Why You Need to Include Plyometric Training in Your Workout Program

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PlyometricsWhile most people probably think plyometrics are only for athletes like basketball and volleyball players, there is a real-world application for including plyos in a regular program as well.

Plyometrics are a type of training that uses very quick muscular contractions designed to develop and increase muscular power.

In sports, plyos are a great way to increase performance by developing strength and power specific to an athlete’s sport. Using the example above, basketball and volleyball players use plyometrics to increase their power so they jump higher. Football players will use both lower body plyos for speed development, jumping ability and upper body plyos to help with shedding and making blocks.

So considering this, why would it be useful for the average guy to include plyos in their training?

Well, first, plyos help develop power. And power is much more useful in any type of daily physical activity than any other fitness component. When you move anything, power is required to get it done. What’s more, it’s power that lets you get more work done in a shorter amount of time. That’ll sure come in handy on those Saturday chore days!

Even more, developing power will in turn help you be able to lift more weight, increasing your strength — more strength, means more muscle.  Bigger muscles allows you to develop more strength, and more strength gives you the ability to develop more power.  So really, it becomes a cycle, leading to great benefits for you.

Second, pylos have been proven to increase Type II muscle fiber size(1). Those are the muscle fibers that help you build muscle and are your strength and power muscle fibers. This means that plyos will give you more benefit for your effort. Not only will plyos make you more powerful, they’ll help you get bigger as well.

Third, they help you become faster, quicker, and more agile (on top of being more powerful). Any guy that still plays any kind of pick up game and has that competitive edge will love this. Imagine being out on the field or court, and running circles around those younger guys. I mean, c’mon, no matter how old we get, us guys like reliving those glory days. Plyos will help.

Fourth, plyos are a great alternative to the Olympic lifts like power cleans.  The Olympic lifts are very technical, and take a while to develop the proper technique.  There are great benefits in doing the O-lifts, and for people that haven’t yet got the right technique to do them regularly, plyos are a great substitute.

Last, they’re just fun to do. Admit it, that little kid in you loves jumping around and moving in crazy ways. No I’m not saying you should be moving in crazy ways doing plyos, but the movement patterns are probably like those you haven’t done in years.

As a bonus, it helps add variety to your training, and just might give you another goal to work towards.

So give plyos a try. And studies show that it only takes 1 session per week for the average guy to get great results(2).

And stay tuned for some sample plyo workouts here at AthleticWorkouts.com.

1. Potteiger, J.A., et al. Muscle power and fiber characteristics following 8 weeks of plyometric training. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 13(3):275-279. 1999.

2. de Villarreal, ES., et al. Low and moderate plyometric training frequency produces greater jumping and sprinting gains compared with high frequency. J. Strength and Cond. Res. 22(3):715-725. 2008.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The 5 Minute Workout

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Burn fat and increase your fitness with this anytime, anywhere bodyweight workout. It will both increase strength and provide an aerobic and anaerobic benefit.

Workout Guidelines

  • Complete as many circuits as you have time for, up to 5 circuits.
  • Complete the dynamic warm-up, rest 60 seconds and then begin the circuit.
  • If you need to, you can take up to 30 seconds of rest between exercises, aiming to reduce your rest time each workout.

Equipment

  • None

Dynamic Warm-Up

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Marching High Knees 1×6 0 BW
1b. Marching Butt Kickers 1×6 0 BW
1c. Over/Unders 1×6 0 BW
1d. Inchworm 1×6 0 BW

Circuit

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Squat Jumps 1x60sec 0 BW
1b. Push Ups 1x60sec 0 BW
1c. 1-Leg Squats 1x60sec (30sec each leg) 0 BW
1d. Bird Dog 1x60sec 60 BW

 

Post-Workout Nutrition

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The benefits of post-workout nutrition is well documented. But where much of the information falls short is that it doesn’t inform people how much of a recovery drink to consume, or how to change carb to protein ratio according to your goals.

I see too many people reaching for cookie-cutter post-workout shakes or drinks. In some cases what they think is helping their program is completely derailing it.

Some pre-made post-workout nutrition shakes could be 500 calories or more. For someone whose goal is fat loss, this amount could be as much as one-third their daily caloric need!

I now make my own postworkout drinks with whey protein and Gatorade mix. When you mix vanilla protein powder with orange flavoured Gatorade, it tastes like a Creamsicle!

