Is Training Intensity the Key to Strength & Muscle Hypertrophy?

Strength training, performed on a regular basis, is an important tool in any training toolbox especially when the goal is to increase strength and muscle hypertrophy.

Looking at the Training Intensity or Volume Question

Research from the University of Central Florida, published in Physiological Reports, tested a group of 33 active, young men, who had a strength training background, to determine the best training variable for increasing strength and muscle hypertrophy.

The purpose of the study was to compare a moderate intensity, high-volume training program using short rest intervals to a program that used high-intensity, lower volume utilizing a longer rest interval in resistance-trained male individuals. Subjects were tested at the start and finish of the 8-week study. Among the many items tested, muscle strength, hypertrophy, and endocrine response were the main outcomes that the research group wanted to explore.

“It has been suggested that high volume, moderate-to-high intensity resistance exercise programs utilizing short rest intervals primarily target muscle hypertrophy with secondary strength increases (Baechle, 2008; Ratamess, 2009). Conversely, high-intensity, low-volume programs utilizing long rest intervals primarily target muscle strength increases with secondary improvements in muscle hypertrophy (Baechle, 2008; Ratamess, 2009). However, it has been hypothesized that muscle hypertrophy may increase substantially across a larger spectrum of intensity and volume combinations (Schroeder, 2013).”

Physiological Reports (2015)

Exercise Prescription Pinpoints Training Intensity

One group followed a high volume training plan (4 x 10–12 repetitions with ~70% of one repetition maximum (1-RM) with 1-minute rest intervals). The second group followed a high-intensity plan to prep for the study (4 x 3–5 repetitions with ~90% of 1RM with 3-minute rest intervals). Subjects were randomly placed in one of two groups for a 2-week preparatory training period prior to the study.

4-Day Exercise Prescription used in the study.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

  • Back squats
  • Deadlift
  • Leg press
  • Lat pull down
  • Barbell bent-over row
  • Barbell biceps curl
  • Bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Dumbbells fly
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Lateral dumbbell raise
  • Triceps extension
  • Barbell squat
  • Deadlift
  • Barbell lunge
  • Seated row
  • Dumbbell pull-over
  • Dumbbell bicep curl
  • Bench press
  • Incline bench press
  • Incline dumbbell fly
  • Seated shoulder press
  • Lateral dumbbell raise
  • Tricep extension

Research Study Findings

Study findings determined high-intensity (3–5 RM), low-volume strength training was the best option to stimulate strength gains and muscle hypertrophy. The high-intensity group used longer rest intervals (3-minutes) in their training sessions. Subjects, in group 2, used a moderate intensity, high-volume (10–12 RM) training program with shorter rest intervals (1-minute).

As a by-product of this research, Jefit developed a new strength training protocol called 4×5 Muscle Building (4-day) which is a great follow-up to Jefit’s 5×5 Split Routine (3-day). The emphasis should be placed on training intensity in both programs. Give this science-backed 4-day exercise prescription a try and let us know what you think. Stay Strong with Jefit.

REFERENCES

Baechle, T., R. Earle, and M. Wathen. 2008. Essentials of strength training and conditioning. 3rd ed. Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL.

Ratamess, N. A., B. A. Alvar, T. K. Evetoch, T. J. Housh, W. B. Kibler, W. J. Kraemer, et al. 2009. American college of sports medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 41:687.

Schroeder, E. T., M. Villanueva, D. D. West, and S. M. Phillips. 2013. Are acute post-resistance exercise increases in testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1 necessary to stimulate skeletal muscle anabolism and hypertrophy? Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 45:2044–2051.

Mangine, G.T., Hoffman, J.R., Townsend, J.R., et. al. The effects of training volume and intensity on improvements in muscular strength and size in resistance-trained men. Physiol Rep, 3 (8), 2015, e12472, doi: 10.14814/phy2.12472

Effects of High Blood Sugar on Exercise

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New research in Nature Metabolism looked at the effects of exercise in individuals with high blood sugar levels. High sugar, or the term, hyperglycemia, is used when fasting blood glucose is greater than 125 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). The study suggest that a diet high in added sugar and processed foods may lead to poor blood sugar control. Study results showed poor diet could have negative, long-term, health effects on how well our body responds to exercise.

What is a Blood Profile or Panel?

blood panel is used to check for a variety of markers, including how organs (liver, heart, etc.) are functioning. A blood panel is also used to test for infections and specific genetic disorders, as well as to assess person’s general health.

Check and Document Your Blood Profile Regularly

It happens to all of us, we get our yearly physical, which typically includes a blood panel, but does your physician explain anything about the results after that? Do you compare your readings (data) from one exam to the next? Most people don’t. A healthy body starts inside, knowing and monitoring your blood profile. Companies like Inside Tracker, whose partnered with academic institutions like MIT, Harvard and Tufts University, can help on this front. They store and keep track of an individuals blood data. In addition, they make healthy food recommendations when levels are either high or low. They keep track of everything from blood sugar, A1C, and cholesterol to testosterone levels.

