Train More Frequently for Better Results

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

For most of us, we are training to get stronger and add some muscle.

In doing so we will become more athletic, more resilient to injury and will be more confident with the way we look and feel.

So with this in mind a common question I am asked is how many times per week should we train in order to maximize strength gains and a leaner, more muscular physique?

And how long should training sessions be?

Should training take hours on end a couple times per week, or should we be training nearly every day utilizing shorter sessions?

As usual the answer is somewhere in the middle, and as always, it depends on the individual.

The Untrained Individual

This isn’t a knock on anyone who has been getting after training consistently, but you may not be as trained as you think.

Unless you have been training consistently for more than two years, you are an untrained individual. Again, this is not to say you are not a consistent trainee, but you still have not reached the status of a truly trained individual.

And if you are someone who has been “working out” off and on for more than two years, remember that the training must be consistent in order to be considered trained.

Untrained individuals will see dramatic improvements and progress with training when compared to trained individuals as they have a bigger window of adaptation.

Think of anytime you pick up a new skill or hobby (including training). You may not be the best at first, but you will make quick progress if you stick to it consistently. Then, after a while progress slows.

It has been shown that untrained individuals will experience sufficient strength and size gains with a more traditional, less frequent approach to training. This less frequent approach would be something like three full body sessions per week.

But, it has also been shown that these same individuals will make similar progress on a more frequent training split (4+ sessions per week).

Trained Individuals

Those of us who have been at the training game for more than 2 years (consistently) will likely experience greater progress with more frequent training when compared to three times or less per week.

And the great thing is that this is volume matched training. This means that you may not have to perform more overall volume (adding extra volume with another session in addition to your already existing three times per week), but instead you can redistribute your 3x/week training over 4+ times per week.

For example, let’s say you perform a total of 12 sets of squats per week.

To take advantage of more frequent training, you do not have to now perform more sets of squats per week (say 15-16 sets), but you can simply take your 12 sets and spread them out over more sessions during the week.

This may mean that instead of 4 sets of squats 3 days per week, you can now do 3 sets of squats 4 days per week.

And the same would go for any other exercise.

Hopefully that math is not too complicated!

 

The Added Benefits of More Frequent Training

When you only train 3x or less per week you will have to perform a high volume during those sessions to accrue a sufficient stimulus for the week.

If you train 4x or more per week you can perform less volume during those sessions as the total overall volume is now distributed over more sessions.

Not only will this decrease the amount of time each sessions takes, but in my personal experience as well as those of our athletes, it will decrease the demand on the body during each session.

I am not saying that the intensity won’t be high, actually quite the opposite. When you have less overall volume to perform in a given session, you can put more effort/intensity into each set.

Although you may try not to, if you know that you have a marathon of a session ahead, you are likely to sandbag and not push the initial sets of your session to your full capacity.

Knowing that you have less total sets to perform for a session will allow you to make the most out of every set.

Lastly, you will notice that at the end of the session you will not feel like you were just run over by a 18 wheeler! Instead, as long as you kept the intensity high, you will feel like you completed a quality session that will leave you ready to train again soon.

To Train or Not to Train…More Frequently

Taking the above info into consideration, it would seem that a greater training frequency is superior to less frequent training, especially when you are a trained individual.

Untrained individuals can achieve sufficient adaptations from a less frequent training regimen, but will still achieve the results with more frequent training.

Many of us can dedicate 45 minutes to an hour per day for training, but it is when we start talking about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half that things start to get a bit crazy!

With higher frequency training, sessions are shorter, less damage to the body will occur and because of the more frequent stimulus on the body (central nervous system, musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, hormone regulation, etc.), you will experience greater strength and muscular gains.

And the best part is that this occurs without any extra volume. Merely spreading the same training program out in an efficient manner will provide the adaptations necessary for continued progress.

Try taking your existing program and spreading it out over 4+ days and let us know how you do.

 

 

 

Make Change Easy…Easier!

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

 

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to spend the day with a bunch of really smart dudes (and dudettes) at the 3rd annual Cressey Sports Performance Fall Seminar.

While I am always excited about the talks that go over the nuts and bolts of training such as movement assessment, cueing/coaching and programming, I was the most excited to see Greg Robins present on helping athletes get and stay motivated to reach their goals, and make a positive change.

