muscle

The Keys to Muscular Development

Something a little different today - I have a new article up on breaking muscle about three key ways we can alter our training to maximise muscle growth.

While we like to thinking we are putting in the work, most of us are not doing nearly enough to make lasting changes to our body composition. If your still doing a body part training split and hitting 3 sets of 10 repetitions for each individual exercise, then you have so much room for improvement that its not even funny.

If actually want to build muscle, you need to be willing to work hard and train smart.

hunter bennett performance

If you want to find out the best way to promote muscle growth, then you can read the article HERE.

Although seriously, who doesn't want more muscle??? (AKA click the link)

Training frequency: The forgotten factor for building muscle and strength

When writing a training program people normally think about two key factors.

Volume and Intensity.

While there is no question that these two factors are integral to promoting the growth of muscle tissue and neuromuscular strength development, there is one other factor that needs A LOT more consideration than it is getting.

Training frequency.

Training frequency refers to how often we train a specific movement or muscle group.

While body building splits (where we train each individual muscle group one time per week) are extremely popular, they may not actually be our best option for increasing muscle mass or strength.

It is commonly accepted that muscle tissue takes 48-72 hours to recover from a solid training session. As such, we actually have opportunity to train a muscle group more than one time per week without running the risk of overtraining (which honestly occurs VERY rarely in the weekend warrior…).

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

Klokov trains frequently, and hes jacked.....

 

Training frequency and muscle mass

Increasing training frequency is a great option to provide muscle tissue with additional weekly stimulus.

By increasing training frequency, we can effectively increase the amount of work a muscle or muscle group gets each week. We know that increasing weekly volume is a great wat to stimulate muscle growth.

Additionally, by increasing training frequency, we also increase the amount of mechanical tension our muscle tissue receives over any given training week. This increase in mechanical tension considered another key factor in triggering muscle growth.

 

Training Frequency and Strength

While increasing training frequency can have considerable influence on increasing muscle size, it is the way in which it can influence strength development that is arguably most important.

Demonstrating maximal strength requires the integration of both the nervous and muscular systems. The role that the nervous system plays in recruiting motor units and muscle fibres to produce force is extremely important in this demonstration of strength.

This becomes even more important during large compound movements (such as the squat, deadlift, and bench press…) where a large amount of neuromuscular coordination is required.

By increasing training frequency, we can increase our ability to recruit muscle fibres during these complex movements. This allows us to become more efficient (and subsequently stronger) at these specific lifts.

In fact, within most training circles, the completion of these complex movements is considered a skill. Put simple, the more we perform these skills, the better we become at performing them. These improvements come through an increase in neuromuscular coordination and increased in muscle fibre recruitment.

Furthermore, these increases in neural development are likely to have a greater carryover to our endeavours of athletic performance.

Increases in motor unit and muscle fibre recruitment will make use more efficient and more powerful during athletic movements such as sprinting, jumping, and bounding.

 

Practical Considerations

So we know that increasing our training frequency can have significant improvements in our ability to develop strength and build muscle tissue, but how do we implement it into our weekly training program?

The easiest way is to split up your training week into upper body and lower body days, in which each day has a slightly different emphasis.

For example, we might have a squat dominant lower body day and a hip dominant lower body day where both squats and deadlifts are performed on each day, but the core lift changes slightly.

The same can be said of the upper body days, where we might have a push dominant day and a pull dominant day, where although we perform both pushing and pulling on each day, the primary focus differs slightly.