Study Results Showed

Previous research has shown prolonged, high sugar levels can lead to a host of health conditions. The research study in question tested 24 subjects, non of which had diabetes, to determine the effects of blood sugar on aerobic capacity. During treadmill testing, the volunteers with the worst blood-sugar control had the lowest capacity or endurance, and when the researchers performed muscle biopsies in order to examine their muscle tissues following exercise, they found high levels of proteins that could potentially inhibit improvements to endurance. According to lead investigator, Sarah Lessard, a professor at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, “constantly bathing your tissues in sugar is just not a good idea” and may reduce any subsequent benefits one gets from exercise.

The bottom line is it’s important to reduce sugar and process food in our diet. We want to reap the full benefits of all the exercise we do, not have it blunted. Dr. Lessard did mention that exercise could eventually “help people with hyperglycemia to stabilize their blood sugar.” Stay Strong with Jefit.

Reference


MacDonald, T.L., Pattamaprapanont, P., Pathak P., Fernandez, N., Freitas, EC., Hafida, S., et al. Hyperglycaemia is associated with impaired muscle signaling and aerobic adaptation to exercise. Nature Metabolism (2020). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-020-0240-7

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Is Sitting Too Much the Cause of Your Back Pain?

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One of the health issues many Americans have to deal with is low back pain. So much so that 85 percent of the population will experience at least one episode of back pain during their lifetime according to research. Many in this group end up dealing with back-related problems on and off for the rest of their life. One cause of this debilitating health concern is linked to prolonged periods of sitting too much.

“Physical inactivity is as harmful to your health as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.”

Steven Blair, PhD, Arnold School of Public Health at University of South Carolina

Not Enough Daily Physical Activity

A sedentary person averages between 1,000 and 3,000 steps a day while an average healthy adult walks about 5,900 steps daily. The average number of daily steps for men was 7,192 and for women 5,210 according to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise by Tudor-Locke and colleagues. It is not unusual for active individuals to consistently take 10,000 steps a day while highly active individuals can reach 15,000 to 25,000 steps a day and beyond!

As someone begins to introduce more movement into their day, this means they are spending less time sitting over the course of a day. Any type of sitting increases the pressure or load on the back musculature. One of the worst culprits is flying. One survey found 88 percent of people who fly experience back or neck pain following a flight. If you fly frequently for business, good luck, unless you’re flying first class.

Amount of Pressure on the Spine

The least amount of disc pressure placed on the lumbar spine, known as intradiscal pressure, is at its lowest while supine or lying down on your back (25 kg of pressure). This pressure increases slightly when rolling onto your side (75 kg). When you get up and stand, pressure once again increases (100 kg) as it does when you lean forward from a standing position (150 kg). Holding a weight and leaning forward causes the pressure to increase (220 kg) on the lumbar spine. During sitting, which many of us do for 8 hours a day, the pressure placed on the lumbar disc is approximately 140 kg. Leaning forward while seated increases that pressure on the lumbar spine to 185 kg.

The position placing the highest pressure (275 kg) on the discs in the lumbar spine occurs in a seated position, leaning forward and bearing weight.

Some additional information for you. When you’re walking, the pressure is 2.5 times your bodyweight and can increase to 3-4 times your bodyweight when running.

Restore Your Back With a Hook Lying Position

This is one of the best positions to place the body in when trying to relax the back muscles. Lie in a supine position (on your back) with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor (see photo below). Take 5 long, slow breaths and let the body relax; imagine the body is melting into the floor. This allows the pelvis to slowly transition back into a neutral position. Relax and maintain this position for 3-5 minutes. This pose is also called a “corrective restorative pose.” You can also lift the legs off the floor and rest on a chair or stability ball, maintaining a 90/90 – ninety degree angle in hips and knees.

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Due to tight or weak muscles (or combination of both) and restrictive connective tissue, the pelvis may eventually “tilt” forward or backward. The ideal anatomical position, however, is a neutral pelvis. The body functions and performs at its best while in this position. Sitting too much or bad posture can result in the hip dysfunction.

A healthy spine has three curves, a slight concave found in the cervical and lumbar regions while the mid-region or thoracic spine is more convexed. An issue arises when we sit for prolonged periods in a chair or on a couch, when this occurs, the spine falls more into a “C” shape versus “S” shaped position.

Common Symptoms of Anterior Pelvic Tilt

The easiest way to see if you have an anterior pelvic tilt (APT) is to lie on a table with both legs hanging off the edge of the table. Bend one knee and pull it towards the chest. If there is an issue with the pelvis, the back of the opposite leg will raise off the table. If this happens, the pelvis is probably incorrectly aligned. Perform the test on both sides. There are many causes of APT. A root cause may be a muscle imbalance caused by weakness, an old injury, poor posture, excessive foot pronation etc. A good prescription may be to focus on the four symptoms below in RED. Typically, a person will begin to feel better as the gluteal and abdominal muscles get stronger and the hip flexors and back muscles become more supple through stretching. If you sit most of the day, expect the hip flexors and back to be excessively tight. Below are some of the symptoms often associated with APT.

