#1 Cardio on an Empty Stomach is Best for Fat Loss
For decades, trainers have recommended that clients do fasted cardio to enhance fat loss. There was an excellent review paper written by Brad Schoenfeld in the Strength and Conditioning Journal titled, “Does Cardio After an Overnight Fast Maximize Fat Loss” stating that there is no evidence to support cardio on an empty stomach to enhance fat loss.
The rationale for doing cardio first thing on an empty stomach makes physiological sense, but research studies do not support the validity of fasting cardio for weight loss. The theory is that glycogen stores are depleted after an overnight fast, and that fat mobilization is more readily available for glycogen stores are depleted. As stated by Schoenfeld, “The human body is very dynamic and continually adjusts its use of fat for fuel. Substrate utilization is governed by a host of factors (i.e., hormonal secretions, enzyme activity, transcription factors, etc.), and these factors can change by the moment. Thus, fat burning must be considered over the course of days—not on an hour-to-hour basis—to get a meaningful perspective on its impact on body composition.” To support the fact that food before cardio does not stop fat oxidation, researchers evaluated the effect of pre-exercise and during exercise carbohydrate consumption on fat oxidation.
The subjects were assigned to 4 different groups:
(a) a placebo before and during training
(b) a placebo 30 minutes before training and then a carbohydrate beverage every 15 minutes throughout exercise
(c) a carbohydrate beverage 30 minutes before training and then a placebo during exercise
(d) a carbohydrate beverage both before and every 15 minutes during exercise.
The subject cycles for 120 minutes at approximately 63% of peak power output, followed by a ‘‘performance cycle’’ pedaling as fast as possible mimicking a sprint test after the exercise protocol. All those carbs had to blunt fat oxidation right? WRONG!
The results showed no evidence of impaired fat oxidation associated with consumption of carbohydrate either before or during exercise. These and other studies presented by Mr. Schoenfeld that goes against the theory of exercising in the morning on fasted stomach for fat loss.
The Fat Burning Zone Myth
Over the past few years, it has become apparent that interval training is superior to steady state cardio for fat loss. The reason interval training is superior is that interval training burns more calories “post-exercise.” Catecholamines, especially epinephrine, have been shown to enhance fat mobilization release from both subcutaneous and intramuscular fat stores.
To demonstrate the effectiveness of how interval training releases catecholamines, A 2009 study examined the catecholamine response of 12 subjects’ who completed ten 6-second cycle sprints with a 30- second recovery between each sprint. From baseline, plasma epinephrine increased 6.3-fold, whereas norepinephrine increased 14.5-fold at the end of sprinting. These significant fat-burning catecholamine responses to HIIT are not produced during moderate, steady-state aerobic exercise that results in small increases in epinephrine and norepinephrine.
In 2000, researchers studied the response of GH and catecholamines during and following exercise of varying intensity and related these responses to changes in fat oxidation. Fat oxidation following exercise was related to exercise intensity and while it correlated to both the peak GH and peak epinephrine response; after further analysis only the peak GH response was found to be the greatest predictor of post-exercise fat utilization.
This is similar as why high intensity resistance exercise contributes to more favorable changes in fat loss than steady state cardiovascular exercise alone. Although steady state cardio results in greater fat oxidation during exercise, the post-exercise period results in minimal changes in fat oxidation as opposed to interval training. Despite blood flow to adipose tissue being lower during high intensity exercise, it still results in greater fat oxidation post-exercise.
So who cares that fat oxidation is higher during fasting exercise or that a person is in the “fat burning zone”? The training intensity will be lower during fasted exercise resulting in lower metabolic stress during exercise.
Another important factor that was presented in the review article by Schoenfeld was when training in a fasted state results in a greater impact on proteolysis or muscle breakdown. Cortisol levels are higher in the morning so morning cardio is a fasted state will exacerbate morning cortisol levels. Researchers found that nitrogen losses were more than doubled when training while glycogen depleted state compared with glycogen loaded.
