Rest is More than Recovery: How You’re Preventing Muscle Growth

I’M SORE, REALLY SORE

My lifting program was going great. I was 4 months into my new life change and everything was going great with both my diet and training. I was working out 7 days a week, constantly running and lifting up a storm. I was a mad-man working on becoming a Terminator! There was just one problem…

…I was sore, incredibly sore and tired. Not only that, but my muscles weren’t growing as quickly as I would have hoped. But did I care? No! I pushed myself harder to fight through the fatigue and soreness. If my muscles weren’t going to grow then I was going to force them to!

Rest is More than Recovery
So sore, so tired, so smelly!

But my biggest question was:

How Could This Be?

My body is a temple and I’m building it into a fortress! So why am I so sore? I assumed that my body would get used to the amount of strain that I was putting it through. My friends and my family supported me and said that I was looking leaner and were proud of my dedication. Though it was great to hear these words of affirmation, I still wanted to grow my muscle mass.

So with more reps, more weight, and more time in the gym I should grow more muscle right?

My Mistake…Again. I Was Wrong.

I was wrong again (I’m starting to see a pattern here). In my opinion, nothing is better than trying to improve your health and lifestyle with working out. However, constantly beating your body into a pulp 7 days a week is NOT the way to do it.

Here’s the science behind it all:

Training causes the brain to release molecules and other chemical signals to help repair injured muscles after training, that’s where muscle growth comes from. Though these signals are necessary, over training can cause an excess of these signals that can cause issues with training.

Excessive inflammation from over training can result in muscle fatigue, loss in muscle protein, loss of muscle mass, and reduced muscle function. Essentially, I’m getting leaner but preventing my muscles from growing. Really?! What am I supposed to do now?

REST AND RECOVERY INCREASES GROWTH

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to lifting and muscle growth is that the more you lift the more you grow. Though that is true in some ways, if you’re lifting too often it can actually hinder the growth of your muscles groups. Contrary to popular belief muscles actually go through their growth stage when we’re resting on our recovery days.

Rest is More than Recovery
Push yourself to rest for muscle growth!

To put it simply: rest and recovery and essential to muscle growth. That’s like putting a light at the end of the tunnel, whipped cream on apple pie, gravy on biscuits (I’m sorry, I’m Southern).

How Often Should I Rest?

The length and frequency of your rest and recovery days is completely dependent upon how intensely you workout during the week. If you’re training with a high intensity program, resting 3 days may be a great idea for you. If you’re working out moderately throughout the week rather than pushing your muscles excessively, then perhaps 1 to 2 days may be the best strategy.

The best way to figure it out is to listen to your body and ask a trainer. When I was training for an obstacle course race I would rest 2 days a week, likewise when I was on a strict bulking and strength training routine I would rest 3 days. Always ask yourself and professionals if you have any questions, no one should get injured while trying to improve themselves.

IN CONCLUSION

Rest is More than Recovery
Look at the sleeping puppy! Rest like that.

Building your body into the fortress that we want it to be is a daunting task. We may want to push ourselves to the limits over and over again just to reach our goals. However, pushing ourselves too hard can cause problems with our growth. Rest and recovery are just as important as your performance through training. Always set aside a couple days just to relax, regroup, and get in the right mindset for your next training session while allowing your muscles to recuperate and grow.

So, what should you do?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why Isn’t My Running Program Putting on Muscle? Help!

I’VE BEEN WORKING OUT…WHERE’S MY MUSCLES?

If you’ve read any of my Beginner’s Journey blog series (which THANK YOU by the way if you have) you would know that I started my serious training as a New Year’s resolution. No, this isn’t my tragic story of how I really screwed up my puny arms, this is 6 months in the future when I decided to truly work hard on my training.

Problem is, I still had no idea what I was doing (big shocker there).

Sure, I knew how to watch my food intake and what foods I needed to eat over the others. However, I didn’t know the essentials to building muscles. So what did I do?

