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Hypertrophy Periodization and Programming - Programming Variables - Part 2 Posted on 9 Jun 16:00

Hypertrophy Periodization and Programming Variables Part 1 outlined the parameters of

(1.) Volume

(2.) Effort (relative intensity)

(3.) Load (absolute intensity)

(4.) Frequency 

It is necessary to develop a foundational understanding of the resistance training variables in part one to maximize the application of the training variables in part two.

(5.)  Exercise Choice

(6.) Exercise Order

(7.) Tempo

(8.) Rest Interval

(9.) Type of Muscle Action

(10.) Range of Motion (ROM)

 

Why is it necessary to develop a foundational understanding of the resistance training variables in part one before moving on to part two?

 

Inappropriate volume, effort, load, or frequency could potentially nullify the benefits of the proper application of any of the variables in part two. For example, if an exercise or training session or microcycle is designed with inadequate volume, then the exercise or training session or microcycle of inadequate volume will render the perfect muscle-centric exercise choices useless.  If an individual completes the exercise or training session with inferior effort, then the lackluster effort will neutralize any hypertrophy benefits provided by a perfectly chosen exercise or planned training session. It may sound extreme to deem a training session useless or give the impression that any potential positive benefits could be nullified. But if the goal of the training session or workout is to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy, classifying it as useless in relation to the specific goal is not extreme. These sessions are not easily recognizable (by most individuals), but they are prevalent in gyms and training facilities.  To adequately describe this type of training to my clients and explain the difference between maintaining muscle and gaining muscle, I use the term "Null Training Sessions" or "Null Workouts." 

 

What are "Null Training Sessions"?

 

I associate the term null with having no value. In my opinion, null is worse than zero because zero has an acknowledged value, the value of zero. Null sessions have the distinctive quality of not accomplishing the specific goal of an individual. For example, if an individual is a competitive bodybuilder with the goal of increasing muscle mass and has competed at the same ~ 175 pounds of lean stage weight in 2016 and 2019, then the individual has performed three years of poorly periodized and programmed training sessions ("Null Training Sessions") in relation to muscle hypertrophy.  

 

It is important to acknowledge two caveats of my example. 

 

Firstly, nutrition, sleep, supplementation (over the counter and Rx), and genetics play a significant role in responding to the hypertrophic stimulus provided by training to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Secondly, I used the specific example of a competitive bodybuilder for a reason. If an individual is a competitive bodybuilder, then potentially they live a satisfactory bodybuilding lifestyle (nutrition, supplements, sleep) at least 80% of the time, and the other 20% is within proximity of the minimum requirements to synthesize new muscle tissue (if training is providing the appropriate hypertrophic stimulus).  

 

Living a lifestyle that meets the minimum requirements for muscle growth 80% of the time is typically enough to produce noticeable muscle growth in three years (Unless the individual is a top-ranked IFBB professional bodybuilder, then they may have to live a lifestyle that meets the minimum requirements 95% of the time for any measurable muscle growth). What is noticeable muscle growth? In my anecdotal experience, competitive bodybuilders can typically gain three to four pounds of muscle per year, throughout the intermediate and early-advanced stages of training experience. If an individual gains the minimal three to four pounds of muscle per year, then in three years, the individual should be nine to twelve pounds heavier at the same body fat levels or less. Sadly, many competitive bodybuilders (and coaches) lack an in-depth understanding of the mechanisms behind skeletal muscle hypertrophy. The scientific incompetence prevents individuals from assessing and evaluating their training. Often, the individuals that fail to gain muscle tissue over-simplify training and think doing more work or working harder (whatever that means) is the answer. Attempting to do more work or working harder typically leads to ridiculously high volume or high-intensity training accompanied by an overcompensation of nutrition and supplementation (over-the-counter and Rx) in hopes of increasing muscle tissue. Regrettably, the lack of cognitive capacity required to construct a properly periodized program for hypertrophy reflects with their non-progressing physique.  

 

What is the easiest way to know if an individual is performing or prescribing null training?

The easiest way is to evaluate several months (minimum of three to six months) of the hypertrophic progress with two questions.

  • Was the individual living a lifestyle (nutrition, supplementation, sleep) that met the minimum requirements to gain muscle 80% of the time? 
  • If the lifestyle met the requirements 80% of the time, did the individual gain a minimal amount of three to four pounds of competitive muscle tissue per year? 

If the individual did not gain a minimum of three to four pounds of competitive muscle per year, then they were performed null training sessions (if the goal was hypertrophy).

 

The years of witnessing numerous individuals fail to increase their competitive skeletal muscle tissue motivated this series of articles about periodization and programming for hypertrophy. The thought of an individual living a bodybuilder lifestyle by eating four to six meals per day, taking supplements, and training hard for three years (completing over 700 training sessions), then competing in the same weight class or within ~ 5 pounds is depressing. The example of an individual attempting bodybuilding for three years, consuming thousands of pounds of the food, spending thousands of dollars on supplements, lifting thousands of pounds in training sessions, and possibly only gaining a couple of pounds of muscle tissue represents the importance of understanding the foundational information of hypertrophy training for bodybuilding. The inability to form a perception of the requisite stimulus and stressors required to trigger the anabolic pathways and adaptive processes can completely halt progress and limit the hypertrophic potential.

 

Removing the "U" from Null Training.

 

Unfortunately, most individuals don't realize their training is not optimal for stimulating a hypertrophic response. The average bodybuilder or individual chasing the hypertrophic glory thinks they are training appropriately to maximize muscle mass. Typically, it takes a year or more for an individual not progressing to realize their training isn't providing the hypertrophic stimulus required to elicit the desired adaptations.  

 

How does an individual know if their training isn't providing an appropriate hypertrophic stimulus?  

First, they need to eliminate other factors in the hypertrophic equation. 

The abbreviated checklist below:

 

Nutrition:

Do I consume enough calories?

Do I consume enough protein?

Do I consume adequate amounts of energy macronutrients (carbs and fats) to fuel adaptations?

Do I consume adequate micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc.?

 

Sleep:

Do I sleep 7 to 8 hours per night?

 

Supplements:

Do I consume adequate amounts of over-the-counter supplements and prescription supplements to support hypertrophy?

 

Genetics:

Have I reached my genetic or enhanced potential?

 

If an individual is eating appropriate macronutrients in a calorie surplus, taking required supplements, getting adequate amounts of sleep each night, and not gaining muscle tissue, perhaps training is the problem. A more simplified version would be two questions. Am I eating and supplementing enough to grow muscle? Am I sleeping enough to build muscle? If an individual is eating, supplementing, and sleeping enough to grow muscle, then perhaps training is the problem.  

 

Ok, It sounds like my training is subpar. I read the hypertrophy programming part one article and I have developed a good base of information regarding volume, effort, load, and frequency, but I don't know where to start on exercise selection. Can you help me decide what exercises to choose for hypertrophy?

 

First, it is vital to understand that choosing exercises is an individualized process guided by the specific goals of an individual. In the question above, an individual has asked, "Can you help me decide what exercises to choose for hypertrophy?". The ability to make an informed decision when choosing exercises for hypertrophy is multi-faceted and complex. Of course, I can provide a fundamental approach for hypertrophy training and general recommendation of getting strong as possible in moderate rep ranges (6 to 15 reps) for multiple sets (6 to 8 sets per session, 2 to 4 times per week), using basic barbell and dumbbell compound lifts through a full ROM with technical proficiency to provide local homeostatic disruption to the target musculature.  

 

But I don't think anyone is reading this article for shallow answers. Most of the information provided in fitness guru eBooks and insta-famous celebs social media accounts is equivalent to learning to swim in a bathtub. Individuals won't drown, but they definitely won't learn to swim in the bathtub. Once they are tired of splashing water on the bathroom floor and decide to try the swimming pool, the best-case scenario is treading water before sinking to the bottom and jumping up for a brief breathe of air a few times before exhaustion and eventually drowning. Performing workouts that do not result in getting closer to a goal is equivalent to trying to swim in a bathtub and making a mess. Sure, it may have been fun to splash around in a bathtub, but the amount of time wasted to fill the tub with water before and clean up the mess after nullifies any significant fun that may have happened. 

 

If training knowledge and performance are equivalent to the swimming knowledge learned in a bathtub, they are then attempting to train hard or progress will at best result in no benefit (treading water) before eventually overtraining and injury (bobbing up and down for air, then drowning). Unfortunately, not many of the fitness guru coaches or insta-celebs venture out of their bathtubs and continue to splash a worthless mess of information on the internet. Continually swimming in their bathtubs and repeating the same uneducated information over and over again. I prefer to explore the uncharted territory of the knowledge ocean and dive deep into the depths of information. Studying, reading, and learning about the how and why behind the mechanisms of every hypertrophic stimulus, sensor, and pathway.  

 

Unfortunately, the general recommendation and fundamental approach for hypertrophy training (listed above) becomes worthless to majority bodybuilders. How could quality information become worthless? Because some bodybuilders get loose and sloppy with form in an attempt to lift as much weight as possible. When the idea of using a full ROM with technical proficiency disappears, it takes the hypertrophic stimulus with it. Exercise selection and exercise order are entirely irrelevant factors in periodization and programming if the exercises performed are inaccurate and inconsistent.  

 

When choosing appropriate training exercises, the first step for an individual is to identify the specific goals of the training program and training session. Creating general goals should be relatively easy, but creating specific goals for the training program and training session may be slightly more complicated. For example, the general goal in the question above is hypertrophy. Is there a specific aspect of the hypertrophy goal? 

Does the individual want to prioritize a lagging body part, or does the individual have any prior injuries? I don't know. The individual did not mention in the question, so we must operate off the definition of general hypertrophy. The next step of evaluating, contrasting, and comparing exercises, is slightly more complicated.  

 

The individual's anatomy, biomechanics, movement patterns, and previous injury history dictates exercise selection. Hypertrophy training doesn't require an individual to be married to specific lifts like powerlifting (bench, squat, deadlift) or Olympic lifting (snatch, clean, and jerk). But it does require individuals to be precise with exercise selection based on their desired physique outcomes. Performing specific movement patterns with basic compound exercises that adequately target the desired muscle group and getting stronger in moderate rep ranges of those basic compound exercises is an excellent way to evaluate hypertrophy. If we know getting stronger in moderate rep ranges (full ROM and technically proficient) of specific movement patterns increases hypertrophy, it may be valuable to consider training to get stronger in the moderate rep ranges of those movement patterns. If we apply the idea of specificity to exercise selection and movement patterns, then we consider the most efficient way to improve the strength of a specific exercise or movement pattern is to perform the specific exercise or movement pattern consistently. (Ref 1.) (Ref 2.) (Ref 3.) 

For example, if the goal is to promote hypertrophy in the chest muscles, then performing a program with specific movement patterns associated with stimulating the target tissue should result in a positive outcome.

 

Week 1:

(1A.) 2 x 5 to 8 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) 15° incline barbell incline bench press (Monday), 

(1B.) 2 x 12 to 15 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) 0° Flat dumbbell bench press (Wednesday), 

(1C.) 2 x 8 to 12 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) 15° incline dumbbell bench press (Friday), 

 

Week 2:

(1A.) 3 x 5 to 8 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1B.) 3 x 12 to 15 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1C.) 3 x 8 to 12 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) maintain reps , add load OR 

add reps , maintain load

 

Week 3:

(1A.) 4 x 5 to 8 reps (1RIR to 2RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1B.) 4 x 12 to 15 reps (1RIR to 2RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1C.) 4 x 8 to 12 reps (1RIR to 2RIR) maintain reps , add load OR 

add reps , maintain load

 

Week 4:

(1A.) 4 x 5 to 8 reps (0RIR to 1RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1B.) 4 x 12 to 15 reps (0RIR to 1RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1C.) 4 x 8 to 12 reps (0RIR to 1RIR) maintain reps , add load OR 

add reps , maintain load

 

Week 5: (Deload if necessary or restart four week set progression with increased weight)

(1A.) 2 x 5 to 8 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1B.) 2 x 12 to 15 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) maintain reps , add load OR add reps , maintain load

(1C.) 2 x 8 to 12 reps (2RIR to 3RIR) maintain reps , add load OR 

add reps , maintain load

 

The five-week example is not an exact program. The partial program written is a three day per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) with one chest pressing exercise. Obviously, that isn't an entire workout program. The example provides a visual aid to help understand the idea of increasing volume and strength in specific compound movement patterns over time and how it likely results in hypertrophy (as long as the full ROM and technical proficiency are held constant). 

I have credited getting stronger in specific movement patterns (in specific rep ranges, full ROM, technical proficiency) as quality hypertrophy training information, and that may sprout a question or comment about "muscle confusion" and "heavy weight vs. light weight." 

I will attempt to answer the question and reply to the potential comment on those two topics in advance.

 

"Muscle Confusion"

Hypertrophic exercise selection needs to proper periodization and programming to maximize muscular potential. The ridiculous training method referred to as "muscle confusion" has been used to justify poor exercise selection choices throughout bodybuilding history. 

(Typically, by the same bro that frequented the phrase, "it's all about time-under-tension" to defend their absurd range-of-motion and half-rep form of bench press, rack deadlifts, or leg press to add nonsensical load to the exercise. But we will address range of motion later)

 

"Muscle confusion" is not possible. The amount of coordination and simultaneous processes that take place as an individual walks across the gym is astonishing. Using moronic exercise variation will only confuse the individual trying to rationalize not having a plan and training by instinct. 

Consistently and accurately performing appropriate exercises develops neuromuscular adaptations of movement skills related to the task and improves the individual's ability to progressively load to further stimulate hypertrophy. (Ref 4.) (Ref 5.) 

 

Heavy Weight vs. Light Weight

Olympic lifters, powerlifters, and bodybuilders share the goal of becoming an expert at the exercises they select, but the way they express their expertise is slightly different. 

I have heard other trainers and coaches use the example, Olympic lifters and powerlifters train to make heavy weights feel as light as possible and Bodybuilders train to make lighter weights feel as heavy as possible. I partially agree with Olympic lifters and powerlifters wanting to make a heavy weight feel light, but I don't agree with the statement of a bodybuilder training to make a lighter weight feel heavy. Why do I only partially agree with the idea of Olympic lifters and powerlifters making a heavy weight feel light? Because I prefer to use the terminology of potentiation or peaking in relation to Olympic and powerlifting competition strength. In general, I recommend getting stronger instead of making a heavy weight feel lighter. 

When an individual gets stronger, the previously heavy weight will feel lighter. If an individual is peaking for a meet and uses potentiation strategy in training or competition, then the increase in nervous system response will aide in strength performance (the weight is the weight, it isn't lighter or heavier). Also, the amount of weight that is considered light or heavy is relative to the individual performing the lift. Why would anyone want to purposely make a light weight feel heavy, and what does that even mean? Two-Hundred pounds is always two hundred pounds. If an individual is trying to make two-hundred pounds feel heavier by modifying the form, then they are not making two-hundred pounds heavier. They are performing a variation upon the form of exercise, and in that variation, two-hundred pounds feels heavier to the individual. Again, two-hundred pounds will always be two-hundred pounds, and any technical form modification enough to make the weight feel "heavy" or "light" is, in all likelihood, an exercise variation.  

The nuances in those statements may seem pedantic, but in the context of hypertrophy training, an individual must realize there is no such thing as making a light weight feel heavy (unless you change gravity). If an individual has to use "light weight" to perform an exercise with correct form and feel the stimulus in a target tissue, that doesn't mean they are using "light weight." It means the individual is using an appropriate weight for their current strength level in that specific exercise to induce a hypertrophic stimulus. If the individual previously used a "heavier weight" on that particular exercise, then they were most likely performing it incorrectly or potentially performing a different variation of the exercise.  

 

On the topic of exercise selection to increase skeletal muscle hypertrophy, the concept of getting stronger in fundamental movement patterns with technical proficiency on a consistent basis is encouraged. It can be beneficial to instill thought processes for interpreting each exercise's calculated weight as a means of monitoring progression (in the specific exercise) instead of the calculated weight being light or heavy and judging yourself as being strong or weak.  

The calculated weight of a barbell squat, plate loaded bench press machine, and seated cable row is not light weight, or heavy weight is the calculated weight of the exercise and can be used to observe and check progress over time. It is vital to understand that the terminology of "light weight" vs. "heavy weight" is relative to the individual's strength and the specific variation of exercise being performed. If an individual can embrace the idea of viewing the calculated weight as means of monitoring progress of the particular exercise, they will be able to intelligently increase the load as necessary to maintain the effort required to elicit a hypertrophic stimulus in the desired rep range.  

 

Ok, you highlighted a few mistakes that I made in the past, I am tired of treading water and competing in the same weight class. 

I want to gain muscle and progress. 

So far, I have learned that exercise selection can be affected by individual genetic anatomical and biomechanical factors. It can also be affected by the movement restrictions (from a previous injury, etc.) and current movement patterns. If I want to gain muscle, I need to choose exercises of specific movement patterns that I can sense in the target muscle and perform safely, consistently, and accurately. Performing the specific movement patterns through full ROM with technical proficiency and progressively add load as a means of maintaining the effort levels required to produce a hypertrophic stimulus. I understand that heavy weight and light weight are relative to the individual performing the exercise and the specific variation of that exercise. I don't need to get distracted by the moronic images or videos insta-celebs performing attention-grabbing feats of strength, and I know better than to listen to the individuals who advertise muscle confusion or unstructured randomized programming. I am feeling more confident in my abilities to choose an appropriate exercise, but I am still unclear on understanding the order of specific exercises, how often to rotate specific exercises, and how to sequence the exercises. Can you shine some light on these issues for me? 

