The Harder You Fall, The Higher You Bounce
by Dustin Matteson
What is the primary goal for lifting weights? If you answered building muscle then you win the prize! So along with working out and eating right, what is the next biggest adjustment you can make to reach your goals? The answer to that one is taking supplements to build muscle.
Now there are a lot of supplements on the market. Some are for losing weight, others for general health, and also ones that really help with muscle gain. That is where our focus is today.
The Top 8 Muscle Builders
In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of these supplements to build muscle focus on recovery. That is because recovery is where the truth muscle growth takes place. It isn’t just the hard work in the gym that builds the muscle; the true increase in size and strength comes as your body recovers and grows back stronger. Supplements are a great option to help that process.
In the world of bodybuilding and fitness
by Rash Riprock
The following article is a screamer. To be honest, we debated about whether or not we should print it. After all, it’s about the smarmy, sometimes deviant sex lives of bodybuilders. We have no proof of any of the allegations and besides, the article sure isn’t going to help anyone put on any muscle. How, then, could we justify running this article?
In the end, we decided that it was simply fun to read, and that alone was justification enough. See if you agree with us:
It used to be that our heroes were truly above mere mortals. People like presidents, movie stars, and singers were revered, worshipped, and put on pedestals. They were somehow better, more moral than the rest of us. If it weren’t for the fact that they bore children, we would never have imagined that these famous folk even had sex. Sex lives were far too personal a subject for the media to ever address. Well, times sure have changed. Zippergate has proven that the demand to know about Bill Clinton’s fellatio antics with chubby intern Monica Lewinsky is powerful enough to dominate newspaper headlines and news broadcasts for an entire summer so far. Tabloid newspapers and TV shows gleefully report on celebrities cheating on spouses, shtupping the babysitter, even dressing up in women’s panties and biting lovers on the back. Yup, it’s 1998 and we greedily lap up every morsel of information on the sexual quirks, improprieties, and assorted carnal desires of our icons. I say it’s time us beefheads got in on the gossip action. Many of the heroes you see in the pages of Flex, Musclemag, etc, have sex lives every bit as depraved and fascinating as any president or Hollywood star. Though the names have been changed to protect these pillars of the physique world, those of you who closely follow the “underside” of bodybuilding and fitness will recognize the parties described. Here you go, curious readers-some of the steamiest (and in some cases, seediest) characters from our own world of bodybuilding and fitness!
Fans of unadulterated size have been a fan of this big dolt for six years now. A former North American champion, his resemblance to Frankenstein’s monster is truly striking. In fact, all he would need at Halloween to complete the costume would be some fake glue-on bolts for his neck. To compliment his repugnant countenance, he’s got snaggly teeth, wheezes and sputters like an 80-year-old asthmatic, and reeks of a funky body odor that brings to mind a rank monkey cage at the zoo. A real prize for any woman, right? You would think all of this would be enough to drive away the fairer sex, but the fact is, one woman was so in love with him that upon finding out her best friend was sleeping with the big lug, she committed suicide. His cheating heart didn’t stop after this brutal wake-up call, of course. He ended up marrying the best friend, while continuing to philander with the unbridled lust of a stud bull hopped up on gallons of anabolics. For a long time, he maintained a long-distance affair with a fitness champion from France, seeing her whenever guest-posings, the Grand Prix tour, or the FIBO convention brought him to Europe. His undoing turned out to be taking an American mistress who he moved from the East Coast to an apartment in Los Angeles so he could have frequent access to the forbidden poontang. Lunk’s wife discovered evidence of the kept woman and the love nest, and secretly cleaned out the joint checking and savings accounts. Lunk had recently opened a personal training gym, and without the money to make lease and equipment payments, he subsequently lost it all. Lunk Mullethead learned that the adage is indeed true-Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
This 260-pound former USA champion was made infamous due to his near-murder by choking of his live-in girlfriend, a 100-pound fitness model/nymphomaniac who has slept with nearly every black bodybuilder in Southern California. What would shock his fans even more is his voracious sexual appetite. Wilt Chamberlain has nothing on Smooth. At every contest he attends or competes in, he hooks up with one or more new conquests whom he often shares with his fellow pro bodybuilding buddies in a gang bang. But contests provide him with just a fraction of his sex partners. Smooth Sexmachine is a frequent sight at L.A.’s raunchiest S & M and bondage nightclubs, places with names like Rubber, Sin-O-Rama, and Naked Hollywood. There, wearing painted-on lycra shirts and leather pants, he finds a cornucopia of willing young women to take home and treat to a night of rough sex. All well and good, just consensual sex between mature adults, right? True, but the kicker is that in this AIDS-ridden society, Mr. Smooth refuses to wear a condom. Have your fun, but if you get in bed with the Devil, sooner or later you’re gonna get fucked.
