“Strong” Benefits of Reverse Pyramid Training

Reverse pyramid training (RPT) is great training option to use when looking to gain muscle size and strength. This type of program design features high-intensity sets but low volume workouts. Reverse pyramid training is simply a lifting style. RPT involves the heaviest weight used early in each overall sequence of sets for a particular muscle group. The reason this type of training works so well is because it takes advantage of a persons high energy level early in a workout. As a result, the muscles are not fatigued (yet) and, therefore, have the ability to handle heavier loads early in the workout. The idea is to do as many repetitions as possible (AMRAP) without going to failure during each set.

Reverse Training Pyramid Example

Here are a few examples of what an upper and lower body RPT would look like following an efficient warm-up. This would be an example for an intermediate lifter who is looking to build strength and hypertrophy. Rest between sets is approximately 2-3 minutes using a tempo of about 4-seconds/repetition, 2-seconds each for concentric and eccentric phase. Decrease the weight between subsequent sets by approximately 10-15 percent.

1A – BENCH PRESS

(*Perform 2-3 warm-up sets for each exercise*)

225 x 6

185 x 10

160 x 12

1B – INCLINE BENCH PRESS

155 x 8

125 x 10

105 x 12

2A – SQUAT

(*Perform 3 warm-up sets for each exercise*)

315 x 3

275 x 6

235 x 8

2B – DEADLIFT

345 x 4

295 x 6

250 x 8

Research Review on Reverse Pyramid Training

There are few studies in the research literature that look at the benefits of RPT. But in that same breath, know that RPT is not better than traditional training. It offers you another training option but with a nice caveat – it can be used to help break through training plateaus. According to research published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, training with repetitions around the 8-12 range allows for gains in muscle size compared to training with less repetitions, such as 2-4 repetitions, will elicit more of a strength gain. The outcome, as it relates to RPT, is the lifter receives both benefits (size and strength).

Changing Training Stimulus is Important in Reverse Pyramid Training

One way to bust through a training plateau is to change the training stimulus. This could be done by switching in/out exercises, changing repetitions, sets, or adjusting volume or rest between sets to name a few. This could also be a good time to add in RPT. Every few months, think about how changing things up a bit could benefit your overall program. Remember, the body continually adapts to the training stimulus provided. Your goal is to periodically measure how you are doing on the program, adjust, pivot if necessary, and continue to push through.

Newly Released RPT Program on the Jefit App

Please visit the Jefit app to download this free, beginner Reverse Pyramid Training program that accompanies this article. You can find it here. Thanks and Stay Strong with Jefit.

Please feel free to share this post on social media and with family & friends:>)

Best Bodyweight Exercises for Strength? Do the Dip

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When you do your next workout make sure you add a few sets of bodyweight dips into the mix. This effective, multi-joint exercise is considered one of the best bodyweight exercises available. Talk about getting a lot of “bang for your buck” from one single compound movement. Let’s take a deeper look at this exercise.

Exercise Technique
  • Take hold of each handle with a firm grasp. Extend both arms until they are almost locked out and the body is vertical.
  • Engage the core by drawing the navel in towards the spine.
  • Inhale as you lower the body downward by flexing the arms.
  • Slowly lower the body until the triceps are parallel to the floor while keeping forearms vertical. Arms should be at a 90-degree angle.
  • The upper body is leaning forward slightly throughout movement. Pause and return to the starting position as you exhale.
Targeted Muscle Groups

The exercise is ideal for building strength and muscle mass in both the chest (pectoralis major, pectoralis minor) and arms (triceps brachii). There is also demand placed on the shoulders especially the anterior head of the deltoid. In addition, the back also gets some work (latissimus dorsi, rhomboid and trapezius). This is one reason why it’s considered by many as one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do!

Exercise Options

One of the great things about this particular movement is its versatility. The options and exercise variations are many.

