Sunday, 26 February 2012

Forced negatives

Forced negatives! Sounds brutal right? Without beating round the bush, it is and it will destroy you! So what is it? Quite simply you load the bar or machine with up to 100% of your 1 rep max and fight the resistance all the way down (1 arm or leg a time)
Before I show you one of my favourite chest and back workouts using this principle lets take a look at the benefits of training this way.  I personally like to use forced negatives as a shock tactic for whenever I feel a body part needs that little bit of extra work. I wouldn’t recommend training this way non stop for over 3 weeks as you will soon run yourself into the ground and risk over-training.
Research has shown the eccentric portion of the rep induces most of the microtrauma to the fibres which in turn stimulates the body to grow them bigger and stronger than before. This would also suggest why you feel intense DOMS the following morning from using heavy negative reps. Negative reps also put stress on the tendons and supporting structures of the muscle which is great for strengthening them and bullet proofing your body against injury.
 Some important points I want to make before you head down to the gym to try it are firstly be as accurate as you can when selecting your weight for the negative reps. To work out a good starting weight you need to work out 60% of your 1RM for that particular lift and work up, adding 10% each week. Remember, that because you’re working unilaterally 60% of your 1RM on one limb would be more than it can handle because the other limb isn’t there to help out. As you get closer to your one rep max I recommend having a spotter present.
Second point is to control the negative portion, taking at least 4-5 seconds to fight the weight and then reset the bar with both arms and repeat negatives for reps.  In my workouts I also include ‘flush sets’ which is a lighter weight/higher reps to finish and flush the muscle with blood for maximum nutrient delivery. Lastly warm-up properly and TAKE CARE, you never know when an injury could occur in the gym. Forced negatives work on a variety of exercises so get experimenting!
Here is my chest and back workout using the forced negative principle. It doesn’t look much written down, but try it and I guarantee the intensity and shock factor won’t disappoint you.
Smith machine bench press
3-5 negatives per arm
Reset the bar with both arms, then fight the resistance all the way down with 1 arm
Cable fyle
lighter weight/higher reps to flush the muscle with blood for maximum nutrient delivery
Unilateral lat pull down
3-5 negatives per arm
Pull the handle down to the top of your chest with both hands then fight the resistance all the way up with one arm
Seated cable row
lighter weight/higher reps to flush the muscle with blood for maximum nutrient delivery

Forced negatives example on a smith machine bench press
Take 4-5 seconds to lower the weight, 1 arm at a time, fighting the resistance all the way down (remember to set the safety’s at an appropriate height)

Reset the bar with both arms and repeat for reps.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Increase speed, size and strength...with a piece of latex!?

When I first saw it being done, I must admit I was sceptical. It looked silly and how could it possibly help me increase my strength? I did my research, found out why so many people in the fitness and sports conditioning industry are raving about them, and put them to the test. I tried and tested them myself in the trenches on a few lifts such as the bench press, close grip bench press and deadlifts. My conclusion…yeah they work! My strength and explosive power shot up on these lifts.  Why? Simple, using bands teaches your muscles to accelerate the weight on the concentric portion of the lift. Let me explain…

The simple graph below demonstrates what happens to the resistance level during 1 rep on a bench press.  The blue line shows a standard bench press with no bands. The resistance level stays the same throughout the rep. Obvious right? But look what happens when you add bands. They create a dynamic resistance throughout the rep. On the concentric phase (as your pushing away) the band gets tighter, making it harder. This will teach your muscles to speed up as you push against the increasing resistance. As you lower the weight (eccentric phase) the bands loosen and it gets easier. If you get more efficient at lifting faster and exploding heavy weights, you’ll get stronger!

