Best Leg Exercises According to Science

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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How to Avoid Weight Gain with HIT

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The human body is at its peak, physiologically speaking, between the ages of about 18-29 years old. Bodily changes occur thereafter, like losses in strength and aerobic capacity coupled with changes in bodyweight and body composition. There is a significant, yet preventable, downward shift with each of those variables after the third decade of life. How to avoid weight gain becomes a central focus for the majority of our population after about the third decade.

5 Ways to Avoid Weight Gain: Focus on Lifestyle Changes

The following suggestions need to be done consistently each week in order to change the way you look and feel. It’s not some type of quick fix!

Physical Activity Related

  • Never Stop Strength Training. This one is a must for each one of us, especially as we age. The key is building a strong base during the early years (teenage through 20’s) and then maintain that strength with a few weekly strength training sessions. Yes, for the rest of your life. Look at all the older people you know who don’t exercise and lead an un-active lifestyle. How are they doing with that?
  • Increase Activity. I’m not talking about long, slow, aerobic exercise here. The goal is to turn off and put down all screens each day. Then, work a little harder and find creative ways to increase your activity level each day. A good definition of physical activity is “all activities, at any intensity, performed during any time of day or night. It includes exercise and incidental activity integrated into daily activity.” For me, its about making sure I walk and move enough to move 5-7 miles a day (about 10-14,000/steps) on top of exercise.
  • HIT It Hard. HIT refers to high-intensity interval training. It can have a positive effect on fat-loss, prevent weight gain, and improve VO2 max. There is also a great deal of research on the benefits on cardiometabolic health (blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol level). Try a minimum of 1-2 HIT sessions a week with multiple days of rest between bouts to take advantage of these benefits. This could be the key to how you avoid weight gain.

Nutrition Related

  • Watch What You Put into Your Mouth. It can all come down to being that simple. Begin to think of food as fuel for your body. Don’t eat it unless it’s high octane fuel that can help your body. We all know fad diets don’t work, long-term. Eating real, unprocessed food, like in the Mediterranean Diet, is the goal.
  • AVOID Added Sugar. We know it’s in everything. So a little is not a big deal. But try to eat less than 38 grams/added sugar/day/men and 25 grams/add sugar/day/women. Doing this will add years to your life and keep unwanted weight off, especially around the abdominal and hip area.

How HIT Improves Overall Health

One of the leading researchers on the benefits of HIT is Martin Gibala, PhD from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. One of his many research studies (2014) looked at the effects of short-term interval training using a 10-minute protocol with only 1-minute of hard exercise. The results were various health improvements in overweight adults. In summary, the study showed 3-minutes of all out exercise performed within a 30-minute routine (includes warm-up & cool-down), 3x/week, improved cardiometabolic health factors. This study included 18 supervised training sessions over a 6-week period. As a result, improvements in the oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle, blood pressure and VO2 max were some of the outcomes.

How HIT Improves Body Composition

A second study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2019), compared the effects moderate-intensity (MOD) exercise with HIT. The research groups looked at 786 studies before choosing 36 that met their meta-analysis study criteria. Interval training and MOD both reduce body fat percentage. Interval training, however, provided a 28.5% greater reduction in total absolute fat mass compared to MOD. Other research has shown that HIT is superior to MOD in many other areas. HIT promotes greater increases in VO2max, ventricular function, improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, lower ratings of perceived exertion, higher levels of enjoyment and higher adherence than MOD.

Jefit Compliments HIT

Adding weekly HIT sessions with Jefit strength training is suggested if weight-loss and other cardiometabolic health benefits are the goal. Many of the Jefit home circuit-based training programs pair nicely with HIT sessions. The first is Advanced Bodyweight Circuit and a second option is a program I’m doing right now, Total Body Circuit. Enjoy and Stay Strong!

Suggested Reading

The One-Minute Workout, Martin Gibala, PhD, 2017.

