5 Foods for Muscle Gain – by Jamie Bolton

2012 again. Our crazed gunman is back. Remember him? Last time he wanted to know the 5 best movements he should be doing. This time he’s back and wants to know the 5 best foods for muscle gain…..

Ahhh I’ll cut the storytelling and get to the chase. Today I’ve got for you 5 of my favorite foods to include on a muscle gain phase. (As opposed to a fat gain phase, you don’t want to go on one of them, believe me.)

In no particular order:

Whole Milk
Milk is one of nature’s best muscle foods. The problem is industry likes to toy with it too much. So it’s important to get it in as untouched a state as possible. The first step is to get whole milk. You shouldn’t be afraid of the fats anyway (natural healthy good calories, and essential for fat-soluble vitamins). The next is to go organic. You don’t want the hormones and crap they put into the cows otherwise. The final step, is to go unhomogenised. This means the milk isn’t all the same consistency most of us are used to – the way they usually do this is through considerable undesirable processing (note – there is no safety risk with this element).

The ultimate step is to get raw milk. But for most of us this isn’t really possible. And some would worry about the safety issues of un-pasteurised milk. Ultimately go as far along the steps as your budget or possibilities allow.

And why do we want milk? A lovely balance of top notch protein, carbs and fats. Packed full of vitamins and minerals. It’s designed for baby cows to grow off of – born at about 20kg, calfs then grow over 3-4 years into 730kg cows, 230kg a year weight gain. Say no more.

Whole milk - serious muscle gain potential

Beef
Cows again. Beef is an awesome source of protein and fats to support muscle growth. Go organic or better yet, grass-fed, if you can, to get it as close to the way nature intended – free of hormones and fed on a natural diet.

In particular, it comes full of B-vitamins, iron, phosphorus and zinc; plus smaller doses of other vitamins and minerals. And if you go grass-fed, its got Omega-3s too. Not to mention its a natural source of creatine, albeit in small doses.

Sweet Potatoes
An awesome, tasty source of low-GI carbs. Perfect for post-workout or any other carby meal. In fact, toss it on top of some beef as mentioned above for a cottage pie, and you’ve got one hell of a meal.

Ground beef & sweet potato combine for an awesome pie

Choked full of beta carotene (vitamin A) in particular, and a list as long as your arm of other nutrients, vitamin B, magnesium and potassium to name a few.

Additionally, as opposed to many carb sources like breads, pasta’s and so on, they are gluten-free. Many of you will probably think, ‘so what, I’m not gluten intolerant anyway’. Well, you might not be completely intolerant, but often gluten causes GI distress without you even realising you have a partial intolerance (bloated anyone?). Sweet potatoes won’t cause any of that.

Nut Butters
Think Almond, Cashew, and Hazelnut. Peanut is okay (though not strictly a nut but a legume) but is slightly estrogenic. A great way of getting good calories in from healthy fats. I know I can sit and eat a whole jar at a time without even thinking.

In particular, cashews are often referred to as ‘nature’s vitamin pill’. Say no more. You can buy from a store or you can make your own in a blender – you could try making brazil nut butter for instance, or whatever else floats your boat!

Eggs
The old-school bodybuilders in the golden era would get through up to 20 of these a day. With the yolks. And rightly so. A damn awesome muscle food.

A full compliment of amino acids and good fats. Vitamins A, D & E in decent doses. In fact eggs are one of the few natural-sources of vitamin D. Plus a good dollop of Choline and other essential minerals

Finally, eat the damn yolks. One, you probably need the calories anyway. Two, most of the goodness is in the yolk anyway – the fat soluble vitamins and minerals, the healthy fats themselves, and half of the protein. Moreover, why pay for something if you’re going to throw half of it away. Either fry them, scramble them, boil them or even drink them. Just get them down.

There you have it. My 5 favorite muscle foods. Let us know what yours are.

Until next time. Train Hard. Train Smart. Be Strong.