At first, Stumpy seemed like an old-fashioned guy with family values. Not long after immigrating to America, this vertically-challenged powerhouse became engaged to one of the top fitness women at the time. Then, when the engagement was broken off, he told anyone who would listen how sick and sluttish she was, preferring anal sex not only with his member, but with the largest objects she could cram up in the hole that’s meant for exit only. Allegedly she was admitted to the hospital more than once for colon injuries related to her fetish. How embarrassing for him when they got back together and the engagement was back on. Of course, they broke up again and the trash-talking resumed. This time he offered an explanation for her deviation: the girl’s mother was a lesbian. Humiliated by the bodybuilding and fitness industry’s knowledge of her most personal secrets, she moved out of state, vanished from the scene, and got fat. Soon after, Stumpy met and married an ex-bodybuilder. So devoted was this sweet young woman that she was his biggest fan and public-relations person, assuring all that McGee was underrated and overlooked, and that his physique would soon earn him the Mr. Olympia title. How did Stumpy repay her loyalty? By cheating on her flagrantly. The coldest moment came when she was tearfully packing her things to leave at last. Stumpy allegedly said, “This is too depressing. Me and my new gal are gonna go catch a movie. Have a nice life.”
She’s been a champion in two fitness organizations, but bodybuilding insiders know her for her notorious sexual appetite. Apparently, she likes to proposition studly bodybuilders for nights of incredible sex as only a woman who can contort herself into pretzel shapes can offer. She’s married, and her husband has no problem with this. Of course, that’s because he gets off on being in the room and watching while some ‘roided out stallion plays porno star with his oversexed spouse. To each his own, as they say. I don’t think any of the selected meatheads who accepted this generous offer have complained yet.
Gary Gay For Pay
This cat turned pro as a middleweight, and had a heck of a time gaining the size he needed to compete successfully against the freakazoids of the IFBB. He solved this problem by moving for a year to a doctor’s house on the East Coast to be his “personal trainer.” Supposedly doc repaid him for sexual favors by providing all the bodybuilding drugs Gary could possibly want or need. He came back well over 200 pounds and did well for a time, but soon his recreational drug problems, which had plagued him since his teenage years, robbed him of his bodybuilding ambitions. He pops up now and then as one of the 30 guys to take the honored “16th place” at Night of the Champions.
Most new fans to bodybuilding will probably never have heard of this big Brit, who competed briefly as a pro in the late 1980s and early 1990s. His achievements in bodybuilding aren’t exactly noteworthy, but his status as a lady’s man is legendary. In the London gym where he trains, Sterling is famous for his fast seduction techniques with female members, having intercourse within an hour of meeting most women. His classy location for his romantic rendezvous is always a certain stall in the men’s locker room. Recently he announced his intention of competing in the Master’s Olympia. If he does, maybe he can pass on some pointers to the other older guys so they too can save a fortune on Viagra.
