3 Essential Steps to Build Muscle Strength and Size

4 Jun

Straight Bar Deadlift

The fastest way to build muscle strength and size is good old-fashioned strength training, done right. Over time, strength training challenges your muscles by breaking them down so they repair and recover bigger and stronger than before.

To be optimally effective, strength training must be combined with proper nutrition and rest. Although there are some strategies to accelerate the process, there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work and follow the plan.

Nutrition

Without proper nutrition, you will compromise any muscle strength and size gains you hope to achieve. Simply stated, your body needs the raw material that food provides for growth.

It’s essential to eat sufficient calories, as well as carbs and protein, 30 to 90 minutes before and after working out. For every pound you weigh, aim for 0.8 grams of lean protein per day; whole grain and high fiber carbs; and healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, nuts, and salmon.

Weight Lifting

You’ll need to work out three or four days per week to reach your goal. Here are some guidelines to get you on your way:

Favor compound movements over single-joint movements: compound exercises, like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses and Inverted Rows, involve more than one joint and engage multiple muscle groups. Triceps Extensions and Biceps Curls are single-joint isolation exercises. Compound exercises require greater muscle activation, recruit larger muscle groups, and stimulate strength and size gains.

Lift heavy weights: if you want to build muscle fast, you need to push your body to use as many muscle fibers as possible during exercise. Lifting heavy weights allows you to challenge your muscles, which is the key to making strength and size gains.

For any given exercise, build strength and power by using a weight that you can lift no more than 4-6 repetitions per set; build muscle size by using a weight that you can lift 8-12 reps per set; and build muscle endurance by using a weight you can lift 15+ reps per set.  If you can perform more repetitions than that, the weight is too light and you will fail to make gains.

Try supersets: we emphasize supersets at Athletic Performance Training Center. By pairing push and pull exercises, you are able to work twice as many muscles in a time-efficient manner to help build overall muscle strength and size.

Rest

Several different rest factors must be considered in your training:

  • Get a good night’s sleep, seven to eight hours each night.
  • Do not rework a muscle group until it has the chance to recover for 48 hours.
  • Rest between sets to allow your muscles to recover so you get the most out of each set. As a general rule, the higher the intensity of your workout (the more weight you lift) the longer your rest interval should be.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Book Recommendation: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

21 May

If you have not yet heard of – or read – the book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth, I highly recommend it.

Grit is a must-read book for anyone striving to succeed – parents, students, educators, athletes, and businesspeople.  Ms. Duckworth shows readers that the “secret” to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

In the first part of the book (the first five chapters), Ms. Duckworth discusses what grit is and why it matters.

The second part of the book (chapters six through nine) reveals how to grow grit from the inside out – how we can develop grit.

The third, and final, part of the book (the last four chapters) focuses on how to grow grit from the outside in – how we can help (parent, coach, and teach) others to develop grit.

My favorite part of the book (and it’s all terrific) is chapter 3, which is titled, “Effort Counts Twice.”  In this chapter, the author discusses the relationship between talent and achievement, and why any effort we make ultimately counts twice toward our goal.

talent x effort = skill

skill x effort = achievement

It’s unlikely that talent, alone, can help people achieve success.  However, when we apply effort to talent, it can become skill.  Likewise, when effort is applied to skill, it can result in achievement – success.  I love this!

Also among Grit‘s valuable insights are:

  • How grit can be learned, regardless of IQ or circumstances
  • How lifelong interest is triggered
  • How much of optimal practice is suffering and how much is ecstasy
  • Which is better for our children – a warm embrace or high standards
  • The magic of the Hard Thing Rule

Grit is a book about what goes through our heads when we fall down, and how that – not talent or luck – makes all the difference.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Slow Progress Is Better Than No Progress

14 May

We all have aspirations, dreams, and goals.  And sometimes it can be frustrating when our progress toward those goals moves more slowly than is consistent with our expectations.  How do you handle those situations?

As it relates to exercise, I occasionally have clients and friends tell me that they simply don’t have time to workout.  Given the choice between a short but effective workout and doing nothing, they would choose the latter.  If they can’t set aside 45-60 minutes for exercise, they’d rather not do it at all.  That kind of convoluted logic makes me crazy.

Ultimately, everything is a process — fitness, sports, school, work… life.  Slow and steady is the way to go.  In the long run, consistency wins the prize.

Quantum change usually does not reflect reality.  Incremental change, over time, can make winners of us all.

