In the fitness world, certain truths are held to be self-evident: big lifts produce big gains, greater intensity fuels greater results and less rest equals less fat and more strength. But science is now finding that many of these hard-and-fast muscle rules are not as immutable as we once thought. The path to the body you’ve always wanted starts here.
By MH Staff - Posted on 2nd October 2013
Five fitness breakthroughs that will turbo charge your workouts and transform your body
NEW WAY Warm up with jumps There’s a reason why sprinters hop a few times before stepping into the starting blocks: jumping kickstarts the central nervous system, helping to activate more muscle fibres. “The name for this neuromuscular priming is post-activation potentiation (PAP),” says Tony Gentilcore, co-owner of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. “And it’s a key to greater strength both in and out of the gym.” Consider this: separate studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show that inducing PAP through jumps can help you leap more than 7% higher and squat nearly eight more kilos. Apply it For an immediate boost prior to a lower-body exercise, do three quick countermovement jumps: push your hips back, bend your knees, and leap vertically. For upper-body moves, Gentilcore recommends a single, extra-heavy rep at the beginning of an exercise. “It fires up your nervous system and makes the subsequent reps feel significantly lighter.”
NEW WAY Do less work You don’t have to push your body to the limit to see results, says Martin Rooney, CEO of Training for Warriors. “Training eventually becomes less effective as you tire and your form breaks down.” After that threshold, gains dwindle and injury risk increases. The key is to figure out the dose that helps you meet your goals without jeopardising your health. Apply it Don’t do more than a total of 22 good sets in a workout if you’re looking to bulk up, says Rooney. Also, limit yourself to four sets per exercise. Researchers in Australia found that more than four sets offers diminishing returns.
NEW WAY Go light to grow big “High weight, low reps” is the classic mantra of men who are trying to pack on size and strength. But a new study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that lifting lighter weights for more reps – three sets of up to 30 – can boost growth as much as lifting heavy weights in the eight- to 12-rep range. “As long as your muscles reach fatigue, they’ll grow,” says John Romaniello, owner of Roman Fitness Systems. “And some muscles, like those in your lower body, respond better to high reps.” Apply it Do “breathing reps” for several of your lifts: load a bar with a weight you can squat, press, or lift 12 to 15 times, and do those reps. Without letting go of the bar, set it down, take two breaths, and do one or two more repetitions. Continue the process until you reach 20 reps. That’s one set; do three. “Including both high- and low-rep sets in your workouts ensures that you’re hitting both your fast- and your slow-twitch muscle fibres,” says Romaniello.
NEW WAY Haul more weight Most men are accustomed to lifting, pushing, and pressing heavy loads. But when asked to carry one – whether it’s a sandbag, kettlebell or your new TV – many become a stumbling mess after a few paces. That’s because “loaded carries” simultaneously test your stability, mobility, balance, and grip while keeping your muscles under constant tension. “They challenge your entire body, especially your lateral core strength, which is critical for everything from fast cuts to powerful serves,” says Dr Stuart McGill, author of the seminal study on the subject, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Apply it Add the suitcase carry to your next workout. Grab a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell (20kg is a good starting weight) and walk forward and backward for 30 to 75 seconds. “The asymmetrical load works your obliques – which are important for lateral core strength – as well as your glutes, which are essential for athletic power,” says McGill.
NEW WAY Personalise your rest Trainers know that exercise affects everyone differently and Brazilian researchers recently confirmed that notion when they found that people differ significantly in their recovery needs. And without proper recovery, performance suffers, especially if you’re doing circuits. “Use a heart rate monitor to customise your rest,” says Rachel Cosgrove, co-owner of Results Fitness in California. “Waiting until your heart rate reaches a certain level results in true recovery between work periods, which is particularly beneficial for losing weight.” Apply it Determine your maximum heart rate: multiply your age by 0.7 and then subtract that number from 207. Then strap on a heart rate monitor and track your pulse between circuits. When it drops to 75% of your maximum, begin your next one. “Your rest periods will become longer the farther you get into your workout,” says Cosgrove. “But your form – and performance – should be better throughout.”