I Ran…

…I ran a lot.

What can I say? That’s all I knew how to do! You don’t have to look up a “how-to” guide on how to get on a treadmill and not fall.

why is my running not putting on muscle
Totally not me…maybe…

The apartment complex that I was living at during this time had a rinky-dink treadmill that was perfect for a paper weight (You thought I was going to say running, huh? Jokes on you!) Though it was terrifying, it did great for a beginner like me. So in my trusty shorty-shorts (I feel like I’ve mentioned them in every story so far…) and beat up off-brand shoes, I ran to my heart’s content.

It was great, I was running consistently six nights a week really pushing myself to get better times. There was only one problem…

I Wasn’t Putting on Muscle

Don’t get me wrong, I was losing fat and my legs were getting toned. However, my goal wasn’t to be a marathon runner, it was to be the next Terminator (please don’t come after me for copyright infringement!). So why wasn’t my running routine putting on muscle for me? I mean, technically it should be putting on huge amounts of muscle since it’s working out…right?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, running is working out. In fact, running is perfect for your heart, legs, and lungs. At the same time, it’s not too good if you’re looking to put on pounds of lean mass and muscle. You see, when you’re running your body is utilizing its glycogen storage to help fuel your body. Too much running and you run through your storage. Sadly that means not as much muscle mass.

HOW DO I TURN THIS AROUND!

I wasn’t putting on muscle like I wanted to but I was getting leaner. All in all there were really no negative aspects of what was happening. But I wanted to get bigger by putting on muscle!

So I turned it around by hitting the weights (not with my fists, that would hurt and is counterproductive).

I started with simple circuit workouts, I was a beginner so I really just wanted to get my body used to the work rather than push it to the limits. I was doing everything from dumb bell chest workouts, to lat pulls for my back, to leg extensions for my quads.

why is my running not putting on muscle
Definitely me this time.

And How Did That Work Out For You?

It worked out great! Eventually I switched over to a better regulated workout plan instead of the circuit plan, but it was a great start to my muscle building!

I was shocked at the small amount of weight that I could lift in the beginning. For real, it was sad. At the same time, I was shocked at how quickly I was able to build upon my practices and habits to where I was lifting more weight and more reps during my workouts.

Not only that, but I was gaining muscle at a better pace than when I was running. Again it was a win-win situation, but changing my routine was definitely the right way to go.

IN CONCLUSION

Running is not meant to build muscle the way that I wanted to. Running is great for toning your legs, building on your cardiovascular health, and training your lung endurance. However, I wouldn’t trade running for a consistent amount of time before I actually switched over to a weight lifting program. From running I was able to shed a few pounds and see which parts of my muscles groups that I needed to work on the most. Who knows what would have happened if I didn’t work on a running program before a lifting program.

In hindsight, it was great that I started running before lifting; it just wasn’t a part of the goals that I was looking for at the time. If you’re running into the same issues with your workout plan (no pun intended) try taking the heavy cardio out of your training, I assure you that you will see the difference.

You know what would have saved me lots of time and headache? This:

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

why is my running not putting on muscle
Next step, this barbell!

Why Are My Arms Not Growing? Can They Get Any Smaller?!

OH BIG ARMS, WHERE ARE THOU?

Have I ever mentioned that my arms used to be abnormally small? It was pitiful, I had the tatas that should have required a sports bra and the arms that a butterfly could crush (Now that’s a story for another time).

Twas a sad state that my arms were in, and people didn’t mind letting me know about it. But could I blame them? Society has determined that men have to have big arms (Because let’s face it, one day you’re going to have to lift a boulder to save a family of bunnies).

So what did I do? I became determined to get the biggest arms possible no matter what the cost! If anyone was going to save a family of bunnies, it was going to be me!

Why are my arms not growing?
Look at that bunny!

Time to Get Big Arms!

