When people talk about “gains”, they are talking about the process of hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is the term used to describe an increase in muscle size because of training. That being said, hypertrophy is a polarizing topic that is riddled with several myths and misconceptions.
Each muscle fiber is composed of several myofilaments, contractile units consisting of actin and myosin proteins. And our muscles will respond and adapt to the stress they are put under through resistance training. When a muscle is not used it will atrophy, reducing the size of the muscle fibers and the amount of proteins that it contains. However, when a muscle is forced to work under mechanical and metabolic stress, it will adapt and grow bigger to meet the work demands.
Hypertrophy Vs Hyerplasia
Hypertrophy is not to be confused with hyperplasia, which is an increase in the number of muscle cells. While more research is needed to understand the developing more muscle cells, it appears that hyperplasia may only contribute to less than 10% of muscle growth. But through hypertrophy, muscle cells can increase in diameter the size by adding new actin and myosin proteins to the existing myofilaments.
Research has shown that to maximize absolute strength, exercises should consist of low repetitions at intensities above 85% of the 1-repetition max (1RM). At the other end of the strength continuum curve, to maximize muscular endurance, exercises should consist of a high amount of reps at lower intensities (below 60% of the 1RM). The middle of the curve and how it relates to hypertrophy is much less clear.
Hypertrophy In Muscles
Hypertrophy training can be initiated regardless of the intensity and repetition ranges being used
Traditionally, 8-12 repetitions of an exercise at intensities around 70-75% of a 1RM have been recommended for hypertrophy training. While this may result in hypertrophy, increases in muscle size are not exclusively connected to this magical formula of weight and repetitions. If enough total volume of work is completed, hypertrophy training can be initiated regardless of the intensity and repetition ranges being used. The total volume of work can be calculated as the amount of weight intensity times the number of sets times the number of reps. Your body will adapt to demands of your work completed regardless if you are doing a heavy bench press or push-ups. Your muscles can not distinguish between the two.
Total Volume = Weight x Intensity x Sets X Reps
In 2010, the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published that hypertrophy is the result of muscular tension and metabolic stress. Muscular tension is the product concentric and eccentric contractions to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers. Metabolic stress involves training with moderate to high intensity and low periods of rest to induce muscular fatigue.
Hypertrophy And Genetics
While all muscle fibers can undergo hypertrophy, the amount of muscle that your body hold onto is largely due to your genetics. Your bone structure, the number of muscle cells you are born with, and even your hormone levels are all predetermined to a certain extent. You can maximize your genetics, but you cannot change them.
While many people fear starting a resistance training routine for fear that they might look “bulky”, adding muscle mass is a slow process with multiple variables. Unfortunately, social media, the steroid culture surrounding bodybuilding, and even the movies have given the illusion that it is easy to bulk up quickly through working out.
What Are The Best Workouts To Promote Hypertrophy
The best workouts are always the ones that you complete. Too often people start a workout program only to stop training shortly after. For me this meant it had to be simple, fun, and and fit into my busy lifestyle. I workout at home or at the gym 5-6 days a week for about 40-45 minutes. We have 3 kids and blocking off a few hours to go to the gym each day for my personal workouts is just not realistic. Life is too busy. But I can always find a half hour during the day to fit it in my schedule.
The best workouts are the ones that get noticeable results. I would say my genetics are “average” at best. I don’t have a build that will ever let me put on a large amount of muscle while staying lean. But hypertrophy training has given me the confidence to like what I see in the mirror or to have my shirt off at the beach without feeling embarrassed.
Starting A Hypertrophy Program?
The best way is to answer a few questions and I can guide you in the right direction. When you are ready to get started I will be here to help you every step of the way.
What Do I Teach Students About Hypertrophy?
The topic of hypertrophy is a very polarizing issue when we go into the weight room in my physical education classes. Unfortunately there are a lot of myths and misconceptions generated by “bro-science” and the bodybuilding culture when it come to hypertrophy.
