Get signed up to be among the first to receive recipes, workouts and science-backed advice straight to your inbox!
Do you need more muscle?
To answer this you need to understand 2 forms of strength :
Absolute Strength: This is the greatest force that can be produced by a given muscle under involuntary stimulation. Note the word, “involuntary” as this is commonly measured through electrical stimulation of the nerves supplying the muscles to make them contract as hard and as powerfully as humanly possible. Yes, I’ve done this in the lab. Yes, I can confirm it’s not pleasant.
Competitive Strength: Is the ability of the muscles to produce the greatest force possible through a voluntary contraction. This time note the word, “voluntary” since this is performed during competition and it’s not surprising this isn’t as powerful as being electrocuted. Instead it’s the maximum force you can produce simply by getting psyched up.
The difference between these 2 is known as your Strength Deficit.
If there’s a small difference between them it shows you’re using the muscle mass you have to it’s full, neurological potential. Basically all your muscle fibres are being used and firing.
You’re 80kg but squatting 200kg. You’ve a good power-to-weight ratio. You’re maxing out your muscle’s neurological potential. You’re like a scooter that’s managing to reach 70mph with the small “engine” (muscle) working overtime and you need to add more muscle to get stronger.
Basically you need more Structural Strength Training.But, if there’s a big difference between them it shows you’re not using your muscle mass to it’s full, neurological potential and all the muscle fibres aren’t being recruited.
You’re 100kg and squatting 150kg. You’ve a bad power-to-weight ratio. You’re like a supercar car with a giant engine that’s being driven at 50mph. You are not using your muscle mass to its full, neurological potential and need to drill technique to do this.
Basically you need more Functional Strength Training.
So are you a scooter or a supercar?
When you know the answer you will be better able to design your training program and decide whether you need to get big, strong or both. Worth noting is strength training is always a combination of Structural and Functional Strength Training, but if you know your Strength Deficit you will know which one to focus on.
IF you need more muscle (and structural strength) then be sure to watch my videos with Richard Ellis: https://rossedgley.com/video/3-mechanisms-muscle-building/ which is Bodybuilding focused
IF you need more strength (and functional strength) then be sure to read my guide with Andy Bolton: https://rossedgley.com/guide/world-record-champion-guide-squat-bench-deadlift/ which is Powerlifting focused
This part of the forum is 100% FULL of support…
No trolls, no negative comments… we are purely a tribe filled with amazing people and personal stories where members can share their journeys, post update/transformation pictures and swap advice on here ALL to inspire, educate and support each other. To kick things off, this is my current condition and my goal is to set the world record for the longest swim in history 🙂
*Whilst I will be uploading videos into the Train Like Ross section, this area I want to use like all other members to document the more personal journey and also ask advice and share feedback 🙂 Turning our tribe into a mass collective of EPIC 🙂
Current PB: 61km and 41km pulling a 100lbs tree
Goal: Swim 225km (no tree) non stop
So this is a topic that I’ve been speaking to a few members about on private messages, so I just wanted to start a post so it was publicly available to everyone. But below is from a past article I wrote titled, “Sleep Yourself Fitter” but I would love to know how many hours a night people are sleeping? Do they get enough? Is their recovery optimal? What’s stopping you getting more? Basically I know we’ve a few new dads in the tribe, so I can imagine a lot of people wanting to talk on this topic 🙂
Science Shows You Become Fitter When You Sleep
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t get fitter in the gym. A strange way to start a fitness-related article I know. But studies show that all your efforts between the treadmill and the weights rack simply provide your body with the stimulus needed to get faster, stronger and fitter. It’s actually the time you spend between the sheets sleeping when the magic really happens.
That’s because research shows it’s during this key period that you actually recover and become fitter. Rejuvenating hormones like the Growth Hormone naturally peak during sleep. Your immune system recovers, preventing you from getting ill. Even critical neurotransmitters of the brain are replenished to keep you motivated.