  • Hyperextended knees while standing
  • Chronic low back tightness
  • Tight hamstring muscles
  • Low back pain
  • Weak gluteal muscles
  • Weak abdominals
  • Tight hip flexors
  • Tight erector spinae

Correcting APT Through Movement

As with anything else, the first step is awareness that a problem exists. From there, limit your sitting to 15-30 minutes at a time, getting up often to move and stretch. Build a standing work station if necessary or switch between the two. One option could be a kneeling chair for the office, it’s considered a good choice for sitting. If you need to take long calls – take “walking conference calls.” High on the list should be daily movement, like walking, and various forms of exercise like yoga, pilates and strength training. The goal is finding what’s tight and lengthen it and what’s weak work to strengthen it. Below are a few exercises that you should think about adding to your exercise routine using the Jefit app to help maintain a strong, functional core.

Check in daily with posture and body mechanics when sitting, standing, moving and of course during exercise. Try this, stand tall with feet hip width-apart and arms relaxed by your side. Take a deep breath in, exhale and relax. Place your finger on your navel. Think about “pulling-in” your navel in toward your spine. You may feel a slight contraction in your abdominal area and maybe your low back will relax too. This is what it feels like when the pelvis is in a neutral position and you need to be cognizant of maintaining this throughout the day. Work on holding this during walking and exercise as a first step.

Specific Exercises to Improve Neutral Pelvis

The pelvis functions optimally when it’s able to maintain a neutral position versus “slipping” into a forward/backward tilt. The following exercises will increase strength and improve flexibility in this area. Good luck & stay strong with Jefit.

Bodyweight Hip Thrust

Glute Bridge

Supine Bent Knee Rotation

Hook Lying Position

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch (with posterior pelvic tilt)

Forearm Plank (maintain a posterior pelvic tilt, activate the glutes)

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Side Plank: A Great Core Exercise for Everyone

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One of the best exercises you can do if you want a strong core is a side plank. In fact, not only is it effective, it’s also safe on the back and as versatile as exercises come. You see many gym goers performing different variations of the exercise when working out. Have you ever wondered, though, what are the benefits of “planking” and what other muscle groups are involved other than the obliques?

What Are the Benefits of the Side Plank?

Above all, side plank target the obliques, or the “outer abs,” but the exercise reveals its true potential regarding the secondary muscles it engages. This simple movement, a side-facing plank in which you rest on your forearm, lifting and lowering your hips, essentially works every muscle that the obliques touch or influence. Aside from all the benefits, the side plank brings plenty of convenience to the table as a bodyweight exercise. All you need for a side plank is an exercise mat and a few free minutes. The power of the side plank extends well beyond your obliques. The side plank influences every muscle that the obliques touch or are related to. Here are some quick facts about this great exercise:

  • The side plank works more than 40 percent of your upper and lower back muscles. This is more than many of the common back exercises people do.
  • Not only does it work your obliques exceptionally well (about 50 percent of their maximum) it works your rectus abdominis (aka the “six-pack muscle”) as well (about 34 percent of its maximum).
  • The side plank is and excellent exercise to train one of the deep back muscle known as the “QL” or the quadratus lumborum. The QL is an important muscle for providing stability to your spine and hips.
  • The side plank is one of the best ways to work your hip abductor muscles. The hip abductor muscles work at about 74 percent of their maximum during the plank. This is almost double the work that this muscle does during the exercise that is most commonly prescribed for hip muscle weakness, the side lying leg raise.

Exercise Modifications

You can do the traditional side plank or you can easily change things up making it easier or more difficult. For example.

Lift your top leg up. This increases the stress on the side of the body closest to the ground.
Flex at the hip of the bottom leg. This puts all of the weight on your top leg and is the excellent way to train your inner thighs (e.g. your hip adductor muscles). This is a great exercise for everyone from a hockey players to an equestrian. Instead of supporting yourself from your forearms or feet you can support yourself from your knees (easier) or from you hand (easier on the muscles but harder to balance).

Why Is All This Important?

If you are a runner, triathlete, cyclist or swimmer then the side plank must be part of your conditioning program. Ideally, the side plank, as part of a core program, is done a minimum of three times per week. The plank position can be held for 3-10 seconds and then you can “roll” to the other side, hold that position and then roll back. Keep repeating this until you no longer can maintain good form. Rest one to two minutes and then perform another set. As you get stronger, hold the position for 30-seconds to 2-minutes.

The basic by-product of the side plank is it builds muscle endurance and strength, invariably providing hip and trunk stability. The muscles involved in a side plank help maintain a neutral pelvis. In turn, the spine is “held” in a strong, functional position. This not only helps prevent back and hip pain but also plays a role in preventing knee injuries. One important aspect of knee pain is hip instability and hip abductor weakness. The side plank is ideal for improving stability around the hips thus preventing knee pain caused by hip dysfunction.

Muscle Recruitment During Side Plank

In addition to providing a great endurance workout for the obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis, side planks work many of the muscles that make up the core or trunk. This particular exercise engages the glutes as synergists, or muscles that help other muscles complete a movement. Side plank focuses especially on the hips, engaging other synergists such as the quadratus lumborum, psoas major and hip adductors. Major back muscles such as the iliocostalis of the lower back and the latissimus dorsi of the middle back also get recruited or worked when performing a side plank.

