- "CB ATHLETIC Recommended newsletters"
- "Weight-room tips for athletes"
- "Time-under-tension exposed"
- "ACSM Roundup: Incorporating science into training"



Among the many daily, weekly and monthly email newsletters that you can possibly get, here are 2 that stand out. The first newsletter, available through www.jimrohn.com, is a monthly motivational collection of articles and quotes that will help you move toward financial freedom or a more rewarding career.

The second email that will always be delivered to start your week is Barrie Shepley's triathlon-based motivational newsletter from his company, Personal Best. Sign up for the newsletter at http://www.personalbest.ca/index2.htm. The strength of Barrie's articles is the numerous success stories that he is able to chronicle each week.

There are many common threads between the two newsletters, despite the great differences in their foundation. If you take the time to read them, you will realize that both are consistently reporting success stories of people who work hard, are consistent, and believe in themselves even when no one else does.



Strength Coach John Davies has helped many athletes improve and reach their potential. His secret: Hard work, and lots of it. In Coach Davies' mind, the majority of athletic events require a careful blend of many attributes, which he sees as "spokes on a wheel". These include:

a) flexibility / range of motion

b) agility / mobility

c) explosive speed

d) strength, speed-strength

e) general physical preparation

f) specialized physical preparation

g) mental focus


General Physical Preparation (GPP) is a term used by many, many strength and conditioning coaches when referring to the initial development of strength and work capacity. Exercises like "Farmer's Walks", "Wheelbarrow carries", "Sled pulling", etc., can be used in this phase to build an athlete's overall work capacity. It is worth noting the irony in that these activities that were once a large part of people's jobs are now called "athletic preparation exercises".


What is the training purpose of the FARMER'S WALK & other GPP exercises?

Whatever you make it really. For a bit of background, the "Farmer's walk" became popular after its exposure in Strongman competitions. There are several ways to perform the exercise, each with many benefits, so you see how it can be incorporated into training for various goals.

The general benefits of this exercise will be growth in the upper back and traps, increased leg endurance under heavy loads, and greater "holding ability" (if that is your training goal - i.e. for increasing deadlift performance). For example, you can use the Farmer's Walk to increase "work capacity" or muscle growth by holding moderately heavy dumbbells in your hands and walking for a specific time or distance.

There are many other exercises that result in a number of benefits, and these include most of the "best" exercises (squat, bench, deadlift). You can achieve different results depending on your technique (wide-stance, close-grip, stiff-leg) and the duration of your sets. The great thing about the "best" exercises is the large number of variations possible and the same goes with the GPP exercises.

Now, if you want to improve performance in the strictest "Strongman competition" definition, you will simply need to improve the distance you can walk with 225lbs in each hand!


The next exercise: "CABLE CHOP for TORSO STRENGTH"

Do you play a team power sport? Does your game involve shooting, swinging, or any form of trunk rotation? If it does, then here is a cable exercise that should help increase your abdominal strength for performance.

One exercise that you may not have done before is called "Standing cable chops". For this exercise, you will need to stand sideways at a cable column. Grasp a handle from the highest pulley setting with arms extended. Without bending at the elbows, twist the torso and flex the trunk to bring the shoulder to the opposite foot in a "wood-chop" motion. Slowly return back to the upright position.

Once you get the hang of the motion, you can change the stimulus by making the movement faster or by adding resistance (using more weight from the cable stack). Make sure that you follow the correct sequence of movements outlined above. The strength must originate from the abdominal and lower back area, and not by a pulling motion from your arms and back.

Not only does this exercise build strength in the torso area, but it may also help increase your balance because this exercise is performed while standing! So when it comes to torso strength and control in a standing activity such as a golf swing, this exercise may be much more effective than twist crunches done while lying on your back.


The next exercise: A FORWARD LUNGE with a "DISPLACED" LOAD

* The purpose of this exercise is to simulate lifting, holding, and moving with a load placed in unusual positions.

