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No BullCrap Sports Training
July 24, 2006
|Hello folks! Just wanted to let everyone know I've added a new article and also have my most recent Q&A series from higher-faster-sports.com Enjoy!
1. Modifying training for women (explosiveness, muscle mass increases, fat loss, the difference between male fat and female fat, getting rid of stubborn lower body-fat)
2. Maintaining explosiveness after a peak.
3. The minimal amount of volume for hypertrophy.
Q: How would you modify programming for a woman interested in either explosiveness, muscle mass increases, or fat loss? Should a woman train like a man or do they need to make a bunch of various modifications such as different exercises, more reps, more rest, different diet etc.?
A: For the most part a female can train exactly like a male since there really is no difference between the muscle of a female and a male. The only differences are due to differences in hormone levels which impact the amount of muscle each gender carries. In other words, 10 pounds of female muscle can generate just as much tension as 10 pounds of male muscle.
Having said that, with females I would approach things just a bit differently for each one of those goals. Here's what I'd do:
Slightly more focus on movement efficiency work. With the exception of those who are always heavily engaged in stuff like jump rope, gymnastics, or the entire gamut of school sports (basketball, volleyball, soccer, track and field, etc.), the average adolescent and teenage female is probably not as active on her feet as the average male, thus a lot of females tend to be a step behind when it comes to being able to move with fluidity and efficiency.
Remember, before you can carry out a movement with 100% force and power you have to be able to carry out the movement efficiently to begin with. If your car has flat tires you can have a very powerful motor yet you aren't gonna be going anywhere in a hurry! If you're heavy on your feet and can't move efficiently you can add all the horsepower you want but still won't be able to express it.
Therefore, I would recommend a slightly greater volume of work designed to get a female light and fluid on her feet. Various low level hops and plyometric drills, rope drills, dot drills, and other movement work are all good for this purpose. If a girl was engaged in lower body strength work 3 days per week I would typically spend 10-15 minutes prior to the beginning of each session on movement work.
Everything else would stay exactly the same and most women can immediately benefit from general strengthening work to an even greater extent then males.
Hypertrophy- Just a few considerations here:
A: Because of hormonal differences, women tend not to partition, or direct, nutrients into muscle as well as men. In other words, they have to be more careful about adding fat with any kind've caloric excess. When muscle gain is a goal, I would go with a lower level of caloric excess on the order of perhaps 250 extra calories per day. I'd also give more consideration to meal timing. Breakfast and the 3 hour postworkout period are times when the hormonal state allows more nutrients to be taken in. A minimal baseline level of energy system work (cardio), can also be utilized to help with partitioning and stave off fat gain. 3 sessions per week of 30-40 min easy long duration cardio or 2 sessions per week of HIT interval cardio can be effective for this purpose.
B: Many women are also more sensitive to carbohydrates and the problems that come along with their over-consumption such as hypoglycemia, appetite control, and the fat gain that can result from those problems. Therefore, a semi-low carb muscle building plan with 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound along with a baseline intake of 100 grams of carbs per day along with another 50-70 after weight training workouts works well for many. Basically I have found many women do well with a Beverly International type of muscle building diet. (all the supplements aren't necessary)
C: With regard to training, because of their lower levels of strength, many women can tolerate and actually need a bit more volume and frequency then males. A male can often get away with hitting an exercise or muscle group once per week and still make good gains. This will not often work with a female. A frequency of 3 times per week per muscle group works well for beginners and two times per week for intermediate and advanced trainees. With regard to everything else, the same principles apply. Compound movements, increased bar weight, with some isolation and fatigue work is optimal.
The only real differences are in what's desired. In other words, most women don't want a big neck and traps and want to build a little bit of muscle not a whole lot of muscle. But the same principles that build a whole lot of muscle the fastest are also the same things that build a little bit of muscle the fastest. So, even though I might only want to add a "teeny bit of size" to my arms, I could spend 2 years lifting pink dumbells to get that "tone" or I could spend 2 months training correctly, get the muscle I want, and just maintain that by cutting down on the volume and manipulating my body composition through diet and overall activity levels. Why waste 2 years to get the same development I could get in 2 months?
This is a big one. Losing fat tends to be more difficult for females then it is for males and their bodies are more apt to "hang on" to fat. This is due to variations in endocrine hormones with the issue of child bearing probably being the main culprit. Think about it. A woman has to be more efficient at hanging onto fat otherwise she might starve to death during a pregnancy in the event of food restriction.
Women also have more of what's called "stubborn fat cells". Stubborn fat tends to form in the thighs and hips and is less responsive to mobilization and very apt to storage. In real terms, what this means is that many women find any excess calories they consume go straight to their hips and thighs, yet when they try to lose that fat, it's either very difficult to get rid of or won't go at all. Men also put on fat very easily in certain places such as their stomachs, yet that fat tends to be easier to mobilize. What causes "stubborn fat", is the type of adrenaline receptor contained in the fat cell and the response to that adrenaline.