This would suggest that performing cardiovascular exercise while fasting might not be advisable for those seeking to maximize muscle mass. Additionally, training in a fasted state results in elevated cortisol levels, which enhances fat loss, but also results in enhanced muscle tissue breakdown.
The Nail in the Coffin for Fasted Cardio: New Research
In the Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, an excellent study was presented titled, “Exercising Fasting or Fed to Enhance Fat Loss? Influence of Food Intake on Respiratory Ratio and Excess Postexercise Oxygen Consumption after a Bout of Endurance Exercise.” The authors’ purpose was to verify differences in fat metabolism during training in fasting or feeding conditions. They compared the effect on oxygen consumption (VO2) and substrate utilization, estimated by the respiratory-exchange ratio (RER), in 8 healthy young men who performed the same moderate-intensity training session (36 min of cardiovascular training on treadmill at 65% maximum heart rate) in the morning in 2 tests in random sequence: Fasting condition without any food intake or Fed state after breakfast. The subjects consumed a Mediterranean type breakfast, which consisted of 25% protein, 22 carbohydrates, and 53% lipids. The breakfast was roughly 673 calories. In both cases, the same total amount and quality of food was assumed in the 24 hours after the training session. The breakfast, per se, increased both VO2 and RER significantly (4.21 vs. 3.74 and 0.96 vs. 0.84, respectively).
Twelve hours after the training session, VO2 was still higher in the fed conditioned, whereas RER was significantly lower in the fed condition test, indicating greater lipid utilization. The difference was still significant 24 hours after exercise. The authors conclude that when moderate endurance exercise is done to lose body fat, fasting before exercise does not enhance lipid utilization; rather, physical activity after a light meal is advisable. The current research indicates that it is better to avoid training in a fasted state with moderate intensity exercise if fat loss is the target.
In sum, the review article does not support cardio in the morning on an empty stomach enhances fat loss. Additionally, training on an empty stomach accelerates muscle tissue breakdown which may be considered counterproductive for fat loss.
#2 Carbohydrates Increase Muscle Protein Synthesis
Building muscle does take more effort as one ages, as it appears that older adults have a blunted protein synthesis rate or anabolic resistance. Several studies have shown reduced muscle protein synthesis response in the older population when compared with young adults. Furthermore, the addition of free leucine with protein has been demonstrated to increase further enhance in muscle protein synthesis rates in elderly men. Another interesting fact, ingestion of whey protein, when compared with casein protein, more efficiently stimulates muscle protein synthesis in the elderly and addition of free leucine to protein can further increase muscle protein synthesis in older men. The post-workout shake for decades has been a few scoops of protein powder with some carbohydrates, such as maltodextrins or Vitargo for recovery.
According to a new study published in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, it seems that a leucine-enriched whey protein may be a key ingredient, but carbohydrates are not. Another common belief is that adding carbohydrates to whey protein powders will enhance muscle protein synthesis rates. Researchers wanted to examine the influence of leucine-enriched whey protein impact of increasing protein synthesis. A total of 45 older men (average age of 69) were randomly assigned to ingest:
• 21g of leucine-enriched whey protein with carbohydrate (9g) and fat (3g)
• a similar whey protein drink with 21g of leucine-enriched whey protein without carbohydrate or fat
• an isocaloric mixture containing carbohydrate and fat only
At the end of the study, ingestion of a nutritional supplement containing 21g of leucine-enriched whey protein raises muscle protein synthesis rates. However, co-ingestion of carbohydrate and fat with the leucine-enriched whey protein did not affect the postprandial muscle protein synthesis response. The author states, “Following ingestion of the whey protein and leucine supplement, we observed a substantial increase in muscle protein synthesis rate when compared with basal protein synthesis rates. This anabolic response did not seem to be modified by the added carbohydrate and fat, as the ingestion of the nitrogenous supplement resulted in a similar anabolic response.”