In case you didn’t read my earlier blog post about how I started my lifting journey (it was tragic), I had no clue how to get bigger arms (see that tragedy here). In my mind, getting big arms required two things:

  • A heavy dumb bell.
  • Lots and lots of reps.

So what did I do? I put on my trusty shorty-shorts (don’t judge me) and grabbed my 20lb dumb bell and went to work! And man, did I work!

I was blasting through reps, using every muscle I had, and grunting like a yeti in the Himalayas (they do exist)!

What I Did Wrong

Unbeknownst to me, I was trying to build arms in the worst possible way. By the worst way, I mean in the way that was going to not only cause me pain but also prevent my arms from growing. I didn’t do any preparation ahead of the workout, or research how to perform the lift, and it cause me a lot of pain.

Boy, was it intense pain.

My puny arms couldn’t take the intense amount of reps that I was trying to pull off, even if it was only 20lbs. My form looked as if I was trying to do the funky chicken instead of a bicep curl. The horrible form resulted in me getting wicked tendinitis in both my elbows, and my puny arms weren’t able to lift anything for a substantial period of time.

Why are my arms not growing?
Not a bad representation of my arms back then…

HERE’S HOW YOU REALLY BUILD ARMS

The secret to building arms is not in a high volume of reps, but low volume of reps with fantastic form. Here’s the thing, your arm muscles are not naturally large muscles covering a large area of your body. In fact, your biceps cover one-third of your arm, while your tricep covers two-thirds. For a muscle group that is this size, a high rep count is not the way to build.

If you work out a muscle group like your arms too much, you’re only hindering your repair and growth. That’s a big no-no when you’re trying to grow.

A great example for building arms is to practice your form and practice with a smaller weight. Also, you should concentrate more on your triceps than your biceps. Why? Look above: your triceps cover two-thirds of your arm. See how that makes a difference?

Arm Building Workout Example

Dumb Bell Bicep Curl

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

French Curl

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Hammer Curls

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Tricep Kick-Backs

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

T-Curls

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Tricep Press

2 Sets of 8 Reps

1 Set to Exhaustion

Keep in mind, everybody has their own way of building arms and knowledge of exercises that work best for them. However, this is a great example of lifting a small amount of reps with a moderate amount of weight and great form.

Use this motto when building arms: less is more!

IN CONCLUSION

I made a lot of mistakes when I first started my lifting journey. In fact, I didn’t know the proper way to lift and build my arms until a significant time had passed. Here’s what could have saved me: actually reaching out and trying to gain more knowledge on how to lift properly.

When it comes to your arms, less is more! Attack the right muscle fibers with the right consistency, without over working them, and you can build great arms in no time. So, to end this blog off in the Is This Lifting? way:

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why are my arms not growing?
Get to it!

The Key to Success: Consistency

SUCCESS TAKES WORK

My workout structure and dieting was very hit and miss. By hit and miss I mean a total train wreck that consisted of a tub of cookies, garlic bread, and pushups every now and then.

To a sane person, that sounds like nonsense. To me, it sounds like the jagged beginnings of my workout adventure.

Why the Tub of Cookies?

That’s not a joke; I really had a tub of cookie dough that I ate through the course of a month (best birthday present ever). Cookie dough, garlic bread and fried chicken were the epitome of my diet back then. I’m not saying I ate bad all the time, but I had no idea how to eat right and what foods would work best to aid me in reaching my goals.

Honestly, I would stray away from the fried foods every now and then. However, school and work would take its toll on constantly, and I would find myself buried in a tub of triple-chocolate chip.

Sad but delicious.

Cookie Dough Dieting
You can’t tell me this doesn’t look good.

You Only Did Pushups?

No way! I did pushups AND crunches. I wasn’t going to try another curl after that horrifying adventure (laugh at my pain here). Pushups just seemed like the next viable course of action for a guy like me. Tiny arms, flabby chest, big stomach, I was all about those crunches and pushups!