A while ago, I published a blog post titled, The One-Percent Rule.  The 1% rule is all about self-improvement.  It means you should try to be 1% better today than you were yesterday — in the gym, at practice, as a competitor, at work, at home, and in life.

Do something — anything — today that moves you closer toward one of your goals.  Don’t get caught up in how much or how little you are able to do.  If you’re willing to do something, you’re halfway there.

Keep moving forward.

Carpe diem!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Make Waves to Get Stronger

7 May

At our facility, the goal is always the same — improve athletic performance and fitness through the development of strength and conditioning.  But we use a wide variety of tools to help our clients reach (and exceed) their goals.

Heavy ropes are one of the tools we use to improve strength, muscular endurance, and build lean muscle mass.  They work each arm independently, eliminating strength imbalances, and provide a great cardio-metabolic workout in the process.

Heavy ropes are available in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, but a 50-foot, 1 & 1/2-inch-thick rope tends to work best for most people.  You can purchase them from a fitness retailer or website, or make your own.  To anchor it, just loop it around a pole.

Here are some heavy ropes training tips:

  • Don’t just wave the ropes up and down.  Different motions will work different muscles and skills.  Swing the ropes in circles, side-to-side, or diagonally.  Alternate between simultaneous and alternating swings.
  • Use the ropes anytime during your workout.  Heavy ropes can be used for a dynamic warmup, finisher, or an entire workout in and of themselves.
  • Adjust the resistance by moving closer to or farther away from the anchor point.  The amount of slack in the rope determines the load.  Moving toward the anchor point (more slack) increases the intensity.
  • Switch your grip.  Hold the rope underhand, overhand, or double (fold over) the ends.
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart; to start, hold the ends of the rope at arm’s length in front of your hips; knees bent, hips down and back, chin up, chest up.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What’s More Important — Diet or Exercise?

30 Apr

Your genetic “blueprint”dictates a lot about your fitnesshealth, and wellness.  But we all have a window of opportunity within which we can have an impact.

And, while diet and exercise are both significant contributors, you can impact your metabolism to a greater extent through exercise.

Simply stated, pound-for-pound, muscle burns more calories than fat.

The best way to build muscle and burn fat is high-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT).  HIRT continues to build muscle and burn fat even after you have left the gym.

In one recent Italian study, lifters doing HIRT burned 18% more calories 22 hours after exercising than individuals who did traditional strength training.

Next time you’re in the weight room, try this approach:  Choose three exercises.  Start with the first exercise and, using 80-85% of your 1 rep max, do 6 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps.  That’s one set.  Do 7 sets of all three exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Nutrient Timing — It’s More Important Than You Think

23 Apr

We all know that what you eat is important, but so is when you eat, especially if you’re active. In this infographic, John Berardi, Ph. D., and founder of Precision Nutrition, shares his thoughts regarding what to eat before, during, and after exercise.

This informative resource breaks down workout nutrition based on body type and composition, portion sizes, and protein and carbohydrate consumption.

Check it out!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Your Failures are Behind You — Move on

16 Apr

“What to do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.” – Dean Smith

At some point, we’ve all experienced failure.  None of us succeed at everything we do, all the time.

And one of the major obstacles to success — one of our biggest fears in life — is fear of failure. It’s the main reason that prevents us from realizing our full potential and achieving our goals. Fear of failure paralyzes us, limits us to our comfort zones, prevents us from moving forward in life, and hinders our chances of success.

Face it… defeat is a bitter pill.  There aren’t too many things that make us feel worse than facing failure. Failure often leaves us feeling bitter, miserable, and depressed.

It’s easy to see why most people are afraid of failing. We prefer to play it safe by remaining in our comfort zones and avoiding any risks. But playing it safe can also be detrimental. It takes us out of the game. When we choose to forgo potential opportunities and push ourselves into mediocrity, we restrict ourselves, preventing us from realizing our full potential.

Failure is a matter of perspective. We tend to think of failure as the opposite of success. But failures are actually the stepping-stones of success. Nothing worthwhile in life has ever been achieved without a series of failures.

We learn by trial and error.  Experience — the rewards and consequences of our actions — is the ultimate teacher, and our mistakes are a considerable part of that equation.

Successful people make mistakes… they fail.  But they don’t give up. Instead they stay the course. They overcome their fear of failure and are quick to learn from their mistakes.