Greg’s ability to put the information into context, as well as emotionally connect with the audience made his presentation 2nd to none. It was also a great demonstration of how we as coaches, spouses, friends and family can help others make a positive change and live a happier and healthier life…and get jacked diesel and more athletic of course!

The big three components to making a change (one that actually lasts) are the mind (knowledge), the heart (emotion) and the path (situation/environment), as Greg discussed.

 

 

This was something that I had previously read about in Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, but the way Greg was able to reiterate their message was superb and a great reminder to how we can be successful with our training, nutrition and lifestyle.

So just how can we make sure that a positive change will occur, last and make it easier to obtain?

It is not by accruing more information. Many of us already know what to do and in many cases have too many options. Rather it is by making an emotional connection to the change we are seeking and then paving a path that will be the most conducive in allowing us to get there.

Here are a few tips to help you in making the change in which you seek whether it is to lose body fat/weight, gain muscle and/or strength or simply to live a healthier life that will allow you to have fun and enjoy everything to the fullest.

 

1)      Identify your goal

 This is pretty self explanatory as most of us know what our goal is, but again, it is how we get there that we need help with.

 

2)      Ask yourself why you want this at least three times

For example, if you want to lose body fat as yourself why.

Let’s say your first answer is so you can fit into your old clothes, ask yourself why again.

 

 

Your second answer may be that you want to be able to do so as you have a 10 year high school reunion in a few months.

Ask yourself why one last time and you are likely to discover that you want to lose body fat so you feel confident around others, and maybe so you can impress that someone you used have a thing for.

That is the deeper why, and the why you need to make an emotional connection.

 

3)      Make the emotional connection

From the last point you may have been able to make the emotional connection. Maybe you want a passionate relationship that you can be confident in. There is your emotional connection…the want to love, and to be happy with yourself the entire time.

Other emotions can be the driver such as fear, but discovering a positive emotion is best.

 

4)      Pave a better path

Now it is time to make the journey easier.

Develop a support team (your friends/family/colleagues) who will be there for you along the way. Make sure they know about your goals and ask them to help you. If they think it is silly and tell you to forget it, well, forget them. Remove them from the situation.

 

 

Next, make your living environment fit your goals. Again relating to health and performance, try to get replace the temptations that may hold you back from your goals such as highly processed, high sugar foods. Try replacing them with something else that is still sweet but healthy.

And if your daily routine consists of you working, getting home and sitting on the couch, make it a point to replace sitting on the couch with something else such as a walk, foam rolling session or quick training session.

The idea is to replace the non-constructive stuff with more conducive items/activities.

 

5)      Make the change EASY

If the change you are seeking seems like a daunting task, make it much simpler. Instead of losing 20lbs, think of losing 1-2 pounds per week as the goal.

And even better, make the goal a process goal. Forget about losing weight/fat and focus on building routines/habits such as eating protein with each meal, going for a 10 minute walk every morning or taking 15 minutes to chill out in the middle of your day.

Whatever you think you can do 99% of the time.

As Greg mentioned, it is the little successes that will grow into big accomplishments and allow us to continue to make progress. So try and recognize your little successes and keep them piling up!

 

Conclusion

While this article is an extremely, let me repeat, EXTREMELY watered down version of what we discussed (in fact this may be only about 5% of what Greg covered), it is a good start to understanding a conducive behavior change process.

As Greg and I talked about afterwards, it doesn’t matter if you (or the person who is trying to make the change) knows 100% of the what they need to do if they are not emotionally invested and have a path to follow.

Greg and I both agreed that we would rather have an athlete who only understands 10% of what to do and does that nearly 100% of the time than an athlete who knows 100% of the information, but only does 5% of what they know, and only 50% of the time…that works out to 10% vs 2.5% for those you who really want the math!

So identify your goal, ask yourself why 3 times, find the emotion attached and start to plan the path that will allow you to get closer to your goals every day. And when your goals change (which they will) repeat the process and live a happy and healthy life defined by the body and confidence you want and deserve.

If you liked this article share it with EVERYONE so they have a better chance of reaching their goals and making positive changes…and give Greg a shout out because he is a smart dude!