Put simply, whilst you’re fast asleep dreaming there’s an orchestra of biochemical activity going on inside the body, all designed to ensure you wake up refreshed, adapted and capable of improving on yesterday’s workout. For all these reasons and more, the following article may be the best form of bedtime reading ever written, and here’s why…
Firstly, to highlight the importance of sleep—and to use an extreme example—scientists (C.M Shapiro et al, 1981) monitored the sleep patterns of athletes following a 92km marathon in six test subjects. Results showed the total sleep time increased drastically compared to normal sleep patterns (typically seven hours) on each of the four nights after the marathon, illustrating the body’s desperate need for quality sleep to recover.
Using an electroencephalogram (EEG), where electrodes measure electrical activity in the brain, they specifically found long periods of deep sleep were induced on the first two nights. This led researchers to conclude that this objective and quantitative increase in total sleep time, and particularly in deep sleep, supports the theory that it’s incredibly important for optimal recovery in athletes.
So, why do we need so much sleep after periods of hard training? Well, firstly we need to understand what happens to the body during periods of physical exertion. In a brief scientific-literary nutshell, when you train at a high intensity, your oxygen usage skyrockets—as is evident from your heavy breathing. This causes a dramatic increase in lactic acid accumulation in the muscles—that burning sensation you get as you fatigue.
This in turn causes your body to pull alkaline reserves from bones and other mineral-dense sources. Equally, tiny micro tears are formed in the muscles when you lift weights and the body’s molecular form of energy—Adenosine Triphosphate—becomes exhausted.
Needless to say, your body has a lot to cope with. Thankfully, the world of sports science teaches us that sleep helps through a variety of mechanisms. Now whilst there are many to consider, the two listed below are thought to be absolutely critical for helping the body become fitter, healthier and ultimately ready for the next session.
One of the most revitalising hormones in the human body is the Growth Hormone – linked to everything from fat loss, muscle tone, immune health and even the elasticity and firmness of your skin. Basically, anything that naturally spikes this is generally considered a good thing. This is why the research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation is so important, especially when in 1968 they discovered that ‘sleep results in a major peak of Growth Hormone secretion’. What this means is, should you not get enough of it, then you’re depriving your body of a hormone shown to directly influence sports and gym performance.
Next we explore the mental, cognitive impact sleep can have on our training. Now, no doubt you’ve experienced that almost stale feeling in the gym. You can’t quite explain it, but you’re not that motivated to attack the treadmill or the weights room. It’s like the mind is willing but the body can’t be bothered. You’re basically not getting any fitter, faster or stronger that day.
Well, research shows it could be because of lack of sleep and your inability to replenish neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals from a neuron to a target cell across a synapse within the body. They’re very important since they regulate a number of physical and emotional processes such as mental performance, emotional states and pain response. In fact, to illustrate just how important they are, practically all functions within the body are either directly controlled or certainly affected by neurotransmitters. They’re the brain’s little chemical messengers, and without them working efficiently you won’t be very productive in life, never mind the gym.
Basically, if you don’t sleep, you will have the hormonal ‘handbrake’ when training—both in terms of Growth Hormone and neurotransmitters.
In summary, will optimal sleep help you in the gym and to become fitter? The simple answer is yes. Perhaps best illustrated by a study conducted at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory at Stanford University, USA who examined the effect prolonged sleep had on elite basketball players’ performance.
Researchers instructed six basketball players to obtain as much extra sleep as possible following two weeks of normal sleep habits. A quicker sprint time and better accuracy during a free-throw were recorded following the prolonged sleep period. Subjectively, athletes also reported better mood states (not surprisingly related to neurotransmitters) noting an increased sense of vigour and decreased sense of fatigue.
Interestingly, although still with a small number of test subjects, the same group of scientists also increased the sleep time of swimmers to 10 hours per night for six to seven weeks and reported that in the 15 metre sprint, reaction time, turn time and mood all improved. This led to the conclusion that increasing the amount of sleep an athlete receives may significantly enhance performance.