There was only one problem: not only could I not find the time to perform my “workout routine”, but I didn’t consistently workout. I would always make the same excuses:

  • I’m tired.
  • I’ve been working all day.
  • I haven’t eaten enough cookie dough for energy.

Same old excuses got me the same old result: I saw no changes…and I felt miserable.

The Key to Success: Consistency
The Storm Trooper has the right idea.

MY SOLUTION

As funny as it seems, my solution was found in the most cliché way. As a New Year’s resolution, I decided I was finally going to take charge of my life and push myself to become healthier and stronger. From there, well…I actually stuck to it. I challenged myself to a new healthy lifestyle that I would consistently work on and not stray from.

I’m not going to say it was pretty, but I did quit eating tubs of cookies and instead started running on the treadmill. I did it all in baby-step increments: running 15 minutes, then 30, then an hour. I didn’t necessarily know what foods were the best to eat or how much of it to eat, so I did my research and started to consistently keep up with my diet.

I Started Noticing Changes

The title explains it all. I was in the gym 6 days a week just running and tracking my diet 7 days a week. From here I started to notice that I wasn’t just losing weight, but I was also getting more tone. My runs started to improve, my flab was no longer as flabby, and I gained a workout partner in the process.

Consistently running on the treadmill got me thinking, “What if I wanted to put on muscle?” I had never considered it a possibility before. In fact, I had never been put on muscle before so I had always had a stigma against it. However, I knew this was a new goal that I wanted to accomplish.

What did I do next?

I Conducted Research

I was a mad scientist behind my computer screen. I started my lifting journey with absolutely zero knowledge of how. So I hit up the internet, the library, and even some workout buddies. After what seemed like days of pure head banging (you try learning something from scratch) I finally came up with a workout and diet plan that I thought would work best for me.

From there, the rest is essentially history. It took a decent amount of trial and error for me to figure out what diet plans worked best for my body and what workouts worked best for my muscle groups. This process took a while because:

  • My muscles were not actually used to a weight training workout routine.
  • I had never put my diet to a strict lifting diet.

*All of this is natural for first timers, although I did get a couple of laughs when used a barbell the wrong way (don’t ask).

Putting myself in the gym consistently, and constantly testing out diet plans, helped me train myself and learn which avenues of health and fitness would work best for me. It was hard work, but putting in that constant time and effort was well worth it.

IN CONCLUSION

So what do I believe is the key to success? Consistency, hands down.

Sure, it wasn’t always the most glamorous thing to watch (definitely not for the other people in the gym). But consistency is the only way to actually succeed in your fitness goals.

If you don’t consistently stick to your workout routine, your muscles are never going to grow. If you don’t consistently stick to your diet plan, you’re never going to see results with your body and health. Improving your life takes time, commitment and hard work. If you don’t put in the consistent time and effort, you’re not going to see the results.

And news flash: you only have yourself to blame.

So, what do I always say?

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

The Key to Success: Consistency
Get it? It’s the Key to Success!

 

 

My Mistakes: I Couldn’t Lift Anything

MY STORY IS NOT A PRETTY ONE

I couldn’t lift anything…

No seriously, I couldn’t lift anything. It was actually pretty funny.

It was the summer of 2011, and I had just turned 19. I was determined to get stronger and riddled with muscles like all of those fancy male models. My goals were high and I had determination like no other. There was only one problem…

I had no idea how to reach my goal.

My Mistake

Here’s the deal, boy scout: raw determination means nothing if you don’t know what you’re doing. My stubbornness mixed with determination left me with the unwillingness to actually do any research to what it would take to get big and strong. I was 19, and all I wanted was to be eye candy for the ladies.

So with this new attitude on lifting, I decided to build my own workout plan and schedule (again, a no-no for a novice like me).

I had arms that could be snapped by a butterfly, and man-boobs that should have required a man-bra (maybe one day those will come into style). Naturally, I wanted to work on my arms the most to intrigue the ladies with the best gun show in the west! Armed with my shorts that were way short (I’m talking about some major knee cap game), spider man t-shirt (I needed his strength, okay…), and my headband (don’t ask), I started my workout process!

