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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Excellent muscle gain article...

Just found this on Lyle's site.

It's an excellent article on the effect of different rep and set ranges.

I've always been a fan of lower rep ranges (5 to 8); lower set ranges (2-3) and higher rest periods (3-5 mins). The article shows nicely that this is still a good choice for both strength and size gains, but with the warning that lower reps with higher sets tends to stress the nervous system and lead to injury and fatigue.

I'm currently experimenting with fine-tuning my rep and set ranges based on how each muscle group responds to reps in the range of 5 - 15. I think I've settled on my "optimal" reps and sets based on the following protocol:

For several weeks, I trained each exercise with a set of 5 reps, then 10 reps, then 15. As always, when I was able to lift a weight for the assigned number of reps, I would increase the weight the following week. After several weeks I could then determine what the maximum weight I could lift for each exercise and each rep range. Being a total spreadsheet and graph nerd, I produced the following:

It shows a best fit curve for all of the exercises that I do (Leg Press, Deadlift, Weighted Chins, Weighted Ring Dips, One-Arm DB row, DB Bench).

Three important things stick out from this graph:

1) DB Bench quickly suffers loss of strength as the reps increase.
2) DB Row maintains a good weight through all rep ranges.
3) All other exercises behave similar to each other - suffering only slight losses in strength as reps are increased.

This probably indicates that, at least for me, the biceps contain more slow-twitch / endurance-type muscle fibres and the triceps contain more fast-twitch / strength-type fibres.

As a result, I have modified my sets and reps slightly to the following routine:

Workout A:

Leg Press / Squat
(10x reps warmup set @ 25% weight - e.g. 30 kg)
(10x reps warmup set @ 50% weight - e.g. 50 kg)
7x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. 100 kg)
10x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. 90 kg)

Weighted Chins
7x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. +35 kg)
11x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. +25 kg)

DB Rows
(10x reps warmup set @ 25% weight - e.g. 10 kg)
(10x reps warmup set @ 50% weight - e.g. 20 kg)
10x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. 40 kg)
15x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. 36 kg)

Workout B:

DB Bench
(10x reps warmup set @ 25% weight - e.g. 12 kg)
(10x reps warmup set @ 50% weight - e.g. 22 kg)
5x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. 45 kg)
8x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. 40 kg)

(10x reps warmup set @ 25% weight - e.g. 50 kg)
(10x reps warmup set @ 50% weight - e.g. 70 kg)
7x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. 140 kg)

Weighted Ring Dips
6x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. +30 kg)
8x reps at maximum weight for that rep range (e.g. +20 kg)

I've found each workout takes around 1 hour, which is ideal for me. I'll do Workout A, then rest the next day, then do Workout B. Thus, I'm going to the gym every other day and hitting each muscle group every fourth day.

Note that there's only one set of deadlifts. I've found this an intense exercise and that one set is all that is needed. (Having recently set a record for my weight category in a drug-free powerlifting competition, the evidence seems to back this theory up too!)

A Magic Bullet Appears...

OK, this post might be somewhat controversial for two reasons - 1) There are no (legal) magic bullets when it comes to fat loss and muscle gain and 2) nicotine is generally associated with cigarettes, which are without a doubt, Not Healthy.

With that disclaimer out of the way, I want to talk a little about my recent positive experience with a form of tobacco called snus. It's essentially a ground, moist tobacco popular in Scandinavian countries. I first tried it while working in Norway, when a friend / colleague there offered it to me. Willing to try anything once, I gave it a go. Being a non-smoker, my sensitivity to nicotine is quite high, so I soon found the effects a little too strong (light-headed, racing heart, agitation).

However, I have since found that it's available in differing strengths, and somewhat more importantly, in pre-packaged bags known as portion snus. This far easier to use and less messy.

I recently entered a powerlifting competition, and having been within the weight limit for several weeks (59 kg / 130 lb), I found myself with one week to go, but 1kg over the limit! Desperate to ensure I made the weigh-in, I did some research and found that nicotine has very similar effects to a substance known as ephedrine, which itself is an analogue of adrenaline. Ephedrine has long been used by bodybuilders to shred the last of the bodyfat, which is the hardest to metabolise. However, it is not (legally) available in the UK and perhaps more importantly for me, is also a banned substance on the IPF / WADA list. (As I probably mentioned before, I have decided to take the drug-free route to achieving my maximum size / strength). You can see / judge my level of leanness from a recent pre-diet photo in a previous post.

Nicotine's effects are two-fold, which is why it's so useful - not only does it blunt hunger, meaning that the necessary requirement of a calorie-deficit isn't so tough to manage, but it mobilises fat stores (i.e. up-regulates lipolysis). I found that this was incredibly useful. Not only was I not hungry while dieting, it seemed that this was partly due to my body finally having access to the tough-to-reach final fat stores. The key point here is that nicotine, in combination with a calorie deficit, is a useful dietary tool. Something that fellow blogger Peter at Hyperlipid has also noticed.

I still need to mention that, like Peter, I believe the key to losing body fat is by minimising insulin levels. This is best achieved by reducing carbohydrate intake and/or eating less frequently. The true magic bullets to my last-minute weight loss were heavy weight sessions in the gym, combined with a single modest meal of steak and salad, keeping carbohydrates to around 50 g (or less) on non-workout days and not allowing more than about 100g carbohydrates on a workout day. The nicotine just helped to "eat into" the modest remaining fat stores and also remove the hunger that would have been present as a result of the calorie deficit - probably in the region of 500-1000 calories per day.