* This will shift your center of gravity and impose greater demands on your balance, leg strength, abdominal strength, and lower back strength.

* By strengthening your muscles with this exercise, you may prepare and protect yourself against those instances where people "pull" a muscle in their back.

* If the low back is a current weak spot, keep the load as close as possible to your torso at all times, or use a very light load (to minimize lower back stress).

Technique for Lunge

* Stand upright with the load in hands.

* You can use a medicine ball, DB, sandbag, rock, etc.

* Hold the load above your head, to your right side, left side, or against your chest.

* Step forward with a slightly exaggerated stride.

* Lower your body until the rear knee graces the ground.

* Keep your torso upright.

* You can move the load back into towards your chest, or you may move the load out from the chest to a much more unstable position (i.e. your left side or diagonally).

* You may also move the load forward from your chest as if reaching to place the load (i.e. putting a child in a car seat).

* Push off your lead leg using your quadriceps to return to the starting position.

Muscles worked:

* Legs, abdominals, lower back, forearms, and shoulders.



Don't worry, the focus of this newsletter has not gone from kinesiology to archeology. Instead, this piece will focus on a controversial training parameter. The term "Time-under-tension" (TUT) is really hot in the bodybuilding, athletic consulting, and fitness industries. It refers to the amount of time per rep (or set, or exercise, or workout) that the muscle is under tension. For example, if an athlete takes 4 seconds to perform a biceps curl, it is said that the TUT was 4 seconds. If someone performs 100 repetitions, then the workout TUT was 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Many people want to know, "What is the best TUT for growth?"

A really good question, but unfortunately, you will not find any peer-reviewed research on the optimal time under tension. All TUT claim's are merely anecdotal and have simply been promoted by popular strength coaches, leading to this belief. At present, no one, not even the most experienced exercise physiologist truly can prove what is the optimal TUT for growth, let alone prove the exact mechanism that controls muscle hypertrophy. Is it training to failure, an optimal TUT, an optimal resistance, or a specific number of reps that gives you the greatest muscle growth from training?

Unfortunately, none of the TUT schemes, nor any other bodybuilding method, has been proven to be more effective than others in a research setting. Muscle growth is merely an adaptation to the correct intensity and volume of work. Your muscle responds to the demand (training) by adapting (growing) so that the next time you ask your muscle to lift that same weight, it will have an easier time doing so. Almost all programs will work, and that is why anyone and everyone can write training articles, provided it has some common sense behind.

However, having said all that, strength coaches, bodybuilders, and researchers are obviously on the right track with TUT philosophies. Muscle tension is undoubtedly one of the most important factors in muscle growth. After all, if you train too lightly and with too many reps, your body will adapt by increasing endurance properties...and muscle growth may actually be the last thing your body will do in preparation for the next training session. Basically, this is why endurance exercise doesn't cause growth. Muscle doesn't need to get bigger to have better endurance.

Using extremely heavy weights that allow only 1-2 repetitions per set or performing a few explosive repetitions may not provide enough tension for muscle growth. Therefore, if muscle mass is your goal, sets lasting only 5-10 seconds are probably not going to be optimal for gains. On the other hand, you don't want to go too light, because performing 100 reps with the 5 lb dumbbells is not likely to prove effective either, even though this represents a huge TUT.


The answer is probably no, your muscles don't distinguish between time under tension or the number of reps. Muscles simply respond to the demands imposed on the body. If the exercise demands the muscle to grow bigger in preparation for the next session, then that is what will happen, regardless of exercise choice.

The fact is that a lot of guys go in the gym, lift hard, and get big without giving the slightest thought to TUT. General recommendations for "hypertrophy training" are 8-12 reps per set, with multiple sets per exercise, and multiple exercises per body part. The debate over the best training program is endless. What is the optimal training frequency? How often should you train a body part?