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Best Home Workout Program – No Gym Required

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One of the better home workout programs now featured on the award-winning Jefit Elite app is their new Total Body Circuit program. The one-day, intermediate-level session for Elite members, was developed by the Jefit team. What makes this workout so good is the efficiency of the routine and program design for this individual session. The program design includes 8 exercises performed for three set each using a circuit-training format. Once the first segment of the workout is complete, the Jefit app continues to progress the user through a third and fourth circuit. This is the point in the workout where the exercise intensity really starts to pick up.

During phase two, a user follows the same 8 exercise sequence but now moves through 4 challenging supersets. For example, the first superset of this part of the workout begins with a Kettlebell Goblet Squat immediately followed by an Inverted Row. The user is asked to move through this twice before advancing to the next superset. When all is said and done, the 8 exercises are performed 3x each for a total of 24 sets. Depending on the fitness level of the individual, the session could take on average, 30 to 50-minutes to complete. The goal of the program is to burn maximal calories, improve overall fitness and aerobic capacity.

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Elevated Push-ups (Jefit Bench Push-ups) are the 3rd exercise featured in the Total Body Circuit program

Looking for the Best Home Workout Program? Try Total Body Circuit by Jefit

Total Body Circuit Exercise Program

1A. Kettlebell Goblet Squat 1×10

2A. Inverted Row 1×10

3B. Elevated Push-ups 1×10

4B. Bicycle Abs 1×15

5C. Kettlebell One-Arm Push Press 1×10

6C. Barbell Curl 1×10

7D. Weighted Dips 1×10

8D. Superman – for time

After completing the first circuit of 8 exercises (1×10) you then need to cycle back through for a second & third set but this time they should be performed as supersets. Therefore, the original 8 exercises become 4 paired exercises now done as supersets with no rest between exercises: AA, BB, CC, DD. Perform this program initially twice a week before progressing to three times a week for 4-weeks.

Exercise Equipment Needed

The great thing about this program is that it requires minimal equipment to do it. You will need a kettlebell, dumbbell, Olympic bar, bench or stability ball for the dips (you can even use a chair if need be).

Try downloading this program for your next workout. If you happen to have a heart rate monitor, please wear it and keep track of heart rate. Record what your heart rate is at the end of the first, second and third circuit. Then determine how long it takes for your heart rate to drop below 100 beats per minute post exercise. Record peak heart rate immediately after the workout and then one-minute post workout and record the delta. This is an important number that can tell you a great deal about your cardiovascular health. Stay Strong!

Additional Reading

Heart Rate Recovery 10 Seconds After Cessation of Exercise Predicts Death, Journal of the American Heart Association , 2018.

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Staying in Shape While Staying at Home

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More individuals are exercising from home over the past few months than probably ever before! Think about that for a moment. As a result, more health & fitness-related technology companies are pivoting their business’ making adjustments in order to meet these needs. Staying in shape while staying at home is now becoming big business. Beginning this week, certain states have begun to open slowly; it will be a while though until everything is up and running at full capacity. Even when that day comes, some experts have gone on record saying things may never be like they once were. With that said, its probably time to seriously think about transitioning aspects of gym routine to your home or apartment.

Some of the many benefits of working out at home are you don’t need much space and equipment to get started. We have previously discussed the topic of designing your at home program on the Jefit blog. This is where an app like Jefit can help in a major way with planning and tracking all of your workouts while at home. Here are two programs that you should checkout for that next home circuit workout or dumbbell routine.

10 Benefits of Working Out at Home

You Save $$$

Privacy

Need Minimal Equipment

You Save Time

Do it at Your Convenience

You Have Better Concentration

No Ego Involved

Listen to Your Own Music (and usually as loud as you want)

No Commute

Equipment is Always Available – No Waiting for Machines!

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Staying in Shape While at Home Podcast

Ira Wood is the long-time host of a podcast called the Lowdown that airs on WOMR-FM, located on picturesque Cape Cod (Provincetown, MA). Mr. Wood is an amazing host, long time radio personality, author and lecturer. Ira Wood is married to the poet/novelist, Marge Piercy.

