muscle gain

Target Aquired! - spot targeting the body

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So we all have those specific areas of the body that we want to improve, to target that belly fat, maybe we have our sights set on increasing the size of our arms, bum or legs, maybe there is a specific area you just want to tone up?

These areas can suddenly add pressure and stress to us, especially if we have an event or holiday coming up which is going to put them on show.

So you begin to focus on these specific areas, but can it be done? Can you focus on one area? And SHOULD you?

Target fat loss

For many of us, we simply want to lose fat in one or a couple of areas, some may LIKE where some fat is on the body and not others. So the question many want the answer to is “can you spot target fat loss?” Well unfortunately the simple answer here is no.

When you think about it logically, every physical action with your body uses energy and your body will burn calories to provide you with energy. Your body isn’t even picky where it gets this energy from, fat or sugar, (though sugar is easier to use for the body, and it will try to use that first). So your body will use energy and burn fat from wherever it can.

There is SOME evidence that the body will burn fat in a certain order, and this seems to be related to areas of high blood flow. Areas with a greater amount of blood flow will burn fat first as an area of the body where it has easy access to the energy. So think arms, legs, neck, basically your extremities, but this means that areas of lower blood flow will find it harder to burn fat as the body has a harder time accessing those areas for resources.

I’m sure many have noticed that when they start to lose weight, the first place they tend to lose weight around the face/neck, arm and legs first, and it takes longer to lose it from the belly and the back. For women it is slightly different due to their bodies increased need for hormonal stasis, and it will naturally store around 8-12% more fat compared to men and the addition of breast tissue as well.

You can see examples of this in professional sport, where one part of the body has a more dominant part compared to another, for instance a tennis players forehand arm, or a cricket bowlers/ baseball pitchers throwing arm, you expect these areas to have a lower body fat percentage compared to their “weaker arm” however, though the muscular development may be different the body fat % remains virtually the same.

This study by Yale university does a great Job of explaining this: http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/04/targeted-fat-loss-myth-or-reality/

 

Target the muscle

So we can’t target fat loss, but can we target a muscle? HELL YES YOU CAN! Often when we start out in the gym we quickly find areas in which we excel and areas in which we lag behind, and this is perfectly natural. Depending on what we do for hobbies, jobs etc. our bodies may have developed to have certain areas that dominate others. This often means that we MUST train out weaker areas to get a much more well rounded body and also to address a muscular imbalance.

After all when the whole body is operating at max efficiency you will be able to burn the most calories in the shortest time and in turn burn fat faster.

Targeting muscles is very much doable and this is often a key staple of the body building industry where athletes will try to address areas of weakness to develop and achieved that “perfect” physique. The trick here is to not sacrifice other areas in the pursuit of a singular focus.

You need to treat the body as a whole project and not get too hopped up on a single area.

If you want to get great abs, it’s not all about hundreds of crunches, doing squats and deadlifts will also help develop that area, as heavier weights need a stronger core. Having said that those exercises will also help develop other muscle groups as well.

In the gym though there are many machines that will allow you to isolate a particular muscle to ensure that it is getting the most possible development.

An interesting illusion that can be seen especially in the body building industry is that through developing muscle you can actually create the appearance of less body fat, as your body shape begins to change. Obviously fat will reduce naturally if you are a caloric deficit but if your developing muscle mass, the fat has to “stretch” to cover more mass making it appear less.

 

So should you target a specific muscle?

If you are addressing a specific muscular imbalance or weakness then yes, it goes without saying that that particular area will require more focus, BUT this doesn’t mean you should ignore any other area of the body, what this means is you will simply have a greater workload added to your current workload. Don’t sacrifice or ignore certain areas of your body, just because you want to focus on one area.

I actually have had experience with young men in the gym who just train chest and arms, I enjoy calling them “chimps” as their bodies begun to hunch and they take on a chimp like stature, these guys rarely train back and NEVER train legs. This is to their detriment, because they want that wide looking chest and to make the chest look wide you MUST train back to pull you into a good posture and prevent you from hunching forward looking narrow.