All things considered, it seems we should be placing just as much emphasis on our sleep patterns as we do our gym routine. When we do, we’ll become fitter as a result.
• Shapiro, C.M., R. Bortz, D. Mitchell, P. Bartel, and P. Jooste (1981) “Slow-wave sleep: a recovery period after exercise.” Science 214:1253-1254.
• Mah, C.D., K.E. Mah, E.J. Kezirian, and W.C. Dement (2011) “The effects of sleep extension on the athletic performance of collegiate basketball players.” Sleep 34:943-950.
• J. F. Sassin, D. C. Parker, J. W. Mace, R. W. Gotlin, L. C. Johnson and L. G. Rossman (1969) “Human Growth Hormone Release: Relation to Slow-Wave Sleep and Sleep-Waking Cycles.” Science 1 August 1969: Vol. 165 no. 3892 pp. 513-515
• Y. Takahashi, D. M. Kipnis, and W. H. Daughaday (1968) “Growth hormone secretion during sleep.” Journal of Clinical Investigation, Sep 1968; 47(9): 2079–2090.
• Ishigaki T, Koyama K, Tsujita J, Tanaka N, Hori S, Oku Y. Plasma leptin levels of elite endurance runners after heavy endurance training. J Physiol Anthropol Appl Human Sci. 2005 Nov;24(6):573-8.
• Barron JL, Noakes TD, Levy W, Smith C, Millar RP. Hypothalamic dysfunction in over trained athletes. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1985 Apr;60(4):803-6.
• Lehmann M, Foster C, Keul J,. Overtraining in endurance athletes: a brief review. Physical Fitness and Performance, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 25(7):854-862, Juli 1993.
• Kuipers H, Keizer HA. Overtraining in elite athletes. Review and directions for the future. Sports Med. 1988 Aug;6(2):79-92
A few members are embarking on some amazing feats of endurance this year…
But one thing to bear in mind is the role your: Body Composition and Power to Weight Ratio will have. Now I’d love to hear people’s goals, current weight, concerns, questions and share experiences… but here’s my take…
Now here’s my take: Studies show whether you’re running, walking or crawling as soon as you add weight you burn more calories, according to scientists from the Chaim Sheba Medical Center who found the additional weight leads to a, “Significant increase in energy (calorie) cost over time.” What’s more it’s not just energy (bioenergetics) but research published by the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology examined the influence carrying 10kg, 20kg and 30kg of weight had on the cardiorespiratory system (heart and lungs). After measuring oxygen uptake, heart rate and pulmonary ventilation they found, “Each kilogram of extra weight increases oxygen uptake with 33.5 ml/min, heart rate with 1.1 beats/min and pulmonary ventilation with 0.6 l/min.” THAT’S ONE EXTRA KILOGRAM and I have found this to be true, running with fell racers 30kg lighter than me. So HOW did I swim 100km weighing 95kg whilst pulling a 100lbs tree? Firstly, swimming is not so strictly bound by the laws of gravity (plus the tree floats, so drag is the resistance). Secondly, could it be argued my muscle mass is an asset in long-distance swimming simply based on research from the Centre for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado that claim, “Glycogen (carbohydrate) storage capacity is approximately 15 g/kg body weight.” Couple this with an understanding of the energy-yielding properties of fat, perfect biomechanics and a perfect pacing strategy and in theory what you have is the human version of a whale, capable of covering distances previously thought impossible. As you can imagine this gets far more intricate and needs further explaining, but in 2018 that’s what me and the @royalmarines intend to find out 😉
Now that’s just swimming specific, take from an article I wrote for triathlon magazine “Training for a triathlon is very different for heavyweight competitors. This is because studies show with added weight everything changes from your biomechanics to buoyancy.”