Side planks don’t stop at the abs and trunk. Upper-thigh muscles, including the gracilas and pectineus act as synergists, as do the deltoids, supraspinatus, trapezius and upper back. Likewise, the pectoralis muscles of the chest and levator scapula of the upper shoulders serve as stabilizers, or muscles that help other muscles maintain a specific position during an exercise.

Additional Muscle Engagement

The side plank not only excels in the quantity of muscles it engages, it also offers quality engagement. Physiotherapist and chiropractor Greg Lehman notes that this exercise engages 40 percent of your upper and lower back muscles, a figure far greater than typical back exercises. Lehman also says that the obliques and rectus abdominal experience engagement of 50 percent and 34 percent respectively, making for abdominal engagement roughly on par with crunches. The hips get the biggest benefit, however, at about 74 percent engagement. That’s twice the muscle engagement of the common lying leg raise.

Low-Back Pain

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research out of the University of Virginia reveals further benefits of side planks for those who suffer from recurrent low-back pain (LBP). This study found that those with recurrent LBP experience the same level of muscle activation, or efficient muscle contraction, as those who do not suffer from LBP when performing a side plank. The news is doubly good, as the same study notes that a weak transverse abdominis may actually be part of the cause of LBP.

Exercise Progression

The article touched on earlier that the side plank among other things is a versatile exercise. It can be adjusted for any fitness level. A novice exerciser might initially try a standing side plank leaning against a wall. A safe option in terms of an exercise progression would be to move to the floor with both knees bent and one hand on the floor for added support. As someone becomes stronger they could progress to a more traditional side plank, keeping the legs straight and the forearm on the ground. At this point, the goal could be to increase overall hold time or increase the sets and repetitions. Some back experts, like Dr. Stuart McGill, believe in focusing on the ladder, more sets and repetitions, rather than one long set holding it for time. The following photos demonstrate a few of the many plank variations.

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The Jefit app offers many different core exercises found in existing programs in the routine database or when building a new exercise session. Try adding the side plank or one of many plank variations to your next workout. Stay Strong with Jefit!

Contribution by Emily Trahn

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Jefit Continues to Evolve Celebrating 10-Years of Growth

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This is a really big month for Jefit, as the company celebrates our 10-year anniversary this week. The genesis of Jefit was finding a solution to a personal problem Mr. Ying Lin, Founder & CEO, was experiencing when working out at the gym. There were not enough systems in place for him to record and track his workouts.

Since those early days, we have become one of the top digital apps used for planning & tracking individual strength training workouts. The Jefit app recently hit a big milestone when it surpassed 9 million members.

The team has continued to grow over the years and we are always looking for good team players to come on board with us.

The following screenshots depict what the website and app looked like more than a decade ago (on the left) compared to today (on the right).

What Jefit Looks Like

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Jefit to Release a Host of New Features Soon

The company has continued to improve our brand and product features for both the website and our award-winning app. New features include updates in four key areas found in the app.

New Superset Sharing Feature

Jefit members will soon have the ability to share their workouts that have supersets added as part of a workout. This functionality was not previously available.

Interval-Based Timer Option

The Jefit workout options are about to improve significantly now that the software has the ability to create interval-based workouts. When you edit a workout you will soon have five options to choose from to customize a typical strength training session. You can build a workout to match your needs by using the appropriate number of sets, repetitions, rest, interval time and supersets as seen below.

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Look for the Jefit Database to Increase to 1400 Exercises

The Jefit exercise database has increased to 1400 exercises since adding more than 60 new exercises. Explosive bodyweight exercises like a Burpee, in addition to a Hex-bar Deadlift, Kettlebell Farmer’s Carry, DB Suitcase Carry, TRX Inverted Row, Kettlebell Swing, Side Plank, Ab Wheel Rollout and Split Squats to name just a few. Four new “exercise types” were also added, increasing the total to eight categories. The new categories include dynamic warm-up, explosive, yoga, and mobility. More than 30 of the 64 newly created exercises fall under Jefits’ most popular exercise heading which is strength training.

Exercise “Equipment Needed” Updated

The Jefit equipment menu was updated bringing the total number of equipment choices to 20. New exercise equipment including the stability ball, weight plate, Hex-bar, TRX suspension, medicine ball, Bosu ball, and Ab Roller.

We look forward to continuing to support our members through periodic updates which in turn will continue to improve app functionality. Thank-you for the past ten years. We look forward to helping change the lives of Jefit members for many years to come. Stay Strong! – the Jefit Team.

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Becoming Super Human Through Biohacking

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Dave Asprey, a New York Times best-selling author and entrepreneur has done his home work on how biohacking can potentially increase longevity. His latest book, Super Human (Harper Wave, 2019), is a fascinating read that explores this topic.

Mitochondria and the Four Killers

The book begins with what Asprey calls the four killers:

  1. Heart Disease
  2. Diabetes
  3. Alzheimer’s
  4. Cancer

He talks about the current state of each and how inflammation creates ideal circumstances for each of these and that it’s all “stemmed from mitochondrial dysfunction.” Mitochondria are responsible for processing energy from the food we eat. When you add oxygen to the picture the body produces adenosine triphosphate, known as ATP. In a nutshell, the bodies cells produce energy that is stored in the body until it is needed at a later date. When we’re young this process works well. As we age, the body starts to produce free radicals as a result of the mitochondria not working well.