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GVT for Legs, Back and Shoulders – by Ben Coker

Are your back, leg and shoulder workouts leaving you lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy? Are any of these body parts lagging behind? Or do you simply like a gruelling challenge of manliness? Enter German Volume Training.

German volume training offers a demanding workout in the simplest format. One exercise, 10 sets of 10 reps. This type of training provides a shock to the system to help break hypertrophy plateaus (through the sheer volume of mechanical stress and your body’s huge hormonal response) and offers a testing but refreshingly simple break from training monotony.
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Sure people might already know this BUT how many actually practice it?
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Here are some GVT training sessions for back, legs and shoulders that I use. They test your metal and officially declare you insane but they certainly let you know what your really made of. This type of training session should not be performed frequently as they can drain your body and CNS like nothing else, leaving you over trained. Used wisely though these sessions will inject impressive ‘boosts’ in your hypertrophy.

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In order of sanity:


10×10 Wide Grip Upright Row

This will provide you with the sensation of a thousand knives piercing your your shoulder girdle! But quite simply this volume will leave your shoulders and upper back looking like the Himalayas and will do wonders to your V taper.

Keep the rest low, 1min max and push through the burn. Don’t be a wimp as to be honest these are tame compared to the rest. (A note of caution, if you suffer from shoulder impingement this may not be a suitable choice due to the orientation of the shoulder joint in this movement).
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10×10 Wide Grip Pull Ups (no swinging or kips)

If you can do 10×10 wide pull ups its an impressive feat. Heavy boys don’t use your bodyweight as an excuse! Become a master of body weight pull ups and get lats that block out the sun. Be warned after set 3-4 life becomes hell. Dig deep and drag your ass up. After all, how badly do you want a Dorian Yates looking back??

Rest on these should be no more than 3 minutes but if rest on the last few sets is longer its no big deal in the grand scheme. Just don’t abuse the rest and take like 10 minutes between sets!
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10×10 Back Squat

Performed with 2 minutes rest and done arse to grass 10×10 squats will have your legs like jelly, your vision blurry and your stomach uneasy! Again about midway through set 4 the world looks and feels a little bit different! On the good side they will make your legs resemble those of a tyrannosaur! Or Branch Warren…

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10×10 Barbell Deadlift  

When I tried these I said aloud to myself ‘You’ve officially lost the plot, this is your craziest idea yet’ and I still agree. These are by far the hardest GVT session I can think off and extremely taxing on the entire body. After set 3 it feels like its job done, time to do some rows… not today! Only 3 times that extra to go! I can’t really do justice to the endeavour, it’s simply gruelling on the highest level.

Be sure to know good form in the later sets and I advise a spotter for motivation and to monitor your form in case it breaks down!

I used this workout before a went a way on a week and a half holiday and boy I needed every day as rest and continued grazing! My entire body was in seizure…and it felt amazing! This will put serious mass and crazy thickness on your legs, back, shoulders and forearms given ample nutrition and recovery.

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Wrap up
If you are lost on how to keep inducing hypertrophy, you have lagging lags, back and or shoulders or you simply want a gruelling challenge of manliness give these GVT ball busters a go. Remember don’t use these every session as it can be too demanding for your body (barring maybe the upright rows) and you will lack the part specific benefits of other movements. I like to throw one in every few weeks to keep me mentally stimulated and physically growing.
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A final not on what weight to use for your 10 sets.  It up to you. If your a softy your gonna use a comfortable weight and rest lots. If your more like me then you’ll go as heavy as you can go and rest as little as you can physically manage.

You won’t necessarily be able to judge correctly the weight on your first attempt. That’s fine, just adjust accordingly next time. That’s if there is a next time…

Farmers Walks: The Overlooked Solution To Many Problems – by Ben Coker

The idea for this article came after a chat I had with two friends who are both training powerlifters. The context of the conversation was this: 6 weeks out from a meet one of them wanted to do ‘something a bit different’ and do some strongman stuff to break from the grind of competitive lifts and band/speed work etc. The other suggested it would be detrimental to the meet preparation. After listening on the debate I said that actually I think its a great idea, putting forward the question, ‘Do you know the benefits that heavy farmers walks can bring to your competition lifts and other lifts in general?’ After a brief silence I explained…

Farmers walks are one of the simplest and most function exercises ever. Period. Standing and walking are primal essential functions of human life and this exercise is just that. Stand up with a heavy weight and then walk with it a given distance. Every major muscle group is involved in this exercise, and not only that, dependant on the working distance, great stress can be put upon the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Marius reaped the benefits of heavy farmers walks!

