Saturday, May 15, 2010

10 Random Thoughts On Weight Training: Part Two

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Random stuff I've either discussed or thought about in the last few days.

You can read part one here.

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1. Some workouts don't go as planned. Even if your diet has been on point and even if you feel well rested from your last session. If you are attuned to your body and its limits, you will often feel when that time is early in your workout.

How do you feel it? The warm-up sets feel heavier than they should be. You feel a subtle soreness in your pecs in between your warm-up sets for bench presses. Knees feel sore after squatting. Lower back feels sore after deadlifting. When warming up for weighted chins, you might find that body weight chins go slow - when you'd normally be flying up for the first 4-5 reps. And when thinking about the weights you are supposed to use for your first work set (the heaviest load per my guidelines for RPT)...you hesitate. You think twice. You just can't picture yourself doing that today.

Let me provide an example of my latest deadlift-session. This is an important lesson in how to listen to the cues that your body sends you.

I noticed something was awry already when loading up the barbell. I loaded it with 55 lbs weights (25 kg), which I carried across the room, one in each hand. These usually feel light to me. This time they felt heavier.

I proceeded to warm up with 50% of my 1RM; I usually do 3-4 easy and quick reps. It felt easy, but I noticed a lingering soreness in my lower back after the set. I upped the weight to 60% of my 1RM, hoping the soreness would "pass". It didn't.

I upped the weight to approximately 70% of my 1RM which is usually my last warm-up set before proceeding to my work set. I do a few singles with this weight and there is a certain speed and ease I expect to be able to do them with if I am fully recovered. To my disappointment, I found the speed and ease was not to be found today. By this point, my lower back felt sore as if I had deadlifted just a few days prior. I left the gym.

Cue number one: Carrying the weights I used for loading the barbell was heavier than usual.

Cue number two: Lower back soreness after the first warm-up set.

Cue number three: Impaired speed and greater degree of perceived effort when approaching weights at 70% of 1RM.

2. Master the skill of backing off when it's warranted. If your body is telling you to back off, per the above example, listen to it. Unfortunately, only a select few will have the presence of mind to say "screw it", leave, and take 2-3 full rest days before attempting the same session again (or alternatively skip it altogether, rest, and move on to the next session in your cycle). The great majority will insist on pushing through despite subpar performance. And they will be much worse off, digging themselves deeper into the ground and risking injury.

A reward awaits those with enough temperance to throw in the towel and leave. I have always found that I come back stronger and more motivated. Many personal records of mine have been set after taking a few days of unplanned rest.

Leaving is easier said than done. You might feel like shit for a few hours. You might even feel like your day is ruined. This feeling will soon pass. When you have experienced the positive effects that unplanned rest usually brings, that feeling will get weaker each time you make the decision to leave. Live to fight another day. A better day.

Knowing when to leave is a habit that takes practice to develop. Developing this habit is extremely useful in the long term. You'll gain more strength, more muscle, and will be much less likely to injure yourself if you just listen to the cues your body sends you.





"Serious hard-gaining trainees have the grit and character to soldier on even when the going gets tough. This is usually a desirable trait, but when it comes to dealing with the warning signs of overtraining, this grit can be destructive. Watch out for your emotions getting the better of your reason."

- Wise words from Stuart McRobert in Beyond Brawn

3. If you can't relate to what I'm talking about above, it might mean something. Perhaps every training session is a walk in the park for you. Maybe the concept of beating your training log is foreign to you. Maybe you don't even keep a training log or have a clue about what you did in your last training session. You arrive at the gym without any pressure to perform. And that's probably why you are weak, why your physique is unimpressive, and why you haven't made any significant progress in the last year.

4. Don't be afraid of a little pain now and then. For there is a wonderful reward waiting for you after completing that set of squats or deadlifts where you gave it your everything. Embrace and treasure the adrenaline rush. The soothing pulse of endorphins. The dopamine kick that comes from achieving a new personal best.

5. Work on developing a competitive spirit in the weight room. That will take you much further than worrying about the optimal rep range for hypertrophy, whether protein hydrolyzates are better than isolates, and what brand of fish oil to buy.

6. The proper way to perform chins and pullups is with a medium/shoulder width underhand grip (chins) or medium/shoulder width overhand grip (pullups). I often see people using a wide grip for pullups in the hope that it will hit the lats better. This only results in piss poor ROM (range of movement) and sore elbows. Knowing how poorly people tend to perform pullups I often recommend chins as the default lat movement when I can't monitor the client in question. This is a fail-safe way of ensuring good ROM with increasing weights, as people also tend to skimp on ROM when adding more weight to pullups.