For example:

Monday – Hip Dominant Lower Body Day

Deadlift 5x5
Front Squat 4x8
RDL 4x8
Walking Lunges 3x10
Single led RDL 3x10

Tuesday – Push Dominant Upper Body Day

Bench Press 5x5
High Bench row 4x8
Overhead Press 4x8
Chin Ups 4x8
Incline DB Press 3x10
Batwing rows 3x10
DB Fly’s 3x10
Single Arm DB Row 3x10

Thursday – Knee Dominant Lower Body Day

Back Squat 5x5
Sumo Deadlift 4x8
Front Squat 4x8
Bulgarian Split Squat 3x10
Reverse Lunges 3x10

Friday – Pull Dominant Upper Body Day

Bent over BB row 5x5
Overhead Press4x8
Weighted pull ups 4x8
Bench Press4x8
Seated Row 3x10
Seated Shoulder Press 3x10
Single arm cable row 3x10
Decline DB Press 3x10

So while this program is not perfect (certainly no individualisation...) it does provide a good example of how we can integrate an increase in training frequency into our training program.

As a bonus, the increased use of compound exercises associated with an increase in training frequency can stimulate greater muscle growth and strength development due to further increasing the amount of load (and subsequently mechanical tension) we lift for any given week.

 

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about training frequency!

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Do the Inverted Row to build strength and integrity

Majority of my training is based around compound, multi-joint exercises.

Those that provide the most bang for your buck, so to speak.

Within these, I find the inclusion of body weight exercises (such as pull ups and push ups) extremely beneficial for promoting good quality movement and enhanced trunk stability.

One bodyweight exercise that I don’t believe gets the recognition it deserves is the Inverted Row. 

The inverted row is the bodyweight equivalent of a bent over barbell row, but arguably less complex, as its easier to maintain a solid neutral spine. 

Pretty simply, you lie flat on your back and reach up to a bar (or a TRX), and pull your chest towards the bar. 

Hunter Bennett Performance, lose fat, build muscle, increase strength

 

Why the Inverted Row? 

There a few great reasons for incorporating the Inverted row into your training program; 

They require minimal equipment – no dumbbells, weights or benches are required. They can be done outside or inside any gym, and they are really easy to set up. 

They can be progressed and regressed really easily – you can either increase the height of the bar or TRX, or bend your legs to regress the exercise, or add load to progress the exercise. 

The also improve trunk stability – During the inverted row you are required to maintain a neutral spine while, as such it directly works the muscles of the trunk. Maintaining a neutral spine also requires strong glute contraction to keep a neutral pelvic position. 

They crush the upper back – As the rowing movement is fairly horizontal, the muscles of the upper back (think romboids, traps rear delts) really drive the movement. These muscles play an important role in maintaining good postural alignment (and are often missed in a lot of other exercises). 

They aren’t particularly technical – they are safe to perform, and as such can be performed to failure safely. As such, inverted rows are Ideal to incorporate into your program when training for hypertrophy 

 

Key Points 

Keep the spine neutral. Really squeeze abs and glutes to hold a tight, neutral spinal position. 

Keep the chest up tall and really drive the middle of your chest towards the bar (or TRX). 

Keep the elbows relatively close to the body. The grip is likely to be closer than that of a bench press. 

 

Programming Considerations 

These should be done on your upper body days, either before any pressing to warm up and activate the muscles around the rotator cuff / shoulder girdle. This will promote greater stability to the shoulder joint during pressing. Or at the end as a way to really fry the muscle of your upper back (for those back gainzzz). 

I typically like to aim for 2 sets of 8 (not to failure) if done at the start of a workout, or 3-4 sets of 10-12 when done at the end of a workout.

 

If you would like to contact me, fill out the form below and i will get back to you ASAP!

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Paused Squats to Build Strength and Size

Paused squats to build strength and size

Squats are an exercise that get A LOT of attention.

They are considered the ‘king’ of exercises by some, while described as a living hell by others.

I guess I personally fall somewhere in between. I enjoy squatting. There is something very rewarding about hitting a new squat PR. And the quad pump after a set of high rep squats? I’ll let Arnie answer that one….

Thanks Arnie...

Thanks Arnie...

BUT…

I suck at them.

They have never felt natural to me. It took quite a bit of work just to get comfortable squatting to depth. And once I actually started to add load, I was weak.

Like REALLY weak.

Now I’m not one to force a square peg into a round hole (so to speak), and if this was a client who didn’t necessarily need to back squat to see reach their desired goal, I wouldn’t have forced it.