Mr. Wood, an avid-exerciser himself, wanted to talk about some of the exercise-related things people could do from home, and I was happy to oblige. The result was an informative 30-minute podcast, where we discussed just about every aspect of staying in shape while at home. The cool thing was we got to talk a great deal about Jefit, the award-winning app. We talked about all aspects of the app and how an individual user can benefit from digital technology. Below is a link to the show we did in April. The show was recently turned into a podcast. Enjoy and Stay Strong!

https://www.irawood.com/the-lowdown/staying-in-shape-while-staying-at-home

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3 Meal Delivery Companies to Know About

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Many people are trying to prepare meals at home as best they can since they now have more time on their hands. Some people, however, either don’t like or don’t know how to really do this. Even if they do, the meals aren’t alway prepared healthy. It would be nice to just open up a box with everything already prepared. You need to just warm it up and eat it. No thinking or prep needed. A good alternative may be a subscription-based meal delivery service. There are actually some very good meal delivery companies offering good healthy, options during this pandemic.

Meal Delivery: It’s Like Having Your Own Personal Chef

Many people like to cook and even grow some of the food they eat, I know we do at my house. There are times though when you just don’t want to cook anything after a long, stressful day. That’s one of the many benefits of having a go-to meal delivery company on speed dial. The following meal delivery companies come highly recommended. Two of the five I’ve actually tried and both are very good depending how much meal prep you want to actually do. I’ll begin with the one we’re actually trying now in our home.

Daily Harvest

We’ve had some experience with meal delivery companies dating back a few years now. So, this time around we were looking for a healthy option, that would not break the bank, was organic and required minimal or no meal prep. The Daily Harvest, founded in 2014, meets all those requirements for us. As their site states, “it’s good, clean food.” Their meals consist of a lot of fruit and vegetables. There is no meal prep on most meals, they are ready to go and come in microwaveable containers. Just 5-6 minutes in the microwave or a minute in a blender for the smoothies. They are currently offering $25 off the first meal delivery. You can cancel anytime after your first delivery.

Daily Harvest breaks down their menu into 8 categories that includes:

Smoothies
Harvest Bowls
Flatbreads
Soups
Oat Bowls
Chia Bowls
Bites
Lattes

This morning I actually had one of the Oat Bowls and really enjoyed it. I added an additional 1/2 banana and a couple of strawberries to it. The bowl was a Cinnamon & Banana Bowl. The night before I added some almond milk and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The bowl (net weight 5.5 oz or 157 grams) was very tasty and satisfied my hunger until lunch time (thanks to all the fiber). The bowl was 360 calories (plus the additional calories I added on my own via fruit & milk). The ingredients were all organic, had 13 grams of protein, and 10 grams of fiber, no trans fat or cholesterol. Their harvest bowls are also organic, healthy, contain no added sugars and tasted delicious.

Cost: The cost is $69.75 for 9 smoothies a week ($7.75 per smoothie), $89.88 for 12 smoothies a week ($7.49 per smoothie), or $167.76 for 24 smoothies a week ($6.99 per smoothie).

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Purple Carrot

This is another very healthy alternative to trying to do it all yourself. Purple Carrot is a Boston-based meal delivery company, founded in 2014. Their meals are very tasty and 100% plant-based. I liked them so much I got involved with the company a few years ago as an Ambassador. One of the great thing about this and the other companies, is their clean ingredients. They are typically organic and fused together with other great, unique ingredients to create wonderful meal combinations. There is meal prep involved with some of the meals. They offer $25 off a first delivery and charge no shipping & handling on deliveries.

Cost: a Purple Carrot shipment costs somewhere in the range of $72 to $120. Dinners cost between $8.99 and $10.99 per serving. The more servings you order per box, the lower the cost per serving

Every Plate

This is one meal delivery service that I have not personally tried but was chose it because I’ve heard good things about it and they are the most affordable. A typical meal company deliveries their meal for about $7-9/meal after you break it all down. Every Plate lowers that price to $4.99/meal making it more affordable for most people, especially in these tight economic times. There is a $8.99 charge for shipping & handling. The meals, according to their website, do take about 30-40 minutes to cook. There are 8 recipes to choose from along with one premium. The company launched in 2018.