 

Exercise selection for hypertrophy is not exercise selection for strength, performance, or sports training. It can be individualized to the degree that is not possible in other types of training. 

When considering potential exercises for a hypertrophy training program, it is best to view the exercises on a continuum (many shades of light grey to dark grey) and not through a binary lens (white or black, yes or no, right or wrong). In creating a hypertrophic exercise continuum, the two main elements are recovery cost vs. hypertrophic benefit. Then the continuum needs to consider the exercise's effects of fatigue or potentiation on the next exercise of the current session and following sessions. 

The continuums mentioned above are related to the exercise's effectiveness, but we can't neglect the efficiency of exercise choice and order. Exercise efficiency can be summarized as the relationship between each exercise's hypertrophic stimulus and the amount of time required for that specific exercise to be performed. An individual can view each exercise continuum as an exercise bank, create a variety of continuums (bank accounts) and dedicate one continuum (bank account) per movement pattern, muscle, muscle group, or specific goal. Then the exercises are readily available to be programmed for their particular purposes. 

 

For example:

I will provide a model with three exercises per movement with a description of the exercise order and purpose. The exercises are ranked in order of the most preferred exercise for robust hypertrophic stimulus as (1.), then descending to a second option (2.) that is very close to my first choice (typically fatigue is higher with the more stimulating exercises, but the structure and biomechanics of the individual could make either exercise more fatigable), finally to the third option (3.) of the continuum, this exercise may have a little less of a hypertrophic stimulus potential, but it may offer value in through lower fatigue ratings.

 

I prefer to periodize and program with a "Pull A, Push A, Legs A, Off, Pull B, Push B, Legs B, Off" plan. In this example, I'll outline Push A, to give an example of exercise continuums in practice.

 

** Push A **

 

Exercise 1, Primary Muscle – Isolation exercise with peak contraction in the shortened range. 

Focusing on getting a massive pump in the 10 to 15 rep range, warm-up the muscle and establish a solid mind-muscle connection through a full ROM before the primary compound movement. 

(1.) Prime®️ Pec Deck at Strength Curve Cam Setting #4

(2.) Life Fitness Pec Deck Machine 

(3.) Standing Cable Fly 

 

Exercise 2, Primary Movement – Compound exercise with peak contraction in the mid-range. 

We are focusing on progressively loading in the low rep-range of 4 to 8 and getting stronger through full ROM with technical proficiency each week. The load is autoregulated by using weight or reps to maintain effort levels, and volume (sets) is increased throughout the mesocycle. Fully recover between sets, 3 to 5 minutes.

(1.) Dumbbell Incline Bench

(2.) Barbell Incline Bench 

(3.) Smith-Machine Incline Bench 

 

Exercise 3, Primary Muscle (If needed) – Muscle-Centric machine-based exercise with peak contraction in the lengthened range. The individual chooses the machine that places the most tension in the target tissues with as little joint discomfort as possible—progressively loading in the mid-rep range of 8 to 15 throughout the mesocycle.

(1.) Prime®️ Flat Bench Press (Loaded 50% at Strength Curve #1 and 50% at Strength Curve #3)

(2.) Prime®️ Incline Bench Press (Loaded 50% at Strength Curve #1 and 50% at Strength Curve #3)

(3.) Hammer Strength MTS Chest Press

 

Exercise 4, Secondary Muscle – Isolation exercise targeted at deltoid muscles and creating extreme metabolic stress with clustered rest-pause set protocol. Specific clustered rest-pause sets are typically used on this exercise. Sets, Reps, Load, Tempo, Rest-Intervals are dependent on which cluster I prescribe. 

(Note: The time efficiency improves drastically if clustered rest-pause sets are used correctly.)

(1.) CMB or Fat-Bell or Dumbbell Side Laterals (Seated perpendicular on a flat bench, with CMB resting on the bench, between clusters)

(2.) Standing Side Lateral Raise Machine

(3.) Standing Resistance Band Side Laterals 

 

Exercise 5, Tertiary Muscle – Isolation free weight exercise performed in the moderate rep range themed for progressive loading over the mesocycle. This is the first exercise for the tertiary muscle group, and it may be necessary to do 2 or 3 warm-up/work-up sets before performing high effort sets. The goal of this exercise is to progressively load and get stronger in the moderate rep range of "8 to 12" or "10 to 15" throughout the mesocycle. Progression is autoregulated by using load or reps to maintain appropriate effort levels as volume (sets) are increased throughout the mesocycle.

(1.) E-Z Bar Lying Tricep Extensions (for stability – perform on floor or wide bench/plyobox) with one mini-band on each end, attached to rack or band anchors to provide secondary resistance for all heads of the tricep to fully engage. The bar/weights provide elbow extension resistance, and the band provides shoulder extension resistance with a slight additive to elbow extension at near end range.

(2.) DB Lying Tricep Extensions (with no band)

(3.) Lying Cable Tricep Extensions

 

Exercise 6, Tertiary Muscle (Optional, If needed) – Isolation exercise performed in a cluster-set rest-pause fashion. The athlete's experience and depth into the mesocycle will determine the specific type of clustered rest-pause set. I have various types of clustered rest-pause sets that I rotate throughout the mesocycle. Sets, Reps, Load, Tempo, and Rest-Intervals are dependent on the specific cluster protocol method I prescribe. (Note: The time efficiency improves drastically if clustered rest-pause sets are used correctly.) 

(1.) Tricep Pressdown with Prime®️ Spreader Bar

(2.) Tricep Pressdown with E-Z Curl Bar or V-Bar

(3.) Tricep Pressdown with Straight Bar

 

Hopefully, the example workout above communicated how to form exercise continuums or rankings of a few exercises per movement category or muscle group. It may be more beneficial for individuals that travel to have a free weight (barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell) list and a machine list if they are unable to perform the same exercises microcycle to microcycle (week to week). The most important factor for individuals that travel is to find a way to progressively load the exercises and monitor progress throughout each mesocycle. 

Variation and novelty can be great, but it can also prevent neural and structural adaptations necessary to create a maximal hypertrophic stimulus. I included a mini-description with each exercise to help facilitate an understanding of why I structured the exercises in that specific order for the hypertrophic push/press training session. Over the last twenty years of creating and monitoring training programs, I have repeatedly observed anecdotal benefits related to exercise selection and exercise order for hypertrophy that is not fully explained in the literature.  

 

Research has demonstrated several benefits to exercise choice, exercise order, tempo, rest intervals, muscle action, and range of motion. One of the main findings in research of exercise choice and exercise order is related to the SAID principle (Specific Adaptations for Imposed Demands). (6.) (7.) Mattocks et al. 2017, and Nunes, Ribeiro, Schoenfeld, and Cyrino, 2018, findings indicated that the largest strength increase was on the exercise that was sequenced first in the training session. The ability to use higher loads on the first exercise enhanced the strength gains of the first exercise compared to the strength gains of the other exercises. This is a prime example of the principle of specificity. If an individual wants to prioritize strength on a given movement, then they should perform that exercise first in their training session. In 2012, Simalo et al., published a much-needed review article to analyze and discuss the importance of exercise sequence in relation to acute training performance and chronic adaptations in strength and hypertrophy. (8.) The article recommends that the movement patterns in need of the most improvement should be prioritized, and the targeted muscle groups should be sequenced early in the training session. It is important to understand that a majority of the research on exercise order is studying rep max strength testing on specific exercises (included in the training programs), and there are only a few studies that directly measure hypertrophy. There have been a few studies comparing multi-joint lat pulldown vs. single-joint bicep curl and the effect on the biceps muscle thickness. (9.), (10.), (11.) These studies indicate that similar hypertrophy can occur in multi-joint to single-joint and single-joint to multi-joint sequenced exercise programs. Only one of the three studied the exercise order of multi-joint (leg-press) first and single-joint (knee-extension) second, compared to the single-joint (knee-extension) first and multi-joint (leg-press) second on mid-thigh quadriceps hypertrophy. (9.) The results were similar to the other studies finding similar hypertrophy in both groups. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis in the February 2020 European Journal of Sport Science summarized that exercise order "multi-joint to single-joint" and "single-joint to multi-joint" may produce similar hypertrophic results. (12.) 

 

 

Anecdotally, I have seen success in a multitude of exercise choices and sequences in practice since the 1990s. In general, if the exercises are performed through a full range of motion (ROM) with an appropriate tempo controlling the eccentric and concentric muscle actions to momentary muscular failure (or volitional failure), with enough recovery during the rest interval to continue performing at a high degree of effort, then a sufficient stimulus for hypertrophy will be provided. In a nourished, hydrated, and hormonally optimal state, the skeletal muscle will respond to the hypertrophic stimulus to the specific degree at which it was imposed.  

 

Exercise choice and exercise order are important goal-related factors in periodization and programming for hypertrophy. The selection of exercises becomes especially crucial during specialization mesocycles, and the order of exercises can significantly enhance the results of the strength mesocycle of a hypertrophy block. 

 

Understanding exercise choice and order provides a better idea of how to outline my program. But I am not convinced on ROM, because I have seen numerous huge bodybuilders doing half reps. I have also seen bodybuilders with massive muscles that completely ignore tempo and pump reps anyway necessary to complete the set. Some individuals that I know seem to think that ROM and tempo are pointless as long as they lift heavy weights. The individuals that I am referring to are not the sharpest tools in the shed, but they are jacked. I understand that appropriate rest times between sets are necessary.  But do I have to worry about ROM, tempo, and muscle actions? 

  

First, I need to address one of the most repetitive logical fallacies in the fitness or physique industry.  

 

Bodybuilder "X" has massive muscles, and "X" doesn't concern himself with ROM or tempo. "X" trains hardcore and lifts heavy weight by any means necessary. If "X" is the most muscular individual that I know, why wouldn't I want to copy what "X" is doing?  

 

As a young impressionable adolescent, I understand that it can be easy to get distracted by the overwhelming results displayed in massive muscular physiques. But as an adult, we should be able to think logically and not allow casual or correlational fallacies to manipulate our ability to recognize the errors in reason. If we apply thought to the statement above, then we will quickly identify the errors in reason. If "X" has a great physique, trains hardcore, and doesn't worry about ROM or tempo, then would "X" have an even better physique with appropriate ROM and tempo. 

I don't know. Theoretically, it is possible that "X" would be smaller with appropriate ROM and tempo, but highly unlikely. If an individual currently ignores the resistance training principles, that doesn't mean they have always ignored the resistance training principles. 

 

Attaining a muscular physique takes a significant amount of time, and it is difficult to attribute "X" 's current physique to the current training style. If "X" uses super-supplement (Rx compounds), then the anabolic stimulus provided via enhancement protocol may be enough to cause a hypertrophic adaptation to the resistance training. The numerous logical fallacies that are continually spread in the fitness industry can have a devastating effect on your results if you allow yourself to be convinced. In a future article, I will discuss some of the most reoccurring logical fallacies in the fitness industry.  

 

ROM

 

Range of motion (ROM) has been the topic of many conversations and arguments. To clarify, ROM of a joint and ROM of a muscle is not the same as ROM of an exercise. ROM of an exercise is the degree of movement created by the exercise on specific joints and muscles involved. (13.) In general strength and conditioning, performing a full range of motion is necessary to receive each exercise's full benefits. (14.) The clinical literature is limited on the effects of ROM vs. partial ROM for hypertrophic adaptations, and there is no clear-cut answer to apply to each exercise and program. The studies comparing full ROM vs. partial ROM on lower body exercises produced more favorable hypertrophic results for full ROM over partial ROM. (15.), (16.), (17.) Two studies comparing full ROM vs. partial ROM on upper body exercises produced limiting and conflicting results. (18.), (19.) Goto et al., observed greater triceps growth on partial ROM vs. full ROM, but this could be due to the type of program that was followed in the study. 

The subjects trained triceps three days per week for eight weeks. They performed three sets of tricep extensions with a sixty-second intra-set rest and used loads equivalent to their 8RM for all nine sets each week. (18.) 

Pinto et al. observed greater biceps growth in full ROM vs. partial ROM. The subjects trained biceps two days per week. They performed a periodized program for ten weeks of two to four sets of bicep elbow flexion for eight to twenty reps. (19.) I haven't seen anyone else extract the potential benefits in the contrasting results of these two upper body ROM studies.  

 

One study demonstrates the benefits of having a properly periodized program for the upper body musculature. Training a muscle group twice a week allows for sufficient recovery. In an effort to provide progression throughout the mesocycle, the training volume increased from two sets twice per week (4 sets total) to four sets twice per week (8 sets total). It is possible that the subjects could have continued to make progress if training volume further increased. This progression in training volume over a mesocycle supports my views for maximizing hypertrophy. The other study favored the results of a partial ROM vs. a full ROM, training the triceps three days per week and only providing the sixty-second rest between sets. 

In my opinion, the frequency, partial ROM, and short rest-interval are what increased the hypertrophy in triceps. 

Performing a modified range of motion, 45 to 90, created an occlusion effect in the muscle and trapped an excessive number of metabolites in the muscle. The subjects used an 8RM load, which is very difficult to recover from in two to three minutes, but the researchers only provided sixty seconds, further increasing the number of metabolites in the muscle. I attribute the partial ROM results vs. the full ROM in that study to the benefits of occlusion training. We have seen the benefits of blood flow restriction (BFR) or occlusion training demonstrated numerous times in the literature. In summary, perform exercises in the largest active ROM possible to maximally activate motor units throughout the entire muscle and potentially add the partial rep (occlusion style) of training as a type of intensification technique for specific muscle groups and during specialization cycles.  

 

Tempo

 

To prevent confusion in the explanation of tempo, I will describe tempo and muscle actions within the same section. The tempo is the cadence of the exercise. Each exercise has four segments (Yes, I said four), and the tempo of each exercise is written numerically to represent the time, in seconds, of each movement segment. 

 

For example (A.), Tempo: 3 : 0 : 1 : 0

In example (A.), the first number "3" represents the time in seconds dedicated to the negative/eccentric muscle action, the second number "0" represents the amount of time dedicated to a pause/iso-hold/iso-metric at the transition or change of direction of the lift, the third number "1" represents the time in seconds dedicated to the positive/concentric muscle action, and the last number "0" represents the amount of time dedicated to an iso-hold/iso-metric/iso-flex at the end range of the lift.

 

For example (B.), Tempo: 2 : 1 : X : 0

In example (B.), the first number "2" designates a two-second negative/eccentric muscle action, the second number "1" designates a one-second pause or iso-hold at the transition or change of direction of the lift, the third number/letter "X" (easy to remember as "X-plode") designates to explode up as hard/fast as possible on the positive/concentric muscle action, and the last number "0" represents the amount of time dedicated to an iso-hold/iso-metric/iso-flex at the end range of the lift.

Tempo is a variable of resistance training that doesn't get much attention. Some studies have resulted in similar hypertrophy findings between self-controlled tempo vs. clinically prescribed tempo. (20.) Other studies have provided the conclusion that as long as the exercise is performed to concentric muscle failure and the rep duration is in the range of 0.5 seconds to 8 seconds per rep, then an adequate hypertrophic stimulus will be provided. (21.) , (22.) In my opinion, tempo provides its most significant benefits through increasing the accuracy of tracking progression and motivating individuals to maintain proper form. I have found a correlation between creating periodized programs with prescribed tempo and a higher percentage of skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Perhaps, the tempo provided allows beginners, intermediate, and advanced individuals to develop an internal focus to the muscles executing the exercise. If an individual is silently counting (eccentric) 1 , 2 , 3 - - (iso-hold) 1 - - (concentric) X-plode-Up - - 0 (end range) and repeat, then they are less likely to be psychologically, emotionally, and physically distracted. I was taught the importance of the "mind-to-muscle" connection at a very young age, and I have encouraged my clients to constantly assess their connection to the active muscle groups during each session. Individuals that have trained with me or witnessed me train others know how much I value feedback for constant evaluation and auto-regulation. Tempo can enhance signals for auto-regulatory feedback.  

 

For example, 

Does the form being performed on exercise "Y" provide tension in the target muscle tissue? If an individual doesn't know the specific angle or motion that provides the most robust stimulus to the target tissue, then performing exercise "Y" with a tempo of [ 3 : 1 : 2 : 1 ] will slow the rep speed enough to allow the mental connection and the thought processes to occur to evaluate the form of the exercise. If the weight is roughly equivalent to the individuals ~ 20 RM, then they can perform ~ 10 reps and slightly change the hand placement, foot placement, angle of movement, rotation of movement and direction of movement every two or three reps, until the tension stimulus is felt in the target tissue, without fearing the accumulation of junk volume and non-hypertrophic fatigue. 

 

Tempo is also beneficial for enhancing the specific muscle action of an exercise. Learning and understanding the muscle actions provides unique benefits in hypertrophy periodization and programming. "Muscle Action is the neuromuscular activation of muscles that contributes to movement or stabilization of the musculoskeletal system." (23.) The three types of mechanical forces applied to the muscles during each repetition are eccentric, concentric, and isometric. Typically, in exercise programming, the primary emphasis is placed on the muscle actions eccentric and concentric, with isometric and static isoholds playing a secondary role. (24.) There is evidence to suggest that each muscle action provides a unique stimulus for enhancing functional and/or morphological adaptations to skeletal muscle.  

