Tag Archives: Hypertrophy

Our top 5 finishers to a strength workout!

Following on with our offseason theme I have decided to give out some our favourite strength workout finishers. When we go into the offseason period usually our volume of gym based training increases. After a while sessions can become a bit boring and monotonous. We recommend using finishers as a way to add some fun into a workout and provide a challenge that benefits towards the athletes goals. Here are some great ones to use when you have an athlete undertaking a hypertrophy program.

1) Density circuits:

These look to add volume in a short space of time but also play off the competitiveness of an athlete. Step 1 Pick two or three multi joint excises. You can use complex exercises with more experienced athletes but generally the simpler the better. Step 2 choose a reasonable time frame. Anywhere form 3-10mins should be sufficient. Step 3 choose a simple rep scheme that allows you to perform multiple rounds of your chosen exercise before the time runs up. As always technique must be the priority and the athlete should perform the reps at a speed which does not compromise form. Here is an example.

8 minutes of as many rounds as possible: 5 deadlifts @100kg, 5 Chin ups and 10 Pressups.

2) Chipper

The chipper concept was made popular by crossfit but is a nice way to add some simple volume in a fun way especially with a group of athletes. All you have to do is choose a simple multijoint exercise and a perform a large number of reps for time. Keep it simple so the athlete can concentrate on form. Having a group to compete with makes this pretty effective. Here is an example.

For time: 100 BW squats & 100pressups

3) Mega Drop sets

Drop sets are popular in the bodybuilding world as they are fantastic ways to fully fatigue a muscle group. We use mega drop sets to do the same thing with the added benefit of providing a little cardiovascular work into the mix. Pick a simple exercise that can be done for high reps with load. Chose a very high amount of reps to complete. Try and complete these reps as quickly as possible reducing the weight as necessary to maintain the pace you complete reps. For example.

200 rep leg press dropping 20kg every 50 reps.

4) The pyramid

This is one of our most utilized finishers. Usually done at the end of upper body sessions. The athlete performs one pressup and holds at the top for two seconds. He then performs 2 pressups and holds at the top for 2 seconds, then three reps and so on up to ten reps and back to zero, holding for 2 seconds between each rep cluster. Seems simple but will often be quite humbling to an elite athlete when they fail to do a pressup. We’ve never seen an athlete get to ten reps!!

5) Tabata medley

Tabata is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for 8 reps. A total of 4mins work. We chose 4 exercises and simply rotate through following the tabata timing so they are all completed twice. For example

Tabata of Pressups, Situps, Inverted row and Air squats.

While these options are pretty simple they can have a significant contribution to improvements made by an athlete. As long as the majority of they’re program follows a strict progression plan, small finishers will do no harm. Most of the time athletes look forward to these as it provides them with a little competition to keep them going in a non competitive portion of their annual program.

The critical factor to gaining muscle!

There are thousands of young athletes desperately trying to increase lean muscle mass. There are also an equal amount of training programs, diets and supplements which promise results. With these distractions it can be easy to overlook the basics. In the end the basics are what will get real results.

Most of us are now familiar with the concept of hypertrophy. When we lift a heavy weight, the tension placed on the muscle fiber during a contraction causes microscopic tears. The body reacts to this by repairing these tears and increases the size of the fibers. This adaptation allows us to react to, and survive the stress placed on us. This cycle can be repeated with training, eventually producing noticeably bigger, stronger muscle. As we adapt to a level of training we must progressively increase the level of stress to continue to progress.

The body can only repair itself when at rest. Structural repair will also take a certain amount of time to occur. If we apply further stress too soon after a session we only cause more trauma, not adaptation. When looking to increase muscle mass it is important to be well recovered on a regular basis. If we train too frequently without rest, results will be mediocre. Generally, because we see reasonable progress from training we assume more will be better. There comes a point where we are doing too much and lose sight of the process we are trying to promote.

The fact is that there is only so much the body can cope with. New muscle is created during rest, not during training. If we train too frequently there is no opportunity for the growth to take place. An athlete must be aware of this and schedule rest days as part of a hypertrophy program.

The best approach is to start with a simple hypertrophy focused program and progress things slowly. The trick is to remain patient and stick to a plan. It is very easy to get excited and add extra sessions, thinking it will accelerate progress. Recovery needs to be as much a priority as the training itself. If an athlete neglects recovery and rest they will put themselves at a great disadvantage.