Cost: Individual meals cost $4.99 and you can choose between 2-4 people. You choose between 3, 4, or 5 dinners for a given week. Do the math.

You work very hard when it comes to trying to get or stay in shape driven by your Jefit workouts. Proper nutrition is critical to enable high-energy workouts. As you know, the other two “ingredients” needed for a strong body (since we’re talking food here) are high quality sleep and nutrition. If the nutrition component is difficult for you then a subscription-based, meal delivery service, may be just what you and your body need at this time. Stay Strong!

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You Can Get Stronger Doing Bodyweight Home Workouts

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Special times call for more creative home workouts. Even though we are all stuck at home because of CV19, life hasn’t stopped and neither should our workout. With local gyms still closed, the only option is working out in and around the home. The question is, can we keep our bodies strong with body weight home workouts?

Some people are more fortunate and have a home gym or some piece of home exercise equipment. The majority of people however don’t have either. The next best option is bodyweight home workouts. The Jefit app, has been helping on that front, by publishing strength-based and bodyweight home workouts to their 10 million members.

Exercise Progression is Key for Home Bodyweight Workouts

You may see improvements in strength initially with bodyweight only as a resistance. The key to a home bodyweight workout is figuring out how to safely progress your workouts over time. The body typically adapts to a new training routine within a few months depending on several factors. After this point it’s important to add exercise progression into the mix. This is done in one of three ways, either changing the sets, repetitions, or resistance. Generally speaking, the goal is in the 2-5 set range and 5-15 repetition range. This could change depending on the individual goals. The resistance needs to be challenging enough to enable you to reach and stay within those ranges. If someone is able to perform more than 12-15 repetitions, then the load is too light and weight should be increased. If bodyweight is the main resistance than you have to get more creative.

Changing the angle of how an exercise is performed (i.e. progress from kneeling push-up to a push-up to an elevated push-up) will also help. A second option is slow down the speed of each repetition in order to increase the time under tension. A third option would be to add an external weight source, like a weighted vest, chains, medicine ball or sandbag when performing the exercise. Finally, a fourth option is to add an incline (hill) or platform (plyobox) to challenge the body even more when doing specific exercises.

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Some of the Better Bodyweight Exercises

The human body cannot differentiate between various types of resistance. It only knows that a load is being placed on the muscles. Free weights typically work best for building strength because you can increase that resistance as the body adapts and gets stronger over time. It becomes more challenging to do that with a person’s body weight only. But if you are creative, you can in fact build strength with just your body weight. This may be challenging to do over a long-period of time though.

There are many great bodyweight exercises to choose from when putting together your bodyweight home workouts. Exercises that are multi-joint are considered best. These are exercise that engage more than one muscle group to perform the movement. These types of exercises are more beneficial than isolation exercises. Multi-joint exercises are also best for building strength and muscle size. Here are some of the best exercises, in no particular order, to add to your bodyweight home workouts. The majority of the exercises listed below are multi-joint exercises.

Bodyweight Exercises

  1. SQUAT
  2. LUNGE
  3. STEP-UP
  4. PULL-UP
  5. CHIN-UP
  6. PUSH-UP (and variations like T-PUSH-UPS)
  7. INVERTED ROW
  8. DIPS
  9. PLANK
  10. SINGLE-LEG GLUTE BRIDGE
  11. PISTOL SQUAT
  12. BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
  13. SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

To answer the original question, can you get stronger doing bodyweight home workouts? The answer is yes. Research published in Physiology & Behavior showed that body weight exercise can be beneficial because muscle growth “can occur independent of an external load.” Additional research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology also showed gains in strength with a “no load” exercise protocol. Let us know if you have a favorite exercise that you’ve been using from home, that’s not listed here. Stay Strong!

ADDITIONAL READING

How to Grow Stronger Without Lifting Weights, Scientific American, Clayton Mosher, 2014.