 

Isometric

 

Isometrics and isoholds performed in isolation may not provide a significant hypertrophic stimulus for well-trained individuals. But isometrics offer unique benefits when used in conjunction with other dynamic movements. The principle of specificity is strongly represented with isometrics. The specific angle trained with an isometric is the angle of the largest increases in neuromuscular function and performance. (25.), (26.), (27.) If an individual is trying to develop as much muscle tissue as possible, then appropriately using isometrics and static isoholds as a method of targeting specific angles of weakness may enhance the mind-to-muscle connection and neuromuscular activation for the following repetitions or exercise. Isometrics performed at long muscle lengths seem to produce more hypertrophy than at short muscle lengths. Alegre et al. studied the effects of isometrics performed at long muscle length vs. isometrics performed at short muscle length for the quadriceps. 

Their subjects performed leg extensions three days a week for six weeks. The training protocol was five sets of five reps, and each rep was a five-second isometric (static isohold). The inter-repetition rest interval was five seconds, and the inter-set rest interval was one minute. The researchers used MRI scans to assess the CSA (cross-sectional area) of the muscle for pre and post-testing. The group training quadriceps with isometrics at long muscle lengths displayed significant hypertrophy in the vastus lateralis (6.3%), vastus medialis (4.8%), and rectus femoris (8.2%). But the group training at short muscle lengths did not display significant hypertrophy. (28.) 

This study is an example of how the use of isometrics may or may not help increase muscular development. 

Multiple studies have shown similar favorable hypertrophic results for performing isometrics at long muscle lengths vs. short muscle lengths. In my opinion, there are a few factors related to the increased hypertrophic results of isometrics at long muscle lengths. Isoholds at long muscle lengths is part of a technique that I use with a specific clustered rest-pause sets in a protocol to increase the metabolite build-up and create an occlusion effect. (29.) It also seems that performing static isoholds at long muscle lengths creates a lengthening tension, and this specific type of tension may cause enough muscle damage to produce a hypertrophic stimulus. (30.) 

In summary, isometrics can be beneficial for hypertrophy, when programmed to increase the overall neuromuscular functional capacities of the muscle's actions. (31.)

 

Eccentric

 

The eccentric muscle action is also referred to as the negative part of a repetition. This is the action of the exercise that is bastardized by most bodybuilders. Unfortunately, I witness this on a daily basis in my facility. Actually, as I am typing this article, I can hear individuals slamming pin-select machine weight stacks and completely ignoring the benefits provided through the eccentric component of exercise. I understand that most individuals did not pursue a college education in anything related to human anatomy, physiology, or biomechanics. 

But I have never been able to understand the logic behind using a pin-select machine to enhance the muscle-centric focus of an exercise, then completely ignoring the eccentric (negative) portion of the movement. When I hear or see an individual on a pin-select or cable machine banging the weight stack between reps and/or dropping the last rep with zero control, I know I have an individual who doesn't understand the underlying mechanisms of muscle actions within the human body related to exercise and training. 

Usually, I can quickly explain the advantage of using a muscle-centric pin-select or cable machine and how to execute the movement in such a way for the individual to maximize their results. 

Not everyone wants to improve their physiques, and I completely understand that training is not solely dedicated to increasing muscle mass, but the idea possibly wanting to gain muscle and deliberately performing an exercise incorrectly is perplexing, to say the least.  

Eccentric muscle actions produce greater force than concentric muscle actions and have the ability to significantly increase the magnitude of intracellular anabolic signaling. Research has demonstrated the power of eccentrics by displaying the effects provided by only four sets of six maximal eccentrics. The relatively low effort training session of four sets of six reps fully activated p70S6k and increased the phosphorylation of the ribosomal protein S6. (32.) In a comparison of eccentric training vs. concentric training, eccentric training provides a faster elevation of myofibrillar protein synthesis and increases the amount of time under the myofibrillar protein fractional synthetic curve than concentric training. (33.) I have attended hundreds of bodybuilding shows in my lifetime, and I have been an NPC Judge since 2007. The opportunity to observe the architecture of an individual's muscles in a bodybuilding competition condition provides a unique perception. In the early 2000s, I began to notice specific trends at bodybuilding shows. As the competitors got older, it became significantly more difficult for them to develop or maintain quadriceps and hamstring muscle mass. More specifically, the legs seem to maintain some size proximally (near the hip) and significantly decrease in size distally (near the knee). I heard people attribute that odd development to numerous quirky illogical ideas, but after noticing a similar trend at various ages, I hypothesized that it was due to their inability to exert sufficient effort through a full ROM in all the muscle actions. Anecdotally, the bodybuilders that I observed train with half-reps, excessive body movement on free-weight exercises, and banging the weight stacks on machines seem to develop shorter and flatter muscle bellies. Especially if they could not perform the full range of motion exercises due to an injury or insecurity, then adapted to the new shortened ROM for extended periods of time. Research has mentioned the effect of eccentrics on increasing fascicle length and providing the stimulus to promote the addition of sarcomeres in series. (34.) I think the impact of eccentrics on fascicle length is only part of the equation. I am constantly digging through the research and comparing my anecdotes to try and form a better understanding of how specific muscle actions affect the architectural integrity of a muscle and possibly dictate the fullness and thickness of the muscle's hypertrophy from origin to insertion. I conclude these thoughts on the eccentric muscle action, with a couple of exercise science facts and a noteworthy question. The relationship between the length and tension of a muscle is such that maximum eccentric activity is stronger than maximum isometric activity, which is stronger than maximum concentric activity. If research suggests that individuals are ~ 20% to ~ 60% stronger in an eccentric muscle action vs. concentric muscle action (35.), (36.), (37.), then why would an individual not be able to control the eccentric portion of a pin-select or cable machine?

 

Concentric

 

Concentric muscle action is the active shortening of a muscle. The concentric muscle action is the most common muscle action associated with training. An exercise's positive range of motion is difficult to perform wrong. That doesn't mean performing the exercise with technical proficiency is easy. It means that individuals can perform the exercise using various velocities and tempos for the concentric muscle action and accurately create the desired training effects. 

Since this article is related to hypertrophy, I will not diverge into the literature about strength or speed training. If the concentric muscle action can be performed with technical proficiency and through a full range of motion (without joint or connective tissue pain), then it can be executed with a range of velocities and various tempos for hypertrophy. Some exercises provide better hypertrophic stimulus when performed at slightly slower tempos, but other exercises may provide a unique benefit when performed explosively. Performing the concentric muscle action with an explosive effort, until momentary muscular failure causes the drastic slowing of the concentric muscle action, will result in optimal rate coding and maximal fiber recruitment. Initially established by Henneman (38.) and supported throughout literature, the size principle explains how muscle fiber activation occurs due to the motor units being recruited in an orderly fashion, from smaller (low-threshold) to larger (high-threshold) as needed by the force demands of the task. (39.), (40.), (41.), (42.), (43.) The factors responsible for increased muscle activation are the effort required to exert a sufficient force through the concentric action and the rate of force development produced during the movement. In hypertrophy training, there are specific reasons for an individual to perform deliberately slow concentric muscle actions. An individual may benefit from performing non-explosive concentric muscle actions, if they have poor mechanics, inadequate joint workspace and control throughout articulating movements, recovering from an injury, or learning a new form of exercise. If an individual has zero joint or connective tissue pain and solid form, then performing explosive reps (under control) through a full ROM may increase the number of motor units activated early in the set. I have always programmed a minimum of one exercise per workout capable of training to momentary muscular failure (or volitional failure) for at least one set, to ensure the maximal recruitment of the muscle fibers. Maximally activating the muscle fibers through a high degree of effort and translating that effort through a progressive loading strategy with movements that provide a significant hypertrophic stimulus will create an encouraging environment for muscle growth.

 

Anecdotally, every bodybuilder that I have seen not gain two to four pounds of competitive muscle per year of their career (or one pound of muscle per year in the late stages of development), always thinks they train hardcore or high volume or whatever, but when I observe their sessions, it is none of the above.  

Is training hardcore and intense, if the movements are performed improperly?  

Is it high volume, if a majority of the workout contains sets with zero eccentric control and lacks the volume from eccentric muscle action? 

Is it progressively loading, if the form adopts strange body momentum to complete the lift?  

The lack of ability to perform a controlled full ROM concentric muscle action to momentary muscular failure (maybe they can do some type of strange half rep with momentum) with adequate control of the eccentric (negative) muscle actions is required to improve upon the initial novice gains. Reduced ROM, uncontrolled tempo, and lack of muscle action understanding are why most individuals never surpass the initial ~ 20 pounds of competitive stage muscle gained in the first three to five years of training. Most individuals justify not gaining muscle after the initial few years of a forty-year bodybuilding hobby or career (ranging from the early to mid-twenties through the sixties) with numerous logical fallacies to support their non-progressing physique. Eventually, we all have to fight father time, and the mechanisms involved in human aging limit the theoretical lifelong progression provided by an intelligent approach to periodization and programming. If we know that gaining muscle tissue at an older age with be more difficult, then we need to take advantage of the time allotted and gain a minimum of two to four pounds of muscle tissue for as many years as possible throughout the competitive career. Gaining two to four pounds of muscle per year requires a logical, rational, and skeptical view of the physique's progression with a critical evaluation of periodization and programming concerning the progress attained. In summary, if an individual is not gaining a minimum of two to four pounds of muscle per year, evaluate the ROM, tempo, and muscle action execution before adding volume or load.

  

Rest Intervals

 

The rest interval is a specified amount of time between sets of a specific exercise dedicated to rest and recovery. I have heard numerous arguments between bodybuilders as to why their program's specific rest interval is better than another program's rest interval for hypertrophy. The conversations are filled with ad hominems (logical fallacy that attacks the individual in the discussion, not the subject), appeals to authority (logical fallacy that deems their statements are true because someone they respect with authority says they are true), red herring (logical fallacy that changes the focus to another argument that is irrelevant to draw attention from the conversation), and many other random generalizations that involve no logic or critical thinking. Supporting the idea of short rest-intervals by saying an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder only rests 45 to 60 seconds between each set is not logical. An individual can simply reply with; I know a better IFBB Pro Bodybuilder that rests for three minutes between sets. Then instead of two individuals having an intellectual conversation about their views on rest intervals, there will be an escalation to ad hominem attacks, or both individuals become more confused about their opinion of rest intervals. 

In an effort to prevent more confusion within the bodybuilding or hypertrophy specific training, I will provide a more precise definition of rest intervals and classify them into three categories.

 

Short rest intervals are 30 seconds or less, moderate rest intervals are 60 to 90 seconds, and long rest intervals are 3 minutes or more. (44.) In research related to hypertrophy training, short rest intervals cause less growth when compared to long rest intervals. Buresh et at., performed a study comparing 60-second rest intervals vs. 150-second rest intervals, and the group performing 150 rest intervals had significantly greater muscle growth in the upper body and a trend for greater hypertrophy in the lower body. (45.) Schoenfeld et al., performed an eight-week study comparing 1-minute rest intervals vs. 3 minutes rest intervals, and the long rest intervals have significantly greater muscle growth in the lower body and a trend for greater hypertrophy in the upper body. (46.) 

Could the longer rest intervals result in more hypertrophy because of increased muscle protein synthesis (MPS) or anabolic signaling? In 2019 Damas et al., performed a study compared the effects of 2-minute rest interval vs. 4-minute rest interval. They used a within-subject design (to remove the genetic variability) to perform four sets of leg press (unilateral) and four sets of leg extension (unilateral) with 2-minute rest interval on one leg vs. four sets of leg press (unilateral) and four sets of leg extension (unilateral) with 4-minute rest interval on the other leg. They did not observe a significant difference in MPS between the 2-minute vs. 4-minute rest interval. (47.) But this could be because 2-minutes is above the moderate rest interval category of 60 to 90 seconds and slightly below the long rest interval category of 3 minutes or more. Technically, this study compared an above moderate rest interval of 2-minutes vs. a long rest interval of 4 minutes. Also, I mentioned the exercises on purpose. They used leg press (unilateral) and leg extension (unilateral) for the study. In my opinion, these leg exercises are not as taxing to the cardiovascular and central nervous system as basic compound free weight leg exercises (squat and deadlift). Therefore the 2-minute rest was most likely providing as full of a recovery as the 4-minute rest. McKendry and colleagues performed a study comparing 1-minute rest intervals vs. 5-minute rest intervals. The subjects performed four sets of leg press and four sets of leg extension using 75% 1-RM load to momentary muscular failure, followed by the ingestion of 25 grams of whey protein. They observed MPS 4-hours post-workout, and the group performing 5-minute rests had almost doubled the magnitude in response to the 1-minute group. At 24-hours, the MPS comparison slightly favored the long rest intervals, but it was no longer significantly different. The researchers also performed measurements on intracellular anabolic signaling, and the long rest group had a 4.2 fold increase, but the anabolic signaling was not elevated in the short rest interval group. (48.) Looking at both studies simultaneously helps formulate an answer supporting longer rest intervals. But that does not mean rest intervals have to be 5-minutes. If we consider the underlying processes involved in recovery between sets, then we can understand that short rest intervals of 60 seconds or less may not provide enough recovery for those processes. 

Sufficient recovery allows an individual to exert a high amount of effort through mechanical loading to stimulate hypertrophy.  

 

Mechanical tension is the primary driver of muscle hypertrophy, but the secondary mechanism of metabolic stress has been theorized to play a significant role in stimulating hypertrophy. (49.) Using shorter 30-second rest intervals is a strategy for increasing hypertrophy through metabolic stress pathways, but it needs to be used appropriately. The short rest intervals have been found to reduce training volume by more than 50% when using a 10-RM load for five sets, due to increases in metabolite accumulation. (50.) Volume is directly related to skeletal muscle hypertrophy, and training with 50% less volume will likely not be beneficial. This supports the idea that if an individual is going to use short 30-second rest intervals for metabolite accumulation, it needs to be programmed not to affect the primary mechanical tension and progressive loading of the training cycle. Medeiros et al., demonstrated that if individuals are performing sets with a load equivalent to an 8-RM to 12-RM and only resting 60-seconds between sets, then a 5% to 10% reduction in load is required to maintain performance within the specified range. (51.) This is another example supporting the idea that if an individual is going to implement a series of shorter rest interval sets to cause a novel metabolic stress hypertrophic response, then it needs to be strategically programmed not to reduce requisite stimulus provided by progressive tension loading. Using the strategy of metabolic stress alone is not enough to be the primary stimulate muscle growth. Still, it may provide a secondary effect through increasing muscle activation through auxiliary anabolic processes, recruiting high-threshold motor units, and provoking the production of myokines and reactive oxygen species. (49.), (52.), (53.)  

 

Hopefully, this information will reach the gym bros/contest gurus, and they will stop wasting time attempting to emulate the rest interval routines of a super sports supplement enhanced genetically elite professional athlete. Rest intervals must be individualized per person and autoregulated per session. They should also categorize in relation to the overall goal of the workout and modified to maximize the specific purposes within the workout. Once exercises are selected and organized to fit the workout's particular objectives, rest interval continuums are assigned per exercise. The key to optimizing the rest interval within the continuum per exercise is to understand how to autoregulate your rest times to elicit the desired adaptation. I will conclude the introduction to rest times with an example of how I program rest times for my client's training programs and give a description of how to autoregulate rest times based on your fatigue and recovery between sets.

 

Example Workout and Rest Time Continuums per Exercise

 

Exercise 1: 

Primary Muscle

Exercise Goal: Priming Exercise = Muscle Activation, Pump, Mental Connection

Sets: 2 sets (Work Sets) on microcycle 1 and increase 1 work set every other microcycle

For example: Microcycle 1 and 2 (Week 1 and Week 2) = 2 sets. Microcycle 3 and 4 (Week 3 and Week 4) = 3 sets. Microcycle 5 and 6 (Week 5 and 6) = 4 sets.

Rep Range: 10 to 15 reps

Rest Interval: 2 Minutes (Work Sets) 

Notes:

Choose an exercise that creates peak tension in the shortened range. 

For example: Pec Deck Machine.

Perform 1 set of CARS (Controlled Articular Rotations) for active joints between each set of exercise 1.

 

Exercise 2: 

Primary Muscle

Exercise Goal: Progressive Loading (Progressive Overload)

Sets: 2 sets (Work Sets) on microcycle 1 and increase 1 work set every other microcycle

Rep Range: 4 to 8 reps

Rest Interval: 3 to 5 Minutes (Work Sets) 

Notes: 

Choose a compound exercise that creates peak tension in the mid-range. 

For example: DB or BB Bench Press or Plate Loaded Machine Bench Press.

Autoregulatory Feedback Questions for Rest Intervals:

Autoregulate rest time as needed to allow for sufficient recovery on this exercise. The goal is the get stronger by adding load (to stay within rep range) or adding reps (with the same load, to stay within rep range) each week. 

Each set should be performed as recovered as possible. There various methods for autoregulating rest times used throughout the industry. There is a compilation of autoregulatory feedback questions for assessing your recovery between sets listed below exercise 6.

 

Exercise 3: Primary Muscle (if needed)

Exercise Goal: Stimulate Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy, Cell Swelling, Metabolic Stress

Notes:

Choose a single joint or machine movement that places stress directly on the target muscle and has the least joint/connective tissue discomfort. 