Lets think about the muscular actions and anatomical movements that are occurring and how they can benefit competition lifts and main compound lifts in general.

The farmers walk trains the entire posterior and anterior chains; the traps down to the forearms including the entire spinal core musculature. I hope your ready. Here it is from head to toe:

Farmers walks build monster traps. The upper traps are recruited to hold the shoulder girdle in elevation or at least maintain neutral. This distributes some of the load off of the spine making the weight feel lighter and thereby helps you keep proper posture. How do strong upper traps benefit other lifts?

  • If you are a raw bencher than the mechanics of the lift require the bar to be positioned higher up the body as you raise and lower the bar. This means that the upper back especially the shoulder girdle need to be stabilised and this is accomplished greatly in part by having a strong upper trap contraction.
  • When deadlifting strong traps are needed just as they are in a farmers walk to help distribute some of the load off of the spine making the weight feel lighter and enable better form of spinal extension.
  • When overhead pressing the upper traps play a huge role in lifting the weight. A shoulder press involves elevation of the shoulder girdle and that is the main role of the upper traps.
  • When squatting having strong chunky traps will not only allow you to tighten up and squeeze the upper back more (giving more stability and force transmission from the legs) it also means that the bar can sit more comfortably and stable on your shoulders. Ever wondered how Koklayev can squat 290kg with no hands? That’s part of the answer.
  • When bicep curling, if your upper traps aren’t strong enough to stabilise the shoulder girdle the weight you can curl greatly drops.

 

Farmers walks build a back of gorilla-like proportions.  The upper back (including lats) and all spinal erector muscles comes into play to ‘pin’ back the shoulder blades, maintain spinal extension, prevent spinal rotation and also lock the arms in position as the weights being carried want to oscillate. How does a strong back benefit other lifts?

  • When bench pressing (raw or with gear) a strong upper back, including lats, are needed to secure the scapulae and provide a solid platform for the pressing muscles to act off of.
  • An integral part of the deadlift is a strong upper back. This enables an efficient transfer of force from the legs down to the arms by ensuring a stable shoulder girdle and preventing the weight from swinging forward (i.e. arms moving forward) as to maintain a shorter lever arm and less torque through the lower back. Needless to say having strong spinal erectors will enable you to maintain spinal extension under greater loads, which in the deadlift will allow a greater transfer of energy from the legs to the shoulder girdle and down to the bar – a bigger lift.
  • The upper back includes the lower trapezius muscle group and this muscle plays a role in scapulae adduction (key for deadlift shoulder girdle stability) but more importantly is its role in upward rotation of the scapulae. Any overhead press involves upward rotation of the scapulae. Not only is a strong upper back needed to maintain cervical extension but also strong lower traps are needed to assist in and ensure the correct movement of the scapulae in upward rotation. This is key not only for strength purposes but also shoulder health. It is also key in overhead pressing movements to have a strong spinal erectors to enable you to keep a strong upright platform for you to press the weight off of.
  • When squatting upper back strength is vital to ensure maintenance of spinal extension, and a tight grip on the bar. If your low back is weak then you will struggle to squat any type of decent weight and risk injury through not being able to keep spinal extension and allowing maximal energy transfer from legs to bar. How many people ‘fold’ when squatting as their upper back is simply poor. Maybe you’re one of them?
  • Going back to the bicep curl (because I know people out there still want to curl a car). If your upper back sucks, your shoulder girdle will not be stable enough to curl heavy weights. How many guys do you see curling, hunch back with their shoulder blades pointing out their back like a directional sign. Guys drop the curls and work on your Kroc rows.