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The Science Behind the Best Back Exercises

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There are literally hundreds of different exercises to choose from when developing a Jefit strength training program. That number can easily increase to over a thousand when considering all the different exercise variations. The Jefit database, as an example, has more than 1,300 different exercises. Have you ever thought about what the best exercises are or what’s the perfect exercise to choose for a program? One way to choose the best exercise is from an EMG standpoint. In this particular case, we’re going to talk about the best back exercises. Some back exercises are much better than others in terms of muscle recruitment or activation.

Electromyography (EMG) Measurements

Electromyography (EMG) measures the electrical activity of muscles. Usually performed in a research or rehabilitation setting, EMG records the movement of muscle. EMG is based on the premise when a muscle contracts, a burst of electric activity is generated. The higher the load, the higher the firing rate. Muscle contraction strength is related to the number of motor units in the muscle. Finally, here is a definition of EMG from John Hopkins Medicine. EMG “measures muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle.”

How do Muscles Move?

Movement actually begins in the brain, specifically with the motor cortex, where neural activity signals the spinal cord, and information about the movement is conveyed to the relevant muscle by way of motor neurons. We can fast forward a bit, a muscle then contracts and produces movement. As muscle fibers contract, they shorten, performing a concentric contraction. Conversely, when muscle fibers lengthen, an eccentric contraction is performed.

A question for you. Can you manage more weight doing a bicep curl when lifting the weight up (concentric contraction) or when lowering the weight (eccentric contraction)? The answer is, you’re stronger during the eccentric phase, where you can actually handle 1.75 times more weight! In addition, 3% more muscle hypertrophy is produced over time during the eccentric phase.

Best Back Exercises Based on this Criteria?

The largest muscle groups that make up the back include the trapezius and latissimus dorsi. There are other smaller muscle groups as well like the rhomboids. Exercise selection typically depends on what a persons goals are, experience level, and equipment availability. All things being equal, the following exercise list includes some of the best back exercises you can do based on EMG.

One study looked at the EMG activation of various muscle groups while doing Pull-ups and Chin-ups. EMG data showed the highest muscle involvement coming from the latissimus dorsi (117-130% range), and biceps brachii (78-96% range).

Other back exercises with a high EMG output were: Dumbbell Bent-Over Two-Arm Row (93%), One-Arm Dumbbell Row (91%), T-Bar Row (89%), Lat Pull-down (86%) and Seated Pulley Row (83%) rounded out the highest EMG activity. Other research on performing a lat pull-down to the sternum with a light lean back also worked well (101%).

There are other exercises, like the Squat and Deadlift that focus on hips and legs but also recruit many other muscle groups, like the back. Both are considered great total-body exercises but the back is used more as a stabilizer than a prime mover compared to a Bent-over Row or Pull-up.

You now have a few back exercises, ranked by science, that you can hopefully start to use more often in your Jefit workouts. Stay Strong!

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Jefit Upgraded Back-end Infrastructure

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In May 2020 Jefit upgraded all their servers and back-end infrastructure in order to provide a more seamless experience for its users. This was a bold move and that’s why we took the chance to announce this on our trending section because we knew our downtime would take 24 hours or more to be completed. The migration was successful, however, bugs are inevitable during this process. We ask once again for your patience as we continue to fix the bugs and issues. Your patience and understanding is very much appreciated.

A More Powerful Backend Infrastructure

As a result of moving our servers from the east coast to west coast during this past week, the Jefit platform will become 10x more powerful. As a result, our user base will experience an increase in system performance, faster downloads, and an increase in overall speed. The by-product of this will be a much more responsive and stable Jefit app & website.

The team has been working around the clock to fix the issues users have been experiencing and we want you to know these bugs will be patched up by weeks end (May 10th).

A New Pro Trainer Platform on the Horizon

Jefit decided to push this server migration now because we needed to build a more robust platform to support a new part of the business. Jefit will soon announce their plans for rolling out a new segment of the business.