Also, choose an exercise or machine that is easy to rack and un-rack during the brief intra-set rests.

Rep Range: Set 1 = 10 to 20 , Set 2 = 8 to 15 , Set 3 = 5 to 10 , Set 4 = 5 to 10 , Set 5 = 4 to 8

Rest Interval: 10 to 15 seconds

Sets: 5

This is a clustered rest-pause set. The individual will use a weight that is ~12 to 15 Rep Max. They will perform each set to as close to concentric momentary muscular failure as possible without failing. ~ 0 RIR to ~ 1 RIR. I instruct the individual to not fail on the set but also do not leave 2 or 3 reps in the tank. Perform set 1, then take five deep breathes (10 to 15-second rest), perform set 2, repeat rest, and sets until finished. Do not drop the load.

 

Exercise 4: 

Second Muscle 

Exercise Goal: Progressive Loading (Progressive Overload)

Sets: 2 sets (Work Sets) on microcycle 1 and increase 1 work set every other microcycle

Rep Range: 8 to 12 reps

Rest Interval: 2 to 3 Minutes (Work Sets) 

Perform 1 set of CARS (Controlled Articular Rotations) for active joints between each set of exercise 1.

Notes:

Choose an exercise that can be progressively loaded without causing joint/connective tissue pain.

For Example, Upright Row, Lat Pulldown, Plate Loaded Machine Row, Rear Delt Row

 

Exercise 5: 

Third Muscle

Exercise Goal: Progressive Loading (Progressive Overload)

Sets: 2 sets (Work Sets) on microcycle 1 and increase 1 work set every other microcycle

Rep Range: 8 to 12 reps

Rest Interval: 2 to 3 Minutes (Work Sets) 

Perform 1 set of CARS (Controlled Articular Rotations) for active joints between each set of exercise 1.

Notes:

Choose an exercise that can be progressively loaded by adding reps or weight without causing joint/connective tissue pain.

For Example, Supine Tricep Extensions, DB Hammer Curl, Any Machine

 

Exercise 6:

Optional for Second or Third Muscle. Choose the muscle that needs more work.  

If they are both in equal need of work, rotate each time this workout is performed.  

Microcycle 1 = perform Second Muscle Group on Exercise 4 and 6. Microcycle 2 = perform Third Muscle on Exercise 5 and 6.

Exercise Goal: Stimulate Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy, Cell Swelling, Metabolic Stress

Notes:

Choose a single joint or machine movement that places stress directly on the target muscle and has the least amount of joint/connective tissue discomfort as possible. 

Also, choose an exercise or machine that is easy to rack and un-rack during the brief intra-set rests.

Rep Range: Set 1 = 10 to 20 , Set 2 = 8 to 15 , Set 3 = 5 to 10 , Set 4 = 5 to 10 , Set 5 = 4 to 8

Rest Interval: 10 to 15 seconds

Sets: 5

This is a clustered rest-pause set. The individual will use a weight that is ~12 to 15 Rep Max. They will perform each set to as close to concentric momentary muscular failure as possible without failing. ~ 0 RIR to ~ 1 RIR. I instruct the individual to not fail on the set but also do not leave 2 or 3 reps in the tank. Perform set 1, then take five deep breathes (10 to 15-second rest), perform set 2, repeat rest, and sets until finished. Do not drop the load.

 

This is a compilation of six autoregulatory feedback questions. These can be used to evaluate recovery between sets and help an individual decide if he or she is ready to perform their next set.

 

(1.) Is the primary muscle group recovered for the next set? If it is still burning with lactic acid, then wait longer to recover. The goal is to be able to perform the next set within the prescribed rep range with the same load as last week or more. Can I perform the same load as last week or more within the specified rep range? If yes, then this autoregulatory question can be checked off the list for this set.

 

(2.) Is the cardiorespiratory system recovered? Am I still out of breath? Is my heart rate still elevated beyond the normal pre-set range? If yes, then wait longer for the respiratory system to recover and heart rate to lower enough to hit the prescribed rep and loading parameters of the set. Once the cardiorespiratory system has recovered, check this autoregulatory question off the list for this set.

 

(3.) Are any secondary, synergist, spinal, and stabilizer muscles fatigued enough to affect my next set performance? The goal is to provide a progressive loading stimulus to the target muscle, and if another muscle limits me, then I need to rest longer. 

For example, if training back, will my grip, forearms, or biceps be the limiting factor in my next set? Is my lower back tight and pumped enough to limit my next set of squats or deadlifts, if yes, then rest longer. 

Remember, the goal is to perform the same load as last week or more within the prescribed rep range? This autoregulatory question must be checked off the list for maximal performance on the next set.

 

(4.) Psychological and emotional recovery. Am I mentally ready to attack the next set with ferocious intent and progress as I know I have to for hypertrophy to occur? If yes, then this autoregulatory question can be checked off the list. 

 

(5.) Hydration Status. Am I adequately hydrated to perform the next set? Am I craving fluids, or Am I overly bloated and sloshing around fluid in my gut from drinking too much liquid? If craving fluids, take a sip, wait for 10 to 15 seconds, then prepare for the exercise. 

If bloated and sloshing fluid around, walk around for an additional 60 to 120 seconds, perform CARS or Isometrics to stay warm. Do not begin the exercise with gastrointestinal discomfort and potentially vomit much needed anabolic nutrients into the trash can. 

 

(6.) Nutrition Status. Do I have adequate essential amino acids and glucose in my bloodstream? 

If not, then I need to consume a small amount 2 to 4 oz. of fluid with amino acids, and effective carbohydrate source with (if needed electrolytes, vitamins, trace minerals, micronutrients, etc.) additional nitric oxide/cell swelling supplements to enhance the uptake into cells and potentially provide an additional anabolic stimulus. As long as there is zero gastrointestinal distress, consuming specific ratios of peptides, amino acids, carbs, and supplements in water during training (while excessive blood and fluid are pumped into the muscles) can have a potentially beneficial effect on hypertrophy.

 

 

The example workout outline above can be used for a press or pull session. The sets, reps, and rest intervals are provided. Once the choice is made between the press or pull session, select appropriate exercises to fit the exercise order's goal. Then perform the workout with a high degree of effort and autoregulate the rest times between work sets using the six quick questions listed at the end of the workout description.

 

 

Wrapping it up

In this article, I described the benefits of appropriate exercise choice and order throughout a hypertrophic mesocycle.  I also provided examples from clinical literature and anecdotal experience about range of motion, tempo and muscle actions effect on skeletal muscle hypertrophy.  In my opinion, training to maximize hypertrophy needs an autoregulatory component and progression.  I included an example of an autoregulatory checklist for rest intervals.  The questions can be adjusted as necessary to meet the demands or style of training.  In essence the information provided in “Hypertrophy Periodization and Programming – Program Variables – Part 1” and “Hypertrophy Periodization and Programming – Program Variables – Part 2” (well over 20,000 words with almost 100 references) should be enough to help any coach, trainer, or athlete construct a sold hypertrophy program.

 

Training Variables – Practical Application for Hypertrophy:

 

  • Exercise Choice
    • Create continuums of exercises per movement category or body part.
    • Rank exercises on their perspective continuums based on the “Hypertrophic Benefit Provided” vs. “Recovery Cost Required” with consideration to the following:
      • Genetic Anatomical and Biomechanical Factors.
      • Movement Restrictions and Movement Patterns.
      • Mind-to-Muscle Connection.
      • Joint and Connective Tissue Stress.
      • Time Efficiency
    • Consider the type of hypertrophic stimulus provided by the exercise choice.
      • Mechanical Tension
      • Metabolic Stress and Metabolites
      • Cell Swelling
      • Muscle Damage
    • If necessary, for travel create free-weight continuums and machine continuums or specific exercise continuums per available gym.

 

  • Exercise Order
    • Individualize exercise order based on specific goal of the training session.
    • Exercises earlier in the session can affect exercises later in the session.
    • Begin sessions with exercises of primary importance.
    • Exercise one can be used as an isolation “Primer” or “Pump Exercise” to increase the mind-to-muscle connection or warm-up for compound movements as long as it doesn’t overly fatigue the prime movers.

 

  • Range of Motion
    • Performing exercises throughout the full range of motion helps stimulate all the muscle fibers in the target muscle.
    • Performing the exercise through a full range of motion may not be the same as taking a joint though its full range of motion.
    • Creating strength and control through a full range of motion helps develop full and thick muscle bellies.
    • Do not use weight to force movement beyond its passive capacities. Perform whatever range of motion is currently available and utilize controlled articular rotations, progressive angular isometric loading, and regressive angular isometric loading between sets to create new workspace to explore in future sessions.

 

  • Tempo
    • Tempo is four numbers in sequence to describe the amount of time in seconds for each phase of the movement.
    • (3 : 1 : X : 0)
      • 3 = Eccentric Phase
      • 1 = Isohold at the Transition Phase of the Rep
      • X = Concentric Phase (X-plode)
      • 0 = Isohold at End of Rep

 

  • Muscle Actions
    • Muscle Actions are also referred to as Muscle Contractions. But since the word contraction is related to shortening, we use the word action, because muscles are not shortening in Eccentric or Isometric Actions.
    • Each Muscle Action provides a different stimulus to the muscle.
      • Eccentric = Negative
        • Individuals are 20% to 60% stronger Eccentrically
        • Eccentrics provide a distal stimulus to the muscle.
      • Concentric = Positive
        • Concentrics provide a more mid-belly to proximal stimulus to the muscle.
      • Isometric = Static Isohold
        • Isometrics and Static Isohold Actions provide a joint angle specific stimulus to the muscle.
        • The stimulus may be relevant for 10º to 15º above and below the isometric action.

 

  • Rest Intervals
    • Hypertrophic Rest Intervals need to allow for sufficient recovery between sets.
    • Performing the next set too early will decrease the chances of providing a robust hypertrophic stimulus.
    • Using a Rest-Interval Recovery and Fatigue Autoregulatory Checklist can help determine if an individual is ready to perform their next set or not.
      • Is the primary muscle group recovered enough to perform the next set in the specified rep range?
      • Is the cardiovascular system recovered enough to perform the next set in the specified rep range?
      • Are the spinal, synergist, and secondary muscles recovered enough to perform the next set in the specified rep range?
      • Is the psychological and emotional integrity recovered enough to perform the next set in the specified rep range?
      • Is the individual hydrated enough to perform the next set in the specified rep range?
      • Is the individual nourished enough to perform the next set in the specified rep range?
    • Short Rest Intervals can be used in cluster set and rest-pause set protocols.

 

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Hypertrophy Periodization and Programming - Programming Variables - Part 1 Posted on 7 May 17:55

Justin Swinney – May 7, 2020

 

I introduced my theoretical framework of periodization and programming for hypertrophy training to provide individuals an outline of fundamentals to consider during the evaluation of their current and future programs. In the overview, I mentioned the essentiality of understanding the resistance training variables. The variables are inseparable, complex, and interrelated. Proper understanding of each variable and their interrelationships with other variables provides the cognitive capacity for organizing a progressive phase potentiated plan for optimal results. In hypertrophy periodization, the ten minimum variables to consider in the programming process.

(1.) Volume

(2.) Effort (Relative Intensity)

(3.) Load (Absolute Intensity)

(4.) Frequency

(5.) Exercise Choice

(6.) Exercise Order

(7.) Tempo

(8.) Rest Interval

(9.) Type of Muscle Action

(10.) Range of Motion

I will define and describe each variable through a series of articles dedicated to the foundational understanding of resistance training variables for skeletal muscle hypertrophy. 

 

What is Volume?

 

Volume is a term used to describe the total amount of work (Work = Force x Distance) performed during the specified time parameter. Volume can be prescribed and tracked using total sets, total reps, or sets multiplied by reps. Another method of prescribing and tracking volume used by some strength coaches and powerlifters is "Total Load Lifted" or "TLL" (sets x reps x external load). TLL can be a useful metric for an individual to track progress on exercises throughout specific training cycles, blocks, or career. (1.) However, TTL may be limited in its practical application for hypertrophy specific training. In programming for hypertrophy, the most straightforward way of using volume is as total sets per session and per microcycle (week). (2.), (3.)

 

If volume is the total amount of sets performed per session and per microcycle (week), then how are the sets assigned value for the volume equation?  Are all sets of equal value?  Do I count warm-up sets, work-up sets, and work sets?  Do I only count work sets?  

 

It is extremely important to have accurate and consistent methods for assigning value to each set for calculating current volume status, identifying adaptive range of volume thresholds, and applying progressive overload.  In order to evaluate and/or assign value to each set, an individual must possess an understanding of an appropriate rating scale or system. 

 

            How are the sets assigned value?

 

Sets are assigned a value through the next two variables on our list of hypertrophy programming variables, “effort” and “load”.  Effort and load are under the umbrella of intensity.  

 

What is intensity? 

 

The word intensity is typically used to communicate the measure of something.  But the lack of clarity provided when only using the word intensity caused confusion in the fitness industry.  It has been suggested to remove the singular use of “intensity” from the lexicon when discussing resistance training. (28.)

 

What is Effort (Relative Intensity) and Load (Absolute Intensity)?

 

The variable known as “intensity” has been converted into two separate variables relative intensity (effort) and absolute intensity (load).   Proper understanding of these variables is essential for applying an appropriate rating scale or system to accurately quantify volume per training session and per microcycle (week).  

 

The terms “relative intensity”, “effort”, and “intensity of effort” are used interchangeably and are typically used as a method for prescribing the relative effort and level of exertion required to complete the desired exercise for a specific number of sets, reps, or sets x reps. 

 

The terms “absolute intensity” and “load” are used interchangeably and are typically used as a method for prescribing loads based on a percentage of a one-repetition maximum of the desired exercise. 

 

Years ago, I deleted the singular use of “intensity” as a resistance training variable and adopted the words “effort” and “load” as my primary choices for precise communication.  But due to the amount of residual influence provided by the word “intensity”, I also use the terms “relative intensity” (effort) and “absolute intensity” (load) in hopes of preventing any misunderstandings.

 

If we apply basic thinking skills, it makes sense to use the term “load” to describe the amount of weight on the bar in relation to a one-repetition maximum and the term “effort” to describe the magnitude of exertion/effort applied in relation to performing the exercise. 

 

Using “Effort” and/or “Load” for Hypertrophy Specific Programming.

 

It would be extremely difficult and potentially harmful to obtain an accurate 1-Rep-Max (1RM) for all exercises used in hypertrophy training, it may be best to use “effort” as the rating scale or system for quantifying hypertrophic volume per session and per microcycle.  This does not mean that “load” does not have a place in programming.  It means that using a percentage of 1RM to program volumes (sets and reps) for hypertrophy specific training is difficult without an accurate 1RM on the specific exercises being performed.  The percent of 1RM can be used in periodizing and programming specific exercises, but it may be better used as a way to help guide your weight selection within specific barbell exercises and possibly serve as a motivational tool for progressive overload.  

 

Do I count warm-up sets, work-up sets, and work sets?  Do I count only work sets?

 

In the process of using rational judgment towards the sets of an exercise, it is sensible to view warm-up sets as being easier than work sets.  The amount of effort applied during a warm-up set is vastly different than the amount of effort applied during a work set. This does not mean that the warm-up sets are useless and shouldn't be tracked or taken seriously. Warm-up sets are essential in preparing and priming the human body for resistance training. But they most likely don't provide an appropriate amount of a stimulus to induce the desired adaptation. Tracking warm-up sets and taking notes can be an excellent way to monitor fatigue and recovery. Warm-up sets provide value, but they should not count towards the volume calculations (per session or per microcycle). Given that, to ensure maximum accuracy, it may be best to only consider work sets of a pre-determined effort level as adequate for hypertrophic volume calculations.  Work sets are typically to failure or near failure and should require a hard level of effort to complete. (4.)  

 

 

What level of effort is considered hard enough to count as a work set?

 

Unfortunately, in hypertrophy training, effort (relative intensity) is often misunderstood and not applied in the most effective manner. It is crucial to understand how to monitor the perceptual response to training. The variable known as "effort”, “relative intensity", or "intensity of effort" can be monitored with a numeric scale known as "RPE" (Rating of Perceived Exertion). (5.)  But the ability to accurately rate the perception of effort can potentially be affected by the interrelationship of discomfort and effort. (32.)  The afferent neural feedback of discomfort can indirectly affect the perception of the efferent neural feedback of effort. (33.)  Thus, the use of RPE alone may not be the best method to accurately gauge effort. (34.)  The addition of another scale “RIR” (Reps in Reserve) or “RTF” (Reps to Failure) can be used in combination with RPE to add an intuitive approach to rating effort based on the proximity of momentary muscular failure.  In my anecdotal experience, the application of RPE and RIR or RTF simultaneously in programming/training create a synergistic effect towards increasing the accuracy of rating and communicating effort.

 

When was I introduced to RPE?

 

I was originally made aware of the RPE scale in Dr. Joyce McIntosh's class of Exercise Prescription in 2006 at the University of North Alabama. She introduced me to the work of Gunnar Borg and the original RPE scale of 6 to 20 for use in the Exercise Science Lab's VO2 testing. 

