Strength & Hypertrophy

Fitness

When it comes to the intention of progressive overload, training for Strength and for Hypertrophy are two different avenues which can lend into one another:

Hypertrophy

Training to target and overload specific areas and muscle groups.

Strength

Lifting an object from point A to point B and building this up to the heaviest weight possible

Now let’s consider the two schools of thought surrounding each of these approaches, whilst acknowledging both of their END GOALS.

Hypertrophy is predominantly used for Bodybuilding, in that people aiming to get as lean as possible will also be required to hold onto as much muscle as they can in order to achieve a certain LOOK. Although strength would have had to be once a key staple of their progression to a heavier weight –alluding to more muscle and fat retention from a higher calorie output– it will ultimately become spent to satisfy a much leaner goal which requires much less food and even less energy to operate. When strength may be in scarcity, it is here where hypertrophy would be a key component of muscle maintenance, given an equal stimulation to imitate the heavier weight bearing. A set of 80kg on Bench Press is not the same as one of 110kg, but there are plenty of ways in which you can trick your body into making it feel the same way and thus not losing too much muscle at a lighter weight. Clearly this is not the approach to take across prolonged periods of what would be a culmination of both Strength and Hypertrophy, as it is much easier to adapt to the lower volume of 80 than it is 110, but merely lifting heavier won’t necessarily bear the kind of LOOK a matched lighter volume may.

On the flipside, Powerlifters operating purely for strength rely on keeping their rep ranges LOW and their weight HIGH, in order to surpass previous totals in VOLUME, NOT Reps. Even simply comparing the energy and muscle recruitment required going up to 110 from 80, and 140 from 110 is something that relies heavily on calorie influx and energy replacement throughout strength overloading. In Bodybuilding, specific muscle volume and hypertrophy purely for size is achieved at a much higher rep range whereby the muscle is pushed to complete failure and adapts accordingly over time.

Both these styles of training can be incorporated alongside the other, though there will be a conflicting point to which the potentiality of further strength may be hindered by adopting rep ranges suited better to endurance rather than power. The same goes for lifting beyond your means and sacrificing the proper muscular contraction in the correct areas as opposed to the assisting, peripheral muscles; shoulders, arms.

Ultimately, place your approach on a scale of one to the other –STRENGTH, HYPERTROPHY– and define where you would place both your rep ranges and resistance % of 1RM in relation to how it reflects on your body. Account days for strength and others for accessory and isolation movements which provide more of a failure from the pain/burn as opposed to simply failing to complete the set amount of reps as it is too heavy.

I will be taking on more clients this year for Online Coaching, which will include regular weight and macro goals in conjunction with a custom training regime. If this is something that you are looking to get put in place for 2019 please complete my survey on my website jakedarcyfitness.com under ‘Online Coaching’

Cheers

Jake

New You or Just New Year?

Fitness, Lifestyle

Picture this, less than a few weeks from now, it’s January 2019, Christmas will be a distant memory and all the guilt-free-ness of the last month? months? year? May now seem like a real mountain of a task. The thing is, whatever plan of action you are willing to take now, realistically, ask yourself these two questions,

Are you going to be able to STICK to it?

Are you going to be able to ENJOY it? 

If the answer to both is realistically NO

Have a look at the things you CAN and WILL stick to FIRST, do it WITHOUT FAIL , and see how you that makes you feel. Here are some simple habits that you can implement to the New Year. I’m going to make the point of  (AT LEAST )

 Walk somewhere you usually would have drove to (once a week)

Try an exercise that you haven’t done before (once a week)

Choose just ONE DAY to cut out the things you know may be hindering your progress 

Choose just ONE DAY to cook your own food or only eat things that are prepared by YOU.

Leave your phone on charge in another room in order to sleep. 

Do something that you know is HARD, A RUN, A WORKOUT, A CLASS, NO BS.

Things for each day

EAT BREAKFAST (UNLESS FASTING or there’s a good reason for it)

Plan ahead what you are going to eat BESIDES the most convenient option

Something green on your plate 

Be full from whole foods and not from snacking, if there’s room for chocolate there’s room for anything. 