Many bodybuilders are jealous of tall, dark, and handsome Dirk because he’s making a great living with a contract from a major supplement company, despite never having won a major contest. His sculpted face has been on dozens of covers in the past two years, usually with some gorgeous piece of ass wrapped around him like a cheap suit. If people knew how successful he was with women, their jealousy might turn up a few notches to obsessive, hateful envy. Dirk was engaged to a woman who wasn’t quite as hot as the fitness women he was used to, but whose family fortunes more than made up for it. During his engagement to her, he used every out-of-town opportunity (representing his supplement company at contests, conventions, and trade shows) to rack up the young, nubile female conquests. At one women’s fitness contest in 1997 where he served as a judge, I personally witnessed him that same night making out with the winner on a sofa at a dance club, then leaving for a night of animalistic sex. Dirk recently found a woman with more money than his fianc?, dumped the fianc?, and is now engaged to the wealthier girl. Some think Dirk is just a big, dumb pretty boy, but I think they underestimate his crafty ambitions and manipulative strategies tremendously.
Scoop is a bodybuilding writer/NPC judge/celebrity trainer and nutritionist who has written bitterly of his psychological addiction to steroids while he was off following a shoulder surgery, then went right back on the drugs a few weeks later. He left his wife for an exotic fitness model and ESPN starlet who he was training at the time. All seemed well for a while, as these two soon married and his training consultation company in Los Angeles did booming business. About nine months after their marriage (his third), she began to suspect that Scoop was more than a trainer to one of his newest clients, a stunning blonde fitness model twenty years his junior. Her suspicions were confirmed, and shortly after she moved out she spotted the young vixen sporting the same expensive diamond ring Scoop had given her just months before, which had mysteriously disappeared from her things just before she had moved out. Scoop had passed off her rock as a gift to the new girl! In chick mentality, where jewelry can often symbolize the most hallowed aspect of a relationship, this is a pretty low thing to do. But, the soon-to-be ex-wife barely had time to get to hate the new girl, as she too was soon dumped and replaced by Scoop’s newest client, a former Playboy Playmate and actress. It’s been two years since, and Scoop has continued his time-honored tradition of sleeping with as many of his beautiful female clients as possible.
The intent here has been neither to condemn nor condone the sexual and romantic habits of some of bodybuilding and fitness’ most noteworthy personalities. None of us is without sin, and morality and ethics differ from person to person. In many cases, those who judge “sinners” most harshly are either secretly guilty themselves or fiendishly envious of said promiscuity. Our curiosity regarding the sexual activities of others is insatiable, which explains not only major media scandals like Zippergate, but even minor phenomena such as the emerging market dominance of home made and amateur videos in pornography. You’ve read how these men and women trained, ate, and conquered the physique world; now you also know what they do behind closed doors. The stars of bodybuilding and fitness are made of flesh, just like you and me. Their flesh might be more massively muscled, shapely, and striated, but in the end it’s still flesh-and the flesh is weak.
I bet my Hello Kitty sleep mask that you sleep abnormally.
It’s not your fault, though. Blame it on James Watt, Jean Lenoir, Henry Ford, or any one or all of the guys responsible for the industrial revolution. Blame it on Tommy Edison, or if you need a more current scapegoat, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, or those Nick at Nite people who run those delightful reruns that beckon to your sleep-deprived spirit like some bare-breasted Siren hopped up on No Doze.
Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, had it all figured out years ago but he was afraid to tell the country.
This is how it started:
One of Ekirch’s areas of study was the history of the night. As he haunted the library stacks, looking for clues to how people in the past spent the hours between dusk and dawn, he kept stumbling on peculiar references to “first sleep” and “second sleep.”
There they were in The Canterbury Tales. And then again in relatively ancient medical textbooks that recommended people sleep on one side during first sleep and the other side during second sleep. He even found stories about how a naked Benjamin Franklin would read between first sleep and second sleep, no doubt being careful not to slam shut a heavy political tome on his schlong of a bookmarker.
