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Body Composition Training.

How do we make sense of this metabolic Jeckle and Hyde? The answer is closer than you think. Find out here...

By: Don Alessi

It is as frustrating as a pimple on prom night and just as sure. Did you ever feel like you're body was out to get you? No matter how many nauseating sets you forced out or how many sleepless nights you woke starved, you uncontrollably gained fat? Or the opposite happened.

Your body could do no wrong. You were reckless with your training and eating but effortlessly leaned out? How do we make sense of this metabolic Jeckle and Hyde? The answer is closer than you think.


Hormonal Photograph

Until the recent use of dual x-ray absorptiometry and magnetic imagery (MRI), body composition testing was too crude to detect the subtle - yet statistically significant changes that take place in local regions of body fat.

Researchers in the areas of body composition using MRI and blood tests, have now determined correlations for certain hormones and where a person stores their fat. A few of the significant correlations include;

High Normal Blood Levels Local Fat Storage
Estrogen Triceps & Thigh
Cortisol Abdomen
Insulin Love Handles & Visceral Fat (intra-organ)
Testosterone Upper back


The Home Laboratory

Using these correlations & careful measurement anyone can now determine useful training and nutritional clues based on local fat placement. Local fat placement is a quick "compass", to instantly gage one's hormonal state and then make necessary program changes. It is all based on the proportion of fat in specific regions.

The following are instructions on taking at home skin fold measurements of key sites:

Site - Sub Scapular

  • Direction of fold -- Diagonal
  • Anatomical reference -- Inferior angle of scapula

  • Measurement instructions -- Fold is along natural cleavage line of skin, just lower than the inferior angle of scapula (7 o'clock position, just off the bone). The caliper is applied 1 cm. below the fingers.

Site - Thigh

  • Direction of fold -- Vertical

  • Anatomical reference -- Inguinal crease and patella

  • Measurement instructions -- A vertical fold in the middle of the front of the thigh, 3-4" (7 cm) above the patella. Tip: Grasp the fold while the leg is extended and then bend the knee to take the measurement.

Site - Supra-iliac

  • Direction of fold -- Oblique (follow the natural cleavage)

  • Anatomical reference -- Iliac crest

  • Measurement instructions -- Fold is grasped just posterior to the midaxillary (armpit) vertical line and just above the hipbone along the natural cleavage of the skin with caliper applied 1cm below fingers.

    Tip: To locate the hipbone, have the subject bend over laterally to their left, then with your right hand press on their skin from under the last rib, down to the hipbone. When the bony area is located, place your thumb on the hip bone and have the subject return to an upright position, the fold will fall into your fingers.

Site - Abdominal

  • Direction of fold -- Vertical

  • Anatomical reference -- Umbilicus (belly button)

  • Measurement instructions -- Fold is taken 1" lateral and 1" superior (above) the center of the umbilicus

Site - Triceps

  • Direction of fold -- Vertical -midline

  • Anatomical reference -- Between the lateral and the long heads

  • Measurement instructions -- A vertical fold measured in the midline of the posterior arm over the medial triceps muscle. Between the lateral and the long heads of the triceps.

    Tip: contract the triceps to discern the muscle from the fat. Then locate the medial head of the triceps, the measurement is taken at the bottom of the medial head.


The Main Event?Testosterone Vs. Estrogen

All About Testosterone!
Find out the basics, how it reacts in the body, the difference between steroids and testosterone and much more...
Numerous studies point to a favorable free testosterone to estrogen ratio, as the primary indicator of a trainee's anabolic state. That is, the state at which it is most effective to gain muscle and lose fat. This anabolic state or lack their of, is reflected by the proportion of fat in certain areas. For example, the sub-scapular skin fold of the upper back is correlated with total and free (useable) testosterone levels.

