You asked? We answered! In part three of four, Jenn, Jordan, Trevor, and Anthony respond to your burning questions!
If muscular cross-section is the greatest determinate of strength, why do some larger lifters actually lift less than their smaller counterparts?
“Muscle dimensions (cross sectional area) are only one piece of the puzzle. Sarcomere length, distribution of muscle fiber types, and myofibrillar hypertrophy are all other contributing factors related to differences in force production with mass being equal. Neural factors are another contributing factor to individual differences. Recruitment of more motor units, rate coding, and synchronization of the motor units, in my opinion and experience, is greatly overlooked when comparing different athletes. The third piece of the puzzle is inter-muscular coordination (the groove). If an athlete isn’t proficient at a lift, it doesn’t matter how big he or she is, maximal force production isn’t going to be achieved.”
If it’s muscular activation, how do you identify and correct muscular imbalances?
“I don’t think it is necessarily imbalances.”
Why don’t I squat 500lbs?
“I would have to look at your biomechanics to truly answer that question. My inclination is that it has more to do with neural recruitment/synchronization and/or biomechanics than the size of your muscles. Work on higher intensities to get better at lifting heavier weights. (Obviously through a well-planned training regiment and not haphazardly maxing everyday.)”
What would programming for the gen pop that wants to be strong, muscular and fit look like.
“Ideally, this programming would consist of weight training, cardio, and proper nutrition. When it comes to these three for the general population, it is important to find out what the client likes to do so they remain consistent and adherent to the program!”
If you could go back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
“I would advise my younger self to go with my gut and do what I wanted to do at all times rather than let other people and situations influence my choices. This goes for life in general as well as in powerlifting.”
After working with numerous athletes, what’s the most surprising finding/experience?
“I do not find this surprising, but I wanted to answer this question anyway because I believe it’s important for people to know. The most common finding/experience of mine while working with numerous athletes are that the basics work and will always work. So many clients/athletes want to try specialty bars, different training methods they read about, and anything that seems “different” on Youtube. Sticking to the basics, being under proper guidance, and consistency are the keys to an athlete’s success.”
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you at or during a competition?
“I passed out on my third deadlift attempt and shit myself. Imodium is now a staple.”
Exhaustion vs. motivation. At what point is your body telling you to rest, and at what point are you just making an excuse that you are tired?
“When your body begins breaking down or your immune system becomes compromised, then you have likely pushed too far. If you no longer have the desire to train then your motivation is hurting your performance, not helping it. There is a point where your motivation shouldn’t be too overworked, but rather work to your needs and focus on recovery.”
How and when do you know to cut weight when preparing for multiple events?
“Cutting weight isn’t always the best idea. It can take away from your overall performance on meet day, as well as impede recovery during the training cycle. Generally, most lifters advise against cutting weight unless you need to qualify for a major national meet or you are going to break a world record. You will be at and perform your best without the stress of a weight cut.”
How do you manage athlete ADD when an athlete has too many hobbies (balancing skiing, lifting, biking, running, maybe competing, and oh look, a kayak!)?
“Competing for most is a hobby. There are times to specify your competitive goals and times to allow for more diverse and varied activities. As your competition nears, you will want to focus as much energy and recovery as possible towards your main goal. Then afterwards, go back to playing multiple events and activities.”
What are some fundamental of “coachability” for athletes?
“Communication! Your coach can only help you if you frequently provide feedback. Then being open to their suggestions. If you fail to communicate things such as injuries, your coach may then be compounding the problem because they are unaware.”
What is the number one mistake that people make when it comes to training for muscle gains/development?
“I think there are there major ones that I have encountered myself and run across when working with a variety of clients. It’s hard to pick a single mistake, so here are the top three that I find to be the most common.
- Not understanding how long it will take. More often than not, training for hypertrophy is a long term process and takes, from my experience, the most amount of time to see appreciable gains compared to most other goals that people chose to focus on. This is particularly true for a natural athlete. Changes in speed and strength can both come about relatively quickly. Change a cue here or there on a squat and deadlift and all of a sudden you are moving 5-10lbs more than you were before. With proper programming, gains will only be amplified. Compare that to the best case scenario for a natural bodybuilder focusing on hypertrophy. Best case scenario, you are maybe looking at a pound of muscle for every month or two. Even then, that is probably only for fairly untrained individuals in their early to mid-20’s. Those that are older, or have just been training for longer would be doing well to see a few pounds of muscle added per year. This is much less obvious than the changes in strength that you will see. As such, it can be frustrating for individuals chasing this goal to not see what they believe is sufficient or fast enough improvement. This frustration can oftentimes lead to an athlete abandoning the structured training they are following and good programming before they have come to fruition. Keeping a client’s expectations in line here can be difficult, especially when you may see changes in their physique and they do not. Other inputs here often include not realizing exactly how little muscle they have to begin with. Unless has been stage ready, I think most of us (and I am certainly as guilty as anyone else) over-estimate how much muscle we actually have. So if an individual is getting leaner and sees arm size shrink, this may be a good thing long term (it is possible arms are actually getting more muscular but leaner at a faster rate and thus getting smaller), but may be difficult to coach around in the short term.