My Mistakes
The Shorts of Shortness…Thank your lucky stars you didn’t see me in these.

My Workout

I had a rinky-dink 20lb dumb bell that I found at a garage sale in high school. I’ve always held onto it, telling myself that I was going to use it someday to get big and strong. Now I was going to use it for my arms.

The 20lb dumb bell felt unnaturally heavy when trying to curl it (I told you my arms were puny), but I decided I would push through the pain no matter the cost! Here’s a breakdown of my routine:

  • Two Handed Curl – 100 reps
  • Right Handed Curl – 100 reps
  • Left Handed Curl – 100 reps

Now, if any of you reading this story know anything about lifting, you know this was a big mistake. When curling, or any exercise for that matter, extremely high-reps are definitely not the way to go. Trust me, I also had zero form to go with my zero knowledge of how to perform the lift. I was swinging my back, jerking my elbows, and slamming my arms more violently than a cocky rooster in a hen house (I apologize, I’m southern).

At the end of the workout I could barely lift my arms and couldn’t feel my elbows. Let me tell you, I felt accomplished and felt 20 times stronger than when I started.

My Mistakes
The Dumb Bell of Death…it was more intimidating back then.

The Aftermath

Lordy, I will tell you this was a whole new world of pain I had never felt before in my life!

The next morning when I woke up, not only could I not lift either of my arms, but my elbows were screaming louder than a pre-teen at a One Direction concert (they’re still the “in” thing right?).

My first thought was, “Am I dying?”

My second thought was, “Definitely. I’m definitely dying.”

In my stubbornness to actually read up on how to perform lifts or even plan a workout properly, I had completely neglected the fact that doing 300 reps with a 20lb dumb bell THE WRONG WAY would give me insane tendinitis in both of my elbows.

It was painful, awkward, and I had to try and explain to my boss why I dropped hot coffee on my lap my first morning at work. My tendinitis took a substantial amount of time to go away, causing me to wince in pain at the simplest of tasks.

IN CONCLUSION

Why do I mention this story to you? It’s simple, dear reader: I don’t want you to make the same mistake that I did.

I was stubborn, cocky, and didn’t have the right goals in mind in order to put together both a safe and beneficial workout. Instead, I grabbed my 20lb dumb bell and shorty-shorts, and went to town. All this did was put a bad taste in my mouth when it came to exercising, and turned me away from working out for a full 6 months.

Fast forward to now, and for the past two months I have been writing about the complete basics of lifting, body types, diet planning, and more. Never once did I fully go into detail about my workout horror story that turned me away from lifting. Not until a New Year’s resolution on 2012 did I actually return to the gym (after reading up on some how-to pamphlets). Four years since changing my mindset, it’s all been a great ride and I’m excited to see where my training will get me.

Now I have a new goal: to help those who are just beginning their workout journey to have a better understanding of lifting and training by informing them of best practices, dieting tips, and motivation. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did, I want you to succeed. If I can update my lifestyle from a shrimpy 19 year old guy who has string-bean arms and zero understanding to the lifter that I am now, anybody can do it.

That’s why at the end of every blog post I always leave my motto…

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

From Yours Truly
See you next time!

Why Form is More Important than Weight

That’s right, I said it, form is way more important than the amount of weight you’re lifting. Some of you may be screaming, “No! That’s blasphemy! As long as I can lift 400 pounds it doesn’t matter how I get it up!”

Yea, how about you get back to me when you’re in your 40’s (those joints will be screaming!)

Here’s the deal, just like our last post that discussed proper breathing techniques, a lifter has to maintain proper form throughout all lifts in able to ensure maximum safety.

To put it simply: lift the right way or you’re going to get hurt, badly.