But this was ME. And I wanted to be able to squat lots of plates.

Maybe not a clever goal by any means, but I wanted to get good at something I wasn’t particularly good at (still do in fact… lots of room for improvement).

So I squatted. My lower body sessions typically involved both back and front squats, and while I did see improvements, they came slowly, and I still didn’t feel 100% ‘comfortable’ squatting.

So I started playing around with different squat variations, and happened to strike gold.

Hunter Bennett Performance, lose fat, build muscle, increase strength, personal training

 

Introducing Paused Squats

I started using paused reps after my heavy squat sets as an assistance exercise, and actually started seeing some improvements! My squat got stronger, I felt much more comfortable squatting under load, and my jeans got considerably tighter!

A paused squat is pretty much just a squat where you pause completely (as in STOP DEAD) at the bottom of the squat for 2-3 seconds (or longer, for the masochists out there) for each individual rep.

If you think it about it, it makes sense. Most people are weakest at the bottom of a squat, and as a result this is where they tend to feel least comfortable. By spending a bit more time in the bottom position of the squat, we can get a little more comfortable in that position.

Here’s a quick video of me pumping out a couple.

If we look a little deeper (pun intended...), there are a couple of serious benefits that paused squats provide over regular squats.

 

They build strength out of the hole.

It is pretty common to see people drop into squat really quickly, and then bounce back up. While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this, it does have a couple of issues.

When we drop quickly into a squat, we rely on two things to get us out of the hole. The first is the muscles ability to use the stretch shortening cycle (SSC) effectively. The SSC describes the storage of elastic energy during the eccentric portion of a movement, followed by the use of that energy for the concentric portion of that same movement.

So using the squat as an example, during the descent the quads and glutes are lengthening under load. During this eccentric loading they are storing ‘elastic’ energy in the muscle and tendon tissue. By descending rapidly (and spending minimal time in the hole) this energy can be used effectively to help produce a concentric action (the up portion of the squat). Now while this can be a good thing, it is not something we want to become too reliant on during the squat. If we rely solely on the SSC to get out of the hole, we are likely to limit our strength development in other areas of the lift (eg. Just after we bounce out of the hole).

Secondly, it places a large amount of stress on the passive structures of the hip. The hip capsule and its surrounding ligaments take majority of the load as we rapidly drop into the bottom position. This means we are relying on these structures for stability in the bottom position of the squat rather than the muscles surrounding the hip and trunk. This can lead to hip issues and potential injury.

By pausing at the bottom of the squat we completely eliminate the SSC from the lift. This forces us to stay completely tight in the bottom position, and we are required to rely on the muscles around the hip to provide stability and maintain a solid position. This allows to build strength in the bottom position of the squat, which can increase our strength out of the hole.

Additionally, by increasing our strength out of the hole we can also limit the stress placed on the passive structures of the hip, and even improve our ability to use the SSC out of the hole on regular squat sets due to the improved muscular strength in that position.

 

Improves Squat technique

Good squat technique is essential to a big squat, and a large component of good technique is the ability to maintain a neutral spine throughout the duration of the lift. Often people will hang out in the bottom position of the squat, losing spinal position and relying on those passive structures to keep them upright.

By pausing in the bottom you can’t rely on these passive structures to maintain a good trunk position, you have to earn it. This teaches you to remain ‘tight’ throughout the duration of the lift, which will allow you to produce more force coming out of the hole.

I know for myself personally, by increasing this sense of stability in the bottom of the squat, I started feeling more comfortable squatting under load.

As a bonus, maintaining a healthy spinal position throughout the entire lift is also going to significantly reduce the risk of injury, or risk of developing low back pain.

 

Greater potential to build muscle

By pausing mid-way through a rep we increase the total amount of time under tension (TUT) the muscles are under. TUT is considered a key mechanical trigger to muscle growth, and by increasing it we can increase muscular hypertrophy as a result.

If you want massive quads (silly question, everyone wants massive quads) then paused squats are a great variation to implement into your training as an assistance exercise.