 

Farmers walks develop the whole of your legs. You have to be stupid to not understand that walking with a stupidly heavy load requires a lot of lower body recruitment. Granted, they won’t build muscle or strength in the legs like squatting and deadlifting but their role in maintaining an upright posture is crucial. The glutes and hamstrings are needed for propulsion and in achieving full extension at the hip and knee. If you can’t extend the hip and the knees under a heavy load how do you expect to keep your spine in an upright position? You can’t. All you will do is put more torque stress through the spine which is tiring and potentially dangerous for spinal longevity. Carrying over to other lifts, simply think deadlift and squat lock outs and stabilising your torso during an overhead press and you should appreciate how maintaining hip and knee extension is beneficial.

Farmers walks develop a scaffold pole of a torso. The core is a whole body working together concept and farmers walks involve just that. Due to the various torques that exist in all planes of movement during a farmers walk it’s no surprise that these give all your core musculature a battle – that includes the major muscle groups as well as the deep musculature. The cross-over of having a rock solid core needs not preaching. In short: a strong core allows energy transfers through the body to be more efficient. Better transfer of energy means more force output, thus improving all lifts not to mention the health and longevity benefits.

Farmers walks will give you an iron claw. Grip strength – the bane of many lifters. Stop moaning and using straps. Instead, get some farmers walks done. A strong grip is associated with nearly all lifts. Studies have proven that squeezing the bar whilst squatting, pressing, and curling will lead to more motor unit recruitment. Not to mention the fact that strong grip strength means you can hold more weight without straps, key for strength competitors. Oh, and bodybuilders, I forgot you don’t need superhuman grip strength to excel in your sport. Fair point I agree but I ask you this: forearms look amazing when they look like dinosaur legs right? You bet they do. Do farmers walks as a finisher and get your forearms to epic proportions.

There you have it. I ask you now, ‘do you think farmers walks will help improve your lifts?’ If your answer is still unsure, seeing as I can’t slap you, I will leave you with this note instead. The more you become trained the more you have to put in to get returns. When your a newbie you can put in say 1 unit of effort (training, diet, rest etc) to get 10 units of results (size, strength etc). As you become seasoned and further away from your pre-training state you find that you have to put more units of effort in to get less units of result. That’s why pro lifters don’t keep growing or getting stronger at the rate that weed does who had just started going to the gym and now actually eats something more than a bowl of coco pops each day!

Take this idea back to my lifter friend preparing for his meet. He is continually getting down with the grind of his competition lifts. He is experiencing diminishing returns for his effort (not his fault it’s just how the body works). He can however try to maximise improvements in his lifts given what time he has. I suggested that investing time in movements like the farmers walk is likely to increase his chances of putting 5kg on his bench press in a few weeks then simply continuing to pound away on benching movements. Why? If you haven’t figured it out yet, the benching movements are relatively highly trained compared to the accessory muscles. Therefore in a few weeks the lesser trained muscles will improve at a greater percent than those more highly trained. A few weeks after giving this advice I happened to see the guy post the following as his Facebook status: ‘What a week! 3 new PBs and a 230 Deadlift!’ Enough said. Get walking. Farmers Walking.

The Spartan Approach to Assistance Work – by Jamie Bolton

Assistance work is a funny topic.Some people have a list as long as their arm when it comes to it, and hit muscles from every conceivable angle and with every possible piece of apparatus to ‘maximise’ their gains. Others pick exercises which exacerbate their weaknesses, rather than correcting them, leading to muscular imbalances, posture problems and ultimately sub-optimal performance.

For example, with someone struggling to improve their bench, they may find that doing extra accessory work on pecs (with various flies & presses maybe) is not the remedy to the issue. The issue may be to do with poor scapulae stability, lack of trap and upper back strength and stability (raw lifters especially), lack of lat strength and stability (lifters in gear especially) or tricep weakness.

