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Tip of the week Tip: Consume more magnesium

Tipps der Woche Tipp: Nimm mehr Magnesium zu Dir

85% of the inhabitants of the western world suffer from a magnesium deficiency and this percentage is even higher among athletes. You may think that you are immune to such deficiencies because you occasionally eat bananas, but think again. You would have to eat 9 bananas to get just the officially recommended amount of magnesium - not to mention your increased needs as an athlete.

Magnesium plays a role in over 300 biochemical processes in the body. It is crucial for energy production, protein synthesis and insulin metabolism. A deficiency results in poorer athletic performance, increased lactic acid build-up, muscle cramps, difficulties with fat loss, poorer regeneration and even cardiac arrhythmia.

The question that is probably going through your mind right now is why so many of us suffer from a magnesium deficiency. One answer lies in strenuous exercise, as this increases magnesium loss via sweat and urine by up to 20%.

A large part also has to do with how food is grown and the dietary habits of many athletes. While magnesium is normally found in greater quantities in foods such as green leafy vegetables, seaweed, chard, spinach, beans, nuts, avocados and bananas, many of these foods are low in the mineral due to poor soils and untested farming methods.

Most athletes also don't eat a particularly varied diet. They seem to find a small collection of "safe" foods and eat them day after day. It is therefore no wonder that so many athletes are deficient in so many nutrients.

Habits that could indicate a magnesium deficiency are a high consumption of soft drinks (the phosphates bind the magnesium), too much sugar (as sugar causes magnesium excretion) or the consumption of too much coffee (caffeine also increases magnesium excretion). People suffering from a magnesium deficiency may also exhibit excessive anxiety, muscle cramps and eye twitching.

If you are not absolutely sure that your diet is balanced enough, you should consider supplementing with a ZMA product. While the official recommendations are around 400 mg per day for men and 300 mg per day for women, athletes could benefit from double that amount.

Tip: Drive up your volume

Drive up your training volume if mass gains are your goal.


By Brad Schoenfeld, PhD

In the 1970s, Arthur Jones popularized the so-called high-intensity training (HIT) approach to building muscle mass. HIT is based on the premise that only one set of an exercise is necessary to stimulate muscle growth, as long as you train to the point of momentary concentric muscle failure.

According to HIT dogma, performing additional sets after this initial set is unnecessary and perhaps even counterproductive to muscle growth. Other prominent advocates such as Mike Mentzer and Ellington Darden followed Jones' lead and utilized the HIT philosophy, resulting in a surge in popularity for HIT. To this day, HIT has a large following.

Now before I get accused of being anti-HIT, I readily admit that it is a viable training strategy. There's no denying that HIT can help build a significant amount of muscle mass. And if you're pressed for time, it can make for an effective and efficient training session.

However, if your goal is to maximize your muscle development, then HIT is simply not enough. You need a higher training volume - substantially higher than one set per exercise.

Protocols with multiple sets are superior

The prevailing research consistently shows that training programs with multiple sets are superior to programs with only one set per exercise when it comes to consistent gains in strength and muscle mass.

Meta-analyses published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show that training with multiple sets leads to 46% greater gains in strength and 40% greater gains in muscle mass compared to single-set training programs.

Whether the hypertrophy superiority of multiple sets is based on a higher total amount of muscle tension, muscle damage or metabolic stress or a combination of these factors is still unclear. What is clear, however, is that multiple sets are a must if you want to maximize your muscle potential

The problem

The problem is that even if you perform multiple sets, you may not be training with sufficient volume. The optimal number of sets necessary to elicit superior growth varies from person to person and depends on a variety of factors, including genetics, recovery ability, training experience and nutritional status.

But individual response is only part of the equation. The size of the given muscle is also relevant. Large muscle groups such as the back and thighs require a higher volume than smaller muscles such as the arms and calves, which are already significantly trained through multi-joint exercises.

Split programs vs. full body programs

Another important consideration is the structure of your training program. All else being equal, a split program will allow you a higher daily training volume per muscle group than a full body program.

And if you follow a split program, the composition of your split will affect your daily training volume (a 3 day split will allow a higher volume per muscle group than a 2 day split). Accordingly, training volume is best determined on a weekly basis rather than a daily basis.

Whatever your weekly target volume is, you will achieve the best results with a periodization approach where the number of sets is strategically manipulated over the course of a training cycle. It's important to understand that repetitive high volume training will inevitably lead to overtraining.

In fact, scientific research shows that volume has a greater correlation with overtraining than intensity. Only by using periodization can you reap the benefits of high volume training while avoiding the dreaded overtraining.

Effective periodization:

Let's say you have determined your maximum weekly training volume and this is 18 to 20 sets per muscle group. Focus on a 3-month mesocycle where you aim for 8 to 10 sets per week during the first month. During the second month, aim for 14 to 16 sets and finish the mesocycle with a final overreaching month during which you perform 18 to 20 sets per week.

This is followed by a short unloading phase or a phase of active regeneration to promote your recovery. Bearing in mind that it takes a week or two for the full effects of supercompensation to manifest after completing an overreaching cycle, you should notice optimal gains at some point during the recovery phase.