 

 

Programming Considerations

I typically program paused squats as an assistance exercise after heavy squats or deadlifts on one of my lower body days, and then as a core lift on one of my other lower body days.

I like to use 3-4 sets of anywhere from 2-8 reps using a 2-3 second pause in the bottom.

Try them out for 4 weeks and I can guarantee your technique and strength will improve. 

 

If you want any more info, contact me via the form below and i will get back to you ASAP!

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Muscle Confusion is a joke - How to Actually see training results

We have heard it all before.

The suggestion that constantly changing our exercise selection is good because it either;

1) ‘confuse the muscle into growing’
or
2) ‘keeps the muscle guessing’

The thought process behind this is that by constantly changing exercises, workloads, sets, reps etc. the body cannot ‘get used’ to a specific training stimulus. And , as a direct result, we see greater muscle growth, greater increases in strength, and a greater rate of fat loss.

Funny fact.

Muscles don’t have the capacity to get ‘confused’ or make ‘guesses’. They are muscles.

They can contract, causing them to get shorter, which creates movement at a joint.

The End.

Ok so maybe not the absolute end.

BUT.

There a couple of big issues that come with trying to 'confuse' our muscles through excessive variations:

1) It doesn’t allow the central nervous system (CNS) to adapt to movements. By allowing the CNS significant time to adapt, we become stronger at those movements, which results in greater improvement in strength and hypertrophy.

2) It doesn’t involve any specificity. We normally train towards a specific goal. Whether that goal is to improve athletic performance, increase lean mass, jump higher or bench press a Mack track, it doesn’t matter. Each goal is specific, and as such needs a specific, individualized exercise plan that leads us towards that goal. By changing exercises every week we lose that specific, goal orientated, aspect of training.

muscle confusion, hunter bennett performance, strength, fat loss, muscle

 

The real way to progress.

Fortunately, there is something that we can do to ensure consistent results from our training.

Unfortunately, it isn't new or sexy, it doesn't have cool catchy name like 'muscle confusion', and it will require ACTUAL effort.

But, on a positive note, it works.

In fact it is arguably the only thing that can cause legitimate, long term change.

 

Progressive Overload.

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise over time. This allows the body to gradually adapt to this increasing stress, growing bigger and stronger.

A great example of this:
step 1). Pick 1 big exercise (think deadlift) that you can perform twice per week.
Step 2). Find a weight you can lift 5 times.
Step 3). Do 5 sets of that weight.
Step 4). Once you can lift that weight for 5 sets of 5 reps, increase weight by 2.5kgs.
Step 5). Repeat step 3 and 4 again, and again, and again.

Now I realize this is a very simple example of progressive overload, and in regards to specificity, is probably only going to work towards someone’s goal of deadlifting a shit ton of weight (which is a pretty solid goal). But I can guarantee if you did this for 6 months (with the occasional deload programmed in) you would be bigger and stronger at the end of it than if you had changed exercises every week.

Now how would you apply this to a more complex goal? For example improving someone’s acceleration?

You might start using unloaded box jumps as a way to improve power, and split squats to improve single leg strength. Over time we can increase the external load added to these exercises to stimulate strength and hypertrophy (progressive overload). Once you feel the individual has ‘maxed out’ these exercises, you can then progress them to more complex exercises (for example, squat jumps and a reverse lunges). The external load used during these new exercises can be increased gradually ('progressively', even......) until we start to plateau, and then we repeat the process. Change the exercise SLIGHTLY and continue to add load. 

This way we can progressively overload an exercise that is aimed at achieving a specific goal, and we only vary an exercise when progress stalls on that specific exercise. Additionally, the exercise variation should be small (for example a split squat to a reverse lunge). This allows continual and gradual progress, as the new exercise builds on the components of the exercise that came before it.

See, it shouldn’t be confusing. It should be simple and logical (and actually produce RESULTS).

If you want to get in contact me, or are interested in training with me, please fill out the form below. 

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