Ignoring legs is foolish as these lads think they aren’t important as “people won’t see them unless I’m on the beach”. Aside from the fact your stopping yourself being able to wear shorts without looking ridiculous, your ignoring nearly half your bodies muscle mass. This means that by ignoring this your reducing your bodies need to produce testosterone, the main muscle growth hormone in adults, in turn reducing your ability to build the arms and chest you want.

So YES feel free to add a specific focus to a desired body part, but don’t do so at the cost of the rest of the body.

How to Gain size and Build Muscle

How to grow some muscle!

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 So you have a clear goal for your body! you want to build some size, most probably looking to increase some muscle mass! Good having a clear goal is essential! The difficult thing now is going to be sticking to it!

Ok so we have our goal, what next what do we do from now? Well firstly your port of call should be assessing your diet! Ultimately that will determine whether or not you gain or lose weight!

If you’re a male I would encourage looking at making sure 40% of your diet is protein and between 30-40% is carb and the rest good fats, you will also NEED to make sure you are in a calorie surplus! I’d recommend looking at around 5-10% surplus to get started and see how you get on! With a good structure in your diet, and a complimenting workout you should maximise muscle gain while keeping fat gain to a minimum.

THAT being said, there will be SOME fat gain, this is inevitable, you can’t avoid it, you must accept it, it’s a part of the process, and is often the single biggest thing stopping people from gaining.

Try to think of it like this, it’s a curtain at intermission in a stage show, a lot of work is going on behind that curtain, and then when you switch gears to fat burning later to reveal to muscle gain, that is the curtain raise!

This is what all body builders do, athletes do, what most intelligent amateurs do, and it’s what I do.

 

Understanding Energy

 

So now that we have a goal in mind we need to establish, how do we get there?

Well firstly there is a little bit of body science we should become familiar with, as these play a pretty big role in what results you achieve in the gym? What would you say if I told you that the same exercise can achieve vastly different results when done at different intensities and different periods of time? Shocking right! This is due to how we use our bodies energy systems of which there are 3, but they fall into 2 different categories:

·       Anabolic – The category which is more focused on muscle growth

·       Catabolic – the category that is more focused on muscle consumption

The first two energy systems we are going to discuss are primarily focused within the anabolic category, and are focused towards developing muscle mass, and improving conditioning, whereas the latter is focused a lot more towards exercises that are catabolic in nature, these tend to be exercises geared towards more cardiovascular fitness.

Energy systems

So let’s go over these energy systems, what they do and how they work.

1.      ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) system – This is your bodies first port of call, when it comes to energy. Before your body uses sugar stored in the muscles it will use ATP and creatine phosphate (CP) which the breaks into ATP. This is an energy source that requires no oxygen and is responsible to your initial bang when you train. Your body can only store a very limited supply of this within your muscles at any one time and when you start training it will only take between 8-10 seconds to run out. If you watch Olympic 100m sprinters they are using purely this system alone, and often don’t even look to be out of breath at the end, this is because their bodies have used little to no oxygen during that event. Their training is usually gear more towards leg POWER rather than endurance, so they train primarily for anabolic results as they don’t need to last a long period of time. It is also why their legs in particular their quads look so impressive as that is the area they focus on to be the best at their sport. They need to be fast for a short space of time, so train mostly in a way to enhance their power which in maths and science terms is force x speed = power.  For your body to recover around 90% of its CP stories it will take around 3 minutes.

 

2.      Lactic system – the second primary energy system, after your body has used up the ATP+CP stored in the muscles it will start to break down the sugar (known as glycogen) stored there to produce more, this process requires oxygen to do so. This process is extremely efficient up until around 45 seconds when your body can’t get enough oxygen in, to produce the ATP. At this stage the body can still use the glycogen to produce energy but it will also start producing a product known as lactic acid, at this stage you will begin to feel the “burn” in your muscles, this is the first stage of fatigue.