The High Knee Wall Drive

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

If you read last weeks post you would know that this past weekend the Momentum Team traveled to Hamden, CT to spend the weekend learning from one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in our industry, Nick Winkelman of EXOS ( if you don’t know about Nick click HERE and just know that he is an incredibly smart dude!). 

A majority of the conference was focused on getting athletes fast (acceleration and top speed) as well as how to help athletes enhance reactive ability (agility). Because of this we covered numerous drills that helped bring about and solidify mechanics in both acceleration and top speed movement.

 

 

A couple of key concepts that were carried throughout the entire weekend were:

1)      The importance of a quality knee drive (a violent action achieving 80 degrees of hip flexion with one leg, while simultaneously achieving full hip extension of the other…also known as hip separation).

2)      The importance of maintaining a long, rigid torso during sprinting, running and overall movement as it acts as an anchor for leg and arm action and a base for force transfer (this is nothing new if you have been reading my articles about the importance of core position and control all along!).

When we can maintain a long, rigid torso via a strong and properly functioning core we can then transfer force efficiently which allows us to sprint faster, cut quicker, lift heavier and move better overall…a good thing if we are trying to enhance overall health and performance.

And with these goals in mind, Nick brought us through a series of drills.

While there is no way I can cover all of these drills in this article (nor would I as I am not a fan of straight regurgitation of information) I do want to present one drill that I have begun to implement with my athletes that has tremendous overall benefits, not just speed development.

And what better way than with a quick video?!

So here is a video covering the High Knee Wall Drive. Below the video are some key benefits of the exercise as well as a little further discussion. Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

Key Benefits

1)      Promotes the quality and timing of hip separation (hip flexion and extension) which is critical for sprinting, running and many other lower body movements such as lunges, single leg deadlifts, step ups, etc.

2)      Provides core control and strengthening (our ability to maintain trunk posture/position so there is no flexion, extension or rotation while moving extremities).

3)      Along with number 2, it helps to improve overall postural awareness.

4)      Works to improve single leg stance by focusing on not allowing a weight shift and hip fallout.

5)      Helps to activate the glute of the down/drive leg.

6)      Helps to enhance strength of hip flexor of the up/through leg.

Once your High Knee Wall Drive is solid you can then take the same principles to marching, skipping, bounding and then running. And again, this is not only great for running mechanics, but more so, overall efficient movement. 

Hopefully this article and video gives you another exercise to add to your arsenal, and you understand just how effective it can be when executed properly. Let me know what you think as you start to use it.

If you have any questions or comments leave them below.

The Half Kneeling Cable Lift

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

 

When most talk about “big bang for your buck” exercises they mention the deadlift, squat, bench, pull up and row variations.

It is rare that you find “core exercises” listed in this category, but as you will see in the video below, the Half Kneeling Cable Lift definitely belongs in this category.

In the video you will learn how to execute the Half Kneeling Cable Lift correctly and the common flaws to watch out for.

Share this post with your friends and family because with it, they can also enhance their programs, results and lives.

 

 

Get Dense!

We have all seen it, and maybe we have even done it ourselves.

Too often a training session becomes a social extravaganza where we waste time discussing everything from the weather outside to the latest screw ups of The Biebs (which recently have been plentiful), instead of getting to work and getting things done!

I am not suggesting that training should not be a time to socialize, as getting after it with some friends can be a great motivator, but taking 2+ hours to complete a session that should last no longer than 45 minutes to an hour is a problem.

Besides the fact that almost every American complains that they are busy and don’t have time, another issue with slothing your way through a session (yes, I know “slothing” is not a word, but I am the one writing!) is that many of our goals rely heavily on the overall stress and hormonal adaptation that is a result of packing in lots of work in a shorter period of time.

How much work you get done in a period of time is also referred to as your training density.

The more dense a session is the higher the stress is on the body, the greater the hormonal response (higher testosterone and growth hormone) and the better the physical adaptations…as long as intensity and nutrition are sufficient (50 sets of power curls in the squat rack don’t count, and you are just being an inconsiderate INSERT EXPLICIT that is strongly disliked by fellow gym patrons).

Do not be these dudes…please!