An Increase Chance of Disease

By not taking care of our body when we’re young, we increase our chances later in life of becoming unhealthy while increasing our risk for disease. Things like minimal exercise, sitting too much, and poor nutrition all contribute to this recipe of disaster. This is why people like Dave Asprey and others are leaning more towards advancing biohacking.

It has been reported that there is a 40% chance that a person could be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. According to research from the book, if left untouched the other “killers” place the odds at 10% risk for getting Alzheimer’s. It does not stop there; there are two more items to worry about, a 23% risk of dying from heart disease and a 25% risk of becoming a diabetic (later in life). Taking care of yourself, eating healthy, daily exercise and having good genes will decrease your odds.

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Biohacking to Minimize the Seven Pillars of Aging

There are specific forms of cellular aging that a person can help potentially minimize by way of biohacking. The following seven pillars constitute the main portion of the book. Here is a brief synopsis of each of them to hopefully offer insight into what areas to start focusing on as you age.

1. Shrinking Tissue

One of the first items discussed in Asprey’s book is loss of muscle tissue through inactivity and aging. A physically inactive person can expect to lose 3-5% of their muscle mass after the age of 30. The great news though is regular bouts of strength training will build and preserve the loss of metabolically active, lean muscle tissue. The take away here is keeping your mitochondria healthy as you age will help avoid unnecessary cell loss.

2. Damaged Mitochondria

Damaged mitochondria is a critical by-product of the aging process. Plain and simple. Things get damaged constantly inside the body, especially when free radicals are present. The take away here is to work hard to keep your mitochondria healthy. As a result, you’ll have less inflammation and keep accelerated aging at bay.

3. Senescent Cells

Over time your body gains more and more senescent cells, what the book refers to as “zombie cells.” One of the many side effects of having these cells is the body becomes less respondent to the hormone insulin. When this happens the body becomes insulin resistant and more belly fat, known as visceral fat, deposits around the abdominal area.

4. Extracellular Matrix

The space between your cells contain a network of proteins called – you guessed it – the extracellular matrix. This area is important because it gives tissue its elasticity and offers protection from stress and trauma according to Asprey. Having too much sugar in the body, could lead to stiffening of this matrix. Asprey makes a point that if you want to become Super Human, then reducing blood sugar is not optional.

5. Extracellular Waste Product

As you age, waste products known as extracellular aggregates build up both inside and outside your cells. Over time they build up and form plaques and the short story is you end up with some form of autoimmune disease. About 30% of Americans have autoimmune disease and this number is growing.

6. Buildup Inside Cells

The human body contains Lysosomes and they act as a waste disposal removing waste product from your cells. The problem with lysosomes is they can’t remove everything and over time these cells become dysfunctional. The net result is the body can’t control blood sugar levels and this increases your risk of cancer and heart disease.

7. Telomere Shortening

To offer a better understanding of what telomeres look like, think about the ends of your shoelaces, that plastic coating around the tip looks similar to a telomere. An enzyme called telomerase is responsible for maintaining telomeres. Over time, telomeres deteriorate and eventually shorten. Shortened telomeres have been linked with a weakened immune system and a host of diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. The goal is to keep telomeres long but things like stress has been shown to actually shorten telomeres.

In one study, women with high stress for long periods had shorter telomeres and their life expectancy was a full decade less than women who had minimal stress. Finally, exercise is another way that has been shown to prevent early telomere shortening.

The net takeaways from the book are when specific interventions are followed, they could lead to a longer and healthier lifespan. The goal is to find ways to help reduce and manage stress (i.e. yoga, exercise, meditation). Work on eating whole healthy food, avoid fried foods, added sugar, and trans fat. Stay consistent with strength training and exercise each week. Get plenty of sleep and oh yes doing it all for the rest of your life will definitely help your cause!

Stay Strong!

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Are Protein Drinks More Effective Pre or Post Workout?

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A qualified nutritionist will always recommend eating real, whole food as a first option in order to meet daily protein needs. This can be very challenging to do consistently over time though. It can also be difficult if someone requires a large amount of protein each day in order to build lean muscle mass. This is where protein drinks enter the picture.

When is the best time to consume protein drinks, before or after a workout? How many grams of protein should a typical protein drink contain? On the flip side, you have hundreds of different supplement companies to choose from and their job is to push product through creative marketing campaigns. So which way do you turn? Hopefully this article will help shed some light on the subject.

The website Examine.com has been up and running since 2011 and is a trusted source for nutrition and supplement information, and a good place to start!

Protein Intake Prior to Exercise

There is minimal scientific literature that has looked at the benefits of protein supplementation before or after exercise.

One research study divided 21 men into two groups, with both groups getting a protein drink containing 25 grams of protein. One of the groups received it right before their workout, while the second group received it following their workout. All of the subjects performed full-body strength workouts three times a week for 10-weeks. The results of the study found no significant differences in muscle strength or size between both of the groups. The results of this particular study suggest that as long as you take-in protein around your workout, it really doesn’t matter if it’s before or after a workout.