Chins involve a greater total muscle area* than pullups, which is another factor that makes this movement an all round better choice. Pullups on the other hand hit the lats better which is why I might make this the primary choice for lat specialization-routines. Of course, there's no reason you can't include both movements in your training routine.

* On this particular issue, I am not sure. I recall an old study using electromyography for chins and pullups which found the former to be slightly better in terms of total muscle area activated. I'll look around and see if I can find it. Let me know if you are aware of any evidence to the contrary. Should I be wrong, I still stand by my recommendation for chins as the first hand choice due to the fact that people generally maintain a better ROM for this movement.


My experience with chins as the default lat movement is that it greatly lessens the need for direct biceps work. Throughout my training career I've performed very little direct work for my biceps. The best biceps growth I ever saw came many years ago when I was training for a one-arm chin-up.

Addendum part one: One commentator linked this article. Though it does not reveal whether chins are superior to pullups in terms of total muscle area involved, or vice versa, it provides some interesting data. Note that weighted chin-ups wins out in terms of peak biceps activity and mean lats activity.

"Some say that wide-grip pull-ups are better than underhand-grip chins for lat development, but they're actually very close. The weighted chin-up edges out the weighted pull-up in mean activity, and the weighted pull up-edges out the weighted chin-up in peak activity. Quid pro quo."

- Bret Contreras

Addendum part two: I e-mailed Contreras and this is what he said in response to the question -

"Do you know if it is possible to rank chins above pullups, or vice versa, in terms of total muscle area involved or the degree of mean/peak activity in the targeted muscles? Which one would you consider to be the all round better choice for someone looking to get the most bang for their buck so to speak."

His reponse -

"I believe that the two are very similar in lat activity as the wide grip may give a preferential angle but also less ROM and less resistance. The chin has more ROM and more resistance, but maybe the angle isn't quite as good as the pull up. My EMG studies confirm this, which is why I said "quid pro quo."

If I had to go with one or the other, I'd agree with you and go with the chin. The greater ROM and resistance in my opinion has to work more muscle - maybe the same amount of lat with a little more bicep, rhomboid, mid and lower trap, etc. Even if the chin and pull up are close, the tie has to go with the greater ROM. "

7. Glycogen depletion lowers metabolic rate via decreased noradrenaline output and is only restored to basal levels with a high carb meal. I rarely employ glycogen depletion in my training protocols, but a few of you do. I am convinced that there are a few Crossfitters, PX90-adherents and kettlebell-enthusiasts reading this that deplete a fair amount of glycogen in their workouts while following a low carb diet. Low carbing is fine. But going too low on carbs on training-days is a suboptimal strategy. Have some carbs with your post-workout meal and save the low-carbing for other meals. Your metabolism and performance will be much better off. A minimum of 1 g/kg body weight or 0.45 g/lb of predominantly starch-based carbs is a rough guideline for post-workout meals following training sessions that deplete a fair amount of glycogen.

8. What might have been the reason for my subpar deadlift-performance? Three days prior I had been squatting hard. Hard enough to break my personal record. One might think two days of complete rest in between squatting and deadlifting is sufficient. And for some, it is. But it's not the first time I have learned that this is not the case for me and others approaching high numbers in these lifts. When training squats and deadlifts to failure, I have found that a minimum of three days of rest after squatting before attempting deadlifts is required to ensure optimal performance in the latter. After deadlifts, two days of complete rest is needed before attempting squats. And even that is pushing it. When squatting and deadlifting heavy, I think the advanced trainee might be better off abandoning the traditional weekly cycle and use an 8-day cycle.

Example: A1-rest-B1-rest-A2-rest-B2-rest - and start over. Deadlifts and squats are rotated on A-sessions, which are lower body-dominant. Each lift is trained every eighth day with three rest days in between lifts.

9. As your proficiency and strength in squats and deadlifts reach what I call "highly advanced" levels, you will find that training these lifts close to failure will take a much greater toll on your body than before. Put differently, an advanced lifter training these lifts to failure will need a longer time to recover than a beginner or intermediate trainee.

10. What do I consider a highly advanced level for key lifts, and when do I think people attain a highly advanced training status? When you can do a minimum of 5 reps at 2 x body weight and 2.5 x body weight for squats and deadlifts respectively. More on this topic in a future post.

85 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great article, Martin. I think most of us can relate. Only wish I hadn't been so stubborn in my youth!

Keep up the good work.

-Mike

LayzieBone085 said...

Good way to finish the article about Chins/Pullups, some good knowledge there Martin. Cheers for the great articles.

Anonymous said...

Love these articles. Thanks man.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article.

Regarding the chins vs. pullups thing at the end, here's an article that gives a rough comparison of back and biceps exercises using an EMG.
Not exactly a scientific paper, but it's a start.

http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/inside_the_muscles_best_back_and_biceps_exercises

Martin Berkhan said...