 

3.      Aerobic system- the final energy system, at this point the body will now begin to break down muscle tissue and fatty acids to provide the body with the energy it requires. It is heavily reliant on an efficient cardio- vascular system so that you can provide enough oxygen to the body in order for it to. This latter energy system tends to be engaged more with longer periods of exercise, that focus on cardio efficiency, such as distance running etc. it is also inherently catabolic in nature (consumes muscle mass). A great example of these differences is comparing a sprinter and a marathon runner, one is focused on short burst speed and power, and the other more on endurance, one needs to reduce their weight as much as possible to improve cardio efficiency over time and the other is about delivering as much power as quickly as possible.

 

The only 2 systems we are bothered at all about right now, will be the first two as they are the ones concerned with muscle growth! The third system is concerned more with endurance development! Think difference between sprinter and marathon runner.

 

How to structure the workout

 

So now we have an understanding of the bodies energy systems, and we understand what our specific goals are, as well as how to structure our nutrition, the question now is how do we apply these to you?

Ok well ideally, there is no getting around this regardless of what your sex is, the best way to develop muscle mass and burn fat, will be in a gym. Now I know that this can cause a lot of anxiety as perhaps you have been to the gym before and failed because you didn’t know what you were doing, but remember this book is all about allowing you to walk into one with confidence, and although there are some fantastic home workouts available, they usually have a limited level of effectiveness as your body adapts to the workout, and progression stalls, unless you have equipment at home, a gym allows for consistent progression as the equipment provided will allow you to push past plateaus, with increased weights etc.

If your goal is specifically burn fat, and or build muscle, the best method of training will be to make use of your bodies Anabolic systems. So ideally weight and resistance training, with some limited cardio.

Now that may make many women apprehensive, as there is often a fear that weights will make women bulky and masculine, allow me to take this opportunity to say that this is extremely unlikely to happen. This is due to a number of fundamental reason, the first and most prominent one, is women have a significantly reduced amount of the male hormone testosterone which is hormone, largely responsible to men’s ability to significantly increase their muscle mass, compared to women. Due to this for a woman to achieve the same amount of muscle mass relative to a male, she would need to eat a significant amount of food, to fuel growth, whilst increasing her bodies testosterone amounts.

Also if the goal is to burn fat, we will be eating in a deficit, so your body will be unable to truly grow significant muscle, as your body will be more concerned with trying to keep what it has, as there isn’t enough fuel to grow, as muscle can only grow in a calorie surplus.

So ladies, do not fear the weights and resistance machines, because they will make you look masculine, they won’t, they will merely allow you to sculpt the figure you desire! Worrying about looking like a bodybuilder, is the same as thinking that running on a treadmill will turn you into an Olympic sprinter! In truth many of the super models, such as Victoria secret angels, and social media models incorporate weight and resistance programmes to look the way they do!

The training for fat loss, and muscle gain are actually very similar, the biggest difference between them, is nutrition! A structured calorie surplus will fuel muscle growth, and a deficit, fat loss. The appropriate training programme will basically determine if you maximise muscle gain and minimise fat gain, or maximise fat loss and minimise muscle loss.

 

How many Reps?

Right now I’m going to provide a simple chart, that represents the best rep ranges to operate in whilst working out to achieve specific effects.


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So what does this chart mean when we look at it? Well the areas in Yellow represent the most prominent effect within those specific rep ranges. So as you can see muscle strength and power are most effective up 6 reps, what this means is that you will be able to lift you biggest weights but only be able to do them over a short period. Continuous training, within these ranges will see your body improve in the maximum weight it can lift, thus increasing your strength and power. When you consider the amount of time it will take for you be able to perform these reps you can reasonably assume that on average you won’t take much longer that 10 seconds to complete them, which is firmly within the ATP system.