1. Eat Big & Train Big
It doesn’t matter if you’re swimming, running, cycling or crawling, once you add weight you burn more calories. That’s according to scientists from the Chaim Sheba Medical Center who found the additional weight alters your, “locomotion biomechanics” — basically your technique — which leads to a, “Significant increase in energy (calorie) cost over time.” So before you even lace up your trainers or tighten your goggles, make sure you’re fully fueled.
2. Bigger Athletes Need Bigger Lungs
When training with your smaller counterparts be prepared to breathe more. It’s not necessarily because you’re less fit or have a smaller lung capacity, but research published by the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology examined the impact just 1kg of extra weight had on a person’s oxygen uptake, heart rate and pulmonary ventilation. What did they find? Basically that, “Each kilogram of extra weight increases oxygen uptake with 33.5 ml/min, heart rate with 1.1 beats/min and pulmonary ventilation with 0.6 l/min.” So (again) before you even clip into your bike know that pacing and being conscious of your breathing will be key to your heavyweight triathlon success.
3. Bodyweight & Buoyancy
Buoyancy varies based on someone’s biological individuality. Put simply all this means is we’re all different shapes and sizes and will all float differently. But one key factor is someone’s body composition. You might have 2 athletes who weigh the same, but one’s mass is made up of fat and the other athlete’s mass made of muscle. It’s common knowledge the first athlete will be more buoyant, but what few consider is the second athlete will be able to store more muscle glycogen and be better equipped with more “potential power” from their functional muscle mass on a steeply ascending cycle. In summary — and before you reach for the fat burners — know that both body types come with a set of benefits. But understanding which one you are will be key to your heavyweight triathlon success.
4. Foot Placement
This next tip can (and should) be contested since in sports science the verdict is still out on minimalist/barefoot running. Looking through the archives of sports science, the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association states, “There is no evidence that either confirms or refutes improved performance and reduced injuries in barefoot runners.” Looking through the archives of sports history and granted Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila took Olympic gold at the 1960 games completely barefoot when he found his shoes wouldn’t fit. But never has triathlon Olympic gold been won shoeless and nor have many (if any) major running championships since.
Therefore why should heavyweight runners try it? Well, based on research from the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine it was found as soldiers carried more weight, “Stride frequency increased and stride length decreased”. Basically the weight produced a greater cadence. This higher cadence is, “Likely improving stability and reducing stress on the musculoskeletal system” as the probability of injury increases with fatigue. Which is why (and again only in theory) running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, which naturally lends itself to a quicker, “more natural” cadence, might not be a bad idea for larger athletes.
5. Turn on “Bigger” Biofeedback
But the potential benefits of barefoot biomechanics don’t end with higher cadence for our bigger triathletes. Consider this, your foot is one of the most nerve-rich parts of your body. Each one comes loaded with 100,000 – 200,000 receptors that collect information and provide valuable biofeedback to the brain to make sure you’re running the way you’re meant to. How fast am I running? What’s my stride length like? Is the ground stable? Your feet basically tell a story and a story that could be invaluable if carrying more weight. That’s because when you’re heavier the ability to sense movement within joints and joint position — something called ‘proprioception’ — could prove crucial to avoiding and preventing injury. (Again theory) but if you wear these huge, padded shoes you experience this kind of shoe-induced neuropathy. You turn off this all this sensory biofeedback and become numb to what’s happening beneath you.
6. Train Abs
For heavier athletes wanting to keep a good cycling position and posture you have to condition your core. This is because research from the Département de Mécanique Appliquée at the Université de Franche-Comté analysed muscular activity during two pedalling postures and found, “The change of pedalling posture in uphill cycling had a significant effect on the muscle activity.” Specifically they discovered the influence of the “lateral sways” of the bike leads to greater activation in the biceps, triceps, glutes and – most importantly – the rectus abdominis muscles of the stomach. Add weight and that muscle activation is multiplied and with it your time to fatigue.
How do we increase work capacity?