What it boils down to, is that your assistance work may not even be assisting! First of all lets remember what we are actually trying to achieve when it comes to assistance work. In fact, if you haven’t done so already, I’d recommend that you read the ‘8s of training’ parts one and two to remind yourself what each part of your training structure is designed to achieve, but I digress.

Assistance work comes into play after we have completed our main lift or movement of the day, and typically, we are trying to achieve one of two things:
1. Accumulate more volume for the target muscle groups that work in our main lift/movement.
2. Bring up weaknesses in either terms of performance and/or aesthetics.

The second reason is an often cited one, yet  for probably ⅔ of lifters out their they don’t have weaknesses in the sense they perceive they do. The reality of most people’s situation is that everything is a weakness. Unless you can cite some proper reasoning for why something is a weakness, chances are it isn’t. By this I mean, for instance, weak triceps hindering your bench lockout, a judge at a contest commenting your rear delts effect the shape of your back badly, instability at the hip causing power loss out the blocks when sprinting, and so on.

As you may have noticed from some of my stuff by now, I’m a big believer in minimalism and keeping things simple. We can apply the 80/20 principle again here, i.e. that 20% of what you do is responsible for 80% of your results. What I’m going to propose here thus may sound outlandish, but hear me out. I want you to use two, yes just two exercises for your assistance work.

20% of what you do gives you 80% of your results

What this forces you to do is think about what you are choosing and focus on exercises that provide the most ‘bang for your buck’. Sometimes I’ll go further and only pick one assistance lift. Look at it like this, if I’ve ramped up and done some heavy squats as my main movement, followed up by some trap bar deadlifts for volume, and finish off with some sled pushes and pulls for conditioning, do you honestly think I am losing anything by not doing more?

Moreover, if you do have a long long list of assistance work to get through, I find it detracts from the workout in the sense that you may find you have to ‘pace’ yourself too much, as it seems like there is so much more to do. By limiting assistance work to two movements, it allows you to really focus on what you are doing. Not least, it saves a good amount of time. And don’t misinterpret that last bit, I’m not calling for minimising gym time, what I’m calling for is maximising quality of time in the gym.

Now here’s what I want you to do. For the next two weeks, limit your assistance to two movements that are the best investment of your training time. And if afterwards you really believe you need to add more back in, then do it, but only after two weeks. And don’t add it back just for the sake of of it.

To give an idea of how this may look, I’ll give some examples.

For the bodybuilder, on back day. You might start with deadlifts, and then for assistance follow up with bent-over barbell row and pull ups.

For the powerlifter on bench day, you start with bench press (you would hope!), and follow up with say dips and chins.

For an athlete, after doing power cleans, you might follow up with front squats and military presses as assistance.

In particular, I realise that every bodybuilder out there will be screaming, “that’s not enough”. And quite possibly they may be right, and require the extra volume to grow optimally. But I’d still recommend trying it, you may find yourself surprised. But for the performance athletes, I honestly believe that once you go too far beyond two assistance movements all you really serve to do is detract from recovery and future performance. Especially when you throw into the balance that you have conditioning work, skill work and the like lined up on your schedule also.

To finish off, one last prescription is required. Sets and reps. Now, with the main movement already done in our workout at this point, what we are really trying to achieve here is the accumulation of volume. That leaves things pretty open, and that’s kind of the way I want to leave it to you. Anything sensible, from 4×6-10 right the way up to 5×10-15 can work here. To really switch things up sometimes I’ll even do 10×3 with a weight I could move for 6 reps initially. The point is to get in some volume to support that main movement.

Finally, don’t forget to be a bit flexible with it if you need to. If you’re feeling like crap for some reason that day and the session isn’t quite going to plan, then there’s no real harm in backing off a little, there’s no point in beating yourself up. Equally, on those days where you feel great, don’t be afraid to push it a little more and amp it up a bit.

Wrap Up
That’s the spartan approach to assistance. Why use more than you need to do the job? Try doing just two assistance movements only for 2 weeks and get back to me.

