Cultivating Mass

The WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise.

Today I want to talk about the WHY and the HOW to cultivate muscle mass. If you don’t think this topic pertains to you, I will politely say stop being a jabroni. Ultimately, developing muscle mass is going to be one of the most important outcomes of exercise. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, play sports, prevent/recover from injury, or even sport a bikini this summer, gaining muscle mass is critical.
 
Why
Building muscle is critical, especially as we age. Building, and maintaining, muscle mass becomes increasingly difficult as the dreaded sarcopenia starts to set in. So starting the muscle building process as soon as possible will do several great things now and for your future self. It will keep us looking and feeling young, increase our confidence, boost our sports performance, ramp up our metabolic rate (although not significantly), and promote bone health. This last point of bone health is particularly important for women as they are more susceptible to poor bone health with age. It’s crucially important for females to lift heavy weights and knock this “toning” crap out. Trust me, you won’t get “too bulky” or “manly” if you lift heavy. So before you move on to the next part I want you to do three things that I hope will get you inspired. Write down all the things you wish you could do, if you were fitter. Write the obstacles that are keeping you from getting there. Write down how you’re going to get around those obstacles.
 
How
The first thing you need to do is just start lifting things that are uncomfortably heavy. It doesn’t even have to be at the gym. Just start taking in groceries instead of having your husband do it (cough, my wife, cough), moving furniture, or even doing some body weight squats at home. 
The second thing you need to do is make a plan of attack. This is a crucial step for several reasons. Making and sticking to a set schedule will ensure you don’t suffer an over use injury. It also ensures you know what your weaknesses are. If you don’t know proper technique well maybe getting some professional help is in order. If you realize that you exercise schedule is missing a muscle group well then you can now make a place for it. More on this step later.
The third thing you will want to do is look at your exercise selection. This is where it gets tricky. Your exercises need to suite your goals, your fitness level, your skills/abilities, and should be enjoyable. In general, I recommend using compound movements and super sets for a quick efficient workout. For beginners this means you may want to start with partial movements (i.e. half squat/wall squat) to master technique. And of course if you’re looking to shake things up there’s always wild and crazy exercises out there to try.
< 18 years: 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of body weight
19-40 years: 0.8-1.1 grams per pound of body weight
41-65 years: 1.1-1.3 grams per pound of body weight
> 65 years: 1.3-1.5 grams per pound of body weight
 
Dos and Don’ts 
Here is my final list of some things to maximize your exercise efforts, and some things that are not so wise.
DO
Focus on progressively increasing our performance on a handful of movements, and actually track your performance. Consistency is literally the king of gains.
Base your training on big compound movements. For each lift, figure out which muscle is holding you back and add isolation or assistance work for these weak points.
Change the specific exercises/make slight variations often. Do this by either varying grip, stance, bar type, or the conditions you’re performing the lift in (tempo, pauses in the movement, using chains, etc.).
Aim to train muscle groups 2 to 4 times per week.
Just get into the gym. It doesn’t matter what time of day you go, just get it done.
DON’T
Bro split your routine (i.e. only training muscle groups once per week).
Put an unnecessary time-cap on your workout.
Train every muscle the same/train every muscle directly.  Not all muscles respond best to the same type of stimulation.
Do more than four intense sessions per week.
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Fit Quick

A few tips to keep your workouts integrative and dynamic while being short and sweet.