Another interesting finding were the insulin levels in the carbohydrate drink. Carbohydrate plus fat coingestion sharply increased the rise in plasma insulin concentrations in the whey protein with leucine and carbohydrates group. These levels were significantly higher than following protein ingestion only. Although the circulating insulin levels were significantly greater in the whey protein with leucine when compared with the protein only group, it did not result in higher post-muscle protein synthesis rates. This goes against the popular belief that carbohydrates are needed for increased protein synthesis rates. These findings imply that nutritional supplements such as whey and leucine can be used to help prevent muscle loss and require protein to stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis in older individuals.
#3 Maximal Protein Synthesis Occurs with Heavy Weight
The anabolic effect of resistance exercise appears not to be dependent on resistance exercise intensity but rather on the volume of exercise performed and that loads were lifted to muscular fatigue. Some researchers have suggested that maximal muscle fiber recruitment, which could be achieved regardless of intensity, was a principle factor in stimulating increases in muscle protein synthesis. What this means is that as you are lifting weights, type I fibers are recruited first then as type I fibers fatigue; type II fibers are recruited.
Researchers reported that taking sets to failure seemed to enhance the anabolic effects of whey protein regardless of how much weight was lifted. The researchers had subjects consume a whey protein drink (15 grams of whey protein) at rest and before exercise and then had the subjects perform leg exercises where immediately after they had muscle biopsies taken to measure markers of protein synthesis. The subjects performed either:
1.) four sets at 90% of maximal strength to failure (90FAIL)
2.) 30% work-matched not to failure
3.) 30% to failure (30FAIL).
So in sum, the researchers had the subjects lift heavier weights to failure (90% of a 1-RM) and lighter weights to failure (30% of a 1-RM), and light weights not until failure (30% of a 1-RM). At the end of the study, protein synthesis was increased after exercise for 24 hours after exercise was performed. Additionally, the researchers reported that regardless of intensity or weight used, the researchers found that muscle protein synthesis was observed only after exercise performed until failure (i.e. 90FAIL and 30FAIL), which may suggest that maximal fiber activation (especially of type II fibers) is necessary for activation of muscle protein synthesis after exercise. When exercise in the lightweight group was not taken to failure, protein synthesis did not occur. The researchers speculated that protocols eliciting maximal fiber recruitment (i.e. both type I and type II fibers using manipulations of load and volume to induce fatigue) during exercise are critical to enhancing the anabolic effects of exercise for at least 24 h postexercise recovery. One may question how can a weightlifting programs using such a lightweight be useful for enhancing muscle protein synthesis? You have to consider although one protocol (i.e. 90% of a 1-RM) lifted heavier, the lighter program (30% of a 1-RM) lifted longer. What this means is that bodybuilding may want to vary their workouts using both heavy and light protocols in conjunction with using a high-quality whey protein such a to enhance muscle protein synthesis. This suggests that bodybuilders can get similar increases in protein synthesis with the performance of low-load and high volume until fatigue.
Muscle Hypertrophy Only Occurs with Heavy Weight
If you look at many fitness websites, you will see such programs as “100-Rep Hell” or the “3 Minute Set” programs being advocated by the ultimate program for muscle size. Some bodybuilders advocate high repetitions for muscle growth where others advocate low repetitions, but there is little research to prove which repetition scheme works the best for muscle growth.
Results of these studies are conflicting, with some studies finding superiority for heavier load training and others showing no significant differences between high repetition protocols taken to fatigue compared to lower repetitions taken to fatigue. The case for heavier weight lifting is based that on the fact that type II fibers display an approximately 50% greater capacity for growth compared to type I fibers. Type II fibers are activated with a weight in excess of 70-80% 1RM is required to recruit the largest units.
Researchers examined 18 young men experienced with resistance training experience, they were matched according to baseline strength, and then randomly assigned to 1 of 2 experimental groups:
-A low-load resistance training routine where 25-35 repetitions were performed per set per exercise, or
-A high-load resistance training routine where 8-12 repetitions were performed per set per exercise.