  • Machine-based dips
  • Machine-assisted dips
  • Bench dips (feet on the floor)
  • Bench dips (feet elevated)
  • Traditional dip (as pictured)
  • Weighted dip (*hold off until you can perform 10-12 bodyweight repetitions using good form*).
Muscle Recruitment During the Exercise

The great thing about performing dips is depending on how you position the body will dictate the load placed on different muscle groups. Meaning, as you lean forward slightly (45-degree angle), on the upward and down phase, you’ll put more demand on the chest muscles. When the focus is the chest, the arms are angled away from the body slightly. In contrast, when the body is positioned and held more vertical, the demand shifts more towards the triceps. If the goal is to target the triceps more, then keep the arms closer to the body. As seen in the left photo below.

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How Dips Help Other Exercise (like “Boost Your Bench”)

By doing dips periodically, you end up getting not only stronger, you’re able to push through plateaus better, for exercises like bench press. Research shows that exercises that require you to move your body through space, versus stationary exercises, require more muscle recruitment. This is why an exercise like a squat will always be superior to a stationary or supported movement like a leg press. A dip exercise also develops a large proportion of muscle that sits on the upper body. Personally, in addition to getting my chest and arms stronger, I feel like my shoulder muscles – used as stabilizers – get that added bonus of also getting stronger as a by-product of doing dips. If you have any type of shoulder issues or have been told you have a shoulder impingement, this should be a contraindicated exercise. Stay Strong with Jefit.

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Five Powerful Ways to Improve Performance

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It seems everyone is looking for ways to improve performance. You can be a high school, college or professional athlete, it doesn’t matter, we’re all looking to get better. The same holds true when it comes to our diet and working out. There are many ways to optimize performance such as fueling your body with high octane fuel. If nutrition is not your goal, it may come in the form of recovery aids like an ice bath after a workout, mobility work before a workout or simply getting more uninterrupted sleep. The following five methods may lend some insight into this topic.

Improve Performance with Caffeine

A simple yet effective way to elevate performance is having caffeine prior to exercise. A good recommendation is between 3 to 13 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. For a deeper look at the benefits of caffeine on exercise performance, check out the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on caffeine and performance.

Enhanced Mobility is Key

Mobility refers to a joint moving through its full range of motion, unrestricted and without pain. When you’re unable to do this, its dysfunctional movement. The end result is inefficient range of motion which prevents optimal performance. Moreover, the body does not work to its full potential because of this restricted movement. Simply put, improving mobility will make you stronger, run faster and jump higher.

Try Nasal Breathing Over Mouth Breathing

Something top athletes have known when trying to improve their performance, that it’s better to breath through the nose versus the mouth. This may sound trivial but trust me it’s not. There are many scientific research papers and books published on the topic. The book, Breath by James Nestor, talks at length about the importance of nasal breathing. Check it out to learn about the history and additional information on the benefits of nasal breathing.

Nasal breathing, as opposed to mouth breathing, offers a wide range of advantages, especially when it comes to more efficient exercise. It basically allows more oxygen to get to your active tissues when you exercise. Exercise stimulates nitric oxide production just like nasal breathing does. Nitric oxide is also involved in bodily processes like widening blood vessels, known as vasodilation. This, in turn, increases delivery of oxygen to working muscles during exercise. The by-product of all this is enhanced exercise performance.

Avoid Stretching Prior to Exercise. Do a Dynamic Warm-up Instead

Stretching prior to exercise is not beneficial unless you’re looking to decrease power output. Rather, perform a brief (5-10 minute) dynamic warm-up before any running or strength training session. Dynamic warm-up exercises are usually bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, push-ups, hops, inchworm, shoulder rolls or leg swings, to name a few examples. The research all points to using dynamic warm-up over static-type stretching before athletic competition or exercise in general.

Recovery (More Sleep) Improves Performance

When adequate recovery between workouts, does not occur, the body will invariably have trouble adapting to the demands of training. Shifting mindset, making sleep a top priority, will go well beyond just lifting more weight in the next workout. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed individuals getting less than 5.5 hours of sleep a night, lost 60 percent more lean muscle that those who got adequate sleep. Additional research from the University of Chicago showed subjects who monitored their caloric intake and averaged 5.5 hours of sleep had more body fat compared to subjects who were consistently getting 8.5 hours of sleep.

