USING LIGHT WEIGHTS OR HEAVY WEIGHTS CAN INCREASE MUSCLE STRENGTH
When I say ‘light’ I’m referring to 50-60% of your 1RM, not the 5lb dumbbells or 10lb barbell you use in your step aerobics class. A key training factor in determining muscle size and development is volume of our workload (sets X reps X weight).
Ex. Person ‘A’ benches 185lbs for 5 sets of 5 reps (25 reps total). Total volume is 4,625lbs. Person ‘B’ benches 135lbs for 3 sets of 15 reps. Total volume is 6,075lbs. Person ‘B’ did nearly 1,400lbs more work than Person ‘A’ while using 27% less weight. While Person ‘A’ will grow in strength at a faster rate than Person ‘B’, Person ‘Bs’ strength levels will grow as well (even in well trained individuals).
In the end it comes down to personal preference and the types of muscle fibers you are training. Some muscles will do very well with few reps and lots of weights while others are stimulated with higher reps and lighter weights. See what works for you.
DIFFERENT LIMB/TORSO LENGTHS CAN HELP DETERMINE HOW STRONG YOU WILL BECOME IN POWERLIFTING
If you want to get stronger, particularly on the Big 3 (deadlift, squat, and bench press), then you better understand your anatomy. There are some things you will never change about your anatomy and one of those things is your bone structure. The lengths of your thighs, forearms, upper arms, and torso must be taken into consideration for strength. Use this info as a reference guide and see where your strengths and weaknesses lie:
- Long Arms = Great deadlifter, poor bencher
- Long Legs = Poor squatter
- Long Torso = Great squatter and deadlifter
- Short Arms = Great bencher
- Short Legs = Great squatter
- Short Torso = Great deadlifter
No one has the perfect powerlifter body. An advantage in the deadlift (i.e. Long Arms) will be a disadvantage in the bench press. You have one of 2 options when it comes to your programming: focus on strengthening the weaker lift OR make your stronger lifts incredibly strong. I’m a fan of the later. My reasoning? Your overall level of strength will increase much more by focusing on your stronger lifts and that is extremely beneficial in powerlifting competitions. Also, being stronger in the other lifts will eventually carry over to your weakest lift making that lift better. Again, my personal opinion but shared by many powerlifting experts.
CONCENTRIC FOR POWER, ECCENTRIC FOR STRENGTH AND SIZE
To clarify, concentric is when you are contracting/flexing a muscle fiber such as the biceps during the upward phase of the bicep curl. Eccentric is when you are lowering/stretching a muscle fiber such as the biceps during the lowering phase of the bicep curl. The vast majority of people tend to focus on the concentric portion of their lift, thinking this will create the most muscle damage in order to stimulate growth and strength. While this is partially true, the greatest “damage” comes from a slow eccentric action. The reason? Muscles are able to handle any where from 20%-50% more resistance during the eccentric phase than during the concentric phase. The greater the resistance, the greater the muscle damage. Remember, we want to “damage” our muscles in our training sessions. Eat correctly and they will regrow stronger.
Other factors affected by eccentric strength training are the ability for the body to enhance protein synthesis, or protein absorption into the muscle, and increases in IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor). Both of these are required for muscles to grow and become stronger.
Concentric training does improve overall strength and size but not to the degree of eccentric training. Fast, concentric actions are ideal for power training: Olympic lifting, sprinting, jumping, throwing, etc. Both eccentric and concentric actions are used in nearly all lifts but give more attention to eccentric in your training to see continued gains. A bonus to eccentric training is the ability for your body to withstand injury.
VEGANS CAN GROW MUSCLE JUST LIKE MEAT-EATERS, SORT OF
Protein is the key. Get the proper amount of protein in your diet and your muscles will grow. The quality greatly changes depending on your source of protein. As long as long EAAs (essential amino acids) leucine, valine, and isoleucine are in your food source you will stimulate the greatest growth in your muscles. Here’s why:
- Leucine: helps heal wounds/injuries and helps balance blood sugar to produce energy during your workouts.
- Isoleucine: aids in the biochemical process that increases your energy levels and increases lean mass and decreases body fat
- Valine: assists in protein synthesis (protein absorption into muscles) and repairs tissue damage.
While meats contain the best quality and most quantity of EAAs you can absorb these nutrients from other sources such as grains, peanuts, soy, wheat, oats, and more. The issue most people run into when following a vegetarian or vegan diet while trying to build muscle and burn fat is the issue of calories. If you plan on consuming the required amounts of protein to stimulate muscle building and fat loss then you must be weary of the calories in your diet. Unfortunately, to attain the same amount of protein in your diet from sources other than meat or dairy means you will consume far more calories from the other sources like grains and oats. It can be done but it is very difficult. I would suggest getting a vegan/vegetarian protein powder and creatine supplement to help make things easier on you.
PLAN THE WORK, WORK THE PLAN
Anyone who’s successful at anything in life follows the mantra “Plan the work, work the plan.” This applies to your strength training goals as well.
I feel most of us suffer what’s called “programming ADD”. We just can’t seem to wrap our head around the idea that in order to see prolonged physical change we need to stick with a training program. Unfortunately, many “success” stories we see on social media and shows like “The Biggest Loser” have given us a skewed view on what are realistic and sustainable fitness goals in a certain period of time.
The point is you must pick a plan and STICK to it for months, even years to see results. Too many of us give up on our training goals b/c we don’t see drastic change in a short amount of time. It’s annoying, it’s mind numbing at times, and it can be very defeating. But, that doesn’t mean the plan isn’t working. Don’t be cheap. Open up your pockets and get good coaching and meal planning. Plan the work and work the plan.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!