Here is the assignment I use in my classes to explain the science behind hypertrophy.
For several years creatine has been one of the most popular supplements sold. But it hasn’t always been this way.
While creatine was first discovered in 1832, its popularity as a nutritional supplement did not arise until 160 years later. After winning the 100m Gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Linford Christie shared that he had been using creatine as part of his preparation. Reports also surfaced that Sally Gunnell, who won the 400m gold medal in Barcelona, also had been using creatine while training for the Olympics. Shortly after, companies began commercially producing creatine to be marketed and sold to the masses.
Where Does Creatine Come From?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound present in most muscle tissues. It can be synthesized by the body in the liver and kidneys before being transported to the muscle cells. Creatine can also be consumed through various foods. Beef, pork, and some types of fish can also be significant sources of creatine. After digestion, creatine can be shuttled to the muscle cells via the bloodstream. Once creatine is in the muscle cells, a phosphate molecule is added to creatine converting it into the molecule phohpocreatine (PCr). Phosphocreatine is then available to work as an energy source for cellular metabolism.
Creatine Becomes An Energy Source For Your Muscles
Our muscle cells need ATP (energy) to contract. Unfortunately, ATP is not able to be stored in the cells of the body. and during intense exercise, there is only enough ATP for muscle cells to work for 1 or 2 seconds before they run out of ATP. The solution is to use other molecules to supply the cells with a constant supply of ATP. In our muscle cells, the concentration of PCr is three to four times greater than the concentration of ATP. This makes PCr a valuable fuel source for muscle cells and the renewal of ATP for energy. PCr is quickly broken down to replenish ATP and prevent the immediate fatigue of our muscles.
In our muscle cells, ATP is supplied through three metabolic pathways: the phophocreatine pathway, glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway. While each pathway is continuously producing energy, at different times during exercise each pathway becomes the primary source for ATP. The phosphocreatine pathway for energy production becomes the primary energy source for muscle cells for the first 8-15 seconds of energy as the cell ramps up the release of ATP through glycolysis, the initial breakdown of glucose to release ATP. The Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association concluded that while creatine appears to be beneficial in shorts bursts of high-intensity exercise, it may not be as useful for endurance exercise. This is because most of the ATP produced for endurance exercise is derived from the oxidative pathway, and less from the use of PCr and glycolysis.
Creatine Supplements Can Prevent Muscle Fatigue
While high levels of stored PCr in muscle cells may reduce the need to rely on anaerobic glycolysis and lactate creation during ATP production, creatine appears to have another benefit as well. Creatine can act as a buffer which can help stabilize the pH levels in the body. Excessive H+ ion production from the use of ATP can lead to muscle acidosis or the “burning” feeling experienced during exercise. Having high levels of creatine and PCr in muscle cells appears to lessen muscle acidosis allowing for muscles to perform more work before the effects of fatigue set in.
Creatine Improves Muscle Size and Strength
I have been using creatine for several years as a supplement to help me get stronger. Studies show increases in strength and mass have been seen after as little as one week of usage. The initial increase in mass is generally between 1-3 pounds and may be the result of increases in water retention in the muscle cells, the stimulation of protein synthesis, or a decrease in muscle breakdown. Over time, creatine can contribute to muscle fiber growth by signaling biological pathways to stimulate muscle growth. This benefit works in conjunction with creatine’s metabolic function to allow for more ATP production during resistance and high-intensity exercise. A 1999 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology noted that individuals who consumed creatine during a 6-week training program gained on average 4.4 more pounds than those in the control group.
Are Creatine Supplements Safe?
With over 200 peer reviewed article and some studies lasting over 5 years, creatine is one of the most studied supplements being used today. To date, no studies have reported that the effects of creatine can be detrimental to a person’s health. However, many people report that consuming creatine can cause symptoms such as muscle cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal issues. Because creatine tends to contribute to the retention of water in muscle cells, it is important to stay properly hydrated while consuming creatine as a supplement.
How Do I Start Using Creatine?