Thanks guys.

Anon,

The link:

http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body

appears dead? It doesn't lead to the intended article.

Anonymous said...

http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/inside_the_muscles_best_back_and_biceps_exercises

The whole thing. If the entire link didn't come up for some reason, the rest of it is:

_training_performance/inside_the_muscles_best_back_and_biceps_exercises

Add that to the end of what you posted if it still doesn't work. Otherwise, just search TMuscle.com for "Best back and biceps" and it will be the first result.

Martin Berkhan said...

This is the proper link:

http://www.tmuscle.com/free_online_article/
sports_body_training_performance/
inside_the_muscles_best_back_and_biceps_exercises

Interesting conclusion re: chins vs pullups and lat activation:

"Some say that wide-grip pull-ups are better than underhand-grip chins for lat development, but they're actually very close. The weighted chin-up edges out the weighted pull-up in mean activity, and the weighted pull up-edges out the weighted chin-up in peak activity. Quid pro quo. "

Anonymous said...

Yep, that's the one. As I said, not quite a scientific study, but an interesting and well performed test with some interesting conclusions.

There are a few more articles in that series with different body parts performed the same way if anyone's interested - if I remember correctly, chest/triceps, shoulders/traps, and quads/hams/glutes.

Mikael said...

I second everything Stuart McRobert/Beyond Brawn (and by extension, you) has to say about this subject.

Abbreviated training and listening to your body is the key to success. So much time is wasted on programs that'll only work for people with superior genetics and/or on drugs.

For the rest of us, focus on getting strong in the big movements and get plenty of rest. Good to hear someone like you with impressive stats endorse that philosophy!

sandro said...

hi Martin

great posty again.Could I ask you how is going on with frequent training??


ciao
Sandro

Jeff said...

Excellent article with many interesting thoughts and gems of knowledge - as always.

Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work.

CapitalJ said...

It didn't take long for you to become my favorite blogger Martin. You always deliver something interesting.

Number four can be used as a great quotation...

Thanks.

Jonas Leo said...

Great article Martin!

I often preach the "listen to your body" principle to my clients and friends, do they listen? Nope, do I listen to my own advise? On rare occasions...maybe. It's a subject of a most tricky nature.

Keep up the good work Martin!

Peace/Jonas

Anonymous said...

That back pic is sick!

Anonymous said...

i'm always wonder why is deadlift lower body dominant. I must do it wrong, because i feel my back (mostly lower). Stiffed leg deadlift is another issue.

sleepytechnics said...

hey Martin,

thank you for this eye opener. seems that i am overtraining on regular base. but how can it be that i train pecs and i am not recovered the next week. i mean say i trained breast tuesday and i train it again this tuesday and i am still sore and weaker than last tuesday. i mean this cant be normal what to do? can i only train say 1-2 excercises and 4-5 sets per excercises for breast or do i have to lengthen the rest period say two days more. thank you.

Tasslehoff said...

Awesome read -one of the reasons I get excited every time I see there's a new leangains post.

Regarding overtraining, it's one of those things that most people learn the hard way. I've tried telling my friends who can't stay out of the god damn gym, but it never sinks in. They are so enveloped in the rapid changes that are occurring in early stages, that the mere thought of backing off becomes sacrilegious.

Anonymous said...

Martin,

I've been thinking about a possible connection between the low training frequency you're advocating most of the times, and your impressive relative strength standards, especially the deadlift. Even though your knowledge is probably a big part of this, I may want to put natural muscle fiber type distribution into the equation. For example, your 270x3 @ 88kg (?), takes a certain amount of pure explosiveness, agreed? A man with a high (general) percentage of FT fibers would probably need a lot more rest than an "ST-person". What I'm trying to say is the less explosive you are by nature, the more benefit you'll get out of a low frequency schedule. What's your thoughts on that matter?

Thanks for a wonderful blog - objective, straight-on, and sharing in terms of experience. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

If pressed to pick one, I'd likely lean toward chins over pull-ups for the ROM reason you put forward, Martin. But then again, when performed properly they both hit the lats via different functions (even though the distinction isn't truly black and white), since chins hit the lats more in their function as humeral extensors and pull-ups as humeral adductors.

Even giving chins the nod in those who tend to cheat the ROM can be iffy for those who also have a tendency to make it an "arm-centric" movement instead of treating the arms as mere hooks connecting you to the bar. Thankfully all of this can be rectified by working on developing the ability to check the ego at the door and using a variety of movements. (but I am just preaching to the choir here, as you are a guy who has clearly performed his fair share of correctly executed chin-ups and pull-ups, and certainly don't need me to espouse the benefits of performing both with optimal technique)It's like most anything with training, in that there is no 1 correct answer, per se, because there can be a time and a place for (just about) everything, and that is doubly true when embracing your fifth point.

