. Try alternating between different grips or stances as you move through your drop sets to really hit each muscle.
  4. Wide Drop Sets. Instead of removing the typical 15% of resistance, opt for larger weight decreases of 20% or greater. Wide drop sets are used because they allow for a greater number of repetitions until muscle failure.
  5. Power Drop Sets. While typical drop sets require starting with an amount of resistance that allows for 8 – 12 repetitions, six is the magic number for power drop sets. Start with a 6-rep max, and then decrease the weight by 10% or 15% so that you can perform exactly six more reps at each drop. Since you’re using higher resistance levels at 6 reps (vs. 8 – 12), it’s a great way to build muscle mass.

While “enjoy” might be the wrong word to use, I hope you’re able to make the most of these creative drop set variations.

Is Soreness Required for Muscle Growth?

I'd let him make me sore.

As silly as it sounds, don’t you love being sore a day or two after a really intense workout?

In some twisted way, I think we all do. And it can be addictive; many people feel like they didn’t get a good workout unless they’re sore thereafter.

But it begs the question: Is soreness required for muscle growth?

No. Soreness is not required for muscle growth.

There is a lot that is still not understood about soreness, but it often arises after doing something new. New workouts or exercises are a shock to the body, and soreness may be part of the result. Since subsequent workouts are less of a shock, soreness tends to decrease over time.

If you’re just starting out with a new routine, you’ll probably feel it the next day. But if you’ve been training for years, you probably won’t feel the soreness. It doesn’t necessarily mean your muscles aren’t growing; it may simply mean that your body isn’t shocked in the same way.

And if you’re looking to build your muscles, sometimes no soreness is a good thing. Muscle soreness is often associated with endurance training (i.e., taking a spinning class, doing many reps of an exercise, etc.) and not the type of low-rep high-resistance strength training that stimulates muscle growth. In other words, if you do a few sets of heavy bicep curls in a low rep range (say 8 reps) until muscle failure, you probably won’t get sore. But there’s no doubt that it will grow your muscles.

Of course, if you try something different, work ignored muscles or push your body in a way in which it isn’t accustomed, then you’re likely to experience delayed onset muscle soreness. But it’s not required to gain muscle mass.

Kick Your Ass with Monster Sets!

Are monster sets as scary as they sound? Yes. But are they also super effective at increasing muscle volume and capacity? Yes.

Basically, a monster set is performing consecutive smaller sets of an exercise until you reach a large, predetermined number like 50 or 60 reps. To perform monster sets, you should select an amount of weight that is 65% of your one-repetition maximum. This should enable you to do about 15 reps in the first smaller set. Once you reach failure, take a quick rest. Then keep going until you reach your goal.

For example, let’s say that your one-rep max on the bench press is 150 lbs. That means you’ll probably want to use about 100 lbs of resistance for your monster set. Ideally, you’ll be able to do 15 reps in the first set. Take a quick break, then continue for another set. Maybe you can get 10 or 12 reps out of that set. Rest, and then continue. Maybe you get 8 reps. And so on until you reach 50 or 60.

Though monster sets shouldn’t be the backbone of your workout, they’re a great way to occasionally mix things up and really shock your muscles.

Restructuring Your Workout Routine for Better Results.

Restructure your workout for better results.

Hi Davey,

I’ve recently gotten heavily into working out, and your blog has been a great source of information. I go to the gym five days a week and have broken up the days into two kinds of workouts – biceps/back/legs on one day and chest/triceps/shoulders on another. This was a good way for me to start, and while it’s toning my muscles, I’m not seeing the growth that I would like to see. With that said, what sort of regime would you suggest and how should I break up the muscle groups throughout the week?

From,
Jack

Dear Jack,

A few things.

First things first. To target muscle growth (rather than toning and definition), ensure that you are training in a way that encourages actual muscle growth. This would require:

  1. Doing weighted exercises (i.e., using dumbbells, barbells, body weight or anything else that applies resistance)
  2. Performing a low number of reps at heavy weights (you should be fatigued in 10 reps or less)
  3. Experiencing muscle failure on your last rep (you should be unable to do one additional rep – if you can do another rep, then you should increase the resistance)
  4. Pushing yourself to higher levels of resistance (i.e., constantly progressing to heavier weights, etc.) and trying new things – like the P90x workout.
  5. Following a proper, high-protein diet
  6. Allowing your body sufficient rest (and never training a muscle that is still sore from a previous workout)

After following the above guidelines, you may wish to restructure your workout. Currently, you have two different types of workout days – and on each day, you are training three different muscle groups. Since we know that shorter workouts are wiser (strength training workouts that exceed 45 – 60 minutes are to be avoided), the result is that you are hitting all three muscle groups lightly. You have a lot of muscles to train in a little amount of time. If, instead, you focused in on one or two muscle groups per workout, you could really fatigue and work those muscles at a much deeper and more effective level.