Today I’m taking a break from bashing fad and bad diets to talk about some basics of exercise programming. Almost any gym you go to will be rife with fancy and expensive exercise equipment. If using machines is your only mode of strength training, then you are extremely limited to your exercise selection. And heaven forbid someone is on your favorite hamstring curl machine on leg day! So here are a few tips to keep your workouts integrative and dynamic while being short and sweet.
Whats The Point?!?!
 If you read these emails frequently, you know that I am a huge fan of weight lifting. As for cardio… not so much. This is because cardio is not as effective for achieving health goals like strength gains, muscle mass gains, weight loss, or even heart health as compared to a quality weight lifting program. So what’s the point of a weak sauce machine based exercise program (I’m talking to you treadmill only walkers)?!
Keeping It SUPER Simple
 To be clear, cardio isn’t bad. It’s just not a great use of time. So to break the boring and ineffective cycle, try using super sets! A super set is when one set of an exercise is performed directly after a set of a different exercise without rest between them. Think pull ups then push ups. This style of weight lifting is a great tool to use for almost everyone. Even if you’re restricted to machine based programs due to health issues, super sets have a lot to offer including;
 – Saving time
 – Maximal muscle activation
 – Increased metabolic stress
 Exercises are easy to super set and can be placed strategically within a workout to maximize your goals. Here are a few exercises to try out if you’re new to the concept.
Barbell Curls – 2 x 10-12
Dips – BW x Max reps
Front Squat – 3 x6-8
Cable Pull-Throughs – 3 x 12-15
Keep It Real
 If you’re still afraid to get off the bicep curl machine because you don’t know what else to do, I would recommend keeping it real. By this I mean do real world activities as exercise. One such exercise is the weighted carry. This exercise involves you picking up heavy weights and walking with them (think carrying the groceries in from the car). This exercise requires you to stand with good posture and to walk mindfully. And when done right, it is a wonderful full body exercise. I’m also a fan of the front squatbecause I don’t usually carry heavy things around on my back (think crock pot, load of wood for the fire place, or even children). Finally, consider using the kettle bell swing to enhance your ability to do powerful movements (picking something up from the ground and placing it up high). This exercise is also wonderful for driving up the heart rate as well as the metabolism.
 Remember, no one strategy will get you to your goals. It takes a variety of methods and exercises to optimizes health and fitness. So be sure incorporate these strategies into your fitness tool box, but don’t rely on them solely. And always remember that safety comes first! So make sure your form and exercise progression/selection is right for you.

Death Taxes and Sarcopenia

Starting around age 30 we all start to lose muscle mass and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. Might as well accept your fate right? WRONG!

This week we are talking about how to minimize sarcopenia. What the heck is sarcopenia you ask? Well as the title of this week’s post implies, it is the inevitable decline in the strength and size of our muscles as we age. Starting around age 30 we all start to lose muscle mass and there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. However, several factors can exacerbate sarcopenia to extremes. In fact, it can cause loss of mobility and function, decline the ability to perform activities of daily living, increase risk of cardiometabolic disease, and increase chances of falls and hip fractures.
So the only things in life that are guaranteed are death, taxes, and sarcopenia. Might as well accept your fate right? WRONG! Here are a few key factors to keep your muscles, and consequently your lifestyle, from wasting away.
PROTEIN
I’ll start with protein because I know you all are protein pros! Protein is essential to muscle function. So it should come as no surprise that if you are under consuming amino acids, you will be at greater risk to suffer from advanced sarcopenia as you age. It’s important to note here that we need more protein as we age. So don’t be a part of the 50% of the elderly population who doesn’t get enough protein. Shoot for 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight per day (calculate here).
ANTIOXIDANTS
Antioxidants are in the media constantly. They are touted as being the miracle source of all sorts of health. The reality is that they only play a role in our overall health. What they do is reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is responsible for all sort of things, not all of them bad. So for some the key is moderation, and for others it is supplementation. So how does it affect sarcopenia? Well in several ways, but really the most important way is that it reduces or even can reverse anabolic resistance. Now this is extremely important because anabolic resistance basically means your muscles can’t use proteins, and thus they will wither away.
RESISTANCE TRAINING
By far the most important factor in reducing sarcopenia is resistance training exercise. I think this point is even more important for women because in addition to sarcopenia they are more likely to suffer from bone diseases like osteoporosis. What resistance training does is force the body to adapt to the stress placed upon it. So your muscles get bigger because they need to adapt to lift more weight, and bones get bigger to support the added stress from the muscles. This is why I always encourage women of all ages to lift weights. It’s also why I cringe when a women tells me “but I don’t want to get too bulky”. James Fell wrote a fantastic piece on this very topic and I encourage everyone to read it here.
So whether you need help on increasing your protein intake, antioxidants, or figuring out an exercise program, I’m always here provide assistance.