Ekirch had rediscovered a normal part of human life. After sunset, people used to go to sleep and then reawaken some time after midnight. They’d then get up, eat, socialize, read, screw, whatever, and go back to bed.
He was freaked out. He didn’t know if he should tell the world that it sleeps unnaturally; that it sleeps wrong, that consolidated, or all-at-once-sleep, isn’t the norm and it shouldn’t be the object of heroic physical, psychological, or pharmaceutical efforts.
So he fretted away, wondering what to do. That is until, serendipitously, he read about research conducted by Thomas Wehr, a psychiatrist at the National Institute of Health.
Wehr did experiments where he kept humans away from artificial light of any kind. After a couple of weeks, they started to fall asleep early – right after the sun went down – and then wake up after midnight. They’d lie awake for an hour or so and then fall back asleep.
Deprived of light, the subjects resorted to historical norms, dividing up their sleep into two distinct periods!
Wehr also found that this period between the first sleep and the second sleep was the most relaxing time of the day, almost akin to some yogi-like meditation. He confirmed this observation biochemically as he found that subjects were pumping out large amounts of prolactin, the post-orgasm hormone, during this mid-sleep period.
Roger Ekirch, the guy who had been studying the history of the night, read about Wehr’s experiments and contacted him, whereupon they compared notes.
What they realized was that it was perfectly normal for humans to sleep in two stages; in fact, it’s what they were designed to do. It was only the industrial revolution and its requirement that workers show up to work every day at a predetermined unholy hour, along with the invention of the light bulb, that screwed up the first sleep/second sleep behavior.
People no longer went to bed when it got dark. Instead, people put on a gingham dress and played Mother Nature themselves by turning light into darkness by the pull of a light cord any time they chose.
[Of course, complete darkness is hard to achieve even when you turn your light off, as the modern nighttime sky positively glows with the scattered light of millions of streetlights, traffic lights, movie theater marquees, and neon signs. Consider that after the 1994 Los Angeles earthquake and subsequent power outage, hundreds of alarmed Angelinos called the police department to report an ominous “silvery cloud” in the sky. What they were seeing, presumably for the very first time, was the Milky Way.]
As time went by, people forgot this ancient part of themselves. The first sleep/second sleep thing was cast aside. (Beyond that, the very act of sleep itself was derided by figures such as Edison himself, who felt that it was a sign of laziness.)
Wehr released a subsequent study, augmented with the historical background supplied by Ekirch, and waited for the tsunami of public wonder and gratitude. But nothing happened. Nobody cared.
But people kept on waking up at night, of course. As much as they tried, their genetic memory wouldn’t let them forget about first sleep and second sleep. Still, millions of people wale and gnash their teeth because they can’t sleep through the night, and doctors continue to write hundreds of thousands of sleep prescriptions for a condition that is, physiologically speaking, perfectly normal.
The anxiety over perceived poor sleeping patterns isn’t new. Joseph von Meering and Emil Fisher invented the very first sleeping pill, Veronal, in 1903 to combat sleep abnormalities. It was a barbiturate, which meant that patients developed a tolerance to it and needed larger and larger doses.
That might not have been so bad had the recommended dosage not been so close to the fatal one, especially when mixed with alcohol.
The benzodiazepines, like Valium, heralded the next generation of sleep drugs in the 70’s. They too had problems, though, in that they were highly addictive because they made users high. Enter Ambien in 1993. It, and its more recent competitor, Lunesta, caused far fewer side effects, which led to the FDA approving them for long-term use.
But here’s the rub: a number of studies have shown that Ambien and Lunesta offer no significant improvement in sleep quality. One National Institute of Health study showed that the pills only make people fall asleep 12 minutes faster than placebo, along with only extending sleep an average of 11 minutes.
Add to that the fact these drugs cause anterograde amnesia. That means they make it harder for the brain to form short-term memories. So it’s quite possible you’ll still fight for sleep after taking Ambien or Lunesta, but you’ll think you slept great because you won’t remember being awake!