From 6 reps up to 12 we see that hypertrophy becomes most effective in this range. Hypertrophy is what we call muscle gain, at this level you will still be able to lift between 80-70% of your maximum ability but you will be able to do it for a little bit longer comparted to strength and power which would be 100-80% of your maximum capacity but for a shorter period. As you can see though in this chart power and strength training can still be achieved in this range, just to a lesser extent. Now if you can imagine the time it takes to perform 12 reps it isn’t much over 30 seconds which again keeps us within the anabolic ranges, but we have now moved into the lactic energy system, and this is where you will begin to feel a burn creep into your muscles and fatigue begins to set in.

The funny thing is here that within the hypertrophic range, this tends to be the best for both fat burn and muscle gain goals. This is because whilst in surplus you are giving your body the fuel to build muscle, whilst in deficit you are trying to make your body build muscle without providing the fuel, so all it will do in essence is maintain the muscle it can as best as it can, and the calories your using will end up coming from the fat as your body is using protein to preserve the muscle.

Muscular endurance comes from around 12 reps onwards, and is usually performed at a lighter weight, often done to eke out the final bits of energy remaining to “finish off” a particular muscle group, or at the beginning of a workout as a warm up and to pump blood into a muscle group. Most fitness classes will work the muscular endurance/ aerobic zone. This isn’t to say you won’t develop muscle and tone, but it is a more catabolic way of training. Classes, if you’re in a calorie deficit will burn fat, there is no doubt, but they aren’t a focused approach to your specific goal.

So you should consult this chart to help you work out how many reps you should be doing per exercise, to achieve the results that you want.

Often when I’m providing a programme for an individual I consult them on their goals and then work on this basis to get them to where they want to be, and it has been without a doubt my most successful approach so far!

So if a client wants to improve the muscle mass, I tend to develop their strength, so they can maximise the weight they can lift, and then move into hypertrophic range so they are getting the very most out of their muscles for development, and cycle between these two to prevent the body adapting, and providing continuous results, with this style to I tend to have them do more sets (a group of reps) with longer rest periods to allow to for as maximum output as possible.

For fat loss, I tend to cycle the client around the 10-12 rep range of hypertrophy, however I will minimise their rest periods (which I will explain shortly) to enhance their fat burning potential, and cause fatigue quicker.

 

Intensity and rest periods

 

Ok so now you know how many reps you should be doing in the gym, the question now is how intense should those reps be? And how long should you rest once you have completed a set of reps.

So with intensity, most personal trainer will work with something known as the RPE or rate of perceived exertion, this is often on a scale of 1-10, 1 being very easy and 10 being most difficult.

When writing a programme for a client I haven’t been in the gym with, I use this scale as it is much safer than telling you a specific weight to lift, as without knowing your capacity this could be extremely dangerous and lead to an injury.

So if your goal is to train for strength and power ideally you should be training between 10-8 on the RPE scale, (remember its maximal output over a short period) and for hypertrophy ideal between 8-7, fat loss I usually would suggest between 7.5-6.5 on the scale.

 

 

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Again this is a very simple breakdown, like everything so far just to allow you to go into the gym feeling confident in knowing what you should be doing. The goal remember is to keep things as simple as possible.

The next thing to consider is our rest periods, and the key to remember here, is that a longer rest will allow for a more maximal output during the reps. So power and strength training require more rest to allow the body to keep training at RPE 10-9 while lower RPE will require less rest, and also keep the heart rate up!

The more we keep the heart rate up, the faster our metabolism is working and therefore the more calories we are burning. This is why in my fat loss programme I would encourage much shorter rest times, than my muscle building/strength and power programmes respectively.

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So you can see here, roughly how long it takes for your body to recover after a set, and why to get the most out of each rep range, we should allow ourselves a specific amount of rest time.

