Sunday, 5 February 2012

Bodybuilding Rep Range

The lowly rep gets taken for granted all to often in our quest for ever increasing size and strength. It is the basic unit of work that makes up weight training. Done correctly for the right number, the results are staggering. Done improperly, each rep you do can potentially injure you and NOT significantly contribute to your results. While we are all different here are some generalities about rep speed and numbers.

Low Reps

When people spend time doing low reps, like 1-4 reps, they are generally focusing on the strength component. Yes, some people build great size doing reps this low, but for most people the time under tension (TUT) is too low to significantly contribute to size gains. What? Don't strength gains = size gains? Well, yes and no. Strength gains using a rep range that is high enough to keep the muscle loaded long enough to stimulate mass gains are what you are looking for, but when you are only putting the muscle under a load lasting from 3-15 seconds you are primarily training the neural system to become more efficient at “firing” the signal that tells your muscles to contract. These high loads also help stimulate ligament and tendon growth.

Low-Medium Reps

In bodybuilding circles low reps are generally thought of as 5-8 reps. This rep range works very well for strength, and size is also built as long as the reps aren't done too “fast”. This means that the weight is controlled throughout the complete rep, i.e., it isn't heaved up, and then allowed to drop during the descent. Like all things bodybuilding/weight training related, some people respond better than others to this rep range, some people build incredible size doing 6-8 reps, and for others, mostly strength is built. This has a lot to do with muscle fiber composition unique to the individual, but can also have a lot to do with how the individual rep is performed. More on this to follow….

Medium-High Reps

Reps from 8-15 are what are traditionally done in bodybuilding to focus on size at the expense of strength. It is the range most often used by people doing “volume” training, and training for the pump. Because the time under tension is increased this range works very well to help accrue mass. As we will see in a minute any rep range other than very low reps can all be very effective at stimulating size goals dependent on how they are performed.

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High Reps

Most trainees do not do high reps that start at 15 and go up to 50 or even more. This is a shame because depending on how they are completed they can be absolutely the best way to go for some muscle groups, for some people. Legs especially respond well to higher reps, as do some people's muscle groups that have primarily slow twitch fibers.

Now that rep ranges have been generically defined, what is the best way to do a rep, and how many reps should a trainee do for optimal results? Big question, and one that can't be given as a blanket statement, but here are some guidelines. First about rep speed, look around you in the gym and you will see people practically throwing the weights and others lifting slowly and controlled. If you take a look at the people throwing them and doing their lifts in a very fast, uncontrolled fashion, one thing you will usually find as a commonality with these people is that they are usually SMALL guys! Why is this? A few things come into play here. One of the biggest reasons is that the eccentric portion (lowering the weight) of the lift is the part of the lift that is primarily responsible for muscle hypertrophy. The eccentric portion of the lift is the part that is responsible for the muscle “damage” that occurs during training, and this is one of the reasons your body adapts to the training load by “super-compensating”, i.e., getting bigger and stronger. Guys that throw the weight up and allow it to drop are TOTALLY cheating themselves of the portion of the lift that is most responsible for the growth they are trying to accomplish. They are also not exposing their muscles to sufficient time under tension for optimal growth. Doing a set of 8 with a ½ second positive and ½ second negative exposes the target muscle with about a total of 12 seconds loading by the time you take into account the short pause at the top and bottom portion of the movement. Remember that:

Weight x distance x speed = work completed

With this in mind it becomes abundantly clear that all reps are NOT created equally!

Now do that same 8 rep set with a 2 second positive and 2 second negative and you have about 32 seconds of loading, and a set that takes about 45-60 seconds to perform counting pauses. Now you have something that will effectively load the muscle, and keep it loaded for long enough to increase both size and strength. This is an almost perfect speed for most trainees and is a still fast enough to use serious weight, yet still slow enough to load the muscles long enough for effective hypertrophy training. Is two seconds up, 2 down the perfect way to perform a rep? Not at all, but it does work very well for many people. For pure strength training a slightly faster positive portion can be performed while keeping the negative at 2 or three seconds works great. Of course you need to keep in mind the range of motion of whatever exercise you are doing will somewhat determine how long a rep takes. A calf-raise has a MUCH shorter range of motion that say a deadlift, so again all lifts are not done at exactly the same cadence.

What about going slower to increase the TUT? Is this the way to go? For pure size gains I will state unequivocally YES! This is with the caveat that you have the mental fortitude to do this type of training. Here is why the average guy doesn't do as well with 4-8 second eccentric reps. 1) They are forced to use weights that don't stoke the ego. It's hard for the guy that is benching 250 for 6 to drop it to 200 for 8 slow reps. Makes him look bad in front of the guys. Never mind that if you did the math (see the formula above) you would see he was actually doing more work. 2) It HURTS doing reps this slow and the pain factor simply makes most people cave-in before getting their work in.