- Not doing exercises in a way that prioritizes muscle gain. Yes, for newcomers this is certainly less of an issue because they will respond to just about anything. But for those with some training under their belts, recognizing that oftentimes dropping the weight, focusing on using only the muscle group they are trying to target, tempo, and training the muscle and not the movement can be difficult to understand. Putting aside one’s ego in the gym is never easy, and is even harder when a client first embarks on a structured program and form focused around hypertrophy. As I saw posted elsewhere (and I forget the source unfortunately) bodybuilding and building muscle are about being inefficient. There is a way to get a barbell from your thighs to about your chest using mainly your biceps in a way that maximizes the tension on them for the course of the movement. This method is certainly not the most efficient method of getting the bar between those two places. Understanding that is often difficult for people.
- Chasing a higher scale weight. Again, something else I am also guilty of. Now, I will say that this tends, from my experience, to affect males more often than females, but too often people fixate on chasing a specific higher scale weight. E.g. I am currently 180 at 20% bodyfat and want to be 215 at 8% bodyfat in the next year. This of course is simply not tenable for a natural athlete that has some training under their belt. Not only does chasing scale weight often lead to a false sense of how much muscle has been gained, as opposed to fat (As per above, even in the best case scenario muscle gain is going to be slow), but it also can be detrimental in terms of motivation if the athlete cannot reach the scale weight they are focused on. I personally like to have clients focus on improving performance in the gym and maxing out their frame or improving body composition at similar bodyweights. These tend to take the focus off of trying to get to as specific weight value.”
How and when do you know when to cut weight when preparing for multiple events?
“This question can be viewed as cutting water for competition or getting leaner for a competition. I will attempt to answer both.
If you are asking about cutting water, ideally I would not recommend doing so if you were doing multiple events that required it. I think if you are competing at a national or professional level in a sport with weight classes it is probably ok to cut water (below that level it probably is not worth it), but if you are at that level you probably are not doing multiple events in such a short time frame where multiple water cuts are an issue. From my work with some very top level female strength athletes, doing a diet to reduce body fat and then a water cut into a competition I would only recommend doing about once every three months. Ideally, every four months.
In terms of just getting leaner for a competition, I think in that case it is recognizing what weight you compete best at and being there for your main competition for the year. This often means watching weight in the off-season and not getting too heavy. Yes, if you are adding strength/muscle during that time period you will get heavier, but you do not want it to be that far off your competition weight. This number I would vary with sport, but I would say probably in the 5-15% heavier in your off-season than in your top competition weight. Some athletes may find they can be on the higher end, others may have to stick with the lower end. In terms of running up to a competition, I like to try and get clients there, or nearly there, about two to three weeks out if it is a one-off. That allows for some time in case we mis-time it or things go wrong, OR, if they go right, time to up caloric intake so they are feeling good going into the event. If it is a season they are preparing for I generally like to have them fairly close to their best competition weight going into the season and then peak them for their most important event.”
Do you believe in the idea of “body fat set point” and being able to move that point, or once you lose fat do you essentially need to remain on diminished calories long term to maintain?
“I think, and have found with clients, there is a general weight range that a person’s body likes to be in. I think I am less comfortable saying this there is a body fat percentage the body likes to be at. Now, I do think these can be altered. I have had many clients generally stay within the same weight range they came to me at, but drastically change body composition (less body fat, more muscular) and eat hundreds more kcals than they did when I first began working with them.
With that said, their weight may only change a few lbs in that time frame and they may actually weigh near the same at the end of a build cycle as they did when they first began (Again, with altered body composition). I do think it takes time to move these values, but they can move, and that each cut cycle clients tend to get a little leaner than the last cycle, and each build they tend to stay a little leaner. So while weight range tends to be fairly constant, how that weight looks on someone does change.”
What is your favorite color?
“Obviously, as anyone can tell by my photographs or if you just happen to know me, it is orange.”