Skip to content

A question of strength Part 27

Eine Frage der Kraft Teil 27

Warming up out of control

Q: Are there any fads in the strength training community that drive you crazy?

A: Yes, excessive warm-up and mobility training that can last 40 to 60 minutes before the actual strength training. By the time these athletes have finished their warm-up, they no longer have enough energy to train. They also lose their mental focus and their risk of injury increases.

In my opinion, flexibility training should be carried out as part of a separate training session, which should be four to six hours after training with weights.

Newsflash: the warm-up should be specific to the task that follows. Kicking will warm you up for taekwondo, while moving progressively heavier weights will prepare you for strength training.

Another major pet peeve is people who perform advanced exercises without first mastering the basics. You see trainers in New York having their exclusive clients do bench presses with chains even though they can barely push the bar up without weight. They use these cool training methods, but they don't deserve them - they don't need them at this point.

If the client can't bench press 150% of their bodyweight, then they don't need a fancy training method. I saw another idiot in Scottsdale who had his menopausal obese client perform one-arm dumbbell snatches. Her exercise execution form was so atrocious that probably even a rhino could have performed better at ballet.

This is nothing more than marketing on the trainer's part. Chains look cooler than a bench with some dumbbells, but that's all most clients need to start with.

Forearm training

Q: My forearms look like Paris Hilton's ankles. Do you have any tips?

First of all, you should stop using grip aids when training your upper back. No more rowing and no more pull-ups with grip aids. Secondly, as often as possible, use the thick bars when training your upper body. This will shape your forearms quickly.

Here is a quick workout program that will give you extra mass in your forearms:

A1) Dumbbell wrist curls with palms facing down: 10-12 reps at a 2010 tempo. Then move on to exercise A2 without a break.

A2) Wrist curls on the cable pulley (lower pulley) with palms facing down: 15-20 repetitions at a 1010 tempo. Pause for 60 seconds and then go back to exercise A1.

Perform the A1-A2 cycle three times (perform 3 sets per exercise).

B1) Dumbbell wrist curls with palms facing up: 10-12 repetitions at a 2010 tempo. Then move on to exercise B2 without a break.

B2) Wrist curls on cable pulley (lower pulley) with palms facing up: 15-20 repetitions at a 1010 tempo. Pause for 60 seconds and then go back to exercise B1.

Perform the B1-B2 cycle three times.

C1) Single arm radial flexion with a sledgehammer( 10-12 repetitions at a 2012 tempo. Pause for 30 seconds and then continue with exercise C2

C2) Single-arm unilateral flexion with a sledgehammer( 10-12 repetitions at a 2012 tempo. Pause for 30 seconds and then go back to exercise C2.

Perform the C1-C2 cycle three times.

The stronger you are at exercise C1 and C2, the further away your hand should be from the iron mass. If you can perform these exercises with your hand at the bottom of a 5 kilo sledgehammer, your forearms will be monstrous.

If you don't have a sledgehammer available, you can alternatively perform the movements with a cable grip on the cable pulley.

Note: If you perform this program, you should reduce your biceps and triceps training by about 40%. Alternatively, if you have plenty of time, you can also perform this program on the arm training day 4 to 6 hours after your arm training.

Low carbohydrate intake for endurance athletes?

Q: Your nutritional approach for most of the population is more along the lines of reducing carbohydrates and grains. But what about low carbohydrate intake for endurance athletes? Don't they need the energy from carbohydrates?

A: If these athletes have the genotype - the genetic predisposition - to be good endurance athletes, then they will naturally do well with carbohydrates.

They are not made to be power athletes and this applies to their food tolerance as well as their physical structure. Your diet should consist of 65 to 70% carbohydrates. And remember that 25% of the population is genetically good with carbohydrates.

I've worked with endurance athletes in the past - swimming, biathlon, cross-country skiing - and it's not unusual for a cross-country skier to eat 6,000 kcal a day, 70% of which is carbohydrate. These types of athletes used to not consume enough protein, but that's largely a thing of the past today, at least among athletes who perform well.

You can't take research from the seventies of the 20th century and apply it to athletes from the 21st century. Their training volume was not nearly as high as the training volume of modern athletes, for whom it is not unusual to train up to three times a day. Some national coaches have their athletes consume up to 10,000 kcal per day. Unless they use liquid carbohydrates, this is never achievable.

So are carbohydrates for hard-training, genetically predisposed endurance athletes? Certainly.


Q: What do you think of this CrossFit stuff?

A: I have no idea what the hell it is. Is it one of those systems that's a mish-mash of everything?

Wait, I saw an article about it. Looked like a bunch of emaciated wannabe fitness models who were soul searching in the weight room.

Reminds me of a Hungarian proverb: "If you only have one butt, you can't sit on two horses." If you try to do EVERYTHING during your training session, then you will achieve nothing.

Another way to look at this is to imagine someone wearing their underpants over their pants. It's different and may even be fun for some people, but it's not very effective.

No athlete has ever become a good athlete with this kind of training.

When one training session a day is not enough

Q: Do you have any general tips for two training sessions in one day for hypertrophy?

Training twice a day is the fastest way to make gains in strength and muscle mass if you have the time. Typically, you would do a heavy or "neutral" workout in the morning and a workout that focuses more on time under tension in the evening.

These are relative values. An Olympic weightlifter might do sets of 2 repetitions or single repetitions in the morning and work with sets of 6 repetitions in the afternoon. A bodybuilder might work with 6 reps per set in the morning and sets of 20 reps in the afternoon. So you need to decide what suits the individual exerciser.

