Happy St. Patrick's Day! + Muscle Myth Exposed

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Happy St. Patty's Day!

Depending upon when you're reading this article, I'd like to wish you happy Irish Appreciation Day lol. My friends and I ventured into Chi Town for an epic day of fun this past Saturday. We all agreed to take the 9am train in so we could have as full a day as possible. We ventured all over the city and to be honest a few of the places were a little cloudy to recall  The best part was we rolled to each new bar with like 15 of our friends, so it didn't matter where we went you know we had a good time and plenty of laughs.

I don't live with too many regrets but the one I had was I didn't get a picture of the green-dyed Chicago River. Our early city travels put us at the river at 10am and apparently they started dying it at 11am. By the time we got back to another place where the river was visible it was dark and you couldn't tell the contrasting green. Oh well! All in all I have to say my friends, a new city adventure, and Irish beverages made Saturday one of the best I've had.  

John _3Girls John _Friend

Muscle Myth Exposed

The extent of most people's 'gym IQ,' as I call it, is a culmination of this rudimentary (and made up) equation: Experience + Untested Water Cooler Myths + Science = Gym IQ. 

The problem is that most people don't ever take the time to track what changes produced the best results. And why should they? They get good enough results not to question the protocol but almost never poor enough to inflict enough self-doubt and confusion to switch up their routines. They keep trying the same things over and over and expecting better results. Einstein's definition of insanity anyone? 

I'll illustrate with own my college gym experience. Two years ago in my junior year in college, my roommate Faraaz and I decided to hit the gym hard for five-six months. I started at 180lb max on the bench press and finished six months later at my all-time best 205lb max! I was euphoric! That was the definition of good enough not to complain but not poor enough to complain and change routines. Does that make sense? 

From observations, most people lump in their three sets of eight reps for a few exercises and go home and slug a protein shake and think that this is the proven formula. Here's the tricky part: IT WORKS! It definitely works and actually if you look at the literature the 'science' supports post-exercise intake of protein up regulates muscle protein synthesis and increases muscle strength. On top of that our bodies are soo stinking good at adapting to stimuli that if you lift practically anything your body will get stronger and your muscles will grow!  

The other piece of knowledge that EVERYONE seems to agree with is:  Water Cooler Muscle MYTH: To increase the strength of a muscle group you have to work it through the full range of motion. Here's the tricky part: IT'S SO LOGICAL. I mean anybody in their right mind would look at that statement and agree. I do for the most part, but I decided to test it and put that water cooler myth to the test.  

The BENCH PRESS MAX Experiment

My test baseline was the full rep max on bench press. When I started my lifting experiment eight weeks ago, I maxed out at 180lbs (I hadn't seriously lifted in eight months), which is by gym standards unimpressive. I've always had shoulder problems so the idea of lowering heavy amounts of weight into my shoulder's weakest range of motion and instability wasn't my idea of a good time. So I decided to complete Isometric Static Contractions developed by Pete Sisco where you set the weights up in a cage with stoppers and do as much weight as you can hold in the strongest range of motion for that muscle (for bench its two-three inches below elbow lockout). 

To give you an example of how much more weight you can do, I STARTED with 350lbs for seven seconds of hold time to failure. After just four weeks, I completed a 585lb hold at six seconds to failure. So my total range of motion was three inches. Following the isometric hold to failure, I completed one set of six-seven reps to failure through the end half range of motion. So basically I lowered the stoppers down to what I deemed a 'half press' or about half of the range of motion below lockout. Again, total range of motion about 12 inches. I started at 165 and finished at 215 four weeks later. The following month I had to stop because we were trying to figure out the blood tests and I was limited to lift four times. I did the same one set of 7 '1/2reps' to failure on decline bench starting at 225. After my fourth workout at the end of four weeks, I did 275 to failure. Again range of motion: Half a rep at most.  

The truly interesting part comes with the final test. What most trainers and PTs will tell you is that you will only increase strength in the particular degree and range of motion and your full reps won't improve that much. So how did I do? I just crushed 235 lbs on a full rep max on bench press! My spotter and buddy, Nick, was shocked that I was able to do that after only eight weeks and just 12 total workouts without a single full range rep. The weird part? It made NO sense! How is that possible? You do full range of motion lifts for six months and gain 25 lbs on your max and then you do just eight weeks of lifting two years later and gain 55 lbs? That's 120% better performance in 33% of the time frame? The cool part is that I think that water cooler myth is officially BUSTED (in my best Jamie from Mythbusters voice)! 

Moral of the story: You don't have to necessarily do full range exercises to stimulate muscle growth or strength. My advice? Eat like a horse and rest more than you think. If you aren't increasing your lifts every week you aren't eating enough quality food or you aren't giving yourself enough recovery time between lifts. 

John -Chicago _train2

Enjoy the rest of the week!  

Christian