The honest answer is complex which is why I wanted to start a topic so people can exchange all sorts of tips, tricks and methods they’ve found works for them.
Having said this, here’s the foundation principles of “Horse Power Programming” which involves:
– Decreasing training intensity 5% – 15% and increasing training volume 20-50% over 2 – 4 months
– Decreasing volume for heavy main lifts and increasing volume of bodybuilding-style lifts
– Adding additional cardiovascular training
Based on the above, here are some tried and tested strategies proven effective over time.
(1) Add More Sets!
The first is also the most simple: add sets to your routines.
Let’s say you can do 3 sets of 3 repetitions on a 140kg squat. What would then be easier? Trying to complete 3 sets of 3 repetitions with 150kg or just adding another 140kg squat for one repetition at the end? I’d hope you’d say the extra 1 repetition obviously.
Then next session add 2 repetitions with 140kg and 3 after that.
Once you’re able to do 5 to 8 sets of 3 repetitions your work capacity has improved. Now it’s time to drop back down to 3 sets with a bigger weight (maybe try that 150kg now).
The key is that adding 1 repetition per session. It’s not that taxing on your body over your established baseline. Then when you drop back to just 3 sets, it’s less volume than you’ve grown accustomed to, setting you up nicely for the subsequent re-ramping of the volume.
(2) Add More Reps
The second is equally as simple: add reps to your routines.
Made famous by legendary Canadian strongman and weightlifter Doug Hepburn, you simply pick a weight you can do 8 sets of 1 repetition with. Then slowly add an extra rep to each set until you can do 8 x 2 repetitions. Then increase the weight and start over with 1 repetition.
This is simple yet very effective for many.
(3) Add Cardio
The third is to add additional cardio-based workouts around your strength training.
This could exist in the form of 20 minutes cardio in the morning like skipping. It has very little impact on the joints and isn’t very taxing on the body which would allow you to perform your usual strength-based training in the afternoon or evening. Or, depending on your circadian rhythm (i.e. your biological clock, which determines when your body “peaks”) and your work schedule, you could perform your strength training in the morning and your cardio in the evening. Whatever method works best for you, know that adding cardio specific workouts in and around your usual strength and conditioning routines remains one of the easiest ways to increase work capacity.
(4) Add Finishers
The final way is to add movement specific “finishers” to your strength training.
This is a favorite among strength athletes since many experts warn against the dangers of adding cardio to the end of your weight training. It’s theorized this floods the body with a “cocktail of catabolic hormones” that kills your body’s natural anabolic response to training. Worth noting is this is subject to debate and varies from person to person.
But if you’re in this camp, but want to increase your work capacity “finishers” are your answer.
These are quick, intense, movement specific exercises you can add to the end of your workouts:
– 5 x 20m Sled Sprints after a big leg session
– 30 seconds x 10 battle ropes
– 10 x 10m Tyre Flips after a colossal dead lift
But know that, in summary, increasing work capacity is the “secret” to fitness (if ever there was one). Since throughout history the best athletes simply developed the ability to do more work than their competition. This in turn allowed them to adapt, improve and ultimately win.
Me and richard_fearn were just talking about recovery methods and bedtime nutrition, so I wanted to share this from a past article I wrote on a few ingredients you can look to include in your nocturnal nutrition shake
The perfect bed time shake recipe
– 30 grams Casein protein
– 2g L- Arginine
– 2g L- Lysine & Arginine
– 5g Glutamine
– 1g HMB
Slow Release Protein
The 7-9 hours you (should) spend asleep are crucial for muscle growth. Since you can’t chomp chicken every few hours, you need to pick a pre-bed shake that delivers vital amino acids and peptides throughout the night. Recent studies conducted at the University of Auvergne, France revealed dietary amino acid absorption is slower in casein than in whey protein. So favour casein protein as the basis of your pre-bed shake.
