You’ve probably seen pictures of bodybuilders with huge chains draped over their shoulders. Although this makes for a memorable image, there are some physiological benefits to working out with heavy chains. Researchers at Ohio State University and Texas A&M suggest what might and might not be achieved through chain training.
Compared to traditional barbell weight training, the addition of heavy chains helps build lower body strength, but not power. Also, the technique didn’t seem to have much of an additional impact on upper body strength or power.
True Strength Moment: As you raise the barbell, more links in the chain come off the floor to gradually increase the load. Team sports athletes might want to work some chain training into off-season leg day efforts to see if greater strength develops.
Your body can’t produce essential amino acids. They can only be taken in through diet. Although protein can be used for energy, your body prefers to use carbohydrates which get broken down into sugars faster than proteins are broken down into amino acids. So how long does it take for essential amino acids to stimulate protein synthesis? A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that it takes about 90 minutes.
Researchers had 16 healthy young male subjects consume 15 grams of essential amino acids all at once or in intervals spaced out over a span of 45 minutes. Although the different dosing strategies produced different increases in blood levels of amino acids, muscle protein synthesis was stimulated 90 minutes later in both cases, and this effect continued for 180 minutes after amino acid consumption before returning to normal levels. Now you have a timing strategy to apply to your training.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) combines what’s typically a period of all-out effort with low to moderate intensity active recovery. These sets of intense to moderate effort can help you realize what you’d get out of a long steady state cycling session in about half the time. But do you have to go all out? A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine examines the effects of different approaches.
Researchers had 15 experienced cyclists engage in 3 intervals consisting of 3 minutes work with 3 minutes active recovery. On one visit to the gym, the 3 minutes of effort was all out. Based on that intensity, scientists programmed a computer to pace individual efforts at 85% of maximal oxygen consumption. A third trial was self-paced.
True Strength Moment: Ratings of perceived exertion were greatest for the all-out effort, and power output was lower during a 4 KM time trial after that session. If you’re tapering for competition, self-pacing your HIIT training in the lead up might help you arrive at the starting line fresh.
Doing cardio on an empty stomach, usually first thing in the morning, is supposed to help you burn more body fat than eating before your run, ride or swim. But is this scientific fact or just another popular gym myth?
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition compared the effects on 20 young female subjects who adhered to a hypocaloric diet for a month. Half of these subjects put in an hour of steady state cardio exercise 3 days a week without eating since the previous evening. The other half eat breakfast before training. All adhered to a diet designed to burn more calories than consumed. At the end of the program, both groups lost weight and reduced fat mass.
Conclusion: There were no significant differences between groups. As long as you’re cutting calories, having a small, balanced meal before training might outweigh the benefits of not eating first.
Challenging your fitness level with a series of all-out sprints on a stationary bike is a great alternative to treadmill running. It’s also likely to get you in and out of the gym faster. But how well do you know yourself in terms of estimating recovery? A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research put self-regulated recovery to the test.
Fourteen males in their mid-20s performed a series of ten 6-second all out cycle sprints using 7.5% resistance. Recovery between sprints was self-regulated. The next time these subjects went to the gym for the same workout, their previous recovery time was decreased by 10%. There weren’t any differences in peak power output, mean power output or fatigue between trials.
True Strength Moment: After a couple of familiarization sessions, most people can accurately pace their recovery, but they tend to allow too much time since cutting 10% off their estimated requirement didn’t alter performance. Pushing yourself a little harder might be the path to greater gains.