 

Borg created the 6 to 20 scale (~50 years ago) to roughly match heart rate with perceived exertion during aerobic exercise. (6.) The original RPE scale of 6 to 20 was followed by Borg developing the CR10 scale (Category Ratio Scale) to provide a rating of 1 to 10. Then the CR10 scale was followed by the OMNI scale, which was the first visually aided RPE scale 1 to 10. (7.) I briefly mentioned my introduction to the RPE scale by Dr. McIntosh in 2006, because I want everyone who reads this to understand the importance of studying, learning, and applying education. I am grateful to the professors that participated in my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Alabama Exercise Science Department (2003 – 2008). I have used the RPE scale of 1 to 10 with my training clients since 2006. Everyone who has trained with me knows that I continuously ask questions during sessions in an attempt to better understand their fatigue and recovery per set, per exercise, per training session. It is imperative to understand the importance of properly using a method to measure or rate exertion.  

 

What is RIR or RTF and how does it create a synergy with RPE?

 

“Reps in Reserve” (RIR) scales were created to provide a better method of understanding the intensity of effort performed in close proximity to muscular failure and provide accurate methods for assessment, communication, and control of programming submaximal efforts. (28.), (29.), (30.), (31.)   The emerging patterns in clinical research seem to support effort as the primary determinant in providing value to training volume. (35.)  Research has displayed similar muscular adaptations between groups when effort is matched. For example, repetition duration effect on hypertrophy (36.), (37.), (38.), load effect on hypertrophy (39.), advanced intensification techniques effect on hypertrophy, such as pre-exhaustion, drop-sets, and blood flow restriction (40.), (41.), (42.), (43.) and they all produced similar physiological adaptations when effort was matched at momentary muscular failure.  This does not mean that the other variables or modalities are not important, and effort is all that matters.  It only provides context to better understand the foundation of resistance training for hypertrophy.  It also does not mean that an individual must train to momentary failure to produce a hypertrophic adaptation.  It means that an individual must produce a high enough effort to meet their minimal hypertrophic stimulus threshold per set, accumulate enough hypertrophic sets to meet their minimal hypertrophic stimulus threshold per session, and continuously apply sufficient effort through a progressive pattern until fatigue accumulates or progress stalls.  If an individual can learn how to use RPE and RIR or RTF as a means of rating training volume, then the individual can systematically track training sessions and create an opportunity to accurately calculate their hypertrophic stimulus thresholds.

 

The base understanding Effort and use of RPE and RIR or RTF.

 

RPE and RIR or RTF provide the ability to manage perceived exertion and measure the quality of volume. 

 

Proper use of RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion) and RIR (Reps in Reserve) or RTF (Reps to Failure) ratings will provide the necessary information to determine if the set was hard enough to consider a work set and add it to the training volume. Assigning the minimum RPE of 8 or using the target RIR/RTF of 2 provides a potentially reliable method to help monitor effort and decide if the set was hard enough to elicit the desired stimulus.  

 

Volume seems relatively easy to understand, why has it been the subject of so many heated debates throughout the years?

 

The nuances and misconceptions surrounding volume debates are due to people not using the same language or definitions. The improper use of terminology and frivolous claims made with the inappropriate use of the terminology can lead to miscommunication and erroneous debates.  

 

The base understanding of Training Volume.

 

The number of sets performed at an appropriate effort (relative intensity) per session and per microcycle (week).

 

If you have made it this far, then you probably have a pretty good understanding of training volume and effort.  With that in mind, I am going to explain my views with a little more detail to add depth to the topic.

 

What is the C.H.A.M.P. approach to training volume?  

 

I, Justin Swinney, prescribe, and monitor volume using a strategic amount of sets executed at specific efforts within particular rep ranges per training session. Then, I judiciously use the interconnected variable, frequency, to tactically distribute efficient set volumes of precise rep ranges within effective efforts during the microcycle (week), progressing and potentially autoregulating throughout the mesocycle (4 to 8 weeks).

 

Why mention the variables "effort" and "frequency" in the description of "volume"?

 

I mentioned "effort" and "frequency" in my description of "volume" because it is paramount to understand how to rate, monitor, and distribute the required levels of exertion stimulus necessary to produce a hypertrophic adaptation. I use "effort" and "frequency" to consistently and frequently provide a sufficiently challenging "volume" stimulus within an individual's adaptive threshold to elicit robust anabolic adaptations, ensure adequate recovery, and maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

 

It is vital to understand that not all volume is created equal. In periodization and programming for hypertrophy, the dose-response relationship can vary significantly between inter-individual (differences observed between various people) and intra-individual (differences observed within the same person over different time periods or in different body parts). Genetics, training age (number of years performing consistent hard training), nutritional strategies, supplement protocols, sleep, and psychological/emotional stress can significantly affect the individual volume thresholds per session and per microcycle (week). The purpose of this article is to increase the depth of understanding for the resistance training variables within my theoretical framework of periodization and programming for maximizing hypertrophic adaptations, while simultaneously encouraging coaches/athletes to conceptualize the relationship of volume (within thresholds of minimum to maximum), effort (pre-programmed and potentially autoregulated), and frequency (as a tool for strategic organization) for optimizing and facilitating the appropriate individual progressively overloading stimulus to induce specific hypertrophic adaptations.

 

This is an example of how the improper use of training terminology can muddy the water of volume conversations.

 

Example: Person (A) is a proponent of high-volume training and claims to perform 30 to 40 sets per muscle group per week. But when Person (A) 's training program is analyzed, it only contains 1 work set [(RPE of 8+) or (RIR/RTF of 2 or less)] per exercise and 3 to 4 work sets per session. Person (A) 's training volume is 90% warm-up sets or work-up sets at a relative intensity of RPE 5 or 6.  

 

Person (A): Example Exercise = Bench Press:

Set 1 = 45lbs (bar) x 10 reps,         Set 2 = 95 lbsx 10 reps

Set 3 = 135 lbs. x 8 reps,                Set 4 = 185 lbs. x 6 reps

Set 5 = 225 lbs. x 6 reps,                Set 6 = 275 lbs. x 3reps

Set 7 = 315 lbs. x 10 reps.  

 

Person (A) claims to have performed 7 work sets bench press, but in my opinion, Person (A) only performed 1 work set of bench press. This example exercise is from Person (A) 's chest training session, where he claimed to have performed 30+ work sets during the training session. But when I review the data and apply the appropriate definitions to the terminology, my calculations result in Person (A) performing 3 to 4 work sets per training session. Unfortunately, Person (A) does not understand the terminology used in periodization and programming, which allowed misguidance by countless gym bro's throughout the years. The generic misguidance from a gym bro to Person (A), "If you want to get big, you have to do workouts like Pro X with 30 to 40 sets"… "constantly changing exercises to confuse the body" and "go hard and chase the pump"… this poor advice has led Person (A) to make very little progress.  

 

I have witnessed similar situations of bodybuilders "chasing the pump" or copying a pro's "high volume/short rest break" routine and performing ridiculous amounts of volume, smashing the body part of the day, every day for years, achieving zero or very little muscle growth. Performing exercises at low rates of exertion and leaving countless reps in the tank (in comparison to how they could have performed with proper rest and recovery between sets) results in a minimal amount of hypertrophic stimulus. If we add an inadequate application of frequency (typical bro-split) and the lack of phase potentiated periodization, then we have the formula responsible for stalling progress and creating plateaus of gym bros and bodybuilders alike. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many bodybuilders compete in the same weight class or within the same ~5 lbs. of stage weight, year after year. The dedication to detailed nutrition programs and extensive supplement protocols saturate the environment for extreme muscle growth, but the lack of periodization and programming knowledge prevents the strategic progression of stimuli/stress required to captivate the anabolic potential.  

 

In bodybuilding or hypertrophy training, there has to be attention to detail in nutrition, supplementation, recovery (sleep), and training. It is accepted and well known that coaches/athletes apply a considerable amount of detail to their nutrition plans with specific macronutrients per meal, particular times, specific food choices, and specific supplements per meal. It is also accepted for the same coach/athlete not to have a periodized or structured resistance training plan. The comments "all you have to do is train hard," or "train big, eat big, rest big and repeat to get big" are as uneducated as the comments "confuse the body" and "train by feel." I completely support the idea of implementing detailed and specific nutrition programs and supplement protocols, but I don't agree with the randomized training, "training by feel" or following along with someone else's random workout for the day. I don't understand the logic of tracking every macronutrient and supplement but not tracking the training session variables and results (sets, reps, load, effort, exercises, etc.). I can't fathom dedicating hours to grocery shopping, cooking, prepping and weighing meals at specified macronutrient calculations, while ignoring the importance of committing a few minutes to writing exercises in a logbook to track the performance of each session throughout training career. If the goal is to maximize skeletal muscle's hypertrophic adaptations, then resistance training must be intelligent and well informed.  

 

In the quest for maximum hypertrophy, an individual must be competent and proficient in the skills relating to the application and integration of a structured, progressive plan. 

In an effort to maximize skeletal muscle hypertrophy, it is necessary to meet the stimulus requirements with sufficient magnitude and duration of tension within each muscle fiber's impulse threshold, recruiting of as many muscle fibers as possible (8.) and imposing force at satisfactory velocities throughout a full range of motion.   

 

Wait, before we go any farther…
I need to take a step back and clarify a primary element of hypertrophy.
Muscle Protein Synthesis > Muscle Protein Breakdown
MPS > MPB

 

In terms of hypertrophy, the ultimate physiological goal is for muscle protein synthesis (MPS) to exceed muscle protein breakdown (MPB). (9.) The statement of MPS > MPB is so simple and basic that most coaches/athletes often neglect it. You may be thinking, "Yeah, I hear you, Justin, but everyone knows that." If everyone knows that, why do most bodybuilders compete year after year in the same weight class and at a similar weight (after they have lost the offseason fat and water)? If everyone knows that, why do so many people claim to be training to gain muscle tissue, but stay roughly the same size for multiple years? If you are telling me that everyone understands the importance of MPS > MPB, then why is their lean muscular bodyweight almost the same, after years of training, eating and supplementing.  I understand that once an athlete is at the advanced level or over a certain age, gaining muscle tissue is difficult. I also understand, if an NPC bodybuilder competes at a similar weight (within ~5 lbs.) and similar conditioning for more than two years, the MPS > MPB equation was ignored or not understood.  Unfortunately, many coaches/athletes lack the mechanistic understanding of the MPS and MPB relationship.  Consequently, this results in the creation of a walking talking logical fallacy with nutrition, training, and supplementation tactics rooted in anecdotes.  

 

It is crucial to understand the connection between resistance training elevation of MPS and the hypertrophic specific response to the training-induced MPS elevation (10.), (11.), (12.), (13.). The specific magnitude and duration of impulse that must be supplied in order to stimulate the cellular signaling cascade to promote an increase in MPS can vary significantly between individuals, especially as they progress in training age (14.). It is understood that as an individual advances in muscular development, progress slows, and it becomes more difficult to continually increase skeletal muscle mass. 

 

Research has consistently demonstrated an inverse correlation between training age and MPS response. Beginners and Novices are able to stimulate an increase in MPS for up to 72 hours (15.), but intermediate trainees seem only to increase MPS for 24 to 48 hours (16.), (17.), (18.). The compatibility between sustaining MPS > MPB (stimulated by sufficient resistance training volume at an appropriate effort) and potential skeletal muscle hypertrophy provides support for increasing training frequency to satisfy adaptive requirements necessary to enhance muscle hypertrophy (19.).

 

It is pivotal to understand the importance of operating within the individual volume thresholds per session and per microcycle. Dr. Mike Israetel and Dr. James Hoffman were able to provide distinct terminology for communicating basic training concepts in the eBook "How much should I train? An Introduction to the Volume Landmarks" (20.). The concepts, definitions, and terminology present a precise language to communicate intricacies of training theory and program design.  Many coaches, trainers, and athletes have used the terminology minimum, maintenance, and maximum to describe various aspects of their nutrition or training programs throughout the years.  The simple addition of the adjective "effective," "adaptive," and "recoverable" with whatever noun you are describing, in this case, "volume," provides the ability to paint a beautiful picture of successful information exchange. The terminology of maintenance dose, minimum dose, and maximum dose has been used for decades in training and possibly hundreds of years in other areas of medical and pharmacological study. But Dr. Israetel and Dr. Hoffman were the first to promote dedicated definitions to the terminology concerning training volume and provide a detailed understanding of the concept of training volume landmarks. In resistance training, using the volume landmark terminology to be specific in conversation provides a quick and accurate way to communicate.  

 

In examining, understanding, and explaining the magnitude of stimulus for hypertrophy specific training, this example use of similar terminology will help elucidate the spectrum of stimulus provided within hypertrophy focused periodization and programming.

 

(A.) Maintenance Stimulus (lowest stimulus to maintain current tissue), 

 

(B.) Minimal Effective Stimulus (minimal stimulus to cause adaptive response), 

 

(C.) Maximal Adaptive Stimulus (maximal stimulus to cause adaptive response), 

 

(D.) Maximal Recoverable Stimulus (maximal stimulus allowed to cause recovery response, any more stimulus will disrupt the system and inhibit the recovery response).  

 

In resistance training, the maintenance, minimal, and maximal amount of hypertrophic stimuli required varies per individual. Numerous factors (nutrition, supplementation, sleep, recovery, psychological health, emotional status, etc.) can have acute and chronic effects on the trainability and recoverability within the hypertrophic stimulus landmarks. If the purpose of training is to cause a robust hypertrophic stimulus and produce as many hypertrophic adaptations as possible, then an individual must put forth their best effort to create an anabolic environment and provide substrates for the imposed hypertrophic demands.

 

If an individual is trying to supply an anabolic environment for the hypertrophic stimuli to accumulate as much skeletal muscle tissue as possible, then a diligent application of the SFRA Model (Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation) and the Fitness-Fatigue Model will provide substantial benefits towards the pursuit of hypertrophy.

 

SFRA (Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation) as a Volume Concept

 

The SFRA (Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation) concept demonstrates how the magnitude (volume) of stimulus, causes a proportional accumulation of fatigue and reduction in performance capacity. The duration of time it takes for fatigue to dissipate and performance capacity to return is based on the magnitude (volume) of training stimulus and accumulated fatigue.  Once the recovery processes are complete, adaptation has occurred, and the performance capacity has returned; theoretically, the body should be ready for a progressive stimulus (21.), (22.), (23.).

 

Stimulus-Fatigue-Recovery-Adaptation Theory graph. I sketched this version of the SFRA graph based on information and images from Verkhoshansky and Siff (24.) and Stone, Stone, and Sands (25.).

 

The Fitness-Fatigue Model as a Volume Concept

 

The Fitness-Fatigue Model may be better than the SFRA theory for conceptualizing the relationship between volume and hypertrophy. (26.) Fitness can be used to represent muscle hypertrophy. Fatigue is generated by the stimulus provided during training (and also increased by poor nutrition, inadequate sleep, and negative life stressors). 

Performance is the result of fitness minus fatigue and all other stressors (psychological, environmental, etc.). 

 

This model can be used to demonstrate the effect of a training session, microcycle, and mesocycle. It is also useful for understanding how the accumulation of residual fatigue will eventually progress into a state of overreaching (functional or non-functional) and if ignored overtraining.

 

The SFRA and Fitness-Fatigue models can be used to visualize the stimulus and fatigue provided by the interactive relationship volume, intensity of effort, and frequency. The goal of hypertrophy specific training is to initiate a sufficient magnitude and duration of an impulse to create an anabolic stimulus, recover, adapt, and repeat.  

 

I created the Fitness-Fatigue-Performance model above to provide a basic visual representation of how each training session stimulus causes acute fatigue that requires sufficient recovery and adaptation to prepare for the next training stimulus to be applied. 

 

As Fitness/Hypertrophy increases and performance capabilities rise, there is a small amount of residual fatigue per session that is accumulating throughout the mesocycle. In this example, the fitness-fatigue paradigm is used to demonstrate and explain how each training stimulus causes two types of fatigue (acute and residual). Recovery from acute fatigue is essential for the athlete to display readiness and perform at their highest potential. In the case of hypertrophy, readiness associated with being able to complete the muscle actions at their highest potential, recruiting all of the muscle fibers, to provide a maximal hypertrophic stimulus to each fiber. In summary of the fitness-fatigue-performance paradigm, fitness represents the hypertrophic morphological adaptations and physical capabilities achieved as a result of training. Fatigue represents acute fatigue (per session), residual fatigue (throughout the microcycle and mesocycle), local/peripheral fatigue, axial/spinal fatigue, and central fatigue. Performance typically represents fitness minus fatigue, but we must consider external factors and stressors that could affect readiness for the application of progression/overload for maximal hypertrophic stimulus.

 

The logical interpretation of the hypertrophic process is as follows initiate stimulus, recover from fatigue, adapt to the stimulus, initiate progressive stimulus, and repeat.  Hypothetically, if an individual decided to initiate a set progression protocol of 1 set per week, at the end of a year, the individual would be performing 52 sets per week.  Does the weekly increase in volume provide equal hypertrophic results throughout the 1st year?  What about a 2nd year, progressing up to 104 sets per week?  I can’t say definitively, but I highly doubt the individual would have steadily produced a detectable hypertrophic progression throughout the two years.  What if the individual was able to provide a nutritional, supplemental, and recovery/sleep environment that allowed adherence to the SFRA Model and sufficiently recover before the next session without overlapping soreness?  I still can’t say definitively, if the individual would have steadily produced a detectable amount of skeletal muscle hypertrophy over the time-period.  Why do I say that, even when it seems the individual has checked all the boxes necessary for hypertrophy?  If the individual in applying a linear progression of sets to increase volume in hopes of increasing hypertrophy, then they need to consider the percentage of progression or the value of the progression.  For example, compare the percentage of volume increase from 4 sets to 5 sets (~ 25% increase) to 30 sets to 31 sets (~ 3% increase).  Logical thinking provides reason to believe the progression provided by ~25% is going to elicit a stronger hypertrophic stimulus than a ~3% progression.  But this is not to say that a 3% increase is useless.  There are some advanced level trainees who strive to provide a small percentage of progression and drive a hypertrophic stimulus.  In general, it is very difficult to achieve long-term hypertrophic adaptations and it may be beneficial to conceptualize the relationship between set volume and hypertrophy for the progressive development of microcycles, mesocycles, and macrocycles.