Adding creatine to your daily routine is simple. It usually comes in a white powder that is both tasteless and odorless. Personally, I add it my super-food shake or recovery protein shake each day. Creatine can be mixed into juice or water as well. Many people recommend a “loading phase” for creatine where 20g/day (5g servings taken 4x each day) are consumed for the first 6 days to help increase the total creatine concentration in the muscle cells. Alternatively, the loading phase can be skipped and individuals can simply begin adding 5g of creatine daily. While the initial concentration in the cells isn’t as great, studies have found that by day 28, both regiments will increase the PCr concentration to the same level within a month. You body does not build up a tolerance to creatine so there is no need to cycle on and off using it. To make sure my body has it available when needed, I consume it on both days when I am working out and on rest days.
Which Creatine Supplements Should I Buy?
Walking into your local supplement store or shopping online will yield a wide variety of options that can be overwhelming. Supplement companies will market creatine as Creatine HCl (hydrochloride), Creatine Nitrate, Creatine Citrate, and others. And all will come at a premium price. However, Creatine Monohydrate is the version that has received most of the testing and has been proven to be effective for both providing energy and assisting in building strength. So this is all I chose to consume. Next, when you look at the ingredients label it should ONLY say one thing, creatine monohydrate. Again, supplement companies will try to boost profits by mixing in other ingredients. I am a fan of other supplements (I’ll share those later), but I don’t need to pay extra to have them formulated with my creatine. Artificial sweeteners, salts, and other compounds are frequently add to creatine supplements which means you are getting less creatine per serving.
A final consideration is that the FDA regulates supplements under different standards than the regulations of “conventional” food and drugs. And several studies and lawsuits revolve around the fact that supplements and supplement companies have been shown to not be truthful when labeling their products. This topic could be a whole article on its own, but in short, supplements are not rigorously tested to ensure that only what is on the label is in the supplement. Other compounds have been discovered to be added to supplements and the concentrations of ingredients has been found to be inaccurate. The solution is to ONLY BUY SUPPLEMENTS THAT ARE THIRD PARTY TESTED. Both NSF and Informed Sport test supplements to ensure they can be trusted. And I will only use supplements that display their labels on the packaging.
Creatine is one of the most asked about topics I get from both adults and students. Because of this, I created an enrichment article I use in class to explain the science behind creatine and how it works. If you are interested, you can grab a copy of my enrichment article here.
If you’re ready to get started adding creatine to your routine, here is a link my online store where I offer the same creatine I use. Still unsure? You can also buy a serving a creatine as part of a supplement sampler pack to see if it’s right for you.
WHY ARE MY MUSCLES SORE AFTER WORKING OUT?
Have you ever woken up sore muscles the day after working out?
If so, chances are you have experienced DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Sore muscles are a result movement or activity is completed beyond the scope of what the body is used to accomplishing. The common symptoms include inflammation, tenderness, and muscle fatigue. DOMS are commonly referred to as “muscle fever” because of the overall sickly feeling that comes with the symptoms.
What Causes Sore Muscles After Working Out?
People generally have sore muscles 12 to 48 hours after working out. If pain or soreness occurs during or immediately after a workout, it is due to acute muscle soreness. Acute muscle soreness is different from DOMS and should be treated differently as well. While researchers know very little as to what causes this type of soreness (and even less on how to effectively prevent or treat it), several studies have debunked many of the more popular myths surrounding the DOMS.
While the exact cause of DOMS is unknown, studies have found a correlation between DOMS and specific activities. A 1994 study published in the Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that “unaccustomed exercise may lead to significant damage to skeletal muscle and DOMS in both recreational and elite athletes.” The study went on to explain that metabolic and mechanical stress may damage the muscle cells. Twenty-five years later, scientists still do not understand the specifics of the “metabolic and mechanical” stressors.