Here’s why:

NOT KNOWING THE BASICS CAN CAUSE SERIOUS ISSUES

All this blog has been devoted to for the first 2 months of its existence is the basics of lifting (from body types to eating to techniques). Why are the techniques important? Knowing the proper techniques keeps you safe AND ensures efficient gains. If you just start lifting without having a clue on the proper way to do so can injure yourself, others, and decrease the amount of your gains.

Improper Form

Of course we start this section off with how improper form is bad. Say it with me, BAD. B-A-D.

Lifting the wrong way, as stated several times throughout this post, can cause some serious injuries. For example, say you’re trying to curl a much heavier weight than you normally could if you were lifting with proper form. So, you decide to swing your hips and back in order to get the weight to the right height of the lift.

WRONG.

Throwing your back during a lift, especially with a heavier weight than you should be lifting, can cause serious back injuries. Such injuries include: slipped disk, damaged muscle fibers, herniated disk, etc. Trust me; it’s really not worth it.

Fake Exercises

This aspect of lifting is hard to diagnose. Not because an exercise is fake, but because there are so many exercises are there that have alterations thrown in to make things difficult. However, performing a fake exercise just because you think it will benefit you DOESN’T necessarily mean that it will.

While performing a move or lift that you’re not necessarily is legitimate, test to see how your joints and muscles react to the lift. If they react to more than just a usual strain from the weight, you have an issue. Always ask a trainer if you’re unsure.

LESS IS MORE

When I say this, I’m referring to weights. I’m referring to weights due to the fact that one of the main reasons that people lift with improper form is due to the fact that they’re lifting heavier than they should. It is definitely arguable that lifting heavier than you’re able to just to do so is the best way to gain mass muscle

Proper Form Can Lead to Better Gains

If you’re lifting properly, even with less weight, you can get great gains more often. With proper form you can always attack the right muscle fibers at the right time. Instead of using extra joints and muscle that you should never be using, focus on using the proper amounts of muscle with the proper form. This will ensure the best possible gains while getting them safely.

Trust me on this one, if won’t matter if you increase your max weight if you have to quit lifting due to a slipped disk or dislocated shoulder.

IN CONCLUSION

Yes, lifting heavy is always great.

Yes, increasing your max is an awesome feeling.

No, using improper form is not the best way to lift.

Lifting should be a fun, healthy, and safe experience for you and your comrades. If you ever have a question on whether the way your lift is going, always ask partner, or better yet a trainer.

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why Form is More Important than Weight
Check out Derek Poundstone’s form!

Why Putting on Muscle is Essential for Staying Lean

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: putting on muscle is an essential way to stay lean.

I’ve heard from many different people in many different ways the same questions, “I don’t want to put on muscle I just want to look tone.”

*Tisk Tisk*

Those goals are one in the same you ding-dong! (Please forgive the profanity, I’ll have to work on that).

Here’s why putting on muscle is so ESSENTIAL for staying lean.

WHY PUTTING ON MUSCLE IS IMPORTANT

Training to put on muscle not only helps you lean-out due to the lifting, but also because muscles require more fuel. When lifting, you should always be challenging yourself for either endurance or in strength. Both aspects require enhanced muscles and lifting habits to ensure great quality lifts.

So what does all of this have to do with lifting?

 More Muscles Requires More Fuel

That’s right, more muscle requires more fuel to operate. It’s simple science.

When you’re body has more muscle, it is requiring constant consumption of fat and other nutrient storage to provide adequate fuel throughout the day. The more muscle you put on, the more calories that your body has to burn to provide enough energy. All of this in turn forces your body to have a faster metabolism than normal to keep up with the proper energy output.

Are you with me so far?

Does This Mean I’ll Get Lean Super Quick?

Sadly…no.

Yes, putting on more muscle helps the body maintain a faster than normal metabolism.

Yes, this means the body will be burning more fat than usual.

No, this does not mean you will be lean extremely fast.