 

The Inverted U Hypothesis of the Relationship Between Volume and Hypertrophy

 

Research consistently demonstrates that volume is a potent stimulator of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.  Currently, in the evidence-based fitness industry, the relationship between training volume and hypertrophy is referred to as an inverted U hypothesis. The inverted U hypothesis can be described as an increase in training volume will increase hypertrophy, until it reaches the top of the inverted U, then further increases in training volume will regress and reduce hypertrophy to the point where it returns to baseline.

 

 

But the inverted U may not be the best representation of the highest training volumes. It is hard to believe that increasing training volume would reduce muscle tissue, as long as there were adequate nutritional caloric intake and quality sleep (and sufficient supplementation). It sounds a bit ridiculous to consider an individual performing such an excessive amount of volume that it would result in muscle loss. 

 

Perhaps, if there were an individual executing such an incredible amount of volume that nutritional calories and sleep had to be sacrificed to accomplish the volume task, then it would seem possible to lose muscle tissue as training volumes increased continually. 

 

In a specific situation of sacrificing a significant amount of caloric intake and quality sleep, excessive training volume could reflect the appearance of an inverted U relationship to hypertrophy. The muscle loss would be most likely attributed to the substantial caloric deficiency and inadequate accumulation of sleep to recover (or insufficient supplementation).  Interestingly, the concept of training volume's inverted U hypothesis reducing hypertrophy appears to be faulty. 

 

I developed a model for explaining the relationship between training volume and hypertrophy. In an effort to form a consilience between multiple academic resources and over twenty years of anecdotal observation, I distilled complex theoretical concepts of training volume's relationship to hypertrophy into a simple graph for practical application.  

 

The base version of my graph is similar to the volume inverted U hypothesis graph. Hypertrophy is located on the y-axis (vertical), and training volume is positioned on the x-axis (horizontal). The graph has two lines with a positive gradient that converge into one line, at the individual's point of maximal adaptable stimulus or volume ceiling. Then the line separates into two lines, one line with zero slope (running parallel to the x-axis) and the other line with a slightly negative slope to represent the possible decrease in muscle tissue from ridiculous amounts of training volume interfering with nutrition, supplementation, and sleep.  

 

 

Please forgive my lack of graphic design skills. The graph above was quickly sketched on my iPad and placed in this article to provide a clear representation of my thoughts regarding the relationship between training volume and intra-individual variances in hypertrophy.

 

This concept of intra-individual variance in response to training volume was initially developed during a conversation with my Dad many years ago. We were discussing our client's current training plans, updating their programs for the next training progression, and I asked my Dad a few questions about how he progressed the training of his IFBB Pro bodybuilding clients from the early to mid-1990s. He started describing some of his most successful programs and progressions, then after I replied with a barrage of questions, he began to divulge numerous ideas and thoughts as to the why "x" amount of training volume resulted in "y" for IFBB Pro A vs. the same "x" amount of training volume resulted in "z" for IFBB Pro B. In an attempt to keep this article on task, I am going to save the other things we discussed about the genetic response to training, satellite cells, mitochondria, ribosomes, capillaries, fascial layers and structural matrix of each muscle for another article.  

 

During the discussion, I had the vision of using a cartoon type sketch of a DNA strand horizontally on a graph to represent the relationship of training volume and hypertrophy. I immediately grabbed a marker and outlined my hypothetical graph on the whiteboard. As soon as I had the rough design complete, I showed my Dad how each line represented the genetic differences between individual responses to training volume. He looked at the graph, squinted one eye and raised the opposite eyebrow (those who knew my Dad, know exactly his deep thought expression that I am referring to…), and said, "Yes, that makes sense. It can be used to represent a variety of responses in the general population. But you may be able to get more use from applying this type of graph to individuals for explaining intra-individual variances and factors that could affect their hypertrophic response, instead of using it for the inter-individual genetic variance in our population." Instantly, thoughts aligned, and multiple pages were filled with notes about intra-individual volume thresholds with the potential factors that modify those thresholds.  

 

 

Hopefully, the graph compliments my thoughts on the intra-individual variances in the relationship between volume and hypertrophy. For example, If an individual "X" typically performs 5 to 7 work sets per training session and 15 to 20 work sets per microcycle (week) to get result "A," then individual "X" begins a competition prep diet (caloric deficit and lower carbs) the typical 5 to 7 work sets per session and 15 to 20 work sets per microcycle will result in "B" (not "A").  The same 5 to 7 work sets per training session and 15 to 20 work sets per microcycle will produce less of a hypertrophic stimulus for muscle growth.  

 

In the example, the change in caloric intake was used to represent a factor that can potentially shift the intersection point on the curve of volume and hypertrophy. This example may be simple and obvious, but it is rarely discussed in conversations regarding periodization and programming for physique athletes.  To summarize this key point about intra-individual differences in hypertrophic response to training volume, many acute and chronic factors (nutritional intake, sleep, supplement protocols, psychological status, emotional stress, epigenetic factors, and more…) can affect the volume thresholds to varying degrees.  The ability to understand the effects of nutrition, supplementation, stress, sleep, etc. on hypertrophic MPS > MPB stimulus provides essential knowledge to properly manipulate the quantitative parameters of training routines, exercises choice, exercise order, and frequency to possibly increase the hypertrophic stimulus enough to counteract the negative factor that caused the decrease in hypertrophic response.  The addition of an autoregulatory component to your periodization and programming may be beneficial and potentially be able to address any relevant negative issues that arise.

 

Wrapping it up

In this article, I described my method of prescribing and monitoring volume as using a strategic amount of sets executed at specific efforts within particular rep ranges per training session. Using frequency to distribute efficient set volumes of precise rep ranges within effective efforts during the microcycle (week), progressing, and potentially autoregulating throughout the mesocycle (4 to 8 weeks). I have built my framework with a solid foundation of clinical evidence combined with the anecdotal and empirical information gleaned from my collegiate and professional career. In essence, the hypertrophy specific periodization and programming recommendations for training volume require proper use of frequency (to maximize MPS > MPB to time ratio) and effort (to evaluate the exertion threshold of each set = work set vs. warm-up set). In summary, I propose using the information provided in the practical application section as a guideline for hypertrophy specific periodization and programming. 

 

Training Variables - Practical Application for Hypertrophy:

 

  • Training Volume, Work Sets per Training Session = 6 sets to 8 sets

 

  • Training Volume, Work Sets per Training Microcycle (Week) = 12 to 24 sets

 

  • Training Volume, Work Sets Minimum Rate of Perceived Exertion = 8 RPE

 

  • Training Volume, Work Sets Minimum Reps in Reserve = 2 RIR

 

  • Training Volume, Work Sets Minimum Reps to Failure = 2 RTF

 

  • Training Volume, Work Sets, Rest Between Sets = 2 to 3 minutes (3+ minutes, if needed)

 

    • Rest Between Sets = How do you know if you have rested long enough?

 

      • Have you recovered your cardiorespiratory system and breathing under control?  

 

      • Are you focused and mentally prepared to give 100% in your next work set?

 

      • Do you have fatigue in synergist or supporting muscles?

(for example: Back Exercises – Will your grip, forearm, or biceps limit or hinder performance on the upcoming set?)  

 

      • Are you recovered enough to perform the set within the prescribed rep range?

 

When do all of these questions not apply? 

 

        • Rest-Pause, Timed Sets, AMRAP, AFAP, Myo-Reps, Drop-Sets, and other intensification techniques.

 

  • Training Volume, Body Part Minimum Frequency = 2 sessions per week

 

  • Training Volume, Body Part Average Frequency = 2 to 4 sessions per week

 

  • Training Volume, Body Part Maximum Frequency = 4 to 6 sessions per week

 

  • Training Volume, Body Part Supramaximal Frequency = 10 to 20 sessions per week  (Typically only used in advanced rehab/injury techniques or skill training)

 

  • Training Volume, Microcycle Progression = ~ 20% total volume increase (add 1 set per session)

 

  • Training Volume, Mesocycle Progression = Increase volume 3 or 4 times over 4 to 8 weeks, then lower volume for one week, for “deload phase” or “re-sensitization phase” or “priming phase”.  

 

    • Example: 
    • Week 1 = 10 sets (Day 1 = 4 sets, Day 2 = 3 sets, Day 3 = 3 sets)
    • Week 2 = 12 sets (Day 1 = 4 sets, Day 2 = 4 sets, Day 3 = 4 sets)
    • Week 3 = 14 sets (Day 1 = 5 sets, Day 2 = 4 sets, Day 3 = 5 sets)
    • Week 4 = 16 sets (Day 1 = 6 sets, Day 2 = 5 sets, Day 3 = 5 sets)
    • Week 5 = 18 sets (Day 1 = 6 sets, Day 2 = 6 sets, Day 3 = 6 sets)
    • Week 6 = 9 sets (Day 1 = 3 sets, Day 2 = 3 sets, Day 3 = 3 sets)
    • Week 7 = 10 sets… Repeat the process of 10 sets, 12 sets, 14 sets, 16 sets, 18 sets, 9 sets.

 

  • Training Volume:

 Maintenance to Minimal to Maximal Thresholds: Can be affected by nutrition, sleep, supplementation, local fatigue, peripheral fatigue, systemic fatigue, accumulated fatigue, joint/connective tissue fatigue, recoverability, trainability, psychological stress, emotional stress, hormones, medical conditions, genetics, epigenetics, and more… 

 

  • Training Volume Parameters:

Specifically designed for specific situations and goals. Individualized and modified for particular circumstances and objectives. Monitored and autoregulated as needed by altering sets, reps, load, effort, frequency, tempo, range of motion, muscle action, intensification techniques, exercise selection, and exercise order.

 

References:

(1.) Figueiredo VC, De Salles BF, Trajano GS.  Volume for muscle hypertrophy and health outcomes: The most effective variable in resistance training. Sports Med 48: 499-505, 218

 

(2.) Krieger JW. Single vs multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: A meta-analysis.  J Strength Cond Res 24: 1150-1159, 2010.

 

(3.) Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A Systematic review and meta-analysis. J Sports Sci 35: 1073-1082, 2016.

 

(4.) Baz-Valle E, Fontes-Villalba M, Santos-Concerjero M. Total number of sets as a training volume quantification method for muscle hypertrophy:  A systematic review.  J Strength Cond Res 2018.

 

(5.) Hampson, DB, St Clair Gibson A, Lambert MI, and Noakes TD.  The influence of sensory cues on the perception of exertion during exercise and central regulation of exercise performance. Sports Med 31: 935-952, 2001.

 

(6.) Borg G. Perceived Exertion as an indicator of somatic stress. Scand J Rehabil Med 2: 92-98: 1970.

 

(7.) Faulkner J and Eston R. Perceived exertion research in the 21st century: Developments, reflections, and questions for the future. J Exerc Sci Fitness 6: 1 – 14, 2008.

 

(8.) Carpinelli, The Size Principle, and a Critical Analysis of the Unsubstantiated Heavier-Is-Better Recommendation for Resistance Training.  J Exerc Sci Fit. 2008. Vol 6. No 2. P. 67-86

 

(9.) Damas, F., Phillips, S. M., Libardi, C.A., Vechin, F.C., Lixandrao, M.E., Jannig, P.R., … Ugrinowitsch, C. (2016) Resistance training-induced changes in integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis are related to hypertrophy only after attenuation of muscle damage. Journal of Physiology, 594 (18), 5209-5222.

 

(10.) West DW, Kujbida GW, Moore DR, et al. Resistance exercise-induced increases in putative anabolic hormones do not enhance muscle protein synthesis or intracellular signaling in young men. J Physiol. 2009;587(Pt 21):5239–47.

  

(11.) Wilkinson SB, Tarnopolsky MA, Macdonald MJ, et al. Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(4):1031–40.

 

(12.) West DW, Burd NA, Tang JE, et al. Elevations in ostensibly anabolic hormones with resistance exercise enhance neither training-induced muscle hypertrophy nor strength of the elbow flexors. J Appl Physiol. 2010;108(1):60–7.

 

(13.) Hartman JW, Tang JE, Wilkinson SB, et al. Consumption of fat- free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(2): 373–81.

 

(14.) Ahtiainen JP, Pakarinen A, Kraemer WJ, et al. Acute hormonal and neuromuscular responses and recovery to forced vs maximum repetitions multiple resistance exercises. Int J Sports Med. 2003;24(6):410–8.

 

(15.) Miller, B.F., et al., Coordinated collagen and muscle protein synthesis in human patella tendon and quadriceps muscle after exercise. J Physiol, 2005. 567 (Pt 3): p 1021-33.

 

(16.) Chesley, A., et al., Changes in human muscle protein synthesis after resistance exercise. J. Appl. Physiol., 1992. 73: p. 1383-1388

 

(17.) Phillips, S.M., et al., Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans.  The American Journal of physiology, 1997. 273 (1 Pt 1): p. E99-107.

 

(18.) Cuthbertson, D.J., et al., Anabolic signaling and protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle after dynamic shortening or lengthening exercise. Am J Physiolo Endocrinol Metab, 2006. 290(4): p.E731-8.

 

(19.) Chiu L and Barnes J. The fitness-fatigue model revisited: Implications for planning short- and long-term training. Strength Cond J 25: 42–51, 2003.

 

(20.) Israetel M and Hoffman J. How much should I train. E-Book. 2017.

 

(21.)  Verkhoshansky Y. Principles of planning speed/strength training program in track athletes. Legaya Athleticka 8: 8–10, 1979

 

(22.)  Verkhoshansky Y. Fundamentals of Special Strength Training in Sport. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press, 1986.

 

(23.)  Verkhoshansky Y. Programming and Organization of Training. Livonia, MI: Sportivny Press, 1988.

 

(24.) Verkhoshansky, Siff, Supertraining, 6th Edition. Denver: Supertraining International. 

 

(25.) Stone MH, Stone ME, and Sands WA. Principles and Practice of Resistance Training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007

 

(26.)  Chiu, L.Z.F. and J.L. Barnes, The Fitness-Fatigue Model Revisited: Implications for Planning Short- and Long-Term Training. Strength Cond J, 2003. 25(6): p. 42–51.

 

(27.) Steele J. Intensity; in-ten-si-ty; noun. 1. Often used ambiguously within resistance training. 2. Is it time to drop the term altogether?  British J Sports Med 2014; 48:1586-1588

 

(28.) Hackett, D.A., Johnson, N.A., Halaki, M. & Chow, C. (2012). A novel scale to assess resistance- exercise effort. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30(13), 1405-1413. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2012.710757.

 

(29.) Hackett, D.A., Cobley, S., Favies, T., Michael, S. & Halaki, M. (2016). Accuracy in estimating repetitions to failure during resistance exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 31(8), 2162-2168. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001683.

 

(30.) Helms, E.R., Cronin, J., Storey, A. & Zourdos, M. (2016). Application of the repetitions in reserve-based rating of perceived exertion scale for resistance training. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(4), 42-49. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000218.

 

(31.) Zourdos, M.C., Klemp, A., Dolan, C., Quiles, J.M., Schau, K.A., Jo, E., ... Garcia-Merino Blanco, R. (2016). Novel resistance training-specific rating of perceived exertion scale measuring repetitions in reserve. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(1), 267-275. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001049.

 

(32.) Steele, J., Endres, A., Fisher, J., Gentil, P. & Giessing, J. (2017). Ability to predict repetitions to momentary failure is not perfectly accurate, though improves with resistance training experience. PeerJ 5, e4105. doi: 10.7717/peerj.4105

 

(33.) Steele, J., & Fisher, J. (2018). Effort, discomfort, group III/IV afferents, bioenergetics, and motor unit recruitment. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 50(8), 1718. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001605

 

(34.) Steele, J., Fisher, J., Giessing, J. & Gentil, P. (2017). Clarity in reporting terminology and definitions of set endpoints in resistance training. Muscle Nerve, 56(3), 368-374.