We know losing lean muscle and gaining body fat is never a good mix, especially if you’re looking to improve the way you do things. The book, Biological Rhythms and Exercise, looks at the relationship between performance and sleep. The author, Thomas Reilly, states, “weight-training exercises may be unaffected by partial sleep loss early on in a training session, but the performance suffers due to lack of drive and concentration as the (exercise) session continues.”

There are many healthy ways that someone can improve performance. Hopefully, one of the ways mentioned will do just that.

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Understanding the Impact of Biomarkers

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First, what are biomarkers? They include hundreds of different metrics that basically offer insight into how your body is managing the aging process. A few examples include, blood pressure, muscle mass, aerobic capacity, heart rate, blood profile, and different genetic tests. In fact, these metrics, or biological markers, can be broken down into various categories.

Let’s look at a few of the suggested markers from the book, Biomarkers: The 10 Determinants of Aging You Can Control by Bill Evans, PhD and Irwin Rosenberg, MD. They focus their research on ten biological markers that would be interesting to individuals like you who exercise. The following list includes three of the ten biomarkers discussed in their book.

Muscle Mass: A Very Important Biomarker

This is at the top of their list for good reason, maintaining muscle mass as you age is critical for functionality. This first and second biomarker go hand-in-hand and you know the importance of both (beyond just looking good). Let a month go by without strength training and see what happens to that mass mass and strength level of yours. Our body, sadly, begins to detrain in as little as a few weeks.

If you don’t strength train on a regular basis you’re basically an accident waiting to happen. Further, you will become part of the statistical group that loses approximately 5-8 pounds of metabolically active lean muscle mass each decade starting around age 35. Researchers Evans and Rosenberg have said “the first biomarker, muscle mass, is responsible for the vitality of your whole body.”

Maintaining Strength

It’s important to understand that maintaining both muscle and strength as you age is really important. When someone strength trains for the rest of their life they end up maintaining or improving many of the other biological markers. When muscle mass and strength decrease, so will other biological markers.

With the loss of muscle mass comes the loss of strength and power. Strength appears to peak between ages 25 and 35 and maintained (or decreases slightly) between ages of 40 and 59. Strength levels declines by 12-14 percent per decade after 50 years of age, according to research. The good news is that if you engage in regular strength training, you can preserve both strength and muscle mass, as shown in the photo below of the 40 and 70-year old athletes (hint: they have roughly the same amount of muscle mass 30-years apart).

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Basal Metabolic Rate

The third biomarker, basal metabolic rate or BMR, is interrelated with the first two metrics on the list. Basal and resting metabolic rates (also known as BMR and RMR) are basically an estimate of the amount of calories your body needs to function properly while at rest. It represents the minimum amount of energy (calories) needed for your heart to beat, for your lungs to function properly and to maintain a normal body temperature. Metabolic rate is typically 6-10 percent lower in women compared to men. Metabolic rate is also affected by age, exercise, stress, temperature, hydration, high altitude, sleep and frequency of meals. Regular exercise, especially strength training, has been shown to slow down the natural decrease of metabolism with age.

These are just three of the of the many hundreds of biological markers available to monitor. Regular strength training will have short and long-term impacts on each of these biomarkers. Just a few more reasons to stay strong!

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Why Repetitions are an Important Training Variable

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There are four training variables that require manipulation during a workout in order to make significant gains in the gym. An easy way to remember them is with an acronym known as FITT. The FITT Principle, as it is referred to, stands for training frequency, intensity, timing and type (specificity). These variables are controlled for during each training session and over the length of the training program. Frequency is the number of sessions per week, intensity is the load expressed as resistance, time is simply duration of a workout and finally type is the activity.

With that said, to reach any fitness goal, the rules of overload and progression should be followed in a given workout. Each of these are key training principles that refers to the amount of load or resistance and the way that load should be increased respectively.