L-Lysine and L-Arginine
Your body produces up to 70% of its human growth hormone (a prime driver of muscle growth) while you are asleep. A University of Turin study saw subjects triple their HGH levels with L-Arginine supplementation – and a University of Rome study found that combining L-Arginine with L-Lysine was 10 times more effective than taking L-Arginine alone.
During deep sleep, your body releases potent substances that strengthen your immune system. Research from the University College of Dublin found the immune-boosting properties of glutamine were so impressive, it was used to treat patients with inflammatory conditions. Putting 5g in your shake to support a healthy immune system and fend off injury and illness is especially vital for those undertaking rigorous training schedules.
HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate) is an amino acid that has been proven to delay the breakdown of muscle protein, promote tissue growth and strengthen the immune system. Enough said.
SO many questions surrounding caffeine (as well as conflicting studies)….
I personally believe A LOT depends on someone’s Biological Individuality and how they respond to caffeine supplementation, but I will use caffeine during certain workouts when I feel I (honestly and truly) need the help to instil some intensity into the workout, mainly for the 3 following reasons… but it would be great to get other people’s thoughts on dosage, type of caffeine (pre workouts, coffee, yerba mate, other sources)?
(1) Reduces Your Perception to Fatigue: This is too often overlooked, but caffeine can reduce your perception to fatigue. Experts believe it does this by stimulating the production of the neurotransmitter beta-endorphin and this may explain why, when caffeine is coupled with carbohydrate supplementation to ensure muscle glycogen levels are fully topped up, athletes are able to maintain a higher intensity and maximal output for longer. Also supported by a study on grip strength to exhaustion where reported pain was lessened in the caffeine group.
(2) Increase Your Power Output: A study by Lane et al (2013) found caffeine, even when taken in low doses can improve your power. This is because the study served to analyze cycling power output and found that a dosage of 3mg/kg increased power by up to 3.5% when compared to a placebo group. Granted this might not sound like a lot, but it could be responsible for the new one rep max you put up on the bench press. Another study found that caffeine could help battle the negative effect on performance of training in the morning. Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, training early will decrease power output due to your circadian rhythms, ingesting caffeine can equalise this, allowing you to train in the morning with no ill effects. Finally, research conducted at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada found that caffeine supplementation could ‘permit an athletes to train at a greater power output and/or to train longer by producing a more favourable ionic environment within the active muscle.’
(3) Improved Your Endurance: Endurance athletes could benefit from caffeine supplementation as well as gym goers. Burke (2008) found that caffeine in low to moderate amounts can improve endurance performance. Another study on cyclists performing a 40km race found that those who took caffeine prior to the event reduced their time significantly and as far back as 1980 it was theorized and published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine that taking caffeine with carbohydrates has been shown to spare your muscle glycogen stores by encouraging your body to burn stored fat as fuel, essentially saving your muscle glycogen for those maximal intensity sprints.
Interesting post, I have used caffeine to prepare for gym based workouts, especially on the Three Peaks Rope Climb. I have found that the first 20% of my workout is where I am most sluggish even after a good warm up, so caffeine allows to to have that edge in time for my body to ‘kick in’ to the workout. However, on longer endurance running events I have heard contrasting reports, with some saying that caffeine will increase the heart rate which will be detrimental to effective training due to the sharp increase in heart rate through running anyway. It would be interesting to hear other thoughts on this?
I LOVE adding finishers to turn the body into a sweaty heap after a big session. But have been using the Free Primal 9 program as work capacity training as a supplement to running training for 16 marathons. But only if it is low to no impact, otherwise you can feel the results really quickly through both work capacity and overall performance.
This is the first time I have heard of weighted running. Of course, in the Army, running with a 25kg bag on your back is normal place, but that’s specific to advancing to battle with everything you need on your back. But is this therefore saying that there is a benefit to weighted running when training for a running specific goal?
But you can absolutely see the the science behind your feet telling the story of running when actually running and how altering cadence, foot position and stride length plays in to one another.