The resistance training protocol consisted of 3 sets of 7 exercises per session targeting all the main muscle groups of the body. The exercises performed were: flat barbell press, barbell military press, wide grip lat pull-down, seated cable row, barbell back squat, machine leg press, and machine leg extension. During each session, subjects in both groups performed three sets of 7 different exercises representing all the main muscles. Training was carried out three times per week on non-consecutive days, for eight total weeks. All other resistance training variables (e.g., exercises performed, rest, repetition tempo, etc.) were held constant. The training interventions lasted eight weeks with subjects performing three total body workouts per week. The subjects all consumed a whey protein isolate drink post exercise to ensure optimal recovery. The researchers measured muscle hypertrophy and strength from both protocols.
At the end of eight weeks, when the researchers crunched all the data, both routines increased muscle growth similarly with no significant differences between the two groups. These results run contrary to accepted hypertrophy training guidelines, which profess that loads of at least 65% are necessary to stimulate muscle growth in well-trained individuals. In terms of strength, although low load, lite repetitions did not increase maximal muscle strength, the heavier weight, lower rep routine resulted in greater increases in strength. It should be noted that the greater increase in bench-press strength for the high load method led to their lifting slightly higher mean loads (~2 kg) compared with low weight. 1RM bench press increased by 6.5% vs. 2.0% for the low load routine.
In conclusion, the study goes against the popular belief that you can only build muscle with heavy weights. The results suggest that low-load training can be an effective method to increase muscle hypertrophy of the extremities in well-trained men. The gains in muscle size from low-load training were equal to that achieved with training in a repetition range frequently recommended for maximizing muscle hypertrophy. On the other hand, if maximizing strength gains is of primary importance, then heavier loading should be employed to the exclusion of lower load training.
#4 Acute Anabolic Hormones Increase Muscle Growth
Hormones such as human growth hormone (GH), testosterone, and IGF-1 have been shown to play a role in muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. The prevailing dogma for the past 50 years has been that testosterone increases muscle mass by stimulating fractional muscle protein synthesis. Testosterone administration also results in increases in GH secretion, androgen receptor number, satellite cell activity, and increased IGF-I expression in skeletal muscle. It’s also been demonstrated that the increase in muscle anabolism is associated with an increase in the expression of intramuscular mRNA IGF-I. GH is also highly recognized for its role in muscle growth. Resistance exercise stimulates the release of GH from the anterior pituitary gland, with released levels being very dependent on exercise intensity. GH helps to trigger fat metabolism for energy use in the muscle growth process. As well, GH stimulates the uptake and incorporation of amino acids into protein in skeletal muscle. In humans, GH administration is known to increase both whole-body and muscle protein synthesis and almost unequivocally to increase lean body mass and decreased fat mass. Human growth hormone also stimulates the production of circulating IGF-1 concentrations and may also stimulate IGF-1 production in other tissue such as skeletal muscle. So it’s well established that testosterone and GH are important for muscle hypertrophy and strength, but what about the acute increases that occur during resistance exercise?
Are they important?
Researchers at the Exercise Metabolism Group at McMaster University reported that muscle hypertrophy took place without acute increases in anabolic hormone concentrations. Ten healthy young male subjects performed unilateral resistance training for eight weeks (three days/week). Unilateral resistance exercise is basically where you train one arm or leg while the other arm or leg is used as a control or untrained muscle. Activities performed in the study were knee extensions and leg presses carried out at 80–90% of the subject’s single repetition maximum (1RM). Blood samples were collected before, immediately after, 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes post-exercise. The first training bout and the last training bout were analyzed for total testosterone, free-testosterone, GH, and Insulin-like growth factor-1, along with other hormones. Thigh muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and muscle fiber CSA by biopsy (vastus lateralis) were also measured pre and post-training.