Track your BEST and WORST day of calories in Myfitnesspal

One extra glass of water 

I wouldn’t say there’s anything particularly difficult about any of the above, nor do I think it will be hard to stick to, which may pose as a good test for anyone that needs some structure day to day. Getting put on a diet plan or training regime that’s going to require energy and a lot of willpower isn’t always the best option if it’s coming from a place of doing very little. Start by granting yourself any of the above, whether it’s daily or just one day of the week to test how corrupting your mind is when it comes to food and the like. If it is easily persuaded, a more rigorous approach will be necessary as opposed to structure on the odd day, as you may only be motivated by seeing the immediate reward of your effort.

Ultimately it’s all well and good me telling you what you COULD do besides what you ARE ACTUALLY going to do for yourself, is it going to take another year going backwards or can you put a fresh start to the OLD YOU that says YES to everything knowing that it isn’t always the best for you. 

My best advice for 2019 is start small and build on it, don’t push beyond your current capabilities in order to see quick results, they only last as long as you can keep at it. If you’ve been out of the game for a while don’t try and do what you used to, nor should you expect those same things to bring you the same results. 

I will be taking on more clients for Personal Training and running a beginner class in the New Year for anyone that is new to training or just wants to expand on their knowledge with fitness, so get in touch if either of these options are for you. 

ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF PURE GYM IN JANUARY:
ARE YOU A 365’ER OR 30 DAY TRIAL’ER?

Jake 

Should I Compete?

Fitness

From one of my very first blog posts ‘Short Term Satisfaction, Long Term Misery’ it is now clear in retrospect that in order to truly commit to the potentiality of competing, I can no longer rely on merely training hard alone. When I ask what people’s motivations are, I visualise the extent of what it is they seek to achieve, how much effort is required and how long it will be until they question whether it is worth their while. This is the point to which all the comforting outlets of life are weighed against a feather, the heaviest to which, drags them back to square one.

Everyone has their own gauge of happiness, whether this is from eating a strict diet and being in the best shape possible, to having the freedom to eat foods which are generally enjoyed. In the same instance of questioning effort:reward, this separates each standard synonymous to our working life work:pay. Working a full week and not getting payed, you’d probably question WHY? it therefore comes down to what kind of reward it is that you seek. If work is exercise and reward, food, there’s only so much potential for tangible rewards, results, and so long before you ascertain your potential input of EFFORT, think about what reward you require to justify it.

For myself, being on stage in my best possible condition is a reward in itself win or lose, standing amongst people that share your commitment, appreciating the common interest of simply wanting to be better, to the extreme.

A lot of people put the work in and don’t reap the right kind of reward, better is better than nothing but better isn’t best, so preparing for less is expecting nothing. how far off are you from being simply better and your BEST? I’m a year from being 25 but if i thought this was the best I was ever going to look at 15 I would have stopped a long time ago. Visualise your best and don’t stop until it is firmly in your grasp. Is this the best it will ever get for YOU? Your work, relationship, health, do you put in the work for confirmation or will it always be a part of a conscious strive for better.

Exercising purely for aesthetic, to impress people, or to be acknowledged shouldn’t be the way to go, but for a lot of people, compliments can be even more motivating than results.  The reality is, compliments can be equally as damaging as they are constructive, and this will come to either serve or ruin me when weighing up each potentially hindering comfort closer to the date.

I acknowledge that competing in a Bodybuilding show would be considered ‘extreme’ to a lot of people, though I respect the difference in opinion just as much as everyone has their own interpretation of happiness. Food for example, brings happiness to a lot of people, but even too much food can make you unhappy. It all depends on recognising whether something is still serving you positively. 

For me, I have always been aware of what I put in my body, not because someone tells me so, but because I don’t get the best out of foods that make me feel lethargic and put me straight to sleep. I know the bare minimum amount of food that my body requires everyday, putting myself ‘on a roll’ is essential for both muscle growth and fat loss, food is energy and energy expends to appetite. Acknowledging each impedance on such a ‘winning streak’ if you like, then transfers into output, being able to function and actively contribute rather than be a moody burden to the room.

This will be my first prep and a huge test of both my body and willpower, I don’t wan’t to have to mope around for months on end for everyone’s sympathy while I eat fish and vegetables, nor do I think that is necessary to get in excellent shape. This will however be the point to which I will be pushing beyond that which I currently know about myself and how far I will be willing to push to get as lean as possible. 