Aside from disruptions of the first sleep and second sleep pattern, there are plenty of other sleep problems that plague humans.
There’s sleep apnea, of course, which, depending on who you talk to, is caused by overdeveloped neck muscles, being a fat bastard, possessing a large cow-like tongue or big tonsils, or even having a funny shaped head.
The apnea is characterized by waking up gasping for air several times at night (which you may or may not remember when you wake up). Sufferers usually wake up with a headache, dry mouth, gummy teeth, and feel tired all the time.
The gold standard treatment (aside from exercise and losing weight if you’re one of the aforementioned fat bastards) is a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) unit like the one Junior Soprano wore that caused Tony to ask him how many MIGs he shot down last week.
Then there’s the far more common occurrence of “sleep maintenance” problems, of which the first-sleep/second-sleep phenomenon has mistakenly been included. The term simply refers to being able to fall asleep and stay asleep and poor sleep maintenance is a far bigger problem than realized, with conservative estimates of sufferers ranging from 50 to 70 million Americans (around 2 out of 5 adults). Poor sleepers may actually wake up hundreds of times a night for only a few seconds each time but not realize it.
They only know that they never feel rested.
The body is designed to cycle through 5 stages of sleep every 90 minutes. The 5th stage is the much-ballyhooed REM stage that’s thought to be the most restful stage. It’s also where most vivid dreams occur. During this stage the body sends out hormones that pretty much paralyze your arms and legs so they don’t act out what you’re dreaming. Obviously, as sleepwalkers or night thrashers will attest, it doesn’t always work that way.
And if you repeatedly wake up before you get into REM sleep, you’ll begin to suffer detrimental effects to memory, motor skills, and performance in general.
Then there’s the problem of not being able to fall asleep in the first place. This type of insomnia is often self-inflicted, the result of the brain’s refusal to stop thinking about itself.
Sleeping itself is actually contradictory. As sleep professor Emily Martin of NYU stated, ”It [sleep] is precious good…but it is a good like none other, because to obtain it one must seemingly give up the imperative to have it.”
And have it we must, but no one really knows why. Allan Rechtschaffen and Bernard Bergman of the University of Chicago performed the now classic sleep experiment where they deprived rats of sleep for two weeks.
The rodents began to self-destruct. They developed weird spots and festering sores and their hair fell out. They couldn’t shuffle while filming cute Kia commercials and were replaced by hamsters. Then they dropped dead. The researchers couldn’t figure out why, though, but their best guess was that just staying awake drained their body systems and made them lose their ability to regulate body temperature.
We don’t subject humans to such extreme studies, but we know that even limited sleep deprivation leads to increased blood pressure, incredible cravings for carbs, a drop in body temp, and a weakening of the immune system.
Add all that up and you’ve got lousy body comp, poor performance, limpdick, and practically any other physical and psychological shortcoming you can come up with.
But when it comes down to specifics, no one really knows why sleep is so important, prompting Rechtschaffen to observe that, “if sleep doesn’t serve an absolutely vital function, it is the greatest mistake evolution has ever made.”
Perhaps a couple of better questions are why, if it’s so important, is it so hard to achieve, and what can be done to make it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep?
Of all the obstacles to sleep, perhaps the most daunting is the person sleeping next to you.
People who share their bed are about 50% more likely to be disturbed at night by their bedmate’s punching, snoring, farting, or getting up to go to the bathroom or quaff a MAG-10. Then there are the age-old points of contention like temperature and blanket dominance.
When asked to rate their quality of sleep, people almost always said that they slept better when someone was next to them, but brain wave studies suggest otherwise. Test subjects who slept by themselves were less likely to wake up at night and they usually slept 30 minutes longer on nights they spent by themselves.
Contrast that with the effects of Ambien or Lunesta, which caused people to sleep only 11 minutes longer. Examined that way, it seems that sleeping alone is a more effective sleep aid than pharmaceuticals!