Acutely, no changes in GH, testosterone, or IGF-1 concentrations were observed during the 90-minute period following exercise, and there was no influence of training on the anabolic hormones measured. Human growth hormone did show a moderate increase 30 minutes post-exercise but returned to baseline values after 90 minutes. Training-induced increases were observed in type IIb and IIa muscle fiber CSA. No changes were seen in muscle size in the untrained leg. Whole-muscle size increased in the trained leg and remained unchanged in the untrained leg.
In conclusion, unilateral training-induced local muscle hypertrophy occurred only in the exercised limb, which occurred in the absence of testosterone, GH, or IGF-1 circulating levels. To further support the evidence that acute anabolic hormones have little impact on muscle growth, an excellent review was published in Medicine in Sports Science and Exercise, which further supports the notion, that acute anabolic hormones have little to do with muscle hypertrophy. The reviewers suggested that the interpretation of the current literature to support that post-exercise hormone levels have an effect on the extent of muscular hypertrophy is lacking.
#5 Shorter Rest Periods Stimulate Muscle Growth
In the early 70 and 80s, all bodybuilders trained with rest periods less than 60 seconds because this was thought to promote muscle growth. It is known that resistance training increases in testosterone levels may be related to reduced plasma volume, acute blood lactate augmentation, and adrenergic stimulation. Free testosterone is a portion of testosterone not bound to the sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) protein and is considerably biologically active, able to interact with androgen receptors and its expression has been shown to hold some relation to total testosterone values.
In the early 90’s, world renowned researchers William Kraemer found that 60 second rest periods resulted in greater testosterone responses than 3-minute rest periods. Another study examining hormones responses to varying rest periods. Researchers had subject’s rest 60, 90, and 120 seconds over four sets at 85% of 1RM squat and bench press to failure on circulating growth hormone, and total testosterone concentrations. The authors found that resting 60 seconds between sets, resulted in higher GH immediately post-workout compared to resting 120 seconds; but in contrast, resting 90 or 120 seconds between sets, resulted in higher total testosterone concentrations immediately post-workout compared to resting 60 seconds.
So this made researchers question, what is the optimal rest period between sets to increase muscle mass?
Key Points of the Study:
-3 minute rest periods resulted in greater free and total testosterone responses compared to 1 minute rest periods.
Researchers examine the influence of rest period duration (1 vs. 3- minute between sets) on acute hormone responses to a high intensity and equal volume bench press workout. Ten resistance trained men performed 2 bench press workouts separated by 1 week. Each workout consisted of 5 sets of 3 repetitions performed at 85% of 1-repetition maximum, with either 1-or 3-minute rest between sets. Circulating concentrations of total testosterone, free testosterone, cortisol, testosterone/cortisol ratio, and growth hormone were measured at pre-workout, and immediately post, 15 minutes and 30 minutes’ post-workout.
At the end of the study, although both short and long rest periods enhanced acute testosterone values, the longer rest promoted a longer lasting elevation for both total and free testosterone. Since the the cortisol values did not change throughout any post-exercise verification for either rests, the total testosterone/cortisol ratio was significantly elevated for both rests in all post-exercise moments compared to pre-exercise. The growth hormone values did not change for both rest lengths. Traditionally, professionals prescribe longer rests between sets (e.g. 3 to 5- minute) for strength developing purposes. This experiment is on parallel to this practice once we have found that although both rest protocols (1 and 3-minute) enhanced testosterone values, the longer rest (3-minute) provided a longer lasting elevation for both testosterone and free testosterone.