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Protein Intake Post Exercise

Previous studies have shown that 20–25g protein is enough to stimulate maximal increases in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) after weight training. The present study challenged this conclusion, testing the idea that those with greater lean mass require more protein to stimulate maximal MPS after training.

Examine.com

In one research study, researchers recruited 30 healthy males who were strength training twice a week for six months prior to the study. Subjects were grouped together based on how much lean muscle mass they each had. The study consisted of two separate trials separated by two weeks, where subjects ingested either 20 grams or 40 grams of a protein drink. The protein drink contained whey protein mixed with water and taken immediately post exercise. The study resulted in a significant change (20%) in muscle protein synthesis in the group that took 40 grams of protein after exercise. This occurred when researches did not account for differences in lean body mass in any of the test subjects.

LBM did not factor into the protein requirement for maximal MPS. This study showed that 40 grams of protein induced greater MPS than 20 grams in both high and low LBM groups, contradicting previous studies suggesting that MPS after exercise is maximized after ingesting 20–25 grams of high-quality protein.

Examine.com

Additional Study Insight

One reason this study showed promising results was because of the amount of protein used. The subjects who were given higher doses of protein (40 grams) experienced better results. The design of the study called for 40 grams of protein in place of the more traditional 25-30 grams that is widely recommended. The positive results most likely had something to do with the amino acid leucine. Most protein drinks either don’t contain leucine or have only trace amounts of it. Leucine is extremely important and the key ingredient or building block needed to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

If you happen to increase your protein intake through supplementation, do it gradually. The reason for this is there can be side effects of taking too much protein. Most of the side effects of whey protein are related to issues regarding digestion. Those individuals who have problems digesting whey protein experience symptoms such as bloating, stomach cramps, gas, and diarrhea. Most of the side effects can be related to lactose intolerance. Lactose is a form of sugar found in milk and in whey protein. People that are lactose intolerant don’t produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which the body uses to help breakdown lactose.

Final Say on Protein Recommendation

The amount of protein that someone needs to build muscle mass depends on many variables. A reasonable goal is to obtain the majority of calories from protein by way of whole foods. Look to supplement daily intake with reputable whey protein drinks containing 3-5% leucine would be prudent. Finally, it really doesn’t mater when you drink protein drinks, before or after exercise. Taking in slightly more protein then the recommended amount of 25-30 sounds like a good choice. Work on drinking plenty of water throughout the day as well. Eat Well & Stay Strong!

Reference

The Response of Muscle Protein Synthesis Following Whole-Body Resistance Exercise Is Greater Following 40 G Than 20 G of Ingested Whey Protein. Physiol Rep. 2016 Aug; 4(15):e12893. doi: 10.14814/phy2.12893.

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Exercise Terminology is Important for Workout

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There is so much information about working out and exercise terminology that it’s hard to keep things straight at times. It’s important to become more educated regarding this terminology in order to improve both the workout and training experience. Having a better understanding of the following terms will help in both of those areas.

Compound Set & Exercise are Exercise Terminology to Know

Compound sets use full body exercises to perform a series of sets using minimal or no rest. The same muscle group or opposing muscle groups can be worked this way. As the first muscle group recovers partially, a second area on the body can be worked. Training with this format allows for a more efficient workout. Many bodybuilders use this type of training model when trying to build muscle hypertrophy. A good example of a Jefit strength training workout that features compound sets is the Compound Strength Routine.

A compound exercise, or multi-joint exercise, is a full body movement like a Barbell Squat or Kettlebell One-Arm Clean. To perform one of these movements, multiple muscle groups need to perform together to execute a movement.

Supersets

When you take a good look at exercise terminology and the history of supersets you’ll notice two distinct systems. One method involves several sets of agonists and antagonists muscle groups. An example of this is a Dumbbell Bicep Curl and Tricep Dip. A second type of superset can use one set of several different exercises working one specific area of the body like the chest. An example of this is one set of dumbbell Bench Press followed immediately by dumbbell Chest Fly and then Push-ups. Typically this types of superset uses 8-10 repetitions with each set of exercise with no rest between sets.

Ascending & Descending Pyramids

A strength training program can also utilize a pyramid method for program design. Any type of workout can benefit from a pyramid training method especially powerlifters. There are two options, performing sets where you progress from light to heavy weight, is an ascending pyramid. When sets of an exercise transition from a heavy to light weight, it’s considered a descending pyramid. The weight is typically light and starts with 10-12 repetitions and the weight gets heavier as the repetitions decrease until you reach one repetition.

Negative Repetitions

The lowering phase of a repetition is known as an eccentric contraction or negative phase. When this phase occurs, a muscle is actively lengthening (think Bicep Curl for a moment) so the weight can be slowly lowered in a controlled fashion. An individual can actually handle or control more resistance on the lowering phase of an exercise. Negative lifts require a spotter to help lift the weight up while the exerciser slowly lowers the weight. In terms of a resistance to use, around 105% to 110% of the concentric 1-RM should suffice. As an example, if someone has a Barbell Bicep Curl 1-RM of 135 pounds, the weight range to use would be about 140-150 lbs. The spotter would help left the weight upward while the exerciser slowly lowers the weight for the desired repetitions.