·       Fat loss training – 30 seconds

·       Muscle building (hypertrophy) – between 1-2 minutes

·       Power and strength – 2 minutes +

So now we have the basics down on how to create a structured workout, so for an example if I was wanting to train for fat loss in the gym, firstly I am ensuring I’m eating in a calorie deficit. Then I would make sure that my workouts were ideally between 10-12 reps a set and that I wasn’t having much more than 30 seconds rest between them.

How many exercises per muscle group?

This part I am going to keep very short, as there are many different thoughts on this, and many different style of training, but for the sake of keeping things simple. Try not to go over 3 different exercises per muscle group.

An example being when training the chest:

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 So if your goal is muscle building i would consult the charts above and strucutre your workout accordingly! as well as making sure your in a diet surplus and you should beging to see consitent weight gain! and in particular the development of great muscle tissue!

IF you need any help with regards! to your training goals! helping to put size on or even strip fat! whatever your goal is contact me today! or check out what packages we have available at:

www.route1healthandfitness.com/packages

Do You NEED To Take A Protein Shake?

Are you a high performance athlete, with extremely high nutritional demands? If not then the answer is probably not.

Protein and meal replacement shakes originally were designed to help athletes reach their nutritional goals when standard nutrition would prove to extremely difficult to achieve.

For instance some athlete have demands in excess of 5000 calories a day and the sheer volume of food that would need to be consumed is not only expensive, but also an extremely unpleasant experience as well.

All good nutritionists and dieticians would recommend Food in favour of shakes, and that shakes came about for those extreme cases when, it was either impractical or near impossible to meet certain goals effectively.

This was due to whey protein shakes, providing a fast and quickly digestible source of protein, to help athletes get the protein in when they need them to help enhance muscle repair and recovery times.

The average person doesn't need protein / meal replacement shakes and in fact they can to a certain degree be detrimental to your actual goals.

Yes a shake can seem highly convenient, they are quick and easy to make and in theory allow us to meet certain nutrition goals with relative ease, but there is a significant flaw in this approach.

YOUR  STOMACH IS A MUSCLE!


your stomach is a muscle! give it a workout!

your stomach is a muscle! give it a workout!

In fact all our organs are a type of muscle known as “smooth” muscle and digesting food burns calories, and helps maintain a healthy metabolic rate (the speed at which your body burns calories).

Eating solid food will take around 2 hours to pass through your stomach, whereas a shake which is liquid based will pass through in around 30 minutes. So ask yourself the question, which one is burning more calories in digestion and keeping your metabolism where is should be? The solid food of course!

The liquid one though it may have the same equivalent calories, will have used LESS energy in digestion, which in turn can affect your metabolic rate, slowing it down, meaning you should need fewer calories, and causing your body to become catabolic consuming muscle instead of fat to access energy reserves.

People often notice rapid weight loss on shakes, but this is a “false achievement” because as liquid has lubricated your intestines, the food stored in there (upto 4lbs at a time) will move through it much easier and be evacuated faster, allowing you to drop several lbs extremely quickly. This is usually accompanied by a low carb diet, which enhances this by tricking the body into losing water weight as well, (not fat).


“So i shouldn't take protein/ meal replacement shakes?”


Unless you're a high end athlete you should probably steer clear of meal replacement shakes, in general it is unlikely you're calorie requirement would be high enough to warrant one. Protein shakes maybe but only AFTER a workout and this is only because you're body is primed at that point to receive the protein.

The one caveat to all this however is if you find yourself desperately short of protein in your diet, you can use the protein powder that is used to make the shake, to add it to other foods that maybe used in baking as an additive or even to you're porridge oats or “PROATS” as the are popularly called once you add protein powder to porridge.

This can ensure that you are getting the protein that you need, whilst also making sure you are continuing to eat solid food! Achieving the best of both worlds.

Remember protein shakes were designed only to be a SUPPLEMENT to a healthy diet, never a replacement, and the “replacement” should only be really for athletes with extreme nutrient requirements.