There’s an endless list of examples of people who, despite facing defeat, did not give up on their dreams. They succeeded in overcoming their fear of failure.  Failure did not keep people like Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, and Abraham Lincoln from achieving their goals and becoming extraordinarily successful.

Overcoming our fear of failure is a necessary step toward the achievement of our goals. Successful people are not the most intelligent, most talented, or blessed.  They are just ordinary people who view failures as temporary setbacks on the road to success. They are successful because they have developed the ability and willingness to learn from their mistakes, move out of their comfort zones, and take calculated risks.

Don’t allow fear of failure to prevent you from working toward your goals. The “secret” to success is not avoiding failure, it’s having the persistence and perseverance to overcome failure, learn from your failures, and use that learning to improve yourself.

“Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.” – Mia Hamm

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Habits are Created at Practice

9 Apr

“Habits are created every day in practice, and they carry over to the game.” – Chuck Noll

Do you want to make the big play in the big game?  Ace the math exam?  Nail the business presentation?  Then you had better practice.

Even with lots of practice, there’s no guarantee you’ll succeed when the “test” is administered, but that’s where to place your chips.  Because, without purposeful practice, consistent achievement is out of your reach.

In order to excel on an exam, you need to attend class.  But that’s not enough.  You can’t just do classwork and disregard the need to do additional preparation in the form of homework.  It’s the homework that reinforces the knowledge, skills, and problem-solving techniques.

Sports work in much the same way.  Games are like exams, or tests, and your team’s practices are like the classes you attend.  But what if that was the only skills practice you got?  What if you never did any additional ball-handling or shooting drills away from your team’s practices.  That’s where the sport-specific skills “homework” comes in.  You just can’t build the kind of muscle memory that leads to success without lots and lots of technically correct repetitions.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure your practice is situational.  As much as possible, your preparation should reflect the same conditions and demands as your game, test, business presentation, etc.

“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.” – Unknown

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi

 Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Your Beliefs Can Limit You or Empower You

2 Apr

“Whether you believe you can, or you can’t, you are right.” – Henry Ford

We’ve all heard stories about people who accomplished or achieved great things just because they believed they could or didn’t realize they couldn’t.

What we don’t often hear about is the process — the path they traveled on the road to success.  Along the way, their journeys were invariably characterized by their work ethic, persistence, perseverance, and a strong belief in themselves.

What do you believe? Are you aware of how your beliefs are affecting your achievement and success?

Limiting beliefs can cause problems in every area of our lives.  These beliefs are rooted in self-doubt and the “I’m not good enough” mentality.  If you don’t feel good enough, you won’t apply yourself and do what it takes to excel.  You will settle for less than your are capable of and less than you deserve.

Negative self-talk reinforces limiting beliefs.  You may ask yourself, “What if I fail?”  Who cares if you fail?  Failure is a part of life.  Learn from it.  Try again.  Come back better, smarter, and stronger next time.  In any endeavor, failure is a stepping stone on the path to success.

Empowering beliefs keep you going when life throws you a curve ball.  These beliefs help you set powerful goals and stick to them, even when the going gets tough.  When you feel good about yourself — when you are at peace with you — you can focus on the process and know that the end result doesn’t necessarily define you.

Positive self-talk is a powerful tool.  It can inspire and motivate you.  It can help keep you going — working through adversity — when things aren’t going as well as you may like or expect.

Believe in you!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Chocolate Protein Pudding Pops

26 Mar

I’m always looking for fun and creative ways to get more protein in my diet.  And since, invariably, most of my clients can also benefit by increasing their protein consumption, they often ask me for suggestions.

One of my favorite treats is chocolate protein pudding.  I prepare it by blending one packet of sugar-free chocolate pudding mix with 16 ounces of Fairlife chocolate milk and one scoop of chocolate protein powder.  This simple recipe makes four – 4 ounce servings, with about 14 grams of protein per serving.

I recently came across a recipe for Chocolate Protein Pudding Pops.  This frozen treat is delicious, nutritious, and perfect for summertime.  Here’s how to make them:

  • 3 scoops chocolate whey protein powder
  • 4 cups nonfat vanilla (Greek) yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Fairlife chocolate milk

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and mix thoroughly. Pour into popsicle molds and place in your freezer overnight. Enjoy!

Makes eight – 4 ounce popsicles

Nutrient Content (per serving): Calories: 90, Total Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium : 97mg, Total Carbohydrates: 7g, Sugars: 6g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 16g

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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