#6 You Should Train to Complete Muscular Failure Each Set
If you go to any gym, the one thing all trainers will tell you is that in order for muscle to grow, you need to train to complete muscular failure. Training to failure is what Arnold said is what separates champions from the losers. One of the all-time favorite growth techniques used for decades by all bodybuilders has been pushing past the point of complete muscular failure. We all remember scenes from Pumping Iron where Arnold Schwarzenegger is training to failure and beyond despite the immense pain. Arnold said that muscle did not grow unless they were taken past the point of muscular failure. There were other historic bodybuilders such as Mike Mentzer and Dorian Yates that also believed that every set needed to be taken to complete muscular failure. While failure can be a valuable tool in a bodybuilder’s training routine, there is some evidence to indicate that it comes with a significant cost. Previous research has found that training to failure every set significantly increased resting levels of the catabolic hormone cortisol and suppressed anabolic growth factors such as IGF-1. This study demonstrated that taking every set to failure could lead to overtraining and a catabolic response. This study may indicate that bodybuilders who take every set to absolute failure may put themselves at risk of impeding long-term growth.
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.“ -Arnold Schwarzenegger
Researchers recently just published a study which may cause controversy among bodybuilders and researchers. Twenty-eight males completed a 4-week familiarization period and were three groups:
1.) non-failure rapid shortening (RS; rapid concentric, 2 s eccentric). They lifted up the weight explosively and lowered the weight in 2 seconds, emphasizing the eccentric portion.
2.) non-failure stretch-shortening (SSC; rapid concentric, rapid eccentric). They lifted up the weight explosively and lowered the weight the weight explosively.
3.) failure control (C, 2 s concentric, 2 s eccentric). Exercise taken to complete muscle failure.
After 12 weeks of the study, the average number of repetitions per set was significantly lower in non-failure rapid shortening and non-failure stretch-shortening group compared with failure control. A significant increase in maximal strength, maximal voluntary contraction, muscle size was observed for all groups; however, no between-group differences were detected. Similar adaptations across the three resistance training regimen suggest repetition failure is not critical to elicit significant neural and structural changes to skeletal muscle. In sum, the researchers found no difference in the routines that were taken to failure and those that were not. This study only lasted 12 weeks, so long term effects of taking every set to absolute muscular failure is not known. There are some adverse outcomes of taking every set to complete failure that can lead to long-term overtraining, but the study is interesting none the less.
#7 Arms Need to Be Trained on a Separate Day for Maximal Growth
Most workouts are the combination of both single and multi-joint exercises. For example, a person may perform a squat in conjunction with a leg extension. Multi-joint exercises recruit several muscles or muscle groups at a time, whereas single joint exercises recruit only one primary muscle. Although it is often believed that muscle is better stimulated during isolation exercises, the evidence for this assumption is weak; previous studies have not shown increased motor unit recruitment during single joint exercises. It has been shown that muscle hypertrophy is dependent on the mechanical tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress produced by the strength exercise.
This may be surprising, but no research studies have ever demonstrated that single joint exercises are needed when performing multi-joint exercises. For example, a previous study examined the effect of performing isolated single-joint exercises in conjunction with multi-joint exercises on upper arm circumference and upper body strength in 17 national-level baseball players. One group performed only upper body multi-joint exercises; the other group completed the same multi-joint exercise program plus biceps curl and triceps extension exercises. Both groups reported the same increases in arm circumference and muscle strength. This suggests that performing single-joint exercises in combination with multi-joint exercises may not be necessary. According to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism once again reports that single joint exercises, when combined with multi-joint exercises, don’t have any extra benefit regarding strength or size.
A few years ago, researchers examined the effect of adding single-joint exercises to a multi-joint exercise resistance-training program on upper body muscle size and strength. Twenty-nine untrained young men participated in a 10-week training session. They were randomly divided into two groups:
-The multi-joint exercise group performed only multi-joint exercise exercises (lat pulldown and bench press)
-The multi-joint exercise +single-joint group performed the same multi-joint exercise exercises plus single-joint exercises (lat pulldown, bench press, triceps extension, and bicep curls)
All exercises were performed with three sets of 8–12 repetitions. Participants were instructed to carry out all sets to failure. Before and after the training period, the muscle thickness (MT) of the arms was measured with ultrasound, and peak torque was measured with an isokinetic dynamometer. At the end of the study, there was a significant increase in muscle growth for the both the single and multi-joint group (6.5% for multi-joint and 7.04% for multi-joint+single-joint) and peak torque (10.40% for multi-joint and 12.85% for multi-joint+single-joint) in both groups, but there were no between-group differences.
