A brief overview of what I will be discussing:
- Using CNS supplements post workout
- Foam Core and self message as a means of recovery
- Switching up Training Styles
- Winter Forms of Energy Systems Training
- Holiday Nutrition Tips
It is now accepted throughout the strength and nutrition community that you need post workout shakes to help aid in protein synthesis (muscle building). Without it, your body would descend into a state of catabolic chaos, among other things. Since we all know the benefits of replenishing the muscles, why do we not do the same thing for the CNS?
The central nervous system plays an enormous role in strength training, especially towards the maximal strength end of the spectrum. If your neuro-muscular system is not at full recovery, your training will suffer.
After downing your post workout shake, you might want to consider having another shake with ingredients that will help the CNS recover and/or even improve. What supplements and compounds fall under this category?
There are two routes you can take: the pre-mixed route or the self-made route. The pre-mixed route is much simpler, as the ingredients have already been mixed, and all you have to do is blend and drink it. I recommend Neurostim by Scivation or Brainquicken by Bodyquick, but there are many others, although not with the same quality of ingredients as these two.
Here are some single ingredients that you can use to make your own, or to add to an existing formula:
- L-Tyrosine - Enhances mental focus, and helps to recruit more muscle fibers
- Huperzine - Protects certain brain chemicals from degradation
- Bacopa - Improves cognitive function, revives old "worn out" neurons
- Vinpocetine - Enhances memory and vision
- DMAE - Helps stimulate production of choline and acetylcholine
- B-Vitamins - Aids other ingredients in absorption, do not take in tablet form.
(Credit Marc MacDougal for information on these compounds)
Sports and training can take its toll on your body. If proper training and nutrition is one half of the equation, proper rest and recovery is the other half. Obviously you can't participate in sports or training if you are extremely sore or injured all the time. Enter foam core rolling. Foam core is a simple tool, basically a cylindrical tube made out of foam.
This foam core mimics massage as it will break down soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue. For more information about foam core, I suggest picking up Mark Verstegen's Core Performance for foam roller movements, and heading over to www.optp.com to pick up a foam core roller. They are pretty cheap for the enormous benefits they give you.
Is $15 for a foam roller still too expensive for you? Well, you have two options. You can either roll on a slightly deflated basketball, or you can use self massage. Self massage is quite easy to do, as it just involves using your own technique to ease soreness/pain in problem areas. If your hamstrings are sore after an intense deadlifting session, just knead your hands against your hamstring, and watch the soreness ease away. It's that simple.
So I must mix it up in the gym, and so should you! If you have been doing the standard 3 sets of 10, switch up with 8 sets of 3, or 12 sets of 1. The new stimulus should invigorate you in the gym and lead to some significant gains. The same can be applied to tempo. If you have been lifting the bar at a slow speed and lowering the bar at a slow speed, change it up.
Lower the bar (eccentric motion) in a controlled manner, and then EXPLODE during the lifting portion. Lift it as fast as you can. This maximizes muscle tension and will lead to muscle gains.
Along with alternating sets/reps and tempo, this can also work with exercise selection. If you are a member of the majority in the gym working your "mirror muscles", why not emphasize the muscles you can't see in the mirror? Instead of your workout only consisting of squats and bench presses, start doing heavy rows and deadlifts.
Dips can be replaced with pull-ups, lunges replaced with glute-ham raises. Working these often neglected areas will not only lead to new hypertrophy, but improved athletic performance as the posterior chain is vital to athletic prowess.
This is always one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in the winter. How are you supposed to get conditioned if you can't even run around outside? Don't even get me started on treadmills and cycling machines in the cardio area at the gym.
I don't know any serious athletes who can stay motivated with CNN droning on incessantly and old people doing geriatrics right in front of them. That's why I prefer to do my winter energy systems training at home. Here are some options for every situation:
After the sprint period is done, you will do active recovery for 45-120 seconds. This does not mean continuing at a moderate pace, this just means light pedaling to recover enough for the next sprint. Repeat this for as long as desired.
With A Jump Rope
There are many different things you can do with a jump rope. I won't cover the different types of jump roping including hops, straddles, shuffles and twists. There are many interval based and time based options for conditioning.
For the proficient jump roper, you can mix 30-45 second moderate pace jump rope blocks with blocks of 10 second sprints. For the beginning jump roper, you can pick a time frame, and strive to complete more jumps or less misses in two, five or ten minutes.
If you are interested in learning more advanced maneuvers with the jump rope, I highly recommend purchasing Buddy Lee's Jump Rope Training book.
Bodyweight Exercises Only
If you are someone who is at a decent strength level where bodyweight exercises do not provide much resistance, you must do variations to make them tougher. I propose doing a circuit of bodyweight exercises to add a conditioning effect. Try this out:
A1) Jumping Jacks
Time: 30 seconds
A2) Burpees (also known as squat thrusts)
Time: As many as possible in 30 seconds
A3) Explosive Push-ups
Tempo: Controlled eccentric, explosive concentric (try to make your hands leave the ground)
A4) Lunge Jumps
3-5 repetitions (alternate legs each rep, should be 6-10 reps total)
A5) V Sit-ups
Rest: 60-180 seconds depending on your level of conditioning
You can also switch V Sit-ups with planks and cut out the rest to add an additional conditioning effect. The 30-60 seconds held during the plank exercise would constitute your rest period, and after finishing the plank, you would start again on A1. Repeat circuit as many times as desired.
Admit it, this last topic made you cringe a bit. You might have been diligent about your training and your conditioning, but tightening up on your nutrition during the holidays is always the hardest. There are always constant bombardments of unhealthy food from moms, grandparents and friends.
You may hold out the first few nights, refusing the eggnog, only drinking water, and only eating the meat at the dinner parties, but soon you crack. Maybe eating that cookie your grandmother baked means the difference between getting that strength training book you want and a knitted purple sweater.
The purpose of arriving partially satiated is to prevent you from going overboard on the desert tray after dinner. I suggest eating an apple or two, or having a light soup that contains fiber. You can also mix a fiber supplement into protein shake to have before you get there.
Upon arriving at the party, you won't be stuffed, but you also won't be clamoring for the cookies once you step through the door.
Another preventative measure would be to exercise before you go. After engaging in a resistance based exercise session, your body is in a state where it will accept high GI carbohydrates favorably. Obviously it's never good to eat a plateful of cookies, but the effects will be lessened if you are in a post-exercise state.
Once you are at the party, try to exercise some self-control. It won't do you any good to ingest massive amounts of alcohol, or to go back for seconds and thirds. Stick to the stuff you know is good for you, or at least somewhat good for you.
Bring a protein bar if the food offered does not appease your hungriness. If you follow these steps, you can avoid the 5-6 pounds that the average American gains during the holidays.
This article will hopefully add some variety and new insights into your holiday training and nutrition.