While you currently have two different types of workout days, I have found that four different types of workout days is the most effective training experience for me. I do chest/forearms on on day, then biceps on another, then shoulders/back and then legs/triceps on my fourth day. I pepper my ab workouts in between. I’d encourage you to restructure your workout along those lines for enhanced results.

Love,
Davey

Answered: How Many Repetitions of Each Exercise is Best?

A low number of reps will grow muscle, and a high number of reps will improve strength. This picture, on the other hand, may improve pelvic blood flow. :-)

Dear Davey,

I’ve been told by multiple people, including my yoga teacher and friends, that there is a max number of reps one can do in one set. I’ve been told it’s somewhere between 21 to 25 reps. Is this true?

From,
Ryan

Dear Ryan,

There isn’t a magic number from a scientific standpoint, but there certainly are some ranges to target. Whether you’ll target a low rep range or a high rep range depends on your fitness goals.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Low reps (1 – 6): Builds strength
  • Medium reps (7 to 12): Builds size and strength
  • High reps (12 – 15): Builds endurance

Keep in mind, you want to be fully fatigued on your last repetition. Obviously, you’ll have to adjust the weight accordingly.

Swinging a weight around 20 or 30 times won’t do much for muscle growth, but it may get your heart pumping – as is often done in aerobics classes! It can certainly be part of your cardiovascular training, though you’ll still want to seek out some strength training exercises to balance your workout.

The number of reps that’s right for you really just depends on your goals and what you’re looking to accomplish.

Love,
Davey

Creatine Trial Week 1: Everything You Need to Know.

It's important to have a complete understanding of creatine before deciding if it's right for you.

There’s a lot of information – and misinformation – about the supplement known as creatine.

I’m very careful about any supplements or medications that I take, and I refuse to ingest anything without fully understanding its function and consequences. So when I became curious to try creatine, I knew I’d have to dig deeper.

Turns out, creatine is one of the most popular and researched supplements available. In a nutshell, creatine is involved in making the energy your muscles need to work. For most people, taking additional creatine enables you to lift heavier weights or complete additional repetitions – which, in turn, builds additional muscle.

The biggest misconception is that creatine is a steroid. It’s not. In fact, it’s allowed in professional sports, the Olympics and the NCAA. Creatine is a chemical that is manufactured by the body – and it is naturally consumed through meat and fish.

Moreover, creatine is generally safe. It’s possibly unsafe for people with existing kidney or liver concerns or diabetes, though more research in this particular area is needed. Creatine is less effective for older populations over 60, and it should be avoided by people ages 18 and under as additional research is needed to determine safety in younger populations. As with many things, ingesting massive amounts of creatine may be dangerous, so consume it responsibly.

Creatine is probably a good fit for people:

  • Between the ages of 18 – 60 and who
  • Are looking to increase muscle mass or improve strength and who
  • Exercise regularly with free weights and/or machines and who
  • Have no kidney concerns, issues with the liver or diabetes.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor or health professional before trying a new supplement like creatine.

After doing my research, I decided to give creatine a try – and to document the experience here. As carnivores tend to see less dramatic results from creatine (creatine is found in meat), I wasn’t really sure what to expect. One thing seems quite certain: Most creatine users see a dramatic increase in their weight – and it usually happens fast. Many articles claim 10 pounds of weight gain in the first few weeks of use – though most of the initial gain is additional water weight in the muscles (for this reason, it’s especially important to stay hydrated while on creatine). It’s not fat – and it doesn’t make you look flabby, etc.

Creatine is usually taken in cycles called “loads” or “loading”. For the first 5 – 7 days, people take as much as 20 grams (or 4 teaspoons). And then for the next 5 – 7 days, they take 5 grams (or 1 teaspoon). After a few cycles, people generally come off creatine. A few weeks later, they may start up again depending on their individual goals.

To be cautious, I spent my first week taking just 5 grams. I wanted to see how I felt, and how my body reacted. More than 7 days later, I haven’t really noticed many changes. My weight is fairly steady – though I may be a pound or two heavier according to the scale… but that could be anything. I did feel a bit stronger at the gym, and was able to increase my weights on a few exercises. Nothing dramatic or unusual, though.

For week 2, I’ll try my first loading of 15 grams per day (I’m weary to try the full 20!), and I’ll let you know how it goes.

I plan to continue the cycle through week 4, and probably come off the creatine for good. It’s more an experiment and learning experience than anything else – getting much bigger isn’t a goal of mine. But I’ll keep you posted on the results!

Have you ever tried creatine? If you have, share your experience in the comments below.