DOMS are frequently seen when individuals go beyond their normal scope of exercise. Because of this, even highly trained athletes can still incur DOMS. However, as the individual becomes more accustomed to exercise, the degree of delayed muscle soreness will decrease. This is frequently referred to as the repeated bout effect (RBE). The RBE is why an athlete doesn’t get as sore after completing a workout that they have done before. That doesn’t mean that soreness in a sign of increased muscle strength of hypertrophy. When someone is just starting to exercise, they will coincidentally experience rapid gains while also experiencing the greatest amount of soreness. But these are not connected. You can still experience gains, event if you aren’t sore following a workout.
Why Isn’t Everyone Sore After Working Out?
Several theories have been tested to better understand the potential metabolic and mechanical stressors thought to cause DOMS. Eccentric exercises tend to cause a greater occurrence of DOMS compared to concentric or isometric movements. An eccentric movement can be defined as a muscle is forced to work during the lengthening phase of a movement. Individual genetics is also a factor in the degree to which DOMS are experienced. Some people are more likely to experience soreness than others. Other factors including dehydration, preexisting conditions, and even the metal fear of future pain have been shown to influence DOMS.
Scientific research has concluded that DOMS are not caused by lactate built up as a result of exercise. The are also not caused by microtrauma inside the muscle cells. Muscle damage may play a role in DOMS, but there is no correlation between the damage and DOMS. Studies have shown individuals to be the sorest when there is the very little damage to the muscle cells.
How To Not Be Sore After Working Out
Since there isn’t any conclusive evidence of what the cause of DOMS is, it is not surprising that science has yet to find much evidence for their prevention and treatment. A 2003 article published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research detailed that most of the conventional beliefs surrounding the treatment of DOMS lacked sufficient evidence. Time appears to be the best treatment for DOMS. Generally, after a few days the soreness decreases. Both light exercise and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen have been used to treat the symptoms, but it is not clear why they may work. Light exercise increases inflammation while Ibuprofen will decrease it.
If you Are looking for workouts but want to skip the soreness, here are some ideas for you.
Want more info on muscle soreness?
Because delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is something students always ask questions about, I created an enrichment article to explain more about what it is and isn’t. You can grab the article here.
You can also check out the Facebook Live I recently filmed debunking many of the myths around DOMS.
5 TIPS TO SICK TO YOUR FITNESS GOALS
It’s late May and we are nearing the end of the school year. With teachers getting ready for summer vacation across the country we are all hanging on for dear life. We’ve finished our testing season. The weather is getting warmer. And the kids in our classes are starting to get more restless by the day.
Each day seems to start with a little less energy than the day before and I keep looking at my calendar as I count down the days.
I know many of us have set health and fitness goals that we are simultaneously trying to achieve. Maybe we have a trip coming up and we are still trying to lose those pesky 15 pounds we put on over the holidays. Maybe our doctor has told us we need to improve our health or he is going to have to put us on (another) medication.
It’s a struggle not to just put our goals on hold until the start of summer.
If you are driving the struggle bus right now here are some of the best tips have that will help you stick to your goals as we get through the final part of the school year.
Start each day by reviewing your WHY.
It is very easy to lose sight of your goals when you are fatigued. Will-power is like a battery and as it gets drained each day as fatigue sets in, we are less likely to think of the long term consequences of our actions.
A good way to counter this is to begin every day reminding yourself of what your goals are and why they are important to achieve. Personally, I set a time in my phone that goes off each day at 6am to remind me to write down my goals. My wife keeps a journal by her side of the bed, and she writes down her goals before even getting out of bed. This is one of the easiest habits to begin because you can do it before the day gets busy.
Set an appointment for your fitness.
Do you calendar out your daily workouts? Once I started doing this not only did I have a better completion rate, but I had more productive workouts as well. The first step is to set the time and location for your workouts and enter it into your phone or write it on your physical calendar.
The second step is to have a plan for what the workout is. Telling yourself you are going to the gym is not enough. Be specific. Take a class if you don’t know where to begin on fitness programming. Another option is to work with a coach who has had success programming workouts for clients. But simply bouncing around the gym from machine to machine has a low probability of getting you the results you are looking for.