So what are some good ways to increase TUT? Well you can increase the reps. This works fine except for the fact that it forces you to use a lighter weight thus reducing the actual load imposed on the target muscle. You can just do more sets; this too increases the total overall time your muscles are loaded for. The problem with this method is that once your training volume reaches a certain threshold you have entered the city limits of over-training where no growth is allowed within city limits. Alternatively you can do intensity enhancing techniques such as drop sets, or rest/pause that among other things significantly increase your TUT. Drop sets work well for many people as they allow you to take a weight and do your full allotment of reps using a nice controlled rep speed, and then when you fail, instead of terminating the set you immediately pick up a lighter weight and continue to do more reps. The downsides to this are: 1) That after the weight is dropped you are now lifting a lighter weight, thus the weight load perceived by your muscles is lower. 2) Too much beyond failure training tends to over-train many individuals. My favorite way of increasing TUT aside from slowing down rep speed is rest/pause. Rest pause is done by taking a weight you can get your target reps with, and then when failure is reached instead of racking the bar, you rest/breath long enough to get a couple more reps, then repeat the rest/breath sequence until your target reps are completed. Typically, the reps beyond failure are about equal to how many reps you got on the first portion of the set taken to failure. So if you got eight reps before hitting failure, you would then do 2 more, + 2 more, + 2 more, the 1 more making a total of 15 reps completed. One great feature of rest/pause is that the same heavy weight is used throughout the set. So you now took a weight you could only get 8 reps with, and instead of racking it, you rest ONLY long enough to keep the set going. The downside to rest/pause is that like any other beyond failure technique a little goes a long ways and over-training will result for many people that do too many sets like these. The classic 20 rep squat set is nothing more than a rest/pause set.

How many reps should you do? And how fast should you do them? I can't tell you that because your goals and body is unique to you and you alone. Here are some general recommendations though. I almost always recommend 5-8 reps for bench press. Why? Because every damn person I know wants a big bench, because for some reason when the average person asks how much you can lift they are rarely asking what you can squat or deadlift. For legs most people do best on higher reps. Again this is not universal, but most folks build bigger wheels with higher reps. 10 as a minimum and as high as 50 works well. Do a all out set of 20 rest pause squats or 30 rep leg presses as your leg workout until you add a couple hundred pounds to them and tell me your legs are not looking wicked. For arm work I like to have the trainee do some work with lower reps (these don't necessarily have to be direct arm work either, heavy back work slams bi's as does heavy chest work slam tri's) and some higher rep work to cover all bases. If you are only doing strait sets, the old scheme of doing one low (5- rep set and then doing a burnout set of 15-20 works well for many people. I like people to train abs HEAVY with reps in the 10-15 rep range because if you want a big squat and deadlift you gotta have STRONG abs.

Back work is usually done for mid-range reps. One constant I have seen is that MOST people do VERY well on high reps for shoulders. I like 10 reps as a minimum and eventually put most people on rest/pause for shoulders because…..well…it just works for so many people. Any muscles that you are able to train to failure, and then with minimal rest, (15-30 seconds) you are able to get 3-4 more reps with are usually prime candidates for high reps or EXTENDED rest/pause sets. As far as rep speed goes a 1-1/2-2 second positive and 2-3 second negative is a good speed for most lifts, for most people. A little faster is permissible on lower reps and a little slower sometimes for mid and higher reps work wonders for many folks. If you can successfully integrate 4-8 second negatives into your program you may be absolutely AMAZED at the growth it produces, and after a short time you will probably find you are now doing the same weights you were doing before at the higher cadence. To add precision to your sets get a cheap wristwatch with a second timer. Now when you do say a set of 10 reps time how long it took to perform these ten reps. Next week if you add weight and are now doing the set in less time did you really accrue strength? Probably not, all you did was decrease the loading by performing the movement faster. Not what you wanted! All in all, everyone needs to do a little bit of all rep speeds and ranges in the long run to see what works best for them. But you already knew that huh!

                                                                                        Iron Addict

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Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Top Ten Muscle Building Tips

1. Lift weights for no more than three to four days per week. Doing so is not only unnecessary but can quickly lead to over-training, especially if you are doing other physical activities such as cardio or playing recreational sports on a regular basis.

2. Limit your workouts to 30-45 minutes and 15-20 total sets. If you can't build muscle and gain strength in that time frame then I’d say you are half assing it. You have to remember that results are greatest when energy levels and mental focus are at their highest. That is during the first 30-45 minutes of your workout. Going beyond that point causes both of these to plummet.

3. Use big, compound exercises and lift heavy. Deadlifts, military presses, squats, bench presses, rows and chin ups should always be the main focus of your muscle building workout programs. These have been the best muscle building exercises since the beginning of time and that will never change.

4. Continually try to get stronger and always track your progress with a training journal. Progressive overload is the most basic but often forgotten principle in weight training. It states that to make progress you need to constantly increase the amount of weight you lift. Follow this rule and you will get bigger and stronger. Ignore it and you will get nowhere. If you are benching 225 right now, you better be benching 315 by this time next year if you want to build muscle.