-Don Bentley

Anonymous said...

How's this for the ultimate political answer: use a leverage-mediated drop set, so start off with pull-ups and when you're a bit shy of gassing out, switch grips and finish the "set" with as many quality reps of chin-ups as you can muster.

Of course some may not like that compromise at all or may see it as fit for use on rare occasions as opposed to a staple technique, especially since most dedicated trainees will naturally tend to work on becoming proficient at both pull-ups and chin-ups and gravitate towards rotating them in and out of their training in one fashion or another.

Bill Durnan

Anonymous said...

"If I had to go with one or the other, I'd agree with you and go with the chin. The greater ROM and resistance in my opinion has to work more muscle - maybe the same amount of lat with a little more bicep, rhomboid, mid and lower trap, etc. Even if the chin and pull up are close, the tie has to go with the greater ROM. "

While the chin would still have the greater resistance involved, when using the grip width that you proposed, Martin, the ROM wouldn't be all that different to any noteworthy degree. And depending upon just how proficient a person has become in chins, there may be a larger proportion of "untapped" gains to be had from using as complete a ROM as possible on pull-ups given the big time frontal plane contribution of the lats.

So I think you were wise in suggesting chins as the default choice for those who tend to skimp on ROM, but this is one debate that can make a person's head spin since both are very useful variations of the movement. I've always tended to lean a bit more toward pull-ups over chins, but perhaps that reflects a bias based upon my tendency to rock climb, since the pronated position is the one I will be encountering most often. (and the fact that my gym has a Nautilus Pullover, so if lat hypertrophy just for the sake of hypertrophy becomes a priority, I just work that in at some point along with my pull-ups).

Of course with chins and deadlifts alone most trainees would likely get all the lats they could want and more just by busting their butt to use solid form and drive those lifts up over time. I could never argue with that.

On the topic of deadlifts and squats, when it comes to more advanced trainees, I have become partial to rotating brief specialization phases for each, unless the lifter in question presents a very specific reason for wanting to emphasize one over the other for longer periods. But for an advanced lifter with those lifts relatively on par, I find that rotating each for 3 week phases can be one useful way of keeping each moving along without over-stressing the CNS or low back.

Of course depending upon the goals and intentions, things like using deadlifts and belt squats or deadlifts and single-leg squat work can allow you to continue hammering the deadlift a bit more while still getting in some squat-related work with hammering your body as much as using back or front squats. (but those options may not be as useful as stand-alone methods if someone desires specifically driving up the back or front squat or plans on using the back squat in a competition setting.)There are so many factors to be considered, that it once again comes down to "it depends" and tracking whatever method you choose to employ and seeing if it produces the desired result.

Insight said...

Martin, I noticed that you were not a fan of prolonged glycogen depletion. Do you think that this state might have some use, as in how it's used to promote increased fat oxidation in the catabolic phase of UD2.0? Or do you think that with this new research, it shows more that depletion workouts don't really make a difference, or might actually be harmful?

Victor said...

Martin

With regard to post-work out nutrition – some of us have adverse effects (not training related) to consumption of too many carbs. Besides glycogen depletion, are there any other draw-backs of having your post-training meal(s) based solely on protein and fat?

Seve' said...

Martin-man,

Another great article, dude!

One thing about your blog, I learn new things with each visit, for that, I thank you.

One of THE most important statement: listen to your body, and learn to walk out the gym!

How many rep/sets before weighted chins do you recommend to beginner/intermeds?

For begin/intermeds, what are the workout cycle? 2x week?

Lastly, your awesome freaky sick pic, I see some "cheese cake" coming out of them, no? LOL

Martin Berkhan said...

Sandro,

'Could I ask you how is going on with frequent training??'

The experiement is finished and I have drawn my conclusions. Back to lower frequency since Feb. While I was pleased with the results of the former, and have used the routine successfully with many clients, the latter is hands down more time-efficient and more in line with my personal preferences and priorities.

Martin Berkhan said...

Anon,

'i'm always wonder why is deadlift lower body dominant. I must do it wrong, because i feel my back (mostly lower). '

Yes, same here to some degree (lower back/traps), which is why I pair lower body with back. So per the example in the article, it would go something like this

A1: Squat/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/quads assistance

B1: Upper

A2: Deadlift/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/hamstring assistance

B2: Upper

Martin Berkhan said...

Sleepy,

'i mean say i trained breast tuesday and i train it again this tuesday and i am still sore and weaker than last tuesday. i mean this cant be normal what to do?'

Here's your problem:

>>>>>>> can i only train say 1-2 excercises and 4-5 sets per excercises for breast<<<<<<

"Only" train 1-2 exercises and 4-5 sets for chest? That's more volume than I usually did. Do 3 x 6-8 for bench for a few weeks and take it from there. Do NOTHING more.