The Importance of a Repetition

You can perform hundreds of repetitions in a given workout. The speed of a repetition, total number of repetitions and the volume, all play an important role in muscular development. Variations in either will have a direct correlation on the nervous and muscular systems via the corresponding training stimulus. Let’s break down each one of these.

Repetition Speed or Tempo and TUT

A repetition has three distinct phases, an upward, isometric and lowering phase. As a result, we have the ability to increase or decrease time under tension (TUT) by manipulating the tempo (speed) for a given repetition. For example, a workout with a prescribed tempo of 1/1/2 would mean, a 1-second upward (concentric), 1-second isometric and a 2-second lowering (eccentric) phase. Therefore, in this case, each one takes 4-seconds to complete. In other words, 4-seconds x total repetitions = TUT. If we use 8 repetitions as an example, we would have 32-seconds of TUT. A good range to shoot for is about 30-50 seconds of TUT/set. Research has demonstrated the importance of TUT and the key may be in the cumulative effect of TUT for an entire workout (all sets) versus to a single set.

Repetition Tempo x Total # Repetitions = TUT

Quantity of Repetitions

One of the first things you learn when strength training is a higher number of repetitions stimulates muscle endurance while a lower number builds strength. Here is nice graph, showing the importance of a repetition scheme on a specific training goal, as seen in the NSCA manual.

TRAINING GOALREPETITIONSINTENSITY (% 1-RM)
Strength Endurance>12<67%
Hypertrophy6-1267-85%
Maximum Strength<6>85%
Power
-Single-repetition event
-Multiple-repetition event

1-2
3-5

80-90%
75-85%
Source: NSCA Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.) 2008.

Exercise Volume (sets x repetitions x load)

The volume is the quantity of work that someone does in a training session. In regard to strength training, this is the number of repetitions multiplied by the number of sets and weight lifted. For example, performing four sets x 8 using 40-lbs. dumbbells equates to a volume of 32 x 40 or 1280. In addition, volume can also be expressed in terms of distance, time, number of throws, or even number of jumps, etc. For example, when performing medicine ball throws for 35-seconds, volume can be quantified by time. Volume can also be expressed in terms of distance, such as sprinting for 100-meters or running a certain number of miles, like a 5k. An inverse relationship exists between the intensity of an exercise and its volume.

The Value of this Information Moving Forward

During your next workout pay attention to how you execute each repetition in each set you perform. Be more aware of the tempo for each repetition; have an idea of the cumulative TUT post workout. Are you less than 30-seconds/TUT/set like many who train? Is your total TUT changing from one workout to the next based on your training goals? If you know you move through your repetitions quickly, that fine (especially training for power), maybe slow down that final phase of each repetition. The lowering or eccentric phase is important because you can typically handle more weight, so slow things down to challenging your muscles more often, keeping the concept of TUT in the back of your mind. Stay strong with Jefit.

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Exercise Review: Deadlift

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One of the best and most often used exercises is the deadlift. However, it’s also an exercise that many people perform incorrectly for a multitude of reasons. A good rule of thumb prior to lifting, is to address posterior chain mobility. This can be done by assessing back, hip and hamstring mobility. Try the following test, see if you can touch your fingertips to the bar prior to performing the deadlift. Attempt this by keeping the legs straight and not rounding your back. If you can, you’re in good shape.

Exercise Execution

Starting Position

  • Begin with the feet flat, positioning them somewhere between hip and shoulder-width apart. Feet should be pointed straight or angled out slight (10-15 degrees), depending on your choice and experience. Note: some movement expert like Dr. Kelly Starrett suggest positioning feet straight ahead while others say turn the feet out slightly. Moreover, doing this engages more of the glute muscles like the glute medius. The question arises, however, can you brace your body and create the torque needed by “screwing” the feet into the floor when the feet are turned out?
  • Next, squat down until the hips are lower than the shoulders grasping the bar with a closed, alternated grip (one overhand the other underhand). Other grip choices include double overhand and hook grips. Please note, if you have trouble getting into this position – you’re probably not ready to perform the movement due to hip or back mobility issues.
  • Position the Olympic bar about 1-inch away from the front of your shins.
  • Make sure you check off the following items regarding your body position. Your back is “flat”, relaxed neck & trapezius area, retract your shoulder blades, and position shoulders over the bar.