A rule of thumb is that you want to recruit the motor units with a higher stimulus threshold in the morning, while aiming to recruit the motor units with a lower stimulus threshold in the afternoon. Alternatively, you can also perform a regular training session in the morning and a purely eccentric training session (negative repetitions only) in the evening.

In most cases, the same muscle group should be trained during both training sessions - heavy in the morning, lighter in the afternoon. An example would be 4 to 6 repetitions in the morning and 12 to 15 repetitions in the afternoon.

If you are primarily concerned with strength, then you should use the same exercises for both training sessions. If you are more focused on muscle hypertrophy, then you should use different variations of these exercises. So powerlifters will train squats twice a day, while bodybuilders will train bench presses in the morning and dumbbell incline bench presses in the afternoon.

You also need to ensure that there is at least four to six hours between training sessions. This interval is crucial. If you use a shorter interval - perhaps only two or three hours between the two workouts - then you will still be too exhausted during the second workout.

In terms of the length of each of these two workouts, you could start with 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon. From there, you can work your way up to one hour per training session. However, you should take around 11 weeks to work your way up to two one-hour sessions.

Two key points: First, for every 10 days of two workouts per day, you need to schedule five days of just one workout per day to give your body a break. I recommend training for about 40 minutes in the morning on these days. After these 5 days you can go back to a twice daily workout.

Secondly, without a proper post-workout drink after each training session, it is impossible to recover from this training. Also make sure that you consume BCAAs during each training session.

The post-workout drink

Q: I've heard that many trainers are now recommending two post-workout drinks: one immediately after the workout and another about an hour later. What do you think about this?

I tried this four years ago and saw no benefit in a post-workout drink. I would rather have a post-workout drink and then have a solid meal an hour later.

Fail: Cryotherapy

Q: What do you think of the cryotherapy trend?

A: Current research shows that cryotherapy treatments do nothing for recovery - nothing at all.

The only thing they do is increase cortisol levels after exercise, which is a stressor. In my opinion, such treatments actually delay recovery - just like anything else that increases cortisol levels - and are therefore counterproductive. Other recent research also shows that such treatments do not reduce muscle soreness after exercise. I have never seen cryotherapy do anything for recovery. It's just a waste of time.

A lot of English soccer teams used to invest a lot of money in so-called cryo-suits - basically a suit that freezes you. They stopped using these things because they actually increased the number of injuries - 150,000 euros down the toilet.

Some things may sound good in initial trials, but they don't prove themselves in practice. Cryotherapy was a hot topic a few years ago, but then it went quiet? Why? Because it simply didn't work.

The "best" pause intervals

Q: I'm a little confused about the proper rest intervals for strength gains. Some of the strongest guys in my gym seem to barely pause, while others take forever between sets. Which is best?

Both systems are good, albeit for different reasons. Long rest intervals allow the nervous system to recover. Shorter rest intervals help to increase work capacity.

In the field of physiology, you have two variables when you look at an energy system: the force of the system and the capacity of the system. The force corresponds to the drivetrain of your car. It determines how fast it accelerates from 0 to 100. If you pause for a long time between sets, you increase the power of the system.

The capacity corresponds to your car's gas tank. If you shorten the rest intervals and force yourself to repeat efforts without much recovery in between, you increase the capacity of your gas tank.

Which is better? You should use a mixture of both. In the sport of weightlifting, you may need to repeat an attempt after a short period of time. If you don't have the necessary working capacity, then you have a problem. The best trainers therefore use a mixture of short and long rest intervals.

The best time of day to train

Q: Assuming a person has a choice, what is the best time of day to exercise? Strictly speaking, there are two times based on the natural circadian rhythm: three and eleven hours after waking up.

However, your body will adapt its daily cycle to your schedule. For example, if you always wake up at 6am and train at 7am, this will not fit in with your natural circadian rhythm. However, if you consistently train at this time, your body will adapt.

In 1982, I was part of a study group that traveled to Russia. I asked a former wrestling champion, who was also a medical doctor, what was the one thing Western athletes should change about their training.

He didn't hesitate and said "they need to be more methodical." Sometimes we train in the morning and sometimes at three in the afternoon. We need a more consistent rhythm.

In my experience, a regular training time is very important. The average exerciser with a job will get better results if they choose a set training time and stick to it rather than training sometimes before work, sometimes at lunchtime and sometimes after work.

Split training: back with biceps or triceps?

Q: Which is better in a split program: back with biceps and chest with triceps? Or back with triceps and chest with biceps? Is the pre-fatigue that occurs when you train the biceps together with the back a good thing or a bad thing? The biceps would be fresh and rested if you trained them together with the chest, right?

I like to train the chest as the primary muscle group and use bicep training to recover between sets for the chest. This way the biceps are fresh. So you can do a set of dumbbell bench presses followed by a set of curls. On back day, you can then train the triceps between the sets for the back.

I learned this from a world champion powerlifter when I was just 18 years old. It worked really well, over the years I have found this to be one of the best training splits ever.

The most important lesson

Q: What would you say is the best lesson you've ever learned as a strength coach?

Adopt what is useful and leave out what is useless. That's the Bruce Lee principle.

With some training systems, only one part is effective and good. Those who follow such a system are successful because of the effective part and make progress despite the garbage in the same system. I have never seen a perfect training system, but there are always parts that can be used.

I think Louie Simmons has some excellent ideas, but I wouldn't use 100% of what he does. The Russians have some excellent ideas as well, but I wouldn't use 100% of their ideas either.

The best coaches are characterized by not being dogmatic: they learn from many different systems.


From Charles Poliquin

Previous article The definitive guide to preventing muscle loss