Plan and prep as much of your food in advance as possible.
The single biggest variable in your success will be your relationship with food. It’s true, you can’t outwork a bad diet. If you know my story, then you have heard me talk about how I wasted a decade trying to just exercise more without taking control of what I was eating and drinking.
Yes, calories matter in regard to how much you are eating. But you also need to focus on what you are eating and when you are eating. The best way to control your nutrition is to plan out your meals for the week and prep as much of your own food as possible. This will help you eat more whole foods and less processed and packaged food-like products. If you simply don’t have the time, look into a local meal prep company and see if using them will help you stick to your goals even when there doesn’t seem to be enough time to cook.
Keep your sleep consistent.
It’s really easy do let our sleep patterns get erratic near the end of the school year. Days of exhaustion are common but if we stay consistent with our sleep our body will be better at keeping our hormones that regulate our metabolism and hunger in check.
Do you give your students a reward if they reach specific goals? For my kids the reward of getting to walk off campus to the Subway down the street for lunch was a huge motivator for completing their achieve articles.
Do the same for yourself. Buy yourself a reward when you reach a goal. That new swim suit or bag that you have had your eye on will be the perfect motivator to keep you disciplined enough despite the end of the school year fatigue. It doesn’t have to be a huge reward. Just something to keep your focus.
For a long period of time, I felt like my life was out of control. I was tired. I was depressed. I was frustrated. And I took it out on myself and those who were closest to me. But taking control of my health and fitness became my path to gaining control of my life. It has made be a better teacher, husband, and father. And it has done the same for countless others as well.
Jennifer is just one of the teachers who has felt that their life was spinning out of control. In 2015 she had a traumatic injury that left her unable to walk for 9 weeks. She became depressed and her weight began climbing out of control.
“Before I started this program, I felt miserable. I hated the way I looked in clothes, and hated even more how I looked out of them! I was ashamed of how I looked and tried to find anything to hide my weight. I knew that if I could make a change, I could get the self-confidence back that I knew I had lost. I seemed to be always angry, depressed, and had very little energy from day to day. Being that I am a teacher, and a health/nutrition one at that, I never felt “qualified” to discuss good habits with my students, because I knew that I was not practicing them myself.”
In January, she decided that enough was enough and took back control of her heath. She began her first round of the 21 Day Fix. She loved that it was an all-inclusive program that combined simple workouts that could be done in 30 minutes a day, and easy to follow nutrition program, and a coach who provided support and accountability.
The results weren’t overnight, but with consistency she was able to see great results. In fact Jennifer has lost over 40 pounds since January and regained control of her personal health and fitness.
“What am I most proud of? All of it! That I was able to look past everything that was (and still is) going wrong in my life and make something go right for me. To make sure that I took 30 minutes minimum each day for me, and demanded that from my life’s stress. I am most proud of taking control and getting a very important part of my life back. Hearing constantly from co-workers, friends, and family how great I look is not a bad thing either!”
Are you ready to make a change? What if I were to tell you we’ve helped people lose 20, 30, even 50 pounds using this all-inclusive approach. We will help you begin at your current starting point and work with you every step of the way until you reach your goal.
So if you are ready to get started but still have some questions send me a email or message me on our Facebook page and I will help you get started today! If you already know this is for you, order the 21 day fix here and let’s begin your journey to the new and healthier you.
If your goal is to lose weight, what is the best way to do so?
Well, if you are like most people you will turn to adding some form of cardio exercise to your current lifestyle. It could be walking, biking, swimming, group exercise aerobic classes, or even using one of the cardio machines at the gym.
I think one of the reasons we are so quick to turn to cardio is that we see an immediate visible product from our workout efforts: sweating.
Unfortunately, the amount you sweat is not a good measurement tool for determining the effectiveness of your workout or the amount of fat you are burning. Sweating is simply a safety mechanism of the body to cool itself off when it becomes too hot. Yes, when you sweat a lot you will lose a lot of weight initially. But this weight loss does not equate to fat loss. Because once you rehydrate yourself, the weight will come back on.