We know it’s been a tough week for you but we promise all your past issues will be fixed and patched up very soon! If you experience any issues until then, please reach out to our support team at support@jefit.com

Thank-you

The Jefit Team

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5 Foods to Eat for Accelerated Muscle Growth

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Food is quite literally our life energy source, think of it like high octane gas that fuels our brain and body. Eating specific foods may help when looking for muscle growth to occur. Our brain needs about 130 grams a day of carbohydrate to function optimally. It’s important for any nutrition plan to include all the major macronutrients and micronutrients. Our body also need amino acid-rich sources of protein for muscle growth to take place. Amino acids are considered the building blocks that eventually help form proteins. Almost all foods contain some source of protein. Amino acids are important because they play a big role in protein synthesis, tissue repair and nutrient absorption.

There are 20 different amino acids that are grouped together making up three separate categories. The body makes 12 of these amino acids and we get the other 8 from food we eat. The cool thing is our body produces thousands of different proteins using just these 20 amino acids. Amazing!

Non-Essential Amino Acids

Non-essential amino acids do not need to be included in the diet. Nine out of the 20 amino acids are essential, but adults only need to obtain eight of them: valine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine and tryptophan. The ninth amino acid, histidine, is only essential for infants. Your body doesn’t store amino acids, so it needs a regular daily supply of these essential building blocks.

Essential Amino Acids

Essential amino acids need to be included in the diet. There are handful of amino acids as you know but the one I’m going to mention here is leucine. “This amino acid directly contributes to muscle protein synthesis. It affects the ability to recover from both stress and exercise. Leucine facilitates cell growth as well as the formation of sterols which are used in the process of forming hormones like estrogen and testosterone.” Make sure the amino acid, leucine, is also in that whey protein shake you drink post workout. This will improve your chances for muscle growth. Research has shown just 1.5 grams of leucine can provide adequate stimulation for muscle protein synthesis. Other research has shown that 3 grams of leucine alone stimulates protein synthesis in young men.

Conditional Essential Amino Acids

You usually hear about essential and non-essential amino acids only. Conditional essential includes 8 amino acids that are specifically needed in the body under certain conditions like stress, exercise, aging, etc.

Some of the Best Protein Sources for Muscle Growth

1. Beef, Pork, Wild Game (especially if it’s grass-fed)

2. Poultry (i.e. chicken, turkey)

3. Eggs (the yolk contains most of the nutrients; also 185 mg cholesterol)

4. Fish & Seafood

5. Dairy (i.e. cottage cheese and plain Greek yogurt)

**Additional food sources like Tempeh, Tofu, Beans, and Nuts.

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Healthy food high in protein. Meat, fish, dairy products, nuts and beans

Did You Know…

Did you know that foods like broccoli (3 grams), baked potato (4 grams), avocado (4 grams), and a cup of quinoa (5 grams) also contain adequate amounts of protein. Add these healthy food options as “sides” with the main course mentioned above. They will also help meet your daily protein requirements to ensure muscle growth.

Great Recipe: Moroccan Lamb Stew (bonus recipe, contains 38 grams of protein)

What you’ll need to turn this into your dinner for tonight:

Canola oil (2 Tbsp)
Cubed lamb stew meat (2 lbs.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 cinnamon stick
One (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup pimento-stuffed green olives
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth

How to Make It:
1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the lamb, season well with salt and pepper, and cook until well browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, onion, and carrots and saute until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, and cinnamon stick. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chickpeas, apricots, green olives, tomatoes (with their juices), reserved lamb, and beef broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the lamb is very tender, 60 to 90 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Feeds 6

Nutrition per serving: 495 calories, 38g protein, 46g carbs, 10 g fiber, 16g fat (Credit: Paul Kita, Men’s Health Magazine)

How Much Protein Do I Really Need?

The average, healthy adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram per body weight. BUT, if your strength training and want to add muscle mass, that number needs to increase. See the protein recommendations (below) published by Precision Nutrition, found in The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, 3rd edition pp. 216. They offer a great online nutrition certification course BTW, I actually took it a few years ago.

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Protein Requirements

Questions for you. What do you consider the best choice for protein intake? How much protein are you taking in on a daily basis? For muscle growth to actually occur, sufficient protein requirements need to be met. Also important are adequate training stimulus and plenty of recovery (between workouts and sleep). Think of it as a three pronged approach. Enjoy! Eat Well. Stay Strong!

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