Martin Berkhan said...

Anon,

'A man with a high (general) percentage of FT fibers would probably need a lot more rest than an "ST-person".'

Yes. ST fibers resynthesize glucose faster than FT fibers and there's some other indicators that recovery of optimal FT function is slower than ST.

'What I'm trying to say is the less explosive you are by nature, the more benefit you'll get out of a low frequency schedule. What's your thoughts on that matter?'

The opposite makes more sense from a logical perspective based on what you said above.

Martin Berkhan said...

Don, Bill & Anon,

Good input re: chins/pullups.

Insight,

'Do you think that this state might have some use, as in how it's used to promote increased fat oxidation in the catabolic phase of UD2.0?'

Depends on how you define "use". Yes, glycogen depletion increases fat oxidation. So does not eating. Glycogen depletion is just not how I roll. I consider it a lot of effort and time for a meager reward, relatively speaking.

Martin Berkhan said...

Viktor,

'Besides glycogen depletion, are there any other draw-backs of having your post-training meal(s) based solely on protein and fat?'

No, but omitting glycogen restoration is a pretty big deal and has many negative downstream effects (lower metabolic rate, impaired strength and subsequently hampered muscle gain).

Ask yourself why the ketogenic diet for bulking never took off.

I'll help you: because people got fat and weak on it.

But there's a big difference between lifting followed by straight keto and lifting followed by low carb.

The latter allows glycogen restoration through a still adequate (~80-150 g) amount of carbs and/or gluconeogenesis from protein, especially if training volume is low/moderate. I have clients doing low carb, even on lifting days, and they do just fine. But carbs are always consumed post-workout.

The latter, keto, just sucks from an anaerobic performance perspective.

Martin Berkhan said...

Seve,

'How many rep/sets before weighted chins do you recommend to beginner/intermeds?'

Once you can do 8 body weight chins it's time to start adding weight to them (start with +10 lbs).

sandro said...

hi Martin

thanks a lot for your answer.I cna't do 1 pull-up,should I do such exercice a little bit frequent,do you ahve any suggestion??

thanks a lot
ciao
Sandro

Joakim said...

I must be schizophrenic cause I have had days when I grind it out that I probably shouldnt have, and days where I just go "fuck this shit" and leave the gym.

Anonymous said...

hey martin, are you accepting new clients?
I sent you an email but im guessing it didnt go trough.

DeKay said...

Great stuff, Martin. I have been doing an 8-day cycle on an A1-B1-A2-B2 split for some time and agree with you 100%. Always having a day off in between is beneficial both physically and mentally. I've also found that regularly scheduled deload cycles help prevent random occurrences of feeling burned out. I always come back stronger after a deload week as well. Rest is good!

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I got curious how you trained for one arm pull up. Wanna share som thoughts and information of it? :) Training for it at the moment.

Yoda said...

Strong with you the force is, young Berkhan ;)

PJ said...

Martin,
Thanks for all the great posts.
Mostly lowish-carber, experimenting with glycogen restoration post workout (150-200g total between all 3 meals on workout days).

Seems like a good idea to keep fat pretty low in the higher carb post workout meal.

What would the second meal in the evening look like 3 hours post workout? (assuming 1 meal before workout and 2 meals after).

Would that be high carb lowfat too? Or could you do a lower carb moderate fat meal later in the evening a few hours after the post-workout meal. Something like:

1200: break fast with a high protein, moderate fat, low-carb meal.
(Meat, Veggies, Olive or coconut oil)

1500: train

1630/1700: High Carb, moderate protein, low fat
(meat, sweet potatoes)

2000: Moderate fat, moderate protein, low carb
(Meat, veggies, olive or coconut oil or nuts)

Or would insulin be elevated at 2000 as a result of 1700 carb-up and be better to do more of a moderate carb, moderate protein, lowfat ... keeping most of the fat for the day in that 1200 meal?

Goal is to improve strength with very gradual, long-term, leaning out. Currently ~9% bodyfat @ 165 lb.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts, great blog.

Roy Smith said...

A very enjoyable read, Martin.

"I sent you an email but im guessing it didnt go trough."

A previous poster asked this and I am also wondering if you have received my e-mail that I sent a few days ago?

MATT said...

some of the comments people make and questions people ask are so fucking trivial and stupid in this blog... (3 up)

John Robinson said...

Martin - Consulting - are you available? I sent an email from johnxfactor (at) gmail.com

Thanks.

- John

Martin Berkhan said...

Sandro,

Read this: http://www.stumptuous.com/mistressing-the-pullup

Anon,

'I got curious how you trained for one arm pull up. Wanna share som thoughts and information of it? :)'

Might be a topic for a future article if I find my training log from back in the day.