To help you customize your post-workout nutrition plan I’ve outlined three goals and the approximate carb to protein ratio you should be consuming post workout.

NOTE: These post-workout drinks should only need be consumed after intense exercise.

For each of the calculations below, you’ll need to find your weight in kg. If you know your weight in pounds, just divide by 2.2. So a 180 lb guy would weigh 82 kg.

You’ll also need to know your lean mass, or body fat %. If you don’t know how to measure your own, you can always head into a local gym and have someone measure it there. But don’t rely on the bioelectrical impedence scales some gyms use, or that you can buy at the store. They can have a +/- 5% error ratio. Calipers are the best way (without relying on more expensive methods), provided they come from a qualified practitioner. But if a scale is all you have, just understand it’s not the most reliable measure.

A 180 lb guy with 14% body fat would have a lean mass of 71 kg. (82 x 0.14 = 11 kg fat mass, 82 – 11 = 71 kg lean mass)

 

Fat Loss

Protein – Lean Mass x 0.6 g – For example 71 kg x 0.6 g = 42 grams of protein.

Carbohydrate – Bodyweight x 0.5 g – For example 82 kg x 0.5 g = 41 grams of carbohydrate.

Each gram of protein and carbohydrate is 4 calories. So 83 grams total carb and protein is 332 calories.

 

Maintenance

Protein – Lean Mass x 0.5 g – For example 71 kg x 0.5 g = 36 grams of protein.

Carbohydrate – Bodyweight x 1.2 g – For example 82 kg x 1.2 g = 98 grams of carbohydrate.

This recovery drink would be 536 calories.

 

Weight Gain

Protein – Lean Mass x 0.8 g – For example 71 kg x 0.8 g = 57 grams of protein.

Carbohydrate – Bodyweight x 2.0 g – For example 82 kg x 2.0 g = 164 grams of carbohydrate.

This post-workout drink would be 884 calories!

 

So next, you’d have to figure out just how much of your protein powder would match your suggested amount, as well as whatever carbohydrate you are using. You could use juice, maltodextrin, etc. Then throw everything in a shaker bottle or blender and away you go.

You could also even add in some powdered greens mix as well. Just avoid adding any kind of fats to your shake. Research suggests that it can slow carb and protein repletion to the muscle.

Make sure to have your post-workout shake within 30 minutes from the end of your workout for the most benefit.

With the calories in these recovery drinks, there is no need to add any addition calories on training days. So, on training days, just eat to satisfy your daily caloric needs, and consume your post-workout drink to reach your training day total caloric needs (and it stays goal dependent as well). On non-training days, just eat to reach your daily caloric need.

I find this helps keep things simpler, rather than cycling calories for training days, non-training days, low carb days, high carb days, etc. Just by adding this kind of post-workout nutrition will automatically take care of that for you.

And, as the AW Nutrition Plan suggests, you can eat your starchy carbs the meal after your workout as well.

An Interview With Jason Ferrugia

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Here’s an interview I came across with Jason Ferrugia, a highly sought after, world renowned strength and conditioning specialist originally based out of the New York/New Jersey area.

He’s trained more than 700 athletes from over 90 different NCAA, NFL, NHL and MLB organizations. He has also worked extensively with firefighters, police officers and military personnel as well as countless weekend warriors, Hollywood stars and entertainers.

Check it out:

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Most guys are being told to follow bodybuilding splits, train multiple times a day, and other non-sense training tactics that don’t work. What tips do you have for people looking to build muscle as fast as possible?

The key to making consistent size gains is making consistent strength gains (in a hypertrophy rep range) while eating enough food and allowing enough time for recovery. You need to constantly be doing more weight or more reps. The body will respond to any given stimulus one time and one time only. If you place the same demands on it a second time (like pressing the same weight for the same reps) nothing will happen. You must always be forcing it to adapt and thus you must always ask it do something it isn’t used to.

The easiest way to do this is add more weight or do more reps with the same weight.  Aside from making consistent strength gains the next most important thing to consider is training frequency. To improve anything in life you need to do it frequently. Building muscle is no different. So you want to train a muscle as frequently as possible, while it is in a fresh and recovered state. This means that you should be training each body part once every 2-5 days, and not once a week like a lot of the muscle mags recommend. That’s too little frequency. The more times you can stimulate growth throughout the year the better. Obviously 104 growth stimulating workouts per year for each body part would be a lot better than 52.