I’ve done this for long enough to know just how important each factor contributes to improvement of both body composition and strength, ask yourself what’s the longest period you’ve genuinely stuck to a program or even just cleaner eating? You may surprise yourself. For those quick to compile their list of excuses, why they aren’t playing professionally, why they cannot go a week without drinking alcohol or put the successes of those which they envy down to genetics, how long have they ever stuck to something good for themselves? Do you want to be one of those people who blame everyone else for their downfall and cast judgement to those simply doing what they cannot. 

I will be documenting the journey of the next 10 months leading up to the show on my Instagram, which I’d be foolish to think is a lifetime away, so keep your eyes out for my off season training regime and my current eating habits going forward into the New Year.

Jake 

👊

 

 

Should I Train Core?

Fitness

Leading on from ‘Should I Train Abs?’ I’d like to start by noting that training of both the core and abdominals does not have to take precedence over other areas of the body.  Although it is an area that tends to add more load onto certain muscles unnecessarily if they happen to be weaker. From your vital organs working your way out, to the hair on your skin, imagine the importance of each layer and process functioning autonomously, How much does it differ as you edge closer to the surface of things we control? Do prolonged periods of sitting lead to lower back pain?

So what are the Core Muscles again?

Deep rooted core muscles pertaining postural balance and healthy movement. 

Key phrase here being the latter, we all experience pain and discomfort as some point or another, shrugging off injuries nonchalantly, taking a tablet over a trip to the doctors, self diagnosis, insisting on pushing through, and if only your CORE could be as stubborn.

Here are my top 5 Core exercises that could be a weekly asset to your routine

You’ve guessed correctly

1. Plank

30 seconds, 40 seconds, a minute, anything that’s with some sort of regular progression in mind. This is the same for the sides and ‘active’ plank performed on hands as opposed to elbows. Alternate hands or a shoulder tap to add instability on each side, acknowledging tasks and daily lifting of objects in different planes of motion throughout the day.

Advanced- Half Speed Plank Get-up’s 4×15

EXPERT- Body Saws

2. Bear Crawl

You’ll see these featured in any solid programme for competitive strength and conditioning, a full body movement which requires coordination and flexibility through bodyweight. In a bird/dog position, Start off by bringing your knees from the floor and just holding your weight across all four points of contact –hands, feet– taking slow steps out with each. Once you are comfortable holding both your upper and lower body in a staggered fashion progress to crawling in a straight line, alternating hands with feet, right hand left foot LHRF RHLF.

Advanced- Spiderman Crawl

EXPERT- Lizard Crawl (Pending)

3. Burpee

Jump as high as you can, hit the deck, get back up, don’t die.

Advanced- Man Makers

The same, but instead of jumping, clean and press a pair of dumbbells from the lying portion of the movement, add in a renegade row from the press-up position of the movement for extra instability and added difficulty.

EXPERT- Sledgehammer Burpees

Hit something hard, hit the deck whilst carrying the sledgehammer, alternate hands after each hit.

4. Ring Fallout

TRX is also equally as useful for this exercise. From a standing position, move your weight out in front of you, assuming a diving position, aiming to increase the distance from your hands to your feet. This can be done in reps or can be progressed further into a few second holds. Find the points to which your core shakes the most and iron them out, keep everything tight without overarching or rounding your back.

Advanced- Single Arm fallout

EXPERT- Standing Barbell Rollout

5. Farmers Walk 

Pick up something heavy, assume an upright posture walk the length of the gym, slowly, heel toe.

Advanced- Overhead Carry

EXPERT- A sustained carry of anything in excess of BODYWEIGHT(KG)

Try each of these on a day which isn’t going to impede on your workout, Farmers walks at the beginning of heavy back split may make your grip soft. Fallouts will burn out your core muscles so doing something like a squat or deadlift will be much harder to keep tight, and finally, best till last, burpees at the end as they are the hardest.

Look out for my next blog ‘Should I Compete?’

Is Caffeine Killing Your Appetite?

Fitness, Lifestyle

There’s no better way to awake from the hazy morning stupour like a shot of espresso, your favourite energy drink or a Sport’s Direct mug size cup of coffee, but what amounts are optimal and how much do stimulants impede on our eating habits?