So in conclusion, adding bands to various lifts is a great way to improve speed strength. It’s also a great plateau buster and a simple way to give a new feel to an old lift and freshen it up. Bands come in a degree of thicknesses/resistance levels, so start light and work your way up to a harder one.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The hangover cure

We all like a good drink once in a while right? It’s a great social, and it’s nice to just forget about the gym and healthy eating for a night right? I’m constantly looking for ways that can minimise the effect a night out on the lash has on your training. To me the actual night out isn’t the problem (I never normally would be in the gym on a Saturday night anyway) but it’s the following day that could potentially screw things up!
You spend most of the day in bed, missing meals and you miss a gym session. What if there were two things you could take to crush the hangover effect and get you back on your feet in no time? You’d probably want in! Well have a look at this….

green tea – why?  We all know green tea has a whole array of health benefits, but in particular it acts as a powerful antioxidant. Helping your body break down alcohol and exercise induced free-radicals. It also has detoxifying properties and contains a small amount of caffeine, which can help ‘wake’ your entire body from your post-party trauma.

milk thistle – why? A common supplement that’s been used for over 2000 years. It’s noted for its benefits on liver health. It protects the liver and helps improve its function. Since alcohol is moved to the liver to be broken down, the liver really could do with a helping hand from this supplement. This in turn helps the body to detox itself.
Back to reality, this isn’t the ultimate hangover cure and needs a lot more research. It certainly won’t reverse the effects of a hangover in a matter of minutes like a magic potion, but it could help get you on your way again….

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The lean bulk (wrap-up)

Fitness riddle - I’ve just gained 2.1KG of lean muscle mass in 10 weeks and kept my body fat in single digits whilst doing it. What I’ve used to do this isn’t a massive secret. It’s not a magic supplement everyone in the fitness industry is in on. It’s not a steroid or pro-hormone and it certainly won’t show up on a drugs test. In fact I didn’t even have to purchase it. What have I used? Read on to find out…
So week 10 of 10 is here, which can only mean phase 1, 2, 3 and 4 are all complete! This week it’s been nice to take a step away from heavy lifting, but I can guarantee by the end of the week I’m going to be itching to get back in the gym training hard again. In this post I plan to just basically bring my lean bulk to an end and give a final progress check. Before I begin I just want to say a massive thanks to you if you have been reading my progress and following my workouts etc. It means a lot to me and I hope you’ve taken something useful away from reading my posts.

So let’s have a look at my goals I set out 10 weeks ago:

1.       Add 2.5kg’s of lean muscle mass over the 10 week period. Without letting my body fat get into double figures.
Achieved? No, not quite. But I did gain 2.1KG which is very close and a figure which I am still very pleased with. My body fat % is also still in single figures which is great news. Sometimes its good to aim high. You may not make it, but at least I can look at it and accept I’m better off than I was 10 weeks ago. The only way is up!
2.       Power clean 80kg’s for 3 consecutive reps
Achieved? Yes. However the 3rd rep was sloppy, which means I can now work to improve this and finish with 3 solid reps.
3.       Complete 2 consecutive sets of 12 reps of ‘Fat Gripz’ pull-ups
Achieved? Yes. I progressed the reps on this exercise each week working up to two sets of 12. It wasn’t easy, but I got there in the end. My forearm size and strength benefited greatly from this exercise.

So overall I completed 2/3 of my goals I set out. Which is better than 0/3 right? Despite missing a few workouts (hey, it was Christmas, New Year and my birthday!) I’ve really enjoyed the last 10 weeks I will definitely be trying something similar again in the future. I tried various exercises that I’ve never used before which challenged my mind and body in new ways. As far as noticeable changes go I’ve noticed improvements in the thickness of my thighs and my upper chest and I’ve got stronger.
 I think the last 10 weeks really did prove that if you practise what I, and so many other fitness professionals preach you will see the results you deserve. If I could do this programme again? I certainly think I could lift more weight for more reps! Or maybe that’s just my ‘constant desire to improve’ attitude showing!

Where to now?

Well first things first I’m going to indulge in one of my favourite chocolate treats – dark chocolate snickers! I think I’ve earned it. As far as training goes, I recently received Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “encyclopaedia of modern bodybuilding” as a gift and there’s some great back to basics weight training plans in there which I’m going to follow. I’ll be back as usual on my blog posting various articles or topics summed up in 500 words. And remember any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me by email, Facebook and twitter etc.

oh, and the answer to my fitness riddle?....HARD WORK