Mid-thigh and triceps fat represents estrogen levels (Nindl BC et al., 2001). Contrary to what the typical health club flunky likes to think, these skin folds change independently, not uniformly, based on fluctuating hormonal states. The good news is that these levels can be influenced by training, nutrition and supplementation.


Finished Before You Start?

From highest local fat levels to lowest, the optimal skin fold profile for fitness and bodybuilding should descend like so:

Men

    Sub scapular > umbilicus > or = supra-iliac > thigh > triceps

Women

    Sub scapular> thigh > triceps > umbilicus > or = supra-iliac

    *Additionally, the sum of all 5 skin folds should be 60mm or less for both sexes. (Men<14%; Women<18% body fat)

What does it mean when the order and the sum meet the above criteria? Everything. I have found that this fat hierarchy accurately predicts those who will have success or fail - even before the first weight is hoisted or the first carb is counted.


Another Dirty Deal

If you've taken your skin folds and have the correct order and sum, then screw off, we all hate your guts. Now for the other 99% of you - the reason that you're out of order is likely due to estrogens dirty dealings;

All About Estrogen!
Testosterone's little sister (estrogen) is more important than most scientists have thought in the intense search of ultimate muscularity, good health and energy, all in our wonderful complex system of hormone interconnections.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

1st Case - The Sum Of Your Skin Folds Is Too High

In this case, your excess bodyfat is causing you to produce three times more estrogens from androstenedione - no matter how hard you train or how strictly you diet. Yeah, you read that correctly. See, after you perform a rigorous training session your body secretes a burst of anabolic hormones; androstenedione, epinephrine, nor-epinephrine, growth hormone etc... but what happens after those hormones are secreted is largely influenced by how much estrogen converting enzyme, (aromatase) is present.

It just so happens that local body fat produces an abundance of this enzyme. If this is your case, then you must first shut down estrogen production via the aromatase enzyme before any substancial fat can be shed. (see proven methods below)

2nd Case - The Order Of The Skin Folds Is Estrogenic

First, realize that if have case 1 then you're automatically in case 2 simply by the power of the aromatase enzyme. In case 2, the trainee is lean enough but either the thigh or triceps measurements, or both, are too high. Predominantly, it is the circulating catecholamines (adrenaline and nor adrenaline) that determine this condition.

Whether by nature or nurture, increasing these two chemicals will shift the conversion from androstenedione away from estrogens toward testosterone. Additionally, the catecholamines will work in tandem to help "shrink" the fat cells. That's one reason why the nervous, adrenaline types (ectomorphs), don't store much bodyfat. In any case, "Composition training" along with the following proven methods will "dial in" the correct fat levels and ratios.

  • Decreasing carbohydrate intake to under 100g daily

  • Increasing green, fibrous vegetables and roughage to 10 servings daily

  • Using high lignan flax seed oil at 1-3 tbs. daily

  • Using a good anti-aromatase supplement such as 300-600 mg. Aromax? or 200 mg Impact? daily

  • Using a good catecholamine supplement such as Triple X Rush? pre-workout

  • Topically applying spot reduction creams such as Chizeled? to the hips, thighs and upper arms prior to workouts


Body Composition Training

Successful bodybuilding and fitness trainees have discovered that along with incorporating the proven methods listed above, certain workouts can alter the regional distribution of fat placement. According to a recent study (Nindl BC et al., 2001), "it is likely that there may be a threshold intensity, volume and muscle mass recruited necessary to produce increases in total and free testosterone for women and men."

Author L Rea, author of Chemical Muscle Enhancement and Building the Perfect Beast, suggests that the common denominator here is a greater adrenaline release with a harder workout. His rationale includes an increased partitioning of androstenedione to testosterone rather than to estrogen. Whatever the mechanism, workouts that incorporate multiple joint movements performed with relatively short rest intervals and multiple sets do augment the anabolic index and influence where fat is stored.


Four Week Training Split

The following is a 4 week, 4 day per week training split. Each day is to be performed once per week.