Circuit Training

Circuit training (CT) is a fast, efficient, way to exercise. CT consists of a series of strength training exercises performed one after the other with minimal rest. In regard to program design, 10-15 repetitions are used typically with 40% to 60% of 1-RM. There is a great deal of research showing the benefits of doing 8 to 20 weeks of circuit training. Increases in both maximal oxygen consumption (of 4-8%) and strength (7-32%) have been shown in men and women. An example of a Jefit circuit training program is Bodyweight Circuit Training.

The Jefit app is an award-winning workout planner & tracker app and a perfect built in coach that can assist you in putting these terms and more to good use – Stay Strong!

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Best Leg Exercises According to Science

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What two leg exercises would you add to a training routine when you get back to the gym? It will depend on individual goals and what’s available in terms of exercise equipment. With all things being equal, one way to determine what the best leg exercises are is through research. More specifically, electromyography or EMG research, is a topic that should be part of the decision making process. Previous content that looked at EMG was published here.

Best Leg Exercises via EMG Research

An EMG device is basically used for measuring very small amounts of electricity generated by muscles right below the surface of the skin. The result of electrodes placed on the skin, show what percentage of muscle area is activated during a specific exercise. According to various EMG research data, the following exercises rate highly when looking for the best in class for muscle activation.

Free Weight Exercise: Squat

From an EMG standpoint, the best free weight exercise, no surprise here, is the Squat exercise. It’s a complete multi-joint exercise that is also functional.

Trainer Tips:

  • Doing dropsets is great for improving the amount of weight someone is lifting with the Squat. This is where you reduce the weight by about 25% once muscular failure is reached, and then continue with your set.
  • Manipulate the rest time between sets to increase training intensity.
  • Try to increase reps – on occasion – from 8-12 (for hypertrophy training) to more in the 12-15 rep range.
  • The deeper you go in a Squat, the more you activate your quads & glutes but beware of the knee joint.
  • The best angle is about 70-degree or thighs “roughly” just below parallel with the floor.

Machine-based Exercise: Hack Squat

When it comes to an equipment-based exercise to activate the thigh muscles, run to get in line for the hack squat. EMG data was actually higher in some studies than even a barbell Squat most likely because individuals can push a heavier amount of weight.

Trainer Tips:

  • Once the hack squat is mastered, progress to different foot positions and widths (narrow/wide), and ultimately to one-leg.
  • Switch body position on occasion, facing froward/backward on the machine.
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Jefit Leg Focused Training Programs

The Jefit app features currently more than 3350 different strength training programs on its platform. The following three are just a few with a strong focus on the legs and lower body. Stay Strong!

Lower Body Strength Program

Barbell Workout (3-Day Split)

8-Weeks to Bigger Legs

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Look Beyond Sets and Reps to Exercise Volume

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An important strength training variable that one should be aware of is exercise volume. A periodized strength training program, monitors exercise volume to see how someone is adapting to the demands of a training program.

“If these factors are not considered and/or monitored, the likelihood that the training program will result in less than optimal results will increase markedly.”

Greg Haff, PhD

There are specific components that make up a well-designed strength training program. Some of the components include metabolic conditioning, speed and agility, endurance work and of course strength training. Having an idea of the workload for a training session, and to be able to calculate this, can let a trainer or coach know many things. As an example, it can offer insight into things like fatigue factor of a person or athlete. Once someone is able to minimize or manage fatigue, overall work output from training typically improves.

What is Exercise Volume?

In order to determine workload for a training session, volume needs to be calculated. Exercise volume is a strength training variable that calculates the total amount of work performed in a training session. For this to happen, three main training variables need to be calculated. This includes the number of sets, repetitions and weight lifted. The best estimate of volume needs to have total weight lifted not just the total number of repetitions performed. There are two equations that are used most often to determine the volume of exercise. The first equation (below) is seen more often in gyms and training studios.

Equation 1: number of sets x number of repetitions x weight lifted = volume

An example (abbreviated workout)

Squat, 5 x 5/225 = 5,625 lbs.

Bench Press, 3 x 10/185 = 5,550 lbs.

Barbell Bent Row 3 x 8/60 = 1,440 lbs.

Total Volume: 12,615 lbs.

Equation 2: number of sets x number of repetitions x % 1-RM = volume

In addition, a second equation (seen above) can be used when 1-RM testing is involved. There are many training programs based off 1-RM testing such as Olympic lifting and college and professional athletics. Developing workouts based off 1-RM testing is part of a smart training philosophy. The result is a safer training program long-term with less injuries and superior gains.

Jefit App Calculates Volume for You

One of the many unique features of the Jefit app is it calculates volume of work for all workouts. The app reports this to you on a weekly basis via email to all members. Below is an example of workout volume from a Jefit home routine using both exercise equipment and bodyweight as resistance. Stay Strong!

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Home Exercise: Metabolic Conditioning Series

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It seems like we all could use a fun, effective workout these days with everything going on. Working out with a good home exercise routine needs to be creative as well as effective. The Metabolic Conditioning four-exercise series takes care of that and more. The goals of these demanding, intermediate programs are to improve general fitness, strength and aerobic capacity.