Upward Movement

  • Pull the bar from the floor by extending the knees and hips.
  • This is key – do not let the hips rise before the shoulders.
  • Keep the elbows extended and shoulders over the bar during the execution of the lift.
  • As the bar passes the knees push the hips forward.

Downward Movement Phase

  • To return the bar to the floor, think about sitting back first. Allow the hips and knees to flex as the bar returns to the floor.
  • Maintain a flat back keeping elbows extending, looking straight ahead.
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Deadlift Upward Movement: Pull Phase

Exercise Options

Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Hex Bar Deadlift

Dumbbell Deadlift

Muscle Groups Involved During the “Compound Movement”

PRIME MOVERS (Hip Extensors)

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstrings

STABILIZERS

  • Quadriceps
  • Lower leg
  • Back
  • Core

REFERENCES

Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 2nd Edition, NSCA, Baechle T. R., Earle R.W. Human Kinetics: Champaign, IL., 2000.

Becoming a Supple Leopard, Starrett K. and Cordoza G., Victory Belt Publishing: Las Vegas, NV., 2013.

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Dropping Knowledge: Exercise and Nutrition Book Review

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More than a million books are published in a typical year, as a result, it can be difficult to know which ones are really worth your time to both buy and read. The Jefit team has put together a short list of some of the best health and fitness related content that we thought may peak your interest. This is part one of an upcoming series highlighting some of the best books available that you’ll hopefully get an opportunity to read soon. A goal of the initial list, and future posts on the topic, is to help save our readers time and money offering a cliff notes version of some of the best reading the fitness industry has to offer. Our recommendations will focus on topics like exercise, nutrition, recovery, supplements, HIT, and strength training.

Click on any of the 24 links below to read a quick preview or review. If you have any personal recommendations, please let us know.

Exercise Related

Movement & Mobility

Nutrition

Health & Fitness Related

The list above includes some of the biggest names in their respective fields via coaching, training, research, and writing (like Bill Bryson and Alex Hutchinson). Further, the books named to our initial list are more than just informational; we feel they can help improve the way you function and move beyond the gym. One that made the list, “Breath” by James Nestor, was recently published. During a recent workout, I heard the author being interviewed on a podcast I was listening to at the time and immediately downloaded it after my workout, which proved to be interesting reading.

Hopefully this is a helpful start for you in terms of finding, informative, science-based, topics written by respected industry leaders that you can hopefully read soon. Having read them all, I can highly recommend each one. Please do the same and share this post with any book lovers you know – thanks!

Stay strong with Jefit.

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Are You Focusing Enough on Mobility in Workouts?

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You should not experience joint pain when you perform activities of daily living (known as ADL’s). How does your body feel during a typical day? Do you feel pain when you move your hips, shoulders or knees through their full range of motion? Take the shoulder joint as an example. When you perform shoulder flexion, extension, rotation, or for that matter internal or external rotation, are those movements pain free? Do you have joint pain when working out? If pain is present, there may be an issue with the mobility of that joint.

What is Mobility?

In order to better understand mobility you first have to grasp what flexibility is. Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to stretch when needed. Conversely, mobility is the ability of a joint to actively move through its expected range of motion. Both flexibility and mobility change over the course of time. Think of both as nourishment for your body; flexibility keeps the muscles happy and healthy while good mobility leads to happy and healthy joints, like your hips and spine. When moving and doing any type of activity, good flexibility and mobility are associated with pain free movement in the muscles and joints respectively.

Never Enough Time for Mobility

When you go for a run or have a great strength training session, you feel the benefits of each immediately. This may not be the case, at times, for mobility. You need to put the time in each day to work on improving mobility now so it continues to pay back dividends as you age. Take 5-10 minutes before each workout and work on the areas that you feel like your lacking mobility.