Tolerance plays a huge part in whether caffeine may still be serving you in the same way as before, the same with anything for prolonged periods. The best piece of advice I can give before the other extreme of having none at all would be to first cut back and secondly observe your bodies response to fatigue;

are you yawning excessively, dragging yourself around or too tired to actively engage in conversation? At what time does this usually come about? Does this come straight after eating?

No time for breakfast? “Yeah but, Intermittent fasting?’ 

Prepare for work as you would a workout, try not to skip breakfast if it means you’re not eating till 2pm. Remember your body still uses energy to digest food so ‘breaking fast’ at lunchtime and cramming half the days worth of food in an hour will just make you tired and bloated. If you don’t eat breakfast make sure you have at least eaten something the night before rather than going without any food at all till the afternoon.

Got an early start?

Space your food apart, whether its oats, fruit, eggs or shakes, they don’t all have to be eaten at once, sustain your energy and go into the afternoon ready to eat but not to attack any food in sight.

Just like tolerance determines how much someone needs in order to feel the benefit, how much energy and concentration your job requires throughout the day is going to affect how quick you are to justify another coffee.

Have you had enough sleep?

This is an obvious one, but are you genuinely exhausted or just feeling the late afternoon ‘slump’ a time to which may have to cram all your work in the next few hours to get out on time. If this is the case, more caffeine would seem to ensure that you perform capably to time, does this warrant eating later since food is no longer needed?

Finally,

Is caffeine keeping you up at night?

I don’t mean binge-watching your favourite series,

Even the feeling of being just not ready to sleep yet, waking up intermittently throughout the night and waking up feeling as groggy as the morning before. This is not a feeling that seems as though it can be fixed with food, and so, CAFFEINE, the cycle continues.

Hope this is as informative as it is anecdotal.

In December I will be cutting out all caffeine for 1 month to see whether it still serves me, the results to which I will feature in another blog.

Look out for my next post ‘Should I Train Core? for my top 5 core exercises.

 

 

 

Should I Train ‘Abs’?

Fitness, Lifestyle

If you ask the majority of people what they’d rather have, great abs or the freedom of choice when it comes to food, they’d usually choose the latter. If you asked the same question about having a strong Core, well, ‘that’s the same thing right?’

When it comes to abs, having a tight midsection is a bi-product of numerous factors, those of which do require discipline, but considering that the ‘6 pack muscles’ can only really be seen at a certain body-fat % are they really worth training?

The superficial –those closest to the surface of the body– abdominal muscles are trained just like any other, although their visual development can be deceiving to often weaker, deep rooted core muscles pertaining postural balance and healthy movement.   

Lets start with the ABS,

Can you ‘contract’ them?

Can you target specific areas?

Do you feel like you’ve worked them the following day?

No? 

As much as I am always going to encourage doing more of something IF it serves a purpose, reflect on whether this extra twenty minutes in the gym can be utilised more effectively. Focus on your CORE* until you can answer YES to all three

Just like any other muscle group, sound abdominal training should involve focusing on the concentric part of the movement,

breathing IN as you would before submerging into water

bracing as you would receive a punch to the stomach.

When it comes to breathing OUT, contract your abs and exhale sharply to complete the movement.

Breathing with intent during the crunch of the movement will determine the difference between merely doing 1000’s of sit-ups and actively engaging your stomach muscles as they should be.

Do you have tightness in your lower back?

Chances are, anterior weakness in the midsection, especially after prolonged periods of sitting with a rounded –kyphotic– posture presents more stress to the lower back than necessary,

strength to the front is strength to the back. 

My top 4 exercises for abs along with the fundamental progress points that must be mastered beforehand

Twisting/Knee raise on parallel bars 15 side/ 15 middle/ 15 side

Lying knee raise 45 rep total

Partial into full rollouts

4×20 rollouts from knees

The ‘rolling’ plank

3-5 minute plank all sides

Cable crunches – all sides

4×20 weighted decline crunches

Performing each of these exercises regularly or even as part of a short 4 exercise circuit together will certainly strengthen your abs, but they will need just as much time to recover as any other muscle. If you were to do 20/30 minutes of ab training every 2 days, try to avoid doing them before a leg or a heavy compound lift day, if you cannot squeeze them into your routine aside these factors, do them at the end as opposed to before.