5. Train with a multitude of rep ranges. Doing this allows you to target both slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers and maximizes your muscle building capabilities. Reps from 1-20 should be used to target both fast twitch and slow twitch fibers.

6. Always change your weight training program every 3-4 weeks. After 3-4 weeks on the same program you will start to burn out and your results will slow down. To keep your body in a muscle building state, be sure to change your workouts frequently. If you have been lifting for several years, this may need to be done every two weeks because you will adapt more rapidly to the same stimulus.

7. Make a serious commitment to eating. Proper nutrition plays a huge role in your muscle building efforts. Without adequate calories you will never grow optimally. Force feed yourself if you have to and be sure to time your carbs correctly, meaning around training and at breakfast, while cutting them out at night if you want to stay lean while building muscle.

8. Be sure to get at least 8-10 hours of sleep per day and take naps whenever possible. When you are sleeping is when you are building muscle. Sleep is the time when you recover and grow. Without adequate sleep you will never reach your true potential and your muscle building efforts in the gym may be wasted. Do not overlook this important factor.

9. Utilize recovery methods. Training and eating properly are not enough to ensure the fastest muscle building results. You also have to be sure to use whatever recovery methods you can to accelerate your progress. Some of these include taking contrast showers or baths after training, stretching after training and on off days, icing, using foam rollers and whatever else you can think of to help you recover faster.

10. Find a good training partner. While I left this for last on the list it may, in fact, be the most important factor of them all. Without a good training partner your results will always be less than what they could be. It is imperative that you try to find someone to push you and to compete against if you really want to take your muscle building efforts to the next level.


                                                                                   By Jason Ferruggia

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more great muscle building information, please click

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press - Exercise Explained Video Series


          Series of videos explaining how to perform bodybuilding exercises. In part 6 we explain the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press.The incline dumbbell bench press is a great exercise for building mass on the upper chest.The only difference between this exercise and the Incline Barbell Bench Press is that in order to stabilize the dumbbells your body needs to recruit more muscle fibers to keep the weight balanced. 

        To setup for the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press set an incline bench to an angle of about 30 degrees and place the dumbbells at the bottom end of the bench. Grasp the dumbbells and sit down on the bench, place the ends of the dumbbells on your knees. Rock back onto the bench using your legs to help push the dumbbells up.

        Your arms should be fully outstretched holding the dumbbells and you should be laying back on the bench, which is set at a 30 degree angle. This is the starting position. Keeping your body fixed, slowly lower the dumbbells down  until they are about level with your upper chest. Then slowly raise the dumbbells back up wiyhout pausing and without locking your elbows out at the top of the exercise. Repeat for desired reps.

        Control the dumbbells throughout the exercise by lowering them slowly and not letting them touch at the top of the movement and not letting them touch your body at the bottom of the movement. Also don't lock your elbows out or rest at the top of the movement. And finally, don't set the angle of the bench too high, doing this will involve the front shoulders too much.

In these videos heavy weights will not be used as the emphasis is on explaination and correct form.

For information on building more muscle with less weight CLICK HERE

Sunday, 22 January 2012

How to Develop Perfect Abs


 Seeing all those models or athletes posing on the covers of magazines or on a contest stage exposing their perfectly sculptured abdominal you might believe that it is impossible to accomplish the same thing. Well, the good news is that anybody who can train and follow some nutritional guidelines can form perfect abs. The bad news is that very hard work and even personal sacrifices are required.

-  In most of the cases, crucial training or nutritional mistakes are involved. First of all, you have to understand that if you really want to get ripped you will have to start treating your abs like any other body part. As you already know, in order to develop your chest, arms or back the best training method is weight-resistance.

-  I never really understood why people are trying to form their abs just by using gravity. It is time to start working with weights. For example, try doing sit-ups and hold a weight-plate in the same time. You will instantly notice that you won't be able to perform more than 8 to 10 reps. However, you will feel your abs pumped and burning. By using this weight resistance method you will add volume and size to your abdominal, which is your primary target. You should also remember that abdominal like any other body part need resting periods in order to regenerate and develop. So, do not over train them. Three to four times a week is fine.

-  After following the previous procedure for a couple of months you will notice that your abs have grown dramatically. Now it is time to make your work visible. So, how do we expose our well-trained abs? The answer is minimum fat and protein-rich nutrition combined with lots of cardio.

-  Reduce your carbs intake and if needed replace your protein shake with one that contains minimum carbs and a high-protein percentage. I know that this will not be easy for some of you, but you must avoid sugars, fried food and fat. In the same time, increase your protein intake by consuming lean beef, chicken-breast, fish, etc.
Cardiovascular exercise is very important in this phase. At least, half an hour every day is obligatory in order to trigger the fat loss procedure around the abdominal.

As a conclusion, we might say that sculpturing a perfect six pack is realistic for every one of us who is determined to work hard in the gym and follow the guidelines listed above.

                                                                       By Phil Heath

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