“It is futile to use more to achieve what can be done with less.” Occam’s Razor

Get Some Form – by Ben Coker

Today I want to talk about 3 exercises that are very often performed wrongly and it irritates me massively to say the least! Especially when you consider the growth these exercises done properly can induce, you’re shortchanging yourself by using sloppy form. Remember practice makes permanent so practice with perfect form! 

Squats

Get some depth. I don’t care who you are or what sport you do squat ass to grass. The most common cop out is but ‘when do you ever have to go that low in a sporting scenario?’ My polite reply is ‘when do you ever see anyone who goes to full depth not be greatly stronger and more powerful at half depth or even stronger and more powerful still at a quarter depth? If you train a movement at its hardest it can only mean your on field strength and power will be greater! For those of you looking for big legs I don’t really need to say much just find me a picture of a top class weightlifter who has small weak legs. For those of you pushing PBs don’t cheat yourself as the truly strong guys your trying to impress ain’t giving you any respect for that calf raise you just called a full squat!

Another thing that grinds me is when people squat by ‘breaking’ at the knees not at the hip. Kick your ass back as if you were about to decent onto a chair (you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings) and then sit between you legs. Do not simple let your legs fold under neither you and let your knees track forward. You’re in a weaker position and you will end up getting injured. Too many supposed ‘coaches’ watch their athletes do this many times daily and fail to correct it. If your unsure of your form use mirrors and a coach that knows what hes doing. If he doesn’t then there are plenty of videos on you tube from Dave Tate and Eric Cressey (to name a few) that you can show the fool.

No quarter squats thanks!

Deadlift 

Here is the real back breaker! If you look like Quasimodo when you deadlift then you’re not ready for that weight, simple. Granted the nature of a PB means that perfect form is not possible as the body is stronger than perfect form will allow but lets not take the piss here. Some lifters are simply ignorant to the fact that they lift with poor form but this excuse is frequently bandied about by those that are so gung ho on getting super strong that they are rush their progress. I see it all the time and both are harboring a ticking time bomb which will cause ‘boom’ time in their spine! Even the worlds best deadlifters can kept a back that is near enough straight at their upper most resistance levels so get hold of a mirror or a truthful training partner, check your form and or ask them to tell you whether you back rounds when you lift. If it does back off the poundage and work on form! Coming from a guy who has had back surgery trust me you don’t want to f*** with your back. If your a newbie just take care of the form and get it right from the start and the pounds will take care of themselves.  If you’re a guy rushing PBs have a reality check, slow down and consolidate that strength. After all Rome wasn’t built in a day neither was Andy Bolton!

Andy Bolton - not built in a day....

Dumbbell rows 

How should I put this… a dumbbell row is well, a row movement. It is NOT a ‘pull the dumbbell in any way, shape or form I can, including mini squats and an additional boost from lumbar spine rotation, to get the weight up’ movement. Your not kidding anyone when you throw a dumbbell around with no control or thought, looking like your gonna snap in half at any second, especially when your back is no wider than a pencil and no thicker than a sheet of A4 paper! Get a weight you can manage, ‘drag it’ up and back to the hip, leading with the elbow moving the weight primarily with the upper back muscles. Period.

‘Drag’ that dumbbell row
Summary 

Remember there is no shame with using a lesser and weight using correct form, and making that form permanent. If this means putting your ego aside, do it as your ego is probably getting you laughed at. The serious lifters in any gym are not fooled by the masquerades put up by the masses. They can cut through the crap and see someone who is getting on their grind, keeping their head down. In fact its those guys that usually make the gains and end up being the ones people want to emulate!

Laws of Nutrition – by Jamie Bolton

I wrote in “The Simpler Nutrition Guide”  recently about the effectiveness of keeping our diets simple, in the sense of unprocessed, wholesome food that even grannie would recognise as being actual unadulterated produce. I left it fairly open ended, in as much that I honestly believe you can get a long way by following a rule as simple as that. 