I have seen the phrase “stimulate, don’t annihilate” on your blog in reference to training. Can you explain what you mean by this and the relation to training volume?

To elicit a training response you need to present the body with a stimulus that it isn’t used to. This stress will cause the body to adapt. The body adapts by building itself up bigger and stronger.

Where people go wrong is that they think they need to annihilate the muscle in order to elicit any type of response. This is completely counterproductive. When you annihilate the muscle with tons of sets and reps and intensity techniques like drop sets you drastically increase your recovery time. And as I mentioned previously, frequency is very important. So when you increase your recovery time you have to decrease your training time. You’re shooting yourself in the foot.
The key is to do just enough to stimulate size and strength gains but not annihilate yourself so that it takes forever to recover, or worse- that you put yourself in a state of overtraining.

Triple Threat Muscle is your new program. What separates this program from all the others and can you tell our readers why you created it?

My Muscle Gaining Secrets program is specifically geared toward skinny guys, hardgainers and beginners. This is more of an intermediate/advanced program that is more athletically based. So while the main focus is still on building muscle there is also a shift toward a bit more speed work, mobility and conditioning in Triple Threat Muscle.
The new program was created for the typical weekend warrior or Average Joe who wants to look and train like an athlete but doesn’t actually have the time or recovery ability to spend more than a few hours per week in the gym.

I spent the last two years experimenting on a wide group of individuals to come up with the most effective and fastest way to do this. Triple Threat Muscle is the result of two years of hard work and is based on all of my findings.

And finally, what general tips can you give to our readers who want transform their bodies?

Strength train 3-4 days per week.
Lift heavy and keep most of your sets in the range of 3-10 reps.
Don’t go to failure.
Train each body part 2-3 times per week.
Don’t do more than 12-16 total sets per workout.
Always strive to get stronger.
Eat natural, organic foods and avoid anything processed.
Sleep 8-10 hours per day.
Minimize stress.
Get out in the fresh air and sun more often.

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert who is renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible. He is the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more on Jason’s new program Triple Threat Muscle, check out http://www.triplethreatmuscle.com/

Total Body Strength Athletic Workout

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Increase your total body power, strength and size with this quick, but effective workout. It is suggested for intermediate lifters and will develop all major muscle movements.

Workout Guidelines

  • If you do not have access to a barbell, use dumbbell exercise substitutes.
  • Complete the dynamic warm-up as a circuit twice, resting 30 second in between circuits.
  • Then perform the mobility section, and finish with the development section.
  • Finish with some static stretches for sore or tight areas.
  • Use a 1-0-1 tempo on all exercises except the hang clean pull — lift the weight explosively and return the weight under control.

Equipment

Dynamic Warm-Up

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Bodyweight Squats 2×10 0 BW
1b. Push Ups 2×10 0 BW
1c. Inverted Rows 2×10 0 BW
1d. Reverse Lunge w/ Twist 2×5 each leg 30 BW

Mobility

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1a. Ankle Circles 1×30 sec 0 BW
1b. Overs 1×30 sec 0 BW
1c. Unders 1×30 sec 0 BW
1d. Wall Slides 1×30 sec 0 BW

Development

Exercise SetsxReps Rest Load
1. Hang Clean Pulls 3×5 60 8RM
2a. Front Squats 3×6 0 7RM
2b. Chin Ups 3×6 60-90sec BW
3a. 1-Leg RDL 3×8 each leg 0 9RM
3b. BB Incline Press 3×6 60-90sec 7RM
4a. BB Row 3×6 0 7RM
4b. 1-Arm DB Press 3×8 60-90sec 9RM

 

Flexibility and Mobility – The Essentials

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Flexibility and MobilityIf you’re overly sore after your workouts and having a hard time recovering, it could be a result of many things.  But there are a couple of ways to help reduce or prevent soreness after workouts so you recover quicker and are able to maintain a proper level of intensity in your workouts.

For decades it was acceptable to run or jog for 5 minutes on the treadmill, do a few stretches and get into your workout.  But as research started to find out, this wasn’t the most effective way to prepare for exercise, and more specifically strength training.

You also need to be doing more than stretching to get the most out of your workouts, and you need to make sure you’re doing these things in the proper order.

I always include flexibility in my workout, but also foam rolling, and mobility work.

Now, these are terms that are used often, but a lot of people use them incorrectly (you tend to see a lot of that in this industry).