Increasing training density is a great way to decrease training time for those of us who can only dedicate a short amount of time to a training session or if something suddenly comes up. Increasing training density is also a great way to further enhance hypertophic adaptations of tissues (muscle growth) as well as promote greater caloric expenditure as heart rate will be kept elevated, and EPOC will be greater (excess post oxygen consumption, or how many calories you utilize to recover after training).

**Note: If your main goal is to increase maximal strength/power or acquire a new skill, taking more time to complete the training session, or at least that piece of the session is warranted. The greatest strength/power gains and the optimal way to new skill acquisition is by taking your time and allowing the central nervous system to recover between sets.

But for the rest of us, just how can we increase the density of our training session? There are a few simple ways that I like to do so with my own training, as well as the training of my athletes.

1)      Use tri-sets and quad-sets instead of supersets: Most programs are written in a superset fashion (1a,1b then 2a, 2b, etc.). To increase density try trisets (running through 3 exercises in back to back fashion) or quadsets (4 exercises grouped). You can take your existing program that may contain 8 exercises for example, and instead of 4 pairs of supersets, make two groupings of 4 exercises (1a, 1b, 1c, 1d then 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d).

2)      Go for time: Typically training sessions are completed based on sets and reps. Instead, try setting a time limit and

completing as many sets of your exercises as possible.

For example, say you are performing a deadlift and push-up superset, instead of going for 4 sets of 6 reps each, try to see how

This gives you a training session of roughly 25 minutes (I am including 4 minutes to get to the next exercises) instead of a training session that is based on 4 sets for each superset.

Time is limited so you have to work as quickly as possible! many sets of 6 you can complete in 7 minutes then move on to the next exercises and give yourself another 7 minutes and repeat one more time with another superset.

3)      Go for sets and reps: The opposite of number 2 is to set a certain amount of sets and reps and try to complete them as quickly as possible.

For example, yesterday I performed a tri-set of forward lunges, feet elevated push-ups with chains and feet elevated TRX rows with chains for 5 sets (after a sufficient warm up). I recorded the time it took me to complete the 5 sets, wrote it down and will try to beat it the next time.

Crushed in in less than 30 minutes, including warm up…boom!

Get Dense

There are 3 ways you can increase the density of your training sessions, save time and compete with yourself to further enhance progress and goals.

The next time you find yourself short on time, in the mood to discuss the travesties of today’s youth or simply unmotivated at the start of a session, get after some one of these density protocols and reap the benefits of increasing the amount of work done in a shorter period of time…yes, bigger muscles, less fat and an overall feeling of badassary!

Like this post and found it useful?…Share it with your friends and family to help spread the good word and help others get after it and achieve their goals!

Tempo for Bigger Gains

 

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

Whether you are a newbie in the game of training, a seasoned athlete looking to gain the competitive edge or a general fitness enthusiasts trying to look great naked and have more confidence, utilizing tempo within your training programs can help cement proper movement patterns, strengthen weak points and burn a little extra calorie while boosting the precious hormones necessary for greater progress.

So what is tempo? Simply, tempo is how quickly you produce different phases of a given exercise or movement.

Usually tempo is described using 3 to 4 phases (described by a 3-4 number system) including the eccentric phase (lengthening or down phase), isometric (bottom or transition phase) and the concentric phase (shortening or up phase). Some will also throw in another isometric phase at the starting point of an exercise, but for the purpose of this post we will only focus on the first 3.

For example, let’s look at a squat. As you descend into the squat you are performing the eccentric phase (going down). At the bottom of the squat, right before you are about to come back up, you are in the isometric or transition phase. Lastly, coming up from the bottom of a squat is the concentric phase.

Using tempo with the squat might look something like a 3, 1, 2 tempo or 3 seconds on the way down, a 1 second pause at the bottom and 2 seconds to return to the starting position. This is the same for any exercise such a deadlift, push up, row, lunge, step up, etc.

By manipulating the tempo, you can better achieve certain qualities and goals, and better build a more resilient body that you can slap an S on the front of and feel good about it…man or woman!

When you are first learning a new pattern, try utilizing a slower tempo such as a 3, 2, 2 tempo so you can better groove a quality pattern, spend more time in the difficult phases (down and transition) and build eccentric strength. This will help solidify proper movement, set a foundation for progress and prevent injury.