I realise though that many out there want a more thorough structure to follow. So in this piece I’m going to explain at a broad level, the ins and outs of dietary programmes, and give some common-sense ‘laws’ that build on the principle discussed last time. Then in a future piece, I will go into more depth around the individual macronutrients and how to set things up in a bit more detail.

Most of you reading this will have read a diet article or two in your time I’m sure. From the non-sensical rubbish like the ‘grapefruit’ diet to the more measured approaches like the ‘Zone diet’. What I’m sure everyone can agree on is that there are a lot of different approaches out there. And every approach seemingly has a proponent out there preaching that their method is the holy grail. I’ll tell you now, it isn’t. There are a lot of methods that can work, and ultimately it’s about finding something that works optimally for you, be it high fat, high carb, intermittent fasting, whatever.

The funny thing is, despite there being a multitude of different methods out there that can work, and a seemingly forever number of people who are dieting, most people ‘wing it’ when it comes to their nutrition, and eat whatever is nearest or easiest. Its quite odd when you think about it, that eating is such a primal human instinct, indeed for any living being, yet it causes us such problems, but I digress.

What I’m going to do, rather than preach recommendations, is pick out the common ‘laws’ of nutrition that underpin any successful programme.

These are, simply:

1. Eat wholefoods.
2. Eat complete protein at every meal. This includes meats, fish, milk, eggs & protein powders. This does not include synthetic ‘protein’ rubbish like soy. Also, nuts are not high enough in protein to qualify, but they are a great healthy fat source.
3. Get as many of your carbohydrates from fruits & vegetables as you can.
4. Drink only non-calorie beverages. The best is water. Black coffee & tea is also fine. Coca cola is not.
5. Eat as wide a variety of foods as possible. What I mean is try to rotate around different meats, fruits etc. What I don’t mean is rotating between your favorite fast food outlets.
6. Embrace good fats. Eat plenty of fatty fish, red meat, olive oil, eggs, nuts etc.
7. Focus your calories after your training. In particular, focus your carbs here more so than any other point in the day.

Eat at every meal

And that’s it. I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty simple again, and keeps what I said last time perfectly in mind. I’m sure there’s going to be some questions here, so I’ll try to anticipate them in advance.

What about grains?
I said to get as many carbs as possible from fruits and veggies. That gives plenty of options, heck, nearly all fruit is perfect fast food, packed with nutrients, but I know that doesn’t really answer the question. Now, as I said before, we want our food to be as unadulterated as possible. Most grains inevitably have undergone some processing which creates a problem here. Or does it? We can still stay on point by focusing on the least processed kinds, for instance, brown rice, wholegrain breads (check for the less ingredients the better) and steel-cut oats. In other words, we can pick better ‘bads’. Ultimately, it boils back down to what I said in the first article, tighten or loosen according to your goals. If your in a mass phase, then grains won’t hurt. If in a leaning phase, then probably better to avoid them as far as possible. 

Focusing on fats can’t be good can it?
The media have managed to create the perception that fat makes you fat and is to be avoided at all costs. It’s even pushed food manufacturers to create ‘low fat’ everything where they strip out fat and typically replace it with sugar, but I digress. Fat doesn’t make you fat, excess calories do. There’s good fats and bad fats. I listed some examples of the former, which are naturally occurring which in short is why they are good for you; the latter, is the trans-fats created by the food processing industry which cause health problems all over the place. Embrace good fats. After all, our primary anabolic hormone, testosterone, has its precursor as a derivative of fats.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this thought, there are essential amino acids (proteins) & essential fatty acids, but no essential carbohydrates. Still think its good to avoid fats?

Compliance
‘To err is human’. Nobody is perfect. Eating a little bit of what you want now and again won’t hurt, as long as it is just now and again. Try to aim for 90% compliance to the laws above, and don’t sweat the 10% that you don’t. That means if you eat 4 meals a day, then over a week you are allowed 3 ‘deviations’ from the laws. And that is any of the laws. Had a coca cola today? Right then you have two dietary deviations left for the week. Notice I’m not using the word ‘cheat’ here, as to me that suggests dietary deviations aren’t allowed, but here they are. Ultimately a few deviations won’t hurt, and if anything will help with your psychological sanity!