Just like how it takes time to put on muscle, it also takes time to build up a faster metabolism. The person training to become leaner must consistently work hard to put on the valuable muscle and must consistently maintain a proper diet. This will ensure that leaning has the greatest opportunity to work, while at the same time you’re putting on great muscle in the process.

Also, it’s also important to note that there is no cheat code to getting quick results. Putting in the hard work and consistency in and out of the gym is the golden key to any success. Looking for shortcuts isn’t the answer.

IN CONCLUSION

Leaning out is tough, especially if you’re not really sure how to start. Even though there is no shortcut or cheat code for leaning out really quickly, putting on muscle is the smartest and more long-term solution for staying lean. The best way to do this is find a training program that works best for you, find a great meal plan, and consistently hit the weights.

So do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Why Putting on Muscle is Essential for Staying Lean
Gotta lift to stay lean!

Breathe in! Breathe it all in! How to Breathe While Lifting.

Through the mountains and hordes of information out there for weight training, one of the most vital components of the lift is often forgotten: breathing.

That’s right, breathing!

Why do we bring it up here? Because everyone has probably heard that one guy in the gym who is screeching like a howler monkey while squatting (that’s right, I’m calling you out broski).

How do we avoid this? Proper lifting technique, my dear Watson! (Sherlock anyone?).

WHEN TO HOLD IT IN

Have you ever noticed when you’re lifting really heavy loads for a short burst or short set how you hold your breath in? Yeah, that’s supposed to happen!

Briefly exhaling then holding in your breath while taking on a heavy load or left is what is called a Valsalva maneuver (try saying that ten times fast). The Valsalva maneuver is performed nearly unconsciously while performing a lift, and helps the muscle exert a stronger force while lifting.

Why Holding it is Important

There are several benefits to briefly holding your breath in during a lift. To maximize your lifts, your body will natural want you to hold in your breath. To maximize your abdominal pressure, breathing in about 75% of your maximum potential will increase your lifting potential, just remember to exhale after performing the lift.

In fact, a research study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2010 found that when performing the Valsalva maneuver when lifting one-rep max lifts blood pressure only slightly raised.

WHEN TO BREATHE OUT

It is important to note that during lifts for high repetitions or extended periods you should always watch your breathing techniques. For instance, the Valsalva maneuver works great for short repetitions, but performing the same technique for extended periods can actually cause a rise in blood pressure and cause headaches (or worse).

When lifting for extended periods of time or high-rep situations, focus on a more rhythmic breathing pattern. For instance, when performing a bench press, the standard breathing technique is to breathe in while lowering the bar and to exhale while pushing it out.

Why Rhythmic Breathing is Important

Exhaling at proper times during a lift can be very beneficial to any training program. It can help extend your stamina during your workout, increase potential for high-rep lifts, and prevent headaches and dizziness. In fact, it has been proven that breathing more frequently during a workout can help improve training for people who are hypertensive or have poor cardiac tendencies.

IN CONCLUSION

To put it simple:

  • If you’re lifting heavy for low-reps, practice holding in your breath.
  • If you’re lifting moderate for high-reps, practicing rhythmic breathing techniques.
  • Practice both, knowledge is power.

I hope this helps you gain some extra understanding of how to perform a beneficial workout. Lean when to hold it or when to fold it! (That was bad analogy…just practice your breathing techniques, okay?)

How to Breathe
See, he’s probably not breathing right.

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Are Carbs Bad for Leaning Out?

One of the most frequently asked questions when someone is looking to lean is, “Are carbs bad for my lean out diet?”. The answer varies, but a simple answer is no.

To blatantly declare one of the essential macro nutrients as “bad” for a diet plan is just wrong.

Yes, if you consume too many calorie dense carbs in a lean out program, you’re going to gain fat. Yes, by going on a low-carb diet, you will lose weight faster. However, before you make any rash decisions, let’s see why carbohydrates are so important for both a diet and workout for any stage of lifting.