Let’s start with what they really mean:

Flexibility – is the ability to move a joint through it’s full range of motion dependent on the tissue that surrounds a joint (like muscles and tendons), and their length or elasticity.

Mobility – is the ability to actively move a joint through it’s full range of motion with control and is completely dependent on the joint itself, including the nourishment and condition of the synovial fluid that surrounds a joint. Synovial fluid is the lubricant for your joints. Kind of like the oil in your car engine.

Flexibility is a passive movement and does not require any strength, while mobility is an active movement that requires strength to move the joint through it’s full range of motion.

Mobility exercises act like an oil change for your joints. They can decompress your joints so the bones and cartilage don’t rub together. They help nourish the joint and clean up any unwanted deposits that can lodge and cause pain and prevent mobility. It’s mobility that really helps prevent premature aging and allows us to move pain-free, by restoring or maintain complete freedom of movement in your joints.

For mobility, any kind of dynamic warm-up will work here, and I like to do wall slides to help pull my shoulders back into proper posture.

Flexibility exercises (static stretches) help lengthen and loosen the elastic tissues like muscles and tendons, keeping them pliable and resistant to injury. It releases tension in tight and overworked muscles and helps promote proper posture.

Any kind of traditional static stretch works for flexibility.

Because of this, you’ll want to perform your mobility exercises prior to training as your warm-up or movement preparation (dynamic movements) to prepare your joints for the activity to come. Then after training use flexibility exercises (static stretches) to help release the tension developed during your workout and help promote recovery (regeneration).

And even before I get into the mobility work, I begin my workouts with foam rolling (I actually use a PVC pipe. It’s cheaper and it lasts longer.  Get a 3 foot long, 3 inch diameter pipe from your local home improvement store). It’s kind of like self-massage (no, not that kind) to help treat tight and sore muscles.  All you need to do is put the roller on the ground and roll over it with your sore muscles. Just make sure you are rolling in the direction of the muscle (over the length of the muscle).

Finding time to work on flexibility and mobility (as well as foam rolling) will help prevent injury and soreness, and speed up recovery, all while increasing performance in sport and daily tasks.

Image courtesy of farconville / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unilateral Strength Training – Benefits and Considerations

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Unilateral Strength TrainingUnilateral strength training is something everyone needs to incorporate into their training plan.

Unilateral Strength Training – What Is It?

Put simply, unilateral training means developing one side of the body independently.

As an example, a barbell squat would be a bilateral exercise because you are using two (bi-) legs to lift the weight. A lunge would be an example of a unilateral strength training exercise, because one (uni-) leg is dominant in the movement.

Unilateral Strength Training Benefits

Unilateral strength training provides several benefits, that traditional bilateral training often doesn’t, or can’t provide.

First, unilateral training activates deep core muscles to help keep you balanced.  When you do a movement with only one side of the body, different muscles will need to engage to compensate to stabilize the spine and pelvis.

Second, unilateral strength training replicates many real world movements, giving a functional benefit to your training.  Think about all of the things you do in a day where one limb is more dominant than the other.  Even walking and running are best developed with unilateral exercises.

Training like this will help improve your quality of life and your ability to perform at your best.

Speaking of daily activities, most of us have a dominant side.  Meaning we over-develop our stronger side and under-develop our weaker side.  As time goes on, muscular imbalances develop, putting us at risk of injury.  Most causes of back pain originate with weak abdominal stabilizer muscles.  This imbalance from front to back causes injury.

Rounded shoulders often mean weak upper back muscles, or overdeveloped upper body pushing muscles.

You golfers out there are at big risk for muscular imbalances and overuse injuries.  Performing the same movement, with the same side over and over again (and if you’re me, over and over and over …) predisposes you to injury. Unilateral strength training will help offset the effects of these types of activities.

This is why we need to train opposing movements with equal volume.  But as with the topic of today’s post, we also need to train opposite sides of the body with equal volume.

Unilateral strength training will help develop our core, is functional in nature, and helps prevent injury.

One thing to consider with unilateral training, is always train your weaker side first.  Then match your performance with your stronger side.  If you train your stronger side first to it’s best ability, then your weaker side can’t match it, all you are doing is promoting the imbalances we are talking about.

Always train the weaker side first.

Unilateral Strength Training and Your Workout Plan

I like to train everything as equally as possible.  For example, for every pushing exercise in a program, I will offset it with a pulling exercise.