Tip: Stop eating like a professional bodybuilder

You know what's even worse? Paying them for their plans


By Chris Shugart

Many men stumble into copying the diets of their favorite bodybuilders or muscle-bound movie stars. The problem? Well, most men don't have the genetics of a pro bodybuilder, they don't perform the marathon workouts of a pro bodybuilder, and they don't use the chemical support that pros use. Heck, even exercisers on steroids probably don't use even a tenth of what pros use.

All of these things allow for more leeway in nutrition. The pros get away with crazy nutritional approaches (at least for a couple years) because of their chemical support. You can't. Follow their build-up diet and you will get fat and ruin your health.

The worst case scenario is that you develop anabolic resistance: the impaired ability to build muscle caused by excessive calorie consumption over time. It starts with insulin resistance, leads to leptin resistance and eventually manifests itself in excessive fat gain, loss of pump during training, stagnant strength gains, inflammation and even reduced libido. The loss of excessive fat after each bulking phase also becomes harder and harder.

Follow the fat loss diet of the pros and you'll lose muscle and ruin your metabolism - at least if you do it without the same chemical support as the pros.

Numbers for problems

Sadly, many competitive bodybuilders and internet gurus make a living selling their dysfunctional diet plans to gullible fanboys. And what about these customized nutrition plans they sell? Usually they have three or four slight variations of the same plan and they just email you the plan that somehow fits you best. This is far from being customized.

The solution

Take a critical look at nutritional advice from professionals. You might be able to pick up a few tips from these professionals - many are actually quite intelligent - but always remember that their plans are simply THEIR plans - not yours.

Your body is your laboratory and you need to conduct your own experiments to find out what works for you. That takes some thought and some work. Don't like that idea? Then keep paying someone for the privilege of being their nutrition bitch. Ignorance is expensive.

Tip: Train rowing with supported chest

It's impossible to fake it on this back exercise and it builds muscle like crazy.


By Christian Thibaudeau

This is my favorite exercise for strengthening the back with a pulling/rowing motion. It's one of the basic exercises used by Chinese Olympic weightlifters.

Rowing with supported chest

This exercise takes the lower back out of the movement and you can't really deflect or cheat. By focusing solely on your back, you will build more contractile strength and a superior mind-muscle connection.

Execution tips

  1. Always hold a maximum contraction briefly at the highest point.
  2. Do not rely on momentum to move the weight from point A to point B. Focus on the quality of the contraction of your back muscles.
  3. You can perform the exercise with kettlebells, dumbbells or a barbell. All of these variations work and you should rotate between them. Get strong in all types of rowing movements. The angle of pull will be different with a barbell than with a dumbbell, especially if you are using a neutral grip.
  4. Perform sets of 6 to 8 reps for a few weeks and then increase the weight and go down to 4 to 6 reps - but only once you have established a solid mind-muscle connection with your back.

Tip: Perform 20 repetitions with your maximum weight for 10 repetitions

It may sound crazy, but it works if you use the ladder method.


From Lee Boyce

Here is an example of a ladder set:

  • Using your max weight, perform 2 reps for 10 to 12 reps
  • Pause for 10 to 15 seconds and then perform 3 repetitions
  • Pause for 10 to 15 seconds and then perform 5 repetitions
  • Pause again for 10 to 15 seconds and then perform 10 repetitions.

The fact that you are using the same weight throughout the set eliminates any doubt that you are using an intensity that will promote hypertrophy benefits. The rapidly contracting muscle fibers will get the chance to do a little more work because their primary energy source - ATP - will be partially regenerated during the short rests. At the end of the ladder, you'll have ended up doing 20 reps at your max weight for 10 to 12 reps. Not too shabby.

Push yourself and give it your all

This is an amazing psychological test. Just like with breathing squats, you have a fixed target number of reps you need to achieve to complete the set - not just the point of muscle failure. With each pause, you know that you need to perform more reps than you just did, even though you are more exhausted than when you started the set. This is a way to learn how to overcome your inner bastard. You'll leave the gym feeling like you've accomplished something.

The best exercises for ladder sets

This repetition pattern works best with big exercises like bench presses, standing shoulder presses, pull-ups, dips with added weight and squats, but you can also use it for smaller isolation exercises like leg extensions, curls and seated dumbbell presses.

Perform French presses for your triceps

It's a classic exercise but most people do it wrong. Here is the correct execution.


By Lee Boyce

Your triceps deserve more attention than your biceps if upper arm mass is your goal. Tight bench presses and dips are common options, but neither provides the most stimulation for the triceps.

The most important muscle head to target for triceps thickness is the long head. French presses with a SZ bar provide the most stimulation for the long head, but it's also the most commonly messed up exercise in the gym. The correct way to perform French presses is to utilize the angle of force with minimal stress on the joints. Performing them this way will keep the long head of the triceps under continuous tension without stressing the shoulder and elbow joints.

It is also important to avoid full extension of the elbow - this is not the job of the long head of the muscle. Higher reps (12 to 15) work well with this exercise - so expect a crazy pump.

The correct execution of French Presses:

  • Set the backrest of the bench one step flatter than 90 degrees.
  • Grip the bar with a "false" (thumbless) close grip.
  • Make sure that your elbows are not pointing outwards, but are as close together as possible.
  • Let the weight of the bar pull your elbows back and then pull it forward as you push it up over the back of your head. Use a controlled negative repetition and repeat.


From TC Luoma

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