Architects and housing developers are aware of the advantages of sleeping alone and they predict that by 2016, half of all custom-built homes will have separate master bedrooms. Somewhere, sleep researcher Neil Stanley, who said that that “there’s only one good reason to share a mattress,” is nodding his head in approval.
Unfortunately, given hectic modern lifestyles, couples lament that sleeping together in the same bed was the only time they got to spend time together.
So what conclusions have we come to so far?
First, it’s clear that sleep is paramount to both mental and physical performance. Whether you want to get stronger, bigger, have better body comp, or get ejicated, getting enough sleep is as crucial or more crucial than anything else you might do to further those ends.
Secondly, we know that waking up at night is probably a vestige of your genetically programmed first sleep/second sleep pattern and that rather than lie awake and curse the sleep gods, you might get up briefly and do something productive or pleasurable.
And thirdly, most prescription sleep aids might not help that much and that any supposed benefit might merely be the cause of a faulty, lyin’ memory.
(A better option might be BIOTEST’s Z-12, whose primary ingredient is beta-phenyl-gamma-aminobutyric acid HCL, a chemical that acts as both an anxiety reducer and a nootropic. It brings a lasting sleep more quickly and true to its nootropic nature, doesn’t impair memory.)
What might be more conducive to a good night’s sleep than most pills is sleeping alone, but whether couples will make this choice is doubtful given that sharing the same bed has long been the barometer of connubial bliss; i.e., if couples don’t share a bed, neighbors think the Schwarzeneggerian husband must have been schtupping der maid and he’s been relegated to the couch.
(An alternative to sleeping alone might be to buy a Tempurpedic bed or something similar. I know from personal experience that I could be sleeping on one side of the bed while three naked coeds were having a pillow fight on the other and not feel the slightest disturbance because the bed’s design keeps the movements localized.)
At best, I’ve provided some understanding of the problem, but none of it might be of much help to the textbook insomniac who lies awake much of the night trying to force sleep as if it were just another heavy weight that needed to be lifted. That is, cruelly, where the paradox rears its drowsy head again – the more you try to sleep, the less likely it is to happen.
There are a few other things you can do to help, some of which are well known, and others not so much. You’ve probably heard these before, but they bear repeating:
You might also consider that thyroid problems might be the cause of the problem. And, unbeknownst to many, both hypo- and hyper-active thyroids can interfere with sleepy time.
Lastly, nutrition might be a cause or a contributing factor to poor sleep. Magnesium plays a role in regulating sleep patterns, and the typical American diet is often deficient in this vital mineral. Four or five hundred milligrams before bedtime can often give immediate benefits.
We spend one out of every three hours of our existence sleeping. Given its importance, it seems like a good idea to understand it better. Maybe then we can stop chasing it so that like a beautiful woman, it’ll miss the attention and end up granting us the ultimate gift, which in this case is restful, virtually uninterrupted, sleep.
by Tim  Henriques
Strength is a seductive temptress and I have no shame in proclaiming my love for her. But like anything in life that gets your juices flowing, to truly understand strength you must consider both the stuff you like and the stuff you don’t like.
Here are 6 very interesting things about strength.
The best thing about strength – in my opinion of course – is that anyone can improve from their starting level of strength. I’m not suggesting that everyone is capable of becoming a world record holder, but everyone can get better.
You might start out struggling to bench the bar and then a year later be using 150 pounds – not fantastic but still a lot better than where you started.
Being strong is an inherently relative concept. The good news (which I say with tongue planted firmly in cheek) is that as the general fitness level of the average person declines, it actually becomes easier to set oneself apart and become that much stronger than average.
Train several hours a week or more, train hard, incorporate the main lifts, follow progressive overload, stick with it for an extended period of time (measured in years, not months), and you’ll get significantly stronger than when you started, not to mention a hell of a lot stronger than a “normal” person. In addition, as the strength comes, so do all the health benefits that accompany it.