Begin with areas on your body where you experience the most pain. This along with limited joint range of motion are key ingredients that will eventually lead to dysfunction and it needs your attention, now!

Check for Mobility Issues with Simple Testing

A previous Jefit blog post looked at the pressure placed on the back when sitting, standing and walking. Read that post to better understand how heavy loads placed on the body can effect the spine. Keep in mind you can kill two birds with one stone here, start using mobility drills to act first as a warm-up while also working on mobility.

Apley’s Scratch Test

  • To test your mobility of your right shoulder, stand up and raise your left arm straight above your head (see picture below).
  • Flex your left elbow placing your left palm on the upper back and neck area, then slide it down between your shoulder blades.
  • Take your right hand and reach behind your body so the top part of your hand rests on the middle of your back.
  • Reach down with your left hand while reaching up with your right. The goal is to try to touch the fingers of both hands together.
  • Have someone measure the distance between your fingertips. If your fingers are touching or overlapping, record that as good.
  • Now switch arms and test your opposite shoulder.
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Right shoulder Apley Scratch Test – testing shoulder mobility

If you’re like me and have a few inches of separation between your fingers (see picture above), you need to work on improving shoulder mobility. Begin by using a foam roller regularly to rollout the upper back and shoulder areas. Hanging from a pull-up bar with both hands, progress to single-arm hangs for 15-30 seconds and repeat for a few sets. Next, stretch the shoulder capsule daily performing a posterior capsule stretch followed by a tricep stretch. You can use a yoga strap to help stretch and close the gap between your fingers. This is a good first step before adding in occasional vibration work, massage and myofascial release.

Kneeling Thoracic Mobility

The mid-back or thoracic spine (T-spine) is an area that is restricted in most people especially those who do a great deal of sitting or driving. The key here is to first release any tight fascia around the mid back area. The best bet is to perform foam rolling or “rolling out” on taped tennis balls or a lacrosse ball. After loosening the area, try the following mobility drill. If you have difficulty or feel “resistance” rotating your body while moving your elbow up towards the ceiling, you need to work on T-spine mobility.

  • Start in a quadruped position (on all fours).
  • Touch your left hand to the left side of your head.
  • Exhale. As you breath in rotate your body and raise that left elbow up towards the ceiling, keeping the hand in contact with the head throughout.
  • As you’re doing this, push the right into the floor. Think about your mid-back during this dynamic movement.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, following your breath. Move to the speed of your inhale/exhale. Repeat for repetitions.

Simple Hip Mobility Test

The area that many people have trouble with is hip mobility. Mobility issues or dysfunction in this area typically leads to other major issues like back-related problems. A good first step is to add in hip mobility drills as part of your dynamic warm-up prior to every strength or cardio workout. Then foam roll 5-10 minutes hitting the upper thigh before lying side ways to roll the gluteus medius. Finally, position yourself on the foam roller to target the inner thigh and roll out that area before lying supine rolling out your gluteus maximus. Then try this quick test to assess hip mobility.

  • Sit tall in a chair with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Without using your hands, see if you can lift and cross your right leg over your left? Then try the same on the opposite side (you should be able to).
  • After attempting that, position the right ankle above your left knee that is bent (like in the picture below).
  • Take a few deep breaths in/out and relax.
  • Now take a look at the angle of the right leg that is crossed.
  • If the leg feels comfortable and drops below a 45-degree angle or is parallel to the floor, you’re in good shape.
  • Most people, however, will have a 45-degree angle or greater and feel tightness in the hip complex. Is so, you guessed it…work on hip mobility.
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A quick and easy hip mobility test

These are just three of the many tests you can do on yourself to assess where you’re at mobility wise. Mobility work must become a component of your weekly exercise routine. There may be days where your body just needs to skip a workout and rollout and work on mobility drills. Your body and performance will love you for it. Stay strong and mobile with Jefit.

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Is Training Intensity the Key to Strength & Muscle Hypertrophy?