It wasn't a terribly sophisticated setup, i.e I didn't do heaps of research about how to go about it in the best way, but it worked quite well for increasing my chin-up strength.

In short, I trained chin-ups 2-3x daily, never to failure, inspired by this article:

http://www.cbass.com/Synaptic.htm

2x/week I did weighted chin-ups, 3 x 4 and later 4 x 3, only going to failure in the last set + assistance work (one-arm lat pulldowns etc). After that I'd maintenance work, 1-2 sets, for other body parts.

Martin Berkhan said...

Anon, Roy & John,

I have consulting requests dating back to May 10th which I haven't responded to yet, but will do later this week when/if a spot opens up.

seve' said...

Martin,

When reading books or articles on H.I.T, it emphasis on the intensity along with fully recovering before attempts to workout again. Mostly, it recommends 7~10 day rest period.

I see that you are on 8day cycle of four different workouts. And it's is quite obivous that you are getting phenomenal results by in which you have designed. There lies little discrepancy? It also states that older the person, harder and longer recovery period.

What is your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Martin,

you listed your workout split above, and you specified that you'll do either horizontal OR vertical pulling in one workout. Do you apply the same for pushing? If no, why not? Is there less overlapp between horizontal and vertical pushing than it is between horizontal and vertical pulling?

Anonymous said...

thanks martin for sharing your thoughts on one arm pull up :)very impressive (Y) :D

Jake said...

I assume you must be against the "Eat-Stop-eat" method of fasting, since it involves two full 24 hour fasts which I assume would also involve glycogen depletion?

I have tried the E-S-E method and I did the 24 hour fast on non-weight training days, although I did do my bike training during the 24 hour fast days ... any opinion on how effective (or ineffective) that plan may be? My main goal is to maintain/build strength while slowly dropping body fat.

As always thanks for your insight!

Anonymous said...

Running on the theme of backing off, how often do you reccomend people take deloads? Is there a general rule ie, once every 4 weeks or is it more of a go by feel, where you deload when you start stalling/motivation drops for several sessions in a row?
Thanks,
-Steve

FN said...

Martin, did you get to complete that one-arm pull-up?

Fredrik Gyllensten said...

Correct me if I'm wrong Martin; but Jake; depending on your activity lever and what day you place the fast on, I don't think 24 hour of fasting will deplete glycogen completely.. Not even close for a regular guy.. Unless you are on a low-carb or very low calorie diet.

supercowboi said...

Hey..nice article...re: 10 deadlift and squat goals...are the goals the same for both men and women?...if not, what would be considered "advanced" for women?

Jake said...

Fredrik (and Martin),
I would say I average appx 2000-2200 calories/day over a week. Of course during the two fast days I only get around 1300 calories (after breaking 24 hr fast).

My bike rides on fast days typically consist of 1-1.5 hours of interval riding ... some easy pedaling, some hill climbs, and occasional sprints. the concern I have is I don't break my fast until appx 5 hours after ride.

I really want Martin's style of fasting to work for me because it's geared more towards athletes than E-S-E, but I have a hard time with strict eating during weekends. I'm pretty social and strict eating hours are tough with late Fri/Sat night get togethers. During the week I have NO problem following the 8/16 split and actually enjoy it. I have also read that biggest benefits of fasting come between 18th and 24th hour?

p.s. I do my weight workouts at 9-10:30am (M,W,F) with bike rides between 11-12:30 (T,Th).

Martin Berkhan said...

Seve,

'When reading books or articles on H.I.T, it emphasis on the intensity along with fully recovering before attempts to workout again. Mostly, it recommends 7~10 day rest period.

I see that you are on 8day cycle of four different workouts. '

I don't follow old school HIT. If you've read Reverse Pyramid Training Revisited, you'll see that I use a different system. It's still low volume and high intensive training, but to put it directly under the HIT-umbrella, and tie it directly to the HIT-ideology re: rest-periods etc, is wrong.

'It also states that older the person, harder and longer recovery period.'

Yes, of course. Different clients, different routines.

Martin Berkhan said...

Anon,

'Martin,

you listed your workout split above, and you specified that you'll do either horizontal OR vertical pulling in one workout. Do you apply the same for pushing?'

Yes.

'Is there less overlapp between horizontal and vertical pushing than it is between horizontal and vertical pulling?'

There is definiviely more overlap between pushing movements vs pulling - i.e if your bench goes up it will affect your overhead press more, relatively speaking, than the effect of increasing deadlift strength on increasing chin-up strength.

Martin Berkhan said...

Jake,

'I assume you must be against the "Eat-Stop-eat" method of fasting, since it involves two full 24 hour fasts which I assume would also involve glycogen depletion?'