The worst thing about strength – in my opinion – is that strength is specific, not general. Most people think strength is a single, all-encompassing quality, i.e., a person is strong or not.
An example of this line of thinking would be the comic book character The Hulk. The Hulk is super strong, which means he can do anything that’s related to strength – pick up cars, throw tanks, cause earthquakes by smashing the ground, even fly because he can jump super high. Hell, his muscles are so strong that bullets simply bounce off him.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, as there’s no single “strength quality.” If there were, then the world champion arm wrestler, powerlifter, weight lifter, shot putter, and the World’s Strongest Man would all be the same person. But it’s not, nor has ever been the same person. Fact is, nobody’s ever been on top in even two of those categories, except for the immortal Bill Kazmaier.
The reason for this all relates to the principle of specificity. Muscles don’t function independently of the nervous system, and for every movement we need a motor pattern. In order to operate at very high levels, this motor pattern must be trained regularly. If it isn’t, an individual may not be able to use the strength they’ve developed in one context in another, unrelated one.
In the classic Supertraining, Siff states that strength should not be viewed as “the ability to produce force by the action of the muscles,” but instead that “strength is highly context dependent” and “can manifest itself into many forms.”
To be clear, I’m not saying that there’s never a relationship between strength in one activity and strength in another; what I am saying is that it’s more of a tenuous relationship than one might assume.
If two activities are very similar – for example, deadlifting and picking up the back end of truck – there’s likely considerable transfer, but bench pressing and punching through bricks might not be as related.
Strength is specific and not general, and therefore we can’t simply rank people on something as broad as “strength” and accurately predict how they’ll perform in all settings.
Strength is easy to measure if you accept the common standards of testing it, such as seeing how much weight can be lifted with a barbell. This is an invaluable though often overlooked attribute – because strength can be easily measured, every set and rep gives the lifter precise, instant feedback.
Consistent practice with a focus on self-improvement is the key to mastery of any skill. Strength training brings that idea home like nothing else.
Imagine if an expert sat behind you as you typed up a paper, and after every paragraph gave you feedback about what was good and what was bad. Initially it might drive you crazy, but because she had expertise in the subject, the feedback would ultimately make you more confident in what you were writing about.
Nowhere else in life do we get such constant, clear feedback as at the gym, and this goes a long way towards building confidence and boosting self esteem. It’s very empowering to see yourself succeed at something challenging as a result of your hard work, and I believe that all those positives can be traced back to the fact that strength is easy to measure.
For a single, all-out effort, assuming accuracy and injury are taken into consideration, it’s likely impossible to be too strong. However, for other activities, particularly where endurance is a component, one can be too strong for the activity.
A few years ago I was helping my brother move. He’d boxed up everything and packed it into a U-haul truck and drove to his new place, and then I unloaded everything for him.
Let’s assume we both did the same amount of work (i.e., we each moved the same number of boxes and the boxes weighed the same). My brother is moderately fit but not strong, certainly not by powerlifter standards – I would estimate he could deadlift 350 as his 1RM. To keep it simple, let’s say that I’m twice as strong as he is, at least in the deadlift.
So there I am, unloading the truck and moving 120 boxes into the house and I started getting tired. More specifically, it was my erectors that were getting tired. How could this be possible if I was twice as strong as him? How could he do the same amount of work without much problem?
Each muscle has a certain number of motor units (a motor nerve and their accompanying muscle fibers) in it. Each motor unit can generate some level of force. Let’s say for simplicity’s sake that we both had 100 motor units in our erectors. Keep in mind that one benefit of training is the trainee learns how to better contract, or turn on, the tougher-to-fire motor units (type IIB), which generate the most strength. Also remember that the boxes didn’t have weights labeled on them, and when moving objects of unknown weight one typically over-contracts to make sure their muscle force overcomes the resistance.