When looking to gain lean tissue an athlete must follow a gradual progressive overload program. They must ensure rest and adequate nutrition. Hypertrophy is a slow process and patience is key. There are no magical programs. A coach must monitor the athlete to ensure that he sticks to the process. Young athletes must be especially careful as their inexperience can create insecurities with the program. In a competitive environment, where team selection may be a factor, athletes must learn to trust the program and commit to it.

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Blueprint for big legs!

My old coaches used to say “The legs feed the wolf! There are few sports where having big, strong legs does not carry over into performance. Many people struggle to build leg size and strength while others have no issues at all. This post will discuss some factors which can influence growth of the leg musculature and how one can use this knowledge to their advantage.

Muscle is not all the same; there are several types and subgroups with different characteristics. Mostly when dealing with skeletal muscle we define the fibers as either Type 1 (Oxidative or Slow twitch) or Type 2 (Glycolytic or Fast twitch). Every muscle is made up of bundles of muscle fibers. Each bundle is from all of the same fiber type and innervated by a single nerve. The bundle and nerve assembly is known as a Motor Unit (MU).

Type 1 fibers tend to be smaller in size and produce less force. They also have excellent blood supply and mitochondrial density which makes them very efficient at oxidative metabolism. This means they don’t fatigue easily. Type 2 fibers are larger in size and more powerful. Unlike Type one they are not so efficient at oxidation and rely heavily on glycolysis, intramuscular ATP and Creatine Phosphate stores for energy. They are much more fatiguable than Type 1 fibers.

The recruitment of the muscle fibers is in order of size, from small to large. The rate and quantity of recruitment will depend on the activity. Slow, low force movements may only require a small recruitment of some type 1 fibers, whereas a heavy lift or sprint will additionally recruit a large portion of type 2 fibers.

When we are born we are genetically predisposed to having a larger distribution of one fiber type over another. With training we can influence a switch over, from one fiber type to another. The fibers will be persuaded to take on new characteristics rather than switch totally. In our earlier years of training and sport we have a large influence on the muscle fibers as they develop. In addition, our genetic makeup will naturally direct us into sports we are suited to physiologically as we are more likely to have success.

When we look at body parts and muscles, the fiber distribution can be influenced by the function. For example forearm muscles contain higher amounts of type one fibers, as grip endurance is required for relatively constant movement of hands and fingers. Legs are similar because we spend relatively large durations of time on our legs, walking and standing etc. For this reason legs will always have a relatively large amount of type 1 fibers.

Micro trauma to the fibers is the catalyst for growth. When we recover, micro tears in the fibers are repaired and the fibers become larger and stronger. Tension and metabolic stress are the two things that will cause stress and trauma. Time under tension (TUT) has long been regarded as a key factor in muscle growth. The more time a fiber is placed under tension the more damage created. In addition metabolic stress can also be quite effective at creating trauma. All we have to do is look at a track cyclist or sprinters legs to demonstrate this.

Putting this knowledge into practice is pretty simple. In order to successfully create hypertrophy in the musculature we must stimulate and cause trauma to both sets of fibers. The challenge with type 1 fibers is that they are harder to fatigue. They need higher volume to do this, and so a higher rep strategy should be employed. The challenge with the type 2 fibers is activation. Heavier and more explosive lifts are needed to activate and fatigue them. Lower reps with heavier weight, combined with some power and sprint training will be needed to promote growth of these fibers.

Tom Platz was famous for utilising high reps sets to produce bodybuildings most famous legs.

Tom Platz was famous for utilising high rep sets to produce bodybuilding’s most famous legs.

This not only applies to athletes but also to bodybuilders. The secret to growth is to cover all your bases and keep things simple and consistent. Using a combination of high and low rep training will provide a good overall stimulation making sure you are covering everything. When used as a part of a simple progressive training plan and combined with adequate recovery any athlete will build bigger stronger legs. The key point is to target the fibers effectively so they respond. If you rely on one technique exclusively it is unlikely that you will have long term success.

As with most training, athletes must try and learn their weakness and how to fix them. They can then target the issues with a balanced program to give them a well rounded base. The more familiar they are with the physiological factors involved the more effective a training program can be!

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