Wrap Up
We’ve gone from one idea to build a group of dietary laws here, but with one key thing at heart. Keep your food simple. There is no special diet that trumps all others. There are lots of different kinds of diets that can work, but the key underlying principle is the laws above which are common to all successful dietary programmes. If it doesn’t follow the laws, chances are it won’t work. Sorry ‘mars bar’ diet. Try following just the above laws to guide your food choices and see what it can do for you!

Pull Heavy to Move Fast – by Ben Coker

There is a common misconception that lifting heavy weights will make you slow among sprint coaches. Many will stick to body weight and plyometric workouts, using only weights that are sub maximal and moving them fast if any weights are used at all. Lifting around 50-60%1RM and doing speed work isn’t wrong but it’s only one possible way to address the issue. 

When lifting heavy weights the nervous system is forced to recruit as many motor units as possible to move the weight. In sprinting, surely you want to have all of your fibres at maximum efficiency, ready to all contract at the same time for maximum force output. Now yes you can partially get this from trying to move a weight fast or indeed sprinting itself but there’s more. If you try to move an even heavier weight fast then your body is forced to recruit even more fibres. What I’m getting at here is the concept of motor unit potential. Have you ever noticed that when you’ve lifted a heavy weight when you release it and perform the same anatomical movement without the weight it feels extremely light? Your brain still thinks it needs all the fibres it had just recruited to do the movement. Simply put for a short period after lifting a weight all those fibres that were activated are on standby in case you have to perform the movement again.

This phenomenon only last a short time (seconds) so we must be quick. I’m aware that many track/gym facilities are substandard but if you have access to a sled or a lifting platform that is near a track then you’re sorted.

Approach one: Potentiate then perform – aka contrast sprints

Choose an exercise that requires hip extension and knee extension (the drive of sprinting) that allows for large weights to be lifted. I prefer squats, deadlift or sled pulls. Next set out a sprint distance you want to train over. Perform 2 repetition of the exercise at about 80-90% 1RM then get to the start line promptly and then sprint the distance. Why 2 reps? Well it takes about this time for your brain to fully recognise the force needed to move the weight. In a sense the first rep is ‘sluggish’ as the body wakes up and its the 2nd and even 3rd rep (if the weight isn’t too heavy), that the body produces most power as the relevant motor units are now all awake and firing together. If your pulling the sled/prowler simply choose a weight at about 80-90% 1RM then pull/push the sled/prowler for between 5-10m. It is important not to overdue it as the effect is lessened if fatigued! Remember we are activating not fatiguing ourselves here.

Plyometrics are used to accomplish similar results but they recruit fibres by quick lifting whereas lifting heavy recruits fibres by creating the need for many fibres to lift the weight. One must also remember that if one attempts a 1RM then by definition they are moving the weight as fast as they can, no matter how slow, it is at maximum speed! 

Approach two: Pure heavy pulling sessions mimicking sprinting

Here I am speaking specifically about the use of sleds and prowlers. Continued use of pulling heavy in a way that mimics sprinting means the body will eventually adopt and be able to pull a given weight faster over time. Now you’ll have to be mad to try and disprove that this won’t carry over into being able to propel your body weight faster if you’ve become accustomed to pulling a damn heavy sled at a worthy pace! It is worth noting that to pull a substantially heavy sled or prowler involves the person naturally getting into the correct or optimum position for the drive phase in sprinting! If you don’t quite simply the thing won’t move! So in using sleds and prowlers you are also grooving correct body angles and positions for sprinting as an added side benefit!

Wrap up
Not only do these exercises carry over into an immediate sprint, allowing one to groove quickness of limb movement but I speak from experience in saying that this approach also makes you faster in the long run. But if that isn’t enough then have a browse through the training methodologies & youtube pages of trainers like Joe Defranco, who are hugely successful in producing elite athletes year in year out and frequently use both techniques in their programmes. I’ll leave it at that.
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