I am not "against" it, but I believe my method is more appropriate for some people.

24 hours of fasting will not deplete liver glycogen unless there's a decent amount of activity performed in that time frame.

Martin Berkhan said...

Steve,

'Running on the theme of backing off, how often do you reccomend people take deloads?'

No general rule. I play this by ear with myself and my clients. If you're training hard, you'll know when it's time to deload - lifts start stalling, maybe a few aches pop up here and there, motivation goes down etc.

Some recommend deloading every 4-8 weeks. I push further than that; closer to 12 weeks and beyond.

Martin Berkhan said...

FN,

'Martin, did you get to complete that one-arm pull-up?'

Nope, but I came awfully close. I had to switch gyms at the end of my training for it, and the new gym didn't have (!) a pullup-bar.

So I started doing chins from the thick bar that runs between the weight-stacks on the cable-curl-station/whatever the hell it's called. Unfortunately, it made gripping with one hand impossible.

Martin Berkhan said...

Supercowboi,

'Hey..nice article...re: 10 deadlift and squat goals...are the goals the same for both men and women?...if not, what would be considered "advanced" for women?'

0.9 x bw bench press
1.3 x bw squat
1.7 x bw deadlift
3 x bw chin-ups

For a woman in the 115-155 lbs range. Women's strength scales poorly in proportion to weight, so these guidelines are tricker to apply beyond the 155 lbs/70 kg range.

gbloomer said...

Martin and fellow posters, regarding the one arm chin up a good site for these 'skills' can be found at www.beastskills.com. Maybe you've heard of it anyway?
Hell, there's even a tutorial for a "no hand one arm chin up"!!!!
Everyone to their own.

Martin Berkhan said...

That looks like an interesting resource, Gary.

The guide is here if anynone wonders: http://www.beastskills.com/OneArmPull.htm

However, skimming through it briefly, I don't see any clear progression guide.

For example, I don't think there is any use in training for the one-arm-chin-up until you've built up a good strength base in weighted chins.

I would say once you can do 1.5 x body weight for 5 reps, that's when you can start considering it.

So if you're 180 lbs, work on getting to body weight + 90 lbs x 5 first and foremost.

Something that also helps tremendously is leaning down. People that manage to complete a one-arm-chin-up are usually in the 145-175 lbs range. It's extremely rare to see someone 200 lbs+ being able to pull it off.

Glenn said...

A question about the days where you manage to leave the gym, following the signals from you body...how would you eat that day and the following? follow the diet as it is, eat like it was a rest-day? do a carb-up?

geert said...

Guys,

When doing one-arm pull-ups/chin-ups,
do them on rings,not on a bar(unless u wanna have tendinitis;even someone like Pavel got tendinitis from doing them on a bar).

Martin Berkhan said...

Glenn,

I treat it like a rest day.

Marc said...

A1: Squat/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/quads assistance

B1: Upper

A2: Deadlift/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/hamstring assistance

B2: Upper

Hi Martin,

Great article. On the days that are Upper, do you just do pushing exercises? Also, do you any single joint arm work on the push days?

Thanks,

Marc

Tyciol said...

Your delts look awesome in that pose!

Martin Berkhan said...

Marc,

Pushing and triceps assistance.

Tyciol,

Thanks. I haven't done any direct delt work. They grew a lot during the Minimalist routine and during my chin-up specialization.

Skyler said...

Martin,

Since you´ve referenced Brawn & Mcroberts before, do you use any of the support lifts he uses/prescribes?

Martin Berkhan said...

If you mean partial deadlfts and the like, then no, I don't.

Danne said...

Hello Martin,

I really appreciate what your'e writing about leaving the gym if everything feels much heavier, that have helped me. The problem is that I've have had this feeling 3 workouts within 5 weeks and I'm traing every 4th day.
The first workout who was shitty was my back day, but only deadlift felt heavy, nothing else. I could complete everything as I should without dedlift, I screwed deadlift and left. Next week I was alot stronger in the deadlift and everything was ok. The workout after that, legday felt heavy. The legpress felt alot heavier so i screwed that. Next deadlift workout I was even stronger, but I continued my cycle as I should and I didn't increased the weight. Now today in the gym It was my back day and everything felt heavy even 30kg curl felt heavy which I was supposed to do 45kg. I leaved the gym and had only benchpress for 3set which felt heavier as it should, but I completed my "goal" for today in the bench. Anyway today my hole body felt weak, especially my grip. I also noticed that I was hungry the 2 days before for the first time in my diet (4 months now). I didn't feel that motivated and I also felt tired today in the gym (8-9h sleep) which should be enough for me. For now I screwed legpress totally and I'm working on my technique in the squat which is light weight.