 

(35.) Steele, J., Androulakis-Korakakis, P., Perrin, C., Fisher, J., Gentil, P., Scott, C., & Rosenberger, A. (2019). The role of modality of exercise as a countermeasure to microgravity induced physical deconditioning: New perspectives and lessons learned from terrestrial studies.  https://doi.org/10.31236/osf.io/s2nr7

 

(36.) Schoenfeld BJ, Ogborn DI, Krieger JW. Effect of repetition duration during resistance training on muscle hypertrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2015;45(4):577- 585

 

(37.) Hackett DA, Davies TB, Orr R, Kuang K, Halaki M. Effect of movement velocity during resistance training on muscle-specific hypertrophy: A systematic review. Eur J Sport Sci. 2018;18(4):473-482

 

(38.) Carlson L, Jonker B, Westcott WL, Steele J, Fisher J. Neither repetition duration, nor number of muscle actions affect strength increases, body composition, muscle size or fasted blood glucose in trained males and females. Apply Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018

 

(39.) Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low- vs. high-load resistance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(12):3508-3523

 

(40.) Fisher JP, Carlson J, Steele J, Smith D. The effects of pre-exhaustion, exercise order, and rest intervals in a full-body resistance training intervention. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014;39(11):1265-1270

 

(41.) Fisher JP, Carlson L, Steele J. The effects of breakdown set resistance training on muscular performance and body composition in young men and women. J Strength Cond Res. 2016;30(5):1425-1432

 

(42.) Barcelos LC, Nunes PR, de Souza LR, de Oliviera AA, Furlanetto R, Marocolo M, Orsatti FL. Low-load resistance training promotes muscular adaptation regardless of vascular occlusion, load, or volume. Eur J Apply Physiol. 2015;115(7):1559-1568

 

(43.) Farup J, de Paoli F, Bjerg K, Rijs S, Ringgard S, Vissing K. Blood flow restricted and traditional resistance training performed to fatigue produce equal muscle hypertrophy. Scand j Med Sci Sports. 2015;25(6):754-763

 

 


Theoretical Framework for Optimizing Training Periodization and Programming Posted on 19 Mar 16:19

 Justin Swinney - March 19, 2020

I receive a wide variety of questions pertaining to exercise selection and programming. A few of the questions provide a specific set of circumstances to evaluate and apply the appropriate principles of training needed to respond with an accurate, individualized answer. Unfortunately, a large majority of the questions demonstrate a complete lack of periodization, programming, and consistency, which makes it virtually impossible to provide an optimal answer. Lately, the questions have been about specific exercises or methods from various social media personalities.  For example:

Question:  “I watched a video of <insert name> doing this exercise <insert image/video of movement> for rear delts. He said <insert exercise name> is the best rear delts exercise, and it should be done every workout." 

This type of question leads me to believe that many individuals may be losing sight of the big picture by focusing on minute details in isolation and ignoring the proper fundamentals of resistance training. When considering the design of a training program, it is essential to have a theoretical framework to establish an epistemological base to determine the necessity and validity of the modification in question.  This article aims to provide a theoretical framework to effectively evaluate questions and communicate the fundamental principles and interrelated variables critical to developing an optimal periodized program.  

It is important to stress that the suggestion, idea, or question must be pertinent to the individual’s specific training program or session.  If the suggestion, idea, or question presents a potential opportunity worthy of consideration, then the individual can begin the process with step one of the theoretical framework. 

Q: What is step one? 

Step one is to perform a robust need’s analysis. 

Q: Is it necessary to perform a full needs analysis before each training decision? I want to get bigger and stronger. What else needs to be considered? All I want to know is if <insert exercise or program> would be beneficial.  

Is it necessary? Maybe not, but I prefer not to make biased, uninformed, or emotional decisions.  What else needs to be considered?  The complexity and profundity of thought to answer that question will require a separate article to properly address the considerations of a need’s analysis. Performing a comprehensive needs analysis is an essential component in programming to succeed through the advanced levels of muscular development. The fundamental methods of consistently tracking quantitative data and making purposeful observations complement the critical analysis of needs and programming. This information gives the individual the ability to evaluate their progress towards the desired physiological, psychological, or performance outcome and adequately consider the potential value of a modification to their current training program. Since this article only provides a basic description and structure for the theoretical framework, as mentioned above, a future article will provide a more detailed explanation of the need's analysis.  

Once a thorough needs analysis has been performed, step one is complete.  Unfortunately, the second step is often overlooked by trainers and coaches who are not well versed in exercise science, sport science, and training theory.   

Q: What is the second step? Why is it often overlooked?  

The second step is to identify and understand the resistance training principles, then properly apply those principles in coordination with the need’s analysis from step one.  Once an individual has identified the resistance training principles, the second step is primarily a cognitive function of acquiring knowledge from the needs analysis and establishing a foundational relationship with the resistance training principles. The goal of this step is to process collected information through intellectual thought and experience, then correctly apply the principles of training to help navigate a route through the short-term and towards the long-term destinations. The ignorance (the lack of knowledge, education, or information of the subject matter) of exercise science, sport science, and training theory cause a majority of errors in properly programming the training principles. That is not an insulting, harmful, or condescending statement. If a trainer or coach has not accumulated enough of formal collegiate education (human anatomy & physiology, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, physics, kinesiology, and biomechanics), then he or she will not be able to comprehend the intricacies of complex biological systems, integrated systems within systems, or the dynamic complexity of responses to variables by those systems.  But that does not mean that the trainer or coach will not get positive results and execute incredible transformations.  It only means that the trainer or coach doesn’t have the requisite capacity to be aware of the underlying mechanisms of human systems, interpret the complex interactivity between the systems, and perceive the significance of environmental and psychological stressors.   

Q: When you mention the "Training Principles," what are you referring to, sets and rep combinations or training splits?

Sets and reps are subcategories of the resistance training variables, and they are in the next step (step three).  The principles of resistance training vary from as little as three main principles (1.) or as many as eight principles plus related subprinciples (2.). The depth of principles referred to in exercises science textbooks and clinical research varies with the author's perspective of physiological adaptations, psychological adaptations, performance responses, and theoretical applications.

To provide structure, I will provide two lists of training principles.  The first list is the minimal training principles that I apply in my client's periodized programming.  The second list is the minimal training principles that an individual must consider when attempting to create any positive training effect. 

Training Principles List 1:

  1. Specificity 
  2. Overload 
  3. Fatigue Management 
  4. Stimulus Recovery Adaptation 
  5. Periodization
  • 5a. Phase Potentiation
  • 5b. Variation
  • 5c. Directed Adaptation
  • 5d. Reversibility
6. Individualization 

 Training Principles List 2:

  1. Specificity
  2. Overload

Once an individual has developed a conceptual construct of training principles with consideration of the needs analysis information, step two is complete. A future article will provide definitions and descriptions of the resistance training principles. 

The third step involves identifying the resistance training variables and interpreting the complex and sophisticated interrelationships between the variables. Understanding the impact between specific variable interactions is essential for the organization of periodization and programming.  

Q: I have read about volume and intensity. As the volume goes up, the intensity goes down and vice versa, correct? 

If an individual only considers two variables and completely ignores the interactions between other variables, then perhaps it is correct, assuming the inverse relationship between volume and intensity. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous connectivity (providing connectivity to everyone and everything, everywhere, every time) provided by the internet and social platforms has created an information overload of arguments that overwhelm individuals with a rapid flow of differing perspectives involving volume, intensity, frequency, and more. There is an astonishing amount of myths and misconceptions surrounding the application of training variables for specific adaptations. However, there are also a few quality educators producing unbiased, data-driven, and critically analyze information that can be used by individuals as guidelines to develop structured programs. The ability to critically think and apply reasoning skills helps an individual identify if the suggested training variable modification is based on fallacious reasoning or supported by science. At times, our emotions can influence our thinking and reasoning skills, which completely devastates our cognitive capacity and sways our current opinion. 

**Note:  In times of frustration and lack of patience, I have poorly represented my intellect and character by using a wide range of logical fallacies to quickly end an argument or conversation. In a future article, I will discuss some of the most common logical fallacies used in the fitness industry to help individuals recognize if the premises used in conversation accurately support the conclusion. **

Q: It sounds like there is much more to consider than volume and intensity.  What are the resistance training variables that I should learn to apply and manipulate in my programming? 

In resistance training, it is common for a beginner to consider three variables in programming V.I.F. (volume, intensity, frequency).  In some textbooks, they use the ACSM (American College of Sports and Medicine) acronym F.I.T.T. (frequency, intensity, time, and type) to describe the basic resistance training variables.  The periodization and programming system that I created is structured to consider a minimum of ten resistance training variables (listed below).  The needs analysis and goals of the individual will dictate the order of importance for the resistance training variables.  

For example, If I am designing a hypertrophy program for an offseason bodybuilder, then I will have a different ranking for the application of variables compared to if I was designing a pre-season program for a baseball player. There is more to programming than implementing a specific set and rep scheme to satisfy the weekly volume requirements. I will list variables that I use in my client's programs, plus a few terms that individuals get confused concerning periodization and programming 

Training Variables:

1. Volume

(Total amount of work performed. Sets x Reps per Session, Sets x Reps per Week, Sets x Reps within a Specific Range, Sets x Reps x Load on Specific Exercises with Replicated Form, etc.)

2. Effort or Relative Intensity

(Subjective Rating of Intensity of Effort.  RPE – Rate of Perceived Exertion, RIR – Reps in Reserve, RTF – Reps to Failure)

3. Intensity or Absolute Intensity

(Calculated using an actual single or multiple repetition max or calculated using a formula to estimate 1RM.)

4. Frequency

(Number of Training Sessions [Specific Muscle Group, Specific Muscle Action, Specific Movement Pattern, Specific Exercise, Specific Rep Range or Scheme, Specific Set Number, Specific Training Modality or Advanced Training Technique]  per Unit of Time. 

5. Exercise Choice

(Compound vs. Isolation) (Machine vs. Free Weight) (BB vs. DB vs. KB) (Bilateral vs. Unilateral)

6. Exercise Order

(Loading Shortened, Mid-Range, or Lengthened Stretch) (Activation Isolation Exercises First or Heavy Compound First) (Machine vs. Free Weight) (Power, Plyo, High-Velocity considerations)

7. Tempo

(Tempo has four parts. [Eccentric : Iso-Hold : Concentric : Iso-Hold]  Tempo is written as a series of four numbers.  [2:1:2:0] )

8. Rest Interval

(Rest Time Between Sets, Rest Time Between Exercises, and when using advanced training modalities such as “Rest-Pause”, “Myo-Reps”, “Drop Sets”, Rest Time Between Reps)

9. Type of Muscle Action

(Concentric and Eccentric <or> Concentric Only <or> Eccentric Only <or> Isometrics <or> Quasi-Isometrics <or> Various Combination of Concentric and/or Eccentric with Isometrics and/or Quasi-Isometrics)

10. Range of Motion

(Full Range of Motion, Partial Range of Motion, Modified Range of Motion) 

Periodization and Programming Terminology: 

(Listed Largest to Smallest)

Quadrennial Plan > Annual Plan > Macrocycle > Block > Mesocycle > Microcycle > Session > Exercise > Set > Rep

  • Quadrennial Plan = 4 Years
  • Annual Plan = 1 Year
  • Macrocycle = 1 to 4 Blocks
  • Block = 1 to 4 Mesocycles
  • Mesocycle = 3 to 12 Weeks
  • Microcycle = 1 Week of Training
  • Session = 1 Day (Can have multiple sessions per day)
  • Exercise = 2 to 10 Exercises per Session
  • Set = 1 to 10 Sets per Exercise
  • Rep = 3 to 30 Reps, up to 100 Reps per Set. (Specific Rep Ranges for Specific Adaptations)

The final step of this theoretical framework concerns the employment of systems thinking, feedback loops, spectrums of tolerance, and conceptual strategies to manipulate variables for minimal stimulus threshold, maximal threshold capacity, accumulation, adaptation, sustainability, and resilience.  

Q: What do you mean by systems thinking, feedback loops, spectrums of tolerance, and conceptual strategies?  

The human body is an extremely complex system with a hierarchical organization of systems and subsystems that are resilient, evolutionary, and self-organizing within a homeostatic continuum for survival. It is vital to identify and understand the elements within each system, the interconnections between the elements, and the function or purpose of each system. Once an individual has a modest understanding of systems thinking, they will begin to notice the numerous levels of systems embedded within systems. Becoming aware of the processes directed towards the coordination of enhanced function and sustainability reveals how various feedback loops (negative, balancing, positive) manage stability, productivity and resilience through various stressors, oscillations, and perturbations. If an individual dedicates the time to learning the language of systems thinking and becoming aware of the foundational concepts within systems theory, then they will be able to understand relationships, interactions, and processes for developing the systems thinking perspective to apply in a theoretical framework.

After reading numerous books about thinking in systems, systems thinking, complex systems, dynamic systems, critical thinking, logic, philosophy, theory, etc., I have identified books in each category that serve as great introductions to the thinking process.  One of my favorite books in the category of systems thinking is titled “Thinking in Systems, A Primer” by Donella H Meadows.  It is an easy read that provides great analogies for learning the language, terminology, and paradigm of systems thinking.  "So, what is a system? A system is a set of things --- people, cells, molecules, or whatever --- interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time. The system may be buffeted, constricted, triggered, or driven by outside forces. But the system's response to these forces is characteristic of itself, and that response is seldom simple in the real world." (3.)  Therefore, when updating or modifying a training program, with the system’s thinking ability to observe stressors and analyze the dynamic data through a perspective of degrees in utility, the individual will have a robust advantage in periodizing adaptations.  Systems thinking also provides a clear vision of the parameters and variables that cause stress to the system will increase the potential capacity of resilience with the training program. 

There are many advantages to developing evidenced-based data-driven methods with dynamic perspectives from systems theory through the application of critical thinking towards developing strategies and tactics for optimizing desired outcomes.  The investment of time each week studying systems thinking, complex systems, dynamic systems, critical thinking, logic, or philosophy is exponentially valuable for improving cognitive capacities.  The dedication of time to enhancing intellect and critical thinking skills will do more than strengthen periodization or programming abilities. It will serve as a force multiplier throughout an individual’s life.

In summary, this theoretical framework has four steps: 

 Step 1: Perform a comprehensive needs analysis. 

Step 2: Identify and understand the resistance training principles, while integrating the needs analysis with the principles. 

Step 3: Identify and understand the resistance training variables and their interactions, with respect to the principles, and aligned with the need’s analysis. 

Step 4:  Learn the thinking in systems language and understand the systems thinking approach with feedback loops, spectrums of tolerance, threshold capacities, and apply critical thinking in developing conceptual strategies for problem-solving and creating periodized training programs to optimally elicit the desired adaptation.

 

 

Reference List:

  1. Stone, M., Plisk, S., Collins, D. (2001) Training Principles: Evaluation of Modes and Methods of Resistance Training – A Coaching Perspective. Sports Biomechanics Vol 1 (1) p 79 – 103.

  2. Verkhoshansky, Y., Siff. (2009) Supertraining, 6th Denver: Supertraining International.

  3. Meadows, D., (2008) Thinking in Systems, A Primer. Edited by Wright, Diana. Sustainability Institute. London. Sterling, VA.


Foundational Concepts for Understanding Hypertrophy Posted on 14 Jan 16:29

Justin Swinney - January 14, 2020

     As of late, the word hypertrophy has gained popularity in the fitness industry.  Unfortunately, a majority of this new popularity is from online trainers and coaches with poor comprehension. Their lack of interpretation led to incomplete explanations, which fueled unnecessary assumptions by individuals in search of an operational definition.  The perplexity was recently brought to my attention by a conversation involving the odd but confident use of the word hypertrophy.  The unexpected statement describing their workout program, “I am doing a hypertrophy workout program.  It has heavy 3 RM strength days and light 15 to 20 hypertrophy days.” and I said, “Wait, hold on… Hypertrophy workout program with strength days and rep days.  Let me take a step back and ask what do you mean by “hypertrophy” workout program?”.  The next few seconds were silent and then the unexpected reply, “hypertrophy, you know, like a bodybuilder, more reps, to get pumped up and grow muscles.” I replied, “Well, since you know it means muscle growth, that is primarily correct.  How did you learn the meaning of hypertrophy?”.  The statement that I have heard numerous times before, “I found the workout on Bodybuilding.com and Googled it.”.  I started to sense a little bit of uncertainty in the tone and said, “Would you like me to explain the term hypertrophy? I can provide a few specifics, and perhaps the information helps you in some way.”. 

 

     While some trainers have a thorough understanding and articulate their perspectives with clarity, other trainers attempt to gain attention by creating a mere intellectual mirage.  Individuals can’t know the author’s rationalization behind the search mediated material.  Collectively speaking, without prior specialized education in exercise physiology, it is nearly impossible to identify any limitations demonstrated with a conversation.  In general, the population spends the majority of their time at work or socializing with friends and family, not reading clinical studies, literature reviews, and textbooks.  Considering the time constraints, individuals rely on a trainer or an online fitness personality to provide them with practical perceptions of relative exercise information. The purpose of this article is to filter potential misunderstandings and provide a base description of the word “hypertrophy.”  Then build upon that base and delineate the specific categories of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.  Finally, a summary of the information to aid in developing foundational concepts and helping confirm the understanding of skeletal muscle hypertrophy. 

 

     The word hypertrophy first appeared in the mid-19th century. The combination of the English term “hyper-“ denoting “beyond” or “exceeding” and the Greek term “-trophia” denoting “nourishment” was used in the medical literature to describe an observed adaptation of excessive growth (1.). The aforementioned etymology of hypertrophy supports the operational definition, growth from the increased size of cells. As a refresher from Biology 101, Cells are the smallest independently functioning unit of our biological system. Multiple cells make tissues, and multiple tissues make organs. Multiple organs make organ systems, and the symphony of organ systems is an organism. Humans are multicellular organisms with numerous pathways and feedback loops to react and adapt to stressors for survival (2.). In the context of this article, we focus on the adaptations of muscle tissue, more specifically skeletal muscle tissue, and not venture into the discussion of cardiac or smooth muscle tissue.