Therefore, this study showed that the inclusion of single-joint exercises in a multi-joint exercise training program resulted in no additional benefits regarding muscle size or strength gains in untrained young men. In summary, this study showed that the stimuli provided during multi-joint exercises were sufficient to promote gains in muscle size and strength in previously untrained subjects; no additional benefit was seen with the addition of supplemental single-joint exercises over a period of 10 weeks. Thus, coaches and athletes could save time by not including single-joint exercises in the training program and still achieve gains in muscle size and strength in the upper body. Future studies should analyze the use of single-joint exercises over longer periods of time and in different populations. It would also be interesting to explore this concept in lower body muscle groups.
So the study lacks some credibility because it was performed in untrained men, but for the non-believers, a study was released this month in trained athletes and found the same findings. Researchers compared the increases in muscular strength and size between resistance training programs involving upper body multi-joint exercises and those involving both upper body multi-joint and upper body single-joint exercises, in trained subjects. 20 young, resistance-trained males, randomly allocated into either a combined multi-joint and single-joint group or a multi-joint only group. Both groups performed an 8-week period of resistance training for the upper body, following a linear periodized program. Both groups performed both free weights and machine exercises for the upper body, including various pressing and pulling movements. Also, the combined group also performed triceps extensions and biceps curls.
At the end of the study, both training groups significantly increased arm strength, but there was no significant difference between groups. Both training groups also increased muscle mass but once again there was no difference between the groups. The researchers concluded that adding single-joint exercises to a multi-joint resistance training program does not appear to increase further gains in muscular strength and size. They, therefore, suggest that for maximal efficiency of training, single-joint exercises can be removed from training programs.
A new study reported similar finding that single joint exercises are not useful to muscle hypertrophy. Twenty-nine young men, without prior resistance training experience, were randomly divided into two groups.
-One group performed only multi-joint exercises involving the elbow flexors (lat. pull downs),
-While the other trained the elbow flexors muscles using only single joint exercises (biceps curls).
Both groups trained twice a week for ten weeks. The volunteers were evaluated for strength and muscle mass.
At the end of the study, there were significant increases in muscle mass for the multi-joint exercise group (6.10%) and single-joint exercise group (5.83%). Muscle strength increased for the multi-joint group (10.40%) and single joint group (11.87%). However, the results showed no difference between groups regarding muscle mass or strength.
In conclusion, the results of the present study suggest that multi-joint and single joint exercises are equally effective for promoting increases in upper body muscle strength and size in untrained men. Therefore, the selection of single joint and multi-joint exercises should be based on individual and practical aspects, such as equipment availability, movement specificity, personal preferences, and time commitment.
#8 Dumbbell Pullover’s are Great for Building a Big Chest
The dumbbell pullover was one of Arnold’s favorite exercises that he prescribed for building a big chest. Arnold had undeniably one of the greatest chests in the sport but he was misinformed about it being a great chest builder according to new research. Recently, a study reported that the dumbbell pullover exercise recruits latissimus dorsi fibers, without significant differences between those musculatures and muscles portions of the pectoralis major.
Researchers wanted to examine the muscle activation of the dumbbell pullover and the flat bench press. The aim of the study was to compare the EMG activity (i.e. muscle activation) of the following muscles: clavicular portion of pectoralis major, sternal portion of pectoralis major, long portion of triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, posterior deltoid and latissimus dorsi during dynamic contractions between flat horizontal bench press and barbell pullover exercises.