THE DIET

Carbs are an essential fuel source for your muscles. Eating a sufficient amount of carbohydrates on any diet allows the body to store enough glycogen to fuel muscle repair. If your carbohydrate intake gets too low, your glycogen level also gets too low. When your glycogen level gets too low, your body looks for other sources to fuel the repairs (like vital protein and muscle mass).

See the vicious circle here?

If you’re looking for great foods to stick to when looking for clean carbs, check out these great options!

Food Tips

  • Quinoa
  • Fruit
  • Green Veggies
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown Rice

THE WORKOUT

Just in case I didn’t say it enough before, carbs = fuel for your body. Here is a simple summary of how carb function works:

Carbohydrates are broken down and enter then bloodstream. From there they increase the the level of sugar in the bloodstream, also known as your blood sugar level. The more carbs you intake, the more your blood sugar level rises. The increase in blood sugar launches the hormone insulin to strain the excess sugar out of the bloodstream and into your muscles.

If you eat more carbohydrates than your body is using as fuel, the excess is stored in your body as fat (yes, fat). Looking for a great way to use all those excess carbs?

Training Tips

  • Work on your strength training, this forces your body to utilize more carbohydrates.
  • Practice good lifting habits, again this will ensure you’re using the right amount of carbs.
  • And….nope that’s about all I got.

IN CONCLUSION

Are carbohydrates bad for your lean out diet? Just like eating a thousand candy bars can give you diabetes and a wicked case of sugar high, carbohydrates in excess can be bad for you.

However! Ensuring you’re putting in the proper training and lifting habits will utilize your carb source to the fullest, and prevent the excess fat gains.

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

Carbohydrates
Mmmmmm, carbs….

How to Train for Leaning

Are you trying to get ready for Spring Break by getting rid of the beer gut? Having trouble preparing that epic beach-bod, even though you’re hitting the gym consistently?

Don’t worry, youngster. The problem may not be in your habit, but rather the way you’re training. Let’s attack this from the beginning.

MAKING THE PROPER ADJUSTMENTS

Lemme guess, you’re looking for a good lean out program after one of two reasons:

  1. You just got done from bulking and want to be ripped.
  2. You haven’t worked out in a long time and want to be ripped.

Those are generally the two reasons, but there could be some I’m missing.

The biggest issue more often than not is in the training practices for the lean out program. The lifting practices in a lean out program and a bulking program and two totally different things.

For example, for a bulking workout, the lifter is trying to lift as heavy as they can even if it is for a short amount of reps for a limited amount of reps. This is because the lifter is trying to increase his strength and thus breaking down the muscle fibers, causing the muscles to grow quicker.

On a lean out diet, the lifter isn’t necessarily looking to lift as heavy as they can, instead they are looking to lift a slightly lower weight more times. This forces the muscles to burn more fuel so that they can keep up with the consistent endurance needs. This causes the leaning-out process.

The Training

As stated above, training for leaning out should be with lower weights but with more reps. Note: This does not mean you should not challenge yourself. Always challenge your lifts and endurance while leaning out, just don’t get discouraged if you don’t max out a lift.

When selecting the proper amount of reps and sets, always start between 10-12 reps and 4-5 sets. These are great base numbers to start out with, they will also help you adjust to what will keep you on track.

The Diet

As far as a proper lean out diet, there are many to choose from. Some diets emphasize low-fats, others no-dairy, and many paleo/low-carb (which as a matter of fact is my type of lean out diet). The type of lean out diet you choose is completely optional to whatever will work best for you, all of us have different responsibilities and time constraints.

Keep in mind that when doing a lean out diet that more sacrifices may be required. Yes, calories will be depleted. However, be sure to always eat enough to fuel your body. Don’t starve your muscles, please!

IN CONCLUSION

Leaning out is considered fun to few, but difficult for many. Yes, the results are amazing, but the road there is quite gruesome. The best thing to do is:

Do your research, get prepared, and get lifting!

How to Lean
Shouldn’t lifting always be this fun?