Do you think I've loosed strength or do you think I'll come back like the first time- alot stronger?. I just can't belive this is hapening 3 times within 5 weeks. Have you experienced something like this before? or maybe my leg strength have been lost because I quited heavy legpress and for now doing light squats.

Best regards

Anonymous said...

Hi,

What about the pullups, do I need any extra biceps work beside the pullups?

Thanks.

Martin Berkhan said...

Danne,

It's impossbile for me to speculate on what's wrong without knowing your training routine and diet.

Anon,

You can go along way without any direct arm work if you're doing chin-ups and/or pullups on a regular basis. Depends on your routine and your genetics. Some guys need targeted arm work, such as curls, to see good biceps development.

Erik said...

RE #8. It's very possible your deadlift experience was more related to CNS fatigue rather than simple muscle fatigue. Back when I powerlifted (and deadlifting was my thing), I could get over post-meet sorness in about 2-3 days while my CNS still felt burned out a week later. Lack of mental clarity/difficulty focusing particularly in the gym, a general blase, uninspired attitude were marks of this for me. During this period I adopted a 1 training day, 4 rest day split when training squat/bench/dead/pclean, just to make sure the CNS was ready for the ordeal.

Martin Berkhan said...

CNS-fatigue, without a doubt, Erik. Though I don't deadlift very often (once every 10th day at the most), heavy squats done prior affects deadlift performance. Need at least 3-4 days of rest to ensure adequate deadlift performance after squats.

Jack said...

Martin,

I do a 3-way split. I train every other day.

Do you think this is spending too much time in the gym?

Warm-up 10-20 minutes
Body part 1 - 45 minutes
Body part 2 - 45 minutes
Stretching 10-20 minutes

I only do compound exercises on legs day. That's also when I do some ab work.

Thanks in advance!

Martin Berkhan said...

45 min per body part is crazy.

rb said...

Excellent site Martin, I stumbled on you a few days ago. I've been training fasted for over a year, and I also like to give max effort, low reps. I've reached a 2x BW deadlift, and like you found that doing it more than once a week is counterproductive. My goals are very similar to your criteria for advanced lifters. I've been using a 3-on-1-off, but I would like to know more about the a1-rest-b1-rest-a2-rest-b2-rest routine. I saw this post:

A1: Squat/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/quads assistance

B1: Upper

A2: Deadlift/back (horizontal OR vertical pull)/hamstring assistance

B2: Upper

Do you have a reference to a full routine with this template, including of the lifts you prefer? I also prefer compound movements with free weights.

Thanks in advance, I'll be stopping by often!

Martin Berkhan said...

Might add some sample routines to the site in the future, including the one you quoted.

Fernando said...

Martin,

How bad is it to replace weighted chins for underhand lat pulldowns?

Alex said...

Been reading your stuff non-stop the last couple days; I'm intriqued and ready to take the plunge.

I've been doing carb backloading with decent results over the last few weeks. Also recently ditched breakfast after reading a bunch of John Keifer's stuff which is what lead me to your site.

One question before jumping in: I typically workout around 4:00PM and I am interested in fasted training; should I wait to break the fast until after my workout or just refrain from eating for a few hours before training? Going for body recomposition here: 188cm, 81kg ~13%bf

Can't wait to get my casein to make some protein fluff!

Anonymous said...

Hello Martin!

I'm thinking about what you said about the deadlift. When the session don't turn out to be as you thought. The weights feel heavier etc.

I'm just wondering what you would do if you would get a night of bad sleep and are going to train the day after. Do you think a night of bad sleep will have an impact on the capacity when you train?
And would you rather move the workout day to the upcoming day instead, when you probably have get some more proper sleep?

Thanks in advance!

LIZARDS40 said...

Martin

Awesome site. love the theory the results and no bullshit attitude. In regards to training, Im an older dude with some injuries. I know you recommend the reverse pyramid training. My concern is lifting heavy right out of the gate and causing more injuries. Would say that normal pyramid traing would be acceptable to making some good gains. thanks YOU ROCK

Nick said...

Martin,

What ROM do you use for chins? Do you start from a deadhang? Starting from the floor with slightly bent elbows enables me to use a lot more weight than from a deadhang... (I promise I am not jumping)

Anonymous said...

Hey Martin, quick question on glycogen depletion. Because strength lifting with low reps (1-4 ish) doesn't deplete much glycogen, should this change the macro consumption on the w/o days of the leangains approach?
-thanks

J Trott said...

I just wanted to make a quick note about the backing off. I think that you really need to go through all three steps that you mention before you back off. I have had days where I felt a little off and a little sore but the weights went up easy peasy. So make sure you try the 70% IRM lift before you quit for the day. You might surprise yourself.




My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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