The sample comprised 12 males individuals experienced in resistance training. The volunteers made three visits to the laboratory. The results showed a higher EMG activation of the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles in the flat horizontal bench press in comparison with the barbell pullover. The triceps brachii and latissimus dorsi muscles were more activated in the barbell pullover.
So based on the results of the study, pullovers are better for triceps and lats than building a better chest.
#9 Weak Bodyparts Need to be Trained Before Strong Bodyparts for Maximal Growth
Maximal muscle growth requires you to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible during exercise, which is the reason many bodybuilders perform squats first—because the exercise utilizes many different muscle fibers. For gaining muscle size, your training goal should be to recruit as many motor units as possible during exercise to get the fastest results for muscle growth. This has been the resistance training way of life for decades, but recently a study in the Journal of Medicina Sportiva found just the opposite of what has been preached for so many years about doing large muscle groups first. The research paper was a critical review on exercise sequence and muscle growth and has challenged the size principle theory. The authors reported that two new studies showed no significant difference between groups in strength gains for any of the exercises or any significant difference in muscular hypertrophy when small muscle groups were performed first compared to large muscle groups.
The key finding was that when repetitions were standardized for workouts comparing small vs. large muscle groups performed first; the results were the same. The research paper went on to report that many studies that have examined small vs. large muscle groups being performed first failed to control for repetitions completed. The reviewer noted that some of these studies reported that significantly fewer repetitions were performed in subsequent sets of an exercise when they were performed later in a resistance-training session, compared with when they were performed earlier in the session.
The lead author concluded, “There is very little evidence to suggest that any specific sequence of exercise affects strength gains or muscular hypertrophy.” As long as volume remains equal for workouts, it should make very little difference which exercise is performed first.
#10 Sit-Ups are the Best Abdominal Exercise to Lose Fat
Spot Reduction is a term used to describe using exercise to target a specific area of the body. For example, doing a certain leg exercise in an effort to slim your thighs. Another classic example of spot reduction is doing sit-ups to reduce belly fat. Exercising a specific muscle does not get rid of more fat over that muscle in comparison to the rest of your body. If it did, tennis players would have less fat in their tennis arms, and this does not happen. Fat mobilization from an area will typically go to local circulation so it can’t be specifically used by that local muscle. Strength training strengthens weak muscles, but it cannot remove fat specifically over the strengthened muscle. To get a muscle to show more, its all based on your diet.
For example, to show how spot reduction is just a myth, check out the study below:
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of abdominal exercises on abdominal fat. Twenty-four healthy, sedentary participants (14 men and 10 women), between 18 and 40 years, were randomly assigned to 1 of the following 2 groups: control group or abdominal exercise group. Anthropometrics, body composition, and abdominal muscular endurance were tested before and after training. The abdominal exercise group performed 7 abdominal exercises, for 2 sets of 10 repetitions, on 5 days a week for 6 weeks. The control group received no intervention, and all participants maintained an isocaloric diet throughout the study.
There was no significant effect of abdominal exercises on body weight, body fat percentage, android fat percentage, android fat, abdominal circumference, abdominal skinfold and suprailiac skinfold measurements. The abdominal exercise group performed significantly greater amount of curl-up repetitions compared to the control group on the posttest. Six weeks of abdominal exercise training alone was not sufficient to reduce abdominal subcutaneous fat and other measures of body composition. Nevertheless, abdominal exercise training significantly improved muscular endurance to a greater extent than the control group.
In another study examining if spot reduction can work, forty overweight women were given either a weight-reduction diet or the same diet plus abdominal resistance training. After 12 weeks, both groups had the same weight decrease, abdominal subcutaneous fat, waist circumference, hip circumference, body mass index, body fat percentage, and skin fold thickness. When you take in more calories than your body burns, you store the extra calories as fat. More than half of the fat in your body is stored underneath your skin and over your muscles. Your stomach will look better when your belly muscles are strong, but sit-ups or crunches will not remove extra fat from your belly. The only way to lose fat from a specific part of your body is to lose weight overall.
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