When my brother was loading up the boxes he may have contracted half or fewer of his motor units, and he was likely hitting mainly the slow twitch ones with just a few fast twitch thrown in. These motor units don’t generate much fatigue and these boxes weren’t super heavy – most were likely less than 50 pounds – so a huge level of strength wasn’t required to lift them.
I theorized that I’d be more likely to stimulate the bigger type II motor units, which generate more force but also produce more waste products when they contract. Each individual box likely felt a bit easier to me but rep after rep, my erectors were over-contracting, using too much force per motor unit to get the job done, which ultimately led to the feeling of fatigue.
It’s worth noting that training doesn’t increase the total number of motor units you have; instead it increases how much force each one can produce and how many motor units you can use.
To summarize, my brother might have been contracting 50 of his motor units, each one generating 2 pounds of force, and thus his total level of fatigue wasn’t great. I might have been contracting 65 motor units, each one generating 4 pounds of force, and thus I was working too hard for the task at hand.
So in essence, I believe one can be too strong for certain tasks, especially in relatively low resistance, endurance type activities.
Joint health is extremely important to strength. The body has sensors and proprioceptors throughout its framework to tell it what’s going on. Joint stability and joint integrity is a very important concept for the body. If your joint is in pain, the body will turn off (deactivate) parts of the agonist muscles that cross the joint and produce the movement.
The body does this because the lower levels of force represent a reduced chance of injury to the already fragile joint. This is why, in my opinion, it’s generally not advisable to train through joint pain. Even if you’re tough enough to do it, you’re using less of your muscle so you’ll get compromised results – this is ignoring the fact that the pain is a warning something is wrong and further work might really mess up the joint.
While many factors affect joint health, a big one is joint stability. This is a reason why lifting aids like a belt or a bench shirt have become popular – the belt adds to the stability of the joint by externally stabilizing it. This allows the muscles that cross the joint to contract more strongly (recruiting more motor units) and thus more weight is lifted or more force generated.
This is also why powerlifters who wear gear (bench shirts, squat suits, etc.) often have a hard time calculating how much their gear helps them. In one sense it’s simple – how much can you lift raw versus how much can you lift in gear – but another factor is how much the gear is adding to the stability of the joint and thus allowing the muscles to contract more forcefully.
Bodyweight has a huge impact on strength. Some exercises are more affected by bodyweight than others, such as the bench press, military press, and squat. It’s not just how much actual muscle or lean mass you have, but simply total bodyweight.
This ties in closely with the point made above. One of the ways to boost joint stability (and thus increase the muscles ability to contract) is to gain weight.
As you gain weight (10 pounds is usually enough to notice a bit of a difference) your surrounding tissues (even if it’s extra fat) will buffer and support the joint, similar in the way that an external wrap would cover and help the joint. This increases stability and in turn increases strength (relative strength may or may not increase, absolute strength almost assuredly will).
I’m not advocating you gain 50 pounds of fat so your bench goes up 10 pounds, but I am suggesting that if you’ve been at a plateau for quite some time (both with your strength and your bodyweight), you might think about allowing yourself to gain weight to see if that allows your strength to increase noticeably.
That increase in turn, tends to make the training more fun, your enthusiasm is renewed, and you always have the option of losing that weight later on and seeing what happens to you.
Take a look at the line-up from the World’s Strongest Man competition. None of them look ready to step onto a bodybuilding stage, but they all look like they’re ready to dominate some serious weight, and that extra bodyweight is increasing their joint stability.
There you are my friends, 6 interesting tidbits about strength. Some may seem more obvious than others but I’d argue they’re all important.
Body Reshaping Program: 3 ODD Foods You Can OVEREAT that burn fat -
by Joe Barton
Contrary to what marketers want you to believe, there’s no fancy piece of exercise equipment, shoes, belts, or body wraps that help you spot reduce (isolate, flush or evaporate).
Just the same, there aren’t any herbs, spices, or supplements that will melt the pounds away.
But…Read the rest HERE
To get a free PDF version of this document by Brad Appleton go here.