Once you achieve a good pattern you can change the tempo to make it a little more explosive on the concentric phase and then decrease the transition phase time…especially if you are an athlete looking to increase athletic potential. You may go to a 3, 1, 1 tempo for example.

If you are trying to increase muscle size (muscle hypertrophy) as well as torch extra fat, also utilizing a slower tempo is useful. When load is sufficient, increasing the time under tension of that load promotes greater stress on the tissues and results in a more optimal hormonal response for muscle growth…as long as nutrition is on par as well! And if you are going for fat loss, more time under tension requires more work and caloric expenditure.

If you are trying to maximize athletic qualities (strength speed, power, agility, etc.) using a quicker tempo is more task specific. In practice or games your body does not have the time to consciously get into proper movements or take time to transition from deceleration to acceleration. In this case, a quicker more explosive tempo such as 1, 0, X (a 1 second eccentric, 0 second transition and a concentric that is as explosive as possible) can and should be used, BUT ONLY <– read that again, when patterns are perfected from building a base of proper movement and slower tempos FIRST!!!

Conclusion

Manipulating the tempo at which you perform movements/exercises is a great way to further progress and get more specific with your training.

If you are learning a new pattern, use a slower tempo with less intensity (resistance). If you are looking to maximize muscle hypertrophy and fat loss, use a slower tempo with sufficient load. And if you are looking to maximize athletic performance (strength, power, agility, etc.) using a quicker, more explosive tempo will be more specific to practice and sport.

Keep track of the tempos used with the 3 number system and see what works best for you. There are tons of combinations that can be utilized, but the overall principles described above do not change.

If you found this information useful make sure to send it along to your friends and family and leave any questions or comments below…have you used tempo training in the past? How did it work?

 

 

Common Exercise Flaws and the Fixes: The Row

 

By: Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

Upper body rowing variations have become a staple in many strength and conditioning programs, and for good reason.

As human beings, many of us spend much of our time in an anteriorly dominated world (most of the activity we do happens in front of us). Whether we are sitting down for a meal, working at the computer, getting our learn on in the classroom or checking the latest Facebook post on our mobile device, our posture becomes one that is defined by protracted and anteriorly tilted scapulae (our shoulder blades are rounded and tipped forward) and a flexed thoracic spine (upper back is rounded).

While there are some of us that do not fall into these patterns (athletes stuck in extension or those of us sporting the “superhero look”), for most of us, this Quasimodoesque posture defines us.

And unless you are incredibly conscious of your daily posture and are willing to stop stalking people on Facebook and filling your free time playing Angry Birds, it is going to be hard to combat these postural flaws. But as always, there are certain movements we can prioritize in our strength and conditioning programs that can help.

This is where PROPER upper body rowing exercises can help. While proper rowing mechanics can benefit our performance and aesthetic outcomes, improper upper body rowing can further exacerbate issues.

In order to make sure you are maximizing upper body rowing, and keeping yourself from working your way into banged up shoulders and a cranky lower back, check out this video. I have also provided a list summarizes the main points.

 

 

1)      Try starting the exercise in the “finished position” with the scapula(e) tipped up and back and the elbow in line with the body or slightly extended.

2)      Keep the core engaged (spine neutral) and do not allow the ribs to flare up as you go through the exercise.

3)      Lower your body / the weight under control and do not allow your scapula(e) to “fly” of the side of your ribcage, although you should feel the scapula(e) moving away from the spine.

4)      Think about pulling / leading the motion with the scapula(e) and not by pulling with the elbow or arms. Think as if your arms were cut off at the shoulder and the system / handle was attached to your scapula(e), and lead the motion with the scapula(e).

5)      The row is finished when your scapula(e) can no longer move towards the spine. Your elbow(s) should be in line with the body or slightly behind, but not excessively behind the body as this promotes an anterior (forward) tilt of the scapula(e) and anterior translation of the humeral head (head of the upper arm bone)…both are no good when it comes to healthy shoulders and maximal strength and power output.

6)      Hold the end position to really feel the scapula(e) being tipped up and back. The muscles on the inside of your shoulder blades should be doing most of the work.

PROPERLY row your way to a stronger, leaner and healthier upper body and share these tips! Any other cues or comments?…Share them below.

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