Under typical situations, an increase in adrenaline from either exercise or a reduction in calories rather easily mobilizes stored fatty acids where they can be liberated into the bloodstream and burned for energy. However, a stubborn fat cell doesn't respond to adrenaline quite the same way. These fat cells are very STUBBORN when it comes to releasing their fat. In order to get a stubborn fat cell to release its fat you typically have to either dramatically increase blood flow to it or inhibit the type of adrenoreceptor associated with it. One can increase blood flow by engaging in high intensity exercise (think full body workouts and HiT cardio) and by simulating fasting conditions, which one can do with a lower carbohydrate diet. You can inhibit the type of adrenoreceptor associated with the stubborn fat cell by increasing blood levels of fatty acids, which can also be done by eating a lower carbohydrate diet, which tends to free up or release free fatty acids.
As another option, you can also use yohimbine, which also inhibits the stubborn fat cell adrenoreceptor. Oral doses of .2 mg yohimbine per kg of bodyweight will get the job done but can also cause some anxiety producing side effects in some people so I actually prefer the various creams such as Avant Labs Lipoderm or Lipoderm Ultra. The stuff actually works. I don't know if it's an actual "spot reducer", but if nothing else it is an effective transdermal that gets yohimbine into the system in a manner that doesn't cause the side effects of the oral version and by getting yohimbine into the system you're obviously able to benefit from what yohimbine does. Put all those things together (high intensity exercise + lower carbs and optional yohimbine), and stubborn fat can be managed.
For a female with a typical female type fat distribution who struggles to lean up, a good plan to attack stubborn fat revolves around putting the preceding things together. Lyle McDonald outlined a stubborn fat protocol which consists of 2 bouts of cardio done in the AM. If a person is already eating fairly low carbohydrates, I don't think it's quite so important that this protocol be done in the AM.
There are two segments to the cardio:
- The first segment is for mobilization, to get those stubborn fatty acids out of the fat cell.
- The second segment is the oxidation part, to burn them off in the muscle.
For the first segment of the cardio, you'll warm-up for 3-5 minutes and then do 10 minutes of HARD intervals such as 1 minute sprint and 1 minute easy for 10 minutes of total intervals.
Next, rest 5 minutes, recover, and drink some water.
Next, do at least 30 minutes or "normal" cardio at a moderate intensity (below lactate threshold but decent intensity). Wait an hour and have 25-50 grams of protein or so. No dietary fat. Two to 3 hours later, go back to normal diet eating. Daily calories need not be all that different than they were already, just distributed differently.
One can get good results using that protocol 3 days per week.
Basically, all you're doing is exercising in a state of lowered blood glucose with the AM exercise or low carb diet. You jack up the levels of adrenaline and catecholamines to get fat mobilized and then let them fall so that the fatty acid can be burned in the muscle.
For additional information on training and dietary strategies for females as well as menstrual considerations, I recommend the following article by Elzi Volk:
Should Women Train Like Men
A: You might not need such a dedicated unloading period. In other words you might just be getting stale during that 4-5 day off period. That sounds like to me what the problem is. Maybe next time just take a couple of days off instead of 4 days.
Now, having said that, after you hit a peak you typically can't maintain that peak all the time or for a long time. This is particularly true the more advanced you are and even more true if you just came out of a phase designed to peak your explosiveness. Once you get back into hardcore strength training again you have to accept the fact that during the middle of a strength phase your vert or speed or strength or whatever probably won't be at it's peak. It won't peak again until you reduce the volume and allow the fatigue to dissipate from the strength work. The same is true for any endeavor really even distance running. Staleness will obviously mask fitness but so will fatigue. The things you do to raise performance up mean that sometimes you have to take a step or 2 back when it comes to displaying the key quality that your after. Hope that helps!
Q: What is the minimum volume necessary for hypertrophy? For example, 25 reps per bodypart done 2 times a week, or 20 reps, or 15 reps. Is there any reserch on it? Also,is 5 reps enough for hypertrophy or should I do more reps?
It depends entirely on the person. There is no minimal or maximal rep number that magically "triggers" a growth response. Even a few reps of submaximal pushups is enough to stimulate microtrauma and hypertrophy in a deconditioned person. For someone with a large volume tolerance it might take 50 or more reps of fairly heavy loading twice a week. I remember the first ever time I did squats I did one set and my legs were toast for a week.
With training, not only do the muscles get stronger and grow, but they also increase their supply of connective tissue which makes them more resistant to damage. The more resistant to damage they are, the more volume it takes to stimulate a growth response.
You also have to consider the tempo of execution. Reps that take 5 seconds to execute are different than reps that take 1 second. It'll probably take somewhere between 45 and 90 seconds total tension per muscle group to stimulate hypertrophy in the average trainee. So lets say you take a given muscle group and do 4 sets of 6 reps on one movement and 2 sets of 12 reps on another movement. Let's say you lift at a speed where each rep supplies 2 seconds of tension. Add all that up and it comes out to 96 seconds of tension. Providing you're working hard, that oughta be enough.
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