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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

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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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Facts About Lean Muscle and Body Fat

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The body is an amazing organism made up of many different elements, including various types of tissue, bone, organ and fluid. Two of which, lean muscle and body fat, are discussed most often when it comes to exercise and a sustainable lifestyle. We exercise and monitor our nutritional intake to order to build one, lean muscle, while trying to lose the other, body fat (also known as adipose tissue).

How Much Lean Muscle Does the Average Adult Carry?

Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in our body, accounting for approximately 42 percent and 35 percent of body weight in men and women respectively. In other words, an average male weighing 185 pounds has about 78 pounds of lean muscle tissue while a female weighing 140 pounds has approximately 49 pounds of lean muscle tissue. Take muscle and fat out of the equation, and bodyweight still has other constituents like, water, mineral, bone, connective tissue, and organ weight. Speaking of organ weight, did you know the average human heart weighs about 10 oz. while the brain weighs about 3 pounds? That same average male may have, on average, about 25 percent body fat (or 46 pounds of fat) while that average female may have 30 percent body fat (or 42 pounds of fat).

Did You Know this About Lean Muscle…

One of the amazing things about muscle tissue is that it has the ability through regular, progressive, resistance exercise, to increase in size (known as muscle hypertrophy). Donnelly and colleagues have reported that strength training studies (lasting from 8 to 52 weeks) have shown increases of 2.2 to 4.5 pounds of muscle mass. In addition to increasing in size, muscle tissue also gets stronger with prolonged training. A periodized strength training program can elicit changes in endurance capacity, power output and force production while keeping sarcopenia at bay.

Protein stores found in muscle can account for about 30,000 calories of energy. Muscle tissue can contribute approximately 20 percent of the body’s total daily energy expenditure compared to 5 percent for fat tissue (it would be great if we could tap into those fat stores more often).

Lean muscle tissue requires 3-4 times more calories to maintain compared to fat and is important in the process of energy metabolism. A pound of metabolically active muscle tissue requires 5-7 calories per pound to maintain while less active fat tissue, requires only 2 calories per pound.

Finally, muscle plays an important role in the aging process. With advancing age we experience a loss of exercise capacity. This is due to first, to a decline in skeletal muscle mass and strength during aging and then a decrease in maximal oxygen uptake mainly due to a drop in maximal heart rate, according to Henning Wackerhage, PhD, a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Exercise Physiology at the University of Aberdeen.

Did you Know this About Fat…

Fat is found in the body in the form of triglycerides and stored in fat cells which are called adipocytes. According to Coyle, about 50,000 to 60,000 calories of energy are stored in fat cells throughout the body. Fat can also be stored within skeletal muscle cells.

Fat accumulated in the lower body is subcutaneous. While fat in the abdominal area is largely visceral. Where fat ends up on your body is influenced by several factors, including hormones and heredity.

The photo below shows equivalent amounts of fat and muscle. Lean muscle, however, is more dense and takes up one-third less space compared to fat. Five pounds of muscle and fat may in fact weigh the same but that is where the similarities end.

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Source: Reddit

One thing is for certain, we typically want more lean muscle and less body fat. Regular strength training is a much needed critical component for everything from health to activities of daily living. Check out some of the many great strength training routines found on Jefit, like the FitBody Plan. Stay strong with Jefit.

References

Marieb, EN and Hoehn, K. (2010). Human Anatomy and Physiology (8th ed.). San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings.

Elia, M. (1999). Organ and Tissue Contribution to Metabolic Weight. Energy Metabolism: Tissue Determinants and Cellular Corollaries. Kinney, J.M., Tucker, H.N., eds. Raven Press. New York.

Donnelly, J.E., Jakicic, J.M., et. al. (2003). Is Resistance Training Effective for Weight Management Evidence-Based Preventive Medicine. 1(1): 21-29.

Wackerhage, H. (2014). Molecules, Aging and Exercise in Molecular Exercise Physiology. Routledge.

Wood, M. (2018). TBC30: 6 Steps to a Stronger and Healthier You. Wicked Whale Publishing.

Coyle, EF. (1995). Fat metabolism during exercise. Sports Science Exchange, 8(6):59.

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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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