As well, I like to balance out bilateral and unilateral exercises.  And if I’m forced to choose between the two, I always select a unilateral movement.

So for next week’s workouts try these examples:

  • Alternate workouts of bilateral and unilateral exercises.
  • Perform lower-body unilateral with upper body bilateral and switch the next workout.
  • Do unilateral pushing movements with bilateral pulling movements, then alternate.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Makes A Good Workout?

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I promised you that in this post I would tell you what I think makes for a good workout.  So here are my top requirements for any workout program:

  1. Focus on Compound, Free Weight Exercises.
  2. Plan exercises with a focus on movements with an equal emphasis for all planes.
  3. Plan core exercises that use stabilization and rotation.
  4. Planned and deliberate overload progression.
  5. Planned, periodized manipulation of training variables.

Hopefully you noticed my intention to use the word “plan”.  Just going to the gym and doing “10 of these” and “10 of those” will get you little to no results.

Over the next while, I’ll explain what each of these mean, and why they are essential in a training plan.

By the way, if you are a member of the site, make sure to log in on Christmas Day — I have a gift or you!

Core Training – The Plan

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In this post, the main two points were that the core has some pretty important functions, and that from the core, the body can move in three different planes of motion: the frontal plane, sagittal plane, and transverse plane.

The thing to understand today is we need to train the core movements just like we would any other movements.  And when designing a training plan, it’s important to think in cycles – weekly cycles, monthly cycles, and even yearly cycles.  Ideally, within one week’s cycle (a microcycle) we will attack all major movements in both bilateral (two-limbed) and unilateral (one-limbed).  This means for a knee dominant movement you’ll want to do something like a squat, a bilateral movement, and a step up, which is a unilateral movement.

Our thinking needs to be the same with the core.  In Core Training: The Essentials, we talked about the functions of the core being stability and force transfer.  Today, let’s call it stability (active ability to avoid movement) and mobility, which is really just active movement. So in terms of the core we’ll need to train both stability and mobility in all three movement planes.

Using the AW Training model of three workouts per week, a core training template might look like this:

  • Workout 1: Linear Stability and Rotational Mobility
  • Workout 2: Rotational Stability and Lateral Mobility
  • Workout 3: Lateral Stability and Linear Mobility

This template works very well as it reaches each movement pattern within the week.  I like this plan more for beginners, but it can be easily adapted for more advanced athletes by modifying the template a little or even just introducing more advanced exercises.

So, here’s a sample plan for beginners.

Sample Beginner Core Development Plan

  • Workout 1 (Monday): Plank and Russian Twist
  • Workout 2 (Wednesday): Stability Ball Supine Rotational Hold and Stability Ball Lateral Trunk Raise
  • Workout 3 (Friday): Side Plank and Bird Dog

Don’t forget, with linear mobility, we have to hit both flexion and extension movements.  The plank gets linear flexion stability and the bird dog hits linear extension mobility.  In the next cycle I would change it up.  More advance plans would definitely be hitting those each week.

The last thing I’ll leave you with is this:  Train your core after your bigger lifts.  Training your core first will fatigue muscles and movements you’ll need on heavier lifts.  despite what many people say, leave it to the end.  Hopefully now that you see the importance of training your core, you won’t be skipping it any more.

No Time To Workout? Try This

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No Time To WorkoutThe number one excuse I hear from people who don’t workout is time.

Well, I’d call this the 6-Minute Workout, but that sounds to “hypey” for me, so let’s just say this workout should take you about 6 minutes plus a quick warm-up.

This quick workout is based on the Tabata protocol — where you work for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds rest and repeat.  Because the workout is so short, you have to do it with intensity — be sure to work as hard as you can the whole time — or you won’t get the proper benefits.

So here’s how it goes:

  1. Dynamic Warmup
  2. Do as many Pull-ups, Chin-ups, or Inverted Rows as you can in 20 seconds
  3. Rest 10 seconds
  4. Incline DB Press for 20 seconds (should be about 10 reps, so pick an appropriate weight for you)
  5. Rest 10 seconds
  6. DB Squats for 20 seconds (again about 10 reps, use a good weight)
  7. Rest 10 seconds
  8. Russian Twists for 20 seconds
  9. Rest 10 seconds
  10. Repeat steps 2 to 9 two more times.

There it is.  6 minutes and done.

Try setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier in the morning, and run through this workout.  Even a workout like this, done regularly, can add up.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net