Bill Bryson, author of The Body, offers some amazing research from his latest book on the powerful benefits of what regular exercise can do for us. “Going for regular walks reduces the risk of heart attack or stroke by 31%. Those benefits probably also improve when the intensity is increased a bit and strength training is added to the mix?

Research conducted in 2012, looked at the value of being active and showed an increase in life expectancy. Mr. Bryson reported that just 11 minutes of activity a day, for those 40 and older, “yielded 1.8 years of added life expectancy.” When that number increased to 60 minutes of activity a day, the yield improved to 4.2 years. The analysis included 655,000 test subjects who participated in the study.

Home Exercise Program Design

Taking a look inside the design of this program series shows eight individual exercises sessions. Exercise sessions are performed twice weekly. The deeper someone goes into the series, the more challenging the workout experience becomes. The final exercise session features the highest volume of exercise compared to any previous session. There are four bodyweight exercises that start off each session. Subsequent to this, the individual will complete six primary exercises. All bodyweight and exercises using resistance, are performed as compound sets.

Example of a Training Session

The following exercise session is included in the first week of the Metabolic Conditioning series. There are seven more exercise sessions in addition to this one. There are ten total exercises, between warm-up and primary exercises, in the eight sessions. Each one of the workouts is slightly more challenging than the previous session.

Bodyweight Warm-Up

Primary Exercises

The Jefit Elite series first two sessions can be found here and here. The following two sessions can be found here & here and that wraps up the full 8-weeks. Stay Strong!

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Six of the Best Exercises to Build Strength

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Look at any exercise book, website or app and you can find hundreds of different exercises. Those exercises can be performed hundreds of ways and those hundred can turn into thousands of different variations. The Jefit app, as an example, features more than 1300 different exercises. What are the best exercises to build strength though? Let’s take a look at a few of them.

The Deadlift is One of the Best Exercises to Build Strength

Overall strength is needed for activities of daily living and it’s obviously very important for any athletic activity or workout. The deadlift is a great exercise because its whats known as a compound exercise. Meaning, multiple muscle groups work concurrently. As a result, an increase in strength will occur in the core, legs, back, hips and grip – basically head to toe! The glutes and hamstrings are the prime movers during this exercise. An additional nine other muscles also get worked. The deadlift is great for improving hip extension strength.

TRAINER TIP: Use a Hex Bar, if possible, it’s a lot easier to use than a barbell when initially performing a deadlift.

Squat

The squat is always a main exercise feature in any strength program and for good reason. Squats are also great for a beginner level person compared to say a deadlift. Knee-dominant exercise, like the squat, target the quadriceps muscles. The glutes also come into play during the execution of the movement. In addition, like the deadlift, nine other muscle groups also get hit.

TRAINER TIP: Many strength coaches actually teach the front squat before back squat. It’s not about the amount of weight a person uses but rather using good technique and moving through a full range-of-motion. As a former assistant strength coach at UConn, we use to have all our athletes start fresh because so many coming in had bad habits. We gave each student-athlete a chronological training age of zero. Once they had proper technique down they then progressed to bigger and better things with the squat and other movements.

Pull-Up

This exercise can be very challenging for a novice but it’s a great way to build upper body strength. The pull-up uses an overhand grip compared to a chin-up, which has the palms facing towards the person. This is a great exercise to test your upper body “pulling” strength. They can tell someone a great deal about where they’re at training wise. Seven muscle groups get stronger doing this compound movement, including the latissimus dorsi, and biceps.

TRAINER TIP: If pull-ups are too difficult initially, try chin-ups first or do negative pull-ups. Try jumping up and let yourself return to the starting position in a slow controlled manner. Also, try either an inverted row or connect a giant band to try assisted pull-up using less of your body weight, as additional options.

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Overhead Military Press

Overhead Press

An efficient way to build shoulder, core and overall strength is by lifting weight overhead. Lifting a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbell overhead builds strength in the shoulders, back, arms and core. Any vertical pressing movement also works different muscle that act as stabilizers from the foot up through the shoulder complex.

TRAINER TIP: Remember to move the head forward as you press the weight overhead. Also, keep areas of your body, like glutes and core braced (or tight) when performing the exercise.

Bent-Over Row

The Bent-over Row, using a barbell or dumbbells, is one of the best pulling exercises someone can do. It ranks near the top for exercises in terms of muscle recruitment. See this previously published article on the Jefit blog that discusses this topic more in depth. The exercise is perfect for any push/pull routine and is a nice compliment to a barbell or dumbbell chest press.

TRAINER TIP: Work first on performing scapular retraction before any pulling or rowing motion is attempted.

Bench Press

Saving the best for last, the bench press is a versatile exercise that can be performed using a barbell, dumbbells and kettlebells. It’s a great exercise to build upper body strength, especially in the chest, shoulder and arms. As a result, it’s a great compound or multi-joint exercise and a must in a strength training routine.

TRAINER TIP: Change it up every 4-6 weeks. Meaning, make your grip wider, more narrow, switch barbell to dumbbells, change the speed of the movement, adjust the incline on the bench, try a decline position, etc.

Adding any of these six exercises into your routines at any given time will help build strength in both the prime movers and smaller stabilizing muscle as well. These particular exercises are some of the best exercises to build strength. Good Luck and Stay Strong!

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