The number of training questions is infinite, as the precise knowledge is limited, despite the success of top-level bodybuilders and athletes. The lack of uncertainty regarding TUT and almost all training parameters gives good anecdotal evidence that people should constantly be varying their programs (after 3-4 weeks or when gains begin to slow down or disappear). Don't get hung up on one specific TUT. You can get growth on sets shorter and longer than just one specific time period.

So, there are no scientific conclusions, only theories. You are better off seeking research that shows significant muscle growth with a certain number of reps, and then extrapolate a TUT...because you will find very little, if any, science that controls the speed of repetition. However, even repetition data is scarce.

On a related note, you must remember not to look at TUT as an isolated factor in growth...You can train in the perfect rep range with the perfect intensity, but if you neglect adequate nutrition (i.e. a calorie surplus), then you can forget about growing. In contrast, if you eat 5000kcal a day, you will grow no matter how you train. Same with rest...you shouldn't neglect it.

In closing, think of muscle growth this way...does the construction worker worry about "Time under tension"? NO! He simply carries as many bricks as he can handle. Then next week, after he has grown bigger and stronger, he carries more bricks...week in and week out...plus he eats big. According to Men's Health consultant Michael Mejia, "The bottom line is that there is TONS of great information out there, but often we make this stuff out to be rocket science when it really isn't."



Pre-exercise carbohydrate intake can cause hypoglycemia and decrease performance. (#252, Diedrich, D., et al.)

* Ingesting 0.5g/kg of glucose (a simple sugar) 35 minutes prior to intense exercise caused hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the 14th minute of exercise.

* This resulted in a reduction in sprinting power.

* Therefore, pre-exercise sugar snacks may impair power performance.

* Athletes shouldn't have an emergency sport drink 30-60 minutes before game time! Plan your nutrition so you are properly fueled well before game time.

Pre-exercise stretching does not protect against eccentric exercise.

(#690, Black, J., and E. Stevens)

* Researchers at the University of Guelph studied the effects of pre-exercise stretching on protection against acute-contraction induced injury.

* Mice had their muscles stretched prior to damaging eccentric contractions.

* Slow, static stretching was performed.

* Stretched muscles were compared against non-stretched muscles for decreases in force production. There were no differences between conditions.

* From this model, research suggests that stretching won't prevent the loss in strength that occurs during eccentric exercise.

Training to improve Vertical Jump performance

(#891, Butcher, S., et al.)

* Training to improve "trunk stability" and leg strength both independently contributed to an increase in vertical jump performance.

* An obvious conclusion: Athletes should include squats & abdominal exercises in their training programs.

Grip strength & Bench press

(#1373, Caterisano, A., et al.)

* Ever wonder if the "grip strength" test really predicted your strength?

* This study suggests that there is a relationship between grip strength and bench press performance in untrained males and females.

* This is not the case in trained powerlifters and or football players.

* Therefore, this is not a good test for athletes.

Marathon runners don't eat enough carbohydrate (CHO) prior to the race!

(#410, Vinci, D., et al.)

* In the 3 days prior to a marathon, males and females averaged a pathetic 5.5g CHO/kg in their efforts to glycogen load.

* This pales in comparison to the recommended 7-10g CHO/kg per day.

* The problem was not the proportion of carbohydrate intake, because the runners did eat 65% of calories from carbohydrate, but rather their low total energy intake. The runners consumed only ~2500 kcal.

* This is likely not enough in the days just before a marathon!

* Therefore, absolute CHO recommendations are warranted. It's no good to get 100% of your calories from carbohydrate if you are only consuming 1500kcal.

* You must get enough GRAMS of carbohydrate, not % of carbohydrate, in order to glycogen load and be successful in marathon running.

* If you are training multiple times per day, research recommends increasing your post-training intake to 1.2g/kg of carbohydrate per hour for 2 hours to get a head start on glycogen replenishment.

* For those seeking a secret weapon in glycogen loading, consider a high-CHO creatine-containing beverage! Email for more info.



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