Look out for my next posts ‘Is Caffeine killing your appetite?’ and further videos on my Instagram for Core basics and Core progressions.

 

 

Injury Prevention & Realistic Goal Setting

Fitness, Lifestyle, Supplementation

Having long-term injuries and facing various other barriers to exercise can certainly be a frustrating hindrance on ones potential goals. Do I take it easy for a few months? How much of my progress is going to be sacrificed during said rest period? What am I actually working towards? These are all questions faced by active individuals, passionate about bettering themselves each day, even if it does not bear further application to a particular sport or goal. Ultimately –and this is something I have come to identify when assessing my own diet and supplementation for the purpose of injury prevention– at some point our bodies will naturally want to start putting the brakes on. Many of us that have an incline to competitive/impact sports even at a non-professional level, will soon have to weigh up the risks and further implications said activity may have in the future.

Although I had dabbled in a number of sports before going to high school, when I was first introduced to Rugby, it seemed all of the traits impeding me in other fields could finally be put to some good use. I was never the most technical player, crediting the entirety of a game on how many big shots I could put on people without getting caught offside, even if that meant getting blindsided nearly even time. In hindsight, even picking up the odd sprain and taking a few bad knocks on the knees was enough to put my training –off the pitch– on hold for a good few weeks, is this really worth it? >The question that has to be applied to almost anything with the potential to pose further complications, moving forward. As I have continued to reiterate the importance of building a solid foundation and consolidating good technique with volume, a similar crossroad has presented itself –go heavier, increased risk of injury? go lighter, increased risk of complacency and plateau? This is the point to which both the egotistical and logical platforms of the brain collide, an outcome determined by whichever system has control.

In relation to creating an ideal environment for the body to withstand stress and recover accordingly, injury prevention is also a matter that can be aided through sound nutrition and relevant supplementation –regardless of whether you’re committed to a particular training regime for a short period or in it for the long hall. Then there’s always pre-emptive approach; wearing knee wraps/sleeves for squats, always incorporating a sufficient warm up and maintaining a fluid range of movement to name just a few staples of good practice. My point resides more so on the side of  planning and conditioning the body for stress, before shocking it into an eventual submission. Meaning that if you aren’t a strength athlete or Powerlifter, prolong the time and weight to which you may only be able to do a handful, for ‘special occasions’ if you like. These will be coming on the back of absolute consistency in all aspects and nothing else. When you look around the gym and observe the expanse of people in all shapes and sizes, notice how their training approach reflects on their physique? The water babies and the monsters? Will repeated and continuous overload do their joints any favours? Probably not. Before we get onto the second point of setting realistic goals, take the time to consider the implications of your particular training method in its entirety; risks as well as benefits, managing them accordingly. If your goal is strength, be sure to factor in de-load weeks, ensure longer rest times between sets and do not let adrenaline warrant training with injuries. On the flip-side, prepare for higher rep ranges and tempos with a relevant warm-up that imitates the more ballistic movements to avoid overloading tendons/joints specifically.

Setting goals for a lot of people is exciting; marking the groundwork for possibilities in ‘X’ amount of days/weeks/months, but setting realistic goals is something that comes with experience of progressive capability and adherence. Plainly put, ‘effective’ goals would never be constructed by averages and guess-work. Bench Press, WEEK1-110/WEEK2-120/WEEK3-130 does not mean that you should be pressing 140 by the following week. As I previously mentioned the implications of adrenaline during such a decision, note that just because you can throw every ounce of strength into the short time of of a rep does not mean that you can lift it correctly. I’ve already narrowed down my readership by now so I know I won’t be offending anyone with this question, Would you rather say you can press 150,badly and look like shit? Or, comfortably rack out reps of even half the amount and continue to see positive changes. This is what it all boils down to, respecting the fact that particular sports and athletes would be required to consistently train heavy to satisfy a particular total, but these guys probably don’t plan on looking like the average dude. In terms of setting realistic weight goals and the time frame in which you expect to be successful, be aware of how losing half a stone one week may not gage your ability to do the same the next. Just as one cannot be expected to add on an additional 10KG  each week working up to a 1RM. The two topics of the title do go hand in hand, in the sense that setting realistic goals, whether that be weight or strength, will alleviate and prevent too much stress being induced by the body, we do only get given one, treat it with respect.

Jake  👊