 

     Skeletal muscle’s integral connections of neuromuscular, hormone, energy, and nutrient balance is an amazingly complex subject. Modernization of equipment and tools used in the scientific process has produced more than an increase in the volume of clinical research. These new technologies have added complexities and richness to the collected data, accompanied by more intelligent and updated interpretations.  In recent literature, collected proteomics was able to significantly support previous thoughts regarding the existence of various types of skeletal muscle hypertrophy (3.)  While we still don’t have enough clinical literature to know the exact relationship between resistance training programming variables and their effects on the development of specific types of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.  We have enough confidence in supporting the idea that skeletal muscle hypertrophy is not as simple as an increased cross-sectional area.

 

     Some of the underlying terms can be confusing, but I provide definitions and practical descriptions throughout the article to prevent misunderstandings. I begin by building upon the cellular definition, and skeletal muscle hypertrophy is the increase in skeletal muscle mass or volume. For accurate comprehension, it is necessary to reinforce the distinction between mass and volume to clarify the concept of muscle density. Mass is the measure of the amount of matter in an object, usually measured in grams (g) or kilograms (kg) and volume is the measure of the amount of space that a substance occupies. Density is the measurement that compares the amount of mass to the amount of three-dimensional volume.  If the muscle tissue increases in density, then the mass (weight) increased, and the volume stayed the same or decreased. If the muscle decreases in density, then the volume (three-dimensional space) increases, and the mass stays the same or decreases.  The SAID principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands) dictates these hypertrophic responses. Meaning, the specific stimulus imposed upon the skeletal muscle provides an experience of stress that demands a unique adaptation to efficiently tolerate similar future demands (4.). It is intriguing to contemplate the multitude of resistance training variables that modify the categorical response from skeletal muscle (5.). (Training Variables discussed in future work.) Considering that muscle tissue has the ability to individually modify its structure and composition (mass, volume, density), it is necessary to correctly highlight skeletal muscle’s hypertrophic categories: (1.) myofibrillar, (2.) sarcoplasmic, (3.) connective tissue. (6.) For this article, I provide a clear evidence-based description for each hypertrophic adaptation.

 

     Since connective tissue is rarely acknowledged in the discussion of hypertrophy, we begin by describing its importance. Skeletal muscle is wrapped in an extracellular matrix of connective tissue, fibrous fascia, that provides a structural framework from origin to insertion, creating tendons that attach the muscle to its bony attachment sites. The connective tissue contains nerves that carry central nervous system information to direct the muscles to contract and produce force, and the nerves also relay information back to the central nervous system for the brain and spinal cord to understand the current state of the muscle. It also contains blood vessels to supply nutrients and dispose of muscular metabolic waste products (7.). Muscle cells have a cylindrical shape and are referred to as muscle fibers (muscle cell = muscle fiber). These cylindrical-shaped fibers can be as short as ½ an inch or as long as 20 inches. (8.) Muscle fibers are rarely the entire length of the muscle and are typically arranged in a series end-to-end or overlapping each other in parallel. There is a specific organization of muscle cells to properly transmit their force of contraction laterally to the adjacent fibers. The phenomenon of lateral force transmission occurs between fibers through another type of fibrous fascia.  Muscular fascia is mainly composed of collagen fibers with some elastin fibers. Briefly, each muscle fiber is surrounded in its own fascia called endomysium, and those muscle fibers are divided into organizational bundles called fascicles, which is surrounded in another fascia called perimysium. Finally, the entire muscle is surrounded by a layer of fibrous fascia called epimysium. (9.) All three of the fascial layers blend and attach the muscle to bone. Muscular fascia extends beyond the origins and insertions, dividing specific muscles into groups known as fascial planes (fascial planes are groups of muscles enveloped by a thin aponeurotic sheet of fascia and bordered by the intermuscular sept). As this information has demonstrated, the fascial connective tissue plays an integral role in the structure and function of muscle tissue, which is why it is appropriate to provide this glimpse of kinesiology, for accurate visualization of the components of skeletal muscle in the discussion of hypertrophy.  

 

      Next, we venture into discussing the fraction of skeletal muscle hypertrophy that is the most directly related to the increase in force production capacity. Myofibrillar hypertrophy is the increase in size or number myofibrils with an increase in the contractile units, sarcomeres, and contractile force generation. Myofibrils are contractile units that lie in parallel and extend end-to-end on the long axis of the muscle cell. The myofibrils contain even smaller contractile units called myofilaments. Myofilaments are composed of thick and thin filaments in a repeating pattern that is responsible for muscle contraction. The repeating pattern of thick and thin myofilaments is called a sarcomere. The sarcomere is known as the functional contractile unit of a muscle fiber. The sarcomere’s thick filament is primarily myosin, and its thin filament is primarily actin. They also contain regulatory proteins troponin and tropomyosin (10.). Please note, this is a very brief description of a contractile unit and is used to give relevance to the sliding-filament theory of a muscle contraction. “Contraction requires activity between two major protein filaments in the sarcomere: thick filaments of myosin and thin filaments of actin. According to the sliding filament theory, the interdigitation of these two filaments is the mechanism of force generation” (11.). The muscles contract as the myosin heads extend out and bind to the sliding actin filament. The process of sarcomeres shortening and cross-bridges forming generates the force of the contraction. (Note: on average a thick filament contains approximately 200 to 300 myosin molecules)  The increase in myofibrillar hypertrophy is significant for an individual that wants to improve a strength related skill. This relationship between myofibrillar hypertrophy and strength is widely known in the strength and conditioning community. When discussing periodization and programming, most strength and conditioning coaches categorize certain training variables with their resulting hypertrophy. Since sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is more voluminous and less related to force production, it is not the primary goal of adaptation in strength sports. But myofibrillar hypertrophy is directly related to the increase in force production capacity and strength. If an individual experiences myofibrillar hypertrophy, then the individual most likely will get stronger. But we must remember, if the individual experiences an increase in strength, then they may not have experienced myofibrillar hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy may have a causal relationship with strength, but strength doesn’t necessarily have a causal relationship to myofibrillar hypertrophy. (Note: Strength can increase by improving neural function, enhancing movement skill, mastery of lifting technique, and more.) Hopefully, this small slice of information is enough to mentally digest myofibrillar hypertrophy and prevent confusion in the upcoming section featuring sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

 

     The last type of hypertrophy discussed in this article is sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Historically, the term sarcoplasmic hypertrophy has been described as an increase in the fluid of the muscle that is non-functional and non-force producing type of hypertrophy (12.). Recently, Haun et al. provided a thorough description as “a chronic increase in the volume of the sarcolemma and/or sarcoplasm accompanied by an increase in the volume of mitochondria, sarcoplasmic reticulum, t-tubules, and/or sarcoplasmic enzymes or substrate content.” (13.). Furthermore, it is a prerequisite to have a basic understanding of the ribosomes, nuclei, mitochondria, proteins, glycolytic enzymes, metabolic enzymes and a host of other intracellular components included in the category of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy to discern the potential for practical application in periodization and programming (periodization and programming will be featured in future work) for hypertrophy.  Briefly identifying a few elements mentioned above, within the sarcoplasmic membrane-type complex, is a network of t-tubules perpendicular and parallel to the sarcolemma. Located adjacent to both sides of the perpendicular t-tubules is terminal cisternae. The combination of two terminal cisternae and one t-tubules is referred to as a triad. The triad invaginates the sarcolemma and delivers the factors for a muscle contraction. “Excitation-Contraction coupling requires a highly specialized membranous structure, the triad, composed of a central T-tubule surrounded by two terminal cisternae from the sarcoplasmic reticulum.“ (14.). The t-tubules store voltage-gated Na+ and voltage-gated K+, which participates in conducting an electrical signal (action potential) and the terminal cisternae that serve as reservoirs for calcium ions (Ca2+) used in muscle contractions (15.). Even though this is only a fraction of information regarding the underlying mechanisms and elements in the category of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, maybe it aids in organizing thoughts about skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

 

     This article highlights the importance of a thorough collegiate background in the studies of human science (anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, kinesiology, and more) for anyone who attempts to consider themselves evidence-based, data-driven, or scientifically motivated. In an attempt to give a basic understanding of skeletal muscle hypertrophy and not bore you with too many of the minute details, I briefly touched on a few of the critical elements in each section. Skeletal muscle hypertrophy can be classified into three distinct categories of (1.) myofibrillar, (2.) sarcoplasmic, and (3.) connective.  Each category features specific roles in skeletal muscle hypertrophy, but they all work incongruence to achieve the same overall goal.  In summary, this topic is an incredible phenomenon that I have been obsessed with my entire life, and I hope I have provided you with enough foundational information to begin your understanding of skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

References

(1.) "hypertrophy." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2020. Web. 1 Jan 2020.

(2.) VanPutte C, Regan J, Russo A. Seeley’s Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology. 9th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education; 2016. 1-3 p.

 (3.) Haun CT, Vann CG, Osburn SC, Mumford PW, Roberson PA, Romero MA, et al. (2019) Muscle fiber hypertrophy in response to 6 weeks of high-volume resistance training in trained young men is largely attributed to sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. PLoS ONE 14 (6): e0215267.

(4.) Baechle TR, Earle RW, Wathen D. Resistance training. In: Earle RW, Baechle TR, editors. Essentials of strength training and conditioning. 3rd ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics; 2008. p. 381–412.

(5.) Morton RW, Colenso-Semple L, Phillips SM.  (2019) Training for Strength and Hypertrophy: An Evidence-based Approach. Current Opinion in Physiology, 10 (2019), p. 90-95.

(6.)Taber C, Vigotsky A, Nuckols G, Haun C. Exercise-Induced Myofibrillar Hypertrophy is a Contributory Cause of Gains in Muscle Strength. Sports Medicine. 2019; 49:993-997.

(7.) Muscolino, Joseph E. Kinesiology: The Skeletal System and Muscle Function. 2nd Edition. Missouri: Elsevier Inc. p 380-448

(8.) VanPutte C, Regan J, Russo A. Seeley’s Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology. 9th Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education; 2016. P 151-191.

 (9.) Plowman S, Smith D. Exercise Physiology for Health, Fitness, and Performance, 3rd Edition. Maryland: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a Wolter Kluwer business.  P 512-525.

(10.) McArdle W, Katch F, Katch V.  Exercise Physiology, Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance. 7th Edition. Baltimore, Maryland. 2010. P353-375.

(11.) Wisdom, Katrina M et al. “Use it or lose it: multiscale skeletal muscle adaptation to mechanical stimuli.” Biomechanics and modeling in mechanobiology vol. 14,2 (2015): 195-215. doi:10.1007/s10237-014-0607-3

(12.) Zatsiorsky VM, Kraemer WJ. Science and Practice of Strength Training, 2nd Edition. Illinois. Human Kinetics, 2006. p 47-66

(13.) Haun, Cody T et al. “A Critical Evaluation of the Biological Construct Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy: Size Matters but So Does the Measurement.” Frontiers in physiology vol. 10 247. 12 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00247

(14.) Al-Qusairi and Laporte: T-tubule biogenesis and triad formation in skeletal muscle and implication in human diseases. Skeletal Muscle 2011 1:26.  doi:10.1186/2044-5040-1-26 

(15.) McKinley M, O’Loughlin V, Bidle T. Anatomy and Physiology, An Integrative Approach, 2nd Edition. New York. McGraw-Hill Education; 2016. p. 331-367.

 

 

 


Swinney Nutrition's Future... Posted on 24 Oct 16:39

In recent years there has been a considerable amount of research broadcasted on social media about health promotion, human performance, and physique enhancement. Although these discussions are entertaining, the majority of engagement is dogmatic and controversial. Unfortunately, conflicting opinions cause a division into factions and subjective interpretations of clinical studies. Additionally, this results in a substantial misunderstanding of research and inappropriate individual recommendations.  The general population’s focus on social media currency instead of professional qualifications has become a severe limitation in their understanding of foundational information.  Furthermore, compelling emails, messages, and requests display the need for a critical evaluation of current perspectives.  In response to witnessing the significant demand for guidance, future work will provide sound direction for a variety of potentially advantageous principles for achieving victory and sustaining the optimal lifestyle.


Swinney Nutrition - Behind The Brand Posted on 15 Nov 14:31

Swinney Nutrition

Behind The Brand

Swinney Nutrition is more than a brand. It is a purposeful and fulfilling lifestyle.  A lifestyle that emerged from the synergy of two generations cultivating champions and constantly pursuing an eager ambition for knowledge.  This lifestyle was inaugurated over 40 years ago, by Todd (Justin’s Father) developing interest for increasing strength, enhancing performance and the art of sculpting a perfect physique. Those interest rapidly became a passion that began his lifelong commitment to research, understanding and educating in the field of health, human performance, and nutrition.

 

Justin discovered his inherited passion at a very young age. Daily attendance of Todd’s early morning workouts and frequent enjoyment of bodybuilding, powerlifting and strongman events was the motivation for initial enthusiasm. In a few short months, Justin could demonstrate perfect form on the exercises and recite training information and nutrition facts often overheard from his father’s conversations. By the age of four, Justin displayed textbook form on cue for Todd’s weekend educational seminars.  The overwhelming feeling of satisfaction created in those moments of a gym/fitness environment solidified the concept for his life’s ambition.

 

In the upcoming years, Justin read every book, magazine, and article he could get in his hands.  He steadily performed daily bodyweight exercises, played sports and made obstacle training courses anywhere he was allowed.  After years of continually asking for an iron weight set (barbell, dumbbells and weight plates), for his 10th birthday in November of 1993, he received the materials to build his dream.  The dedication rewarded success at an early age of 14, winning 1st place and pound-for-pound best lifter in his first powerlifting contest. The discipline continued through High School as Justin became a standout athlete and added more 1st place trophies to his collection.

 

Justin attended the University of North Alabama, where he received his Bachelor and Master Degrees in Health Promotion and Human Performance. While in college, he took advantage of having the ability to execute research on himself, his friends and clients. The scientific approach significantly rewarded Justin in bodybuilding and led him to win 2005 Knox Classic: 1st Place Middleweight Novice and Overall, then 2007 NPC Alabama State Championships, 1st Place Middleweights.  His motivated study, ability to comprehend and apply the research propelled Justin’s CHAMP Training and Swinney Nutrition business to become one of the most successful in the Southeast.  Over the span of both degrees, he compiled an extensive library of intelligence from hundreds of 1st place bodybuilding, figure, fitness, bikini and numerous collegiate and professional athletes for CHAMP Training and Swinney Nutrition,

 

In December 2008, Justin decided to open a private training facility. After ten years in franchised gyms and fitness clubs, using subpar equipment and surrounded with an environment of laziness and failure, CHAMP Performance Training facility was born. CHAMP was an immediate success and expanded into a larger facility within the first 18 months, then expanded into an even larger facility 12 months later. Justin steadily improved his facilities and continued purchasing number one ranked equipment, until it became the best. Having access to the best was necessary for achieving his goals and properly fueled his research. Over the last ten years, Justin’s private facility allowed him to accurately control variables while conducting trials and studies with many nutritional supplement ingredients and combinations. Finally, after five years of repeated test and measurements, Swinney Nutrition released the first product in 2013.  The response was breathtaking, and by the end of 2014, Swinney Nutrition products had shipped to numerous countries around the world.

 

The diligent application of tens of thousands of hours in practical application has rewarded Swinney Nutrition with superior methods and an unparalleled preparedness of products.  Our commitment to providing world-class nutraceuticals using premium ingredients and unprecedented formulas is our number one priority.  The monumental quest for wisdom will never end. We are committed to constant research and continual development of industry-leading products.  Swinney Nutrition will perpetually “Take Nutrition to the Nth Degree.”


Swinney Nutrition's Cyclone Cup Posted on 8 Sep 14:36

Swinney Nutrition's new line of Cyclone cups are perfect for your blending your supplements or meals on the go. Watch our video to see how to get the best use out of your cup!


Absolute Nutrition showcases Swinney Nutrition’s CHAMP P2! Posted on 21 Jul 19:04

Nathan and Justin on P2! Questions, comments or want more info? You can email Nathan at Nathan@AbsoluteNutritionOnline.com or Justin at TheChampPerformance@gmail.com

Posted by Absolute Nutrition on Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cross Fit Performance Training Posted on 21 Jul 19:04

CrossFit CHAMP offers highly individualized fitness training in a motivating environment. We strive to create an environment that allows you to constantly exceed your previous achievements. At CrossFit CHAMP, everyone participates and everyone contributes to our members’ workouts. You will find that the first person cheering you on in your workout is the first person who finishes. You will become a part of something transcendent – a community of like-minded people whose collective goal is constant self-improvement.

CrossFit training by itself is effective because of its use of natural movements to achieve proven results. We believe that a positive attitude and constant encouragement from the community will allow you to realize results in a way that you’ve never experienced before. CrossFit CHAMP will make fitness fun again!

View our CrossFit Site at www.CrossfitChampPerformanceTraining.com


Personal Trainer Posted on 21 Jul 19:04

A personal trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction. They motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments may also be performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements in physical fitness.

We at CHAMP are among the elite of personal trainers in the Huntsville and surrounding areas. We are the most educated, and our program get proven results fast. If you are wondering where to find a personal trainer, we have coaching and exercise programs that can achieve any personal fitness objective.