I’m not saying that you won’t lose weight by adding cardio to your routine. Far from it. It’s just that the 2 pounds you lost between yesterday and today are not 2 pounds of fat loss. It’s most likely a combination of fat loss and water loss.
What kind of cardio should I do?
Frequently I’m asked what kind of cardio exercise people should be doing. And generally I first respond with the question, “What kind of cardio do you enjoy?” Because it doesn’t matter how effective the exercise is if you won’t do it.
The second question I ask is, “Where will you be doing it?” Personally I like to run, hike, and do 30-45 minute interval cardio programs at home. I enjoy the outdoors and live in a great area with great weather so outside exercise is an option for me. But we also have busy lives with 3 kids so driving to a local mountain for a hike is often a 2-3 activity, and I don’t always have the time. So at-home fitness has become a staple of my routine. I can use a DVD or a workout on my iPad and follow along minimizing the time needed to get my workout in.
Frequency, Duration, and Intensity: The other cardio factors
How often you incorporate cardio into your routine depends a lot based on your current goals. Generally I would say three times a week is a good maintenance or starting point. Your workout program shouldn’t consist entirely of steady state cardio (walking, elliptical, treadmill, etc) because alone it will limit your ability to reshape your body and burn body fat.
As your body becomes more conditioned you can increase the frequency of cardio to help accelerate your fat loss efforts. If you were adding cardio six days a week to your schedule and burning an extra 600 calories per workout you would be doubling your efforts of cardio compared to just keeping with three day a week. And in the long run this increase will definitely speed up your results.
It’s expected that the intensity and duration will be inversely related to each other during exercise. Obviously, the harder you work the more calories you will burn. But the problem is you won’t last very long. So the trick is to find the sweat spot for maximizing calorie burn to accelerate fat loss. If you know your maximum heart rate (MHR), I would recommend trying to keep within a range of 70%-85%. You can calculate your MHR here. This will push your body to burn a lot of calories to keep moving, but should be at a sustainable level so you can last for more than a few minutes.
My secret to combining higher intensity with longer duration
The way I am able to maximize fat loss with greater intensity of my cardio while still being able to continue for 30 minutes is by incorporating high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into my workouts. My workouts have me working a level much closer to my MHR, but with 10 to 30 seconds of rest in between intervals I am able to catch my breath and continue on for a longer total amount of time.
Personally, my favorite workout program for HIIT training is Insanity Max30. It’s a refined version of Shaun T’s original Insanity workouts. The workouts are only 30 minutes long, require no equipment, and can be done in almost any location. Another benefit of this program is that there is a modifier option as well. This is low impact and at a slower pace for people just starting on their fitness journey or who have some limitations. On our last family vacation, Danielle and I did our Max30 workouts in our hotel room and ran the workouts from our iPad. It was a great way to get our cardio in before having fun at the pool or going out for a day of adventure with the kids.
A final note on HIIT is that working at a higher intensity will keep your metabolism elevated for a period of time after the exercise is completed causing an “afterburn effect”. Researchers call this “afterburn” excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) and it literally means that your body will still be burning extra calories long after you completed your workout.
If the goal of cardio is to create a larger daily calorie deficit for increased fat loss, you bet I want my body burning as many calories as possible every day. A study conducted at Appalachian State University measured HIIT participants as having an increase of their metabolism for over 12 hours post exercise. This translated to almost 200 extra calories burned! Simply adding in HIIT training five days a week instead of steady state cardio could mean losing an extra pound of body fat or more each month.
Hopefully this gives you some great ideas for accelerating your body transformation and fat loss through the use of cardio. Please email me at email@example.com or send me a message through our Facebook page if you have any questions or would like assistance reaching your personal weightloss and fitness goals.
I’m about ready to get my morning cardio in as I conclude this post, so until next time, stay active!