Day 1

    A - Leg press (duck stance)

    ?
    Click To Enlarge.

    • Sets *10
    • Reps 10
    • Rest (sec.) 60

    B - Romanian, semi stiff-legged deadlift - fig 1 (shoulder width, feet slightly toed out stance)


    Click To Enlarge.

    • Sets *8
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 90

    C - Lunges, barbell -fig 2 (knee covers the calf)


    Click To Enlarge.

    • Sets 6
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 90

    D - **Leg curls, lying fig (feet neutral)

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 120

    E - Rope crunches - fig 3 (use lat pulldown machine)

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 10
    • Rest 60

Click here for printable workout log!

Day 2

    A - Machine bench press

    • Sets *8
    • Reps 8
    • Rest 90

    B - Bent over barbell row (knees bent, torso at 45 degrees, pull elbows toward hips)

    ?
    Click To Enlarge.

    • Sets *8
    • Reps 8
    • Rest 90

    C - Dips (strap on extra load if possible)

    • Sets 6
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 120

    D - **Calves-machine heel raise

    ?
    Click To Enlarge.

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 10
    • Rest 60

Click here for printable workout log!

Day 3

    A1 - Deadlifts (wider than shoulder width grip)

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 12-15
    • Rest 90

    A2 - Straight arm dumbbell pullover - fig 4 (between deadlifts)


    Click To Enlarge.

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 15
    • Rest 90

    B - Standing leg curl, foot turned out slightly

    ?
    Click To Enlarge.

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 8
    • Rest 120

    C - Close grip chin-ups (grip is 8" apart)

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 180

    D - Shrugs

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 12-15
    • Rest 60

    E - Praying mantis - fig 5 Attach two 2.5 lb. plates on an EZ curl bar.


    Click To Enlarge.

    Kneel on floor. Grasp the out grip of the EZ bar and place the bar on the floor in pushup position. Using an arched back, roll the bar along the floor until your arms are fully extended. Exhale and with a contraction of the abs. pull the bar back in toward the knees.

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 12-15
    • Rest 60

Click here for printable workout log!

Day 4

    A - Power Clean + Push Press

    ? ?
    Click To Enlarge.

    This is a hybrid exercise, that is two exercises in one. Stand with feet shoulder width apart toes out slightly. Squat down to a deadlift position and grasp bar with a pronated, shoulder width grip. First pull: Lift bar off floor by extending the hips and knees, elbows fully extended, head neutral,bar close to shins. As the bar raises just above knees, thrust the hips forward and "scoop" the thighs under the bar. Second pull: Explosively, extend the hips & knees and plantar flex the ankles. At full extension, shrug the shoulders then flex the elbows and pull the arms high. Catch: Pull the body under the bar and rotate the arms around & under the bar. Catch the bar in a quarter squat position at the level of the clavicles and then stand up - you are now ready for the push press. Stand erect and chest expanded. Bend the legs until the body is in jump position. Next explosively, dip and drive the bar upward going up on your toes. Let the heels come back down as you lock out the bar with your arms.

    • Sets *8
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 120

    B - **Barbell straight bar curls (slightly wider than shoulder width grip)

    • Sets *8
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 120

    C - **Lying triceps extension (use EZ bar, each session alternate inner & outer grips)

    • Sets *8
    • Reps 6
    • Rest 90

    D - *Seated heel raise

    • Sets 4
    • Reps 15
    • Rest 60

Click here for printable workout log!

    *Includes warm-up sets

    **Indicates forced reps on last set

About The Author

Don Alessi is the founder of Alessi Personal Fitness Inc. and co-author of the books The Promise & Lose Fat Forever. His clients include various professional athletes, bodybuilders and a number of fortune 500 executives. His specialties are size / strength development and body transformation. For information on custom program design or to purchase a book or audio CD please visit AlessiFit.com

Don Alessi
ThePromise@alessifit.com

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